A/N: blah blah blah blah. I was writing this in my prose notebook and decided I'd write it out. I just happen to like the image of Alfred dressed in Marine dress uniform and standing with Mia. . Oh ho is he hot in uniform. And yeah, I'm breaking my own rule of not titling a story with the name of a song. Sorry. ^^; More Than It Seems by Kutless is what I'm listening to so I guess this gets named that until I come up with a better title.
More Than It Seems
Alfred F. Jones, the embodiment of the United States of America, a tall, very handsome young man with blonde, clean-cut hair, bright blue eyes hidden behind a pair of glasses and often wearing a bright smile, was walking from the White House back home and mulling over the events of the morning. The president had called an early meeting for that day to discuss things and Alfred had taken a cab to the White House after having breakfast and arrived in time to see the first lady and her two daughters getting ready to leave. The president's wife was pulling on her coat while a couple of handlers were making sure the pair of girls had everything ready to go to school with. The first lady looked over at him and looked him over once before looking into a mirror from her purse to check her make-up. The smile she gave him afterward was one that he would never have before thought anything of, but now it just seemed practiced.
The daughters squealed, however, upon seeing Alfred walk in; giggling as they went over to him and hugged him, greeting him cheerfully. He hardly ever got to see them when he came to the White House, unless it was during an evening event or a party, so seeing them getting ready to leave for school was a nice change of pace.
"Are you having a meeting with dad, Mr. Jones?" asked one.
"Yeah, I am. He called me in early today," said Alfred, chuckling.
"I wish we could see you more often," said the other, older girl, "I like it when you come around."
"So do I!" said the younger girl.
"All right, you two," chided the first lady, smiling just the faintest bit at them as she tied her coat belt around her waist. "Now, run along. Mr. Jones' got an appointment to keep and so do I. You'll be late for school if you don't hurry along."
The pair of girls nodded and grinned at Alfred before hurrying out. The first lady smiled faintly at Alfred, that same smile that was only now beginning to strike Alfred as practiced to appear warm, and she nodded to him. "They love you, you know. They like it when you come around," said the first lady in what seemed to be a rather gentle tone, "Have a good day, Mr. Jones." Then, she walked over to make sure her daughters were in the car safely and got into it with them; carpooling, it seemed, to their separate destinations.
"Oh, I will," said Alfred, watching her leave as an aid came around to Alfred and motioned for him to hurry along up the stairs to the oval office. In Alfred's mind he could see the other first ladies, each as busy as the others with various duties and appearances, motherly, wifely and as the president's wife. Of course, the further back in his memory he went the less those duties tended to be about public appearances and more about the day to day activities inside the White House. It didn't matter, however, because every president and his family had activities and duties they did both separately and apart and no amount of time ever changed that. It was just the way of things in the always moving, always alive and awake White House.
He went up the stairs and greeted the aids outside of the oval office at their desks, grinning brilliantly toward one of the prettier girls working behind her desk. "Hey, Jill," he said, smiling charmingly, "How are you this morning?"
"Oh, I'm wonderful," said Jill. She giggled a bit as she leaned a little toward him on her hand.
"So can I go in?" he asked.
She seemed to be startled out of flirting non-verbally with him and flushed a pretty shade of pink in her cheeks as she checked the clock on her desk. "Yes, he should be free now, Alfred—I mean, Mr. Jones." At that, her cheeks grew even pinker in color and she tried to hide her face a bit. Alfred laughed and she huffed a little at him. "Just—Just go in."
"You look cute like that, Jill," said he before giving her a wink and walking through the door to the oval office and closing it seamlessly into the wall of the office after he walked in. The president had his feet up on the desk and was leaned back in his chair, talking on his personal blackberry that Alfred had seen him use on occasion. Actually, as Alfred had heard it, the president had insisted on the blackberry and insisted on a number that no one else could answer except him. Alfred had not really thought much of it before, but now that he really thought about it the idea seemed a little sinister to him. He sighed and ruffled his hair, trying to banish those thoughts out of his head. Things were bad enough without full out succumbing to every conspiracy theory that entered his head.
The president was laughing, genuinely laughing, as he listened to the person on the other end. Alfred smiled a little, hopeful for once in what seemed like a long while, that the man wasn't as narcissistic, arrogant and vindictive as he was slowly beginning to think of the man. The president looked over at him and that smile lessened. "No, don't worry," he said, "Listen, I'll have to leave. Excuse me. My appointment is here. Yeah, it's him. I'll talk to you later." Then, he hit a button and hung up, placing the blackberry on the desk in front of him.
Alfred smiled at him as he sat down opposite of the president. "So who was on the phone?" he asked curiously.
"A friend," said the president shortly, dismissively. Alfred's gut feeling was starting to make him feel sick again inside, but he shoved it out of him. The president leaned forward on his desk and folded his dark hands together in front of him, smiling a faint smile that, like the first lady, seemed more practiced than genuine. "Alfred, I have good news for you. We're finally getting closer to the public option health care I've been trying to get through. Isn't that great? You'll be just like your brothers Canada and Great Britain."
Alfred didn't want to be like Canada or Great Britain. He wanted to always be America. That was who he was. His insides tightened and he had to keep his sick feeling down before his face could start to turn green. From what he had heard and seen of the health care that they were trying to pass, the subversive way they were passing it by sending in five separate bills and then having it put together in one big bill to get it fully passed, did nothing but bode ill for him. Technically, he had never really heard much on Arthur Kirkland (Britain) and his twin brother Matthew Williams (Canada) about their health care systems, but what he knew of what was clearly close to being passed was nothing good at all. It took over and would eventually crush all competition of health care in policies and regulation. At the end of it all who was going to pay for it all? They had already begun devaluing the dollar by constantly printing money until there was fully 120% in the banks, just waiting to be sent out into the system and then crash it. Not even an interest rate of 20% could get that much of it out and that was what they had to do back when Carter was president when the market had been flooded 13%!
It was like they wanted to force a total shut down of the free market. What would they be able to use as currency after the dollar was rendered completely useless? What could they use to base the new currency on? Would they sell off pieces of him and the girls to places like China? He could feel hot tears sting his eyes and he had to look away from the president to keep himself from showing exactly what was going through his head; he could not let the man see how much the man hurt him.
"Alfred?" asked the president. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," said Alfred, swallowing and getting some control over himself, "Yeah, I'm fine. Hah—I think my eyes are bit dry. I can feel them turning red. Do you have any eye drops handy over there?"
"I'm afraid not," said the president, "Why don't you try what my wife does when her eyes get dry and lean your head back and close your eyes. It seems to help her a lot."
"Good idea, Mr. President," mumbled Alfred as he did just that. He leaned his head back against the seat and closed his eyes, his glasses sliding back a little.
"My czars have been helping me find the best ways to help the global warming problem," said the president without a beat, "One suggested that perhaps we should implement a limit on the number of children the people can have. Likely, about two children would be best. That way we can conserve rescources and curb our irresponsibility toward the planet."
"You need at least two children to every family to keep a country from dying out," said Alfred automatically.
"If you only ever have one, then the number of people in a country diminishes over time. Fewer and fewer people are born in each generation," said Alfred.
"Well, yes, of course," said the president, "But it would help the planet if there were fewer and fewer of us."
"Alfred, I implore you to stop listening to Fox News. I know you're still watching, otherwise you wouldn't have said something like that," said the president with mild irritation, "They're polluting the airwaves with complete disinformation. The American people have no idea just how they're being lied to by that network."
"You mean that the American people are too stupid to know what good for them?" asked Alfred in a bit of a sharper tone than what was usual for him.
"That the American people are being misinformed," said the president. "What is wrong with you? You're never this angry."
"I'm not angry," said Alfred, once again rather automatically. In truth, he was livid and it was taking a lot out of him to keep from showing it and keep his tone as even as possible.
"Right." The president leaned back in his chair and eyed him calmly. Alfred could hear the squeak of the chair as he did so. "So you have been watching it still."
"And if I have?"
"As I said, they're lying to you," said the president, folding his hands in front of him, his elbows resting on the arms of his chair. "You are the embodiment of the American people, Alfred, and, as unbelievable as that is, I still accept that truth. You've had to hold a very close position to the president since the very beginning. You've had close contact with administration after administration—each one more than a little different than the others—and you've been privy to information that the American people will never know. If I have not told you anything then what makes you think that Fox News is getting better information? Who are you going to believe? Me, who you are in constant contact with, or a news network that has proven itself time and again to be little more than an opinion network?"
Alfred stayed silent, staring up at the ceiling. He trusted Fox News over the president any day of the week. He trusted them because he could always count on them to actually tell him what was happening when the man in front of him stayed silent on everything. He trusted them because they proved time and again to be fair about their reporting and trusted the people to think for themselves instead of holding back like the man before him. The man in front of him treated him like a child sometimes, or just out-right regarded him with clear disdain. It was something Alfred had become accustomed to from some of the older nations, because he was, in their eyes, still very much a child still learning about the ways of the world. He hardly ever cared how they regarded him, though. He was America and would always remain as such if he could help it.
Thankfully, however, the president seemed to take Alfred's silence as confirmation and just changed the subject entirely instead of going on. "I'm going to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware tomorrow to see the dead come back from Afghanistan, by the way, so I won't be here for the day."
"Really," said Alfred, though it was without much emotion. It was becoming a bit of a habit to question the motives of the current president when he often proved to have ulterior motives driving him to do various things. However, perhaps, just for once, Alfred was wrong and the man genuinely just wanted to honor the dead, like the previous president often did. Alfred sat up and looked at the president in the eye and saw that practiced smile in place. He felt his hope begin to ebb away quickly.
"So, you can relax for the day," said the president, "Or would you like to come? I know it's short notice."
Alfred smiled, "I'd love to come, Mr. President. May I bring one of my girls over? I know Delaware will be there, but I want to bring another with me."
"Certainly, Alfred," said the president calmly, "Which one?"
Alfred thought about it. Since Delaware was going to be there for certain, she would never miss such an event, he weighed his options of what other girl he could bring along. If he got one of the other girls to come over they would get to stay with him for a couple of days away from their home and keep him company in his house in D.C. instead of him having to go visit them himself. Only one girl out of them all entered his mind, however: California.
"I want California to come with me," said Alfred with a gentle smile, "If she's not busy that is."
"That's fine, Alfred," said the president. "Has she ever been on the helicopters or Air Force One before? Ever been to the White House?"
"Eh? Yeah, she has," said Alfred, smiling, "The previous guy would go see the dead come back too and I'd take her along, or he'd take us along on other trips with him overseas. I tend to bring the other girls too if they want to, but usually I take them along on the trip to the world meetings."
Alfred was finally starting to relax, his legs crossed, one foot swinging back and forth happily. "Hey, did you know that I know an alien named Tony?"
The president, for once, seemed taken aback. "Sorry?"
"An alien," said Alfred jovially, "A little green man with a huge head and big, bulbous black eyes. I don't see him much anymore, if at all, but Tony used to come around a lot back in the 1940s."
"You…have seen a…alien?" The president didn't look the least bit convinced.
"Yeah, but as I said he doesn't pop by anymore. I think he didn't like my brother Arthur much, but—eh—I can't be sure of that." Alfred shrugged and grinned brightly, looking every bit a teenager.
"Right," said the president, eyeing him a bit like Alfred had grown a second head and started tap-dancing while singing "I'm Henry the Eighth I Am". It hardly fazed Alfred, though. He was used to the look directed toward him.
And soon the meeting ended as one of the czars walked in and Alfred had to leave. So, he was walking home instead of taking a cab like he tended toward doing when he didn't drive his car over to the White House. He tended to refrain from driving over simply because driving over and back from the White House allowed him less time to think over the events the way walking home did for him. When he made it to his house he made himself some lunch and sat down in front of the television with his secondary cellphone out and calling California, a pretty young woman named Mia Brown.
"Hey, Mia?" asked Alfred when he heard the line pick up.
"Alfred!" she gasped on the other end, surprised by his calling her. He could practically hear the gentle smile spreading across her flushed face through the phone. "Alfred, it's so nice to hear from you."
"Same here, Mia," said Alfred gently, "I need you to pack up a few sets of clothes and a nice mourning dress. We're going to Dover Air Force Base to receive the dead. You know the drill, of course."
She sighed softly, a sound that went through his chest and straight into his heart. "Yes, I do," she said. "It's almost worse than if you were over there yourself, you know."
"Yeah, I know," said Alfred, "But at least it isn't like in the past, the dead coming in the hundred or not at all. Buried out in the field and the like, you know." Alfred rubbed the back of his neck as he heard her sigh again. "Hey, listen, I'm going to book your flight right now so you get packing and I'll call you on the time to leave, okay? I'll pick you up at the airport."
"All right, Alfred," said Mia softly. Her tone turned warmer as she spoke again, "I'll talk to you later, Alfred. I love you."
"I love you too, Mia," said Alfred gently and then she hung up on him. He put his phone away and then proceeded to book a flight for her on his computer upstairs in his room. Of course, he could have flown her over in his old airplane, but he had to donate the poor girl to a museum because she had become too old to risk flying anymore. That was the way of things for them, though. Things grew old and they didn't age the same way. They aged with the people, as the reflection of the nation as a whole. As such they could not die the same way the rest of the people could. He had been shot at, cut, hurt, bloodied in the past, but if his body died from a wound he didn't stay dead for long. In a way he and the others were a bit like the immortals from Highlander if he thought about it, except without the swords, in his case, and without the cool special effects and lightning and Queen blaring out over their battles.
With that, he went back to his phone and told Mia the time of her flight and went back to watching his favorite afternoon TV programs.
Mia Brown showed up at the airport in D.C. with her small suitcase sitting next to her as she sat on a bench outside waiting for Alfred to come pick her up. She was a pretty young woman, slightly younger in appearance to Alfred, like the rest of the State Girls tended toward looking. She had golden tanned skin that went perfectly well with the gold bangles on her wrists that Alfred had given her so very long ago before he went over to the front lines with the boys to join the Great War. Her long blonde hair moved around her as a stiff breeze picked it up, sometimes moving into her gold eyes without warning, but she just tucked it back behind her ears to get it out of the way. She was wearing a flowing skirt, a nice peasant blouse, and a coat over it all to keep her warm from the cool fall air.
Waiting at the airport often reminded her of waiting for Alfred to get off the airplane when he came back from fighting overseas. It often gave her a small shiver up her spine and a bit of a panicking feeling in her heart that she would never actually see him come back, that he would somehow end up being with the rest of the dead, but she knew that was not possible, at least, by normal means. She knew that deep down, but it never ceased her worrying for his welfare. Her precious Alfred, her wonderful personal hero who helped her get away from Mexico so long ago and gave her more people and more prosperity than she had ever seen in her years with Mexico or her beloved older brother Spain; he alone made her feel genuinely happy and safe and loved.
She could still see the look in Diego's eyes as she left him and became independent. She could still see the anger and hurt, could still remember the feeling of his hand causing an ugly bruise on her tanned cheek, but it was all fading so quickly these days. Now, she pitied Diego and the people of Mexico, pitied their predicament and hoped desperately that things would be better for them all.
She could still see in her mind's eye the look that Texas had given her, a look of worry, knowing full well that when she left the bad attention that Diego often put on her would be reflected instead on Mia herself. She could still see Alfred coming in through it all, through the dust, like some dime-store western hero, bloodied, bruised, dirty, sweating, but smiling gently at her as he reached his hand down to her and lifted her away from the ground; Texas behind him with a hardened look to her, but smiling all the same. They had both suffered through much, but for Texas it had hardened her, while Mia had little idea of how to combat the man she had once called her gentle, passionate lover.
She heard a whistle and looked over to see Alfred waving at her from the pick-up lane. She smiled then and stood up, pulling up the handle on her luggage and rolling it beside her as she made her way over to him, picking up speed as she got close until she was almost running to him. She latched herself to him, her arms around his neck as he picked her up against him, almost lifting her off her feet. His kiss was lingering, like a movie, and in response her foot popped up behind her as she responded to his kiss. When they parted he smiled broadly at her, happy to see her. "You're a beautiful as ever," he said as he took her luggage from behind her and lifted it easily.
She flushed faintly in her tanned cheeks. "You look as handsome as ever," she replied. Alfred laughed and he put her suitcase into the car trunk before opening the door for her to get into the passenger seat. She stepped in and he went around and got in behind the wheel before they took off out of the pick-up lane of the airport.
"You looked like you were remembering things," said Alfred.
"I was," she said.
"About when I joined you," she said and looked over at him. Alfred's cheeks flushed faintly and he gave her a sideways look before smiling. She giggled a little. He looked a little like a little boy when he blushed.
"Those were some wild times, eh?" asked Alfred, chuckling. Mia nodded and looked out the window at the scenery. "Texas had become independent, her guys beat back Mexico with a vengeance and then you later became independent too, and then we came in and helped to push Mexico back and stay back."
"And through it all you stood there like a hero in a western," said Mia. "Like a movie."
Alfred chuckled again, his cheeks reddening. "Yeah, like a movie."
"Speaking of movies," said Mia, "I heard there is a new movie that has come out. It's supposed to be really scary. Are you going to see it this Halloween?"
"Eh? There is? Aw man, it's been so crazy over here that I haven't even noticed the commercials anymore!" Alfred glanced at her and then smiled as he looked to the road. "So what's it called?"
"Paranormal Activity. I haven't seen it yet, but I heard it's really scary," said Mia.
"You know me and scary movies and games, Mia," Alfred laughed.
"Yes, I do," said Mia, giggling a little. In truth, Alfred was a great big scaredy-cat when it came to horror movies and games, so she greatly enjoyed watching the movies with him to let him cling to her in fright. And on Halloween he would need extra company with him, because he seemed to have the strangest ability to see ghosts then and only then on that day, which scared him to no end until he was like a little boy and hiding under his covers with a flash light.
"Hey, the day after tomorrow I want to play some basketball with you. Is that all right?" Alfred asked.
Mia laughed a little. "Of course, Alfred. You know I like playing games with you. Though, I'm not that great at them."
"Nah, you're fine!" said Alfred, laughing. "I don't care; I just like having fun with you."
"So do I, Alfred." And with that they continued talking about one thing or another, coming to his house soon after.