Written for: Rabbit in the Yuletide 2006 Challenge
There's something to be said for honor, especially honor in defeat.
Edward Rutledge was known more for his privilege and his wit than for his honor, but he had a code of ethics and he stood by it - come what may. He could recognize an honorable man, even if that man were not one that he might ordinarily take notice of.
For all the shouting, the disagreements, the comings and goings, the stalemates and the ultimatums, there was a certain unity to be found amongst the men who had been chosen to represent their people... their new nation. Rutledge liked many, respected few and found himself loathe to let one of those few slip through his fingers - even if he were a late and unexpected addition to that roster of names.
Thus it was that, several days after the signing of a certain document, Edward Rutledge found himself at an unfamiliar house, giving his name to a servant girl before cooling his heels in a small, relatively austere parlor. It was several minutes before his host appeared in the doorway, viewing his unexpected guest with no little surprise.
"Dickinson." Rutledge nodded to him, gesturing him to a seat as if he were the host and not the guest.
"What are you doing here?" If the response was curt, it could be forgiven. The man was under a great deal of stress, after all.
Rutledge repeated the gesture and as Dickinson gave in, still eyeing him with suspicion, he responded, "I've come to ask if you're still resolved on this course of action."
"Which course?" Dickinson stiffened in his chair, shoulders ramrod straight as he glared at Rutledge. "If you're impugning my sworn resolve to defend my country from its own foolishness...?" Another gesture, this one with Rutledge's cane, cut him off.
"I'm questioning your sanity, perhaps, but never your resolve." Rutledge shook his head, almost drawling the words. "You've ever been a man of integrity, but is it necessary to go to such lengths to prove that you will uphold the will of the people - the decision of the majority - even in the face of your own, publicly stated opinion?"
Dickson rose, looking down his nose at Rutledge, jaw tight. "It is. To go against public opinion requires conviction, but to survive its disapproval requires a great deal more. If my advice and counsel are unacceptable, my service must do in its stead, to prevent any more damage, if nothing else."
"I've always admired your strength of purpose." Rutledge shook his head, letting his eyes drift lazily half-closed, watching Dickinson from beneath his eyelashes with an amused gleam. "Come, now. You will really leave all this to serve beneath General Washington?"
Stronger resolve than he'd expected, and Rutledge shook his head. "I shall miss you, John."
Dickinson blinked with no little surprise at the use of his given name, as if suspecting some trick or last minute joke at his expense, but Rutledge simply waited, almost lounging in his chair as if he had all the time in the world.
"You won't miss me, I suppose." Rutledge rose suddenly, taking a step forward and catching at Dickinson's chin, holding his gaze and standing very close. "That's all right... I've a feeling we'll see each other again."
When Mary Dickinson entered the parlor, looking for their caller, she found her husband standing alone in the center of the room, jacket somewhat askew and looking both shocked and uncertain.
He left her there, without a word, and never spoke of the very... unexpected regard of one Mr. Edward Rutledge.
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