A/N: You know the drill.
The Will Of The People
Clara Bell, Georgia, stared at Alfred sitting on her porch. She was a very pretty young woman, though usually in a rather cold fashion. She had pink cheeks, rosy lips, pale skin, dark eyes lined in almost black lashes and long, perfectly curled, almost black hair that she kept up in the as perfect a twist at the back of her head as humanly possible. It was how she was raised, pretty much, to look as perfect and aristocratic as possible. Actually, Alfred would often describe her as a cold woman with a personality of a pit viper, but then Alfred also didn't like arguing with his girls and Clara was very good at arguing.
"What on Earth are you doing here?" she asked, her Gone With The Wind, Scarlett O'Hara sounding accent completing the Scarlett O'Hara appearance of her. "I thought you told us you would be going out with the extra troops to Afghanistan." She walked past him to the door and unlocked it quickly, walking in. Alfred followed her silently. That was strange. He didn't like visiting her like he did the other girls and when he did he usually did it because she asked him to. Why did he come to her now when she had not requested his appearance?
She looked at him over her shoulder as she shrugged off her coat. "Just how long have you been out there, Alfred? It's getting chilly outside." Alfred looked off to the side, rubbing the back of his neck as though searching for something to say. A thought struck her. "You aren't sick, are you? Injured yourself somehow?" She was pretty well his personal physician most of the time, after all. She followed him into battle as a medical personnel for when he got injured so he wouldn't have to explain the rather fast rate of recovery or why he didn't just stay dead to someone who had no idea.
"Nah," said Alfred, "I just—eh—I don't really know why I came over here. I just wanted away. You don't mind, do you?"
Clara's usually hard expression softened immediately as she smiled a bit. "Yes, of course, Alfred. Have a seat." Alfred sat down as though on command in one of the plush chairs and ruffled his hair. Clara frowned again and put her coat away in a hall closet. "Listen, Alfred, if you've got something to tell me, then you might as well spit it out. I abhor your silence."
"I can't go out," said Alfred softly, leaning over onto his knees on his elbows, his chin resting on his fists.
"Why on Earth not? It's not like you're being kept inland by anything. Those idiots in office have not taken that much from us," she said, "Tea? Coffee?"
"Coffee will be fine," said Alfred. Clara went into the kitchen and started the coffee maker. Alfred sat up and blinked at the noises.
"Hah! I win the day against you, you foul machine!" snapped Clara as the smell of coffee wafted toward him.
He walked to the kitchen and leaned in through the doorway. She was smiling triumphantly at the coffee machine with her hands on her hips and her cheeks even pinker than before. Alfred raised his eyebrows at her and grinned a bit. That was an unusual sight to see out of cool, calm Clara. "Having issues with the coffee maker?" he asked. She jumped and put a hand to her heart as she glared at him.
"No thanks to this recession!" she snapped. "This stupid thing hasn't worked for me since I had to let go of my maid and my cook!" Alfred stared at her a moment and then laughed. She looked to him and her cheeks flushed considerably. She looked away and idly fiddled with the controls so she didn't have to look at him. "I know I'm being silly," said Clara, "It's not like I can't live without maids or butlers or cooks. I'm not that unable to live on my own." Hell, most of her people were what most people considered "deep south" or "rednecks" which was hardly true. Likewise, it was equally true that not all in her were upper class snobs or people didn't talk to one another outside of their classes. Even still, Clara was Clara; she was nice to those she knew, welcomed new people into her home with a glass of iced tea or lemonade, but she tended to watch from the sidelines rather than actively participate. That standard was only broken when her medical knowledge was needed and she was especially efficient in that.
Alfred smiled faintly and patted Clara's shoulder and then leaned on the counter beside where she stood. "You could have just asked me, you know," he said.
Clara looked away from Alfred sharply and stuck her chin out in her typical prideful fashion. "I can take care of myself and guests very well, thank you. I don't need help."
"Says the woman that forgot to put the filter in," said Alfred, grinning a bit.
Clara hissed at him and shoved him out into the chilly weather. "STAY OUT THERE UNTIL I GET THIS DONE!!"
Alfred yelped as his rear hit the chilled wood on the front porch and shivered a little. "Ow… Damn it, Clara! It's cold out here! Why the hell did you shove me out?!" He got to his feet and tried to open the front door, but it was locked up tight. Alfred grumbled and leaned on the doorframe, glaring impatiently at the little peephole. In time he heard her walk to the door and stop. He sighed and eyed the peephole again. "I know you're looking at me, Clara," he said, "Let me in, please."
The door slowly opened and there stood Clara with a cup of coffee in her hand ready for Alfred. She held it out to him and flushed once again. The corner of Alfred's mouth turned up just a bit as he took the peace offering and drank it. "Not bad. What kind is this? Starbucks?" he asked as he walked past her when she stepped aside for him.
"Yes," said Clara, "It's the only kind I like."
"It's not as strong as I like it," said Alfred.
"It's the house blend. I prefer it. Anything more caffeinated and I'm afraid I would be trembling very badly from it. I know you're banned from ever drinking anymore of the strong stuff when you go to the World Meetings." Clara closed the door behind him and walked over to chair and sat down with her own cup of coffee.
Alfred chuckled. "I don't know why. It's not like I'm that strange on Starbucks coffee!"
"Alfred." Alfred looked over at her as he sat down. She had a very serious expression on her face that made him uncomfortable. "Exactly what is going on? Why are you here? Don't you usually prefer the other girls? Why aren't you going over to Afghanistan?"
"Because I need to be here," said Alfred softly.
"Is the president forcing you to stay home?" she asked, frowning, for once not at him.
"No," said Alfred and then he stopped and rubbed his head, "No and yes. It's like a war is being waged here. I can't go over because things aren't settled here. If I go over, then who's going to be there to remind the presi—no, never mind, I expect you girls would do that for me." With that, he smiled a little.
"Of course we would," said Clara, straightening up a bit stiffly, "That's what we're here for."
Alfred nodded and drank down more of his coffee. He stared at the black brew in his cup and the reflections of the light from the window on it. A lot of the state girls had begun demanding their state rights to be recognized and, if need be, the ability of cessation; fully joining the ranks of the Carolina twins, Utah, Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and even Georgia. Rosa Mendez, New Mexico, was ready to pull her cage of pet rattlesnakes out and open it in Congress if they kept up what they were doing.
"Every day is like a war here," said Alfred softly, "Every day something else is brought up and these people… they try to get it passed or if it's being blocked they blame something, anything, even if it's totally made up, on those that block it. But you can't let some of these things pass!" Alfred groaned and rubbed his face. "God, I wish I could just turn things back to some other guy, anyone of them… well, except Carter. Every day something else pops up and you just want to shout at them that they can't do that."
"Then shout at them. You're entirely too quiet, Alfred," said Clara, "You can't just sit back and let things happen, you know that more than anyone else."
"I've never had to fight so hard and so often as I have for the past nine months," said Alrfed softly, "I've never been continuously ignored by the president as I have for the past several months. I've been monitored on my cellphones, I've had my house broken into to steal you girls' addresses and phone numbers, I've had to have Arthur come over and keep my house occupied and Matt had to come down too to house sit and he's got his own set of problems to deal with! So does Arthur! Did you know those Arab immigrants over there in the U.K. get better treatment from the government than its people do? They houses and cars, the people get nothing. They get better health coverage and the people have to be paneled. Even worse, I think I overheard Arthur mention that they're trying to push Sharia Law into place! Arthur won't ask for help. He's too proud." Then, Alfred gave a short laugh. "But then, I couldn't do anything myself for him, could I?"
"He needs to resolve these things himself," said Clara stiffly.
"Yeah, you're right."
"Just like we need to resolve this ourselves," Clara said in a harder tone.
Alfred looked to her and that cold, calm face of hers barely hid the hard, angry look in her dark eyes. Alfred straightened up and nodded. Clara didn't relax once at all during the rest of Alfred's stay at her home after that. She fussed after him when he was too quiet and then complained when he didn't shut up, but Alfred knew her heart was in the right place. Unfortunately, those huffy moments of hers ended with him sitting outside in the cold, most comically when he was naked and he happened to make the mention that she flushed pink all over her body when she was aroused. Oh, that had not been fun at all.
When he finally left Georgia for Washington, D.C. Clara had seen him off at the airport, those pink cheeks flushed prettily, those rosy lips frozen in a bit of a frown and that pretty, shiny, almost black hair pulled back into an almost perfect twist at the back of her head. She always did like looking her best no matter if she were in a hospital tent up to her elbows in a man's intestines or if she were at a pleasant tea party with some of the local women from around her house.
"Alfred," asked the president, clasping his dark hands in front of him on the desk, "Did you enjoy your trip to Georgia?"
"Yeah," said Alfred, sitting a bit stiffly in his chair, his right leg jiggling a little.
"Is something wrong? You seem a bit impatient," said the president.
"I want to see congress."
For once the president's eyes seemed to widen in surprise, but the look didn't last long; his general mask of outward pleasantness fell over again. It was fake. Alfred could see that as plain as day now. When had he become so distrustful of his people? "You want to see congress? It's in session right now."
"I don't care. Tell them I'm coming," said Alfred, "And I want you there too."
The president frowned deeply. "Alfred, why are you getting so snappish with me?"
"Mr. President, are you going to do that or not? I have a right to it as an American," said Alfred, his blue eyes flashing just a hint of the anger starting to roil inside him. "I just don't want to be stopped by secret service, even if they know me on sight."
"You are America," said the president.
"And that is why they need to see me the most, even if they don't know exactly what I am." Alfred stood up then and started for the door. "Coming, sir?"
The president picked up his blackberry and dialed a number, speaking into it for a moment to what Alfred hoped was Pelosi, the speaker of the house, then he hung up and pocketed the blackberry before walking over to Alfred as he straightened his jacket. "Can you at least tell me what this is about?"
"Not yet," said Alfred. They walked, with two secret service agents following closely, to congress and walked in as one representative gave a speech about how the only time when such a blockade had been put on reform was when they were discussing ending slavery or integration in the past. The congressmen and congresswomen stood up immediately when the president walked in and took his place.
"Mr. President," asked one representative, "What is going on? You were not scheduled to come in here today?"
The president held up his hand and nodded to the man before looking directly at Alfred, who was still sort of waiting back in shadow. "I have been given a request by someone to speak to us today and I have willingly obliged him, though this is not generally the way things are done. Even still we must give him every opportunity to speak and to listen to him and what he has to say. He is—he is part of my staff and he asked to speak directly with the house. You may have seen him previously, you may not have seen him at all, or you may have heard of him from other people who work in the White House, but he is as much a part of the White House as I am. I implore you all with great humility to let him speak to you this day so we might better conclude these dealings. Thank you." Then, he motioned for Alfred to walk into the light and sat down.
Alfred walked forward slowly, his heart drumming in his ears as he made his way into the open. These people gathered around him had been working in the House of Representatives for most of their lives. They were career politicians. Some had never held down any other job before then. A goodly majority of the Democrats were lawyers and attorneys and a goodly number of Republicans were businessmen or had business degrees.
Alfred licked his lips and then spoke out as loudly as he could to be heard, though he hardly needed to. "All of you," he said, "You in the House of Representatives, you of Congress, you have been here for most of your lives. In all that time have you not once listened to the people?"
"Who asks?" asked the Speaker.
"My name is Alfred F. Jones," he said, "And it's time you were told something very particular." Could he reveal it to them? No, he had to keep that still under wraps. They might use it against him in the future.
"Well? What is it?" asked the president.
"This healthcare bill can not be passed!" said Alfred. The House immediately became very loud as one part cheered and the other shouted at him to get out. He shouted above them all. "IT'S UNCONSTITUTIONAL!"
"IT IS NOT!" cried one representative.
"Name me a place in the constitution that even talks about mandating something people have to buy from a private company to be legal!" snapped Alfred.
"People have to buy car insurance!" shouted another representative.
"People don't have an inherent right to owning a car!" snapped Alfred. "People have an inherent right to live!!"
"You're one of those pro-lifers aren't you," said yet another representative.
"You're one of those tea-baggers aren't you," said the speaker of the house.
"What does it matter?! I am an American!! You are all Americans!! Those people out there are Americans!! Those people you keep shouting down are Americans!! Those people you ridicule are Americans!! Those people you call racists are Americans!! Those people you claim send you death threats when they've done nothing to you at all are Americans!! Those people who burn the flag in protest are Americans!! Those people who raise the flag in protest to you are Americans, too!!" Alfred panted softly as he looked around at the accusing eyes directed at him and boring holes into him. "Don't you get it? The will of the people! They don't want the healthcare bill and they don't want a public option! They don't want any of that!!"
"It's for their own good!" shouted a tall man.
"WHO DECIDES THAT?!" snapped Alfred. "Who decides what is good for the American people if not the American people themselves! Who decides what is best for America but America! That's part of what it means to be FREE!"
"The United Kingdom and France and other European nations have universal healthcare! They have better healthcare than we do!" shouted a shorter man.
"People don't leave America for better healthcare do they?" grunted Alfred.
"You don't see them with great economies either!" He turned around in a circle to look up at the people assembled and took in the intensifying glares. "You can't spend us out of a recession! You can't spend us out of a depression! You just can't do that! Would you manage your own households like that?!"
"This isn't about the economy, this is about proper health care for America!" snapped a congresswoman.
"AMERICA HAS GOOD HEALTHCARE ALREADY!" shouted Alfred. "Private insurance companies are not the enemy! You've ginned up hatred where it's not warranted! If someone doesn't want a health insurance policy from one company they go find a different policy!"
"We can't just sit idly by while people die!"
"People die all the time, but it isn't from health insurance companies dropping them!" Alfred shouted. "These policies you keep shoving at us are going to kill America as a free nation!! You! You used the reference to car insurance, yeah?" Alfred pointed to one of the representatives and the man nodded to him. "Look at the DMV if you're so convinced that nationalizing health care is good for us. Look at the postal service if you think government knows how to run businesses! Look at the Cash for Clunkers! Look at… just look at all that mess! It doesn't work! It never DID!"
"Cash For Clunkers worked well enough," said the president.
Alfred turned to look up at him and bore every single ounce of anger into the man's dark eyes with his own. "People working at the car companies had to kill perfectly running cars just to make them qualify for being 'clunkers', sir. Forcing regulations on what health insurance companies need to have will kill the insurance companies and force people to take your damn 'public option'."
There was the sound of people shifting all around him. The Speaker was looking off away from him as though to not acknowledge him, a few were on the edge of their seats and almost smiling at him proudly, but the majority just glared at him continuously. Alfred wondered briefly if they knew who he was or if this was actually how they would treat any normal citizen. One man stood up and looked down at him. "Mr. Jones," said he, "Coming in here and demanding of us is not the best way to handle things, I hope you realize. Voting for something is a far better way of handling this with us. That's what it's there for."
Alfred climbed the stairs to be better seen. "That's where you're wrong, sir! You people don't even listen to the polls anymore! If you did you would know that the people are strongly against this!"
"That's just right-wingers flooding the polls," said the Speaker.
"No, it's just you people ignoring them!" snapped Alfred. The secret service men started moving toward him when he saw the Speaker motion to them. The president didn't budge. He didn't stop them or hold them off. He just sat there and watched Alfred like a hawk. "Just like me," said Alfred softly.
"Sorry?" asked the president.
"You… you all didn't even listen to a word I said did you?" he asked.
"We did too, we've been answering you, haven't we?" said another representative.
"Yes, but you're not listening to me! You might as well be ignoring me altogether!" said Alfred sharply. He moved closer to the Speaker and she jolted backward away from him as though he were going to hit her. The secret service men grabbed him and pulled him back. "Mark my words, Mr. President! What you're doing is wrong! The constitution doesn't support it! The constitution isn't just some piece of paper you can rip to shreds!" The secret service men had no chance with his strength and had trouble uprooting him as he shouted at them.
"The constitution doesn't tell us what we can do at all to the people," said the president, "It just tells us what we can't do."
"Would you then have us go back to the days of the founders when black men and women were slaves?" asked the Speaker. "Would you prefer it if we went back to the days when women had no rights at all?"
"This isn't a civil rights issue!! Stop making it into one! If someone doesn't want health care then they don't have to get it!" snapped Alfred.
"And then drain the system when they end up in the emergency room," said another short man.
"Let him go," said the president to the secret service men. Immediately they let go of him.
"They still get coverage at the emergency room no less," said Alfred, "That's why people aren't dying like they do elsewhere in the world. If they can't pay then the state has to pay for them, yes, but it's better than rationing the care to them like what you want to pass!"
"Well, what we're doing it better than doing nothing at all," said the short man.
"No it isn't! Haven't you listened to me at all?! Doing nothing is better than doing what you people want! The status quo is not BAD! It's certainly better than fining or JAILING people for not buying health insurance! You're talking about jailing someone for not having health insurance to LIVE! That's not freedom! That's tyranny! People came over HERE to escape that!" Alfred's heart raced in his chest, thumping loudly in his ears as he looked around. He wanted to cry. He wanted to scream at them. He wanted them to try to understand, but he was at a loss as to how to make them understand anything at all. Once more he toyed with the thought of telling them who he was, but once again he came up with the feeling that they'd use it against him.
"It's for their own good," said the president softly.
Alfred panted quickly as he looked at him sharply from over his glasses. The secret service men came closer behind him as the president nodded to them. "Mark my words, Mr. President, Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Reid, Mr. and Ms. All of you… you can't do this. Mark my words, there will be a revolt if you try to pass this and things like it. All of you will be targets, guaranteed. All of you who forget history of not just this nation but the rest of the world, no one will care about your ignorance. No one will care about whether or not you had any idea of what you were reading in these bills you keep passing or not. This can only end badly if you keep this up."
Then, he turned away and walked past the secret service men down the stairs and out of the building. The secret service didn't follow him outside of the building, so Alfred figured he was relatively free to go home if he wanted. Alfred could feel it coming. It was a storm on the horizon, a nasty one at that. He could feel it roiling in his blood. He could feel the tension keep pulling tighter and tighter in his chest. The only way these events could end now was in bloodshed… and Alfred was terrified of that.
As he made his way back home, he kept absently rubbing the old scar of the old separation of his north and south from the Civil War. It was an ugly reminder of just what could happen if things should come to pass as he felt they would. The people would revolt first peaceably, voting people out, but when that failed they would take up arms. It was almost an inevitability that made Alfred sick to his stomach over. That was the last thing he wanted.
But they had forgotten "We The People".