The next morning, they were up early. They were checking out, so were showered and packed up before 10 am. Ginny had booked them at the Fallsview Hotel in Niagara Falls for that night, but before they left, they had a soldier to honour.
Ginny and her dad had usually gone to the Brock St. overpass in Pickering during the Afghan war, so she was greeted warmly by those she knew when they arrived.
Steve hadn’t known what to expect, and at first, he thought there was a little bit of a festive atmosphere; old friends greeting one another, catching up. But under the friendly chatter, there was an air of solemnity.
Someone came around and handed them each a small, paper flag. Steve looked at the red maple leaf for a moment.
“This has only been our flag for about 50 years.” Ginny said. “The leaf has 13 points, representing each of the provinces and territories at the time.”
“At the time?” Steve enquired.
“They’ve since split the Northwest Territories to form Nunavut.” she answered.
There were several large flags and most people wore their patriotic pride in the form of CANADA sweatshirts or hats. There were also a few people in uniform.
Aaron and Zack found them and introduced Amy. Ginny hugged them all warmly. Zach was in Aaron’s arms and wiggled and squirmed until Aaron handed him to Steve. Zach wrapped his legs around Steve’s waist, laid his head on Steve’s shoulder and popped his thumb into his mouth, watching everything around him with wide eyes.
Amy gave Ginny a smile. Yes, Ginny thought, I know. Definitely dad material.
Steve turned to Aaron to answer a question.
“Congrats.” Amy said to Ginny. “You did nicely. Captain America, eh?”
Zach heard this last bit and chimed in, “and Captain Zach.”
Amy and Ginny laughed as Steve said, “Together again. Where’s your shield, little guy?”
“A’ home.” Zach said and popped his thumb back into his mouth.
Steve patted his back. “That’s cool. I didn’t bring mine either.” Zach smiled around his thumb.
Someone called out, “They’re coming!” and everyone moved to the east side of the bridge. They could just see the lights of the police escort in the distance. They could also see that the next overpass was as full of people as theirs was.
With all the commotion, suddenly Zach wanted his mother, so Amy took him from Steve and settled him on her hip to watch.
As the motorcade drew closer, the festive atmosphere on the overpass died down.
When the motorcade approached, many people, both in and out of uniform, held a salute. There was dead silence on the bridge.
Once the motorcade had passed, the group moved over to the west side of the bridge to see their fallen hero on his way. There were salutes from many in the crowd, including Steve and Ginny.
The motorcade quickly drove out of sight into the city, but no one spoke or made any move to leave.
Then someone started to sing “O Canada”, in a clear strong voice and soon almost everyone had joined in.
Ginny let her tears fall freely as she sang out the words of the anthem that held so much meaning for her, in honour of one who had made the ultimate sacrifice.
Steve had heard the anthem before at ballgames, but didn’t know it well enough to sing it. But as he listened, tears flowed down his face, too.
He put his arms around Ginny from behind and she hugged his arms to her as the anthem was started again. Ginny smiled. There were several verses but no one ever learned more that the first one.
They stood and watched the traffic go by below them for a long time as the people around them started to disperse. Aaron and Amy gave them both hugs and took a sleeping Zach home.
Finally Steve and Ginny made their way back to their car hand in hand. They were both lost in their own thoughts so Steve drove them in silence back through the city towards Niagara Falls.
“Thank you.” Steve said, finally.
Ginny looked at him and smiled. ”Now you’re an honorary Canadian.” she said.
Steve smiled back at her, then focused on the road for a few minutes.
“You know, I could see myself living here.” he said.
Ginny looked up at him in surprise, then turned to look out the front window.
“You know something, Rogers.” she said, finally. “Sometimes you say things that just make my heart want to burst.” She shook her head in wonder.
Steve glanced at her, then reached over and stroked her thigh. “That’s how I felt watching you on the bridge. You and everyone else.” he said. “I thought I’d feel like an outsider, but I didn’t. It was all very…unexpected.”
She was quiet for a moment. “It’s been a while since I’ve been to one. It was pretty powerful to be part of that…part of a nation mourning one who died safeguarding our way of life.”
“It felt bigger than that.” Steve said. “I’m not Canadian and I felt part of it. Like mourning a brother.”
“For you, he’d be a brother in arms. You said that soldiering’s the same no matter which nation you fight for.” she said.
“Yes, but it was more than that, even.” he said, taking a moment to try and order his thoughts.
“Back home, they don’t tell us when they’re bringing our fallen soldiers back. It’s all hush, hush. During World War II, you knew when one of the local boys had been killed. Everyone went out to the service, and helped the family. This feels like that.” he finished, lamely, not sure he had gotten his point across.
“Like community.” Ginny said, quietly.
“Yes,” Steve said, “like community. It helps to know that others are there to support you in grief.”
Ginny smiled to herself. “So you could see yourself moving up here and being Captain Canada?” she asked.
“Or maybe just plain old Steve Rogers.” he answered. “I’ll get a job as an artist somewhere or consult with the Canadian army and settle down with you to raise our kids.”
Ginny basked in the warmth of that thought for a moment. A little house in one of the neighbourhoods in Montreal or Toronto. Or maybe even across on the west coast. Her friend, Alice, had moved to Victoria and was always bugging her to come out and stay.
“You’re a dreamer, Rogers.” she said, sadly.
He didn’t say anything for a moment, lost in his own imagination.
Finally, he sighed and said, “I know. I guess there’s no getting away from being an Avenger, is there?”
“It’s okay, you know.” she said, stroking the back of his neck. “I know what I signed on for.” She moved her hand around to stroke his cheek and he turned and kissed her fingers.
You just did it again, St. Pierre, he thought as he felt joy swell in his chest.
This beautiful woman was more than his match; she was his mate. Just when he had given up all hope of finding one, she had walked into his life with her purple hair and made him feel truly alive for the first time since he’d woken up in the 21st century.
Now, with their whole lives ahead of them, he had reason for joy but also reason for fear. She was his heart and he didn’t know if he could ever truly be alive if he lost her.
Ginny had found some Billy Joel on the radio and was chair dancing to it. Steve saw a rest stop up ahead and pulled off.
Once he had parked, he leaned over and gave her a deep, soulful kiss.
Ginny’s hand was on his cheek when they parted.
“What was that for?” she said, smiling.
“Do I need a reason to kiss you now?” he asked in mock gruffness.
She searched his eyes. She sensed something deeper in this kiss.
“No, you don’t.” she said and kissed him quickly again before getting out of the car.
He watched her for a second before undoing his seatbelt and following her into the rest station.
Author’s Note: Although this is how I wanted the story to end, it didn’t feel quite complete. Oftentimes at the end of a book, I have felt that I’d like to know what happened next for the characters. So I have written 2 epilogues, which I will be posting over the next two weeks that tie up some of the loose ends.
Thank you so much for reading! I will be starting to post another novel in the new year.