New York was disgustingly damp that winter. The sky couldn't decide if it wanted to rain or snow, and had settled on a thick, slushy mix that puddled in heaps on the cobbled roads and soaked into America's socks when he had to wade through the thicker patches. This was the kind of day to spend indoors, preferably in front of a fire, but instead America found himself lurking down by the harbor, packed into the rest of the gawking crowd and standing on his toes to get a better look at the newly arrived fleet.
This was stupid, he knew. He was wasting his time. So what if a fleet from the Russian Navy had just shown up in his harbor all of sudden? So what if there was talk of them staying there all winter? So what if they supported the Union? None of that was any reason to think that the country himself was on board one of those ships. Fine, sending the navy was a nice show of support, but all America really wanted at that moment was a friend, a familiar face, another country who actually gave a damn. People like that had been in short supply ever since his civil war started.
But what were the chances, really? Slim to none. He was just wasting his time and getting chilled to the bone, and when he was sick too. The doctor said he should take it easy and stay warm for a while, just to be on the safe side. Not that the latest doctor really did anything to help. The doctor in New York said the same thing as the doctor in Indiana, and he said the same thing as the doctor in Tennessee. 'You're fine!' they all said, 'You're very healthy. There's no reason you should be having these chest pains, but take it easy, just in case.' No matter how many doctors he saw, it was always the same story. He kept hoping the next one would have answers, but there was nothing to tell him. They just looked at him with pity, like he was crazy.
No, not crazy. He wasn't crazy. He couldn't be! He was just sick. He was sick, no matter how many times the doctors told him nothing was wrong with his body. They were lying. He was sick. He wasn't imagining that ache in his chest. He wasn't crazy.
It was the civil war that made everything strange, that made him like this. His revolution hadn't been like this. The revolution only hurt when his own men were hurt and dying. He didn't feel with the English soldiers. But he felt everything in the civil war. Confederate loss, Union loss, it didn't matter, it all ached like a flesh wound in his body. It was all still him, fighting within himself, by himself...
America pulled in a breath of sharp winter air and rubbed his chapped hands together. Five minutes, he'd look for five more minutes. He popped up on his toes again, craning his neck to get a better look, squinting at the men he could make out on the ship decks.
His breath caught in his chest when he finally saw a long, cream colored scarf fluttering down one man's back. There wasn't anything that weird about someone wearing a scarf in such cold weather, but it couldn't be a coincidence that it was that color and abnormally long, or that the man it belonged to was so tall and had pale blond hair... In better times America might have had a tiny bit more digression when he was standing in the middle of a crowd, but he was too damn tired and just flat out lonely for the company of another country to care about how he looked to innocent bystanders, and so he took a deep breath and bellowed, "Ivan! IVAN! IVAN BRAGINSKI, OVER HERE!"
It was the biggest relief in the world when the owner of the scarf looked up, turning around as he tried to locate the source of the shouting. America waved furiously, and shouted, "HEEEEY IVAN!" one more time. He was too far away to make out Russia's face, but he saw him wave back, grab his bag and hurry towards the board walk, deftly ignoring an officer who was shouting at him (and by the aggressive gesturing, probably telling him to get back on the ship and stay put.) America wove his way through the crowd, feeling more awake than he had in weeks, stopping at points to stand on his toes again and look for the top of an ash blond head coming his way.
America spun around so fast he almost lost his balance and fell right into a beaming Russia.
"Jesus!" he laughed breathlessly, dizzy with relief. "Why'd you sneak up behind me?!"
"Does it not make the surprise that much better?" Russia asked, still smiling broadly. The cold must have been turning his cheeks pink, and for a brief moment America thought that was strange; even America's chilliest winters rarely had any effect on Russia.
"It was a good enough surprise just to see you here," America insisted, the laughter dying off as something softer replaced the giddiness. He dived forward into a bear hug, squeezing, clinging, only vaguely aware of the 'thump' when Russia's bag slipped from his hands and fell to the ground. This was real. Maybe nothing else was certain, but this, this, this was solid and steady and real. This body in his arms, this rough uniform against his cheek, this heat, this-
"I-I'm really glad to see you," America mumbled into Russia's chest. "You have...no idea how much I've..."
He didn't want to let go. He could feel Russia starting to shift in the embrace before giving him an awkward, hesitant pat on the back, but even if this was making his friend uncomfortable, he didn't want to let go. It felt like he was finally anchored down to the world again.
But he had to break apart sooner or later, and stepped back after he heard an embarrassed cough from the chest he was leaning against. The loss of contact broke the spell in an instant, and it was America's turn to feel embarrassed and drop his eyes away from Russia's frowning worry.
"You have...ah, missed me very much, da?"
America forced a laugh, scratching the back of his head. "Y-yeah, something like that. It's been...what, half a decade?"
"Four years and seven months," Russia corrected, maybe a bit too quickly.
"Right! So...maybe I got a little carried away, huh? Sorry."
"Think nothing of it. I have missed your company as well. Lately I only hear of you through the newspapers."
America kept his eyes on the cobbled street, chewing his lip. He really didn't want to know what the Russian newspapers were saying about him. He knew what the English newspapers had to say about his civil war, and it was never anything good.
Russia raised his head briefly to look at the dissipating crowd around them. No one was close enough to easily overhear if they kept their voices low, and he turned back to America, the concern just barely hidden in his voice. "Have you been keeping well?"
"I'm..." America stopped before he said 'fine.' That was too much of a lie. "I'm good enough, considering. Still alive and in one piece. A-and what about you?" he added, eager to change the subject. The war was looming over the conversation, and it was starting to bring back that strange ache in his chest again.
"Good enough, da. Poland has been making some trouble for me lately, once again. He does enjoy his little uprisings. It has been unpleasant, as wars often are. But you know that well-"
"Let's not talk about that stuff. So how long are you staying? You should have told me you were coming over!"
"I will not be here very long, sadly. The smallest ship-" Russia's thumb jabbed in the direction of the fleet, "will be returning in two weeks, and I will go home then. The rest will stay through winter, but my tsar would not be happy if I was away for so long."
"I'm kind of surprised that you found the time to come at all, busy as you are."
"Not so busy that I can't spare a few weeks," Russia said lightly, waving off the concern. "And when we decided to send the navy over to you, I thought to myself, 'I have not seen my old friend in a very long time. Maybe I will take a little holiday and pay him a visit, da?' And it makes my message to England and France that much stronger if I am here in person for a while," he added, glancing away.
"They support the Confederacy, da? Neither will join the war if they thinks I will fight for the Union. And now a fleet of my ships are in a Union port, and me as well. I am sure they will see this and think twice about poking their noses deeper into your affairs. They are in no hurry to pick a fight with me. Ah, I can not blame them! I am not so kind on the battlefield, you know."
"So you...you came out here just for me?" America asked, so quietly that he wasn't sure Russia had heard over the noise of the crowd.
"This...works in my favor too, you understand," Russia answered, barely louder than America and just as halting. "If my ships are here, it will be easier to deploy them if England or France is foolish enough to start a war. But...but this is not just for my sake. I would not like the Confederacy to win, and it might if England and France join in. That would be difficult for you, da?"
"It might kill me," America whispered, and quickly shook his head as though to clear that thought away. "But you're not really fighting for the Union, are you?"
"Nyet. This is not my war. Are you disappointed?"
"Not really," America said, smiling unevenly. "It's a civil war, you know? I support the Union 'cause I want us all to stay together, but the Confederacy is half of me too. And if you fought them, well...you'd be fighting me. Hurting me. And I don't...want you...to do that."
Russia's response was lost over the roar in America's ears. The old dizziness swept in, all too familiar these days, and he had to put out a hand to steady himself. A sharp pang stabbed through his chest, and it was difficult to not rub a hand over the ache.
"-rica? America? What is it?"
He must have looked pretty shabby if Russia was calling him by his real name out in public, even if there were few humans around to hear. America pulled in a deep breath and tried to get a grip.
"Nothing!" Stand up straight, put on the old hero's smile. "Just got a little dizzy. I haven't been sleeping much lately."
"Nyet? Is something troubling you? Ah, other than the obvious, of course."
"N-no, I'm okay-"
"Is it because England is involved?"
"No!" The answer came out a bit too loud, a bit too harsh. "No, just...forget England, alright? He's just a stupid old man who's still sore because he got licked by his little colony. And now he...England wants me to fall. That's why he's with the Confederacy. Nothing would make him happier than to see me fall apart and fail, just like he...like he always knew I would. He expects it."
The rant frosted in the cold air, hung for a moment before disappearing. It was getting harder to breathe now, and the shakiness was starting back up again. It was that strange sickness, it was coming back again-
"England has been wrong about a great many things," Russia said firmly. "I would not let something so silly keep you from sleep."
"Yeah," America whispered, swaying slightly on his feet. "Yeah, you're....right, I'm just being s-silly..."
"You look unwell. Is there somewhere we can rest for a while?" Russia's hand brushed against the back of America's wrist, and he realized that he had been absently rubbing at the ache over his heart.
"I've got a hotel room back in town. Want to head over there? I-I'll get your stuff," he muttered, pulling back and bending down to grab Russia's fallen bag. He realized his mistake too late; the ground shifted under his feet and the strength seemed to leak out of his arms. The bag couldn't have been more than thirty pounds, but America, who at better times could probably pick up Russia himself without breaking a sweat, couldn't lift it.
"W-what have you got in here? Bricks?" he laughed weakly, trying to mask the humiliation.
"Never mind it. I am capable of carrying my own things," Russia said softly, tugging the bag away from America and slinging it over a shoulder.
Thank god Russia wasn't asking any questions, at least not then, not while the shame was still fresh and burning. He didn't ask all the way over to the hotel either, even when he had to walk slower to allow America to keep up. He didn't say anything at all, until America stopped half way up the hotel staircase, unable to take another step. His breath was coming is harsh bursts, sweat standing on his forehead as he clung to the banister, trying to regain his balance. He heard the quick pounding of footsteps as Russia ran back down to the ground floor and then back up again to America. A glance over the shoulder revealed that he had put his bag down at the foot of the stairs and was returning empty handed.
"That's n-not smart," America babbled breathlessly, for lack of anything else to say. "Just leaving y-your stuff down there."
"My bag will not go anywhere," Russia insisted as he pulled America's arm around his shoulders, supporting most of his weight as they slowly hobbled up the stairs together.
"That's what you think. See, there are these people called 'thieves,' and sometimes they take your stuff when you leave it lying around-"
"Da, we have those at my home too. I will take my chances."
"Hope there's nothing valuable in your bag."
"Only clothes and vodka. Replaceable things. They can wait until you are safely in your room."
"So y-you like me more than your clothes and vodka?" America laughed weakly, and was privately glad when Russia didn't respond. That was a stupid thing to say. It didn't even make sense. He wasn't sure why he said it.
They managed to stumble into America's room together, and with a little maneuvering, Russia eased him down onto the worn old couch inside before running back to retrieve his luggage. America leaned his head back against the cushions, listening to the loud echo of footsteps until the other returned and sank down onto the couch beside him with a symphony of creaks and groans as the piece of furniture idly threatened to collapse underneath them.
"You are sick," Russia said without preamble. "Or hurt." It was a statement and a question at the same time, and the way Russia narrowed his eyes said that he wasn't going to back off until he got an answer.
"It's nothing!" America insisted, waving his hands defensively. "It's...it's a cold. I just need to sleep it off-"
"You do not have a fever. If anything, your skin feels uncommonly cool."
"W-well, you don't always have a fever when you've got a cold-"
"You are not coughing either. Or sniffling. Or sneezing."
"I would like it if you were honest with me." If Russia had said those words with a condescending tone, the voice an adult uses with a child, America would have told him to mind his own goddamn business. But Russia's voice was only worried, soft and worried, almost pleading.
America sighed heavily, slumped forward and gave in. "Something's wrong with my heart. I'm not trying to be poetic, I mean there's something not right with that fleshy thing in my chest that goes 'thump thump thump.'"
Russia frowned at this, and suddenly reached a hand out to America's neck.
"Whoa!" America yelped when Russia pushed two roughly callused fingers against the soft skin. "What are you doing?!"
"Feeling a pulse. Quiet, I am counting the beats."
"Don't bother, I've been to about a hundred doctors already. They've all looked at my heart and they all say the same thing."
Russia's hand came away, but the frown didn't disappear. "And that is?"
"That I'm fine. Perfectly healthy. My heart's in great shape. One of the healthiest they've ever seen. But I-I've still got this thing, you know? My chest starts hurting for no reason, and I get so wobbly that I can't even walk or pick up stuff. And it's real! Even if the doctor's can't explain it, I-I really am hurting and all. I'm not making it up. And I'm not exaggerating either. And I know I'm not...j-just imagining things, alright? I'm not a....a coward, or a wimp, or crazy. You know that, right? You know I'm not-"
"You are not a coward. Or a wimp. Or crazy. I know."
The ticking of an antique clock on the wall filled up the air while America chose his next words.
"Th-that's what happened earlier. When I got so tired. I-I don't know what sets it off. It just happens sometimes. Usually it's worst when the war gets bad. After battles."
"You have been fighting in them?"
"No!" The thought made something sharp twist into America's stomach, and he lept to his feet without thinking. "No, how could I fight? I can't pick a side! I can't! If I fight as the Union then I'm against Georgia and Alabama and all my southern states, but if I'm with the Confederacy then I'm fighting New York and Pennsylvania and everyone else up North, and I-I can't do that! I can't fight my own family!"
"Were England and Canada not family? You fought them before."
"That's different. They're like brothers. My states are...are like my kids. They're a part of me! I'm the United States of America. I-I am them. I can't fight against them like that-"
Russia didn't say anything to interrupt America's frantic rambling; he just grabbed America's elbow and pulled him back down to the couch. America collapsed against thread-bare cushions, out of energy again.
"I've been working as a medic," America said quietly in the silence that followed. "I can't fight and I can't just sit here and do nothing, so...that was all that was left to me. I switch uniforms, work on both sides as even as I can. This heart thing, it gets bad sometimes when I'm trying to patch people back up again, but it's always the worst when we've got to b...bury the dead." His breath came out slow and unsteady, eyes squeezing shut briefly as he tried to force the memory away.
"Has this been happening the entire time? The entire war?"
"No, it...it started after Antietam. I thought...I don't know what I thought. I guess that I was just overworked or something, and that's what was making me so tired and achy." He left off the part where he was too weak to lift a single body, and how the pain in his chest drove him to his knees and made him wonder if this was what a heart attack felt like, and how another medic had to drag him away from the grave he was trying to dig, struggling and fighting and sobbing that he couldn't leave them behind, he couldn't just let those people lay there and rot.
"And it has happened since then?"
"Yeah. Antietam was the worst for a while, but then Gettysburg happened, and Chickamauga...I just don't understand it. That's why this is so hard. I don't get it and I can't do anything. I've even been avoiding the war for a while to see some doctors about it, but nothing makes any difference. I-I hate being helpless when everyone else is trying so hard. I hate it."
He talked to his lap, until a large hand clamped down on his left knee cap. It was the awkward, forced gesture of a man who only knew about comforting people by watching others, never from personal experience. Somehow that fumbling action made his eyes prick, and he scooted down the couch and away from Russia's hands. He was not about to start crying now. No way.
"Knock it off," he growled, keeping his face averted until his eyes stopped stinging. "I'm not a kid."
"Nyet, you are right," Russia said quietly after a moment of thought, and there was something very much like sympathy in his voice. "Then maybe you would prefer a more grown up comfort?"
America glanced back, as Russia dug through his bag and produced a bottle of vodka.
"Is that your solution to everything?" America asked, grinning in spite of himself.
"Most things," Russia agreed happily, unscrewing the cap and holding it out to America, who reluctantly accepted and took a sip...and promptly choked.
"Guh! That stuff's awful!" America moaned, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand. "How can you stand it?"
"It is an acquired taste...and talent," replied Russia, before plucking the bottle out of America's hands and taking a generous gulp. The bottle was passed back, and America forced himself to swallow another little sip. The second went down easier, burned less. The bottle went back and forth between them for a while, slowly draining down both throats and loosening the wound up anxiety in America's chest.
"I think I might be dying," he said suddenly, surprised that he felt nothing when those words left his mouth. "Maybe that's what this weird sickness is. Maybe my heart's giving out."
"Nyet." America felt Russia stiffen, and the single word came out flat and hard.
"Why not? We can die. I know we can."
"You will not die."
"You can't promise that," America laughed hollowly, reaching for the vodka bottle again before Russia snatched it away from his hands.
"Nyet, but I have good intuition about such things. And I do not think I am so bad at reading people that I can not tell if someone is strong enough to survive this kind of hardship. And you..." Something very strange had entered Russia's voice, almost tender and wholly unfamiliar. "You are strong. More than you realize. Strong enough to live. That is what I believe."
"And if you're wrong? About me?"
"Then I am wrong. A silly thing to ask, America."
"Are you gonna be sad? If you're wrong and I die?"
"You have drank too much. You are asking such ridiculous things," Russia snapped, screwing the cap back on his vodka and returning it to his bag. He was still bent over the luggage when he spoke again, and the edge was gone from his tone. "Of course I would be. Very sad. But this is a foolish thing to talk about, because you are not dying."
"It's not dying that really scares me," America muttered, fiddling with the frayed edge on his jacket. "I'm...I'm afraid that I'm going crazy. That's what scares me more than dying. I-I don't want to go crazy." There, he felt something then. Talking about dying just left his chest feeling hollow, but this felt like ice water dripping down his spine.
"You are not crazy," Russia said quietly, and his hand brushed America's knee again. "I promise."
"What, is that your intuition telling you that too?"
"Nyet. I know that you are not crazy. You are not the only one who has strange pains, like the trouble with your heart."
"You're just making that up to make me feel better. I've never heard of any country having stuff like this."
"But there are."
The silence stretched so long that America was about to break it and call Russia a liar, until the larger country whispered, "Me."
"You?" America echoed in disbelief. "You're kidding."
"Nyet, I-I have had something....not quite like what you are describing, but...similar, in a way. Not my heart, my...my neck."
America's eyes drifted over to the scarf that hid the other country's neck from view and held his breath. There were things that they had both learned, through trial and error, to never talk about. Russia never asked America about the locked storage room in his house, and America never asked Russia about why he always kept his neck covered. Those were just things that no one, not even friends, were allowed to touch.
"It...it hurts sometimes," Russia said hoarsely. His eyes flicked over to the closed door. "There is no reason. I have not been recently injured, there is nothing touching it but my scarf...and yet it hurts. Very much." He forced a little laugh there. "And you know I am not a...a wimp either, da? I do not exaggerate, it is...painful."
"I believe you. Don't worry."
America watched Russia's mouth work as he swallowed, and imagined a bobbing Adam's apple hidden behind the scarf. "Invasions...that is when it happens for me." He glanced at the door again before continuing. "The most recent was when France...with that awful little emperor of his..." Pause, deep inhale, slow exhale. "It was...only at the very beginning, da? Just at the start, and then it was fine. It went away after that. But when he first invaded, I...I-I could not breathe. It was as though something was cutting deep into m-my neck. I was choking, but nothing was touching me. Nothing, I am sure of it." He turned to look at the door once more, twisting his hands in his lap.
"No one's listening," America said quietly, and Russia jerked back around. "It's just you and me."
Purple eyes widened, and then dropped to the floor as a flush rose up over Russia's pale face. Five seconds passed before he cleared his throat and sat up straighter, back in control again.
"There you have it then," he said, in a tone that was slightly too cheerful to be natural. "You are not alone. You are as sane as I am."
Not alone. Not alone. Those words echoed in America's head, spread out warmly through his chest. Suddenly, he was acutely aware that Russia had let him see something he had no right to. He wanted to do something in turn, wanted to let Russia see what was hidden in the locked storage room, though he wasn't sure why. The thoughts and gratitude tangled together, weighed him down.
"I'm tired. I'm just so tired," he whispered, slouching against the warm shoulder beside him.
"Then sleep." The shoulder suddenly moved away as Russia stood, but before America could protest Russia grabbed his legs and lifted them onto the couch. "Lie down," Russia instructed, pushing his chest lightly until America gave in and stretched out across the worn cushions.
"I'm sorry," he mumbled, turning his head to the warmth of the couch where Russia had been. "You come all the way out here and I'm just being a lousy host."
"Nonsense. This will do as a blanket, da?" Russia dropped his coat over him before he had a chance to ask or say otherwise. "There is a stove here. I will see if there is anything to burn. Stay there, rest. I will be here if you need...if you need anything."
Part of America wanted to get up and insist that he was fine, but it was hard to think about anything except for how warm that coat was, how sleepy he suddenly felt... America sighed, relaxed and pulled his knees up until Russia's coat covered everything below his eyes, pushing his nose against the collar and breathing. It smelled like alcohol and sweat, and something older, something familiar. He closed his eyes and just breathed for a while, drifting closer and closer to sleep when he heard foot steps approaching the couch again.
"There was only a little coal left, but it should...America? Are you asleep?"
Yes, America wanted to say, but he was too tired and comfortable to even do that much. He kept his eyes closed, kept breathing slow and deep. He almost opened his eyes and ruined the sleeping act when Russia touched his head, slow and cautious at first. Thick fingers started combing through his hair, too rough, like how a child pets the family dog before they learn to be gentle. He stopped for a moment, then resumed, slower and softer than before.
America had to remind himself to keep breathing so as not to give himself away. He had the strangest feeling that Russia would stop if he knew America was awake, and America really didn't want him to stop.
A warm breath suddenly ghosted against his cheek, and trailed up to his forehead, lingering there for so long that America forgot to breathe. He felt cool, dry lips press a kiss just below his bangs, and America jerked back involuntarily in surprise. He heard a sharp gasp, and opened one eye to see Russia hastily pulling away, wide eyed and paler than usual.
"Did I-I...did I wake you?" he stammered, looking away.
"Y-yeah," America lied weakly, propping himself up on his elbows. "Um, what were you doing?"
"...Checking your temperature. In case it had gone up."
"You had to get all close for that?"
"Da, my hands are not very sensitive anymore, so I thought I could feel it..." He leaned in, only long enough to brush his cheek against America's forehead before sitting back again, still keeping his eyes averted. "Like that, da? To feel for fever. My sister would do that when I was small. That is all. I did not mean to wake you up-"
"No sweat, it's fine," America mumbled, stifling a yawn. "So how's my temperature?"
"Normal. I just wanted to check, to be sure." The panic was draining out of Russia's voice and posture, and he finally met America's eyes again. "Back to sleep now. I will try to not bother you this time."
"Don't let me sleep too long, okay?"
"How long is too long?"
"I dunno, twenty four hours?"
"Then I will wake you up at twenty three hours," Russia chuckled.
"Good man," America laughed quietly in turn, lying back down and rolling over to face the back of the couch. "Knew I could count on you. Just let me get rested up, and we can have fun later."
"Yeah, like a party. We gotta have a party to celebrate you being here."
"What kind of party? One with dancing?"
"Oh yeah. Lots of dancing. All the dancing you want. It'll-" A yawn cut off his words. "It'll be great."
"Of course. It will be a wonderful party. And we will have another party when your civil war is over, da? An even bigger one. With fireworks. You like fireworks, da?"
"I love 'em. I can-" Yawn. "I can hardly wait."
"Sleep now. We can have that party later. Do you need anything? Another blanket?"
"No, your coat's plenty warm. But, um..." America ran a finger along the floral pattern on the couch cushions for a moment, gathering the courage to ask for something small and ridiculous. "Could you stay here? I mean right here, next to me. Just until I fall asleep?"
He held his breath he heard another soft chuckle from behind. "You hardly need to ask for that. I was not planning to move from this spot."
"Oh...good," America whispered, tugging off his glasses and reaching for something flat to rest them on before Russia plucked them out of his hands. He kept his face to the back of the couch for a while longer before rolling back over to face Russia. "Thanks. For, you know...coming over and all."
Everything was blurred without his glasses, but it looked to America like Russia might have been smiling. "You are quite welcome."
America let his eyes flicker shut again, shifting his shoulders into a more comfortable position when he felt Russia's hand slip underneath the coat, feeling around blindly until he found America's hand and squeezed. "How is your heart?" he whispered, weaving their hands together.
America didn't bother opening his eyes to answer, though his fingers curled a little tighter around Russia's.
"It's all right. I think it's all right for now."
The American Civil War (1861–1865) was the bloodiest war in US history. The Battle of Antietam was the single bloodiest day of fighting in US history, the Battle of Gettysburg had the highest number of casualties of the entire civil war and the Battle of Chickamauga has the second highest after Gettysburg.
England and France both sided with the Confederacy, and the only European country to support the Union was Russia. In the winter of 1863-4, the two Russian fleets arrived in New York and San Francisco harbors and remained there for the entire winter. While having the ships there would have made it easier to deploy them if the tensions between England, France and Russia turned into war, their presence also seemed to send the message that if England and France made war in the South, Russia would help the North. They didn't really intend to fight, but the implication that they would join the war might have helped keep England and France from getting any more involved than they were.
Da Costa's syndrome, also known as soldier's heart, is a psychosomatic disorder that was observed during the American Civil War. The symptoms include chest pain, palpitations, breathlessness and fatigue, but although it appeared similar to heart disease, there was no physical cause that doctors could identify. This disorder is considered a type of combat stress reaction. The first real attempts to diagnose and treat mental diseases caused by war stress were by the Russians during the Russo-Japanese War.
Whew, this took such a long time to write! Thank you to mcmitters for beta-ing for me!