I can’t hear “Wait for It” without catching on a certain line. It occurred to me that Hugh would catch on that line, too.
Lyrics not used by permission, but used with my utmost admiration and respect, with no desire to profit from them. This is a bit of fan love right here.
Hugh sat in his car and listened to the song again. He’d thought it was a joke gift; he wasn’t into musical theater, and Nick and Bernie knew that perfectly well. It didn’t matter how many people thought Hamilton was incredible—that wasn’t much of an endorsement. People liked a lot of things.
But this song. This line. Everyone who loves me has died.
He restarted the track and closed his eyes.
* * *
After all these years, he knew the rhythms of the gym well. He knew he could find Nick in a free moment mid-morning, and he took the liberty of slipping into the office and closing the door even though Nick was on the phone. Placing—or rather arguing about—an order.
His eyes registered surprise, but welcome. Always welcome with Nick these days. Hugh took a seat on the settee and waited patiently for Nick to cow the poor schmuck who’d had the unfortunate luck of answering his call.
When he finally hung up, he looked over. “Reynolds?”
Hugh shook his head just slightly, holding Nick’s gaze.
“Oh shit. It’s the fucking soundtrack, isn’t it?”
“I can’t stop listening to it.”
Nick stood and crossed the room, sinking down beside him. “Which of the completely gutting threads is hurting you most? I vacillate between grieving for Angelica’s future married to boring rich guy and being kind of fucked up over the idea of Hamilton watching his mother die and struggling so hard for so long, doing so much good, and basically dying because he was a fucking jackass.” He waved a hand. “Well, that and Burr.”
“Burr, Nicky. Burr hurts me the most. He has this song…I went online and looked up the lyrics. I hear it even when I’m not listening.”
“‘Wait for It’.” Nick nodded. “Death doesn’t discriminate, right?”
Hugh swallowed. “He says, ‘And if there’s a reason I’m alive when everyone who loves me has died, I’m willing to wait for it.’” He could feel tears standing in his eyes. “Every time. It gets to me every time.”
Nick took his face in both hands and kissed him. “I didn’t think about it that specifically. I’m sorry. They’re both orphans, you know. Burr and Hamilton. But if I’d thought about that, Hugh, I would have…” He shook his head, eyes never leaving Hugh’s. “I would have still given it to you. But I would have warned you. I’m sorry.”
“My emotional reaction isn’t your responsibility.”
“You are my oldest friend. Making you cry is a little bit my responsibility.”
A stalemate while they stared at each other, until Hugh gave in. He swallowed again and let Nick’s hands take the weight of his head, leaning forward.
“It was never true, you know,” Nick murmured. “Lucy and I loved you. You were never alone.”
“I know. But I was.”
Nick tugged him in deeper, pulling until Hugh was cradled into his neck. “I know you were. And I know sometimes you still are. It’s okay.”
Was it okay? Was it really okay that even in a life full of loved ones, of family, there were some moments when he couldn’t breathe for how alone he felt? But Nick said it was. And if Nick thought it wasn’t, he’d say so.
“You’re a lot like Burr, you know.” Nicky’s voice in the darkness was both gentle and teasing. “So prudent, so practical.”
That couldn’t be allowed. Hugh raised his head to better glare. “I stand for things! He only stood for his ambition!”
“Okay, but what is his ambition? To be president? Or to be in the room where it happens? Because one of those things is about being the biggest, baddest motherfucker there is. And the other’s about understanding how things work, using that understanding as a measure of control.” Nick arched an eyebrow. “Sound like anyone you know?”
Hugh sat back, taking deep, deliberate breaths. This was playful. Nick was teasing. But in another way, he related to Burr’s conservatism, his fear of risk. “Not that we have any idea what either of them were thinking, but I like the idea that at the last moment Burr was motivated by not wanting his daughter to be an orphan. It’s probably fiction, but that…that thread resonated for me. That neither of them had fathers. That both of them tried to be good ones.”
And because they’d known each other a long time—maybe because Nick had known Cordelia—his gaze sharpened. “You think about that in general? Or just in the context of the show?”
“I do not have children, Nicky.”
“But you could. If you wanted.” He didn’t ask. He offered that little bit of mercy.
“I could. And if I did, I would try to be the father I wanted. The father I never had.”
Nick leaned forward and kissed him again, then pulled him into a hug. “You are a good man. I can state categorically that you would be a good father, if you wanted to be one.”
“You can’t possibly know that.”
“Oh, I think I can.” Nick’s eyes bore into him. “I’m the one who had a father, so in this room I’m the expert.”
“I’m not going anywhere dark. I’m saying you look a kid in the eye, you give them a hug when they need it, you talk to them like you know how brightly they shine. That’s the whole game.”
Hugh swallowed. “So it’s that easy?”
“I think holding someone in your mind all the time, having faith in them, collaborating with them on a shared life—isn’t easy. Nothing about that is easy.”
“Is that how you see parenthood?”
Nick’s lashes fluttered. He took a long breath, fingers tense on Hugh’s arms. “If I had a kid? Yeah. That’s how I’d do it. I’d want them to know, all the time, that I had their back. Always.”
Like your family never had yours. Oh, Nicky. This time Hugh leaned forward, taking a kiss that hadn’t been offered, an unusual liberty in these days when both of them were committed to other people in a way they’d never been to each other. “Thank you. For giving me the album. I would have never heard it otherwise.”
“The writing’s amazing, right? Reaches into your guts and twists them.”
“Yes. Exactly. At multiple points.”
“Man, Angelica kills me. She has him for a split second and she makes this very rational decision not to keep him, but god, Hugh. It gets to me every time.”
That was an easy enough mystery. “You got a second chance after making just such a rational decision.”
“I know. And every time I listen to ‘Satisfied’ I remind myself that I’m not married to a boring rich guy, unable to do anything on my own. But god, sometimes that feels so fucking close to me I can smell it.”
“I understand exactly what you mean.”
They looked at each other and time stretched, elastically, all the way back to the first time they’d ever been in this room. When Nick hadn’t quite come on to him. Or perhaps had completely come on to him.
“The day we met we sat in this room and you told me you’d lost your nerve. That you thought you’d read me right, but I retreated.”
“I said I thought you were a top, but then you retreated.” One side of Nick’s mouth quirked up. “I can still watch you do that, you know. I still watch you reign it in sometimes. But you go so much deeper now than you did at eighteen.”
“Did you imagine when we met that we would be friends this long?”
Nick laughed. “I wasn’t sure you’d last the night. But you did. And even when I didn’t call you back, you always called again.”
“Because I had no concept of appropriate boundaries. My only real friend was Lucy, after all.”
“It wasn’t that. It wasn’t boundaries. You always seemed to know how much I wanted to be friends with you, even when I expressed that by ignoring your existence.”
Had that been it? Hugh thought back, considered. “Also Mom. She told me not to let you stray too far because she thought you needed more square meals than you were getting. Sometimes I let that be my excuse for calling you.”
“I owe Cordelia so much. I wish I’d known her longer.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t realize what I was giving you with the soundtrack. I didn’t mean for it to hurt.”
Hugh raised his eyebrows.
“Well, okay, I expected it to hurt a little. Not as much as it did.”
“I don’t feel an apology is necessary, but for whatever it’s worth, I accept.” Hugh let his own hand grip Nick’s arms, both of them holding on to each other now. “Thank you. For being my friend. For taking me here that night. For taking me home with you, and showing me more than I knew to look for.”
“I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”
This time they kissed and it wasn’t quite sexual, but there was heat to it, years of love and trust.
Nick leaned his forehead against Hugh’s. “You are an original, Hugh Reynolds. But for the record I’m glad you stopped waiting.”
“And if you did want to be a father…I don’t think you should wait for that either.”
Hugh couldn’t breathe, feeling every bit of Nick’s faith in him. Of the reality behind those words.
“Anyway. Unless you’re gonna blow me real fast, both of us should probably get back to work.”
“No, I do not plan to blow you. And yes, I agree.” One more brief kiss to Nick’s cheek. “Thank you.”
Hugh played “Wait for It” again in the car. He still cried, but when it was over he let the album play on, thinking about all the things people waited for, and all the things that passed them by as they did so. He understood Burr. Quite well, ultimately.
But he had no desire to become him.