Crystal's Notes: Hello, thar! I'm alive! Not dead. Although it's been week since I've gotten back from vacation, there's been no updates, has there, except for Sought After, huh? D: I'm terribly sorry. But so that readers who have read my other works may know – both Guide Me Ever Onward and My Country Still's next chapters are well underway – in fact, almost done! Just hang in there. ;.;

Today, however, I bring you a story AnarchySoul and I are working on together (no matter what she says about it being primarily my work – having someone else's ideas coinciding with yours still counts as collaboration in my opinion). Do enjoy~! (heart heart)

AnarchySoul's Notes: Well shoot. Derp; I really can't say anything since Crystal did all of the work. I just spurred her on basically...and found suiting pictures and music xD that's all I have to say. Keep updated.

A man's illness is his private territory and, no matter how much he loves you and how close you are, you stay an outsider. You are healthy.

- Lauren Bacall

Footsteps clacked hard against the tile flooring. Almost as hard as his heart beat inside his chest – although he would never admit such a thing. Pride prevented him from doing that kind of a trivial, yet influential act. He swallowed silently, shoving down the raging anxiety within him, trying to still the bucking horse inside his ribcage. But that wasn't working; not that it ever did.

"Are you sure you want to see him?"

A voice beside him, echoing his own thoughts. The United Kingdom looked to his right, green eyes locking upon the taller doctor who had travelled with him thus far into the labyrinth of an asylum. He was a kind man, strong, muscular, with a well-defined chin. Honestly, the chap looked more fit to be in front of a television camera about some hospital drama instead of actually working in such an atmosphere, but there he was. And in all honesty, a faint thought crossed through the island nation's mind that the more people they had doing the actual job instead of acting it out for entertainment, the better off their world was.

But that was besides the point. There was a…friend to see here (if he dared call him that; but he supposed here in the recesses of his mind, he was safe from any sort of jokes given on his behalf at that sort of comment). So focus, Arthur, he thought to himself, rolling his shoulders slightly, testing his back. He doesn't need someone else teetering on the edge of insanity. He needs someone stable.

Yes. Stable. And stable he would be – if only he could get this nervous, twisting feeling out of his gut.

Honestly, the nation could face an entire Spanish Armada and singularly fend off German troops from his shores, but when it came to seeing a friend on the verge of a mental breakdown…

…well, even he had to admit, that sounded…scary.

But the United Kingdom was not one to back down. He nodded, jaw set, green eyes filled with determination. "Yes." A small pause – his doctor companion did not look entirely sure, brown eyes clouded with doubt. The sandy-blonde cleared his throat. "I want to see him." Words laced with firm conviction, determination, uttered as confidently as he could give them.

The man finally, if uncertainly, nodded. With a brief few steps forward, they finally reached his cell, where Arthur watched as the doctor placed his hand on a scanner beside the door and was given admittance into the room. The click of the door unlocking seemed to reverberate both down the pristine metal hallway, and inside Great Britain's mind. The doctor glanced at him, hand on the doorknob. "Ready?"

There it was, the question of the hour. Despite feeling anxious, the blonde couldn't resist rolling his eyes in his typical satirical manner. "I was ready the moment I said I wanted to see him. Let's get on with this, already."

The man laughed nervously at his own precaution, before slowly opening the door, and entering the padded room with the short nation following in behind him. There was a click again as the door went shut, but hopefully not – at least, Arthur hoped it wasn't – locked. Then, their entire attention went to the only other person in the room – a young man sitting on his bed, elbows on his knees, hands folded, blue eyes trained on the floor without his glasses.

It was eerily silent for a long, terse moment.

Then, the doctor cleared his throat. "Alfred," he began. "You have a visi – "

" – Alfred."

The United Kingdom watched the young man carefully as he said his name. He knew there should be no pretensions; there was a gut feeling that they should cut to the chase. So cut to the chase he did.

"Alfred," he said again, taking a step forward so the doctor was no longer in between them. He saw the boy – no, man, he reminded himself; he had made it a goal to try and recognize the world superpower for what he was, and not what he had been, and he wasn't going to give up now, just because of some mental instability – straighten slightly. Stiffen, his muscles become tense with recognition. There was a soft gasp, barely audible.

He saw the other blonde's Adam's apple bob with a swallow, before he hesitantly moved his head, looking up, blue eyes travelling to the Briton's face, squinting with the effort it took him to try and see him. The shorter nation was about to turn around and demand that the American have his glasses back when the younger finally spoke. "A…Arthur…?"

And there, there it was. The sign – the clue – the key he had been waiting for. This was not Alfred.

Alfred never called him just simply 'Arthur.'

Unsafe. I'm unsafe here.

But for the sake of his friend, the United Kingdom wished upon himself tranquility, serenity. Letting his shoulders relax, even though his back was straightened to an alarmingly stiff degree. "Hello, Confederate."

Slightly – just slightly – he put his leg just a little further to his left, as if in a silent attempt at shielding the poor doctor witnessing this. Of course, the lad knew who and what they were – he had to, being the main caretaker of the United States of America and the Confederate States of America, it was part of the job description. But still. Nations were much different than humans, and taking care of a mentally unstable one was much more so.

He was brave for entering this line of work – Arthur Kirkland would give him that much.

The Other Alfred slowly stood, a mystified, yet somehow glad expression on his face. "Arthur…" His voice came out in a drawl, almost slurred. He hadn't been in control of a body for so long, it was apparent. "…it's been a long time, my friend."

Too short, I think. But the United Kingdom bit his tongue, green eyes trained on the other, taller nation. His hands remained in the pockets of his jacket, as they had been the entire time he had been there in the psychiatric ward. "It has," he muttered finally after a small pause. He allowed his green eyes to do a quick scan over his ally's form. "You've changed, I see."

"Yeah, I have." The wheat-blonde spoke the words easily, breezily. Dismissively. "But change isn't such a bad thing, y'know?" Blue eyes fixed on him again, trying to focus on him. "You've changed, too."

Arthur allowed himself to scoff slightly. "You can't say that when you can't see me – "

" – yes I can. You don't talk the same."

The hairs on the back of Britain's throat raised just slightly with that comment. The corner of his mouth quirked upward, more so in an attempt to keep the atmosphere light and unpressured, in a situation where he was in control of the conversation, instead of it being heavy and threatening. "You know me that well, hm?"

"I should. Considering we had a deal." The more he talked, the more that Southern accent slipped through. The more the Other Alfred came in control. It worried Arthur – not that he would say it. "But you didn't exactly carry through with that…did you?"

No. He didn't. It had been close – the United Kingdom had almost, almost helped the Confederacy in that tragic four-year war. But then along came the Emancipation Proclamation, and with it, the transformation of the war to a moral war. One that Great Britain, admittedly, did not want to get caught up in – no matter how much part of him still wanted to see America come crawling back to him, unable to hold a stable, united government like he so proudly proclaimed he would.

Arthur straightened again, willing himself not to be alarmed. After all, a traitor was never easily forgiven. Opening his mouth to respond, he found himself surprised when he was suddenly cut-off with a friendly smile, and a, "But don't worry about that. It's been what, nearly two hundred years?" The Other Alfred shrugged carelessly again, breezily. Dismissively. "I'm not the type to hold grudges like that. Think of it like it never happened."

The island nation slowly closed his mouth, warily watching the young man still standing at his bedside. Could he be blamed for not completely believing the Confederate? He hoped not, for that's what he found himself doing. He nodded just slightly, briefly, curtly. "Right. Of course."

Silence. A tense, dislikeable silence. The kind that oft promises disaster.

Finally, it was broken by Arthur clearing his throat as he took a guarded step back. He kept his wary green eyes trained on the Other Alfred, cautious, even as he spoke. "I think it is time I take my leave. It was…a pleasure to see you again, Confederate."

"Call me by my name."

The sudden order caused both of the others in the room – doctor and visitor alike – to straighten in shock. Then the United Kingdom blinked once and frowned softly at the other blonde, not quite understanding. But he didn't need to voice the question; the Confederacy knew of his confusion. Somehow. "My name," he repeated, taking a casual step forward. "I don't like you simply calling me 'Confederate.' Don't we know each other better than that?"

Arthur cleared his throat. "It is as you said," he replied calmly, hoping the other couldn't hear his rapidly beating, nervous heart – although to be afraid of him hearing such a thing from such a distance in between them was really quite foolish, the United Kingdom told himself. "It has been nearly two hundred years. And we have both inevitably changed over such a time."

"Hmmm…" the American hummed in thought, head tilted to the side softly. Wheat-colored hair brushed against his ear and forehead – and in all honesty, he really would have looked quite innocent with such a picture, if it wasn't for the startlingly active blue eyes, saying two things at once. Friend – traitor – brother – tyrant – I hate you – I love you. "…then I guess that means I'll have to get to know you all over again." A smile graced those unfriendly lips, curling them upwards at the sides. "What a challenge."

The United Kingdom wanted out. Now. "Yes. Quite." One you won't win. "But as I said, I really must get going. So I will see you later – "

" – Alfred."

A baited breath; silence drifted between them, a tense and fragile wall of glass. But then a reluctant sigh eventually broke it, accompanied by a quiet yet firm, "No," uttered by pale lips. Green eyes raised to meet startled, off-guard blue. Then the green rose in intensity. "You're not Alfred."

It was as simple as that.

He turned around, not even raising a hand in farewell. "But do make sure to tell my real son that I wish to see him soon. That is all; good day," he said, and left. Briefly, quickly – with the good doctor in tow.

And it all began to fall apart.