It wasn’t the first time Alexander had very nearly fallen asleep at his desk.
Being the General’s personal aide-de-camp meant that the young man stayed after hours, sometimes almost until the early light of dawn, furiously brandishing his quill across parchment after parchment, working tirelessly to contact Congress for supplies for the slowly dwindling American troops.
This night was no different.
Through the flickering candlelight, George watches as Alexander finally seems to give into the fatigue clearly maining his young features, slumping against the top of his desk, nearly smushing his quill in-between his cheek and the wood underneath. Shaking his head, Washington carefully rises from his own desk, boots nearly silent as he comes around to Hamilton’s other side.
“Alex--” George whispers, reaching out to gently shake his son’s arm, careful to not startle the boy. “Come on, you’ll be more comfortable in your bed.”
Alexander grumbles, lifting his head. Ink is smeared down one cheek, his hair escaping from his ribbon down one side and Washington barely hesitates before reaching out, smoothing back the stubborn dark lock. Hamilton, for his part, just sighs, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.
He suddenly looks so much younger than his 17 years that George feels his heart skip, for just a second.
“ ‘m fine.” The boy yawns, making a move to grab his quill, the feather shaking in his grip. “I just need to finish this message, sir. Only a-a moment--”
“No, son.” Washington plucks the quill from his aide’s fingers, ignoring the harsh sigh Alexander lets out. Reaching under his son’s arms, the General practically hauls the boy up, nearly dragging Hamilton the last few feet to his cot. “It will be there in the morning.”
Hamilton frowns, squaring his shoulders as he looks up at Washington. “If you’d just--”
“That’s an order, Alexander.”
The boy makes a move as to argue once more but, sensing this, George levels his best parental glare and Hamilton’s jaw closes with an audible snap. The lack of a further argument is clearly a testament to how exhausted his charge is and George swallows down his worry, reaching down to fluff his son’s thin pillow before settling Alexander onto the mattress.
The wood creaks under the boy as Hamilton lays down, his breath evening out before George can step away.
Chuckling, Washington stops for just a second to carefully smooth his son’s dark hair back, grateful for every puff of air Alexander wheezes out. The boy squirms in his sleep, shifting until he’s facing away from George, his face squished against his pillow and George tries to ignore the warmth that expands his chest, instead choosing to walk back over to Alexander’s desk, blowing out the last candle.
The tent is cast in a pale gray darkness, the full moon barely visible through the thin ceiling curtain. The air, for the first time in months, barely smells of faint gunpowder and Washington gathers a lung-full, letting it out in a long, silent sigh.
George, after taking one last glancing at his sleeping son, makes his way to his own bed, climbing in with a yawn of his own.
Closing his eyes, the General is asleep for what only feels like a few minutes before the sounds of whimpers rises him again.
Sitting up, Washington blindly reaches out, wrapping his hands around his gun before he has even fully risen from the cot, a snarl curling his lip as he searches the small tent. No attackers jump out, however and the General leans back against his pillow, trying to get his adrenaline under control.
Another whimper, however, floats through the fizzling darkness and George frowns, shifting so that he’s standing, settling his gun against his bed after a second of hesitation. It’s silent for a few more seconds, and Washington is just about to lay back down when another low cry sounds.
Blinking, George feels his heart break when, from the direction of his son’s bed, the General hears the unmistakable sound of sobs.
“Alexander, shh.” George whispers as he walks closer to the crying boy, watching with a heavy heart as Hamilton tosses in his cot, his thin sheet tangling around his legs. “It’s alright, son, it’s okay.”
“Da.” Alex whimpers, reaching out toward his father’s voice even in sleep and George wastes no time in sitting along his aide’s side, gently gathering Hamilton against his chest. “ Da. ”
“I’m here, son.” George soothes, smoothing the damp locks away from his boy’s forehead, swallowing down his own cries. Alexander hasn’t called him that in years, not since he was a small boy. “Shh, please calm down, Alex, it’s alright, love.”
The boy just sobs harder, beginning to struggle in his dad’s hold, lost in the horrors of his mind. His breath comes in pants, head nearly knocking against the General’s chin as Washington rocks them slowly, whispering soothing, nonsense words against his son’s hairline.
Finally, after what feels like a thousand years, Alexander calms down, slumping against George’s chest.
“There we go.” Washington whispers, reaching down to gently cup his son’s cheek, brushing away the last of Hamilton’s tears with a thumb. Alexander, for his part, just sighs, blinking up at George through the darkness. “Just breathe, okay? In, out, in, out, like that. Good, good.”
“I-I’m sorry--” Instead of breathing, Hamilton begins to apologize, his face dusted in red and he ducks his head, trying in vain to wiggle out of George’s hold. “This is unprofessional--”
“Stop.”George holds up a hand, the buttons of his cuffs glistening in the faint moonlight. He sees Alexander’s dark eyes follow the sparkle before darting up to meet his father’s once more. “You’re my son , Alexander, before you are my aide. Do you understand, dear heart?”
Alexander doesn’t respond right away, just continues to gaze up at George with an unreadable expression. His eyes, almost as dark as the shadows around them, haven’t changed since George had first picked him up all those years ago; when the boy had only been but a fresh immigrant, 10-years-old with the hurricane and the death of his mother still swirling in his haunted gaze.
George wishes with everything in him to ease the burden, at least as much as he can in the middle of this bloody revolution.
“Do you understand?” He asks again, tilting Alexander’s chin up with gentle fingers. “Alex?”
“Yes.” The 17-year-old nods, sniffling as he seems to allow himself to cuddle close, even if it’s for only just a few minutes. “Yes, Da, I-I understand.”
George presses a kiss against his son’s forehead, feeling the boy sigh against him, going limp in his hold. Both watch as the light outside the tent begins to grow, the faint chirping of the nearby birds muffled against the tarps around them and George feels himself hold Alexander just a little bit tighter.
Once the sun comes up, they need to go back to their usual routine. Aide-de-Camp and General Washington, nothing more, nothing less. Father and son to only their own knowledge, because George cannot allow Alexander to be in more danger because of him.
Because of his name, his legacy .
George would rather fall from his horse and be dragged along the stone, brittle roads than ever let his reputation put his son in harms way. At least, not if Washington can help it.
For now though, when the sun isn’t yet gleaming above the horizon and Alexander is safe in his arms, George can allow himself to feel at peace in the middle of this war.
Even if it’s only for a moment.