John Hancock knows he’s a very lucky man.
Having just survived the Most Important Day in his entire life thus far, he’s more than earned a drink or two—it’s not every day that new nations are formed and independence is declared and you dismantle the very foundations of your former existence with a few simple strokes of a quill.
It’s more than that, though. Much more. As John sits around an overcrowded table at a tavern in Philadelphia surrounded by delegates being regaled by one of Ben Franklin’s outlandish—and mildly inappropriate, but everyone’s so hammered at this point that they’re likely to laugh at anything—stories, he realizes that he’s found something worthwhile.
He had spent so much of his life thinking that everything he had been born into was his destined path. That there was nothing else. He had been comfortable in that life; the exorbitant possessions, the parties, rubbing elbows with everyone who was anyone important. It fed his ego and kept his pockets weighed down with more than enough money than he knew what to do with. John had believed that was the only place he could ever belong.
And then he met Sam Adams.
How wrong he was.
John knows now more than ever that this is his rightful place. This is where he’s meant to be. This was always where he was going to end up, in the company of rebels. They might not have been much better than his business associates in the beginning—what good is he to anyone without his fortunes?—but now that they’ve all had a hand in creating a new country and a daring act of rebellion, John knows his value here is worth more than gold or silver.
He wants more than gold and silver. That shocks him, realizing it. Up until this point, he’s considered his piano imported from Spain his most cherished possession. He still feels a pang of longing for that piano, if he’s being completely honest with himself.
But there is so much more John wants.
Spending a lot of time with nothing to your name except the clothes on your back tends to put things in perspective.
When John’s mind finally drifts back to the present, another delegate has taken over storytelling duties and he thinks it’s probably better that he didn’t pay attention to whatever Ben Franklin had been bragging about. John’s pleasantly buzzed—he can feel the flush in his cheeks and the hum coursing through his veins, rendering him slightly weightless—which is enough for him tonight. He wants to remember this. Sam is adjacent to him at their corner table, tipping back the dregs of his latest pint. He’s lost count of how many Sam’s had, but he’s admittedly more preoccupied with other things than keeping tabs on Mr. Adams’ alcohol consumption.
Admittedly, he’s more preoccupied by Sam’s appearance.
It is striking to him how quickly Sam can go from clean-cut delegate to his usual bedraggled exterior. As if he hadn’t just spent the afternoon making speeches. This time is different, though—he looks less like a ruffian and more casual, relaxed. His smile comes easy, just as it had earlier at the signing, and John feels himself mirroring it like it’s his own. He swears he can feel the warmth of that smile spreading to his chest and knows that isn’t the booze talking.
Sam’s hair is less well-kept now, strands coming loose from its once careful hold to fall in front of his face. He’s lost his coat, draped over the chair where he sits slumped back, his hands braced against the edge of the table. John has no idea where his cravat has escaped to but imagines it has been shoved away carelessly into a pocket and nearly cringes at the thought. John finds himself distracted by the bare skin of his chest that’s been left exposed by Sam’s untied shirt and unbuttoned waistcoat. His collarbones are sharp compared to the delicate fabric, a sheen of sweat making his skin look more golden in the firelight.
He’s almost embarrassed by his indiscretion when Sam catches him staring. Instead of the curious scowl John expects, Sam’s lips curve into a smirk that’s immediately buried behind the fresh tankard he’s gotten a hold of.
John doesn’t know how to read it.
It is a sly kind of smirk and John isn’t sure whether it’s a silent expression of I caught you or an invitation. Perhaps both. Or neither.
Still, he doesn’t know what to do about that nor the thought that takes hold of him so quickly it makes his head spin—undressing Sam just as well as he had helped dress him, pressing his lips to Sam’s collarbone, capturing that smile with a kiss so good that Sam might want to make it his own.
Instead of dwelling on it, John decides to retire for the evening. If it makes him a coward for running away, he cannot stand to linger on that, either. He bids farewell to the table at large and pulls on his coat before leaving their boisterous celebrations in his wake.
The air outside seems more suffocating than the tavern itself, heavy in the summer heat. The noise from inside manages to spill into the street, echoing in the empty spaces. John realizes he doesn’t have any idea what time it is; the sky is the sort of in-between shade that is neither day nor night and could pass for dawn or dusk. Not knowing disorients him a little, but he finds he doesn’t care after all. He’s tired, a little unsure of himself, but otherwise content.
“Leaving so soon?” John is about to call for a carriage home when Sam’s teasing voice interrupts him.
Sam strolls out to greet him with his coat draped over his arm, looking handsomely inebriated in John’s humble opinion. He has that smirk back on his face, though now it’s blossoming into a wider grin that reaches the depths of his eyes.
John suddenly feels as though his cravat is choking him. “Ah, yes,” he says, hearing that nervous tremble creep into his tone. “I think I have had quite enough for one night.”
“Yeah,” Sam laughs, kicking a pebble that skitters into the road. “Mr. Franklin is better in small doses.”
John makes a noise that sounds like agreement. “Would you…like to share a carriage back to the house?” He hates how desperate it comes across, how much Sam has him flustered so easily—how in a matter of minutes he’s finally figured out what he wants.
“I suppose so,” Sam says, stifling a weak yawn into his fist. “If it’s all right with you, Mr. Hancock.” There’s a hint of something in his words—teasing, mischief, something that’s decidedly and entirely Sam Adams—and John realizes he’s still very much intoxicated.
This becomes more apparent as they climb into a waiting carriage. Sam sways in the door, hands braced on either side to balance himself. John, who’s already seated, offers to grab Sam’s coat so he can step up. With a lopsided grin hanging loosely on his lips, Sam takes two tries to heave himself up into the carriage and sinks down without an ounce of grace opposite John, jostling the both of them.
As soon as the carriage takes off, Sam pulls the curtains closed, trapping them in their own universe. With Sam’s coat still draped over his lap, and Sam slumped across from him, John is transfixed by their closeness. Their knees knock together while the carriage rolls along uneven roads, but neither makes an attempt to remedy that situation. Sam sits up, leaning forward; his posture dares John to do the same, but he restrains himself. His fingers trace along the fabric of Sam’s coat, fidgeting with buttons and smoothing out the wrinkles.
Rifling around in his waistcoat pocket, Sam takes out something John can’t immediately see. Once it arcs through the air, John registers the metallic ring that fills up the space, watching as Sam continuously flips a small silver coin to catch in his palm. After a few flips, Sam meets John’s eyes and John feels his entire face flush again. He’s grateful for the lack of light in the carriage, but he’s almost sure that Sam can sense the heat radiating from him anyway.
Sam’s look is pointed—knowing.
John waits for the coin to arc again and seizes it before it lands in Sam’s palm. Holding it between his thumb and index finger, he looks at it for the first time since he had given it to Sam. It feels hotter than his blushed skin, the metal warmed from Sam’s own hands and being carted around in his pocket for what John assumes has been quite a long time.
A fond smile works its way onto John’s lips.
Sam’s knees are pressed to his. Finally, John leans closer, the coin still in between his fingers.
“Never gave it back,” Sam says with a half-shrug of one shoulder.
“It’s yours,” John answers without thinking. “To keep.”
Sam’s gaze narrows, a bit of mischief making its presence known. “You’re sure?”
“Without any doubt, Mr. Adams.”
John’s pulse skips when Sam’s hand rests on his knee. “None whatsoever?”
“N-No.” John clears his throat. “No. It is a promise. One I don’t intend to break. I figured…you would hold onto it.”
“I will.” Sam nods, his eyes never leaving John’s. “If it’s what you want.”
The weight of Sam’s palm on his knee is about the only thing he can focus on. “Nothing would please me more, Mr. Adams,” he manages, “than knowing you would keep it safe. I trust you.” He starts to stumble over his words, but his gaze is entranced by Sam’s. “I trust you completely.” He settles the coin into Sam’s other palm, closing it, keeping his hand on top.
“When I had nothing else to my name, I gave this to you,” John says. “No matter the change in our circumstances, I would give you this promise a thousand times over, Sam.” John notices the flutter of Sam’s fingers in his grip at the informal use of his name. “I thought…I had everything figured out, and I am…so grateful for everything you have done. And I realize now that I am happy for the first time in my life—here, with you, with a new country on the horizon.”
He nods at the coin trapped beneath their hands. “Will you keep it?”
Before John can blink or breathe again, Sam’s lips are on his, pulling him deep into a kiss. John relaxes and returns it as though he might get drunk on it—and it sort of feels that way, if he’s being honest; his head is spinning again—and Sam cups his face with one hand. The other, the one where the coin is enveloped safely, is braced against one of the lapels of John’s coat above his heart.
When Sam pulls away just enough for their heavy breaths to replace the silent carriage, their foreheads still touching, he laughs. “We aren’t talking about the coin anymore, are we?”
John feels the smirk on Sam’s lips with his own. “I doubt we ever truly were.”
“Good,” Sam replies, just as John captures him in another kiss, taking Sam’s face in his hands. In another breath, he laughs again, “crazy rebel bastard.”
There is so much more to the world than gold and silver, John Hancock decides, and Sam Adams has made him a very lucky man indeed.