Disclaimer: Still not mine. Enjoy the final act and please remember to leave a review.
- July 4th, 1776 -
"That's an awful large signature there, Johnny!"
Congressional President John Hancock grinned and straightened, dropping the quill pen he had used to sign the newly-minted American Declaration of Independence back into the inkpot. "It's so fat George in London can see it without his reading glasses."
The gathered delegates of Congress howled with laughter, and Alfred Jones joined in. After all the stress and aggravation of the last few days – the debates, the alterations, the demanding and posturing, the endless conflict – it felt good to just let it all come bubbling out with the laughter.
They had plenty to laugh and be happy about, after all. It was all finally over. The resolution on American Independence was finally adopted. Now, all they had to do was sign the Declaration, and it would be official.
America would finally be free.
Of course, that wasn't to say that everything was perfect. Not by a long shot. They still had a long way to go – General Washington's last dispatch, with its grim tidings and sorrowful predictions for the upcoming loss of life. And that battle was just the first of many. Alfred knew better than anyone that England would not let these United Colonies – these United States – go without a fight.
But even that was all right, he thought as he patted the letters folded tight against his chest. He would be out there soon, on the battlefield alongside Washington and Mr. Dickenson and all the other brave souls who were willing to die for their new country. They would weather through all of the approaching storms together, as one, untied force.
If Arthur wanted a fight, then by hell, he would get one.
"Mr. Secretary?" called Hancock, taking his seat at the head of the Congress. "Is the Declaration ready to be signed?"
"Very well. Call the roll," Hancock sighed and leaned back in his chair, looking for a split moment to the congressional custodian. "McNair, go ring the bell."
Alfred glanced after Mr. McNair as the custodian slipped out the meeting room door. The custodian's footsteps echoed down as he climbed thin wood staircase. For a moment, Alfred wondered if the man would need help, but the thought was cut off as the secretary, Mr. Charles Thomson, stood at the front of the room and brought out the roll sheet.
"When your name is called, please step forward and sign," the secretary cleared his throat, starting down the list as the bells began to chorus above them. "New Hampshire, Doctor Josiah Bartlett."
Bong. The grand bell high above began to ring as Dr. Bartlett stood, scrawling a neat signature at the bottom of the document. Bong.
"Massachusetts, Mister John Adams."
Adams jumped to his feet, all nervous energy and excitement. He glanced back at Alfred, grinning like all of his dreams had just come true. Perhaps they had. Alfred sent the grin right back.
"Rhode Island, Mister Stephen Hopkins."
"Connecticut, Mister Roger Sherman."
Alfred clenched and unclenched his hands over the top of his knees. He could feel the invisible shackles loosen and break with each additional signature. The excitement rustled through him like the wind through the trees, and he turned look out the window at the thought.
It was pouring rain, and even that was energizing. Even the gloomy clouds couldn't bring him down now.
He was free. Really, truly, free.
"New York, Mister Louis Morris."
Further north than even New York, a young man with blonde hair and violet eyes was coming home with a fresh barrel of his favorite maple syrup. His polar bear companion ambled after him, occasionally pausing to lick at the drips of sweet sap that was left behind.
He reached his doorstep at the same moment that bells reached his ear. He turned in surprise, but knew that the sound came not from the village further down the hill, nor from any bell that he should rightly be hearing. They sent a chill straight down his spine, the icy finger that heralded change. Big change. World change.
"Oh god, Alfred," he whispered. "What have you done?"
"New Jersey, the Reverend Jonathan Witherspoon."
"Pennsylvania, Doctor Benjamin Franklin."
Across the ocean, a lordly and respected advisor retired from his courtly duties just in time to enjoy his afternoon tea. He had barely touched the steaming cup to his lips when he heard bells – not from any outside source, but from somewhere deeper, somewhere inside. With every ringing tone, a stretched and weathered tether to his heart was worn away. He dropped the cup into his lap, ignoring the scalding heat that bled through his clothes, and jerked his head towards the window.
Something – no, someone – was breaking away. From the empire. From him.
"Are you all right, sir?" asked his servant worriedly, but he was not. Maybe he never would be again.
"Delaware, Mister Caesar Rodney."
"Maryland, Mister Samuel Chase."
From the porch of her Bainbridge, Massachusetts, home, Abigail Adams could not hear the bells. But she was smiling anyway, because she had just received new letter from her husband, and that was the greatest gift the world could have brought her.
"Virginia, Mister Thomas Jefferson."
Jefferson was straight-backed and grave as he neatly inscribed his name on the bottom of the document he had worked so hard to bring into the world. It had gone through so many changes in the last few days. So many complaints and alterations. But its spirit – its bold, truly American spirit, the spirit that had possessed him ever since that inspirational afternoon in his apartment – was still alive and true.
As he made his way back to his seat, his eyes trailed to the boy in the far corner. Alfred Jones was lost in thought and positively glowing. Literally.
"North Carolina, Mister Joseph Hughes."
A stream of sunset light cut through the storm clouds and illuminated Alfred Jones like a religious painting. Jefferson blinked once, and the image was gone, but he found that he didn't want to look away.
Adams was staring as well, and Hancock and a number of others. For a brief moment, in the midst of all their disagreements and misgivings about one another, they were united in a single sensation: the odd feeling that the boy was blossoming under their very eyes.
And somehow, they knew that it was all because of them.
"South Carolina, Mister Edward Rutledge."
Benjamin Franklin was the one who finally made a move to get the teen's attention. He leaned back in his chair, covered the Alfred's hand with his own, and patted his arm like a proud grandfather, grinning from ear to ear. "Happy birthday, my boy."
"Georgia, Doctor Lyman Hall."
Alfred Jones, the United States of America, grinned from ear to ear as the bells faded into the stormy twilight. The chains that had held him down were now shattered and the door of the cage was wide open. It would be a fight to get the rest of the way out of the prison, but it would be more than worth it.
And it would be awesome.