Title : Five Times Captain America Met his Country and One Time he Didn't
Genre : humor, some angst, fluff
Pairings: USUK, Steve/Peggy
Warnings: language, references to character death, spoilers for Captain America: The First Avenger
Summary: Steve Rogers, otherwise known as Captain America, is trying to adjust to living in the 21st century. This is further complicated by finding out nations exist as living beings and America is a bit of a fan-boy regarding him.
Note: I have been wanting to write an Captain America/Hetalia crossover for two months. And I have finally done so XD. It's in the 5 times plus 1 format and it got a bit long so it's split into two parts. Please be aware, I do not follow comics at all so any references or information referenced in this story are from the Marvel movies alone. I hope you all enjoy, comments are love!
Disclaimer: I own neither Hetalia: Axis Powers or Captain America: The First Avenger, their respective owners do and I'm only borrowing them for a bit.
Five Times Captain America met His Country and One Time He Didn't
The first time Steven Rogers, Captain America to nearly everyone else who didn't really know him, met his country, he didn't know who or what he was. He'd been in one of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s conference rooms, trying to review the last seventy years of history he had missed and get himself some peace and quiet, when a kid, no older than twenty, burst in with a wild grin on his face. He was a little taller than Steve and had looks like a movie star, all blond hair, blue eyes, and big smiles. He wasn't dressed like he worked at the compound though; most of the employees walked around in suits or long trench coats. This kid was dressed in jeans, tennis shoes and a t-shirt. Steve wondered for a second if he had snuck in and was a reporter or something; it wouldn't be the first time.
Ever since he woke up and news broke out that Captain America was alive and well after missing for seven decades, people couldn't seem to get enough of him. There had been at least five reporters arrested after trying to break into S.H.I.E.L.D. to interview him or snap his picture; Steve had never been comfortable with fame and it was so much worse now, when cameramen practically killed themselves for a hot shot. Tony Stark was better at handling all that, probably because of the whole 'Stark mystique' thing, but Steve just wanted to get used to the idea that everyone he had loved and cared about was gone and he was stuck in a world that was completely different than the one he had left. The kid let out an excited breath and he bounded up close, his glasses slipping down his nose in excitement. Steve pushed back from the computer he'd been trying to navigate, unsuccessfully he might add, and warily got to his feet, prepared to get security if necessary.
"Holy shit, it is you! I mean, I kinda hoped it would be and everyone was pretty confident and everything, but it's different because I'm actually seeing you! Captain, I am such a huge fan, I mean like super huge! I've read your comics like a hundred times and used to love your film reels; that song was catchy, wasn't it? Definitely got stuck in your head for like hours, but it was awesome!" Steve wondered how the kid got in a breath during all of that.
He blinked at the kid, who was bouncing on his heels in excitement, before he extended his hand warily after the kid had offered his, not really smiling back but not frowning either. It was more like an uncomfortable half-smile, but the kid just shook his hand enthusiastically and his grip was a hell of a lot stronger than Steve had expected. He was strong, really strong, and he wondered for a second if the kid was another member of S.H.I.E.L.D., maybe a new one. "Well, uh, it's nice to meet you. Don't really get many fans in here though; do you work here or something?"
"Nah, just visiting. I pop in here every now and then; it's way cooler than where I usually have to go!"
"Oh…ok." Steve tugged his hand back and stuffed both into his pockets, not really sure what to say to a kid who was still staring at him like he was Santa Claus or something. "So, the films, you liked them? Did you have to watch them in school or something?"
The kid laughed and he shook his head, rocking back on his heels and rubbing at his neck in a manner that was almost shy. "Yeah, not really. School isn't something someone like me really needs to do, though sometimes I do like to attend lectures and stuff at Columbia, especially if Bill Nye is giving them, that guy is awesome. But I guess you wouldn't know who he is, being frozen and all."
Steve stared; the kid seemed to know a lot about his circumstances and he was relatively sure Fury had said most of the details regarding what had happened on that plane and being found were kept under wraps. He looked back behind the kid to the open doorway and saw that no one seemed concerned with his guest or that he was here. In fact, a few actually smiled when they seemed to recognize, even from behind, who Steve was talking to. He folded his arms in front of his chest and fixed the kid with a more serious look. "I don't think I got your name before."
"Oh, yeah, I guess that would—Alfred, I'm Alfred. Alfred F Jones if you wanna be fancy, but most around here just call me Al…or I wish most did, I hate it when they call me 'Mr. Jones!' Makes me sound like a stuffy grandpa…or a math teacher." He shook his head fondly and for a moment, he kind of looked like a grandpa would, eyes soft and warm as if he was thinking about kids or grandkids; Steve remembered his own pops and grandparents looking at him like that when he'd been young. It was unnerving seeing it on such a young face, especially when he got a real good look at the kid's eyes and they looked ageless, not really human. Too bright and too knowledgeable—Steve wondered if this kid was more like Thor than him or Tony. "But, what can you do? Aw crap, it's past one isn't it? Shit, I'm late, I'm so, SO late! Listen, I gotta run, I probably shouldn't have even stopped by but it's like I couldn't not stop by and you're actually here and whatever, getting scolded is totally worth getting to actually meet you! I'll be back soon!"
And with that, the kid, Alfred, had turned around and was jogging out the door; Fury walked in as Alfred was exiting and Alfred gave the man a high five as he left. "Hi, Nick, bye Nick!"
Fury actually watched Alfred bound out the door with an honest to God smile before he turned back to Steve, his hands buried deep inside his coat. He was looking at Steve with an amused smirk before he glanced behind him to peek at the computer monitor. "I see you've met Alfred."
"Who the hell is that kid? He was—he didn't seem normal."
"Human, he didn't seem human; you can say what you mean, it's true. It always shocks people here when they meet him for the first time; he certainly doesn't come across like what you would expect. Well, except to Thor, but I imagine he was already well aware of his existence."
Steve furrowed his brows in confusion. "What is he?"
Fury laughed and clapped Steve on the shoulder. "Captain, you just met the United States of America."
The second time Steve met Alfred Jones, America he had to keep reminding himself, he was a little more prepared for it but still overwhelmed with the idea that nations were actual living, breathing beings that walked among their citizens. Beings that felt the pains their people did, that held their thoughts and dreams in their head, and felt their wars spark across their bodies for centuries. It seemed unreal, even after being around Thor, that countries weren't just land and mountains, but people! Well, sort of people—Alfred was apparently almost four hundred years old and considered young among the other nations of the world and he looked about nineteen (which was apparently a correct assumption, that's how old he was on his records). Being immortal in a sense kind of disqualified him from being a normal person.
This time, America was dressed in a suit and tie and looked very much like an intern for Washington; he was walking along with a man of similar height and appearance beside him who had longer hair and an unusual eye color. Steve was pretty sure he'd never seen anyone with purple eyes before, but that was really the only color the guy's eyes could be—he knew this time, without question, that the guy was a country too. He cleared his throat at Tony, who was tinkering about with his shield, not unlike the way his dad used to, and tilted his chin towards the two men approaching. Tony turned around and grinned as he stood up, setting the shield to the side and wiping his hands on the thin tee shirt he wore when working. You could see the blue from his arc reactor thing through it.
"Double trouble today. Fury said you met Al, right?" Steve nodded and Tony grinned a bit wider. "The one walking next to him is Canada. He and Al are brothers."
"Countries can have siblings?"
Tony shrugged. "Guess so. It might just be they call themselves brothers—they certainly look alike though, right? Complete opposites though; you'd think you'd have trouble telling them apart, but not after they open their mouths. Al, Matthew, lovely to see you boys! What brings you down to our neck of the woods?"
"Wanted Mattie to meet Captain America! I hope that's ok, Captain, I don't want to bug you or anything—they told you about me right? I kind of forgot, well not really forgot more like didn't have time. Yao, that's China, he hates it when I'm late to world meetings and I didn't want to deal with him glaring at me for an entire hour. Plus, the vein might've finally burst in Germany's head if I was late when I was supposed to be hosting the dumb thing. And I like Ludwig, when he's not being a hard-ass."
"You might want to stick to one name, America. Switching back and forth isn't really easy for your citizens." Canada was soft-spoken and appeared painfully shy, but Steve got the feeling he only seemed that way because he was standing beside America. Anyone would appear shy next to him. "And hello, Captain, it's nice to finally meet you. You did great things for the Allies during the war."
"No problem—just doing what needed to be done."
"He's too modest, he was fucking awesome. He had his own theme song, Canada!"
"You have national anthems, America. Those are theme songs."
"It's not the same."
"Are they always like this?" Steve murmured the question low to Tony, who looked completely amused.
"Usually. You should see him with Japan. I would not have believed our nation was such a nerd until I saw the two of them have a discussion on mecha robots for nearly two hours." Steve didn't know what a 'mecha' robot was, but it sounded sufficiently bookish to be nerdy. "Or England. That's really entertaining."
Tony raised his highbrows wand waggled them a little in Steve's direction. "It's not called the Special Relationship for nothing. Believe me, you think it's weird learning about nations? It's got nothing on walking in on a pair of them abusing the copy room in the middle of the day—I was scarred for life."
Steve felt an odd pang run through him at the thought that America, his country, was in a relationship of some sort with England—it made him think of Peggy and that was not a road he wanted to travel down. Especially not with so many people around him; the last thing he needed was people pitying him and trying to understand what it felt like. They wouldn't understand and it was pointless getting upset about something he couldn't change—he was here and she was gone. He had to get used to that and move on, it's what she would've wanted; she had always been practical minded.
He cleared his throat, desperate to start talking again and move away from the depressing direction his thoughts were heading, and smiled at both America and Canada when they paused in their fight and turned back towards him. "So, you two are brothers, right? That's what Tony said."
"Sort of—not like we both popped up out of the same ground."
"Is that how you're born?" It seemed like a silly question, but Tony turned back around to their conversation and he looked genuinely interested. Had anyone really not asked that? Seemed like one of the first things you'd want to know. "I mean, people talk about Mother Earth but I always thought that was more of a metaphor—granted that was when I thought nations were more of an idea and land than an actual, you know, person."
Canada glanced at America and shrugged his shoulders. America turned and focused his grin at Steve and gave a sheepish sort of laugh. "Actually, I don't really know. Most of the time, we just kind of show up and another nation finds us wandering around. My first memory is wandering out of a bush and a Native American woman crying—kinda depressing actually. A lot of older nations don't even remember that far back; I mean, how can you really remember thousands of years?"
"Some don't want to remember. I know France doesn't mind being foggy when he was under Old Rome. We just…are, I guess. When people begin to populate the land and start to identify themselves under one common banner, we just kind of show up." Canada shrugged and gave Steve a half apologetic smile. "Sorry, I know that sounds vague, but I honestly don't have a better answer for you."
Steve shrugged off the apology—that actually made more sense than the idea of nations just popping out of the ground.
"We're not the only siblings though." America grinned at Canada for a moment before he looked back over towards them. "North and South Italy are brothers. So are Germany and Prussia."
"Prussia isn't a nation anymore." Tony arched his eyebrow towards the pair who both just shrugged off the fact as if it didn't really matter; from what Steve had learned about nations though, it seemed like that would. "But, far be it for me to point out the flaws in that superb reasoning."
America laughed and clapped Tony on the shoulder; Steve was struck by how young he looked in that moment, his entire face relaxed and carefree. His eyes though, they still held that timeless quality that just knew so much more than any historian ever could. "Sometimes, things don't always make sense and you just gotta roll with it. Kinda like with you guys, right? I mean, you were all normal and shit before and now you're super heroes and have your own league and fight bad guys that definitely don't always make sense. Thinking about stuff too hard will just make your head hurt."
"Believe him, he really knows what he's talking about." Canada shot America a look. "It happens to him all the time when he thinks too much."
"It was nice seeing you again, Tony, and to meet you Captain, but we really do need to get going. We've got that environmental conservation conference in about thirty minutes and Brazil will be pissed off if we're late, especially when you insisted on holding it here instead of Rio de Janeiro."
"Ok, but really, who wants to have a conference where giant bugs live? Seriously, he's got cockroaches the size of my face wandering around in his rain forests!"
Steve couldn't help but laugh at that and America shot him a mock-betrayed look before he shoulder-checked Canada a bit rougher than the slighter nation was expecting. "Laugh all you want, but I've seen Starship Troopers; I know what happens when we let bugs get too big and too smart. They suck out your brains, that's what!"
"And on that lovely note, we'll be going. Tell Mr. Fury I say hello, please? And that I appreciated the Christmas card he sent me." Canada gave Steve another smile before he grabbed America's arm and started dragging him back down the hallway they had initially come from. Steve waved them off and Tony waggled his fingers good bye at them, his amused smirk still firmly in place.
"I'll be back, Captain! Stay awesome!"
Steve laughed again as the two nations turned the corner and were out of sight again, glancing over at Tony once before he rubbed at the back of his head in a 'did that really just happen' sort of way. Tony chuckled again before he reached for his work goggles and snapped them back in place over his eyes. "I think you've got a serious man-crush on your hands. I suppose it could be worse though—not many people can claim their own nation thinks he's the coolest thing since the rocket launcher."
Steve shook his head and turned back to help Tony make adjustments to his shield; it was pretty advanced already, but what use was it being in the 21st century if he didn't get to take advantage of all the new technology available to him? A man-crush—well, it was sort of flattering America thought so highly of him. Flattering and terrifying. He squared back his shoulders and handed Tony one of his laser pens when the man snapped his fingers imperiously at him until he got what he wanted; he wasn't going to let America's admiration go to waste. He was lucky enough to be believed in by one of the most important beings in the world, seemed like the least he could do was make sure he didn't let him down.
Even if he acted like an annoying, over-grown kid most of the time.
The third time Steve met America he really didn't meet him; he didn't even talk to him to be honest, but he still counted it because he got to see a different side to the nation and that kind of qualified it as meeting him.
He was in Washington D.C. with the rest of his team, his Avengers (which he thought was a pretty fitting name for all of them and what they were fighting for), and was enjoying a brief break outside on the mall area. He had seen the capitol plenty of times during the war, but it was different now. Just like everything else. So many senators and their aides, lawyers and lobbyists, teenagers and kids on field trips littered the grounds and monuments now, so much that it was hardly as relaxing as it used to be to sit out beside the Reflecting Pool and eat lunch. That was one of the hardest things to get used to, how busy everything was now, how hurried people were to get from place to place—no one seemed to savor anything anymore. Not even food; he glanced down sadly at the wrapper of his burger he'd grabbed from a fast-food joint on the way over.
It wasn't that he hated this era. There were plenty of good things about quick convenience and technology had advanced amazingly in just seven decades and he often found himself wondering what Dr. Erskine would have thought and enjoyed about this 'new' world. The cars were pretty good now, a little more streamlined than what he'd known but they went so fast; the way people communicated was a nice, welcome change too. Though, that sometimes got him wondering about how he and Peggy could've talked to each other if separated by the Atlantic, if she were there with him now. And that never failed to make him surlier than usual, so he tried his best to focus on how much easier the phones and doo-dads made it to find things and his other team members. Particularly Thor—he had a tendency to wander off without telling anyone and cell phones made it infinitely easier to track him down.
No, there was plenty to like about the 21st century. But there was also plenty for him to miss, and it was hard to discuss that with anyone who truly understood because not many would. Except maybe war veterans, but how was he going to explain he was a veteran from the War too without coming across as a complete lunatic or revealing who he was? He sighed and threw away the trash leftover from his lunch and got up to walk along the pool's edge, hands shoved in his pockets and a melancholic mood quickly taking over him. And that's when he saw him, walking outside the Lincoln Memorial and talking on his phone with an animated smile that lit up his face. Steve didn't want to disturb him, but he was still intensely curious about his nation so he casually walked closer to where America was pacing and tried to appear inconspicuous.
He didn't even have to bother though, Steve thought with a grin; the look on America's face was one of pure puppy love and he probably was too caught up with who he was talking to. England, his memory provided for him—he was probably talking to England.
"—and then, then the papers just went everywhere and it took hours to pick them back up and put them in order again! I seriously thought Clinton was going to have a stroke—Biden looked about ready to crack up but I figured giving him a high five was probably not going to convince the Boss to let me have next weekend off to visit you."
America stopped his pacing and ran a hand through his hair sheepishly as he listened to whatever England was responding with. A scolding maybe; Steve knew the look. He'd adopted that look often enough when Peggy was 'expressing' her displeasure with him. "Yeah, well, it's not like I meant to knock the bill over. They shouldn't have set it right on the edge of the desk, they know I get excited when the market has a good closing, like a sugar rush, you know?"
He bit his lip and Steve could tell he was trying to keep from laughing. "But Arthuuuurrrrr—that's just mean! I can't help that I get so excited—besides, I thought you liked it when I'm so, what do you call it, energetic? That just means I can go for hours."
Steve felt a flush of embarrassment at how America drew out the last word low and long—and he felt it intensify when his mind caught up with the fact that America had called the other person on the line Arthur. A man—so, either England was a man or America wasn't the most faithful of nations and that didn't sound right so England must've been a guy too. It wasn't—well, he didn't think it was wrong exactly but—it was so bizarre hearing someone, his country of all things, talking about sex so casually with another guy. A lot of things were different than they had been in the 1940s, and while mostly he thought for the better, it was still shocking when he was confronted with something no one talked about in the past. He knew that kind of prejudice personally though—the way people looked and treated him when he'd been smaller, before the Procedure that had changed everything. They had all looked at him like he was wrong and didn't quite know how to say it, but their stares would do just fine in getting across their discomfort or disdain.
Maybe that was another thing he liked about the 21st century—the acceptance. It wasn't universal, but it was prominent enough to make a difference most of the time.
"—I can tell you're blushing, don't even try to lie. Mmm…well if you're really that against me coming over, I don't have to." America smiled teasingly, and even though England couldn't see it, Steve was sure the other nation heard it in America's voice. "No, no, I don't want to get in your way and be a 'nattering pest' all weekend. Oh, is that right? Well, if you've really had a change of heart, you can ask me."
America went silent for a few moments and his smile softened out into a warm, loving one that made Steve feel a pang of regret and sadness—Peggy had given him that smile at least once, he could remember. It had been in the hangar, before everything had gone wrong and it was a smile he kept close; sometimes he felt like it was all he had left of her. They hadn't had enough time, not by a long shot, and that was something he regretted too. If he hadn't been so awkward and fumbling (and jealous over Howard Stark and fondue for God's sake), they may have had more time together and he wouldn't be completely filled with should-have-beens. But, maybe it was best this way—this way, hopefully Peggy had been able to move on with her life easier. He wanted that for her. America laughed, a high pitched, childlike sound and Steve blinked out of memory lane and back at the nation.
"Whatever you say, Iggy. I'll call you that all I want, it's cute. It's totally a shortened version of your name! Just because it's in Japanese and I got it from hanging out with Kiku too much doesn't mean it's not a totally kosher nickname. You can call my Hamburger Lover all you want, I'm still gonna call you Iggy." He paused and pulled the phone away from his ear for a moment and Steve could pick up the tiny noise of someone yelling through the phone. He looked incredibly amused and affectionate. "Nope, still here, just not listening to you rail against my awesomeness."
America went quiet again and looked down at his wristwatch as it began to beep at him. He frowned and examined the time with a roll of his eyes and a regretful sigh. "What? Oh no, I'm fine, just my meeting's about to start. Yeah, I have to—I know, I am too. Love you too, sweetheart. Bye."
America moved the phone back away from his ear and pressed his finger to screen, Steve figured to end the call. He smiled down wistfully at the phone for a few, silent moments before he stuffed it back inside his suit jacket and started back towards the Congress buildings. Steve watched him go and couldn't help but grin at the small bounce in America's steps, watching him go until he was lost in the sea of business suits and styled hair-dos. He stood standing outside the Memorial for a few moments on his own before he turned and started back towards the big library, stuffing his hands deep into his jean pockets as he played over the scene he'd just stolen into in his head.
It was interesting, he thought as he walked through the crowds, how human America had seemed talking to England, how similar he was to his people—it was the first time Steve had been able to think of him as Alfred since he'd found out what he was. Alfred and Arthur—it had a nice ring to it. He started to whistle to himself, probably some old war song he only remembered the tune of but no one around him was going to recognize it. No one but the nation who had taken off down the opposite way with a hop in his step and love obvious in his eyes.
For the first time, Steve felt like he was starting to get a grip on who America really was; he whistled a bit louder as his lips split into a grin and he continued back to his team.
After the fourth time, Steve pretty much had to admit that he and America have already met and it's more just a formality in his head that he's referring to their paths crossing again as 'meeting.' Especially when they actually planned to meet up and have lunch at some burger joint in New York that America loved to visit whenever he was in the city—making plans and meeting places, that wasn't something two strangers did. It was something friends did, and while yes, America had been the one to initiate the meet-up, Steve had honestly looked forward to seeing his nation again. Somewhere between the awkward meeting, the fan-like gushing, and the covert spying Steve had done, they were starting to become something like friends and he felt privileged that America actually wanted to with some kid from Brooklyn who'd just been desperate to make a difference way back when.
Viewing himself as a hero, that wasn't something Steve was comfortable with, even when he was dressed in his Captain uniform and fighting beside Iron Man or Thor or Black Widow. It just—it didn't seem to fit right, no matter what Fury told him and no matter how many people cheered when he held up his shield. The fact that America viewed him as a hero too, a hero named after him for crying out loud, was surreal and made his head spin; luckily though, he'd seemed to realize the constant adoration was making Steve uncomfortable and had toned it down considerably. He started treating him like Steve, instead of Captain America and it was a nice change. And more than a little humbling—there was something to be said when the personification of your country, a country he'd fought, shed blood, and lost friends over, wanted to be friends with you apart from the 'heroic' persona he'd been forced to adopt.
"You liked it, right? The burger, I mean." Steve blinked and looked up at America, who was speaking around a mouthful of fries and had a drop of ketchup on his chin—he looked like such a kid. He actually could have passed for his younger brother to anyone walking by; they looked similar in certain aspects of their face. That made a swell of pride rise up in his chest for some reason; he didn't know why, but it did.
"Yeah, it was great. I didn't know this place was here—but then, I don't really know where any good places are anymore. A lot's changed…you probably know that."
America swallowed and wiped at his mouth while he nodded. "Yeah, but I got to see all those changes happen and it was a lot easier for me. As the people changed, I changed a little bit, plus I've always liked technology and stuff so I just mainly got excited. It's a lot different for you though—I mean, you crashed in one time and woke up in another. That's a lot to deal with."
Steve shrugged and took a sip of his coke. It was, and sometimes it was so overwhelming he had trouble even trying to get out of bed some mornings; it was getting better every day but the feeling of being completely out-of-place was taking longer to fade away than he would've liked. America tilted his head and looked at him from over his glasses, which he found out were Texas and that was bizarre to even think about; his eyes filled with something that looked like pity. It wasn't that though, it was something a bit more personal and it made Steve feel infinitely more vulnerable, something he did not like feeling.
"How are you doing with all that, by the way? Have you like, talked to anyone about it?"
Steve laughed humorlessly and raised his eyebrow in the nation's direction as he grabbed a fry. "Who would you suggest? Not like S.H.I.E.L.D. has therapists on staff, and I'm not really keen on wanting to talk about anything with a stranger anyway."
"So don't talk to a therapist, talk to me! I mean, I think I would understand what you're going through better than most, even though it's different. I loved the forties, I mean really loved them, even despite all the war shit happening. I definitely miss it, even though I love all the advances being made too—things were a lot simpler back then. At least with some things they were." America folded his arms on the tabletop and was leaning forward eagerly, his eyes sparking at Steve kindly in an encouraging manner; it was funny how such a simple, earnest action helped ease away the awkward tension that had settled in Steve's gut once America suggested he talk to someone.
"I really don't need—"
"Oh pfft, yeah you do. Come on, it'll be like talking about football! I never really get to talk to anyone about past decades, at least, not anyone younger, apart from nations and they're just boring sometimes."
Steve settled back against his chair and took another sip of his coke. "Well—what do you want to talk about?"
"I don't care, whatever you want! Oh, the cars! They were so sweet back then, right? I mean, I like them now too because fuck man, they go fast but still, I really liked the cars from the forties and fifties. Did you have one?"
Steve shook his head no. "They were nice though. The drivers were a lot more careful then than they are now. Did you really like those awful war-campaign shows they made me do?"
"Of course I did! You had the girls and the Hitler fight and just—the song man! That song was the catchiest damn thing I'd ever heard. I used to bug Frank because I hummed it all the time."
"Roosevelt. You know, the president? Anyway, yeah those were awesome. I didn't get to see too many because I kept going back and forth between home and the European theater but I got the reels."
Steve blinked and leaned forward a bit. "You fought in the war?"
America nodded, his head tilting to the side a little. "Yeah, of course I did. Flew planes mainly, but I did some action in France." His eyes seemed to clear of their slight confusion as he took in Steve's face. "Nations always fight in their wars, just kinda part of everything. I mean, not all the time but so many of our people are fighting we're kinda compelled to—plus, all the Allies were fighting while the war was on their own soil, there was no way I couldn't help them out when I was still whole, for the most part anyway. You should've seen England man—I mean, he was getting bombed nightly for so long and he just kept on—there was no way I was going to let him go through all of that while I did nothing. He would've given me endless shit for decades…well, more so than he already does."
Steve thought for a moment saying something about what he'd overheard, about what he'd been told about his relationship with England so America knew he didn't need to censor himself. How he didn't need to brush off how horrible it must've been to see someone he cared for so hurt, even if he didn't know when they actually got together, but the moment didn't seem right. America had started talking about the planes he used to fly and Steve had to admit, that was definitely a topic he felt more comfortable with. He was never very good with emotions and talking about feelings, Peggy and Bucky would definitely attest to that. So, he didn't say anything; he laughed with America and chimed in about the planes and music and fashion of an era more than seventy years past. Those were things he could talk about and not feel like he was tripping over himself, not feel like he was saying the wrong thing without meaning to because he had no idea how to say it.
But, he decided then and there, regardless of the prejudices he'd had surrounding him when he'd been younger, and what still existed on the edges of his mind if he's being honest with himself, he'd let America know that when he did decide to tell him, he wasn't going anywhere.
The fifth time they meet is really more like the tenth or eleventh, but it's a time that really seems to matter so he calls it the fifth. America was visiting S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters again and was tinkering around with some of Tony's gadgets while the Stark CEO was busy making updates to his suit; Steve was keeping him company, mainly because he genuinely enjoyed America's company, and also because he was more entertaining than any other S.H.I.E.L.D. operative he could have wasted the day with. They had just come back from a mission of sorts and had been given the day to 'recharge.' Steve didn't really need to recharge from what had been routine scouting mission, apart from Tony's suit malfunctioning and firing off a missile that is, and had been happy to see the nation at headquarters. It had definitely brightened an otherwise sure to be dull day.
The only problem was that America seemed a bit glum. It was an odd look on him, Steve had decided as he watched him pull apart and put back together one of Tony's thingamajigs with no excited chatter. It was weird. He drummed his hands on top of the counter for a moment before he took a deep breath and decided to just go for it, emotional constipation be damned. "So what's going on?"
America blinked up at him with a quizzical look on his face. "Hmm?"
"You're acting like your dog just died, what's going on?"
The nation bit his lip and he looked back down with a mumbling answer. "Nothing."
Steve was not impressed. "Bullshit. You're usually so hyped up you'd think you'd just inhaled sugar—so I'll ask again, what's wrong?"
America glanced back up and let out a noisy sigh as he rubbed at the bridge of his nose under the glasses. "It's stupid—I don't know why I let stupid Russia wind me up but he just does and I was bragging about how I've got like the best superhero league around and how's it so awesome that even people in his own country jump ship for it and he got pissed and called me fat and then I said he had a big nose, which is true you know, and then he told me that if you really knew about me you'd be grossed out and I sad that wasn't true and you wouldn't care that England is a guy, which I think I kinda forgot to mention because it really isn't an issue for nations but I know it is for you guys and shit, but then I couldn't stop think about how he's probably right because things were a lot different back in the forties and I really don't want you to not call yourself Captain America anymore because you're like disappointed or something!"
Steve blinked and wondered how America got all of that out in one breath for a second before he took in just how truly upset America looked. He had grown to realize that nations were more like their people than he had originally thought and had happiness, hopes, fears, and thoughts independent from their people's, but he had never expected to see America showing his insecurities. Or to have them; he was so sure of himself all the time, it hadn't really crossed his mind that he would ever feel unsure of himself. Especially because of Steve himself, because of his approval—he wondered just how much Russia actually said and how much of it was America's own doubts he'd been nursing from the start. He felt a rush of affection for his country, something that was separate from pride or admiration; he felt compassion and friendship, not unlike what he felt for Bucky, for America, for Alfred.
It wasn't 'something like friends' anymore, they were friends and the words he'd found so difficult to say before came easy to him in the wake of that realization. "Al, first off, breathe. Second, don't listen to Russia; I'm not disgusted. You can't help who you love and—and trust me, I'm not gonna knock it if you've found it with someone, whoever that is. You gotta just be thankful for love when it finds you, I know that better than most."
America blinked and Steve couldn't help the grin. "You—you called me Al."
"That's what your friends call you, right? It's what you said. Besides, not like I can call you America in public, might cause a matter of national security."
America nodded and then slowly his smile returned until it had almost overtaken his face. The next thing Steve knew, he was wrapped in a very strong hug and America was lifting him clear off the ground. Only for a second but still, the nation was damn strong to be able to lift him. He patted America's shoulder, a little awkwardly because the last time he'd really been picked up like that, it had been Bucky and he'd been three times smaller than he was now, but the nation appreciated it anyway.
"I always knew you were fucking awesome. For more than just the name!"
Steve just laughed in response and shrugged.
Steve wouldn't say he was used to meeting nations, but he'd met a fair few since America had befriended him. He'd met Canada, obviously, but also Japan, Lithuania, Mexico (who had mainly visited just to yelled at America about the glasses), and even Germany once, who Steve had expected to hate on principle alone but ended up being a great drinking buddy with all of the Avengers once America dragged him out to a bar. It was still a bit of a shock when he met one and he'd have to remind himself not to stare because while he had grown used to America, it was different meeting other nations and being reminded how much more complex the world literally was. Still, even though he'd gotten used to that initial shock of 'oh, you're this nation,' nothing really could prepare him for when he met England.
He'd been sitting outside the S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, enjoying the relatively cool autumn day away from Tony and his annoying flashiness, Thor and his grating broodiness, and Fury and his, well, Fury-ness when he heard a throat clear to his left. He turned and looked up at a young man, mid-twenties probably, with pale skin, shaggy blond hair, very distinctive eyebrows, and the greenest eyes Steve had ever seen. He was dressed in a smart fitting business suit, so maybe not a college student, maybe an intern with S.H.I.E.L.D. or something, and had a briefcase under one arm; the other was resting along the back of the bench Steve was sitting on. He was staring down at him with a slightly bemused expression and cleared his throat once, revealing a deeper voice than Steve would've pegged the guy for. Steve sat up a bit straighter and offered a small, friendly smile.
"No." He had a British accent—cross that, an English accent (Peggy had definitely been clear about there being a difference). Steve found himself wondering what a Brit was doing outside of S.H.I.E.L.D. "No, I'm not lost—I'm actually looking for you, I think. I assume you're Steve Rogers? Or do you prefer Captain?"
"Steve's fine—I don't think I know you though. Are you with MI5 or something? You probably want Fury in that case."
The man shook his head and sat down primly on the edge of the bench beside Steve. "No, I'm not looking for Mr. Fury, I am looking for you. My name is Arthur. Arthur Kirkland. I believe you know my idiotic excuse for a partner, Alfred?" Oh. Oh shit this was—
The man, England, nodded primly with a small, kind smile that softened his face. "I'd appreciate it if you don't go shouting that about though."
Steve shook his head vehemently and sat up straighter, leaned forward a little bit but not too much that he crowded the nation. He had an inexplicable urge to try to flatten his hair or fix his wrinkled shirt and he was suddenly very nervous. He felt like he was meeting a girl's parent or something, which was ridiculous because it wasn't like he was the one seeing America. And he blinked that image out of his head before it could take too much of a hold because no, just no. England just sat silent and watched him calmly, no doubt letting him get used to the idea of who he was and Steve was struck at how much easier England handled this part than any other nation he'd met before, except maybe Japan. But then, he had been doing it for so long since England had been around for thousands of years, he was probably more used to it than younger nations.
"It's, ah, it's really nice to meet you. I've heard a lot about you." Seriously, why was he so nervous? England shook his head and gave a small, rueful smirk.
"I'm sure you've heard a good deal, hanging about America as much as you do. And I'm sure quite a lot of it is a load of rubbish—I'm not nearly as nice as he paints me out to be." Steve was about to protest when he saw that England was still smiling, still teasing a little bit, and he let out a breathless laugh along with his nerves.
"Well, he did say you cook horribly."
"Yes, well, he's hardly one to talk, stuffing burgers into his mouth like a human garbage disposal." Steve laughed again and nodded his head in agreement. There was something just wrong about how America could eat fifteen hamburgers in one sitting and not get sick—he never thought anyone would've been able to eat Thor under the table, but America had proved him wrong. England chuckled softly before he focused his gaze back on Steve, a rather serious look on his face. "He really admires you, you know. You did a great thing in the war and you're doing a number of great things now, despite what you've lost."
Steve felt a warm flush spread across his neck and ears at the frank, unbiased praise and he started to try and respond, to brush off the words or self-deprecate, but nothing came to him. England shook his head once to stop him from attempting a second time. "You did, it's stupid to refute that. America would have been devastated if that jet had delivered the bombs and—I'm grateful for what you did for him. For your sacrifice. And I'm even more grateful you indulged his moronic tendencies and actually agreed to be his friend."
Steve shrugged, embarrassed and a little uncomfortable under the probing, intense look. "Yeah well, it was mutual. He's—he's helped a lot with adjusting. And he toned down the hero-worship stuff eventually."
"Of course he did. I told him to stop terrorizing you like a love-addled adolescent girl and that he'd never earn your friendship if he kept putting you on a pedestal." England quirked an eyebrow at him and Steve couldn't help but think it looked like one of those fuzzy caterpillars. "He forgets himself sometimes, allows himself to get caught up in his own excitement and forgets that he's not unlike a whirlwind in that state."
It caught Steve with how softly, how knowingly England said those words and he felt something warm bloom in his chest at the sound, at the look on his face. "Well, thanks then."
"You're welcome." They were silent for a moment before England cleared his throat and popped open his briefcase. Steve looked over at him as he rummaged around through the papers and files, muttering a little to himself, to low for Steve to hear, before he pulled out a thick, manila folder with a single name on it. His breath caught in his throat when he read what it was.
"Where—how did you—?"
"Alfred asked me if I knew anything about her." England looked down at the folder and slipped out a black and white picture from inside. It was of Peggy, pretty as a picture, in her military uniform, staring up at him through the picture, her slight, hidden smile on her lips. "He said that it might help if you knew how her life turned out, what she did after the crash. Closure or some rot like that—I know for a fact that it doesn't always help, but if you think it will, it's the least I can do."
Steve reached out and took the photo from England's hand, running his thumb softly along the edge of her hair. "I think—I think it might, actually."
England nodded and handed over the manila folder, a sympathetic, but not pitying, expression on his face. Steve took it wordlessly, his hand resting over England's for a moment before the nation pulled it away. "Thank you."
"Captain, you saved me just as much Alfred, it is the absolute least I can do. A country can survive only so long as his or her people can call themselves by our name, and sometimes not even then. I have no doubt Schmidt would've succeeded if it had not been for you." He tugged his hand back, a little firmly but not unkindly and wiped it on his pants before he checked his phone and stood up again. "She loved you; very much I imagine, and it took an exceptional man to allow her to move on. She'd be just as proud of you now as she was then, but she wouldn't want you to live with your heart in the past. She'd want you to be happy—just something to keep in mind in the days to come, Captain."
Steve didn't respond, but he nodded before looking back down at Peggy's picture, a sad smile crawling across his face that was only half from regret and growing into mostly remembrance. She would have said something like that—she'd never been one for wallowing and she wouldn't have tolerated it out of him. He took a deep breath and slipped the picture inside the folder before he tucked it under his arm and pushed back up to his feet. England was shorter than him by a little, but that didn't diminish him at all, if anything, it just emphasized the strength in his shoulders. England wore his age much more openly than America did. "I'll try to remember that."
"See that you do. I'd hate to have to chat about this again; you seem like a bright lad though, I'm sure I won't need to. Now, I'm sorry to say I have to be going. I do have a prior engagement I must be off to, I was just lucky in actually being able to catch you for a moment before. I expect we'll see each other again though, down the road."
"Right. Cheers, Captain."
Steve gave him a wave in response to the respectful head nod and watched him walk off. He was really wasn't surprised when he saw America burst out of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s front door (he'd been visiting with the Secretary of Defense and Fury that day) and wrap him in a tight hug, lifting England off the ground with ease. England appeared used to it and didn't flail; instead, he leaned back a little bit, steadied his hands on America's shoulders, and met America halfway for a quick kiss. Steve watched and was struck how it didn't look any different than when he saw the English girls kiss the American soldiers whenever they shipped off; he thought it would be different, but it really wasn't. America eventually set England down after he was swatted on the shoulder a few times and he took the older nation's hand in his own, swinging it happily between the two of them. Steve watched them walk away until they were out of sight and looked back down at the folder in his hands.
He smiled and flipped it open as he walked back inside the building and began to read.
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