Challenge accepted, certain person I sometimes stalk on another site/here.
This is my attempt at an 'Arthur so totally doesn't cry on the Fourth of July even though it's canon' fic. There is indeed an explanation included.
The first year, I received an invitation in the mail. I burnt it in the fireplace and spent the day drowning myself in tears and booze. The second year was the same. And the third, forth, seventh, thirteenth, twentieth, thirty-seventh, and so on.
The purposely blank envelope that only held my address and the date on its cover in loopy, neat hand-writing was always an unexpected joy. That was until I opened its perfect seal to see the card with rushed, sloppy scrawl that belonged to him and then the infernal thing was burnt to ashes in a matter of minutes, unread and uncared for.
(I kept the envelopes though; all wrapped up in a small box in the hidden spot under the floor boards in my closet. I think I did it because they were so nostalgic. He'd always had such neat hand-writing when he tried. I had always made him try.)
After seventy-four years, I stopped burning the invitations. Now they're in my hidden box as well, all wrapped in their hand-written envelopes. The cards haven't always been hand-written though. They were at first, but then came 1867 and those blasted typewriters; I haven't gotten a hand-written card since. The envelopes, surprisingly enough, still have their loopy, neat hand-writing on the front. And for that, I'm eternally grateful. (He never hand-writes anything anymore, only E-mails.)
But now, I attend the celebration every year. Religiously. I actually get asked a lot about that; 'how can you stand to be here? He's celebrating his independence, the fact that he went to war with you just to get it. The fact that you lost to him. There are people here who burn your flag on this day. Why do you even bother coming?'
I never answer them. They don't deserve one. I award them with a bittersweet smile and a condescending look as I turn and walk away to congratulate him on another year of nationhood or to get another cup of punch or to go find a quiet place to sit and rest in the shade (it's always so hot here in July). I can never tell them, him, anyone. I suppose I'm the only one who can know why I always show up and have ceased shedding tears.
I stopped crying because there is simply nothing to cry about anymore. At first, I thought the tears were for the pain of losing him, losing to him. Of knowing he wasn't mine anymore. Knowing I wouldn't have to wake up the next morning and make him breakfast. I had been so proud; 'look at my brother—isn't he wonderful? Look at how big and strong he is; and all those resources! He's going to be great, I tell you. Great!'
I had been so blind. I never did see him growing up before my eyes. Each new feat he accomplished was nothing compared to the ten I added on to the list of things he had to do before he'd be ready to be on his own; I guess I just didn't see him becoming a man.
Because that's what he is now; a man (despite his human appearance of nineteen).
How can I shed tears knowing this is what he fought for? This land, this place, this people. He has become such a wonder, a superpower, a hero (in his own words, of course). I suppose I'm just proud knowing I was the one to start him on that path. I took him under my care and nursed him. I just forgot that, in doing all those things for him, he'd eventually lose his downy cuteness, grow his feathered wings, and learn to fly all on his own. I tried to chain him down, tried to cage him up, tried to rein him in and leash him to my doorstop in a vain attempt at power; I failed miserably.
And I'm completely fine with that. One must try in order to fail. Who knows what would have happened had I not fought so hard to keep him. I think, maybe, his leaving me in an explosion of rebellious intentions triggered a chain reaction. A chain reaction that has powered him through all the horror that has befell his lands and the world. (God knows there's nothing we can say to thank him enough for bailing us out, not just once, but twice when it was needed most. He really is great at that hero thing.)
In hindsight, I think I can actually explain my tears from those first few decades. I don't think I was crying for myself (or at least the emotionally driven tears. I sometimes cry when I'm plastered, but I digress). I was crying for him.
Crying because I knew times would be hard, stressful, painful. Crying because I knew he'd have fights not only with others, but with himself (not that I knew anything specific about his Civil War. Every nation reaches a point where they have a tough decision; most just settle it with peace and compromise. He chose the hard path) and his own people. I knew he'd have bosses that would love him and build him up and others that would inadvertently tear him down. I knew at times he'd want to just give up and come crawling back.
But, I knew he'd be able to pull himself through it all (even if it were on his hands and knees). I knew he'd be able to wade through the muck and mud (and blood and tears and sweat). I knew he'd gain abilities that would allow him to grow strong no matter the weather or conditions.
So, it is with a smile that I can turn to him today, on his day, and proudly exclaim: "Happy Birthday, Alfred. America. You deserve it," and not shed a single tear.
So, there you have it.
I wanted to write an Alfred birthday fic 'cause I wrote a Mattie one, but I couldn't make myself get into Alfred's head. Then the thing in the aforementioned authors note happened, and this was born.
Now, I'm going to get all my Sparklers ready so I can go out and enjoy them when it gets dark, much like I did three nights go when I celebrated Canada Day.
Happy Fourth of July; Happy Independence Day!
…and yes; I do know a few people who burn British flags on the fourth. Ticks me off to now end, those people.