CHARACTERS; America, George Washington
SUMMARY; Congress delays in paying the soldiers' wages, and America is drawn into a plot to extract them militarily. Washington himself is forced to step in and head it off to save the young country.
A blast of angry words pummeled America as he brushed back the tent flap and stepped in. He let out his breath in a rush of surprise; he hadn't expected his officers to be this lively over anything, given the circumstances.
An aide of General Gates caught sight of him still standing in the entrance and bustled up without delay.
"Aha! Right on time, sir. We were just discussing whether or not to come and fetch you." he said, clapping a hand on America's shoulder and guiding him into the throng of men.
"Fetch me for what? What happened?"
From the excited look in everyone's eyes, the only thing that he could think was that Congress had finally decided to repay their missing wages. If that was true, it was good news indeed.
"The Congress is taking too long to give us our dues. We've all agreed, the military needs to take some action to...nudge them along."
The country was so startled that his mouth ran out the first thought that had lodged into his skull: "What does General Washington think about that?"
Gates himself snorted and waved the idea off with his hand. "Washington is far too moderate. What does he know of the strain of paying for your own supplies when you are going without salary, him with his Virgina house and money?"
Grumbles of agreement sounded from the rest of the group, and America bit his lip. As much as he hated to say so, the words rang partially true. Washington had been a pillar during the war, but the war was over now. Maybe he was too disconnected.
Congress was weak, unable to even collect taxes from the states. Would it be so terrible if they were given a bit of an incentive?
"So what's your plan?"
Gates rubbed his hands together in triumph and leaned in with the others, now holding arguments in whispers.
The officers quietly filed into the New Building and took their seats, shuffling papers and adjusting chairs as they went. Gates nodded at each man as they passed by his position at the head; Washington had called the meeting, but he had left the direction of it up to the general.
America drummed his fingers on the table idly. He hated meetings, and he hated even more being obligated to sit in on every one of them. The country didn't have a vote or say in the matters, so why was he forced to listen to his men scream back and forth at each other? Better just let him sleep in and be informed of the outcome later.
Once everyone had been accounted for, Gates rose to open the meeting officially.
"Now, would anyone like to suggest the first order of busi-"
The creak of the building's door caught his attention, and the entire congregation turned and gaped as George Washington quietly let himself in before turning to nod his head at the gathering.
"General Gates, might I trouble you for a moment? I would like to address the officers."
Gates' mouth opened and closed several times, as if he couldn't comprehend what was occurring before him. Finally he got a hold of himself, coughed, and nodded his assent. Still looking baffled, he quickly sat down in his chair.
Washington slowly made his way to the center of the floor, looking at the faces as he passed. All were uneasy, open glares and near-audible whispers of What's he doing here? pervading the room. Briefly America wondered if Washington knew that he was in the mutinous crowd as well.
Drawing himself to his full height, the General paused a moment to sweep his gaze around the room once more before launching into his speech. It was short, as speeches went, but the fervor with which he delivered made up for any lack of substance.
As his talk came to an end, there was no change of emotion in the room; it remained just as quiet and hostile as before his arrival. The country found himself shaking his head, thinking 'Huh, he really has lost touch. I wonder what he'll do now?'
The sentiment in his audience wasn't lost on Washington. He reached into his jacket and produced a letter, explaining as he unfolded it.
"I have here a letter from an esteemed member of Congress, which I would read to you if I am permitted some more time."
There was no sound of opposition, and he nodded at them once more before turning his gaze back to the paper and began reading.
Or, he should have started reading. Instead he stared at it intently, as if trying to gain some inner message from the words. Then he silently drew it closer to his face and ducked his head down to get a closer look.
Finally he gave up and reached into his pocket to pull out another object, which shone for all to see in the weak sunlight filtering into the room.
Every man in the gathering started and leaned in, unable to understand what they were seeing. General Washington had never worn glasses before in all their time knowing him; what in the world was he doing with a pair in his pocket?
America had seen those glasses once before, on the General's desk. At the time he hadn't given it any thought, believing them to be owned by one of his aides or a visiting friend. The idea hadn't even crossed his mind, that maybe they were..?
Washington smiled wryly, and addressed the men with a mixture of melancholy and amusement.
"Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country."
With that he finally began to read the letter. Something in the atmosphere of the room had changed, though, with that small action. Their great General, their leader and Zeus, had been proven human after all. America bowed his head and fought back the tears that were spilling from so many of his colleagues' faces.
Some time after the meeting had returned to its natural orders of business, America excused himself and rushed out the door. Washington was still there as he'd hoped, standing a few feet away and watching a flock of birds take off from a tree.
He tentatively approached the man, stopping just short of drawing even with him. The country stood there, uncertain, for a moment. Just as he decided that this was a terrible idea and he should leave, Washington turned and smiled at him.
"I thought that was you, sir."
Just like nothing had happened, as if his own country hadn't been entertaining thoughts of ousting him and using the army to move Congress. It was almost enough to make America turn and run off anyway.
Instead he returned the grin with a feeble one of his own. "Please don't call me that, General. I don't think I'll ever be a sir."
"I'm an old man, allow me my peculiarities. I can't say that I feel comfortable calling you anything else. And after all, I won't be general forever. What will you call me then?"
"General Washington." he blurted, then paused to listen to his own answer. The similarity to his leader's was too much to not elicit a laugh. Washington smiled again and raised his eyebrows in a 'you see?' way.
They stood together in the quiet for some time before America gathered up his courage to speak about what he had intended to bring up in the first place. Or, as close to the subject as he could muster.
"...I'm sorry about your eyes. It's not fair-"
"Sir, I've given my whole life over in service to you. It wouldn't be right not to offer up every bit of me for that duty."
It was too much for one day; the country started to cry, embarrassingly loud and childishly. The General looked at him in surprise, a shock that only doubled when his nation flung his arms around him in an embrace.
The action shook him out of his paralysis, and he returned the hug without another thought.
"I know, sir. I know."
The Newburgh Conspiracy actually happened. After the war, Congress hadn't paid the army for over eight months, and a group of officers were thinking of using the military to prompt the government into coughing up the money.
Washington stepped in, and his moment of uncharacteristic vulnerability (he had only recently begun wearing glasses) moved the men so much that the conspiracy collapsed then and there.
Washingtoooon. My bro, this relationship makes me sob. I love writing them. ♥