Tony's usual runaway train thought process stuttered to a halt when he trotted down the stairs to the communal living room and saw the whole team waiting for him.
"Is this an intervention?" Tony asked suspiciously. "I keep telling Pepper, I don't need any intervening."
"Stark," Fury said. "Take a seat."
He gestured magnanimously at Tony's own couch. Everyone else was already there, arrayed in their usual spots around the living room. Clint and Natasha nestled next to each other on the comfiest couch, Thor standing at the window, Bruce in his armchair giving Tony his usual "why are you forcing me to interact with other humans" look. Steve in his usual place too, on the other couch with room beside him for Tony, but the look on his face was different. Instead of sincerely concerned or patriotically determined, he looked...guilty? Ashamed? Sheepish.
"What did you do, Steve?" Tony asked even more suspiciously. Last time Steve looked like this he'd ended up apologizing to fifteen nuns and a rabbi.
Steve didn't even protest, he just hunched lower. Tony narrowed his eyes but Fury rescued Steve from further interrogation.
"I called this meeting because some disturbing information has come to light. SHIELD interference has proven useless and the story will be published nationwide tomorrow morning."
"Sorry, Steve," Natasha said. "We launched a cover-up operation but they'd already disseminated it too widely by the time we found out."
"I understand, Natasha. Thank you anyway." Steve smiled at her wanly and Tony was officially creeped out.
"Seriously, Cap, did you kill someone? We've got the Black Widow on a 'cover-up operation' -- which, wow -- and we're talking about nationwide news and you look like you did something terrible like forget to say the Pledge of Allegiance this morning."
"I don't say it every morning," Steve grumbled, but he was still red with shame.
"So you did do something terrible! Oh, please, let me guess--"
Fury interrupted him.
"Tomorrow, this will be on the front page of every major newspaper in America."
He dropped a sheaf of papers on the coffee table and Tony snatched them up instantly. He read the mocked-up headline, then read it again. Then read it a third time because there was no way this could possibly be true.
"Captain America is Canadian?"
Steve buried his head in his hands.
"You know, it makes a lot of sense," Tony mused aloud, once all the shouting was over and Fury had been kicked out for private team meeting time. "You're so polite, you like maple syrup, you wear a lot of plaid. All those quaint old-fashioned expressions are probably just Canadian slang."
"1940s Canadian slang," Bruce provided. "When did they start saying 'eh?'"
Clint patted Steve's shoulder. "My grandmother was Canadian, you know. It's not the handicap it used to be in the olden days."
"I'm not actually Canadian," Steve burst out in frustration.
"That's not what this says," Tony tapped the mock-up newspaper with one long finger. "CAPTAIN AMERICA IS CANADIAN," it screamed in capslock. "Nation in shock," it said in smaller, less accurate letters.
Bruce slid on his reading glasses and leaned over Tony's shoulder. "Born in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, in 1918, to a cod fisherman and his wife."
"They moved to New York to open a candy store when I was still a baby! I grew up in Brooklyn! I'm an American citizen! I've never even been to Canada!"
"Except for those precious first few months, which as we all know are the most important moments of a child's life, when all sorts of terrible opinions about curling and weird pronunciations of 'sorry' become permanently ingrained," Tony said sagely.
"Nice try, Dudley Do-Right, you're not fooling anyone."
"I do not understand," Thor interrupted. "What is this 'Canadia' and why does it matter that our good captain hails from there?"
"You see, Thor," Bruce started in his professor voice. "Midgard is a land of many nations. Some are cool, some are not, and some are hats worn by the cooler ones."
Clint grabbed a napkin and sketched a truly horrible outline of the United States, in which Florida looked even more obscene than usual and the entire Western US seemed to have fallen into the ocean.
"See, here's the US, that's the country we live in. Here's New York, the greatest city on Earth." He put a dot roughly in the vicinity of Delaware. "And here," he drew a vast amorphous blob to the north of the US, "is Canada. And here," he drew a line about a millimeter above the US/Canada border, "are all the parts of Canada that will not freeze your balls off."
Natasha gently but firmly took away his pen and took over the lesson. "It's roughly the same size as the United States with only a tenth of the population. Because it's further north it's generally colder, with a considerable area lying inside the Arctic Circle. Canada is generally very similar to the US in language and culture, except that they drink milk out of bags and put gravy on french fries."
Steve looked at her, betrayed. "You too, Natasha?"
She shrugged. "Bagged milk is just unnatural."
"But poutine is delicious," Tony pointed out.
"So you are not from the same land as your fellow warriors, yet you fight alongside them as brothers!" Thor exclaimed with delight. "Truly Midgard is a special realm, to have such bonds between its peoples."
Everyone exchanged guilty looks. Tony rolled his eyes. "Fine, I'll be the bad guy. Thor, lots of the peoples of Midgard spend a considerable amount of time trying to murder the other peoples of Midgard. We're just as bad as every other realm. But Canada and America have a 'special relationship', which in any other context would mean sex but in this case means we don't go to war with each other."
"Except the War of 1812," Steve muttered.
Tony pointed an accusing finger at him and crowed, "Aha! No one remembers that except Canadians who like to brag they burned the White House!"
"Well they -- we -- Canada did!"
"Anyway, along with not fighting wars, we also get the right to make jokes about each other. It's a loving, playful relationship, like siblings."
"Hmmph." Steve slouched back in his seat and crossed his arms.
"Regardless of any special relationships, the fact remains that this headline is going out tomorrow," said Bruce, obviously taking pity on Steve's increasingly beleaguered state. "What are we going to do?"
Tony sat up suddenly, horrified. "What if Canada wants him back?"
"They can't have him," Natasha said with unnerving finality.
"The ice fortress isn't built that can hold you!" Clint declared. "We'll knock down every igloo until we find you."
"I am oddly touched by that," Steve said dryly. "But I don't think they'll try to take me by force."
"You never know, Canadians are pretty cut-throat under their polite exteriors -- they play hockey, remember." Tony snapped his fingers. "We need contingency plans."
Natasha unzipped a pocket of her jumpsuit and produced a detailed map of the US-Canadian border.
"...why do you have that? Never mind, never mind, I do not want to know."
Tony pushed all the collected remote controls and empty cups from the coffee table with one dramatic sweep of his arm and Natasha spread out the map.
"I'm going to bed," Steve said, exasperated.
Tony just waved a hand at him distractedly, his other hand pointing out a flaw in the border patrol near Buffalo to Natasha. Steve rolled his eyes and went to bed.
The day dawned bright, cold, and snowy. "Weather forecast is identical to Saskatoon," Jarvis helpfully pointed out in his morning weather report.
"Et tu, Jarvis?" Steve rolled himself upright and for a long moment he just sat, staring out the window. Usually he would hop up and go for a run, but today felt...different.
Yesterday he was Captain America, but today, was that still true? Fury hadn't said anything about it. Steve still felt like the same person. But would anyone follow a Captain America who was born in Nova Scotia? The Avengers wouldn't care. Neither would SHIELD. But surely someone would. It wouldn't be front-page news if no one cared. Maybe he'd just have to give up the name, which quite frankly he wasn't overly attached to -- but what about the shield? Would they take that? Would they give it to some new Captain America with a better birth certificate? Who are 'they', anyway?
He flopped down to lie on his back and look at the ceiling. Tony's paranoia was clearly rubbing off on him. He was still Captain America, no one was going to fire him or take his shield or cart him off to Alberta in a sack. Nothing had changed at all.
Except he was really craving pancakes.
"And I will put maple syrup on them, whether Tony likes it or not," Steve declared to the ceiling.
The kitchen was empty when Steve got to it. He made coffee and pancakes -- with extra syrup -- in contented silence before taking them into the living room. The room was still strewn with yesterday's detritus, the newspaper blaring its headline at him from the floor, disturbingly detailed extraction plans littering the coffee table. Steve idly paged through them while he drank his coffee. It was kind of sweet, how his teammates had sketched out rough ideas for saving him from the evil clutches of the Quebecois.
He was reading Tony's obscene French comments in the margins of that one when a pair of strong arms slid over his shoulders and a sharp chin dropped onto the top of his head.
"Whatcha lookin' at?" Tony yawned into Steve's hair.
"You and Natasha's megalomaniacal plans to retrieve me from Canadian snow prisons," Steve said, turning over the page. The back side was an elaborate sketch drawn by Clint of the Niagara border patrol station that eventually morphed into a cartoon about bears.
"We'll save you when the Mounties come for you." Tony snuck a hand down Steve's arm and stole his coffee.
Steve craned his neck around to try to see Tony. "You didn't come to bed last night."
"I was busy. Look how busy I was," Tony dangled a little silver object in front of Steve's face. It looked like a USB key. "In case you get kidnapped to the Yukon. It's a Beaver Proximity Alarm. Too many beavers nearby, and we all come running."
"This took you all night?"
"Of course it did. You know how hard it is to get a computer chip to tell the difference between a beaver and a muskrat?"
Steve grinned and snagged it. "What does it really do?"
"It's a Canadian-to-English translator. It provides gentle correction to make sure you don't slip into any unpatriotic slang like 'aboot'."
At the word 'aboot', the little silver dongle lit up bright red and Tony's voice blasted out of it, yelling "ABOUT!"
Steve burst out laughing.
"It was supposed to be a universal translator, but it turns out that's hard." Tony drank deep from Steve's coffee before giving him a caffeinated kiss. "I learned a lot about agglutinative language parsing though."
"I'm sure it will be very useful. You know what I learned?" Steve tapped a finger on the Quebec extraction plan. "You speak French."
"Mais oui, bien sûr! Hmm, je pense que ça t'intéresse, n'est-ce pas?" Tony leaned in, his cocky I'm-getting-some smirk firmly in place.
Steve tried to feign indifference, but he couldn't quite hide the smile or the heat rising in his cheeks. He'd always been a sucker for French. "Eh, c'est pas mal."
"Not bad? I'm offended. How about some French I know you'll like," and Tony breathed hotly into his ear, "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?"
Steve mock-sighed, but the answer was definitely "oui."
It turned out Canada did not want Steve back. "In the fine tradition of William Shatner, Alex Trebek, and Ryan Reynolds," went the official statement, Canada was content to cede Steve to America in return for bragging rights and a goodwill tour.
Which is how Bruce got arrested in Montreal, Thor learned how to ski, Clint nearly fell off the CN Tower, and Steve and Tony got outed in Vancouver.
The photos filled the tabloids and delighted the internet for weeks. Paparazzi followed them everywhere. A photo op of Steve shaking hands with the Prime Minister went viral, mostly because of the face Clint was making in the background. One enterprising photographer even tailed them on their camping trip in British Columbia, hiding in the bushes while Bruce taught Thor how to make s'mores. He happened to catch a quick good-night kiss between Steve and Tony, and that was that.
It worked out pretty well for the rest of the vacation. Tony took it as permission to grope Steve in public, and Steve got to make a lot of very nice speeches about fairness and equality and how he hoped someday his adopted country would make the same progress as his birth one. There were a lot more pictures, mostly of Steve and Tony standing arm-in-arm, admiring various Canadian landmarks.
But Steve's favorite is a photo Bruce took on their little side ski trip in Quebec. It's Tony in full playboy mode: megawatt grin, professional-quality snowboard, thousand-dollar sunglasses perched over his windburned cheeks. But instead of a sexy snowbunny on his arm he's got Steve, who's wearing skis, a knitted sweater, and a red-and-white toque festooned with a giant red maple leaf and stick-out earflaps. Steve has his face mashed up against the side of Tony's, cold-red nose pressed up against Tony's cheek as he laughs.
"Our gay Canadian honeymoon," Tony calls it, rolling his eyes, but Steve gets a print of the photo and puts it on the nightstand in a red maple frame.