A/N: Hey reader, welcome to multi-chapter fic #2! I went for my Philip x Theo plan! Okay, they start off pretty young, but they'll grow up soon enough, and they're both quite mature, so hopefully they won't seem too sickeningly sweet, which is always my biggest fear with writing about child characters! I'm looking forward to this. I chuck in a few political events for Alex and Aaron to fight about, but I don't really know all that much about anything, so don't view anything here as factual. Even so, I love including tiny snippets of truth, so some of it is inspired by real events! Hope you enjoy this :D
Disclaimer: I don't own Hamilton at all in any way, as much as I wish I did!
Chapter 1 - Summer 1793
The porch of the Burr family home seemed almost obnoxiously large and decadent to the man standing inside it, his eldest child proudly at his side. In fact, everything about the small front garden seemed exaggerated in its perfection, and although the pristine lawn and precise topiary earned the approval of the young boy, to his father it gave the impression of the home owner over-compensating.
Perhaps he thinks a well presented garden is a reasonable substitute for an opinion, the man considered bitterly. He couldn't help the grimace which always graced his face when he thought of the potential Burr simply tossed aside with his constant hesitation.
The child beside him was brimming with all the excitement his father lacked: Philip Hamilton was only eleven years old, and he was delighted that his father had deemed him mature enough to accompany him to a meeting such as this. Well, not quite a meeting, but an important discussion nonetheless about some sort of trade deal with England, and one he hoped to learn a lot from. Alexander Hamilton would be eternally grateful that even though his children weren't living in a situation as desperate as his own childhood had been, a situation which had forced into him a desire for something better and which had left him no option but to incessantly strive to increase his intelligence, their comfortable social standing had not sapped their thirst for knowledge and ambitions of greatness. He was hugely relieved that he knew Philip dreamed of being just like him, which was why he was so keen to include the boy in his work.
He knelt down so as to look directly into Philip's eyes, and explained, "Mr Burr is a clever man, but he is also very frustrating. He refuses to stand for what he believes in -"
"So we have to convince him. I know, you already told me!" Philip exclaimed with a grin, pleased to have prior knowledge of what he was about to witness. It didn't matter that he didn't know exactly the subject matter Aaron Burr was determined to avoid sharing his view on, his father was proud even so. Alexander matched the smile, beaming with paternal joy at his bubbly young man. After a moment, he stood and rapped his knuckles on the solid oak, sharp and confident.
Mrs Theodosia Burr opened the door, the kind smile which had won Aaron Burr's heart shining with intelligence as she greeted them. The warmth in it was almost enough to distract from the fact that her shining eyes were set within tired, dark circles, while her cheeks were gaunt and hollow and her complexion lacked its usual healthy colour. She didn't seem to notice it herself as she welcomed them, "Mr Hamilton, please, come in. And you must be Philip, I'm so pleased to see another bright young person following in the bold footsteps of our founders."
Immediately, Philip took a liking to Mrs Burr. "I'm going to be just as bold as my father!" He declared happily, his enthusiasm earning a chuckle.
"Theodosia, it's good to see you looking so well," Hamilton nodded respectfully as he stepped inside. She lead the pair through to the sitting room, where Burr was already sat, conversing with his little girl. They noticed the newcomers and looked up at them in unison, identical pairs of eyes scanning them with matching wit. They stood at the same time, Burr immediately plastering a pleasant smile on his face, though it was visibly less genuine than the one he wore when talking with the younger Theodosia.
"Alexander... Philip," he walked towards the older of his guests, shaking his hand firmly and gesturing for him to take a seat. Hamilton placed himself in an armchair, Philip sitting on the foot stool beside it without explicitly being offered the place. The Burrs returned to the sofa, a Theodosia on either side of Aaron.
"Thank you for meeting with us, sir," Alexander began. Burr couldn't help but sigh at the "sir" in the sentence: That was always the tell-tale signal that Hamilton was about to burst into a political tirade, and although he knew to expect it, he'd dared to hope that by meeting in a friendly, casual setting, Alexander might spare a moment to be polite and social before launching into his lecture. No such luck, Burr realized, disappointed.
"Would you like a refreshment before you begin?" Mrs Burr suggested, laying a comforting hand on Aaron's arm; she could always sense when he was frustrated, and this was her attempt to delay the rant her husband anticipated and feared, if only for the time it took to drink a cup of tea.
Unfortunately, Hamilton was unwilling to play along. "No thank you. We have important business to see to - for example, the Jay Treaty. Sir, what do you really think about it?"
Seeing Theodosia's stalling technique had failed but grateful nonetheless for her effort, he took her hand to calm himself and to help him retain his trademark smile as he replied, "You know I'm spearheading the campaign to have several of the articles reviewed."
Philip glanced between the two men and struggled to untangle the political jargon as his father shot back, as aggressively as if he'd just been insulted, "That's not what I asked. That's what you're doing about the treaty, not what you think about it. Knowing you, the two are likely miles apart."
"Because you think I'd go out of my way to support something I don't believe in?"
"Because I know you'd go out of your way to support the most favourable thing in the eyes of the people. The vast majority of whom, might I add, know nothing of the true value of the treaty, and yet still you pander to their wants. What about what they need, Sir?"
The smile was now firmly confined to his mouth, his eyes devoid of the friendly comradeship it indicated as he replied, "The people can tell they've been dealt an unfair hand. The treaty grants them England so much, yet we receive little in exchange. They get to keep the compensation we are owed from their reckless rampage and theft of our property during the revolution, they limit our prosperous trade with the West Indies, this treaty compromises our close trade relationship ergo our war alliance with France, and in return we cut their import taxes? I'd say the people have a decent grasp on how unjust this proposed plan is." His daughter gazed admiringly up at him, adoring the way he defended himself so surely and calmly.
Unfazed, Hamilton smirked slightly as he teased, "How long did it take you to memorize your lines? That is, I assume that was your pre-designed response, it's too pristine for you to come up with on the spot. It doesn't even sound like you, really, just some mechanical puppet. I know you're not a fool, Sir, at least not intellectually speaking. You know as well as I do that a few minor inconveniences mean nothing compared to the real reward of the treaty: it keeps us neutral. Britain doesn't fight us because we buy and sell her goods, France doesn't try to recruit us to fight with her or worse, drag us into the pandemonium she calls revolution, because we're keeping our distance from her, all the while preserving our advantageous position to negotiate with her. That stability for a country in its infancy is far more important than a few unpaid war debts, and I know you can recognize that just as plainly as I can." Philip gazed in awe as his father delivered the emphatic reply.
Aaron squeezed Theodosia's hand in his as he answered, "It's an unfair Treaty."
"It's a necessary Treaty. You know that if we refuse it, we'll likely be dragged into war within the next six months. You could help keep your country safe, yet you elect to chase popularity instead. Why?"
The smile faded as Burr replied, "I must do as they want. If I don't, they will reject me as many have rejected you, defame and scorn me like they have to you." As Hamilton began to argue, he interrupted, "Those of us less accustomed to refuting each and every accusation in a fit of fervour will surely succumb to pressure to withdraw from politics much more easily than those like you, Alexander, so don't tell me I'm being irrational. I'm being responsible, guaranteeing my future rather than causing controversy in the present."
With a groan of unrestrained disgust, Alexander complained, "You simply can't stand to look at the real issues facing the country!"
Thoroughly irked by the harsh criticism of her husband, Theodosia commented, "If you believe that to be the case, perhaps you'd prefer to take a moment to discuss a more sociable topic. Aaron's practice as a lawyer, for example, seeing as you worked so closely when you were a lawyer yourself." Hamilton granted the older woman the grace of humoring the shift in conversation. He would have been far less passive if he had been able to predict the next subject she brought up: Theodosia leaned forwards conspiratorially as she revealed, with an air of excitement which made it feel as if she were gossiping at a party, "He told me about a most interesting case of divorce, a young woman named Mary Lewis. Do you know her?"
Hamilton mulled over the name for a few seconds, searching his mind for any situation where he might have heard it; he was adamant that it was unfamiliar to him, however he knew Theodosia was as wise a woman as the 10 year age gap between herself and her husband could be expected to lend her, and there was almost certainly something more to the name than simply a piece of gossip. "I'm sure I don't... Should I?"
Burr was gazing adoringly at his wife now with all the love and gratitude in the world - it was clear he knew what indecipherable game she was playing. In return, she gave him a mischievous grin before continuing to the guest with all the confidence of a cat playing with a mouse before going in for the kill, "Perhaps you ought to know her. Mary Lewis was her maiden name, maybe you're familiar with a Maria Reynolds instead?" She registered the way he stiffened immediately at the mention of the name, his eyes darting to his oblivious son, who was thankfully looking at Burr and missing his father's guilty unease, then to Burr himself, disbelieving and humiliated that he obviously knew of his connection to Reynolds from taking her as a client, and then back to Theodosia, who was still grinning smugly, delighted that she'd managed to save her love from his taunting. Nevertheless, it was never her intention to out the affair in the presence of young Philip, only to put a stop to Alexander's sharp tongue. So she excused her accusation of familiarity, "I know you're drawn to all things bizarre or controversial, and her story was definitely rather fanciful, Mr Hamilton."
"I don't know her," he lied, replying too fast, jaw clenching with irritation at the unprecedented shift in atmosphere Mrs Burr had managed to bring about. There's a reason, he realized, that Burr calls her his most trusted ally in battle. Despite being at the receiving end of it, he had to admire her undeniable wit and sturdy dedication to her husband. He recognized a similar strength within his own wife, and he couldn't help but respect her for it.
"In which case, we may return to the matter at hand, and I would thank you for refraining from outright insults when we do so, Alexander," Burr warned, still visibly delighted by his wife's victory.
Hamilton nodded curtly. "Yes. I would only want my son to see civilized conversation, not a series of low blows making the political personal." A meaningful look at both other adults which the boy he spoke of completely missed.
Philip decided that the lull in conversation was a suitable point to share his own views: "My father's often the victim of personal attacks, but he always manages to refute false claims made against him," He proudly announced, sitting up straighter as he contributed to the discussion.
Feeling that for the first time that it had become acceptable for a child to partake in the adults' debate, young Theodosia boasted, "Well my father manages to avoid conflict in the first place. It's much more sensible, in my opinion." Though only ten years old, she spoke with confidence and the same motivation to defend her father as her namesake, and her interjection earned approving smiles from both her parents.
"Well, what if he needs to say something important? How will he get his voice heard if he stays out of the spotlight?" Philip asked, not anywhere near as accusingly as his father had been when posing a similar question.
"That will be the day," Alexander muttered.
"Just because he doesn't immediately jump into the fray at every opportunity, doesn't mean he won't be ready to take a stand when he does!" She argued, the words seeming much too mature to be coming from such a young girl. Then again, both her parents were known for their superior intellect, it was hardly surprising that she took after them.
Relieved in spite of himself at the lighter, almost humorous atmosphere the children had brought to the room, Alexander smiled at the sight: two clever young people sitting beside their politician fathers, eagerly debating. Of course, that one half of the conversation was his son explaining how proud he was of his father was an additional bonus to him.
Burr voiced Hamilton's thoughts: "Look at our little prodigies, the very spit of their parents, both with plenty of their own brains. Maybe the pair of you would like to continue this in the next room? Mr Hamilton and I do have important things to see to, after all." After the vote of confidence from his daughter, he was ready to resume the discussion, this time with his knowledge of the Reynolds affair as a shield from Alexander's personal questions.
Hamilton, too, was eager to proceed, knowing he had a task to accomplish, and added, "You could show Theodosia some of your poetry, Philip."
"But I wanted to watch!" He protested, turning pleading eyes on his father.
Taking the hint that the men wanted privacy, Theodosia joined in too. "Come now Philip, your mother told me you play piano. You can play with Theo, she's learning herself," Theodosia encouraged, standing and ushering the children to their feet. Before she left, she pressed a sweet kiss to Aaron's cheek, and then herded the children next door.
"This is so unfair... He told me I could watch," Philip muttered under his breath.
Beside him, Theo smirked playfully, "There you have it, the final proof that not making promises is the better approach - my father told me no such thing, and which of us is happier?"
Philip gave her a long look, frowning as he tried to disagree, to come to his father's defence. But after a moment looking at that teasing and infectious smirk, he found he couldn't help but join in, smiling at the young girl as he granted her that victory. "Very clever," he begrudgingly admitted, his cheerful expression taking the sting out of his words.
"Theo, why don't you show Philip the song I taught you yesterday?" Theodosia encouraged her little girl, whose face immediately became a picture of pain at the suggestion, as they entered a bright room with a pink couch, a coffee table, a large piano and a breathtaking view of the garden.
"Mother, I barely remember it, please don't make me embarrass myself in front of Philip," she pleaded, trying to convey her desperation to avoid the situation through her wide brown eyes which she fixed on the elder woman.
"Then you can read it from the sheet," Theodosia replied, immovable in her request: one of her greatest pleasures was to hear the gentle flowing of music played for her, and she was keen for her daughter to pick up the gift of music so that she could reproduce it.
"Fine," Theo huffed, her maturity and formality apparently abandoned when not in her father's presence and when irritated by her mother's stern request. She took a seat at the piano, having to lift herself onto the stool with her hands and wriggling backwards due to her short height. Philip watched curiously as she flicked through a book of sheet music, coming to rest on a certain page. She took a deep breath before she began to play, her fingers clumsily slipping as her eyes darted frantically between the page and the keys, long pauses ensuing every so often as she struggled to find the next note. As she began to settle into the song, her fingers moved more effortlessly over the keys, and it became clear that she was adept at reading sheet music. Even so, it caused the young boy who found such joy in playing piano great consternation to see that she was visibly stiff, as if playing was an unpleasant chore rather than a hobby.
It was a song Philip knew himself, though he took a moment to recognize it from Theodosia's shaky start to her rendition. Or at least, it was a song he could play his own individual version of; much to his mother's chagrin, he was prone to improvising when he played, and though Elizabeth admired the way he swiftly adapted to recreate songs in a slightly different way, sometimes she wished he would simply adhere to the worldwide convention of reading sheet music. Nevertheless, he recognized that his own more carefree approach could benefit Theo.
He approached the piano and shuffled on to the stool beside her. She glanced at him, and he noticed her intense frown of concentration for the first time. She didn't stop playing, however, determined to reach the end of the song. Without explaining anything to her, he joined in, playing at a slower tempo to stay in time with her own hesitant pace - she'd intentionally slowed down, most likely to give her mind the time to process the scribbles on the song sheet. But each time she glanced up to check the page, Philip continued to play something he knew she'd recognize as a deviation from the instructions.
At first it threw her off, and each altered version caused her to make a jarring stop. But as he continued, she gradually learned to mimic his easy, effortless playing, slowly growing accustomed to combining the snatches she recalled from memory with an estimation of what the song should sound like. She peeled her gaze from the keys, her frown replaced by her enthusiastic smile, and shared her delight with the boy beside her. They reached the end of the song in a soaring harmony, Philip playing an unwritten base melody as she created her own higher notes, melding together to create a great unprecedented symphony.
As the song finished, the two pianists and the audience of one were equally silent. After a moment to savour the last reverberating vibrations as they faded away in an echo, Theodosia congratulated with a proud maternal smile, "That was wonderful, both of you."
Theodosia smugly grinned at her mother as she pointed out, "Philip plays better than I do, and he doesn't waste time learning how to read the sheet."
Her new friend was somewhat envious of her obvious skill at meticulously playing exactly the correct melody, however. "I wish I had enough patience to follow the sheet as well as you do," he complimented, unreservedly impressed by her talent.
"No you don't!" Theo argued, nudging him with her elbow.
"Yes, I do!" Philip shot back adamantly.
"Now be sensible, I think that kind of improvisation is... indispensable," Theo replied, purposefully attempting to use the kind of eloquent language her father used when he was trying to win an argument.
Philip opened his mouth to reply, before Theodosia interrupted the playful squabble of modesty, "I think you both played beautifully. Philip, you have a gift... and Theo, you -"
A crash from the next room froze the flow of conversation. A door slamming followed seconds later, and then there was the unmistakable sound of stomping footsteps drawing closer. Alexander flung open the door aggressively, his face furiously red and his eyes blazing with the fire which heated him so much.
"Philip, we're leaving," he ordered through gritted teeth. He snatched the boy by the hand and pulled him along behind him as he stormed out, not even calm enough to utter a courteous farewell to the ladies of the house who'd done nothing to warrant that rage.
Pulled along behind his rampaging father, Philip could only glance fleetingly over his shoulder at the women he'd bonded with in the short time he'd shared their company. His initial concern was to wonder what on earth had caused his father to leave the Burr residence in such an angry rush. But second thought was to ponder whether or not he'd get to see Theo again: the intelligent, headstrong little girl, the daughter of the very man who'd just caused such a torrent of outrage from his father, had thoroughly piqued his interests, and he was keen to see her again.