AN: The following chapter is probably so historically inaccurate it's offensive so have fun
It was such a strange feeling, being at war with yourself.
It was almost like being two different people, sharing one body, constantly fighting for control.
It was a feeling that possessed Alfred nearly every second of every day during the final cold months of the year 1860.
Although, politically speaking, war had not yet been declared. Alfred knew it was coming, though. Like a storm on the horizon, he could easily see it moving closer with each passing hour of each passing day. He had heard debate after debate about it in courthouses and briefing rooms. He had heard hushed, nervous gossip of it from the local townsfolk gathered in huddles on the streets when he passed by. He had even heard the children laughing and joking about it in the school yards, pretending it was some sort of game, with different sides to bet on.
Alfred wanted to tell them that there were no sides, that there wasn't going to be a war, and that everything was going to work itself out.
Those were lies, he knew, but that didn't stop him from wishing they were true; because although it hadn't yet been declared, had someone told him it otherwise, Alfred wouldn't have known the difference.
To him, it felt like the war had already begun.
And damn, did it ever feel strange.
He allowed himself to repeat the thought – this time out loud.
"Being at war with yourself is very, very strange."
It was an understatement, Alfred knew. But words had never been his strong point, and articulating much of anything was difficult when his mind was constantly stumbling over itself to fight two different sides of the same internal debate, or when it was flooding with thoughts trying to justify ideals he knew to be morally wrong but that somehow just seemed so naturally right.
Especially when that internal something that voiced those thoughts sounded like himself. Exactly like himself. Even though he knew – he just knew – it wasn't.
It couldn't be.
We aren't at war just yet, some foreign part of his mind whispered to him. There's still time to fix this. We can stop it all before it gets any further out of hand. We can free our people peacefully.
Alfred found himself nodding, although there was no one around to see it in the wood-stove heated kitchen of his small New England farmhouse.
"Yes, I suppose that is a nice thought," Alfred told it. "Although, I feel it might be a tad too late for that now."
Damn right it is! hissed a darker, angrier sounding voice within him. They're the ones who've broken the Constitution! They've done nothing but lie to us, and sit back and watch as this country tears itself apart. Now they're going to pay for it!
"We're going to make them pay for it," Alfred finished the thought, almost instinctively.
Vaguely, he wondered if other nations around the world had had this much trouble during times of civil unrest. "Europe's had plenty of civil wars and uprisings, hasn't it?" he asked no one in particular. "Do you suppose Arthur ever went through something like this?"
You sound right insane speaking to yourself like that, the two voices told him in unison.
"Look who's talking," Alfred snapped right back, hoping to shut them up.
The rest of the night continued in a similar fashion, with one voice attempting to persuade him one way and another refuting back.
Yes, one would say.
No, the other would growl back.
What they're doing is wrong, the first one would insist.
You never had a problem with it before, when it was of convenience to you, the second would argue, refusing to back down.
"You're both insane," Alfred would tell them.
It was such a strange feeling, being at war with yourself.
Somehow, tedious debates and relentless internal voices seemed almost preferable to the situation he found himself in now, seated tensely, still in his sleeping wear, and staring vigilantly across his kitchen table at...
Well, at himself.
Alfred frowned, eyes narrowing as he gave the other him a once-over for what was mostly like the thirtieth time that morning.
And what an impossible morning it had been.
The first thing Alfred had noticed when he had woken up earlier that morning had been the silence. For the first time in what felt like an eternity, there had been no pounding headaches, no deafening roar of blood thumping against the underside of his skull, and no perpetually bickering voices to which his mind had become so accustomed.
There had been pure, blissful silence.
This bliss, of course, had been all but shattered moments later when Alfred stood up, only to realize that there was another person in his room, hunched against the wall on the opposite side of the bed.
The real confusion had begun when both men had, in exact unison, begun the demands of "Who are you?" and "What are you doing here?" and "Get out of my house!"
Yes, that's right, Alfred thought bitterly, remembering his chagrin at being told to get out of his own house by a complete stranger.
Due to the lack of his glasses – which to Alfred's increasing anger, the other man had been wearing – it wasn't until after their shouting match had somewhat settled down that he had noticed their uncanny resemblance. It was this notion that had suddenly made him aware of how they both stood with the exact same guarded posture, and how they wore identical expressions of incredulity, and how they had been shouting nearly the exact same things at each other, and how much their voices sounded alike...
Like the voices in his head, which had sounded so alike...
This had led to a realization of different sorts, which both men seemed to have come to at the same time, successfully shocking them into complete, wide-eyed silence.
These had been the events leading up to where they were now, warily eyeing each other with narrowed, apprehensive glares, as the brisk February morning welcomed the rising sun on the other side of the kitchen window.
Alfred, feeling uncomfortable in the cold sweat plastered across his skin from the night, shifted slightly in his chair, folding and unfolding his hands across the tabletop. He paused mid-action, as his double did the same, looking equally uncomfortable.
Alfred's eyes narrowed even further, a tinge of annoyance starting to build up within him.
Here was this man who looked and spoke exactly like him, was probably thinking the exact same thoughts as him, and now apparently they even fidgeted the exact same way.
It was unnerving as hell.
Alfred cleared his throat.
At the exact same moment as the other man.
They both froze, shooting each other glares.
Refusing to be put off, Alfred pressed forward after a short moment of tense silence.
"So," the other him agreed.
Alfred frowned. "So," he repeated, enunciating the syllable purposefully, before forcing himself to take a moment to quell his rising frustration. Instead of continuing to stare at each other in discomfort and obvious annoyance, Alfred opted for a new approach to the conversation. "Would you perhaps like some... coffee or something?" he asked. The legs of his chair scraped against the floor as he pushed back from the table and stood, already anticipating the answer.
His double raised an eyebrow, looking unimpressed. "Should I want anything in this house, I would get it myself."
Alfred paused, brow furrowing in slight confusion as he worked over the odd response. Slowly, he let himself sink back down onto his chair. "Alright then," he said carefully. "The mugs are in the-"
"The cupboard just left of the stove – yes, thank you, I know." The other man cut him off with a roll of his identical sky blue eyes. "This is my house too, remember?"
"Of course." Alfred nodded, but said nothing else, electing a scowl from his double.
"You don't believe me." It wasn't a question.
Alfred blinked. "No! Well... perhaps. It's just awfully strange to- I'm just not used to 'sharing' this house with another person- er, nation," he corrected himself hastily, stumbling over the words.
The other man's displeased expression shifted slightly, as if Alfred's words had stirred a thought within him. "Say," he began. "What do you consider yourself exactly?"
There was a long pause.
"What do I... consider myself?" Alfred asked, perturbed.
"Well, you aren't necessarily a nation, but you're clearly some sort of being that's split off from one, so-"
"Now, hold on a minute!" Alfred demanded suddenly. "Of course I'm a nation! I'm the United States of America!"
"I think you'll find you're mistaken." His double shook his head vigorously, looking skeptical. "I am Alfred F Jones, representative of the-"
"No," Alfred cut in loudly, frustrated by the other man's condescension. "Not a chance. I'm Alfred F Jones and you most definitely split off from me. Not the other way around." He waved his hands about, as if demonstrating the pure foolishness of the thought.
"Look here," the other man began, a heated look crossing his face. "I woke up first and you were-"
"That doesn't prove anything!"
"I'm the one wearing Texas. If you were any kind of nation you would-"
"You're only wearing them because you stole them off of my night-stand!"
Both men were standing at this point, the toppled over chairs behind them long forgotten as they verbally tore each other apart at full volume, the noise reverberating around the small, cold room.
After nearly a full minute, Alfred – frustrated and exasperated as he was – had accepted the fact that this argument was going nowhere fast. He bit down on his tongue to prevent himself from continuing, ready to allow his double to scream his lungs out if that's what it took to settle him down enough to have a proper discussion again.
Unfortunately, to Alfred's continuously flaring temper, the other so-called 'Alfred' appeared to have come to the exact same decision. In a single moment, the room was suddenly flooded with heavy, tense silence.
Alfred scowled, annoyed, but continued to hold his tongue.
The other man kicked his chair back up, setting it back in place before carefully lowering himself once again onto it, his eyes never leaving Alfred's identical pair.
"My apologies," he said distastefully, sounding anything but apologetic. "That..." He cleared his throat. "That got out of hand."
Alfred was tempted to role his eyes. "Yes," he settled for saying instead, posture still guarded as he slowly sat down as well. "It did."
His double closed his eyes, plucking off the glasses and massaging the bridge of his nose. It was an exact replica of the way Alfred willed away an oncoming headache.
He turned away, still not used to seeing this 'other him' perform actions he was so used to doing himself. It was nearly too much to wrap his head around.
This thing, this person... had once been part of him.
He gave a small shake of his head, trying to clear his thoughts, and ran a hand through his hair before letting it fall limply back to his side. Behind him, the other Alfred spoke again.
"Let's, uh, let's try that again, why don't we?"
Alfred nodded, somehow knowing his double's eyes were watching him. "Let's," he agreed.
"Alright then." He heard the other man straightening himself. "Any ideas?"
"Ideas?" Alfred asked, curious despite himself.
"About what's going on. How we might clarify it." How we might find out who's really who, he didn't say, but Alfred heard it all the same.
"I don't know," Alfred shrugged, suddenly feeling exhausted. "Why are you asking me?"
"Well, it isn't if my ideas are going to be any better than yours," his double pointed out plainly.
Alfred blinked, letting the words sink it. "Right," he said, pushing himself upwards once more and beginning to pace the room. "Right, of course." Alfred gnawed anxiously on his lip as he paced, thinking hard. He knew that he had all the pieces of this puzzle, he just wasn't sure what to make of them. Growing up with England, he had never seen or heard of anyone experiencing what he was experiencing now, even during times of civil dispute. And Europe had a lot of civil dispute.
He had never heard of another nation splitting into two different versions of itself, or of representatives hearing-
Alfred halted mid-step.
"What is it?" the voice, exactly like his own, broke him from his thoughts. His double was staring at him, face morphed into an expression of confusion and... was that worry?
"The voices," he blurted out suddenly, whirling around.
His double raised an eyebrow. "What about them?"
"The voices!" Alfred repeated again, as if that would somehow clarify his thoughts. "There was... I used to - well, I suppose we used to - hear them always bickering and fighting." He paused, judging the other man's expression to see if he was following. "Did you...?"
"Hear them? Yes, I remember." He nodded, before adding in a somewhat thoughtful tone, "Although I haven't heard anything since before... all of this." He gestured vaguely in the empty space between them.
"Exactly!" Alfred exclaimed. "They're gone now, but they were there before! At first it took me a trifle to figure out why, but I realized after a while that they both represented..." he wrung his hands together, struggling to find the right words, "I suppose they represented the dominant ideology in different parts of the country... You see?"
"Yes," the other Alfred said slowly, though he was clearly still confused about what exactly the subject had to do with their current predicament.
"Well, do you suppose we aren't hearing them anymore because we are them?" He had worded it poorly, Alfred knew, but his double seemed to understand his meaning anyway.
"You're saying that you believe that I embodied one of these... 'ideologies', and you the other?" he asked carefully, tilting his head slightly in a manner that Alfred knew meant he was actually considering the idea.
"Yes." Alfred nodded. "Before I was – or rather, we were – neutral, I suppose. I agreed with them both, in part."
"That's true." His double's eyes widened, as if the significance of this revelation was only just now dawning upon him. "Alright, so which one are you?" he asked deliberately.
Alfred lumbered back over to the table, falling heavily onto his chair. "I don't know," he said honestly.
"What do you believe now? Which voice do you agree with?" his double pressed.
"I just told you, I don't know.I can't-"
"Who do you believe is right or wrong? Do you think the Abolition Movement is good?"
"Maybe," Alfred started. "But either way, I still can't just decide which side I-"
"What about the slave states? How do you feel about them?"
"I don't know!" Alfred all but screamed. "I feel whatever my citizens feel!"
The other Alfred's eyes narrowed, another question already forming on his lips. This one caught Alfred completely off-guard.
"Where is your capital?"
He blinked, his momentary agitation forgotten. "Pardon me?"
"Just answer it," his double demanded, suddenly completely serious. His eyes were dark and slightly glazed over, focusing intently on something in the distance – a look Alfred was familiar with. It was the one he usually wore when he was trying to visually map out his land, or sense something that was far away, in another state perhaps.
"What is the capital of the nation you represent?" the man repeated.
Alfred, at this point realizing that his double must have thought he was on to something, played along.
Alfred's heart lurched, a cold, numb feeling washing over him as he processed the words. His double watched him with the same stricken look.
"Montgomery?" Alfred asked, voice suddenly small and child-like.
That was impossible. Montgomery wasn't a national capital. Montgomery was-
The whole city. No, the whole state. He couldn't feel it.
He tried again.
The emptiness struck something painful deep within him. Alfred closed his eyes, letting the world around him fade for a moment as he turned his senses inward. Through closed lids, thousands and thousands of miles of rolling hills and dense forests and crumbling cliff-sides spread out before him. He reached as far as he could go, stretching out over his nation, feeling, searching.
And then he stopped short, unable to go any further.
"It's gone," he whispered, voice sounding distant and unattached.
It was as if someone had taken a knife to his lungs, carving out entire sections before tearing them away. He suddenly found it impossible to breathe.
There were more. More pieces of him missing. He could feel the hollow, heavy spaces they left behind. It took him a moment to realize which states they were, to even remember their names. Florida, Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Mississippi.
Alfred's eyes snapped open. "They're gone. Wh-What happened?" He was gasping suddenly, and there was a tight, constricted feeling in his chest. He couldn't remember when it had started; all he knew was that it wouldn't go away.
His double's eyes met his for a second before flickering away. He swallowed roughly and gave a curt nod, as if to say, I thought so.
"They acceded," the other Alfred stated factually, voice sounding regretful as he watched his apparent twin struggle to breathe.
"When?" Alfred demanded, swallowing back the bile that was rising in his throat.
"Last night. A congress of secessionists convened in Montgomery."
Alfred wrapped his arms around his stomach, fighting the urge to double over. A cold hand settled on his shoulder, and it took Alfred a moment to realize the other him had made his way around the table, and was standing beside him.
Alfred jolted away, slapping the hand back. "How?" he forced out. "How do you know all this? Why can you feel it, if I can't?"
"Because," his double began, pulling back the offending hand. "I'm the result of that accession. I didn't realize it before, but I feel it now. They founded a new country. They founded me."
He turned away, glassy blue eyes gazing through the nearby window. The sun was just above the tree line now, splaying rays of warm light through the window, illuminating the still-frozen air around them.
His double's next words pierced through the resonance of Alfred's gasping breaths.
"They founded the Confederate States of America."