Done as a request for the Hetalia Kink Meme: "America in the musical 1776." It started out as a one-shot with the title that this story is achieved under, but eventually evolved into a connected series of mostly-stand-alone things named after the songs in the musical. Hope you'll enjoy!
Disclaimer: I no own. Let's get on with the show.
Piddle, Twiddle and Resolve
- May 8th, 1776 -
John Adams burst from the back door of the Pennsylvania State House into the dark Philadelphia streets. Gripping his walking stick tight in his hands, he bounded down the stairs, adrenaline driving him to the speed of a man half his age. Once his feet touched solid ground, he spun around and glared at his fellow congressmen, none of whom looked at all depressed at his departure.
"Good god!" he raged at the open doors. "Consider yourself fortunate that you have John Adams to abuse, for no sane man would tolerate it!"
An equally angry voice was fired back from the delegation of South Carolina. "Would someone shut that man up?!"
Adams turned on his heel and stormed off down the muddy streets. He cursed the Congress and all its damn fools under his breath, then threw in mosquitoes, heat and blasted Pennsylvanian weather for good measure. God in heaven, he hated Philadelphia. He longed for the familiar field of his home in Massachusetts, the farm, the town, the law office and, especially, his sweet Abigail. Her letters, tucked away in the pocket of his suit coat, were the only things that had kept him sane in this past year.
A year. A whole year! He practically snarled at the thought. For one solid year, this farce that called itself the Second Constitutional Congress, had been sitting in their same little room in their drab little Philadelphian meeting house for an entire year doing nothing! And as they piddled and twittered around like a bunch of daft old fools, the British army was encroaching deeper and deeper into their lands, General Washington's dispatches from the front grew more and more desperate and King George himself had declared the United Colonies of America to be in uprising against the British crown.
And yet, after all this – not even mentioning the decade of taxation after taxation after regulation that had been piled on their heads, nor the violence that had been wrought when they dared to stand up like men – the gentlemen of congress refused to entertain any of his proposals for independence. They wouldn't even grant him the courtesy of open debate!
"Good god," he growled under his breath, "what in the hell are they waiting for?"
"Trouble, Mr. Adams?"
The gentleman stopped in mid-stride, surprised that his deliberation had been interrupted so late in the night. The speaker was a fairly young man, barely more than a boy and certainly not out of his teens, dressed in the plain homespun cloth of the average working man. A military coat hung over his shoulders. It was too big for him and looked terribly hot, but he bore the weight with a sense of pride, as though the devil himself could not have torn it from his back.
"Trouble?" Adams cleared his throat and adjusted the ruffles of his tie. "Of course not. No more than the usual political poppycock."
The boy grinned at that. He had a nice, honest smile, untouched by the darker pains of worldly experience, but it was not a familiar one. Adams regarded him carefully. "Do I know you?"
"I don't suppose so," said the boy, running a hand through his wheat-colored hair. "That is, I figure this is the first time we've met face-to-face, but your reputation precedes you, sir."
"Is that so?"
"Honest truth. When the windows are open, the folks can hear your shouting all the way up the lane."
Adams couldn't help but chuckle at that. Well, at least someone could hear him, for all the good it did in Congress. He gave the boy another look over, passing from his eyes, which were as grey-blue as the Massachusetts Bay, to his worn old boots, and finally, back to the jacket. "Are you a militia man?"
"Sure am. That is, I'd like to be. Haven't actually made it to the field, yet," the young man dropped his head a bit, glancing back towards the State House. "I stuck around here because I felt something big about to happen, but I'd sure like to get out there soon. I hear the General's been having problems."
"Yes, well, he'll pull through. Washington always does," Adams said with a slight sigh. Truly, the General was a great man, and he knew that there was none more worthy to bear the weight of the colonies' hopes; but the 'obedient G. Washington' could be so morose, even at the best of times.
He pulled his thoughts away from distant generals and back to the conversation at hand. "Tell me, boy, what is your name?"
"Well, I don't know if I'm gonna keep it, but…Folks call me Alfred. Alfred F. Jones."
"Good name," said Adams distractedly. "What does the F stand for?"
Alfred looked blank. "I don't actually know."
Adams regarded him a moment, wondering if that had been a joke. But no, the young man seemed truly baffled by the ambiguity of his own middle name. "A very good name. Very, very good name."
Alfred grinned, and the smile would have been infectious, had Adams not been in such a sour mood. The older gentleman sighed to himself and set off down the road again, walking at a normal pace now that there were no boisterous congressional bigwigs to flee from.
Alfred fell into step behind him. "Mr. Adams?"
Adams sighed. "Yes, Mr. Jones?"
"Shouldn't you be getting back to Congress soon?"
Adams laughed at that, and it must have sounded somewhat maniacal, because it startled the boy almost out of his boots. "For what purpose? None of those blasted fools are ever going to make up their minds about anything. They can't even agree on whether or not to open a damn window!"
Alfred's face fell. "Is it really that bad?"
"My boy, if there's one thing I've learned in this last year, it's that one useless man is called a disgrace; two are called a law firm and three or more become a congress." Adams chuckled ruefully at his own wit, though it tapered off into a sad sort of sigh. He didn't like to puncture whatever dreams the boy had built up around his country's government, but he couldn't bring himself to lie. Besides, it had been a disappointment to him as well. He understood well and good that it was all fair, but it was so…inefficient.
Jones was still following him, staring at the toes of his boots as he dragged them across the ground. "It…It can't be that bad, right?"
"Congress. It can't be that bad. England makes it work. I'm sure ours will, too." The boy's face held a kind of determination, as though the success of the whole venture rested as much on his shoulders as those of Congress themselves. "And it'll be better. It's got to be. Eventually, they'll come around. We've just got to keep trying until they do. It's that simple, really."
Adams paused. For a moment, Alfred's words had echoed those of his wife's most recent letter, and Abigail's voice flew through his mind. A smile finally wormed its way onto his face. "I suppose you've got a point there."
Alfred sped up a bit then, coming around to cut the older man off. He looked up at him with wide, searching eyes – young eyes, looking for answers and maybe, something more. "Mr. Adams, can I ask you a serious question?"
Adams hummed in affirmation, signaling for the boy to continue. Alfred nibbled his lip, nervously tugging at the sleeves of his coat. "Do you…do you still think that declaring independence is the right thing to do? Breaking away from England…do you think it will really work?"
Adams was quite for a moment, gripping his cane. He sighed, leaned his head back and gazed up at the stars with a distant expression. "Yes, lad. I do. With all my heart.
"When a government cares more for its profit than for its people, I believe it loses the right to govern those people. A mother nation that abandons its charge is no better than a parent who stops caring for their children; and to expect obedience in either situation is a sign of arrogance and contempt. It's only reasonable to expect the victim of such circumstance to liberate themselves and make their own way in the world, independent of their former subjugators."
Alfred was still staring at him. It occurred to Adams then that the boy, farm raised and no doubt minimally educated as his rather plan vocabulary suggested, might not understand the nuances of his ramblings. He cleared his throat. "Do you understand what I mean?"
"Yes," said Alfred with total confidence, and, despites his previous doubts, Adams believed him without question.
This Alfred Jones was an interesting creature, to say the very least. Though he was young, he did not defer to Adams as a student would his teacher, or a servant his master. Rather, it was as though John were conversing with a colleague, a fellow lawyer or elected representative. And yet, he was still fresh and bursting with the promise of youth. It was a bit like talking with Jefferson, when the Virginian was in a mood to speak on cordial terms, though quite a bit more excitable.
Adams kept the next smile somewhat private, allowing it to shine only in the solitude of his own soul as he turned to Alfred with a more subdued expression. "And what about you, Mr. Jones? Do you believe in independence?"
Alfred grinned. "I don't have to believe in it, Mr. Adams," he said. "I know it. It's what the people want. I can feel it."
Adams raised an eyebrow at that, but before he could say anything, Alfred continued, his voice bubbling with excitement.
"I really feel it, you know. All around me. Deep inside. It's like…a million little birds, all hatched and raised in the same cage but always dreaming of flying away. So they all start flying on their own, one by one, and then sometimes they take off all at once, fighting against the bars. And all you gotta do is just give them a chance – just open that little door – and they'd all be free. It'd be the most wonderful feeling in the world.
"And that's what you're doing, Mr. Adams," he turned his grin back to the older man, as bright as the rising sun. "It's gotta happen. Folks want it too bad for them not to."
In an instant, when that careful smile turned his way, John Adams was struck with an odd feeling. Alfred was not Alfred anymore, or rather, he was not just Alfred anymore. In his eyes, his smiling face, Adams saw it all – the Franklin's beloved Philadelphia, Jefferson's Virginian farm, the cacophonous New York legislature, General Washington's camp and his own cherished Massachusetts home, all of it. In the eyes of Alfred F. Jones, John Adams could see the whole of the united colonies, bound together by history, destiny and passion.
And then it was gone, and Alfred was nothing more than a young man shifting around in his too-big coat and grinning like a fool.
"Well, I guess I better get going then and let you get back to work," he said, turning away. "It sure was nice talking to you, Mr. Adams. I'll see you around."
He started to leave, brushing past Adams with a definite spring in his step. Adams attempted to follow suit in the opposite direction, but only made a few steps before the words burst out of him. "Say, Alfred."
Alfred turned back. "Yeah?"
"How would you like to sit in on the Congressional meetings sometime?"
The boy's eyes lit up like little blue lamps. "You mean it? Really? Gosh, Mr. Adams, the staff at the hall said they couldn't let me in!"
"On your own, no," John moved around and patted the boy's shoulder warmly. "But as my guest, I think we can work something out. Besides, there's a young gentleman who stumbles in from Washington's camp on a regular basis, and I'm sure he and Mr. McNair would appreciate the company…"
Alfred's grin widened impossibly and he let out a whoop of triumph. He grabbed Adams's hand with both of his own and shook it vigorously, as though to do anything less would cause him to burst with excitement. "This is going to be so…so awesome, Mr. Adams, thank you so much!
Adams chuckled ruefully. "Just to warn you, I doubt it will be half as exciting as you seem to expect."
"Of course it will." Alfred said, his eyes gleamed with determination. He still trembled in excitement, but his voice became serious. "There's no way it couldn't be. You're making history in there."
For a moment, Adams almost thought he could see It again, but finally decided it was just his imagination.
"I'll see you tomorrow, Mr. Adams."
"I'll look forward to it, Mr. Jones."
With one last grin, the young man ran down the street, rounded a corner and disappeared from sight, still whooping and laughing with excitement. Adams watched him go, reveling a bit in the positive glow the odd young man had left behind.
And then, from the Hall down the street, there came a voice: "Somebody open up a window!"
Note: A number of historical details in 1776 were skewed in order to increase the drama. As the request specifically asked for a musical crossover, I have defaulted to that interpretation of the events.
Funny little non-musical historical fact – the United Colonies were not actually in rebellion to the British crown until King George III announced their uprising to Parliament in October of 1775. They had certainly done their fair share of rabble rousing up to that point, but they weren't actually pushing for independency until they heard about the King's proclamation. Way to go, George.
Pennsylvania State House – What Independence Hall was called from the time it was built to whenever they decided to rename it. Obviously, that was only after the Declaration of Independence had been signed.