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Darker Reflections > North America > Ripped At The Seams


Title: Ripped At The Seams
Description: For Canada


America - March 23, 2014 12:25 AM (GMT)
Four more states. Four more states had seceded. Lincoln had suggested that calling 75,000 volunteers to aid against the rebellion would put an end to it, and Alfred agreed with him, because what better than a quick end to this before it got more out of hand than it already was?

Problem was, Alfred rarely thought of the consequences before he acted. Of course such an action was seen as an act of war, and that it certainly was not going to end that easily. Four more states seceded from the Union within one month. Alfred wasn't sure if he could describe that peculiar feeling of emptiness to anyone. Other countries had gone through civil wars, right? Was this something they all experienced, or was this something unique to him? He didn't even want to think about it. He just wanted to distract himself. If it wasn't the emptiness, it was a vague feeling of dread.

He'd taken to distracting himself with letters. He hadn't ventured out of the house much in the past few weeks, and thus his only connection with the outside was through correspondence. He was in the process of penning a letter to President Lincoln when a voice cut through the air.

"Well hello there. Didn't think you could avoid me forever, did ya?"

Alfred tightened his grip on the writing utensil within his hand. It was a wonder that he didn't break the thing, especially taking his strength into consideration. He clenched his teeth, letting out his next statement in a low growl. "Go away. You don't exist."

The owner of the voice laughed. It was a taunting laugh, one that made Alfred's blood boil just hearing it. "Don't exist? C'mon Alfie, we've been through this already. Not only do I exist, but I'm more powerful than ever! Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina...tell me, do you miss 'em yet?"

That was one step too far. There was a loud crack as Alfred threw the two pieces of his writing utensil down, turning toward the source of the voice. "With all due respect...you can go to hell."

His doppelganger smiled, moving forward toward Alfred. "I don't think so, North. See, I'm hardly the type to go down without a fight." Alfred wanted to wipe the cocky smile right off of his doppelganger's face. Their features were so similar, with a few scattered differences. Both men had blue eyes, but the blue in Alfred's eyes was accented, while his doppleganger's eyes had an unmistakable grayish hue to them. More noticeably, where Alfred had a prominent cowlick near the front of his head, his doppleganger's hair laid flat. To top it off, a pair of glasses were settled on the bridge of the doppelganger's nose, noticeably absent from Alfred's own visage.

The man was now less than a foot away from Alfred, and Alfred reacted instinctively. His fist collided with his doppelganger's nose, and his doppelganger stepped back. Alfred watched as the other man cradled his injured nose, his fingers taking a reddish tinge. An amused grin came across Alfred's face once he saw that he'd successfully broken his adversary's nose. His triumph was short-lived, however, as his doppelganger came flying at him.

The fight soon erupted into an all out brawl within Alfred's sitting room. At least a few objects ended up broken in the melee (including a rather nice vase given to Alfred by Martha Washington - this resulted in a black eye). One blow in particular sent Alfred to the ground. Preparing to ascend to his feet and join the fight once more, Alfred was surprised to find a foot on his chest, pinning him to the ground - And the barrel of a gun pointed straight at his face.

Alfred shot the other man a glare. "That's not fair, bringing a gun to a fist fight."

The doppelganger laughed, a laugh that sounded eerily like his own. "Whoever said I was playin' to be fair? I'm playin' to win. And it looks an awful lot like I'm winnin' right now, don't ya think?"

Alfred never had the chance to answer. At this moment, both parties heard a knock, drawing their attention from each other toward the door. "Shit..." Alfred muttered, his eyes going wide.

The other man let out a throaty chuckle. "My my, you didn't tell me you were expecting visitors, North! Who is it? If it's Lincoln, I'd like to give that that bastard a piece of my mind..."

"It's...nobody. They can come back later..." Who on Earth could it be? Who would know to find him here?

"Where are your manners, North? I say we let 'em in." The man proceeded to raise his voice. "Come on in!" He called out in his characteristic Southern drawl, before looking back down at Alfred. "This oughta be a fun little meeting, don't you think? I look forward to meetin' all of your friends! I must say, your Southern sta...ah, I should say, former states absolutely love me."

A fun little meeting indeed. For, to the bystander, there were not two men in the sitting room, one sprawled on the ground and one pointing a gun menacingly in the other's face. Instead, the bystander would see one man, with a broken nose, black eye, and various other cuts and bruises sprawled out on the floor, pointing a gun to his own head.

[You probably already guessed, but in case you didn't...

Blue = Union Al (aka...well, Alfred XD)
Red = Confederate Al (aka Lee)

Canada - March 23, 2014 03:15 AM (GMT)
Staying away had never really been an option. Although the worst of the tensions from their last confrontation in 1814 had cooled over the decades, Matthew had become aloof towards his closest neighbour, preferring to keep a watchful eye on the going-ons from within his own borders rather than to involve himself personally. Yet, despite all his best efforts to keep his distance, here he was, once again among the hauntingly familiar avenues of the suburbs where Alfred lived.

He hadn’t set foot on American soil for years. Matthew couldn’t even remember the last time he’d come face to face with his brother unarmed, and he’d certainly seen and heard very little from him since the Civil War had begun. At the beginning, England had been quick to step in and inform him that he was to remain neutral throughout the conflict. It was strictly forbidden for him officially to take sides with North or South, and Matthew knew he probably shouldn’t be here - England would have preferred he stayed out of it altogether - but he couldn’t help it. News leaked from over the borders and stirred Canadians into hot debates over the war and its outcome. Despite England’s rule that Canada, as a nation, was not allowed to pledge support to either side, over 50,000 individual volunteers from his country had gone south to join the fray. The tidings of the war were on everyones’ tongues in pubs and cafés all over his country, but Matthew only wanted to hear the news from one person - and that was his brother.

It was a cool, overcast morning and the smell of rain was heavy in the air. Matthew could also detect a faint hint of static, the sort that preceded a storm. Or perhaps it was a harbinger of change or the escalating tensions within a country, something so subtle that only a nation spirit could detect it. As he walked, he kept an eye out for Alfred’s house and a watched warily for people passing by. He wanted to keep the low profile he’d been maintaining since he’d arrived, though, so far, it hadn’t been too difficult. Dressed in civilian clothes: a large, unremarkable brown coat and some trousers, Matthew had little trouble blending into the background, but one could never be too careful.

When he finally reached Alfred’s house, Matthew paused at the door as a wave of uncertainty passed through him - what would he say? It had been so many years, and with all the turmoil going on, he wasn’t even sure how Alfred would receive him…

At that moment, a resonating crash sounded from within, and Matthew froze. There was a pause, and then more crashing and banging, as well as the higher-pitched cacophony of several items shattering. He almost backed away from the house. It sounded like there was a fight going on in there - and who knew, maybe there was - in any case, it was clear he’d come at a bad time. He was contemplating whether he should just leave and let whatever was rampaging run its course or go in to investigate, when there was a dull thud, and all was quiet. After a brief pause and more hesitation, Matthew tentatively rapped his fist on the door.

“Come on in!”

A voice - with a distinctly southern drawl - answered rather cheerfully. It was an unnerving contrast with the ruckus that had been going on just moments before. Matthew was starting to feel afraid of what he might find, but he squared his shoulders, opened the door and walked in, then stopped dead.

For several moments, he was speechless. Wide violet eyes took in the disarray of the room before him: broken and scattered ornaments, an ink-splattered desk, and in the center of it all, Alfred on the floor looking like he’d just come out of a street fight, with a gun in hand, pointing it at his own head. Automatically, Matthew scanned the room for an intruder or some kind of opponent, but he found none. Had he done this to himself?! Matthew, who only knew of civil wars second-hand from England and France, had no idea it could be this bad.

He drew a sharp breath and then exhaled shakily. His eyes fixed on the gun, which Alfred, most paradoxically, was still pointing at his own head. Geez, did he really need to see Lincoln that badly?

”That won’t do any good, Alfred.” His voice was calm and even, although still several shades cooler than it would have been before 1812. He started to move forward slowly, carefully, the way he might approach a wounded animal. ”You can put the gun down… I only want to talk.” He came to a stop several feet away from him and for a long moment he was silent, staring down at the wartorn nation on the floor, keeping his expression neutral. So this he thought, with a pang, is what a civil war looks like.

” …What happened?”

America - March 23, 2014 03:47 AM (GMT)
Alfred held his breath, his gaze focused on the door. He watched in horror as the door opened and his brother stepped through the doorway. "Mattie, I-I..." Why hadn't he known sooner? He would have tried to keep Mattie away!

"Evenin' Matthew. Looks like you mighta caught us at a bad time." His doppleganger met his brother's gaze with a smile. In truth, the words came out of Alfred's own mouth, and he was the one who met his brother's eyes with a smile.

"That won't do any good, Alfred."

What wouldn't do any good? A befuddled expression swept across Alfred's features. His brother was moving toward the scene slowly - not that Alfred blamed him, for all he knew his doppleganger might turn the gun from Alfred to Matthew. Matthew had to protect himself. Alfred watched, hating the position that he was in and yet hoping that his doppleganger would not suddenly go for a different target. That being said, if his doppleganger went after his brother, there would be hell to pay.

"You can put the gun down… I only want to talk.”

Alfred wondered if his doppleganger would even listen to Matthew's advice. "You heard Mattie...at least put the gun down ti-" Alfred froze in mid-sentence. Where his doppleganger was standing just moments before, there was no one. Alfred felt a sudden weight in his hand, and looked down at his chin. The gun slipped from his grasp immediately, falling to the ground with a loud clunk.

Alfred slowly pushed himself to a seated position, aware of a number of aches and pains on his body. Every blow that he aimed as his doppleganger was aimed at himself, he realized with a sickening jolt. And every blow that his doppleganger landed on him? That, too, was self-inflicted. There was no doppleganger, not in the truest sense. He was facing no external opponent, but rather one that came from within. How could he allow himself to be tricked so easily?

"What happened?"

"Isn't it obvious? I beat myself to a blood pulp. Jury is still out on who the winner might be." He responded with a snort, rubbing underneath his nose with his hand and frowning when he spotted partially dried blood on his hand. "Of course...I broke his nose, how could I forget about that shining accomplishment?" Alfred shook his head, letting out a few mirthful chuckles in the process.

Letting out a sigh, he finally opted to face his brother's question head on. "What happened? To answer that I should probably start from the beginning." A large part of him wanted to keep everything to himself. Speaking about it only made it more real. Yet at the same time, when was he going to have a chance to vent to someone about this again? He needed to get this out in some way, shape, or form before he went even more nuts.

"I first saw him in Kansas a few years back. Things were heated out there for a while. Debates raged on about whether Kansas should be a slave state or a free state. A few bouts of violence popped up in Kansas. A northern senator was almost beaten to death by a southern senator. I saw him...around a few times, but I tried not to think too much on it. Once I left Kansas it was a lot easier to do."

Alfred took a deep breath before he continued. "The next sign that something wasn't right happened during the Panic of 1857. You know what how economic issues affect us. Well, I never had anything like this happen before. When I was in the north, I felt terrible. Runny nose, sniffles, the works. Whenever I was in the south? I felt fine. It was as if I had two different economies!" Not that far from the truth, as Alfred soon found out.

"Everything hit a head when Lincoln was elected. That's when states started seceding, and eventually on February 4th..." There was a sudden jolt in Alfred's visage, and his posture changed.

"I was born," "Alfred" finished in a southern-flavored twang.

"My government came together on February 4th," he continued. "North and the rest of his buddies don't like to think of me as a sovereign state...so we decided to take matters into our own hands. See, North had a few bases on my land. He likes to think that my land is still his land. He still had troops occupyin' my bases, and we wanted to flush 'em out. We wanted 'em out, and when they wouldn't leave peaceful we decided to force 'em out."

Alfred ran a hand through his hair, switching back to his earlier posture. "What...Lee... is describing is the battle that took place at Fort Sumter a couple of months ago. It's all started to explode since then."

Clearly, if Alfred's current state was any indication.

"As you might have guessed, I haven't exactly been in one mind for a while now. I guess when your people have declared war against each other it's bound to happen." He looked to his brother, wondering how he'd respond.

[Guess I should probably explain a few things, given that I think you're Canadian and not American...and not even every American knows all these details, so -

Bleeding Kansas - Alfred refers to seeing 'him' (him being the Confederacy) for the first time in Kansas. As Alfred explained, Bleeding Kansas was like a miniature preview for the Civil War that would break out a half a decade afterward. Both abolitionists and slavery supporters flocked to the state and tried to exert their influence on whether it would become a slave state or a free state. It eventually joined the union as a free state in early 1861, after some of the southern states already seceded.

Charles Sumner - The northern senator who was almost beaten to death by a southern senator. Almost caned to death, to be exact. This occurred during a debate about what was occurring in Kansas. Sumner gave an anti-slavery speech regarding the situation in Kansas. The caning actually happened in the Senate chamber, albeit a nearly deserted one. He was beaten unconscious by Senator Brooks and continued to be beaten until Brooks' cane broke.

Panic of 1857 - An economic downswing that, as you might have guessed, affected the north FAR worse than it effected the south. At that point in U.S. history the north's economy was mostly industrial and the south's was mostly agricultural, explaining the huge divide described by Alfred.

Lincoln's election - Needless to say, pissed off a lot of the southern states, and was actually the final straw that led to secession in a few cases.

February 4, 1861 - The day when 7 southern states that seceded from the Union joined together to form the Confederate States of America. Only seven states had seceded at that point, though 11 would eventually secede...the last four are mentioned in the first post when Lee is taunting Alfred. =P

Fort Sumter - The first battle of the Civil War. It was, indeed, a U.S. fort with Union personnel on Confederate territory, and obviously the Confederates didn't like that too much (for obvious reason, really XD).

Lemme know if you have any other questions, and I hope I didn't inundate you with too much. ^^]

Canada - March 23, 2014 07:02 PM (GMT)
“Mattie, I-I…”
”’Evenin’ Matthew. Looks like you mighta caught us at a bad time.”

One instant there was Alfred staring up at him, wide-eyed and alarmed, and then he was distinctly someone else - Alfred was giving him an unfamiliar suave grin, and that southern accent had returned. Matthew blinked, feeling sufficiently perturbed, and then an instant later, the Alfred he knew was back, looking utterly bewildered. ”You heard Mattie...at least put the gun down ti-“ He started to say, apparently toward an entity only he could see, and then he stopped abruptly. His gaze slid down to the gun in his hand, and Matthew could see that the realization had finally clicked. He dropped it with a clatter and painfully sat upright.

Matthew picked his way through the minefield of shattered glass and porcelain toward him, as Alfred replied, "Isn't it obvious? I beat myself to a blood pulp. Jury is still out on who the winner might be.” ”I heard you,” Matthew answered, wincing at the memory. He’d clearly done a number on himself. ”Of course...I broke his nose, how could I forget about that shining accomplishment?” Alfred shook his head and let out a chuckle, sounding jovial despite the mess he was in. Matthew dug into his pocket for a handkerchief and held it out to him. From what he could glean, his brother seemed to have two distinctly separate states of mind sharing the same body - a cruelly fitting situation to match the state his country was in.

”What happened? To answer that I should probably start from the beginning.” Matthew nodded for him to go on, and then listened quietly as Alfred explained what had transpired throughout the war and how the double-personality had come to be, with his new alter-ego, “Lee”, pitching in to help clarify his side of the deal. As Matthew grasped just how rough the past few years had been for his brother, he felt a gnawing guilt begin to seep through the icy barriers he’d built around himself after the last war. He suddenly thought of how lonely a civil war really was. With England still bitter and resentful over the Revolution, and his brother aloof and wary in the north, he would have been utterly alone through it all. There was no one he could have turned to, either, when the struggle was internal.

"As you might have guessed, I haven't exactly been in one mind for a while now. I guess when your people have declared war against each other it's bound to happen.” He finished, and slumped backward once more. Matthew was silent for a moment longer, digesting what he’d heard.

”It’s painful having your people at odds even when they’re not actively at war,” He said, thinking of the ice-pick migraines (complete with irrational moodswings) he’d had since the British governor had decided to unite Upper and Lower Canada. Disputes between the French and English parts of his country had become increasingly vehement, and at times Matthew feared his own country would erupt into civil war or be reft into two. Now, having seen and heard of what it was really like, he knew that he simply couldn’t allow such a thing to happen in Canada. Confederation was starting to look better and better. With his own government, surely winning equal rights for both the French and English wouldn’t be as hard, would it?

”I can’t imagine what it must have been like for you all this time. How long have you been cooped up in here?” In such a state, it was fairly obvious that Alfred wasn’t fit for public appearances. He glanced around the room, wondering how Alfred had handled the solitude. Even a house as spacious as his must have seemed like a prison after a while - or had the struggle he’d been waging against himself taken all of his energy? Either way, it had to have been a horrible ordeal for him.

”I’m sorry, Al.” He said quietly, ”I should have come down here sooner.” He looked around helplessly, then back down at his brother.

"Is there anything I can do?" If not for country, then for him as a person. He wanted to help, but he didn't know how. It wasn't a normal war by any standards, wherein sending aid or resources was easy. It was a deep, internal conflict that Alfred had to handle alone, and in the way young nations often were, Matthew was at a loss of what to do.

[ Yes, I am Canadian x3 Wow, that was fast! I didn’t think it would be that obvious haha.

Thank you for the explanation! Also, not at all, I’m a total history geek so that was actually super interesting for me to read. ^^ ]

America - March 23, 2014 09:25 PM (GMT)
Alfred caught sight of his brother wincing and frowned. Did he really look that bad? He knew that he couldn't possibly look tip-top after what happened, but Alfred found himself wondering just how poorly he looked.

He graciously accepted the handkerchief that his northern brother offered to him, dabbing at the area between his nose and upper lip. He pulled the handkerchief away from his face for a moment, observing the caked blood on the handkerchief before folding it over and giving his face a few more dabs. He then felt the area with his hand and looked to his brother. "How does it look now?" He questioned, having managed to dab away most of the blood at this point. He still looked worse for the wear, but at least he didn't have dried blood caked near his nose.

He would look toward a mirror to confirm for himself, but that was likely to trigger him. He often saw Lee in his reflection rather than his own face when he was in control, just as Lee would spot him when Lee was in control.

As such, both personalities tended to avoid looking at their reflection unless they absolutely needed to, or wished to communicate with one another face to face.

”It’s painful having your people at odds even when they’re not actively at war."

"I know. I had headaches off and on for decades before it came to this." Little did he realize that Matthew, too, experienced such headaches. Matthew wasn't the only one who kept his brother at a distance - Alfred put up the same walls against Matthew after what occurred nearly a half a century prior. Neither were entirely innocent in the affair, and both wronged each other. That said, Alfred left said war with a much higher respect for his brother as an opponent. If anyone ever told him that Matthew was docile and non-combatant, he could easily counter that this was only because Matthew wasn't being pushed far enough.

”I can’t imagine what it must have been like for you all this time. How long have you been cooped up in here?”

Alfred opened his mouth, prepared to answer - only to realize that he wasn't entirely sure how long he'd been cooped up for. "The war started in April, and I've been here since then. However long it's been since then?" Alfred responded, wishing that he could provide a more concrete answer. He was trapped in one location with little to do other than battle with himself, and yet he'd lost track of time? Just how bad off was he?

"I know the war's still going on - all I have to do is take one look at my condition and it's plain as day," Alfred managed a wry smile at this. "Every time there's a battle I have nightmares about it. I do things to myself in my sleep. I wake up with my stomach bleeding. I've taken to going to bed with rags underneath me every night so I don't stain the bedsheets. He didn't know why he was still talking - He didn't entirely want his brother to know all of these details, but getting them off of his chest offered a sort of catharsis that he hadn't experienced in months. Thus, his mouth seemed to have a life of its own.

"Lee keeps trying to leave this house. He doesn't like being cooped up here..." Not only was this statement followed by a change in posture, but by "Alfred" leveling a punch at the floor.

"Of course I don't like t'be cooped up here. You're not just keepin' me here for your health, you're keepin' me here because you wanna keep me as a prisoner of war. I got a right to see my boss, I got a right to make my own decisions, I got a right to leave if I damn well please!"

Lee met Matthew's gaze with his own. Though Alfred and Lee shared the same face, Lee's eyes had an almost grey hue to them. "He's tryin' to make me out as the bad guy, but I'm not. I'm fightin' for my freedom, the same way he fought for his freedom from Arthur all those years ago."

Alfred's body shifted once more. "It's not the same...it's not the same at all." Alfred shook his head, running a hand through his hair. Alfred and Arthur were separate from the beginning, unlike Alfred and Lee.

"Is there anything I can do?"

Alfred let out another mirthful chuckle. "I don't think so. I don't know why they call this a civil war, Mattie. This is anything but civil."

Canada - March 24, 2014 02:46 AM (GMT)
"How does it look now?” Alfred asked, having cleaned most of the blood from his face. ”Um…” Matthew was staring at his brother’s black eye and the assortment of other cuts and bruises left from the struggle. It wasn’t just the immediate damage that was detracting from his appearance either - war had a way of leeching vitality from even the strongest of nations. Honestly, he didn’t think he’d ever seen Alfred look worse, but that wasn’t a kind or particularly helpful comment so he left it unvoiced. ”Better,” Matthew answered evasively. At least it wasn’t a complete lie, since he didn’t have blood caked on his face anymore.

”"I know. I had headaches off and on for decades before it came to this.” ”I’ve been getting them too,” Matthew admitted with a sigh, ”The disputes between the French and English have been especially bad for the past few decades. It’s like trying to get the essences of England and France to settle down and coexist peacefully in one country,” he said with a wry smile. His gaze drifted to the window, watching the first few drops rain beginning to spatter onto the glass. ”I can see what made you want independence. I know England usually means well and he’s got his own problems in Europe to worry about, but sometimes he just won’t listen.” There was an edge of frustration in his tone. He’d approached the British nation on numerous occasions to ask for changes to the unfair colonial government and equal rights for the French language and religion, with no avail. Sometimes it seemed like the only ways to get his attention were to light a few buildings on fire, or throw a few tons of tea into the ocean.

"The war started in April, and I've been here since then. However long it's been since then?” Matthew glanced back to Alfred. He’d really been stuck here for a while, hadn’t he? Things were undoubtedly serious when a nation spirit lost touch with what exactly was going on in the world. ”It’s almost July… That makes it about three months.” He paused, taking into consideration just how long, how tedious, how maddening three months of confinement really was.

"I know the war's still going on - all I have to do is take one look at my condition and it's plain as day. Every time there's a battle I have nightmares about it. I do things to myself in my sleep. I wake up with my stomach bleeding. I've taken to going to bed with rags underneath me every night so I don't stain the bedsheets.” For a moment, Matthew was speechless. He couldn’t have imagined things were that bad, or that fighting within one’s own country could reach such a level. How in the world had he managed to cope with it all this time?

”Lee keeps trying to leave this house. He doesn't like being cooped up here…” Another jolt as Lee took the reins again, launching a punch at the floor that made Matthew flinch. He hoped that he’d missed the shards littered across the floor - surely the last thing he needed was more injuries. "Of course I don't like t'be cooped up here. You're not just keepin' me here for your health, you're keepin' me here because you wanna keep me as a prisoner of war. I got a right to see my boss, I got a right to make my own decisions, I got a right to leave if I damn well please!” In essence, Alfred was again arguing with himself - it was a bizarre scenario to watch, and a little unnerving.

Lee lifted his gaze to Matthew’s, and Matthew realized that alongside the change in accent and mannerisms, Lee’s eyes were just slightly off-colour. A more storm-grey blue. He and Alfred were still the same person, but how much longer could one body house two radically different spirits? "He's tryin' to make me out as the bad guy, but I'm not. I'm fightin' for my freedom, the same way he fought for his freedom from Arthur all those years ago." "It's not the same...it's not the same at all.” Then Alfred was back again. In answer to Matthew’s query, he replied with a chuckle, "I don't think so. I don't know why they call this a civil war, Mattie. This is anything but civil.”

”If there’s anything that isn’t civil in this world, it’s war,” Matthew agreed dryly, and then he said, ”Well, at least let me help you clean up your sitting room, then. Can you walk?”

America - March 24, 2014 06:25 PM (GMT)
The hesitation in his brother's voice didn't do much to comfort him. Nevertheless, when Matthew finally settled for a 'better', the corners of Alfred's mouth turned up into his first truly amused grin in a good while. "That bad, huh?"

Alfred's grin slipped when Matthew admitted that he, too, had headaches. Before the War Between the States broke out, Alfred would have regarded this admission as a mere conversation point. Now, Alfred eyed Matthew with concern. "How bad is it?" The last thing that he wanted was for his brother to face something like he was facing. After seeing the condition that his brother was in, Alfred could only imagine that Matthew felt the same way.

"I can see what made you want independence. I know England usually means well and he’s got his own problems in Europe to worry about, but sometimes he just won’t listen.” The corners of Alfred's mouth lifted into another smile. "He's good at that. He can listen when he wants to, but when he has an idea set in his head, trying to argue with him is like arguing with a brick wall." Alfred shook his head, failing to realize that the aforementioned set of words could be used to describe him as well. Like father like son, some might say. They wouldn't be entirely off the mark.

”It’s almost July… That makes it about three months.”

"Three months?!" Alfred blanched. He'd been cooped up in this house for three months already, with no sign of getting better? If anything, he'd grown worse in the time that passed. This really was a war, wasn't it?

"Least ya got company." Lee remarked with a snort. "Not that either of us are particularly found of that arrangement."

"You can say that again."

"Least ya got..."

"It's a figure of speech, Lee."

"Don't ya think I know that? I was tryin' to make a joke. I swear ya ain't got the brains God gave a squirrel."

"I...what?"

"Your brother's starin' at us."

Alfred closed his mouth immediately, realizing that he'd just had a rather ridiculous argument with himself directly in front of his brother. He bit down on his lip, eager to distract himself with something else. Fortunately, Matthew obliged.

”If there’s anything that isn’t civil in this world, it’s war,” Alfred nodded his agreement to this statement. Well, at least let me help you clean up your sitting room, then. Can you walk?”

A very good question. Matthew would certainly be doing a lot more than just helping if Alfred could not even bring himself to his feet. Fortunately, Alfred was able to bring himself to a stand, taking a few shaky steps with the help of a wall before he let go of said wall and looked back to his brother. "Yeah, I think I can manage." He took a few steps unaided before smiling and flashing his brother a thumbs up.

"I have brooms in that cupboard over there, if you wanna grab a couple." They could at least get some of this mess swept up - at least that way they'd be able to walk without having to worry about cutting themselves.

[Sorry about the argument. It just...came forward in my head and I had to do it. XD]

Canada - March 28, 2014 08:19 AM (GMT)
Evidently, he hadn’t managed to fool his brother. ”That bad, huh?” Alfred said with a good-humoured grin. Then, as Matthew voiced the troubles he’d been experiencing, a look of concern swept over Alfred’s features. "How bad is it?" He asked seriously. A slight frown furrowed Matthew’s brow as he recalled the protests and disputes that had been going on. ”Things have gotten pretty heated… for my standards, anyway. There have been a lot of protests and some rioting. Although, it’s nothing compared to what you’ve had to go though.” He cast a worried glance at his brother and realized guiltily that he shouldn’t have troubled him with those details. He didn’t want to burden Alfred with any more concerns when he was already dealing with so much strife in his own country. In an effort to reassure him, Matthew amended quickly, ”Don’t worry about me, okay? I’m sure it’ll all work out. I’m negotiating with England for my own government right now. Please, just look after yourself.”

To his relief, his statement about England brought a smile back to Alfred’s face. "He's good at that. He can listen when he wants to, but when he has an idea set in his head, trying to argue with him is like arguing with a brick wall.” Matthew felt a slight smile tug at his lips. Boy, did that ever sound familiar. Must run in the family, huh?

With a sheepish grin, Matthew said, ”I even tried the rebellion thing in 1837, you know. For a responsible government. I wasn’t very good at it.” He let out a rueful chuckle. ”England’s forces had us back under control in a year and most of the rebel leaders had to escape to your country - one of them dressed as a woman.” Ironically enough, after all the riots and messy skirmishes, he’d gotten what he wanted in a much more peaceful manner. Lord Durham had come from England to investigate the year after the Rebellions, and then returned to London and made his recommendations for managing the Canadian colony, which had resulted in the unification of Upper and Lower Canada and the establishment of responsible government a decade later.

Then the conversation turned to the duration of Alfred’s confinement. "Three months?!” Alfred exclaimed, looking appalled. In an instant, Lee was back. ”Least ya got company. Not that either of us are particularly found of that arrangement.” Matthew watched with a sort of baffled fascination as his brother proceeded to have a full-scale argument with himself. It was like his consciousness had been divided between two entities. Troubled, he wondered at how that could have come to be.

None of his own provinces could have managed the feat of seceding and forming a counterforce to the main body of the nation. While Matthew too had struggled highly divisive issues within his country, his people had never actually fought to become independent - only to maintain their rights and traditions under the colonial government. Separation simply wasn’t possible when his nation was so economically dependent on England. By comparison, the situation with America’s states was a testimony of fierce individuality, strength and willpower - as well as youth and inexperience. Matthew had come to understand that much of the turmoil within countries came from mistakes; flaws in the system, mishandled affairs, and ineffective diplomacy culminated into discontented masses with the potential for cataclysm - or a country’s downfall. With a nation that had grown to be as big and powerful as Alfred’s, Matthew could see how it was possible for such mistakes to occur, especially when he was still very young by a country’s standards.

A moment later, Alfred snapped out of it. Seeming eager to turn his attention elsewhere, he started to shakily rise to his feet. Matthew couldn’t suppress a anxious frown as he watched; he’d never seen Alfred in such bad shape. Even as a child, Alfred had been unusually strong, and just a scant century earlier, he’d managed to triumph over Britain, which was no small feat. Seeing him so battered and out of sorts now was worrisome, and a little scary. He’d never encountered anything that could topple his brother. …The civil war couldn’t actually kill him, could it? The thought made his breath hitch in his throat.

Despite Alfred’s assurances, Matthew wasn’t convinced. He looked way to shaky on his feet. ”Er… actually, maybe it’s better if you sit down for a second. I can sweep up the floor, it’s no trouble. Where can I find some towels and bandages? Do you have any ice?” He wondered briefly if Alfred had one of those newfangled refrigerators installed somewhere in his home. Normally he wouldn’t have been so concerned with flesh wounds; in top condition, most of a nation spirit’s physical injuries would heal in a day or two, but Matthew wasn’t sure of what the case would be with self-inflicted injuries from a civil war. In any case, he didn’t want to take any chances, and Alfred was sorely in need of a good patching up.

[ Sorry for the delay! I’ve been super busy for the past few days with a lot of shopping and spring cleaning =w= Also my spring break ends this week so I’ll probably only be able to respond on weekends from now on, but I’ll be sure to get to this thread whenever I have time! ]

America - March 29, 2014 06:25 PM (GMT)
”Things have gotten pretty heated… for my standards, anyway. There have been a lot of protests and some rioting. Although, it’s nothing compared to what you’ve had to go though.”

Alfred shrugged. "Sounds pretty typical for asserting your independence. I hope for your sake though that the transition's a bit more peaceful. I don't regret getting my independence for a second, but it woulda been nice if the old man had just recognized it rather than having to fight a war for it." Alfred frowned, wishing that he obtained his independence under better terms. He would never regret gaining his independence, but he did regret the damage to his relationship with the man he'd come to think of as a father figure of sorts.

”Don’t worry about me, okay? I’m sure it’ll all work out. I’m negotiating with England for my own government right now. Please, just look after yourself.”

Alfred smiled. "Good, I hope your negotiations with him end better than mine did." Alfred chuckled. "If you do need any help though, send me a line and I'll do what I can."

'Do what he could' because there wasn't much he could do when he could barely keep himself together.

”I even tried the rebellion thing in 1837, you know. For a responsible government. I wasn’t very good at it.”

Alfred shook his head in response to that statement. "No, I don't think that was the issue. I just think he was more prepared by the time you got around to it. I was the first, so it caught him off guard."

He found it hard to meet Matthew's gaze after his argument with Lee. He felt incredibly embarrassed, which was no small feat. Fortunately Matthew focused on the conversation concerning the cleaning rather than his argument.

Alfred looked back to Matthew, who seemed hesitant. "Do you need me to tell you which cupboard it is?" When Matthew insisted that he sit down, Alfred shook his head. "I'm not sitting down. I made this mess, I'm gonna clean it up. You can help if you want but I'm not just gonna sit back and have you do it. You're my guest. If anyone should be sitting down and resting, it's you. You came a long way to get here, you must be tired."

"I'm your guest too but ya sure ain't being that hospitable to me."

Alfred rolled his eyes. "That's because you've been around for the past several months. You practically live here."

"Not like I can live much of anywhere else."

"True..." Alfred let out a sigh, taking a few more steps toward the cupboard. He knew that Matthew was looking out for his best interests, but Alfred could handle this. It wasn't as though he hadn't been dealing with this for the past few months. He didn't mind Matthew helping out, but he was by no means incapable of doing some of the work himself. Or so he thought. A few steps later, Alfred was overtaken by a wave of dizziness that left him clutching on to the sofa with one hand as he waited for his vision to stop swimming.

"Where can I find some towels and bandages? Do you have any ice?”

Alfred ground his teeth together in frustration. "There are towels and bandages in the hall closet. There's ice in the ice box in the kitchen." His vision was still spinning. He wasn't going anywhere any time soon.

[It's alright. I work 40 hours during the week, so I'm not on as much during the week either. XD]

Canada - March 30, 2014 06:35 AM (GMT)
"Sounds pretty typical for asserting your independence. I hope for your sake though that the transition's a bit more peaceful. I don't regret getting my independence for a second, but it woulda been nice if the old man had just recognized it rather than having to fight a war for it." Matthew nodded. The last thing he wanted was to brew something up with England, especially after he’d witnessed how bloody a war for independence could be. He was able to feel cautiously optimistic about the whole affair, although there were a good deal of nerves involved as well. Many of his people feared that the new government would be ineffective - he was very new at this, after all - or that separation would damage both the British and Canadian economy. The fact was that his nation had outgrown England’s colonial budget, and the current arrangement couldn’t persist for much longer. Whether for better or for worse, the situation was to change within the decade, he was sure.

”Good, I hope your negotiations with him end better than mine did. If you do need any help though, send me a line and I'll do what I can.” Matthew gave a slight shake of his head. ”I meant it when I said to look after yourself, Al. I should be the one helping you.” Though he did appreciate the sentiment, between the two of them, it was obvious that Alfred was the one that was in more dire need of assistance.

To his statement about the rebellions, Alfred countered, "No, I don't think that was the issue. I just think he was more prepared by the time you got around to it. I was the first, so it caught him off guard.” That might have been part of it, Matthew conceded to himself, but there was no denying that many of his rebellion battles had been poorly coordinated affairs. He realized then that the past war he’d had with his brother must have left a stronger impression of his military capabilities than expected. Perhaps that was some assurance, knowing that he would be less eager to repeat the invasions. Although, the situation then had been different - Matthew had been flat out fighting for his life in that war. Besides, he had the advantage of knowing the lay of his land, and how to use it. The rebellions had been different - the British forces in control of the colony quite literally owned the place - they knew the territory just as well as his men did, and they’d been far more experienced and better organized. It had been impossible to gain any advantage over them.

After initially attributing Matthew’s reluctance to the uncertain location of the cupboard, Alfred answered adamantly, ”"I'm not sitting down. I made this mess, I'm gonna clean it up. You can help if you want but I'm not just gonna sit back and have you do it. You're my guest. If anyone should be sitting down and resting, it's you. You came a long way to get here, you must be tired.” Arguing to a brick wall really wasn’t an exaggeration. Matthew could feel an edge of stubbornness creeping into his own demeanour - maybe he had a whiff of that familial obstinacy too. ”That’s very thoughtful of you, but I’m not nearly as tired as you are. You seriously need a break, Alfred — have you even looked in a mirror lately?” Of course, he had no idea of what repercussions there were for Alfred when he looked into a mirror, and he could only assume that he hadn’t even realized how haggard he looked.

”A little cleaning is really no trouble—“ he insisted, and then broke off as he realized that his brother was having one of those “Lee vs Alfred” episodes again. Odd thing was, Matthew found that he was starting to get used to it. Lee didn’t even seem quite as intimidating as he had at first. By extension, he was like a south-y, sassy, rebellious part of Alfred. When he wasn’t trying to kill his counterpart or anything he wasn’t so bad, although Matthew felt that both he and Alfred would have preferred that he and his southern persona exist peacefully as one being.

Having made up his mind, Alfred began to make his way toward the cupboard. Matthew started toward the cabinet as well, racking his brain for a more persuasive argument, when Alfred wavered and caught himself on the sofa. ”"There are towels and bandages in the hall closet. There's ice in the ice box in the kitchen.” He looked like he was about to drop at any moment. Matthew’s voice softened considerably, ”Just sit down for now, okay?” He moved to stand between Alfred and the cupboard, violet eyes focusing on his brother’s blue ones. ”I’ll get you some ice and some bandages. Afterward, if you feel up to it, we can clean the floor.” He suggested, hoping that was a good enough deal to soothe over his brother’s noble intentions.

He unbuttoned his coat, shrugged it off, and draped it over a chair before heading down the hall to find the items he needed. It only took him a few minutes to collect them all and scrape out a lump of ice, which he wrapped in a towel. He returned to the sitting room and held out the makeshift icepack to Alfred. ”Here, hold this to your eye.” He started unwinding a length of the bandages. ”Have you heard any recent news about how the war’s going?” Matthew wondered what might have inspired this particular confrontation between him and his other self. He was grappling with the idea of whether this set of injuries would count as physical ones or the more troublesome kind that originated from strife within or between nations.

America - March 30, 2014 06:25 PM (GMT)
”I meant it when I said to look after yourself, Al. I should be the one helping you." While this was probably the truth, Alfred didn't much like to hear it.

"Hopefully this'll all blow over soon enough." Alfred stated with a wave of his hand. This was more of an attempt to convince himself that that was the case rather than his brother. The situation was getting worse, and it was clear by Alfred's condition. Even Alfred could not deny that he was struggling immensely. The only way that he could keep going was constant reminders that there was hope, that he could get through this. Even if said hope seemed practically delusional at the time.

”That’s very thoughtful of you, but I’m not nearly as tired as you are. You seriously need a break, Alfred — have you even looked in a mirror lately?” Alfred flinched at his brother's words. This was not because his brother was essentially saying he looked like crap, but rather because Matthew's words dug at a nerve. He tried to avoid mirrors as of late, and with good reason - They were an ever present reminder of the situation that he was in.

"I haven't looked in the mirror much since February 4th, and even when I do, it's not myself that I'm looking at." Technically, it was and it wasn't. He and Lee shared a body, therefore he was looking at himself in a way. "I see him, he sees me. It depends on who's in control. You're right about one thing, though - I would be able to see my injuries that way." Alfred shrugged. That was another reason he avoided the mirror - He didn't want to actually see how badly this war was affecting him if he could help it.

He already dealt with it on a daily basis, he didn't need to see it in a mirror.

Alfred finally conceded, taking a seat. The expression on his face made it clear that he was not pleased with this arrangement. Still, Matthew's words helped to soothe him slightly. He'd sit down for now, but he'd pull his weight later on.

”Here, hold this to your eye.” Alfred took the ice from his brother and held it up to his black eye as he watched Matthew roll out a few bandages. He leaned back in his seat with a sigh.

”Have you heard any recent news about how the war’s going?”

Alfred peered toward the window. "I know that more battles are happening. I know that four more states seceded and joined the Confederacy." I know that things are getting worse, Alfred thought, but did not voice.

"They seceded because your boss decided to send 75,000 more soldiers our way instead of backin' off."

Alfred clenched his teeth together, running a hand through his hair. "He just wants to keep the union."

"By stompin' all over the rights of good southern folk? Screw that! We're declarin' our independence."

"SHUT UP!' Alfred held his head in his hands, large clumps of his own hair in each hand. The ice now rested on his lap. "You can't declare independence, you're a part of me!"

Though there was no further argument, Alfred remained in the same position. His back heaved up and down at a rapid rate, indicating that he was trying (and failing) to catch his breath.

Canada - May 18, 2014 10:06 AM (GMT)
"Hopefully this'll all blow over soon enough." Matthew fervently hoped so as well, but he privately doubted that the end would come so soon. By the looks of it, the conflict was only in its early stages - a violent, volatile reaction that had only just begun its combustion and would run its course for several years at least. Seeing the state his brother was in now, Matthew feared what a prolonged war might do to him.

"I haven't looked in the mirror much since February 4th, and even when I do, it's not myself that I'm looking at. I see him, he sees me. It depends on who's in control. You're right about one thing, though - I would be able to see my injuries that way." With a rush of guilt, Matthew realized his former words would have been far more cutting than he’d intended. The division between Lee and Alfred was more complex than he’d expected, and unnervingly so. How much longer could one body cater such radically different personas?

To his relief, Alfred finally complied and took a seat, albeit reluctantly. "I know that more battles are happening. I know that four more states seceded and joined the Confederacy." He said impassively, his gaze drifting toward the window. Though Alfred left the implications unspoken, they weighed heavily in Matthew’s mind. Four states. Each one meant more Lee and less Alfred. Each one meant that the rift between the two halves of the country was growing deeper.

As if on cue, Lee spoke up. "They seceded because your boss decided to send 75,000 more soldiers our way instead of backin' off." "He just wants to keep the union." Alfred said in a tone that spoke of many headaches and arguments past. "By stompin' all over the rights of good southern folk? Screw that! We're declarin' our independence." Matthew watched the exchange with growing alarm. Now was certainly much to soon for another round between them. He drew a sharp breath and braced himself in preparation to intervene in case the animosity escalated to violence once again; he wasn’t about to let his brother bulldoze himself a second time today.

"SHUT UP! You can't declare independence, you're a part of me!" Alfred burst out, clutching his head in both hands. This seemed to culminate the clash, but Alfred remained hunched over, gasping for air. Now that the façade of nonchalance he’d fought hard to maintain had slipped away, Matthew could see plainly how much this war was hurting him at every moment. “Alfred? Try to take a few deep breaths…” Matthew sat down beside him and rested a hand on his shoulder, lending him a physical lifeline in a world of splintering sanity and diverging commonalities.

Watching his brother literally tear himself apart was agonizing. He felt helpless, knowing that there was little he could do to alleviate the turmoil that Alfred faced. ”Don’t let him get to you. You’re stronger than he is; remember that, okay? It’s going to be tough for a few years, but hang in there. I know you’ll pull through.” Violet eyes sought blue, willing him to believe it, willing himself to believe it. ”If you need me, I’ll be here.” Not just as his international neighbour, but as his brother.

With a pang, he recalled that it had been many years since circumstance had permitted him to really act like a brother. At best, a nation spirit’s relationships were cultivated on salt and quicksand, subject to the fickle whims of government and politics, and seldom allowed to persevere the way friendships could among humans. Nothing had been truly right since the Revolution had put him and Alfred on opposing sides, and their nations could not sit comfortably side by side as long as he remained a colony of the British Empire. Who knew where they’d be in another couple of years? Matthew dreaded the possibility of England picking sides but he refused to let such uncertainties hound him now.

International alliances were mutable and ever-shifting, but some things wouldn’t change. Alfred was still his brother, and Matthew would uphold that bond, British colony or not.

America - May 27, 2014 10:28 PM (GMT)
Alfred was so caught up in his argument with Lee that he nearly forgot that he wasn't actually alone in the room. Matthew's comment broke him out of that illusion at once. "Alfred, try to take a few deep breaths..."

Alfred's first reaction when Matthew placed his hand on his shoulder was to jerk violently. He was still tense from the argument - Tense from everything, really. Once he reasoned with himself that there was no actual threat from the hand on his shoulder, he calmed considerably, his entire visage relaxing. "This is ridiculous. You can't even touch me without me jumping a mile." Alfred chuckled mirthfully. His breathing was slowly evening out once more.

”Don’t let him get to you."

"He is me, Mattie. It's kind of hard not to let him get to me when he's everywhere I am."

The feeling is mutual, he heard Lee mutter, this time within his own head rather than out loud. The only outward sign of what happened was a small shudder that went through Alfred's figure.

Alfred wasn't sure which way he preferred it. At least Mattie didn't have to hear any arguments with the former.

"It’s going to be tough for a few years, but hang in there. I know you’ll pull through."

"Years?" Alfred blurted out. "I don't want it to take years! I want it to take months!" He knew that Matthew was right. This wasn't something that was going to blow over within a few months. Tens of thousands of soldiers were being recruited to keep the union in one piece. Four more states seceded. Everything escalated rather than settling down. No, Alfred and Lee were in this for the long haul.

He just didn't need the reminder.

”If you need me, I’ll be here."

Alfred shook his head. "No, you can't get involved. I don't want it to get any bigger than Lee and I. I-" Alfred paused immediately, belatedly realizing what Matthew was implying with his words. He wasn't pledging aid as a country. He wasn't offering to help Alfred fight this war against himself. He was offering to be there for Alfred as his brother. He was offering a source of comfort.

"...thanks Mattie," he responded in an uncharacteristically quiet voice, pulling his brother into a hug.

"If it ever seems like things are getting crazy up there, like you're getting even close to a civil war, you better let me know, okay? I'll do everything I can to stop it from getting that far."

There was no way he would let Matthew's situation get as bad as his own. Not if he could help it.

Canada - August 27, 2014 06:14 PM (GMT)
Alfred flinched so sharply that Matthew nearly withdrew his hand, not wanting to intrude if contact was unwelcome. He saw that the gesture was involuntary, a knee-jerk reaction of someone with war-frayed nerves; but at the same time it also held a stinging echo of the turmoil from preceding decades. After a moment, perceiving that there was no threat, Alfred relaxed. ”"This is ridiculous. You can't even touch me without me jumping a mile.” It was a relief to hear him sound more like himself again. Alfred’s chuckle brought a ghost of a smile to Matthew’s face, but it was shadowed with the knowledge that it was not the first, nor the last time that his brother would have to endure an episode like this.

”He is me, Mattie. It's kind of hard not to let him get to me when he's everywhere I am.” Though Lee did not vocally contest that statement Matthew felt Alfred shudder through his grip on his shoulder, and he knew that it was true. The Confederate was always there, and Alfred had no means of evading the part of himself that had become his fiercest opponent.

Years? I don't want it to take years! I want it to take months!” Alfred exclaimed, sounding dismayed. ”So do I,” Matthew sighed. If only wars could be resolved so quickly, without the millions of lives lost, hearts broken, and bridges burned. But he also knew that such would never be the case. Humans and nation spirits alike seemed only willing to pursue peace when all other options had been exhausted. No one wanted to go down without a fight, no one wanted to give in - and though Matthew could well understand that sentiment, it was also the problem with it all.

"No, you can't get involved. I don't want it to get any bigger than Lee and I. I-“ Alfred was shaking his head, the edge of panic in his voice manifesting just how much he feared that this war would escalate into something greater, and how desperately he wanted it to end. Then, realizing what Matthew had meant, he trailed off quietly, “…thanks Mattie.” He added, ”If it ever seems like things are getting crazy up there, like you're getting even close to a civil war, you better let me know, okay? I'll do everything I can to stop it from getting that far."

Matthew returned his brother’s hug, allowing himself just one fleeting moment to feel a sense of security, and the hope that things would really be alright. He wasn’t really sure how effective American intervention would be if his country really was to divide, if the French and English populations decided they simply couldn’t stand united under one nation - but the knowledge that he would have his brother to turn to for help if he needed it was indeed comforting. Knowing that there was someone who understood and cared was enough. ”Okay,” he agreed, feeling for the first time in a long time that perhaps not everything was horribly askew.

Their world was a mess; North America was roiling with upheaval and politics as both their nations were struggling to hammer out their identities. Now was close to if not a rock bottom for Alfred, but in a few years, surely change would come, and things could only improve after reaching the worst, right? Maybe it was a only desperate hope, but somehow it also felt like a promise.

Things will get better.
The new century will be better.




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