another place, another time
I had searched for so long that I had nearly given up hope of seeing her again. So many worlds, so many different timelines trying to find one where she still lived and remained the same person I had known.
No mean feat given the infinite options I had been granted access to.
When the time had come to return the Stones to their proper places in the past I volunteered much to the surprise of the rest of my team. Tony and Sam had been especially concerned considering I should still have been grieving over her loss.
And, I could admit now, I had still been in denial. No, she hadn't been the only loss that day, but for me, she had been the most personal.
She'd been with me through so much.
As an Avenger.
On the run when the Accords had been put in place.
Yes, she'd followed me... us into exile and while the day-to-day living had been hard, it had also been joyous. Living and fighting side-by-side and doing what the "official" Avengers seemingly could not and actually helping people and attempting to make the world a better place.
And then an alien ship had arrived in the skies over Manhattan.
The Battle of Wakanda had been horrific, but we'd both survived, more than a bit broken, but still together.
She had held onto hope better than I and, in the end, she'd been proven wise to have done so.
The remaining Avengers had come back together after five long years for one last attempt to fix the universe we'd helplessly watched be shattered.
Because of her and her willingness to do what needed to be done.
After Banner in his Hulk form had returned everyone who'd been Snapped away, Thanos had appeared. An earlier version of Nebula having returned first and acting as the cuckoo in the nest.
In the ensuing battle my girl, my ever so mortal Warpath, had rescued the Gauntlet during the fight between Thanos and Danvers, and instead of returning to the game of keep-away we would ultimately lose, she had used it.
Sacrificing herself for the good of everyone else.
Yes, she most certainly knew it would kill her.
She had always considered herself expendable if it meant saving us, the Avengers, so that we could fight another day.
Thanos and his troops, displaced in time, now became displaced in reality. The fate previously visited upon half the universe had become his own, leaving nothing but dust behind.
I had mere moments to tell her that she'd saved us all before she'd breathed her last, her body going limp and lifeless in my arms.
If Thanos hadn't already been removed from the playing field I would have killed him right then and there with my bare hands.
Instead, I howled my pain and loss into the depths of the universe.
That loss had struck my heart and soul with far more force than the one where we'd lost half of all life in the universe.
So, when the time came to return the stones to their proper places I came up with a plan.
When I had finished my task, instead of returning to a life without her I realized I could find another her.
The tech that had permitted us to time travel would also let me jump timelines, realities, alternate versions of this life.
In one of them, she had surely survived.
And I had died instead.
It turned out to be a bit more complicated than that. My first jump taking me too far away from my own timeline where she had never been an Avenger and only knew me through history books and the nightly news.
Keeping accurate track of time would prove to be nearly impossible while skipping through different timestreams, but I suspect it had taken years as opposed to mere months to even come close.
As I became more and more desperate to find a suitable reality, flipping through options like the pages of an extraordinary book, I began choosing at random and stumbled upon one where not only had she lived, but she had a child.
Or, rather, the child of the Steve Rogers who had lived here.
Had being far more accurate as, while he had survived the final battle at the Compound, he had apparently vanished while returning the Stones.
I could not only get my girl back but raise my child?
Then I discovered it to be a bit more complicated than that. Rogers had come back, but after going back to marry and live his life with Peggy Carter. He returned to the current moment by living through all of it. Staying on the sidelines and watching the inevitable events play out without interference.
His choice hadn't surprised me all that much as I'd once clung to her memory as well. Then I'd met Myla and while I occasionally missed the opportunity with Peggy, I had moved on and chosen to spend my life with my new love.
A love I had been unable to let go of and that had led me on this remarkable journey.
I took all due care and did my research before even considering approaching her. The elderly version of Rogers had learned of his child and endeavored to become part of their lives, with much resistance on her part as he had apparently not spoken to her since the events in Wakanda.
Her life here had been so different than the reality I knew, yet the more I learned the more I realized her heart remained the same and that maybe, just maybe, I could win her back.
Somehow I had to replace the older copy of me and justify my appearance being younger.
It all hinged on their Quantum Tunnel.
But first I had to deal with the other me.
All it took was a single conversation.
He took care of the access to the Tunnel, which I would not actually use, and then stepped back into his life of obscurity to live the remainder of his days in peace.
When I stepped out in front of Myla on that blustery March day I returned to the land of the living, my grief that I had tried so hard to lock deep inside of me, releasing its painful grip on my heart for the first time since she, that other she, had died in my arms.
I had another chance and I would risk anything to keep it.
My Myla. My Warpath.
My heart, my soul, my love.
Only to discover that while she still loved, anger had become her focus. At least with me.
In many ways we had to start from scratch, rebuild our relationship from the ground up, plus... plus I had to get to know my child.
This world both so different and so similar to my own. I had to learn who I had been here so I could react accordingly. I hated lying to her, but the deception had become absolutely necessary if I had any chance of winning her back.
I suspected she knew, if only subconsciously, that I seemed different because I had stepped into her Steve's life. Her ability to see those other versions of her life always presenting a risk, though the most significant one, the one I had come from, not able to give me away as her story had ended prior to my decision.
This Myla had noted the differences but logged them off to her Steve's time-traveling adventures.
I failed to disabuse her of that notion and attempted to do nothing to give nothing away. I refused to lose her a second time and wanted no part of wandering the realities in a potentially failing effort to find her again.
Plus, even though different in some ways from my Myla I quickly found myself falling just as head over heels in love with her.
Some days I still think about my Myla and the sacrifice she made, then I look at the woman seated near me, grumbling under her breath about the book she currently worked on, one about my life in this reality, and my mouth goes dry, my heart pounds with joy and happiness and all I want to do is sweep her up in my arms and hold her close for the rest of eternity.
Same people, two extremely different outcomes.
I had finally come home.