A/N: o3o Immediate Music is awesome.
Alfred got a call very early in the morning from the president. He immediately went about looking into his closet for his uniforms that he kept through the years, though the older ones were put away in his storage shed with various other items he kept. He was deciding on his marine uniform when he got a call from the president's aids telling him he only had so much time to get moving. So, he threw on his old bomber jacket from World War II and a shirt and tie and nice slacks and grabbed Mia's hand while she was still trying to pull a coat on over her dress.
He drove his car as quickly as he could through the dark streets to get to the helicopter that would take them to Dover Air Force Base. He helped Mia into the helicopter with the president and got in behind her, helping her hook the safety belts on her for the ride since he knew they could be a little complicated to use. She gently slapped his hand away and did it herself, however, blushing faintly at him. "I can do this myself, you know," she said. Alfred smiled a little and moved his hands away from her.
The president watched them with a strange look, one that Alfred noticed changed when he noticed Alfred looking to that of a small, genuine smile. Mia blushed a little more, her tanned cheeks darkening with the flush of extra color in them, when she saw the president smiling at her. Alfred, instinctively, took her hand in his on his lap and looked away from the president. He wasn't entirely certain anymore what the man thought. At first he seemed really good, he seemed like the guys long ago, the founders, and spoke of how he would bring hope and change to the old Washington politics. As the year wore on he saw nothing of this and instead he saw something in the president that outright scared him: coldness toward Alfred that he had never experienced before.
Was now the time that he would see something of what he thought he saw before? Or would now be the time he saw the president at his worst? Alfred didn't know and the not knowing was the most frustrating aspect of it all. He still had trouble accepting that the president could possibly be the most dangerous thing to him and yet he accepted it as well. Such contradictions made Alfred's heart hurt and his head hurt as well.
When they touched down he saw the soldiers lining up and others going into the airplane to take the caskets off of it. He saw the families that must've gone out of their way to see their dead loved ones home. And he also saw the press.
They got off the helicopter and walked over to the line of men and women. Mia clutched his hand a little harder as she looked around, pulling her coat closer against her. The wind was strong, biting even. It was fitting for the occasion.
Alfred looked around to see where the president had gone off to and found him actively talking to the families. Alfred smiled a little, remembering seeing the 43rd president do the same with families that lost their loved ones in this war. He never went to Dover to see the dead come home, but he did go to the families directly which Alfred felt was far more important. They were the ones who survived the dead; they were the ones you ultimately had to speak to.
And then Alfred saw him go to the press and speak to them. He was nodding to them as in affirmation. Had the man actively gone to the families and asked their permission to photograph the event? Alfred frowned deeply and felt Mia rub his hand with her thumb as though to calm him. "Are you all right, Alfred?" she asked softly.
"Yeah," said Alfred in a much shorter tone than he had meant. He looked to her and the anger drained from him a bit. Instead, he sighed and looked on at the plane to avoid looking at the press. "Yeah, I'll be fine, Mia," he said in a much gentler tone.
"It's always so sad," said Mia.
"Yeah, it is," said Alfred softly. "But, in a way, a lot less sad than previous times. Before we lost a lot more in battles—like World War II and World War I, Korean, and Vietnam—We've lost a lot more than this before, but it's still life being lost."
Mia nodded and leaned a little against Alfred's arm, laying her head on his shoulder. When he spoke again, it was almost a mumble, as though trying to remember the whole thing aloud. "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile, this day shall gentle his condition; and gentlemen in England now abed shall think themselves accursed they were not here, and hold their man-hoods cheap while any speaks that fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day."
"I've heard that before," said Mia, "What is it from again? Shakespeare?"
Alfred smiled just a little, the corner of his mouth turning upward slightly as he looked to the plane. "Some of the men in Teddy Roosevelt's division, I think, during the Spanish-American war liked to recite it. I decided long ago to memorize it, I guess, since they loved it so much. Sons of the rich boys on the East Coast and whatnot. I don't remember where it comes from though."
Mia nodded and smiled a little, still leaning on his arm a little. The president came over to the line of people standing at attention. He stood next to one of the soldiers and took a stance in a similar fashion. The soldiers moved off the plane and carried the caskets one at a time from the aircraft and put them into a van. Each time one came off the plane Alfred stood at attention and saluted. Mia held his hand tightly as she clutched his dog-tags around her neck that he had given her long ago. The president resolutely saluted every time a casket came off the plane and lowered it in between times.
A chaplain offered prayers over it all; prayers for the dead, for the loved ones, for the nation. Alfred barely listened as he watched the caskets be taken off the plane to be transported.
The video cameras of the press started up not far off. Alfred could hear them clambering to get rolling as the men stood ready to take the last casket off the plane. Alfred frowned again as he looked to the cameras. The casket was carried off the plane in front of them and put into a van at the end of the line, the men in line saluting as Alfred did, as the president did, and the back of the van was closed with due ceremony. Then, the cameras shut off and the press moved away.
Alfred broke away from Mia and moves along behind the line of men to the van and then around it and the others to get to the press, not wanting to alert the president to what he was doing. He had to know what was said to the press, he had to know what the families said. However, they were moving away too quickly for Alfred to get near them. He frowned deeply and went back to Mia's side as the president looked over at him, giving him yet another strange, unreadable expression.
"Alfred, what were you doing?" asked Mia curiously.
"I went over to see if I could talk to the press guys or the families," said Alfred, "Something feels a bit wrong to me and I can't quite put my finger on it."
Mia looked to the president and smiled a little before walking with Alfred away from the people so they could have a more private conversation. "What do you mean?"
"It's a gut feeling," said Alfred. "The president has never been in the military, right? When was he taught how to salute? And the cameras, why were there cameras here? Why only when one casket came down the line? Was it because the rest of the families didn't want their loved ones' casket to be video taped? I can at least imagine that one."
"Alfred," muttered Mia. She wanted to say he was being paranoid, but she kept that to herself. He wasn't usually so paranoid, at least not in the many decades she had known him. He loved his presidents and he had started off raving non-stop about the new president when he took office and how cool he was. Now, all he seemed to be able to think of were questions about the president. Why would the president worry him so much?
"I'm not crazy, Mia," said Alfred quickly. "I know I'm not. Something's not right. It's almost rehearsed on his part. I know the men and women there rehearse this sort of thing all the time for such events. There's a lot of ceremony put into the transportation of the dead, but the president? Especially when he's never been in the military before? He didn't have to salute. The nation knows he's not been in the military. Hell, even placing a hand over the heart or just standing silent would have been good. It's nice that he salutes them, being the Commander-in-Chief, but it just doesn't feel right at all."
He groaned and rubbed his temples, sitting down on the tarmac where he stood. "I feel like I'm going crazy sometimes, Mia," he said. "One moment he's narcissistic and the next he looks like he's possibly genuine, one second he's arrogant and the next he's not, one moment he's apologizing to the U.N. for us and the next he's saying we're great. What the hell is up with this guy, Mia? What the fuck am I missing here? Arthur refuses to come back over unless it's for a world meeting, Antonio doesn't really want to talk too much with the guy; more than half of you state girls would love nothing better than to ignore him entirely and refuse to talk to him unless you have to."
"Alfred, why don't we just go back, okay?" said Mia, trying to comfort him, though not really certain what she could say to alleviate his worries. "Come on, the helicopter is firing up. See? The president is over there."
Alfred sighed and took her hand and stood up; though he hardly needed her help to do so. Then, he wrapped his arm around her and buried his face into her hair gently as they walked toward the helicopter. "When we get home can we just lie in bed and snuggle or something? I really just want to hold you, Mia," he mumbled.
"Yeah," said Mia, smiling a little, "Yeah, we can, Alfred." Then, he helped her up onto the helicopter and got in next to her. As they took off, Alfred once again muttered though Mia could not hear him above the noise of the helicopter.
"Those who fought and died are the honored dead," he muttered to himself, "Those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us are men above men and women above women. Your deaths will not be in vain."
"Alfred?" asked Mia.
"Nothing, Mia, don't worry about it," said Alfred loudly so she could hear him.
They made it back and the president walked out of the helicopter and walked up to the still asleep White House alone. Alfred drove his car away silently with Mia in the seat beside him; he was still thinking about what had transpired that morning. When they reached his house he opened the door for her and then let her into his home before going straight up the stairs. Mia followed up after him after she locked the front door and wrapped her arms around him from behind as he stood in his bedroom. "Come on, Alfred," she said in a gentle tone, "Let's go to bed, all right?"
"Yeah," muttered Alfred. He smiled at her gently and then took off his jacket, placing it on a chair and went about dressing down for bed. Mia got into the bed beside him once he got in under the covers and snuggled against his body. He said nothing and moved down a bit to hug her close and bury his face against her collar bone and shoulder. She stroked his hair gently and kissed the top of his head as they lay together like that for a long while.
"Maybe I should go back over, Mia," said Alfred softly. "I did it in Iraq, but now I've mostly been here. Maybe I should go over again. They could use me, I think. Y'know, a guy that can't die even if he's shot to shit?"
Mia curled around him and held him closer against her body. "If you do, please be careful, Alfred. Please?" Tears slipped out from her gold eyes as she tried to keep them back. "I always worry more for you when you go to war."
Alfred smiled a little and nuzzled against her, kissing the top of one of her breasts, her cheeks flushing faintly when he did so. "You know I always do."
"You got shot in the leg in Korea and came to my door using a cane, Alfred," said Mia, her voice breaking slightly as she spoke. "Do you know how frightened I was when I saw that? What about World War II or the Great War? Every time I saw you come back wounded or coughing up the blood of the dead I always want to cry myself to sleep. You go away and you just worry me so much. You all do. Matt—Arthur—you all just worry me so much, but you most especially."
Alfred kissed her in the same place again and looked up at her, his glasses off on the bedside table. Without those glasses he looked much younger than normal. He reached up and stroked her cheek gently, curling her blonde hair behind her ear carefully as though she were a delicate flower and then leaned up and kissed her.
When Alfred and Mia woke up, naked, nestled against each other for warmth and comfort, Alfred took a shower and got dressed. He then went about as quietly as possible trying to catch the news on the event. It seemed one family would allow the video footage of their loved one, but the rest didn't want it. That was fine.
The article talked mostly about how the president had inherited the war and the troubles and how the president walked alone to the White House. It talked about the family of one soldier allowing the video footage and that there had been an eighteen year ban on the photography and video taping of such events. Alfred understood why, though he was certain some would not. It was a private matter, a familial matter, and having the press come in to make a spectacle of it was not the least bit appealing. Thankfully, the article seemed to do it as less of a spectacle and more of a moment in time.
With that, Alfred got up and made breakfast for him and Mia that morning.