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Chasing Dreams

Chapter Text

The doorbell rang and Alexander Hamilton let out a long, drawn-out grumble at the interruption from his law studies. He got up from his desk and answered the front door of his shabby townhouse in a rather rundown part of New York City.

At once, a young woman shoved a baby at him. “She’s your problem now.”

“What?” Hamilton stared at the baby in his arms, barely able to see her in the flickering light of a dirty lightbulb. “Maria, I don’t understand.”

“Of course you don’t.” Maria shook her head. “That would be how this mess happened.” She glanced back as tires squealed in the distance. “She’s your problem now. My lawyer will send you the paperwork. Goodbye, Alex.”

“Maria—” Hamilton managed to grab her arm with one hand and keep hold of the baby with the other. “I can’t take care of an infant.” He almost had to shout to be heard over the sirens screaming down the street. “I’m in law school.”

“Should have thought of that before, shouldn’t you?” Maria freed her arm from his grip. “Goodbye, Alex.”

This time, Hamilton didn’t attempt to stop her, distracted by the whimper of the baby in his arms. A wisp of red hair caught the porch light and confirmed she was his. When he looked up, Maria was gone but two stumbling drunks turned onto the street and Hamilton wasn’t about to linger outside. He carried the baby into the one-bedroom townhouse. Books and papers covered the counters and his desk. It was almost finals and he had two more years of law school. He had worked so hard to get his life on track and give himself a future. How was he supposed to do that now?

The baby’s whimper turned to a brief wail and Hamilton bounced her gently. He carried her across the small room to the kitchen and checked the fridge for milk. A case of beer, a half-empty bottle of orange juice, leftover pizza, a collection of condiment, and some moldy cheese reminded him that he could barely take care of himself. When he closed the fridge, a stack of empty, greasy pizza boxes piled on top tumbled to the floor. The noise startled the baby and she cried, her little round cheeks turning as red as her hair.

“Hush, bud.” Hamilton held her against his chest and patted her back. “You’re my daughter and I don’t even know your name.” Or the fact that she had even existed prior to five minutes ago. Tears burned in his eyes at his failures, at his failed future. “What am I supposed to do?”

The baby continued to cry and Hamilton knew he couldn’t stand there and bawl, too.

“Diapers and formula, right?” he asked his screaming daughter whose howls matched the constant sirens of the rough neighborhood. “I can do that.”

His eyes roved over the cluttered house, at the life he wanted, at the future he’d fought for. “We can do this.”

Chapter Text

Four years later

The phone rang while Alexander was in the shower. He smacked into the sliding door as he tried to open it and reach for his cell on the nearby counter. “Gonna get electrocuted,” he muttered to himself as he answered. “Hello?”

“I’m really sorry for the short notice,” began the nanny, Eliza Schuyler in a rush. “My sister had an emergency and I had to take her to the hospital. She’s going to be okay but I can’t leave. I know—”

“It’s okay,” Hamilton interrupted. “Take care of your sister. I’ll figure out something. Call me tonight?”

“I will.” Eliza took a deep breath. “Again, I’m really sorry.”

“Shit happens.” Hamilton closed his eyes and hoped a migraine wouldn’t add to the horrible day he envisioned. “Talk to you later.” He hung up, tossed the phone on the counter, and cussed.

The new boss started today and the law firm was on edge on how this prestigious and stoic man would run the company…and whom he might fire. Hamilton had only been with the firm six months and knew his name would be high on the list to terminate. This was his dream job, his chance. He couldn’t lose it.

You made it through law school while raising Lexi, he reminded himself. You can handle this, too.

He finished his shower, dried off, and headed across the small apartment to get dressed. After graduating from law school, he’d been lucky enough to get a job right away and afford a two-bedroom apartment in Lower Manhattan close to where he then worked. His new job was even closer and gave them more financial security. The new apartment gave them more security in general, too, and he no longer had to sleep with pepper spray and a baseball bat by his bed.

The orange tabby cat rubbed against his legs as he headed into his room. Hamilton had found him two years ago in front of the apartment building during a storm. When no one claimed the cat, Hamilton named him Croix after the Caribbean island where he’d grown up until a devastating hurricane nearly destroyed it.

“I know you want food.” Hamilton bent down and rubbed Croix’s head. “I have to get dressed and get Lexi up first.” And figure out what I’m going to do with her today.

The cat meowed again and stalked off, tail in the air. Hamilton ignored the obvious middle finger the cat was flipping him and went into his room.

After dressing, he went into the adjacent bedroom. Lexi was already awake and reading a book. “Good morning. What’re we reading?” Hamilton asked.

“Bones.” Four-year-old Lexi struggled to lift the heavy textbook and show her dad the skeleton diagram.

“Delightful.” Hamilton picked up the book, one he hadn’t sold off from health class in college since medicine and biology had always interested him. “Eliza won’t be here today so you’re coming to work with Daddy. We need to hurry and get ready.”

Lexi jumped out of her pink princess bed and ran to her dresser. Hamilton joined her and they picked out a pink plaid jumper and coordinating polo.

He hurried her into the outfit and stuffed Lexi’s tiny feet into ruffled socks and did the buckles on white patent shoes. Messy red hair so much like his own fell in her face. “Let’s see if we can tame the mane.” Lexi followed him into the bathroom and Hamilton set her on the counter. Not sure what to do with a little girl’s hair as it grew, he’d taken Eliza’s advice and had Lexi’s hair cut into a bob that framed her round, rosy cheeks and was a little easier to manage.

Once he combed her hair, Hamilton found a headband and slipped it onto his daughter’s head to keep the fine hair out of her face. “Perfect. Time for breakfast.” He kissed the tip of Lexi’s nose and she returned the gesture before he set her on the floor.

In the kitchen, Croix gave an obnoxious yowl and knocked his empty food dish to the floor.

“I know,” Hamilton said. He quickly fed the cat and hasted to get coffee brewing and Lexi breakfast. They needed to leave in ten minutes. He always walked since the law firm was less than a quarter-mile away but he would need extra time with Lexi’s chubby, little legs.

And when I get there, he thought as he sliced strawberries for Lexi’s cereal, I’ll be fired. Aloud, he said, “Eat quickly, bud.” He set Lexi on her stack of books at the table and gave her the bowl of cereal and a glass of milk.

While she ate, Hamilton made their lunch and packed a thermos of milk and some fruit snacks for Lexi’s morning snack. It only then occurred to him that Lexi would be bored out of her mind stuck at the office and he hurried to find a backpack and stuff it with coloring books, crayons, and toys.

“Bud, we gotta go.” Hamilton filled his thermos with coffee.

“Not finished.” Lexi pointed to her bowl.

“I know, but Daddy can’t be late.” He checked the time. They needed to leave now. He lifted her off the stack of books.

“Potty.”

“Be quick.” Hamilton hurried her toward the bathroom and helped her on the toilet.

“I have to poop,” Lexi said.

“Shit happens,” Hamilton said and managed a smile as his daughter nodded solemnly.

By the time he and Lexi left the apartment building, they were fifteen minutes behind.

“What do we say when things don’t go our way?” Hamilton asked as he took her hand for the walk.

“Called it!” Lexi shouted and skipped beside him.

“Exactly.”

They headed down Broadway, Hamilton soon scooping up Lexi so they could walk faster. He should have brought her scooter, he thought, but she wasn’t much faster on that and would likely scuff her white shoes.

By the time he got to work, it was almost eight-thirty. His new boss would be on his ass, he knew. He hurried Lexi inside and fretted about losing this job and the dream he was building.

Inside, Hamilton set down Lexi and headed for the elevator.

“Remember to use your manners,” he told Lexi once the elevator door closed. “All of them, understand?”

Lexi nodded.

“This is where Daddy makes the money to buy you baby dolls. We don’t want anything to jeopardize that, okay?”

She nodded again. “Jeopardy.”

Hamilton fixed her headband and took her hand as the elevator opened. Everyone told him Lexi was precocious and advanced for her age. He always shrugged and said that he just tried to read and talk to her as much as he could. He’d been able to read by four as well and had skipped several grades in school.

Down the long hallway, Hamilton stopped at the door with the plaques reading A. Hamilton and A. Burr and pushed it open. He froze at the sight of the tall, broad man standing in front of Aaron Burr’s desk and talking to the lawyer.

George Washington, the new boss.

Chapter Text

Washington and Burr looked over at the sound of the door opening. For a moment, Hamilton wondered if he could hide Lexi behind him but the little girl revealed herself at once and waved.

“Who is this, Mr. Hamilton?” Washington asked in his deep, yet wispy tone.

Hamilton swallowed and struggled to find his voice, the one thing that usually never failed him. “This is my daughter Lexi. Her nanny couldn’t watch her today.”

“And you thought this was the appropriate place for her instead?” Washington stepped toward them and towered over the slender redhead and his tiny daughter.

“She canceled this morning,” Hamilton said, struggling to keep his voice strong. “I don’t have other options.” He licked his lips. “Sir.” And now I’m dead.

Washington squatted down, barely able to make himself any smaller. “What’s your name, child?”

“Alexis Rachel Hamilton,” Lexi said. She pointed at the boss’ head. “Where’d your hair go?”

Hamilton closed his eyes briefly and tried to make peace with losing his job.

“I was cursed by an evil witch,” Washington told the little girl.

The two young lawyers exchanged a half-terrified, half-disbelieving look. When they had met with Washington before, the man had been all business, formal, stoic, and intimidating. Hamilton had figured he’d be good for the firm and didn’t worry much—until this morning—but now he wondered who this man really way.

Lexi giggled and reached to touch Washington’s head. She succeeded before Hamilton could stop her. “Egg.”

Washington tapped her on the nose and straightened. He stared down at Hamilton. “Punctuality is important, Mr. Hamilton. I expect you to remember that.”

“Yes, sir.” Hamilton held his breath until the boss left the office.

“I like Mr. Bald,” Lexi said. She tugged at Alexander’s hand. “Do you, Daddy?”

“Mmmm,” he gave as non-committed a sound as he could. “Come sit on the floor over here, bud.”

Once Lexi was settled on the floor with her backpack of entertainment, Hamilton hurried to catch up on his work.

“So…” Burr gestured vaguely.

Hamilton glanced at him. “What? Use your words.”

“Really, Alex?” Burr shook his head. “Don’t parent me. I think you need to get out more. You haven’t been on a date in four years. Maybe you need some adult entertainment.”

“I’m fine.” Hamilton smacked his computer as it buffered. “I need to concentrate on Lexi.”

“No one would dispute how devoted you are to fatherhood,” Burr continued. “But you can think of your own needs, too.”

“Nope.” He hit the computer again. “What is wrong with this thing?” He held back a lengthy grumble and slunk into his chair, arms folded. The now black screen of his computer taunted him. “I’m toast.”

“Probably,” Burr said. He pushed back his chair. “Use my computer. I’ll see if I can fix yours.”

Hamilton switched seats with him and busied himself reading and replying to emails.

“I can’t fix this,” Burr said twenty fruitless minutes later. “Call the IT guy.”

“Nope.” Hamilton didn’t look up from the monitor. “He’s creepy and smells bad. Our office stunk all day the last time he was in here.”

“We need two functioning computers, Alex.” Burr stood behind his partner and made himself annoying by shaking Hamilton’s chair.

“Fine.” Hamilton tilted back his head to stare at Burr. “But you call. He creeps me out.”

Burr ran his hand through Hamilton’s hair. “You owe me.” He called the number for the company computer tech but didn’t hear the familiar sleazy voice. Once he explained the problem and hung up, he turned to Hamilton. “Different IT guy,” he said. “Sounded hot and single.”

“Shut up,” Hamilton grumbled.

“Daddy?” Lexi spoke up.

Hamilton instantly turned his attention to his daughter. “Yes?”

“What color is this?” Lexi held out a crayon.

“Mauve,” he said reading the paper around the crayon.

Lexi studied the letters, lips moving silently as she repeated ‘mauve’ to herself.

At a knock on the door, Burr got up and let in the computer tech, as relieved as Hamilton that it wasn’t the creepy and smelly man. The new tech was young with curly dark hair and freckles dotting his brown skin.

“Are you just filling in?” Burr asked as he pointed out Hamilton’s computer.

“Washington hired me part-time,” the tech said. “He wasn’t impressed by my predecessor. “I’m John Laurens.”

Burr shook his hand and introduced himself. “This is Alexander Hamilton.” He pointed to his associate keeping out of the way, arms tight across his chest.

“Nice to meet you,” Laurens said and his gaze lingered a moment before he turned to the uncooperative computer.

Burr sidled up to Hamilton and whispered, “Told you he sounded hot.”

Hamilton nudged him away and sat on the floor with his daughter. He was a single father, dating wasn’t something he needed to focus his attention on. Lexi was more important and he was doing well enough to provide for her on his income. Although, he knew it would be nice if she didn’t have to have a nanny and could have a parent that could be home more often. But he devoted every spare moment he had to Lexi’s care and knew he was doing a decent job. Well, most of the time.

“It didn’t take long for Laurens to diagnose and fix the problem. “You’re good to go.” He turned around in the chair and faced Hamilton and Lexi on the floor. “Is this your daughter?”

“Yes,” Hamilton mumbled unable to look at the handsome computer tech. How could he date when the second he mentioned a daughter any potential suitor instantly thought he was married or in a complicated relationship? It wasn’t something he could explain right away that Lexi’s mom wasn’t in the picture and that she had dumped the child on him when Lexi was a few months old so she could get married to some rich dude and not have to deal with an oops baby.

“She’s cute.” Laurens stood. “Looks just like you.” He turned to Burr. “Anything else?”

“Let me give you Alex’s number,” Burr said, “in case his computer acts up again.” He handed over one of his associate’s business cards.

“Thanks.” Laurens waved to the Hamilton’s and left the office.

Hamilton returned to his desk and glared at Burr. “I hate you so much right now.”

“I’m just trying to get you laid,” Burr replied. “Four years is way too long to go without sex. I barely survive a week.”

“Do you ever think before you speak?” Hamilton questioned clicking on the browser.

“I like surprises.”

The men had barely gotten back to work when Washington returned, a stack of papers in hand. He dropped them on Hamilton’s desk. “Get these back to me ASAP.”

“Yes, sir.” Hamilton was instantly distracted by Lexi tugging on his sleeve.

“Hungry,” she said.

“You can have your snack in a minute,” he said.

Lexi looked up at Washington. “I didn’t have time to eat all my cereal,” she told him. “I had to poop. We was late.”

“Breakfast is very important,” Washington said, face solemn.

Hamilton could feel his boss’ eyes burning into his skull and knew the man must think he was a terrible father. Not to mention a terrible employee, too. He waited for the lecture but Washington left without another word.

After he gave Lexi her milk and fruit snacks, Hamilton hurried through the stack of papers to prove he was an efficient employee.

Finished, he gathered the papers together. “Aaron, watch Lex for a minute.”

“Got it,” Burr said with his eyes glued to his computer.

Burr was married and had a daughter the same age as Lexi. Also like Lexi, little Theodosia Jr. was precocious and gifted. Unlike Lexi, Hamilton thought the little Burr lacked manners and often wondered about the Burr’s parenting. Even so, the Burr’s were the only other people beside Eliza’s family that he would trust with his daughter.

Hurrying to Washington’s office, the door opened just as he went to knock. The computer tech smacked into him. Papers fluttered through the air and floated lazily to the ground.

“Crap, I’m sorry,” said Laurens as he rubbed his forehead. “Are you okay?”

“Yup.” Hamilton cussed under his breath while he picked up the now-unorganized forms.

Laurens helped him, apologizing profusely. “I don’t know how many times I’ve been told to slow down and pay attention. I’m always in a rush for some reason.”

Hamilton took the stack of papers from him. “Thanks.” Don’t look at him, he told himself and instead his gaze went to Laurens’ left hand and noted he didn’t wear a ring.

What are you doing? He berated himself. Maybe Burr was right and it’s been too long since I had sex. Well, suck it up; you can’t sleep with a co-worker.

He slipped into the boss’ office without another word to Laurens and dropped the papers on Washington’s desk.

“They’re out of order,” Washington said at once. “Punctuality and precision, Mr. Hamilton, are those things hard for you to understand?”

“No, sir.” Hamilton struggled to find air to breathe. He was going to lose the job he’d longed for and worked his ass off to get.

“Then fix this.” His tone was sharp, used to being obeyed.

“Yes, sir.” Hamilton took the papers back to his office and reorganized them. He returned to Washington’s office fifteen minutes later.

“Is Alexis your only child, Mr. Hamilton?” Washington asked. He riffled through the paperwork, lips pinched together.

“Yes.” Hamilton stood still, back straight, arms clasped behind him.

Washington continued to look over the forms. “Are you married?”

“No.” He ground his teeth together. Was this man going to lecture him on his promiscuity along with his lack of punctuality and precision? “Look, sir—”

Washington glared at him and shut up the young lawyer at once. “My wife and I are raising two of our grandchildren,” he said. “Our little girl, Nelly, is about your daughter’s age. It’s a huge commitment raising children, especially alone.”

And now he’s going to tell me I need a less time-invasive job and fire me. Hamilton couldn’t keep his arms behind his back and any longer and crossed them against his chest for comfort.

“Take your daughter home,” Washington continued. “You’ll be more focused tomorrow to do your due diligence to this job. I expect you here at eight o’clock sharp, Mr. Hamilton.”

The words not quite registering, it took Hamilton a moment to answer. “Yes, sir.” He let his arms relax. “Thank you.”

“Eight o’clock, Mr. Hamilton,” reiterated Washington.

“Yes, sir,” he repeated and hurried back to his office.

Burr looked up from his computer. “Get fired?”

“Not yet.” Hamilton rubbed his eyes. “He told me to take Lexi home and be on time tomorrow.”

“You’re screwed.” He spun his chair around. “But, hey, you’ll have time to ask out John Laurens if you don’t have a job.”

“No.” Hamilton picked up Lexi’s toys. “We’re going home, bud.”

The little girl put her crayons back into her pink pencil case. “I like work.”

“Good.” Hamilton kissed her head and zipped the backpack. “Hopefully, I’ll see you tomorrow, Aaron.”

“Likewise.” Burr held out a business card. “John’s number.”

“Hands are full.” Hamilton indicated to one holding Lexi and the other the backpack and lunch bag.

Burr held it out to the child instead. “Here, Lexi.”

“Don’t take that, Alexis,” Hamilton warned. “Say bye to Aaron.”

Lexi waved.

“Just looking out for your mental health, Alex,” Burr called to his partner’s retreating back. “I know I’m getting laid tonight.”

Outside, Hamilton led his daughter down the street. “It’s almost lunchtime,” he said. “Shall we have a picnic in the park?”

“Yeah!” Lexi jumped up and down.

Enjoy the peace of mind while you still have a job, Hamilton through as they walked half a block away.

“Daddy, ducks!” Lexi pointed to the pond as they crossed the street.

“Excellent,” Hamilton said. “What do ducks sound like?”

Lexi quacked for a few minutes while Hamilton found a picnic table nearby. Normally, they preferred to sit on the grass but since neither was in play attire and Hamilton was horrible at getting stains out of clothes, a picnic table was a better choice. The park in the center of a business district was devoid of other children. A few men in suits wandered through on their way to or from lunch, all on their phones. But no matter how deep in the city, parks offered a reprieve from the noise and chaos. They were places to breathe and forget the fast-pace of the world beyond the grass. The horns, sirens, and jack-hammers seemed to vanish and let the birds sing their hearts out instead.

After they finished their sandwiches, father and daughter walked around the pond and chatted with the ducks.

“It quacked back!” Lexi squealed and bounced up and down. “I speak duck, Daddy!”

“Good job, bud.” Hamilton held his first down and she bumped her tiny one against his.

They wandered through the park around a fountain, chased a few butterflies, and exclaimed over a caterpillar. On the way back to the apartment, they discussed how the fuzzy caterpillars became elegant butterflies.

“Daddy, could I grow wings?” Lexi asked. It was close to naptime and she yawned.

“No,” Hamilton said. “Little girls are already precious enough without wings.” He squeezed her hand. “I wouldn’t want you to fly away anyway. What would Daddy do then?”

“Would you die?” Lexi asked.

“I would be very, very sad.” He pulled out his keys as they neared the apartment building. “Naptime?”

Lexi yawned again and nodded.

Chapter Text

Once Lexi was down for her nap, Hamilton changed into sweats and a t-shirt, grabbed his laptop and settled down on the couch. Don’t think about it, he told himself as he found his résumé and spent a half-hour updating it. He thought about looking online for job openings, too, but the idea hurt too much. He knew his chances were slim to find something as well paying as he had now with his meager years of experience. He had already worked his way up at his current firm. A new job would send him back to the bottom.

Washington said he had a granddaughter Lexi’s age, Hamilton tried to tell himself. He surely knows the importance of family and wouldn’t want Lexi desolate. Your record speaks for itself that you’re a valuable asset to the company. 

Or, he countered, he’s trying to soften you up for the devastating blow of firing you. Make himself seem caring before he ruins you.

With a sigh, Hamilton saved his updated résumé and found something less stressful to focus on. He heard Croix meow from the kitchen a few feet behind him. “What, baby?” he asked.

The cat trotted over and jumped on the couch purring. Hamilton rubbed Croix’s head and moved aside his laptop to cuddle the feline. “You and Lexi always remind me of what’s important.” He rubbed his chin against Croix’s head. But I still want a career I enjoy. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the cat’s rumbling purr, and polydactyl feet mushing into his leg.

His phone ringing broke the quiet. Hamilton managed to grab it off the nearby end table without disturbing the cat. “Hey, Eliza. Which sister was it?”

“I didn’t expect you to answer,” Eliza said. “I won’t keep you long.”

“I’m home,” he said. “I’ll explain in a minute. You first.” He sank down on the couch and cuddled Croix. “Was it Peggy?”

“Of course it was Peggy,” Eliza replied. “Isn’t it always?”

Hamilton chuckled. He’d known the Schuyler sisters—Eliza, Peggy, and their oldest sister Angelica—for years. Peggy was always getting herself into some predicament or another. “What was it this time? Another broken bone?”

“Well…” Eliza paused. “Something broke.”

“Oh?” Hamilton sat up and jostled Croix who let out an offended squeak. He stroked the cat to soothe him. “Don’t keep me in suspense.”

“She’s pregnant.”

“Oh, shit.”

“Right?” Eliza gave a long sigh. “Darn girl is going to be the death of our mother.”

“She didn’t, like, go into labor already, did she?” Hamilton asked, not at all shocked by the news.

“No, thank God.” Eliza sucked in a deep breath. “She was having really bad cramps and thought she had kidney stones, or who knows what she thought. She’s already, like, five months along. The baby is fine, though.”

“Well…” Hamilton shook his head. “Didn’t she notice she wasn’t getting her period?”

“This is Peggy, hon.”

He couldn’t help but laugh again. “Touché.” He loved all the Schuyler’s like his own family and had lived with them for two years while he was an adolescent in college. “What is she going to do?” he asked. Peggy was four years older than he was when Maria got pregnant.

“She’s going to raise it,” Eliza said. “She’s all ‘I don’t need no man.’ Says she’s going to be like Angelica.”

“Yeah, but...” Hamilton could barely get the words out over Peggy’s ridiculousness. “Angelica is a lesbian and has a wife. I guess, the ‘no man’ part is right but Peg does realize Angelica isn’t doing life alone, right? Plus, Angelica and Joan don’t have kids yet.”

“It’s Peggy,” Eliza said. “She doesn’t know her right from her left.”

“Yeet. Is it with that Stephan kid she’s dating?”

“Yup, that one.” Eliza sighed again. “Mom is going to be the one who ends up raising it since Peggy can barely take care of herself. Peg says Stephan wants to get married but he’s younger than she is and doesn’t have a job or anything.”

“Ugh.” Hamilton gritted his teeth. “He’s nineteen, isn’t he?”

“Yup.”

The same age I was, Hamilton thought. He’d turned twenty by the time Lexi was born and Maria gave her to him. He’s graduated college two years early at least and was already in law school. He knew Peggy’s boyfriend had graduated high school but hadn’t started college. He couldn’t ask what Peggy and Stephan were thinking, though. He knew the situation too well.

“Well, shit,” he said. “At least she’d got her sisters to help her.”

“Grudgingly,” Eliza replied. “Why are you home early? Is it because of Lexi? I’m really sorry, Alex, I—”

“It’s good,” Hamilton interrupted. “Lex and I had a picnic in the park. I’m glad of the extra time with her.”

“Your job—”

“Eliza, it’ll be okay,” he said with a certainty he didn’t feel. “You’ll be here tomorrow?”

“Bright and early,” Eliza assured. “I’ll let you enjoy the rest of your day.”

“Take care.”

They hung up and Hamilton sprawled out on the couch and stroked Croix. “Humans should be sterile until they’re thirty and have their shit together,” he told the cat.

Croix butted his face against Hamilton’s chin, purring away.

“I know.” He nuzzled the cat. “Life would be horrible if we didn’t have Lexi.” Movement behind him in the kitchen caught his eye and he knew his daughter was up from her nap. “Good boy, Croix,” he said loudly in a silly voice. “You know you’re Daddy’s favorite.”

The little girl popped up next to the couch. “Lexi your favorite, Daddy!”

Hamilton nudged the cat off his chest and pulled Lexi close. “Yeah, you are, bud. Why don’t you play with your toys?”

She needed no further prompting and wiggled from his grasp. Set up in the small main room of the apartment, she had a toy kitchen, doll crib, and highchair. Playing house was Lexi’s favorite thing and Hamilton never hesitated to indulge her with more doll clothes, accessories, or play food and dishes.

While she played, he watched TV and enjoyed the rare chance to relax. Croix resumed laying on his chest, his big purr vibrating through Hamilton.

A text brought him back to reality for a brief moment. Hamilton glanced at the screen: A. Burrito. Despite knowing it wouldn’t be anything important, he checked the message and promptly ignored it, as all it contained was Laurens’ number.

He watched his daughter and the TV until dinnertime neared. “What do you want to eat, Lexi?”

“Fish sticks.” Lexi put a plastic pan on her toy stove.

“I can do that.” Hamilton set Croix on the floor and rolled off the couch. “Wha’cha cooking there?”

“Gumball stew.” She poured in a bag of marbles.

“Excellent.” He smiled at his daughter. “Remember those never go in your mouth.”

Lexi stirred the marbles around the pan. “I know.”

In the tiny kitchen, Hamilton pulled out a box of fish sticks from the freezer and preheated the oven. He tossed some on a baking sheet and searched the cupboards for what else they could have. Boxed macaroni and cheese, he decided, and they could have some raw baby carrots for some semblance of nutrition. Once the oven was ready, he stuck the tray inside, put the macaroni noodles in the microwave, and returned to watch his daughter play.

He sat on the floor next to the baby cradle where one of the dolls lay. “Is this one Skittles or Starburst?”

“Skittles,” Lexi said. She pointed to the Asian baby doll in the nearby high chair. “That’s Starburst. Skittles has red hair.”

“Makes sense,” Hamilton said. “May I hold one?”

“You can feed Starburst.” Lexi handed him a toy bottle.

Hamilton moved across the floor and took the doll out of the high chair. He cuddled Starburst on his lap and pretended to feed her. Skittles had been a second birthday present from him since the doll looked like Lexi but she had been adamant that she also needed a baby that looked like Eliza. She received Starburst for Christmas that year.

Feeding the baby doll almost made him long for a real baby again. Even though the nights had been long when Lexi was an infant, the hour of quiet when she was asleep in his arms always made up for it. She’d gone to law school with him many days snuggled against his chest in a sling. He focused better when she was with him, the reminder of what he fought for, what he wanted to achieve. He liked to say she already had a college education and that Kindergarten would be a letdown.

Quickly he pushed aside the thought of Kindergarten, not ready for his baby to grow up. That was still a year away.

The oven beeped and Hamilton set Starburst back in the highchair. “Come help Daddy set the table, Lex.”

She followed him into the kitchen where Croix yowled at them and knocked his empty food bowl to the floor.

“Patience, child,” Hamilton told him. He turned off the beeping timer and grabbed a potholder. Tray out of the oven, he handed Lexi a plate one at a time, then two forks and napkins. He finished the macaroni and cheese, poured milk, fed the cat, and grabbed a bottle of ranch dressing and carrots from the fridge.

Once Lexi was on her stack of books, he asked, “Would you like to say grace?”

Lexi folded her hands at once. “Thank you, Jesus, for food and Daddy. Amen.”

“And for Lexi,” Hamilton added. “And Croix. Amen.”

“Perfect, Daddy.” Lexi patted his hand.

Throughout dinner, they talked about the butterflies and caterpillars they’d seen at the park. When finished, Lexi helped clear the table. Dishes done, Hamilton helped her use the bathroom and they returned to the family room. Lexi played and Hamilton browsed online from his laptop.

As bedtime neared, Lexi crawled up on the couch next to him. Hamilton set aside his laptop and lay down so she could curl up against his chest. They watched TV, Croix on the back of the couch purring until all were nearly asleep.

“Alright, bud,” said Hamilton through a yawn. “Daddy’s tired. Time for bed.” It was barely eight o’clock but the stressful day taxed him.

Lexi rolled off the couch and pulled at her dad’s hand. “Up.”

Hamilton followed her to the bathroom, Croix behind him. He helped his daughter brush her teeth, use the toilet, and change. Tucked in bed, he asked. “What book are we reading tonight?”

Lexi pointed to the heavy medical textbook on her nightstand.

Hamilton picked it up and sat on the bed, back against the wall. He’d painted the walls in her bedroom light pink to add some life to the small room since it only had one window. Pictures of animals and fairies adorned the walls. A rug on the floor made a comfortable spot to play. She would have space for a playroom someday, Hamilton wished. A house in Brooklyn, perhaps near the Schuyler’s. For now, he read about the circulatory system until both were nearly asleep.

“Goodnight, princess.” Hamilton kissed her rosy cheek and turned off the light. He headed to the bathroom near the front door and got ready for bed. He read for an hour, Croix at his feet kneading the blankets and occasionally biting his dad’s toes under the covers.

Eyes too tired to register the words anymore, Hamilton set aside the book and got up to turn off the light. “Night, prince.”

Croix yawned widely showing off his carnivorous canines as he purred.

Chapter Text

A half four before his alarm went off the next morning, Hamilton grunted awake as Lexi crawled over him and got under the covers. “Yes?” he mumbled.

“I wet the bed,” Lexi said.

“Okay.” Hamilton rubbed his eyes and turned on the reading light to find his glasses. Waking himself up, he headed for his daughter’s room and collected the wet pajamas she’d stripped off and pulled the soiled sheets from the bed. He tossed everything in a basket and would have to ask Eliza to take it down to the laundry room in the building to wash. Not having his own washer and dryer was the biggest hassle he’d discovered about living in an apartment with a young child. At least once a week, he washed stuff in the tub to save the time of having to wait for two loads of laundry to wash and dry.

He returned to his room. “Get out of Daddy’s bed.” He tried to shoo the child. “You need a bath.”

“No!” Lexi burrowed deeper under the blankets.

“Shower with Daddy then.” Hamilton stopped a yawn.

“No!” She scurried out of the blankets and bolted out of the room naked.

“Alexis Rachel!” Hamilton went after her. “How about no bath, but you need to stay where Daddy knows your safe while I get ready for work. I can’t be late today.” He found her on the couch hitting buttons on the remote.

“Stay home,” Lexi said and gave him her saddest puppy-dog face.

“Bud, don’t do this.” Hamilton scooped her up. “Let’s find you some underwear and Eliza can give you a bath later.”

Croix yowled from the back of the couch. Lexi reached out and grabbed the cat’s ear. Croix swatted her and Lexi yowled louder than the cat.

“Kids, come on,” Hamilton scolded. He checked Lexi’s hand but Croix hadn’t used his claws and left no mark. “You know not to grab the cat, Lexi.” 

She squirmed and screamed. Hamilton set her on the floor in her room and knelt in front of her. “I hear you, bud. Want to tell Daddy why we’re upset?” He watched his teary-eyed, red-faced daughter. “Is it because you had an accident? Daddy isn’t upset. Sometimes that just happens.”

“Lexi big girl.” She stuck her thumb in her mouth.

“You’re still a big girl and you’ll always be Daddy’s best girl.” He tucked her wild hair behind her ears. “No more sad, okay?”

Lexi nodded and wrapped her arms around his neck. He squeezed her tight as the doorbell rang. “That must be Eliza.” And that means I’m behind again, Hamilton thought. He lifted up his daughter and headed for the door.

“Rough morning?” Eliza asked as Hamilton let her inside and she noted him still in boxers and a t-shirt and Lexi in nothing.

“Oh, you know.” He smiled.

Eliza took the child from him. “Go get ready for work. I’ll handle this beautiful creature.”

“Thank you.” Hamilton went into the nearby bathroom and turned on the shower. The bathroom was tight enough and Croix weaving around his legs didn’t help. “Come on, boy.” He nudged the cat out the open door and stepped out of his boxers. He got in the shower and heard Croix meowing.

“I’m busy,” he told the cat. “Go pester Eliza to feed you.”

Croix gave a sassy meow back.

A moment later, he heard Lexi calling for him, too, and she poked her head in the bathroom. 

“Yes?” Hamilton asked, facing the showerhead to rinse off. He knew Eliza wouldn’t be far behind the child. They’d often shared a bathroom when he lived with her family since she had to share with her messy sisters otherwise. He’d had the garden level of the townhouse to himself, almost like his own apartment—and bigger than his current one—and welcomed someone to chat with in the mornings. Being two years younger than his peers at college had been an isolating experience. Eliza’s understanding friendship helped him through.

Sure enough, Eliza called for Lexi and entered the crowded bathroom. “Let’s get you dressed.” She tugged the little girl’s hand.

“Daddy’s not dressed,” Lexi said.

“He’s taking a bath,” Eliza said. “Which you need to do, too, okay?”

“No!”

The howl grew fainter as Eliza hauled her out of the room. Croix followed them out, tail up.

Hamilton finished showering and grabbed the towel hanging over the shower door. He always rehung it there so he wouldn’t forget when he showered and thus more often forgot to wash it.

Fifteen minutes before he had to leave. Hamilton put in his contact lenses, ran a comb through his damp hair, and hurried back to his room to dress. He grabbed his shoes and went into the kitchen. 

Eliza had gotten Lexi to put on underwear and she sat on her books eating a sliced banana. “I put coffee on for you,” she said.

“Thank you.” Hamilton grabbed containers of leftover fish stick and macaroni and cheese from the fridge and threw them in his lunch bag. He filled a thermos with coffee and kissed Lexi on the head. “Daddy will see you later. Be a good girl.”

Croix jumped on the kitchen table.

“Get down!” Hamilton swatted the cat. “Not on the table, you know that.”

The cat got down and rubbed against Alexander’s black pants.

“Go,” said Eliza. “Everything is handled.”

“I love you,” Hamilton said as he grabbed his keys and wallet.

“I know,” Eliza replied. “And I love how much you pay me.”

Rolling his eyes, he headed outside one minute late.

When he arrived, he saw Burr pull his sports car into its reserved spot. He lived a mile away and, in Hamilton’s opinion, was stupid enough to drive in the city.

“Well, if it isn’t Aaron Burr, sir,” Hamilton called out.

“Please, stop saying that,” Burr begged. They headed in together and up to their office.

“You should get a cat and call it Purr Burr.” Hamilton grinned at him.

Burr shoved him into the office.

They settled into their morning routine of checking messages and answering emails. An hour later, Burr stretched in his chair and leaned back. “The wife and I are taking Theo to some children’s reading at the library tonight. You should bring Lexi.”

“Maybe.” Hamilton dug through his stack of paperwork. “What book?”

Burr yawned “I dunno. Probably some stupid kid’s book Theo could already read on her own.”

“Mmmm,” Hamilton gave his acknowledgement. He did consider Burr a friend but it annoyed him to no end that Burr’s daughter was as intelligent and precocious as his own.

“You should totally come, though, Alex,” Burr persisted. “You don’t get out enough. Maybe you could meet another single parent in need of getting laid as much as you.”

Hamilton glared at him. “Quit trying to set me up. I’m fine.”

“That attitude says otherwise.” Burr stopped a second yawn. “I need coffee. You?”

In response, he handed over his empty thermos.

The afternoon was busier as the colleagues prepared for a court case the following day. Court days were their favorite, a chance for each to show off his knowledge and skills. Even better if the opposing attorney was their rival, Thomas Jefferson.

***

“Are you coming tonight?” Burr asked as they prepared to leave.

“I suppose.” Hamilton gathered his things. “Six?”

“Yup.” He followed Hamilton outside and watched him head across the street before he got into his car.

As usual, when Hamilton arrived home, Lexi waited for him at the door. He scooped her up in his arms and squeezed her tight. “How’s my princess?”

“Good!” Lexi kissed the tip of his nose.

“Excellent.” Hamilton carried her to the kitchen where Eliza was cleaning up. 

“There’s lasagna in the oven for you,” she said. Hamilton had texted her earlier that he was taking Lexi to the library and asked as nicely as he could if she could throw something in the oven to be ready before they left.

“Thank you.” Hamilton kissed her cheek. “I will save you a piece for your lunch tomorrow.”

“Perfect.” Eliza ticked Lexi under the chin. “She did have a bath. I’ll see you guys tomorrow. Have fun tonight.”

Hamilton walked her to the front door and saw her out. “Alright, bud.” He looked at his daughter’s intent blue eyes on him. “Let’s eat and hit the town.”

They arrived at the library a little early to scope it out and find a seat. Lexi held tight to her dad’s hand as she stared at the shelves of books.

“I wanna read all them,” she whispered.

“I’m sure you will, bud.” Hamilton searched out signs and figured out where he needed to go.

“Mr. Bald!” Lexi pointed to the towering man as he came toward the children’s section of the library. “Daddy, look, it’s Mr. Bald!”

“I see,” Hamilton said as if anyone could miss Washington. By his side was his much smaller and plumper wife. She held a baby in her arms while their little granddaughter clung to Washington’s large hand.

Please don’t see me, Hamilton thought and was glad to spot the Burr’s and dragged Lexi toward them.

Burr and Theodosia walked with their daughter between them, each holding her hand. She was the perfect blend of them with rosy dark skin and black hair twisted into two puffs. She wore a smocked dress with a cardigan sweater, as elegant and stylish as both her proud parents.

“You actually came, Alex,” Burr greeted him. “Good job.”

“Yeah, but...” Hamilton gestured toward their boss. Lexi clung to his leg as more people and children walked by.

Burr shrugged. “I’m sure he’ll keep to himself.”

Washington may have preferred that as well but little Theo saw a potential friend and pulled away from her parents and approached Nelly. She gave a graceful curtsy. “Theodosia Burr.”

“Nelly.” The little girl stuck a pudgy thumb in her mouth.

“I take ballet.” Theo posed in fifth position, her legs crossed and feet pointed outward.

“You’re very talented,” Martha Washington told her with a smile as she patted the baby on the back.

“Come along, Miss Priss.” Burr guided his daughter toward the chairs with a polite nod to his boss. “Alex, you should get Lexi into ballet, too,” he said as they took seats next to each other, daughters on their laps. 

“Perhaps,” Hamilton said, thinking of the cost. His aunt Anne Lytton had paid for his college education giving him a leg up as an adult but he still barely made ends meet with the ridiculous rent cost and a desire to enjoy life with occasional splurges. He was saving to get Lexi into private school next year (Philip and Catherine Schuyler insisted on paying half the tuition cost) and had an idea of how pricey the ballet school was the Burr’s sent Theo. Plus, he didn’t want to force more duties on Eliza of having to cart Lexi around to dance lessons. Burr’s wife worked from home and both she and Burr were independently wealthy. Sometimes he wished Burr had a better understanding of his life but at the same time didn’t wish to share the struggles he faced.

The Washington’s took seats behind them. Burr turned back toward his boss. “What’s your grandson’s name?”

“Washy,” Washington said. “He just turned one.”

“Handsome fellow.” Burr smiled at the plump baby on Martha’s lap. He had pale blond curls like his sister and neither looked anything like their grandparents.

When the story began, Lexi and little Theo listened quietly and paid prompt attention. Behind them, Washy fell asleep and Nelly amused herself with Washington’s watch after she found the button to make the watch face light up.

When the book reading ended, Theo was quick to give her opinion. “That was dumb.” She slipped off Burr’s lap. 

“Told you it wouldn’t be up to her standards,” Burr told his wife. “Lexi, what did you think?”

Growing shy, she hid her face against her dad’s chest.

“She’ll send you her review,” Hamilton said. He stood, Lexi in his arms. “See you tomorrow.” He turned but Burr grabbed his back pocket. “What?”

Burr pointed with his chin to another father-daughter pair. “Bet he’s single.”

“Bet he’s not,” Hamilton hissed and got out of Burr’s reach. “Stop trying to set me up.”

Theodosia touched her husband on the arm to stop him before he retorted and tried to point out any other potential matches. “Let’s get Miss Prissy home.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Burr patted Alexander on the shoulder and led his family out.

“Ready, bud?” Hamilton asked his daughter.

“Potty,” Lexi said.

He held back a sigh and located a sign for the restroom. Please have a family bathroom, he thought. He hated taking Lexi into the men’s room. None was ever clean. When Lexi was in diapers, he’d learned quickly which businesses accommodated fathers with daughters and had either family bathrooms or changing tables in the men’s restroom. The list was short. He’d gotten his law school to make changes and put in several gender-neutral bathrooms with changing tables.

No family bathroom. Hamilton sighed and checked in the men’s room. Clean-ish but occupied and he winced when he accidentally made eye contact with Washington at a urinal. He withdrew quickly, figuring there were no proper words for the situation. “We need to wait a minute, Lexi,” he mumbled. “It’s occupied.”

“Girl potty.” Lexi pointed to the adjacent restroom.

“Daddy can’t go in there,” Hamilton said.

“I gotta pee!” She crossed her legs.

Hamilton shooed her into the women’s restroom. “Is anyone in there?”

“Mr. Bald’s wife,” Lexi shouted to him.

Hamilton pinched the bridge of his nose as he heard his daughter ask Martha if her daddy could come in the potty room with her.

“It’s fine,” Martha said. “Washy is in here, too.”

Sheepishly, Hamilton entered the bathroom and ushered his daughter into a stall, desperate not to make eye contact with his boss’ wife as she changed Washy’s diaper.

He was relieved to find the Washington’s gone by the time Lexi finished and they headed for home.

“I like Mrs. Bald,” Lexi announced as she sat on his shoulders and played with his hair. “Do you like Mrs. Bald?”

“She seems nice,” Hamilton replied. A lot warmer than her husband, he thought. Even seeing Washington with his grandchildren, he still couldn’t fathom the imposing man as a father.

When they returned home, Hamilton stopped a yawn. “You had your bath so why don’t you play dolls until bedtime?”

Lexi was quick to drop to the floor and grab Starburst. Hamilton sat on the couch and grabbed his laptop. After some adjusting and resorting to an awkward position, he managed to use it and hold Croix on his lap.

I haven’t been fired you, he thought. Maybe things would work out. Maybe his dreams could still come true.

Chapter Text

“Washington wants to see you,” Burr informed Hamilton as he entered their office.

Hamilton dropped his lunch bag on his desk. “No.”

“Sorry.” Burr gave him a sympathetic smile. “He didn’t look pissed if that’s any consolation.”

“Not really.” He dragged himself out and down the long hallway. He paused before he knocked, staring at G. Washington on the door. “George Washing-machine,” he mumbled to himself and rapped his knuckles against the door.

“Enter.”

Hamilton stepped inside. “You wanted to see me, Mr. Washing-machine?” He cringed at once, florid cheeks turning a darker shade. “Washington, sir.” He couldn’t breathe.

“Sit,” Washington said.

Stumbling forward on weak yet stiff legs, Hamilton tripped over the chair leg as he pulled it out and crashed into the desk. Coffee sloshed out of Washington’s mug and soaked into some papers.

“Calm down, son.” Washington grabbed a handful of tissues to sop up the coffee.

Hamilton drew his shoulder in tight, arms crossed as he fought an angry retort. His father had abandoned him as a child and his mother had died. He hadn’t been someone’s “son” in over a decade. Think of Lexi, he tried to soothe himself and block out the pounding in his head. Keep your mouth shut

“I’m not your son,” Hamilton spat and instantly recoiled into the chair.

Washington studied him with a somber yet expressionless gaze. “You have court today,” he said at last and handed over the coffee-stained papers. “Fill these out, please.”

Hamilton stared at the busywork forms, paperwork to keep him in line, he thought.

“Is Alexis your only family?” Washington asked.

Hamilton stood. “I have court in an hour and need to get these done.” He walked to the door.

“Alexander.”

Shoulders hunched, he paused, hand on the doorknob.

“I want to see you after court.” His voice remained neutral.

“Yes, sir.” Hamilton closed the door behind him. Back at his office, he slumped into his chair. 

“Are you still doing court today?” Burr asked.

“Probably my last one.” Hamilton rubbed his eyes. “Do we need to leave?”

“Yup. I’ll drive.” 

Hamilton followed him out and got into Burr’s pricey sports car with reluctance. “Why do you insist on driving everywhere? It’s seriously faster to walk.”

“Driving is more of an adrenaline rush.” Burr pulled out of his parking spot with barely a glance for other cars. “My wife wants to get a cat,” he changed the subject. “Do you like your cat? Is he messy?”

“He’s a good cat,” Hamilton said, attention focused on the side mirror, staring at his pathetic reflection. “He’s pretty clean. Good company. Name it Purr Burr.”

“No. You know who else would be—”

“Aaron.” Hamilton glared at him. “I’m not dating the computer tech.”

With an eye roll, he glanced at his partner. “Buckle your seatbelt, Alex.”

Hamilton pulled the belt across his chest and buckled it. “When are you getting the cat?”

“I would not be surprised if I came home and found one tonight.” Traffic increased as he neared the Brooklyn Bridge and Burr laid on the horn.

“Whipped.” Hamilton resumed staring at his reflection. He’d long ago learned not to question his colleague’s horrendous driving.

“Devoted,” insisted Burr, braking fast. “I would love anything she brought home.”

Hamilton gagged.

They soon arrived at the courthouse and figured out where they needed to be. It was the jury selection day. It always made Hamilton giddy to question the potential jurors and see a new crowd of faces. People forever amazed him with their stupid answers to try and be dismissed from jury duty. He and Burr set up at their table and observed the potential jurors.

Burr nudged him and whispered, “First row, third from the end. You have an admirer.”

Hamilton glanced at the jury box and saw the young woman look away. “People always stare at me,” he murmured back. “My hair is very vivid.”

“Sure,” Burr said with a smirk.

As they took their turn to question the jurors to decide who would be selected, Hamilton picked the young woman first and made her cheeks turn red as she answered. He didn’t dare look at his associate to see his reaction. He wasn’t looking to date and definitely wasn’t going to ask out a potential juror.

The questions were on ethics, hypothetical situations, latent biases. Hamilton and Burr made notes as they questioned the potential jurors as to the picks they wanted for the final jury who would deliberate and give the final judgement of guilty or not guilty.

It was a lengthy procedure, as the prosecutor had an equal chance to question the jurors, and Hamilton wished the court system would find a way to quicken the process. It took a few hours to select the jury. The non-selected people were dismissed and the trial began.

***

“Cut and dry,” Burr said as the partners left the courthouse. “Guilty.”

Hamilton sighed. “You would make a terrible juror.”

“We’re defending the witness, Alex.” Burr unlocked his car. “If we didn’t think the other side was guilty, what are we fighting for?”

“New evidence can always appear.” He got in the car and reached for the seatbelt. “You judge too fast. Do you have any ethics?”

Burr shot him a look. “Don’t question my motives. I know why I do what I do.”

Hamilton didn’t antagonize him further as he adjusted his briefcase at his feet and remembered the forms Washington asked him to fill out. “Shit.”

“Don’t read those in the car,” Burr admonished as he sped through a yellow light. “You get car sick. If you puke in my car you are never riding in it again.”

“I have to get these done for Washington.” Hamilton wrote fast. “It’s already five o’clock. I don’t want to stay later at work.”

“Do not puke in my car.” Burr braked sharply.

“Then don’t drive like an ass!” Hamilton swallowed the saliva filling his mouth. The combination of reading and writing while in motion coupled with hunger made him nauseous within minutes sped up by Burr’s erratic driving and the stop and go of rush hour traffic.

He made it back to the office without throwing up but his legs were shaky when he got out of the car and his face sweaty.

“You alright?” Burr asked.

“I’ll live.” Hamilton sucked in a deep breath of congested city air. He hurried inside to Washington’s office to get this over with. He wanted to be home with his daughter.

“Enter,” Washington said after the gentle knock. “How was court?”

Hamilton swallowed the saliva filling his mouth once more. “Fine.” He pressed a hand against his lips with one hand and handed over the forms with the other. But he caught a whiff of the coffee stain on the paper and his stomach gave up its contents.

Washington handed him a garbage can before the second bought hit, and the young lawyer vomited again. “Were you drinking?” he asked sharply.

Panting and sweating, Hamilton looked up. “I get car sick.” Embarrassment turned to anger and he snapped, “I had to finish your busywork in the car. I know how to document a court case, sir.” He set down the trashcan and promptly threw up again.

“I have to have you tested for drugs and alcohol,” Washington said, rubbing his forehead. “Wait here.”

When the boss left, Hamilton sank into the nearest chair and crossed his arms tight against his aching stomach. As if throwing up in his boss’ office wasn’t humiliating enough, he would now have to pee in a cup. I just want to go home. He closed his eyes and thought about his daughter. I have to keep this job for her. I want this job.

Washington returned with the expected cup and pointed to the bathroom connected to his office. The janitor followed and cleaned up the vomit.

A sweaty, pale face stared back in the mirror as Hamilton closed the bathroom door. No wonder he thinks you’re on drugs. He unscrewed the lid on the cup and set it on the counter. He unbuckled his belt and unzipped his pants, trying to figure out how not to make a huge mess.

Mostly succeeding, he washed up and screwed the lid on tight. He left it in the bathroom, hoping Washington didn’t wish to humiliate him further and carry his pee jar out.

“You can go home,” Washington told him.

Hamilton headed for the door.

“Alexander.”

He ground his teeth, hand on the doorknob.

“Be in at seven tomorrow morning.”

“Yes, sir.” The door slammed behind him.

Seeing Lexi at the door made some of his worries vanish. Hamilton held tight to his daughter and pleaded with whoever might listen in the Heavens to let him keep his job.

“Sorry, I’m late,” he told Eliza as he carried Lexi into the kitchen.

“Rough day?” Eliza asked. “You look pale.”

“Aaron is a terrible driver.” Hamilton set Lexi on the counter and stroked Croix’s head as the cat head-butted his hand. “I have to be in at seven tomorrow.”

“I’ll be here at six-thirty.” Eliza touched his shoulder. “Is your new boss giving you trouble?”

Hamilton shrugged. “Did Lexi do her workbooks today?” Lexi could already read at a first-grade level but she struggled with numbers and Hamilton didn’t want her falling behind in Kindergarten—a baseless worry with how advanced she already was but plagued him nonetheless.

“She finished two pages,” Eliza said.

Hamilton kissed his daughter’s forehead. “Excellent.”

“I fed her already since it was getting late.” Eliza rubbed her hand against Hamilton’s back. “She had one of her Lunchables. I hope that’s okay.”

“Thanks.” His eyes closed briefly, as he soaked up the touch.

“Are you sure everything is okay?” Eliza questioned. “You’re really tense.”

I don’t want to lose my job! Hamilton swallowed. “Yeah. Food will help.”

“Okay.” She kissed Lexi on the head and saw herself out.

Hamilton set Lexi on the floor and shooed her off to play with her toys. He made himself toast and hot chocolate and crashed on the couch to watch TV. Croix curled up on his lap, purring away. The gentle rumble and vibrations helped soothe them both.

When Lexi was in bed an hour later, Hamilton filled up the bathtub and poured in bubble bath. Wine sounded really good but he’d given up drinking the day Maria gave him Lexi. He should have told Washington that, he thought. He undressed and slipped into the hot, bubbly water and let it soak away his stress.

The first time he took Lexi to law school was three days after Maria turned his life upside down. By then, at least, he’d received the birth certificate and knew that the baby had been named Alexis Rachel. Maria signed all her rights away to the baby—a way of making sure she didn’t have to pay child support, Hamilton’s legal-minded brain guessed. He never intended to ask her for anything anyway. Their relationship had been nothing more than extended hookups while they were in college. He went on to law school and she dropped out of college. Now, he realized, it was probably because she’d been pregnant.

Everyone had stared when he walked into class, makeshift sling across his chest made from a blanket and Google’s help on how to carry around and soothe an infant. A few people questioned him but he had no friends that actually cared why he suddenly had a baby. Since Lexi was quiet, his professors didn’t hassle him. It became more normal to see the slender, youthful redhead with the baby against his chest that he drew more attention when Lexi wasn’t with him. He invested in a proper baby sling and reached out to the Schuyler’s for assistance. They were more than happy to help and watched the baby on an occasional day when he had a test or a crammed schedule.

When he graduated law school, Lexi had her own cap and gown to wear courtesy of his favorite teacher’s wife. She had just turned three. She had learned to read in the last few months from sitting next to Hamilton in class, watching, listening. The professors teased that she was the second best student, only below her father.

Yawning, Hamilton dragged himself from the cooling and bubble-free bathwater and dried off.

“Daddy?” Lexi called out from her room.

“Coming, bud.” He slipped on clean boxers and a t-shirt and hurried to his daughter’s room. “What’s wrong?” He flipped on the light.

“Monster.” Lexi pointed under her bed.

“Yeah?” Hamilton knelt down on the floor. “Is it cute?” He pulled out one of Lexi’s stuffed animals. “Look at that, it is cute.” He tucked the bear in next to his daughter and kissed her nose. “Go to sleep. Daddy has to leave early tomorrow.”

Lexi closed her eyes.

Chapter Text

Seven o’clock, Hamilton was at Washington’s office.

“Punctual, excellent,” Washington said. “Have a seat.”

“I’ll stand.” He regretted the decision at once when Washington remained upright, too, and towered over him. “What did you need to see me about so early?” Hamilton started to cross his arms but tucked them behind his back instead.

“Why are you upset?” Washington questioned.

“I’m not,” Hamilton replied in a tone that relayed the opposite.

“You’re young, Alexander.” Washington let the remark slide. “You’ve only been working as a lawyer for a year. I want to make sure you are prepared and I want to see you succeed.” 

“I know what I’m doing.” His arms struggled to return their protective stance across his chest and he clenched his hands into fists at his side. “I was top of my class.”

“I know.” Washington took a seat at his desk and motioned for his employee to do likewise.

Hamilton continued to refuse, a steady blush rising up his neck. “Aaron only has a year more experience than I do. I hope you’re just as concerned about him.”

“Mr. Burr doesn’t have nearly as much on his plate as you do,” Washington said. He pressed his fingers together in a steeple. “You’re twenty-four raising a four-year-old daughter on your own. You must feel a tremendous amount of stress. You picked a demanding career and I want to ensure you are not overtaxed.”

“I can do my job.” Hamilton bristled, arms crossed. “I don’t need special treatment. I managed law school as a single dad. I can handle this job.”

“I don’t want you—”

“I don’t want you to treat me like a baby,” Hamilton interrupted sharply. “If you don’t think I’m doing a good job then fire me. I will not be disrespected.” 

Washington watched him with a calm expression, eyes taking in the red cheeks and heaving chest of the young lawyer. “Do you have any family other than Alexis?”

“No. Why do you keep asking me that?” Hamilton demanded.

“Because a support system—”

“I have everything I need!” Spit flew from his mouth. “My education was paid for. The Schuyler’s help me out with Lexi. I’m fine.”

“Son—”

“I’m not your son.” Hamilton turned his head as moisture gathered in his eyes. He hated not being heard more than anything else. What did this man know about his life? Why did he think he knew better?

“I realize you don’t like asking for help.”

Hamilton shot him a look, eyes shimmering. “I don’t need help.”

“Well, you’re not exactly doing your paperwork correctly.” Washington pointed to the coffee-stained papers on his desk. “If you had actually paid attention to the forms, you would have seen what you’re supposed to do. You need to slow down, Mr. Hamilton.”

He saw his mistakes at once. “I can redo it.” Hamilton pressed the cuff of his shirt against his almost-leaking left eye.

“Sit.” Washington dug out new forms and handed them over.

This time, Hamilton took a seat. He wrote his report properly that time, shoulders hunched as he used a corner of Washington’s desk and knew the boss had to be staring at him the whole time. But when he finished and looked up, he saw Washington focused on his computer. He slid the papers into the man’s peripheral vision.

“Finished?” Washington looked over the forms. “Much better.” He looked at his watch. “We’ll leave for court in ten minutes.”

Hamilton’s forehead wrinkled. “Pardon?”

“I want to observe you in court.” Washington stood. “Go get your things. I’ll drive.”

He didn’t have it in him to fight, especially now that he knew Washington was as manic as Burr if he drove in the city. Hurrying out of the office, he smacked into the computer tech at once.

“We have to stop meeting like this,” Laurens said as he rubbed his forehead. “Are you okay?” He flashed his perfect straight, white teeth.

The only thing straight and white about him, Hamilton thought. He held a hand over his nose. “Yup.”

“Crap, your nose is bleeding.” Laurens searched his pockets for a handkerchief he knew he wouldn’t have. “I’m sorry.”

Blood dripped between Hamilton’s fingers and stained his white shirt. “It’s nothing.”

“Let me get you a tissue.” Laurens went into Washington’s office and came back with the box... and the boss behind him. “Here.” Laurens handed him several tissues.

Hamilton pulled his bloody hand away from his nose and accepted the tissues.

“Try not to get any more blood on your shirt,” Washington said with what might have been a fatherly concern in his voice. “Your nose isn’t broken, is it?”

“No,” Hamilton said. He’d broken it before and had an unsightly bump on the bridge of his nose from it never being properly set.

“I’m really sorry, Alexander.” Laurens watched him with worried eyes.

“Sorry isn’t going to get the blood off his shirt,” Washington said and ushered Hamilton back into his office. “You can’t look like that in court.”

Knowing there wasn’t time to argue, Hamilton let Washington lead him into the bathroom.

“Take off your shirt,” Washington said as he opened a cabinet. “Hydrogen peroxide will take out the stain. Let’s go, Alex.”

Hamilton struggled to unbutton his shirt with one hand while the other held the tissues against his nose. He froze and didn’t dare move when Washington took over, his hands surprisingly gentle as he undid the buttons and tugged the shirt off the lawyer’s thin shoulders.

Washington soaked the blood spots in the peroxide and foam bubbled up. The stains vanished at once when he rinsed away the chemical. “Did your nose stop bleeding?”

“I think so.” Hamilton remained stiff, panicked.

“Wash up.” Washington held the shirt under the hand dryer. He waited long enough for Hamilton to wash the blood off his face and opened the door. “Let’s go.”

Shirt half off when he followed Washington, Hamilton cringed when he saw Burr waiting and his questioning smirk.

“Really? Him?” Burr murmured.

Hamilton snarled at him.

The young lawyers followed their boss out to his shiny, black Cadillac. Hamilton had no problem letting Burr sit in the front and gladly got in back to attempt getting his shirt tucked in.

They arrived at the courthouse with minutes to spare—Washington’s driving not much better than Burr’s—and no time to prepare before they entered the courtroom. Washington took a seat in the stands and sighed when he noticed Hamilton’s shirt sticking out in the back. He hoped Burr would notice and alert his colleague.

Well, Burr noticed but took matters into his own hands and tucked Hamilton’s shirt in himself prompting Hamilton’s easily flushed face to turn red, and some amused looks from the assembling jurors. 

“Did you have to touch my butt?” Hamilton hissed.

“Just making sure you look tidy,” Burr said.

“You’re making me look gay.”

“You are.”

Washington cleared his throat loudly to shut them up as the judge entered the courtroom. 

They worked well together, Washington thought as he observed his young lawyers. Both were well-spoken on the floor, quick to object, quick on their feet with questions. The only flaw he saw in Hamilton was perhaps having too much wind in his sails and speaking at length every time. Burr, he thought, was a little harsh in his tone, a little too unbiased. 

Both young men had started college early, graduated early, excelled in law school, and easily made their older peers look stupid and clumsy. Both had insatiable ambition and a need to prove themselves. Both also had short builds and were more than pleasant to look at.

Hamilton was different when he had a stage to perform on, Washington mused as he saw none of the self-conscious and tight posture as he questioned a witness. But Burr had more confidence, he believed, a byproduct of his more stable life and upbringing.

When the judge dismissed the jury for a brief recess, Washington approached his lawyers. “Two things. Mr. Hamilton, quit playing with your hair and Mr. Burr keep your hands to yourself.”

Before he could stop himself, Hamilton unconsciously brushed back his hair but Burr, at least, managed to stop himself before he rested a hand against his partner’s back.

“We’re up to your standards otherwise?” Burr asked.

“You’re doing well,” Washington said. He returned to his seat as the bailiff brought the jury back into the courtroom.

Full trial days were draining and Hamilton couldn’t stop yawning as they packed up to leave.

“Should be over tomorrow,” Burr said and patted Hamilton’s arm. “Do you want me to ask boss-man to stop for coffee on the way back?”

“It’s too late for coffee.” He stopped another yawn.

“That’s right.” Burr grinned. “You don’t have anyone to have sex with when you get home.”

Hamilton glared at him and snapped his briefcase shut. “I seriously doubt you have sex every night.”

“Ask my wife.” Burr winked at him.

They headed toward Washington and followed him out to the Cadillac.

“Perhaps you should invest in some hair ties, Mr. Hamilton,” Washington suggested. “Or cut it.” He stuck the key in the ignition.

Burr turned to look in the backseat. “You should wear a headband like Lexi does.”

Hamilton was too tired to retort and brushed the hair out of his eyes. He didn’t think it was long enough yet for a ponytail nor did he want to cut it. Eliza might have some hairspray or gel to tame it until it grew to a more manageable length, he hoped. He’d kept his hair long until law school when he’d been persuaded to keep it short. He wasn’t about to let anyone tell him what to do with his hair again.

“Are you car sick, Alexander?” Washington asked. “You’re quiet.”

“No, sir.” Hamilton closed his eyes.

He woke with a start to find Washington looming over him. Hamilton shrank in the seat, almost trembling before his brain comprehended the situation and reminded him he wasn’t back in a pitiful orphanage in the Caribbean.

Washington withdrew, watching him closely. “Are you sure you’re not sick?”

“Yes.” Hamilton got out of the back seat and headed across the street. He just wanted to go home. At least there, bad memories of his childhood didn’t plague him. There, no one ordered him about. It was just him, Lexi, and Croix and that was perfect.

Chapter Text

Just when we was about to get into the tub, the doorbell rang. “Seriously?” Hamilton muttered to himself and wrapped a towel around his waist. It wouldn’t be anyone important, he was sure, some annoying neighbor most likely.

As he looked through the peephole, a grin spread across his face and he opened the door at once. “Lafayette!”

“Hey, little lion.” The two embraced tightly, crushing each other. During Hamilton’s last year of college, Lafayette had been an exchange student from France. Speaking a little French himself, Hamilton had eagerly agreed to help Lafayette find his way around and assist him with his English while Hamilton strengthened his French.

Lafayette indicated to the towel around Hamilton’s waist. “Am I interrupting something?” 

“I was about to take a bath.” Hamilton closed the door behind him. “I didn’t know you were in town.”

“Oh, you know me.” His eyes roved around the small apartment. “Where’s the cat?”

Hamilton did know him and often fought intense jealousy over his friend’s wealth and freedom. Lafayette came from one of the wealthiest families in France. He didn’t need to work and spent his time traveling and doing charity projects. “Probably in the bed,” Hamilton said. “It’s late.”

Lafayette chuckled. “It’s eight o’clock, little lion. The night is young.”

“Not when you have a four-year-old and work in the morning,” he reminded his friend who he knew kept no schedule and slept until noon.

“We could still go out for an hour,” Lafayette said. He slipped off his pricey loafers and meandered toward the kitchen.

“I don’t have anyone to watch Lexi.” Hamilton let the indignation he felt slip into his voice. “Let me throw on some clothes and we can catch up.”

“Sure. Do you have any wine?” Lafayette opened a cupboard in the kitchen.

“No.” Hamilton headed for his room and threw on sweatpants and a t-shirt. He closed the door to Lexi’s room and hoped she’d remain asleep. Lafayette stood in the kitchen with Croix in his arms, the orange tabby purring up a storm.

“I found the cat.” Lafayette nuzzled Croix against his face. 

“Croix has a name,” Hamilton said. “It’s even French.”

“Yes, but you don’t pronounce it right,” Lafayette pointed out. “‘Croy?’ Blah, it’s ‘kwah’.” 

Hamilton rolled his eyes. Lexi hadn’t been able to pronounce it the French way and had called the cat ‘Quack’ until Hamilton decided the American way would be fine and preferred to his cat being called Quack. “What have you been up to, Laf?” He poured them each a glass of water and dumped in some ice cubes.

“Do you remember Hercules Mulligan from college?” Lafayette asked. He set Croix on the counter and stroked a hand over the cat’s back and up his tail.

“Yeah,” Hamilton said. “I had a few classes with him.”

“Cool. I’m sleeping with him.”

Hamilton choked on his water and coughed. “What?”

Lafayette’s brow knitted. “That was the right American term, yes? For coitus?”

Hamilton continued to cough. “Yeah.” He wiped his watering eyes. “You were just very blunt.”

“Oh.” Lafayette rolled his eyes dramatically. “I forgot you American’s are prudes compared to the superior French.”

“Sure, Laf.” He took another sip of water. “So, that’s nice. Herc, huh? Where’s he living now?”

“Not far from you actually.” He took a drink of water and made a face. “This is tap water.”

“Yup.”

“No wonder you about choked to death on it.” He pushed the glass away. “You should go out with us, have some drinks. You got time tonight, yes?”

“No, Lafayette.” Hamilton held back a sigh. “I have work tomorrow and I don’t have anyone to watch Lexi.”

Lafayette shrugged. “You can hire a babysitter.”

“Trust my baby with a stranger? Goodness, Laf.” Hamilton shook his head, barely able to comprehend the idea.

“Won’t she just sleep?” Lafayette asked. “She could stay—”

“I am not leaving my four-year-old home by herself.” He knew at once that he’d gotten too loud when he heard a thump from Lexi’s bedroom and the door open.

She stepped into the kitchen in her pink sleeper, rubbing her eyes. “Da—Uncle Laffy!” She squealed and ran toward the Frenchman.

“Hello, small human.” Lafayette patted her on the head as she hugged his legs. “Comment vas-tu?”

Lexi’s tongue poked out of her mouth as she tried to remember the French she’d been taught.

“Bien,” Hamilton offered.

“Big hen!” Lexi shouted.

“We’ll work on it,” Lafayette said.

“Lexi, go back to bed.” Hamilton drew his daughter away and nudged her toward her room.

“Let her stay up,” Lafayette persisted. 

“Her nanny won’t appreciate a cranky child,” Hamilton said. “Bed, Lexi.”

“Let her sleep in tomorrow then,” Lafayette said.

Hamilton held back another sigh at his friend’s cluelessness of parenting. “Keeping to a schedule works best.” He ushered Lexi to her room and tucked her back in bed. 

When he returned, Lafayette had made himself comfortable on the couch and turned on the TV. “Do you have HBO or anything good?”

“No.” Hamilton sat next to him. Lafayette was nine months younger but it often felt like he was years younger, not months.

“What do you watch then?” Lafayette flipped through his meager choices. “We could go see a movie.”

Hamilton ignored the suggestion since he’d already explained he couldn’t leave the house. “Reruns mostly. I don’t watch a lot of TV.”

Lafayette gave up and turned off the television. “You need a life.” He stretched out his legs and picked a piece of cat fur off his pants. “Skip work tomorrow and hit the town with me and Herc. We could have some good food and wine, do some shopping.”

Hamilton picked at his bare toes. “You know I can’t.”

“You’re no fun, little lion.” He crossed his legs. “I suppose you just want to go to bed?”

“I have to get up at six.”

“Wow, that’s like when I go to bed.” Lafayette examined his perfect nails. “What about this weekend? Can you get a babysitter?”

“Maybe.” It would be nice to get out for a few hours. It didn’t make him a bad parent to have a few hours alone he tried to remind himself. “Let me ask my co-worker if his wife could watch Lexi.”

“Awesome.” Lafayette stood. “Text me.”

Hamilton followed him to the front door and waited while he put on his shoes and hoped he wouldn’t start another conversation. “See you later, Laf.” He opened the front door to coax his friend out.

“Bonne nuit, petit lion.” Lafayette kissed him on the cheek.

Hamilton closed and locked the door. Would he survive a few hours out with Lafayette, he wondered. He yawned and checked on Lexi—she was asleep again. His bath was cold and he didn’t have the time to soak anymore. He let the water drain and got in bed to read. Croix joined him and kneaded the extra pillow.

“I’m getting old, Croix.” 

The cat purred louder.

“You’re right.” Hamilton rubbed the Croix’s head. “We do have a good life. This is better than getting drunk every night.” He read for twenty minutes then fell asleep with Croix curled up in the crook of his knees.

Chapter Text

“You want me to what?” Burr asked.

“I want you to do nothing,” Hamilton said. “I asked if Theodosia could watch Lexi on Saturday.”

“Why?”

Hamilton kept his eyes on the floor. “My friend Lafayette wanted to go out.”

“Hell, yeah!” Burr punched his shoulder. “Go party, get laid. We’ll watch the child.”

Hamilton glared at him. “We’re not going clubbing. Probably just lunch.” He looked away from Burr’s gleeful face. “If your wife is busy—”

“We’ll make time.” Burr yanked him in a hug. “Our little Alex is growing up.”

“Ugh, Aaron.” Hamilton ducked out from his grasp. “It’s not a date.”

“But you’re going out; you could meet someone.” Burr’s dark eyes danced. “Do you have condoms? Did anyone ever have the talk with you about preventing pregnancy? You probably don’t need another Lexi.”

“Shut up, Aaron.” Hamilton walked out of the office.

Burr followed. “You don’t want an STD either. I know you swing both ways, so...” He trailed off when he saw Washington walking their way.

“Is this really an appropriate conversation for work?” Washington chided as he stepped between them. “Your personal lives should stay personal.” He continued down the hall.

Hamilton ground his teeth and whispered to Burr. “He says that yet keeps pestering me if I have family other than Lexi and trying to get in my business.”

“He’s probably not satisfied at home,” Burr said. “Looking for some young—”

“Aaron!” Hamilton pushed him away. “Think before you speak for once.”

“I told you, I like surprises.” 

“Here’s a surprise.” Hamilton kneed him in the crotch. “Fun?”

“Do it again,” Burr replied.

Hamilton groaned and walked away. “Your poor wife.”

***

Saturday mornings always proved hectic but in a more relaxed way than during the week. Neither Hamilton nor Lexi bothered to get dressed as they went about the morning chores after the usual chocolate chip pancake breakfast. The cat box needed to be cleaned, laundry started, dishwasher run, floors vacuumed. Lexi followed her dad around as he worked, keeping him company and “assisting” with small tasks. Croix got in the way as Hamilton vacuumed and hissed at the machine as it bumped him.

“Get out of the way then, cat,” Hamilton said in bemusement.

By ten o’clock, the apartment was in relative order. Lexi entertained herself with her toys and Hamilton cleaned off the stuff that accumulated on the kitchen counters throughout the week. He checked his phone often to see if Lafayette had texted with a time for their outing. As eleven o’clock approached, he texted his friend himself but didn’t get a reply right away. He started to hope that maybe Lafayette had forgotten.

As he contemplated whether to eat lunch or wait to see if he’d be going out, Lafayette finally replied.

Hey, just got up! Let’s go about ten tonight!

“Someone is delusional,” Hamilton muttered and wrote back, How about six?

Way too early! Nine?

Six, Hamilton persisted.

After much back and forth, they agreed to go at seven and Hamilton texted Burr to confirm.

Works for us, Burr replied. Lexi can spend the night if you want. Stay out as late as your heart desires.

I’ll pick her up by ten.

Wuss.

Plan finalized, Hamilton made lunch and he and Lexi took it up on the roof of the apartment complex. He dreamed of having a backyard that Lexi could play in and not just a concrete roof full of pigeons and pigeon poop.

“If we had a backyard,” Hamilton said. “What would you want in it?”

“A dog!” Lexi squealed.

“I don’t think Croix would like a dog, bud.” Nor did he. A cat was lower maintenance and still offered the animal companionship he wanted. “I was thinking more like a swing set.”

“A princess castle!” Lexi chomped down on an apple slice. “With lots of towers and a rainbow flag.”

“That sounds amazing.” Hamilton stared out over the city. He loved NYC, but a house with a yard… Someday…

Father, daughter, and cat took a nap after lunch. When awake, Lexi resumed her play and Hamilton lost himself in a book.

Knowing Lafayette would drag him to a bar and he wouldn’t get anything good to eat, Hamilton ate dinner with Lexi and then got himself ready to go.

“Remember, Lexi,” Hamilton said as he shaved and Lexi sat on the bathroom counter, “you’re going to the Burr’s for a few hours. Daddy is going to go out with Uncle Laffy.”

“I come, too.” Lexi played with a comb.

“Uncle Laffy likes to drink too much.” He ran a hand against his cheeks to make sure he hadn’t missed a spot. “You’ll have more fun with Theo.”

“Okay.” She set down the comb and picked up the razor, which Hamilton was quick to pluck out of her grasp. “Theo has lots of dolls.”

Little Theo has a lot of everything, Hamilton thought. Burr was always showing him pictures of the new toys he’d bought for his daughter. Theo had a bedroom and her own playroom filled with stuff.

“What should Daddy wear?” Hamilton held up a few different shirts he’d hung in the bathroom.

Lexi picked out the dark chambray one and Hamilton found khaki pants to go with it. Once he was dressed, he helped Lexi find leggings and a t-shirt to wear. He packed her My Little Pony backpack with her pajamas and favorite stuffed bear.

“Daddy will take you home but you might get tired before I get back,” he told her. “You and Theo can have a little slumber party.”

“I come with.” Lexi sat on his foot and hugged his leg.

As he regretted agreeing to this more and more, Hamilton picked Lexi up and made sure Croix had food and water.

The Burr’s lived on Wall Street a quarter of a mile away. Since they had time, Hamilton let Lexi ride her little scooter as they headed toward the East River. The area was much more upscale and cleaner. Hamilton buzzed for the Burr residence and soon led Lexi inside.

“Hey, Hamilton’s.” Burr smiled at them. “Miss Priss has been waiting.” He yelled for his daughter and little Theo ran downstairs.

“Lexi!” She hopped elegantly down the last two steps. “Hi, Uncle Alex. Come on, Lexi! I got my Barbie’s out.”

Lexi hugged her dad and ran after her friend.

Hamilton handed the backpack to Burr. “I won’t be too late,” he said. “She goes to bed around eight. Where’s your wife?”

“Playing Candy Crush or something,” Burr said. “Lexi will be fine. Go have fun.” He nudged Hamilton toward the door. “Have a drink, get laid, stay out until six in the morning.”

“Aaron…” Hamilton stumbled over the threshold.

“Have fun.” Burr closed the door.

Heading back outside, Hamilton found directions for the bar Lafayette had picked. It wasn’t far from the Burr’s house. He arrived on time and texted his friend.

Running a few minutes late! Lafayette replied.

Having expected that, Hamilton waited at a café across the street and found something to read online.

Forty-five minutes later, he received a text that Lafayette was at the bar.

“Let’s get wasted!” Lafayette proclaimed after Hamilton found them.

Hercules Mulligan patted Hamilton on the back. “He’s already wasted if you couldn’t tell.”

“I noticed.” He followed his former college buddies inside the bar. They ordered tequila shots at once, which Hamilton was quick to pass on and got a root beer. At least it came in a bottle, he thought, so it looked like he was drinking beer. “Anything new going on, Laf?” He could barely hear himself over the noisy crowd.

“Heading back to Paris next week,” Lafayette said and downed a second shot of tequila. “Be gone about two weeks. Not sure where I’ll be after that.” He launched into some bawdy story about a hooker he met.

Hamilton focused on his root beer, no interest in hearing of Lafayette’s frequent sexual exploits. He wasn’t sure why Mulligan put up with it, probably the free booze and plenty of sex.

First root beer finished, he ordered a second. Lafayette and Mulligan had found another loud group to chat with and ignored him. It was how he’d expected the night to go. He thought about how different his life would be if Maria hadn’t shown up at his doorstep and handed over the baby. He’d be partying it up with Lafayette not drinking root beer and wishing he was home in bed with his daughter and cat. He’d have kept the cheaper and run-down townhouse and spent his money on alcohol and hookers.

“Laf, I have to go.” Hamilton struggled to be heard over three people talking at once. “Lafayette?”

“We’ll do this again, little lion,” Lafayette shouted and turned back to the new friends he’d made.

Hamilton paid for his root beer and hurried outside. He relished the cool evening air and headed for the Burr’s duplex. It was barely after nine.

Not sure if the girls were asleep and not wanting to wake them, Hamilton texted Burr when he was at the front door rather than ring the doorbell.

Burr let him in with a shake of his head. “I’m disappointed in you, Alex.”

“It’s not my scene.” He yawned. “Is Lexi asleep?”

“Nah, they’re still upstairs playing,” Burr said. “Theodosia and I just started a movie. Come watch with us.”

Hamilton frowned. “Aaron, she has a routine.”

“She’s having fun.” Burr drew him toward the family room. “She and Miss Priss will put themselves to sleep when they’re ready.” The room was dark except for the glow of the TV, the movie paused.

“Are you joining us, Alexander?” Theodosia asked. “Do you want anything to drink?”

“I’m fine.” He sat down on the couch next to Burr. “What’re we watching?”

“A horror movie,” Burr said. “I’ll keep you safe.”

“Thanks.” Hamilton slumped down and leaned against Burr.

It didn’t take him long to fall asleep and he woke to a hand playing with his hair, his head in Burr’s lap. The lights were still off and Hamilton was certain a different movie was now playing.

“Lexi is asleep with Theo,” Burr said. “Why don’t you both spend the night? You can sleep in the guest room.”

Hamilton agreed, knowing it would be a hassle to get Lexi up and walk home, especially when he was half-asleep himself.

Burr paused the movie and kissed his wife. “I’ll be right back.” He showed his colleague upstairs to the guest room. “Sleep tight, Alex.”

“Thanks.” Once the door was closed, Hamilton undressed to his boxers and slipped into the bed. His body relaxed into the pillow-top mattress and his skin savored the cool, silky sheets. He was out within minutes.

 

He woke with a start, sunlight streaming in the room, and panic filling him at how he had slept so long with no one waking him. Then he wondered where he was. Had he gotten drunk and ended up at some crazy acquaintance of Lafayette’s?

After a hazy minute, his mind backtracked through his memories and he figured out he was at the Burr’s. He checked his phone. After eleven. When was the last time he’d slept that late?

The door creaked open. “You’re up,” Burr said.

“Where’s Lexi?” Hamilton asked. He didn’t really want to leave the cozy, insanely comfortable bed.

“She and Theo are drawing with chalk on the patio. She’s having fun. She had a cinnamon roll for breakfast.”

Hamilton slipped out of the silky sheets. “I’m sorry.”

“What for?” Burr stepped into the room.

“Being a disaster.” He rubbed his crusty eyes, mouth dry. He wasn’t quite convinced he hadn’t been drinking.

“You’re fine, Alex.” He picked up Hamilton’s clothes off the floor. “You needed to rest. You can shower if you want. We’ll have lunch after.”

“That might wake me up.” Hamilton went into the bathroom, leaving the door open out of habit.

“Are you getting enough sleep at home?” Burr asked following him in. “We’re happy to watch Lexi more often if you need a weekday evening to yourself.”

“I couldn’t reciprocate,” Hamilton replied. He turned on the shower and fiddled with the temperature.

“We wouldn’t expect you, too,” Burr said. “Just know the offer is there. You’re an amazing dad and lawyer and I don’t want to see you burn out.”

“Thanks, Aaron.” He slipped off his boxers and got in the shower.

Burr set Hamilton’s clothes in the bathroom and got out a towel, then left him alone.

Twenty minutes later, Hamilton found the Burr’s and his daughter in the backyard, the patio covered in the girl’s chalk drawings.

“Daddy, look!” Lexi pointed to one of the pictures. “It’s my castle.”

Hamilton puzzled out the mess with towers that looked unfortunately inappropriate. “Awesome, bud.” He saw Burr and Theodosia trying not to laugh.

“I drew a cat!” Theo pointed to the huge purple creature.

“That’s not a cat,” Lexi said.

“It’s fluffy.” Theo grabbed a piece of orange chalk and drew long whiskers. “Cat.”

Theodosia got up from her lounge chair. “Let’s wash up for lunch, girls.”

After a lunch of fried chicken, potato salad, and chips, Hamilton took Lexi home after much thanks and a promise to have them over for lunch someday.

“I’ll hold you to that,” Burr said and squeezed Hamilton’s hand. “See you tomorrow.”

At home, Hamilton threw on track pants and a t-shirt. “We need to get groceries, bud.” A whole Sunday morning wasted. He knew it would take all week to feel caught up again.

“No,” Lexi whined.

“Sorry, but we need food.” He fed Croix who had let his disdain at being left alone for a night known and had left a nice hairball on the kitchen counter. “Go use the potty.” He cleaned up the disgusting hairball and grabbed his sneakers.

Stomping her feet after she used the bathroom, Lexi followed him out, arms folded and refused to hold his hand.

She was off schedule, Hamilton fretted as they walked to the corner market. Nor had she had a nap. He would be quick, get this annoyance out of the way.

Lexi dragged herself along, kicking him often, as Hamilton checked things off his list. “What do you want for dinner tonight?”

“Poop,” Lexi said.

“That’s basically what I always cook.” Hamilton tossed a box of Cheerio’s in his basket. “Do you want pizza?”

“Cookies.”

Hamilton moved the cart to the other side of the aisle. “Teddy Grahams or animal crackers?”

She chose Teddy Grahams and Hamilton continued to endure her kicking as he finished the shopping.

The lines were long and Hamilton rubbed at the knot in his forehead.

“Done,” Lexi sat on the floor.

“Same, bud.” Hamilton pulled her off the dirty floor. “Stay by Daddy.”

Her little fist gripped his pants. “Tired.” A big yawn revealed all her baby teeth and she plopped back down on the floor.

“Get up.” Hamilton pulled her to her feet and moved to start adding things to the conveyor belt.

“No!” Lexi tried to grab her box of cookies.

“I have to pay for them, sweetheart.” He drew Lexi out of the way. “Watch the nice lady scan your cookies.” He tried to move faster knowing a tantrum might come at any moment. Lexi got in the way and tugged at his pants.

“Stop, please.” He pried her fingers off him. “Don’t pull them down.”

“Cookies!” Lexi howled.

Hamilton rubbed his forehead as he got out his wallet and decided which card to use. “Lex, I understand. We’re almost done.”

Lexi latched onto his legs, blubbering nonsense, and sank to the ground taking Hamilton’s track pants with her.

“Alexis.” Hamilton’s cheeks reddened as cool air hit his bare legs. The credit card machine screamed at him to remove his card and the cashier tried to hide her amusement. “Stop. Let go.” Hamilton dropped his wallet and card and tried to get his pants up while Lexi did everything in her power to be a nuisance. Sure that someone was getting a video of the disaster by now, he managed to scoop Lexi off the ground with one hand and get his pants in order with the other.

The cashier handed over his wallet, card, and receipt with a smile. “Have a nice day.”

“Thanks,” Hamilton mumbled, face still burning. He grabbed the bags and nudged his daughter outside. “Now Daddy remembers why he doesn’t wear pants with elastic,” he told Lexi. “That was very naughty.”

“Cookies,” Lexi whimpered.

“No.” He tried to grab her hand and she smacked it. “Are you done?” he asked with a hint of irritation.

“Sorry,” Lexi said.

“Apology accepted.” Hamilton took her hand. “At least Daddy was wearing clean underwear.”

Chapter Text

“Sit.”

Hamilton obeyed without a second thought, eyes on his boss unable to look away.

“You’re out of control.” Washington perched on the edge of the desk and drew a hand toward Hamilton. “You need to listen.”

The next moment, Washington was the one in the chair and Hamilton straddled him, body pressed in tight. He moaned as strong hands grabbed at his body, pulled at his clothes.

“You’re going to listen,” Washington purred in his ear. He pushed Hamilton off and bent him over the desk.

The touches were like fire, every inch of Hamilton burning.

“Are you cumming?”

 

Hamilton moaned himself awake and lay still, dream still intense, yet hazy, in his mind, body throbbing. Then he heard Washington’s voice clear in his head.

“Oh, fuck,” he muttered and rolled onto his stomach. Why the hell was he dreaming erotically about his boss? Did he need to get laid that bad? He willed the dream to vanish quickly from his mind as most did. Yet the image remained clear in his mind of his boss’ body—way more toned than he figured it actually would be, not that he wanted to know—and the deep pressure as he…

Hamilton gave a muffled scream into his pillow and tried to think of anything else. He checked the time: after two in the morning. Just go back to sleep.

But as he drifted back to dreamland, the horrible image glued itself back in his mind. What would it be like, he wondered sleepily, to have someone with that much power be dominant in bed? He fell back asleep.

When his alarm went off at six, Hamilton sat up at once and glanced at the spot beside him, half terrified he wouldn’t be alone. What am I supposed to do if I see him today? The dream wouldn’t leave, the vision of himself bent over Washington’s desk stuck vividly in his brain. It didn’t help that he woke hard and that his boxers felt damp.

Shower and forget about it.

He turned on the water and threw his clothes on the floor. The water was cool to wake him up and keep him from dawdling since time was short in the morning. The dream pushed away as he got dressed, woke Lexi, and started breakfast.

But it smacked him vigorously when Washington walked into his office five minutes after him.

“Mr. Hamilton.”

His cheeks turned red at once and he couldn’t look his boss in the eye.

Washington tapped his watch. “Meeting. Are you coming?”

A pathetic squeak escaped Hamilton and he hoped for a heart attack or a sinkhole to swallow him.

“Mr. Hamilton?”

He managed to get out of his chair, face on fire, eyes on the ground. In his mind, he could see his boss doing inappropriate things to him and his eyes strayed across Washington’s body as he followed behind.

Washington stopped to open the door to the meeting room and Hamilton bumped into him. “You look ill.” Washington pressed a hand against the young lawyer’s forehead.

A tremor shot through Hamilton and he didn’t breathe.

“You might have a fever.” Washington removed his hand. “See if you can make it through the meeting.”

Hamilton met his eyes, pupils widely dilated and making his dark blue eyes look black. I’m going to hell, he thought and was thankful Washington turned away as he couldn’t break the stare. He wanted those eyes on him. Wanted that body against him.

Oh, my God! Hamilton pressed his fingers into his eyes and wished to gouge them out. What was wrong with him? It was a stupid dream, nothing more.

“Alex.”

Hamilton jumped when Burr touched his shoulder.

“Are you crying?” Burr asked.

He removed his hands from his eyes. “No. I had a horrible dream last night that I can’t get out of my head,” he admitted. “I kind of want to die.”

“Spill.” Burr drew Hamilton aside to let some other colleagues enter the meeting room. “I take it, it was humiliating? Those are the worst.”

“Washington was in it,” Hamilton whispered. He leaned in close to Burr and caught a whiff of his aftershave and soaked it in.

A smile stretched across Burr’s face. “Erotic?”

Hamilton nodded.

“Dude!” Burr punched his shoulder. “Go for it.”

“Oh, my God, Aaron!” He didn’t move away, though, desperate for human contact. “I can’t look at him.”

“You have to turn the tables.” Burr wrapped an arm around Hamilton’s shoulders. “Make him uncomfortable. Take control.”

Half-delirious in Burr’s scent and his own horniness, he nodded.

“Good.” Burr withdrew and headed into the room. He and Hamilton were the last to take their seats and Washington’s gaze lingered on them in annoyance.

Hamilton met his eyes, his breath hitching, cheeks turning red again.

Washington, though, seemed to look through him and began the meeting. If he noticed Hamilton’s hungry stare, it didn’t faze him. He spoke at length about his goals for the firm and asked for input.

Several of the more experienced lawyers added their thought and questions. Burr and Hamilton remained quiet. Burr listened closely, taking it all in but Hamilton could only stare at their boss unable to breathe.

“What about you two?” Washington asked. “Mr. Burr, Mr. Hamilton, you’re unusually quiet.”

“I think you have everything covered sufficiently,” Burr said. “Alex?”

Nothing more than a squeak escaped the redhead.

Washington’s brow furrowed. “Are you sure you’re not ill, Alexander?”

“His face is all flushed,” commented one lawyer.

Another moved his chair further away. “He better not be contagious.”

Burr smirked at that and patted Hamilton’s back. “Probably just dehydrated.”

Washington was quick to get a bottle of water from the fridge in the back of the room.

Hamilton reached to take it and let his fingertips brush against his boss’. He chugged, eyes on Washington.

The meeting commenced and Washington went over some stats. He dismissed the meeting a half-hour later.

Hamilton was quick out of the room, Burr on his heels.

“You are so fucking horny!” Burr exclaimed as soon as he shut the door to their office. “You need to get laid before you go insane. You were eye fucking Washington so hard.”

“Shut up.” Hamilton collapsed into his chair and banged his head on the keyboard. “I can’t get the dream out of my head. I wouldn’t feel like this otherwise.”

“It’s your subconscious telling you how you really feel.” Burr massaged Hamilton’s shoulders. “You need to have sex.”

“No.” He moaned as Burr’s hands worked into a tight spot on his neck.

“Yes,” Burr insisted. “Considering you’re about to orgasm from me giving you a neck massage. Theodosia wouldn’t say no to a threesome.”

It took him a moment to say no, his distress overpowering his common sense.

“The offer is always on the table,” Burr said with a grin and raked his nails through Hamilton’s hair.

“You’re killing me,” Hamilton panted.

Burr kissed the back of his neck. “I know.”

Body reacting against his wishes, Hamilton clenched his jaw but he didn’t tell Burr off. He couldn’t decide what would be worse, letting Burr continue to mess with him or jerking off in a public bathroom.

“Tell me more about your dream.” Burr unbuttoned the top two buttons on his partner’s shirt to get his hands in under the collar and dig his fingers into Hamilton’s skin.

“We were in his office,” Hamilton said, eyes closed. When was the last time someone had touched him like this, he wondered. Maria was the last person he’d had sex with. Normally, he did okay, keeping busy with work and Lexi and taking care of the want himself. Burr said he couldn’t go a week. Maybe almost five years was Hamilton’s limit. “I was on his lap at one point.” He licked his lips. “Then over his desk.”

“Damn.” Burr worked his hands into Hamilton’s bony shoulders. “Did he nail you?”

“Yeah.”

“I bet he knows what he’s doing, too.” He moved a hand down Hamilton’s chest. “He looks well endowed.”

“Aaron.” Hamilton kept his eyes closed. “Either fuck me or stop.”

“Threesome tonight.” Burr kissed his cheek and withdrew his hands.

Hamilton sucked in a deep breath. “Excuse me.” He left the office and hurried to the bathroom.

“So close,” Burr muttered with a sigh.

***

He was glad to get home and hold his daughter.

“Rough day?” Eliza asked. “You looked wiped.”

“Just all messed up,” Hamilton said and set Lexi on the kitchen counter. “I had this stupid dream last night and I can’t get it out of my head.”

“Nightmare?”

Hamilton shook his head. “Although, that definitely works, too.”

Eliza smirked and covered Lexi’s ears. “Sex dream?” She removed her hands.

“Yes.” He rubbed at his eyes. “With my boss.”

Eliza laughed and couldn’t stop. “Oh, my God!” She bent over wheezing. “That’s the best thing I’ve heard. I’m so sorry, Alex.”

“I can tell how sorry you are,” he muttered. “I can’t get it out of my head.”

Eliza set Lexi on the floor and shooed her off to play with her dolls. “The sex or Washington?”

“Don’t make me throw up.” Hamilton gagged. “Do you know how long it’s been since I had sex?”

“Not as long as I’ve lasted,” Eliza replied.

Hamilton rolled his eyes. “Lexi will be five this spring.”

“It wouldn’t be the end of the world if you wanted to date,” she reminded him. “You can take care of yourself, too.”

“Yeah, but…” He gestured toward the family room where Lexi played. “What if I bring the wrong person into our lives? I couldn’t forgive myself if something happened.”

Eliza touched his arm. “What do you think might happen? Are you afraid of someone hurting Lexi or afraid of getting your heart broke?”

“Both?” Hamilton picked at his lip. “What if I can’t give Lexi enough attention?”

“Alex.” She moved his hand away from his lip. “I can’t imagine you ever not giving Lexi enough attention. No one is going to take her place in your heart even if you do fall in love.”

“I just…” Hamilton struggled to find the words he wanted. “Lexi is everything to me but sometimes…” He rubbed a finger against the kitchen counter. “I feel a little alone.” He met Eliza’s eyes. “Then I feel guilty because shouldn’t she be enough?”

Eliza hugged him. “It’s okay to want a relationship and still love your daughter more than anything. It might make Lexi happy to have someone else in her life, too, and not have you so stressed. She wants you happy.”

“I’ll think about it.” He stepped back. “But I have no idea when I’d even find the time to date.”

“It’ll happen when you’re ready.” She kissed his cheek. “I’ll see you and Lexi tomorrow.”

Chapter Text

Hamilton stared at his associate when he walked into the office with scratches on his face and hand. “What happened to you?” But he quickly added, “Unless it’s a weird sex thing then don’t tell me.”

“We got a kitten,” Burr said. “The thing is a demon incarnate.” He showed Hamilton pictures of a fluffy, white kitten in little Theo’s baby doll stroller and another of his wife cuddling the ball of fluff. “I told Theodosia a black family should not be raising a white cat and that’s why it’s the devil.”

“It looks like it loves your girls,” Hamilton commented. “It must know your racist.”

Burr glared at him. “I love your white ass, don’t I?”

Hamilton chuckled. “What did you name it?”

“Miss Priss is still deciding.” Burr shuffled through his pictures and showed a few more of the kitten being adorable. “It’ll be something ridiculous, but you named your cat Croix so I’m not too worried it’ll be weirder than that.”

“At least my cat doesn’t scratch the hell out of me,” Hamilton retorted.

“Touché.” Burr looked at his phone and smiled.

“What?”

He locked his phone. “Can’t show you that one.” Burr smirked at his partner.

“Why are you like this?” Hamilton returned to his work but was interrupted a moment later by his work phone ringing. “It’s Washington,” he groaned. “I can’t answer.”

As soon as his phone stopped ringing, Burr’s started. Burr answered. “Yeah,” he said. “I’ll tell him when he gets back from the bathroom.” He winked at Hamilton. “Ate some bad seafood or something.” He hung up.

“I hate you,” Hamilton said.

“What was I supposed to say?” Burr pushed at his partner’s chair. “Go, get it over with.”

Hamilton got up, grumbling. “Why doesn’t he want to see you, too?”

“Clearly he’s not as in love with me.”

“Aaron!” He whined. “Can we not talk about the dream anymore?”

Burr mimed zipping his lips. “Not another word on the subject.”

“Liar.” Hamilton stalked out and headed down the hall. He hesitated to knock and the door opened instead.

Washington quickly stopped before he trampled the smaller man. “I didn’t expect you to get Burr’s message so soon. Come in.”

“What did I do wrong now, sir?” Hamilton asked. He couldn’t look at the desk and was not about to take a seat.

“My wife thought your daughter might enjoy this.” Washington handed him a flyer. “We always take the kids. Nelly loves the ponies.”

Hamilton glanced at the advertisement for a nearby fair and the attached coupon for free admission and the ferry ride across the Hudson to New Jersey. “Thanks.” He risked a glance at his boss and was relieved to find his feelings less strong, the images from the dream mostly faded away. “Lexi likes ponies, too.”

“Little girls and ponies.” Washington shuffled some papers together. “I won’t keep you longer.”

Hamilton took his leave, opening the door carefully to avoid another collision with the computer tech. Of course, when he was careful, no one was nearby for him to smack into.

“That was fast,” Burr commented as soon as Hamilton entered their office. “I guess he is pretty old.”

“Didn’t you promise to zip your lips?” Hamilton scolded.

“You know I have no morals.”

“No shit.” He dropped into his seat and he and Burr worked together on a new case.

***

With the free tickets, Hamilton took Lexi to the fair at Liberty State Park across the river. It was further than he liked to travel with Lexi but it had been a while since they’d done anything fun.

With a backpack stuffed with snacks, water, and Lexi’s foldup scooter, they headed out for the nearby subway station and navigated a route to the harbor. Hamilton explained the stops to Lexi and let her keep track on his phone. He didn’t want his daughter to ever feel lost in the city and unable to navigate public transportation.

While the subway was much better than being in a car, Hamilton always kept chocolate bars on hand in case his stomach got queasy. As long as he had a seat and the car wasn’t stuffed and hot, he was okay. Kept busy figuring out when they needed to get off, Lexi remained quiet and still.

The first leg of the journey done, father and daughter boarded the ferry. Lexi loved being on the water and wiggled in her seat.

“Will we see mermaids?” she asked.

“Probably not today.” Hamilton brushed aside the hair blowing in her face. He enjoyed the breeze and watched the city move further away.

A bus ride was next, then a short walk to the fair grounds.

“Ponies first?” Hamilton asked and stopped a yawn. It had taken an hour to get there and he probably could have walked there faster without Lexi since they were only a few miles from home.

“Yeah!” Lexi tugged at his hand.

She soon had the thrill of her life when she discovered that the ponies weren’t just to admire but to ride. “Daddy, please!”

Hamilton smiled at her. “For sure, bud.” He took the helmet handed to him and secured it on his daughter. He watched as she was put on the back of a stout cream pony and led around the small arena. He took ample pictures to cover the fridge with and show off to Burr on Monday.

Pony fix out of the way, Hamilton bought them cotton candy and they wandered through a section of craft vendors. He paused to admire a beachy landscape painting that reminded him of St. Croix.

“See anything you like?”

Hamilton glanced up to see Laurens, the computer tech. “You made these?”

“Yeah.” Laurens smiled at Lexi holding an almost finished stick of cotton candy. “Side job type of thing. Keeps me happy.”

“These are really amazing.” He stepped further into Laurens’ booth and found a drawing of a horse. “Lexi, look.”

“Pretty!” Lexi said.

“Thanks.” Laurens took the drawing and squatted down in front of Lexi. “Can you do one thing for me?”

Lexi nodded.

Laurens whispered in her ear and the little girl giggled. She took the drawing, secure from her sticky hands in a clear envelope.

“What…?” Hamilton shook his head. “I can pay for it.”

“I still feel bad for almost breaking your nose,” Laurens said. “We’re square now.”

“Thanks.” He touched his daughter’s head. “What do you say, Lexi?”

Lexi smiled up at the freckled young man. “Thank you.”

“My pleasure, princess.” He winked at her and stepped away to talk to another interested group.

Hamilton led his daughter along. “What did he tell you?”

“He thinks you’re cute.” Lexi skipped along. “Daddy, look! Ducks!”

Hamilton glanced back but the artist’s booth was swallowed up from view by the crowds. He shoved away the flutter in his stomach. “Ducks, huh?”

They wandered around through the animals and checked out more craft booths. Hamilton refused to let Lexi get on any of the rides not trusting a fair to be up to his standards in safety. 

When Lexi grew tired, Hamilton put her on his shoulders and they made their way back toward the entrance.

“Daddy, it’s Mr. Bald!” Lexi tugged Hamilton’s hair and pointed to the tall man.

“I see.” Hamilton purposely put more distance between them. “We don’t want to disturb his family time.”

But a few minutes later, they bumped into each other anyway. Washington pulled a wagon with the grandkids in back each licking an ice cream cone. 

“It’s good to see you, Alexander.” He nodded to the redhead. “Did Alexis see the ponies?”

“I rode one!” Lexis told him. She hugged the picture from Laurens against her chest, her heels kicking against her dad’s chest.

“Excellent.” Washington smiled at her. “I see you found John’s booth.”

“Pony!” Lexi held up the picture.

“Yes, he’s quite talented,” Hamilton spoke before Lexi might reveal how she’d gotten the picture for free. “Where’s your wife?”

“Home with a migraine,” Washington said. He glanced at the kids slurping away on their treat. “The best thing I could do for her is to get the noisemakers out of the house.”

“For sure.” Hamilton gripped Lexi’s shoes. “We won’t keep you.”

“Take care.” He smiled again at Lexi. “I’m glad you got to ride a pony, Alexis.”

She waved happily and tugged at Hamilton’s hair again as he walked away. “I want ice cream.”

“You just had cotton candy,” Hamilton replied. “Please, don’t pull Daddy’s hair.”

As they neared the art booths, Lexi exclaimed again, “Daddy, dog!”

Hamilton figured out where she was pointing and grimaced to realize the large dog was at Laurens’ booth.

“I wanna see the dog!” Lexi kicked her feet against him.

“Settle down.” Hamilton stopped her feet. 

“Dog!”

“Alexis,” Hamilton warned. “We don’t need to bother the dog.” Or Laurens, he thought. The last thing he wanted was Laurens to think he was interested. Sure, he thought Laurens was cute, too, but he knew nothing about him other than that he worked with computers. He couldn’t take the risk of befriending someone that might not be good for Lexi. Of course, he had no way of knowing that until he did get to know someone. Thus, it was better not to meet new people.

“I wanna see the dog!” Lexi cried and hiccupped. “Please?”

“Can you calm down?” He felt Lexi inhale a deep breath and let it out slowly. 

“May we say hi to the dog, please?” Lexi asked.

Since she’d done as he asked and calmed herself down, he had to agree and headed toward the art booth.

The golden retriever sat next to a boy who—by the looks of him—was Laurens’ younger brother. The dog’s tail wagged as she spotted Lexi and gave a happy bark.

“Caro, hush,” Laurens said. He looked over and smiled when he saw the Hamilton’s. “Hey.”

“Lexi wanted to see the dog,” Hamilton said trying to sound as uninterested as possible.

“Caro loves kids,” Laurens replied. He took the dog’s leash from his brother and got her to sit in front of him.

Hamilton set Lexi on the ground and she held out her little hand for Caro to sniff.

Caro licked her fingers, still sticky with sugar.

“She likes me!” Lexi rubbed at Caro’s chest. “May I hug her?” She looked up at Laurens.

“Yeah, she loves hugs.” Laurens grinned at the child but his gaze drifted toward her dad.

“I didn’t know you had a dog,” Hamilton said, shoving his hands in his pockets. He didn’t know Laurens had siblings either. Or anything at all about him.

“She lives with my parents on the farm,” Laurens replied. The dog leaned against his leg, tongue lolling out the side of her mouth as Lexi gave her scratches and hugs. “She wasn’t fond of my apartment and kept eating everything. She’s happier with a yard and I see her several times a week.”

“Did you get her as a puppy?” Hamilton asked. The dog was bigger than his child and he watched with a hesitant eye.

Laurens nodded. “We got her when I was in high school. I trained her but my parents took care of her when I was in college so she’s pretty well-bonded with my mom. Do you have any pets?”

“A cat.” Hamilton removed his hands from his pockets and crossed his arms. Stop being defensive, he scolded himself. You can have a conversation with a cute guy without it being the end of the world.

“Cool.” He chuckled as his dog rolled over on his feet to let Lexi rub her belly.

Some people browsed nearby and Hamilton took that as a good excuse to leave. “We’ll let you show off your art. Come on, Lexi.”

Laurens waved to them as a potential customer took his attention.

***

The Hamilton’s returned home and Lexi had no complaints about taking a nap. While she slept, Hamilton went online and searched out Laurens on social media. His first take away was that Laurens came from wealth. He listed going to school in London and Geneva—studying art and agriculture—yet his places of employment included two part-time jobs. One as the computer tech at the law firm and another at GAP. He seemed close with his family, posting about many trips and pictures with his father and siblings. Judging from the pictures, he was the oldest of five with two brothers and two sisters. Going by a post honoring the memory of his mother, Hamilton inferred that she had passed away when Laurens was a young teen. Caro was a frequent topic of pictures, too. Laurens listed his location as a small town west of the Hudson near the New Jersey border, which Hamilton guessed was where the family farm was.

From there, Hamilton found his Instagram. Laurens was a talented photographer as well as an artist and posted pictures of the drawings and paintings he did of the photos he’d taken. All of it was nature: trees, flowers, landscapes, animals of all varieties from Caro to turtles to bees and cows. There were some selfies but other than Laurens’ family, Hamilton saw no indication of any other relationship. On Facebook, he’d tagged a Francis Kinloch several times but that guy’s profile showed him living in Geneva. Searching through Laurens’ friends, Hamilton noticed most lived overseas. Doing the math on the graduation dates posted, he guessed Laurens had only moved back to the US a year ago. Maybe he planned to move back. He couldn’t risk getting attached if that were the case and he has zero desire to move from the United States.

It’s not as if you have much in common anyway, he thought. Yet, he couldn’t stop looking through Laurens’ profiles and looked up in surprise when Lexi joined him. “That wasn’t a very long nap.”

“Hour,” Lexi said.

Hamilton checked the time and realized how long he’d spent creeping on Laurens’ social media. “Well then.”

Lexi pointed to the screen. “Caro!”

He brushed her fingers away before she touched anything and accidentally liked the picture from four-years ago. “Let’s get your bath now before dinner. We’re having brunch at the Schuyler’s tomorrow so you need to be clean.”

With the prospect of seeing her favorite people, Lexi didn’t argue.

Chapter Text

As he stretched out, Hamilton discovered the bed was no longer empty. A sleepy smile on his face, he snuggled his daughter close and opened his eyes a sliver. Only a little sunlight filled the room and he guessed it was before seven, plenty of time to rest a little longer and enjoy the blissfulness of a Sunday morning in bed with his daughter before they left for the Schuyler’s.

Sensing his dad was no longer asleep, Croix moved up the bed and licked Hamilton’s ear with his rough tongue, his purr rumbling at top volume. Hamilton stroked the cat and coaxed him to lay back down.

Cat resettled on one side, Hamilton snuggled Lexi close on the other. He lay in warm comfort between the two things he loved best; secure, content. But when he just about dozed off again, Lexi woke raring to go and sat on his chest.

“Morning!” She pinched his nose.

“Five more minutes,” Hamilton said. “You were being so well-behaved.”

She bounced on his stomach. “Up!”

Croix saw the energetic child look his way and bolted off the bed and out of the room. Hamilton didn’t blame the cat as Lexi crawled all over him, pulled his hair, and kneed him in the crotch. “Okay, I’m up.” He rolled Lexi off and fought his legs out of the tangled blankets. Sitting on the edge of the bed to stretch and prepare himself to get up, Lexi climbed on his back.

Hamilton stood up, the child clinging to him like a sloth. “Uh, oh, where’s Lexi?” he teased. “Oh, well. More toys for me.”

“Daddy!” 

“Croix, was that you?” Hamilton headed out of the bedroom.

Lexi tightened her grip on him. “Daddy, I’m behind you.”

Hamilton turned around, Lexi clutching on tight. “Nope, don’t see Lexi.”

She managed to climb on his shoulders, her dad hiding the winces of pain as her nails dug into him and her feet kicked. “I’m here!”

“Oh—” Hamilton tickled her feet “—there you are. I was getting lonely.” 

In the kitchen, he set his daughter on her stack of books and sliced up a banana for her pre-breakfast so she wouldn’t be starving when they ate at the Schuyler’s.

“Daddy is going to shower.” He set the bowl and a sippy cup of milk on the table. “Stay here and take your time.” He found a book for her to look at and headed into the bathroom.

He hastened through his shower—reminded of Lexi’s baby years when he didn’t dare let her out of sight for more than a second—and almost wished for his short hair again. But he thought the longer hair suited him better and made his nose not look as long.

Cleaned, dried off, and dressed in jeans, Hamilton headed back to the kitchen, buttoning his shirt as he walked. Lexi had finished her banana but remained at the table looking through the child’s encyclopedia she’d gotten for her fourth birthday. She loved books of all kinds but her favorite were ones she could learn from that had pictures. One of her favorites was the cat breed book Hamilton had gotten after Croix showed up. She could spend hours looking at the different cats, naming them, picking out the words she knew and learning facts. She often studied Croix, who was fairly tolerant of her looking at his toes and staring into his ears.

“Sea turtles have fangs in their mouths,” Lexi informed her dad and pointed to the picture of the barbs sea turtles had to keep them from vomiting up food as they expelled seawater.

“Wow.” Hamilton smiled and kissed her head. “That’s really cool, bud.” He read the description for her and they discussed vomiting and the time Lexi puked up cherry jello and it looked like blood. “Let’s get you dressed.”

“Poop.”

Hamilton set her on the ground. “That banana moved fast, didn’t it?” 

After she used the bathroom, Hamilton opened her dresser and they decided what she should wear. The Schuyler’s spoiled her with new clothes and Hamilton felt obligated to make sure she wore one of the outfits when she visited.

Once they both finished getting ready and had their hair tamed, Hamilton fed Croix and they headed out to catch the subway. Luckily, the Schuyler’s townhouse was a convenient route. A short walk to the station and another when they arrived in Brooklyn with an eight-minute ride in the middle. Lexi knew the stops and called them out as they rode.

In Brooklyn, Hamilton let himself and Lexi into the Schuyler’s large brick townhouse. It had been the closest place to home to him after his mother died and he moved to New York. He and Lexi headed through the living room to the kitchen and found Angelica and her wife Joan reading the paper at the table. “No one else home yet?” he asked.

“Nope,” Angelica said. She set aside the paper. “I think they were stopping to get donuts after church. Coffee?”

“Please.” Hamilton followed Angelica further into the kitchen.

Lexi climbed on a chair and reached for the paper. “Comics?”

Joan helped her find the Sunday comics. “Do you want me to read them to you?”

“I can read.” Lexi smoothed out the paper. “I read to you.”

On the other side of the kitchen, Angelica poured Hamilton a cup of coffee. “Peggy and her baby daddy are coming over, too. She’s been avoiding us since the pregnancy reveal.”

“Where is she living then?” Hamilton asked and sipped the black coffee. He knew Peggy had lived at home previously, as did Eliza.

“With her boyfriend and his parents.” Angelica poured herself coffee and added sugar. “Mama and Papa have been supportive but I think Peggy wanted a little space from us smothering her. Mama wants her to move back.”

“I’m sure.” Hamilton glanced toward his daughter reading aloud to Joan. “Peggy can’t take care of a baby.”

“Nope.” Angelica sighed. “Stephan is so clueless, too. He seems to think he can afford an apartment and take care of Peggy and the baby on his part-time salary.”

Hamilton rolled his eyes. “They’re well-suited for each other at any rate. That poor baby better inherit the Schuyler intelligence you and Eliza have.”

“Definitely why we need the baby to be raised here,” Angelica said. “She’ll need Mama and Eliza’s help and skills.”

“Who says I’m sharing Eliza?” Hamilton teased. “What room would the baby get?”

“Probably yours.” Angelica took a drink. “It’s been a shrine long enough to the son they always wanted.” She punched his arm. “Would you be okay with that?”

“Totally.” He couldn’t believe his old room hadn’t been turned into something else the day he moved out. “If Peggy names the baby after me.”

Angelica rolled her eyes. “You have Lexi named after you; don’t be greedy.”

“Xander if it’s a boy,” Hamilton persisted. “I would be happy with that.”

“Well, that’s better than Peggy’s desire of Taco or Bell.”

Hamilton snorted. “Strong cravings?”

“Every night from what I’ve heard.” Angelica shook her head. “She’s really milking the pregnancy thing and thinks everyone should cater to her. Probably will be a good thing if she doesn’t move back for another month or two.”

“No kidding.”

More of the Schuyler family arrived home and Lexi stood on her chair to greet them. “Papa Philly! Mama Cate!” Philip and Catherine Schuyler had always been the closet thing she had to grandparents and they adored each other.

Philip set down a box of donuts and swung Lexi off the chair and tossed her in the air. “How’s are little bug?”

“Great!” Lexi wrapped her arms around his neck and laughed as he tickled her with his beard. 

Catherine was much calmer with the child and fixed her dress and hair. “What are we reading this week, love?”

“Sea turtles have anti-vomit fangs!” Lexi exclaimed.

“That’s fascinating!” Catherine beamed at the tiny redhead. She let Eliza say hello to the tot and moved on to fix Hamilton’s hair and clothes.

“No Peggy yet?” Hamilton asked as he let her smooth his hair back.

“You know she likes making a grand entrance,” Catherine said.

The words barely left her mouth when the front door opened and Peggy came in huffing and puffing, a hand cradling her barely swollen stomach. “Mama needs donuts,” she said and dropped into a chair and put up her feet on a second chair.

“Good morning to you, too, Margarita,” Catherine said. “Where’s Stephan?”

“Going back to get my phone,” Peggy said. “I was hungry and didn’t want to walk back with him. We can eat without him.”

Angelica leaned in to whisper to Hamilton, “Bet he was glad of the excuse to get away.”

Suppressing a smirk, Hamilton nodded his agreement.

“Eliza, dear,” Peggy called out. “Mama needs some juice.”

Eliza shot her a death glare. “Get it yourself.”

“I’ll get your juice,” Hamilton volunteered.

Peggy gave a gloating smile to her sister.

When he set down the glass of orange juice, Hamilton murmured, “If it’s a boy, name him Xander.”

“No way!” Peggy prodded his chest. “If it’s a boy, I’m naming him Tequila.” She glared at her parents.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Catherine said. “Margarita was your great-grandmother’s name. I’m sure you can find a nice family name to use.”

“Whatever.” Peggy opened the box of donuts. “I’m starving.”

“Lexi first,” Philip said and smacked away her hand.

Alexander and Angelica got out plates; milk and coffee were poured and everyone sat down a few minutes later. Lexi studied her choices and pointed to the one with chocolate frosting and sprinkles.

Peggy snatched a maple bar and took a huge bite.

“How is work going, Alex?” Philip asked.

Hamilton swallowed his bite of glazed donut. “It’s not bad. The new boss is rather intense. I’m still trying to figure him out.”

“Washington, isn’t it?” At Hamilton’s nod, Philip continued. “He has a good reputation, honest, hardworking. I think you’ll do well.”

Hamilton shrugged. “We’ll see.”

“I like Mr. Bald,” Lexi spoke up, chocolate frosting on her lips. “Daddy and I went to the fair.”

“Did you?” Catherine handed the child a napkin.

“I rode a pony!” Lexi’s widened her eyes for enthusiasm. “And I got a picture of a pony. The guy gave it to me for free because he thinks Daddy is cute.”

Hamilton cringed and his cheeks grew red.

“Who thinks you’re cute?” Eliza asked with a grin.

“John!” Lexi helpfully supplied. “He has a dog!”

“He’s the computer tech at work,” Hamilton mumbled, ears on fire.

“John Laurens?” Philip questioned but didn’t wait for a nod. “Excellent family. His father and Washington know each other well, probably how John got the job. I believe all the children were educated oversees. I’ve heard they’re well-grounded and kind.”

“Handsome, too,” Angelica added, quick to find him on Facebook. She showed Eliza her phone.

“He’s adorable!” Eliza gushed.

Hamilton rubbed his burning cheeks. “I’m not interested in him.”

“Your face says otherwise,” teased Eliza.

“He has a dog and I have a cat,” Hamilton said. “It couldn’t work.”

“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” Peggy said with her mouth full of a second donut. “You should totally date this dude. It’s, like, the first time someone has ever thought you were cute.”

Angelica and Eliza glared at her; Philip chuckled; Catherine let out an indignant, “Margarita!”

“Thanks.” Hamilton chugged his coffee.

“You’re very cute, love,” Catherine said. “Peggy is hormonal.”

“Yeet.” Peggy got up from the table, hand cradling her belly. “I have to pee. Baby Tequila had too much to drink, apparently.”

After she left the room, Eliza turned to her mom. “She knows the baby isn’t the one who has to pee right? That it’s the baby pressing on her bladder.”

Catherine sighed. “Probably not.” She got up to get more coffee.

Angelica and Eliza continued to browse Laurens’ profile while Lexi ate the fallen sprinkles off her plate.

“You can date if you want, Alex,” Philip said, voice soft. “Your world doesn’t have to entirely revolve around your daughter.”

“I don’t want to get hurt.” Hamilton stared into his almost empty cup. “If someone breaks my heart, I won’t be able to be there properly for Lexi.”

“You don’t know that.” Philip patted his hand. “When Lexi was handed off to you, you never faltered. I don’t think anything could get in the way of you giving Lexi the care and love she needs.”

Hamilton nodded. “If it happens. I’m not going to look, though.”

Philip squeezed his hand. “I suppose that’s prudent; love does find a way all its own.”

Chapter Text

Court day. Hamilton was pumped, ready to blow off some steam in the courtroom and let his talents shine. He was less thrilled, though, when Washington said he’d accompany his young lawyers. And the day grew a little worse when he discovered who the prosecutors were: Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

He would have to be on his A-game, Hamilton knew and was ready to rise to the challenge.

Thomas Jefferson was a typical lawyer: egotistical, intelligent, handsome, and smug. He dressed in flashy suits, his bouncy curls glossy and perfect. His dark skin had cool undertones, and a toned physique added to his elegance and power. With a decade of experience over Hamilton, he was a worthy opponent to the scrappy, young redhead.

Jefferson’s colleague, the diminutive James Madison, was his opposite. Quiet and meek, he seldom spoke in the courtroom, but when he did his words held intense power. He remained unmarried, living with his parents while Jefferson was married and had three daughters.

The two Virginia-born and bred lawyers watched the young city-dwellers get situated at their table. They’d gone up against Hamilton and Burr enough, though, to know it wouldn’t be as easy a win as it appeared.

The intensity started at once as Hamilton questioned a witness. Words spewed forth and the judge reminded him twice to slow down so the court scribe could catch everything. He couldn’t, nor could he remain quiet when Jefferson interrogated the witness, and continuously objected to the wording of the questions.

“Are you going to object to everything I say?” Jefferson snapped at him.

“Quit asking leading questions,” Hamilton retorted. He breathed heavily and only Burr’s gentle and subtle touch stopped him from arguing further. He sat and let Jefferson resume.

But barely a minute passed before he stood. “Objection! Where is the question?”

“I’m getting there,” Jefferson snapped at him. “Judge, may I finish?”

“Get to your question,” the judge replied. “Sit down, Mr. Hamilton.”

Hamilton sat, poised on the edge of his seat ready to spring up again.

When allowed to cross-examine the witness, he worked himself into a frenzy, trashing everything Jefferson brought up. Jefferson objected twice and the judge told Hamilton to slow down three times.

When the judge called for a recess to give the traumatized witness a break, Hamilton sprinted out of the courtroom to throw up.

Burr waited for him when he came out of the stall. “You really need to stop doing that to yourself,” he admonished gently. “You work yourself up too much.”

“It’s how I’m wired,” Hamilton said. He washed his face. “Do you have any gum?”

Burr gave him a piece of gum and they returned to the courtroom.

Washington beckoned Hamilton over. “Slow down.” He reached a hand out to brush the lawyer’s hair out of his face but managed to stop himself. “You’ll have enough time to get out everything you need to say.”

“If I speak slower,” Hamilton argued, “I forget what I need to say.”

Washington sighed. “Do try not to work yourself up to the point of vomiting again.”

Hamilton shrugged.

But he did try to slow down a little for the rest of the day.

“Objection!” Hamilton spat out. “There is no question there, Jefferson. What’re you trying to get at?”

“Mr. Hamilton,” admonished the judge. “Slow down. Mr. Jefferson, speed up.”

The older lawyer glared at his rival. “I could get to my point if someone didn’t interrupt me every two seconds.”

“Then figure out what you need to say in two seconds,” Hamilton retorted. He would have continued but Madison fell into a coughing fit and nothing could be heard over his hacking.

***

When he returned home that evening, Eliza asked at once, “You went up against Jefferson, didn’t you?”

Hamilton hugged Lexi tight. “How did you know?”

“You’re pale and your eyes have murder in them.” Eliza picked up her purse. “Lafayette stopped by to drop off a box, said it was for Lexi.”

“I didn’t know he was still in New York,” Hamilton said. He smiled at his daughter as she pulled at his tie to get his attention.

“I don’t think he knew he was still in New York.” Eliza rolled her eyes. “See you two tomorrow.”

Hamilton closed the door behind her and set down Lexi. “Let’s see what Uncle Laffy brought.”

Lexi bounced up and down. “Uncle Laffy gives good presents!”

Expensive ones, Hamilton thought. He opened the box on the kitchen table.

The first thing in the box was a blanket with a note on top of it: For the small human. Hamilton took out the blanket and instantly knew Lexi would not be getting that. It was so soft and the pattern of jungle animals reminded him of the one he’d had as a boy that had been ruined in the hurricane. He missed the comfort of that blanket. Setting it over the back of a chair, he pulled out several boutique boxes of doll clothes for Lexi’s babies.

“Bitty Baby!” Lexi grabbed at the boxes. “I love Uncle Laffy!”

“Easy.” Hamilton helped her set the boxes on the floor and let her open them. Also in the box was a toy shopping basket full of play food, a set of toy dishes, and a stack of children’s books about nature and history. They were a little above Lexi’s reading level but the pictures were plentiful and he could read them to her. He was a little bummed Lafayette hadn’t included anything for him other than the blanket he was stealing. Yes, he was a little jealous of all the stuff his friends lavished on his daughter. But seeing Lexi’s beautiful smile and bright eyes as she opened the gifts made up for some of his disappointment.

“Let’s dress Skittles and Starburst in their new clothes,” Hamilton said as he admired the outfits and accessories. “We’ll take a picture to send Uncle Laffy.”

Hamilton helped her dress the dolls and set up a cute scene. He snapped several pictures and sent them to his friend with heartfelt thanks. I’m keeping the blanket for myself, he added.

Lafayette didn’t reply but Hamilton knew he wouldn’t until some random time in the middle of the night.

After dinner, Lexi brought Hamilton the new book on ocean creatures and snuggled next to him on the couch.

“See, the sunlight can’t reach all the way to the bottom of the ocean,” Hamilton explained as they looked at the pictures. “That means the creatures deeper in the water have special ways to find food in the dark.”

Lexi’s brow wrinkled at the pictures of the creepy and odd-looking deep-sea fish. “Scary.”

“Yeah,” Hamilton agreed. “The good thing is we can avoid them easily by not going in the deep water.”

He turned the page and the creatures got even weirder looking.

Lexi screamed and threw the book. “I don’t like the dark water!”

Hamilton cuddled her close. “It’s okay. You won’t ever see those funny-looking fish. They don’t come near the beach where you like to play.” They didn’t go to the beach often since he was terrified of sharks but figured it would be best to reassure her that the beach was safe.

“Don’t like.” Lexi’s voice was muffled against his stomach.

“How about we read about something less scary?”

Lexi got up and retrieved the other books.

Flipping through the books, Hamilton quickly realized Lafayette had no idea what was appropriate for a four-year-old. The books were more geared toward the morbid curiosity of a preteen. “Go get your book on cats,” he suggested instead. While Lexi retrieved that, he stashed the books out of reach of his daughter and hoped she would forget the ocean horrors fast.

They spent a half-hour talking about cats and naming the pictures in the book.

“Alright, bud.” Hamilton closed the book. “Bath time.”

“No!” Lexi screamed and ran into her dad’s room. “Monsters!”

“Damn it, Lafayette,” Hamilton muttered and chased down his daughter. “The water in the tub is safe, Lexi. I promise.” He found her under his bed. “Do you want to shower with Daddy? Would that be less scary?”

“Monsters,” Lexi cried.

Maybe she would forget by tomorrow night, Hamilton thought. “If you get in your jammies now, we can read for another fifteen minutes.”

Lexi quickly crawled out from under the bed. Once she was tucked in, Hamilton read to her one of their favorites, about a turtle named Franklin.

Child asleep, Hamilton tidied up the house, brushed Croix, and got in bed to read.

Fifteen minutes after he turned off the lights and snuggled under the covers with his new blanket, the satin border cool against his cheek, he felt the bed jostle as Lexi climbed up.

“Yes?” Hamilton said.

“Monsters.” Lexi burrowed under the covers. “I sleep here.”

“No kicking.” He soon fell asleep. It was only about six months ago that Lexi had started sleeping in her own room. Hamilton would have preferred she stay with him but parenting books insisted it was better for the child to sleep in her own bed and it was better to start that young. He still thought that was bullcrap but Lexi had adjusted fine to sleeping in her own bed.

Chapter Text

“There’s water in the potty!” Lexi screamed and ran out of the bathroom.

“There’s always been water in there,” Hamilton tried to reason and cursed Lafayette in his head. “No monster is going to appear in the potty.” He found Lexi under his bed. “You have to use the toilet.”

“No!”

“You can’t hold it in forever.” Hamilton lay on his stomach and watched her. “That’s not healthy.

“Would I die?” Lexi asked.

“Probably.”

She gave a huge dramatic sigh and crawled out from under the bed. “If I die on the potty, it’s your fault!” Lexi stomped to the bathroom.

She didn’t die on the toilet but it was another fight to wash her hands.

When Eliza arrived, Hamilton was running behind and quickly explained Lexi’s new aversion to water thanks to Uncle Laffy’s traumatizing gift.

“Just make sure she uses the bathroom as needed,” Hamilton said as he threw together his lunch. “I’ll work on a bath in a day or two.”

“We’ll manage,” Eliza assured him. “Don’t overtax yourself in court.”

“No promises.” Hamilton kissed Lexi and hurried out the door.

Burr waited for him and drove them to the courthouses. “Do you want to go to the beach this weekend?” he asked as he inched his way up to another car’s bumper. “Probably the last time it’ll be warm enough this year.”

“Yes—” Hamilton pressed hard on his imaginary brake “—if Lexi isn’t still afraid of water by then.” He explained about the deep-sea creatures.

“Maybe she needs to face her fear and see the ocean again,” Burr suggested. He forced his way into the right lane, got honked at, and flipped the bird. “That way she can see that the monsters aren’t right there.”

Hamilton continued to press the brake he wished he had. “Perhaps. Can you not tailgate?”

“Defensive driving, Hammy.” He eased his car into a spot barely big enough to fit it. “Let’s take down the Virginia horror show.”

They took their seats, Jefferson and Madison watching them. Their intensity was apparent at once as Jefferson called forth a new witness that slandered Hamilton and Burr’s client. But Hamilton was up to the challenge and worked himself into his usual frenzy.

During a brief recess, he threw up in the bathroom. As he washed up and Burr chided him for making himself sick, the restroom door opened and Jefferson came inside.

“Drinking, Hamilton?” he asked. “The way you talk, you have to be taking something.”

“I don’t need anything to improve my talents,” Hamilton said, head held high to stare up at Jefferson. “You might consider something, though.”

Jefferson gave a fake laugh. “Are you even old enough to drink? The trash the bar passes anymore is ridiculous. In my day, actual skill was necessary to become a lawyer.”

“When?” Hamilton taunted. “1767? I’m pretty sure just being able to read then could make you a lawyer.” He brushed off Burr trying to silence him. “I graduated two years early,” he went on. “How long did it take you to finish law school?”

“You’re nothing but a child, Hamilton.” Jefferson stepped around him and Burr. “You’ll crash and burn in another six months. You won’t amount to anything.”

Hamilton’s lips curled. “I’m sorry you hate your life. Don’t try to drag me down with you.”

The fake laugh slipped out of Jefferson’s mouth again. “I pity when you discover the real world, Hamilton. I’m going to take a leak.” A smirk touched his face. “Turn around unless you need to see what a real man looks like.”

Burr dragged him out before Hamilton could retort.

“Now I lost!” Hamilton yanked away from his partner. “Now he’s going to think I’m not a man.”

“You’re twenty-four,” Burr snapped at him. “You basically are still a child.”

“You’re a year older!” Hamilton shouted. “I’m finishing the argument.”

Burr grabbed him before he went back into the restroom. “Let it go.”

“Don’t quote Disney to me.” He glared at his colleague. “I’m not a child, Aaron.”

“Then shut your pie hole for once in your life.” Burr grabbed him by the tie. “I’ve seen your dick; you’re better off not waving it around. Trash Jefferson in court, not in the bathroom.”

Hamilton’s blue-violet eyes bore into Burr’s dark hazel ones. “Fine.”

Letting go of the tie, Burr smoothed it back in place. “I’ll buy you pizza tonight.”

“And breadsticks.” Hamilton headed back into the courtroom.

They took their seats and tiny Madison glanced toward them. He always looked like death and wore black as if waiting for his own funeral. He coughed into a handkerchief as Jefferson returned and his partner got him some water.

The trial resumed and Hamilton used every tactic he could.

“Objection!”

Jefferson glared at the fiery redhead. “What now?”

“How do you,” Hamilton began, “get to judge a witness on morals when you’ve been having an affair for how long?”

His dark eyes narrowed. “What’re you talking about?”

“Mr. Hamilton,” the judge interrupted. “Mr. Jefferson is not on trial.”

“Yes, but—” Hamilton brushed Burr’s pinching hand away.

The judge glared at him. “You are very close to causing a mistrial, Mr. Hamilton.” He looked toward the jury. “Please, disregard Mr. Hamilton’s comments. Mr. Jefferson, you may resume.”

Burr pulled Hamilton back into his seat. “Shut up for once in your life,” he hissed.

“We’re losing ground!” Hamilton shot back a little too loudly and the judge scolded him.

The final witness was questioned and Hamilton knew he would have to nail his closing statement in order to give his client the justice Hamilton believed he deserved.

Jefferson’s angry glare after he finished told Hamilton he had achieved his goal.

The bailiff took the jury back to their room to deliberate and it was out of the lawyer’s hands. The verdict could arrive in fifteen minutes or five hours. Hamilton and Burr had been on cases with both outcomes. They finished paperwork as they waited and Burr ordered the promised pizza. Hamilton let Eliza know they were waiting on the jury and to plan accordingly. She kept a small bag of toiletries and pajamas at the apartment in case Hamilton was stuck at the courthouse late into the night waiting on the jury.

The two lawyers ate and chatted, soaking in the brief reprieve and clearing their heads to do it all over again with a different case the next day.

The jury reached a verdict two hours later and everyone reassembled in the courtroom. One juror handed over the paper with their agreed on pronouncement.

The judge read the crime of the accused. “Guilty,” he said.

While he was professional enough not to gloat in court, Hamilton felt a swell of victory rise in his chest.

No one lingered after the trial, Burr and Hamilton returned to the car, and Burr dropped him off at home.

“See you tomorrow,” Burr said. “Good job today, Alex.”

Hamilton smiled. “Thanks. See you later.” He headed up to his apartment where Eliza was getting Lexi ready for bed.

“Daddy!” Lexi slipped from Eliza’s grasp and ran toward him.

“Hey, bud!” Hamilton swung her around.

“You won, didn’t you?” Eliza asked.

“Yeah.” A smile spread across his face. “Against Jefferson. That’s a double win.”

“You’re basically the best lawyer in New York.” Eliza kissed his cheek. “If I leave now I can catch the next subway.”

“Text me every five minutes,” Hamilton told her. He hated her riding the subway alone when it was late but he never doubted that Eliza couldn’t hold her own. Her street smarts were good and she seemed to always find a female to sit next to watch each other’s backs.

“I will.” Eliza kissed Lexi on the head and headed out.

Hamilton finished getting his daughter ready for bed. “What do you think about going to the beach this week?”

“Monsters!” Lexi screamed.

“No, bud.” Hamilton shushed her. “That’s why you need to go and see that the monsters aren’t there. The creepy fish live way down in the water. They couldn’t hurt you.” He added for more incentive, “You would get to see Theo.”

“Maybe.” Lexi brushed the hair out of her eyes.

“You’re a brave girl, Alexis Rachel Hamilton.”

Chapter Text

Burr offered to drive, but Hamilton insisted they take public transit to the beach, even if it meant potentially taking twice as long. They met at the Fulton Street Station for the first leg of the journey to head across Brooklyn.

At only four, both girls were already used to riding the subway. While Burr liked to drive, Theodosia always took public transit when she took her daughter on outings. The girls sat next to each other and looked at a book.

After switching subways, the two families then walked the last stretch to the beach to avoid taking a bus, which sometimes agreed with Hamilton even less than riding in a car.

***

As soon as they hit the sand, Lexi and Theo pulled off the dresses they wore over their swimsuits and ran toward the water, but both girls knew not to get too close without a parent with them. Hamilton hoped Lexi would forget her fear now that she saw the water and no monstrous sea creatures.

Their parents called them back to put on sunscreen. Hamilton slathered his daughter from head to toe in the cream and tied on a sunhat under her chin. “Go play with Theo.”

The two girls sprinted around the dry sand, squealing and shouting.

Hamilton kept a close eye as he covered himself in sunscreen. 

“Need help with your back?” Burr asked.

“Yes.” Hamilton handed him the tube and had instant regrets when he remembered how much Burr liked getting his hands on his partner. “I don’t need a body massage, Aaron,” he complained yet enjoying having his back rubbed.

“I don’t want you to turn into a lobster,” Burr said. He rubbed Hamilton’s neck and got the tips of his ears. “Done.”

“Want me to return the favor?” Hamilton asked.

“Don’t be gay, Alex,” Burr replied. “I have a wife.”

Hamilton rolled his eyes. He stumbled drunken-like through the deep sand to join his daughter watching the waves. “What do you think, bud?” He rested a hand on her pink sunhat. “Want to put your feet in?”

“Maybe.” Lexi watched Theo splash in after her dad.

As Hamilton had hoped, seeing Theo not scared made Lexi braver. He took his daughter’s little hand and they walked into the wet sand and closer to the water lapping the shore. “Do you see anything scary?” he asked.

Lexi studied the crashing waves and the water about to roll over her toes. “Not yet.”

“I bet we won’t see anything scarier than a seagull,” Hamilton said. “Maybe some seaweed.”

“Eww!” Lexi giggled. She watched Burr and Theodosia swing their daughter over the water. She took a few steps closer to the surf and her feet sank in the sand as the waves washed over her ankles.

“All good?” Hamilton asked.

“Yeah.” Lexi held his hand and waded in a little further. “It’s cold.”

“You’ll get used to it.” He kept his attention evenly divided between making sure Lexi was safe by his side and that no huge waves were coming their way. And his biggest fear, seeing a shark fin. He’d never told Lexi about sharks and the time she came across a picture in her encyclopedia, he told her they only lived near Australia, which was very far away.

Lexi waded in up to waist-deep—as far as Hamilton would allow—and splashed about. She ran back and forth, letting the waves chase her to shore. Theo joined her and their parents watched as the girls ran wild, splashing and laughing.

They soon settled on the sand to make a castle. Theodosia sat nearby them and Burr dragged Hamilton into the water.

“No sharks,” he assured. “I can see where your daughter gets her fears.”

“It’s not irrational,” Hamilton said. He braced himself against Burr as a wave crashed into the backs of their knees. “I don’t like things with that many teeth. I don’t like alligators or crocodiles either.”

“Cows kill more people.” Burr turned away from shore and went in deeper.

“Yes, but I’m in the ocean,” Hamilton argued. “I don’t go near any cows.”

“Horses kill people, too.” Burr pulled his friend along with him. “Yet you let Lexi ride a pony.”

“Sharks do kill people, Aaron.” Hamilton froze as he thought he saw something moving in the water.

Burr found were his wide eyes stared. “Seaweed. Be more worried about the wave that’s about to hit us.”

“Wha—” The wave knocked him down but Burr had braced himself better and caught hold of Hamilton as his feet were swept out from under him and another wave crashed into them.

Burr wiped the water off his face. “Good?”

Hamilton spit out a mouthful of water and pointed to something floating toward shore. “No. Those are my shorts.”

At once, Burr busted out laughing. He was soon doubled over, slapping the water like a seal.

“Aaron!” Hamilton punched him. “Get them.” He grimaced at the cool water splashing against places it didn’t need to be. “Come on!”

Burr couldn’t stop laughing and the noise caught Theodosia’s attention on shore. Hamilton waved to her and pointed to his shorts lazily riding a wave to and from shore. He bent his knees to get lower in the water.

Not paying attention, the next wave knocked them both down, but that didn’t dim Burr’s amusement and he snorted up water as he watched Hamilton scramble to stay in water above his waist.

Seeing that her husband was being a useless friend, Theodosia rescued the shorts but she wouldn’t wade out to them and leave the girls alone.

“Run really fast,” Burr said between chuckles.

“Throw them,” Hamilton called to Theodosia.

“I throw like a girl,” she replied. “Aaron, help him out.”

“No way!” Burr shouted.

The girls became intrigued by what their parents shouted about and stood ankle-deep in the water with Theodosia.

“Those are Daddy’s.” Lexi pointed to the shorts in Theodosia’s hand. “Why’d he take them off?”

“He got stuck in a wave,” Theodosia said. “The water took them off.”

“Bad water!” Lexi waved to her dad and yelled as loud as she could, “Don’t worry, Daddy! We’ll save you from being nakey!”

That was too much for Burr, especially once people glanced their way, and he cracked up laughing again.

“Help me, Aaron.” Hamilton shoved him.

“Fine.” Still chuckling, he waded to shore, grabbed the swimsuit, and headed back. He slapped the wet shorts against Hamilton. “You totally owe me now.”

“Nope.” He struggled until Burr took pity on him and held his arm as he balanced on one foot.

“Good?” Burr asked.

“No.” Hamilton headed for shore. “Never been more humiliated.”

“What about when you threw up in Washington’s office?” Burr suggested. “Or had a sex dream about him?”

“Ugh, Aaron!” 

Theodosia raised an eyebrow. “You’re having sex dreams about George Washington?”

“It doesn’t mean anything,” Hamilton grumbled. “Thanks, Aaron.”

Burr saluted him. “You make my job too easy. Your life is a disaster, Hammy-Ham.”

Hamilton glared at him as his daughter ran toward him.

“You got your shorts back!” Lexi hugged his legs. “The sea monsters didn’t get you.”

“No monsters, bud.” Hamilton adjusted her sun hat. “Just Aaron Burr.” He shot his friend another annoyed look.

“Lighten up.” Burr shooed the girls off to go finish their sandcastle. “Not like you have anything worth seeing.” He poked Hamilton in the stomach and trailed a finger down the sparse ginger hair that disappeared below the waistband of his shorts.

“Aaron, leave him alone,” scolded Theodosia.

“He likes it,” Burr countered and studied Hamilton’s red cheeks. “Right?”

Hamilton could only shrug, not wanting to admit he craved touch and that Burr always seemed to know the best spots to release endorphins. 

Burr turned to his wife. “He’s dreamed about our boss. It’s not like he’s picky.”

“For once think before you speak,” Theodosia bemoaned. “You drive me nuts.”

“You drive me to nut.” Burr quickly ducked at his wife and friend hit him. “Okay, okay! I’ll try to think before I speak.” He wrapped his arms around Hamilton and gave Theodosia his powerful, pathetic stare. “But look how cute he is.” He winked. “You, me, Hammy-Ham.”

Theodosia walked away with a shake of her head. “I’m not afraid to tell you no a million times, Aaron Burr.”

Hamilton pushed away from his friend. “One, I thought you said she was okay with the idea, and two, quit pimping me out.”

“You’re horny and alone.” Burr kissed his cheek. “I’m just trying to help you out.”

“You’re the one who is horny.” Hamilton got away from his grasp. “Your wife said no. Deal with it.”

Burr rolled his eyes. “Do you want ice cream?”

“Yes,” Hamilton agreed at once.

Burr headed off to find an ice cream cart while Hamilton joined Theodosia and the girls in the sand. Little Theo and Lexi had managed a cute castle with sand molds. Theodosia helped them decorate it with bits of shells; Hamilton dug a moat.

“If Aaron’s attention bothers you,” Theodosia said—she paused to smile as her daughter held up a big shell—“Let me know and I can get him to stop.”

“Nah, it’s fine,” Hamilton said. “Unless it bothers you?”

“I find it rather endearing how attached he is to you.” Her face lit up when she saw the almost perfect sand dollar Lexi found. “That’s lovely, dear!”

Lexi smiled widely and showed off all her pretty baby teeth. “I keep this one.” She handed it to Hamilton. “Protec.”

“Will do.” He smiled at his daughter but an ache settled in his chest at how happy Lexi looked to have a mother-figure giving her attention. He’d always hoped Eliza and her sisters would give Lexi the maternal love she might need and later be there for her to talk to about growing up. He wasn’t shy about feminine topics himself but knew Lexi might have questions someone with firsthand experience could answer better. Would he doom his daughter if he someday—maybe—decided to marry a man? No, he knew at once. He’d read the studies that proved children of same-sex parents were happier and better adjusted than their heterosexually raised peers. Love was love and Lexi would always have plenty of that, both male and female.

Ice cream distracted him when Burr returned and handed out ice cream bars. He opened Lexi’s first and handed it over. She sucked on the chocolate coating, eyes bright and cheeks rosy. 

“How much do I owe you?” Hamilton asked Burr.

“A kiss,” Burr said.

Hamilton snorted. “Why did I know that would be the answer?”

“You don’t owe him anything, Alex,” Theodosia said. “The ice cream barely repays you for him not helping you earlier.”

“He was fine,” Burr retorted.

“You’re annoying,” Hamilton said, trying to look irritated.

“I bought you ice cream.”

“That’s enough, boys,” Theodosia interrupted. 

Once everyone finished their ice cream, the girls and their parents searched the wet sand for seashells. Lexi soon found several nice one and Theo grew pouty when she couldn’t find any.

“It’s not fair!” she wailed and stomped her feet in the sand. 

“Settle down, Miss Priss,” Burr admonished.

Lexi held out a spiral shell. “I found this one for you.”

“Thanks.” Theo took it and sniffled. “It’s very pretty.”

The girls searched a little longer, then sat down for peanut butter sandwiches before the journey home.

“Does your cat have a name yet?” Hamilton asked.

“Princess Fiona of Fairytown!” Theo shouted.

“Cute!” Lexi squealed.

Theodosia smiled at the girls while Burr shook his head. He leaned closer to Hamilton and murmured, “When we took the cat to the vet for a checkup, we were informed that Princess Fiona is a boy. He’s so furry; we didn’t see his little testicles.”

Hamilton snorted. “That’s awesome.”

“So, Princess Fiona gets neutered next month.” Burr gave an exaggerated sigh. “Finally have a son and he’s named Princess Fiona of Fairytown.”

“Well, he hates you anyway,” replied Hamilton.

“No kidding.” Burr popped the last bite of sandwich in his mouth. “Woke up to the fluff ball on my face the other morning trying to smother me.”

“What’s new?” Hamilton teased. “Doesn’t your wife try and do that every week?”

“True.” He grinned at Theodosia. “Between her and the cat, they may succeed someday.”

By then, everyone’s swimsuits were dry enough to put clothes on over for the subway ride. Theodosia took the girls to the restroom while the men gathered the girl’s toys and made sure they didn’t leave any trash.

Theo and Lexi rode on their dads’ shoulders for the walk to the station. Both fell asleep on the subway, Theo in her mom’s arms and Lexi on her dad’s lap.

Hamilton yawned, worn out from the sun and soothed by the rocking car. On the second subway, he rested his head on Burr’s shoulder and soon dozed off.

He woke when a hand touched his face. 

“Wakey, wakey,” Burr said. He took Lexi while Hamilton yawned and tried to orientate himself.

“That was fast.” Hamilton rubbed his eyes. He followed the Burr’s off and set Lexi on his shoulders.

“Text me when you get home,” Burr told him as they parted ways. “See you tomorrow.”

The Hamilton’s waved and headed for their apartment. 

At home, Croix met them at the door and rubbed against Hamilton’s legs, purring.

“We missed you, too.” Hamilton lifted him up and cuddled the orange tabby for a moment. “Alright, Lexi, let’s rinse off, then make snacks and watch a movie.”

“Yay!” Lexi ran into the bathroom.

Hamilton set down the cat, sent a quick text to Burr that they had arrived home, and followed her. He put Lexi in the shower with him to wash off any sand and the scent of the ocean. Finished, he let her run naked to her room while he dried off. Once both had thrown on some comfortable clothes, Hamilton got the good snacks from the top cupboard—their favorite chips and dip.

Settled on the couch, Croix purring on Hamilton's lap, they watched Moana for the hundredth time.

“Moana is never scared of water,” Lexi said as they watched the adorable toddler play with the sea.

“You were very brave today, too,” Hamilton told her. “Daddy’s proud of you.”

“I be brave like Moana.” She snuggled close to her dad and reached for a chip. 

Hamilton kissed her head. “I’m very proud of you.”

Chapter Text

The office door opened and Hamilton stood, aware that he was naked but not worried about it. He watched Washington come toward him, ready for what was about to happen. The kiss was perfect—warm, long.

Strong hands moved down his body, then pushed him away. Pushed him against the wall…

Hamilton rolled over and jerked awake when he bumped into something in bed with him.

Croix yowled at him for the disruption. 

“You gave me a heart attack,” Hamilton murmured, heart and body pounding. Why was he dreaming of his boss again? He blamed Burr and his touching and teasing.

The cat sat on his chest and licked Hamilton’s nose. Hamilton pet him and reached for his phone. A little after two in the morning. He nudged Croix off and tried to fall back asleep and not think about the stupid dream. He failed on both counts. The kiss and security of Washington’s touch had been powerful as much as he hated to think about it and he longed to actually have someone hold him like that. An hour later, Hamilton gave up on sleep and read until five-thirty. He showered—singing off-key under his breath to keep from thinking about Washington—dressed and made a hot breakfast for Lexi.

Once he fed Croix, Hamilton woke his daughter. “Daddy made oatmeal. Come eat it while it’s warm.”

Lexi yawned. “Sleep.”

Don’t be sick, Hamilton begged and touched her forehead. It was hot under his hand. She’d kept her hat on the whole time they were at the beach and hadn’t burned so he didn’t think she had sunstroke. “Let me get the thermometer.” He tucked her hair back behind her ear.

Her temperature was 101. Hamilton texted Eliza to let her know what she’d be dealing with that day. He’d hoped Lexi would get over her frequent babyhood fevers. It had been a while since she’d been sick.

“You can stay in bed.” Hamilton stroked her forehead. “Do you want juice?”

Lexi nodded.

He returned with one of Lexi’s baby bottles filled with orange juice. He read to her until Eliza arrived and dragged himself away to walk to work.

“I’ll keep you updated,” Eliza assured as she watched his worried face. “She’ll be just fine.”

Hamilton hovered in the kitchen near Lexi’s bedroom. “I don’t like leaving my baby when she’s sick.”

“I know.” Eliza hugged him. “I’ll do everything I can for her.”

Hamilton left before he started crying and only realized when he was halfway to work that he’d forgotten his lunch bag. Didn’t matter, he doubted he’d have much of an appetite anyway.

Burr arrived a few minutes after him. “Is Lexi sick?” he asked at once.

“Why, is Theo sick, too?” Hamilton asked, alarm making his heart race. What if the girls had contracted flesh-eating bacteria from the water?

“No, she’s fine,” said Burr. “It’s your face. You look broken.”

“Oh.” Hamilton sucked in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “She woke up with a fever this morning.”

Burr patted his shoulder. “She’ll be okay. She’s in good hands with Eliza.”

“I just want to go home.”

“If it’s slow this afternoon,” Burr told him, “I wouldn’t be offended if you left early.”

“Thanks.” Hamilton sighed.

Burr patted him again. “Coffee?”

“Lots of sugar.” He yawned and remembered why he was so tired and his cheeks grew warm. Thankfully, Burr had turned away and didn’t notice his partner’s red face.

But it was still red when Washington walked into the office. “Where’s Burr?”

“Getting coffee,” Hamilton mumbled unable to look at his boss. What would it be like to be hugged by him? Would it be as secure as his dream made him believe?

“I need to speak to you,” Washington said. He motioned Hamilton to follow.

In the office, Hamilton was tired enough to sit and he tucked his arms tight across his chest.

“I was impressed with what I heard about your recent trial,” Washington said. “Jefferson and Madison are a strong team and you showed your skill against them. However—” His piercing gaze bore into the young lawyer until he looked up, “—you had no business bringing Jefferson’s personal life into the courtroom. Jefferson was not on trial. You nearly caused a mistrial, Mr. Hamilton. You need to control your temper.”

“The jury had a right to know Jefferson’s character,” Hamilton argued, arms dropping away from his protective stance. “He was accusing the witness of immorality. The jury deserved to know what a hypocrite he was.”

Washington shook his head. “No, Alexander. That’s not pertinent to the case.”

Clenching his jaw, Hamilton folded his arms again.

“How do you know of Jefferson’s affair?” Washington asked. He studied the redhead, spotting the dark circles under his eyes, the worry-crease on his brow. Not in a blazer, his thinness was more apparent, the tucked-in shirt hugging his narrow body.

“Everyone knows,” Hamilton said. “Even his wife knows. Jefferson is a whore.”

“Mr. Hamilton,” Washington snapped. “Have some respect.”

Hamilton stood. “No, sir, I will not for Jefferson. He doesn’t respect me and I won’t respect him.”

The leather squeaked as Washington stood as well and stepped away from his desk.

Redness darkened Hamilton’s florid cheeks and eye contact was fleeting.

“You look tired,” Washington said.

Hamilton drew in his shoulders, hoping to ward off any touch yet he wanted nothing more than to lean into the stoic man and have someone—for once—take charge. Not sexually, just someone to take away the burden of making every decision for a few minutes. “Lexi woke with a fever this morning,” he mumbled.

“I’m sorry,” Washington said. “It’s hard to focus when your child is sick.” He pressed the back of his hand against Hamilton’s forehead.

Hamilton didn’t dare move or breathe. An unwelcome warmth spread through his gut and went steadily lower.

“You feel a little warm.” Washington took his hand away. “Go home and rest. I need you a hundred percent focused by Wednesday.”

Hamilton shook his head, brain forgetting how words worked, mind in turmoil of what he wanted.

“Go home, Alexander,” Washington ordered.

“Sir—”

“Go home.”

Hamilton hurried out of the office and back to his own.

“Where’d you go?” Burr asked at once. “You’re flushed. Fever?”

“Yeah.” Maybe he was getting sick, Hamilton thought. At any rate, being home with Lexi would heal him faster than freaking out at work. “I was told to go home.”

“Good idea,” Burr said. “Keep the germs to yourself.”

Hamilton took the coffee Burr had brought and grabbed his phone and briefcase. “See you tomorrow.”

“I’d rather not if you’re contagious,” Burr replied. “I don’t love you that much.”

Too tired for a comeback, Hamilton waved and headed for home. He texted Eliza that he was on his way and asked how Lexi was.

I made her some jello, Eliza wrote back. She ate some of that and had another bottle of juice.

Not cherry, I hope, Hamilton replied.

Orange.

Is there any left for me? That was his favorite flavor and about the only thing that sounded good to him right then.

Yes.

In the apartment, Lexi was snug on the couch watching cartoons, several stuffed animals keeping her company. “Hi, Daddy.”

“Hey, bud.” Hamilton kissed the top of her head. “Daddy’s going to keep you company today.”

“Yay.”

Eliza came out of Lexi’s room where she’d been tidying up. “Are you sick, too, Alex?”

“I dunno.” He yawned and went into his room to change.

In comfortable clothes, he joined Lexi on the couch and accepted a bowl of jello from Eliza.

“I’ll stay,” she said. “You look like you need a good rest. I’ll make some soup.”

“Thanks.” Hamilton slurped jello off his spoon. Croix crept onto his lap and made himself comfortable.

The day passed quietly with father and daughter on the couch sleeping or watching TV. Eliza made soup, did laundry, kept cups and bottles filled with orange juice, and took temperatures.

“Lexi’s fever is down,” Eliza said. “But yours is 102, Alex.”

Hamilton’s teeth chattered. “Lies.”

“Get in bed where you’ll be warmer.” Eliza helped him up as he trembled violently. She tucked him in and ten minutes later, he tossed back all the covers, pajamas drenched in sweat. “Try to sleep.” She handed him the soft blanket from Lafayette.

He tucked it under his chin and closed his eyes.

By dinnertime, Lexi was up playing and demanding pizza. Hamilton continued to alternate between shivering and sweating. At one point, he thrashed about with fever dreams and Eliza knew she would be sleeping on the couch that night to take care of both Hamilton’s. She was happy, too. Hamilton was the older brother she’d always wanted and Lexi like a niece but even better. It had broken her heart when Hamilton had moved out after he turned eighteen and insisted he get a job and his own place as he finished college and went on to law school. Not a good idea in hindsight, Eliza thought, since, on his own, he’d gotten Maria pregnant. He’d been desperate when he returned to the Schuyler house, baby in his arms. Of course, they welcomed him back without question. He had become son and brother to all of them and eased the loss of several biological sons and brothers. He and Lexi were a blessing to the family. Eliza would do anything for them.

***

Lexi slept easily through the night but Hamilton woke frequently, sweating, then shivering, then sweating again.

When his alarm went off at six, he tried to get out of bed and found every muscle in his body aching and his legs too heavy to move.

“Don’t you dare get up,” Eliza scolded. She’d heard his alarm and hurried off the couch to keep him in bed.

“Work.” Hamilton coughed. That quickly turned into a hack and he almost threw up.

“No, Alex.” Eliza pulled the blankets back over him. “You need to rest or you’ll be sick twice as long.”

Resting his head back on the pillow brought such relief that he didn’t protest.

Eliza shooed the cat out of the doorway and let Hamilton fall back asleep. She texted Angelica to bring her some clothes since she knew she’d stay another night.

At her usual time, Lexi got herself up and hopped into the kitchen. “Daddy?”

“Daddy’s sick, hon.” Eliza set aside her phone and got off the couch. “He’s going to stay home and rest today. You’ll need to play quietly. What do you want for breakfast?”

“Chips!” Lexi squatted on the floor and stroked Croix. The cat head-butted her on the chin.

“How about cereal?” Eliza suggested. “Do you want a banana or strawberries on it?”

“Both!” Lexi skipped around the room, her illness nothing more than a twenty-four-hour bug.

They ate breakfast, Eliza trying to keep Lexi from chattering too loudly. Angelica arrived shortly after.

“Aunty ‘Gelica!” Lexi shouted and hugged her around the knees.

“Hey, kiddo.” Angelica set Eliza’s bag on the floor and lifted the tot. “All better?”

“Yup!”

“And well-rested,” Eliza said. She winced when she heard Hamilton coughing again. “Can you stay a bit, Angelica?” Her eyes pleaded with her older sister. “Lexi needs a bath and Alex is bond to have a crisis the moment I can’t get to him.”

“No problem.” Angelica handed Lexi over and went into Hamilton’s room. “Poor Alexander.” She watched the pitiful sweaty-faced and glassy-eyed figure tucked in bed.

Hamilton coughed and pointed to the blanket he’d dropped on the floor.

Angelica picked up the jungle animal blanket and handed it to him. “Can I keep you company for a few minutes?”

He nodded, eyes closing.

Sitting next to him on the bed, Angelica rubbed his back as he tucked the blanket under his chin and ran the satin border through his fingers.

“Peggy is back home now,” she told him. “Stephan, too. They’re staying in the garden-level apartment where you used to live. Mama is happy to keep an eye on her and Papa is eager to put pressure on Stephan to start working harder and learn to be responsible.” She ran a hand through Hamilton’s tangled hair. “Mama took Peggy to the doctor for a checkup and the nurse asked if Peggy wanted to know the sex of the baby. Peggy said she already knew it was a girl because it would be silly for a woman to carry a boy.”

A dry chuckle escaped Hamilton and turned into a cough. “Typical,” he whispered.

“Right?” Angelica thumped a hand against his back. “Not sure where she thinks the male species comes from.”

“Mars.” Hamilton rolled further on his side and pointed to an itchy spot on his back.

Angelica obliged and moved her hand under his sweaty shirt. “Very true.” She sighed. “That sister of mine… At least we know Lexi has brains. I fear for Peggy’s baby.”

Hamilton yawned and soon fell back to sleep.

Chapter Text

He insisted on going back to work the next day, despite coughing up a lung every few minutes. “I have meetings,” Hamilton protested to Eliza. He’d spent the previous evening going over notes Burr had sent him despite his brain working at about a quarter capacity and nothing he read made sense.

“You’ll get everyone sick,” Eliza argued. “You can barely stand.”

Hamilton coughed for a minute and had to sit down. “I’ll take some medicine.”

“Alex…” But she knew it was futile to argue. At least he agreed to ask Burr for a ride instead of exhausting himself on the walk. “Try not to make yourself sicker.”

He gave a thumbs-up as he dragged himself to the bathroom on heavy legs and took double the dose of cough medicine. He gagged at the syrupy, sickly-sweet taste and almost puked it up.

By the time he dressed and made it to Burr’s car, he needed a nap.

“You look like hell,” Burr greeted. “Why aren’t you staying home?”

“Meetings.” Hamilton begged the medicine to kick in immediately and give him a false sense of health.

“Dude, I’d have taken plenty of notes and filled you in.” He slowed down properly for once instead of slamming on the brakes at the last second. “New cases aren’t worth you infecting us all.”

Hamilton coughed. “I’m fine.”

In their office, Hamilton collapsed into his chair and wiped the sweat off his forehead. Grittiness settled in his eyes and made them heavy. He didn’t feel as congested but nor did he feel like he could stay awake another ten minutes. Had he taken Nyquil by accident?

Before he could get his foggy brain to backtrack and try to remember what bottle he’d grabbed, Burr ushered him up and to the meeting room to talk to new clients.

Washington gave Burr a sharp look, as he took in Hamilton’s flushed, sweaty face and trembling hands as he dropped into a chair. “Are you well enough for this, Alexander?”

Hamilton nodded.

Ten minutes later, when Burr and Washington took information from the client, a loud thump interrupted the meeting as Hamilton’s head hit the table, out cold.

Burr smiled at the client. “Let’s move into the next room,” he said quickly. “My co-council has been under the weather.” He ushered the young woman out and closed the door.

“Well…” Washington said with a deep sigh. He lifted Hamilton out of the chair—the young man could hardly have weighed a hundred and thirty pounds—and carried him to his office. He deposited Hamilton on the small couch and sought out his file for his emergency contact.

Elizabeth Schuyler. The name made Washington pause. He hadn’t known his young lawyer knew the Schuyler family, which included the Senator of New York. The boy was better connected than he thought. He called the number and Eliza picked up after a few rings.

“Sorry to bother you,” Washington began and introduced himself. “You’re Alexander’s emergency contact and he is quite ill.”

“Oh, dear,” Eliza murmured. “I tried to get him to stay home.”

“I imagine that would have been impossible.” Washington paused and stared at Hamilton to make sure he was breathing. “Did he take any over-the-counter medication this morning?”

“He said he was,” Eliza said. “Let me check what he took.”

Washington waited while she checked and heard her say something to Lexi.

“Um, sir.” Eliza swallowed. “He took Nyquil.”

“I wondered.” Washington sucked in an annoyed breath. “I know you’re watching his daughter. Burr is busy so I’ll bring Alexander home shortly.”

Eliza apologized profusely and said goodbye.

Washington hung up and rubbed his forehead. Could he even keep this young lawyer on his staff, he wondered. Hamilton had missed a considerable amount of days in a short time frame.

A knock on the door made Washington grind his teeth. “Yes?”

Laurens poked in his head.

“Good, I need your assistance,” Washington said at once and beckoned him into the room. “Mr. Hamilton passed out and I need to take him home.” He spoke fast and grabbed the keys to his car. “I doubt there will be parking so I’ll have you drive around the block while I take the kid inside.”

Laurens stared at the keys Washington held out to him. “I can’t drive,” he mumbled. Well, he did know how, but he’d never driven in the city and didn’t wish his first experience to be driving George Washington’s pricey Cadillac.

“I’ll drive then.” Washington pocketed the keys and moved toward the couch. “Open the doors for me.” He scooped Hamilton into his arms, glad he wasn’t any heavier or very tall, as he remained dead, limp weight.

Laurens walked ahead and opened the door and pushed the elevator button. “Umm… Is…” He cursed himself for stammering. “Is he okay?”

“We believe he took Nyquil instead of something that would keep him awake,” Washington said. He shifted Hamilton in his arms and winced as the young man’s head lolled to the side awkwardly.

“Oh.” Laurens tugged at his collar.

At the car, Washington set Hamilton in the back seat, a little concerned that he hadn’t woken at all, but more peeved about his should-be star employee being an utter disaster. He drove the quarter-mile away and stopped in front of the apartment building. He told Laurens the address and floor.

Laurens dragged Hamilton’s limp body out of the back seat and praised himself for continuing ballet in college as he used his feet to open doors and push the buttons on the elevator. Hamilton drooled on him as they rode the elevator up. Again, Laurens used his feet to give two impolite kicks to the apartment door.

A young woman answered and Laurens had a moment of panic that he had the wrong apartment and no way to explain the situation. But she let him in without looking perplexed at the encounter.

“I’m Eliza,” she said. “Lexi’s nanny.” She led him across the small apartment to the bedroom.

“John Laurens,” he said with relief to know he hadn’t read Hamilton completely wrong and didn’t know he was married to a woman. “Computer tech. I didn’t want to drive Washington’s car, so…”

“Understandable.” She helped him set Hamilton on the bed. “I’m sorry Alex is a disaster.”

“Nah.” Laurens shoved his hands in his pockets. He spotted two glowing eyes under the bed and guessed—hoped—that was the Hamilton’s cat.

Lexi poked her head around the doorframe. “Pony!” She ran to Laurens and tugged at his pant leg. “See!”

Obliging the demanding child, Laurens went into the adjacent bedroom and smiled to see his horse picture framed and hanging above Lexi’s bed. “That looks awesome.”

“Pony.” Lexi stared at it with pure admiration.

Standing in the doorway, Eliza smiled to herself to meet the admirer who had called Hamilton ‘cute’ in person. Definitely a catch, she thought.

“I should—” Laurens words were cut off by a thud from the other bedroom. He and Eliza hurried in and found Hamilton on the floor.

Hamilton mumbled, eyes still closed. He didn’t wake further even when Laurens hoisted him onto the bed.

“He might stay put under the covers,” Eliza said. She pulled off Hamilton’s shoes. “Can you get his tie?”

Carefully, Laurens loosened the tie enough to slip over Hamilton’s head and preserve the knot. Although, the lawyer probably knew how to do up a tie, unlike his useless self. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Eliza tug off Hamilton’s belt and hoped the nanny wasn’t going to ask him to help undress his cute—but virtually a stranger—co-worker.

Thankfully, she only asked him to help get Hamilton under the blankets.

“Washington is probably plenty annoyed,” Eliza said. “Give him my apologies.”

“I’m sure he’ll be understanding,” Laurens replied. “Can you let me know later how Alex is?”

Eliza walked him to the door. “Of course.”  She locked it behind him and found Lexi watching from the couch.

“He has a dog,” Lexi said. “Caro.”

“I bet it’s a cute dog,” Eliza said.

“Cute!” She crawled to the floor and played with her dolls.

Outside, Washington snapped at Laurens when he got in the Cadillac. “How did it take you that long?”

“He wasn’t very cooperative,” Laurens mumbled.

“I drove around the block about twenty times.” Washington shook his head. “Neighbors are going to think I’m the mob.”

“Probably.”

Washington took a hand off the steering wheel and swatted him. He’d known Laurens since the kid was nineteen and knew his father well. He was free to get snippy with him and knew Laurens wouldn’t become offended. But he probably would be hurt if Washington fired Hamilton. He didn’t know if he had any other choice, though.

Chapter Text

It was dark when Hamilton woke with no clue where he was or what time it might be. He backtracked in his mind to try to figure out what happened. Lexi was sick, he remembered. He’d gotten sick himself and had stayed home from work. Angelica had visited. Had that been today? He reached for his phone on his nightstand and found it empty. Body aching and heavy, Hamilton managed to sit up and turn on his reading light. He stared at his arm. Why was he wearing work clothes in bed?

But that thought was quickly pushed aside as a pounding exploded in his head and he realized how parched his throat was. His mouth ached for water and he didn’t care how much his body hurt, he needed liquid.

He didn’t quite find his feet until after he crashed into the doorframe. Stumbling the few steps to the kitchen, muscle memory helped him find the cabinet with cups and the faucet. The cabinet door slammed closed but Hamilton didn’t care as he chugged the glass of water.

“Alex?”

Hamilton dropped the cup—thankful it was plastic—and almost screamed. A light flicked on and his heart pounded as he stared at Eliza.

“I didn’t mean to scare you,” Eliza said. She closed the door to Lexi’s room and picked up his dropped cup. “Are you feeling better?”

“Where’s my phone?” Hamilton asked.

“Don’t worry about your phone.” She watched his dilated pupils. “How are you feeling?”

Hamilton filled another cup with water. “I don’t know. Did Angelica stop by today?”

Eliza touched his arm. “That was yesterday. You’ve been asleep for almost twelve hours.”

“What?” Hamilton set down the empty cup, the ache in his mouth barely gone.

“I wondered if you would remember today,” Eliza said. “You practically overdosed on Nyquil and fell asleep at work.”

“Shit.” He rubbed his aching forehead. 

“You should still be in bed.” She guided him toward his room.

Weird fever dreams came back to him but nothing clear enough to grasp and he wondered if that wasn’t stuff that actually happened. He had a vague recollection of Washington carrying him and hoped that wasn’t real. He sat on the edge of his bed and unbuttoned his shirt. “Did Aaron bring me home?”

“John Laurens.” Eliza smiled as she said it. 

Hamilton groaned. “Why?” He was glad now that he was still in his work clothes and knew that Laurens hadn’t helped undress him.

“He didn’t want to drive Washington’s car,” Eliza said.

A louder groan escaped. His hazy memory of Washington carrying him was likely true then. “I’m dead.” He got off the bed. “Where’s my phone and laptop?”

“You are not doing any work.” Eliza pushed him back on the bed and stroked his hair. “Get some more sleep, okay? I’ll get your glass of water.”

He relented and finished undressing while Eliza refilled his cup. “Where’s my blanket?”

Setting down the cup, she helped him search for the jungle animal blanket that had moved to the bottom of the bed under the covers. 

“Sleep.” Eliza tucked him in and kissed his forehead. At least he felt cooler.

Knowing he’d already slept for twelve hours, Hamilton doubted he’d be able to sleep another seven but he fell asleep fifteen minutes later.

About five-thirty, a strong tickle in his throat woke Hamilton and he sat up coughing, chugged the water on the nightstand and coughed some more. Croix ran out of the room, offended by the rude awakening.

Eliza came in his room yawning. “Still feel icky?” she asked.

“Not as bad.” He coughed one more time. His head didn’t feel as foggy and worthless nor did his body ache near as much. Coughs always lingered, he knew. Having a functioning mind was the most important thing to him. “A hot shower might help.”

Eliza let him get up and she checked on Lexi who remained asleep sprawled out across her bed.

The steam helped a little but Hamilton was too wary about taking the wrong medicine again to dose himself. He dressed for work and went into the kitchen.

“Alex, you need to rest,” Eliza chided when she saw him in a button-down shirt and slacks.

“I’ll manage.” I probably won’t have a job when I get there anyway. He poured a glass of juice but food didn’t sound appealing.

“At least let Aaron drive you.” She took the glass from him and set it on the kitchen table forcing him to sit down. “You’ll exhaust yourself.”

“It’s a quarter-mile.” The violet in Hamilton’s eyes seemed to grow more vivid with his irritation. “I can manage.”

“You’ll get sicker—”

“Eliza, I can walk,” Hamilton snapped. He stared at the bubbles gathered along the edges of his juice.

Realizing he was probably terrified for his job, Eliza let him be and made his lunch of soup, crackers, and jello to show she had no hard feelings about his outburst.

“Daddy’s up!” Lexi ran out of her room and climbed on his lap. “Better?”

“Yup.” Hamilton cuddled her tight. For a moment, the world aligned.

He let Eliza help her to the bathroom and get dressed while he found his phone but was terrified to look at the texts and emails he’d missed. Would one be telling him not to bother coming in? He thought Washington would prefer the pleasure of firing him in person but maybe Hamilton was such a disappointment Washington wouldn’t want to see him again. 

The texts were from Burr asking how he was feeling. The emails were all work but none from Washington. Hamilton sighed but his relief was short-lived, as he presumed everything would crumble once he made it to work.

Knowing it would take him longer on his still-weakened body, Hamilton left ten minutes earlier than usual. 

By the time he made it inside the law firm, he couldn’t stop coughing and felt too warm for such a short walk on a cool morning.

He made it to his office and searched through Burr’s desk for cough drops since he knew his colleague kept just about everything on hand. Underneath Q-tips, wipes and hand sanitizer, he found a bag of cough drops and quickly unwrapped one and popped it in his mouth. Maybe he’d have a coughing fit now and choke to death. It wouldn’t be any more painful than what he deduced would come later today.

The door opened and Burr came in. “Hey, you’re alive!”

“For now.” Hamilton held back a deep sigh as he logged into his computer. “Did you see Washington yet?”

“No.” Burr rested his hands on Hamilton’s shoulders. “I’m sure he’ll be understanding.”

“I’ll be written up.” He leaned back enough to rest his head against Burr. “It’s not the first time either. My record isn’t exactly great, Aaron.”

“But it’s not like you’re that flaky,” Burr argued. “You’re a single parent; stuff comes up.”

“I can’t lose this job.” He ran his fingers along the keyboard in front of him.

“You won’t.” Burr let go when his work phone rang. He answered it and a moment later said, “Yes, he’s here.” A pause. “I’ll tell him.” He looked up at his partner’s forlorn face. “Washington wants to see you.”

Dragging himself up and coughing, Hamilton headed down the long hall to his doom.

Washington remained seated when the young lawyer came in. He pointed to the chair opposite him and held out a pen. “Write down what happened yesterday.”

Hamilton took the pen and stared at the paper in front of him. “I just took the wrong medicine, sir,” he mumbled. “I didn’t do it on purpose. I guess I was distracted by my daughter being sick.”

“Write that down,” Washington insisted. 

His eyes burned as he did as instructed. It was a good thing he hadn’t been written up for the other mess-ups but this had interfered with work on a different level. He knew he’d left Burr to operate alone, knew he’d embarrassed the firm. He’d had other instances of leaving on short notice, coming in late, but this was the worst. This was the final nail in his coffin. 

When finished, Washington took the paper and promptly ripped it in half and then quarters. “You’re smart, devoted, and ambitious,” he said. “I’m not going to punish you. I ask that you work harder to be more conscientious. You were young when you were forced to grow up and raise a child. You’re still young. I would rather guide you than punish you.” The young lawyer kept his head down as Washington spoke and he could only see the muscles in his jaw tightening and twitching. “Alexander?”

“I won’t be pitied,” blurted Hamilton. “Don’t keep me around because you feel sorry for my pathetic life of trying to raise a child alone. I’d rather be fired than pitied.”

“You have a lot of pride and I admire that,” Washington said. He folded his hands on his desk. “I don’t pity you. You need a job that will help you grow. I’m trying to give that to you but I now understand I’ve judged you wrong.”

Hamilton picked at his slacks. “So, you’re going to fire me.”

“Goodness, Mr. Hamilton.” Washington would have chuckled if the boy didn’t look more pathetic than Washy did after being told he couldn’t have a second cookie. “You can go back to your office. Burr can catch you up on the case. If you need to leave early that’s fine and you can take some work home.”

“Thank you, sir.” Hamilton stood with eyes downcast.

Washington did likewise and had to restrain himself from embracing the disaster of a human. Instead, he grabbed two suckers from the top drawer of his desk and handed them over. “For Alexis.”

“Thanks.”

He still didn’t look up or smile and Washington grew desperate to prove to Hamilton that he was safe and wouldn’t lose his job. He’ll flinch if you touch him. “You have a cat, right?” he asked.

“Yes,” Hamilton mumbled and hunched his shoulders.

Washington couldn’t take the subdued appearance any longer. “You’re breaking my heart, Alexander, look at me.”

Those deep blue, almost violet eyes—swollen and watery from trying not to cry—met his. “You’re a different person in the courtroom,” Washington said, head half-cocked. “When you’re around me, you shut down. What could I do to make you more comfortable?”

That would take a week and a licensed therapist to explain, Hamilton thought. He already disliked authority and his stupid dreams only compounded the situation.

“It’s complicated,” was all he could say.

“I understand,” Washington said. He started to fold his arms and realized he’d look aggressive and dropped them back at his sides.

Hamilton’s brow furrowed. “How can you? I’ve given you nothing.” He stared past his boss at the opposite wall.

“I understand that you need more time to feel comfortable around new people,” Washington said and found he didn’t know what to do with his hands. “You didn’t grow up in a stable family.”

“I’m not looking for a father!” Hamilton half-shouted and broke into a fit of coughing.

“I’m not trying to be your father, Mr. Hamilton,” Washington said and barely stopped himself from saying ‘son.’ “I only want us to be able to work together respectfully.”

“I respect you, sir,” Hamilton mumbled, still half-choking.

“Good.” Washington moved his arms behind his back. “Go get a drink of water.”

Hamilton hurried back to his office, not even sure where to begin processing that meeting.

“So?” Burr asked at once.

“Not fired,” Hamilton said. He rubbed his aching head and coughed.

“Good.” Burr handed him a cough drop. “I don’t want to break in a new partner.”

“You would never find anyone as perfect.” He tossed the wrapper in the trashcan.

Burr snorted. “At least you didn’t say smart considering you don’t know the difference between cough syrup and Nyquil.”

Hamilton let out a long grumble. “It all tastes disgusting, okay?”

“Fine.” Burr wheeled his chair over to his partner. “Ready to work?”

They spent the morning going over paperwork, checking things online, writing notes.

As they took a brief break for lunch, each received an email at the same time, read it, and stared at each other.

“Why is our boss inviting us over for dinner?” Burr asked.

Hamilton let out a long, tortured groan. “He wants to be our father.”

Burr rolled his eyes. “I doubt it, Hammy-Ham. The email says to bring the kids and food and entertainment will be provided for them. Probably invited a bunch of other lawyers, too.”

“I don’t see anyone else’s email addresses on this,” Hamilton countered. “I don’t think he trusts us. He brings up how young we are quite often.”

“Well, look in a mirror, Alex.” Burr set his phone aside. “Either of us could easily pass for nineteen or twenty. At my last job, everyone assumed I was the boss’ son, not an actual employee. We’ll have to prove ourselves time and time again. You know that. It’s the price of being smart, short, and young.”

“He wants to be our father,” Hamilton repeated.

“We each have a four-year-old and I’m married.” Burr pushed at Hamilton’s chair. “I seriously doubt that.”

Hamilton studied his colleague’s handsome, youthful face. “Do you regret that?”

“What?” Burr questioned.

“Getting married and having a baby at twenty-one.”

Burr shrugged. “Sometimes I feel like Theodosia is parenting me but we have nothing but love and respect for each other. She’s a genius. I wouldn’t want to share my life with anyone else. Miss Priss is going to be just like her mom. I can’t wait to see what she does in her life.”

“I don’t think I’ll ever find anyone who lives up to my expectations,” Hamilton replied and looked away.

“I dunno,” Burr said with a smirk. “I don’t think you’re as picky as you think. You’re friends with me.”

Hamilton stared back into his eyes. “And I regret that every day.”

Burr gripped the armrests of Hamilton’s chair and leaned into his space. “I know you do.” He kissed his partner and pushed himself upright. His eyes widened and Hamilton got to his feet, too, and saw Washington standing in the doorway.

“No fornicating in the workplace,” Washington said. “Not to mention, Mr. Burr, you now probably have Mr. Hamilton’s illness. Have you gotten caught up, Mr. Hamilton?”

“Almost, sir.” Hamilton shoved his hands in his pockets, cheeks flushed.

“Good.” Washington set their mail on top of the filing cabinet near the door and left.

“Well...” Burr grimaced. “Dinner next Saturday will be delightful.”

“I’m telling him we can’t make it,” Hamilton said. “I’ll lie and say Lexi is sick again.”

Burr moved back to his own desk. “But then I’ll be stuck with him alone and if I cancel and if he didn’t invite anyone else, we look like jerks.”

Hamilton raised an eyebrow at him. “Now you have morals?”

“I have morals when they make sense to me,” Burr said with a wave of his hand. “I doubt we’re the only ones he’s invited and I have a beautiful wife and daughter who deserve to mingle with impressive company.”

“Fine.” Hamilton logged back into his computer that had timed out. “I’m still not going.” He focused on the screen. “I don’t like being around alcohol. If I drink, I lose control.” He glanced at Burr. “That’s how Lexi happened.”

“I see.” Burr watched him with interest rather than pity. “If you do decide to go, I’ll keep my eyes on you.”

“Promise?” Hamilton said, almost pleading.

“Promise.”

***

He was worn out enough by the end of the day to accept a ride home from Burr. It took twice as long as it did to walk but at least Burr went easy on the pedals.

He stopped outside the apartment building. “Night, Alex.” 

Hamilton squeezed his friend’s shoulder before he got out. “Thanks for the ride.”

Inside the apartment, Lexi raced toward him and hugged his knees, “Lexi missed you!”

“Daddy missed you, too.” Hamilton set down his stuff and lifted her in his arms.

She kissed the tip of his nose and touched his cheek. “Scratchy.”

Hamilton ran a hand against his face. “Yeah, Daddy hasn’t shaved in a few days.” He was surprised no one had commented but his scruff did come in pretty light.

Eliza came out of Hamilton’s room where she’d been putting clean sheets on the bed. “You look wiped. I can stay tonight.”

“We’ll be fine,” Hamilton insisted. 

“If you’re sure.” Eliza looked for her bag. “I don’t mind staying.”

“You just don’t want to deal with Peggy’s dramatics,” he teased. “We’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Saw right through that did you?” Eliza patted father and daughter on the cheek and took her leave.

Setting Lexi down, Hamilton checked the fridge for what to fix for dinner. “Soup?”

“Chips!” Lexi spotted Croix meandering out of Hamilton’s room and ran toward him. Croix sprinted for the couch and jumped on the back.

“You can have a few chips with your soup,” Hamilton said. He stuck the container in the microwave and got out bowls, spoons, crackers, and chips. “Set the table, bud.”

Lexi stopped swatting back at Croix and hopped over. She took one bowl at a time and set them on the table, standing on her tippy-toes to reach. She climbed on her book stack by herself and folded her hands.

“Very nice manners,” Hamilton complimented as he filled her bowl with chicken noodle soup. “You get an extra chip.”

He sat down and Lexi said grace and they ate, Hamilton coughing a few times. While he hated leaving extra chores for Eliza, he didn’t have the energy to move the dishes any further than the kitchen sink. He changed and crashed on the couch. “Play quietly, okay, bud?”

“Okay.” She sat down with her baby dolls and changed their clothes.

It didn’t take long for Hamilton to doze off and he was awakened by a gentle hand poking his stomach.

“I cooked you tea, Daddy.” Lexi handed him one of her plastic teacups.

“Where did you get the water?” Hamilton asked and prayed that it merely was water.

“Croix’s bowl.” Lexi went back to her toy kitchen and brought him a plate with crushed pieces of cat food. “I cooked this, too.”

There were worse places the water could have come from, Hamilton decided. He thanked his daughter for the “tea” and “food” and waited for her to resume playing to dispose of it and clean off the toy dishes.

Chapter Text

“You look nice,” Burr said with a smirk. He and his family met Hamilton and Lexi at the subway station near their house to take it to Brooklyn for Washington’s dinner party.

Hamilton glared at him. “I can’t believe you talked me into going.” He swiped his Metro card and ushered Lexi in front of him. She could still ride free.

“I literally asked if you once if were going—” Burr swiped his card “—and you said fine, you’d go. I didn’t twist your arm.” He paused to wait for his wife and daughter. “Which platform?”

Hamilton led the way. Washington didn’t live far from the Schuyler’s, which meant they only had to take one subway and walk a few blocks in Brooklyn. Much easier than taking multiple public transit routes. “You sounded lonely.” He held tight to Lexi’s hand as they waited. How people didn’t fall and get killed more often on the tracks was a mystery to him.

“Whatever.” Burr slipped his arm through his wife’s. She wore an ivory brocade dress with a cardigan, her curls twisted up in a fancy knot. Burr wore a vest to match her dress and Hamilton knew he looked shabby in his plain navy suit. Little Theo wore a burgundy taffeta dress with a matching velvet shrug. Lexi wore the same outfit but in dark blue. A gift from the Burr’s for the party. How could he have said no after that?

The two families boarded the subway and found seats.

Burr wrapped his arm around Hamilton and whispered, “You do look nice. But, that suit on the floor—”

Hamilton elbowed him in the gut. “Theodosia said no.”

“Just you and me—”

“Are you drunk already?” Hamilton searched Burr’s face but didn’t see anything to suggest he was intoxicated.

Theodosia handed the girls her phone after she found a video for them to watch and leaned over them. “Aaron hasn’t had sex in five days. He’s a bit off.”

“TMI.” Hamilton covered his ears but he could still hear them.

“Theodosia won’t go on the pill to avoid her periods,” Burr said. “Neither of us wants to…” He trailed off at Hamilton’s pointed glare. “You need to get laid, buddy. You’re turning into a prude.”

“We’re in public and with our children,” Hamilton hissed.

“Prude.” Burr stretched out his legs, the car empty except for two people at the other end. “Are you going to drink, Alex?”

“No.” He watched the video with the girls, glad it was educational, teaching them sign language. “I told you, bad things happen then.” This was definitely a mistake. Burr wouldn’t look out for him like he promised.

“What if John Laurens is there?” Burr pressed. “Some liquid courage might help you.”

“I said no, Aaron.” Hamilton shrugged his shoulder and pushed the encroaching Burr out of his space. He was relieved when they arrived in Brooklyn and headed for the Washington’s townhouse.

It was even bigger than the Schuyler’s and lavishly decorated inside with antiques and pricey paintings. Washington’s nephew, Augustine Washington, and Martha’s niece, Frances Bassett, greeted them at the door.

“I’ll take the children,” Frances said and held her hands out to the girls.

“Where are they going to be at?” Hamilton asked. He guessed Frances to be in her late teens and he was unaccustomed to leaving his child with anyone, especially someone so young.

“The game room downstairs.” She smiled at him. “You can come with.”

Hamilton followed the young woman while Augustine showed the Burr’s to the parlor.

The game room appeared to be twice the size of Hamilton’s apartment and a few other children set up tracks to race toy cars. Another girl near about Frances’ age rocked Washy as he had a bottle.

Little Theo hurried over to the other children and sat next to Nelly.

Lexi tugged at Hamilton’s blazer. “You can go.” She pointed to the little girls. “I’m gonna play.”

“I suppose.” Hamilton eyed the room for potential dangers. “I’ll check on you later.”

“Go.” Lexi pushed at him.

Frances directed him to the parlor upstairs. “I’ll come get you if there are any problems.”

Hamilton lingered until Lexi yelled at him to leave. He found the crowded parlor and made a beeline toward the Burr’s. “I didn’t think there was going to be this many people,” he murmured.

“Much better than us stuck with just Washington,” Burr replied. He pointed out people he knew: other lawyers, a judge, high-ranking men and women in politics including the mayor. “Mingle. Pretend you’re in the courtroom.” Burr turned his attention to a woman in a black gown approaching them. He and his wife were soon engaged in a conversation with her.

Hamilton slipped away to search out hors d'oeuvre. He filled a plate with shrimp and refilled it several times, as he lingered near the food. He conversed briefly with a few people, most curious as to how someone so young found himself at such a gathering.

“One of Washington’s prodigies,” became the usual response after he explained his job. Hamilton could only grit his teeth and smile. Washington hadn’t made him he wanted to retort. But as many times as he’d already feared for his job, he was not about to make a scene here.

Growing thirsty from eating so much shrimp and cocktail sauce, Hamilton found the bar. Before he could request something non-alcoholic, a gentleman he’d spoken to a few minutes ago handed him a light pink drink.

“You’ll love this.”

Hamilton was quick to decline. “I don’t drink.”

The fellow lawyer left him alone and Hamilton approached the bartender and tried to get himself heard over a loud conversation nearby. “Something sweet with no alcohol.”

The bartender soon handed him a red drink. Hamilton took a sip and found it plenty sweet. He finished it and a second before dinner was served.

The table in the dining room seated over twenty people. Washington moved to the head of the table and pulled out a chair on his right for his wife. The guests found their place cards and sat. Theodosia was seated next to Martha. Burr next to her and Hamilton next to him. 

Hamilton glanced around and tried to figure out the seating order but could determine no order of importance—the mayor was seated at the opposite end from the host. At least that didn’t make it seem like Washington put Burr above him. Unless Washington had seated everyone by his personal preference? But he doubted he and Burr ranked remotely that high. Perhaps by least favorite then? But why would Washington want to sit nearer the people he disliked? The best he could determine was his group was seated by age with the oldest (Theodosia) nearer the host and himself the youngest placed further away.

Servers in full suits brought out food and poured drinks. Hamilton thanked his stay at the Schuyler’s to know which silverware to use and how to function at a fancy dinner. He still watched around him, though, for the proper time to do anything as none of this came naturally to him.

“Hamilton.” The man next to him indicated to the place card. “You must work for Washington?”

“Yes, sir.” Hamilton glanced at the card of his neighbor and he gritted his teeth: Henry Laurens. He’d creeped enough on Laurens’ social media to find out his parent’s names. As if the man’s handsome face that looked so much like his son wasn’t enough of an indicator.

“John mentioned you have a little daughter who loves ponies,” Henry went on after a sip of wine. “You should bring her by the farm. I breed and raise horses and the kids have a multitude of pets I’m sure she’d like.”

“She does love animals,” Hamilton replied, hoping his answer was as noncommittal as possible but not rude. He stuffed his face with mashed potatoes and hoped Henry would leave him alone. He kicked Burr under the table to get his attention.

“Yes, my love?” Burr asked with a wink.

“What would you do if I actually reciprocated your affection?” Hamilton asked.

“Be extremely happy.”

“Ugh.” Hamilton reached for his glass of wine. He figured a few sips while he ate wouldn’t be bad and preferable to being the only one with a full glass when the meal ended. 

He soon found himself chatting with Henry as he polished off a steak. Henry had many stories about the farm and his kids. Likewise, Hamilton could always find a thousand Lexi and Croix stories to tell. He was disappointed when the servers cleared away the dishes, and guests dispersed to walk around, drinking, and munching on nuts and chocolate, Henry included.

Hamilton got another red fruity drink from the bartender and wandered about. After a refill on his drink, he found Burr and Theodosia.

“What’cha drinking, Hammy-Ham?” Burr asked.

“I dunno but it’s good.” Hamilton offered it to him.

Burr took a sip. “How many have you had, Alex?”

“Four.” A silly smile played on his lips.

“You realize you’ve been drinking alcohol, right?” Burr snapped his fingers in Hamilton’s face to get his attention.

“Hmm?” Hamilton wobbled as he stood.

“You’re wasted.” Burr steadied him. “Stay here. I’m going to find Theodosia and we’ll get the girls and go.”

Hamilton waved as Burr walked away. He didn’t stay put and stumbled his way through the people mingling about. “George. George!”

Washington turned around at hearing his name and was surprised to find Hamilton standing behind him. “Alexander.” The boy’s blue eyes had almost disappeared behind his dilated pupils. “Have you met the mayor?” He drew the young lawyer toward him, arm around Hamilton to keep him steady since he had a fear that the kid was drunk.

Even intoxicated, Hamilton kept up a conversation, his words flowing seamlessly as he discussed the weather with the mayor. He was intriguing to watch and Washington didn’t notice that Hamilton was playing with his tie until he felt it loosen around his neck. Stopping Hamilton’s hand, he ended the conversation politely with the mayor and guided the young lawyer away.

But before he could get Hamilton somewhere private, a judge pulled them into a conversation.

“So this is the amazing Alexander.” Judge John Jay shook his hand. “I hear you don’t lose, even against Thomas Jefferson.”

“That’s correct, your honor,” Hamilton said. He leaned back against Washington who had drawn his arm away when they stopped. “I practically perfected the law.”

Judge Jay chuckled. “I don’t doubt that.” He smiled at Washington. “You picked the winning law firm with this youngster.”

“He is gifted,” Washington said and stopped Hamilton’s hand from touching his thigh. At least Judge Jay couldn’t see what Hamilton was trying to do with his hands behind his back. “I was just about to show Alexander around the rest of the house.”

“It’s a work of art to see,” Judge Jay replied. “I won’t keep you.”

Washington pressed a hand against Hamilton’s back and guided him away. “How much have you drank?”

“I’m not drunk.” Hamilton tripped over his own feet. “Where’re we going?”

“Upstairs.” Washington held him up by the arm. “You have a reputation of making an absolute idiot of yourself without alcohol. I’m saving you from yourself.” 

“Sexy.” Hamilton smacked into a door when Washington let go of him.

“How are you still single,” Washington said disingenuously and opened the door. “Stay in here.” He closed Hamilton in the bedroom and hurried off to find Burr. 

Not even to the back stairs, Washington heard the door open and saw Hamilton streak out of the room naked. He swore under his breath and went after the wayward lawyer and caught him before he tumbled down the main staircase that would have taken him right into the party. “Easy, Alexander.”

“You left.” Hamilton pressed into his boss, almost humping his leg.

How did my life end up here? Washington wondered as he dragged his squirming, handsy, and unclothed employee to the master bedroom. He got one of his own shirts out of the closet and draped it over Hamilton. It easily covered him and kept him busy for a moment as he tried to find his hands that vanished under the long sleeves.

Knowing he couldn’t leave Hamilton alone and risk him getting downstairs and ruining his life, Washington used the house phone to call the kitchen, hoping someone would be in there to get Martha for him.

One of the servers answered and Washington quickly told him to find Martha and put her on. While he waited, he rescued the afghan Martha had crocheted that lay across their bed before Hamilton’s bare ass touched it.

“George?” Martha questioned a minute later. “Are you okay?”

“Fine, dear,” said Washington. “Mr. Hamilton drank too much. Could you—Alexander, stop—could you find Mr. Burr? We’re in—I said stop—in our room. He’s—ouch, Alexander—a libidinous drunk.” He pushed Hamilton off and onto the bed while his wife tried to find words.

“Okay, dear.”

“Thank you. Alex—” Washington hung up. He pried Hamilton’s hands off his shoulders and turned around.

Hamilton stood on the bed, eyes glassed over, a stupid smirk on his face, cheeks ruddy. “You and me.” He gestured suggestively.

“Boy, you are crossing so many lines.” Washington stepped back and Hamilton fell off the bed.

It was the longest ten minutes ever before Martha found Burr and brought him upstairs. “I can see why he stopped drinking,” Washington said dryly and let go of Hamilton.

“A shame really,” retorted Burr. He let his friend nuzzle up against him but a moment later Hamilton passed out and slumped to the floor. “Well...”

“Would have been nice if he’d done that twenty minutes ago,” Washington grumbled. “I don’t know if you’re going to be able to get him on the subway, Mr. Burr.”

“He can stay the night,” Martha said. “Lexi, too, it’s not a problem.”

Washington didn’t dare argue with his wife. He carried Hamilton into the guest room where his clothes were.

“I’m sorry about this,” Burr said, but sorrier he hadn’t found his friend first. “He didn’t know what he was drinking was alcoholic.”

“It is what it is,” Washington replied. He closed the guest room door.

“Let me talk to my wife,” Burr continued. “We’ll figure out what to do with him.” As horrible as it was, Burr knew his biggest regret in life was not having known Hamilton during his drinking days. He followed the Washington’s downstairs and searched out Theodosia. 

She excused herself from the gentleman she was conversing with at the sight of her husband’s troubled face. “What’s wrong?”

“Alex is passed out drunk upstairs.” Burr tucked a hand in between the buttons on his vest. “I’m thinking we let him sleep it off and take the girls home.”

“Is he going to be okay?” Theodosia asked. “He hasn’t binged like that in, what, four years?”

“I’m sure he’ll feel it tomorrow.” Burr sighed. “I should have been watching him. We know he’s an absolute disaster.”

Theodosia patted his cheek. “This is not your fault. Let’s go find the girls.”

It kind of was, he thought, having known Hamilton was worried about being around alcohol and he hadn’t bothered to keep an eye on his friend at all.

Lexi and little Theo had fallen asleep on the couch downstairs. Frances rocked Washy nearby. “They fell asleep about a half-hour ago,” she said. “They were very well behaved.”

“Thanks,” Theodosia said. She picked up her daughter while Burr took Lexi.

Upstairs, they found Martha as she bade goodbye to guests.

“We hate to do this to you—” Burr began.

“It’s fine.” Martha stroked Lexi’s back with a smile. “Take care of this little angel and we’ll watch her daddy.”

“Thank you.” Burr gritted his teeth. “He’s going to be horrified with himself when he wakes up. He may just leave.”

“We’ll let you know if he does.” Martha kissed them both on the cheek and saw them out.

It was a chilly, quiet walk to the station and both parents were glad to sit in the subway car, get warm and rest their arms.

“It looks like we kidnapped a white child,” Burr mumbled under his breath. Lexi snuggled into him and he brushed back her fine, red hair.

Theodosia just sighed.

When they went back into the cold, Lexi woke. “Daddy?”

“Daddy felt ill,” Burr told her. “You’re going to have a slumber party with Theo.”

“I want Daddy,” she whimpered. Tears glistened in her eyes.

“I know, sweetie.” He patted Lexi’s back and she sobbed into his shoulder. 

She cried herself back to sleep. At the townhouse, the couple got the girls ready for bed and tucked them in. Princess Fiona of Fairytown attacked Burr’s ankles every chance he got.

Back in Brooklyn, Washington and Martha saw out the last of their guests and put their grandchildren to bed. Frances and Augustine stayed the night and tidied up a bit before they went upstairs. 

“I’ll stay with Alexander,” Washington said as he followed his wife. “He’s sure to panic when he wakes.”

Martha stood at the top of the stairs, her husband a few steps below her and level for her to kiss his cheek. “Goodnight, dear.”

In the guest room, Washington made himself as comfortable as possible—which was lacking—in the recliner in the corner of the room. Hamilton remained out on the bed. But several glasses of wine had made him sleepy and Washington soon dozed off.

Waking in the dark, quiet room, Hamilton jerked his arms to him with a fearful whimper. Not restrained, he was relieved to known. His panic’s default setting was always to believe he was back at the orphanage. A dread crept down from his brain to his stomach and he vomited all over the bed.

“Alexander?”

The deep and sleepy voice knocked Hamilton out of his nightmare and into a new one. Where the hell was he? He became aware that he wasn’t dressed other than a shirt many sizes too big.

You drank, he scolded himself. Which meant he was in someone’s bed after drunken sex. The nearby voice was male, at least, so he wouldn’t have another baby dumped on him nine months in the future. But the voice was vaguely familiar.

Shit!

He vomited again as his brain placed the voice. Had he seriously slept with his boss? He didn’t take Washington to be interested in his advances but enough alcohol and anything was possible, he knew. This is why you don’t drink! He berated himself. You destroyed another dream.

A light flipped on and Hamilton squinted as an explosion of pain hit his head. “Alexander?”

Hamilton refused to look up.

Washington came near and removed the soiled blanket. “You’re in my guest room,” he explained. “You had too much to drink. The Burr’s took your daughter home.”

When the young lawyer gave no response, Washington took the blanket and left the room.

A few minutes later, before Hamilton could even get a thought through his muddled head, Martha came into the room. She wore a long, light blue flannel nightgown and slippers. She set a glass of water on the nightstand.

“I know you want to go home,” Martha said. “But you’re still in no shape to head back to Manhattan on your own. Rest for a few hours.” She picked his clothes off the floor, got them right-side out and set them on the bed.

“I’m so sorry,” blurted Hamilton. “When I drink, I-I—” He burst into noisy sobs, almost too dehydrated for tears. Why had he come to the party? He knew the possibility that this would happen—not quite this per se—but that he might drink. He couldn’t even say Burr had pressured him since Burr was correct that he’d only asked a second time and Hamilton had agreed.

You wanted to drink.

He cried into Martha’s chest knowing that was correct. He loved Lexi and being a lawyer but sometimes it overwhelmed him. There was so much pressure all the time.

“I know, dear,” Martha soothed him and Hamilton realized he’d been mumbling his thoughts aloud. “Life is stressful enough. You’re a very dedicated father.” She stroked his tangled hair and was reminded her of her son, Jacky. He’d been a mama’s boy and always in need of affection. “Lexi is so loved and such a darling child.”

“I’m a failure,” Hamilton wailed and hiccupped.

She thought her husband had exaggerated how small his young lawyer was, but Martha realized he might have underestimated how fragilely built the young man was as she—all five-feet and much more fat than muscle—was afraid of crushing him as she cuddled him tight.

“It’s just the alcohol talking, dear,” Martha murmured gently. “It’s a depressant and makes things worse after the initial jubilation.” She fixed her husband’s shirt that swallowed the slender kid. “You’re not a failure. You have already achieved more than some people twice your age. Rest, okay?” She kissed his forehead and thought again of Jacky. He’d died in a motorcycle accident a little over a year ago, before Washy was born. His distraught widow couldn’t cope with the three little daughters she had, let alone the baby boy when he was born a few months later. That was when the Washington’s suggested they raise Nelly and Washy.

Hamilton sniffled and let her pull away. He didn’t deserve her kindness. He didn’t deserve the kindness anyone gave him. He watched Martha leave until she turned off the light. The darkness pressed into him, as did his dark thoughts. He should have put Lexi up for adoption after Maria put the burden on him. He had no business raising a child. How could he have ever thought he was capable of such an important task?

The water Martha had left helped ease some of the ache in his throat and head. Hamilton managed to get into his boxers and undershirt. He rolled himself into a tight ball under the expensive sheets.

His mother had died when he was twelve, his father gone before then. Rachel had worked constantly to keep them alive and she has her own demons to fight, which she passed onto her son. She hadn’t been the most attentive mother but she had been someone that loved him. Her death had left him alone and when Lexi was pressed into his arms, he had finally not felt so alone.

Hot tears rolled down Hamilton’s cheeks. The orphanage had been horrendous, filthy, poor. The hurricane destroyed it and left many orphans to fend for themselves in the aftermath. Luck and a tiny bit of talent got the scrawny redhead on a boat to the mainland. He’d still been alone.

What if Lexi had ended up in an orphanage or passed through countless foster homes? Sure, a white, female infant had a high chance of adoption but the uncertainty and the fear of his baby being alone had deterred him. He would freely admit it was his own selfishness that drove him to keep Lexi but she was also his responsibility. She’d made him a better person—at least he had thought so. Now, he wondered if he was still that stupid, binge-drinking whore he’d been before that night.

I can do better.

With that, Hamilton dozed off.

Chapter Text

It was a little before six in the morning when Hamilton’s drunken haze wore off and he woke with an aching head and a nauseous gut. He finished dressing, glad to discover his phone and wallet still in his pants pocket, and found his way downstairs.

The house remained quiet, lingering evidence of the party still about with empty glasses, a stray jacket, and the sweet but stale scent of regret.

The heavy front door closed behind him with a thump and Hamilton felt bad he couldn’t lock it but he wasn’t about to wait for someone to get up and deal with the humiliating conversation.

The morning was crisp with a smoky tang to the air as the leaves began to change colors. The subway was quiet, mostly empty as he left Brooklyn. He planned to text Burr that he was on his way but found the battery drained on his phone.

Mind foggy, he plodded to the Burr’s townhouse, each step making his stomach lurch and gurgle. Hamilton rang the doorbell, the faint chime inside the house piercing his ears.

Burr answered the door in his bathrobe. “Hey, Alex.” He yawned. “You’re still alive.”

“Barely.” Hamilton stumbled his way inside. “Where’s Lexi?” He handed Burr his dead phone.

“Still sleeping.” Burr guided him toward the kitchen. “Hydrate before you attempt to take her home.” He poured his friend a glass of water and made coffee. “We didn’t want to leave you, but...” He shrugged. “The subway would have been difficult.” He plugged in Hamilton’s phone to charge.

Hamilton sipped the water before answering. “I don’t blame you. I lost control. I’m really sorry.”

“I’m just sorry you didn’t find me when you were horny AF.” Burr got out two mugs. 

“Quit trying to get me into bed,” Hamilton grumbled. “I’m a screw up.”

“We all are.” He stroked back his friend’s hair. “You’re not special in that respect.”

“You’re so good at backhanded compliments.” Hamilton massaged his forehead.

“You just have too much pride.” Burr set two cups of coffee on the table and took a seat. “A good hard—”

“Daddy!” Lexi squealed and interrupted Burr’s innuendo. She ran into the kitchen. “You better?”

Hamilton pulled his daughter onto his lap and cuddled her tight. “Much better now.” This was the one mistake he hadn’t made, he knew. If he could make raising a daughter as a single parent work, he could make the rest of his life function as well. “That’s a cute outfit you’re wearing.”

“Theo outgrew it.” Lexi smoothed out the pink striped knit dress over coordinating opposite-striped leggings. “It’s comfy.”

More gifts from the Burr’s, Hamilton held back a sigh. Little Theo was barely bigger than Lexi, a size if that.

“We should head home, bud.” Hamilton set her down. “Croix needs fed.”

“I can drive you,” Burr said.

“My stomach would not handle that.” He took a last sip of coffee and shooed Lexi off to find her shoes. 

She came back wearing a cute pair of brown suede boots and carrying a bag with her fancy dress and shoes.

“Do you need a jacket, Alex?” Burr asked. He walked them to the front door and opened the coat closet. He handed Lexi a pink jacket.

“I’m fine.” Hamilton took Lexi’s hand. “I’ll return the jacket tomorrow.”

Burr handed back his friend’s phone. “Text me when you get home.”

“Will do.”

He’d made the walk between Burr’s townhouse and his apartment countless times but this trek was surely the longest. 

“Daddy may throw up when we get home,” Hamilton told Lexi when they had one more block to go. He would consider throwing up in the gutter if people weren’t around. Although, he doubted that would be the weirdest thing any New Yorker seen that morning.

“Did you eat a bug?” Lexi’s deep blue eyes looked up at him with concern.

“Must have.” He squeezed her hand.

Finally, they made it into the building, and Hamilton hurried his daughter along and made it inside their home just in time to puke in the toilet.

Croix had no sympathy and yowled and knocked his food bowl to the floor. Breakfast was a whole hour late.

Hamilton finished emptying his already depleted stomach and fed the complaining cat. “Daddy’s gonna lie down.” He shrugged off his blazer, kicked off his shoes, and collapsed onto the bed.

Lexi rubbed her grumbling tummy and decided she could feed herself. Stepping on the stool Hamilton used to reach the top shelves of the cabinets, she climbed on the counter and opened the cupboards until she found the cereal. She climbed down, put the box of cereal on the couch and returned to the tiny kitchen. With a strong tug, she opened the fridge. The milk jug was too heavy, though, and she settled on the closet bottle she could reach on the fridge door.

Croix kept her company as the four-year-old got the TV on and found cartoons. She ate cereal from the box and took a drink. “Yuck!” She shoved more cereal in her mouth to get rid of the taste as she studied the bottle. “Soy.” She studied the next word. “Suh-oose.” Lexi looked at the cat. “Not juice. I put it back.”

Cereal crumbs rained down over the floor as she got up and but the bottle of soy sauce back in the fridge.

“Lexi thirsty,” she said, eyeing the heavy jugs out of her reach.

Croix jumped off the couch and rubbed against her legs. He purred and meowed.

“You thirsty, too?” She checked his water bowl and found it empty. “Uh oh.” Lexi squatted down to pet the cat. “Daddy sleeping. I’ll call Eliza.” 

In the bedroom, she got Hamilton’s cell phone off his nightstand and crept back out of the room. As she tried to figure out how to call her nanny, an incoming call lit up the screen. Lexi hit the green button. “Hello?”

The person on the other end paused. “Is this Alexis?”

“Yes,” Lexi said and used her most proper voice. “Who am I speaking to?”

“This is your daddy’s boss,” Washington said.

“Hi, Mr. Bald!” Lexi’s voice brightened. “Daddy is sleeping. I need milk and Croix needs water.”

“That’s not good,” Washington said. “Can you wake your daddy?”

“He threw up,” explained Lexi. “He ate a bug. Sea turtles throw up water when they eat food and their throat fangs keep the good stuff inside.”

“I see.” Washington chuckled. “Would you like me to bring you milk?”

“Yeah!”

From the bedroom, Hamilton groaned. “Lex, who’re you talking to?”

“Mr. Bald,” Lexi said. “He’s gonna bring me milk.”

“Lexi.” Hamilton stumbled out of bed and grabbed the phone from her. “Sir?”

But his phone chose that moment to run out of the little charge from earlier and shut off.

Hamilton swore under his breath and plugged it in, praying it would turn on fast so he could call Washington back and beg him not to bring over milk.

“Lexi thirsty.” She tugged on her dad’s pant leg. “Croix out of water.”

“Just a minute.” Hamilton gritted his teeth as the device thought about booting up. “I’m having a crisis.”

Lexi stamped her foot. “Me, too!”

Croix added his yowl to the chaos. 

“Kids, just a minute.” Hamilton punched in his password wrong twice and finally managed to call his boss. Cat and child complained and whined. 

“Sorry, my phone died,” Hamilton began, voice a plea. “Don’t come over. We have milk. I know you think I’m a terrible parent—”

“I’ll see you Monday,” Washington cut him off. “Tell Alexis I enjoyed chatting with her.” He hung up.

Hamilton swore again and let his phone clatter to the nightstand.

“Daddy!” Lexi scolded. “Not nice.”

He sucked in a deep breath to stop himself from losing his temper at his daughter. “Daddy isn’t having a good day. Let’s get your milk.” He filled her sippy cup and saw the cereal crumbs all over the couch and floor. Not a priority, he decided and got Croix water. “Did you get enough to eat?”

“Yeah.” Lexi bobbed her head.

“Good girl.” Hamilton headed into the bathroom to take out his contacts as his eyes burned. “Please, play quietly for a bit, bud. Daddy needs to rest.” He soon collapsed back in bed.

Lexi set her sippy cup on her toy stove and played with her dolls.

Even with the TV on, the apartment was too quiet. Only knowing the city, she didn’t notice the traffic noise or the occasional muffled commotion from neighbors. She knew Eliza puttering around the house cleaning, singing, and playing with her. Or Daddy sitting on the couch with his laptop, answering her questions and sharing videos and pictures he found. She didn’t know sitting alone in the family room with only Croix for company.

“Lonely,” she told the cat and sniffled.

Croix rubbed against her and bumped his head under her chin.

“Good kitty.” She stroked his head. “Let’s keep Daddy company.”

The cat followed her into Hamilton’s room and got on the bed as gently as she did. Lexi scooted close to Hamilton and tucked herself against his chest. Croix snuggled into the crook of his knees.

Eyes closed, Hamilton hugged his daughter tight. If he never made another good decision in his life, he at least knew keeping Lexi had been the one decision that he’d made correctly. His hot tears soaked into the back of her dress and he hoped she wouldn’t notice. She’d seen him cry before but he couldn’t explain these tears to her. She didn’t need the burden of knowing how much stress she’d put on him, how he’d thought about putting her up for adoption. She only ever needed to know that he loved her and would never stop.

Chapter Text

Hamilton had taken many walks of shame before but he was certain that Monday morning walk into the law firm was by far the worst.

Burr was already in their office when Hamilton entered.

“Can’t believe you’re showing your face here,” Burr teased at once. “I suppose you can’t be away from your true love.” A smirk made his mischievous eyes sparkle.

“Aaron, stop.” Hamilton punched his shoulder. “You know I’ve never been more humiliated before.”

“You told me that, like, two weeks ago,” Burr reminded him. “Pretty sure you manage to keep one-upping yourself.”

Hamilton let out a long groan and sat at his desk. “Have you seen him yet?”

“Who?” Burr’s smirk widened. “The love of your life?”

“We’re not friends anymore.” Hamilton angrily pounded in his password wrong.

Burr opened a desk drawer and tossed his partner a Snickers bar. “Eat something.”

Before Hamilton could unwrap the candy, a knock sounded on the door and Washington’s broad frame filled the doorway. “Mr. Hamilton, I need to speak to you.”

“Yes, sir,” Hamilton murmured. Sweat dampened his undershirt as he stood and went to his boss and weak legs.

Instead of turning left toward his office, Washington went right and the young lawyer tried to keep up. 

It wouldn’t just be a stern talking to and being wrote up, Hamilton realized. Washington was escorting him out of the building. A lump built in his throat and his steps slowed. A ringing in his ears made him feel swallowed in his own world of misery.

They bypassed the elevator and took the stairs. Each step vibrated through Hamilton’s body, a finality to everything he’d tried to achieve.

Washington didn’t continue toward the front doors, though, and turned down a hallway.

Not just fired, Hamilton thought but shoved out a back door. He knew he’d screwed up but hadn’t expected Washington to be quite so callous.

Washington opened the door to an empty room and ushered Hamilton inside. 

Trembling, sweating, and half-nauseous, Hamilton stared at the floor.

“I was thinking this would make a good playroom for employee’s children,” Washington said as he studied the bare walls. “So many have young children and I thought that might be handy when a spouse is busy or a nanny cancels. The child can come to work and I’ll hire a trained specialist or two to watch the children.”

Hamilton blinked rapidly. “What?” He looked up, vision blurry as his eyes watered.

“You’ll help John paint the walls,” the boss continued. “He’s going to do animals or something. I believe he wants Alexis’ expert opinion on what animals to paint. Maybe—Alex—” He grabbed the lawyer’s arm before Hamilton’s legs buckled. “Easy, son.” He let Hamilton sink to the floor and sat next to him. “Have you eaten today?”

“Why aren’t you firing me?” Hamilton whispered. “I-I... I’m really sorry, sir.”

“When I married Martha,” Washington explained, trying to shift his legs into a tolerable position on the floor. “She had two children from her first marriage. Patsy had epilepsy and we lost her when she was sixteen. We lost our son Jacky last year. He left a hole we can’t fill even though we love Nelly and Washy. You remind us of Jacky. He made many mistakes and we never could get him on a better path. I want to see you succeed, Alexander. I know you can if you acknowledge your demons.”

“I would if I could,” Hamilton mumbled. He hugged his arms around himself against the ache in his stomach. 

“I see.” Washington touched his shoulder. “You’re resilient at any rate and very gifted.”

Hamilton’s cheeks grew red as he whispered, “I’ve had dreams about you.”

“I know.” Washington struggled to stop a chuckle. “Mr. Burr keeps little to himself.”

More heat engulfed his face knowing how exaggerated Burr’s story would have been. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m not concerned.” Washington struggled to get off the floor and his knees popped. “I have no doubt Martha could take you in a fight.”

“I don’t doubt that either, sir.” He got to his feet with ease. Hamilton held out his hand. “Thank you.”

Washington shook it with a gentle squeeze. “John will come find you later and you can help him on Saturday. Alexis as well.”

“Yes, sir.” 

Washington left the empty room and let Hamilton compose himself.

Ten minutes later, Hamilton returned to his office. He thought he would have felt better if Washington had yelled at him and scolded him for his horrible behavior at the party. But giving up a Saturday to be stuck with Laurens did feel like ample punishment. It would be nice to have a daycare room, though. Lexi could be nearby if Eliza needed a day off and he could check on her often.

“Still not fired?” Burr questioned when he returned.

“No.” Hamilton took his seat and logged back into his computer. “Did you really need to tell Washington about my dreams?”

“Hell, yeah.” Burr snorted. “Your life is a train wreck.”

“Could you not in the future?” Hamilton requested, glaring at him.

“What, you plan to continue having dreams about him?”

“You’re insufferable.” 

The conversation was interrupted by Laurens tapping on the doorframe of the open door. “Hey, um, Alex, did Washington talk to you?”

“Yeah,” Hamilton said, not moving from his desk. “I’ll ask Lexi about her favorite animals tonight.”

“Cool, thanks.”

“Wait a sec,” Burr called to him. “I have a daughter, too. Do you want to know her favorite animal?”

“Your wife works from home,” Hamilton reminded him. “Theo isn’t going to ever use the playroom.”

“She should still be included,” Burr persisted.

“Yeah, sure,” Laurens said with a shrug.

“It’ll be a unicorn or narwhal,” Burr said. “Something with horns.”

“Cool.” Laurens flashed Hamilton a quick smile and left.

Once he was out of sight, Burr said, “I’m going to ask him out for you.”

“Do not,” commanded Hamilton, nostrils flaring. “I have enough crap going on right now, okay? Don’t meddle.”

“Fine.” Burr nudged his foot against Hamilton’s leg. “You don’t mind if I ask him about a threesome, right?”

Hamilton kicked him. “As long as you’re not including me in that.” 

“No promises.”

Hamilton could only sigh and dig out his earbuds to put in music to help him focus.

It didn’t take long for Burr to nudge him again. “What’re you listening to?”

He removed one earbud. “Hip hop and rap, like you told me to.”

“Atta boy.” Burr grinned. “Glad I’m finally giving you some culture.”

Hamilton returned the earbud and gave his colleague a thumbs up.

The day thankfully went by fast and Hamilton hurried for home. Dark clouds gathered in the sky and he wasn’t prepared for rain. A few drops hit him as he jogged and he made it inside a minute before the downpour.

In the apartment, he found Lexi and Eliza cleaning up from an afternoon of craft project.

“Do you want to stay and wait out the rain?” Hamilton asked Eliza while Lexi shoved pictures at him. “Very pretty, bud.”

“It’s okay.” Eliza dug out an umbrella from her large purse. “I don’t have far to walk to get on the subway. I’m sure the rain will be over by the time I get to Brooklyn. If not, Papa can pick me up.”

Hamilton saw her out. “See you tomorrow.” 

Once he locked the door, he turned to his daughter. “Dinner?”

“Yeah!” Lexi danced around the room.

While a pot of water boiled on the stove for spaghetti, Hamilton changed out of his suit.

“Daddy, can I take ballet?” Lexi stood in the doorway of his bedroom, poised on her toes. “We looked up dance stuff today. I know first position.” She stood with her heels together, arms out in front of her belly.

“I’ll look into it,” Hamilton promised. “It would be more work for Eliza, though.”

“I could go with Theo.” Lexi twirled around.

“Maybe.” Hamilton dumped dry noodles into the boiling water. He knew dance was good to learn young when the body was flexible but he couldn’t help but wonder if spending the money on ballet for a four-year-old would be a waste. Lexi would be disappointed if she wasn’t in the same class as little Theo, which meant he’d have to pay the price for a fancy ballet school instead of something cheaper. He could talk to Burr about it but that ran the risk of Burr offering to pay for Lexi. It was bad enough how much clothes the Burr’s bestowed on his daughter. “Why don’t you set the table?”

He handed her the dishes while he put bread in the toaster. Butter and garlic salt on it made tasty and cheap garlic bread.

Noodles done, he dumped in sauce and served up the spaghetti on the plates Lexi set on the table. 

“Do you remember John?” Hamilton asked as they sat down to eat. “The one who has the dog.”

“Yeah!” Lexi used her fingers to eat spaghetti. “He thinks you’re cute.”

“Mmm,” Hamilton grumbled in his throat. “Anyway, he wants to know your favorite animal.” He explained about the daycare room and how Laurens was going to paint the walls.

“Ponies!” Lexi flung noodles in her excitement. “And sea turtles and cats and giraffes. Daddy, did you know a giraffe’s heart weighs twenty-five pounds? Eliza and I watched them on TV.”

“Excellent.” Hamilton glanced at Croix licking sauce off the wayward noodle. “I’ll let him know.”

“Do I weight twenty-five pounds?”

Hamilton snapped his attention back to his daughter as his thoughts began to stray toward what might happen Saturday. “Hmm? Yes, you weigh about thirty.”

Lexi shoved garlic bread in her mouth. “I’m bigger than a giraffe’s heart!” Crumbs flew over her plate.

“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” Hamilton reminded. “What else did you learn about giraffes?”

Throughout the rest of dinner and her bath, Lexi told him all about giraffes: how fast they could run (up to thirty-five miles per hour), how they only needed to drink every few days, and that they could survive on five minutes of sleep every day.

“That would suck,” Hamilton commented as he washed her hair. “Sleeping is the best part of the day.”

“Not for a giraffe, Daddy,” Lexi informed him. “A lion could eat her or her baby.”

“True.” Hamilton held his hand against her forehead as he rinsed out the shampoo. “I wouldn’t sleep either if I knew you weren’t safe in our house.”

“It would be hard to be a giraffe.” Lexi slapped at the bubbles in the water. “No potato chips.”

Hamilton smiled. “How dreadful.” He watched his daughter yawn and tried to soak up the moment. This would always be his favorite time of day. Everything was calm; there was nothing left to do for the day. He could focus on his daughter and listen to the amazing things she had to say. He doubted anything could be better.

Chapter Text

At the office the next morning, Hamilton found Laurens and Burr conversing in the hallway and cringed inwardly. A blush crept up his cheeks when they both glanced at him as he walked past.

The two entered the office behind him a few minutes later.

“Aaron lies all the time,” Hamilton blurted at once.

Burr’s devilish half-smirk crept up his lips.

A wrinkle creased Laurens’ forehead. “What’s Theo’s favorite animal then? I was kind of excited to create a narwhal.”

“Jeez, Alex,” Burr said, “it’s like you have no confidence in me.” He showed Laurens a picture on his phone. “That’s Theo with her stuffed Narwhal, Whally.”

“That’s adorable,” gushed Laurens. “Text it to me so I can use it as a reference.” He moved closer to Hamilton. “What did Lexi say?”

“Ponies, cats, giraffes, and sea turtles.” Hamilton stared at his computer screen. “Pony was number one.”

“Not surprised.” Laurens grinned. “Does she only like house cats or would a cheetah work? I love drawing baby cheetahs.”

Hamilton avoided looking at him. “She’d like that.” Why did his smile have to be so adorable?

“Cool.” Laurens headed for the door. “See you on Saturday.”

Burr sidled up to his partner’s desk. “The two of you aren’t going to get any painting done. Alone with him...”

“Lexi will be there,” Hamilton interrupted. “I’m not interested in him, Aaron.”

“Theodosia and I could watch Lexi.” He ran a hand through Hamilton’s hair. “She’d have more fun with Miss Priss.”

“No, I barely see her enough as it is.” Hamilton moved his head away. “She loves painting anyway.”

“Sure.”

***

Saturday morning, Lexi rode her scooter while her dad walked. Her short red hair was pulled into pigtails and the golden glow of the fall morning made the freckles on her nose and cheeks stand out. 

When they crossed a street, Lexi held tight to Hamilton’s hand and he carried the lightweight, plastic scooter. Traffic waited for no one in the city and Hamilton wouldn’t risk her falling or having trouble getting back on the sidewalk on her scooter.

At the law firm, Laurens was already at work in the empty room in paint-splattered jeans. The longest wall already had his outlines for the animals: giraffe, elephant, cheetahs, and meerkats, along with a tree.

“Hey!” Laurens got off the ladder after he finished outlining the giraffe. “Ready to paint?”

“Yeah, but I have no artistic talent,” Hamilton said.

“Don’t worry.” Laurens flashed him a smile. “I’ll give you the easy stuff to paint.” He moved over to a pile of stuff on the floor. “Here’s a paint shirt for Lexi. Don’t want her to get those cute overalls messy.” He held out the already messy shirt.

Lexi gleefully put it on and Laurens tied the sash snug in the back. “So, Alex, if you want to paint this wall blue—” He indicated to the wall on his right. “—it should be dry enough in a few hours for me to put the sea turtle and narwhal on it. Lexi, you can start painting the safari animals and I’ll get the barn scene drawn.” He got Lexi set up with a paintbrush and gray paint for the elephant. “Paint as high as you can,” he told her. “Stay inside the lines.”

“I good at coloring,” Lexi said.

“I believe that.” He left her to start and grabbed a jug of blue paint. “You can use a roller.” 

Hamilton picked up a roller brush and watched Laurens pour the paint into a tray. Was his boss trying to set them up? Washington probably thought him in desperate need of a relationship. But Washington hadn’t been the one with children when he married. He probably didn’t know the turmoil of dating and keeping a child safe. It would be easy to flat out say no if Laurens wasn’t so handsome and cheerful.

He hasn’t even shown an interest in you other than calling you cute, Hamilton reminded himself. He probably isn’t even interested. Quit being so horny!

“Have you ever painted a wall before?” Laurens asked.

“Yeah.” He glanced at his daughter carefully painting an elephant’s leg. “I did Lexi’s room.”

“Then I know you won’t have a problem.” Laurens’ smile made his eyes sparkle. “That looked amazing.”

“Mmm.” He didn’t want to remember that Laurens had been in his house while he’d been drugged up with cold medicine.

“I’ll leave you to it.” Laurens went to work on the opposite side of the room, creating a barn and pony on the wall.

They worked in silence for fifteen minutes. Laurens paused to look over his progress. “My dad said he talked to you at Washington’s party.” He studied the wall and fixed one of his lines. “What embarrassing stories did he tell you?”

Hamilton’s mind drew a complete blank. He almost forgot he had spoken to Henry Laurens. He had a clearer memory of what happened while he was drunk and little before that. “Um, nothing too crazy.”

“Good.” Laurens glanced back at him. “He stayed with me for a bit in Geneva to make sure I was settled in and told all my professors about my Kindergarten fails.”

“Such as?” Hamilton pried and focused on painting.

“I thought the Pledge of Allegiance included the line ‘for witches stand’. I was very excited that I already knew it and proudly recited it for the class on the first day.”

Hamilton chuckled. “That’s adorable.”

“I also wet myself at least once a week because the bathroom break came after art and I wanted to keep drawing.” Laurens looked back at the same time Hamilton did and grinned at him. “I tend to hyper-focus. I still hate having to take bathroom breaks.”

“The human body does have a lot of annoying features,” Hamilton said and cursed the one that always made his face turn red as he felt the heat burn his cheeks.

“Humans create enough spit each day to fill half a gallon,” Lexi informed them as she continued to paint.

“That’s cool,” Laurens said with a chuckle. “You’re as smart as your daddy.”

Lexi looked over at him. “I graduated from college with him.”

“Wow, you are smart,” he praised. “And you’re doing an amazing job on the elephant.”

Lexi beamed and returned to her project.

The room fell silent once more.

Hamilton finished all he could reach without help, but the stepladder was on Laurens’ side of the room. He didn’t want to interrupt Laurens’ concentration and ask for it. Instead, he made noise dropping the paint roller and managed to splatter his pants with blue paint.

“Smurf,” Laurens teased. “Do you need the ladder?”

“Yeah.”

Laurens dragged it over and checked on Hamilton’s work. “Good job.”

“I’d hope I couldn’t mess up a wall,” he replied and positioned the ladder.

“Do you want something harder?”

Color flushed Hamilton’s face and made the blue paint splattered on his cheeks stand out more. “No.”

“You have paint on your face.” Laurens licked his thumb and reached toward Hamilton.

He quickly turned his head away. “Gross, I don’t want your spit on me.”

“Tough.” He rubbed away a spot of paint on Hamilton’s cheek. “Are your eyes seriously purple?”

Hamilton brushed the hand away and diverted his eyes from the intent gaze on him. “Kind of,” he mumbled. “In certain lights they look violet.”

“That’s cool.” Laurens twisted back a stray curl. “I always wished my eyes were a different shade.”

Hamilton looked back at him. “Why? You have gold flecks in your eyes. That’s...” He trailed off, words failing him, lost in the gorgeous speckles in Laurens’ brown eyes.

Laurens cleared his throat. “Thanks,” he murmured. “I gotta—I should finish the pony.”

“Yeah. The wall—” He gestured behind him and promptly knocked down the ladder, which tipped over and splattered into the paint tray. The crash startled Lexi and her careful brush stroke went wild.

“Daddy!” she complained as she frowned at her wayward gray streak. “Look what you made me do.”

“Sorry, bud.” Hamilton righted the ladder, covering his hands in paint. At least Laurens had put down plastic near the walls and the paint didn’t get on the floor. The ladder had plenty enough blue paint on it, though. “Well...”

“Good job,” Laurens said. “I’ll fix the mistake you caused Lexi.”

“You might want to fix this first.” Hamilton pressed a paint-covered hand against Laurens’ face.

“We’re going there, are we?” Laurens’ eyes sparkled as he picked up the paint roller.

Hamilton backed away, grinning. “You win.”

“Thought so.” Laurens handed him the roller. “I’ll help Lexi. You get back to work.”

“Bossy,” Hamilton whispered with a smirk.

“Yeah, and you better mind.” A rosy glow darkened his freckled cheeks and he hurried over to Lexi.

She stared at the blue handprint on his face and promptly stuck her little hand in the gray paint and marked Laurens’ over cheek. “Pretty.”

“Thanks.” Laurens kissed the top of her head. “I feel blessed.” He fixed the mistake Hamilton caused and returned to his wall, letting the handprints dry on his face.

They worked without further incidence until almost noon.

“Do you guys want me to pick up something for lunch?” Laurens asked. “My treat. I’m getting hungry.”

“Yeah!” Lexi agreed. “I want chicken nuggets.”

“Um, sure,” Hamilton stammered, shocked it was that late already. “But I can pay for me and Lex.”

“No, I got it,” Laurens persisted. “What do you want? There’s a McDonald’s just down the street.”

“Um, thanks.” Hamilton chewed on his bottom lip. “Just a hamburger.”

“Okay.” Laurens looked at Lexi. “Fries and a chocolate shake, too?”

“Yeah!” Lexi squealed.

Laurens checked for his wallet. “I’ll be back in, like, fifteen minutes.”

“Um...” Hamilton glanced at his daughter who shook her head. “Sure, John.” The door closed. “We should have told him he has paint on his face.”

Lexi giggled and continued to shake her head.

Laurens returned a minute later, indignant. “You guys were going to let me go out looking like this?”

Hamilton snorted. “It’s New York, no one would give you a second look.”

“Ugh.” Laurens headed for the bathroom to wash before he left for food.

The blue wall was long ago finished and Hamilton took a break from painting the half of the elephant Lexi couldn’t reach while she worked on the cheetahs. “We should wash up, too, bud.” He watched his daughter paint spots on the baby cheetah. “You’re quite the artist, Alexis Rachel.”

“I know.” Lexi studied her work and added one last spot. “Perfect.”

It was weird being in the law firm on a weekend. Their footsteps echoed in the empty building. The long hall of shiny wood floors opened up before them. 

Lexi tugged on Hamilton’s jeans. “Slide.”

“I was thinking the same thing, bud.” Hamilton grinned at his daughter. “But Daddy doesn’t need to show up on a security camera sliding around in his socks.”

“Poop.”

“Mood.” Hamilton led her into the bathroom and they scrubbed off the paint from their hands, faces, and hair.

A few minutes after they returned to the new daycare room, Laurens arrived with lunch. They sat on the floor and Lexi made all sorts of gleeful sounds as she devoured her happy meal and slurped down her milkshake.

“When did you move to New York?” Laurens asked, unwrapping his chicken sandwich.

Hamilton took a drink. “Sixteen.”

“You started college then, didn’t you?” 

“Yeah.”

“My dad wanted me to be a lawyer,” Laurens said, studying his food. “But I couldn’t do it. Too many books to read. I prefer drawing and animals. I thought about being a doctor because I like helping people but I don’t have the patience for that much schooling.”

“What do you, like, plan to do?” Hamilton asked, hoping he didn’t seem too nosy.

“I dunno yet.” Laurens reached for his milkshake. “I might go back to school overseas and get a business degree. But I feel like my dad could teach me more on the farm. But he’s pushing for formal education. I have, like, all the agriculture side down of running the farm. I learned all that in England. I just don’t have the business aspect of it. But I don’t really want to leave home again.”

“I see,” said Hamilton not seeing at all. “Can’t you go to school in New York?”

“My dad wants me to experience different countries,” Laurens explained. “I would go to Scotland.”

“Wow.” He supposed his own situation of coming from the Caribbean to go to school in NY wasn’t that much different from Laurens going to school in the UK—and he guessed Laurens education would be paid for, like his own was—but Laurens seemed so much more pretentious than himself and his education so much more refined.

“Yeah, we’ll see what happens.” Laurens offered Hamilton his milkshake. “Want a sip?”

Hamilton shook his head. “I can share with Lexi.”

“Nope!” Lexi declared at once and grasped the cup tight in her little hands. “Get your own.”

Hamilton chuckled and accepted the cup from Laurens. “I forgot Lexi doesn’t share food.” He took a drink. “When she went to law school with me, she had her own backpack for snacks and she would not let me have any.”

“You should have brought your own,” Laurens said and winked at Lexi.

“That’s what I told him!” Lexi exclaimed. She and Laurens high-fived.

They finished eating and Laurens gathered the trash. “I won’t keep you any longer if you need to get home,” he said. “I know you have stuff to do.”

Hamilton nodded. “Lexi needs a nap soon.”

“Nope!” Lexi zoomed around the room.

“Yes,” Hamilton disagreed. “Get your scooter.”

“No worries.” Laurens held out his hand. “I appreciate your help. This was fun.”

“Yup.” Hamilton shook his hand, the cool, soft fingers brushing against his as Laurens released. “See you on Monday.” He caught his daughter. “Say bye to John.”

Lexi hugged Laurens around the knees. “Bye!”

Laurens’ face softened into a tender smile as he looked into the dark blue eyes staring up at him. “I’m sure I’ll see you soon, Lexi.”

Hamilton gathered their things. “Come on, bud.” He gave a wave to Laurens and led Lexi out.

She rode her scooter home, chattering non-stop about animals and painting. When they stopped to cross the street and she took Hamilton’s hand, she asked. “Daddy, why don’t I have two parents?”

He squeezed her hand. “Daddy hasn’t found anyone he likes well enough.” They crossed the street. “I like being able to focus on you and Croix.”

Lexi nodded and got back on her scooter.

When she was three, Lexi had asked him if Eliza was her mom. Expecting these questions to come up, Hamilton had already planned what to say and he told her that her mom hadn’t been able to care for a baby and knew Lexi would be in the best care being raised by her daddy. He knew the questions would come more frequently as Lexi grew older and met more children with various kinds of families. He read as many parenting books as he could find to proper answer for her questions and make sure she never felt insecure or different because of her family.

At home, it didn’t take Lexi long to crash for her nap. Hamilton sat on the couch with Croix and his laptop but couldn’t find anything online to interest him. His thoughts kept straying to Laurens and he had to force himself not to creep on his social media again.

He’s never been good with romantic relationships or any relationship in general. People never seemed to stay long in his life so he’d learned not to form attachments. The Schuyler’s had begun to teach him that people could stay and love each other. Lexi further cemented the idea of a family. Maybe he was ready to think about dating, think about marrying. But was it because he was ready and wanted it or because Laurens was hot?

Laurens was a few months older than him, but seemed more immature—not as immature as Lafayette, thankfully—but not quite an independent functioning adult. He didn’t have a career, didn’t know what he wanted for his future. With Lexi, Hamilton didn’t think he could deal with someone not committed to some sort of outlook.

You’re overthinking this! Hamilton ground his teeth, annoyed at himself. Maybe they could just be friends, which would be nice since his only friend was Burr.

With that in mind, Hamilton allowed himself to check Facebook. He hadn’t the day before and was now glad of that, as Laurens had been tagged in a post by his overseas friend, Francis Kinloch, in a memory from a few years ago. It was a picture of the two of them in the mountains, tent behind them. Kinloch had added, “I miss our camping trips!” with a winking face.

Hamilton scrolled down to see Laurens reply.

Me, too! It’s been forever. I’ll visit soon.

Hamilton closed the browser and set aside his laptop. He concentrated on Croix’s purr. Why are you butt hurt over this? If he dated Kinloch in the past, so what? Besides, you had plenty of ‘friends with benefits’ and that could be all that Kinloch is/was.

“I need to stop obsessing,” Hamilton told Croix. How many times had he done that in college? He always managed to find someone—classmates, professors, cute barista at a local coffee shop. The situations had never ended up good. This was just like the other times. But worse because he had Lexi now and couldn’t lose focus on keeping her safe and happy.

But, damn, if it wouldn’t be nice to kiss someone.

Chapter Text

“Why didn’t you tell me George Washington was your boss?”

Hamilton had barely comprehended that Lafayette was at his door before the Frenchman threw the question at him in a gushing, excited shout. “What?”

“Washington!” Lafayette grabbed Hamilton’s shoulders and practically shook him. “He’s like a father to me. I met him when I was in college. He’s amazing.”

“What?” Hamilton repeated. It was after eleven, he’d been in bed. He just wanted to sleep.

Lafayette spewed out a novel in French that Hamilton was too tired to understand.

“It’s late.” He didn’t stop the yawn.

“Do you like Washington?” Lafayette practically demanded him. “I am jealous that you get to work under him.”

Hamilton choked. “What?”

“You are going deaf in your old age, little lion.” Lafayette spotted Croix, sped across the tiny apartment and scooped the cat off the kitchen counter. “Le félin.”

“What’re you doing here, Laf?” Hamilton rubbed his eyes.

Lafayette nuzzled his face against Croix. “You’re coming to a club with me Saturday night. I won’t take no for an answer.

It was late enough that Hamilton didn’t argue. He would back out later but for now, he agreed and lifted his hissing cat out of Lafayette’s squeezing embrace.

“You will have much fun.” Lafayette tapped Hamilton on the nose.

Hamilton ushered his friend toward the door. “Sure. Totally. Goodnight, Lafayette.”

***

He forgot by morning and didn’t recall until Lafayette called him Saturday when he was on his way to pick up Hamilton.

“You forgot, didn’t you?” Lafayette accused when silence filled the line.

“Sort of,” Hamilton admitted. “I don’t have anyone to watch Lexi on such short notice. I have to cancel.”

“Nope!”

Hamilton drew the phone from his ear at Lafayette’s loud voice.

“Monsieur Hamilton, I am not two stops away from you on a pathetically long trip to have you say no. Get yourself a babysitter and meet me outside.”

“Laf—”

“No, Alexander.” Lafayette hung up.

Hamilton threw his phone on the couch and held back a string of vile words. He knew Lafayette would stand outside the apartment building and make a scene if he wasn’t ready. He called Burr and barely had the situation explained before Burr said he was on his way.

“Make yourself pretty, Alex,” Burr commanded. “I’ll take the child. Theodosia is making tacos. There’s plenty for Lexi.”

“Um, thanks.” Hamilton hung up and sighed. “Lex, you’re having a playdate with Theo tonight.”

“Yay!” Lexi jumped up and down.

At least someone was excited, Hamilton thought.

In no time at all, Burr had Lexi and Hamilton was in Lafayette’s clutches.

“You know I don’t want to go, right?” Hamilton gave one last protest.

“You’re too young to lock yourself away, petit lion.” Lafayette looped his arm through his friend’s. “You need this. Croyez-moi.”

Holding back a sigh, Hamilton let himself be dragged several blocks away from home and toward a crowded street.

The bouncer at the club knew Lafayette by name and they greeted each other with a complicated handshake.

“I have some more friends coming,” Lafayette said and handed him a list.

“Yes, sir.” The bouncer opened the door for them.

As soon as he entered the club, Hamilton almost turned around and left, never mind how much of a scene Lafayette would make. Music pulsed, lights flashed in the dark room, the whole floor seemed to vibrate from the noise and crowd. But Lafayette caught his arm before he could retreat and pulled him through the club. Another bouncer stood by a frosted glass double door and opened it for them at once.

Inside the VIP lounge, the noise from the club was muted. In there, less chaotic music played, the lights were dim but functional. Only a handful of people sat around at the tables and couches.

“More to your liking?” Lafayette asked.

Hamilton nodded.

“Told you to trust me. Let’s get drinks.” Lafayette yanked him to the private bar and ordered himself some crazy beverage. “What do you want, little lion?”

“Root beer,” Hamilton said.

“I suppose that is prudent after your indiscretion with Washington.”

Hamilton’s face reddened to match his hair. “He told you?”

“Of course.” Lafayette took his drink and wandered off to make new friends.

The bartender handed Hamilton a root beer.

He took the bottle and glanced around for something to do. The frosted glass door opened and he saw Laurens step inside. Hamilton headed toward him at once. “Hey.”

Laurens waved. “Hey, yourself.”

“You know Lafayette?” Hamilton questioned, taking in the computer tech’s tight jeans and denim jacket.

“Who?” Laurens cocked his head.

Hamilton pointed to the Frenchman easily engaged in a story with strangers.

“Oh. Gilbert, yeah,” Laurens said, taking in everything. “I met him through Washington. They’re pretty tight.”

Hamilton gritted his teeth. “So I heard.”

Laurens took his gaze off the modern art on the walls and looked at Hamilton. “What’re you drinking?”

“Um, root beer.” Hamilton shrugged.

“That sounds good.” Laurens’ shoulder brushed against his as he moved to get out of the way of a group coming into the lounge. “Want to find us a seat while I get one?”

Hamilton agreed and searched out a spot furthest from the bar.

A few minutes later, Laurens dropped onto the couch next to him. “Quite the place.”

“No kidding.” Hamilton stared at the chandelier above them. “I always forget how well connected Lafayette is.”

“Right?” Laurens sipped his drink. “How long have you known him?”

Hamilton told him how he’d met Lafayette in college since he knew some French. “We didn’t go to the same college for long, though.” Hamilton glared at two noisy people walking near them. “I was two years ahead. But it’s not like he needed me to help him make friends.”

“No kidding.” Laurens watched Lafayette get half a dozen people to snort with laughter. “I always thought I was a people person.”

“Same.” Hamilton stretched out his legs and nudged Laurens’ foot to get his attention. “How old are your siblings?”

Laurens rattled them off at once. “Marta is twenty, Harry is fifteen, James is thirteen, and Mary Eleanor is eight.”

“Wow, and you’re the oldest?” Hamilton couldn’t stop watching him.

“Sort of.” Laurens took a drink. “I had an older brother who passed away. I had a sister a year younger than me die as well.”

“I’m sorry.” Hamilton stared at his hand wondering if he should touch Laurens.

“My oldest brother died when I was four and my sister when I was ten.” He traced a finger along the rim of his root beer bottle. “Our family doesn’t have great health or something. My mom died when I was fourteen. Dad couldn’t stand to stay in our house without Mom and that’s when we moved to New York.”

“Where were you born?” He went for it and squeezed Laurens’ knee.

“South Carolina, near Charleston.” He glanced at Hamilton’s hand. “You?”

Hamilton moved his hand to brush back his hair. “Nevis. I grew up on St. Croix.” 

“Do you miss it?” Laurens asked. “That’s a world away from the city.”

“Sometimes.” Hamilton stared at the bottle in his hands. “Mostly miss it never snowing.”

Laurens chuckled. “Same.” He chugged down his root beer. “Want another?”

“Sure.” 

He soon returned with two root beers. Once one hand was free, he motioned toward Lafayette and Mulligan getting handsy with each other. “They dating?”

“Not monogamously,” Hamilton said. “Free booze, sex, and no commitment is what you get from Lafayette.”

“Do you... know from experience?” Laurens met his eyes briefly.

“I was just as wild during my college days,” Hamilton admitted. “Lexi completely changed my trajectory.”

“Is that why you don’t drink?” Laurens touched his arm. “Sorry, that was nosy. That’s not my business.”

“You’re good.” Hamilton met his eyes with a quick smile. “Yeah, it pretty much is. I’m a very messy drunk.”

Laurens’ hand touched him again. “I admire the commitment you’ve made for Lexi. She’s the sweetest little thing. I couldn’t do it.”

“Isn’t she?” A smile lit up Hamilton’s face. He launched into several stories about his pride and joy. 

Laurens listened, attention focused on Hamilton, soft smile stuck on his face.

After fifteen minutes, Hamilton realized he’d monopolized the conversation. “Anyway. What was it like living on the farm?” he asked. “What kind of animals does your dad raise?”

Laurens chuckled. “Mostly horses and cows.” He scratched at his leg. “Dad won’t let his horses be used for racing but they’re quite the prestigious line for shows, like jumping and such. He rents out horses for parades and stuff, too. But most of his money comes from fracking on his land. It helps pay for raising the animals, which is what Dad prefers. We have goats, sheep, and chickens, too.”

“That’s awesome.” Hamilton grinned. “Do you ride then?”

“Yeah.” Laurens nodded and a curl danced across his forehead. “I played polo in England and did some events, too.”

“Dang.” Hamilton punched his shoulder. “You have so many talents.”

Laurens shrugged. “You’re the big shot lawyer. I wish I could settle down with a career. I’m almost twenty-five.”

“So? You have plenty of time to figure it out.”

“I know.” Laurens stared at his drink. “I just don’t always feel like a proper adult because of not knowing what I’m doing.”

“I never know what I’m doing either,” Hamilton said. “I get overwhelmed a lot. It was bad during law school. If I hadn’t reached out to the Schuyler’s, I probably wouldn’t have made it. Some days the depression sucked it out of me that I couldn’t get up to change Lexi’s diaper.”

“I’m sorry.” Laurens stroked his hand for a moment. “Are you doing okay now?”

“Yeah.” Hamilton looked away. “Medication helps. The bad days are much fewer now.”

“Good.” Laurens stood. “How about we don’t bum ourselves out anymore? Do you want to dance?”

Hamilton chewed on his lip. “I don’t know how.”

“Doesn’t matter.” Laurens pulled him up and set their drinks on a nearby table. He dragged Hamilton toward the others dancing.

“Way to go, Alex!” Lafayette shouted. “Dance, white boy!”

Hamilton let his face drop against Laurens’ shoulder. “Ugh.”

Laurens patted his back. “I’ll teach you.”

One song was all Hamilton could handle.

“How about another root beer?” Laurens suggested, glad himself that his co-worker didn’t want to attempt another song. He knew white people couldn’t dance, but dang…

“Sure.” Hamilton stopped a yawn. “What time is it?”

“Probably, like, eleven,” Laurens replied.

“What?” Hamilton frantically grabbed his phone from his back pocket and checked the time. 11:17. “Shit!” How could he have been so stupid to stay out that late? “I have to go.” He cussed more under his breath as he berated himself for his loss of time, his terrible parenting, his stupidity. “This is why I don’t go out.”

“Alex.” Laurens caught his sleeve. “I’ll walk with you.”

Hamilton sucked in a deep breath and some of his panic subsided. “Thanks.”

Since Lafayette appeared to be having the time of his life dancing with several new friends, Hamilton left without saying goodbye.

After walking a block in silence, Laurens asked, “Are you picking up Lexi?”

“Yeah,” Hamilton said. “I’ve only been away from her a few nights. I hate it.”

“You’re an amazing dad,” Laurens said and let their hands brush against each other as they walked. “But, maybe let her sleep? It’ll be after midnight by the time you get to the Burr’s. Plus it’s cold out.”

Hamilton didn’t answer right away. He knew Laurens was right. It was late, cold, and could be dangerous carrying his daughter home this time of night. But he selfishly didn’t want to sleep in the apartment by himself. Bad thoughts multiplied when he was alone. However, he would never forgive himself if something happened to Lexi while he dragged her home after midnight on an early October night in NYC. “True,” he agreed at last. “I’ll pick her up first thing in the morning.”

“I’m sure she’ll like you better for that.” His breath puffed out in a cloud. “The Burr’s probably will, too.”

“Aaron deserves me waking him up at midnight,” Hamilton countered. “He’s such an ass.” He shoved his chilled hands into his pockets and hunched his shoulders.

“Yet, you trust him with Lexi,” Laurens teased. “I’m thinking he must not be that horrible.”

“Yeet.”

Laurens nudged Hamilton with his shoulder, knocking him a few steps astray. “Seriously? Weren’t you born in ’95?”

“Don’t judge, old man.” Hamilton smirked. “Which generation category I fall under is debatable. I know you were born in ’94, so you’re solidly a millennial.”

“Whatever.” Laurens elbowed him again. “I’m, like, three months older than you. We grew up in the same era.”

“Old man.” Hamilton jogged ahead to avoid another push.

“Don’t you dare!” Laurens ran after him.

Hamilton broke into a sprint but was no match for Laurens and quickly conceded defeat. “It’s the cold,” he insisted. “It sucks the air out of my lungs too fast.”

“Or you’re the old man.” Laurens stopped under the streetlight in front of Hamilton’s apartment building. “So…”

Hamilton searched his pockets for his keys. “Hmm?”

“I don’t know how to get back to my apartment from here.” Laurens shuffled his foot against the sidewalk. “Any chance you know what subway will take me upstate? I took an uber to the club and it was stupidly expensive.”

“Not off the top of my head,” Hamilton said. “We can figure it out inside where it’s warm.”

Croix meowed at them when Hamilton unlocked the door and flipped on a light.

“I know it’s late,” Hamilton told him and scooped up the orange tabby as he meandered over. Croix purred.

Laurens slipped off his coat, fighting back a yawn. “Do you mind if I use your bathroom?”

“Go ahead.” Hamilton set Croix on the couch and retrieved his laptop. He searched out subway maps.

Laurens joined him on the couch but offered few directions on where he lived or any idea on what subway he usually took to get to work. He soon fell asleep and Hamilton realized that had been Laurens’ plan the whole time. He didn’t blame his co-worker: it was dark and late and cold. He got an extra blanket from his room and covered Laurens.

Croix raced to the bedroom and Hamilton joined him after using the bathroom. The bedroom door closed, Hamilton undressed and got under the covers. At least he wasn’t alone and sleep came easily.

Chapter Text

The ding of an incoming text message woke Hamilton. He squinted in the sunlit room and found Croix on his chest staring at him. A purr rumbled through the cat when he saw Hamilton open his eyes. Hamilton rubbed the cat’s head and reached for his phone. He winced when he saw the time: almost eleven.

  1. Burrito showed below the time and Hamilton opened the message. Did you have fun? Get laid?

Hamilton ignored both questions and asked how Lexi was.

A minute later, Burr sent him a picture of Lexi making cookies with little Theo. She’s having a blast!

Good, Hamilton replied. I’ll be over in about an hour.

He moved the cat off his chest and rolled out of bed. Hand on the doorknob, he suddenly remembered Laurens was asleep on his couch. Burr would have a heyday if he knew that.

Quietly, Hamilton fed Croix and headed into the bathroom to wash off the lingering scent of the club. Laurens remained asleep on the couch, phone on the floor where it had fallen from his grasp.

After a quick shower, Hamilton returned to his room to dress and wondered if he should wake Laurens or just leave a note and go pick up Lexi. Luckily, he didn’t have to decide as Laurens had woken and scrolled through messages on his phone.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to fall asleep last night.” Laurens stopped a yawn.

“No worries.” Hamilton poured himself a glass of milk. “It was late. I didn’t really want you wandering around trying to get home.”

“Thanks.” Laurens eased out the hair tie barely holding back his curls after a night of sleeping on a couch. “Are you heading out to get Lexi?”

Hamilton finished chugging the milk before he answered. “Yeah.” He wiped off the foam above his lips. “Do you know how to get home?”

“I’ll just take the usual route from work.” He reached for his shoes tossed on the floor. “It’s only a few extra blocks to walk. The sun’s out now.” He got off the couch and stretched. “Let me take a leak and I’ll be out of your hair.”

Too many conflicting statements fought to get out and Hamilton remained quiet instead. He didn’t want Laurens to worry if he said he’d been glad not to be alone. Nor did he want to admit how much he enjoyed having Laurens around. It felt comfortable. 

A few minutes later, Laurens was ready and they walked outside together.

“Thanks again for letting me crash on your couch,” Laurens said as he double-checked his pockets for his wallet and phone. “I appreciate it.”

“No problem.” Hamilton hunched his shoulders under his jacket. “See you tomorrow.”

“Yup.” Laurens headed north and Hamilton east.

At the Burr’s townhouse, Hamilton rang the doorbell and Burr let him in. A sweet spicy scent hit his nose. “Molasses cookies?”

“Yes,” Burr said. “So?” He stopped Hamilton from trying to get past him. “You must have had fun since you weren’t back here by nine last night. Sex?”

“No.” Hamilton brushed off his hands. “Not everyone thinks about that constantly.”

“Yes, they do,” retorted Burr. “Who was at the club? Was John there?”

“I’m not telling you anything.” Hamilton managed to get around him and headed into the kitchen.

“If you don’t tell me,” taunted Burr, “I’ll think up my own story. I have a good one in mind. You went to John’s place, didn’t you?”

Hamilton glared at him. “No, I did not. Yes, he was at the club. We’re friends. End of story.”

“I don’t think so.”

Hamilton ignored him and grinned as his daughter ran toward him.

“Daddy!” She climbed into his arms. “We had tacos for dinner and ice cream. I had a waffle for breakfast!”

“Excellent.” He carried Lexi into the family room where Theodosia cleaned up from the girls playing with LEGO. Princess Fiona sat on little Theo’s lap as the child dressed him in a t-shirt. “Thank you, Theodosia.”

She smiled at him. “Our pleasure.” Theodosia stood and stretched her back. “I have extra cookies for you.” She went into the kitchen and snapped at her husband as he took a handful of molasses cookies. “It’s almost time for lunch, Aaron.”

“I’m just having dessert first,” Burr replied. 

Theodosia sighed and handed Hamilton the second container. 

“Still waiting for that dinner invite, Alex,” Burr said through a mouthful of cookies. “I’m bringing a guest.” He unlocked his phone and showed Hamilton the picture he’d found a few minutes ago on Facebook. “You two make a cute pair.”

Hamilton’s face grew red at seeing the picture of him and Laurens talking at the club that Lafayette had posted. “I’m going to kill Lafayette.”

“So there is something—”

“Aaron,” Theodosia interrupted. “I’m sure Alex wants to get home. Let me get Lexi’s jacket.”

Closing the front door behind him, Hamilton sighed with relief to get away from Burr, although he knew he’d have to deal with him on Monday. “You had fun, Lex?”

“Yup!” The whole walk home, Lexi delighted him with everything she had to eat and the theatrics of little Theo’s Barbie dolls. “Daddy, I want a sister.” Lexi hugged his arm. “Please? Theo is getting one.”

“What?” Hamilton stared at his daughter. “Aunt Theodosia is having another baby?”

Lexi nodded. “That’s what Theo said.”

Hamilton recovered and squeezed her hand. “What exactly did Theo say?”

“She said that her mommy and daddy stay in their room a lot picking out the new baby.” Lexi skipped along. “Theo had to stay with her cousins one night.”

“I see.” As if Burr needed more action. “Did Aunt Theodosia say anything?”

“No.”

They stopped at the crosswalk. 

“I’ll ask Uncle Aaron if that’s true before you get your hopes up on a sister for Theo.”

“Theo said so,” Lexi persevered.

“Then I’m sure it’s true but let me ask.” Hamilton lifted her up before they crossed the street. He was surprised that Burr wouldn’t have mentioned his more active sex life if he and Theodosia were trying for another baby. The last thing the world needed was another Burr and he hoped Lexi was mistaken. Plus, he selfishly didn’t want the Burr’s distracted by a second child. He needed them. While he definitely preferred going to the Schuyler’s for help and advice, the Burr’s did live much closer and he was growing to enjoy their help. Change was overrated. 

In the apartment, Lexi was quick to notice the blanket on the couch. “That don’t go there.”

“I was cold when I got home,” Hamilton lied. He picked up the blanket to fold and Laurens’ watch dropped to the floor.

Lexi picked it up. “Here.”

“Thank you.” Hamilton stuffed it in his pocket before Lexi noticed that it wasn’t his.

Why am I hiding the fact that John slept on the couch last night? Hamilton asked himself. Was he afraid Lexi would start telling people and give others the wrong impression? Did he think his daughter would have the wrong idea? Eliza had slept over many times. Why was this so different?

He blamed Burr and his oversexualizing of everything. He needed to stop caring so much of what Burr would think. Burr would make fun of him no matter what.

Lexi busied herself with her toys and Hamilton figured it was pointless to tell her now. He put the blanket back in his closet and made lunch.

***

As soon as Burr walked into their office, Hamilton turned the tables on him and questioned his personal life. “So are you and Theodosia trying for another baby?”

“We’re always trying,” Burr said without missing a beat.

Hamilton raised an eyebrow. “Have you succeeded?”

Burr winked. “Every night.”

Sighing inwardly, Hamilton and wondered why he thought a conversation with Burr could ever go in a decent direction. “Is she pregnant?”

“We’re not a hundred percent sure yet,” Burr said and lost the smirk on his handsome face. “She goes to the doctor next week. The pregnancy test says no but her period is late and she’s always regular.”

“I didn’t know you guys wanted another baby.” Hamilton glanced at his emails.

“Yeah.” Burr took his seat. “We both wanted two kids and Theodosia’s thirty-five so we figured better start trying. We had wanted the second baby closer in age to Miss Priss but Theodosia miscarried then so we’re not getting our hopes up yet.”

“Well, I hope it works out,” Hamilton mumbled.

“Thanks, Alex.” Burr logged into his computer. “Have you seen John yet this morning?”

Hamilton ignored him and busied himself replying to emails. He did need to find Laurens, though, and return his watch, which jabbed him in the thigh every time he moved. He just had to make sure Burr was nowhere in the vicinity when he did. “Coffee?”

Burr handed over his thermos. “Thanks, babe.”

Not knowing exactly where Laurens hung out when he wasn’t fixing anything, Hamilton loitered around outside of Washington’s office and spotted Laurens coming out of one of the meeting rooms, laptop under his arm.

He smiled at the sight of Hamilton. “Hey.”

Hamilton held out the watch. “You left this.”

“Thank goodness.” Laurens took it. “I couldn’t remember if I’d been wearing it and thought I might have lost it at the club. Now I remember taking it off in the middle of the night because it kept pinching me.” He slipped it in his shirt pocket. “Does Lexi like pizza? I’ve been wanting to try that new place a few blocks from here.”

“She does,” Hamilton said and his heart pounded a little faster.

“Thursday night?” Laurens watched him, biting his bottom lip.

“Sure.” Hamilton sucked in a deep breath and held up the thermos. “Got to get this filled for Aaron. See you later.”

“See you.” Laurens waved. “And thanks.” He headed into Washington’s office.

When he returned to his desk, Burr was quick to question why it took so long.

“Stomach ache,” Hamilton fibbed. “Want more details?”

Burr took his thermos. “I hope you didn’t take my cup in the bathroom with you and you better have washed your hands.”

“Yes and no.”

“Gross, Alexander.” He took a drink anyway.

They began work on a new case but Hamilton struggled to focus. All he wanted was to blab that Laurens had slept on his couch and that they were taking Lexi for pizza Thursday night. It wasn’t even to make Burr think he had feelings for Laurens but merely to prove his life wasn’t pathetic. To prove to himself that Burr wasn’t his only source of friendship.

Burr snapped his fingers in Hamilton’s face. “Focus.”

Hamilton blinked several times. “Sorry.”

“Thinking about Washington or John?” Burr teased. “Or both?” He winked.

At once, the desire to tell his personal life vanished. “Grow up, Aaron.” Hamilton threw himself into the work and Burr scrambled to keep up with him.

Chapter Text

“Hey, Alex,” Eliza greeted as he walked in the door the next night and scooped up Lexi. “We couldn’t get the TV to work today.”

“Okay.” Hamilton set Lexi on his shoulders. “I’ll look at it tonight.”

She took her leave and Hamilton started dinner while Lexi told him all about the game she and Eliza played. “Eliza was the queen,” Lexi explained. “Starburst and Skittles were her princess babies. I was the evil witch who cursed—” her eyes widened for dramatics “—the babies. I didn’t say any bad words, though. I just made the babies cry all the time.”

“Sounds chaotic,” Hamilton said.

“It was.” Lexi twirled around. “I had a pet dragon.” She pointed to Croix. “He tried to squish one of the babies.”

“Was he sleeping in your dolly crib again?” Hamilton asked. “Set the table, bud.”

“Yeah.” Lexi took a plate. 

“That must mean winter’s coming.” The baby cradle was always Croix’s favorite spot when he was cold.

After dinner and dishes, Hamilton looked at the TV. But once he established that everything was plugged in, his knowledge ended and he spent the evening googling fruitlessly for a solution.

“Well, you’ll have to deal without TV for a few days,” he told Lexi. “Maybe Saturday I can have someone look at him.”

“No!” Lexi wailed. “Daddy, Planet Earth is on tomorrow night.” She gave him her most sad face, bottom lip out, eyes wide and teary.

“I’ll ask Uncle Aaron.” He pulled Lexi onto his lap. “Maybe he’ll have a suggestion.”

Lexi snuggled into him. “You’re the best daddy.”

“Thanks, bud.”

***

The next morning, Hamilton asked Burr if he knew anything about fixing televisions and explained the dire situation of needing it that night.

“Nope,” Burr said at once and held out his hands. “Do these look like the hands of someone who has ever toiled away?”

Hamilton glanced at his partner’s perfectly clean, neatly trimmed nails and slender, dark fingers. “You’re so worthless.”

Burr rolled his eyes. “I know who can help you.” He got up from his desk and shouted down the hall. “John!”

“Aaron,” Hamilton hissed. “Don’t.” But he couldn’t argue further as Laurens came into the room.

“Yeah?” Laurens asked. He brushed back a perfect curl out of his eyes.

“Know anything about fixing TVs?” Burr asked. 

“Somewhat.”

“Good.” Burr shot a smirk at Hamilton. “Alex’s TV broke and Lexi needs it tonight to watch Planet Earth.”

Laurens turned his attention to Hamilton. “Yeah, I could take a look. You get off at five, Alex?”

“Yes.” Hamilton pretended to type, his fingers writing out nonsense. “It’s not a big deal if you’re busy.”

“Sounds like a big deal to me,” Laurens said. “Lexi needs her educational shows. I’ll walk home with you.”

“Sure.” Hamilton hit keys at random, cheeks growing warm.

Once Laurens left the room, Burr sidled up behind Hamilton’s chair. “Need a bottle of wine for tonight?” He kept his voice low and whispered in his partner’s ear. “Condoms?”

Hamilton pushed him back.

“Lexi could watch her show at my house.” He massaged Hamilton’s shoulders. “Didn’t you go to a party with him?”

“We’re friends, Aaron.” He let Burr dig into his tight muscles. “That’s all I want.”

“Sure.” Burr reached to loosen Hamilton’s tie and had his hand slapped away.

“Don’t you have work to do?” Hamilton chided.

 

At the end of the day, Laurens met him outside with a smile. “Ready?”

Hamilton popped up the collar of his coat against a brisk breeze. “Yes.”

They walked in silence, hands in pockets, the wind making their eyes water.

“Did you walk to work last winter?” Laurens asked. 

“Yeah.” Hamilton could have complained about how horrible it was, how his toes froze, it was dark, how he hated every minute of it. Instead, he added. “It’s not terrible. Not far at least.”

“True.”

They made it inside and relished being out of the wind. Hamilton led the way to his apartment and let them inside. He’d told Eliza that Laurens would be with him to look at the TV. She was quick to leave, giving his hand a squeeze on the way out.

“So...” Hamilton gestured toward the TV.

“It broked,” Lexi informed Laurens.

“I’ll see if I can fix it.” Laurens smiled at her.

Should he wait until Laurens left before he made dinner, Hamilton wondered. Should he invite Laurens to eat with them? That would be courteous, he knew with his co-worker helping him out. But the intimacy of having Laurens sitting at his table eating dinner freaked him out.

“I think I know what’s wrong,” Laurens said.

Hamilton closed the freezer where he’d been staring uncommitted on what to do.

He rattled off some tech jargon. “Can I borrow your laptop?”

Hamilton handed over his computer and watched Laurens hook it up to the TV and start downloading some updates. “You went to college for art and agriculture,” he said. “How did you learn this type of stuff?”

“Just here and there,” Laurens replied. “I was the designated tech person in my family so I just learned as things needed fixed. I took some computer classes in high school. I’ve always liked figuring out how things work.”

“Always handy to know.” Hamilton saw Lexi taking in everything Laurens did. “Do you want to stay for dinner? Um, payment for doing this.”

Laurens glanced up from the laptop. “Sure. Thanks.”

When he returned to staring in the freezer for something to make, Lexi scooted closer to Laurens and he began explaining everything to her as he worked.

By the time the chicken strips and fries were out of the oven, the updates had finished downloading and Laurens reprogrammed the TV.

“Daddy, it works!” Lexi announced when the screen turned on. “John’s a genius.”

Hamilton could think of no reply. “Dinner’s ready.”

“Smells good,” said Laurens. He got off the floor and took the few steps into the kitchen to wash his hands. 

Hamilton got the spare chair out of his room since a third chair was in the way otherwise. He took that seat next to Laurens to avoid having to move Lexi’s stack of books.

“We say grace,” Lexi said and reached her hand across the table to Laurens’. 

He took her little hand and offered his other to Hamilton.

His skin was soft and warm and Hamilton couldn’t help but melt a little.

“Your hand is freezing,” teased Laurens.

“Hush,” Lexi scolded. “Thank you, Jesus, for our food, for Daddy, for Croix, and John. Amen.”

“And Lexi,” Hamilton added. “Amen.”

Laurens squeezed both their hands gently before releasing with a soft, “Amen.”

No one spoke at first, as they chowed down.

“Do you like this apartment?” Laurens asked.

Hamilton glanced around the small space cluttered with toys and cat necessities. It was crowded but more home to him than any other place he’d lived. “Yeah. It suits us.”

“Being close to work is probably a bonus.” Laurens dipped a fry in ketchup.

“For sure.” Hamilton handed Lexi her napkin. “Everything we need is within walking distance, thankfully. Be a bit of a pain otherwise.”

“Cause I have little legs,” Lexi clarified.

Hamilton patted her on the head. “Not liking your place, John?”

“It’s a tiny studio,” Laurens explained. “Plus it’s far from work. But it’s cheap and I’d feel bad living somewhere more expensive since my dad is already helping me out. You’re so lucky you got a job right out of law school.”

“It definitely was luck,” Hamilton agreed. He knew he was one of the few in his graduating class to find work right out of school. There were no guarantees anymore with a degree or not. But with a toddler in tow, he never felt he had a choice except to put every ounce of energy he had into finding a job right after graduation. It helped that he had a driven personality and enjoyed working. He sensed that Laurens was more average in his desire to spend every waking moment engaged in work. “How is the art stuff?”

Laurens shrugged. “I sell enough to recoup my costs and have a bit of fun money. It’s not going to pay the bills, though. Honestly, I like it better as a hobby that I can do when I have time. Just wish I did have more time for it.”

“Adulting sucks,” commiserated Hamilton.

“It does.”

Their eyes met as they smiled and they spent the next hour—Lexi excused herself from the table to play—complaining about cooking, shopping, laundry, cleaning, bills, and everything else they were never properly prepared for.

“My parents made it look so easy,” bemoaned Laurens. “And they were raising multiple kids to boot. I can barely keep myself alive.” He grinned at Hamilton. “I forgot I was making grilled cheese the other night and only remembered when I smelled smoke.”

Hamilton chuckled. “I lived on beer and pizza in college. I still can’t cook or meal plan worth a darn.” He indicated to their empty plates. “This was quite complex for me.”

“He’s not lying,” Lexi added from across the room. She stuffed a doll into a highchair. “I only eat vege’ables when we go to Mama Cate’s house.”

“That’s better than me,” Laurens said. He looked at Hamilton with wide eyes. “I can’t remember the last time I had a vegetable.”

Hamilton patted his hand. “Good job.”

“I try.” Laurens pushed back his chair. “I’ll help you clean up, then I’ll get out of your hair.”

Dishes were soon done and Laurens headed out.

“Bedtime, bud,” Hamilton said after he locked the door.

“Daddy?” Lexi shuffled over to him and held up her arms.

He scooped her up. “What’s wrong?”

“Can kids have two daddy’s?” Her deep blue eyes bore into his.

“Yeah, or two mommy’s.” Hamilton touched her nose with his. “Or one daddy or one mommy.”

“Good.” Lexi wrapped her arms tight around his neck. “You can marry John. I gives my blessing.”

Croix meowed from the bedroom.

“Croix does, too.”

Hamilton smiled. “Thanks. But don’t get your hopes up. We have a cat and John has a dog, remember?” He set Lexi on the floor and nudged her toward the bathroom. “Get ready for bed.”

Lexi smiled. “I show you something first!” She ran into her room and came back with a picture showing a dog and cat snuggled together. “See! Doggies and kitties can loves each other. You can marry John.”

Hamilton took the picture. “I’ll hang this on the fridge. Get ready for bed.”

After Lexi was tucked in, Hamilton poured himself a glass of orange juice before he got settled to work for a bit. The picture caught his attention as he closed the door. Could he and Laurens be more than just friends?

Chapter Text

The court case consumed Hamilton’s thoughts that night and the next morning.

“Is Jefferson the prosecutor?” Eliza asked when she arrived at the apartment and saw him pacing, muttering to himself.

Hamilton gestured wildly as he argued with himself.

“Alexander?”

He jumped and blinked rapidly. “Shit. When did you get here?” Glancing at his watch, Hamilton grimaced. “Fuck. I have to leave.”

Eliza grabbed the sleeve of his blazer. “Deep breathes. Where’s Lexi?”

Hamilton pointed to his bedroom. “I told her to read. I have to go.”

“Has she eaten?” She received no answer as Hamilton searched for his briefcase that was right in front of him. “Alex—” Eliza grabbed it off the counter and held it to him “—please, text me when you get to work.”

“Love you, too.” Hamilton let the apartment door slam behind him.

Eliza sighed and checked on Lexi. “Have you eaten, baby?”

Lexi shook her head and slid off the bed. “I hate Jeffershit!”

“Oh, dear.” Eliza hugged the little girl to her and wanted to spew hate at Jefferson herself. It had been a long time since she’d seen Hamilton get to that point of oblivious distraction. Only Jefferson could make him forget Lexi and drive him to cuss and talk to himself like that.  “Let’s make oatmeal with lots of brown sugar.”

Lexi brightened. “Okay!”

***

Burr waited by his car to drive them to the courthouse. “Oh, boy,” he murmured when he saw Hamilton’s commanding stride, shoulders back, jaw tight, ready to fight. “This should be fun.”

They didn’t speak in the car, Burr not about to break his partner’s concentration and Hamilton too busy arguing in his head to converse aloud.

In the courtroom, the young lawyers set up and waited for Jefferson to walk into Hamilton’s slaughter.

The case was Hamilton and Burr’s preference: women in trouble. Neither would back down from helping out a wrongly accused woman. Burr was an ardent feminist and had taken women’s studies in college. Hamilton didn’t want to see a woman go through the ridicule and isolation his mother had been subjected to.

“Where’s the great little Madison?” Hamilton asked when he saw Jefferson sit alone at his table.

“Not your business,” Jefferson replied and adjusted his sparkly cuff link.

“Sick?” Hamilton brushed off Burr’s hand trying to shut him up. 

Jefferson glared at him. “Not your concern.”

They were silenced from further comment as the bailiff led in the jury. Everyone stood as the judge entered. The first witness was soon called.

The small and rather stuffy courtroom soon became Hamilton’s theater as he spoke, paced, gestured, creating an elaborate scene in between questions. The jury, usually struggling to pay attention and hide their boredom watched entertain and entranced.

“No further questions.” Hamilton took his seat and Burr squeezed his hand under the table.

Jefferson stood, adjusting his tailored blazer that perfectly formed to his lean body. “Well... Did you study theater or law in college, Mr. Hamilton?” He gave no chance for a retort, though, and launched into his own questioning and tore apart several of Hamilton’s arguments. 

Hamilton perched on the edge of his seat, eyes narrowed and glaring at Jefferson. Every muscle tensed as he waited for the moment to jump up and object. The first time, he slipped off his seat as he tried to stand and almost smacked his chin on the table. “Objection!” 

Jefferson didn’t bother to hide his smirk. “Do your feet not touch the ground in that chair, Mr. Hamilton?”

The judge shot Jefferson a glance to silence him. “Sustained.” 

Hamilton took his seat, hands braced on the table ready to push himself up again. 

“Relax,” Burr whispered to him. He gripped Hamilton’s belt to keep him in his seat.

“No.” Hamilton swallowed the saliva building in his mouth as he worked himself up.

Jefferson finished his questioning in half the time Hamilton had. He hadn’t even taken his seat before Hamilton jumped up for his chance to cross-examine the witness. He forgot Burr had a hold on him, though, and jostled the whole table as he jerked Burr into it. 

Jefferson shook his head, bouncy curls brushing against the collar of his crisp, white shirt.

Rebuttal questions asked, Hamilton returned to his seat. Since Jefferson had nothing further to say, the next witness was called. Jefferson was first this time and went for blood.

“The defendant’s mother,” Jefferson began, “do you know her?”

The witness said she did.

“What kind of woman is she?” He looked toward Hamilton and held up a finger to stop him objecting. “Let me finish so you know where I’m going with this. It’s my experience that mothers often set the pattern for their offspring. Take Mr. Hamilton for example, his mother was a woman of questionable means and—”

“Objection!” Hamilton shouted and jumped up. Burr stood as well, protective hand against his partner’s back. 

Jefferson cocked his head and looked at him lazily. “So, you’re allowed to bring my life into trials but I cannot use yours?”

“Stop bringing each other’s personal lives into this,” the judge commanded. “Restate your question, Mr. Jefferson.” His lips pressed into a thin line. Every judge dreaded seeing A. Hamilton and T. Jefferson as the lawyers defending and prosecuting a case. Preparations for a long, ugly battle had to be taken, such as a bit of whiskey in one’s morning coffee.

Jefferson returned his attention to the witness. “What kind of woman is the defendant’s mother?” 

“I object!” Hamilton half-shouted and Burr grabbed his shoulder to keep him from launching himself over the table. “Where is your approved research that mothers completely affect their offspring in the manner you are suggesting? Was your mother a whore, too? Because you are by far—”

“Mr. Hamilton, control yourself,” the judge commanded as Burr hissed “Alex!” in his partner’s ear. “Let’s take a brief recess.”

Hamilton stormed out of the courtroom, Burr on his heels. 

“Are you going to throw up?” Burr questioned.

“I’m going to punch Jefferson.” Hamilton hurried down the hall to the door he knew Jefferson would exit from. 

The door opened and Jefferson stepped out and eyed them with disgust. “Selling girl scout cookies?”

“Don’t you dare bring my mother into this!” Hamilton shouted, chest puffed out, shoulders squared. “You know nothing of psychology. You have no credentials—”

“Nor do you.” Jefferson pushed him back. 

“You’re a hypocrite!” Hamilton moved forward to stand toe to toe with his rival. “You take these cases to trash women. You have no respect for the law, for—”

“Alex,” Burr murmured and motioned down the hall.

The judge glared at them. “In my chambers, all of you.”

Jefferson stepped back from Hamilton and brushed off his silky blazer. He followed the judge with brisk steps on his long legs. 

The lawyers gathered in the judge’s chambers, one subdued, one seething, and one with a mocking air of worry.

“I will not tolerate any further bickering,” the judge said. “You are professionals. Act like it.”

“If all parties would take this seriously,” Jefferson said, “this wouldn’t be a continued ordeal.”

“Stick to the case and facts,” the judge replied. “You may go.”

Everyone soon reassembled in the courtroom and Jefferson went on with his questioning. He kept Hamilton’s mother out of it but Hamilton still found plenty to object about.

After lunch, the accused took the stand and Jefferson went heavy on his questions. 

“Let me,” Burr whispered to Hamilton as their turn came to speak. “You’re already worked up enough.”

“No.” Hamilton stood and buttoned his blazer. “Let me start with a story.”

Jefferson stood. “Objection.”

“Let him start before you object,” the judge chided. “Make sure you get to your point, Mr. Hamilton.”

“Yes, your honor.” Hamilton smirked at his rival. 

Jefferson fumed silently as Hamilton spoke and he could find nothing in which to object. It was worse to be reprimanded by the judge but having to endure Hamilton’s babble and waving hands was torture. But as Hamilton got to his point and had to ask the accused sensitive questions, Jefferson’s pleasure grew as he watched Hamilton crumble as he tried to keep his point. His face reddened and his gestured grew more erratic. 

Finished, Hamilton slumped into his seat, panting, one hand against his stomach.

Jefferson took his time getting out of his seat for his cross-examination when he saw the color drain from his rival’s face and sensed he was fighting to keep from vomiting. Would Hamilton request a recess or puke in the courtroom? Jefferson aimed to find out and paused often as he spoke.

Hamilton swallowed frequently, hand against his mouth. 

Burr rubbed his partner’s back and struggled to pay attention to Jefferson knowing the prosecutor would try to slip something past them when Hamilton was unfocused. “You can request a break,” he murmured.

Hamilton shook his head and barely stopped a burp he knew would have produce bile.

Jefferson ran out of ways to stall and took his seat in disappointment.

“May we request a recess?” Burr asked at once. 

The judge consented and Hamilton dashed out of the room. He barely made it and didn’t bother to close the stall door.

Burr waited for him. “Why does Jefferson irritate you so?” he asked to take his mind off listening to his co-council puking. “No one else works you up like this.”

Hamilton wiped his mouth with a piece of toilet paper. “He’s arrogant.” He flushed the toilet.

“So are you.” Burr handed him a stick of gum.

“He has no morals.” Hamilton tossed the gum wrapper in the trash.

“Nor do I.”

Hamilton glared at him. “He’s cheating on his wife, Aaron. His family means nothing to him. If you cheat on Theodosia, I would disown you in a heartbeat.”

“Fair enough.” Burr ran his hand along Hamilton’s back. “Try to stop making it personal, though. Jefferson is not worth you giving yourself anxiety.”

“I don’t have anxiety!”

Burr snorted. “You’re the tightest wound person I’ve ever met. Some sex or cuddling would help you. I can provide either.”

Hamilton stormed out of the bathroom.

The afternoon dragged on and on. Jefferson never seemed to falter or lose his poise while Hamilton’s words began to slur and his hands trembled as he struggled to keep up the fight. Burr took over, but worn down himself from keeping Hamilton going, he had little vigor left either.

A few minutes before five o’clock, the judge adjourned for the day.

Hamilton left at once, too agitated to ride with Burr and needing a decent walk to calm himself down. But he was still breathing hard, body tight, and mind going a million miles when he made it through the front door.

“Daddy!” Lexi squealed.

Hamilton flinched as she hugged him.

Eliza was quick to read the situation and drew Lexi away. “Go play for a few minutes in your room.” She watched Hamilton pace the small room, hands flexing, lips moving as he muttered to himself. It had been a while since she’d seen him have a panic attack. But those times, they’d been at her parent’s house and she could hand Lexi off to her parents or sisters and focus on Hamilton. “Alex?”

“I’m sorry!” Hamilton blurted. His phone vibrated in his pants pocket and he threw the offending object across the room.

Eliza picked it up and saw the message from Laurens. She winced, remembering Hamilton and Lexi were supposed to meet him for dinner. That wasn’t about to happen she knew but wondered if Laurens could take Lexi... She texted Laurens back. They had friended each other on Facebook so she didn’t doubt he’d know who she was. Hey, it’s Eliza. Alex is having a panic attack. Any chance you’re nearby and might not be opposed to taking Lexi for pizza? 

Yeah, Laurens wrote back at once. I’m a block away. I’d be happy to take Lexi.

I’ll send her downstairs.

Eliza watched Hamilton continue to pace around and decided he wasn’t an immediate danger to himself. She went into Lexi’s room. “Shoes on, hon. You’re going to have dinner with John.”

Lexi jumped up from the rug where she’d been playing with her stuffed animals. “Okay!” She grabbed her boots from the corner of her room. “Is Daddy coming?”

“No, he’s too anxious.” Eliza dug through her purse and handed the child some cash. “Give this to John and tell him you’re paying for the date.”

“Okay.” Lexi watched her dad pace the small room. “You make Daddy better.”

“I will, hon.” Eliza handed Lexi her jacket. “You know how to get downstairs. Don’t leave the building until you see John.” She opened the front door and saw the tot into the hall. “You’re a big girl. Don’t worry about Daddy.”

Lexi nodded and walked toward the stairs.

Eliza closed the door. “I’m a terrible nanny,” she murmured. But she had little time to dwell on that as Hamilton burst into noisy sobs.

Walking alone down the stairs, Lexi repeated to herself what Eliza had said. “Lexi a big girl. Lexi a big girl.” She made it to the front door of the apartment building and saw Laurens outside. She struggled to open the heavy door and Laurens came to her aid.

“Hey, kiddo,” Laurens said. “Hungry?”

“Yeah!” Lexi handed him the cash crumpled in her little fist. “I pay for date.”

Laurens smiled and took the cash but knew he’d give it back to her later. “Need help with your jacket?”

Once she was zipped up, Laurens took her hand and they headed for the pizza place a few blocks away. “How was your day?”

Lexi chattered away about her daily adventures, which included going to the park that day since “Eliza said I has too much energies.” He skipped along. “How was your day?”

“Not near as much fun.” Laurens lifted Lexi in his arms as they crossed the street. “I did start a new painting you might like. It has horses.”

“Cool!”

At the restaurant, they were seated within a few minutes.

“Does the little lady need a booster?” the waiter asked. 

“Please,” Lexi said.

She was soon situated in her booster and happily looking over the menu.

The waiter returned to take their drink order. “Any special occasion tonight?” he asked.

“Date!” Lexi exclaimed. “This is my daddy’s best friend.”

“You have very good taste, little miss.” He winked at Laurens. “What can I get you to drink?”

“Milk, please.” Lexi smiled.

“Excellent choice.” He turned to Laurens. “And you, sir?”

“The same.” Laurens grinned at Lexi.

When the waiter walked away, Laurens asked Lexi what kind of pizza she wanted.

“Cheese.” Lexi dragged a little finger down the menu. “Black olives and sausage.”

“You do have excellent taste,” Laurens said.

“I know,” Lexi replied.

The waiter returned with their drinks and took the pizza order. Laurens let Lexi do the talking since she had better manners than he did.

“I’ll get that right out to you.” The waiter winked at Laurens again.

Lexi handed him her menu. “Thank you very much, sir.”

He smiled and walked away.

“Your daddy is doing an amazing job raising you,” Laurens told the child. “I know he’s so proud of you.”

Lexi busied herself sipping her milk. “Thanks,” she whispered.

“Let me show you the picture I’m working on,” Laurens said and pulled out his phone. He found the picture he’d taken of the sketch.

“Aww!” Lexi studied the picture of a mare and her foal. “I like it.”

“Your daddy’s boss asked me to make the painting for him,” Laurens explained. “It’s going to be quite big.” He held out his arms to give a rough estimate. “It’ll have the horses, and in the background, I’ll use the pictures Washington gave me of his old farm in Virginia to create the house and barn. It’s quite the job.”

“Mr. Bald will love it,” Lexi said. “You paint pretty.”

Nothing like a four-year-old’s honesty to boost the ego, Laurens thought as he smiled at the tiny tot. “Does your daddy get anxious a lot? I heard he wasn’t well tonight.”

Lexi’s eyes narrowed. “It’s Jeffershit.” Red spots bloomed on her cheeks and made her look even more like her dad. “He makes Daddy so mad!”

“I’m sorry.” Laurens patted her hand and changed the subject. “I know you like animals. What else do you like?”

“Dolls!” Lexi perked back up. “Books and ballet.” She waved her arms as she spoke.

“Ballet, huh?” Laurens said. “I took ballet for several years.”

Lexi’s eyes widened. “Teach me!”

Laurens chuckled. “I don’t know if I’m the best teacher but I’m sure I could show you a few things.”

“Yay!” Lexi squealed. “I wanna take ballet with Theo. It’s ‘pensive, though.” 

“I see.” Laurens took a drink. “What about your daddy? Does he have any hobbies?”

Lexi tapped her lip as she thought. “Books.”

“Just books?”

“Yup.” She reached for her milk.

“What kind?” Laurens questioned.

“Bi-aw-gruh-fries.” Lexi paused. “Heavy. No pictures.”

“Indeed.”

The pizza arrived and Laurens set a piece on Lexi’s plate. “Do you know French?”

“Bone apple teeth,” Lexi said.

“Perfect.” 

While Laurens and Lexi enjoyed their pizza, Eliza talked Hamilton through his panic. She wished she could hug him but he couldn’t tolerate touch during his attacks. She listened to him apologize multiple times and soothed him on each occasion.

Finally, getting him to sit, Eliza sat next to him—careful not to sit too close—and sang to him until his tears stopped. She got up once to get his blanket, glad he had a comfort item again to self-soothe with. When he’d lived at the Schuyler townhouse, he’d had a stuffed animal but after he’d moved into the crappy duplex, it had been stolen, along with some of his clothes and a few books. Literally, most of what he had.

“Good boy, Alex,” she murmured. “May I touch you?”

Hamilton flinched even though she hadn’t moved. His fingers kneaded the blanket, the soft, cool fabric grounding and comforting him.

Croix meowed from the kitchen and Eliza got up to feed him and hoped that would keep the cat busy. He’d already been accidentally kicked once that night when he tried to rub against Hamilton’s legs as he paced. Eliza knew Hamilton loved that cat but also knew he’d yeet the feline across the room if Croix tried to sit on his lap right then.

Eliza sat back on the couch. “Are you ready for Halloween? That’s only a few weeks away. Does Lexi know what she’s going to be?”

“Probably ballerina,” Hamilton whispered.

“That’ll be so cute!” Eliza smiled. “I can help make the costume once she’s for sure decided.”

“Thanks.” Hamilton let his shoulders drop from their tight, high position. He sucked in a deep breath. “I’m gonna lay down.”

“Okay.” Eliza followed him into his room to make sure he settled in bed. She turned off the light and closed the door partway. The time on the microwave said it had only been an hour. She stopped a yawn and sat on the couch with her phone to wait for Laurens to return with Lexi.

Laurens texted first to make sure it was okay to bring Lexi home. They were soon inside, Lexi quietly bouncing with excitement over her first “date.” When she wasn’t paying attention, Laurens slipped the cash back to Eliza and gave her the leftover pizza. “For Alex.”

“He’ll appreciate that,” Eliza said. 

“Tell him,” Laurens said, “that his daughter has the most amazing manners and she behaved perfectly.”

Eliza smiled. “He’ll be pleased to hear that.” She walked him to the door. “Thank you for taking Lexi.”

“Happy to help.” Laurens waved to the little girl and closed the door behind himself.

Eliza stayed the night in case Hamilton had nightmares. Luckily, he slept through the night and woke ready to go.

 

With Eliza already there the next morning went smoothly and unrushed. 

“We save you pizza,” Lexi told Hamilton as he searched out something for his lunch.

“Thanks, bud.” He took out the box. “There’s even enough left for you and Eliza.” He stuck what he wanted in a container and put it in his lunch bag. “I’m glad you got to have dinner with John. Did you have fun?”

“Yeah!” Lexi spun around. “He knows ballet!”

“Does he?” Hamilton watched his daughter dance around. “That’s cool.”

“He gonna teach me!” Lexi hurried to her chair as Eliza set her breakfast on the table.

“John said she had amazing manners,” Eliza told Hamilton. “And was well behaved.”

“Of course.” Hamilton winked at his daughter. “I’ll see you tonight.”

Burr was already at the office when Hamilton arrived but let him get settled and work in peace.

By noon, though, Burr figured he’d been quiet long enough. He watched Hamilton take out his lunch. “That looks like a ‘Lexi specialty’ pizza. I didn’t think you could find that at a store. Did you go out last night? Thought you would have gone right home.”

It was too hard to lie to Burr. “John took Lexi out for dinner. I needed to recover.” Hamilton stared at the cold pizza knowing he’d opened the door to wide for Burr to start teasing him.

“That’s dad and husband material right there,” Burr said with a smirk. “You need to lay your claim on that man.”

Hamilton sucked in a deep breath and said as emotionless as possible, “If I date, I won’t be available to you.”

“Polyamory,” Burr said at once. “Better for everyone.”

“Not the way you think it works.” Hamilton picked up his food container. “Gonna heat this up.”

He preferred it cold, though, but was glad of an excuse to leave the office. In the break room, he saw Laurens pouring a cup of coffee and almost changed his mind. Maybe Burr’s teasing would be better...

“Hey,” Laurens said.

Hamilton swallowed. “Hey.” He took a seat at the table in the middle of the room. “Did you have lunch?”

“Yeah.” Laurens added sugar to his drink. “Mind if I sit?”

“Nope.” Hamilton stuffed pizza in his mouth to keep nonsense from spilling free.

Laurens sat across from him and stirred his coffee. “Feeling better?”

Mouth full, Hamilton nodded. He swallowed and added, “Sleep helps. I work myself up too much in court sometimes.”

“Jeffershit,” Laurens said to his coffee, lips fighting a smile.

“Lexi tell you that?” Hamilton took another big bite. “This is excellent pizza.”

“Your daughter is quite the child.” Laurens met his eyes. “I hope she had fun.”

“She did,” Hamilton assured. “Apparently, you’re going to teach her ballet?” He raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t know you danced.”

“I’m by no means a professional,” Laurens said. “I’ve taken on and off for years. I don’t know if I could actually teach her but I could help you find a credible dance studio.”

Hamilton shook his head. “Her heart is set on taking classes with her friend Theo. I’ll have to ask her honorary grandparents to help pay.” He stared at his food. “They’re already going to help pay for Kindergarten next year. Everything is so expensive.”

Laurens watched his coffee. Not having a child and being supported by his father, he couldn’t quite empathize with Hamilton’s plight and it made him feel immature.

They chatted a little longer while Hamilton finished his lunch and Laurens asked if he wanted to see how the daycare room was coming along. “I just have the sea turtle and narwhal to finish.”

Hamilton followed him downstairs. The safari scene on the longest wall looked amazing with vibrant golden hues, a reddish setting sun, plenty of animals, and a few plants for splashes of color. The wall near the door had horses, a black and white spotted cow, and a red barn. The blue wall had a few small fishes painted and the outline of the bigger creatures. On the front wall, in between the windows, were different pets: cat, dog, bird, etc. 

“This looks amazing, John,” Hamilton said. “I’m impressed how fast you’ve gotten it all done.”

“I wanted to make sure the room was ready soon for Lexi.” Laurens stuck his hands in his pockets. “Hopefully, it’ll take some stress off you knowing you have another option for her.”

“Definitely.” Hamilton studied the giraffe. “You made this into a growth chart, didn’t you?”

Laurens grinned. “I thought that would be fun for the kids. They can get measured and see how much they grow.”

“That’s adorable.” He couldn’t look at Laurens knowing he’d get a very strong urge to kiss him otherwise. 

“Thanks.” Laurens looked over his shoulder as the door opened. “Hey, sir, I wanted to show Alex the walls.”

Hamilton looked over and tightened his jaw when he saw Washington.

“We’ll be able to get the furniture moved in here soon.” Washington patted Laurens on the shoulder. “Alexander, my little Nelly was asking if Alexis could come over to play this weekend.”

“Um...” Hamilton scrambled for an excuse.

“If you’re in Brooklyn,” Washington went on. “I know you sometimes visit the Schuyler’s then. Or I can pick her up.”

“Yeah,” Hamilton mumbled. “I’ll check with Lexi.”

“No problem.” Washington took his leave.

Hamilton sighed when the door closed. “He’s so nice to me but I have issues with male authority,” he explained, half to himself. “Authority in general, really.”

“Understandable,” Laurens said. He checked his phone. “I gotta head to my next job soon. Try for pizza again some night?”

“Sure,” Hamilton agreed. He followed Laurens out and they parted ways upstairs.

Burr cocked his head when Hamilton returned to their office. “That was a long time to microwave pizza.”

“You’re really nosy,” Hamilton said bluntly and logged into his computer.

“Just trying to make sure you’re safe,” Burr said. “Cute lad like you—”

“Aaron, shut up,” Hamilton snapped. “Butt out of my life for once, okay?”

Burr’s eyes narrowed. “Fine, Alexander.”

Chapter Text

They agreed to meet at the restaurant since Laurens had to work at his second job that day.

Hamilton headed home after work to pick up Lexi and she met him at the door with a jubilant squeal.

“Date! Date!” Lexi jumped around the room.

“Excuse me?” Hamilton asked, cheeks turning rosy.

“My second date with John!” Lexi said.

Hamilton sighed with relief.

“She’s talked of nothing else today,” Eliza said as she put on her coat. “She only took a short nap.”

“That’s okay.” Hamilton saw her out and turned to his bouncing daughter. “Find your shoes while Daddy changes.”

Lexi scampered into her room.

Hamilton changed into jeans and a hoodie and crossed the apartment to the bathroom. He studied himself in the mirror, his hair past his ears now and always a disaster. Maybe he should cut it short again. But it was getting close to being long enough to pull back again.

“Daddy, I ready!” Lexi shouted.

Hamilton heard her little footsteps run toward the bathroom. She wore the brown boots from the Burr’s and had changed into a different outfit. “Wow, good job,” he praised her. He smoothed down a ruffle on the tiered dress. “Go get your coat.” Once she left, he put on some deodorant and used the bathroom. 

Lexi waited by the front door, clutching a My Little Pony coin purse. “Eliza gave me this!”

“Excellent.” Hamilton put on his coat and zipped Lexi’s. “Do you have money?”

“No.”

Hamilton took a few minutes to find her some coins and an old gift card to pretend was a credit card. “Alright, bud.”

Outside, it was just past dusk but the light-polluted sky and many streetlights made the city never quite get dark. Lexi held tight to her dad’s hand as they walked along. She skipped and chatted away, not bothered by the chilly night. Hamilton struggled to answer her questions as his teeth chattered. He was glad to get inside the pizza parlor and he cupped his cold hands over his colder ears.

“For two?” a waiter asked.

“Three,” Hamilton said. “Waiting for a friend.”

“No problem.”

Laurens arrived a few minutes later and the waiter led them to a table. Lexi took off her coat and scooted into the booth first. She set her coin purse on the table. Hamilton sat next to her, coat on as he still shivered.

Taking off his jacket, Laurens slipped in across from them. “Very festive dress, miss Lexi,” he said admiring her orange dress with a pumpkin applique on the front.

Lexi beamed.

“Would the little lady like a booster?” asked the waiter as he watched the tiny child trying to find a position to reach the table comfortably.

“Please,” Lexi said.

He took their drink order—milk for everyone—and soon returned with drinks and a booster seat. 

Lexi grinned to sit up high and see everything. 

“What kind of pizza do you want, bud?” Hamilton asked her.

“The usual,” Lexi said and reached for her milk.

“What if I want pineapple?” Hamilton questioned. 

Lexi gave him a disappointed and disgusted look. “No.”

“Well...” Hamilton looked at Laurens. “Pineapple or not, John?”

“I’m with Lexi.” He grinned at the child. “You’re just weird, Alex.”

Hamilton rolled his eyes. He and Laurens chatted about work until the waiter returned.

“Cheese,” Lexi said at once. “Sausage, black olives, and more cheese, please.”

“We’ll give you all the cheese,” the waiter said with a smile. He wrote down the order and walked away.

Hamilton reached for his milk. “Anything—” He froze and the color drained from his face at the whiff of strong flowery perfume as an overdressed couple was led to seats nearby. The woman wore a red dress, wavy curls styled perfectly against her shoulders. The man fiddled with the chain on his pocket watch as he took a seat and unbuttoned his suit jacket.

“Alex?” Laurens questioned. 

“We have to go.” Hamilton pulled Lexi out of her booster and stood. He yanked his daughter along as he speed-walked out of the restaurant, shoulders hunched, trembling even as sweat soaked into his shirt.

Laurens didn’t dare call out to him and draw the attention of the couple, which Hamilton surely didn’t want. He should go after them but he hated to leave after ordering and not pay. Hamilton probably wanted to get home, get away from what scared him.

Outside, Hamilton let go of Lexi’s hand as she struggled to keep up with his fast stride. 

“Daddy, wait.” Lexi ran to keep up. “I don’t have my coat.”

He didn’t seem to hear and began crossing the street as the red hand flashed. By the time Lexi got to the crosswalk, cars sped by.

“Daddy!” Lexi caught sight of him across the street. She struggled to reach the crosswalk button. “Daddy!”

Tears filled her eyes as she watched her dad turn a corner and disappear out of sight. “Daddy!” she shrieked and her voice broke.

Watching the couple that had ruined their evening, Laurens sipped his milk. The woman looked about his own age but the man had to be at least a decade older. They didn’t talk to each other, both on their phones. 

Milk finished, Laurens reached for Hamilton’s still full glass and noticed Lexi’s coat on the seat. He quickly stood and grabbed it and the little coin purse. He would come back and pay, he told himself as he hurried out of the restaurant. 

Laurens jogged down the block and caught the terrified shriek of a small child. “Lexi!” He ran faster and saw the little redhead trembling on the corner. Laurens scooped Lexi into his arms and wrapped her coat around her. “I got you.”

She sobbed into his neck, her whole body shaking.

Laurens scanned the area but caught no sight of Hamilton. Who was that couple to have freaked him out enough to abandon his daughter? “Let’s go get our pizza,” he told Lexi. “We’ll take it home to Daddy, okay?”

Lexi hiccupped. “My purse.”

“I put it in your coat pocket,” Laurens assured and turned around. He held Lexi tight and hoped no one would think he was kidnapping the crying child who looked nothing like him.

At the restaurant, Laurens asked if they could take the pizza to go and handed over his credit card. “My friend got sick,” he explained. 

“No problem,” the waiter said. “Is the little lady okay?”

He wasn’t about to say she was upset because her dad had abandoned her. “She tripped outside.”

“Poor little lady.” He went to get their pizza boxed and returned with it and a drink for Lexi. “Chocolate milk will make it better.”

Laurens gave his heartfelt thanks and figured out how to carry a pizza box and a four-year-old. Lexi slurped her chocolate milk, her trembles subsiding. 

“Can you ride on my shoulders?” Laurens asked once outside. 

“Yeah.” She clambered over his shoulders.

Laurens held back a wince as she accidentally pulled his hair. He held an arm against her legs and got a better hold on the pizza box. “All good?”

“Want Daddy,” Lexi whimpered and sniffled.

“A few more minutes.” Laurens crossed the street as the light changed. What if Hamilton hadn’t gone home? He should have been less concerned about the stupid pizza but he’d been a waiter many times and couldn’t abide the thought of doing a server wrong and wasting food by walking out without paying. Paying for the pizza gave him good karma, right? Hamilton would be at home.

He spotted his friend outside the apartment building staring at the door.

“Alex? Did you lose your keys?” Laurens received no response. “Lex, hold tight.” He removed the arm against her leg and slipped a hand into Hamilton’s coat pocket and found a keyring loaded down with twice as many keychains as keys. With Lexi’s help, he found the right one and unlocked the door. “Come on, Alex.” He took Hamilton’s elbow and guided him inside.

“Daddy, here.” Lexi held out her chocolate milk. “Make better.”

Hamilton took the cup but didn’t seem to know what to do with it.

Laurens led him upstairs and unlocked the apartment. At once, Hamilton headed to his bedroom and closed the door.

Pizza on the table, Laurens got Lexi off his shoulders and helped her out of her coat. “Why don’t you get some food?”

Lexi showed him where the plates were and he got her a piece of pizza and a glass of milk. “I’m going to call Eliza. I’ll join you in a minute.” He hated to call her since they’d never really spoken but he needed quick help.

She answered after a few rings. “John?”

“Sorry to bother you,” Laurens said. “Alex saw someone that freaked him out. We’re home but I don’t know what to do for him. He’s in his room.”

“Shoot,” Eliza murmured. “He’s probably having a panic attack. Let him self-soothe for a few minutes then check on him. My sister and I are on our way to see her wife perform at a concert. I’ll be over as soon as I can.”

“No, enjoy the concert,” Laurens said. “I’ll take care of Alex.”

“Are you sure,” Eliza fretted. “Is Lexi okay?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Laurens smiled at the little girl chowing down on pizza. “Text me when the concert is over but I can handle this.”

“Okay.” Eliza took a deep breath. “Thank you, John.”

Laurens hung up and looked at Lexi. “Let me check on your dad.” He crossed the small apartment and opened the door. He jumped back as the cat raced out of the room and jumped on the counter. Croix yowled. Laurens ignored him for now and stepped into the bedroom. “Alex, are you okay? Anything I can do?”

Hamilton shook his head. He flinched when he heard Laurens step closer. 

“I’ll save you some pizza,” Laurens said. “You’re safe, Alex.” He left the room and closed the door.

“Croix’s hungry,” Lexi said and pointed to the cat.

“Okay.” Laurens looked around for cat food.

Lexi slipped off her stack of books and helped him. Cat quiet, Laurens and Lexi sat down to finish dinner.

After eating, Lexi showed Laurens where to put the pizza, and the dirty cups and plates.

“Now what?” Laurens asked.

“Potty,” Lexi said.

“Do you need help?”

Lexi nodded. “You have to make sure I don’t fall in.”

“Got it.” Laurens followed her into the bathroom. “My youngest sister, Mary Eleanor, is eight. I helped my dad take care of her when she was baby.”

“I’m not a baby,” Lexi scolded him.

Laurens fought back a chuckle. “Sorry.”

Once that business was taken care of, Lexi busied herself with toys and Laurens checked on Hamilton.

He remained in his coat, curled up on the bed, back to the door. Laurens could just see the baby blanket tucked under his chin as he ran the satin border through his fingers. Laurens slipped out of the room and retrieved a small, stuffed turtle from the pocket of his jacket. It was small enough to conceal in his fist and it had kept him company in college whenever he felt lonely.

Back in the bedroom, he tucked the little toy into the crook of Hamilton’s elbow. “Sheldon will take care of you,” he murmured. “Let me know if there is anything I can do.”

Now, what did he do? He couldn’t leave but he didn’t know how to help either. How long was the concert Eliza was seeing? Would she be able to come stay the night or should he?

He sat on the couch and pulled out his phone: almost eight. “Lexi, what time do you go to bed?”

“Never,” Lexi replied and stuck a tray in her toy oven. “I make cookies for you.”

“Awesome.” Laurens tried to remember what time Mary Eleanor had gone to bed at this age but he’d gone to college by the time she was four. “I bet you go to bed at eight-thirty.”

“Nope.” She took out the tray and dumped the plastic cookies on a plate. “Eat.”

“Well, I’m going to get you ready for bed at eight-thirty,” Laurens decided and took a cookie. “I’ll read to you until you fall asleep.”

“Okay,” Lexi agreed since being read to was here favorite thing.

At eight-thirty, Laurens helped her get ready for bed and tucked her in. “What book?”

Lexi pointed to the biology textbook on her dresser.

“Sure...” Laurens got the book and sat on the bed. He found where Hamilton had left off and began to read. He struggled over several words and Lexi informed him often that he pronounced things wrong. 

After slogging through two pages, he was glad to see Lexi yawn. “Bedtime.” He shut the book.

Lexi didn’t protest since she didn’t want to hurt his feelings that he was terrible at reading aloud and she couldn’t handle another page.

“Door open or closed?” Laurens asked after pulled the blankets up to her chin.

“Open.” Lexi snuggled under the covers and closed her eyes. 

Laurens turned off the light and left the door open. He turned off more lights in the main room and went into Hamilton’s bedroom. “Alex?”

Hamilton rolled over, stuffed turtle clutched by his slender fingers. “Sorry,” he whispered.

“No need to apologize.” Laurens turned on the reading light. “Let me take your coat. Lexi is in bed. I can stay tonight if you want.”

Hamilton shrugged off his coat without letting go of the turtle. “Call Eliza.”

“I did.” Laurens explained about the concert. “I don’t know what time she could get here.”

Hamilton shook his head. “It’s okay. Can you stay then?”

“Yeah.” 

Slowly, Hamilton got out of bed. “Gotta use the bathroom.” He indicated to his dresser. “If you want to see if anything would fit for you to sleep in.”

“Thanks.” He had his doubts considering how much skinnier Hamilton was and several inches shorter and came up empty on anything he could fit into.

Hamilton returned and handed over the turtle. He slipped on his glasses and checked his phone. “I’m sorry, John.”

“Don’t be.” Laurens stepped toward him and watched his friend’s body language. He didn’t flinch and Laurens gave him a brief hug. “Do you want me to stay in here?”

Hamilton nodded; his eyes shimmered behind his glasses.

In bed, Hamilton lay on his back and stared at the dark ceiling. He listened to Laurens try to find a comfortable spot in the unfamiliar bed. Once he was still, Hamilton murmured, “That was Lexi’s mother.”

“Oh, shit. I’m sorry, Alex.” Laurens rolled over and found Hamilton’s shoulder. Questions flooded his brain but he didn’t want to pry. “I... I take it things weren’t good between you?”

“No.” Hamilton soaked in the warmth of Laurens’ hand on him. The comfort and the dark gave him the courage to spill his soul. “It was never really a true relationship. Just random hook-ups.” He paused. “I think I knew on some level early on that it would end badly. She’d demand to know what I was doing if I didn’t answer a text right away. She started getting rougher in bed, and when I told her to stop, she’d just laugh.” He swallowed and shifted a little closer to Laurens’ warmth. 

Laurens patted his chest. “No wonder you panicked when you saw her again.”

“I couldn’t let her see Lexi.” Hamilton sniffled and hot tears leaked out of the corner of his eyes. “I know she’d yell at my baby. I know she’d make Lexi feel bad.”

Laurens gave sympathetic sounds and scooted closer to him. He stroked Hamilton’s hair. “You did the right thing.”

Hamilton pressed his face against Laurens’ chest. “I hadn’t had to think about that crap in four years.” A tremor ran through his body. “She had a bunch of other guys she hooked up with, too, and she had them stalk me. I got beat up a few times. I had to keep going back to her to stop the attacks.”

“That’s horrible, Alex.” Laurens held tight to his friend. “You didn’t deserve that. You’re safe now. I won’t let her come near you.”

Hamilton clung to him. “Why now? Why would I have to see her now?”

“Hmm?” Laurens stroked his hair.

“This was about when Lexi was conceived.” Hamilton’s voice cracked. “When the abuse got worse. The changing weather always reminds me of that.”

“I’m sorry.” Laurens didn’t know what to say. “You can tell me anything you need to. I’m here for you.”

“I appreciate it,” Hamilton whispered. He turned his head and rested close to Laurens. “I’m glad I got away. I’m glad she did bring Lexi to me.” He shuddered to think what kind of life Lexi might have had otherwise.

“Me, too.” Laurens squeezed him tight for a moment. “Some people are just jerks.”

“Indeed.” Hamilton yawned. He let his eyes close and the security of having someone he trusted close by lulled him to sleep.

Chapter Text

Sometime in the middle of the night, a rumble of thunder woke Hamilton. Barely a minute later, Lexi scrambled over his legs and shoved her way between him and Laurens. Hamilton sleepily cuddled her close. Storms had scared him senseless before, but once had had a daughter that needed protecting, his own fear took a backseat. Plus, holding her comforted him, and tonight he felt even safer with Laurens muttering nonsense in his sleep nearby.

When his alarm went off, Hamilton lay still, unable to move from the weight on his chest. “Wake up.” He shrugged Laurens’ head off his shoulder and tried to shift Lexi off.

Laurens mumbled and turned over, pulling the pillow over his head.

Noisy alarm silenced, Hamilton rolled out of bed and tucked Lexi into his spot. Croix meowed at him as he walked through the kitchen. Hamilton paused to rub the cat’s head.

By the time he got out of the shower, Laurens had gotten himself up and searched through the kitchen for coffee. “Top shelf,” Hamilton said.

“Thanks.” Laurens nudged the step stool out of the way and reached up for the coffee canister. He glanced over at Hamilton who had stopped to pet the cat, bare-chested, towel around his waist.

“Did you sleep okay?” Hamilton asked.

“I did.” A soft smile tugged at Laurens’ lips. “Do you feel better?” He opened the canister and fished out the scoop.

“Yeah.” Hamilton nuzzled his face against Croix’s head. “I appreciate you staying.”

“Not a problem.” He dumped half a scoop of coffee grounds on the counter.

“Good job.” Hamilton smirked and headed into his room to dress.

A few minutes later, he came out in his suit, a sleepy four-year-old with tousled hair following behind.

Laurens handed Hamilton a cup of coffee. “I should leave in a few minutes so I can get home and change. Hopefully, Washington will be understanding if I’m a bit late.” 

“Shoot,” Hamilton mumbled.

Laurens cocked his head. “What?”

“Don’t tell him you were late because you were here,” Hamilton spoke to his coffee. “I don’t want him to jump to conclusions. Nor do I want Aaron to get any ideas.”

Laurens nodded. “Understandable. I’ll just say I overslept.”

“Thanks.” A knock sounded on the door and Hamilton went to let Eliza inside.

She embraced him at once. “Are you doing okay?”

“Yeah.” Hamilton hugged her back. “John stayed.”

Over his shoulder, Eliza spotted Laurens in the kitchen drinking coffee. “I’m glad.” She let go of her friend as Lexi ran toward her.

While Lexi babbled about her evening—making it sound much more fun than it was—Laurens set his empty cup in the sink and grabbed his jacket.

“I’ll get out of your hair, Alex.” He found his little stuffed turtle back in his pocket and squeezed it. “See you later.”

“Thanks, John.” Hamilton saw him out. He closed the door and turned to his daughter. “Why don’t you see if you can dress yourself this morning?”

“Okay!” Lexi ran into her room.

While she was occupied, Hamilton murmured to Eliza, “I saw Maria.”

“Oh, Alex.” Eliza hugged him again. “I’m so sorry. Are you doing okay?”

He nodded and held on tight. “How was the concert?”

“It was good.” Eliza drew back and brushed his hair behind his ears. “Did she say anything to you?”

“No.” Hamilton took a deep breath. “I got out as fast as I could. It makes me sick to think about what she’d do if she saw Lexi. Would she try and take her back just to hurt me?”

“She forfeited her rights,” Eliza reminded him. “There is no way she could take Lexi from you.”

Hamilton nodded. He didn’t have a chance to add anything as Lexi came out of her bedroom.

“Problem, I think.”

A smile tugged at his lips to see her shirt on backward. “I think Daddy can fix this. Arms up.” He tugged the shirt off her arms and twisted it around. “Perfect. Good job, bud.”

“Yay!” Lexi skipped over to the table and climbed on her stack of books. “Food!”

***

“How was pizza?” Burr asked as soon as Hamilton entered their office.

Hamilton frowned. “Excuse me?”

“I heard John telling Washington you guys were taking Lexi out for pizza.” He smiled. “So?”

“I saw Lexi’s mom and had to leave,” Hamilton mumbled. He sat at his desk and stared at the black screen.

The grin vanished from Burr’s face. “Shit, Alex, I’m sorry.” He stepped closer and rested his hands on Hamilton’s shoulders. “Did she say anything to you?”

“No.” He closed his eyes and took a deep breath and tried to remind himself that Maria couldn’t hurt him anymore. A sigh escaped as Burr rubbed his neck. “I don’t like knowing she could be nearby.”

“I don’t blame you.” Burr ran his hands through his partner’s hair. “It was just a fluke that you saw her. It’s a huge city. You’ll be safe.”

Hamilton tilted his head back. “What about Lexi?”

“Would she even recognize Lexi?” Burr questioned.

“She’s basically my clone, Aaron.” He guided Burr’s hands back to his shoulders and got him to work out a tense knot.

“True—” Burr kneaded Hamilton’s shoulders. “—but she might assume it’s your kid with someone else since Lexi does look nothing like her. Or maybe Maria doesn’t even remember what you look like.”

“Maybe.”

“Try not to worry too much about it.” Burr kissed Hamilton’s head. “I’m never far if you need help, okay?”

Hamilton nodded.

Chapter Text

A gentle quietness settled over the apartment as Hamilton made dinner and Lexi played with her dolls. Croix lay on the back of the couch, tail swaying gently over the side.

“Lexi,” Hamilton said, “My boss asked if you would want to play with Nelly. You can say no if—”

“Yes!” Lexi squealed. “I like Nelly. When can I go?”

Hamilton gritted his teeth and bit back a grumble. “Um, probably Sunday. I can drop you off for a bit and go to the Schuyler’s and pick you up for dinner.”

“Cool!” Lexi set down her doll and spun around. “I bet Nelly has lots of dolls.”

“Probably.” Hamilton aggressively stirred the ground turkey, sauce, and beans he’d thrown together for dinner. Why couldn’t he find a friend for Lexi who was a little less wealthy? He knew it didn’t matter to Lexi that she only had two dolls—she loved them very much—but he wanted her to have as much as her friends. “I’ll get it figured out tomorrow.”

“Call him!” Lexi bounced into the kitchen and tugged at his shirt. “Call Mr. Bald now! P’ease!”

“Stay back from the stove,” Hamilton said. “It’s late, bud.”

“P’ease!” Lexi begged. “I wanna know for sure.” She looked up at him with her deep blue eyes and pouty lip.

“Fine.” Hamilton sighed. “Get Daddy’s phone.”

Lexi got the cell off the kitchen table and handed it over. He found Washington’s number and called while getting out plates.

“Mr. Hamilton?” Washington answered.

“Um, sorry to bother you.” Hamilton winced as he banged two plates together. “Lexi was excited to set up a play date with Nelly.”

“That’s adorable,” Washington replied. “Sunday works for us.”

“Okay.” Hamilton nodded to his daughter who let out a shriek. He dished up the food, spilling some on the counter. “Like one-ish?”

“That would be fine.”

Hamilton mumbled some agreement and said goodbye. “Satisfied, little miss?”

Lexi gave her best smile showing off all her precious baby teeth. “Thank you, Daddy.”

Hamilton turned away to hide his own grin. “Sit down for dinner.”

***

On Sunday, Hamilton and Lexi took the subway to Brooklyn. Lexi sat quietly reading a book and kept track of the stops. “Next one, Daddy.”

“Thanks, bud.” Hamilton stretched his legs. They soon got off and headed for the Washington’s house. At least the day was pleasant, almost too warm for a jacket. Leaves crunched under their shoes as they walked down the sidewalk past fancy townhouses.

When they found the correct one, Lexi bounced up the steps and rang the doorbell.

Hamilton hoped Washington wouldn’t answer but fate ignored his wish.

Little Nelly peaked around her grandfather’s leg as he opened the door. “Mr. Hamilton, Miss Alexis.” Washington smiled at the littlest redhead. He looked just as formidable in jeans and a flannel shirt as he did in a suit. 

“Hi!” Lexi said. She turned to her dad. “You can go.”

The girls ran off leaving Hamilton on the porch step, wondering how to leave. He cleared his throat. “I’ll pick her up about four-thirty.”

“That’s fine,” Washington said. “Is it okay if Alexis has a snack? Nelly wanted to make brownies.”

“Yeah.” Hamilton shuffled his foot against the concrete porch. “See you later.”

“We’ll take good care of her,” Washington assured. 

“Thanks.” Hamilton hurried off.

Upstairs, Nelly and Lexi dumped out a box of Barbie dolls.

“You have so many!” Lexi exclaimed and picked through the multitude. “Even more than Theo.”

“Grandmama saved them for me,” Nelly said. “They were Patsy’s.” She picked up a Kelly dressed in a pink sleeper. “Do you have a mommy?”

“No.” Lexi smoothed down the messy hair of a naked Barbie. “Just Daddy.”

“My daddy died.” Nelly tossed that doll aside and found a Melody.

“Oh. Do you have a brush?” Lexi asked.

Nelly found her one from a tub of accessories. “He died when I was even littler. I don’t ‘member him.”

“I bet your mama was sad,” Lexi said. She tugged the brush through Barbie’s hair.

“That’s why I live with Grandpapa and Grandmama,” Nelly explained, chucking some dolls aside. “I have two big sisters. They stayed with Mommy. Washy and I came here.”

“Do you like it?” Lexi picked up another doll to fix her hair.

“Yeah!” Nelly grinned. She found a Barbie in a fancy gown and hugged the doll. “This is my favorite.” After digging through the pile, she found a Ken. “But this is the only boy and she don’t like him.”

“Here.” Lexi handed over a Christie doll. “They pretty together.”

“But girls can’t marry.” Nelly shook her head and her blond curls fluffed out.

 “They can.” Lexi found some babies for them. “My Aunty ‘Gelica married a girl. Daddy is going to marry John so I’ll have two daddies.”

“Cool.” Nelly made the dolls kiss. “I like this idea. Boys are yucky and don’t play dolls. I’m gonna marry a girl.”

“My daddy knows how to play dolls,” Lexi said. “I think some boys are okay.”

“Maybe.” Nelly thought for a moment. “Grandpapa knows how to play dolls, too. Maybe it takes practice.”

Lexi scooted over to the tub of accessories. “Probably.”

“I’m still gonna marry a girl,” Nelly decided. “They dress prettier.”

“Mood.” 

They soon had a wild adventure of four lesbian dolls raising a multitude of children and fighting with the dumb Ken next door. So involved in their game, they didn’t notice Martha watching for almost ten minutes.

“Hi, Grandmama.” Nelly waved a doll.

“It looks like you girls are having fun,” Martha said. “Do you want to make brownies or keep playing?”

“Brownies!” Nelly said and tossed the doll.

Lexi set her toy down more gently. “Thank you for having me over,” she told Martha.

Martha smiled at her. “You are very welcome, dear. Come on.” She took each girl by the hand.

In the kitchen, Washy scooted himself around the floor while Martha’s niece Frances tried to keep him from going under the table and getting himself stuck between chairs.

“Alright, girls, find a stool,” Martha said. Step stools of various heights and colors littered the kitchen.

“Daddy has stools, too,” Lexi said. “We’re short.”

Martha patted her on the head. “Being tall is overrated.” She lowered her voice and whispered, “Tall people are usually dumb.”

Lexi giggled. “Uncle Laffy is dumb.”

Martha squeezed her in a tight hug. “You’re just the cutest little thing.” She let go and began getting out supplies. Once everything was ready and everyone could reach the counter, Martha read the directions and let the little girls make a mess. Frances tried to help but Washy grew fussy and screamed. 

“George can take him, dear,” Martha said. She stepped out of the kitchen and hollered for her husband.

A minute later, Washington’s broad frame filled the kitchen doorway. “Is someone fussy?” He took the red-faced tot. “No tears.”

Washy hiccupped and wiped his runny nose on Washington’s shoulder.

“All better.” Washington patted him on the back. He watched the girls measuring cocoa powder. “You two are quite the bakers.”

Nelly dumped in the powder enveloping them in a cloud of chocolate dust. “Grandpapa, did you know girls can marry girls?”

“I did,” Washington said. He tickled Washy under the chin as the baby started to fuss again.

“Boys can marry boys, too.” Nelly licked cocoa powder off her fingers and made a face. “Why is this yucky?” She didn’t wait for an answer and said, “Lexi’s daddy is going to marry a boy.”

“Is he?” Washington glanced at his wife.

“John,” Lexi piped up.

A smile stole across Washington’s face. “That’s adorable.” He left the kitchen with Washy and returned to his office.

 The batter was soon finished and Martha and Frances poured it into a pan. Frances gave the girls spoons and they scraped up brownie batter from the bowl.

“I’ll call you when the brownies are ready,” Martha told them.

Lexi and Nelly licked their spoons clean and scampered out of the kitchen.

“Come on,” Nelly pulled Lexi across the house. “We can spy on Grandpapa.”

Lexi gleefully went with her and they peeked around the doorframe to Washington’s office. He sat at his computer at the opposite end of the room. 

“Where’s Washy?” Lexi whispered.

“Probably down for a nap.” Nelly held a finger against her lips. She tiptoed in and ducked behind a small sofa. Lexi hurried to follow. From there, they crawled across the floor to hide by a bookcase. Washington remained intent on the card game he played online.

The girls scooted across the floor and behind his chair. “Boo!” They shouted and sprung up.

Washington jumped. “Heavens to Betsy,” he exclaimed and caught both little girls and tickled them. “Don’t give an old man a fright.”

“You’re not old, Grandpapa,” Nelly said. She climbed on his knee.

Lexi sat on his other leg. “How much older are you than my daddy?”

“About twenty-five years, I think,” Washington said.

“You could be his daddy!” Lexi’s eyes went wide.

Washington chuckled. “Thank goodness not in this life,” he teased. “Does your daddy like being a lawyer, Lexi?”

“Yeah!” But a frown stole across her round face. “Except Jeffershit!” She dramatically raised a fist. “He makes Daddy sick.”

“Oh, dear.” Washington pursed his lips. “That could be a problem.” He adjusted the girls on his lap. “Let me show you how to play poker.”

For the next half-hour, Washington taught the four-year-olds how poker worked and they lost many games for him. He would never play for money, though, something he was immensely grateful for then.

“Brownies are ready,” Martha called out.

The girls were quick to vacate Washington’s lap and ran for the kitchen. Washington followed behind and accepted Washy from his nephew Augustine who he’d tasked with trying to get the tot down for a nap without success.  

Martha poured milk while Frances cut the brownies. Lexi and Nelly climbed up on the bench seats surrounding the cozy corner table.

“Food!” Nelly shouted and pounded her fists on the table.

“Eleanor,” Martha warned. “Sit tight and wait until everyone is served.”

Washington got a bottle for Washy and took a seat next to Augustine. Nelly fidgeted as Frances set down the plates.

“Now?” Nelly pleaded.

The women took their seats.

“Yes, Nelly,” Martha said.

Nelly stuffed a big bite in her mouth. “D’licious” Crumbs flew from her mouth.

“Do you go to preschool, Lexi?” Augustine asked. He wasn’t a much tidier eater and brownie bits stuck to his lips.

“No, I have a nanny,” Lexi replied. She wiped her mouth on a napkin. “I can already read.”

“Wow.” He smiled at her. “You are very refined.”

“I know.”

Washy gave a loud burp. 

Martha and her husband shared a mutual look of regret that the disaster of a lawyer and basically a kid himself, had a child with better manners than their own.

Once the milk and brownies were consumed, Nelly crawled under the table to get out. “Doll time, Lexi.”

Lexi scooted off her seat and followed.

“Can you really read?” Nelly asked as they went upstairs.

“Yeah.” Lexi raced ahead. “Can’t you?”

“It’s boring.”

They returned to their Barbie adventure until the doorbell rang. 

Washington let Hamilton inside. “She was very well behaved.”

“Awesome.” Hamilton shoved his hands into the pockets of his jacket.

“She said you’re going to marry John.” A smile teased at his lips as he watched his young lawyer turn red.

“Um, yeah,” Hamilton mumbled, “she has that idea stuck in her head.” He hunched his shoulders as his face burned and he wished to be outside in the cooling afternoon.

“It’s adorable.” Washington pressed his lips together. “I bet John is quite smitten with her.”

“Mmmhmm.” He avoided eye contact and sighed with relief when Lexi ran down the stairs.

“Daddy!”

Hamilton caught her in his arms. “Did you have fun?”

“Yeah!” Lexi waved to Nelly standing by the stairs. “I come again soon.”

“We’d love you to,” Washington told her. “See you tomorrow, Alexander.”

“Yes, sir.” Hamilton bumped into the door as he opened it. “Thanks.”

Lexi waved and called out more enthusiastic appreciativeness.

Once down the steps, Hamilton set Lexi on the sidewalk and took her hand.

“We had brownies,” Lexi informed him. “They were very yummy. Mr. Bald taught us how to play poker!”

“Did he now?” Hamilton raised an eyebrow and silently questioned his boss’ parenting skills.

“We lost lots of times.” Lexi kicked at some fallen leaves. “It was fun. Nelly has more dolls than Theo. We had her girl Barbie’s marry because the boy was dumb.”

“Understandable.”

“You’re going to marry John, right?” Lexi looked up at him.

“Bud…” Hamilton squeezed her hand. “John and I aren’t dating. We don’t like each other that way.”

“Yet,” Lexi persisted.

Hamilton squeezed her hand again and changed the subject. “Papa Philly is going to pay for ballet lessons for you. Make sure you thank him.”

“Yes!” Lexi bounced in some leaves. “With Theo?”

“With Theo.” Hamilton pulled her up the steps and opened the front door to the townhouse. Lexi ran toward the kitchen at once and called out greetings to the Schuyler’s.

The Schuyler women smothered Lexi with hugs and kisses. 

“How was your play date?” Catherine asked.

Lexi didn’t answer, staring at Peggy. 

Peggy saw her look and pointed at her expanding belly. “Baby.”

A frown stole across the child’s face. “How?”

The women all looked toward Hamilton.

He grimaced that he’d have to explain the subject to his child in front of an audience. “Lex, remember the biology book you have?” He could sense Eliza and Angelica ready to laugh at his explanation but wondered if Peggy might not learn something. “It has the pictures of boys and girls and how their bodies are different.”

Lexi nodded.

“When boys and girls are older they can create babies,” Hamilton continued.

“How?” Lexi stared at him in disbelief. 

Cheeks growing warm and not prepared for this, Hamilton stumbled for words. “Um, like, boys and girls different parts fit together and make... Shit, bud, I don’t know.” He rubbed his burning cheeks. “We’ll look it up tonight.”

Eliza and Angelica snorted and went to help their mother finish dinner preparations.

“You don’t know?” Peggy stared at Hamilton. “You have a child, Alex.”

“Yeah, well, you will soon, too.” Hamilton hugged a hand against his shoulder. “Do you know how babies are made?”

“Duh!” Peggy rolled her eyes. “Guys put their penis in a woman’s va—”

“Okay!” Hamilton clamped his hands over Lexi’s ears. “Not appropriate terms for little ears.”

Lexi pushed his hands away. “I know what those words mean, Daddy. Biology, you teached me.”

“Yes, but...” He looked at her round baby face. “Some details you don’t get to learn until you’re older. It’s better to be innocent.”

“Okay.” Lexi bobbed her head up and down. “But how does the baby come out?”

“Time for dinner,” Catherine announced. 

Hamilton quickly ushered his daughter into the dining room. Philip joined them and Lexi ran over to hug him.

Everyone sat down and passed dishes of food around until plates were filled.

“How was your day, Lexi?” Philip asked. “Did you have fun with Nelly?”

“Yeah!” Lexi stirred her potatoes and gravy together. “We played dolls and made brownies.”

“How lovely.” Catherine smiled at the child.

“What do you think of the Washington’s, Lex?” Philip winked at Hamilton.

“They’re awesome!” Lexi bounced in her seat. “But manners are not Nelly’s strong suit.”

The adults chuckled.

“I’d imagine the children are quite indulged,” Catherine said. She reached for the salt.

“What’s that mean?” Lexi asked.

“Spoiled rotten,” Peggy told her.

Lexi looked at her dad. “Am I spoiled?”

“No.” Hamilton glared at Angelica and Eliza as they rolled their eyes.

Peggy got up from the table. “Ugh, this baby and my bladder.” She left the room.

“Where’s Stephan?” Hamilton asked at once.

“At work,” Philip said. “He’s been taking a lot of extra shifts.”

“Wonder why,” murmured Angelica. 

“Is he, like, going to stick around?” Hamilton questioned.

Before anyone could answer, Lexi blurted, “Will the baby be my sister?”

“Cousin,” Hamilton said quickly. “She’ll be your cousin.”

Peggy returned to the dining room. “Who’s cousin?”

“Your baby will be Lexi’s cousin,” Eliza explained. “Lexi thought it might be her sister.”

“Ugh.” Peggy made a face. “That’s a disturbing thought.”

“Hey!” Hamilton pouted. “I resent that.” 

“You don’t even know where babies come from,” Peggy retorted. She patted her round belly.

“I do,” Hamilton argued. “I just wasn’t prepared on how to tell Lexi yet.”

“Penis is a funny word,” Lexi said and stuffed her mouth with mashed potatoes. 

The rest of the family choked on their food. 

“Not a dinner table word, bud,” Hamilton said.

“Why?” Lexi stared at him.

Hamilton looked around at the family. “Anyone can answer.”

“Because we’re eating,” Peggy said. “No one wants to think about that around food.”

“Why?” Lexi didn’t notice the adults struggling to control themselves.

“Because pee comes out of that.”

“Oh.” Lexi nodded. “Makes sense. My sorrys.”

“Apology accepted.” Hamilton patted her head and breathed a sigh of relief.

The rest of dinner passed uneventfully. As Hamilton helped Eliza and Angelica clear the table, Lexi sat on Philip’s lap.

“Thanks for paying for ballet.” She kissed his cheek. “I very ‘cited.”

“I’m glad.” Philip squeezed her tight. “You make sure you invite us to your big performances.”

“I will.”

“You better be saving money for Tequila.” Peggy pointed to her belly.

“You and Stephan should be saving your money for the baby,” Philip chided.

“Yeah, right.” Peggy rolled her eyes. “Alex is a lawyer and can’t make ends meet. There is no hope for me and Stephan. You get to help pay for your grandchild.”

Philip’s lips pressed together in a thin line. While he saw that Peggy had a point, he didn’t exactly plan to pay for another of his grandchildren’s well-being. Hamilton was single and worked hard. Peggy and Stephan just wanted a handout. “Not if you name the child Tequila,” he said instead.

“Fine.” She got up to use the bathroom again.

Chapter Text

“Ballet, ballet, ballet!” Lexi shouted as she held Hamilton’s hand and hopped on the sidewalk. 

Hamilton had talked to Washington and got the okay to come in at seven-thirty and leave at four-thirty on Tuesday and Thursday. Unless it was court, then Eliza would likely have to take her.

The dance studio was only a few blocks away. The cold didn’t bother Lexi as she jumped around but never letting go of her dad’s hand. Hamilton hunched his shoulders under his coat and wished for summer.

He was glad to enter the warm, brick building. They found the correct room filled with a few other girls, including little Theo and her mom. The girls squealed in excitement to see each other and hugged as if it had been years since their last reunion. 

“I’ll help the girls change into the leotards,” Theodosia told Hamilton. 

“Um, thanks,” Hamilton said. He saw that there was only one changing room and dejectedly guessed the other moms wouldn’t want him in there. He waited, hand in his pockets as more little girls and moms arrived. He saw some weird looks and hoped no one thought him a creeper since he didn’t have a child with him right then. He was relieved when Lexi skipped out in her pink leotard and tights and handed him her slippers.

Hamilton had googled and memorized how to properly tie the ribbons and went to work helping Lexi and felt more useful. 

The door to the studio room opened. “Come on, little ladies. Moms—” She paused when she spotted Hamilton. “—and dad, you can make yourselves comfortable in the viewing room.” She indicated to a different door.

Lexi was first into the studio and ran over to the barre. Hamilton trudged after Theodosia and found a seat. A few of the other moms chatted to each other, catching up on gossip. A couple worked on sewing projects, Halloween costumes by the looks of it and the rest stared at their phones. Theodosia took a book out of her bag and began to read. Only Hamilton seemed to pay attention to the little ballerinas as their teacher lined them up by size, Lexi the smallest.

“Alexis, your hair needs to be put in a bun or ponytail,” the teacher chided. “Your mother should know that.”

Lexi chewed on her trembling bottom lip. “Okay,” she whispered.

“Go.”

She ran out of the room. 

Grinding his teeth, Hamilton hurried to meet her and calm her down. “Daddy’s sorry.” He wiped at her tears with his thumb.

Theodosia appeared behind them and handed him a comb and hair tie. 

Her short, fine hair did not lend itself easily to a ponytail but Hamilton managed to get it pulled back and secured. He walked Lexi back into the studio.

The teacher looked at him with a raised eyebrow. “Yes?”

“I’m Alexis’ father,” Hamilton said. He nudged his daughter to take her spot back at the barre. 

“Congrats.” She turned toward the little girls. “Go wait with the mothers.”

Hamilton dragged himself back to the viewing room and sat next to Theodosia. She patted his leg and returned to her book. He focused on Lexi, ready to intervene if the teacher disrespected his child. But after seeing one little girl nudge Lexi out of the way and he jumped out of his seat, Hamilton realized he was acting as if he was in court, ready to object. 

“She’s fine.” Theodosia tugged him into the seat by his back pocket. 

Theodosia was right, he saw as he noticed the other girl had moved Lexi into position and hadn’t been trying to push her away.

By the time class ended, Hamilton was exhausted. Lexi wasn’t any more chipper and shuffled her feet along as they walked home.

“I quit,” she said.

Hamilton squeezed her little hand. “First classes are rough. Can you try it one more time?”

“Okay.” Lexi sniffled. “Up.”

Hamilton carried her the rest of the way home.

Wednesday evening, he helped his daughter practice the positions and they watched videos on how to fix hair properly for ballet.

On Thursday, Lexi’s hair was in a tidy ponytail with no strand out of place. She took her place at the barre. Her little legs were straight and graceful as she went through the positions as the teacher instructed.

“Very good, Alexis,” she praised.

From the viewing room, Hamilton couldn’t hold back an excited, “Yes!” and the mothers shushed him.

After class, Lexi skipped alongside him. “I like ballet.”

“I’m glad.” Hamilton smiled at her. “But if you ever change your mind, you tell Daddy and he’ll make it better.”

“Okay.” She leaned against him as they waited to cross the street. “How come no other daddy’s take their daughters?”

“I don’t know, bud.” Hamilton stroked the crunchy hair on top of her head from the multitude of hair spray. “They’re missing out, aren’t they?”

“Yeah.” She reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his gloves. “I like having my daddy there.” Lexi took his hand as they crossed the street. “But you’re loud.”

“Sorry.” He put the gloves back in his pocket. “Daddy gets excited to see his baby succeeding.”

Lexi gave an exasperated sigh. “I dread Kindergarten already.”

Chapter Text

At least Burr wasn’t in the office, Hamilton thought when he looked up and saw Laurens. “What’s up?”

“Washington told me the library is doing this animal thing for kids,” Laurens said. “I thought Lexi might be interested.” He brushed back a curl. “There’s supposed to be a live animal.”

“Cool,” Hamilton said. “I’m sure she’d love that.” He looked up to meet Laurens’ eyes. “Would you like to come with us?”

A smile tugged at Laurens’ lips. “Yeah.” He ducked his head away from Hamilton’s gaze. “I’ll meet you at your apartment.”

That evening, Lexi jumped around screaming with excitement when Hamilton told her the plan. He let her go wild for a minute before asking her to settle down. “Indoor voice, bud.”

“Okay!” Lexi shouted. 

She settled down long enough to eat a sandwich and hurried Hamilton along. “Let’s go!”

Outside, they spotted Laurens coming down their block. They met him halfway and Lexi took each of their hands, skipping between them and exclaiming over everything she saw. “Look at my shadow!” She made them stop under a streetlight. “I tall!”

“Indeed.” Hamilton tugged her along so they wouldn’t be late. 

At the library, Hamilton and Laurens sat next to each other and Lexi perched on her dad’s knee, almost vibrating with excitement. 

“It’s a pangolin!” Lexi pointed to the poster board on the small platform. “Daddy! A pangolin. They’re the only mammal with scales.”

“Excellent.” Hamilton tightened his grip on her as she wiggled about.

“What’s a pangolin?” Laurens whispered.

“No idea,” Hamilton whispered back. “Apparently some armadillo-looking thing.”

More parents and kids filled the seats and a woman greeted the crowd and introduced herself as a zoologist. A short video followed about pangolins. 

When the video ended, the zoologist returned holding a funky little creature in her arms. 

Lexi bounced on Hamilton’s knee. “Pangolin!” she whispered with a squeal.

Hamilton glanced at Laurens to see him grinning, his eyes sparkling and about as enchanted as the child.

The zoologist talked more about the scaly mammal, how they ate insects and could roll into a ball for protection. She explained how they were often “kidnapped” and needed protecting before they became extinct. “If everyone is quiet and orderly,” she finished, “you can come get a closer look at the baby.” 

Lexi slipped off Hamilton’s lap. “Please, Daddy!”

“Of course.” They made their way to the line. 

By the time it was their turn, Laurens was bouncing on his toes as much as Lexi. “That is the cutest thing!” he exclaimed when it was their turn. “What’s its name?”

“Alexander,” the zoologist said.

Lexi giggled at once. “That’s my daddy’s name.” She studied the creature in the lady’s arms. “My name is Alexis.”

“Well—” the zoologist smiled at them “—we’ll have to let your daddy hold his namesake and get a picture of our Alex’s.”

“Yeah!” Lexi gave a soft squeal.

Hamilton handed his phone to Laurens and soon had the baby creature in his arms—it shorter than his forearm—as the zoologist instructed him how to hold pangolin-Alexander.

Laurens took several pictures of the beaming Lexi, bewildered Hamilton, and pangolin-Alexander who made sure Hamilton wouldn’t forget him and peed, leaving a large wet spot on Hamilton’s shirt.

“Oh, dear.” The zoologist took the critter. “He does that when he’s excited.”

“No worries.” Hamilton rolled his eyes at his snorting friend and giggling daughter. “That’s kind of my luck.” He checked the picture Laurens had taken; pleased he’d have something to shove in Burr’s face.

“May I pet?” Lexi asked the lady.

“Of course.” She held Alexander lower for the small child. “Use two fingers.”

“Bumpy.” Lexi smiled widely. “Thank you.” 

They got out of the way for the next child. “Let’s wash out hands, bud,” Hamilton said. Laurens followed behind, still chuckling. 

The walk back to the apartment went fast, as the men took turns carrying Lexi as they hurried along to get out of the brisk wind. The cold only seemed to energize Lexi, though, and she repeated everything she had learned.

“Pangolins have sticky tongues.” She stuck out her own tongue. “That would be funny.” She wrapped her arms tighter around Laurens’ neck. “They live alone, though. That would be sad.”

Hamilton dug out his keys as they stopped in front of the apartment. “Fascinating, bud.” He looked at Laurens. “Can you come inside for some hot chocolate? Warm-up for a few minutes.”

Laurens agreed and set Lexi down inside so she could run up the stairs. 

When Hamilton opened the apartment door, Croix saw an extra pair of legs and darted into the bedroom.

“It’s not Lafayette,” Hamilton called to the cat. 

Croix reappeared and trotted over to rub against Hamilton and Laurens. 

“Not a fan of Gilbert, is he?” Laurens asked. 

Hamilton snorted. “Nope. Croix isn’t keen on being smothered to death.”

“Don’t blame him.” He followed Hamilton across the room while Lexi climbed around on the couch in her lingering pangolin excitement. Hamilton changed his shirt and soon had hot chocolate ready. Lexi calmed down to drink hers as she yawned. 

“You’re going to crash hard, bud.” Hamilton brushed back her hair. “Go get in your pajamas.”

“No!” Lexi whined through a big yawn.

“Go on.” Hamilton nudged her off the couch. “Do you need help?”

“Buttons.” Lexi pointed to the back of her dress.

Hamilton undid the buttons and picked up his and Laurens empty cups. “Want another, John?”

“Sure.” Laurens stretched out his legs. He checked his phone while Hamilton microwaved water and then tucked Lexi in bed.

When he returned, Hamilton set a mug next to Laurens and nursed his own in his hands. “Any plans for the weekend?” he asked.

“I have to work on Saturday.” Laurens poked at a marshmallow in his cup. “You?”

“Chores.” He shifted to sit a little closer.

Laurens moved his shoulder to brush against Hamilton. “Fun.”

“It’s not the worst.” He found himself staring at Laurens’ hand. “Although, it’s a scam that the same stuff has to be cleaned each week.”

“Right?” Laurens licked his lips. “I want to kiss you,” he murmured.

In response, Hamilton set down his cup, turned toward him and leaned closer. Did he even remember how to kiss? Hamilton wondered. But Laurens’ lips were so soft and warm; he didn’t hesitate to deepen the kiss and press harder, to move closer. Beneath him, Laurens shifted down until Hamilton was on top, their legs tangled together across the couch.

A minute passed, maybe two, Laurens tried to ease away to get a breath but Hamilton pressed him back into the couch and tugged at his shirt.

He managed to turn his head. “Alex,” Laurens panted.

At once, Hamilton realized how lost he’d gotten in the kiss and how far he’d be willing to go right then and there. He quickly got up— “I’m sorry”—and retreated to the kitchen.

“Alex.” Laurens struggled to get his weak legs to work and stumbled after him. “Why are you sorry?”

Hamilton shook his head. He absentmindedly turned on the sink and focused on the running water. “I’m not good at dating,” he mumbled. He closed his eyes as Laurens rested a hand on his shoulder.

“I understand your concerns,” Laurens said in a soft voice. “You have Lexi to take care of. I would never want to intrude on your time with her. Don’t worry about me not understanding that she comes first. I care about both of yo—”

“That’s not the problem,” Hamilton interrupted. “I’m not good at controlling myself.” He took a deep breath and turned around to face Laurens. “I can’t have distractions. I have to focus on Lexi and my job.”

Laurens nodded, biting his lip. He wanted to ask Hamilton to consider the idea, think about it but the lump in his throat prevented words from forming. He nodded again and turned away. “See you Monday,” he whispered.

The front door closed softly. Hamilton remained rooted to the floor in the kitchen, eyes burning. He wanted to throw up, his go to when he was overwhelmed. But he knew he needed to be more productive.

After locking the front door, Hamilton retired to his room and sat at the desk with his laptop. He opened a word document, made two columns, and typed pros and cons of dating at the top. The cons came easy:

  • I need to focus on Lexi
  • What if I bring a bad person into our lives?
  • What if Lexi gets hurt?
  • I need to focus on my career
  • No time
  • Chances of drinking are high
  • Becoming addicted to sex again
  • Difficulty trusting
  • Don’t want to get hurt

Hamilton stopped there although he was sure he could have continued. Pros were harder to determine.

  • Companionship
  • Potential for better financial security
  • Sex

He tapped on the keys, annoyed with his pessimistic self. Think about John, he told himself. Not all of those cons would apply to him.

Laurens adored Lexi, he knew, and her affection was mutual. He didn’t need to fear that Laurens would hurt Lexi or that he wasn’t a safe person to have around her. If that changed, it wasn’t as if he couldn’t protect his child. But what if things turned sour and it became another situation like Maria? He wouldn’t be able to handle the abuse, not with a child that needed him to be strong.

Chances of Laurens pressuring him into drinking were low, Hamilton guessed, since Laurens hadn’t hesitated to drink root beer with him at the bar and seemed perfectly happy to drink hot chocolate tonight.

Difficulty trusting. The words glared at Hamilton and he knew that was his biggest problem. Trust was more intimate than anything else. To trust was to bare his soul. All his past hook-ups had been nothing more than lust, a high he chased. Vulnerability was terrifying and he knew a good relationship couldn’t exist unless each partner was willing to be real, to let down his walls.

I don’t want to be alone. But the thought was instantly pushed aside by: But I’m not because I have Lexi.

But Lexi was his child. He couldn’t bare his soul to her. He couldn’t put all his stress on her tiny shoulders. A companion, a partner, a dear friend. That’s what he wanted. Someone who didn’t go home at the end of the day after watching his child. Someone to plan weekends with over dinner. Someone to reminisce with. Someone to snuggle with in bed. Someone who would still be there when—God forbid—Lexi grew up and went to college.

Hamilton exited out of the document without saving it and reached for his phone. You can say no, he typed, but maybe dinner Sunday?

An agonizing two minutes passed before Laurens replied. Sure! Does Lexi like tacos?

She loves tacos!

Laurens sent a bunch of smiley faces. After a long pause, he added. I want what’s best for Lexi, too. If that means you and I can’t be more than friends, I’ll respect that.

Hamilton gnawed on his bottom lip, heart pounding. Can we go slow? I really like you.

Yeah. I really like you, too.

Eyes closed, Hamilton sucked in a deep breath. You can do this, he told himself. He had already lied, though. He more than ‘really liked’ Laurens.

Chapter Text

Stuck to each of their computer monitors was a sticky note saying the same thing: Meeting at 9am.

“Grand.” Burr crumpled the note and tossed it in the trash. “Think it’s just me and you or the whole department?”

“Well,” Hamilton said, “I hope it’s just us or else Washington really needs to not waste so much time handing out sticky notes when he could just email everyone.”

Burr snorted. “He’s old. Might not know how to send out a mass email. You should teach him.”

“Nope.” Hamilton logged into his computer and checked his emails.

The two made it through their usual morning tasks and headed for the meeting room.

“It’s locked,” Hamilton said after he smacked into the door when it didn’t open as he expected.

Washington cleared his throat from behind them. “We’ll meet in my office.”

Once they were situated in the chairs before Washington’s desk, Burr asked, “What is this about?” He slipped off a loafer to adjust one argyle sock.

Getting fired, Hamilton thought and crossed his arms tightly.

“To discuss two new lawyers I’ve hired,” Washington said. He watched the young men and knew neither was really paying attention to him. “I was hired to make this firm a success. Which means we need the best and a well-rounded group. We need another team as strong as the two of you are. We can bring in more cases, which means a potential raise for the two of you. Now—”

“Who?” Hamilton interrupted.

“James Madison and Tho—”

“No.” Hamilton jumped out of his chair. “Sir, I am not working alongside that—that…” He waved a hand too flustered for a word that wasn’t improper to say in front of his boss.

“Sit,” commanded Washington. “I understand this will be a challenge but I think you’ll benefit from not going against Jefferson. The way you work yourself up in the courtroom is hardly healthy.”

Taking his seat, Hamilton crossed his arms, bottom lip stuck out, pouting.

“Are Alex and I going to have to partner with them?” Burr asked. He glanced at his colleague and bit back a smirk at how much he resembled his feisty four-year-old.

“No, I won’t break up the teams,” Washington assured. “I wanted you two to know beforehand since I’m aware of the tension between Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Jefferson. I expect professionalism.” A stern gaze lingered on Hamilton who avoided eye contact. “I would like to have the four of you over for dinner to help smooth things over.”

 “Yes, sir,” Burr said.

“I won’t work with someone who isn’t civil to me,” Hamilton snarled.

“And I won’t put up with any of you creating a hostile environment,” Washington countered. “I believe you can work cordially with Mr. Jefferson. The money this firm will bring in with the new team will be worth it to you, Mr. Hamilton. Private schools aren’t cheap, I know.”

Hamilton slumped in his chair, jaw clenched tight. “How much of a raise?”

“I can guarantee you ten percent.” Washington watched him. “It’ll likely go up to twenty-five percent within the first year.”

Gears turned as Hamilton did the math. An extra twenty-five percent of his current paycheck would alone almost pay for a year of school for Lexi. He could get her into the best school in Manhattan. He could start putting more aside for a house with a yard.

“I would imagine fifty-percent within five years,” Washington added.

“I suppose,” Hamilton agreed while Burr practically orgasmed in his chair at the potential paycheck.

“Good.” Washington leaned back in his seat. “Would Sunday work for dinner?”

“Yes, sir,” Burr said at once.

Hamilton grimaced. What would happen if he canceled on his first potential real date with Laurens? Would that be the end of it? What was more important, affording the best school for Lexi or maybe not going another year without sex? “Sunday will work.”

“Excellent.” Washington stood.

Burr shook his hand and headed back to his office.

Hamilton lingered in his seat, trying to focus on the positive of making a lot more money and not how his sanity would be destroyed.

“It’ll be different when you’re not against each other in court,” Washington said and sat back down. “There will be no need for competition within the firm.”

“I need the job and I need the money,” Hamilton said in a low voice. “But I don’t want to lose my time with Lexi if I’m having panic attacks all the time.”

“Does Jefferson cause you that much distress?” Washington stood again and took the seat next to Hamilton.

“I dunno.” Hamilton fiddled with his tie. He knew it wasn’t Jefferson on his own that had caused his recent worsening anxiety, but the change in the weather that triggered his memories of Maria. He couldn’t explain that to his boss.

“I don’t want you making yourself sick over this.” Washington watched the kid accidentally unknot his tie as he played with it. “Try to keep me in the loop so that I can reevaluate if necessary. I don’t want to lose you.”

Hamilton nodded.

Washington reached over and had the tie redone perfectly in a few quick motions. “Back to work. Keep Burr in line.”

“Yes, sir.”

***

Later that day while Burr used the restroom, Hamilton sent Laurens a text explaining the situation and hoping for understanding.

Don’t worry about it! Laurens was quick to reply. My evenings are pretty open this week. Taco Wednesday? I know Lexi has ballet Tuesday.

Hamilton agreed with a sigh of relief.

Are you going to be able to handle working in the same firm as Jefferson? Laurens asked. Is Washington aware of your dislike for him?

Washington knows, Hamilton typed and twisted his neck to work out a knot. I’ll have to play it by ear. The perks might be worth it.

I’m always here if you need to vent.

I appreciate it. Hamilton set his phone aside as Burr returned. “I need a neck massage,” he told his associate.

“Not unless I get something out of you for once,” Burr replied.

Hamilton eyed him. “I thought touching me was enough for you?”

Burr sat in front of his computer. “Threesome.”

A long, irritated groan escaped Hamilton. “Would you drop that idea already?” He glanced at his phone as he saw the screen light up: a notification of an email from Washington.

“Five o’clock, business casual dress,” Burr said.

“For a threesome?” Hamilton frowned.

“For Washington’s dinner, you idiot.” Burr stared at him. “Starting to sound like a good idea, isn’t it?”

Hamilton grabbed a stack of papers to file. “I need a new friend.”

“Good luck.”

Chapter Text

It took a lot of planning—mostly in the hope it wouldn’t work—to organize Sunday. Hamilton would take Lexi to Brooklyn and drop her off at the Schuyler’s. She’d stay the night and Eliza would take her home on Monday. Hamilton would take the subway back with Burr and stay with him since he refused to stay alone in his apartment.

“Why can’t I come to dinner?” Lexi asked. She splashed in a puddle defeating the purpose of carrying an umbrella against the downpour.

“It’s a work thing, bud.” Hamilton cursed the water soaking into his loafers. Nothing was worse than squishy shoes and socks. He’d had the forethought to bring umbrellas but not a change of shoes.

Eliza greeted them inside the Schuyler townhouse. “Do you want Papa to drive you to Washington’s?” she asked.

“Maybe.” Hamilton checked the time. “Probably. What size shoe does your dad wear?”

Eliza glanced at Hamilton’s soggy loafers. “At least three sizes bigger than yours. Stephan might have something.” She hurried downstairs while Hamilton slipped off his shoes and peeled away the soaked socks.

“You should’a worn boots, Daddy.” Lexi tugged off her rain boots. “See? Dry feets!”

“You know you’re smarter than me.” Hamilton stared at his blindly white bare feet.

Eliza returned and handed him a pair of black loafers with silver buckles and socks. “That’s all I could find.”

“Should work.” He struggled to get the socks over his damp toes. Only a small part of the shoes would show under his pants anyway. “These are Stephan’s?” He slipped them on.

“Sure,” Eliza said. “Papa said he’d be ready in a minute.”

Hamilton glared at her. “These are Peggy’s shoes, aren’t they?”

“You have tiny feet.”

“Ugh.”

Lexi held up a foot. “I have little feet, too! I can finally wear toddler size shoes, right Daddy?”

“Yes, bud.” Unless she hit a massive growth spurt, he knew Lexi would still be wearing all toddler sizes when she entered Kindergarten.

Philip joined them in the living room. “Ready, Alex?”

“Yes, sir.”

It was a short drive through quiet Brooklyn streets to the Washington’s grand townhouse. Hamilton hurried out of the car and up the steps to the cover of the porch. He rang the doorbell and hoped he wasn’t the first to arrive.

Augustine answered the door. “Good evening, Alexander. You’re the first to arrive. I can take your coat.”

Clenching his jaw, Hamilton handed over his rain-beaded coat and headed for the parlor as Augustine directed.

The parlor, richly decorated with mahogany furniture and bookcases filled with leather-bound books and priceless decorations had an aura of a museum rather than a room to sit in. The Washington’s sat on the plush burgundy sofa dressed fancier—in Hamilton’s opinion—than business casual.

Washington greeted him. “Dreadful weather. You didn’t get soaked, did you?”

“Not, too bad.” Hamilton sat across from them and drew his feet under the sofa. “Philip drove me over from their house.” He tugged at the sleeves of his dark blue button-down shirt. Should he have worn a tie? Washington wasn’t wearing one but his sleek black vest made him look fancy and Martha wore a pearl necklace. He started to cross his legs, remembered he was wearing Peggy’s shoes and tucked his feet back under the sofa.

Martha commented on how it was supposed to rain more that week while Washington reached for a drink on the end table.

Wine. Hamilton’s heart sank. To decline would call attention to the fact that he didn’t drink. While it was no one’s business of why he chose to forgo alcohol, Jefferson would surely pester him about it later. Why would Washington serve wine? He had firsthand experience of what happened when his young lawyer drank. Hamilton twisted his hands together in his lap and wasn’t able to further deliberate as Burr strode into the parlor.

Corduroy pants and a sweater accentuated his slim physique. He could afford to tailor his clothes perfectly to fit his slender and short build while Hamilton forever felt grubby and ill kept even those his clothes fit well enough.

“Good evening,” Burr greeted the couple and sat next to Hamilton. “Theodosia sends her compliments.”

Hamilton chewed on a fingernail. He should have said something like Philip and Catherine said hello. Not what he had said that made him sound like a kid being dropped off for slumber party.

Jefferson and Madison arrived a few minutes later, the latter dwarfed by his associate and his sickly pallor and thin face made even Hamilton not look as unfortunate.

“Shall we move to the dining room?” Washington said after greeting the older lawyers. He stood and offered a hand to his wife. They led the way to a small adjoining dining room with a crystal chandelier.

The couple sat at either end of the table with a pair of lawyers on each side. Jefferson reached for his wine glass at once and took a sip. A frown stole across his face. “Is this grape juice, sir?”

“Yes,” Washington said. “It’s rich in antioxidants and supposedly has as many heart benefits as red wine.”

“Delightful.” Jefferson set down the glass.

Hamilton sighed inwardly with relief. He could save face over the alcohol thing. Not that he couldn’t make a fool of himself in a million other ways without alcohol.

The first course was salad. Hamilton stared at the plate and wondered when the last time he’d eaten that much green was. There was some type of vinaigrette dressing on top and he knew he couldn’t ask for ranch. Everyone else but Madison chowed down. He picked through the lettuce as if expecting to find something more edible underneath.

“How many daughters to you have, Thomas?” Washington asked.

Jefferson finished chewing and wiped his lips on a cloth napkin. “Three. Patsy is nine, Polly is three, and Lucy just turned one.”

“Adorable.” Washington indicated to himself, Hamilton, and Burr. “We each have a four-year-old girl. We’ll have to get your Polly together with them.”

Jefferson eyed Hamilton seated diagonally from him. “I didn’t think you were married.”

“I’m not.” Hamilton glared back at him. “But I never cheated.”

“James,” Washington spoke loudly, “how are your folks?”

“Good,” Madison murmured. He chugged his grape juice.

Before they could move onto the second course, Frances poked her head into the dining room. “I’m sorry to interrupt.”

Martha set aside her napkin and began to stand. “What is it, dear?”

“Washy’s stuck under the bed.”

She hurried to follow her niece out of the room.

Silence pervaded the dining room other than the hollow tick of a grandfather clock against the back wall. But before discomfort could wholly set in, Martha returned.

“George.”

He quickly got up and joined his wife in the doorway. They spoke for a moment and glanced back in the room.

“Alexander, we may need your assistance,” Washington said.

Hamilton rose at once, anything to get out of the uncomfortable dining room. He followed the couple to a bedroom downstairs.

“Washy panics when he thinks he’s stuck,” Martha explained. “He’s way under the bed and refusing to come out. We can’t tell if he actually is stuck or scared.”

In the bedroom, Hamilton saw how his assistance was needed. Not because he was good with kids but because he was small. The bed had a sturdy wooden base that prevented anyone from accessing underneath except from the foot. There, Augustine lay on his stomach with a flashlight and talked to the baby.

“We’re sorry to make you do this, Alexander,” Washington said.

“It’s no trouble.” Hamilton glanced over his shoulder as Burr joined them.

Once Augustine moved out of the way, Hamilton got down on his belly and looked at what he was getting into. The space was narrow from the cabinets built into the sides of the base. Washy was at the very back, not stuck by the looks of it but not willing to move either.

Kicking off his shoes, Hamilton pulled himself under the bed on his belly. Dust bunnies tickled his nose and he failed to hold back a sneeze. He scooted further along until only his toes stuck out from the foot of the bed.

There was little headspace and Hamilton struggled to maneuver to get his arms toward the child and check if he was stuck. “Okay, Washy?” His body blocked most of the light from the flashlight but the boy didn’t appear in immediate distress.

Getting his hand on the child, who hiccupped, Hamilton started to back up but with his hands on Washy, he couldn’t figure out how to propel himself backward. What if he got stuck, too?

“Is he okay?” Washington asked.

“Yeah,” Hamilton called out. “I can’t back up.”

“I’ll pull you out,” Burr suggested.

Hamilton doubted his partner had the strength to do so but agreed.

With Burr pulling, Hamilton attempted to scoot himself out as well and drag Washy—who made himself limp and heavy—but he could feel his pants moving along at a faster pace than himself.

“Just a minute, Aaron,” he said as he braced himself to get his pants back in place as he was about halfway out from under the bed.

But Burr couldn’t hear his muffled voice and pulled.

Cool air against bare flesh informed Hamilton first that Burr had succeeded in getting one thing out from under the bed. The second was his comment. “My Little Pony,” Burr mused seeing Hamilton’s underwear. “I knew you were a Brony.”

Was there anything to impale himself with under here? Hamilton wondered, heat engulfing his face. “You’re dead to me, Aaron!”

“Rainbow Dash is the best character, dear,” Martha said. “Let’s get Washy out.”

He didn’t have a choice but to finish backing out from under the bed and make sure everyone got a good look at his boxer briefs that Lexi had insisted he get, and since they turned out to be insanely comfortable, he wore them often.

At last, the rest of him got a breath of fresh air, too. Dust covered his shirt, his hair plastered to his sweaty, red face.

Martha scooped the baby out of his arms. “Poor, Washy!” She cooed over him and picked dust bunnies out of his blond curls.

“Poor Washy?” Burr teased. “Poor us having to look at Alex’s ass.”

Hamilton glared at him. “Your fault.” He searched for his pants and his ears burned hotter when Washington handed them over.

“Well, we appreciate you saving our little Washy.” He coughed, eyes crinkling at the corners. Near the bedroom door, Augustine and Frances struggled to stifle their giggles.

Hamilton yanked on his pants, giving Burr a death glare the whole time.

“Why weren’t you wearing a belt?” Burr chided him.

“Now, now.” Washington rested a hand on Hamilton’s shoulder. “No fighting, kids.”

Burr smirked and headed back to the dining room.

“Better go clean up,” Washington told Hamilton. “Thank you.” He squeezed the young lawyer’s shoulder again and followed Burr.

When the host returned to the dining room, Jefferson slipped away his phone that he and Madison were looking at.

“My deepest apologies,” Washington said. 

“Children always come first,” replied Jefferson but his tone lacked sincerity.

Servants brought in the main course of pot roast, potatoes, carrots, onions, and a basket of warm rolls.

Hamilton and Martha returned after everyone had filled their plate and they quickly took their share.

The grating clinks and scrapes of silverware filled the silence. Washington cleared his throat. “Does either of you have any pets?” he asked the Virginians. 

“Just a parrot,” Jefferson said while Madison shook his head. 

“Bet he knows some ‘polite’ words,” Hamilton said with a snort.

Jefferson glared at him.

“We’re getting a dog next weekend,” Washington broke in before the two could argue. “We’ve always had several but the last one passed away not long after we adopted the grandkids and it was too much chaos then to bring in a dog, too.”

“What kind of dog?” Hamilton asked.

“A little terrier mix,” Martha said, smiling. “Her name is Taffy. She’s four and good with kids. We’re getting her from a local animal shelter.”

“That’s awesome.” Hamilton returned her smile. “Lexi loves all animals. I know she’ll want a dog someday. The cat is enough for now.”

“A cat?” Jefferson eyed him. “I didn’t take you for a pussy person.”

“Really, now!” Washington interjected. “Is this how it’s going to be working in the same firm? I expect all of you to act like gentlemen.”

Jefferson’s lip curled and he reached for his drink. “I suppose we should give Alexander some leeway in his manners. He is very young and didn’t have a proper upbringing.”

“Enough!” Washington growled as Hamilton rose out of his chair. “Sit down, Alexander.”

“At least I was raised with manners,” Hamilton retorted, eyeing Jefferson with a deadly glare.

No one spoke through the rest of dinner or dessert.

When they left, Jefferson and Madison were all praise and thanks for the meal.

“Two-faced,” Hamilton hissed under his breath.

Burr squeezed his hand. “Think about the money,” he whispered. “It’ll get better when they settle in.”

The rain had stopped but a crisp chill hung in the air as Burr and Hamilton headed for the subway. Not many people traveled back to Manhattan at that hour on a Sunday and they had the car to themselves. 

“Think we can handle this?” Hamilton asked. 

“I can.” Burr stretched out his legs. “You with your pony underwear might find life more of a challenge.”

“I’m just more secure in who I am.” Hamilton willed his face not to turn red.

“Which is a Brony.”

“No.” Hamilton shoved him with his shoulder. “A dad with a four-year-old daughter who likes ponies.”

“Rainbow Dash is the gayest one, Alex.” Burr rolled his eyes. “You picked that one for a reason.”

“Oh, grow up.” Hamilton crossed his arms. “If I check your closet tonight, can you honestly say I won’t find anything that could be deemed childish?”

Burr eyed him with a sideways glance. “You’re not going through my closet.”

“What about your drawers?”

A smile spread across Burr’s face.

Without another word, Hamilton moved to the other end of the subway car having set himself up for that. “I can just imagine what I’d find in your bedroom,” he muttered. “Probably a sex dungeon.”

At their stop, he followed Burr out of the subway station and into a drizzle. He popped open his umbrella but it did little to keep the cold spray off their faces as the wind blew. The townhouse was a welcome sight and Burr hurried to shut the door behind them.

Theodosia greeted them as they came inside. “How was the dinner?”

“Where to even begin,” Burr said. He hung up his coat on the nearby rack. “Alex wears My Little Pony boxers.”

“That’s not the detail I expected to learn.” She glared at her husband. “What did you do?”

“Nothing!” Burr pointed at his friend. “Trust me; he needs no help making a fool of himself.”

“Then how come,” Hamilton grumbled, “you’re always around whenever I lose my pants?”

Theodosia glanced between them in confusion. “I thought you went to dinner at your boss’ house?”

“We did,” Burr assured. “Alex performed the entertainment.”

“I’m going to bed,” Theodosia decided. “Miss Priss is asleep so keep it down.” She kissed her husband on the cheek and turned to Hamilton. “Your room is ready for you.” 

“Thank you.” Hamilton accepted her hug and held on for a moment.

She let go and headed upstairs.

Burr punched Hamilton’s arm. “Want to watch a movie?”

“We work tomorrow, Aaron,” Hamilton reminded him and stopped a yawn. “I’m ready for bed.”

“Fine.”

Hamilton headed upstairs to the guest room. He’d given Burr his overnight bag Friday after work so he wouldn’t have had to drag it around that day. He changed in the bathroom and came out to find Burr laying on the bed. “Out.”

“Miss Priss is sleeping with Theodosia,” Burr said. “The cat, too. There’s no room for me.”

“Don’t care.” Hamilton tried to yank him off the bed. “We’re not sharing.”

“I don’t want you to get lonely.” Burr grunted as he slid off the bed and landed on the floor. “You’re a tiny bit stronger than I expected.”

“Goodnight, Aaron.” He pointed toward the door.

“Fine.” Burr picked himself off the floor. “You’re all crabby anyway.”

Once he was alone, Hamilton turned off the lights and snuggled into the soft bed. But sleep alluded him and he stared at the dark ceiling wishing Lexi was with him…and almost regretting sending Burr away. At least then, he wouldn’t have been alone.

Chapter Text

Used to the more loving wake up by Croix or Lexi, the alarm startled Hamilton out of slumber.  He lay still, everything too quiet once he silenced the noise. One night away from his baby—whom he’d see that night—and he was almost too depressed to get out of bed.

You need a boyfriend, he thought as he scolded himself for being so dramatic over being away from Lexi for twenty-four hours. 

The house was warm, not chilly like his apartment every morning since he turned the heat down at night. Theodosia had hung his suit from the back of the bedroom door to keep it from getting wrinkled in his bag. 

As he dressed, he kept looking at the time on his phone certain he was forgetting important things as he had plenty of time to spare. This was pure misery he bemoaned and headed downstairs.

Burr was in the kitchen, half-dressed, making coffee. “Morning.” He grabbed two mugs. “What do you want for breakfast?”

“Just coffee.” Hamilton checked his phone again.

“Nope.” Burr snatched the device out of his hands. “Sit down. You’re having a proper breakfast.” He got two breakfast sandwiches out of the freezer and heated them up.

Hamilton took a seat and tapped his fingers on the table. “Are the Theodosia’s up yet?”

“Probably not.” Burr served him and took a seat. “Beauty sleep. Which is probably why you’re so ugly.”

Hamilton glared at him over the rim of his mug. “Some people would consider me quite handsome.”

“Blind people?” He ducked as Hamilton threw a spoon at him and unfolded the newspaper.

After breakfast, Hamilton fidgeted around, lost without the million morning tasks to do. He envied and hated Burr over having only himself to be responsible for before work. While he finished getting ready, Hamilton sat by the front door and checked social media. He jumped up when Burr returned downstairs. “Ready?”

“Calm down,” Burr scolded. “We have twenty minutes.”

“But you’re driving.” Hamilton grabbed his coat and handed over Burr’s. “The traffic is going to be horrendous.”

Burr sighed and grabbed his keys, phone, and wallet. “Alright, antsy.”

Hamilton white-knuckled it in the passenger seat as Burr tailgated, braked with inches to spare, and laid on the horn at every opportunity. 

He parked and got out, calm as can be while Hamilton had to wait for his legs to stop shaking and try not to vomit.

“I’m not that bad of a driver,” Burr scolded and dragged Hamilton inside.

“We almost died twenty times!”

“But did you die?” Burr tugged at his partner’s coat. “Rainbow Dash.”

“Shut up.” Hamilton darted away from him and practically ran to their office, not that he’d have a reprieve from him there. 

Burr came in whistling a few minutes later. “So, do you have just the one pair of pony boxers or a whole set?”

“I’m not discussing my underwear at work,” Hamilton grumbled. He grabbed a stack of papers to file that he’d let pile up on Friday.

“Why not?” Burr watched him bend down to open the bottom drawer. “We discuss everything else here.”

“No, we don’t.” He sensed Burr behind him and slapped away his hand from the waistband of his slacks. “You’re not looking at my boxers.”

“Come on.” Burr tickled his sides and made Hamilton squirm.

Hamilton struggled not to laugh and pulled at Burr’s tie. “Not your business.”

They struggled against each other making more noise than they realized as they choked with laughter.

“Boys,” Washington’s deep voice echoed through the small office.

The two young lawyers froze.

“This—” Washington gestured toward their disheveled state and hands all over each other “—needs to stop. Whatever you do in your personal lives, I don’t care and please don’t tell me. But you know Jefferson is not going to tolerate the two of you bullshitting around and not getting any work done. Put yourselves in order and get to work.” He glanced at his watch. “See me in my office in an hour.” The door closed behind him with a soft clatter.

Burr eased his grip on Hamilton’s shirt. “He thinks we’re screwing each other.”

“You think we’re screwing each other.” Hamilton backed away and ran a hand through his hair. He retucked in his shirt and dropped into his desk chair. 

“There’s nothing stop—” Burr started.

“You’re married!” Hamilton yelled. “I’m not going to sleep with you.”

Burr just rolled his eyes. He fixed his tie and took a seat.

An hour later, they walked to Washington’s office. They took seats opposite him, and Washington dropped a stack of papers on his desk. “This will be the amount of paperwork you’ll now be doing in a week. Can you handle it?”

“Yes, sir,” they said.

“I expect both of you to keep up with Jefferson,” Washington continued. “He has a decade of experience over either of you but I believe both of you are more intelligent.” His intense gaze stole over them. “Don’t disappoint me.” He stood. “You can go.”

The lawyers headed back to their office where they found Laurens.

“You both look subdued,” he commented. “Everything okay?”

“It’s all going to hell,” Hamilton said. “Washington is expecting us to do three times our current caseload.”

Burr shrugged. “The money will be nice.”

Laurens let his fingertips brush against Hamilton’s. “I’m sure you can figure it out.” He looked over at Burr. “I’m supposed to install a new printer for you.”

Burr pointed out the old one and Laurens got to work. A few minutes later, he called out to the computer tech. “Your dad has horses, right, John?”

Laurens poked his head out from under the desk where he was attempting to untangle a knot of cords. “Yeah.”

“Do any of them talk?” Burr asked.

“Um...” Laurens glanced toward Hamilton whose cheeks began to turn pink. 

“Alex is quite fond of the magical talking variety,” Burr continued, eyes aglow with amusement.

“Okay...” Laurens sucked in his bottom lip.

“My Little Pony,” Hamilton muttered. “He’s talking about My Little Pony.”

“Oh!” Laurens brightened. “I watch that with Mary Eleanor all the time. I like Pinky Pie.”

 “You would,” Burr murmured under his breath. Louder, he said, “Alex likes Rainbow Dash. A forewarning in case you ever see his underwear.”

Hamilton glared at Burr, his face bright red. “Shut up, Aaron.” He couldn’t meet Laurens’ eyes. “Lexi likes ponies.”

“Convenient that you have that excuse,” Burr teased. He watched Laurens return to messing with the tangled cords and Hamilton busy himself with an email. “Holy crap, I managed to shut up both of you.”

“You talk way more than anyone, Aaron,” Hamilton chided him. “Quit telling everyone my personal business.”

“But it’s hilarious.” Burr grinned.

Hamilton chucked a pen at him. 

***

Five o’clock on the dot, Hamilton raced home and arrived out of breath and sweaty.

“Daddy!” Lexi scrambled into his arms and kissed his nose. “Lexi missed you.”

“Daddy missed you, too.” He squeezed her tight. Croix meowed from the couch and Hamilton carried Lexi over and rubbed the cat’s head. Over the loud purr, he asked Eliza, “Everything go smoothly?”

“Yup,” she said. “My mom made chicken and dumpling for you; they’re in the fridge.”

“Thanks.” Hamilton set down his daughter.

“I show you something!” Lexi ran into her room.

Hamilton looked toward the nanny.

“We finished her costume,” Eliza whispered.

The child ran back. “Look!” She shoved the ballerina costume at Hamilton. “I’m gonna be a fairy ballerina princess!” She set a tiara on her head and pointed to the jacket with attached wings.

“Wow.” Hamilton admired the prettiness of the costume but was more pleased that Eliza had managed to make a ballerina costume with enough layers to keep the child warm outside.

“Got something for you, too!” Lexi ran back to her room and returned with a second tutu. “We match, Daddy!”

“Lucky me,” Hamilton gushed. Wearing a tutu was the least of his worries about Halloween. Last year was the first time he’d taken Lexi trick or treating. They’d done one block in Brooklyn and he’d had enough with the screaming kids and costumes and fear of someone kidnapping his baby who’d dressed up as a Dalmatian. She’d been young enough then to be content with only stopping at a few houses. He doubted she’d be fooled again. He cursed children’s memories of remembering everything a parent wished they wouldn’t. No one had mentioned Halloween to her but Lexi remembered and begged.

“We gonna go to all the houses!” Lexi said. “Get all the candy.” She danced around the family room. “Mr. Bald lives in Brooklyn, Daddy. I bet he has good candy.”

Hamilton gave a strained grin. “Maybe.”

“Good luck,” Eliza whispered to him and took her leave.

Hamilton got out the container of chicken and dumplings from the fridge. “Pick a movie, bud,” he said. “We’ll eat dinner in front of the TV.”

“Yay!” Lexi opened the cabinet on the TV stand and searched for something to watch. She had the DVD in and paused by the time Hamilton had their dinner heated and brought their plates over to the couch. 

“What’re we watching?” Hamilton set her dinner on the little lap desk Lexi had since the plate was hot.

Mulan.” Lexi took the fork he handed her.

“Daddy’s second favorite.” He sat next to her.

“I like Mushu.” Lexi blew on a piece of dumpling. “Can we dress Croix up for Halloween?”

Hamilton chuckled. “You can try.”

Once they finished eating, Hamilton returned the dishes to the kitchen and stretched out on the couch. Lexi lay on his chest and Croix curled up on the armrest by his head, licking Hamilton’s ear on occasion. 

Hamilton stroked his fingers up and down Lexi’s arm. “Do you like John?”

“Yeah!” She snuggled into him.

“We’re going to go out for dinner with him Wednesday.” He smoothed down a piece of Lexi’s hair that tickled his nose. “Would you be okay if Daddy got to know him better?”

“Marry him,” Lexi said.

“I need to know him better first,” Hamilton insisted.

“Okay.”

He resumed stroking her arm. “If I want to go out with John alone sometime, would you be sad?”

Lexi nodded.

Hamilton sucked in his lips. He’d been afraid of that. He had to put his daughter first. “I under—”

“But I have playdates without you,” Lexi interrupted. “It’s okay if you have some without me. We still do lots together.”

“Thanks, bud.” Hamilton kissed her head. “You’ll come with us often.”

Chapter Text

It was always hard to keep things from Burr, but luckily, the day was busy enough that Hamilton never got a chance to spill his date with Laurens or for Burr to ask any annoying questions. 

Hamilton raced home again and said goodbye to Eliza.

“Have fun.” She kissed his cheek and left the apartment.

Lexi skipped over. “I ready.” Eliza had helped adorn her in a navy dress with unicorns on the skirt and a sparkly tulle overlay, and tucked her hair back with a glittery headband.

“Very pretty.” Hamilton smiled. “Daddy’s gonna take a really quick shower. Behave yourself for five minutes.” He undressed in the bathroom and tossed his suit over the hamper to deal with later. He’d just gotten in the shower when Lexi and Croix came in.

“Yes?” Hamilton asked, squirting soap on his loofah.

“Potty.” Lexi flipped up the lid on the toilet.

“Okay, be careful you don’t get your dress wet.” He scrubbed at his skin and hoped he wouldn’t start sweating a ton again and smell. “Don’t flush until I get out of the shower.”

“Why?” Lexi carefully folded a piece of toilet paper.

“It’ll make the shower water cold.”

“Oh.” She bent over to pet Croix.

“Watch your dress,” Hamilton reminded. The last thing he wanted to do was wash a peed on dress right before his first date.

She finished without making a mess and chased Croix out of the bathroom.

Hamilton finished rinsing, turned off the water, and grabbed the towel hanging over the shower door. Dried off, he stepped out and wiped the light film of condensation starting to gather on the mirror.

Lexi returned and flushed the toilet. “I remembered, Daddy.”

“Good job.” He lathered shaving cream on his face.

Lexi pulled herself up onto the bathroom counter. “Will I have to shave?”

“Not until you’re much older and only if you want to.” Hamilton tapped the razor against the sink. “Some people shave under their arms and their legs and some don’t.”

“Face?” Lexi rubbed her chubby cheeks.

“Girls usually don’t get much hair on their faces,” Hamilton explained. 

“Do you shave everywhere?” Lexi reached for her comb and studied herself in the mirror, her face close to Hamilton’s.

Hamilton carefully shaved near his jaw where he was always good at nicking himself. “No. Just my face.”

Lexi grinned at the mirror and stuck out her tongue. “What about John?”

“Um, I dunno.” Hamilton looked away from his reflection turning red.

“I ask,” she decided.

“No,” Hamilton said quickly. “That’s not your business.”

Lexi opened her mouth wide and examined her gums in the mirror. “Oh.” She sighed. “There’s a lot to remember not to ask.”

“I know, bud.” Hamilton rinsed off his face. “You’re doing an amazing job. Go pick out clothes for Daddy.”

Lexi scooted off the counter and ran for the bedroom. 

Hamilton double-checked that he hadn’t missed any spots on his face, slathered on deodorant and followed after his daughter.

Jeans and a white button-down shirt lay on the bed.

“Skinny jeans, huh?” Hamilton said. He got boxer-briefs out of his dresser. He wouldn’t tell Burr but he did have three pairs of Rainbow Dash undies. “Any reason why?”

“Eliza sus—sug—It was Eliza’s idea,” Lexi said. “She says they make your bottom look nice and John would like that.”

“Huh.” He tugged on the jeans.

“Why?”

“I dunno, bud.” Hamilton slipped on the shirt and buttoned it up. “Ready?”

“Yeah!” Lexi ran to grab their jackets.

Hamilton quickly shoved his feet into black boots and tied the laces. He accepted the jacket shoved at him and didn’t get a chance to take a last look at himself as his eager daughter yanked him along.

Outside, Hamilton held Lexi’s hand and didn’t realize he squeezed harder the closer they got to the restaurant.

“Ouch, Daddy!” Lexi complained and tried to shake her hand free.

Hamilton eased his grip. “Sorry.” Why was he so nervous?

At the hole-in-the-wall taco eatery, Laurens waited for them inside. “Hey.”

“Hi!” Lexi squealed.

Hamilton gave a quick smile.

“We should have a table in a few minutes,” Laurens said and they moved out of the way of the front door. “Cute dress, Lexi.”

“Thanks!” Lexi twirled to show off the poufy skirt and almost bumped into another group.

Hamilton yanked her back toward him. “Settle down.” His voice came out harsher than he expected and he hunched his shoulders, wishing he was home. “I’m gonna use the restroom.”

“Okay.” Laurens took Lexi’s hand.

In the bathroom, Hamilton locked himself in a stall and argued with himself not to throw up. One date didn’t mean anything. He didn’t need to freak out this much. Habit won out, though, and he puked in the toilet.

Marginally calmer, he washed his face and used his hands to cup water to rinse out his mouth. He didn’t have any gum and fretted that Laurens would smell vomit on his breath and think he was anorexic.

Chill, he snapped at himself. This is John. You like him. Lexi likes him. Pretend it’s just a casual dinner.

Trying to keep that in mind, he left the restroom and his heart raced when he didn’t see Laurens and Lexi were he’d left them. But within a moment, he heard his name called and spotted them at a table. Lexi had her booster set square in the middle of one bench of the booth leaving Hamilton no choice but to sit next to Laurens.

He glanced over the menu, taking deep breaths. “What’re you getting, Lexi?”

“Melted cheese,” Lexi said.

“Quesadilla?” Hamilton inquired.

“Kay-see-dee-uh,” Lexi repeated. “Yeah.”

A grin stole across Laurens’ face. “She’s so cute,” he murmured. “What’re you getting, Alex?”

“Um…” Hamilton stared at the menu. “I’m pretty boring so probably just hard-shell tacos. You?”

“Burrito.”

A waitress came over to their table with a smile. “What can I get you to drink?”

“Milk, please,” said Lexi. “We ready to order, too. Kay-see-dee-uh. Extra cheese.”

The waitress smiled. “Excellent choice. For you, gentleman?”

Once the order was placed, Laurens launched into a story about the family farm. Lexi stared at him with wide eyes, soaking in every word. Hamilton tried to listen but the fresh, fruity scent of Laurens cologne or soap—something—took all his attention and he had to focus on not leaning closer and smelling him.

“I wanna visit!” Lexi declared. She paused to smile at the waitress as she brought the drinks. “Daddy, when we go?”

“Hmm, what?” Hamilton snapped back to attention.

“John’s farm.” Lexi gripped her cup of milk and blew bubbles through the straw.

“Oh.” Hamilton reached for his own drink and promptly knocked Laurens’ over in he process. Milk spilled across the table and onto Laurens’ lap.

“Sorry!” Hamilton gritted his teeth and accepted the napkins Lexi handed over. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Laurens tried to take the napkins but Hamilton ignored him and wiped the milk off Laurens himself. “Glad the milk was cold,” he mumbled, biting into his bottom lip.

Realizing what he was doing, Hamilton quickly stopped. “Sorry.”

Lexi handed over more napkins and Hamilton let Laurens finish drying off his crotch.

The waitress came over to clean up their table.

“It wasn’t me,” Lexi told her. “It was Daddy.” She pointed at Hamilton. “It’s his first date. He’s nervous.”

Hamilton wished to sink under the table as heat engulfed his face and turned his cheeks scarlet. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Laurens shaking with suppressed laughter.

“Happens to the best of us.” She winked at Lexi. To Hamilton, she said, “I’ll get another glass.”

“Thanks,” Hamilton mumbled.

Laurens snorted after the waitress walked away. “You’re a train wreck, Alex. I love it.” He nudged his shoulder against his date. “You don’t have to be nervous. We’ll take this slow and fun.”

Hamilton let out a long breath. “Thanks.”

“This is my third date with John, Daddy,” Lexi reminded him. “It’s not scary.”

“You’re right, bud.”

Under the table, Lauren found Hamilton’s hand and stroked his cold fingers. “I’m working on a new painting for a friend of my dad,” he said. “It’s going to be of this lighthouse in South Carolina where we used to go a lot.”

“I bet that’s fun to paint,” Hamilton said. He laced his fingers through Laurens. “Do you miss South Carolina?”

“Sometimes.”

“I want to be an artist,” Lexi announced. “I’m gonna be famous like John.”

Laurens chuckled. “I’m sure you’ll surpass me by far. You have a winning personality that everyone is going to be drawn to.” A smile tugged gently at his lips as Hamilton’s thumb stroked his palm.

“You can do whatever you want to do, Lex,” Hamilton said. “Daddy will support you.”

“Thanks!” Lexi beamed. “I make you my first picture.”

“I’m honored.” He squeezed Laurens’ hand under the table and the fingers remained entwined until the waitress brought their dinner.

Between bites, Lexi chattered about everything possible from pangolins to art to unicorns. Hamilton nodded along, used to her long-winded prattles, as he squirted hot sauce on his taco. He took a bite and promptly dribbled sauce on his white shirt.

Lexi heaved a bit sigh and shook her head. “Can’t take you anywhere.”

Laurens struggled to hold back a laugh. “She is right.” He handed over a napkin. “Good luck getting that stain out.”

“I’m getting decent at getting out stains,” Hamilton assured him. “Plenty of practice.”

The laughter broke free and turned to a moment of choking. Laurens wiped his watering eyes and took a drink. “I’m glad I met you.” He wanted to go on; mention how lonely he’d been since graduating college and returning to the States but a twinge of worry stole away the words as he wondered what would happen if he went to Scotland for more schooling.

“Same,” Hamilton said. He watched Lexi playing with the long strings of cheese oozing from her quesadilla and wondered how she managed to stay cleaner.

“John—” Lexi frowned as the cheese continued to stretch. “—do you shave?” She quickly dropped her bite of food on the plate and clapped a hand over her mouth. “Sorry,” she mumbled. “Daddy told me not to ask that.”

“It’s okay,” Laurens assured her, eyes sparkling. “I sometimes shave my legs.”

“Daddy doesn’t.”

“Child,” Hamilton scolded in a mild voice.

She grinned at him and Hamilton wondered what other kinds of advice Eliza had offered the little girl to share with her father.

Dinner was finished without any further spills and the waitress brought over the bill. Laurens quickly reached for it.

“I can pay my share,” Hamilton insisted. “There’s two of us.”

“I got it.” Laurens slipped a card in the folder and tapped Hamilton on the head with it.

A few minutes later, they headed out into the cold, each holding Lexi’s hand. She skipped between them and yawned. “I like dates.” She jumped over a crack on the sidewalk. “But you two can go alone next time.”

“Are you sure, Lexi?” Laurens asked.

“Yup!” She jumped over another crack. “You has my blessing.”

“Well…” Laurens looked over at Hamilton, his face hidden in the shadows between streetlights. “Alex, do you like seafood?”

“Yeah.” A shiver ran through him not related to the cold. “Friday night?”

“Works for me,” Laurens agreed.

As they neared the apartment, Lexi tugged on Hamilton’s coat. “Daddy,” she whispered, “don’t forget to kiss him goodnight.”

“Um…” Hamilton chewed on his lip.

Lexi tugged her hands free of them and bounced up the steps to the front door of the apartment building.

Hamilton shoved his hands in his pockets and stepped closer to Laurens. “May I kiss you goodnight?”

Laurens ducked his head. “I’d like that.” He pulled Hamilton closer.

For a minute, Hamilton didn’t feel cold anymore as his lips met Laurens’ and his chilled hands clasped behind his date’s neck. Strong arms wrapped around him and kept him close. Time truly stopped, Hamilton thought. He sucked on Laurens’ bottom lip, eyes closed, lost, happy, body tingling.

Lexi waited patiently in the doorway balancing on her toes and practicing her ballet positions. She counted to one-hundred but missed a few she couldn’t remember—eights were tricky.

Too soon, Laurens drew back, hands cupped against Hamilton’s face. “Friday.”

Hamilton nodded, lips too pleasantly numb to move.

Laurens dropped his hands and stepped away. “Bye, Lexi! I had fun.”

“Me, too!” Lexi waved.

Once he found his keys, Hamilton let them inside and they headed upstairs. Lexi took his hand. “Good job, Daddy.”

“Hmm?” Hamilton unlocked their apartment.

“You didn’t make a complete fool out of yourself.” She grinned at him.

“Thanks, bud.” Hamilton ruffled her hair. “Go get ready for bed and we’ll read.”

Lexi ran to her room to change.

Hamilton leaned on the kitchen counter and rested his forehead gently against Croix’s head. “I had fun, Croix,” he murmured. “I might be in love.”

Chapter Text

“I want to be an artist for Halloween.” Lexi folded her arms and stared at her dad the moment he walked in the door after work.

“Bud…” Hamilton set down his lunch bag. “We already made your ballerina fairy princess costume. We’re leaving for Brooklyn in two hours.” There was no ballet class that night but Washington had let all his employees with children go home early to get them ready for trick-or-treating.

“I’m gonna be an artist.” Lexi stomped a foot.

Eliza came out of Lexi’s room carrying an assortment of clothes. “See if any of these work, Lexi.” To Hamilton, she murmured, “She changed her mind an hour ago and tried to break her tiara. She wants to be an artist like John.”

Hamilton nodded and knew there would be no talking his stubborn child out of her new idea.

“No paint shirt!” Lexi threw the clothes on the floor.

“Alexis Rachel,” Hamilton scolded. “Mind your manners or we’re not going at all. We’ll find you an artist costume.”

Lexi stared at the floor. “Yes, Daddy.” She sniffled. “Thanks.”

“Pick up the clothes.” Hamilton rubbed his forehead. He turned back to Eliza. “I know you need to get home and help your mom set up. I’ll call John and see if there is any chance he can bring some supplies over.”

Eliza squeezed his arm. “Good luck.”

Hamilton locked the door behind her and called Laurens while he helped Lexi put the clothes back in her room. “Hey, John,” he said. “Huge favor.”

“I’m all ears,” Laurens replied.

Hamilton explained the costume crisis and tried not to sound too desperate.

“No problem,” Laurens said at once. “I’m home now so I can get to your place in about a half-hour. I still have that paint shirt she wore and I’ll bring some supplies.”

“Thank you.” Hamilton heaved a sigh of relief. “You’re our hero.” He could tell Laurens was grinning as his potential boyfriend said he was ‘happy to’ and would leave in a few minutes.

Hanging up, Hamilton turned to his daughter. “Crisis averted?”

“Yeah!” Lexi wrapped her arms around his legs. “You’re the best. I love you!”

Hamilton lifted her into his arm and they touched noses. “I love you, too.” He set her down and grabbed a pair of overalls out of her dresser. “You’ve almost outgrown these so you can splatter some paint of them to go with your paint shirt. Do you have any old shoes?”

A huge grin spread across Lexi’s face. She found a pair of sneakers that were getting tight. Hamilton found some ribbon and changed out the laces to be colorful and said he’d have Laurens paint the toes.

Out of breath from running part of the way, Laurens rang the doorbell and soon had Lexi chattering in his ear as she grabbed the paint he brought and shoved her shoes at him.

“Slow down, bud,” Hamilton said with a chuckle. He explained to Laurens their idea and he got to work painting designs on Lexi’s shoes while father and daughter “artistically” splashed paint on the overalls.

“Daddy, you don’t have a matching costume now.” Lexi frowned. “Now what do we do?”

“He can be your painting,” Laurens said. “I’ll paint your daddy’s face and hands.”

“Yeah!” Lexi squealed. “Right, Daddy? You do that?”

“Sure,” Hamilton agreed. It was better than wearing a tutu anyway.

While the overalls and shoes dried, Laurens got out the face paints that he’d brought figuring Lexi would need some smudges on her face. “How am I painting him, Lexi?”

Lexi tapped on her lips as she studied her dad. “A flower.” She ran into Hamilton’s room and called out. “I have an idea!”

Hamilton and Laurens shared a look of partial fear.

Lexi returned with brown pants and a green sweater. “Dirt and stem and Daddy’s face is the pretty flower parts.”

“Very creative,” Laurens praised her. “Are you thinking a daisy?”

“Sunflower,” Lexi said.

“Even better.” Laurens stood Hamilton in the kitchen where the light was best and got to work turning his face into a sunflower.

Hamilton wrinkled his nose and shifted his weight as the brush tickled his cheeks.

“Hold still,” murmured Laurens. He tried to avoid staring into Hamilton’s eyes and losing his focus.

“Tickles.” A shiver ran through his body.

“I’m gonna mess up if you don’t hold still.” His tongue poked out between his teeth as he concentrated.

Hamilton reached up to scratch his nose.

But Laurens smacked his hand away and kissed him instead. “Hold still,” he whispered, lips barely an inch away from Hamilton’s.

“Only if you kiss me again.” Hamilton closed his eyes, his lips tingling from the sweet warmth of Laurens’ lips. 

Laurens obliged for another quick kiss. “Now, let me finish.”

He just finished painting when a knock sounded on the front door. A grimace settled on Hamilton’s sunflower face. He hoped it wasn’t any neighbor kids trick-or-treating since he hadn’t bought any candy except a little for himself and Lexi. He answered the door, ready to shoo away the costumed child and instead stumbled back at the sight of Lafayette in what, he guessed, was a sexy cop costume that left little—if anything—to the imagination.

“Um...” Hamilton didn’t know where to look, definitely not at the black spandex short-shorts or weird partially mesh vest with ‘police’ across the chest. “Did you forget your costume?”

“No.” Lafayette grabbed him in a hug. “Happy Halloween!”

“You got the ‘ween’ right,” Hamilton mumbled and extracted himself from the uncomfortable embrace. “How did you not freeze outside?”

“It’s a belle nuit,” Lafayette declared, his accent more prominent than usual.

“Uncle Laffy!” Lexi jumped up as soon as Laurens finished adding paint splatters to her face. She ran over. “I’m an artist!” Her eyes widened as she stared at him. “I can see you boobies. And your pe—”

Hamilton clapped a hand over her mouth and his arm over her eyes. “Laf, cover up with a blanket or something. You are not appropriate for little eyes.”

“She’s not going to understand,” Lafayette said. “You’re suffocating the bébé.”

“She’s four.” Hamilton kept Lexi’s eyes covered but removed his hand from her mouth. “Go get a blanket.”

“That defeats the purpose of a costume,” Lafayette replied. “Bonjour, John.”

Laurens waved, too preoccupied trying not to laugh to speak.

“Are you and him fucking?” Lafayette questioned, pushing up his dark sunglasses.

“Ahhgg!” Hamilton half-screamed and tried to cover Lexi’s ears and eyes at the same time.

“Daddy,” Lexi whined, “you’re gonna mess up my face paint.”

“Go play in your room for a minute.” Hamilton turned her away from Lafayette and gave her a firm nudge toward her bedroom. He contemplated going with her or leaving the apartment entirely.

“I don’t comprends pourquoi tu es concerné.” Lafayette paused. “Um, concerned, yes?” He reached for something behind him. “Look, I have handcuffs.”

Laurens snorted, face going red as he laughed silently and pounded a fist against the floor.

“Time for you to go,” Hamilton decided but had no desire to put his hands anywhere on Lafayette’s bare skin and there was too little cloth to utilize. 

“I could handcuff you,” Lafayette said and twirled the cuffs around his finger. “Be like old times.”

“Out!” Hamilton opened the door and pointed.

“You are no fun anymore, Alexander.” Lafayette moved toward the door. “We will party later.”

“No.” Hamilton shut the door in his friend’s face. He locked it and let out a long sigh. “He was drunk as a skunk.”

Laurens snorted again. “That was priceless!”

“Can I come out?” Lexi shouted.

Hamilton rubbed his forehead. “Yes, bud.”

The child ran over. “What was Uncle Laffy wearing?”

“Um...” Hamilton sucked in his lips. “Something that was not appropriate for the eyes of small children.”

“Why?” Lexi stared up at him, her freckles standing out more against the paint smudges.

“Because.” Hamilton looked to Laurens whose eyes watered as he choked back more laughter.

“Why?” Lexi persisted.

“Because he was too uncovered,” he stammered. “It’s not nice to make other people uncomfortable with one’s outfit choice.”

“Why?”

Hamilton rubbed the back of his neck, cheeks red.

“Hey, Lex,” Laurens called out. “Lafayette was dressed for an adult-only party not dressed to be around sweet little Lexi’s. Daddy doesn’t want you seeing that much of your Uncle Laffy.”

“Okay.” Lexi grinned at him. “I could see his—”

“We know.” Hamilton gritted his teeth. “That wasn’t very considerate of Uncle Laffy.” He nudged Lexi toward the bathroom. “Use the potty and put on your overalls.” He joined Laurens by the couch and grumbled, “I am going to kill him. He has no morals or concept of children.”

“He really doesn’t,” Laurens agreed.

“Do you want to go to Brooklyn with us?” Hamilton asked.

“I’d love to, but—” He tucked Hamilton’s hair back behind his ears “I promised Mary Eleanor I’d take her trick-or-treating so I need to get going.”

“Okay.” Hamilton kissed him. “I’ll see you tomorrow night.” He saw Laurens out and changed his own clothes and helped Lexi buckle her overalls. “All set, bud?”

Lexi bounced up and down. “Yeah!”

They weren’t the only ones in costume on the subway, although Hamilton betted he was the only sunflower in the city.

“Remember, you stay right next to Daddy,” Hamilton reminded his daughter as they neared their stop. “It’ll be dark and busy. I don’t want to lose you.”

“I ‘member.” Lexi swung her legs.

“You don’t eat any of the candy until I see it, okay?”

“Yes, Daddy.”

He knew the razorblades and drugs in candy was more myth than factual, but he would still take no chances. He also hoped Lexi wouldn’t remember most of what she was given and he could switch it out with the candy he bought and avoid any risk of his child eating tainted sweets.

They got off the subway in Brooklyn and Hamilton held tight to Lexi’s hand as they walked to the Schuyler’s. There, the women took pictures and cooed over Lexi’s artist costume.

“Treat time!” Lexi shouted and ran for the front door. “Daddy, go!

“Have fun,” Eliza told them. “We’ll have hot chocolate when you get back.”

Hamilton thanked her and followed out his eager daughter. He caught her hand and she pulled him along.

“Mr. Bald’s house first.” Lexi tugged harder. “Hurry, Daddy.”

“It’s not a race, bud.” Hamilton glanced around at costumed kids crowding the sidewalk. Masks made him leery and he wanted to take Lexi back home. Maybe she’d be satisfied with just going to Washington’s house.

The front of the townhouse was decked out festively with jack-o-lanterns lighting up a Betsy Ross American flag. It made sense when Washington answered their knock in Revolutionary War uniform. Behind him holding a basket of candy, Martha was decked out in a colonial gown and cap.

“Trick or treat!” Lexi shouted and held out her bag.

“You look adorable, Alexis,” Washington said and Martha put a large handful of candy in the bag.

“Thank you.” Lexi beamed. “I’m an artist like John. Daddy is my painting.”

“Very clever.” Martha smiled at them.

“You have quite the clever theme, too,” Hamilton said. “I bet—”

“Alexander!”

Hamilton cringed hearing his name with a French accent.

Lafayette appeared inside behind the couple. He’d put on additional clothes at least but stumbled more. He clapped Washington the shoulder. “Watch out, Alex likes a man in uniform.” He winked at Hamilton.

“Laf…” Hamilton wondered how rude it would be to pick up Lexi and flee down the stairs.

“At a Halloween party once,” Lafayette went on, “he flirted much with a man in uniform like yours, Washington. I bet the uniform didn’t last the night.”

Washington cleared his throat. “Well…” He gave Lexi another handful of candy. “Have fun, Alexis.”

“Thank you.”

Hamilton nodded his thanks, glared at Lafayette, and hurried Lexi down the steps.

Lexi skipped along to the next house. “Uncle Laffy put clothes on. He’s weird.”

“Washington probably made him.” Hamilton stopped a yawn. “Lafayette is very weird.”

They stopped at five houses on the block and Hamilton steered Lexi back toward the Schuyler’s. She received handfuls of candy at every house and her bag already grew heavy.

“Pick a few more houses, bud.” Hamilton carried her treat bag. “Your aunts will likely have more candy for you, too.”

Lexi agreed and drew closer to him as a group of clowns walked by.

Full bag of candy, they returned to the Schuyler’s townhouse and joined the family for hot chocolate and pumpkin bread.

“Did you have fun, Lexi?” Philip asked.

“Yeah!” Lexi blew on her drink. “But I liked getting ready the best cause John was with us.”

Catherine, Angelica, and Eliza practically melted in their chairs.

“That is the sweetest thing,” Angelica said. “He did a wonderful job painting your daddy.”

Lexi smiled at Hamilton. “He did.”

Hamilton kissed the top of her head. “We’ll let John know how much everyone loved his costume design.”

“We give him some candy, too,” Lexi said.

“Excellent idea.” He could get rid of a bunch of it that way, Hamilton thought.

Once snacks were finished, Catherine gave Lexi another goodie bag of candy and an extra loaf of pumpkin bread.

“Alright, bud.” Hamilton guided Lexi toward the door and they called out their goodbyes. “Success?” he asked her.

Lexi gave a big yawn. “Yeah. John likes you.”

“Hmm.” Hamilton squeezed her hand. “I meant your candy collection.”

“Oh.” She wrapped her arms around him. “Very successful. I love you.”

“I love you, too, but Daddy is still going through all the candy before you get any of it.”

Lexi huffed. “I knew it.”

Hamilton chuckled and squeezed her hand. “Happy Halloween, bud.”

Chapter Text

Lexi crawled in bed with Hamilton early Friday morning. When he heard the rain lashing against the windows, he knew why and cuddled her close. When his alarm went off, Hamilton hit snooze to give himself a few extra minutes with his daughter. A smile tugged at his lips when he remembered he had a date with Laurens that night.

The second time the alarm blared he dragged himself up and tucked Lexi into his spot. He showered, dressed, fed Croix, and started breakfast.

Lexi yawned as she came out of his room. She brightened when she saw her bag of goodies on the counter. “Candy.”

“You can have one piece after breakfast,” Hamilton told her. “From the stuff your aunts gave you. I still have to look at the rest.”

While she chose her dessert, Hamilton spread strawberry jam on toast and cut into four triangles. “Eat up, bud.”

By the time Eliza arrived, Lexi had finished her toast and unwrapped a mini Reese’s cup. “Candy for breakfast!” she exclaimed.

Eliza chuckled. “I doubt Daddy would let you only eat candy.”

“He did,” she insisted. “I can have candy for lunch, too.”

Hamilton came out of his bedroom slipping on his blazer. “Nope. You can have one piece if you have fruit with lunch.”

“Okay,” Lexi agreed. She finished her candy and hugged him goodbye.

It was a wet walk to work even with an umbrella. Hamilton took Lexi’s earlier advice and wore boots. He changed to loafers in the office.

Burr arrived a few minutes later and hung up his jacket.

“How was your Halloween?” Hamilton asked.

“We took Theo to Trunk or Treat at our church,” Burr said, fighting a yawn. “She had fun. Did you take Lexi out?” He logged into his computer.

“Yeah.” Hamilton rubbed his chilled fingers together. He busied himself before he blurted out his evening plans.

At the end of the day, he slipped out quickly and ran home to change.

Eliza stood at the stove making dinner for herself and Lexi while the tot helped her dad dress and gave him advice.

“Make sure you tell John he looks pretty,” Lexi said. “And he smells nice.”

“Thanks, bud.” Hamilton buttoned his flannel shirt. “How did you get so smart?”

“You teach me.”

“Yeah, but I don’t know anything about dating.”

“It’s called manners, Daddy,” Lexi said with an eye roll. “You should know that.”

“You’re right.” Hamilton kissed the top of her head.

He headed downstairs to meet Laurens outside and tried to find his courtroom confidence. Just when he thought he had it, Laurens smiled at him.

“Hey, Alex.”

“You smell pretty,” Hamilton blurted and cringed inwardly. “Nice. You smell nice.”

Laurens chuckled. “Thanks.” He held out his hand. “Hungry?”

Hamilton laced his cold fingers through Laurens’ warm ones. “Starved.”

The seafood restaurant was a few blocks away and they made it before the dinner rush. They were soon seated in a booth and looked over the menu.

“I haven’t had shrimp in forever,” Hamilton said as he browsed his options. “What’re you getting?”

Laurens thought for a moment. “Fish and chips,” he decided. 

Order placed, the two men sat in silence, Hamilton straightening his silverware and Laurens staring at his hands. They both spoke up at the same time.

“You first,” Hamilton said.

“How’s Lexi?” Laurens asked. “She wasn’t upset about not coming, was she?”

“Nah. She’s...” He trailed off, cheeks growing warm.

“Hmm?” Laurens tilted his head to the side.

“She’s very supportive,” said Hamilton, eyes on the table. “She really wants you and me to date.”

“Good.” Laurens reached over and rested a hand on Hamilton’s. “Because I would officially like to ask you to be my boyfriend.”

Hamilton met his eyes, a smile stretching across his lips. “I’d like that.” He took a deep breath. “I still need to go slow, though.”

“I like that plan.” Laurens squeezed Hamilton’s hand and continued to hold it tight. “Unfortunately I have one small concern.” 

The smile left Hamilton’s face at once and he pulled his hand free. His stomach tightened and his heart sped up. It was Lexi, he knew. It was why he’d never even considered dating. No one wanted to deal with the baggage of a potential stepchild.

“I’m probably going to Scotland in the spring,” Laurens said, eyes downcast. “It would mean trying to make this work long-distance for a few months. If you think that would be too difficult, I wouldn’t hold you to mono—”

Hamilton sighed with relief, grabbed Laurens’ hand back in his and interrupted him. “John, that doesn’t bother me. If that is your only concern, we can definitely make it work.”

Laurens stroked the back of Hamilton’s hand. “You thought I was going to say my concern was Lexi.”

Hamilton nodded.

“I love Lexi.” He crushed Hamilton’s fingers between his own. “Frankly, I might miss her most.”

Hamilton chuckled. “I won’t hold that against you. I couldn’t be away from her. She’s everything to me.”

“I admire that about you.” Laurens slipped his fingertips up the sleeve of Hamilton’s shirt. “You’re an amazing father to her. She’s the smartest, sweetest, most well-mannered child I’ve met.”

“Thanks, John.” Hamilton shivered at Laurens gentle touch and was glad the table remained between them and keep him from regretting his request to go slow.

The waiter approached with their food and Laurens pulled away. Alone again, Hamilton grinned. “This looks delicious. I don’t think I’ve ever been this hungry before.”

Laurens returned his smile. “Lexi shared some of her French with me.” A teasing glimmer shined in his dark eyes. “Bone apple teeth.”

Hamilton snorted. “We’re still working on pronunciation.” He popped a piece of shrimp in his mouth. “I don’t have enough time to teach her consistently and Lafayette’s accent confuses her.”

“Same.” Laurens busted out laughing. “I can barely understand him half the time. If he’s drunk, it’s impossible.”

“Right?” Hamilton’s eyes sparkled. “He’s something else.”

They roasted their friend for a few minutes in between bites. Hamilton paused and rubbed at his lips. “Um...”

Laurens winced. “Your face is swelling, Alex.” He got up from his seat in haste. “Are you allergic to shrimp?”

“I didn’t think I was.” He coughed at the itchy sensation in his throat and scratched at his chest.

“Can you breathe?” Laurens reached for his coat and pulled out a small first aid kit.

Hamilton nodded. 

Laurens handed him a Benadryl. “We should take you to the hospital.” He put ample cash on the table and dragged Hamilton up. “Your whole facing is swelling now.”

“I’m itchy.” Hamilton struggled to scratch every itch at once.

Laurens tugged him along. He pulled out his phone to find the nearest medical clinic. He hurried his boyfriend down the block, asking every minute if he could still breathe. 

When they arrived at the nearest walk-in clinic, Laurens shoved Hamilton at the check-in desk. “He’s allergic to shrimp.”

The woman handed him a clipboard and asked a few questions. Assured Hamilton wasn’t about to die, she told them to take a seat.

Hamilton scratched at the hives on the back of his hands as he filled in the forms. He tried to talk but his lips were too swollen to make sounds clearly. 

“Should I call Eliza?” Laurens asked. 

Hamilton shook his head and pulled out his own phone. He sent a quick text: Might be late, apparently I’m allergic to shrimp.

By the time the doctor saw Hamilton, the medication had kicked in and made him loopy. He slurred out words through puffy lips and choked on his own spit. The doctor gave him a shot and suggested allergy testing before sending him home.

“Well...” Laurens held tight to Hamilton’s arm as he stumbled on wobbly legs. “I don’t think we’ll forget our first date.”

Hamilton giggled. The swelling on his lips started to go down but his words continued to jumble.

For Laurens, it was the longest walk ever to get to the apartment but Hamilton later told him that he remembered none of it himself, the Benadryl making him dazed and drunk-like.

Inside the apartment, Lexi was asleep and Eliza helped Laurens get Hamilton to his bedroom, Croix meowing at them in confusion from the kitchen counter. She shut the door to make sure they didn’t wake the child.

“Just an allergic reaction?” Eliza asked.

“Yeah.” Laurens struggled to get Hamilton’s uncooperative body on the bed. “It wasn’t too severe. Alex clearly does not handle medication well.”

“No kidding.” She grabbed Hamilton’s noodle legs and they got him situated.

Laurens watched his boyfriend’s eyes close. “I can stay the night.” He turned to Eliza. “I know you probably want to get home.”

“It’s okay.” Eliza got a spare blanket and covered Hamilton since they hadn’t gotten him under the covers. “I brought an overnight bag so I’m prepared. You don’t want to be stuck sleeping in jeans.”

He wanted to argue but knew Eliza was probably more qualified to take care of the two Hamilton’s through the night and morning. “Tell him I’ll talk to him tomorrow.”

“Will do.” Eliza saw him out and locked the door. She made sure Lexi remained asleep, pet Croix, checked on Hamilton again and took off his shoes, then got ready for bed and made herself comfortable on the couch. She knew Laurens would have been perfectly capable keeping an eye on Hamilton and watching Lexi in the morning if her dad remained woozy but she wasn’t quite ready to transfer her duty of helping them out to someone else. If she didn’t have Hamilton and Lexi to take care of, what was she supposed to do? She remembered when Hamilton showed up in Brooklyn after a year later of little contact with them. He had checked in just enough for them to know he was alive and busy with law school. Then he was on their doorstep with a baby, overwhelmed, exhausted, and nearly in tears. It had been hard at first to piece the story together between him crying, Lexi crying, and everyone trying to comfort and hug both of them. Apparently, one of his law professors had objected to the baby being in class and forced Hamilton to drop the class if he didn’t find other arrangements. He needed help, he begged the Schuyler’s. If he had to drop that class, he’d graduate late and needed his degree to give Lexi the best life.

Eliza had offered to watch the baby at once. She’d started college that fall herself and hated every minute of it.

Knowing Eliza had babysat a lot as a teen and took jobs at daycare centers in the summer Hamilton hadn’t hesitated to agree. It was only two days at first since he liked having the baby with him. Eliza didn’t blame him; Lexi was the sweetest little thing. But she gradually watched Lexi more and more until it became full-time. It became her job, her duty to take care of the child and her dad. She knew things would change when Lexi started school but she would still be needed in the afternoon. She didn’t want to find another job, a different child to watch. It was selfish not to want her best friend to get married. But she had always thought she had a forever place with them.

She didn’t want to be alone. But she knew Hamilton didn’t want to be alone either.

Chapter Text

First thing the next morning, Hamilton was on the phone with Lexi’s pediatrician setting up an appointment to have her tested for allergies. 

“Alex,” Eliza yawned, “it’s literally 7:01. Is the office even open?”

“Yes,” Hamilton said, then spoke to the receptionist. “I need to make an appointment for Alexis Hamilton.” 

He soon had an appointment set up for her that afternoon. Lexi’s doctor was in Brooklyn and had treated all the Schuyler sisters. Everyone there knew Alexis Hamilton was a top priority client...and that her dad was an absolute health-phobic nut when it came to anything ailing his daughter.

“Maybe you should be the one getting allergy tested,” Eliza told Hamilton after he hung up.

“I can just avoid shellfish,” Hamilton said. 

Eliza got up from the couch. “Are you feeling better at least?”

“Yeah.” He started coffee brewing and fed Croix, the cat bumping him under the chin and purring. Hamilton still had some hives but the swelling in his face had all gone down and the medicine had worn off. “Did John say anything?”

“That he would talk to you today,” Eliza said. She joined him in the kitchen and got out two mugs. 

“Hopefully not to break up with me.” Hamilton let out a long sigh. “I’m such a miserable person to be with.”

“Alexander,” Eliza scolded. “Don’t you dare talk like that. You’re amazing in every way and I know John sees that.” She wrapped her arms around him and peered into his dark blue eyes. “You deserve to be happy. Try not to forget about me when you are.”

“You’re my little sister.” Hamilton squeezed her tight. “I would never forget you. I’ll always need you and your family.”

“Thanks, Alex.”

They had coffee together and Eliza changed and headed home. Hamilton woke Lexi and made the usual Saturday morning pancakes. 

“So... bud...”

Lexi’s eyes narrowed. “What did you do?”

“Me?” Hamilton faked surprise. “Maybe you did something, little princess.”

“Nope.” Lexi crossed her arms. “What did you do?”

Hamilton huffed. “Apparently I’m allergic to shrimp and had to go to the doctor last night. I need to make sure you don’t have allergies so you’re going to the doctor this afternoon.”

“Ugh!” Lexi threw herself on the couch. “I can’t leave you alone for nothing.”

“I know, bud.” Hamilton flipped the pancakes. “Doctor this afternoon, okay?”

Lexi dragged herself off the couch. “What if I do have algae?”

“Allergies,” Hamilton corrected. “Then you’ll take medicine or get a shot if they’re severe. You’re probably fine but Daddy wants to be safe.”

“How will they know if I have algae?” Lexi got out plates for breakfast.

“Allergies,” he persisted. “The doctor will do a test on your skin to see if you react.”

“Hurt?”

“Maybe a little.” Hamilton chewed on his lip. Did he really want to put his daughter through a scratch test? But it would be better to know if she was allergic to anything before they found out the hard—and potentially deadly—way.

“I brave.” Lexi stuck out her little chin.

“You’re very brave, bud.” He smiled at the little redhead.

After breakfast, they did the routine Saturday morning chores, had lunch, and headed to Brooklyn. Lexi was her usual chatty self on the subway but Hamilton fretted, working himself into a panic that Lexi would be allergic to everything, even though that was irrational since she’d never exhibited any signs. What if she was allergic to cats? He couldn’t rehome Croix.

“Daddy.” Lexi nudged his arm. “‘member when we rode the subway to school?”

“Yeah.” Hamilton dragged his focus back to reality.

“You read me books.”

“You remember that?” Hamilton stroked back her hair. “You were just a little thing.”

Lexi nodded. “You teached me lots of stuff.”

“I sure tried.”

They arrived in Brooklyn and caught a bus to the doctor’s office. Lexi skipped through the door and to the counter. She couldn’t reach, except her fingertips when she stood on her toes. “Alexis Hamilton,” she said.

The receptionist smiled. “We’ll be ready in just a few minutes.”

Hamilton led her over to a chair and lifted her on his lap.

“Books, Daddy.” Lexi pointed to the basket of children’s books on the floor.

“Those are way too germy.” Hamilton folded her hands in his.

A few minutes later, the nurse called Lexi’s name and led them back. “Let’s get a weight and height on you first, dear.”

Lexi hopped up on the scale.

Hamilton grimaced at the number, knowing the doctor would flag her as underweight. She was a tiny kid in general, but what if she had a metabolic problem? 

“Your turn, Daddy!” Lexi exclaimed and hopped down.

The nurse nodded that he could. 

At once, Lexi crowded on the scale with him and peered at the number. “One-five-two. You’re big, Daddy.”

“That’s because your weight is on there, too, bud.” He knew he was perpetually underweight himself, too. Growing up with chronic malnutrition didn’t make for a healthy adulthood. Could malnutrition be passed on?

Don’t be stupid, he scolded himself. He made sure Lexi ate a well-balanced diet and she had regular check-ups. She was small for her age as he’d always been. 

“Come along, Miss Lexi.” The nurse showed them into an exam room.

Hamilton lifted Lexi onto the big chair and stood next to her, shoulders hunched, jaw clenched. 

“Let’s look you over and we’ll get the doctor in here,” said the nurse. 

Lexi was a model patient having her vitals checked. She giggled when the nurse checked her reflexes and her knee kicked out.

“All good.” The nurse smiled at her. “The doctor will be in shortly.”

Once the nurse left, Hamilton hugged his daughter. “You’re such a brave baby.”

“I’m not a baby.” She wiggled from his grasp.

“Sorry.” Hamilton squeezed her tighter and let go.

The doctor soon came in. “There’s our favorite patient.” He faked sighed. “And her father.”

“Daddy has algae,” Lexi said.

“Algae, huh?” The doctor smiled. “That doesn’t sound good.”

“Nope.” Lexi shook her head. “Now I has to be tested for algae, too. Will it hurt?”

“A few pokes is all.” The doctor checked her file. “We’ll do the basic allergy test,” he told Hamilton. “If you can help Lexi out of her shirt.”

Hamilton reached to unzip Lexi’s hoodie.

“I have bunny ears,” Lexi told the doctor and pulled up her hood to show the attached ears.

“That’s adorable,” he exclaimed. “And your shirt has a bunny on it, too.”

“Yup!” Lexi lifted her arms for Hamilton to pull off the long-sleeve shirt. “I have bunnies on my undies, too. Daddy has ponies on his.”

The doctor choked back laughter and coughed while Hamilton’s face went red.

“Rainbow Dash,” Lexi added to her father’s further horror.

“Adorable.” The doctor struggled to remain professional and fight the smirk off his face. “Ready for some pokes, Lexi?” 

She took a deep breath. “Will it hurt like my baby shots?”

“No,” he assured. “But you may get itchy if you’re allergic to something.”

“You having something on hand—” Hamilton butted in, in a frantic voice, “—to stop a bad reaction, right?” He gnawed on the cuff of his hoodie.

“Yes.” The doctor held back a sigh. If the little child wasn’t the honorary granddaughter of Philip Schuyler, he would have referred them elsewhere long ago. “Alright, Lexi. I’m going to put drops of stuff you might be allergic to on your back and poke a tiny needle into your skin. Can you be brave like you are for your vaccinations?”

“Yeah.” Lexi swung her legs. “Daddy, can you be brave?”

Hamilton stopped chewing on his cuff. “I’m trying, bud.” He sidled closer to the doctor and watched him put the drops on Lexi’s back and use a lancet needle to prick her skin.

“If you could take a step back, Alex,” the doctor chided. “I may accidentally stick you otherwise.”

Hamilton continued to hover nearby as the doctor poked Lexi with more potential allergens and the child sighed in boredom.

“That one looks red.” Hamilton pointed to his daughter’s back. “What one was that?”

“Histamine.” The doctor tried to nudge Hamilton out of the way. “Most people react to it and we use it to make sure the skin reacts normally.”

“Hmmm.” Hamilton picked at his bottom lip. “Are you testing for cat allergies? We have a cat.”

“Yes. Please step back.” The doctor lightened his voice. “How’re we doing, Lexi?”

“This is boring.” Lexi yawned. “Do you have a book?”

“Almost done, child.” He glared at Hamilton creeping closer again.

“What about peanuts?” Hamilton asked. “So many kids have deadly peanut allergies now.”

“You would have noticed such an allergy by now,” the doctor said.

“But allergies can come at any age.” Hamilton paced a few steps back and forth. “I wasn’t allergic to shellfish before.”

The doctor closed his eyes briefly. “Maybe you were and didn’t know it. Did you eat seafood a lot as a child?”

“I dunno.” Hamilton peered at Lexi’s back. “Mostly fish sticks.” He pointed to one of the test spots. “That one is red.”

“That’s the histamine.” He took a deep breath. “Please, step back, Alex.”

“Daddy,” Lexi whined. “Sit.”

Hamilton dragged over the extra chair in the room and sat close to the doctor. He chewed on his nails and winced every time Lexi was poked.

“All done.” The doctor vacated his spot between father and daughter. “We’ll wait fifteen minutes. I’ll send the nurse in.” He practically fled out of the room.

The nurse returned to monitor Lexi’s back.

“I’m bored,” Lexi informed her.

The nurse found her a pamphlet on vaccines to read.

Hamilton never took his eyes off Lexi’s back and asked her frequently if she felt itchy.

“Not really.” Lexi pointed to her brochure. “What’s this word?”

He ignored her request. “Where does it itch? Can you breathe?”

“Alex, calm down.” The nurse moved him out of the way and checked Lexi’s skin. “It looks like she had a mild reaction go shellfish. Probably as minor as your own. We can do further testing.”

“Yes,” Hamilton blurted. “Is their treatment to cure it?”

“We’ll leave that to the expert.” She gave a strained smile. She jotted down the results and cleaned Lexi’s back. “Okay, dear, you can get dressed.”

Hamilton helped her back into the blue bunny shirt and pink hoodie.

The nurse left to get the doctor and Hamilton peppered him with questions at once.

“Send me an email,” the doctor said. “I’ll answer all your questions. We can do additional testing next week.”

“Fine.” Hamilton lifted Lexi into his arms. “What if she has a reaction when we get home? What should I be looking for?”

In response, the doctor handed him some paperwork. “This explains all about the test and potential side effects. We have no fears that Lexi is going to go home and have a major reaction. Alright, Alex?”

Hamilton nodded. “Thank you, sir.”

***

They read the papers on the way home and Hamilton checked Lexi over once at the apartment. No rashes, bumps or redness.

“You worry too much,” Lexi informed him as he checked her back again. “Call John.”

“I should, shouldn’t I?” Hamilton felt his daughter’s forehead.

“Yes!” Lexi ran to her room for some peace and quiet.

Hamilton opted to text Laurens instead to be able to explain the situation faster. As he typed, doubt crept in about why Laurens hadn’t tried to contact him at all himself. Maybe Laurens regretted this already and wanted out.

Stop overthinking! Hamilton commanded himself and hit send. He tried to find something to do while he waited for a reply but could only stare at the screen until it went dark and then immediately unlock the phone in case Laurens had replied just before the phone locked.

Two very long minutes later, Laurens replied.

No worries! I got called into work this morning. It’s been crazy all day. I just got off. Have you had dinner yet? Maybe I could bring something over?

Sighing with relief and wondering why he worked himself up so bad, Hamilton agreed. Your choice! Whatever is on your way.

Okay, be there in about twenty minutes.

Hamilton set his phone aside and called to Lexi. “John is going to bring dinner over.”

Lexi squealed from her room.

Exactly twenty minutes later, Laurens arrived at the apartment. “I was going to get seafood,” he teased as Hamilton answered the door, “but decided chicken sounded better.”

“Good call.” He took the carryout bag. “May I kiss you?”

A smile pulled at Laurens’ lips. “Yeah.”

They were only allowed a brief kiss, though, as Lexi shouted “Food!” and attacked the bag in Hamilton’s hand.

“Easy, child.” Hamilton helped her set the bag on the table. He shivered when Laurens’ hand touched his back and he leaned into the gentle pressure.

The table was soon set and Lexi said the usual grace but added, “Please stop making Daddy freak out over everything and tell him I don’t have bad algae. Amen.”

Hamilton raised an eyebrow at her and added his own addition. “Please tell Lexi that Daddy does his worrying for her own good. Amen.”

The two Hamilton’s looked at Laurens.

He dropped their hands. “That’s between the two of you and Jesus. Don’t involve me.”

“We’re gonna involve you,” Lexi said and reached for the mashed potatoes. “Daddy worries too much, doesn’t he?”

“Ehhh.” Laurens pressed his lips tight as he struggled not to grin.

“I worry out of love,” Hamilton said. He set a drumstick on Lexi’s plate. “John, how was work?”

The three chattered through dinner and dishes. Croix received a few pieces of chicken and turned into a tiger as he chowed down.

“Can we watch a movie, Daddy?” Lexi asked.

“If John doesn’t mind staying a little longer,” Hamilton replied.

“Nope,” Laurens said as if anyone could say no to those large blue eyes on a chubby-cheeked redhead.

Lexi showed him the movie cabinet and they looked through the options.

“Can I tell you a secret?” Laurens asked.

Lexi bobbed her head with enthusiasm. 

“You can call me Jack,” he told her softly. “Everyone in my family does.”

A toothy grin spread across Lexi’s face. “I like it!”

“What do we like?” Hamilton asked as he joined them.

“I know a secret!” Lexi said and instantly spilled it, “I can call him Jack!”

“Jack, huh?” Hamilton looked to Laurens.

“It’s what I usually go by with friends and family,” he said. “John feels like my work name.” 

“Then we’ll call you Jack.” Hamilton leaned closer and kissed him.

102 Dalmatians!” Lexi shouted and grabbed the DVD case. “I love Oddball.”

Hamilton pressed his face against Laurens’ chest, fighting back laughter. He’s always figured attempting to date with a child would be difficult and he was glad to have found someone who wouldn’t mind the constant interruptions. Laurens laughed along with him, rolled him over, and pinned him to the floor.

“No fair,” Hamilton teased, “you’re bigger.”

“I help you, Daddy!” Lexi climbed on Laurens’ back.

Laurens chuckled. “Neither of you weigh anything.”

“One-five-two combined!” Lexi shouted. She wrapped her arms around Laurens’ neck. “What do you weigh?”

“Probably seventy pounds more than that,” Laurens replied. He stared into Hamilton’s eyes, lost in the blue that appeared more violet the longer he looked and slowly consumed by his dilating pupils.

Lexi tugged gently on Laurens’ ponytail. “Horsey!”

Hamilton broke their staredown. He pushed himself up and brushed a finger against Laurens’ cheek. “I’ll make hot chocolate.”

While Hamilton did that, Laurens crawled around with Lexi on his back until the drinks were ready. She got off to put in the movie and joined them on the couch.

It didn’t take her long to fall asleep, worn out from her busy day.

“I should go,” Laurens whispered to Hamilton. “Any chance I could get a goodnight kiss?”

“Of course.” Hamilton got off the couch with him and waited while Laurens put on his coat. He wrapped his arms around his boyfriend and trailed kisses along his jaw.

A soft moan escaped Laurens and he pulled Hamilton tighter and brought their lips together. Gentle at first and growing hungrier until Hamilton was pressed against the door.

After a minute, Hamilton turned away to stop the amazing kiss. “You’re turning me on too much,” he teased, breathless.

Laurens rested his forehead against his boyfriend’s. “Same. Dinner again soon?”

“Yeah.” He squeezed tight to Laurens’ hand and didn’t want to let go. But he knew if they rushed this, it would be over in a few months. It was worth it to go slow and let their trust build. Better for them and—most importantly—better for Lexi.

Chapter Text

Hamilton arrived at the office first and logged into his computer. He checked his email and replied to a few but after ten minutes, the quiet got to him and he wondered where Burr was. His partner was never late.

He pulled out his phone to send a text when Washington’s broad frame filled the doorway. 

“Did Aaron call in sick?” Hamilton asked.

“He had to take his wife to the hospital,” Washington replied. “You’ll need to meet with Jefferson and Madison.”

Hamilton closed his eyes briefly. For one, he’d put it far out of his mind that Jefferson would be starting at the firm and today. Two, if Theodosia had to be rushed to the hospital, it could only mean another miscarriage. As much as he selfishly didn’t want them busy with a baby, he knew they’d both be devastated to go through the pain again.

“Yes, sir,” he murmured.

“Nine o’clock.” Washington watched his dejected young lawyer and realized how much Hamilton and Burr relied on each other. They were both so young that having one another to lean on gave them the arrogance they needed to make themselves heard. They knew they had each other’s backs. “Alex—” the dark blue eyes glanced at him “—show Jefferson whose boss. If he tries to walk all over you, push him down.”

A little enthusiasm glimmered in the kid’s eyes. “Yes, sir.”

A half-hour later, Hamilton headed for the meeting room. He was first and took the seat at the head of the table.

Jefferson and Madison arrived together a few minutes later. Madison—dressed entirely in black and coughing—took a seat further down the table. Jefferson, though, eyed Hamilton with a frown. He tucked a hand in between the buttons on his gold paisley vest. “Move.”

Hamilton pointed to the chair next to him. “Sit.”

Jefferson’s nostrils flared and his eyes narrowed. “I’ll stand.”

Should he stand as well, Hamilton wondered? But that would make their height difference even more noticeable. Sitting at least made it reasonable why he was staring up. Or he could be the bigger person and take a different seat and suggest no one sit at the head of the table. But Washington had told him to be the boss. If he backed down now, Jefferson would always take advantage of him.

“Fine,” he snapped. Hamilton slid a folder of papers at Jefferson purposely too hard and smirked as it fell off the desk and made a mess. He more nicely handed a folder to Madison, an eye on Jefferson as he bent down to pick up the papers. “Let’s get started.”

Hamilton spoke a mile a minute, gesturing emphatically as he went through several cases and went into minute detail on the way this firm processed everything.

After listening to him spit out words rapid-fire for fifteen minutes, Jefferson interrupted when Hamilton took a second to catch his breath. “How many drugs are you on? No way you can talk that much without being on opioids.”

“Anti-depressants,” Hamilton replied and launched into another long-winded speech. He spoke louder when Madison broke into a coughing fit. His dark blue eyes bore up into Jefferson’s face, hardly blinking, taking in the pinched brows and deep frown of his rival. He grew light-headed and finally had to take more than a second to breathe.

“Well...” Jefferson snorted and shifted his weight on his aching feet an hour later. “That was overwhelmingly honest and long.” He glanced at his partner failing to hide a yawn. “I have questions.”

Hamilton sucked in a deep breath. “Ask away.”

“Why are you such an angry, little gremlin?” Jefferson asked. “I know some short people bottle up a lot of rage but James doesn’t. What’re you trying to compensate for?”

Hamilton smacked a hand against the papers spread out before him. “Ask about law, Mr. Jefferson,” he quipped abruptly. 

“Your daughter—”

Hamilton jumped up. “Don’t you dare talk about my child!” He stood on his chair. “You know nothing about me! Your age gives you nothing! Don’t act like—” The chair tipped forward and Hamilton’s feet slipped and he smashed his face into the table and landed back on his bottom. 

Madison hurried out of his seat at once knelt next to him. “Are you okay?”

Hamilton pressed a hand against his bleeding nose. “Yup.”

A long sigh erupted from Jefferson. “I’d say this meeting is adjourned. Let’s go, James.”

“I’m fine,” Hamilton assured Madison as he lingered. As soon as the two left, he let out a moan of pain and his eyes watered. He struggled to his feet, body aching from the hard jolt. 

He headed for Washington’s office. The door was open but he waited when he saw the boss on his phone.

Washington motioned Hamilton in. His eyes widened as the young lawyer came closer and he said on the phone, “I’ll call you back in a few minutes, dear.” He hung up and spoke to Hamilton. “What happened?”

“I fell.”

“Goodness, Alex.” Washington ushered him into the bathroom and handed him a wad of paper towels.

Hamilton winced when he got a look at himself, blood smeared on his face, faint bruises under his eyes. If he hadn’t broken his nose before, he’d wondered if he hadn’t fractured it but the pain wasn’t bad anymore.

“How did the meeting go before you ‘fell’?” Washington asked. He turned on the sink and waited for the water to warm.

“As expected.” Hamilton accepted a wet towel and cleaned the blood off his face. His nose had stopped bleeding at least.

Washington raised an eyebrow. “Not well then, I take it?”

Hamilton ignored the question. “Have you heard any more from Aaron?”

“I haven’t.” Washington pointed out the trashcan for Hamilton to dispose of the bloody paper towels. He stopped the boy from walking out and straightened his collar.

For a moment, the erotic dreams fluttered back into Hamilton’s mind and he wanted to lean into the older man, let someone take care of him for once. Instead, he stiffened his shoulders and moved from his boss’ grasp. “I’ll text Aaron and get to work.”

“Don’t overdo it, Alex.” Those blue-violet eyes met his, and for the briefest moment, let the vulnerability slip past his tough exterior. “You only have to let me know if you need anything.”

Hamilton looked away, body tense and in command again. “Yes, sir.”

Back in his office, he texted Burr and tried to focus on work while he waited for a reply. The answer was as he’d feared; Theodosia had miscarried. Physically she would be okay but they were both emotionally drained. 

Another boy, Burr wrote. I’m taking tomorrow off to take care of Miss Priss and be with Theodosia. Is everything going okay at work?

Hamilton lied and said it was slow and he was bored. He didn’t bother to remind Burr that the new team had started today. Take care of your family. I’ll hold down the fort. I love you.

Thanks, Alex. I love you, too.

He set aside his phone and rubbed his eyes. 

“Do you ever stop crying?”

Hamilton jumped out of his chair and snarled at Jefferson. “Aaron’s wife miscarried. Fuck off!”

“My God.” Jefferson ran a fingernail against his forehead. “You are the most dramatic person I’ve ever met.”

“And you’re the biggest ass—”

“Alexander,” Washington interrupted. He shook his head at Jefferson and pointed him out.

Jefferson closed the door behind him but not before he caught Hamilton’s eyes and gave him a suggestive smirk.

“Everything is under control, sir,” Hamilton said at once. “I’ll control myself better in the future.”

“It’s fine, Alex.” Washington took a seat. “Did you hear from Aaron?”

Hamilton nodded.

“Are you okay to work for the rest of the day?” Washington folded his hands to stop himself from brushing the hair out of Hamilton’s eyes.

Hamilton blinked several times. “Yes.” He squared his shoulders and stuck out his chin. “Don’t call me Alex. I have work to do.”

“My apologies, Mr. Hamilton.” Washington rose from the chair, any emotions masked behind his stoic face. “I’ll leave you to it.”

Once the door closed, Hamilton dove into his workload but was soon interrupted by the door opening again. He sighed inwardly at the sight of Laurens and wanted nothing more than to give him attention. A peeved “Yes?” slipped out instead.

“Are you okay?” Laurens asked.

“Busy.” Hamilton continued to flip through numerous pages of an upcoming court case.

“Sorry.” Laurens left but returned a few minutes later to Hamilton’s chagrin.

“Jack, I’m really—” He stopped when Laurens set a cup of coffee on the desk. “Thanks.”

Laurens smiled at him. “Let me know if there is anything else I can get you. Don’t overwork yourself, babe.”

Hamilton nodded and blinked back the moisture pooling in his eyes.

Alone again, he forced himself to concentrate and the coffee grew cold.

***

The walk home dragged as Hamilton plodded one heavy stride at a time. The steps were agony and he had to stop after each flight to find some energy in his aching body to keep going.

Front door unlocked, Lexi ran toward him. “Daddy!”

Hamilton scooped her up and held on extra tight.

“I made art today,” Lexi said and tried to wiggle free. “I show you.”

“After dinner, bud,” Hamilton said and continued to hold onto her.

“I has pizza in the oven,” Lexi complained.

He let her go and she ran to her toy stove.

“Rough day?” Eliza asked as she put on her coat.

Hamilton nodded and opened the freezer. “Had to deal with Jefferson, and Theodosia miscarried.”

“I’m sorry.” Eliza moved to hug him but saw him tense and she drew back. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” Hamilton searched out anything for dinner. “See you tomorrow.”

Once she left, Hamilton shut the freezer door. “Lexi, do you want cereal for dinner?”

“Yes!” Lexi dropped her plastic pizza and ran to him. She squealed when Hamilton took out the box of Cap’n Crunch that he usually said was a snack not a proper meal.

Cereal and milk poured, cat fed, father and daughter sat at the table. Hamilton picked up his spoon but Lexi stopped him. “Grace, Daddy.”

He set down the utensil and listened to her usual blessing. “And bless Lexi and the Burr’s,” he added.

Lexi looked at him with her head cocked. “Is Theo okay?”

“She is.” Hamilton stirred his dry cereal aimlessly. “Aunty Theodosia isn’t going to have a baby, though.”

“Why not?” Lexi shoved a spoonful of cereal in her mouth.

Hamilton hesitated. Death had always been the one thing he struggled to teach Lexi about. How did he explain something no one really understood? His mother had taught him about God but he’d never had much religious teaching and considered himself more a deist—he believed something had to have created the world but not necessarily in Jesus—but encouraged Eliza to teach Lexi about God and Jesus and use any Biblical teachings for lessons Lexi needed to learn. The Schuyler’s were devout Christians and Hamilton appreciated their kindness and strength when he lived with them. He wanted Lexi not to fear the unknown. But when he couldn’t figure it out himself; he didn’t know how to inform his daughter.

“The baby is with Jesus now,” Hamilton decided. He continued to stare at his cereal.

“And the lambs?” Lexi asked.

Hamilton swallowed. “Yeah.”

“Is Theo sad?”

“Yeah,” he repeated.

“Does she know about the lambs?” Lexi questioned.

“I don’t know, bud,” Hamilton said, not sure what she was talking about himself. He would have to remember to ask Eliza as he guessed it was something she’d taught Lexi.

“I’ll tell her about the lambs,” Lexi decided. 

Hamilton nodded. “Why don’t you eat on the couch and watch TV? Daddy doesn’t feel well.”

“Okay.” Lexi slipped off her stack of books and grabbed her bowl of cereal. 

Hamilton left his untouched on the table and went into the bathroom. He closed the door and leaned against the counter. Keep it together, he commanded himself. His nose ran first, quickly followed by tears spilling down his cheeks. He sank to the floor and hugged his legs tight to his chest and struggled to muffle the sobs.

What would he do if Lexi died? What if she got sick? How was he supposed to find any meaning in his life without her? Everything he did was for her, to give her the best life and it gave him a good life in return.

She’s fine, he tried to remind himself. There was no reason to freak himself out right then about losing her. Theodosia had a history of miscarriages and difficult pregnancies. Little Theo was fine as was Lexi. He had no reason to break down like this.

Yet, the sobs continued to shake his body. Tears and snot soaked into his sleeves.

You’re just stressed out. Get a grip.

He tried to suck in a deep breath and choked instead.

“Daddy?” Lexi knocked on the door. “You okay?”

He couldn’t answer without his voice creating an obvious lie.

“I come in,” Lexi said. She stood on her tiptoes to turn the knob. When the door swung open and she saw Hamilton huddled on the floor crying, tears filled her own eyes. “Lexi make better,” she whispered.

She retrieved Hamilton’s phone off the kitchen table and punched in the password. She found Laurens’ contact information and brought up the text stream. Hi its Lexi, she typed. Daddy sad can u come over?

She returned to the bathroom and cuddled close to her dad and waited for Laurens to reply. “Lexi make better,” she told him again.

Hamilton pulled her close and his tears dripped onto her red hair.

The phone dinged with Laurens’ reply. I’m on my way. Fifteen minutes.

“Jack’s gonna make you better, Daddy,” Lexi whispered.

He squeezed her tight, grateful for her help even while wishing she never had to see him break down.

When Laurens arrived, Lexi let him inside, lucking out that Hamilton hadn’t locked the deadbolt when Eliza left.

“What’s going on?” Laurens asked her, eyes scanning the apartment for his boyfriend.

“Sad attack,” Lexi said. She pointed to the bathroom. “Aunty Theodosia’s baby is with Jesus and the lambs and it made Daddy sad. Also, Jeffershit.”

“I see,” Laurens said, half lying. He guessed it was a panic attack of sorts and struggled to think what to do. He went into the bathroom and knelt close to Hamilton. “Can I hold you?”

In response, Hamilton scooted closer and—once Laurens was situated comfortably—sat on his lap.

After she had hauled Croix off the couch to keep her company, Lexi sat close by. The cat purred in her lap, aware that he needed to comfort his family, and put up with her touching his ears.

No one moved or spoke until Hamilton calmed down. He sucked in a deep breath, tears gone along with his energy. “Thanks, Jack.”

Laurens squeezed his arms tight around his boyfriend’s slender frame. “I would do anything for you, Alex.”

“You would do anything for Lexi,” Hamilton countered.

Relieved that Hamilton could make a joke, Laurens grinned. “Got me there.”

They got up stiffly from the floor and Hamilton headed for the couch. Croix escaped the child’s grasp and made himself comfortable on his preferred human.

“I’m going to make you some toast and hot chocolate,” Laurens said. He turned to Lexi. “Can you show me where everything is?” He figured it would be a good idea to engage the child and keep her from dwelling on her dad’s sad attack.

“I help,” Lexi agreed.

“We’re going to make this special toast,” Laurens whispered to her. “Do you have cinnamon and sugar?”

“We has sugar.” Lexi pointed out the proper cabinet.

Laurens found some spices in there as well and let Lexi see if she could figure out the correct one. He forgot she could read, though, and she handed him the right bottle without bothering to sniff any of the contents.

“Special toast sounds yummy,” Lexi said. She watched Laurens butter the bread and sprinkle on the cinnamon and sugar.

“I’ll make you a piece, too.” Laurens smiled at her. “Where’s the hot chocolate?”

Everything was soon finished and Laurens set the plate and cup on the end table next to Hamilton. Lexi joined them, nibbling on her own piece of ‘special toast’ with a satisfied glow in her eyes.

“May I stay the night?” Laurens asked. He lifted Lexi onto his lap and smoothed back her hair. It touched her shoulders now and curled naturally toward her face.

“Please, do,” said Hamilton. He finished his toast and sipped his drink. “Go get ready for bed, bud,” he instructed Lexi.

The child was soon tucked in. Hamilton yawned. “I’m gonna go to bed myself,” he told Laurens. “You can stay up if you want.”

“Nah, I’ll keep you company.” Laurens followed him into the bedroom. “You wouldn’t be uncomfortable if I slept in my boxers, would you?”

Hamilton shook his head. “That’s how I usually sleep, too.” He undressed, fighting another yawn, and curled up in bed tucking his blanket under his chin. After Laurens got in and stopped moving, he scooted closer. “I’m always afraid of losing Lexi,” he murmured, secure in the dark to share his fears. “I know it’s not wholly irrational but my anxiety and depression escalate it to the point that I’m convinced I have lost her.”

Laurens wrapped his arms tight around his boyfriend. “I understand. Do you take meds?”

“Yeah.” Hamilton closed his eyes and soaked in the warmth and pressure of human contact. “It helps a lot but something stuff still knocks me down. It scares me because then I worry that the meds aren’t going to help anymore. Like one bad day is going to escalate into all bad days again so I get more anxious.” He blinked back tears at the thought of falling into a dark place again.

“That’s rough.” Laurens rubbed Hamilton’s back. “I haven’t experienced anything like that but my mom had. I know it’s not your fault and I know how much energy it can take to function some days. If you ever need me to help out because you’re having a bad day, you can ask. I would never think less of you.”

“Thanks, Jack.” Hamilton managed to burrow even closer to him. “It helps knowing someone understands.” He pulled away from Laurens’ warm body and rolled over to face him. “We always talk about my problems, though. I’m always willing to listen to anything that’s on your mind, too. Anything that stresses you.” He stroked Laurens’ face with a fingertip, finding his nose and lips in the dark.

“I appreciate it.” Laurens gently kissed Hamilton’s neck. “I admire how put together you have your life. I feel like a mess sometimes. I only have part-time jobs and my dad pays a lot of my bills.”

“Adulting sucks.” Hamilton breathed in the faint fruity scene of Laurens’ hair. “I didn’t have a choice but to grow up at once. I sometimes wonder what I might not have learned properly. You’re lucky to have a dad. You have someone to help you find your way.”

“True.” He trailed a hand along Hamilton’s jaw. “Still…”

“It’s kind of hard not to feel like a kid,” Hamilton finished.

“Yeah.”

Hamilton nuzzled his head against Laurens’ chest for a moment and drew back. “Can I take this off?” He plucked at his boyfriend’s shirt.

“Sure.” He licked his lips and sat up partially. A shiver ran through him at the touch of Hamilton’s cold fingertips. He snorted when Hamilton tossed the shirt and it knocked into a bell hanging from the cat tree under the window.

“Shh,” Hamilton scolded and muffled his own laughter into a pillow. Calm, he snuggled back against Laurens and let his own shirt be removed and thrown aside.

“Thoughts?” Laurens murmured. He kissed the back of Hamilton’s neck.

“Keep doing that.” Hamilton closed his eyes and could feel every muscle loosening as his body sank into the bed and his boyfriend’s touch. He knew he couldn’t get much more vulnerable to Laurens than he had that night and a block of fear lifted from his shoulders. He could be vulnerable, he could trust. Maybe he could love.

Chapter Text

“Daddy?” Lexi climbed on the bed. “Wakey!”

With a groan, Hamilton brushed away the small fingers poking him. “What?”

“Morning.” Lexi crawled over him and prodded Laurens. “Wakey!”

Hamilton rubbed his eyes and realized the room wasn’t pitch black. He grabbed his phone and winced. He hadn’t set an alarm. Eliza would be over any minute and he had to get to work.

“Ugh,” Laurens grunted as Lexi sat on his chest. “I’m awake.” His eyes remained closed.

“Liar.” Lexi pinched his nose.

“Make sure he gets up,” Hamilton instructed her. He grabbed his suit and hurried to the bathroom.

By the time he was ready, Laurens was still in bed, Lexi’s determined poking not succeeding.

“Jack Laurens, you get your ass out of bed,” Hamilton commanded and tried not to laugh.

Laurens scrambled up at once and sent Lexi tumbling off him with a shrill giggle. “Goodness, Alex.” He ran a hand down his face. “You sound like my father.” A smile teased across his lips. “I’m up; satisfied?”

“Never.” Hamilton scooped Lexi into his arms. From the kitchen, Croix let out a hungry yowl and swatted his food bowl off the counter. “Time to feed the beast.”

Eliza arrived a minute later and Lexi hugged her at the door.

“Jack spent the night,” Lexi told her nanny. “I had cereal and sugar toast for dinner. It was yummy.”

“Well…” Eliza looked over at Hamilton who purposely avoided eye contact and chugged a cup of coffee. “Perhaps something healthier for breakfast then.”

Hamilton set his mug in the sink. “I got to get to work. Be good, bud.” He kissed Lexi on the head. He grabbed his coat and hurried out before Laurens finished in the bathroom. Lexi’s comment made him too aware that Laurens had slept over, that their relationship was progressing faster than he wanted.

The toilet flushed and the bathroom door opened. Eliza grinned as a deep flush rose up Laurens’ cheeks. “Good morning.” She turned her attention back to the pot on the stove.

“Morning,” Laurens mumbled. “Did Alex leave?”

“He did,” Eliza said.

“Have breakfast with me!” Lexi exclaimed. “Sit, Jack!”

He couldn’t say no to the redheaded tot and took a seat. “You don’t have to make me anything,” he assured Eliza.

“I’m making you oatmeal,” Eliza informed him. “If you’re anything like Alex, you won’t eat unless food is put in front of you.” She poured two glasses of milk and returned to the stove. When the oatmeal was ready, she added brown sugar and fresh blueberries and dished up two bowls. She just set them on the table when her phone rang. “Mom? Is everything okay?” Eliza headed into Hamilton’s room.

Lexi took a small bite of oatmeal. “Needs more sugar.” She smiled at Laurens. “I can has more sugar, yes?” She thought for a moment. “Silver plate?”

S’il vous plaît?” Laurens suggested.

“Mercy.”

How could he say no to a four-year-old attempting French? Laurens got out the brown sugar and added another spoonful to Lexi’s bowl. He didn’t have time to hide the sugar before Eliza came out of the bedroom.

“My sister went into labor,” she said. “John, can you watch Lexi? I have to get to the hospital.”

“I have to work at ten,” Laurens said with an apologetic smile. “The playroom is ready at the law firm. I can take her there.”

“Thank you.” Eliza grabbed her purse and searched for her phone before realizing it was in her hand. “I’ll let Alex know. She’ll need a lunch.” She set her purse back down and opened the fridge.

“I can make her a sandwich,” Laurens assured. “Alex forgot his lunch, too, so I’ll make him something as well. Go be with your sister.”

“Thank you.” Eliza squeezed his shoulder and hurried out of the apartment. She returned a moment later to get her purse and jacket. The door closed with a clatter.

Lexi stuck out her blueberry stained tongue at Laurens. “What’s ‘labor’ mean?”

“Your aunt is going to have a baby,” Laurens explained. “I’ll take you to your daddy’s work. Does that—”

“No!” Lexi shouted and tears shimmered in her eyes. “I don’t want Aunt Peggy to die!” She stumbled off her stack of books and fled to her room.

“Shit,” Laurens muttered under his breath. Croix paused in grooming to glare at him. “Pardon my French, cat.” He glared back at the feline at a loss as to what to do with an upset child.

He peeked into the bedroom. “Lexi? Your Aunt Peggy is going to be fine.”

Static-y hair stood on end over Lexi’s head as she pulled a blanket down. “Aunty Theodosia’s baby died.”

“I know.” Laurens sat next to her. “But this situation is different. Why don’t you help me make a lunch for your daddy?”

Lexi sniffled. “Okay.”

“Good girl.” Laurens stood and lifted her off the bed. She was still in her pajamas and Laurens wondered how Hamilton managed to do this every morning and get to work on time.

He got the child’s mind off death as she filled Hamilton’s lunch bag with snacks while he made sandwiches. “Now, it’s time to get dressed.” He ushered Lexi into her room. “What do you want to wear?”

“A dress,” Lexi said.

Laurens opened the top drawer of her dresser to discover she had dozens of dresses to choose from. “What color?”

“Pink!” Lexi struggled to get off her unicorn pajamas.

That narrowed it down by nothing. Laurens searched for something with long sleeves. “This is cute.” He held up a pink and brown striped dress.

“I guess.” Lexi took the dress. “I need clean undies and socks and leggings.”

Laurens opened the next dresser drawer. He looked for leggings that would coordinate with the dress but Lexi pointed to a blue pair. Already running short on time, he didn’t argue and handed them over. Underclothes were in the bottom drawer and he let Lexi pick what she wanted and helped her dress. “Good?”

Lexi pulled the tag out from the front of the dress. “Backwards.”

“Sorry.” How was he supposed to know the buttons went on the front? Once the dress was on right, Lexi found shoes and ran to the front door.

“Ready!”

Jackets on, Laurens grabbed the lunch bag, made sure Croix had food and water, and locked the door behind them. He was ready for a nap.

She held his hand as they walked and asked question after question that Laurens had no answers for and he began to wonder how dumb he was.

“I’ll ask Daddy,” Lexi said with a sigh.

“Sorry.” Laurens held back his own sigh at his failure to know why a wombat’s poop came out in cubes. He didn’t even know a wombat’s poop was cube-shaped.

Inside the law firm, Lexi skipped ahead to Hamilton’s office and entered first. “Mr. Bald!” She ran toward the man towering over her dad as the two went through a stack of paperwork. Her little arms wrapped around one of his legs. “Hi!”

“Good morning, Alexis.” Washington smiled at the tiny child who didn’t even come up to his waist.

“Hi, Daddy!”

“Hey, bud.” Hamilton glanced toward the door as Laurens came in. He had to think of an excuse fast as to why Laurens would have brought Lexi.

Lexi spoke first, though. “Mr. Bald, Jack spent the night!” she announced as loud as seemed possible. “We had oatmeal for breakfast!”

“Really?” Washington’s eyes twinkled as he pressed his lips to fight off a smirk. “How interesting.” He could see Hamilton’s face turning red and Laurens’ panicked expression. “John, can you get Miss Hamilton settled in the play room?”

“Yes, sir.” Laurens headed for the door. “Let’s go, Lexi.”

Lexi skipped after him.

“John?” Washington stopped him. “I want to talk to you later.”

“Yes, sir.” He hurried the child ahead of him.

Hamilton rubbed his burning neck, whole body overheating in his suit.

“She’s a good kid,” Washington said and went back to the paperwork. He wanted nothing more than to badger Hamilton about dating Laurens but knew the young lawyer would hate him forever. He’d save his questioning for Laurens.

As soon as he could, Hamilton hurried downstairs to check on Lexi since he knew Laurens had had to leave right away to get to GAP for his shift. One other kid was in the playroom, too, but he and Lexi ignored each other. He played with trains in one corner and Lexi played in the plastic house across the room by the wall painted with the horse and barn. The daycare worker kept a close eye on them while she set out supplies for a craft project.

“Hi, Daddy!” Lexi waved from the window of the playhouse. “I want this at home.”

Hamilton knelt down in front of the window. “That would be fun but you know we don’t have space.”

“I know.” Lexi handed him a teacup. “Why do wombats poop cubes? Jack didn’t know.”

He pretended to take a drink. “It’s because of their intestines,” he explained. “Some parts are more stretchy than others so the poop gets pressed at different angles to create the cube.”

“I want to poop cubes!” Lexi poured him more fake tea.

“Same, bud.” Hamilton handed over the cup. “I have to get back to work. Are you okay down here?”

“Yup.” Lexi pointed across the room. “But I don’t like boys. I want to play with Theo and Nelly.”

“Daddy will schedule a playdate.” He tapped her on the nose. “I love you.”

“Lexi loves you more.” She touched his nose back.

Hamilton hurried back to his office before he cried but he checked on her frequently and they ate lunch together. He checked in with Eliza, too, but she didn’t have any updates on when Peggy might deliver the baby.

We’re not sure she’s even actually in labor, Eliza wrote.

Typical Peggy, Hamilton replied.

***

Not long after the Hamilton’s had returned home, Laurens entered Washington’s office after his shift at GAP. “What did you want to talk about, sir?” As if he didn’t already know.

“Alexander has a child,” Washington said. “You can’t be flaky with him.”

“I know.” Laurens took a seat across from him. “I have no intention of leading him on. I asked him out after Halloween. We’re dating.”

“But you’re going to Scotland after the first of the new year.” Washington watched him and wished he didn’t know of the hearts Laurens had played fast and loose with in the past.

Laurens twisted the strings on his GAP hoodie. “Alex knows that’s a possibility.”

“But it’s not a possibility, John,” Washington reminded him firmly. “It’s reality. The semester is paid for.”

When he received no answer, Washington continued. “It’s not just one person you’re in a relationship with, Alexis is a huge part of this. She’s going to be heartbroken, too, when you leave.”

“I’m coming back.” Laurens met his mentor’s eyes. “It’s one semester. Alex is okay with us making this work long-distance.”

Washington pursed his lips. “What about Francis Kinloch?”

“I’m not in love with Francis.” He kept eye contact. “Plus he’s in London. I doubt I’ll see him.”

“John…”

Laurens’ eyes narrowed. “Trust me on this, sir. I’m not going to jeopardize what I have with Alex.”

“Just be honest with Alexander,” Washington said and folded his hands together. “Trust does not come easy for him and he has to always put Alexis first. Remember that.”

“I know, sir.” Laurens slipped his hands through his curls pulling them back. “I adore Lexi.”

“Good.” Washington turned his attention to the computer. “I won’t keep you any longer. Goodnight, John.”

***

Almost asleep, Hamilton was roused by his phone and squinted at the bright light as he opened the text from Eliza.

It’s a boy! 10lbs, he’s quite the chonk! Peggy is fine and says she’s never having sex again, which would be a blessing. Baby is healthy. He’s named after Dad and will be called Pipin.

A sleepy smile stole across Hamilton’s face as he sent a reply. Baby Pipin would have so much love, he knew. He couldn’t wait to spoil his honorary nephew and hold a baby again. Would he and Laurens have kids, he wondered?

Whoa, there! Hamilton scolded himself. He shook the thought out of his mind. They hadn’t even been dating a month yet. Plus he’d never thought about having more kids. Lexi had always been his whole world. He didn’t know if he could love another child as much nor did he want his attention on Lexi divided. He could get his baby fix from Pipin. No need to plan the future just yet.

Chapter Text

Hamilton stretched out in bed glad not to awaken to the scream of an alarm on a weekday. The best thing about the holidays was sleeping in and spending extra time with Lexi. He cuddled her close since she had snuck in an hour ago and knew what he was most thankful for.

But Croix had gone too long without food and let out a shrieking yowl followed by the clatter of his dish hitting the floor.

“Croix’s awake.” Lexi crawled over Hamilton and sat on his chest. “Can we have pancakes?”

“It’s not Saturday,” replied Hamilton. He twisted a lock of his daughter’s hair around his finger. As it grew longer, a curl pattern started to emerge and he was curious to find out if she would have curly hair and didn’t plan to cut it, unless Lexi wanted to.

“But it feels like Saturday,” Lexi reasoned.

“True.” Hamilton covered a yawn. “Alright, get off Daddy.”

She scooted off him and jumped off the bed. “Cat!” Lexi shouted running into the kitchen. “It’s Thanksgiving!”

Hamilton followed with less agility and noise. He fed Croix and made pancakes. “Remember that we’re going to the Burr’s for dinner.”

“Yay!” Lexi twirled around. “Turkey, turkey, turkey.”

“Set the table, bud.” Hamilton flipped the pancakes. He and Burr had agreed to do most of the dinner prep to take the stress off Theodosia. She had insisted they would still host despite losing the baby since it would give them something to look forward to. Hamilton hoped her expectations of an edible meal weren’t too high.

“Daddy, when was the first Thanksgiving?” Lexi set one plate on the table and hopped back on the step stool to grab another. “Not like the pilgrims but like now.”

“1870’s,” Hamilton said. “After the Civil War. Sarah Josepha Hale tried for forty years to make it a national holiday and finally influenced Abraham Lincoln.” He slid the pancakes off the pan and onto a plate. “Before that, it was just whenever the States decided, usually coinciding with Evacuation Day when Britain left the newly united colonies after the war.”

Lexi listened, wide-eyed, soaking in every word.

“In the late 1930’s, Franklin Roosevelt changed the date to the last Thursday in November—take your seat, bud—and a few years later, he moved it to the fourth Thursday in November.” Hamilton added two small pancakes to his daughter’s plate.

“Thanks, Daddy.” Lexi set her napkin on her lap. “Jack isn’t as smart as you.”

“I know.” He couldn’t help but feel a smirk of pride knowing Laurens had the much better education but didn’t have the exhaustive amount of random facts that he did. “Don’t tell him he’s dumb, okay?”

Lexi giggled. “I won’t.”

“Also, bud.” Hamilton reached over and tapped her nose to get her full attention. “Don’t tell Theo, Aunty Theodosia or Uncle Burr that Daddy and Jack are dating, okay? That’s not there business yet.”

Lexi nodded. “Promise.”

“Good girl.”

After breakfast and dishes came showers and getting dressed nicely to make a decent entrance to the Burr’s. Hamilton wore his favorite dark blue corduroy blazer with jeans and Lexi had a festive dress with woodland creatures on it.

“Come here for a minute, bud,” Hamilton called Lexi back into the bathroom.

The little girl stepped over the cat laying in the doorway. “What?”

“Daddy got you something special.” He lifted her onto the counter and unscrewed the top off a small spray bottle of perfume. “See if you like the scent.”

Lexi took a sniff. “Like apples!”

“Do you want Daddy to spray it on you?”

“Yeah!”

Once she had on a little perfume, Hamilton told her to find her shoes and he finished glaring at the ruddy face with the misshapen nose that always mocked him in the mirror. He must have a good personality, he thought sarcastically, no way Laurens would be attracted to him otherwise.

“Let’s go!” Lexi shouted and pulled their coats out of the closet and knocked loose several jackets in the process.

“Easy, child.” Hamilton left the bathroom and cleaned up the mess. He handed Lexi her hat and coat and slipped on his own. It would be a nippy walk home but it wasn’t far at least.

Lexi made up a song about turkeys as they walked toward the river. Hamilton caught on since the only word was “turkey” and sang it with her. He mused that music would never be her thing.

At the duplex, Burr let them inside and crushed Hamilton in a hug. “Missed you.” He kissed his friend’s neck.

For a moment, Hamilton almost tilted his head to let Burr continue before he snapped out of it that this wasn’t Laurens. He shrugged away. “Yeah, well I enjoyed not being molested at work for a few days.”

“Whatever.”

The shrieks of the girls as they found each other filled the house and almost drowned out his voice.

Burr dragged Hamilton to the kitchen. “We need to get the turkey in the oven. Should be easy enough, right?”

“In theory.” He stepped out of the way as the girls raced by and ran upstairs. “Where’s Theodosia?”

“Taking a bath,” Burr said. He pointed to the turkey on the counter. “Have at it.”

Hamilton pulled out his phone to figure out where to start. “Okay, so… We have to take out the bag of giblets.”

Burr made a face. “I am not sticking my hand up a turkey’s butt. You’re the gay one.”

Hamilton glared at him. “I’m half certain you’re gayer than I am.”

“In what world?” Burr snorted. “I’m still not putting my hand inside the turkey.”

With a sigh, Hamilton stuck his hand in the turkey to pull out the bag of giblets. The clammy flesh made his lips curl as he withdrew his hand. “Shit.”

Burr crowded close to him. “What?”

“Stuck.” Hamilton tried to tug his hand free.

“Seriously?” Burr failed to stop a laugh. “Good job, Alex.”

Hamilton ground his teeth. “Just help me. Hold it so I can pull.”

Theodosia paused outside of the kitchen and held up a finger to her lips to hush the little girls following her.

“I am not touching that,” Burr said. “You chose to put your hand in there.”

“You made me!”

Burr snorted. “Just put some muscle into it and pull out already.”

“This is gross,” Hamilton whined. “I’m not pulling out until you hold onto it.”

“No way!”

Theodosia motioned for the girls to wait and went into the kitchen. “Boys?”

“Alex got his hand stuck up the turkey’s butt,” Burr said at once. “I’m not touching it.”

“Seriously, Aaron,” Theodosia chided. She motioned the girls in and held onto the turkey and Hamilton pulled his hand free with the bag of giblets.

“Why did you put your hand up our dinner’s butt?” Lexi asked.

“Eww!” Theo squealed. “I’m not eating that!”

“Girls.” Theodosia shooed them back out. “Go play.”

Lexi refused and stood on her tiptoes to study the turkey. “I wanna watch. Daddy, put your hand up its butt again.”

“No,” Hamilton said quickly. “Time for seasoning.”

“Please, help us,” Burr begged his wife.

“Man up, Aaron,” Hamilton snapped. “Lexi, don’t touch the bird.”

“Too late,” Lexi said poking at the raw skin. “It feels weird.”

A smirk crept up Burr’s lips. “I always thought it felt like a peni—”

Theodosia smacked him. “Aaron Burr! There are children present.”

“What?” Theo asked. He tugged at her mother’s dress. “What can’t we know?”

“He was gonna say penis,” Lexi said as she continued to study the turkey.

“God, child,” Hamilton groaned. He scrubbed his hands at the sink.

“Oooohhh!” Theo giggled.

Lexi joined in and they were soon howling with laughter. Theodosia tried not to giggle herself while the men shared a defeated look.

“Alright, girls.” Theodosia controlled herself and shooed them out. “Go play upstairs.”

Hamilton stopped Lexi before she ran off. “Wash your hands first.” Once he was satisfied, he let her go and returned to figuring out what to do next.

Theodosia sat at the kitchen table and watched, shaking her head often but only intervened once when Burr almost seasoned the turkey with cinnamon.

“Maybe I could have invented something new,” Burr said.

“Yes.” Theodosia pulled the spice jar from his hand. “But that doesn’t mean it would have been good.” She told them how long to cook the bird and sighed when she realized they hadn’t preheated the oven. “Honestly, women should have let you menfolk starve to death long ago.”

“No sex,” Burr replied.

Theodosia chuckled. “Yeah…”

Hamilton busted out laughing. “Poor Aaron.”

Burr glared at him with his piercing dark hazel eyes. “And you thought I was gayer than you.”

“Why did I marry you?” Theodosia mumbled under her breath.

Burr shot her his handsome smile as an answer and she couldn’t help but return it.

“Enough goofing off, boys.” Theodosia stood and kissed her husband on the cheek. “Figure out how to make stuffing. I’m going to watch Hallmark Christmas movies.”

“I’ll make you some cider,” Burr said.

She squeezed his hand tightly. “Thank you.”

***

It was an ordeal every step of the way but Hamilton and Burr managed to make Thanksgiving dinner. The only thing they destroyed were the rolls since they forgot to set the timer and only remembered when Burr asked what smelled burnt.

“I say we quit the law firm and become chefs,” Burr said and smacked Hamilton on the bottom as they admired the loaded table.

“Nope.” Hamilton punched his shoulder in return. But he cuddled up to Burr a second later. “I’ve missed you, too,” he murmured. “I’m sorry about the baby.”

“Thanks, Hammy.” Burr held onto him for a moment. When he let go, he called his wife and the girls to the table.

Theodosia took the seat Burr pulled out for her. “So, what’s edible?”

Burr whispered in her ear and made her laugh.

“Keep dreaming.” She pinched his cheek.

Lexi patted Hamilton’s hand. “You did good, Daddy.”

“Taste it first, bud,” Hamilton replied. He took her hand and Burr’s so they could say grace.

After grace, Burr spoke to his daughter, “What’re you thankful for, Miss Priss?”

Theo stared at the stuffing Theodosia added to her plate. “That you don’t cook every day.”

Burr rolled his eyes while everyone else tried not to laugh. “Well, I’m thankful for my amazing wife and our saucy daughter.” He grinned at his best friend. “And these Hamilton things we keep inviting over.”

“And you wonder why she’s saucy,” Hamilton muttered, elbowing Burr in the ribs. “I’m thankful for my precious little Lexi.”

“And?” Burr goaded.

Hamilton turned to him. “Not you, that’s for sure.”

“Alright, you two,” Theodosia said, passing her husband the sweet potatoes. “What about you, Lexi?”

“Daddy,” Lexi said. “Theo, Croix, Aunty Eliza, unicorns, cats, Jack, chips, and marshmallows.” She swiped the latter of her dad’s plate.

“Who’s Jack?” Burr asked, head cocked.

Hamilton ignored him and quickly said, “What about you, Theodosia?”

“Family and friends,” she said with a smile. “Is everyone’s plate filled?”

Everyone took tentative first bites but found the meal surprisingly edible. Not amazing, but decent.

Lexi studied her food. “Turkeys eat their own poop.”

Burr’s fork clattered against his plate.

“Bud…” Hamilton squeezed her hand. “Not appropriate dinner facts.” He watched Theo push her plate away.

“Well, I’m a vegetarian now,” Burr said.

Undeterred, Lexi continued, “The red dangly thing on turkey’s head is called a snood and turns bright red when a boy turkey wants to find a mate.”

“Eat you rdinner,” Hamilton told her, face flushing.

“Looking for a mate, Alex?” Burr teased at once. He absentmindedly put a piece of turkey in his mouth and choked.

“I want dessert,” Theo declared. She looked across the table at her best friend. “Unless pumpkins poop?”

“No,” Lexi said.

“Yay.” Theo poked her mom’s arm. “Pumpkin pie, Mama, please.” She gave a big smile and fluttered her long eyelashes.

“Not yet,” Theodosia said. “Eat your carrots.”

She looked at Lexi first but when no disgusting fact was told, she finished her vegetables.

Dinner soon ended and the little girls scampered off to play until dessert. Theodosia stood and moved behind her husband’s chair. “Thank you for not burning down the house.” She kissed the top of his head. She turned to Hamilton and touched his cheek. “Thank you for not helping him burn down the house.”

“I actually know how to cook,” Hamilton replied and pressed his hand against hers to keep the soft warmth there for a moment.

“Then invite us over for dinner.” Burr got up and stretched. “Should we watch football or play football, Hammy-Ham?”

They both laughed and Theodosia told them to do the dishes.

***

When the kitchen was cleaned, Burr and Hamilton joined Theodosia in the family room to watch a movie. The little girls played upstairs—a parent checking on them frequently.

“Where’s Princess Fiona?” Hamilton asked. He sat next to Burr on the couch and snuggled into him.

“I put him in our bedroom after I cleaned the kitchen this morning,” Burr said. “Didn’t need him getting hair in our dinner.”

“Good idea,” Hamilton said, thinking of all the cat hair he and Lexi likely ingested since Croix was always on the kitchen counters.

Theodosia snuggled up against Burr’s other side and soon fell asleep.

“So, who’s Jack?” Burr murmured to Hamilton. “Is it John Laurens? Are the two of you knocking boots?”

At once, Hamilton pretended to be asleep as well. He would have to tell Burr eventually, of course, but the realization that he and Laurens were dating still didn’t seem like a reality. He needed to come to terms with it himself before he told Burr and dealt with his constant prying and nosy questions.

An hour later, Lexi and Theo appeared downstairs and stood in front of the TV.

“We want pie,” Theo demanded.

“Please,” Lexi added.

Theodosia yawned and got off the couch. “Alright, girls.” She followed them into the kitchen. She had made the pie herself, to her daughter’s delight.

“You cook much better, Mama,” Theo said. She licked her lips when Theodosia added a big spoonful of whipped cream to a slice of pie.

“Thank you, Miss Priss.” Theodosia handed her the first plate. “Are you boys going to come get your pie?” She handed Lexi a plate.

Hamilton and Burr dragged themselves into the kitchen.

“We made dinner,” Burr complained, “you could serve us dessert.”

“I am serving you dessert,” Theodosia replied and handed him a plate. “Sit at the table. I don’t want spills on the couch.”

“Only Alex would spill,” Burr said. He swiped his finger through the whipped cream on his pie and dabbed it on Hamilton’s nose.

“I would not.” Hamilton glared at him and wiped the cream off his nose.

“Sit at the table,” Theodosia said again. She smiled at the girls waiting patiently for their parents.

Once everyone was seated, Burr looked at his wife. “We have more whipped cream, right?” He winked. “Perhaps Alex could spend the night…”

Theodosia pinched him. “Stop pimping Alex out.”

Hamilton choked. “Seriously, Aaron.”

“I want to spend the night,” Lexi said.

“Not tonight.” Hamilton glared at his friend.

Burr just rolled his eyes.

After dessert, Hamilton collected his share of the leftovers and bundled Lexi up for the walk home.

“I’m glad we could spend Thanksgiving with you.” Hamilton hugged Theodosia. “The pie was amazing.”

“Thank you, Alex.” She kissed his cheek. “You did a wonderful job with dinner. Let us know when you get home.”

He thanked her and pretended to avoid Burr but didn’t intend to leave without another hug and once Burr grew whiny, embraced him tightly. “Will I see you tomorrow?”

“Yeah.” Burr kissed his forehead.

“Good.” Hamilton soaked up his friend’s security. “I am thankful for you.”

A smile touched Burr’s lips. “I thought so. I wouldn’t know what to do without you.”

“Same.” Hamilton drew away and tried to pry Lexi out of her equally tight hug with Theo. “We have to go home, bud.”

“I don’t get to see Theo enough,” Lexi wailed.

“We’ll plan a sleepover,” Theodosia consoled her and picked up her own teary daughter.

Hamilton led his child out and took her hand in the chilly night. “We have a lot to be thankful for, don’t we, bud?”

Lexi smiled. “Yeah.”

Chapter Text

“Aunty Peggy had her baby the other night,” Hamilton told Lexi as he helped her get dressed. “A boy.”

Lexi carefully decided on what socks she wanted to wear. “Can she take it back for a girl?”

“No.” Hamilton waited for her to pick.

She settled on pink socks with ruffles. “Were you glad I was a girl baby?”

A smile pulled at his lips as he thought about how long it had just taken to pick out socks. “I was very glad.”

Lexi went to work with him again that day. But she soon grew bored not having her baby dolls and books and left the playroom when Washy—who had been dropped off for a few hours while Martha took Nelly shopping—had a meltdown.

She found her way upstairs and read the names on the doors. “Wash-ing-ton,” she said and stood on her toes to turn the doorknob.

Washington, Jefferson, and Madison looked over at her in surprise.

“Good morning, Alexis,” Washington said. “Aren’t you supposed to be in the playroom?”

“Got bored.” She skipped over to the men and held out her tiny hand to Madison. “I’m Alexis Hamilton. P’eased to meet you.”

Madison recoiled from the child’s hand. Kids were germ factories and he was not about to shake hands with one.

“James doesn’t shake hands,” Jefferson said. He studied the child—Hamilton’s child. “I’m Thomas Jefferson.”

Lexi’s eyes narrowed at once and she backed away. “No, thank you.” She hid behind Washington’s chair.

Jefferson rolled his eyes. “Call for her daddy, sir,” he told Washington, “so we can get on with this meeting.”

“She’s fine,” Washington said. He continued where he’d left off.

It didn’t take long for Lexi to peek around the chair and climb on Washington’s lap. She stared at Jefferson with as much fury as her father did.

After five minutes, Jefferson couldn’t take it any longer. “Why is she glaring at me?”

“You’re a hippo-cat!” Lexi shouted.

Jefferson frowned. “Excuse me?”

“Hypocrite, maybe?” Madison suggested.

Lexi nodded. “Hippo-cat!” Her dark blue eyes burned with an intensity far beyond her four years.

“Like father like daughter.” Jefferson leaned back in his chair. “Mr. Hamilton has taught her very well.”

Washington set Lexi on the floor. “Go to your dad’s office, please.”

“Yes, sir.” Lexi saluted him and stormed out. She ran down the hall and into Hamilton’s office. “Daddy, I hate Jeffershit.”

Hamilton rubbed his eyes. “Why aren’t you downstairs?”

“Bored.” Lexi climbed onto Burr’s empty chair. “Jeffershit, Daddy, I hate him.”

“What happened?” Hamilton opened his lunch bag and handed her a juice box.

Lexi jabbed the straw into the box. “He’s stupid.” She sucked angrily on the straw.

Hamilton could hardly scold her for having the same opinion he did and he knew his own behavior around Jefferson was hardly mature. “I know,” he agreed.

“Make him go away.” Lexi chewed on the straw.

“I can’t, bud.” Hamilton got out a juice box for himself. “He’s bringing more business to the firm and that means Daddy makes more money.”

Lexi huffed. “Well, he’s still stupid.”

“Agreed.” Hamilton set down his drink. “I need to take you back to the playroom. Jack will be in soon and maybe you can help him work on a computer.”

“Okay.”

For fifteen minutes, she wandered around the playroom until Laurens came to get her.

“I heard I get an assistant today,” he said.

Lexi’s face lit up. “Yeah!”

For the rest of the morning, she sat on a desk and watched Laurens install new software on a computer and press enter for him when prompted.

“You’re going to push me out of my job,” he teased.

“I has a college degree,” Lexi reminded him.

Laurens winced at the reminder of college. When was he supposed to tell them? He didn’t want to ruin their holidays but there would zero time after before he had to leave. “What do you know about Scotland?” he asked.

“Merida,” Lexi said. “She’s a redhead like me and she’d Scottish like Daddy. Her daddy wears a kilt and she has a horse.”

“You know a lot then.” Laurens stared at the computer screen and typed in a string of code.

Lexi leaned in closer to watch. “Yup.”

When noon approached, Laurens took Lexi back to her dad and the three had lunch together. Hamilton asked for ballet advice since his knowledge had run out long ago and he needed to know everything to help Lexi.

“I’ll send you some videos,” Laurens assured. He opened his mouth to mention college but Lexi spoke up first to talk about horses and he didn’t want to interrupt.

***

That evening, Hamilton and Lexi watched ballet videos and practiced pliés.

“Plié,” Hamilton said and wobbled and struggled to bend his legs after many other pathetic attempts.

Lexi did the move perfectly. “P’eed.”

Yawning, he was too tired to correct her pronunciation. “Good job, bud. You’ll be the star tomorrow. Get ready for bed.”

After work the next day, Lexi dragged Hamilton to ballet class. “I be the best,” she said.

Theodosia and little Theo weren’t there but the other moms had gotten used to him being around and didn’t object to him in the restroom to help Lexi change.

When class started, Hamilton took his usual spot in the viewing room and focused on his daughter. He saw Lexi do her pliés perfectly but the teacher stopped her.

At once, Hamilton went into the classroom. “What’s the problem?” he demanded. “She’s doing them right. We practiced last night from videos my friend sent me.”

“Mr. Hamilton, please.” The teacher tried to shoo him out. “I’m sure the videos were excellent. But I—”

“She’s doing them right,” Hamilton continued to argue.

“Daddy,” Lexi whined. The other little girls had grown bored and moved away from the bar to jump around. “Let Teacher—”

“It was like this.” Hamilton ignored his daughter and attempted a plié and went much lower than he should have. His suit pants ripped in the back and a muscle in his back seized up.

The teacher shook her head as he grunted in pain. “Do I need to call an ambulance?”

“I’m fine.” Hamilton’s eyes watered but still had fight left in him. “Lexi was doing—”

“Good job, Daddy,” Lexi interrupted, “you’re wearing your pony boxers.”

Hamilton’s face went red and he forgot about the pain in his back as he remembered his pants had ripped.

A little classmate ran over. “I love ponies!”

“Rainbow Dash!” Lexi pointed to her dad’s backside where his boxers were exposed through the split seam.

“Lex…” Hamilton tried to untuck his shirt for coverage and shooting pain raced across his back and he panted in agony.

“I can call someone for you,” the teacher said, her face a conundrum of whether she could laugh at his pain or not. The little girls gathered around him exclaiming about My Little Pony. By then, several of the moms had become intrigued by the drama and came into the studio.

“Alright, everyone settle down.” The teacher shooed back the cluster of ballerinas. “I’ll call you a cab at least, Mr. Rainbow Dash.”

His back hurt too much to care. “Thanks.” Hamilton limped out of the room, each step sending spasms of hot agony across his back.

“You’re too old for ballet,” Lexi informed him. She changed while they waited for the cab. “You’re also very embarrassing.”

“Yup,” he agreed. He managed to get his shirt untucked but Lexi kindly informed him she could still see his pony undies.

The cab arrived and Hamilton winced and groaned as he got inside. How he managed to get out and get up to their apartment, he wasn’t sure. He only remembered falling into bed and waking up when Lexi informed him she was hungry.

By morning, he could at least move and accepted the Schuyler’s invite to visit and meet baby Pipin.

Unfortunately, the walk from the subway station to their house was more than his tweaked back could take and he struggled to get up the front steps.

Lexi sighed and rang the doorbell while Hamilton panted on the first stair. As soon as Angelica opened the door, Lexi pointed to her dad and said matter-of-factly, “Daddy broke his back peeing.”

Angelica struggled to hold back a snort of laughter. “Well…” She managed to help Hamilton up the steps, who was in enough pain to not correct his daughter.

Inside, Angelica got Hamilton to a couch in the living room. Eliza came out of the kitchen and Lexi ran toward her for a hug. “What did you do, Alex?” she asked and lifted the child into her arms.

“Ballet,” Hamilton grunted.

“What’re you, fifty?” Eliza tsked.

He winced as she shifted on the couch. “Quite possibly. Where’s Peggy?”

“Taking a nap with Pipin,” Angelica answered. “Do you want me to give you a massage?”

“Yes,” Hamilton answered at once. He eased off the couch to lay on the floor while Eliza took Lexi with her back to the kitchen.

Angelica straddled the backs of Hamilton’s legs and pushed up his shirt. It didn’t take her long to find where it hurt the most when his whole body jerked after she pressed into his lower back. “Seriously, Alex,” she said with a shake of her head, “you do have the body of a middle-aged man.”

“Make it better,” Hamilton pleaded.

She went to work digging her fingers into his skin and working out the knots and tight muscles.

A long groan escaped Hamilton after she pressed her palms in deep and seemed to realign his spine.

“Really, Alexander?” Angelica teased. “I’m stopping if you keep making bedroom noises.”

He could only let out another moan as the pain in his back eased.

“I guess I’ll take that as a compliment,” Angelica said. She pressed her elbow into his back and made him wince.

“Angelica,” Philip scolded as he came into the room, “what have I told you about picking on Alexander just because he’s tiny?”

“That it’s funny?” Angelica replied with a smirk. “He hurt his back. I’m trying to get out the kinks but he has way too many.” She rubbed back into the spot that made him groan. “Way too many.”

Philip shook his head. “Don’t beat him up too much. Mom said the baby and Peggy are up and will be down shortly.”

A few minutes later, Peggy came downstairs carrying Pipin like a rag doll in one arm. She paused at the sight of Hamilton and Angelica on the floor. “I thought both of you were gay?” She shrugged. “Someone take the baby so I can have a snack before I feed him.”

Hamilton squirmed out of Angelica’s grasp to get his hands on the baby. His shirt slid back down over his rail-thin body and he reached for Pipin. “He’s precious!”

Peggy handed him over. “He cries a lot.”

Hamilton cradled the infant. “You would to if you just came into the world and couldn’t communicate and everything was new and scary.” He smiled at the wide baby eyes staring at him. “Right, Pipin? It was dark and quiet where you came from. The world is very bright and noisy.”

Pipin wailed.

“I know.” Hamilton held him closer and stroked the downy hair on his mostly bald head. Within a minute, the baby quieted and made happy gurgle sounds. He followed Angelica and Peggy to the kitchen. Lexi and Eliza sat at the table cutting leaves out of construction paper. “Bud, meet your cousin.”

Lexi cocked her head and watched the chunky baby in her dad’s arms. “I hold.” She held out her hands.

“He’s heavy.” Hamilton carefully settled Pipin on Lexi’s lap and made sure she supported his head. “Gentle like you are with your dolls.”

Lexi nodded. The big baby took up all of her lap. She stared at him, then whispered to Hamilton, “He’s not very cute.”

Hamilton smiled. Pipin was still in the homely just born stage with his wrinkled misshapen head and looked more like an old man than a baby.

“I done,” Lexi said. “He heavy.”

Hamilton took back Pipin and got his baby fix cradling and bouncing his honorary nephew.

Catherine came into the kitchen and began getting dinner. Angelica and Eliza went to help her and Lexi followed to watch.

“Alright, Alex.” Peggy held out her hands for her son. “That’s enough. I need to feed him before I start leaking.”

With reluctance, Hamilton handed over Pipin. “Where’s Stephan?”

“At work.” Peggy took a seat and got one arm out of her shirt and cradled Pipin to her breast.

Watching the spaghetti boil lost its fascination in favor of Peggy and Pipin, and Lexi ventured over. “What’re you doing?”

“Feeding him,” Peggy said.

Lexi tilted her head to the side. “How?”

“Ask your daddy,” Peggy replied and gave Hamilton a smirk.

At once, Lexi’s attention was on him. “How?”

“Moms can make milk in their breasts after having a baby,” Hamilton attempted to explain and glared at Peggy.

“Milk?” Lexi’s brow furrowed and she grew alarmed. “I put breast milk on my cereal?”

“No,” Hamilton said at once. “That’s from cows. Human moms make special baby milk.”

“But…” Lexi watched Pipin nurse. “Baby cows drink from mama cows. So that’s special baby milk.”

“Yes, but no,” Hamilton tried to reason. “Humans just like their milk.”

“Wow, Alex,” Peggy mused. “You’re so well-informed.”

Lexi lifted up her shirt and stared at her chest. “Will I make milk?”

“If you have a baby and decide you want to breastfeed,” Hamilton said and shook his head at Peggy.

“Can you?” Lexi let go of her shirt and climbed on Hamilton’s lap. She pulled up his shirt to look at his chest.

“No.” He stopped her from poking at his nipple. “That’s a mommy thing. Your hands are cold.”

Lexi withdrew her hand and glanced between him and Peggy. “Do cats make milk?”

Hamilton scratched his nose and for once found himself not wanting to answer Lexi’s thousands of questions. Why did she always have to ask about the female body at the Schuyler’s house when surrounded by her aunts who wanted to watch him suffer to attempt an answer?

“Mama cats do,” he said. “You remember what mammals are, right?”

“Fur and hair,” Lexi said.

“Yes.” Hamilton explained how all female mammals could produce milk after having a baby and how it contained all the nutrients the baby needed. When she was older, he would go into more detail on how nursing was sometimes not possible and other options—she’d been formula-fed herself—but for now, he was grateful she was satisfied with his answer. And even more when Catherine called her to help set the table.

“Poor Alex.” Peggy handed him Pipin to burp. “You really should start giving Lexi dumb answers. I plan to lie to Pipin about everything.”

Hamilton rolled his eyes. He held Pipin against his shoulder and patted the baby’s back.

Pipin promptly spit up over Hamilton’s shirt.

“Whoops.” Peggy held out the burp cloth too late.

He could only sigh and the scent of regurgitated milk made him recall all the times Lexi had spit up on him—every day it seemed like.

Once he cleaned off his shirt and Pipin was down for a nap, the family sat down for dinner. Everyone talked as they passed food around, the dinning room filled with the clatter of silverware and hum of voices. Like old times but even better, Hamilton thought with a smile at his daughter teaching her aunts about giraffes. Life did get better.