This was written a few months ago on a few sheets of scrap paper, thrown to one side and forgotten about. I found it last week whilst cleaning and decided to expand on (the first draft was only about half the length and had nothing from Eliza in it at all!) and post it here. I'm hesitant to post in such a large, active fandom with so many universally-accepted headcanons, but here I am.
I've taken a lot of artistic liberties with this fic. It bears very little resemblance to actual historical events aside from the most obvious, and has the benefit of being based off of one song in a musical which I have not been lucky enough to see yet. Which basically means I can do whatever I like!
Alexander Hamilton stands apart from the others, lost in thought. The loaded pistol is heavy at his hip. He had hoped that it would not come to this. He had looked for other options, but there were none to be found. He does not want to shoot, to be left with Burr's blood on his hands. He does not want to end the conflict this way, even though it has already cost him his reputation and the love of his wife. Nor does he want to be known as a coward, to be the one who refused to participate, who stood there like a fool and let it happen.
It occurs to him then, like a twisted joke, a cruel irony. There is something he can do, though it galls him to admit it. Somebody somewhere will get a laugh out of this notion. There is only one thing he can do for them both to walk away from this unscathed.
When the moment comes, he is calm. Somehow calmer than he has been in years. Perhaps that is because he already knows, no matter what he does, there is only one way that this can end.
Even so, ten paces feel like ten leagues. It is dark out, but growing steadily lighter all the while. A light mist rolls in across the still surface of the river. If there is a chill in the air, he cannot feel it. If he looks to the horizon, he can see the beginning of what will be a beautiful sunrise, one that will crown New York City in shades of amber and pink.
This still doesn't feel real. Writing the letter, saying goodbyeto Eliza, has any of that even happened? Any moment now he will open his eyes and find himself in bed, safe by her side.
He turns quickly.
Briefly, he recalls another duel that took place here, with the same pistol. He remembers how Phillip had left his side, smiling, to meet his fate. How confident the boy had seemed, how certain he had been of his victory. He had maintained his honour right to the last.
His honour had been what had gotten him killed.
He had killed his own son. Just as surely as if he'd fired the shot himself.
Alexander's eyes blur. The light is still poor; he asks for a moment to put on his glasses and uses the brief reprieve to rein in his emotions.
Now, he is ready. His hand is steady on his pistol, he is so calm, and Burr with his face hidden in shadow is as unfathomable as ever. Is he afraid? Is he, the man whose path has crossed Alexander's so many times in the past, frightened?
Their eyes lock for a split second. In the half light, through the mist, he feels the full force of his opponent's gaze. He feels it and does not flinch. Will not flinch.
Burr glances away. In the dark, his expression could almost be remorseful. Could almost be sad.
Hamilton raises his pistol, finger tensed on the trigger, ready to fire the shot that will end this. He raises it high, and hopes -
He hears the gunshot, shockingly loud in the cloaking silence. He smells gunpowder, and sees the smoke, the scintillating split-second spark. He feels the bullet strike him, a solid force like being hit with the butt of a rifle. It drives him to his knees and knocks the air from his lungs, but it does not hurt.
It's lighter now. Daybreak.
He looks up again, to find Burr and meet his eyes again, to smile and tell him well met, but Burr is gone, and he cannot draw the breath to speak. Doubled over, gasping for breath, with that gunshot still ringing in his ears, he thinks – death.
He thinks – at last.
He thinks – Eliza!
And then the pain comes. Choking, drowning pain like nothing he has ever felt before. It radiates through his chest, spreading further with each rapid beat of his heart.
And then, he is on his back staring up at the brightening sky, with nothing but the pain and the rushing Hudson beneath him.
And then, nothing at all.
A sharp knock at the door rouses Eliza from her uneasy sleep. The foreboding that had settled into her chest earlier that morning returns with a vengeance.
It's probably Alexander, back from his early meeting, she thinks blithely to herself, deliberately ignorant of the fact that he has a key and she has been asleep for less than an hour. Still, she takes her time answering the door, wrapping herself in a dressing gown for decency's sake.
It is not Alexander at the door. It is a man she does not recognise. She ought to feel self-conscious, standing in the doorway, dishevelled and not even dressed, but she does not.
The panic she feels overwhelms everything else.
There are footsteps on the stairs behind her. She turns stiffly. Angelica is there, in a similar state of undress. At any other time, this would be embarrassing, even laughable.
She listens to what the gentleman has to say with an air of detached politeness, though she is screaming inside. The words barely reach her, seeming incomprehensible.
Your husband. A duel. Shot. Hurry.
How can this have happened?
How could she fail to see it coming?
In a daze, she grabs her coat and slips her bare feet into a pair of shoes. Angelica follows suit.
The children will be asleep for a few hours yet.
She whispers a quick prayer, then steps out into the darkness.
A scream, and a muttered curse.
The taste of copper in his mouth.
Hands on him, and voices whispering.
Quiet, muffled sobbing, growing ever quieter as he fades.
Rise - !
He comes awake with a cry and a clotted gasp, and immediately there are hands on his shoulders, pinning him down as he fights for breath.
He opens his eyes and sees her standing beside him, her hair unbrushed and her dark eyes glittering with tears.
He tries to speak, to at least say her name, but each breath burns and is barely enough to fill his chest. Instead, he reaches towards her, longing, after everything, to simply hold his wife.
Her hands are warm. She's shaking. Angelica is there too, one arm wrapped protectively around her sister's shoulders. Her eyes glitter too, though her jaw is set hard.
"Eliza…" he finally manages to grate out, every syllable a struggle. She shakes her head, grips his hand harder.
"I'm here," she murmurs, "I'm here, ssh…"
Her voice, though ragged and thick with tears, is a balm, somehow managing to soothe the pain faster than any drug a doctor could administer. She strokes his brow with her free hand, tucking away stray strands of hair the way she used to when he'd been sat at his desk for hours. Her hands are warm and so soft; he'd thank her for her ministrations if he only had the breath.
Angelica! She is here too, he remembers through his haze. He tries to gather a little more strength, enough to call to her, but he chokes painfully on her name. He keeps trying, though, because she has to hear this; he tries until she has to put her hand over his mouth to silence him.
"Save your strength," she commands. Her voice is shaking.
So instead, he kisses her palm, hoping that that kiss says everything that needs to be said, everything he has ever wanted to say to her.
She nods in silent understanding, and he is thankful.
Eliza's world has shrunk in the space of a single dawn. Now, it consists of a small, candlelit room, a narrow bed, her husband, and her sister. A doctor lingers on the periphery, having played his part. He has bandaged Alexander's wound with care, though already blood has seeped through to stain the clean white. It shows vividly, almost too bright to be believed. With each breath, cry or movement he makes, the stain spreads a little. Eliza watches it, transfixed.
He keeps trying to speak, in spite of her efforts to quieten him. It's hardly surprising; he has always been a man with a lot to say, he's not likely to stop talking on his deathbed –
She devotes her attention to soothing him, holding his hands and stroking back his hair. It's not much, but it's all she can do, and she needs to do something to keep from going mad.
Every time he loses consciousness, the pain is there to mercilessly jolt him awake. He presses his hand against the wound, feeling the blood-drenched bandages. His fingers come away glistening red and wet, blood looking so much like spilled ink in the dim candlelight.
It is a terrible thing, to watch somebody you love die. Eliza has given up all hope of this ending well. The doctor was gentle enough in his explanation, for which she is thankful, but the truth is no less harsh for having been presented gently.
There is nothing more he can do for Alexander. He has lost too much blood, the bullet is in too deep.
Still, he seems to be resting now, though every so often, his harsh breathing catches on a moan and his glassy eyes flash open. His grip on her hand is slackening now, where just a short while ago, it was tight enough to bruise.
His breathing sounds horrific, wet and torn-up. Angelica is steadfast next to her. Just as well. Without her there to anchor her in place, Eliza would have run from the room sobbing by now.
They cling to each other, and wait.
It is cold now.
It is cold and he cannot breathe.
Alone in the dark, he feels as though he is drowning.
When he finally manages to draw a full breath, he chokes on it, a wet tearing cough.
Blood pools on his tongue and trickles from his mouth as he tries, again, to call for Eliza.
Her sudden, responding sob sounds like cannon-fire.
Her sister's soothing whisper is the hurricane wind.
If Eliza has any hope remaining at all, any hope that has survived the doctor's grave words and the evidence of her own eyes, it dies when the first blood springs to Alexander's lips. Somehow, he is still holding on. The strongest, most painfully stubborn man she has ever had the pleasure of knowing.
She weeps; she can no longer help it. The first sob forces its way out of her without her consent. Her hands fly to her mouth, to muffle the sound. She will not cry, not now, not yet, not while her husband still lives… and then Angelica's arms are around her and she is murmuring empty reassurances and she is powerless to hold back the tears.
He lingers in agony for hours or days, and when he next awakens he is no longer cold but searing hot.
He smells blood on the air, bile and fevered sweat.
He remembers his mother.
Her burning arms wrapped tightly around him as they both convulsed and moaned, neither dead nor living. Her dry, cracked lips brushed his ear, her faint breath tickled his neck.
Her final words, barely audible, rang in his ears.
Always know that I love you, my son…
He hears her voice, and opens his eyes.
His mother is gone.
Eliza is there. She holds his hand, clutching tightly, desperately. Haloed by candlelight, she is so beautiful. The most beautiful woman he has ever seen.
"Eliza…" He finds the breath for his words easily now, but he can think of nothing more that needs to be said. It's all contained within a letter that rests upon his desk at home, which she will find later. The pain ebbs and fades. He smiles at her. The smile is all he can muster.
Her answering smile is the last thing he sees.
Strangely, Eliza does not weep now. Minutes ago, she sobbed as if her heart were breaking. Now, his eyes fall finally shut and she feels it break, a clean, sharp crack, and she does not cry at all.
Alexander's final breath leaves him. His face relaxes, and his hand falls limp in hers. She lets it drop, gently, and steps back. He is dead.
It is over, and all she can feel is relief.
Time passes, seconds or minutes or hours, and she continues to watch Alexander's chest refuse to rise. Angelica is talking to the doctor, thanking him for his futile service, but her words are indistinct. Everything feels oddly distant and hazy, like she's taken a large dose of laudanum. The room swims, but Alexander stays in sharp focus. He's still, so still. Already he just looks like an object, like a thing built to look like her husband. He's not in the bed anymore, where did he go?
Angelica is pulling her by the hand, urging her from the room, but she continues to stare, aware of nothing but the body in the bed. Even the blood looks lifeless now, dull and fake where before it had been the most vivid red.
Did this really happen?
The entire morning takes on a bizarre, dreamlike quality. She didn't really walk in here at an ungodly hour to find her husband dying. She didn't really watch him take his final, laboured breaths in this small, candlelit room. Any moment now she'll roll over in bed and open her eyes. He won't be beside her, but she'll walk into his office and find him slumped at his desk, pen in hand with ink smeared on his cheek. She'll kiss him awake and they'll eat breakfast with the children, smiling together –
Oh. She's out in the street, how did she get out here? It's busier now than it was, people beginning to bustle as if this is any other morning. The sun is brighter, hurting her eyes. She brings a hand up to shade them and finds it smeared with drying blood.
The same blood that stained the sheets in the room where his body now lay. The same blood that had painted his lips as he'd struggled to breathe.
The street spins around her, a whirlwind of activity.
Angelica catches her as she falls.
There! My first contribution to this huge fandom. Constructive feedback would be gratefully accepted, especially since most of this was typed up at about two AM and the rest was literally found at the bottom of a drawer. And, as always, I'm taking requests. PM me for prompts and details if you're interested.