Disclaimer: You're joking. That is a fact.
New York, New York
It was the first Fourth of July, though Alfred had little inkling—at first, anyway. He was more than content with the way the statue of fat George crashed to the ground, cheers deafening as the people celebrated. He threw back his head and laughed, eyes closed in bliss: After the toiling, the candlelight writing...the debating, the sighing... His mind flashed to an image of Jefferson, the angles of his face gray in the dark; it flitted to Adams as he wiped his forehead in the heat, still finding the energy to hop in rage; it brushed along Hancock, and then backed away to reveal the whole of Congress, laughing as the President signed his name.
He reached up a hand, touched his brow, felt sweat there. And next to him, a young corporal slapped him on the back, and they were both laughing—he had frozen with this soldier, and many others, and all the same had endured the simmering hot days in Philadelphia, hardly even daring to open the windows for fear of the flies that would come. His mind flashed to Congress again, and even as he grinned the corporal produced a length of print, reading just to mint the moment into their minds—
"When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another..."
America kept the grin out of habit and ecstasy, but worked his brain ferociously to decipher the words' meaning...
"Independence!" some cried; Alfred hummed, then latched onto the words again—
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights..."
Didn't Jefferson say "inalienable"? But no matter—Alfred hummed a little, unusually serene, but because he was so happy. The sky shifted between gray and blue, and—though it was a good stretch—Alfred thought that he heard the bells ringing all the way from Philadelphia—resonance in his ears, brass and rope overwhelming his mind. He scuffed the dirt with his boots, imagining the dust settling over the boots, imagining what Arthur would s—
What Arthur would say—
He shook his head a little, frowning. Don't think about him, he told himself, with a minute stroke of sternness. (The corporal next to him continued reading, not stopping, and now he heard the words "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness...") It would do nothing but dampen his spirits. He had, of course, felt very resentful against his brother, like a large amount of his people—the declaration was their testimony—but Arthur had tried. He had tried. The very least America could do was be fair and think of it all in this way.
(This was finally happening. After so many years, he was no longer the little colony.)
But now, he knew there was no turning back. He knew this very well, and as the laughter of his men and women filled his ears, as the statue was hauled off to be melted down for artillery, he opened his eyes to see the crack of blue in the sky, as the gray slowly melted to the former color. Even in the process, the gunmetal pigment remained. Like lead.
He cocked his head as the corporal read on—he liked Locke and Paine, when he bothered to pay attention, and he enjoyed Jefferson's writing; everyone said the man's etiquette was incredible, and the jumble of complex writing streamed into his mind; beneath his breath, he murmured the words, "Life, liberty, and prope—the pursuit of happiness," fairly singing until the corporal stopped, amused, and tapped the largest signature on the copy. "Say—what is this? That's a huge signature!"
The sun still shining in his eyes—little threads of rainbow brushed at them—Alfred looked down, his gangly self insuring a need to stoop his shoulders, and squinted at the looping cursive—"John Hancock," the sheet hummed to him, underlined and dotted and dark, and the smallest, bitter smile tugged at his lips, as he spoke the words that applied to England as well: "So fat George in London can read it without his glasses."
The heat was overwhelming. The day was not so hot, but the room was definitely rebellious against the weather—rebellion, how ironic. Thoughts wandered about the air as Arthur's eyes skimmed the paper, reading the words, words his colony America had penned against him. The others in the room watched with a mixture of apprehension and disbelief—it had not yet died—as pale green eyes skimmed the sheet of paper; the thickly penciled brows drifted higher and higher with each word, and it was amazing how dangerously close they were to being buried alive beneath a tumble of sandy hair. The pale skin around the eyes, beneath the eyes, inches from the eyes, darkened red with each, then faded to pink and flushed down to livid white. The silent reading seemed to go on for hours, as Arthur Kirkland read and read and his officials stared in fascination.
But then his eyes inched towards the bottom, skimmed over the signatures with a much more rapid movement, and his mouth twitched. When he looked up, he did so slowly; he seemed to be a specter, white and silent and almost still. The room held its breath, promising themselves a draught of oxygen after the ordeal, and waited for the explosion.
It did not come.
As if some bomb or grenade had merely fizzed out, leaking and hissing, Arthur's face came out with some sort of silent agony, the features twisting and twisting, twisting and relaxing; the contours undulated, England's eyes filled with darkening color. All at once, he was on his feet, the saucer of tea abandoned like an orphan, and he replied, the room dropping many, many degrees, "They are merely a band of rebels. We will rid of them, of course." The eyebrows relaxed, floating gently down the forehead. And with that, he gave a sniff—some thought he was overcompensating his bearing—and swept from the room, his fingers jerking about the paper.
He only half expected America's reply, later, when he had sent the letter addressed to "Mister Washington." No one in the army, even a bedraggled, cobbled assembly of bumpkins, was to receive such indignity when they served their country.
America gave a small scream as the mud splattered his arm, as piss sprinkled his musket and the chamber bled sludge. Pennsylvania, accursed incubator it was, had chosen a horrible day to up its temperatures, taunting Britons and Americans alike as men sloshed in the wetlands, drinking the filthy water the women had had no choice but to bring them. Several were lying dead already—their muskets had gone off as they were working them, the water came out wrong on the other end, the sun had dried the skin from their bones...
Coughing, he hauled himself up, calling, neglecting his diaphragm, "Stand your ground!" The muddy water was disgusting, but he drank it all the same, and it ran thickly down his throat. Surely, he was drinking some potion, inoculating himself against smallpox, because the sun was his enemy; the sun and the British. He jabbed his bayonet against a swaying clump of vegetation, saying wildly to himself, "Friend or foe. Friend or foe. Friend or foe—
"Foe, foe, foe, foe..." He seemed to be begging, for in this heat, with sweat and blood running into his eyes, he dared not let his guard down; tiredness was the unfelt obstacle, as his stomach suddenly heaved and he vomited in front of himself, barely missing his uniform. There was a small belated cry on the end of his bayonet, and he cursed as it ground against bone—his victim had caught it in the ribs. Had he not been fighting this whole time—and for how long?—an hour?—a half?—half the day away?—he would have worried that there was less thrashing, less screaming as death swooped slowly. Death terrified him, in more ways than one. But he did not think of this, not now, as he tugged at his musket, not daring to fire.
And he gasped when the glob of blood hit him between the eyes, gasped as the face of England appeared before him, gazing at him with a mix of fear and pain and contempt. Surely, he had thought that they were done by the winter, as America shivered in Valley Forge. But here was a boy reformed, a boy-soldier or a man, gazing at him with wide, quaking eyes.
They met each other with sight, looking at each other, the bayonet plunged still in Arthur's ribs, Arthur's hands tight about it. There was a small silence in the midst of fire, and then, with a groan, the bayonet slid out, joining the vomit, and Arthur backed away. His gaze never left Alfred's and Alfred's never left his. England glared at him, his lips trembling. And he fled. He fled, because the battle was over. America collapsed in the sea of corpses, taken by the beauty of the sky. The bowl of it curved against his pupils.
And then, he remembered. He fingered his musket, the sludge tangling sticky against his fingers.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident... Life. Liberty...and the pursuit of happiness..." He passed out.
He had forgotten; the years had dragged on. But he was himself now, his own nation. He sat, practically humming the words under his breath, finally given the peace of mind to contemplate. What had one declaration meant anyway, when there were so many other writings—he muttered a little, about the summer soldier...or was it the sunshine patriot? He remembered Paine, of course. And his mind lingered on his Constitution:
"We the people, of the United States..."
In order to form a more perfect union.
He thought of apple-green eyes. He thought of text trailing from his fingertips, as he had held up the Declaration of Independence. It had declared his independence. Simple as that. But now...now, he had it. He thought again of apple green eyes, of a thirst and desire. And the ice that had killed him, how the world turned upside down.
"Life. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness." He turned at the stall selling "iced creams," staring long and hard at the sign. And he murmured again, louder this time, "Life. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness."
The pursuit of happiness. How long had this evaded him, epiphany playing obscure? How much happiness had he had?—fighting the war? And yet, here he stood, alive, healthy, free. He had as much right as any other nation to be in this state, did he not? The sense trickled into him, the fire of his revolution quenched, the ashes and embers still flickering proudly in his hands. How long had he had to fight for happiness... Once more, he thought of Arthur, the crushed look in his eyes, the way they had become enemies. His brother, really.
He placed a hand on his ribs, feeling a bayonet piercing it without really being there, and continued, quietly, "It becomes necessary... All men are created equal. Inalienable rights..." He tipped his head as he continued, calling the king a tyrant. He had never felt this old before, and some people around him began to stare. He heeded them not, he went on, repeating the words, linking them together, as he understood more and more, once the fire had passed.
He knew now.
Alfred sighed deeply, as he said, slowly, slowly, under his breath, proud of his trials at last, "When in the course of human events..."
PT: FIRST TIME WRITING AMERICA SERIOUSLY, GO. Please bear with my epic nerdery as I explain historical references dropped in this. Well, first of all, this is based on the first prompt in dA's APH-Fanfiction-Club, about how the Declaration of Independence was sort of overlooked, but eventually came to be appreciated, rising again to convey what Americans were fighting for. According to my research, there was a pretty bad reaction in England—no surprises there—but while the declaration stood out well enough, the full meaning of its words was not fully taken in until years and years later. In everything I've watched and read on the revolution, the declaration was hardly mentioned at all unless when the documents touched upon the actual event. Now, onto the full notes. Yes.
- New York City. Ahaha, my city~ -shot- Anyways—when the declaration was signed on July Fourth—there is actually much debate over the signing, which I shall not go into—it was officially read and printed. The reaction in New York was in typical New York fashion—topple the pretty little statue of George III and melt it down for artillery! Oh, hooray! –shot- And John Hancock's signature. Whether or not he insulted the members of British government upon signing in HUGE letters is a matter of debate, but I can imagine Alfred saying it. (I actually took this version in particular from a certain play...guess which.) Based on what I see in canon, I think he's a lot moodier during these colonial times and beyond, and rather reluctant to sever ties with England on a personal level.
- Monmouth. The battle of Monmouth is known for several things—Lee, von Steuben, drill, the heat, Molly Pitcher, and lots of death. It was really hot when it was fought, and the battle went on for hours. Von Steuben had whipped the Continental Army into shape while they shivered during the disturbingly cold winter at Valley Forge and the British partied, confident that the chill would wipe them out. The soldiers finally got into the toe-to-toe "gentleman's war," which was basically opposing sides marching at each other in tight formation. (I'd like to note that apparently the military sucks at drill now, but we're not really fighting that sort of battle anymore.) According to a book called "Valley Forge," men dropped dead from the heat. They needed to get water to drink and feed to their muskets before they burned out. Women got them from nearby, but the best quality they could find was terrible. Some men actually tried to pee down the barrels and...yeah. Monmouth was the deadliest battle in the war, and definitely was beyond bloody for its time. By the by, black sludge leaked out of the stocks of their muskets when they poured in water. Correct my terminology if you find me wrong on it—I'm used to rifles, so...yeah.
- A corporal is a rank. It's in at least the army. I've read that the equivalent in the marines is lance corporal and in the navy it's one of the petty officer ranks. I can't find anything about then, but now corporal is a rank above private and private first class and below sergeant. ...Being a cadet did this to me, leave me alone –shifty eyes- Anyways, hope you guys enjoyed~