(Prologue I)


[Wɧɛɲ ʏɵʊ'ɖ ʂɕʀɛɑɱ, ɪ'ɗ fɩɡɧʈ ɑwɑʏ ɑɭɭ ɵf ʏɵʊʀ fɛɑʀʂ.]

Thunder drummed in the distance, rising with the humidity, preventing you from sleeping. Nose crinkling, a harsh scent filtered through your nostrils. You snapped into full consciousness. The air reeked of…tea? Arthur never botched up tea. Leaping out of bed and throwing a shawl around your shoulders, you opened the door.

Arthur flew down the corridor, shouting like a madman.

"That bloody bastard!"

Scarlet jacket accompanying his white britches, Arthur stormed out of the house. Hurrying after him, you pushed by the slamming door. Night eclipsed your sight. Pursuing Arthur's ear-mangling curses, you shadowed him until he came to a dead-halt.

Beholding Boston Harbor, you witnessed a horrid scene.

Men dressed as Native Americans hacked chests of tea apart, shrieking and dumping them into the harbor. British ships remained immobile. You held your silent gape, clutching your shawl.

Arthur's fists clenched with his teeth. "Unforgivable. Is it war you want, Alfred?" He whirled around, discovering you. Panic shot through him. "[Name]! What in the name of God do you think you're doing here?"

"A-Arthur, I—!" you tried to explain, but he grabbed your arm.

"Get inside, now!"

Hauling you home, he was more frenzied than you'd ever seen him. Locking the door upon returning, he rounded on you. "That was a right awful idea!" he sharply condescended. "I'll accept your apology once you brew me a cup of tea. Go make it this instant!" Massaging your wrists you eyed him sadly. He condemned himself to the couch, cradling his face.

Determined to help, you settled beside him. "I'm sorry, Arthur."

"Ugh," he fisted his hair, "I just…I don't know what to do!"

"I understand—"

"Like hell you do!" Arthur exploded and you shrank. "How could you possibly understand?" he cried. "I haven't had a moment's rest in decades! Did you see all that wasted tea? Ineed to trade right now!" Raging like a wave, Arthur receded like the tide. "Why doesn't he understand? Why doesn't anyone even try to understand?"

You couldn't remain silent. "When have I stopped trying?"

This struck a nerve. "I never asked you to! I-if you don't want to be here, leave! Just go! I don't need you!"

"I never said I didn't want to be here."

"Lies! I-I know you hate it here sometimes!"

"Do I ever leave, Arthur?"

Anger declining, he admitted, "No, well—n-not yet, anyway. I just—ugh!" Surrendering, Arthur rested his head on your shoulder. Your pulse accelerated, thoughts blurring with his words. "America is leaving me—i-isn't he?" Lifting a quivering hand to his eyes, his face dipped between his fingers. "It's not fair. Everyone leaves me and I-I can't take it anymore!"

Your heart beat until it ached. Even when he was this close, he was distant. "I'll stay, no matter what the price." You said it so quietly, it unsettled Arthur. Frowning, he looked up. Too emotional to hold his stare, you stood. "Why don't I make tea?"

Arthur watched you cross the room. "[Name]?"

Busying yourself in the kitchen, you pretended not to hear him. He knew something was bothering you. Pulling out a pot, you prepared the leaves. His boots made his footsteps echo as he neared. His hands slipped around your waist and you blushed. Insecurity made him nervous. Apprehension made you hopeful. Pressing against your back, closer than he'd ever been, Arthur exhaled heavily. You suspected he wanted to say something.

"Yes, Arthur?"

Burying his face in your shoulder, selecting his words carefully, Arthur managed, "There's something I can't express, but I…"

His lips rose to your neck, chills piercing you.

"…would break without you."

[Wɧɛɲ ʏɵʊ ɕʀɩɛɖ, ɪ'ɗ wɩpɛ ɑwɑʏ ɑɭɭ ɵf ʏɵʊʀ ʈɛɑʀʂ.]