Ripped At The Seams

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30 Mar 2014, 18:25 #11

”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.

Credit to Rye!
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18 May 2014, 10:06 #12

"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.
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27 May 2014, 22:28 #13

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.

Credit to Rye!
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27 Aug 2014, 18:14 #14

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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