“He doesn’t want me there.”
It had been Natasha’s argument for weeks. Tony and Pepper unsurprisingly called off the wedding they’d intended to have and almost two years later were finally ready to tie the knot.
“If that were true, why did you get an invitation?” Bruce always countered.
Natasha ducked her head with a sigh and Bruce watched her pick at the edge of said invitation.
“Some sort of cruel joke?” she said, her tone flat.
It was Bruce’s turn to sigh and he rounded the kitchen island to sit in the stool beside her.
“Nat,” he said quietly, but she didn’t move. “Please look at me?”
She hesitated a moment, but eventually lifted her head to meet his eyes.
“You can’t stay cooped up like this forever.” He paused. “It’s not healthy.”
“Who else is going to do it?” Her voice cracked a little and Bruce saw tears forming in her eyes.
He reached out, hesitating for a moment before resting his hand on her back. Her shoulders relaxed under his touch and he breathed a little sigh of relief.
“The world will be fine without you for a few hours,” he told her, running his hand up and down her back. “It’s not all on your shoulders.”
She was silent for a long time, her gaze unwavering. Bruce just waited, holding his breath until she eventually nodded, her lips quirking up slightly.
“Okay,” she said softly, her eyes drifting to the invitation once again.
Bruce smiled to himself and leaned in to kiss the side of her head. “Okay.”
Progress, he thought to himself.
Bruce checked his watch for the third time in as many minutes. If they were going to make it on time, they needed to leave soon and Natasha was nowhere to be found. He’d left her an hour ago to finish getting ready with a promise to meet in the lobby, but he was still waiting. Part of him wondered if she’d changed her mind, but she seemed genuinely excited about getting out of the compound, even if it was for one night.
He checked his watch again and decided to go and find her. It didn’t take long, as it turned out. He heard voices from the conference room where she’d set up shop and when he round the corner he saw Okoye’s hologram figure talking to Nat.
“It’ll be fine,” she said reassuring. “You should go and enjoy yourself.”
Bruce tried not to eavesdrop, but in the quiet compound it was hard not to.
Natasha bit her lip and smiled ruefully. “I know that.”
“Then what is holding you back?” Okoye asked.
Bruce hovered near the door, waiting for her answer. Her eyes found him and he offered a small smile which she returned.
“I don’t know.”
“Nat,” Okoye said softly, glance over her shoulder briefly at Bruce. “No one is asking you to forget, but you have to start living again at some point.”
Natasha was silent and Okoye continued. “Let this be the first step.”
“You’ll notify me if anything comes up?” Nat asked, looking away from Bruce.
Okoye let out a sigh, but nodded. “Yes.”
“Thank you,” she said, focusing back on the hologram. “And I’ll try.”
“That’s all I ask.” Okoye smiled and turned to Bruce. “Enjoy yourselves.”
He nodded and she disappeared with one last glance at Natasha.
“You ready?” Bruce asked, stepping into the room.
Natasha smiled, and this time it actually reached her eyes.
She stood from her chair and rounded the table. “Yeah.”
Bruce took a moment to take her in, the breath caught in his throat. Her dress was simple, dark blew swaying around her knees as she walked. She’d pulled her hair back into a neat ponytail and mostly covered the dark circles under her eyes with makeup.
“You look beautiful,” he blurted before he could stop himself.
“You don’t look so bad yourself, Doc.” she teased with a smirk.
Bruce rubbed the back of his neck. “Thanks. We should really hit the road before we’re late.”
“This is Tony’s wedding we’re talking about,” she laughed, looping her arm around his elbow. “You really think it’s going to start on time.”
Bruce chuckled and followed her lead back down to the lobby.
“Call it wishful thinking.”
Natasha hummed in response and Bruce couldn’t help thinking it was going to be a good night.
The ceremony was small, only about a few dozen guests sitting in mismatched chairs across the beside the lake Tony chose to build his new home on. Bruce sat, arm pressed against Natasha’s, watching the pair declare their love like they’re the only two there. There are tears in his eyes when they finally kiss and a sniffle beside him informed him he wasn’t alone.
They set up a tent for the reception with a live band and dance floor. Tony and Pepper disappeared for awhile, but eventually made their rounds.
Bruce and Natasha were seated near the back with a couple of distant relatives who were taking full advantage of the dancefloor, leaving them alone most of the evening.
“Glad you two could make it,” Tony said cheerfully as he approached their table.
“Thanks for inviting us,” Bruce said, shaking his hand.
He watched Tony and Nat exchange a look and nod at each other before Tony smiled again.
“Enjoy the party you two,” he said before leaving to join Pepper once more.
Natasha blew out a breath beside him and Bruce bumped his shoulder against hers.
“Are you okay?”
Natasha glanced at him and nodded. “I am.”
Bruce smiled. “Are you hungry?”
She shook her head. “I haven’t heard anything from Okoye.”
“Isn’t that a good thing?” he asked with a soft chuckle.
“I guess,” she admitted, her lips pursed.
She looked out at the people on the dance floor, finding Tony and Pepper among them. She smiled softly.
“They look happy,” she commented.
Bruce watched the pair dance together and smiled too. “They are.”
“Why’s it so hard for the rest of us,” she asked, her voice almost too quiet to hear over the thumping beat of the song.
Bruce took a moment to think about it. It was a good question. Tony left the compound and moved on in what felt like an instant. Bruce thought that had more to do with his ability to keep his fear and guilt tucked away from everyone else. Most days it was a struggle, but Bruce was managing.
“I don’t know,” he finally said, frowning.
She leaned her head against his shoulder. “I didn’t mean to ruin the mood.”
“You didn’t,” he promised. Nothing could.
The night was coming to an end, most of the guests taking their leave as the band played a string of slow songs. Tony and Pepper moved together, swaying on the dance floor surrounded by a handful of other couples.
“It’s getting late,” Bruce said, looking down at his watch.
“Dance with me,” Natasha said, the first thing she’d said in almost an hour.
She stood up and held her hand out for him and he took it without hesitation.
He followed her to the dance floor as the song changed and she wrapped her arms around his neck, burying her face in his shoulder. She held him tight, flush against her as they swayed together in place. Bruce slid an arm around her waist, his other hand resting on her back.
“Thank you,” she whispered, her breath warm against the side of his face.
Bruce smiled softly, but shook his head. “You don’t need to thank me.”
Natasha pulled away enough to look him in the eye. There were tears sparkling in them under the twinkling lights, but they were different than before.
“Where else would I go?” He asked, raising an eyebrow.
“I figured it out,” she said, resting her head back on his shoulder.
“They have each other,” she said, clinging to him tighter.
Bruce sucked in a shaky breath and closed his eyes, leaning his head against hers.
“And you have me,” he promised as they continued to sway together even after the music stopped.