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a minute

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            “I won’t wear a white dress,” she said.

            Steve cocked his head, spatula pushing around the pale edges of a pancake, testing the boundaries. As she sliced a strawberry, he said, a teasing lilt to his voice, “What about a red, white, and blue dress?”

            “I think you’d look stunning in one, Rogers,” Nat laughed, popping a strawberry piece into her mouth.

            Pancakes on plates, whip cream and strawberries messily placed on top, Nat said, “Y’know, we could always head downtown right now. Get married in our pajamas.”

            His foot brushed against her bare ankle and she tapped back, trapping his toes underneath her heel. Pleased to be caught in her web, he bit down a smile, “That what you want, Romanoff?”

            “Is that what you want?” she asked, her voice soft, knowing he wouldn’t make her be anything other than herself.

            “I want,” he paused, his gaze raking from the red curls a tangled mess around her ears, to the pale shoulder slipping out of her nightshirt to the chipped black nail polish on her fingers. His summer blue eyes were clear, gentle. “I want a lifetime with you, Natasha.”

            She reached across the table, their hands joining in the center. Lips quirked up, her eyebrow raised, she said, “Save all that for the vows, Steve.”


            At the courthouse, Nat wore a pair of black jeans and a black button-down shirt. A charm necklace clung close to her slender neck, five colored beads representing her first family. She fiddled with the central arrow charm, her eyes darting around the mostly empty room. Steve, in his blue shirt and slacks, followed her gaze. He lifted an eyebrow and she shook her head.

            They grasped hands, repeated the vows, the golden sunlight of the late afternoon haloing around their forms. They couldn’t keep the stupid smiles off of their faces, this minute only for them. Rings slipped on their fingers, they walked out together, the world a little rose-tinted around them.


            After, Steve started to say, “So…”

            Nat sighed, “I know, I know.”

            “We’ve only been married for less than thirty minutes,” he laughed, slinging his arm over her shoulders, “and we’re already talking about a do-over.”

            “Practice makes perfect,” she said. “Imagine how much of a fit they’d all throw if they found out we got married without them there, huh? Do you want to deal with that harassment for the rest of our lives? I might have to shoot one of the Hawkeyes--they’d never let it go.”

            Steve tugged at the end of a red curl, “Well, it was nice with just the two of us.”

            “Could be nice if it could stay that way,” she said, pausing before continuing, “At least for a little while longer.”

            “Tony probably already knows,” Steve glared, the Avengers’ Tower lighting up against the black of the night sky. She shook her head, wishing his pants had a back pocket she could stick her fingers in to. Her hand rested there anyway, a possessive satisfaction running through her veins.

            “America’s ass no longer,” she murmured under her breath.


            “I’m the maid of honor, right?” Clint signed.

            “Of course, who else?” Nat said, patting Lucky on his big, furry head. She smiled and crooned, “Who’s gonna be the cutest ring bearer ever? Who?”

            The dog, in obvious delight, wiggled with his whole body. His paws scrabbled up her legs, his tail beating a mile a minute.

            “I feel like you’re just using us for our dog,” Kate said, scrolling through her phone, the headlines declaring Captain Marvel’s return to Earth reflected in the wide lenses of her sunglasses.

            “With those instincts, Kate, you’ll be going places,” Nat said, kissing Lucky’s cold, wet nose. “Listen to Hawkeye’s gut, Hawkeye.”

            “My gut is saying we need pizza,” Kate elbowed Clint’s side. “Extra cheese and pepperoni.”

            “And anchovies,” Nat smiled beautifully, her eyes round and innocent.

            “Get out of my house,” Clint said, his hand movement betrayed by his laughter.


            “You’re getting married?” Tony lifted his welding helmet up, the sparks from his latest project fizzing out. “To Natasha?”


            “To Natasha?” Tony asked, looking for clarification.

            “Are you really gonna make me repeat myself?”

            “Is this a Catholic guilt thing? Y’know, since the two of you have been living in sin for--”

            “Tony,” Steve dragged a hand over his face. “I really don’t want to be doing this all day.”

            A sly smile on, Tony pointed out, “But you could.”

            “Is everything I say a joke to you?” he asked.

            “Absolutely,” Tony answered, immediately, without hesitation. He flipped the helmet back down, his voice muffled as he said, “Congratulations. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to advance science another eleven years into the future. So, get out.”

            Steve left, the sound of metal clashing against metal echoing down the hallways.


            “I will bring mead,” Thor declared, gathering them in a bone-crushing, suffocating hug. “Barrels of mead. And a feast will be prepared that will be talked of for centuries to follow.”

            “Thor,” Nat kicked into the solid meat of his thigh. Her teeth gritted around her words, sure that she had heard her ribs crack like glowsticks in her chest, “Can’t breathe.”

            “Please don’t kill my w--future wife,” Steve gasped out, managing to break the hold first.

            “Small wedding,” Nat wheezed, flapping a hand out in Thor’s direction as he flew away, on a quest to cater their wedding.

            “We’re going to have to donate some food to charity,” Steve predicted.


            “You do know,” Fury said, stroking an old orange tabby cat, his eye fixed on Steve. The scars around his eyepatch seemed particularly garish in the darkness of the apartment. “If anything happens to Romanoff and you’re at fault…”

            “I’m a dead man?” Steve suggested, clicking the lights on one by one.

            Fury chuckled, “Oh, you’ll wish you were dead.”


            Bruce gave them a simple, “Congratulations.”

            He hugged Natasha and patted Steve on the back, carefully balancing Hiro-Kala on his hip. He smiled, “I’m happy for you guys--so happy! I’ll try to get Caiera to come down to Earth for the wedding.”

            Shielding her eyes from the sun, Nat scanned the wind-swept field, “Where’s Skaar? I thought you brought both of the boys this time?”

            Whipping around, his eyes going wide, “Oh, no.”


            Nat curled up like a cat in Steve’s lap. Her actual cat, Liho, glared at them from behind the computer screen. She fought back a yawn, pressed her nose into the crook of his neck, as she asked, “What time is it in Wakanda?”

            “One in the afternoon,” Steve said, checking the time. “He should be on his lunch break.”

            Bucky answered the video call, the dark bags under his eyes paler through the screen. A crooked grin ghosted over his mouth, hidden by a well-trimmed beard. Without preamble, he said, “You two finally call to announce the nuptials?”

            “Who told you?” Nat asked, her tone deceptively calm.

            “I bet it was Stark,” Steve muttered.

            He rolled his eyes, his fingers tapping somewhere offscreen, “Nah. Sam told me after he heard it from Clint. I’m the best man, right?”

            “I’ve been forsaken,” she groaned. “By my own Hawkeye.”


            “I’ll take care of him,” Natasha promised, laying a bouquet of chrysanthemums on a grave. The black-lipped smile and dark eyes of Margaret ‘Peggy’ Carter peered back at her from a small circular picture. Throat tight, she swallowed down the lump forming there, “I’ll take care of Steve.”


            Natasha wore a black dress.

            A tulle skirt that reached her knees, the bust clinging tight, a sheer pattern decorating her back. Her red hair was tamed, the loose ringlets framing her heart-shaped face, her lips dashed with scarlet. She twirled in from of the mirror, en pointe, simply because she could. Her arms arced over her head, eyes closed, freedom crafted in movements once used to contain her.

            “You got a gun in that dress?” Fury asked as she took his arm. “Keys to a getaway car?”

            “No gun,” Nat said, smiling. “Couple of knives. Just in case.”

            “Just in case,” he agreed.


            It was a small wedding, in a park near the Avengers’ compound. The sun dipped low in the sky to paint the landscape gold much like that first wedding. Through the trees, the first streaks of red easily gave way to the bloom of twilight. Strings of lights were woven in the branches above their heads, growing to look more and more like fireflies as the night wore on.

            Clint walked in front of her, as maids of honor do, Kate on his arm. He whistled the tune of ‘Here Comes the Bride’ until Kate hissed at him to stop as they parted to stand on opposite sides of the aisle’s end--him on Nat’s side with Maria and Okoye, her on Steve’s side with Bucky and Tony.

            Natasha’s eyes did not prickle with tears as she stepped out, a secret layer to her smile. This wasn’t for them, she wanted to laugh as all of the guests stood. This wasn’t for Natasha and Steve, this moment, this wedding, was for their family. Gazing down the aisle, meeting Steve’s amused eyes, she knew he felt the same. Although she narrowed her eyes, she suspected the tear running down his face was for more than just show.

            In the crowd, she could see Carol and Maria R.’s little girl balancing on Drax’s shoulders, her moms switching their attention from the procession to her every few seconds. Dr. Strange stood with his hands in his pockets, ignoring the faces Tony was making at him. Caiera towered over everyone a hand lovingly placed on Bruce’s shoulder; a tired relief on their shoulders as their little monsters were back on her homeworld with a babysitter. Peter waved awkwardly as she passed and Nat waggled her fingers back, keeping a firm grip on the bouquet. Thor sobbed loudly, the rest of the Guardians looking particularly disgusted by his intense display of emotion.

            There were others, many others, in attendance, but Nat reached Steve before she could take them all in.

            He reached out a hand and she grasped it.

            For a minute, once more, they were the only two that mattered.