We Had a Date
The sun was setting as Steve Rogers walked through the cemetery gates.
He shoved his hands into the pockets of his jacket as a cool spring wind began to blow. The day had been bright and warm, the first promise of a summer soon to come. Steve had always loved this time of year. The way everything came back to life after a cold winter's sleep, trapped beneath snow and ice.
Like me, he thought. But he was no spring flower. He was just a man who'd once been a soldier, who'd fallen asleep and waken up in a world that wasn't his.
Steve walked slowly, not wanting to face what lay ahead of him. She had consumed his thoughts from the moment he opened his eyes. In this strange and scary new world, her memory had been the one thing he could cling to and be comforted by. He wasn't ready to let go of the last piece of his old life. He wasn't ready to say goodbye to her.
Unfortunately, his feet eventually carried him to the gravesite. The tombstone was polished grey granite. A dusty, empty vase sat by its side. Steve couldn't help but wonder how many years it had been there, waiting for someone to fill it with a flower. Finally, he forced himself to read the name on the tombstone.
Peggy Elizabeth Manson
Loving Mother, Grandmother, and Wife
Manson. Yes, Fury had told him she married a guy named Jimmy Manson about five years after Steve "died". They had four kids together, three girls and a boy. She'd named the boy Steve.
Steve knelt in the grass, his eyes glued to the name of the woman he'd loved. "Hey, Peg," he murmured softly. "It's me." The tears came unbidden to his eyes. He didn't try to hold them back. He let them cascade down his cheeks. "Sorry I'm late."
He could just imagine what she would have to say to that. No doubt she'd come right back with a remark on how men could never be trusted to be on time for anything. Just thinking about it brought a smile to Steve's face.
"That serum saved my life," he told her. "No human body could have survived the ice, let alone the crash itself. But the cold just preserved me, shut my body down like a bear in hibernation. Fury says I could have survived like that for another 25 years."
It felt so wrong to say that. By rights he shouldn't have been alive at all. He should have been there in ground with her, or an old man at her side.
Nothing had hurt more than to know she'd died only a year before he'd finally woken up. She'd developed cancer when she was in her fifties, but held on for another thirty years before it took her. Steve hadn't been at all surprised to hear that. Peggy was the strongest woman he'd ever known.
"If only I'd opened my eyes sooner, Peg. Then maybe… maybe we…" Steve's vision was blurry and his voice was thick with tears. "Maybe I could have seen you. One more time." He was met with only silence.
"I'm glad you found someone else." It killed him to say that, but it was true. "I never wanted to leave you. I'm sorry I caused you grief, and pain." He took a deep, shuddering breath. "But I'm glad you found someone who made you happy. That's all I ever wanted for you. That's what you deserved."
The sky was streaked with pink and orange. The birds in the trees cooed an evening song as the sun began to sink lower into the sky. Steve closed his eyes, picturing her face in his mind. He could still conjure up every little detail. The exasperated way she sighed whenever he did or said something stupid, her warm brown eyes… the aching sorrow in her voice when she'd said goodbye as he'd gone down with the ship.
"I love you, Peggy," he whispered mournfully. "I don't know if I ever told you that, but I did, and I do, and I always will." He could feel a sob rising in the back of his throat. "I wish you were here with me. Nothing makes any sense without you. I can't… I… I…" His voice broke and he trailed off. What could he possibly say? She was gone. Nothing would change that.
Steve suddenly noticed a patch of purple and white wildflowers growing at the base of a nearby tree. He pushed himself to his feet, sniffling, and picked them all, carefully, so as not to pull up any roots.
When he was done, he slid the bouquet into the long abandoned vase.
It was almost dark by then. The sky was a deep purple, with just a hint of sunlight on the horizon. A crescent moon hung silently in the sky, accompanied by one lonely star.
"I miss you, Peggy," Steve Rogers said as the peaceful night fell silently around him. "I always will."