Pairing: Alexander Hamilton/John Laurens
Warnings: Some angst
'If my father could only see the army
' John Laurens paused to observe the assorted groups of soldiers hovering around each other for warmth as the cold breezed through Valley Forge, leaving men shivering in their tattered uniforms and inadequate blankets. 'If Congress could see the army, see the disease and famine, the provision wagons would arrive quicker than we could request them.'
Beside him, Alexander Hamilton observed, 'As long as Congress must beg from the states, it makes no difference whether provisions are detained for two days or two weeks, for they would rather we starve than relinquish authority to Congress.'
Laurens looked at his friend. 'How grave, even for you. I miss your agreeable nonsense.'
'You dream of glory as much as I, my dear Laurens," said Hamilton. 'There is none to be found here.' Adjusting his coat closer, he looked at the pathetic sight around them as they walked to General Washington's headquarters in the dark night. Men sat in the snow, visible breaths clouding their faces as they desperately tried to keep warm.
Four old soldiers shared the remainder of their bleak supper, sharing war stories with one another to prove who had sacrificed most for his country. Two drummer boys coughed into their hands to circulate blood, and a third covered his blue face in his arms. Other men were sleeping in tents, and it was uncertain how many would wake up the next morning. Others still stood outside, talking if only for the purpose of keeping morale.
Two soldiers around a dim fire conversed on women, with only gruel and weak wine in their stomachs, leaving a trace of irritancy in their voices. 'I write frequently to my divine girl,' one burly soldier said. 'Call me a philosopher, but you know my taste when it comes to women of particular dowers.'
The soldier across from him laughed. 'I know of your taste for maids. What of your Peggy? You were content to leave her with babe but without the prospect of matrimony. Where is your son now?'
The burly soldier shrugged his shoulders and replied in a nonchalant drawl, 'I hear she smothered the whore-child and now lives with her infamy in Morristown.' Laurens turned a black gaze over his shoulder at such detached tones, wincing as guilt of his own Martha and the daughter he had never met raced through his mind, but was prepared to pass if Hamilton had not parted his side to come between the men.
'I cannot, sir,' he confronted the burly soldier, tersely, 'abstain from confessing my alarm at seeing a man of such villainous behavior serving among worthy compatriots.'
His resolve did not weaken as the stout antagonist rose before him, face reddening. 'You speak unpardonably,' he retorted in cold breath. Laurens braced himself for the prospects of an exchange of fire as he could feel both men tense at the insults of the other. 'It is unforgivable to be slurred by a
'You, sir, are a scoundrel,' Hamilton interrupted, 'and should - ' His own words were cut off as a clenched fist struck his face and beat him into the snow. The burly soldier raised his hand again when Laurens's firm grip ceased his assault.
'You dishonor yourself,' he remarked. 'Unless you be motivated by personal enmity, you will leave and speak not a word of this to his Excellency. Knowing his distress at the recent dissents, you cannot persist in desiring to add more aggravation." The broad-shouldered man stared down Laurens for a minute before regaining self-control and stepping aside. The other soldier reluctantly joined him and the two settled back to their fire.
John Laurens helped pick up his dazed though unharmed friend from the ground. 'I think your zeal was at variance with your reason,' he gently reproached as Hamilton finished checking his nose for permanent damage.
Satisfied nothing more than his pride was bruised, and knowing he could repair that at a more opportune time, he glanced briefly at Laurens with pensive blue eyes before heading back towards headquarters. 'His conduct was nonetheless monstrous.' His comrade threw a perturbed look behind him before following his tracks in the snow.
'You will not be of any assistance to the General if you drop dead from overwork,' Laurens chided quietly.
Hamilton did not turn his attention away from the letter under his pen. He still scribed, eyes squinting under the candlelight, and the man lying in the bed across from his desk could see the fatigue in his friend's features, thinly concealed by the agitation etched across his face.
Laurens frowned. 'If you will not cease for your own health, take into consideration the candlelight keeps others awake who would rather be asleep.'
The lithe figure did not stop writing but replied shortly, 'If you turned to your side and closed your eyes, the light would not bother you so much.' He could not ignore the hard look his friend directed his way, and continued. 'The General's temper has been more irritable than usual, and I will be his target if these dispatches are incomplete by morning.' The tone of his voice suggested Laurens knew what he said to be true.
All the same, Laurens sat up, his harder features softening at his sulking friend. 'Let's not fight, my dear Hamilton.' Moving to where the other man sat, he took the quill before he could resume his work. 'I will become the outlet for the General's anger, should he express any, over unfinished business. But I could not forgive myself for allowing his most prolific aide to catch fever.'
Hamilton lifted his head and seeing the unyielding manner Laurens carried himself, moved, defeated, to the empty bed. 'You know I bear you no ill will.' It was almost a question. 'And if I am prolific, it is a spurious talent in Washington's eyes, or at least an exploitable one.'
Moving to join him on the bed after snuffing the candle, Laurens reassured, 'Do not concern yourself with such matters now.' He was used to his friend's sensitivity, which had piqued that winter when everyone felt forgotten by the country and humiliated by defeat, and the aides in particular became an channel for their general's frustrations. Hamilton was transparent in his feelings, and Laurens could not help but feel protective. Taking Hamilton's red hands into his own, he marked, 'It's late. Your hands are cold. Do not let this incident keep you awake. He would not dare report the occurrence to the General.'
'It would not worry me if he did.' Hamilton leaned into Laurens's shoulder, and though he stared at their hands Laurens could see the same pensive stare as before. 'Forgive me,' he said after a moment of silence, resting his cheek into the nape of his friend's neck. 'You know I cherish our friendship, more than you perhaps imagine.'
Laurens allowed himself a smile and wrapped an arm around Hamilton's shoulder, pulling him closer. 'You need never doubt. I have grown accustomed to your ever-varying moods. The troubles of war weigh hard on us.'
Feeling more comforted and safe in his friend's arm than almost anywhere, Hamilton confessed, 'I have written to my father.' He lowered his eyes. 'I have written to the gentleman many times since the war, have spoken of my accomplishments, but he has not seen fit to make proper return. I had begged him to write to me.' Although he was made aware James Hamilton was still alive, John remembered that while Alexander knew much of the President of Congress, he knew little of the wayward Scottish gentleman laboring in the West Indies.
Bowing his head, Laurens offered softly, 'Perhaps the correspondence has been lost.' The sudden twinge of guilt returned, and Laurens felt he should write a letter to his wife and daughter. Tenderly, he brushed his lips against his friend's forehead. Hamilton's shallow breath was growing hot against his neck.
'I have no property, no connections to this country,' he said. 'I can say only your friendship makes this scene tolerable.'
Before Laurens could react to the possessive tone etched in the man's voice, Hamilton turned his head to the side and returned his kiss à la française. They held the embrace the rest of the night, trying to keep warm in the freezing draft and never certain if the other would wake up the next morning.