They are desperate for money, food and ammunition. Yes, General Washington knows he is on a failing mission. His pacing indents a groove in the floor. His voice is hoarse - and slightly panicked, of course. He'd never imagined his men would be exposed to such forces - and with such little resources. Still, his stream of consciousness flows: painting a feverish picture. A cascade of wild images add to the feature. Washington describes himself, charging with his noble steed.
"The Hessians'll never see us coming. Merry Christmas, indeed."
Hamilton nods and madly works his quill until his fingers are sore. Now, there sits a tired man - mapping out the General's plan (though, it feels more like a scam). The concept's simple: he wants to launch an attack in Trenton. No sweat! Except, to seize them when it's least expected, he wants to go in undetected. Sneak through in the night, and then attack in the day: using the black shadow of darkness to silently slip away.
"-And we pile in the boats," cooly states the Commander, "...'Got all that, Alexander?"
Sure he's got it, but he hasn't got it, to tell the truth. Though he wrote it with his own damn hands, he hasn't got a clue. Alexander's burning hands are cramped - heck, they're practically numb. If any other man had cooked this up, he would have thought it dumb. Shakily, he grabs the scribbled parchment. Tired, violet eyes peek out from behind round-rimmed glasses to scan the schematic of problematic embarkment.
~18 cannon, 50 horses, 2,400 troops.~
That one line alone leaves Hamilton duped.
'All of them in boats,' he ponders, 'How the Hell are we to stay afloat?'
The General catches Hamilton's grimace. His own façade remains rigid.
Alexander looks. Washington's crystal blue eyes shut.
"If this fails," the Commander fears, "I think the game's pretty well up."
A lump slithers down Alexander's throat.
Washington looks down and grins.
"But Christmas is about hope."
A rapier wind cuts through the tent's flap like a whip. Both men are quick to jolt around at the sound of the howling gust. It snuffs out the crackle of the amber embers with a hush. Hamilton tries to stifle a shiver running up his spine and through his quiver. Washington, pretending not to notice, shifts his eyes to the fleeting pile of kindling.
"I sent Colonel Laurens out this morning to fetch more firewood. When you see him, please inform him that another log would do us good."
Alexander salutes his Commander.
"Now, go. Fetch yourself some supper."
"What about you?"
"I'll be along soon enough."
"Young man, you need to keep your strength up."
Alexander's brow furrows.
"I'm strong enough, sir."
"And I'd like to keep it that way."
The General smirks. Hamilton stands from his chair.
He shoots his hand to his forehead as he exits the tent. His foot is barely out the door before he shoots back inside again.
"Yoouuu sure you don't have correspondences that need writing?"
"Young man, you were dismissed."
One couldn't blame him for trying. Hamilton tugs at his cloak, clenching it tight to his chest as he greets the cold air. Against his cheeks, pelts of sleet and snow greet him like an enemy: small daggers shooting through his core. From his limbs to his feet, a chill burns so deep. He swipes at his reddened nose with the back of his hand. The bastard orphan is not the only one under attack.
He stands tall, keeps his stare fixed ahead: avoiding glares from his comrades who lie sick in the streets. He couldn't bring himself to look at them. This icy arsenal pierces all the men he can see. Valley Forge? Yeah, it looks more like a hospital ward. A chorus of coughs surround him. The harsh, groggy sound stings his numb ears. Though he tries to ignore it, but it's impossible not to hear. The frigid breeze freezes droplets of sweat to his face.
'Gotta get out… Gotta get outta this place.'
Familiar faces flash in his mind. He's taken back to a time when harsher winds used to blow. Through a rain-stained windowpane, glassy eyes watch as trees begin to sway: their large branches break away. Their bodies are starting to decay, just like them. Half-dead, in that rickety bed without a way out. He knows in his soul it's beyond his control. Still, he can't shake the feeling of freeing himself. With the fever, he's outside of himself. He's depressed. In his chest, a flame burns in his lungs. He lunges up, congested coughs beginning to jolt and rack. That's when a gentle hand rubs his back.
He's called back. A snowball smacks him in the side of the head.
"Whoever threw that," he snarls, "Consider yourself dead."
A round of giggles can be heard behind a brick wall. The two are laughing so hard, they both trip over themselves and fall.
"I should've known," Hamilton shakes his head, forcing back a grin, "Monsieur Lafayette and Hercules Mulligan."
"Oui, mon ami - ze one an' only!"
The Frenchman takes a bow (though it should've been a curtsy).
"Alexander," Mulligan slings an arm over his shoulder, "Could this weather turn any colder?"
The man smiles.
"Your spirits seem to warm things up."
"Ooh, gosh, Alexander," they coo, "You're makin' us blush!"
Hamilton shoves the two soldiers with a laugh.
"I've half a mind t' knock the two of you out."
"Why?!" Hercules replies with a shout.
"It should be a crime to be so pleasant in such miserable weather."
Lafayette shrugs, "Zis will not make things any better."
Hamilton peaks behind a wall.
"'Looks like you're still not through, afterall."
"We're waiting on one more. Out with it, where's he hiding?"
The two men scratch their heads.
"You know damn well 'who'! Now, c'mon, where's John?"
Alexander cranes his neck behind some barrels.
"I know it won't be long before he pops his dumb head out from some spot he shouldn't be in. Now tell me, where's he gotten to?"
"Alexander, we… thought John would be with you."
Hamilton stops. His heart drops. He turns on the spot.
"We knew General Washington sent 'im to get wood for fire. So we figured you might've seen 'im deliver it to his pyre."
"He never stepped foot inside," Alexander flatly replied, going red-eyed.
"Alright, guys. This's gotta be some prank. Well, I'm not buying. Where's John?"
"Mon ami," Lafayette insisted, "'E's been gone since dawn."
The Frenchman's hazel eyes are steel, clearly telling the truth. Though this gives Hamilton no comfort. He feels somewhat aloof. Silently falling snow begins to speed up. Looking up, the azure sky is growing hazy - the crescent moon pushing up on the horizon like a daisy from the ground. Hamilton's eyebrows start to arch.
"Shit, it's getting dark" he whispers.
The young man dashes to the nearby stable. He unties the leanest horse.
"Did he tell either of you his course?"
Mulligan chimed in, "Said he'd trace the length of the woods."
This gave Hamilton something to work with. He nodded.
His stiff, cold legs mount the creature. Worry is stained in every facial feature: sharp creases in brow, pale mug stained with a frown, sullen cheeks are reddened now. Though he's as still as a statue, he feels his body shaking. His stomach is aching, and his chest is palpating.
'Why the Hell am I still waiting?'
"Alex, what are you doing?"
The call breaks him from concentrating. He looks down. There stands Mulligan and Lafayette anxiously anticipating his next move.
"Zis weather," the Frenchman states, "She is not being very kind."
"And John's out there in the thick of it by himself. What are you, fucking blind?"
"He just wants you to be safe," Hercules cries, "And so do I."
"Well, I want all of us home safe."
"So, you're going on your own?"
"Someone needs to find him!"
Mulligan adds, "What if he's on his way home?"
"And what if he's not?!" he fires back, his words hot, "I'm praying you're right. But if he's not back by night, and I ignored what was right, I could never forgive myself - Hell, I could never live with myself. No, we don't gamble with our brothers' lives. Or have you forgotten our oath, Hercules? Marquis? 'To obey the orders of the Generals and officers set over me'. To not go looking for Lieutenant Laurens would be disorderly. So, if it's up to me, I'm gonna go. I'm gonna search, give it all I got. Don't I at least have to give it a shot?!"
A frozen trail of tear streaks are glued to his cheeks. His voice trembles when he speaks.
"Guys," Hamilton cries, "I can't just leave him all alone."
"Be safe, mon petit lion."
Hamilton nods his head. He promptly clicks his tongue, setting the horse to gallop out beyond the setting sun. Lafayette and Hercules stand by. They watch him as he leaves. The Frenchman turns to the latter, his expression placidly stern.
"In one hour, we inform ze General if zey do not return."