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Wed on the Fourth of July

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It was on one of those warm, idyllic summer mornings that Steve decided he needed to marry Tony.


To him, it was a simple matter of common sense. He had been in love with Tony almost since he came out of the ice, and the two of them had actually been dating for about seven years. Tony even referred to him, albeit jokingly, as his husband, and he had made it so that if it became necessary, (which Steve prayed it wouldn't, ever), Steve would get the company and Iron Man suits.


Why he thought Steve would be any good at running Stark Enterprises was beyond Steve himself, but he chalked it up to one too many battlefield head injuries.


At any rate, the two of them were, in the eyes of everything except the law, basically married; Steve had overheard Clint calling him and Tony "mom and dad" on more occasions than he cared to count, and he had even caught some of the Avengers using it to his face, (in a particularly memorable incident, the Vision had referred to him as "Mother Captain," and Clint had turned as purple as his suit from laughter. Steve had discreetly kicked him in the ribs while he was on the floor snorting and cackling.)


Hell, Hank even teased him about being the more prominent married couple in the Avengers, and he had been married to Jan for years, even before Steve had ever ventured into dating Tony, and Bucky was starting to actually refer to Tony as "Uncle Tony," much to a mix of Steve's amusement and chagrin. (Tony himself just seemed a bit confused, considering Bucky was technically older than him.)


In short, the entire superhero community, from the X-teams to the Avengers to the Young Avengers to the Fantastic Four and beyond--they all treated him like he was Tony's husband. And...Steve had never really stopped and considered how refreshing and wonderful that really was. It was like the entire world just assumed that they loved each other enough that marriage was just a given.


So why not get married? Steve mused, getting out of bed and padding over to the shower. It was a logical conclusion, really. And now it was completely legal; no "civil union" side-stepping or flat-out impossibility stood in his way. Now he just had to take a shower, get through the morning, and find an opportunity to propose to Tony.


Steve smiled to himself as he washed his hair and rubbed soap over his shoulders. Today was going to be the best day ever.


...

Tony didn't like getting up in the mornings. Even if they were beautiful. Even if birds were chirping gaily outside, and the streets of New York seemed bright, peppy, and clean. Even if his boyfriend was standing at the foot of the bed in a towel with a tray of breakfast in his hands.


Actually, no, he might get up for that.


Tony sat up in bed and fixated Steve with a look. The two of them had known each other long enough that there were times when entire conversations, queries, and arguments could be conveyed in a series of glances, expressions, and looks. This particularly look read, "It's only ten in the morning and you're waking me up for something like food?"


The look Steve gave him in return was "Jarvis made this, and if you don't eat it, you'll be in trouble. Plus I'll be annoyed if you don't eat."


Tony's last look was, "I hate it when you pull the "I love you and I know best" card, for real," and accompanied by a sigh of defeat as Steve set down the breakfast tray, scootching into bed beside him and wrapping his arms around Tony.


"Good morning, sweetheart." Tony said, voice still husky from sleep. "Thanks for guilt-tripping me awake, by the way."


Steve laughed softly and brushed his lips against Tony's cheek, nuzzling him and ruffling his hair.


"I do what I can." Steve replied primly. "Anyways, good morning to you too, Tony. Now hush and eat, okay?"


"You brought enough for the both of us?" Tony asked. Steve nodded; he had figured out long, long ago that Tony would eat much better if he was eating with someone else. It was why he dragged Tony upstairs for dinner every night, no matter if he was trying to subdue a robot brontosaurus or prevent a robot from going psychotic. Brontosaurs were herbivores, and thus, no threat, and robots could be dealt with later.


So with a soft sigh of amused exasperation, Tony dug into breakfast; three slices of French toast for him, smothered in syrup, sugar, and butter, a cup of coffee, (dark roast, hazelnut cream, two sugars, which, due to the amount of coffee Tony consumed, was a recipe Steve could recite in his sleep, having made it for him so often), a plate of strawberries, and apple juice, because sometimes Jarvis liked to pretend Tony was five. (Back when he was five, he had been a lot easier to handle, so Steve couldn't really blame Jarvis for this one.)


Steve had a smaller cup of coffee, (dark roast, french vanilla, and four sugars, because he liked his coffee sweeter. Tony had the kind of coffee Steve preferred memorized, but Steve wagered if he asked Tony what kind of coffee he himself liked, he'd stare at him blankly--for some reason, this made Steve smile, and he had to stifle it so as not to have Tony confused and blustering in the morning light), a bit of French toast, albeit not as smothered in maple syrup as Tony's, and a leftover slice of apple crumb cake from last night. (Steve figured Clint was awake and had talked Jarvis into that one, especially since there was a very sarcastic flag pin on the edge of the plate as well.)



It was a bigger breakfast than they normally ate, but Steve had planned it that way for a reason; he had wanted to give Tony a reason to sit in bed and relax for as long as possible. He was going to be stealthy about this proposal thing, after all--he needed to check when Tony would be out on patrol or in a meeting, so he could find the best possible opportunity to sneak out and buy a ring, and even besides all that...sometimes it was just nice to sit with him in bed, eat a nice breakfast, and talk.


"So, sweetheart," Steve began, stroking Tony's hair with his free hand and smiling as Tony mumbled with delight and nuzzled into his touch, "I was wondering if you had any plans for the day?"


"Mm." Tony replied, more focused on Steve's soft hand than anything else. "Gonna go out on patrol around noon. Then I gotta go to this meeting at two until..." He chewed his lip in thought. "Um, until around five. Tell Jarvis to have dinner around six, okay?" He asked. Steve nodded, and Tony continued on. "Anyways, I don't think I've got any other plans, to be honest. Hey, Steve...want to go out and see a movie or somethin'?" Tony asked, voice still gently slurred from sleep. Steve just smiled and kissed his forehead.


"Sounds lovely." He said. "Although I think something more romantic would be fitting..."


"I'll buy you a unicorn. Ten, in fact." Tony said. Steve snorted.



"You're kidding, right?" He replied. Tony just grinned and nodded, nuzzling into his shoulder and leaning against him.


"Yeah, I get you. We'll go out for dinner and head to Central Park for awhile. Sound better?" Tony asked. Steve nodded. He took Tony's face in his hands and brought him close, kissing Tony for a slow, gentle minute before he pulled away and smiled.


"It sounds like everything I ever wanted." Steve replied, and his sincerity actually made Tony blush. Steve just laughed and hugged him tight.


"That sounds lovely, Tony." He repeated. "Anyways, we can get up and get going--I don't actually have any plans for the day, so..." He smiled. "I think I might just sit on the terrace and draw. Maybe find the Young Avengers and convince them to model for me; I need to start the portrait of them I planned..."


"Good luck getting Tommy to sit still long enough, Steve." Tony said, stretching out in bed. "Anyways, yeah. Might as well get dressed." He agreed, getting up to move. Steve beat him to it, however, and Tony stopped getting out of bed immediately. He'd stay exactly where he was and enjoy the perfect view until Steve realized he'd left the towel behind in the bed.


...

The two of them headed down to breakfast only to find half the Avengers practically asleep in their cereal. Steve raised an eyebrow and clapped his hands together, making them all stir and look up at him like he was personally pissing in their cheerios or something. He sighed. He didn't know why he hung out with people who were most definitely not morning people.


"Good morning, everyone." Steve said, purposefully emphasizing it for his own amusement. (Hey, he might have been Captain America, but he was also human, and it was too much of a good opportunity to pass up.) "Where are the others?"


"Fnfpll." Clint muttered, mouth full of toast and face sandwiched against the table. Steve translated that to mean, "Still in bed, and for that matter, why the hell aren't I doing the exact same thing?"


"Okay, that's fine." He said. "Anyways, Tony's going out on patrol and I have to find the Young Avengers; anyone have any idea where they are?" He asked. Peter laughed.


"Uh, Steve? You know where they live. Just go and ask their parents." Peter said. Steve rolled his eyes.


"I would rather not get their parents involved, if at all possible." He said. "I know those kids are still out doing heroics, and I'm not having that fight again. Anyone know where they planned on being today?"


"Nrfp." Clint replied. Steve translated that as, "Kate said she was going to take them out into the Chelsea district for their new gear, and mentioned something about going out for lunch, too."


"Thank you, Clint Francis Barton, you've been very helpful." Steve teased, ruffling his hair as Clint snorted in annoyance.


"Fnrfp." Clint snapped. Steve knew without having to even translate that Clint had replied, "If you ever refer to my middle name again I will chew your face off and feed your balls to a rabid bear."


He just smiled and shook his head. "Thank you, Clint. I'll be heading out now." Steve said, grabbing a jacket just in case, kissing Tony's cheek before heading for the door. "Please be careful, sweetheart." Steve murmured. "You know I worry."


"Always." Tony replied. "I'll be fine." He promised. Steve smiled and let him be, turning on his heel and shutting the door behind him as he disappeared out into the Manhattan morning.


"The two of you are far too much diabetic shock for my morning coffee, sorry." Peter said, standing up and stretching. "I'm gonna go find MJ. She's probably still sleeping; knew she was always the smarter of us two..." He trailed off and headed upstairs, stumbling into the doorframe before he managed to make his way out of the kitchen.


Tony just rolled his eyes in amusement and stood up as well, leaving Clint, Carol, Jessica, Luke, and Bobbi still staring at the open door Tony had left behind him.


"So." Bobbi ventured. "Back to bed, hun?"


"Fnnf." Clint replied.


Bobbi didn't bother translating. She just picked him up and carried him back to bed over her shoulder, hearing the sounds of the other Avengers not even bothering and just crashing on the couch in the living room. Being around a morning person like Steve took a lot out of them.


...

William Preston Kaplan wasn't really one for being subtle. It was understandable, really--he had spent a lifetime of hiding who he was and being picked on mercilessly; now that he had self-confidence, a new, expanded family, and a loving, wonderful boyfriend, he generally tossed subtlety to the wind. Most of the time, it was pleasant; like being caught up in the middle of a sudden sunshower, being pulled along for a ride in a fast car, or a dance with a talented partner suddenly going from a waltz to a flamenco. Then there were times when Billy's lack of subtlety and love of expression got incredibly frustrating.


Theodore Logan Altman, also known as Dorrek VIII, God-Emperor of the Skrull, was much more muted in contrast to his manic magical boyfriend. He had a love for being outgoing, same as most teenagers, but despite that general token feeling, Teddy was much more content to fall to the background and keep the team together; he trusted Billy to make his way to the foreground and call attention to them just fine. In fact, not only did he trust Billy, he loved him very much--in fact, probably more than anyone else in the world. But despite all that, Billy could be frustrating.


In fact, Billy was being frustrating right about...now.


"Okay, I know you're giving me that look, Ted, but seriously, listen! I don't care if it feeds into the "well dressed and effeminate" gay stereotype, we're going to be like, super-important guests at the parade, and dammit, I'm going to look nice." Billy said. "Which means you're going to look nice too."


"Which is why we're here, so calm the hell down, Billy." Kate said, rifling through the tailor's samples. "We're all doing this together. Even if the rest of us are straight, save perhaps your brother--we're going to be there for you. Okay?"


"Yeah." Tommy agreed. "Totally have to be there for my dweeb brother--hey, wait, Kate, what did you just--"


"As I was saying, wardrobe is important." Kate said mildly, ignoring Tommy's sputters as she checked her watch. "Dammit, it's been a half-hour; I know there's seven of us, but you'd think the nicest bistro in the Chelsea district would cater a bit more towards a member of the Bishop family. I mean, Christ." She rolled her eyes. "At any rate, while we're waiting, I brought along a bunch of sample books and swatches for you two to flip through, since you're kind of the main show, and I have a dress for myself already." She explained. "Plus I'm loaning one to Cassie, so it really is just tuxes..."


"Should I bother wearing a tuxedo?" Jonas piped up from the table opposite them. Kate considered it for a second before she shook her head.


"No, it really clashes with your skin." She said. "I can find something cooler for you. A different cape..." Kate sighed. "I'm not a designer. Jan is. I have to go pester Jan."


"You know more about clothes than the rest of us, though." Eli remarked. Kate snorted.


"That's not really much of a feat, mind you." She said. "And I have to have at least a working knowledge, because every single one of those dresses I have to wear for charity functions? Totally unique."


"So then have Billy and Teddy borrow a couple of your dresses." Tommy piped up. "Simple and easy!"


"I want Tommy's legs to disappear, I want Tommy's legs to disappear..." Billy began to mutter half-jokingly under his breath as Tommy ruffled his hair affectionately.


"You're overworking yourself, baby bro." Tommy remarked. "You're not the only superhero that's gonna be there, y'know; I think Rictor and Shatterstar are actually showing up, so you'll have people you know there, and if grandfather wouldn't have a heart attack I might suggest it to him..."


"Yeah, but I have a lot to explain, what with the whole "Asgardian" fiasco." Billy remarked dryly. "I think they want to know if it was my subtle way of communicating "coming out" to the masses."


"Well if it was, no one's caught on to Thor or the Enchantress yet." Teddy replied. Billy inhaled his drink and began to giggle as Kate just laughed and pushed her sunglasses up to perch on her hairband.


"Thor looks like Fabio, I think they're just assuming at this point. Like how people just figured Ricky Martin was gay or that "Ground Control to Major Tom" was the real title of 'Space Oddity.'" Billy said. Tommy groaned.


"...Is it bad I just got all of your references? Am I going to loser hell, where all the My Little Pony toys are Gen 3.5 and the Transformers are straight out of Transformers Kiss Players?" He asked. Billy raised an eyebrow.


"If you're making those references yourself, I'm going to have to say yes, actually." He paused. "But you might just go to regular hell, what with all the snide remarks."


"You are just asking for them sometimes, Billykins." Tommy retorted. Billy rolled his eyes.


"You're such a putz, Tommy." He replied. In response, Tommy just gave him one of those looks that reminded Billy that on the inside, his twin never stopped mocking him.


"Before the conversation dissolves into discussions on which Transformers series, apart from the sacred cow of G1, was the best--for the record, I call Beast Wars--can we try to figure out the tuxes you guys want? The tailor has your measurements, he just needs to get an answer on the tuxes." Cassie said.


"I'm agreeing with you on Beast Wars, and yes." Teddy said. "Billy, quit bickering with your brother and look, would you? You're the one who talked me into this."


"Don't make me guilt trip you, Ted." Billy said. "Unless you've got a time machine that can get your cute butt back to before I suggested this within earshot of Miss Moneybags, I suggest you bring up your history grade and look at the samples."


Teddy just groaned and took the book from Kate, flipping through the samples as Kate looked up and sighed with relief.


"Oh, thank god, the food's here." She said.


Eli looked up and followed her gaze; however, he landed on a much different object in the distance, and his eyes widened with panic.


"Oh, damn." He muttered. "It's Captain America."


As the figure of Steve Rogers stood over their tables, Tommy just stared up at him and grinned sheepishly.


"Uh...Green Ranger power?" He said.


Chapter Text

Steve sighed and shook his head. "I'm not here to yell at you." He said, and was a little more than amused when everyone at the table immediately relaxed. "I need help, actually." He paused. He could probably tell them, it was only fair. "It's about Tony."


"Get a chair." Kate said immediately, gesturing to the empty table beside them. "You can have some of my salad, I'm not hungry." She pushed her plate towards him and put her chin in her palms, observing him carefully. "So, Steve, what's the problem?" She groaned. "Did Tony put his brain in a robot or something?"


Steve shifted nervously in his chair for a minute, which everyone privately and immediately regarded as adorable, all things considered. He blushed, looked away, and ruffled his hair nervously before finally sighing and giving in.


"I...I want to propose." He said. "I want to get married to Tony. As soon as possible. But I need an engagement ring. I was...wondering if you knew someone, Kate, because..."


It was like he had just told them all he was buying them each a unicorn. Billy actually squealed and pumped his fist, delighted and triumphant, as Teddy gave him a knowing look and smiled encouragingly. Tommy was discreetly hiding giggles in his napkin, and from the way Eli and Cassie had moved, Steve figured they had just high-fived under the table. It was only Jonas and Kate who regarded him seriously as he blushed bright red and realized he had probably just ensnared himself in a ridiculous trap.


"All right." Kate said, twirling a strand of her hair around her finger as she sunk deep into thought. "For the engagement ring, I know a jewelers' that owes me dad a favor. We'll go take a look once everyone's finished with lunch. Have you thought about actual wedding rings yet? You're not going to be getting real diamonds, I assume, because the human rights abuses involved are staggering, but don't worry, I know a man who does great zircons, or, hell, you could just use semi-precious, I mean--"


"Kate." Steve said, voice faint as he realized he really had hung himself with his own noose at this point, "Kate, it's fine. Just let me go there, and I'll pick something out--"


"Oh, I'm sorry, I must've heard you wrong." Kate said, feigning innocence as she turned her phone on and began to speed dial. "I heard that as "call Mary-Jane, Bobbi, Jessica, and Jan and let them know that you planned on proposing, because as married women, they'll be able to handle this better than you or I could, and I get to follow you around all day and boss you about, too. I think my hearing's going a little, my apologies."


Steve stared at her.


Then he put his head down on the table and unceremoniously whimpered.


Eli just put a comforting hand on his shoulder.


"I know." He said. "It's okay."


Steve couldn't hear him over the sound of his own quiet groans of agony.


...

It only took fifteen minutes for Steve to catch Mary-Jane's little cherry-red Beetle pulling up to the restaurant, the other two married Avengers, (save Bobbi, who was on patrol with Clint and Peter), in tow as Kate watched with a look of satisfaction across her features.


"I was going to start my portrait of you kids today," Steve said, wounded dignity apparent in his voice the entire time, "but I'm reconsidering whether or not I should add horns and a forked tail to Kate's portrait."


"Hey, the only reason horns are part of the devil's makeup is because of Christians demonizing the horned pagan gods, y'know." Billy piped up. He figured as Wiccan, he ought to at least keep tabs on this sort of thing. Steve rolled his eyes. Teddy just groaned in amusement, used to the spiels.


"Billy, I don't think Steve needs to be lectured on that right now. And we've all already heard it seventy times before, so I think your energy is better spent on looking for a tux." Teddy said. "Especially since we're going to need to look nice for the wedding."


"Who said I was inviting you?" Steve grumbled, but there was no malice in his voice as Kate just laughed in a manner far too evil for Steve's liking.


"Hey, Steve." Mary-Jane said, heading up to their table and leaning on his shoulder. "We're here to help."


"I noticed." Steve said, deliberately keeping his voice as dry as possible as Jan groaned.


"You're so cold, Steve Rogers, not even telling us you were getting married--I've been your friend since you got all de-frosted, and I was totally shafted on this. So not cool." Jan admonished him. Steve groaned.



"I woke up this morning and decided I wanted to get married. This wasn't something I've been planning behind everyone's back; it was supposed to be sweet and spontaneous, but since the world has decided I can't have nice things, I got you people." He muttered dejectedly. Kate just patted his head.


"Oh hush. You're letting me design your tuxedos, right? I will take it as an insult against myself, my ancestors, and any children Hank and I might have if you don't let me." Jan said. "Like, I'm talking "pox upon your houses" levels of insult."


"Will you stop if I do it?" Steve snapped. "I just want to get the engagement ring! Everything else, and I do mean everything else, can wait! Tony already agreed to a date tonight in Central Park, I have the entire damn thing planned out, but I need this ring, so if everyone could stop putting the carriage before the horse and let me pop the question in peace, that would be splendid." Steve paused. "Sorry. Lost my temper there."


No one had the heart to tell him that what he considered "losing his temper," was what the rest of the world considered "standard way of dealing with people."


"No offense taken." Kate said. "C'mon, everyone's done, we'll go to the jewelers'." She said. Steve shook his head.


"I can go by myself." He said. "Please, god, let me go by myself."


"I can go by myself." He said. "Please, god, let me go by myself."


Two minutes later, Steve was sandwiched in between Kate and Janet in the back of Mary-Jane's Beetle as Mary-Jane drove with Jessica riding shotgun.


...

"Oh, hey, Eli." Luke said, stopping in his lunch-making for both himself and Danielle as the rest of the Young Avengers, sans Kate, poured into the mansion. "What're you all doing here?"


They looked at each other. Steve had made them promise not to tell anyone else yet, so they thought up a lie and they thought it up quick.


"Oh, Steve asked us if we would pose for one of his portraits; so we're here until he gets back." Tommy said smoothly. They sighed in relief quietly; Tommy had the most experience with lying, and it was better than having him take his clothes off. Luke just nodded and supported Danielle on his hip as he balanced the plate with both the sandwich and baby food jars on it, settling her into her highchair as the kids all collapsed at the table.


"He's probably going to be out for awhile. You sure you don't want somethin' to eat? There's a ton of stuff in the fridge." Luke offered. Tommy nodded.


"Actually, y'know, if you've got something, I'd love it. I burn up food really fast." He confessed. "I can get up and get it myself, though, don't worry..."


As Tommy rifled through the fridge, Eli sighed, frustrated. "Weren't we going to go out on patrol today?" He muttered. "I'm not really set on modeling for the day."


"Aw, but you've got the ass for it." Tommy piped up, a bottle of soda in his clenched hand and a giant sandwich in his other hand as he sauntered over and sat beside Eli, snuggling up beside him with exaggerated gestures. Eli choked. Tommy just grinned.


"Nice pecs, too." Tommy remarked. "The serum works magic, huh...?" He said, practically draping himself over Eli's shoulder. "C'mon, handsome, I'm gonna take you to a gay bar."


"...Do you just enjoy getting a rise out of me?" Eli said, voice high and cracking under the pressure. Tommy shrugged.


"Well, yeah. But seriously, there's this nice one Billy told me about where nobody cards you, and I'm bored, so--"


"Under absolutely no circumstances." Eli snapped, blushing bright red as Tommy smirked at him. "I'm dating Kate!"


"I know." He said, straightfaced. "I'm hoping she'll walk in, see you swoon into my arms, and then I'll have you both." Tommy said. "It's a grand and glorious plan, right?"


"Tommy, you really are a whore." Billy said. Teddy bit the inside of his cheek to stop giggles. Tommy kicked Billy from underneath the table before sulking and taking a swig of his soda. Luke finally interrupted, trying not to laugh himself as he swatted Billy with the napkin in his hand.


"Quit it, kiddo, the baby can hear you." He reminded him. Billy laughed, reaching out and letting Danielle gum at his fingers as Luke turned to Tommy.


"Tommy, you quit teasing Eli, you'll give him a heart attack." Luke admonished him gently Tommy groaned, but he bit into his sandwich and started wolfing it down without further torment. Eli sighed in relief and slumped into his chair.


"You do this to push my buttons on purpose, you brat." Eli snapped. Tommy nodded an agreement as he downed half the grape soda in a single swig.


"You're just too easy." Tommy said. "It's like you've got a stick shoved so far up your ass I think it must poke your brain on occasion. Of course I'm gonna try to tease you." He grinned. "You, my friend, are like a tree in the storm; you're never going to bend, and I can make you break."


"Soul of a poet." Teddy remarked dryly.


Luke snorted, before he looked at Billy and, as the boys bickered, asked quietly, "Are all of them always like this?"


"Kind of." Billy replied. "Mind you, I think Tommy's just needling Eli because he's bored." He paused. "Plus, he's acting more intelligent than normal. Maybe someone hit him on the head."


"Whatever, bro." Tommy responded. "You're just jealous." He finished his sandwich and licked his fingers before tilting his head, deep in thought. "Hey, Luke, d'ya want to go play Tekken or something? Steve's gonna take forever."


"I'm a Left4Dead man, m'self." Luke confessed. "But I'm game for that if you are."


Tommy nodded and swigged down the rest of his soda before chucking the bottle into the garbage.


"Killer. Eli, you come with me, you're backup. Teddy, you too. Billy, Cassie and Jonas, you guys go do something else, because you suck at shooters anyway. Later, losers." He said, beckoning to Luke, Eli, and Teddy as he sped up the steps.


"Fine. I didn't want to play anyway." Billy muttered, pouting dramatically as Cassie shrugged.


"Whatever. C'mon, let's go to the library. There's a couple of books on magic there I think you could use." She offered. Billy perked up immediately and smiled, letting her and the Vision, who knew the halls of the mansion better than she did, lead him around and into the library for some peace and quiet.


In the back of his mind, he hoped Steve was enjoying himself; after all, he deserved at least that much.


Chapter Text

Steve was not enjoying himself.


Jan and Jessica had gone on ahead to discuss something with the jeweler; Kate had gotten a little distracted by tuxedo designs, and was now sitting in the corner, ogling the gems on the counter and considering things intently, writing them down in the margins of the scrapbook of designs. He himself had been left to sit out with Mary-Jane, looking entirely unthrilled by the whole situation.


"You need to loosen up about this." Mary-Jane remarked, clearly amused. "Steve, honey, this is your day. This is the moment where you get to say to the whole entire world that you are in love with Tony and he loves you back, and you are going to enjoy the hell out of that. It's a turning point in your life; dramatic, y'know?"


"I wasn't raised to do dramatics." Steve remarked dryly. "You know that." He sighed. "Tony and I aren't about dramatics. I'll save that for world-saving antics, thanks. I just...want something simple and sweet and wonderful. That's all."


He was so blatantly honest that it stunned Mary-Jane a little. Then she surmised that after all the time that she had known Steve Rogers, she shouldn't really be surprised that he oozed "amazing husband and devoted lover" from every pore in his body. Still...


She just grinned and ruffled his hair.


"Hey, mister." She teased. "You know what? You and I both know the world's a lot different now. And you and I both know Tony would love it if you showed him you cared as much as you could. Even if that means you're a little loud doing it."


"Tony knows I care." Steve said, his voice thick with emotion. "I have never let a day in my life pass by without letting Tony know I care about him."


"I know." Mary-Jane replied, her voice gentle. "But hey, this is your big moment." She sighed and smiled. "Steve, marriage isn't like a fixer-upper for every problem or whatever. And it's not the flashy end-all be-all to every problem. But you know what? To Tony, it is. He's constantly starving for affection, and to do something so public, so final, and so binding as to propose to him and let the whole world know the two of you are in love, and always will be...it would make him happy. He wants you to be romantic. He wants you to be big and flashy about it, and he wants you to let the whole world know. But he knows that's not who you are, and he knows that's not what you do, so he never asks it of you." She grinned.


"So I'm asking you." She said. "Make this as romantic as you can. Flowers. Candles. Chocolates. A full freaking orchestra. If you have to scotch-tape a narwhal horn to a white horse's head, do that, too. Because Tony will understand and appreciate the gesture, even if he can't communicate it properly." She promised. Steve managed a smile.


"Because he's Tony?" He asked. Mary-Jane laughed and nodded in agreement.


"Because he's Tony." She agreed. "But hey, I'm not the one marrying him."


For some reason, the thought that, once again, he was the one who was marrying Tony--that he was the man who would have the right to take care of Anthony Stark for all of time and beyond--made Steve's heart swell up and sing. He just smiled.


"You're right. I am." Steve said. "And I'm going to make my proposal the best I possibly can."


Mary-Jane just smiled and kissed his cheek.


"You're the sweetest." She said. "No wonder Peter talks about you in his sleep."


Steve choked. Mary-Jane just laughed.


"Kidding, kidding." She added.


Steve was still grinning and shaking his head by the time Jan poked her head out from behind the counter and called for them to come in and look at the rings.


...

Tony yawned and checked the time on a digital clock emblazoned across one of the skyscrapers. Almost two now...he should probably start heading back and getting ready for the meeting. He liked to at least throw a buttondown and slacks over his under-armor suit to show that sometimes he pretended to care about what he looked like.


"Pepper?" He called out over the suit's message system. "Hey, Pep? Can you hear me?"


A second of static before her face came up on screen. She looked harried, but smiled at him warmly, which made Tony pretty thrilled; it meant she hadn't found out he had gone and done something stupid again. He grinned back.


"What is it, Tony?" She asked. "Are you going to be late again?"


"No!" He defended himself hastily. "Jesus, can't a guy fly around in a robot suit to fight crime without getting ragged on by everyone for punctuality? Gosh." He teased her. Pepper covered her mouth with her hand, which Tony knew full well meant that she was smiling. "I was going to call and tell you what a wonderful, smart, and perfect lady you are, but if you're just going to bitch and moan, I guess I'll hang up now."


"Oh shut up, you." She said, still laughing. "So you'll be on time, Tony?"


"Actually, yes." He said. "On my way over now." He paused and considered something. "Hey, Pep? What's this meeting about again?"


She stared at him. He blinked.


Pepper hung up. Tony just sputtered.


"Hey, whoa, hey, Pepper, c'mon! What did I do? Not cool! Pepper!" He protested, but it was too late. He just groaned and rolled his eyes.


"Fine." He muttered in annoyance, soaring off for the mansion to get dressed for his meeting. "I won't tell you I was going out on a date with Steve tonight, either. Jerk."


Still, he was smiling as he headed home. He couldn't help it. Talking to his friends always did that to him.


...

Tony walked into the mansion and was greeted with Carol, Bobbi, Jessica, and Logan all sitting at the kitchen table, playing poker and sharing a bowl of popcorn in between them. He sighed and grinned.


"Real professional-like, guys." He teased. Jessica stuck her tongue out at him and rearranged her cards.


"Logan offered to teach me how to play poker." She explained, tucking a bit of dark hair behind her ear and grinning self-consciously. "Carol used to make me play and I'd lose to her all the time, so I took him up on it."


Tony nodded as Bobbi held a hand out to him. "C'mon, Tony," she cajoled him, "come play cards with us, willya?"


"Can't." He said, and he actually felt a twinge of regret that he couldn't. "I've got a meeting in twenty minutes, and Pep won't even tell me what it's for."


"You mean, that meeting they're holding at the Ritz?" Carol piped up. Tony nodded.


"Yeah. How the hell do you know more about it than I do?" He asked. Carol snorted in amusement and reshuffled her cards before laying a couple of them down on the table.


"Tony, you were the one who organized the meeting. No wonder Pepper was so pissed." She reminded him. "It's just your standard funds re-assessment, but y'know, it's for S.H.I.E.L.D., so Nick's going to be there. And Maria." She said. Tony sighed.


"I can handle one of them each. Both of them? Not so much." He grumbled. "Can't I bring Rhodey, since Nick's apparently taking his dates these days?" He muttered. Jessica wrinkled her nose.


"Ew, no. Maria is way too young for Nick." She said. "Besides, she's dating someone. Isn't she?" Jessica frowned. "Do I need like, a level of security clearance to discuss the love lives of those in S.H.I.E.L.D., Carol?"


Carol ruffled her hair affectionately and kissed the top of her head. "I should hope not." She replied. "Anyways, Tony, get on it. You're taking the car and not making another dramatic entrance with your suit, which means you've got traffic to deal with."


Tony groaned and nodded in agreement, already detaching the armor as he headed upstairs.


"I guess." He said. "Later, guys. Logan, you guys better be playing for peanuts, because if I find out Carol's re-allotted the defense fund for S.H.I.E.L.D. to cover her poker debts, I'm telling Nick."


Logan just smirked and chomped on his cigar, laying down a full house as the other three women surrounding him spat obscenities in his general direction.


"Got it." He replied. "But even then, you're gonna need a hell of a lot more money for peanuts."


Tony just sighed and went upstairs to get dressed.


...

Back at the jewler's, Jan completely dominated the room, pacing about as she gestured to the woman sitting across the table from Steve, smiling at him as she adjusted her files in front of her.


"Steve, this is Nia Reyes. She's a friend of mine from the business, so behave, got it?" Jan said, ruffling his hair affectionately. "She does all my jewelry, which is why you're here now." She sat on his lap, and Steve just rolled his eyes in a mixture of amusement and exasperation. "Nia, this is Steve. He wants to get married."


The woman Jan was talking to looked about thirty, at best, and was slim and graceful looking, with deep brown skin; Steve was reminded of a crane as he looked at her. Her glasses sat perched on her nose, neat and prim, and her wide brown eyes were bright and curious as she sized him up.


"Pleasure to meet you." She said. "Now, if I may ask, to whom are you...?" She trailed off, which Steve knew was a clear indicator of "Tell me or I'll never stop pushing the point." He knew that tone of voice well. Jan had used it on him. Often.


"Tony Stark and I are going to be married." Steve said, his voice a little tight as he realized how much he loved saying it; the truth, the rightness of it, the utterly delight of the fact that he was going to be Tony's husband soon. "I need an engagement ring for the time being."


The look she gave him was of complete amazement, and Steve winced. He hoped she wasn't going to storm off in a huff, or decry him for being a man, or anything else stupid, but Jan trusted her, so--


"Tony Stark?" She said, her voice a high, soft squeak. "Tony Stark? You're...you're Steve Rogers?"


He nodded, a little confused.


She squealed with delight and clasped his hand in hers. Steve had a moment to be amused that both her hands barely fit around one of his before she hugged him.


"Oh my god!" She said delightedly. "I'm your biggest fan! You're simply amazing! You're a hero!" She gushed. "You're, like, an honest-to-god hero! My dad totally loves you, he has, like, posters--y'know, you're just so amazing, and it's really nice to see someone who obviously cares about people, and American ideals, and I mean--you're the greatest!"


Steve just stared.


"...Thank you." He said. "I...uh...okay then." He smiled. "It's very nice to meet you too."


The utter delight that was apparent in her eyes, her expression, her bearing, and her smile made him grin helplessly. He really did love people.


"So, um...do you have any potential designs?" He finally ventured. "It doesn't have to be the wedding rings yet. I just need something simple." He explained.


"No he doesn't. He needs big and flashy. "Bling-bling," is what I'm sayin'. Kay? Good." Jan said. Mary-Jane groaned.


"Ugh, your slang. How old are you?" She teased. Jan snorted.


"Old enough to have been your husband's mom, sweetie." She retorted. Mary-Jane grimaced.


"So you're old and unlucky." She shot back. "Whatever. Bling-bling is off-limits for anyone who is over thirty."


"I...I'm...I'm on a team with all of you?" Steve muttered woefully. Jessica sighed.


"What they're trying to say is that Tony is going to want something glorious. He wants to show off the fact that he and Steve are in love. So something sparkly." She explained. Nia nodded earnestly and began to go through her display cases.


"Well, I mean, for an engagement; you could have a simple band with a few gems, nothing fancy, but, uh, what does--what does Mr. Stark even like, does he wear gold or silver, or--" Nia was going on and on and Steve didn't have the heart to admit he had no idea what to do about anything jewelry related.


"Tony likes gold." He said. "I mean, obviously, the suit and all, but--"


"Oh, of course, I should have realized; gold with a few inset rubies then, I'm sure I've got something like that, I can't believe it never occured to me--"


"Oh, no, it's fine, I should have told you, I just--"


"Jesus, it's like watching a battle between awkward gossipy teenage girls." Jan remarked. Steve just groaned.


"You want the best for him. I understand completely." Nia said, pulling out one of the models from her display case. "Take a look at this, please?"


Steve examined the ring she held out to him with care, sizing it up as best as he could; granted, he didn't know much about jewelry, but he did know he wanted everything Tony had to be absolutely perfect. That would have to be enough.


The ring itself was a dull, tarnished sort of gold; it wasn't the bright, flashy kind that sparkled or shone to the point of looking silly and cheap. It was a very rough-around-the-edges kind of gold, like it had withstood a lot to stay golden, and wanted to wear all those trials and travails with pride. Even the single ruby embedded within it seemed to be more like a badge of honor than a flash of class. It was not the ring of a high-class, filthy rich businessman; it was the ring of a man who had sacrificed a lot to be golden.


It was everything Steve could have pictured.


He grinned with delight, holding the ring up to the light a little.


"I'll take it." He replied.

Chapter Text

"Sir, you know there's better things to do with our time." Maria muttered in annoyance, twiddling her thumbs and shooting Nick a look. "Tony might still be allied with S.H.I.E.L.D. and all, but I don't see why the two of us both need to be here." 

"You're here because I respect'cha." Nick said, (well, more appropriately, growled, as he was wont to do.) "'Cause I think you can sit here and deal with Tony Stark for three hours. Not a lot of people I know can do that." He drawled. "'Cept maybe, what, Steve Rogers? You're up there in my books with Captain America, kid. I thought you'd appreciate it." 

Maria actually blushed.

"I do, sir." She confessed. "Your approval is...one of the finest pleasures of life." She blushed brighter and started fiddling with her gauntlet. "But, sir, I promised Victoria--"

"Wait, Victoria Hand?" Nick said, and the note of geniune shock in his voice actually made her quirk her lips in amusement for a second. "Shit, Osborn's ex-supervisor? Our old accountant? You're--she, and, wait--how did you two--"

"Seeing you flustered is one of the finest pleasures of life, sir." Maria said, never dropping her courteous and gentle tone. "Oh, and I met her through Ms. Drew, our former HYDRA infiltrant. Generally speaking, the love lives of agents are very interwoven amongst each other, and very much under the radar."

"I know who's fuckin' who at pretty much every level." Nick said dryly. "Don't give me that "under the radar" shit." He actually pouted, and Maria resisted the urge to whip out her cell phone and snap a picture. "I don't like not knowin' when my second in command has a date. Means I can't stalk yeh and wait for her to do somethin' dumb, so I can have an excuse to break her legs, 'cause she doesn't deserve you." 

"If it helps you sleep at night, sir." Maria said. "Also, you need to learn how to find a way around equating the "talk" with "breaking of bones."

"No I don't, s'served me well." He retorted. "Got a couple of girls outta a bad relationship or two with the Nick Fury style of parenting." 

"So you're essentially the father I did my best to escape from the second I turned eighteen." She teased. Nick grunted in annoyance at being compared to him, and Maria winced. She might have overstepped her boundaries a little, but--

He took the cigar out of his mouth, exhaled the smoke, and then ruffled her hair and kissed the top of her head. She would never admit she liked it when he did that, but she did; it made him look like forty years had melted away from his face, and it always made her feel better. 

"No, I'm the father you chose fer yourself, kid." He replied. "Not even that; I'm yer equal." 

"Your faith in me, as always, is truly astounding...Nick." Maria said. He just nodded.

"Thanks, kiddo." He said. "But you're still putting that date on hold 'til after the meeting." 

The look on her face made the next three hours proactively worth it, no matter what happened.

...

"Oh, Rhodey." Tony said affectionately, sliding into the shotgun beside him, "what would I do without you?"

"Probably sleep even less than you do now." Rhodey remarked. "Also, you would be late for pretty much everything. Why the hell did you talk me into doing this?" 

"Aren't I already?" Tony teased. "I think you're just a bad driver. I should tell Happy." 

"And I think I'm going to purposefully make you late so you can deal with a pissy Nick Fury." Rhodey said cheerfully. Tony just pouted.

"He'll probably just growl at me for a little while before threatening to use his cigar as a cudgel. I'll live." He replied. "But yeah, just in case, could you drive a little faster?" He pleaded. Rhodey smirked.

"I think you just don't want to admit you're scared of Fury." He retorted. "It's perfectly fine to be scared of that psychotic bastard. Hell, even Wolverine kowtows to him, don't he?" 

Tony shrugged. 

"I don't know if it's because of the fact that it's Nick Fury per se, or because Logan finally met someone who smokes more cigars and drinks more beer than he does. Besides, they might've been in the war together, apparently..." Tony shook his head. "Logan's all hush-hush about his past, which I find funnier than I should."

"Maybe he's ashamed of being Canadian." Rhodey remarked dryly. "I know I would be." 

Tony choked for a second, laughing so hard it hurt. Rhodey just grinned and hit the gas a little harder; they were getting close anyway, and he figured he could let Tony be on time for once in his life. 

...

Steve came home to the Young Avengers chilling out on the couch, a bowl of popcorn shared amongst them as they watched a movie with the rest of the adult Avengers who were currently living in the mansion. Billy was the first one to notice him, and he waved at him aimlessly before shoveling more popcorn into his mouth and nuzzling into the crook of Teddy's arm. 

"Okay, guys, I know that Night of the Lepus is the peak of American cinema and all, but I need you kids out in the courtyard with me." Steve said. "Portrait, remember?" 

They all groaned in annoyance, but disentangled themselves from the group anyway, picking their way over everyone before standing in front of Steve.

"How'd it go, Kate?" Eli asked. Kate just nodded a yes in return; after all, technically speaking, they were the only ones who knew Steve was getting engaged aside from Jess, Mary-Jane, and Jan, who had all sworn a vow of secrecy for the time being. Eli sighed in relief. 

Steve just beckoned to them quietly and led them downstairs and outside, opening the door and stepping out into the courtyard, wincing from the sudden burst of warm sunlight.

"Okay, Tony's not going to be home for another three hours." Steve said, setting up his sketchpad and grabbing a chair. "So that should be enough time to at least start a rough draft..." He was talking more to himself than to them, but they just shrugged it off. 

"Okay, so..." He frowned, considering something. "All of you just figure out the way you want to pose, but stay relatively close together, all right? Like a team." He said, gesturing to them. "Do whatever comes naturally, and I'll nitpick when you're done." 

He gave them a few minutes to pick it out between themselves; as they did, he mused on what he was going to do that night. Generally speaking, whipping the ring out in the middle of Central Park and proposing seemed like a stupid idea. He didn't want the whole world to know immediately...besides, he didn't want to put Tony on the spot. But what to do, then? He wanted it to be perfect. As perfect as possible, because that was what Tony deserved, and exactly what he wanted to give him...but...

"Hey, Steve! We're ready!" Cassie called, waving her hand in front of his face. He blinked and shook himself out of his daydream before nodding in agreement.

"All right." He said, surveying them. Their positions were what he had expected, to be honest; Eli beside Kate, his shield out and her bow at the ready, Tommy in between his brother and Teddy, who had managed to hold hands behind his back anyway, and Cassie was standing behind Jonas, having grown a little so as to stand out. 

Steve just smiled. It was a good pose for them; it fit the team itself. 

He started to sketch out the rough outline, but jumped almost out of his seat about five seconds in, when Billy helpfully piped up, "So, what are you going to do about Tony?" 

"Not...really...what's on my mind right now." Steve said through clenched teeth. He knew he was blushing, and it would have been hilarious if it hadn't been him. Billy just grinned. 

"You can talk and draw at the same time, y'know." He said. "Just propose to him while the two of you are basking in the moonlight or something! After dinner, though. It's more romantic that way." 

"This is New York, sweetheart." Teddy reminded him. "There is no moon but for the smog." 

"Oh poetic burn." Cassie piped up, and then they were all in giggle fits, and Steve just rolled his eyes but he kept drawing anyway because he couldn't help but love them for being so unabashedly bright.

"I don't know." Steve said honestly. "It'll come to me." He smiled. "After all, this was meant to happen. He's the love of my life. Things will work out."

"Oh, I'm sorry, we can't do the portrait right now. I have to go into the hospital so they can treat me for my newfound onset of diabetes." Tommy snarked. Billy elbowed him, and then Tommy yanked his cape, and Teddy had to step in, looking far more amused than he should have. Steve just kept drawing; he could recreate it from memory anyway.

...

"Nick." Tony said coolly. Nick just raised an eyebrow and lit his cigar, giving Tony a look.

"Stark." He replied. "You're late." 

"By, like, two seconds." Tony retorted. "I don't have a helicarrier to ferry me around. I rely on a chauffer." He paused. "I mean, when I'm not in the suit. Did you want me to come in here with the repulsors a-blazin', Fury?"

"If it got you here on time, yeah." He said. "Kids these days. Don't give a fuck about punctuality." He shook his head and clucked his tongue. Tony wanted to strangle him. 

"Oh, hello, Maria." He said, deftly switching gears and ignoring Nick with all his might. "Sorry I kept a lady like yourself waiting." 

"You can break his legs, sir." Maria retorted. Nick chuckled, and Tony wondered what the hell passed for humor inside S.H.I.E.L.D.; bunch of jaded lunatics probably found nothing less than a puppy exploding hilarious. 

"Nah, I'd have to deal with Rogers, and I'd sooner wrestle the Thing barehanded." Fury replied. "D'ya remember when Stark tried to use the repulsors even though his reactor wasn't charged, an' it would've killed him, because he's a fucken moron, and Rogers found out?" 

"I'm right here." Tony muttered.

"Was that over by the harbor, sir?" Maria said, ignoring him. "When those HYDRA bots were attacking?" She blinked. "But they didn't look like they'd been hit with repulsors..."

"Hey, I'm still standing right here, like, right now?" Tony piped up. He hated it when Nick trotted out stupid stories like that.

"Yeah. They hadn't been. Rogers found out that Moron Man over here was trying to off himself, an' so he took the matter into his own hands." Nick said.

"You know what, fuck you both." Tony said. "Fuck this meeting. You guys allocate your own budget."

"But they were torn apart!" Maria cried, awed. "Those things were scrap metal by the time we showed up!" 

"Exactly." Nick said. "Barehanded. And that is why HYDRA does not fuck with Stark." 

"Holy shit, I am still standing here. Are you deaf? Have you gone deaf in your old age, you beer-addled bastard?" Tony snapped. "God damn it, that was a necessary sacrifice, and I--"

"Oh look, the meeting's starting. Try not to kill yourself over the budget, will you?" Nick purred, exhaling his cigar smoke into Tony's face before heading back to his seat with Maria stifling giggles behind him. 

"I'm telling Steve!" Tony sputtered, unable to think of anything else. As much as he hated to have to hide behind his boyfriend, he admitted that watching Nick practically swallow his cigar was worth it.

Chapter Text

Steve checked the clock and grinned nervously. It was already five forty-five, and Tony would be home any minute. He had gotten a rough draft of the sketch before gently but firmly telling the kids that they needed to keep mum on the situation to the other Avengers and sending them off to hang out with the grown-ups. He had to go get something nicer on and prepare for dinner.

He sighed and checked his closet. Something simple, but classy; elegant and easy. He chewed his lip and considered for awhile before he finally settled on the basics; black slacks, white button-down, and a bright blue tie. He normally didn't wear ties, but he didn't want to propose to Tony in a Brooklyn Dodgers tee-shirt, so he would suck it up for the time being.

Steve sighed and ran some water through his hair, straightening it out as he brushed it neatly into place. He rifled through the bathroom cabinet until he found the cologne Tony had bought him awhile back, in his ongoing attempt to spoil him rotten. Steve couldn't help but smile at the thought; Tony, of course, had never wanted for money, while there had been entire weeks where he himself had gone without food, back in the Depression...

Steve shuddered despite himself. Of course, he never had to worry about that again, but Tony still liked to reassure him, nonetheless. He was still amazed by the lengths Tony would go to in an attempt to buy him beautiful things, but then again, Tony was still a bit obtuse about expressing affection, and he figured that Tony thought the best way to do it was to give him his all, money and otherwise. 

He sprayed a bit of the cologne on his neck and wrists, rubbing it in idly before sighing in relief. He was done for the night, at least in terms of dressing-up. Now he just had to go downstairs and pick up dinner.

Steve made his way down the steps slowly, leisurely; he heard the soft hum of conversation below him, and he smiled, delighted. It was a quiet, sweet night. Part of him almost regretted missing it, but then he remembered the one important thing lying ahead of him; if he proposed to Tony now, and if he accepted...then there would be nothing ahead of them but nights like this one. Quiet and filled with a soft perfection, and the satisfaction of knowing that the best thing they had in life was each other.

It wouldn't have to be a constant race for perfection, for the sleekness and newness of his suits, the desperate desire for them to be as advanced as possible, because Tony was so worried that if he didn't stake his claim on it, the world would leave him behind. It could just be the promise that he was always going to hold on to Tony tight in the roaring current of life and make sure that even if the world swept him up in its depths, he would be there to hold onto him. 

He was going to give Tony the life he deserved. A life that was perfect in the present. No more future pipe dreams; just the here and now that they both could come to terms with, so long as they still had each other. 

Steve just smiled and walked past the conversation and the bright, cheery dinner table. He could wait. There would be plenty more of those to come. But there was only going to be one night like this.

...

Jarvis inhaled slowly and sighed, exhaling gently as he heard Steve come up behind him.

He loved Tony. As much as he occasionally wanted to choke him, he loved Tony with the desperate, fierce, and unconditional love that only a father--or the next-best thing--could give. 

He was not a stupid man. He had known better than perhaps the two of them ever had how much they had loved each other, even before they found the words to express it. And as much as he had worried initially--Tony had a tendency to throw his all into courting a lover, then separating because he thought he knew what was best--Steve had stood his ground and refused to let Tony destroy either himself or the relationship they had. And he had been so very, very grateful towards Steve for that. He hoped Steve knew; he wasn't sure if he had the right words to explain the swell of pride and love that bloomed in his chest every time he looked at his surrogate son and the husband he had chosen for himself. 

Jarvis just smiled. It was true at this point; Tony was married to Steve in every way except for the signatures on the certificate. And though he was wise enough to know not to interfere in Tony's love life, he personally conceded that as far as husbands could go, Steve Rogers was perhaps one of the pinnacles among them. 

That was exactly why he turned around at that moment and plunked a picnic basket down into a surprised Steve's hands. 

"I, uh..." Steve looked flustered. Jarvis approved. This was a momentous occasion; he should look like he was properly anticipative and nevous. 

"Jarvis, what's this for?" Steve finally asked, cutting to the heart of it. He just grinned and tugged on the tablecloth hanging out of the corner of the basket.

"It's for your dinner date tonight." He said. "You didn't think I was going to let you sit here in the middle of Avengers mansion, the proposal on your mind--don't give me that look, Steven, I know exactly what you're up to--and fuss over dinner with the family?" He demanded. "No. That is not how you are going to propose to my son. I packed two candles in there and a box of matches, along with a lavish dinner that is cooked to Tony's standard of perfection. I expect both to be used and gone by the time you two come home." His eyes softened and he smiled warmly.

"Steve, I understand you better than you think I do; I know you're still a tad uncomfortable with deep romantic gestures. I know to you they seem cheesy and contrite." He sighed. "But to Tony, all he knows is grand, sweeping gestures of affection; he needs other peoples' emotions screamed from the rooftops before he can properly understand them. He wants your love, Steve, and the best way for him to know you're giving it to him is to be as romantic as possible, even if you have a bit of an issue with the 'cliche' ideal." 

Steve just nodded. Jarvis smiled again and hugged him. Steve stiffened, surprised, and Jarvis snorted in dry amusement.

"Come now. I'm allowed to hug my future son in law, aren't I?" He said. Steve grinned warmly in response. Jarvis nodded. "I thought so." 

He pulled away and fixed Steve with a severe, stern gaze. Steve felt himself standing more upright than normal as Jarvis surveyed him before finally clasping his shoulder.

"Take care of him." Jarvis said. "Watch over him. Stay by his side. Hold him when he cries. Kiss him when he's happy and soothe him when he's sick. Protect Tony; love him, cherish him, and keep him safe." His eyes were shining with the telltale sheen of tears, but Steve didn't say anything; he figured if he started to talk, he would break down in tears as well. "I ask you as Tony's father; the father he deserved, not the one he was born with. Please, Steve." He begged. "Take care of my son."

"Always." Steve said, voice thick and choked with tears and emotion. "I promise as both his husband and your son that I will always take care of Tony." 

Jarvis looked away, gesturing for him to leave with one free hand, clearly using the other to wipe away tears. Steve just nodded and left the room, smiling despite the tears in his eyes.

...

Tony walked through the door and straight into Steve's arms.

He grunted, shocked, but Steve just swept him into his embrace and kissed his cheek. Tony didn't struggle in the slightest; he let Steve hold him as he nuzzled against his strong, firm chest, and murmured, "How did the artwork go?"

"All right, but those kids are chatterboxes," Steve grumbled affectionately, "and Tommy kept using super-speed to steal my pencil and run back into the portrait. I had to threaten to spank him." He kissed Tony back before asking, "How did the meeting go?"

Tony groaned against his chest, and Steve felt the vibrations going right through his heart as he sighed in sympathy. "Oh, sweetheart." He murmured. "That bad?"

"Nick Fury is the worst." Tony muttered. "And Maria was egging him on, I just know it." He sighed. "Well, at least the budget's done, and I can ignore them until they blow up another building." 

"Mm," Steve agreed, stroking his hair, "so, sweetheart, Jarvis made us a picnic basket of food so we don't have to stay for dinner; would you like to head out now?" He asked. Tony nodded.

"I'd love to." He said. "Just let me get some nicer clothes on, okay?" He asked. Steve nodded.

"Go right ahead. I'll meet you out by the front gate." He responded. Tony smiled and pecked him on the cheek before heading upstairs to get some proper clothes on. Steve just smiled and left the mansion. He couldn't stop the thrills soaring through his heart, nor did he really want to. All he had ever wanted was coming to a head, and he couldn't wait.

....

Tony met him outside in a crisp white button down and black slacks, the red silk tie the only splash of color across his clothing. Steve smiled. As much as he liked seeing Tony in his workout-cum-lab clothes, all ruffled and sweaty and grinning like he had discovered the secret to immortality, he had to admit, his lover cleaned up nicely. 

"Ready to head out?" Tony asked. Steve nodded, linking his arm in Tony's. 

"Yeah." He said. "C'mon. The night awaits." 

Tony was smiling and settling warmly into his embrace; Steve felt a surge of affection light up his heart, and he managed to get them beyond the mansion gates before he swept Tony up into a deep, passionate kiss, uncaring of the cars speeding past them or the passers-by on the sidewalk. Let them gape while they still could. He was about to make an honest man out of Tony Stark.

...

The walk to the park was short, considering they were in the heart of the city already. Tony was still holding on to his arm, and he looked more relaxed than he had in weeks. Steve couldn't help but smile as he stroked his hair affectionately. 

There had been a time in his life, not too long ago, where he couldn't have done this. 

The thought came to him unbidden, and he shook his head almost imperceptibly, clinging to Tony just a little tighter in response. 

It was true, however much he didn't want to admit it. First the two had been separated by the rift of ideals, then by the bottomless, untraversable chasm that was death. 

Every moment had been like hell. It had taken all his strength, all his fortitude, all of his belief in his ideals, his righteousness, and his vision of what America could be--all of that and it had only been enough for him to force himself awake in the mornings. He hadn't been at his best, then; neither of them had been. 

Steve closed his eyes. He had forgiven Tony. He had forgiven Tony from the moment he saw him for the last time at the mansion, looking so very painfully lost without his armor. It had made him throw almost a year of conflict away, the image had been that strong. 

Tony had been vulnerable; scared and yet determined to do what he thought was right, to make the future something safer for all of them. He loved them--he loved the entire superhero community that he as an Avenger had been tasked to protect and lead, and he had wanted them to have all he could give. And Steve understood, because he had thrown away their relationship to do the exact same thing. The two of them had, simply put, decided that the needs of the people they served and protected outweighed their own wants and desires.

And perhaps in some cases that was true; sometimes they needed to step forward as the leaders of the superhero community and put their own needs and desires aside. But that was not how the SHRA should have been handled. 

He hadn't talked to Tony. He hadn't sat down and held him and asked him if there was any way at all that they could have worked together and fixed the problem facing them both. If there was anything he could have done that would have united them. If he had gotten a chance, before it was all over, to hold onto Tony and tell him that he didn't have to stand alone and decide what was best for the whole world, he knew, deep in his heart, things would have ended differently.

But that was then. In the here and now, things were better; they were together again. They hadn't let go of each other for an hour after he had come back home, Steve remembered. He laughed softly at that, and it made Tony stir against his side and look up at him. 

"Something wrong, Steve?" He asked. "What's so funny?" 

Steve just hugged him tight. 

"Do you remember when I came back home after what the Skull did to me?" He said. "After I was shot, I mean." 

Tony tensed, remembering his body on the courthouse steps, the one event that had sent shockwaves throughout his entire world and made the next year and a half of his life a living hell. Steve hugged him tighter.

"It's okay. I meant about when I came home, Tony." He murmured. "When it was all over. When the world was like it should have been again." He smiled. "Do you remember?"

"I do." Tony murmured. "I totally lost a huge chunk of my dignity there." He managed to smile. "I was crying from the second I knew you were alive again, you know. Would've rusted the armor if I'd kept it up." 

"We held each other," Steve murmured, "for hours. Like you were afraid I'd die again if you let go of me." He sighed and gave him a reassuring smile. "And I kissed all those tears away, remember?" 

"Yes," Tony responded, "I do, I really do...but...I don't see what this has to do with anything, Steve." He asked. "Are you still hung up over what happened?"

"No." Steve said firmly. "I want to forget it ever happened, to be honest. Because all it did was show me something I already knew; that I am never at my best unless I am beside you." 

Tony was quiet. Steve let him walk beside him in silence, giving him time to process his thoughts. 

Then Tony took his hand again and kissed his cheek. 

"I knew it too." He replied. "And I'm glad we can be that way again."

With that acceptance, the past was left to be ground under their feet, crushed under the weight of the future and all the promises of happiness it held. 

Chapter Text

The park was vibrant with the sounds of people coming out to enjoy the warm summer dusk; there was a small band somewhere, their music winding its way through the trees. Steve heard voices and the sounds of bare feet on pavement. He just beckoned to Tony, and they headed deeper into the park. Steve wanted a bit of privacy; he didn't intend to put Tony on the spot to say yes, surrounded by people and all. 

Tony just smiled and stretched, letting Steve lead them to a smaller, more secluded part of the forest. He took the tablecloth from the basket and set it down on the ground, watching as Tony happily plunked himself down on it, stretching out over it as Steve laughed.

"You look ridiculous." He teased. Tony grinned and stuck his tongue out at him. Steve just rejoiced quietly for a moment that he was allowed to see this side of Tony before he sat down beside him and ruffled his hair. "I mean it, you." He said, kissing his cheek. "You're incorrigible." 

"If you say so," Tony said, amused, "I'm just happy I get to be with you." 

Steve just held him tight for a second as he opened the basket with his free hand. Tony helped him unpack dinner; simple things that wouldn't make too much of a mess, but Steve knew they were all some of Tony's personal favorites. Jarvis had saved him the trouble of worrying, at least. 

"It's so quiet out here." Tony said. "This is probably the quietest place in New York City." He laughed softly. Steve savored the sound, choosing not to respond with words, instead going for kissing the soft skin of Tony's neck as he gasped and groaned with approval. "I didn't know we were out to fix that." He purred.

"Oh, shush." Steve said defensively, blushing as Tony ruffled his hair. "That wasn't what I wanted and you know it." He said, taking a bite of strawberry and putting it to Tony's lips. "Now shut up and eat, dear." 

Tony just snuggled closer and started nibbling at his fingers, licking at the little chunks of strawberry and sucking at Steve's fingertips. Steve wanted to kiss him and smack him in the very same breath. Tony just laughed, his warm breath sweet against Steve's skin. 

"You taste delicious." Tony teased. "Like apples." 

Steve blushed brighter, prompting Tony to curl closer. He wrapped his arms loosely around Steve, snuggling into his side and smiling. Steve hadn't seen Tony so relaxed and happy in weeks; he couldn't help but grin back, utterly lost in his lover's happiness. This was the kind of mood he wanted Tony to be in as much as he could; at ease, bubbly, and geniunely enjoying himself. It was a side of Tony Stark that he, out of a very select few, was allowed to see, and he treasured it beyond what he could really describe. 

"Are you okay?" Tony asked. "You're smiling." 

"Of course I am, Tony." Steve responded. "I'm here with you, aren't I?" 

Tony blushed and looked away, but Steve felt him curling up against him closer and snuggling against his chest. 

"You're too much sometimes, Steve." He muttered, but he looked pleased and at ease as Steve stroked his hair and kept feeding him little bites of dinner. He snuck pieces for himself of course, but the feeling of Tony's lips against the ends of his fingers was enough for Steve to keep going. Tony didn't protest, either, like he normally did if he had to sit down for dinner; he accepted every bite Steve fed him. 

The only thing keeping the light alive around them was the stub of one of the candles and the stars above them at this point; Steve could see all the contours of Tony's face and the sparkle in his eyes. It was both one of the most soothing things he could imagine--an escape from the unique mix of insanity and adrenaline that was the superhero life, and yet one of the most exhilirating things he could experience--the feeling of being beside Tony, watching his face light up when their eyes met, and the feel of his lips against his skin. 

Steve wanted this to be the perfect night. He wanted it to be perfect not for himself, but for Tony; he wanted to be everything Tony ever wanted. And despite the fact that he was still confused and nervous and just a little bit geniunely frightened, he would give Tony the chance to accept this--to lay underneath the stars with him and unite them, forever.

"Tony..." Steve started, making sure the box was in his pocket, like some sort of lucky omen, before he continued on. "Tony, there's something I want to ask you." 

Tony sat up and focused on him, surveying him with intense hazel eyes that made him shiver with anticipation and need. He pressed on, not breaking his eye contact with Tony as he continued. 

"You're the best thing that has ever happened to me." Steve said, and he hoped the rough emotion in his voice was enough to convey how much he really meant that. "Tony, you are the greatest man I know, in pretty much every aspect." He smiled. 

"You're going to protest right now, aren't you? I can see the words forming on your lips already." He shook his head. "Tony, you have made some mistakes; we all have. You've taken the world onto your shoulders for almost ten years now, and even though that's never going to be a job for one man, I'd have to say you've done a pretty admirable job." Steve kissed his forehead. "For every demon you face, Tony, you find some way to overcome it, and save the world in the process. That makes you a great man."

"Steve, I--" Tony was cut off as Steve stroked his cheek.

"I'm Captain America. I punched Hitler. You're not allowed to disagree with me." He teased. Tony just grumbled. Steve continued on as if he hadn't heard. 

"I meant what I said before; I am never at my best unless I am beside you." Steve smiled. "I want to be beside you for the rest of my life." He took Tony's hand and squeezed it gently, aware of his own strength as always. "I almost lost you once, and it was like I wasn't even the same man. You might as well be my heart, Tony; I can't function without you."

"And I couldn't function without a big glowy circle in my chest for a damn long time, so we're even." Tony said dryly. Steve, to his credit, didn't roll his eyes. He just smiled.

"See, this is what I love about you; you keep me grounded. You keep me from getting too wrapped up in what might-have-been. You make me focus on the here, the now, and the future, all at once. Even with your snide little comments here and there." Steve retorted. Tony actually cracked a smile at that. 

"So I'm your nastier, more pragmatic half?" Tony asked. Steve shook his head.

"No. You're my future." Steve said. Tony blinked. Steve inhaled slowly.

"You always seem like you want to run right for the future and never stop for the present; like it's got a blood grudge against you or something. And I never understood it; I love the present. I love all the things that the one moment of present-time can hold, and all the things you can do to keep the future alive and real in the present. And..." He gripped the ring's box. It was now or never.

"I want you to realize that you can't speed off into the future and leave me behind." Steve said gently. "I want to be the part of your present that makes you fight for the future you want to be, Tony. I want to be what makes you head towards tomorrow, and I want to be by your side while you do it, so that you can do it right." 

Tony was staring at him; the cogs were starting to turn in his brain, like he could almost grasp what Steve was going to say--which of course meant Steve had to say it as fast as he could.

"I want the two of us--together--to be the life, the future, that you've always dreamed of. So..." Steve paused for a second, but despite the fact that his heart was trying to climb out of his chest and out his mouth, he knew he had to do it.

"Anthony Stark, would you please marry me?" Steve asked.

The question hung in the air for a second. 

Tony was staring at him. Steve was horrified; Tony was going to say no, he was going to reject him, and Steve wanted to take it back with such violent fervor he felt almost ill.

"...You...you want to marry me? Me?" Tony said, awed. Steve almost laughed out of sheer relief.

"No one else but you, Tony." Steve replied. "I want to be with you forever. Please, Tony, I'm being serious; I even got the ring..." Steve opened the box and showed it to him. "I...I want to be married to you, Tony. I want the two of us to be together." 

"Oh my god." Tony said slowly. "Oh my god. This is...this is a dream, right?" 

"No." Steve said firmly. "This is the present. And what you do here decides the future, Tony." 

Tony stared at him again, just for a second.

"Yes." He finally said. "Oh my god, yes. Right now. Let's get married right now." 

Steve was going to cry. Everything he had ever wanted was coming true all at once, and it was wonderful. Tony looked like someone had lit him up from the inside out, joyous and grinning, and he was crying too, and now Steve couldn't see because of the tears in his eyes, and he just barely managed to slip the engagement ring on Tony's finger, and somewhere in the mess of his emotions he wondered how he was going to keep this a secret, especially since Tony was now running off through Central Park, shouting, "I'M GETTING MARRIED TO STEVE ROGERS!" at the top of his lungs.

That last one took Steve a second to register, but the moment he did, he bolted off after Tony, yelling for him to wait, the picnic basket left forgotten and the candle snuffed out beside it. 

...

Steve was gasping for breath by the time he caught up to Tony, who was practically dancing for joy at this point, out on the outskirts of the park. Steve had wanted to keep this secret, subtle, and under-the-radar; he realized as Tony bolted up to one of the carriage drivers and tried to explain the situation, that it was pretty much an impossibility. The two of them were like Manhattan's crown jewel; they would be found out eventually, and Steve couldn't help but feel delighted that Tony was so blissfully happy that he didn't care he was spilling his life story to the carriage driver.

"Okay, I need to know if you know the way to Avengers mansion, because my fiance," Tony had said something else, but Steve lost it, suddenly dumbstruck with delight as he heard Tony call him that. He returned to reality in time to hear, "And we need to get home and break the news to the team; could you get us there?" 

The cabdriver, a slightly grizzled, rough-around-the-edges man of around sixty, surveyed the two of them for a long, slow minute. Steve couldn't help but feel a stab of uncomfortability; Tony may have been completely open about his sexuality, but Steve's 40s-era worries died much harder, and he didn't want Tony to be hurt. Not on a night like this.

Then his face split into a grin, and Steve wondered why he had ever worried in the first place.

"Captain America." He said, awed. "Captain America and Iron Man want a ride home in my carriage." He repeated it, clearly stunned, before waving them up. "C'mon, time's a-wastin'; I think you want to break the news to your team 'fore the press does, right?" 

"I think we could let Peter sell the exclusive to Jameson." Tony said. "I mean, it would probably finance a nice vacation for him and MJ--isn't she pregnant? Maybe a baby shower, then." He wasn't making any sense, and Steve didn't care; he picked Tony up and sat him down on the carriage.

"M'name is Hector. Hector Sands." He patted the horse in front of him, who was a pale, soft white, with a few dappled grey spots. Steve suddenly wished he had brought the narwhal horn, and had to bite back giggles for a second. "This is Morpheus." 

"He's so gorgeous..." Tony murmured. "Can I pet him?" 

"What are you, five?" Steve teased. Tony just grinned, and Steve suddenly remembered he was pretty much putty in his hands when Tony smiled. Hector snorted. 

"There's room for two more up here. Y'can both fit." He said. "C'mon." 

They both clambered up to the front seat, and Morpheus craned his neck to take a good look at Tony, who sat and stared at him for a second, awed. 

"For all the machines I can make, biological structure manages to surpass me, every time." He murmured. Steve shook his head.

"I wouldn't count on that." He said. "You're a genius, Tony." 

The look of delight on his face as he stroked Morpheus' long, lean neck was enough, and Steve was so hypnotized by it that he didn't even notice for a few minutes that they were now cantering through the street and heading back to the mansion. 

"So, you wanted subtle?" Tony asked, amused. Steve shook his head.

"In the end, I just wanted to get married." He murmured. "Though yes, I could've done without the carriage ride through Times Square." 

Tony just shook his head and smiled.

"Do you trust me?" He asked. "Do you really and truly believe we are doing the right thing in getting married?"

"Of course." Steve responded. "I love you." 

Tony nodded. 

"Good." He said. "Then don't hate me for this." 

Before Steve could even react, he stood up on the carriage seat, cupped his hands over his mouth, and yelled, "NEW YORK CITY! I, ANTHONY STARK, AM GETTING MARRIED TO STEVE ROGERS, AND I AM DAMN HAPPY ABOUT IT!" 

Steve wanted to kiss him. 

Morpheus just whickered in amusement.

Chapter Text

Hector had insisted on dropping them off on the door, and refused any pay; according to him, accepting pay from an Avenger after all they did to help the city was just callous. Steve made a note to invite him to the wedding as he helped Tony out of the carriage seat, letting him pet Morpheus one more time before the two of them headed through the gate and into the mansion.

"So, you got to break the news to the entirety of Times Square, therefore I get to tell the team." Steve said, keeping the dry tone to his voice as Tony giggled sheepishly, nuzzling his neck and hugging him. 

"You're just jealous 'cause you wish you'd thought of it." Tony teased. Steve just held him tight and rolled his eyes, unable to hide the smile on his face. He realized with a snort of laughter that he had been grinning since Tony had said yes. "Anyways, I've gotta--"

"Tony, the others are waiting for you in the drawing room." 

The two of them jumped, only just now seeing Jarvis in front of the door. His eyes were red and puffy, like he had just finished crying recently. Neither of them commented on this. 

"Hey..." Tony said quietly. "...Uh, Jarvis?" He looked away for a second before he asked, "Are you happy for me? I mean...is this what you wanted for me?"

"Oh, Tony, for god's sake, it doesn't matter what I want!" Jarvis snapped. "This has always been and always will be about your happiness, and yours alone." Jarvis said, looking both exasperated and loving as he hugged Tony tight. "But yes, if it matters that much to you..." He smiled as Tony hugged him back. "I am so very, very happy for the both of you, and so very proud of the man you have become and the life you have chosen to lead, after all your troubles." 

Tony was very quiet for a long, slow minute. Steve didn't say anything; he didn't want to interrupt. This was between Jarvis and Tony. 

"Thanks, dad." Tony said. "I really needed to hear that." 

The three of them headed inside without another word. Jarvis gestured towards the door and said carefully, clearly holding back tears, "I told them you had news to break. I'll be out in the foyer if you two need me." 

They both let him head out front to compose himself in relative privacy. Tony just prayed the press hadn't shown up already yet.

"So..." Steve said slowly, blushing. "Uh, I'm not sure if I really want to tell everyone now, I guess you can--" 

"Oh no, soldier." Tony teased. "You're stuck with this lot now." He clapped Steve on the shoulder and smiled. "Go get 'em, tiger."

"You are the worst." Steve muttered, but he was grinning at him and gave him another quick kiss before he gripped the doorknob and twisted it, opening the door and heading inside the living room with Tony beside him. 

...

"I hope everything's okay." Carol said. "Tony did look really frazzled leaving for the meeting; maybe he's discussing a leave of absence or something?" She mused. "God only knows he deserves a break." 

Hank, who had been called over from the Academy specifically to hear this, shrugged and reshuffled his cards alongside Clint, laying them down on the table as Carol grimaced, having once again lost her hand. 

"He does." Hank agreed. "But I doubt they would drag Clint and I out for that. It seems pointless." He chewed his lip, deep in thought. "What would he need the entirety of the Avengers here to discuss? Surely if it was a threat, it would have been attacking by now." 

"Y'got me." Carol said. "But whatever it is, I hope it's quick; Jessica ate the last of my coffee ice cream, and I was going to go out and get more." She snorted. "I have cravings, what can I say?"

"Time of the month?" Clint teased. Carol socked him in the shoulder and he whined, rubbing the bruised skin and glaring at her balefully. "Ow! Jerk." He pouted. Carol just ruffled his hair. 

"I didn't know coffee ice cream was that important to you, Carol." Jessica said, sliding in beside them. "Anyways, I was thinking more about Steve; he was really bright and chipper this morning." She wrinkled her nose and sniffed primly. "It offended me. I mean, no one, super-soldier or not, should be that happy in the mornings...unless they've got something planned." She put her chin on her palm and leaned on the table, deep in thought. "Maybe they're going to tell us we got a new puppy. Puppies would make me happy, too." 

"Steve does like dogs." Carol agreed thoughtfully.

"Yep. It's why he started dating Tony." Clint piped up. Hank cracked up, along with Carol; it took Jessica a minute to get it, but by the time she did, she just rolled her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose.

"You know, you guys are overthinking this." Peter said. "But Mary-Jane was being really giggly today after she came home...I wonder why. Do you think it's all connected?" He asked. 

"Hm." Clint said. "Yeah. Didn't Jewel, Bobbi, and Jan head out with her too?"

"Oh, yeah! I remember her mentioning it!" Hank piped up. "She said it was a girls-only shopping trip, so I didn't pester her...but that is an odd coincidence." He said. "And hey, Clint, didn't Steve ask you where the Young Avengers were?" 

"...Do we interrogate them?" Jessica asked, looking confused. "I mean, Billy and Cassie are playing checkers by the window. I could go ask..." 

"Nah...whatever it is, Steve and Tony will tell us when they get here." Carol said. 

...

"I really don't want to tell them." Steve said, swallowing hard. "I...I'm...I'm scared.

Tony blinked, genuinely surprised. He smiled and put a comforting hand on his fiance's shoulder for a second, squeezing gently. 

"Steve, honey, we've been dating for...what, almost eight years now?" He reminded him. "No one's going to suddenly decide they're not okay with our relationship. Hell, they've probably been expecting it." He paused. "From you. Not from me."

"Oh, Tony." Steve said, amused. "You were never really that...y'know, promiscious." He reminded him, blushing a bit at the word. Tony snorted.

"Bad PR firm. Whatever, that's not important. You're the only person I want to be with for the rest of my life." He said, and the genuine love in his tone made Steve's heart skip another beat. "I want to be by your side as an Avenger and as a husband. The others will accept that. I am sure of it. It's just a matter of trusting them enough to tell them." 

Tony looked into his eyes and Steve was surprised by how much fierce affection he could see in them; not just for himself, but for the Avengers. Tony sighed and smiled. "I've made a lot of mistakes lately, but I can tell you this; we are responsible for all these people. We half-raised some of them. And I think we should trust them with our marriage. They've earned it." 

"Right." Steve agreed, hugging Tony tight and smiling in a mixture of relief and amusement. "Mom and dad are getting married." 

"You're still the mom." Tony reminded him. Steve just playfully swatted his rear before pushing the door open and heading into the open expanse of the living room.

As thirty-something superheroes stared up at him in bewilderment, Steve felt his throat seize up, clench, and convulse. It was only with the firm, guiding weight of Tony's hand on his shoulder that he remembered that this was his family; the family he could trust with his life. 

Now it was time to really put that trust to the test. And Steve figured they were all going to pass with flying colors.

..

"Okay. Uh...hi, guys. Sorry I bothered you like this. I know it's, like, ten at night..." Steve was stumbling over his words, and he had no idea what he was doing. Tony just covered his hand with his mouth so he wouldn't be given away as laughing at his fiance. "A-anyways." He inhaled slowly and sighed.

"Oh, god. I really can't sit up here and discuss this, so I'm going to be upfront; most of you know I've been dating Tony for upwards of eight years now, right?" He said. Everyone in the room looked at each other like gossipy schoolkids. Steve did not like that look. It meant they'd been posting on the message boards again. 

"Yes..." Clint said. "So, what is it, then?" He asked. Steve winced and smiled self-consciously. 

"So, since Tony is the love of my life, I just asked him to marry me. Because I think above everyone else in the world, Tony Stark deserves my love and affection." Steve said, hoping his words were reaching Tony, who, after all this time, probably still had doubts about himself. "Tony is the greatest man I have ever known, and I want to stay with him. So...so I proposed." 

Steve couldn't stop the giant grin that spread across his face. 

"He said yes." Steve said, almost like he was reminding himself as well. "Tony said yes. We're getting married, everyone." 

The whole room was dead silent. There wasn't even anyone breathing. 

"Oh thank god." Peter said, finally breaking the silence. "From the way you were talking, I thought you'd knocked him up."

That did it; everyone burst out laughing, and Steve couldn't help himself; he started laughing too, leaning on Tony's shoulder for support as the entire room dissolved into gales of laughter. 

Chapter Text

Once the laughter died down, Steve finally ventured, "So, are you all okay with this? I mean, I...uh...you know." He blushed and winced sheepishly. "I'm still a little nervous."

"Of course we are." Carol said. "Don't be stupid, Steve." She admonished him. "In fact, I think we need to organize a planning committee. And while we're all here..." She cupped her hands around her mouth and called out, "Guys, anyone who wants to help plan this thing, come into the dining room with me, wouldya?" 

"Do you want me to call Nick, honey?" Jessica piped up.

"No!" Tony wailed. Carol giggled.

"Yes." She said. "Steve? That okay?" She asked. Steve sighed.

"I suppose. God only knows I could use S.H.I.E.L.D. at my wedding." He muttered. Carol laughed.

"Sarcasm. We've been hanging out with you too much, bad influences that we are." She said. "It'll be okay. I'll have Jess tell Nick not to show up in the Helicarrier." 

"Everything hurts." Tony groaned. Jessica just smiled.

"You'll be fine. I'm sure they'll be helpful." She said. "I'll call them tomorrow, though, if that helps." She offered. Tony groaned again but nodded an agreement.

"All right, all right..." He muttered. "I guess they have a right to know, too." He paused. "Hey, we should probably ring the Fantastic Four and the X-kids, don't you think?" 

"Tomorrow." Steve said. "This can all be done tomorrow. Because I want to spend tonight with you." He murmured, sweeping Tony into his arms. 

"Oh, sorry, threw up a rainbow, have to go wash the Roy G. Biv out of my mouth." Peter remarked. Tommy grinned and high-fived him. 

Steve just smiled and rolled his eyes, giving them both the look of an exasperated father well-used to his sons tormenting him. 

"Shush, all of you. And for that matter, if you're staying here for the night, kids, you're going to bed in ten minutes." He reminded them. They all groaned, but none of them were going to leave, he knew that; it was sort of like history in the making at the mansion right now, which he acknowledged, however grudgingly. He wanted to get married to Tony, but he could do without the twenty-four seven news coverage...

"Can I call aunt May right now?" Peter asked. "I know you wanted to wait until tomorrow, but I want her to hear it from me, not the press the next morning..." He said. Steve nodded.

"You can tell her. Just...tell her not to start planning anything until tomorrow at least." He sighed. "Gosh...planning. I mean, invitations. Who are we inviting, who's doing the catering, who's going to be in charge of therapy after all this..."

"I have Doc Samson on speed-dial." Peter offered. Steve nodded an agreement as Peter dialed with a smirk stretching across his lips. 

...

It had taken twenty minutes or so, but finally, Steve had ushered everyone to bed; including Jarvis, because, as Tony reminded him, he wouldn't have a moment's sleep until after the wedding passed. The kids were in bed, the adults were falling asleep, and the press vans had turned all their lights off for the night. Steve just sighed, relieved.

He pressed his forehead against the cool plate-glass door that lead out to his and Tony's private balcony. The stars were so beautiful tonight that he wanted to find a way to grab them, take them into his hands, and give them to Tony. He wanted nothing more than this; a night warm enough to remind him of the glories of Brooklyn summers, heavy with love and desire, and as quiet as winter's first snow. This was perfect. This was all he needed; no heroics, no sacrifices, no war, no glory, no loss, no pain, no servitude or salvation. All he had was Tony and a night full of stars, and he was okay with that.

"We're doing the right thing, you know." Tony said, startling him out of his thoughts. "I mean, if you doubted." He looked a little nervous. Steve never wanted to see him looking nervous about their love again.

He swept Tony up into his arms and pressed his lips against Tony's, amused as ever at how easily Tony yielded to his touch and how soft and sweet his lips were. He never told Tony how delicate he always felt in his arms; Tony would scoff at him for saying it, but Steve always felt like he was holding a china doll in his hands. He wanted to treat Tony so gently because he imagined he would break if Steve wasn't the one keeping him safe. 

In a way, it was true; Tony was a brave, strong, determined man, but he had a hard time standing on his own. Steve was fine with that; he was more than happy to hold on to Tony for the rest of his life, keeping him upright and moving foward. 

"I could never doubt my love for you." Steve said. "I do doubt the sanity of riding a carriage through Times Square and announcing our marriage, but it could have been worse. You could have used Extremis and hijacked all those damn advertising screens." He muttered. Tony cackled wickedly and ruffled Steve's hair.

"I could still do that," he said cheerfully. "Do you want me to--"

"No." Steve said firmly. Tony pouted and kissed his cheek.

"It would take all those stupid advertisements off the boards." He reminded him. Steve rolled his eyes. 

"Don't tempt me." He replied. "Tony, let's wait a bit, okay? The planning for this might take awhile; we don't even know what kind of wedding we're having or where we're having it, or, heck, who we're inviting. I don't want any more people to know. If only to give us some solace from the press." 

"Fair enough." Tony said. "Mind you, the whole world will find out eventually." He looked away, hesitant. Steve tilted his head, putting his hand against Tony's cheek. Tony sighed.

"I...I just...you'll be safe?" He asked. "I don't want you to get hurt. I can hire body guards, or I could just, I mean--"

"Sweetheart, I can take care of myself." Steve murmured. "Besides, do you honestly think some unkind words about my sexuality will get to me? I punched Hitler in the jaw. I think I can deal with a few bigots calling me names." 

"You need to stop pulling the Hitler card." Tony muttered. "It's really cutting every retort I have off at the knees."

"Okay," Steve said casually. "Once I threw Himmler off a railing." 

Tony just sighed and smiled, unable to stop a few peals of laughter as Steve basked in the glow of Tony's happiness. 

"Nothing can ever get to you, huh?" Tony teased. Steve shook his head.

"Nope," he replied. "I've got a shield for that."

Tony started laughing again, and Steve just held him and pulled him down on the bed, letting him laugh until he could barely breathe. Then Steve kissed him and took the rest of his breath away.

"Are you--do you, I mean--we could--" Tony was cut off as Steve grinned. It was a rare grin coming from Steve, but it was one Tony liked; it spoke of fun times in his future.

"Ssh," Steve murmured. "Why do you think I made sure we were the only ones sleeping on this floor?"

"Devious." Tony purred. Steve laughed and ruffled his hair.

"I learned from the best." He murmured. "C'mere, Tony." 

Tony didn't resist; he let Steve hold him and touch him for hours, even when he had no more energy left to give. Steve seemed to want to savor Tony more than anything, and he loved the feel of him, so he didn't mind. It was only once Steve finally laid down to rest beside him that Tony murmured quietly, "This won't change anything, right? We'll still be...I mean..."

"Of course things are going to change." Steve said, amused. "But things are going to change for the better." He smiled and kissd Tony's forehead. "The two of us are going to make a future that you can be proud of. I assure you." He said.

"Tomorrow," Tony said. "When I can think straight."

"Of course." Steve replied, pulling the covers up over the both of them and pulling Tony close. "You and me. We're always going to be heading towards tomorrow."

Tony nodded, too tired to respond properly. Still, he fell asleep smiling beside Steve that night, and Steve watched him for a few minutes, his chest rising and falling gently, before he decided to follow suit.

He was right, he mused just before drifting off, it really had been a good idea to marry Tony.

Chapter Text

Nobody woke up until noon; perhaps they knew exactly what they were in for with the wedding in the future, and wanted to savor the notion of sleep while it lasted. 

Carol woke up first, Jessica's head on her chest and her arms wrapped around her waist. Carol was a light sleeper. Jessica was not. So she resigned herself to stroking her girlfriend's hair for awhile, petting her gently while she waited for her to wake up.

The next person in the house to wake up was Logan. He promptly headed downstairs for a beer.

Halfway down to the kitchen, he stopped on the floor Steve and Tony had kept for themselves the night before and grimaced, snorting in disgust at the overwhelming scent of sex before hurriedly heading for a less musky floor of the mansion.

By the time he made it downstairs, he was debating whether or not he should call Charles. He decided against it in the end; he would let Tony and Steve have all the fun of announcing it to everyone.  

He headed into the living room with his beer and turned on the television, purposefully flipping past the news channels and turning on hockey re-runs. 

His Canadian Stereotype quota fulfilled for the day, Logan happily settled in to watch the game, a six-pack balanced on his chest.

Next, Billy woke up, snuggled into the warmth of Teddy's chest. He smiled, stirred, kissed Teddy gently, and laid back down to sleep once more. As if in response, Teddy's arms reached up to pull him closer as he rolled over, cradling him close. Billy figured he could stay in bed for awhile longer.

Kate and Eli woke up at the same time; she hadn't felt comfortable sharing a bed with him due to her past experiences, but as she woke up and saw him sitting in the chair beside her bed, she couldn't help but smile, letting him slide into bed beside her and hold her tight for awhile. 

Cassie woke up; Jonas had never needed the sleep, and so she was greeted with the familiar sight of her angel hovering over her. She smiled warmly and let him stroke her hair as she gestured for him to sit on the bed, curling up against his cool robotic skin and pulling the covers up over them both. 

Tommy yawned and stretched, realizing in the confusion that he had somehow found his way into Danielle's room, passed out on the cot Jess still kept in there. He headed over to her crib and frowned, realizing the baby's blanket had fallen off of her. He pulled the warm comforter over her tiny, slumbering form, and stroked her downy hair for a second before heading downstairs to watch hockey with Logan.

Clint woke up beside Bobbi and decided to take the man's way out, burying his face into his wife's chest and falling back asleep. Clint was not a morning person. Or an afternoon person, for that matter. 

Bobbi just pulled the blankets up over her husband tighter and kissed the top of his head.

Hank woke up and realized Janet had fallen asleep beside him. Despite the fact that she had forgiven him and accepted him back into her life long ago, he still marveled at the wonder of it every time he woke up beside her. He didn't wake her; he just pulled her a little closer and situated the blanket more comfortably around her shoulders.

Peter woke up and tended to his wife for a few minutes; he stroked her hair, kissed her forehead, and pulled the blankets up over her before he opened the window to let the summer breeze into their room. His heart caught in his throat as the light caught Mary Jane's prone form and made her glow like a goddess for a moment, and he went back to bed to hold her tight and remind himself how much he loved her, and how he would never let anything take away moments like this. 

Luke cracked a single eye open, tossed his alarm clock out the window, and rolled over in bed, taking Jess in his arms and kissing her for a second before deciding waking up wasn't worth the trouble and falling back asleep. Jess just rolled her eyes, got up, and went to make coffee.

Maria Hill woke up beside Victoria with her "Stark Senses" tingling, despite not actually living in the Avengers mansion. She just knew Tony had done something crazy, and she resolved to spend the rest of her day finding out what.

Nick Fury woke up and punched a bear because he was Nick Fury.

Steve and Tony still weren't awake. 

And thus, god was in his heaven and all was right with the world. 

At least until the press showed up.

...

May Parker was a rather unassuming woman. She lived her life as a proud New Yorker, a well-adjusted American, and a loving aunt and surrogate mother. Sure, there was the fact that her surrogate son was a superhero, but it was New York; pretty much everyone knew a superhero, and she never let that get to her head. 

And sure, there was the fact that she was now essentially the second nanny to the most prominent superhero team in the world, but that had not gotten to her head either. She loved her nephew and wanted to take care of him, and if that meant taking care of the Avengers as well, she was all right with that.

However, despite all this, she did not like to be interrupted on her morning walk. She had changed her route a little so that she could make her way to the mansion; since Steve and Tony were getting married, she knew she would be needed to keep an eye on everyone and oversee the proceedings, and she figured she could start early. Still, it was her morning walk, and there were a few vans in the way. Vans full of obnoxious men and women yammering into their phones. She was not going to take this well.

She made her way up to the front gate, and actually made it halfway up the path before she was confronted with a man shoving a microphone in her face, his glasses slipping down his nose. May didn't make a fuss; she simply raised an eyebrow and observed the man. 

"Mike Murdoch, Daily Bugle." He said. "Why're you heading into the Avengers mansion?" 

"Because aside from Jarvis, I believe no one else is that house regards a stove with anything other than deepest, most contemptous loathing." She said primly. "Aside from that, my nephew is in there, and I need to speak with him." 

"Your...nephew? Wait, you've got an Avenger for a relative? Lady, I need to talk to you for a bit, if that's okay, because--" May cut him off and strode past him. 

"You don't seem to understand, dear; I have to go and keep an eye on everyone. Right now, in fact. Because if I know these children, and I do, I may be too late already." She paused. "Well, it's noon. Perhaps some of them aren't awake yet."

"Look, I just--hey, c'mon--" Mike groaned. "Jameson! Can you get this woman to sit for a goddamn interview?" He called. 

"Language." May reminded him, giving him a vicious glare that had made better men than him quake with fear. Mike hadn't been looking. Jameson was heading up the walkway, cigar smoking in his mouth and a pair of sunglasses perched on his head. He was so focused on whatever someone was saying to him on his phone that he didn't recognize May until it was too late.

"Jameson." May said politely. "So good to see you."

Jameson's face went from lightly tanned to albino in less than a second. His cigar's flame went out, and his sunglasses fell off the bridge of his nose. 

"I need to talk to Peter." She said. "I'm appointing myself as a wedding overseer. Surely you're not going to let a little old lady be kept waiting, are you?" 

Jameson looked like he would sooner deep-fry Cthulu. As it was, he just nodded, backing away very, very slowly. 

"Sir, what the hell?!" Mike snapped. "She's just one woman! She's like eighty!" 

"Eighty-seven, I'll have you know." May piped up. "Young man, you really need to learn how to control your temper." 

"Listen to me, Mike." Jameson said, very hushed and panicked. "That woman is Peter Parker's aunt. And right now? We are walking away. Because she is terrifying. I will freely admit this. We are talking Red Alert Defcon-1, empty the fucking missile silos levels of woman. Walk away and leave your dignity intact." 

"Jarvis?" May called. "I'm waiting outside. Could you open the gate?" 

"Certainly." The voicebox beside the gate called back. "I'll be right with you." He paused. "Are the reporters bothering you?"

"Jesus Christ, no!" Jameson yelled. May simply shook her head.

"They're being perfect gentlemen." She said. "I would like to talk to Steve, however, if that's all right with you."

The gate swung open as Jarvis responded, "Certainly. I will wake him and Anthony up." 

"Thank you, dear." May said, heading through the gate as it swung shut behind her, leaving Mike and Jameson standing in front of it.

They were silent for a few minutes.

"Do we pity Steve, sir?" Mike asked. Jameson nodded. 

"Yes, we do." He muttered. "And take a note; for the continued safety of our reporters, no one is allowed to approach May Parker." 

"Duly noted." Mike said. 

Jameson, with shaking hands, relit his cigar and fled to the safety of the news van.

...

Tony awoke to the feeling of a heartbeart pulsing underneath the skin he was pressed up against; the warm scent of Steve--apples and leather, with a bit of sweat--hung in the air around him, and he hummed, delighted. He nuzzled into Steve's chest and sighed with pleasure, brushing the warm metal of his ring against Steve's wrist, delighting in the weight of it on his finger. It reminded him that he wasn't dreaming. 

Steve shifted, and Tony felt, rather than heard, him yawn; his chest rose and expanded for a second before he sucked in a warm breath and smiled at Tony, raising his hand up to wind his fingers through Tony's sleep-mussed hair. Tony leaned into the touch as Steve used his other hand to keep Tony steady, pressing it gently against the small of his lover's back. 

"Morning, hero." Steve said, his voice slow, deep, and soft with sleep. Tony grinned.

"Morning, soldier." He replied, kissing Steve's cheek and nuzzling into his touch. "Sleep well?" 

"Mm." Steve responded, looking over at the clock. He grimaced, checking the time. "Son of a...noon already?" He grumbled. "It still seems like eight." 

"Sweetheart, we didn't go to bed until three." Tony reminded him. "Your internal clock is off."

"You never go to bed until three." Steve muttered. Tony smiled.

"Well, now that I'm a married man and all, I figure I might start going to bed with my husband. Especially if it reaps benefits like last night's." He teased. At the words "married man," Steve freely admitted his heart skipped a beat, and he just sighed and smiled, delighted.

"Oh, Tony. If I'd known getting you hitched was the silver bullet that got you to sleep and eat like a normal person, I'd have married you years before." Steve teased. Tony grunted in amusement and nudged him, kissing his cheek.

"And if I'd known getting hitched to you meant you would go to bed later, I'd have proposed years before." He retorted. Steve's heart swelled with love again, and he pulled Tony into a passionate kiss, holding him tight and growling with satisfaction as he felt Tony stir against him. This was perfect. The hell with getting up and greeting the world. He never wanted to leave this bed.

"Anthony? Steven?" 

Jarvis' voice rang in their ears, and Steve groaned into the kiss. Tony pulled away and sighed before calling out, "Yeah? You need me?"

"Tony, for god's sake, it's noon." Jarvis said, exasperated. "The press has been sitting out in front of the gates since nine last night, everyone else is awake, and May is here to help with breakfast. I'm sure you're appreciating the marital bed, but as I suppose I must remind you, you've still got to actually get married. Rise and shine, the both of you."

If Jarvis hadn't known better, he would have though the groans enamating from behind the closed door he stood in front of were from twelve year old boys. Still, he heard the sound of blankets shifting and bodies moving and so he let them get up in relative peace, heading back downstairs to wait for them. 

Chapter Text

Peter headed downstairs and was promptly confronted with his aunt. He just smiled and sighed, kissing her cheek. 

"Jameson's outside, I'm sure of it." He said. "So, did you see him?" 

"Of course I did, Peter." May replied. "He behaved himself just fine. Like a proper gentleman." She frowned. "His reporters could learn some manners, though."

"Meaning they don't live with you as the backdrop to their worst nightmares." Peter teased. May playfully ruffled his hair and shook her head. 

"You overestimate me, Peter." She replied. "I'm far too real to be his nightmare." 

"That...that makes it worse." Peter groaned. "I'm not even a reporter anymore and he's still driving me crazy." 

"I wouldn't worry about it too much." May said. "As long as I'm here, the press shouldn't bother us." 

"That pretty much makes you the greatest bodyguard I could ask for." Tony said, making his way into the kitchen in a pair of Steve's boxers and his red silk robe. "Morning, May. Morning, Jarvis." He looked around. "Where's the coffee?"

"Everyone else who was up before you drank it already." Jarvis said dryly. "I can prepare a fresh pot for you and Steve, if you would like." 

"Is everyone gonna sass me for getting up at noon?" Tony grumbled. "It's not like I overslept and missed my own wedding, Jesus Christ." 

"Tony, we've got a lot to plan." Steve reminded him, padding in after his lover through the open door, in a pair of Tony's red boxers and his own fluffy blue robe. "I shouldn't have slept so late. I'm sorry, Jarvis." 

"I'm not." Tony added. Steve sighed. 

"It's fine, Steven." May piped up. "I just got here, so it's not as if much of the planning proceeded without you." 

Steve blinked, but the shock of aunt May at the table sort of slid over him at this point and he just shrugged. 

"Okay, but I mean, everyone was pretty stoked about helping out last night. Wouldn't they be eager to help still?" He asked. There was a note of panic in his voice, like he was afraid that suddenly the entire team would refuse to help. 

"It's not that they aren't interested in helping, it's that the siren song of hockey re-runs has distracted the entire household." Jarvis said dryly. "Blame Logan." 

Steve laughed, the warmth returning to his body as he smiled, relieved. 

"Okay." He said. "Well, I think we're going to have to get them back on task, because it is noon, and I'm sure this is going to take all night...again." He amended. "Avengers assemble!"

Nobody responded. Jarvis sighed.

"I'm brewing another pot of coffee!" He called. 

The entire team materialized in the kitchen. 

Steve pinched the bridge of his nose and decided not to bring it up. 

...

The kitchen table needed to be bigger. 

It was the first thing Steve noticed; they had a table that could seat the Avengers comfortably enough, but with the addition of the Young Avengers at the table alongside aunt May and the general clutter of papers and magazines of "modern wedding" and the like that the others had dredged up out of their closest made Steve feel far more cramped than he should. Tony, of course, took the opportunity to sit on his lap. Steve just held him on there, worried he would fall off, and stroked his cheek before sighing and addressing the others.

"The dresses circled in highlighter are not funny, Clint--and don't give me that look, I know it was you." He added. "Here's the thing. The first few ideas we need are when and where this wedding is going to be held." He considered something for a second. "Do you all feel like a rehearsal dinner?" 

"Definitely." Tony piped up. "I'm a billionaire, Steve; we're going all out. Rehearsal dinner, reception, honeymoon on, like, the moon, in a tropical bubble paradise, whatever you want. Okay?"

Steve sighed. He hadn't wanted to bring it up last night, considering how truly happy Tony had been, but now seemed like a good time, and Tony would get ahead of himself if Steve didn't reign him in now. 

"Tony, honey, I just want a simple wedding." He said. "A little ceremony inside the mansion, a reception in a tiny restaurant, and a honeymoon on the Jersey shore. I'm fine with that. The only thing I want from all this is to be married to you." 

"We're not getting a honeymoon on the Jersey shore, I can tell you that right now." Tony responded. "I would sooner shoot myself." 

Steve just groaned. 

"You know what I mean, sweetheart." He replied. "Tony, honey, you don't need to spend millions of dollars on this--I don't want this to be a big, flashy affair! I just..." He sighed, aware everyone in the room was hanging onto every word of this debacle. "Tony, all I want is for the country that I have served my entire life to recognize us as a married couple. That's it. That's all. I don't need this flashy, expensive, overwrought nonsense. Please...I...I don't..." 

Tony hugged him so tight Steve could feel him shaking from the force. He just stroked Tony's hair as gently as he could as Tony kissed his forehead, then sighed, considering something.

"Sweetheart, I want a big wedding because...well..." Tony shook his head. "I want the whole world to know we're getting married. I want everyone to know that we're together, through thick and thin, and that we're not going to do anything crazy, like rend the community in two over a stupid government act, or something else equally moronic. I want the whole world to know that I have chosen you, and only you. I want to give you the wonderful, beautiful, perfect wedding you deserve, as a precusor to the wonderful, beautiful, perfect life you deserve. More than anything else, Steve, this is about you. And how much I love you." He confessed. "You're my world. You're the greatest thing in my life. You...you're..." He fumbled for a word, and then he finally smiled as it came to him.

"You're my tomorrow, Steve. You're my tomorrow that gets me through today. I want you to have everything I can give." He finished. "I mean, I know you had the Depression and all, and it's really hard for you to move past that, money-wise, but god damn, I want to spoil you senseless. Please, Steve, let me?" He begged. "I want to give you the most beautiful wedding I can. Please."

Steve really didn't know what to say to Tony begging him about it. He knew that part of his instinct to not want to spend a ton of money was definitely his "growing up poor" life speaking, but...Tony's happiness hinged so very much on wanting this wedding. And...the thought of Tony happy trumped his own worries. Tony deserved all the love Steve could give him. 

He smiled. And of course, he would rein Tony in when it got too extravagant...

"All right, Tony." Steve said. "But...nothing too crazy, okay? I think we can live without a bejeweled unicorn at the wedding." He said dryly. Tony snapped his fingers and grinned.

"Great idea. Glad you thought of it. I'll put in an order for the unicorns immediately." He teased. Steve just grumbled and kissed his cheek. Tony laughed and snuggled closer before taking one of the notebooks on the counter and a pen. "Seriously, then. We've got basically an unlimited budget, so throw suggestions at me, people." 

"I liked the idea of getting married at the mansion." Mary-Jane piped up. "It's a part of your lives. Plus, we already know it can hold all of us; we live here." She added. Tony nodded.

"True. But what about holding the entire superhero community, MJ? This isn't just an Avengers wedding; this is an X-Men wedding, a Fantastic Four wedding, an Inhumans wedding, a wedding for like, the entire superhero world." Tony frowned. "Mind you, we've got the grounds around the mansion; if we had it outside it could work. And it is summer." He nodded, satisfied. "Steve, honey?" 

"Sounds fine to me." He said. "I wouldn't want to get married anywhere else, frankly." 

Tony grinned and turned back to the others. "You heard the man." He said. "Any dissenting opinions?" 

"No complaints from this quarter." Carol said. "But speaking of this "whole superhero community wedding" thing, who do we need to call?" She asked. Tony shook his head. 

"I'll visit everyone personally." He said. "Steve and I can make it. Hell, aside from Charles, half of the people we need to talk to live around here." He shuddered. "Did you call Nick yet? I could actually do without another visit to Fury." 

"He'll show up." Jessica said. "I know him. He'll show up just when you least expect it." She couldn't stop a bit of a giggle at the dramatics, and Tony just shook his head.

"You're laughing, I'm taking you seriously. That man..." He shuddered again and groaned. "Whatever. S.H.I.E.L.D.'s invited, too. It would be kind of a jerk move not to invite them." He paused. "Uh...Thor?"

"Shieldbrother?" He replied, giving him an odd look. "Surely you do not need my input? I am not an expert on Midgardian wedding rituals." 

"That's not it, Thor." Tony said. "And, just for the record, you're one of my closest friends, I want your input. However..." He winced. "Uh...do you think we should invite the Asgardians? I mean, would they accept?" 

Thor gave him a look like he was an idiot for even considering they wouldn't. Tony just groaned as Thor intoned dramatically, "The brothers and sisters of Asgard owe the deepest debts to you and Steve. All of us would consider it an honor to attend the wedding of my dearest, truest brothers in arms." 

"So...that's a yes." Tony replied wryly. Thor nodded, not exactly picking up on his sarcasm. 

"Aye." He responded. "I shall send word to them myself, if that is all right with you? Traversing the halls of Asgard is stress you do not need as you plan your celebration, shieldbrothers." 

Tony sighed, relieved, and nodded in agreement. 

"God, yes," he said. "Thank you, Thor. That would be lovely." He chewed his lip in thought. "Aside from that..." He paused. "Oh, Steve; we have to find Bucky. Is he..." He trailed off. "Still with Tasha, I mean?"

"Yeah." Steve said. "Far as I know, the two are still trying to figure things out back in my old apartment. I'll go talk to him, okay?" Steve added. Tony nodded.

"Mm. That's your gig." He frowned. "I still have to break the news to Pep, Rhodey, and Happy...I'll call them as soon as this is over and break the news." He shook his head. "Hell, I hope they didn't find out already. I woul hate for them to hear it over CNN or whatever..." 

"No; I specifically instructed them not to watch the news this morning, Tony." Jarvis interjected. "They know you have something to tell them, and that you will call them when you are ready." 

"Have I mentioned lately what a godsend you are?" Tony said. Jarvis just smiled and smoothed his mussed hair back over his forehead, fatherly love written all over his face. 

"So we have who we need to talk to." Billy said. "Question is...when is this actually gonna be?" He asked. "Soon?"

"As soon as possible." Steve said. "We'll hire catering and all that tonight. Tony has enough tuxedoes to last him through the apocalypse, I'll go buy one and get it tailored...the usual things." He frowned. "Considering the size of the wedding, it could take a few weeks..." 

"Well, the size of the wedding means there's more people to work on stuff." Kate helpfully reminded him. "Plus, most of us have been to charity functions and stuff; we've all got dresses and tuxes. Unless you wanted a specific theme?" She asked. Steve groaned.

"I don't...I don't...Tony, help." He begged. Tony laughed and hugged him before shaking his head.

"Nah, no theme." He said. "Just all of us together. That's good enough for me." 

"I can start working on coordinating dresses immediately." Jan said. "Ladies, I need you in my room the second this meeting is over; I'll need measurements. Any color preferences, boys?" She asked. 

"If you say red, white, and blue, I am calling this entire thing off." Tony teased. Steve ruffled his hair and rolled his eyes. 

"Apple-colored." He fired back. Tony snorted into his coffee as Steve huffed. "Jan, give me a few minutes with my sketchpad, okay? I might be able to give you a coherent design for the dresses." He offered. Jan nodded.

"Fair enough, champ." She said. "So, who's your maid of honor?" 

"I...uh." Steve blinked. "I don't...I don't know. Do we need one?" He asked. "I'd feel terrible for picking someone over anyone else..." 

"Sharon?" Tony offered. Steve shrugged. 

"I...I don't know. It seems...mean." He said. "I mean, we dated for awhile, and it just seems so cruel to ask her to be the maid of honor in my wedding..." 

"Can't hurt to ask." Tony said. "I can have Rhodey as best man? And, hell, Pep as maid of honor. She'd jump at the chance." 

"Bucky...what about Bucky? Sam probably wouldn't mind Bucky being my best man, but if you have Rhodey, I mean, I..." Steve murmured. Tony groaned.

"We know too many people." He muttered. "You're right. How about one of each for the both of us? It fits pretty much everyone in pretty neatly."

"All right." Steve said. "But I don't know if Sharon will accept..." He sighed. Tony kissed his cheek.

"Ssh, sweetheart. If she doesn't, it's not the end of the world." He reminded him gently. "It's fine." 

"All right..." Stever repeated before shaking his head. "If she says no--Jan, would you do it? I've known you since I woke up from the ice, and you're one of my closest friends..." 

Jan looked highly pleased with herself as she hugged him and nodded.

"Of course, handsome." She replied. "I'd love to. Anyways..." She put a finger to her lips for a second, deep in thought. "So, the rest of us as bridesmaids?" She asked. "And do you even want a ring bearer and flower girl?" 

"No, it's fine." Tony said. "I don't think we've got anyone small and cute enough. I'll have Rhodey carry the rings and Pep can bring flowers."

She nodded, writing all of it down in her notebook before running a hand through her hair and exhaling sharply. 

"Jeez, we're already off to a pretty good start. Any caterers you had in mind, Tony?" She asked. Tony shook his head.

"No." He replied. "I was kinda hoping you knew someone..." He looked at Jarvis and grinned sheepishly. "I didn't want to put all the burden of cooking on you." He explained. Jarvis shook his head.

"I understand. May and I are a formidable force, obviously, but it won't be enough for the size of this wedding." He considered something. "Tony, I can look around and make a few calls for a caterer today. That can be my department, if you wish." 

Tony nodded an agreement. "Oh, yeah." He said. "I don't even know what all the buttons on our stove are for. That's definitely your gig." He laughed. 

"Tony, honey, we still need someone to actually marry us." Steve said. "I take it you don't want a priest?" 

"Since I'm as religious as a pair of socks, no, a justice of the peace would be just fine." Tony said wryly. "Jen? Matt?" He asked. "They're lawyers, close enough. And Jen was an Avenger for awhile, too." He added. Steve shrugged. 

"Well, they can handle the legal paperwork, but I meant...someone to preside over everything. A witness." He said. "Is there anyone you really want doing it?" 

"We've got everyone we know as a witness." Tony said. "It's fine. Believe me, by the time this is done, everyone in the entire world will know that I am married to you." He said that with such a firm, determined edge to his voice that Steve couldn't help a small shiver. He smiled and hugged Tony tight.

"Okay, sweetheart." He murmured. "That sounds fine." 

"Anything else?" Jan said. "I'll start on the dresses today, Thor can head out to Asgard, you can start making invitation rounds, Jarvis will find a caterer, May can rope us all into trying to spruce up the place, y'know...are we missing anything?" She asked. Steve nodded.

"A date." He said. "I can't just tell everyone "we're getting married, I'll let you know when." He said dryly. Jan nodded.

"Fair enough." She replied. "So...how about..." 

Tony tilted his head and began to consider. After a moment, he nodded, satisfied with whatever answer he had come up with.

"Two weeks." He said. "Two weeks from today, in fact. At three in the afternoon." 

"July fourth," Steve responded, a smile growing across his face. "Intentional?" He teased. Tony shrugged.

"Well, if you think it's, like, sacreligious or something..." He trailed off as Steve kissed him. 

"Hush, Tony," he murmured. "It's a lovely idea." He grinned. "Besides, I never liked big birthday parties; we'll just cover up my birthday with a wedding." He told him.

"We're not having apple pie cake, old man." Clint teased. Steve rolled his eyes and ruffled Clint's hair, earning himself an indignant squeal as everyone else laughed. 

"So then; July fourth, we'll all try to set everything in motion, and in two weeks, you're going to be married." Jan sighed. "I hope you're prepared for a really stressful two weeks."

"I've had worse." Tony said. "Anyways--Avengers, disassemble and get to work. We'll meet back here at eight for dinner and compare progress. Got it?" He said. Everyone nodded an agreement as Steve just smiled, filled with love for his family as he stood up.

"Right. See you soon, then." He said. "Tony?" 

"Always here with you." His fiance murmured. Steve just held his hand out and let Tony interwine their fingers before the two of them set off to get the Quinjet and start their inviting errands. 

The whole group watched them leave, and for once, no one joked about how cute they were or how ridiculously sappy the two of them could be. They just smiled.

"They're so sweet." Jan murmured. "C'mon, guys. We owe them a great wedding." 

Everyone set out to start their tasks, eager to get started. After all, two weeks would whirl right by, and there was so much to get done...

...

"You're going to head out to meet Pep, then?" Steve asked, standing outside the gate with Tony's hand still entwined in his. Tony nodded.

"Yeah." He replied. "You're gonna go see Bucky?" 

Steve nodded, looking a little uneasy as he did so. Bucky had been on edge ever since he had come home; he was just so grateful Bucky was alive that he didn't care, but he knew that he was on different ground with him now, and...it was a lot. Still. He owed this much to Bucky. 

"It'll be okay." Tony promised him, like he could read his mind. Steve just smiled, grateful for his concern.

"Meet you outside the Baxter building in an hour." Tony said, stroking Steve's hair and squeezing his hand. "We'll break the news to the Fantastic gang, then head out on the Quinjet to the Institute. That should get us home around eight to meet up with everyone, right?" He mused. "You can try to design the dresses while we're flying." 

"Fair enough." Steve responded. "See you soon, Tony. Love you." He kissed Tony's forehead as Tony threw his arms around him. 

"Love you too, soldier." He murmured. "See you in a bit."

The two parted ways and headed out onto the streets of New York, disappearing into the throngs of people with a mission on their minds.

Chapter Text

"Pepper." Maria said politely, accepting the coffee Pepper handed her and sitting down. Pepper gave her an odd look before she nodded in return.

"Hello, Maria." She replied. "I must say, I wasn't expecting a call from you. I thought you would still be out enjoying yourself; isn't this your two weeks off?" She asked. "After the budget meeting, I mean." 

"Yeah, yeah." Maria acknowledged it with a wave of her hand. "Nothing much changes, though; S.H.I.E.L.D. and Fury are basically my life, and I know it." She shrugged. "I mean, there's...well, I have a girlfriend, but I don't know if..." 

Pepper smiled warmly and shook her head. 

"You and Tony must get along so well just because of how obtuse you are." She said. "Maria, whoever she is, just call her and ask her out again. Go out somewhere fancy. Hell, I'll make sure Tony picks up the tab. You had to sit through his budget meeting..." She mused. "Speaking of, did that go well?"

"Tony had his mind on something else, I could tell that much, but we did make it through okay." Maria replied. "He just seemed...very detached. Like he had other things to worry about. Which I guess is understandable, but normally he's there at the end of the meeting, bitching back and forth with Nick and Dugan, or discussing intel reports with me...yesterday, though? He just left." She shrugged haplessly. 

"I kinda wrote it off because I had a dinner date last night--which went great, don't worry, I'm not here to whine about that--but he seemed...off. And I woke up this morning with one of those gut feelings that Tony was, well, probably up to no good. And I got worried." She sighed. "You know him better than most people these days, except for maybe Steve Rogers, and I'm not going to Captain America and telling him something's wrong with his boyfriend." 

"Fair enough." Pepper agreed, smiling. "I admit Steve can be a bit of a bear when it comes to Tony's well-being. He worries for a good reason, though; I know Tony well enough to know that sometimes, you really just want to keep him on a leash or something."

She and Maria both laughed for a minute, picturing the idea, before Maria asked, "So, do you really know if anything is up with him? I mean...at this point, I'm really kind of concerned." She paused. "Do you think I should call Nick?"

"No." Pepper immediately responded. "Nick will make everything worse. If this is just Tony having a bad day, Nick will make it Tony having gotten hit by a car. If Tony got hit by a car, Nick will make it a bus. If it was a bus, Nick will make it a rocket ship. If it was a rocket ship, Nick will make it a giant robot. If it was a giant robot, then at this point, I wouldn't be surprised. Plus, Nick would have been piloting it." 

There was a beat of silence between the two of them. 

"...Huh." Maria said. "...Sometimes I try to protest that he's really not that bad, but you know what, I'm starting to think that's just because I'm used to it."

"It most certainly is." Pepper said. "Anyways...whatever it is, he called Rhodey and Happy in already; Bethany can't make this meeting, but I know he's going to call her as soon as he can. Would you like to stay? Whatever it is, I'm sure he'd be willing to break it to you, too." She offered. Maria nodded.

"Fair enough." She agreed. "I just want to know if he's okay..." 

"All right." Pepper replied. "So, then, about this girlfriend of yours..." 

Maria huffed. The last thing she needed was any lovelife gossip.

...

Tony came into the office fully prepared to gossip about his lovelife.

Of course, Tony's lovelife was the subject of much amusement to most people, considering the vast array of women he had dated over the years, pre-Steve, but still, he was a little thrilled to finally have something as official as a wedding. 

"Pepper?" He called out. "Pepper, are you here?"

There was a bit of silence for a minute. Then he heard her call back to him, "Yeah, Tony. Rhodey and Happy are on their way." 

He followed the sound of her voice into his office, opening the door to be greeted by both Maria and Pepper. He blinked, surprised. Maria just sighed with relief.

"Okay. So it wasn't the robot." She said. 

Tony didn't ask. 

"So, what're you doing here, then?" He did manage to ask that question, because it was kind of bothering him; after all, Maria normally didn't pester him too much outside S.H.I.E.L.D. things; he got the feeling she was still trying to learn how to deal with him. He wanted to sit her down at one point and tell her that he had some friends that he had known for almost his entire adult life that didn't know how to deal with him yet. Now, however, was not that time.

"I just...I was worried about you." She confessed. "You seemed a bit off at the meeting yesterday, and I woke up this morning with this gut feeling about you...I couldn't put a finger on it, but I had to know if you were all right." 

Tony smiled. It wasn't a sarcastic smile, or a bitter smile, or a smile that was trying to dam up tears, it was a genuine, sweet smile, and it warmed them all up a bit. 

"Thanks, Maria." He said. "But I'm fine. Actually, I have big news for you all..." He paused for a second. He was debating telling her; he respected her a lot, but Nick was Nick and Tony had nightmares about him sometimes. Still...

"Yeah. You'll probably want to know what's up." He finished. At this point, he figured Nick was getting invited to the wedding anyway, so why bother; bite the bullet as soon as possible. Maria beamed, clearly thrilled to be included in his briefing. Tony was a little grateful he had let her stay; she looked overjoyed. 

"Well, that makes...oh, four of us, now?" Rhodey's voice cut through the room, and Tony jumped, looking up to see Rhodey and Happy in the doorway, both of them looking a little concerned. Tony was geniunely touched that everyone seemed to be worried he was going to confess something drastic and deadly; it did, of course, speak volumes about the sort of life he led, but it also spoke volumes about how much everyone cared. 

"Tony..." Happy sighed. "Whatever this is, I'm just hoping you're okay. That's why we're all here, and why I assume Hill showed up, too." He looked Tony in the eye. "So; spill. You okay?" 

"Better than okay." Tony said. "I promise. Just...everyone sit, all right? Relax for a second." He gestured to the open chairs, which Happy and Rhodey immediately sat down in, observing Tony carefully as he fiddled with the engagement ring on his finger.

"So I've been dating Steve for a really long time." He said. "And my time with him is the best time of my life; I honestly believe that there have been times where Steve Rogers is the only reason I have continued living at all." Tony smiled. "I guess...personally, I was always shy of asking for his hand in marriage; I mean, it used to be a legal impossibility, for one thing, but part of me was just afraid that maybe Steve wouldn't want to be tied to me forever. I'm not exactly the most stable man in the world. I...I was scared, to be honest." He shook his head.

"But I guess sometimes, I can let other people take a stand, even when I'm not sure if I can. Because yesterday in Central Park, Steve asked me to marry him." Tony looked up to catch a glimpse of everyone's faces, and he was amused by the variations of expression; Pepper looked smug, like she had already figured it out, Maria looked awed, Rhodey looked slightly amused, and Happy just looked like he wasn't sure if Tony was joking or not. 

"I said yes." He told them. There was so much power in just being so simple about it; it was a world-shattering act, true, but simply announcing he had accepted carried so much weight. "Steve and I are getting married in two weeks. July fourth, to be exact." 

The whole room was silent for a long, slow minute.

"I knew it!" Pepper crowed, pumping her fist. "Twenty bucks, Rhodey, pay up!" 

"Aw, come on." Rhodey grumbled. "And I thought you were being cheesy for saying they'd get married on the fourth..." 

"It's Steve." Happy reminded them. The two of them considered this before they nodded in agreement.

Maria just smiled and clasped his shoulder.  "Congratulations, Tony." She said. "The two of you are perfect for each other." She winced. "Uh...dare I ask, but do you have any plans for the wedding?" She murmured. "I mean, like, do you know what you're doing?" 

"Sort of." He said. "But...I could always use some help. It's actually why I called you all here; I need help planning still." He told them. "Pepper, would you be the general overseer? You manage to keep me on time and working, I'm sure you can help Jarvis out." 

"Of course." She replied. "Rhodey, Happy, you two are my assistants." 

"Fair enough." Rhodey said. "Hey, Tony--who are you getting to be your best man?" 

"I was going to ask you, actually." Tony said. "You think you're up to it?"

Rhodey's face split into a giant grin as he hugged Tony tight. Tony just grinned.

"Yeah. I think I can survive." He said, ruffling Tony's hair affectionately. 

"Pepper, would you be the maid of honor?" Tony asked, turning to her. "I mean...if you're okay with it." 

"Sure." Pepper grinned. "I mean, y'know..." She just sighed and shook her head. "Oh, Tony. To be honest, I'm glad Steve's the one marrying you, and not me." She teased. Tony grimaced.

"Ouch. That's just cruel." He retorted. "Happy, could you--"

"No, I am not going to be the ring-bearer." He immediately cut Tony off. "I'll play the intro piece on the organ. Y'know, the one with the bride walking in." 

Tony winced, but he had seen Happy pick up stranger talents before, and he wouldn't put it past his friend to have picked up a talent for the pipe organ, too. Still, there was now another point that needed to be addressed.

"I am not, under any circumstances, the bride," he quickly reminded everyone. "Just because Steve is like six foot five and the peak of human perfection does not mean I am wearing a dress." 

"He'd look better in one, to be honest," Maria mused. "You've got facial hair, and the hair on your arms and legs is darker." 

"...Steve is not the bride either." Tony reminded her. Maria laughed. 

"Yeah, I know. I'm just saying." She responded. "Anyways, I'd be willing to help, as I'm sure everyone at S.H.I.E.L.D. will be, too, once I break the news to them." She stood up and stretched. "Actually, I'm going to go do just that; Nick isn't there today, but I'll let everyone else know. Okay?" 

"Sounds great, thanks." Tony said. "I'm going to go over stuff we need; do you want to stay for a bit and help me get it sorted out?" 

Maria nodded eagerly and settled back into her chair.

"Okay." She replied. "I'm good. Talk to us, Tony." 

Tony sat down with his notebook and began to go over plans, excitement swelling up in him as he rejoiced in his friends' acceptance and the wedding in his future.

...

Steve shook his head as he headed up the steps. He wasn't worried. No, he was just...concerned. Of course. Legitmately concerned. Which made sense, all things considered; he didn't know how Bucky would react...

He just took the doorknob in his hands and twisted, opening the door up and slipping into the foyer quietly, like a cat on the sidewalk at midnight. He couldn't hear either of them, and he had a quick internal debate before deciding he just needed to bite the bullet and call to them. 

"Bucky?" He said, the words seeming far too loud in the silence. "Bucky? Natasha?" 

There was still silence for a few minutes. Then the soft sound of another door opening greeted him, and Bucky left his room to come stand out in the hallway, watching him intently. 

"Hey," he said, running a hand through his hair and giving Steve an odd look. "Nat's sleeping. Are you...why...are you..." 

"I know I said I'd leave you two be for awhile." Steve finished his sentence for him and winced. "I understand me showing up might be a bit of a shock, and I'm sorry. I just...I needed to tell you something." He said. Bucky nodded.

"I get it, I get it. It's fine. Sit down, okay? I'm listening." He said, gesturing to the couches. Steve sat down without a word, keeping a close eye on Bucky as he sat down beside him. His heart ached, and he wanted more than anything in that instant to hold tight to Bucky and not let go. 

But he knew his limits now. He knew what Bucky had been through, and what he had done. Bucky wouldn't let him touch him anymore; he had grown up. And Steve had been cheated out of his younger brother by the Soviets. Still, he persisted...because he knew underneath all the pain and mental instability, there was still his Bucky. And that was something he would fight heaven itself to regain.

"So, what is it?" Bucky asked. Steve met his eyes and did his best to smile.

"Tony and I are getting married." He said.

Bucky watched him for a minute, not saying anything. Steve continued on, trying to ignore the silence. 

"I wanted you to be best man," he said quietly. "I...Bucky...you're my little brother. I still love you. I always will. No matter what happened to you or what you did. Please, Bucky." He begged. "I love you." 

Bucky looked away. He still hadn't said a word, and Steve's heart had started to sink into his stomach, twisting itself up in knots. 

"I...I..." Bucky swallowed. "Really? Tony? You could do so much better." 

His voice had that familiar teasing lilt to it again, and Steve almost cried with relief. 

"I dunno," Steve retorted. "He is a billionaire who's good with his hands..."

Bucky outright laughed, and Steve savored the sound for a second before he let himself continue.

"You can come back to the mansion and help plan if you want--or don't; it's up to you. But I want you to be best man at the wedding." He said, taking Bucky's hand and squeezing. "Would you? Please?"

Bucky sighed. There was something going on behind his eyes that Steve didn't like; a lot of pain, a lot of rage, a lot of hate. Steve knew his death after what had happened between him and Tony had hit Bucky hard...and maybe the Bucky from before might have forgiven him, but...after all this, Steve didn't know. He believed in Bucky, though. So he waited.

"Tony hurt you," He said. "I wanted...I...he hurt you. I wanted him dead." 

"He never meant to," Steve murmured. "And sometimes, Bucky, people hurt the ones they love--that's just how life is. Right now, though? Tony and I have gotten over it. We've moved on, and now we can finally be happy. I want you to be a part of that. Please." He asked.

Bucky took a minute to think, his eyes closed as he clenched his metal fist, deep in thought. 

"I don't know if I'm up for that yet," He murmured. "Give me time." He sighed. "But I promise, no matter what, I'll be at the wedding. I just...need to mull this over a little? Please?" He asked. Steve nodded, and he realized that his eyes were filled with tears and his vision was already blurring. 

"Of course," He whispered. "It's okay." 

He didn't care about boundaries right now. He just needed to hug Bucky tight...

So he did.

Steve pulled him into a tight embrace, holding him as close as he could and ruffling his hair like he used to do, letting Bucky tremble against him in a moment of lapsed self-control before he finally let go. Bucky was crying now too, and his eyes shone with tears as their gazes met.

"See you soon, Bucky," Steve said, his voice soft with hope and a promise. "I'll be waiting."

"I'll be there, big brother." Bucky gasped, tears making it hard to get the words out. "I p-promise." 

The echoes of a time far beyond them were etched into every word Bucky said. Steve just stroked his hair again before he got up and left as quietly as he had come.

Chapter Text

True to his word, Steve met up with Tony in front of the Baxter Building as soon as he could make it over from Brooklyn. He didn't even have to say a word before Tony hugged him tight, running a comforting hand down his back and squeezing his hand.

"It went okay?" He asked. Steve nodded.

"Not...badly, anyway. Tasha was asleep, so I didn't get anything from her, but Bucky said...he said he would be at the wedding, at least. Everything else, well, that'll fall into place as we go along." He murmured. "I won't push him."

"Fair enough." Tony replied, not wanting to delve too deeply into it; he still didn't understand Bucky and Steve's relationship, not completely, and he trusted Steve to do the right thing anyway. "So, good news is that Pepper, Happy, and Rhodey are all absolutely thrilled. The bad news is that Maria found out, too, and I'm sure she's running right back to the Helicarrier and letting Nick know." He muttered. Steve just grinned.

"We're old war buddies, Tony. Not inviting him would be a crime." He teased. Tony rolled his eyes.

"Yeah, that's what I want at my wedding; a grizzled old bastard who'll probably put his cigar out in our wedding cake just to mess with me." Tony grumbled, but there was affection in his voice, and Steve just kissed his cheek.

"Did you call Bethany?" He asked. Tony nodded.

"Left her a message, but she hasn't called back yet. Extremis will let me know when she does." He replied. "C'mon. I already sent a message to Reed, they're expecting us. You ready?" 

Steve nodded and wound his fingers in between Tony's before he smiled again and ruffled Tony's hair.

"Yeah." He said. "C'mon, sweetheart. We've got invites to send." 

The two of them headed into the Baxter Building, the thrill of announcing their marriage still lifting their spirits even as they heard the sounds of another argument coming from upstairs.

...

"Reed! Reed Richards, don't you dare go back to your lab right now, or so help me god, I will put a force field around the whole thing and lock you out for a year! If you are lucky!" Sue shouted at the top of her lungs, knowing full well even as she spoke that Reed would risk it; he'd left a burner on or opened a transdimensional warp between universes or something else equally unimportant, (well, not as important as spending time with the kids, clearly), and sighing in disgust. "Ben? Little help?"

"You married him, Sue." Ben remarked wryly, flipping a page of the newspaper. "You deal with him."

"I'm going to deal with him by chucking him in the ocean, that's how I'm going to deal with him--REED!" She roared, making both Ben and Johnny jump. "TONY AND STEVE ARE HERE! GET OUT OF THE LAB!"

Said couple just stood in the doorway, quietly trembling as Susan turned around to face them, a slight twitch in her left eye as Valeria tugged on her pants.

"Mommy, I found the secret to cold fusion! Can I--" 

"That's lovely, sweetheart." Sue said, gently pushing her over to Johnny. "You can tell daddy later. Right now, mommy needs to make sure he listens to whatever Steve and Tony came here to tell him, and that someone writes it down, because otherwise we'll probably forget."

"I'll remember," Valeria said proudly. "I'm a genius."

"Yes, I know." Sue sighed. "Like I needed another one in my life." She muttered, shaking her head and smiling at Steve and Tony. "Hey, boys. Sit down, will you? I've got tea on." She offered. "And cookies." 

"Can I have one?" Valeria pleaded. 

"After naptime." Sue told her absentmindedly. "Tony, Steve, sit. You're making me more frazzled than I am right now, and that's probably dangerous."

The two sat without any further provocation as Sue cracked her knuckles and smiled. "Now." She said. "Where is he...?"

Reed poked his head out through the door and nodded, acknowledging Tony and Steve's presence before saying to Sue, "You know, you could just send them into the lab. I didn't have to come out here." He grumbled, heading into the kitchen anyway as Sue rolled her eyes.

"Tony would get distracted, and then Steve would be annoyed at me because then they'd never end up leaving. I'm doing this for the greater good." She defended herself. "Anyways, everyone's here, dears; so, what's the news?" She asked. 

Tony and Steve looked at each other, and a silent debate passed between them for a second before Steve grinned, taking it upon himself to break the news this time. 

"We're getting married." He said. "In two weeks, as a matter of fact." 

The whole room was quiet for a second. 

"Well, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised." Reed said. "The two of you are a perfect match." He frowned. "This does mean, however, you're going to be busy for the next few weeks...so does that mean our weekly meet-ups are out?" He almost pouted as Tony grinned and shook his head ruefully.

"Fraid so, Reed." He said. "Don't worry, you won't miss me. Just let Valeria tinker around with some stuff, she'll be great company." He sighed. "I'm just glad everyone's taking this so in stride..." 

"Of course we are." Sue said, ruffling his hair affectionately. "Tony, we were all expecting this at some point; it was just a matter of when." She hummed to herself before an idea occurred to her. "Ben and I can head over and help set up. I'll go bother Jan, I'm sure there's something I can do." She nodded, satisfied. 

"Reed, you're on babysitting detail for the night--that includes Johnny. Keep those three entertained, and we'll find something for you to do once Ben and I figure out what needs to be done." She said brusquely. Reed just sighed, but Johnny outright whined, nuzzling his sister's cheek as she shoved him off of her. "And don't you start, you do so need to be babysat, you destroy the house if we're not around." 

Tony and Steve just looked at each other and shared a quick smirk before Tony piped up, "We'll just head out and let you guys plan. See you at the mansion at eight."

They left the way they had come; with the sounds of bickering invading their ears.

...

"So, let's see. Who do we actually have left?" Steve asked. Tony chewed his lip, deep in thought, and considered.

"Charles is relatively close by, but aside from the X-Men, I'm trying to think if there's anyone we need to track down." He frowned. "Black Bolt might be back with the Inhumans; I'll have to find a way to contact him. They are, of course, invited...And aside from that, we need to let the X-Factor kids know; surprisingly, we don't have one of their members pulling double-duty on our team as of right now."Tony said dryly before he shook his head. "But aside from that, not anyone in particular. It seems like most everyone will know." He grinned. "Face it, the Avengers are a web of people, and I'm sure word will get out to anyone we miss from one of the others." He said.

"Mm." Steve agreed. "We need to go visit Matt, though. As much as I dislike Hell's Kitchen, he's invited, and we ought to go find him." He snapped his fingers, an idea occurring to him. "Oh, and Jen--she's off today, but she'll be at the firm tomorrow. I'll go talk to her." 

"Anyone else we're missing?" Tony asked. "I think with that, we've got most of the heroes around here covered..." He nodded. "Mm. We'll make a formal announcement and let them know they're all invited in the press conference, just in case we miss someone." He offered. Steve nodded.

"Wonderful idea." He replied. "Now c'mon, genius, we have to go see to Charles." He said, taking Tony's arm in his and leading him onto the Quinjet. Tony kissed his cheek and grinned.

"Lead the way, soldier...and give me a minute," he said, voice soft and breathy as he kissed Steve's neck, "just so I can set this on autopilot..."

...

Ororo Munroe hummed quietly to herself and arranged her bedspread neatly across her bed. She was in sweatpants and a tee shirt, and moving very carefully around the room; she had just painted her toenails and fingernails, and she was afraid of smudging the polish before it dried. 

A small gust of wind blew up around her fingers, as if in response to her concerns, and she smiled gratefully at the cool breeze that was now working its way around her hands and feet, drying the enamel on them, dulling the wet shine of eggplant purple into a more muted velvety amethyst. She hummed to herself and tested the tips of her nails, satisfied. She banished the wind with a smile of thanks and looked around her room.

The sun was shining through the open window, and she pulled the pale green curtains back a little more to emphasize the sunlight hitting the pale bedspreads. She padded across the room and opened the door, heading downstairs for a cup of coffee. 

It was mid afternoon already, but she had been up late last night, tending to the gardens around the Institute; Charles had no green thumb to speak of, and she had taken it upon herself to tend to the plants with a few nicely-timed rainshowers and carefully managed sunshine. On her last trip to Wakanda, she had cajoled T'Challa, a friend of hers, to let her take home a few samples of some Wakandan herbs, and they were flourishing nicely...

The garden aside, Storm was still a little worn out, and she could definitely use a cup of coffee. Somebody probably had a pot on already, but if not, she was perfectly capable of making one herself...

She hummed to herself as she made her way down the stairs, her hair swishing gently behind her as she opened the door to the kitchen and smiled, delighted; sure enough, a pot of coffee simmered on the burner. She poured herself a cup, mixed in cream and sugar, and grabbed a few cookies from the tin before heading downstairs into the living room. 

She paused at the edge of the hallway, listening intently. She heard voices. 

First...Charles. He seemed relaxed, so whomever he was conversing with, they were not a threat. Next...

Tony Stark. She smiled and lifted her cup of coffee to her lips. Tony seemed a little more on edge, but not angry...just nervous. 

The last voice in the room belonged to Steve Rogers, and that was where her curiousity peaked. She had to know why he was here; was it official business, or simply a chat between friends? Regardless, she figured she could interrupt; nothing in their tones spoke of anything urgent, and in fact, from what actual words she could discern, they were discussing cake and tuxedos...

She raised an eyebrow. Oh, yes. Now she was interested.

Storm made her way down the hallway and knocked on the door, hearing them all jump ever-so-slightly and smiling, satisfied. 

"Charles? It's me, Ororo." She said. "May I interrupt?"

"Go ahead." Steve responded, instead of Charles, but his tone was warm and he didn't seem to mind her intrusion. "You should hear the news, too." 

Storm opened the door and sat on the couch beside Charles' chair, looking at Steve and Tony intently. The two of them practically glowed with happiness, and Storm raised an eyebrow; that much geniune happiness and excitement was not something she had seen on Tony Stark's face in a very long time. That alone was cause for celebration; out of her hundreds of friends and fellow heroes, she had always privately thought Tony was one of the most self-loathing of the lot, yet, in the strange way these things worked, one of the ones she wanted geniune happiness for the most.

"We're getting married." Tony said. Storm didn't say a word for a second, watching him intently. Tony sounded so gleeful, and Steve just looked so proud, so loving, and so protective...truly, a wonderful thing. 

Her face split into a grin; she couldn't help it. Charles was looking pretty pleased beside her as well, she noted, before she hugged both Steve and Tony, affectionately planting kisses on their foreheads.

"Wonderful news, truly." She said, her voice low and husky as she let go of the two of them. "I will assist you in any way I possibly can." 

"Having a bright, sunny day for the wedding would be perfect..." Steve said. "Besides that, Ororo, would you want to be one of the bridesmaids? We'd be honored." He asked. Storm nodded.

"It is done. The weather will be perfect, I assure you." She inclined her head and smiled. "And yes, I would love to be one of the bridesmaids. Does Jan need assistance? I am not a seamstress, but Emma is." She said. "If you asked her, I'm sure she would volunteer..." 

"Don't bother." The voice of the former White Queen cut through all of their hearing as they turned to see Emma standing in the doorway, a baggy white shirt and loose pants covering her frame. "Do you know how brilliant the two of your minds shine right now? Like fireworks on the edge of midnight." She pointed to Steve and Tony. "You can't stop thinking about each other. It's quite cute, really." She teased. "And, now that I've said my piece...yes, certainly. I will meet with Janet tomorrow and offer my assistance any way I can." She told them.

"...Thank you, Emma." Steve said, and everyone else in the room noted the hint of a blush with amusement. "Do...do Tony and I really look like..."

"Oh, yes." Charles finally piped up. "The two of you--even without tapping into your mind, you have love written all over your faces. I'm not even sure why you bother breaking the news to everyone; just gather them up in a room and smile at them like that, and they'll know exactly what's going on." He teased them.

"Funny, most people say that about you and Erik." Tony retorted wryly. 

Ororo clasped her hand over her mouth to stifle giggles. Emma raised an eyebrow and smirked. The glare Charles gave him could have melted a sun. Tony just grinned.

"Anyways, do you have any idea where Black Bolt went off to? Is he back on the Inhumans homeworld? I was planning on inviting him and his people; most of us know the Inhumans personally, so..." He trailed off as Charles nodded.

"He is indeed, but I will contact him and let him know of the situation. He'll find a way to send word." Charles promised. Tony nodded.

"Thank you." He said. "That's a weight off my shoulders..." He stretched. "You're the last people we have to visit today; tomorrow, I have to go hunt down all the other teams in New York City and let them know..." Tony groaned. "It's going to be really busy, I can tell you that."

"The children and I can be of assistance." Charles offered. "I'm sure you've already conscripted your own "children" into this planning crusade of yours, and they need to get out of the Institute and be somewhere open, yet safe. Emma? You, Kitty, and Ororo will chaperone the children of the school, yes?" He asked.

"Of course." Emma said. "The kids are my responsibility. We'll take them to New York tomorrow; they'll have to pack and get ready tonight." She reminded him. Charles nodded. 

"Oh, wonderful." Steve said. "I'm sure they'll be a big help." He smiled. "Don't worry. They're all invited, in case they were wondering. As are you." He told them. Emma nodded and tucked a bit of hair behind her ear.

"You're too kind." She murmured. "Thank you, Steve. I will go let the children know and help them pack. Ororo, would you come with me? Between the two of us, along with Kitty, wherever she is, we should be able to get this done quickly." She told her. Storm nodded and followed her out of the room as Steve and Tony stood up. Tony gave Charles a careful look before he sighed.

"If you can get him to do it, Erik is invited as well." He said gently. "I suggest you ask him." 

Charles just watched him for a moment before he sighed in response and shook his head.

"Thank you, Tony." He replied. "We'll be over to help tomorrow. I shall see you then." 

The two of them both nodded and let Charles be, sitting in the living room, staring out the window, and, like he usually ended up doing, one way or another, thinking about Erik.

...

Dinner promised to be loud, warm, and bright; Sue and Ben had stuck around, and Ben had helped Jarvis and May out with the cooking, since they had, by this point, acquired a small army of wedding planners. The Young Avengers hadn't gone home in two days; Steve didn't have the heart to remind them they should see their families, since, all things considered, Cassie had a miserable one, Eli probably wanted to do this for his sake, Billy was excited about seeing him married off to Tony, Kate would just laugh in his face and go back to helping, and neither Tommy, Teddy, or Jonas had parents to go home to...even if Teddy was living with the Kaplans now.

The same principle then applied; the Young Avengers seemed to be almost as into this wedding as he and Tony were. Steve just grinned. It was fine if they stayed; he loved the kids, and he appreciated their dedication. 

"The X-kids are showing up tomorrow!" Tony called out over the din as they headed through the door. Billy immediately perked up, along with Tommy, who managed to reach them first, considering his super-speed, and smiled expectantly.

"Did grandfather say anything about arriving?" He asked, clearly hopeful; Tommy's parents had given up custody on him long ago, and he was clinging to the hope of Magneto reforming and adopting him. Tony just sighed.

"Sorry, kiddo." He murmured. "Erik wasn't even there. Charles will probably try to find him, and maybe he will show up...but I can't promise much." He said. Tommy looked dejected for a minute before he shook his head and grinned.

"Well, at least the X-men will be helpful." He said. "That's okay. Thanks anyway, Tony." 

Neither of them pressed the issue, letting Tommy go back to helping out, leaning on Eli's shoulder as Kate's arm wound comfortably around his hip. After a moment's hesitation, Eli's arm came to support his waist as well. Tommy tensed for a second, but then with a small sigh and a smile, he let the two of them hang on tight. 

"So, what now?" Billy asked. "Time to sit down for dinner, right? We've been working all day; Jan's a harsh taskmistress." He teased. Jan ruffled his hair as Steve smiled.

"Yeah." He said. "Speaking of, I have some designs for dresses, Jan; I had time on the way home to start sketching. I'll start going over them with you tomorrow?" He offered. She nodded.

"Mmhm. I have a few bolts of cloth for you; look over the colors for me tonight while we discuss the designs, okay?" She said. Steve nodded in agreement as Jarvis interrupted them with a sudden, sharp clap. 

"Dinner's ready, children." He told them. "We set up some tables outside; it's still warm out, and while night is falling, we might as well enjoy it while we can." He gestured to the door and smiled. "Shall we?" 

Everyone headed outside, and Tony smiled, enchanted, as almost immediately, a firefly landed on his shoulder. It flickered for a minute before it flitted away, but Steve held out his hand for a minute, letting it rest and glow warmly again before disappearing off into the darkness. 

"Beautiful." He murmured. "Always liked these things." 

Steve kissed his cheek and stroked his hair, smiling warmly and letting Tony snuggle into his embrace. 

"We'll try to round some up for the wedding, then." He teased him gently, laughing at Tony's sudden snort of delight. His joy hadn't worn off; Steve suspected it wouldn't, probably not ever, at the rate Tony was going. He was okay with that; he wasn't sure he would ever stop being happy, either. 

The two of them reclined in one of the chairs, quiet and at peace as Steve flipped through his sketchbook before showing the dress designs to Jan. She frowned and tapped her pencil against them.

"Not bad, but I'm going to make a few adjustments tonight. I'll show you in the morning, all right?" She offered. Steve nodded.

"All right." He replied. "I trust you." He smiled. "As long as they look nice..."

"Of course they will, I'm designing them." Jan said absentmindedly, waving her hand at him before she went back to making adjustments. 

...

Dinner finished relatively quickly, but no one went inside for another two hours; everyone was far more content to sit and talk, enjoying the summer night. Steve held Tony tight and stroked his hair as Tony yawned and snuggled into his embrace.

"Are you excited?" He murmured. Steve laughed softly and hugged him tight.

"Tony, I can barely keep my composure half the time these days; I just keep wanting to run around and tell the entire world that we're getting married." He buried his face into Tony's hair and inhaled his lover's spicy, musky scent before he kissed his forehead. "I love you so much."

"Love you too." Tony said. "And I don't regret a thing." 

Steve just held him as the others went inside, amicably discussing tomorrow's schedule. They left the two of them alone, figuring they would just tell them in the morning. Steve was grateful; he was always so very grateful at how accepting everyone was. It made him so much happier. 

"Want to head upstairs, and, I quote, "enjoy our marital bed?" Tony teased, suddenly breaking the silence as Steve snorted, amused. 

"We're not even married yet." He reminded him. "But okay." 

Tony didn't even protest when Steve picked him up bridal-style and brought him upstairs. After all, every man had his fantasies, and as long as Steve didn't decide to do this sort of thing in public while fighting a dragon, he was good. 

Chapter Text

The next morning, Jarvis was the first one awake, enjoying the silence of the house while all the other Avengers lay asleep in bed. He smiled to himself for a moment, the peace of the morning such a sharp contrast to what was currently going on in his life, before shaking his head and getting out of bed. With his luck, Thor had already brought the Asgardians home and they were currently wrecking the house, or something equally catastrophic, like leaving all the lights on or putting his kitchen out of sorts. 

Jarvis put on his robe and brushed his teeth, heading downstairs to put on the coffee pot and start cooking; he checked a clock as he headed down the stairs and winced, noticing he had slept a little later than he had wanted to, considering that Tony had to be out the door by ten and it was currently nine thirty. 

As an added precaution, if Steve hadn't already awoken him, Jarvis purposefully detoured to Tony's room and knocked on the door for a few minutes. He only decided his work was done once he heard a loud grunt and a pillow being thrown at the door. That was a sign his plan was going smoothly. 

Smiling to himself once again, Jarvis headed downstairs to make pancakes. That would probably get Tony to forgive him. 

...

Tony grunted, annoyed, as Steve rolled over and smiled blearily at him. Tony's annoyance at being woken up melted away immediately as he was confronted with Steve's smile, and he grinned back helplessly. 

"Morning, soldier." He said gently, letting Steve yawn and stretch before he replied, voice fuzzy with sleep. 

"Mornin', Tony." He murmured in return, getting out of bed. "S'almost time for you to go, isn't it?" He said, checking the clock. Tony sighed. 

"Yeah, it is..." He grimaced. "I just want to stay home with you." He muttered. Steve smiled and huffed, ruffling Tony's hair.

"Sorry, sweetheart," he said gently. "We've got work to do. Once it's all over, though, I promise, we'll have an extra-long honeymoon to make up for it." He yawned. "I'm tired too, but I have to work with Jan and the others today..." 

Tony shuddered.

"Yeah, I know..." He agreed. "But, Steve, I--" He swallowed. "I'm a little scared." He confessed. "I mean, we've been in a relationship for a really long time, but confessing that we're getting engaged...I don't know what that will do." He sighed. "People can be bigoted, you know that." 

"Are you worried for me?" Steve said, proving to Tony once again that the serum apparently contained some sort of psychic brain-booster, considering how often Steve seemed to be able to read his mind. Tony looked away, proving his guilt as Steve sighed with a mix of amusement and concern. "Tony..." 

Steve reached over and pulled him into a tight embrace, kissing the top of his head and stroking his back. He sighed again and shook his head. 

"The only thing they could do that would hurt me is if their bigotry took you away from me," he said gently. "I can deal with this. I'm strong enough to handle this." He frowned. "Are you? You don't have to do this alone if you aren't. It's not a bad thing to need support."

Tony swallowed before shaking his head. 

"No," he said. "No, this is my job. This is my world; the world of business and the press. You're Captain America; you're far too good for this crap. I'll keep you out of it for as long as I can, Steve." He smiled. "You stay here. You make this wedding perfect; like everything the two of us could have ever dreamed of. That's your job, okay?" He winced for a second. "Me, I'll just go out there and deal with the masses."

Steve stared at him for a second before he got up and went over to the closet, rifling through it for a minute before he pulled out his shield and went over to Tony again, laying the shield in his lap. Tony looked at him, clearly confused, as Steve smiled and stroked his hair.

"You're not going to do this alone," he said. "If I can't be there in body, I'll be there in shield." He promised, a note of amusement coloring his voice. "Tony, we're a team. We'll handle this together, I promise." He kissed his forehead and leaned in closer before Tony took his face in his hands and pulled him down into a deep, loving kiss. Steve hummed, pleased, before Tony pulled away and smiled.

"Okay," he agreed. "Okay. It'll be okay. You get this done, and I'll have this conference done by noon. We'll have lunch outside while everyone starts setting up, I dunno." He rambled as Steve pulled him up and off the bed so the two of them could get dressed.

"Sounds great," Steve said. "But for right now, I think you need pancakes." 

The two of them just laughed in unison for a second before they both got dressed as hastily as possible, heading off downstairs to get themselves some pancakes. 

The shield now lay situated across Tony's arm, fastened tight to it as a reminder. 

...

To Jarvis' credit, he wasn't fazed by the group of mutants that had shown up in his kitchen; when a man is expecting ancient Norse gods to show up instead, incredibly powerful mutants is actually something of a relief. As it was, he simply went over to the counter and began measuring coffee beans to grind. 

"Good morning, Xavier." He greeted the professor mildly. "I trust the journey wasn't too taxing?" 

"The Blackbird made it here just fine, thank you," Charles responded. "It was a little more crowded than normal, however; we brought a few of the children with us--some of them went home for the summer, but those that stayed are currently exploring New York with your sons' charges." 

"I must admit I'm amused by the fact that the Young Avengers are widely considered Tony and Steve's problem." Jarvis confessed, chuckling softly. "In all fairness, the children were rather persistent after that nasty parental rights spat from Theodore's alien races...I suppose accepting them into the fold was the only thing that made logical sense, really." He frowned. "Still, are you sure it's wise to send them out into the city alone? You are aware what they could do with an unlimited budget?"

"It does keep them out of our hair, metaphorically speaking, until they are needed. A few hundred dollars of the Institute's money is nothing compared to peace and quiet." Charles said gravely. 

"Try a few thousand." Jarvis said. "I think you're underestimating New York City's prices." 

Charles winced, but replied wryly, "Even then, I stand firm. The children will be fine, and the school's wallet may be a little lighter, but I still maintain peace and quiet is worth it." 

"Fair enough." Jarvis agreed. "Believe me, however, if peace and quiet was that easy, I would have sent Tony out with his credit card and gotten some of it years ago." He laughed softly and shook his head. "Nevermind that. Coffee? I was planning on making pancakes before Tony's press conference, as well." 

"Fine by me," Emma piped up. "But it is a little stifling in here. Ororo, a breeze?" She asked. Storm covered her mouth to hide a yawn before she looked at Jarvis.

"Only if you acquiesce to my powers messing around a bit in your kitchen." She told him. Jarvis shrugged.

"My dear, you act like I haven't spent my life around men and women who "mess around a bit" simply by existing. Mutant powers aren't anything this kitchen can't handle." He said dryly. "It's seen far worse." 

Ororo just grinned and opened her hands, palms up, as a cool breeze burst through the open window and skirted around them, ruffling Emma's hair playfully as she grumbled in annoyance and ruffled Ororo's hair in return. 

"Much better, actually. Many thanks." Jarvis said politely, turning the stove on as he heard the phone ring. "Can one of you get that for me? It's probably Peter's aunt." 

Beast stretched, stood up, and padded over to the phone, picking it up and holding it to his ear, the comically undersized phone presenting a bit of a challenge for a moment before he pressed it a bit closer.

"Good morning, May." Hank said, grinning wolfishly as she said something none of them caught. "Yes, I do remember you. We haven't spoken in awhile; how have you been?"

When everyone gave him odd looks, Beast covered the receiver and murmured, "Book club."

They all just nodded solemnly as he continued on. 

"Oh, you're helping out with this wedding as well? So am I, but to be frank, I'm unsure as to what I could do other than perhaps be some sort of moral support." He said, amused. "You'll be over in five minutes? Good. I'll let Jarvis know. We'll see you shortly." He hung up the phone and raised an eyebrow at Jarvis. "You caught all that, I assume?"

"Of course." He replied, raising his eyebrow in return. "I do not have super-hearing, but you really were just across the room." He reminded him. Hank just grinned and sat back down as Jarvis started setting plates piled high with pancakes on the table. "Do eat while you can, since I'm sure the others will be waking up soon, and everyone in this family, quite frankly, eats like pigs." He grinned. "A side effect of superheroics, I am told."

"It is; Hank and I studied it previously, both of us having biological backgrounds, and we discovered most mutates have higher metabolisms. We assume it's part of our natural body structure in most cases; the fact that we all extert energy in some way, be it through super strength, concussive beams, or telepathy, means our bodies burn it faster as an add-on. And as for those of us who aren't genetically powered, well..." Beast grinned. "Hey, running around fighting criminals is great cardio."

"Of course..." Jarvis sighed. "The way Tony behaves, sometimes I forget he's just a man in a suit." 

"He's got Extremis now, to be fair," Beast reminded him. "Actually, I want to conduct some scans on him while Hank and I are both in the same place; I want to see for myself how his biochemistry has altered due to the side-effects."

"I'll talk to him about it, but good luck prying him away from Steve." Jarvis said dryly. "The two have been inseparable." 

"With good reason," Charles reminded him. "Still, they have been acting like two lovesick teenagers; I'm starting to find it quite amusing."

"Do you see what I mean?" Jarvis said, a note of amusement in his voice. "Compared to what I put up with on a daily basis, you X-Men are nothing. I raised Tony Stark; I can handle a few mutants."

"And you did a fine job raising him, Jarvis." The new voice made them all jump until Jarvis recognized Rhodey, Pepper, and Happy in the doorway, with one more person behind them. He grinned. 

"Bethany Cabe." He greeted her with a tight hug as she hugged back affectionately, ruffling his remaining hair and laughing.

"Howdy, stranger. Haven't seen you lately." She scolded him. "Been busy?" 

"Never more than I usually am," Jarvis said. "But then again, I usually am quite busy." 

Bethany put her hands on her hips and grinned rakishly at him. "Figures," she drawled, "and here I am still in the dark about what all this fuss is about." 

Jarvis was about to reply until he heard the sounds of leather shoes clomping down the stairs; the soft crinkling and rustling of what was surely a grossly expensive Armani suit just furthered his belief that it was Tony.

"Charles, you're being a little harsh." Tony told him, a little late to retort but wanting to get his sarcasm in anyway. "He's my husband-to-be. Of course I'm gona be all over him."

Tony stood in the doorway, his hair still mussed from sleep and his robe half-on over his suit--rumpled, just as Jarvis had dreaded. He snatched up a pancake as he made his way across the room before noticing all the mutants gathered in his kitchen. Tony regarded them all with a bleary eye for a minute before stuffing the pancake in his mouth.

"Mornin', Pep. Mornin', Rhodey. Mornin', Hap. Mornin', Jarvis." Tony mumbled, stumbling into counter before fumbling for the pot of coffee right in front of him. "Coffee." He grunted. Bethany huffed. 

"Why, Tony Stark!" She chastitized him. "I go through all this trouble to catch a flight to Manhattan and here you are ignoring me for a drink? Typical." She teased. 

The light that suddenly bloomed in Tony's eyes could have lit up a few cities. He grinned with delight and held out his arms, letting Bethany hug him tight as he laughed, overjoyed.

"You have no idea how glad I am to see you," he told her. "I'm sorry I couldn't reach you yesterday, but, Bethany, listen--I have wonderful news." He couldn't stop smiling as Bethany pulled away and looked up at him, interested.

"Oh? So what is it this time, shellhead? Did you blow up a S.H.I.E.L.D. building and you need me to guard you against Nick Fury now?" She teased. Tony shook his head, still smiling.

"No...I...I'm..." Tony exhaled and grinned. "I'm getting married to Steve." 

She looked at him for a second before she squealed, clasping her hands together and grinning like a maniac, practically bouncing as she hugged Tony again, overjoyed.

"Aww, Tony! I didn't think you had it in you!" She laughed. "I'm so proud of you, Tony." She looked around. "So, where's the husband-to-be?" 

"Upstairs." Tony said. "I wanted to get him some breakfast so we could eat upstairs in peace before everything started up again..." He groaned. "He's staying home today with Jan to help with the dresses. I've got to go out and hold a press conference." He grumbled. "Definitely not a fair switchoff."

"Aw, don't worry. We'll come with you." Bethany offered. "Right, guys?"

"Coffee first." Rhodey said. Tony nodded.

"Oh, god yes. Coffee first. Everyone should be waking up soon, so," Tony snatched up a few plates of toast and poached eggs as he spoke, "you guys get yourselves something to eat in the breakfast rush, and I'll meet you downstairs at the gates in ten minutes. Okay?" He said. 

He accepted his coffee and began to drink it, pointedly not mentioning the shield strapped to his arm. Even Jarvis didn't bother asking; Tony would say something when he was ready, and not before. 

"Charles. Hank. Emma. Ororo." He paused. "Where are Bobby, Kurt, Jean, Scott, Kitty, Pietrov, Remy, and Rogue?" 

"Out with the kids." Charles said. "We figured they needed chaperones." 

Tony raised an eyebrow.

"Gambit." He said. "You thought Gambit was a good chaperone."

"None of us have had coffee yet, Stark." Emma reminded him. "And, since I see no one else is going to ask; why do you have Steve's shield on your arm?"

Tony hefted it gently against his chest and hugged it tight as Steve chose the most opportune moment to walk in.

"As a reminder." He murmured. 

Steve didn't say a word. The pride and love in his eyes was enough. He kissed Tony's cheek before he checked the clock, stroking the back of Tony's neck.

"Sweetheart, you've got twenty minutes to get there; you ought to hurry." He reminded him. "Are you taking the suit?"

"Yeah," Tony replied, hugging him tight. "I'll be back as soon as I can. You just kind of keep things moving, all right?" He smiled. "Love you." 

"Love you too." Steve murmured. Tony was out the door a second after, summoning the suit to him as Steve sighed. He waited until Tony was gone to turn to the others, fear plain on his face.

"Is it bad that I'm worried?" He said. Charles shook his head.

"Not at all." He replied. "Would you like me to send a message to Maria Hill? Tony could use a bodyguard other than Bethany, I think." 

"That'd be great," Steve said. "Thank you, Charles." He sighed, a load off his shoulders. "Now, as for planning..."

...

Maria Hill rolled over in bed to realize someone was trying to call her. She grabbed her phone quickly, not wanting to wake up Victoria, who had spent the night at her place. 

Then with a jolt, she realized it wasn't her phone.

Hello, Maria Hill. My name is Charles Xavier. I'm contacting you on behalf of Tony Stark. 

She recognized the name well enough, and she had learned how to deal with telepaths by this point, so she promptly responded.

What does Tony want? It's ten in the morning, and I had a long night. Is it important? I'm on vacation. This man wasn't Nick, so she felt perfectly free to bitch. She was tired.

Tony's going to have a press conference to discuss his marriage. We're a little worried about him. He has a bodyguard, Bethany Cabe, and he will be wearing the suit, but would you please go over and keep an eye on him? You're S.H.I.E.L.D.'s second in command; we need you. Please. He hadn't even noticed her griping. Well, he did spend his life raising teenagers, so that might just be reflex.

Maria sighed and shook her head. Tony was a pain in the ass, but he was one of her best friends. She would keep an eye on him, sure enough.

Right, right. I'll be over in five. Coordinates? She asked.

As Charles recited an address and directions, she sighed in annoyance and shook Victoria awake. She had a lot of explaining to do.

Chapter Text

Tony sighed, closing his eyes and letting the suit go on autopilot for the Stark building; it had the coordinates programmed in, and he needed the time to think.

Anxiety was making him ill. He wasn't worried about himself; he had been through so many scandals that at this point, nasty things said about him on the news were water off a duck's back. But Steve...

Steve was an icon. Steve was pure, heroic, and America's white knight. Steve was loved by the entire world. And now Tony's love for him, of all things, was going to become what could be the breaking point for Steve's life as Captain America. 

He felt sick to his stomach. He had wanted this so much, and now that he had to come out to the world...he hadn't been thinking, he realized. Steve hadn't, either. Steve had proposed not knowing how horrible people would be--who would look down on him now, deride him, treat him differently--treat him less than he deserved to be treated. 

And that, Tony could never allow. Not for Captain America. He wouldn't be the man that ruined that. Not for Steve.

"Stark!" 

The loud, barking command made him jump, and he turned around in time to see Maria, Bethany, Pepper, Happy, and Rhodey, all standing at the door and giving him the Look. He knew that look. It was the 'Tony, you're being dumb' look. He just blinked, letting the suit fall away from him as he watched them.

"I got woken up and dragged out of bed with my girlfriend to take care of you, Tony." Maria continued on, storming up to him and poking him in the chest. "Don't you dare tell me you're getting cold feet!" 

"That's...that's not it." Tony said, his voice soft and cracking under emotional strain. Maria paused, hearing that note of raw pain in his voice that she had only heard once in his voice before, ever; when the news had come in that Steve Rogers had been shot.

"I'm going to damn him." Tony murmured. "I'm going to leave him to die on those courthouse steps all over again; I'm throwing him to the wolves." He inhaled sharply and shook his head. "Oh, god. The public. They'll hate him. They'll crucify him. Maria, I'm a man. And he's Captain America." 

"So I have noticed." She said wryly. Tony just balked as Maria groaned, giving him a harsh look.

"Tony, seriously. He proposed to you knowing full well this would happen. Steve is a lot of things, and idiot is certainly not one of them. Steve loves you enough to deal with all that, Tony. Don't you get it? This is all because Steve loves you." She sighed and shook her head.

"Tony, that man would tear heaven and earth apart to save you. He loves you more than I think he knows what to do with! Believe me, he knows exactly how hard this will be for him. And he does. Not. Care." She grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him for a second; Tony was too stunned to react. 

"Don't you get it?! Steve loves you, Tony! He loves you more than anything or anyone else, and he's willing to go against the bigotry of the nation he serves to marry you! The least you could do is drag your ass up there and let the world know!" She shouted.

"...Bit forceful, aren't you?" Tony finally said, after a minute of staring at her. Maria huffed. 

"I never did have a cup of coffee this morning." She muttered. "Bethany, you and I are going up there with him. Pepper, Rhodes, Hap, you've got front seats. Keep an eye on the crowd, all right?" She ordered. 

"You're very used to people listening to what you tell them to do, aren't you?" Pepper remarked, going back out into the seating with Happy to get them all seats as Rhodey grinned.

"Bet Tony wishes he could get us to do this as easily, don't you, Tone?" He teased. Tony grimaced and groaned.

"Oh, god yes," he replied. "You're all incorrigible." 

Rhodey just saluted him, ruffled his hair, and hugged him tight before heading out into the conference room after Pepper and Happy. Tony inhaled sharply.

"Okay," he murmured. "You're right. I can do this." He grinned. "If...if Steve would move heaven and earth for me...I guess I can move the hearts of the media." He finished. Bethany clapped him on the shoulder and grinned.

"That's the spirit, Tony," she said. "Dream big." 

"See, that's my problem with you, dear," Tony said dryly. "I can never tell if you're being sarcastic or not." 

"Sometimes, Tony, neither can I," Bethany retorted. "It must be from spending so much time around you." 

The three of them laughed, and Tony finally worked up the courage to head out to the podium. Just before he stepped out, Maria grabbed his arm. 

"Wait, Tony..." she said. "The shield..." She adjusted the straps on his arm for him before smiling, satisfied with the tightly cinched grips. "Keep it close." 

"Of course," Tony said, and the emotion in his voice almost made her wince. He looked away for a second to collect himself before he gripped the shield and said softly, "I think we're expected outside."

They headed into the conference room, shutting the door quietly behind them.

...

Tony swallowed and stared at the large crowd in front of him, straightening up a bit and closing his eyes. He had to do this. He would. For Steve. But that didn't make it any easier.

"Good morning, everyone." He began. "As you should all know, unless Fox has started hiring actual cavemen living under rocks, I am Tony Stark. I called you all here today for one important reason; to announce my marriage." 

The whole room was silent except for his heartbeat, which Tony swore he could hear amplified times a thousand at this point; a harsh throbbing beating in his ears that almost made him tremble.

"For about seven or eight years now, I have been dating Steve Rogers, a man most of us know as Captain America. In that time, the two of us have publicly disclosed our orientations as bisexual; for those of you who didn't know that, mark it down, it's kind of important." He said lightly, hoping to get a laugh. A few titters, but nothing much; he suspected they were more intently focused on whatever tidbits of gossip he was going to throw them. 

"Two days ago, in Central Park, Steve proposed to me. I said yes. In about two week's time, on the Fourth of July, we're going to be married." Tony said.

It was finally out there. No rumors, no gossip that he was sure had occupied the airwaves since his outburst in Times Square; just the plain, cold facts. 

It was kind of a relief, actually.

Tony just smiled. 

"At any rate, I would like to extend the invitation to all the superheroes across the country and beyond to attend; I wish I could invite you all personally, but there's been quite a lot going on--still, you are all my friends and colleagues, and I want to see you there." He said. He loved Matt, he did, but he wasn't going into Hell's Kitchen unless completely necessary, and rigging up a spaceship to get to Black Bolt in two weeks was out of the question; and aside from that, it was a good way to reach any superheros out running solo for the moment and ensure they would know to come. He sighed and shrugged.

"So, since I have to get back to the mansion to start planning, I'm going to have to refuse any questions, though really, what do you have left to question?" He joked. Still, everyone was giving him looks of complete shock. Tony sighed. "Have a good day, folks."

He hightailed it out of the convention hall as fast as he could, summoning the suit immediately and sighing with relief as he was cocooned in red and gold. That had been...nerve-wracking, for want of a better word.

"Well, there's always the six o'clock news." Bethany said. "I can't wait to watch the talking heads go all rage-purple." She said brightly. Maria huffed.

"I wouldn't be so sure..." She murmured. "Not everyone's a bigot."

"No, but people who are tend to also be loud, obnoxious assholes." Tony said. Maria nodded.

"Okay, agreed. Believe me, I've been on the receiving end of that bullshit before..." She sighed. "Tony, that was really brave." She took his hand and squeezed the cold, hard steel. "I don't know if it's my place to say it, but I'm really proud of you." She murmured.

"Thanks, Maria," Tony said. "Means a lot."

Her smile spoke volumes. Bethany just squeezed her shoulder hesitantly, giving Tony a look. 

"You're worried?" She said. Tony shook his head. 

"A little." He confessed. "That was short, sweet, and to the point; literally five minutes. I'm just worried about the backlash now that we let the cat out of the bag."

"We'll protect you." Maria said without hesitation. "I mean, if Bethany--"

"Sugar, Bethany has been keeping Tony's ass in line for years now." She interrupted Maria with a smirk. "I'm not leaving." 

"Well..." Maria blushed. "Erm, Victoria just moved in for this trial period thing, so I can't stay at the mansion, but I'll be there for you all day!" She piped up. Tony nodded.

"I'll tell Fury to pay you overtime." He said. Maria laughed. 

"You do know Nick's going to be showing up at the Avengers mansion the second he sees this, right?" She said. Tony sighed.

"Yeah. And that's why we're getting Happy, Pepper, and Rhodey right now, and I'm taking you all out for hot dogs. We're not going home for a long, long time." He muttered. Maria just rolled her eyes.

"Seriously, he's not as bad as everyone says he is." She told them, following their group out to the limo Pepper had called for. "It's just an acquired taste. Like coffee. Or olives."

"Or being stabbed with Satan's pitchfork." Rhodey remarked. Maria just groaned.

...

Steve just sighed, putting his palms in his hands. As much as he was used to it, dealing with Jan and Emma at the same time seemed particularly cruel, especially considering he was still worried about Tony...

Still, he would do his best to be cheerful for them. This was a good day, and it would be a perfect day the second Tony stepped through the door and came back home to him. That might just take awhile.

He shook it off and tried to pay attention to the conversation going on in front of him. After all, the bridesmaids dresses were important...

"I like the idea of more vibrant colors; primary colors, bright blues and reds and yellows." Jan said to Emma. "After all, it's summer, and the two of them are going to be in what, black and white? Bo-ring." She examined the sketch Steve had given her carefully. 

The dress was simple; a high-cut strapless gown with a sleek drape until it trailed down into a train of ruffles at the end, almost like a bridal gown's train. She hummed, deep in thought.

"Deliberately invoking a bridal train, Steve?" She teased, pointing to the bottom of the dress. Steve blushed. 

"Well, I mean, half the fun of a wedding is seeing what kind of dress the bride wears, right? And I kinda like it." He defended himself. "It's just that neither Tony or I wants to wear a dress." 

"Understandable," Jan said. "Though I can't say I'd complain if you did." She teased.

"I could make him wear one." Emma piped up teasingly. Steve rolled his eyes and gave her a look. 

"Oh don't you start." He muttered defensively. Emma laughed as Jan grinned and ruffled his hair. 

"Lighten up, dear." She told him. "Tony will be home soon and you two can be disgustingly adorable and fawn all over each other then. For now, stick with me, will you?" She demanded. Steve sighed and nodded in agreement as the group of them went back to working.

"Pale blues works." Jan said. "Like a gradient; darker ruffles but a pale blue dress. Blue looks good on pretty much everyone here, so..." She trailed off. "Not a bad idea?"

Steve nodded an agreement. "I like it." He said. "Besides, you know more than I do about this; I'll trust your instincts." 

Jan brightened up, glad to be appreciated for her less "crimefighting-ready" talents as the three of them went back to work.

...

Nick grumbled to himself, relighting his cigar as he and Dugan watched the press conference play out. Neither of the two men said a word, letting Tony's speech go over in their minds a few times before Nick shut off the television.

"I'm headin' to th' mansion." He growled. "Dugan, Hill's out on break. I need you to keep an eye on th' proceedin's fer th' day. I'll keep in touch an' letcha know if I need any of yeh." 

Dugan saluted him before responding, "Understood, Fury." He frowned for a second, considering something. "Nick, it's Captain America--you can't think someone's going to try to assassinate him again, do you?"

"They've tried it fer dumber reasons than this." He retorted. "An' not even that; I don't think the American people give a fuck about who Rogers marries. It ain't the American public I'm that worried about; s'the Skull." He growled. "He's gonna know now, an' he's gonna come after the both of them. So that means I'm gonna stop him." He announced. "Just like we did back in the war, every time."

Dugan was quiet for a second. Then he laughed uproariously, the two of them clasping their right hands together in a quiet affirmation of their bond. 

"Clever as always, Fury," he said, seventy years of fighting alongside the man breaking through in his one. "The Commandos will be on call whenever you howl for us." Nick grinned.

"I know." He said, opening the window in the S.H.I.E.L.D. break room they'd been standing in before climbing out onto the fire escape. "I'll be back soon." He told him, just before jumping down off the escape. 

It was common knowledge that Nick Fury had actually not entered or exited S.H.I.E.L.D. base through a door since they had installed the windows.

Dugan just rolled his eyes, sighed, and shut the window behind him.

"Damn him, he always does this." He muttered to himself in a unique mix of exasperation and amusement.

...

Steve heard the sound of the doorbell being rung, and his heart lit up as he whooped, overjoyed. Before either Emma or Jan could stop him, he had bolted down the steps like a delighted child, the only thought in his mind being that Tony was home and things were going to be wonderful once more.

He raced to the door and wrenched it open, his heart soaring with joy--

And was confronted by Nick Fury standing on his doorstep, arms folded as he gave him a look that essentially defined "amused contempt." 

Steve schooled his expression and strangled his joy before responding, "Hello, Nick."

"Rogers." He said, shaking his head in amazement. "So. Yer finally gettin' married," he offered him a cigar. "Congrats are in order."

"Thank you, but you know I've never smoked." Steve said. Nick rolled his eyes but grinned, amused as he put the cigar away and sauntered inside like he owned the mansion.

"Y'see, Tony's conference made me a little worried for the two of yeh, I admit," he told him. "Y'know how supervillains are; always looking for an opportunity, trying to find a way to get yeh at yer most vulnerable...and the public's gonna be in an uproar over this, condemnin' ya or praisin' ya or whatever, and if anyone gets wind of this..." Nick sighed. "Like, say, th' Red Skull--"

"If the Red Skull lays a hand on Tony, I will flay him alive." Steve told him.

Nick didn't admit it to him, but those words out of Steve's mouth genuinely chilled him, more than he wanted to admit even to himself. 

"He is my husband. I will protect him. Nothing in this universe will lay a hand on Tony Stark as long as I am alive." Steve spat through clenched teeth.

Nick swallowed, keeping a poker face above the sheer terror brewing in his mind. He himself had faced Cap while he was in a mood before, sure, but this was the kind of determination that could shatter mountains and tear apart worlds in the right hands. Steve Rogers had both the right hands, and the guts to do it.

"Okay," he said. "Okay. I get it. S'fine, Cap." Nick locked eyes with him. "But I'll be here anyway. Keepin' an eye on botha yeh. Got it?" He demanded. Steve nodded stiffly.

"I understand, Nick," he said. "And I'm grateful for your help." 

Nick followed him inside, making a mental note to keep an eye on Steve's psyche in the coming few weeks. After all, it wasn't like supervillain strikes at things like weddings were uncommon; hell, they were pretty much standard operating procedure at this point. 

Just...Steve's voice. Nick had never heard that much hatred in his voice when he had spoke of the Red Skull, and when he had made his vow about Tony, he had realized he had never heard such ferocious, all-encompassing, all-consuming love, either. He knew that Steve would genuinely murder the Red Skull if he tried anything at their wedding, and he knew that Steve was well aware he knew. 

Nick just sighed. They didn't even know the Red Skull was planning anything. But, of course, he would keep his eyes and ears open...

For the time being, he followed Steve inside and went to find the real Avengers masterminds--surely, Jarvis and May would find a way to make him useful.

...

Tony sighed, staring down the gates of the Avengers Mansion knowing full well that Nick Fury was inside. He just shrugged. He would bite the bullet just to see Steve again, he readily admitted this.

"All right, guys. You know what you're doing for the day, right?" He said. The group he had assembled with him nodded, Pepper even showing him her impromptu, quickly-scribbled list. He just grinned. "Okay. Don't worry, I'm sure things will go smoothly, considering the sheer amount of people showing up to help us." 

"True." Pepper said. "Where's Thor, by the way? He's kind of hard to miss, so I'm sure he's not here..." 

Tony started up the walkway as he replied, "Thor's in Asgard right now, letting his family know his shieldbrothers are getting married. Then? Then I have to deal with Odin in my kitchen, telling me how to have a Viking wedding." He said dryly. 

"The trials and travails of a superhero's life." Maria cut in wryly. Tony snorted.

"Such is my woe." He replied, a teasing lilt to his tone as he sighed dramatically. "In any case, I'll meet you guys at dinner; everyone's staying over again, and at this point, I'm thinking of just building more to the mansion." 

"It does seem like everyone's going to be living here for the next few weeks." Happy mused. "Tone, if y'want, I can draw a few blueprints or somethin'?" He offered. Tony shook his head.

"Thanks, but by the time it got done on top of everything else, the wedding would be ready. It's fine, really. It just means we're going to have to invest in a few couches." Tony sighed. Happy brightened up considerably.

"I have the pickup truck, and Rhodey and I are gonna be dead weight with this planning thing, let's face it." He said. "We'll go get some couches, okay?"

"Okay," Tony said, grinning at Happy's enthusiasm. "Thanks, guys." 

The group split apart just as Tony reached the steps, opening the door and heading into the foyer. 

...

By sheer luck, Steve was walking down the hallway leading out into the main entrance with a few of the kids in tow, along with Ororo, Jan, Emma, and Hank, nattering on about the dresses and showing Hank fabric samples, asking for his slightly-more-informed-than-any-other-man-in-the-mansion-due-to-having-a-fashion-designer-for-a-wife opinion, when Tony walked in the door.

Their eyes met, and everyone in the room who hadn't gotten it before finally understood; the two of them were in love, and right then and there, nothing else mattered.

They ran into each others' arms and embraced tightly, kissing each other for a long, slow minute, obviously delighted to see each other again as they held each other close. Steve was practically shielding Tony with his entire body, holding him tight and almost arching over him a bit. Tony let Steve envelop him, gentle and careful and loving, quiet as Steve stroked his hair. 

"Well, after that kind of welcome, I can almost forgive you for letting Nick in." Tony teased as they pulled away and faced each other. Steve just grumbled, shaking his head. 

"He let himself in, you know how he is." He defended himself. "It's Nick Fury, Tony, I literally think I'm not allowed to say no. Legally, that is." He added. Tony just raised an eyebrow and shook his head, clearly amused. 

"Whatever, sweetheart. As long as he's helping out, I can't say I'm going to turn down an extra pair of hands." He sighed. "Especially since I kind of need a break right now," Tony bit his lip. "I mean, that conference took a lot out of me."

Steve was quiet for a second. Then, without hesitation, he lifted Tony up and held him in his arms, situating him so he was comfortable as everyone stared, shocked. Steve huffed.

"If you'll excuse us," he said. "I need to go take care of Tony." 

Tony's sputtered protests were half-assed at best, but at least he was trying. Still, Steve carried him right up the steps and into their room, shutting the door with a gentle click before the lock snapped into place. 

Everyone else in the foyer had a long, slow minute to look at each other. 

"...So..." Emma said. "...Start on those dresses, then?" 

They were all gone in an instant.

...

Tony just sighed and let Steve do his thing; he knew exactly how Steve worked at this point, and wasn't going to bother even attempting to deviate him from his newfound plan. Steve just hummed softly to himself and laid Tony down on the bed, hands delicate and gentle, yet firm in how they undressed him, stripped him down to boxers and a tank top before Steve began to massage his shoulders, working out all the kinks in his back. Tony moaned softly, showing his appreciation before he buried his face into a pillow.

Steve would have none of that, however; a single hand running through Tony's hair had him lifting his head up so the two could still discuss what had transpired. Tony wasn't entirely sure if he was ready, but he was also sure Steve deserved to know. He swallowed and blinked before Steve finally asked.

"So...did it go well?" He murmured. "Did they hurt you? I will hunt down whoever hurt you, Tony. I can get Fury. He'll finally be useful." He added. Tony actually laughed at that, stretching out a bit as Steve continued to fuss.

"It was...all right," he said. "I didn't get heckled or anything; it felt more like nobody knew what to say. So I went in, announced we were getting married, and went back out." He paused. "We went out for hot dogs afterwards. I didn't know Maria liked chili dogs, but she does."

Steve relaxed a little and laughed, relieved, as he kissed Tony's forehead and stroked his hair. 

"Okay." He said. "I...okay. I'm okay. As long as you're okay."

The two of them were quiet for a minute. Then Tony rolled over and gave Steve a look.

"Okay, soldier," he said. "Whatever it is, spit it out. I know how you work. You're hiding something." He told Steve.

In an instant, he was thrown against the down mattress and confronted with Steve's weight pressing on top of him, a warm, comforting anchor to reality. Steve buried his head into Tony's neck and kissed it with slightly slick, warm lips as Tony sighed in bliss. 

"I...I'm so proud." Steve confessed. "I'm amazed, Tony. Amazed and awed and...other lovely things that begin with 'a'." He teased. Tony just grinned weakly as Steve nuzzled him before continuing.

"Tony, that took so much courage. You just told the entire world that you were marrying the man you loved--and I mean, I just..." Steve grinned. "I'm never not amazed by how strong you are. Even without the armor. Tony, your heart has the strength of gods." He told him. 

Truth be told, Tony didn't normally go for that dumb romantic nonsense. The thing was that when Steve was the one telling him that, he believed him. He wasn't sure if Cap was physically able to lie, anyway. So he smiled and hugged Steve tight. 

"Tony, I am so grateful you did that," Steve said softly. "I don't know...I don't know how to explain it, but I mean--you put yourself, your company, everything, on the line...just because you loved me." Steve was crying now, and Tony just let him, even if the tears were soaking into his shirt. After all, it wasn't like he was crying either. Tony Stark obviously never cried.

"Tony, you're the best," Steve murmured. "You're so brave. And I will always love you for it." 

Tony gave himself a few minutes to regain his composure before he whispered back, "It was the least I could do, Steve. After all you've sacrificed for me...I should shoulder some of that burden." He grinned. "That's what being a husband's about."

Steve buried his face into Tony's neck again, somehow thinking this would hide the fact that he had burst into tears. Tony just stroked his hair and let Steve cry without a word. He would let Steve have his delusion for a little while, so long as Steve let him cry too. 

In all fairness, Tony figured, they were getting married, and they were supposed to be sobbing wrecks. Still, he hoped Nick hadn't had time to install the spycams he put in everywhere he went. That would just be blackmail.

Chapter Text

Nick lit a cigar and observed the Avengers mansion grounds with a careful eye. A plan was already formulating in his head, and the gears were being set into motion. He just had to talk to Maria.

He sauntered over to her side, watching her sit and examine outdoor decorating arrangements carefully before he puffed on his cigar. She knew him and his tics well enough that it was enough to recognize him for who he was, and she looked up at him, confused.

"Sir?" She asked. "What's the problem?"

Nick exhaled and snorted. 

"Yeh got that bed bath n' beyond shit, right?" Nick growled at her. Maria just nodded, used to his random outbursts. She assumed nothing would come of this one.

She was wrong.

Nick clapped her on the shoulder and gestured to the lawn. "Good, good." He said. "Now c'mon. We're goin' to interior design the shit outta this place." He told her. 

Maria stared at him.

"Sir, we're on a lawn." She reminded him. Nick snorted.

"Whatever, I don't do this girly shit for a livin', that's what we hire other people for. Our job is to kick people in the face." He puffed on his cigar. "This is jes' a special occasion." 

"...Okay." Maria said. "Whatever you say, sir." She paused. "But it's my car we're taking, so I get the radio."

They shook hands. (Nick thankfully did not spit into the handshake.) 

"Done." He agreed. "Let's go. And get Tony's credit card before you leave." 

...

Maria sighed and leaned against the car window, on the phone with Victoria, currently trying to explain why she wouldn't be home until eight.

"Sweetheart, please--look, I'm sorry, but Tony Stark decides to get married, I have no say in the matter--I'm going to be involved whether I like it or not." She told her. "If you want, you can head over to the mansion? Introduce yourself to Jarvis, tell him you're there to help. I'm sure they'll welcome you with open arms." She added. 

"I'm sure they can use the help, hon, but that isn't the point. I miss you. I just moved in, Maria! I don't even know where your old movies are!" Victoria complained dramatically. "Besides, I'm going to be honest; I've dealt with enough superheroes to last me a lifetime." She muttered. Maria winced.

"Right, sorry. They're in the cardboard box under my bed. If you want to chill and watch movies for a bit, you go ahead, okay? I'll get home as early as I can." She promised. There was silence on the line for a bit.

"All right, all right," Victoria finally responded with a sigh of amusement. "I'll have dinner and a good movie waiting for you when you get home." She told her. Maria sighed with relief.

"Thanks so much, sweetheart." She paused. "Uh, I love you." 

Another small burst of static, and then a quick, "Love you too. See you soon." 

Victoria hung up and Maria did her best to put her phone away without reacting. 

"Don't yeh turn into mush on me, kiddo." Nick said, and Maria wanted to strangle him for knowing without even having to look at her. "We've got decor t'buy. We are on a mission, Hill, and by Christ, I am going t'see it carried out without fail."

"Sir, I don't think you've ever even decorated your own apartment." She told him. "Didn't you just send a few of us out to buy a mattress and a coffee machine?" 

Nick snorted and made a sharp right across four lanes of traffic. Maria figured it said a lot about her and her life as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent that she barely flinched. 

"That's different. I don't need sleep. I'm Nick Fury." He told her. "Still, the boys are gettin' married, an' that means somethin'. So we're gonna go find some...interior design shit." He frowned. "I didn't think to make a list. Hill!" He barked. "Make a list." 

Maria just sighed and took out a notepad from the glove compartment. Her life was playing out just like it always did, though, she admitted to herself as Nick sped up and vaulted over a construction site's ramp before speeding towards the parking lot, she wouldn't want it any other way.

...

The store had been having a relatively normal day up until that point. It was just a simple decorating store, filled with wedding supplies, that helped couples pick out things for their wedding.

Then Nick Fury showed up. 

He puffed on his cigar, waltzed in like he owned the place, observing everything with a single good eye that still seemed like it managed to see more than any normal pair of eyes in the shop. A lean, well-muscled woman with dark skin and shimmering short brown hair in her mid twenties trailed after him, clearly mortified. 

He sauntered up to the counter like a cowboy in an old movie ordering a drink, and locked eyes with the cashier. The girl had just started two weeks ago, and was very clearly not cut out to deal with Nick Fury normally, let alone as a customer. Still, she did her best.

"Sir, you're going to set off the smoke alarm." She told him. "Could you--"

He showed her his wallet, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent ID on the front end, with the opening flap of the wallet displaying the words "BAD MOTHERFUCKER" hanging underneath. 

"This pretty much says I can smoke this cigar anywhere I like, kiddo." He growled. "Anyways, we're here fer weddin' shit. You guys sell that?" 

Maria had approached the counter now, looking like she wanted to laugh or cry. Or both. The poor salesgirl just blinked, stunned.

"He's your fiance?" She said incredulously, directing her question at Maria for fear of Fury. 

Maria looked at Nick. Nick looked back at Maria. The two began to laugh. 

"Jesus Christ, no." Maria finally said, shaking her head in amusement. "I'm a lesbian." She shook her head. "No, we're here for uh, Tony Stark and Steve Rogers?" 

"Interior designers n'shit." Nick piped up helpfully. "Like we're fucken--I dunno, that TLC renovating shit Coulson watches." 

"Why didn't Tony make Coulson do this?" Maria wondered aloud, ignoring the sputtering salesgirl. "It's because I'm a girl, isn't it?"

"Nah, I dragged yeh inteh this. Tony's got nothin' t'do with it." Nick reminded her. "Anyways. Yeh got th' list?"

Maria held up her notebook, which had a relatively extensive list scribbled on it. 

"Uh-huh." She said. "I called Jarvis and consulted him while you flagrantly ignored the laws of both traffic and physics."

"And aerodynamics." Nick helpfully reminded her. "Remember th' ramp?"

"Yes." Maria said dryly. "I do remember the ramp." She turned back to the poor, beleagured salesgirl, and gave her a weak grin.

"You should probably call your manager." She told her. "We're going to need help."

"So am I, after all this." The girl muttered to herself, already on the phone. Maria just sighed.

"Yeah, tell me about it." She replied, leaning on the counter as they waited.

Chapter Text

Nick Fury chomped on his cigar and observed the decorations around him as Maria discussed something with the sales associate. He should've brought the Commandos and seen how long it would've taken them to break down in tears. ...Nah, he was a real man. He could handle interior decoratin' an'...an'...shit, whatever this was.

 ...Hill could handle this. Maria was a real man. This could definitely be Maria's problem.

He snorted and shook his head, catching up with the two of them as Maria went to grab streamers. He would do this, and damn it, he would do it well.

"Uh-uh, Hill. None of that taupe shit, it's just ugly. Eggshell. Yer gonna customize'n match that shit, right? An' you already got the eggshell curtains." He told her. Maria turned around to look at him like he had gone quite mad.

"Sir, are you lecturing me on decorations?" She said. "I'm not entirely sure you know what taupe is."

"'Course I do," he grunted. "S'ugly as shit. Get eggshell, Hill. It'll bring out their tuxes."

Both Maria and the manager stared at him. Nick just relit his cigar and sniffed haughtily.

"Oh, an' pick up some of th' thick cloth napkins. Off-white, tho', since we're gonna get a pale blue tablecloth. Crimson plates, too, 'cause you know how Steve is." He grinned. "S'Captain America."

"You're not Liberace, stop it." Maria snapped. "You're freaking me out, Fury." 

"Doesn't fucken' matter." Nick fired back, gesturing at the scant items they had already amassed. "Look at this shit! Pathetic! Lemme tell yeh somethin'; I have had it with these motherfuckin' party favors in this motherfuckin' store! We need the good shit, Hill!" He ranted. The manager looked like she was considering suicide. Maria just ignored him.

He leaned over her shoulder to make her pay attention to him, like a sulky child, and began tapping his cigar against the list, scattering ashes on it. Maria just dusted them off and rolled her eyes as Nick started to recite them.

"We got curtains fer th' living room, an' streamers, an' we got plates, glasses, napkins...we need flower arrangements." He grunted. "Flower arrangements an' tablecloths. An' sequins. More sequins and glitter."

"That can be arranged." The poor manager squeaked, slightly cowed by this clearly insane man with a glorious eye for wedding decor. Nick snorted.

"Yeah, get to it. Take us to the good shit, dame. The high-end, silk stuff, y'know. I'm buyin' wedding supplies fer Tony fuckin' Stark, here. He ain't gonna be happy unless it's solid gold and made from unicorn tears, the little shit." Nick said, affection clear in his tone. Maria just sighed and tried not to laugh. 

The manager practically bolted for the back, getting all the good supplies while being gifted with the added bonus of a few minutes away from Nick. Maria wished she could be so lucky. 

...

An hour later, the two of them were heading out of the door as the wedding store burned to the ground behind them with three shopping carts full of bags. The smoke alarm bleated angrily as Nick just lit another cigar. Maria was yelling at him, completely ignoring the burning building behind them both in favor of screaming at Nick.

"Sir, after what you did--I can't even--where did you get the sheep, Nick, honestly, you didn't need the sheep to prove your point--sir, what will Tony say?" She demanded. 

Nick just grunted and smirked, clearly satisfied with whatever had gotten him the finest custom supplies in the store, and pleased with whatever had transpired involving the sheep.

"Fuck Tony." He told her, relighting his cigar on the flames of the building before exhaling a puff of smoke through his nostrils. "Decor is my god and I shall have no other gods before it."

"Fine." Maria snapped. "Whatever. You can bring this home and tell Steve of the horrible, horrible things you did to get it." 

"Including the sheep?" Nick asked, an actual pout starting to form across his face. Maria glared at him.

"Including the sheep." She retorted. "Now get in the car. And this time? I drive."

"Aw, c'mon." Nick whined, grumbling in annoyance as she started the car. "You don't have the S.H.I.E.L.D. training t' break th' laws of physics like I do."

"Good!" Maria snapped. "Get in the car!"

Nick did as she asked, but he pouted the entire way home.

"An' we didn't even make lambchops." He muttered. "Wasted a perfectly good sheep."

Maria pretended she hadn't heard him.

...

Thor stood in front of Balder and a captive audience of almost the entirety of Asgard, his brother excluded, and wondered why, exactly, he had elected to do this.

"My brother, what in all the realms would force you to make such a drastic announcement?" Balder asked him, leaning forward on his elbows and giving Thor an odd look. "If Loki is causing trouble on Midgard again, we will be of service, but you asked for all of us to attend, and, well...at this point, dealing with Loki seems to just be a back and forth between the two of you, eh?" He said dryly. Thor shook his head.

"That is not what called me to ask for the audience of all of Asgard," he said. "What did compel me to do as much, however, was an announcement." He sighed, trying to figure out the best way to explain it all to the gods and goddesses present.

"You are aware of our alliance with Midgard, and my close personal affiliations with some of their superhuman folk," he began. "Particular to this tale are the two men Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, my shieldbrothers and comrades-in-arms." He met Balder's eyes again and did not blink, despite the intense interest Balder was fixating on him.

"They are to be wed, two of Midgard's weeks from now." He told them. "I offered to extend the invitation, due to the hectic schedule they are enacting on Midgard as of right now. They wish for you to attend--all of you, if you are willing." He finished. Balder nodded, leaning back on his throne for a moment.

"It certainly would let us explore the realm we have affiliated ourselves so closely with as of late." He mused. "Plus, you regard these two mortals so highly..."

"They are the greatest of men." Thor said solemnly. "The best I have ever had the fortune to know." 

Balder nodded and clasped his hands together, raising his voice to be heard throughout the hall.

"Then it is agreed." He told them. "Those of us that have had the most contact with Midgard--that is, Thor himself, the Warriors Three, and the Lady Sif, first and foremost, will be making the initial trip. Those of you that wish to explore Midgard may accompany my group, which will leave tomorrow." He said. "Thor, you and your group may leave whenever you wish."

"As soon as possible," Thor responded. "Thank you for this, Balder." 

"Think nothing of it, brother." Balder said. "This is the excuse for a party I imagine many of us have been waiting for."

"Indeed!" Volstagg piped up cheerfully. "I have yet to see some of those Midgardians that Thor treasures in such a long time. Does the archer still enjoy a good drinking game, Thor?"

Thor winced, remembering the results of Volstagg, Hogun, and Fandral's last escapade with Clint Barton, Tony's credit card, and the Howling Commandos. That had been...memorable, to say the least. Rumor had it Fandral was still pulling unmentionables out of his mattress.

"Yes," he replied. "But not until the wedding's over." 

Even that wasn't enough to deflate Volstagg, and the group left the halls of Asgard's palace in bright spirits, ready to head back to Midgard. 

Thor had to admit, the excitement from both his friends and his shieldbrothers was beginning to become infectious--he was anticipating this wedding now, and wanted nothing more for it to be a fantastic successs. With or without the booze-fueled escapades that the Warriors would undoubtedly spark.

...

Loki hummed quietly to himself, observing the goings-on in the great hall with a carefully crafted neutral expression, as if he was making the active effort not to betray emotion on his face. He received the news of the marriage with nothing more than a quick eyebrow quirk, and considered it carefully as Balder blathered on about groups and trips and other things he didn't care about. 

He wanted to go and get involved in this wedding, he decided. The realization was sudden, but not unwelcome; after all, he had dealt with the Avengers before--Hel's fire, he was directly responsible for their formation! That alone meant he had the right to get involved.

Plus, he reminded himself, villains of Midgard had a thing for showing up at the weddings as well. Perhaps something fascinating would happen if he stuck around. 

Loki grinned to himself and summoned a quick portal to Midgard--more specifically, New York City. He would wait until tomorrow morning to have a chat with the happily engaged husbands-to-be; it was always more fun to surprise the humans of that realm before they had consumed their caffeinated mead. 

Chapter Text

Steve yawned and stretched, observing the setting sun with an eye of amusement. It sure didn't feel like it was already nightfall; he had barely gotten enough time in with Tony. Still, he was glad; it meant dinner was soon, and then he could quietly retire to bed to get some rest before tomorrow. 

Thor had contacted him to let him know they would be arriving tomorrow, due to the Warriors being obscenely hard to talk out of packing entire armories and bringing them along. When Steve had told Thor to tell them there were kids at the mansion, they had apparently cheered, and announced something about a "fine time to start training!"

Steve could live another night without them being at the mansion, needless to say. 

He just smiled and observed everyone milling about for a bit; Maria and Nick had come back about an hour ago with a ton of decorations, a blood-spattered car, and Maria muttering something about sheep with a wild, half-mad look in her eyes. Steve had wisely not inquired further.  

Most of the nearby heroes had showed up after the conference, asking if they could help; Reed had shown up with Johnny, Valeria, and Franklin, and while Johnny's "helpful" tactic of setting things on fire was decidedly unhelpful, Reed's elastic body most certainly was. 

Thanks to the fact that Valeria and Franklin had shown up alongside Reed as well, Steve quickly admitted that having another genius around to work out the technical limitations of what they were doing was rather helpful. He was just glad everyone was so invested in pulling this off. It made him feel wanted, and relieved that after everything, everyone was still so eager to be here for Tony as well... 

He looked around anxiously to find Tony, who had, last he had seen him, had been working on the decorations with Reed. It took Steve a minute, but he found him, bathed in the warm lantern lights that were strung up around the courtyard trees. Steve's heart caught in his throat at the sight of Tony like that; his striking handsomeness, already glorious enough, was lit from within by happiness and excitement, and Steve wanted nothing more in that moment than to kiss him.

So he did.

Steve went over to Tony, swept him into his arms, and kissed him, warm, slow, and gentle. Tony stiffened for a second before relaxing into his embrace, winding his arms around Steve's waist as Steve tasted the warm wetness of his mouth, as gentle and curious as he had been from the first kiss onwards.

"I could live with doing this sort of thing for the rest of my life." Tony said, amused, as they pulled away and stared at each other. 

"Have I told you how wonderful you are?" He said to Steve after a moment of silence. He just huffed and kissed the top of Tony's head.

"So are you," he reminded him. "Remember that, Tony, because I know it's hard for you to do, but--I mean..." He sighed. "Tony, I'm marrying you because I think you're the most beautiful, selfless, wonderful, brave, strong, and altogether perfect man in the universe. Flaws and all." 

"Directly contradictory." Tony muttered. Steve just laughed.

"Punched Hitler." He reminded him. Tony groaned.

"You are a cheater." He whined, but he kissed Steve again so he knew that Tony didn't really mind. Steve ruffled his hair as Tony sighed, delighted.

"I...I can't promise I'm always going to think I'm as good of a man as you do. Or that I'll act like one. But...for you, I'd do anything. So I'll try my best." He murmured. "I promise, Steve."

"That's all I can ask for." Steve said honestly, the genuine note of emotion rough and raw in his voice as Tony smiled. "Believe me, I knew you when I married you." He teased him. Tony stuck his tongue out at him and Steve did what came naturally and kissed him again, capturing his tongue and silencing any of Tony's complaints as the sun set around them.

...

Dinner was a quick, easy affair; boxes of pizza were strewn across the table, and everyone was half-asleep from the day's events by the time they were done. 

"So Thor's gonna be here tomorrow, we're going to start sewing the dresses, and the kids have a pride parade or something, don't they?" Tony asked, covering a yawn with his mouth. Steve nodded.

"Yeah, the Young Avengers aren't going to be here the day after tomorrow. I think some of the X-kids decided to go with them; they were going to meet up with Rictor and Shatterstar, right?" He murmured. "I think the X-Factor group is famous among the mutant kids for getting to go play Sherlock without Charles nagging them." He said, amused. 

"Sherlock with bullets." Tony replied wryly. "And that's just Jamie, Steve. The others are perfectly well adjusted." 

"With bullets." Steve said, chuckling. Tony laughed in agreement.

"Yeah, with bullets." He agreed. "Bullets and sword-fist things." 

The two laid on each others' shoulders a little, their heads touching as they propped each other up at the table. Tony was tired, he admitted it; his nerves were shot after the conference and he just wanted to go upstairs and go to bed.

Fortunately, Steve being a possible psychic won the day; he just smiled and picked Tony up, ruffling his hair and laughing softly, clearly amused.

"You're losing weight, Tony." He remarked, carrying him across the moonlight-dappled courtyard before opening the mansion's backdoor to bring him inside. "I know I'm strong, but I shouldn't be able to do this with such ease."

"I dunno." Tony said, closing his eyes and yawning. "Right now, I can't say I'm complaining about getting carried around. Besides," he added, grinning wickedly, "it's good practice for the wedding night, isn't it?"

Steve grinned back down at him. The look in his eyes told Tony all he needed to know.

"Indeed," Steve said cheerfully, "and I suggest we practice some more. Indoors." He murmured. Tony snorted.

"You do need more practice," he teased. "It's not always inside." 

Steve just huffed and rolled his eyes, but the smile on his face and the gentle hand supporting Tony's side so he didn't fall right out of his arms told Tony all he needed to know.

And they did get some pretty good practice in that night, too.

Chapter Text

The base was quiet that night. Any activity that had been going on, in lieu of experiments, (Arnim was occupied with other things at the moment, and as such, the screaming in the labs had quieted), was postphoned. Most victims they had already snatched up had been shot quickly, once they proved of no use; after all, a worldwide press release meant there was no need for stealth or espionage. No, the Skull knew where Captain America would be...

As he watched a recording of the press conference from the other day, he peeled off a leather glove aimlessly, flexing the mottled, hideous hand underneath before wiping the blood on the glove off on a wall, leaving behind tacky, bright streaks that dried almost as quickly as they appeared. 

"Is that it, Captain? Do you wish to incur my wrath with this...licentious sodomy? This perversion of nature? Such a flawed thing underneath that mantle." The Red Skull frowned and pulled his lips back, baring his teeth. "But then again, you always were. Now, though...now the public will see. They will turn on you, then." 

He made his way to his quarters and locked himself in, sitting in his armchair and opening his book from where he had last left off. A bottle of wine stood beside him; he cracked it, opened it, and poured himself a glass.

He lifted a glass of wine aloft, a sarcastic, mocking salute before he downed it in one go, his mind already whirring with a few plans to find the Captain and flay his pet whore's back right in front of him. That would be an interesting bang to end the week with.

The Skull laughed softly to himself, no humor evident in the sound.

...

Tony awoke to the muffled sounds of Jarvis weeping and knew Thor had already arrived back home. 

A brave man would go down and see what was wrong.

A smart man stayed in bed with his husband.

Tony was a genius, after all.

"Go see to Thor, honey." Steve said, and Tony groaned dramatically and flopped down beside Steve, snuggling up against him and whimpering pathetically. Evidently, Steve was not as smart as he was. 

"I don't want to," Tony pouted. "If he's making Jarvis have a nervous breakdown, that means he brought the warriors with him. Probably Sif, too."

"No..." Steve mused, sitting up in bed and thinking. "Jarvis has dealt with them before and come out unscathed. That can't be it." He frowned. "But if it's an Asgardian, then..."

The two of them stared at each other for a minute.

Then it clicked.

They both bolted down the steps, getting dressed along the way. They had more pressing matters to attend to than pants.

...

"Brother, you must understand, I have a feeling Steve and Tony will not regard your attempt to help as, well, helpful." Thor said, giving Loki a careful look. The trickster shrugged and sipped the coffee he had stolen from Volstagg, adding a few more sugar cubes as he sniffed in disgust at the bitterness. 

"I created this team," he reminded him. "I am the reason you have these shieldbrothers of yours, Thor. I am the reason these two ever met! This wedding can all be traced back to me." He said, puffing his chest up a bit as pride rang in his voice. Thor rolled his eyes.

"They are soulbonds, brother. They would have found their way to one another, with or without your aid." He reminded him. Loki shrugged.

"Yes, but I made it go faster." He retorted. "Besides, I have nothing to gain from this; I am simply here to observe the proceedings and aid in any way I am able."

"You made Jarvis cry," Thor said. "Tony will not take that well."

Loki actually frowned at that, looking vaguely contrite. Thor suspected crocodile tears, but still, the fact that he remembered to look sad was a point in his favor.

"I simply showed up on the doorstep and tried to make waffles." He muttered. "I happen to find human pastries fascinating."

"You almost burned down his kitchen." Thor reminded him. Loki snorted.

"I put it back, didn't I?" He snapped. "I'm a sorceror, I can do that. Now his kitchen is magic." 

"Like friendship!" Volstagg piped up helpfully, grabbing one of Loki's waffles and taste-testing it. "Odin's beard, Loki, I cannot lie; this was perhaps worth burning down half of the hero-father's kitchen for." He mused. 

Loki preened. Thor just sighed and massaged his temples.

He hadn't wanted to bring along Loki, but he hadn't really had a choice; as it turned out, Loki had just happened to catch wind of the conversation, and wanted to "help." As his brother had so helpfully demonstrated with the waffles, however, most of his attempts to help ended in fire. 

He sat down and took one of the waffles, chewing on it disinterestedly as he heard the sounds of thudding feet on the stairs. Steve and Tony were coming downstairs; surely they could deal with this problem...

"Thor, this is entirely your problem." Tony told him, brewing a second pot of coffee as he spoke. Thor groaned.

"Shieldbrother, I went to all the trouble of letting Asgard know of your marriage, and now you expect me to prevent my brother from causing yet another kitchen disaster?" He complained. "He can be your problem for awhile. He's only here because you're 'his' team, anyway." 

"I made waffles." Loki announced, idly levitating one of the plates in the air and twirling it around, spattering syrup and half-melted butter everywhere. "And the Avengers are my team, brother, you know this."

"We're not anybody's team," Steve said. "Least of all yours, Loki." 

"I am hurt, Rogers," Loki said primly, lifting the waffles just out of Steve's reach. "You act as if you would have ever been revived if I had not brought the Hulk into your team's midst, or that you would have ever met Tony Stark had it not been for my uniting of this team. Face it, I am your 'matchmaker.' He said proudly. Steve snorted. 

"Still learning about Earth culture from the movies, Loki?" He said dryly. "Please. Tony is the love of my life. I would have found him with or without the help of any god." 

Tony actually blushed a little, hiding his smile in his cup of coffee. Loki huffed, undoing his ponytail and letting his hair trail over his shoulder.

"For your information, matchmakers exist in Asgard as well. They are, however, notoriously unhelpful." He said. "One of them tried to set me up with a horse." 

"Fitting," Thor said dryly. "For you are an ass..." 

Loki threw the plate of waffles at him. 

"Actually, biologically, that was an entirely justified move," Tony said nonchalantly, munching on his own waffles. "Thor, you should be glad Hank isn't here right now." 

"Shieldbrother!" Thor snapped. "You are not helping!"

"And you smell like maple syrup." Steve said, hiding a laugh in his closed fist before trying to look serious. Thor just glared at him. 

"At any rate," Loki interrupted the bickering with a smooth purr, "I will be assisting in any way I can. The greatest magician of Asgard is offering his illusions and tricks for your wedding. Only a fool would refuse." He reminded them. Steve groaned.

"All right." He agreed. "Loki, you're more than welcome, so long as you behave, okay?" He cajoled him, feeling more and more like a mother raising her children than he ever had before the wedding. Loki just grinned.

"Oh, of course." He said. "Ragnarok's cycle has been overthrown now. I'll only annoy you if I feel like it. Which should really be what you watch out for." He teased. Thor groaned and shook his head.

"In any case, shieldbrothers, I believe I should take the warriors and my brother off of your hands for a time. Do you have plans?" He asked. Tony blinked, slowly considering a few things.

"Not particularly, no. Steve's going to help the girls start sewing up the dresses, but since I am useless with a needle and thread, I think I'm just going to help outside for awhile." He said. "Jarvis and May found a caterer—now we just need to specify what kind of cake we want..."

"Chocolate's good." Steve piped up, grinning like a sheepish little kid. "I like chocolate cake." 

Tony considered it before he grinned, utterly intoxicated by the gentle, innocent smile Steve was giving him. 

"Chocolate cake with buttercream icing and fudge filling." He said. "Sound good?" 

Steve blushed and shook his head.

"I, uh—that's, uhm, a lot of money..." He reminded him. Tony snorted.

"So?" He replied. "I practically bleed money, Steve." He frowned. "Oh, we're going to need a fruit salad too. Pineapple and strawberries?" He asked. Steve just sighed, amused. He had given up on trying to convince Tony to curb his spending.

"Pineapple and strawberries." He agreed. "And apples. You know everyone will make fun of us if we don't put them in." He said, a smile crossing his lips. Tony grinned. 

"Yeah, true." He said. "How about we work out the rest over dinner? You go help sew. I'll go tend to Nick, Loki, and the Warriors..." Tony paused. "You know what, I'm changing my job description to 'damage control.'"

"Pretty much." Steve agreed, wincing slightly as he kissed Tony's cheek. "The second you need me, I want you to call me, you hear?" He said. "I don't want you over working yourself." 

Tony huffed, but he was smiling as he muttered, "Yes, mother," and nuzzled Steve's cheek. "See you when we're done, honey." He told him, kissing his forehead and hugging him tight before heading outside. 

Steve just shook his head and went upstairs to let the others know that the Asgardians had arrived. He figured they should know why no one was allowed to have waffles for a little while.

Chapter Text

"Sir, you are not allowed to put gun turrets up as wedding decorations. Not even if you add streamers." Maria told Nick, who just grumbled and lit himself a new cigar. 

"Don't tell me how to live my life, Hill," he muttered. "Besides, this is just defensive, y'know. If the Skull shows up an' my gun turrets poke him fulla holes, y'think Steve's gonna care about them being decorations?"

"Yes." Maria responded without hesitation, turning off the turret and dismantling it as Nick groaned. 

"Such a fucken killjoy, kiddo." He complained. Maria just gave him a look of exasperated amusement as she put the turret aside and sighed, massaging her temples.

"Look, we can't get too much done, since, you know, if it rains we are well and truly fucked, but I have to figure out where some of this goes, at least..." She muttered. "It does suck that we're just going to set it up only to dismantle it again..."

"Don't worry about it," Tony interrupted them, coming outside with another mug of coffee in his hands. "Ororo has pretty much manufactured a bubble of perfect weather around the courtyard. As long as we don't let Johnny near any flammables, we can leave this stuff up until the wedding." 

"Okay, good," Maria said, relieved. "So, about decorations...er, Tony, Nick wants to put up turrets—"

"Absolutely not." Tony groaned. "Nick, I'll have the armor on call, for starters, and besides, there's going to be upwards of a hundred superheroes at this wedding. Do you honestly think guns are going to make much of a difference?" He demanded. Nick huffed.

"Killjoys, th' two of you!" He muttered. "Whatever. I'll just set up decorations like a wuss now." He huffed and gestured to the tablecloths. "See this shit, Tone? D'ya understand yeh coulda had taupe if it wasn't for me, Tony? Taupe, Stark!" He snapped.

Tony looked at Maria, who had buried her face in her hands and begun to inhale slowly, counting backwards from ten. He just quirked an eyebrow.

"...Is this about the sheep again?" Tony asked. She shook her head and sighed. 

"No...well, at least, I don't think so..." She mused. "Anyways, Tony, you already strung those paper lanterns up last night, so did you want to start on that altar? We got a really nice one at the wedding store—"

"Thanks to me!" Nick interrupted. "With the drapes in fucken eggshell! So it'd goddam' match! Fucken crisis averted!" 

Maria just ignored him and continued on. 

"So I was figuring we could set it up at the end of the lanterns—y'know, over by the willow tree Steve planted to draw under." She pointed over towards the outskirts of the courtyard. "There's a lot of space near it, too, so we'll be able to set up chairs and everything."

"Sounds good." Tony agreed. "How heavy is the gazebo-altar...thing?" He trailed off. "What do you call them?" 

"Verandas!" Nick roared. "It's a fucken veranda! In goddamn eggshell!" 

"It's marble!" Maria snapped. "Sir, eggshell is not marble!" 

"I didn't fucken say it was, Hill!" Nick retorted. Tony backed away and let them argue. He actually felt safer over beside Loki and Thor.

"You're calling eggshell marble, when it's just that—marble!" She yelled. "Sir, you are not allowed to interior design any verandas when we're on a lawn! Or when you did unspeakable things to sheep on it!" 

"Hey, hey, we bought another one!" Nick defended himself quickly. "Wasn't gonna have the sheep hauntin' the fucken veranda. We didn't even fucken make lambchops out of it. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and sheep gotta be turned into lambchops, Hill." 

The two stared at each other for a moment. Then Maria sighed.

"I thought we agreed never to bring up the sheep again." Maria said. Nick snorted. 

"The sheep'll haunt yeh fer the rest of yer life, Hill. Cause you didn't let me make lambchops." He muttered petulantly. Maria rolled her eyes.

"With what grill? We were in a wedding store!" She paused. "They've probably closed the place down by now. And had it exorcized." 

"Yeah, prolly," Nick agreed. "So, anyways, the veranda..." 

Maria just sighed and massaged her temples.

"Tony, like I was going to say, it's very heavy." She said. "We got one made out of marble,  and to be honest, I don't even think the pieces are out of the box—"

"Fear not, fair maiden!" The deep voice boomed brightly and Maria outright stared as three garishly-dressed men entered the courtyard with an exasperated-looking woman trailing behind them, cups of coffee in their fist and waffles in their other free hand. The other man beside Tony and Thor gave them both a smug look. The man who had spokenthe largest out of all of them, for want of a better descriptionclasped her shoulder and gestured to the wedding decorations grandly. Maria tried not to wince.

"My brothers and I came here solely to assist in the preparations!" He told her. "I am Volstagg, the lion of Asgard. Whom might you be?" 

"...Overworked and underpaid." She muttered bitterly, so quietly he didn't hear her. "Maria Hill," she told him, her voice a bit louder this time. "I...uh, I'm second in command of S.H.I.E.L.D. I guess that counts for something." 

"A lady like yourself, with such experience in combat, is left to clean up after Tony Stark?" The blond piped up, looking aghast. He actually took her hand and kissed it. Nick almost bit clean through his cigar, his one good eye alight with fatherly fury. Maria tried not to laugh. 

"Fandral the Dashing." He introduced himself. "I assure you, you will not need to concern yourself with this lifting and scurrying about as long as I am around." 

"I'm gonna snap his neck," Nick muttered. "Could make lambchops outta him, Hill." 

"Would you just drop the lambchops!?" Maria snapped quietly. She composed herself and smiled wanly. "Thank you, Fandral." She said, keeping her voice light and airy. "I have been very busy lately."

"With Loki around, I suspect you're going to go from 'busy' to 'panicking.'" The last man, a careful, calculating look in his eyes muttered darkly. "I will never understand why Thor even bothers." 

"Brotherhood is a strange thing, Hogun." Fandral agreed. 

"He does make lovely waffles, though." Volstagg piped up helpfully. "Perhaps Thor is onto something."

Maria just sighed. She had a feeling that today's decorating escapades were not going to end well...

...

After awhile, the groups had split up; Sif, having a bit more of a level-headed attitude towards this wedding, had shepherded Loki and the warriors into setting up, while Thor had slipped back inside to aid indoors. Nick was leading the decorating and lording it over the warriors, who, Maria would not be surprised to hear, had elected them as their new chief. It would depress her, certainly, but not surprise her.

Bethany had showed up ten minutes after they had started, and now it was her, Tony, and herself that were tending to the smaller things, holding a quiet discussion.

"No word from Sharon?" Bethany said. "I'm a bit shocked. She doesn't seem bitchy enough to hold a grudge." 

"She might just be busy," Maria defended her. "She works for S.H.I.E.L.D. now too, and let me tell you, it eats up your life." 

"Still," Bethany said, "I ditched what I was doing to come help out because Tony matters to me. If Steve really mattered to Sharon, she wouldn't give a fuck if he was getting hitched to someone else, right?" She demanded. Tony sighed.

"Not everyone is as devoted as you, Bethany," he told her. "It's just hard on Sharon. I understand. Nobody wants to think that the man they've loved their entire life is marrying a fuck up like me..." 

"Oh shut up," Maria snapped. "You just corraled six immortal beings into helping you out with your wedding decorations, and you got Nick to quit bitching about matching curtains. That is the mark of a great man." 

Tony couldn't help but grin and nod in agreement. Bethany shot Maria an appreciative look.

"Damn, you just picked up from where I left off, huh?" She said, amused. "Tony always needs a woman in his life that won't put up with his shit."

"That isn't Pepper." Tony amended. Bethany nodded and agreed.

"That isn't Pep, yeah," she said. "Still, Tony...look, don't let Sharon keep you from enjoying yourself, okay? Steve too, but he's not here, and I might feel bad about bitching out Captain America." 

"Oh, and what am I, chopped liver?" Tony grumbled, amused. Bethany grinned.

"No, but I have free license to bitch you out, I can get away with it." She reminded him. "Yelling at Steve is like strangling a bald eagle." 

"Okay, true," Tony said. "That's probably why the only arguments we ever have are based around how I don't take care of myself."

"And you don't," Bethany agreed. "Because you are dumb." 

Tony rolled his eyes and shook his head.

"I want to change that," he said quietly. "I want to take care of myself a little better now—watch myself, keep myself safe, you know...because, I mean...well, now I'm married. And Steve deserves better than some broken-down, used piece of trash." He murmured. 

Bethany and Maria stared at him for a moment before Bethany rolled her eyes.

"Oh, Christ, here we go," She snapped. "Tony, Christ's sake, he married you because he loved you, not because you were or weren't perfect! You are not used up, you're not broken down, and even if you were, obviously Steve does not give a fuck!" She yelled. "If you let yourself ruin this relationship and call this wedding off because you're being a thickheaded asshole, I'm going to punch you so hard your father will feel it!"

Tony winced. A few yards away, Loki stopped to stare at Bethany, interested.

"There is a lot of fire in that woman." He remarked. "Is that how she deals with Tony, brother?"

"I believe so," Thor agreed thoughtfully. "I love my shieldbrother, but sometimes dealing with him does require shouting matches."

Tony just sighed and looked away, shaking his head.

"Okay." He said. "Okay. I get it. You're right. I just..." He sighed. "Sometimes I think the only one who believes I really deserve Steve is Steve himself..."

Bethany and Maria just shook their heads, but they had nothing left to say. Tony was in a funk now, and none of them knew why...

The soft sound of the gate creaking open interrupted them, and Tony looked up to see James Barnes standing in the courtyard, looking more than a little nervous.

"I...uh..." He shook his head. "Steve said if you needed me, I was welcome to show up, and I figured...I could be of assistance..." 

Tony just smiled, trying to look reassuring. He wasn't sure if he did, but the effort was enough as he stood up and approached Bucky. 

"Of course," he told him. "Come on in, James. You can help me set up..." 

Bucky followed him, and the expression in his eyes made Maria and Bethany both relax. They had seen that expression on Steve's face before, and knew what it meant. It meant Tony was in for a talking-to by someone who knew what they were doing when it came to Tony Stark.

Chapter Text

Tony waited until they were out of earshot to groan and shake his head.

"I wish I could believe them," he murmured. "Still." He shrugged. "Anyways—"

"I heard the conversation," Bucky said, cutting him off sharply. "I was debating whether or not I should go in. You were talking. I listened." 

Tony blinked, giving Bucky a careful look. He respected the other man as much as he was wary around him; he didn't understand Bucky most of the time, and he knew that for a very long time, Bucky had blamed him for Steve's 'death.' He braced himself for a shouting match.

"You know, you might not be perfect, but you're exactly what Steve needs." Bucky said. Tony blinked, feeling like the earth had suddenly dropped out from underneath him for a second.

"Excuse me?" He said, stunned. Bucky shrugged. 

"You're a good man. You're a realistic, pragmatic man, which for awhile, made me angry...made me think that you had justified away Steve's death. But...you grieved. You grieved like I did." Bucky sighed. "I'm sorry."

"It's okay," Tony told him. "If it had been me in your position, I would've hated myself too." He snorted. "Not that I haven't indulged in that plenty of times..."

"You said Steve was the only one that thought you were good for him," Bucky said, pulling the conversation back to what he had wanted to get angry over. "I thought you were a genius, Stark. Are you insane?" He snapped. Tony blinked as Bucky continued on, his rant getting up to full-on rage mode.

"Everyone is here because they think you're perfect for Steve. They think that this is the best thing to happen to the both of you, ever. It's not just Steve who knows you're what's good for him, it's everyone else around you! They're all here because they think that you are the perfect man for Steve, and that he is the perfect man for you." Bucky looked uncomfortable for a second before he sighed. "Hell, I'm here because I think you're the perfect man for him."

The two of them stared at each other for a beat. Then Tony nodded, too unsure of the emotions welling up in him to say anything quite yet.

"Means a lot," Tony managed to choke out, trying desperately not to break down. "Coming from you, I mean."

"Steve's screwed up before, too," Bucky reminded him. "We all have. And if I didn't forgive you your mistakes, I wouldn't be in any position to forgive myself mine." He grasped Tony's shoulder and gave him a careful look. "I don't care if Sharon doesn't show up. I want to be best man at the wedding—if you'll have me." 

"Of course," Tony said, his voice cracking a little under the emotional strain. "I mean, as long as you have a tux." 

Bucky rolled his eyes, and he looked so much like Steve in that moment, filled with the same exasperated amusement, that Tony actually laughed.

"Go inside and see if you can help out," Tony told him gently. "Steve will want to know you're here. He's upstairs." 

Bucky nodded and turned to leave. Before he did, though, he turned to Tony and shot him a careful, considering look.

"You don't need to change to be the perfect man for him, Stark," he reminded him. "You already are. There's nothing to fix."

Bucky disappeared inside and Tony was left staring up at the clear blue sky, smiling despite himself.

Maybe Bucky was right. Above all else, he was everything Steve wanted and needed...and that was enough.

Still, for his sake, he would try to go to bed on time a little more often.

Tony couldn't help but grin again at the thought.

...

Steve covered a yawn with his hand as discreetly as he could, trying not to show that he was bored to tears by the design discussion. Jan looked so happy about doing this that he didn't want to ruin it. He had his tuxedo, he was fine...though actually, he wanted to ask Tony which one he was wearing. He wanted to see what his husband would look like on their wedding day.

Steve hummed with delight and smiled to himself, privately enjoying the thought of Tony in a tux as Jan and Emma went over design nitpicks, Kate unrolling bolts of fabric with Cassie, Billy, and Eli in the corner. He was just here to oversee things, that was all.

Steve jumped, suddenly feeling a hand on his shoulder. He turned around, only to meet Bucky's warm, bright hazel eyes, as he huffed with amusement and leaned on his shoulder.

"Whatever you're thinking about Tony better not be dirty," he told him. "I know Emma's a telepath."

"Quite so." Emma piped up. "Steve, who is this?" She asked. Steve swallowed, stared, and shook his head before he broke into a huge grin and hugged Bucky tight.

"This is my little brother," Steve said, ruffling Bucky's hair and ignoring the venomous look Bucky sent his way. "Bucky Barnes." 

"James," Bucky amended. "You can call me James." 

"I like Bucky better," Emma purred. "I'm calling you Bucky." 

The look on James' face made Steve snort, barely able to hide his grin. Bucky shot him a vicious look as Steve just shrugged and tried to look innocent. 

"You and Tony have to get your tuxes tailored." Emma interrupted them, and for a second, Steve mused if she had been reading his mind. "Go tell him, will you? See if he's not too busy. I'd rather get this sewing done in one fell swoop, and you two should be the first to go anyway." She reminded him. Steve nodded.

"Uh, Steve, I—uh, best man—do I, uh, need—" Bucky was interrupted as Emma's eyes lit up and she and Jan grabbed his arms, effectively preventing him from bolting.

"Oh, you need to be tailored? Good!" Emma said cheerfully. "Shirt off, dearie, I need to know what I'm working with here." 

Steve hightailed it out of there to find Tony. Bucky could deal with them. Bucky was a man now.

...

Tony realized, as he saw Steve come up to meet him, that Steve looked about as frazzled as he felt. He kissed his fiance's cheek in an attempt to soothe him, and murmured, "What's up, honey?"

"Emma needs us to go try on our tuxes," Steve told him. "Come upstairs with me. Bethany and Maria can deal with the Asgardians and Nick. Maria does it for a living." He was already pulling Tony out of the courtyard as he said it, ignoring Maria and Bethany's sputtering. 

Tony just sighed and smiled as they headed up to their room to look for the proper tuxedoes. Steve was so flustered. It was a good look for him. 

...

Back up in their room, Tony opened the doors to his not-unsubstantial closet, going over the tuxedos with a careful eye, laying a few select choices out on the bed as Steve watched him hesitantly, like he was afraid the tuxes were going to rise up and eat him. Tony just laughed lightly and kissed his cheek. 

Steve squirmed, but he was smiling as Tony sat on his lap, the two of them finally getting a  moment of alone time to embrace each other and kiss, passion throwing common sense out the window, (and considering they had left the door open on top of everything, passion must have been a champ in shotput), as Steve moaned, delighted, and began to deepen the kiss.

"We do need to get those tuxes together." Tony reminded him, pulling away as he gestured to the open closet door. Steve sighed, groaned, and went back to digging through the closet. 

A half hour passed in comfortable silence; neither of them felt like they had to speak, their closeness speaking volumes—a brush of the hand here, the gentle feel of lips against their forehead or cheek there, and they could hold entire conversations.

Finally, Tony grinned and held up a tuxedo that was a bright, striking white; it shone, almost, and as he laid it down on the bed again, Steve noticed he had selected a pale blue shirt and red tie to go with it. He rolled his eyes and snorted, amused.

"I don't know whether to laugh or cry, Tony." He teased him. Tony huffed, shaking his head and tsking as he sat on the bed and waited for Steve to show him his choice. 

Steve fumbled a bit, but he liked what he had picked out; a black tuxedo with a red undershirt, and—

"A gold tie? And you're honestly going to tell me I was the stupid fanboy in this situation, honey?" Tony remarked, poking Steve's chest as Steve sputtered and shook his head.

"I just—I just picked what I thought looked nice, and I—your suit was silver for awhile, don't look at me like that—Tony, Tony no, I—Tony!" He snapped, unable to stop the blush blooming across his face as Tony burst into laughter, unable to help himself as he slumped on the bed and succumbed to a giggle fit. 

Steve was completely justified in pinning his wrists with one hand and tickling him senseless with his free hand after that, of course. The tuxes could wait five minutes.

...

"Back already? I haven't even double-checked Bucky's measurements." Emma pouted, drumming her fingers on Bucky's bare shoulder. Steve raised an eyebrow as Tony held the tuxes in his arms. Bucky whimpered.

"You're not even going to ask about the rumpled clothing and messy hair, huh?" Tony muttered. Emma shook her head and hummed to herself idly, sticking pins in places Steve really thought Bucky hadn't needed pins stuck in.

"No. Although I am fascinated to know how ticklish you are, Stark." She teased. Tony choked. Steve just grinned. 

"A-anyways, we got the tuxedoes, so if you'll get your claws out of Bucky, you can take our measurements and start adjusting them." Tony told her. Emma huffed.

"Oh, that's no fun, you two are taken." She grumbled. Ororo gave her a look.

"Emma." She warned her. Emma groaned and sagged dramatically into Storm's shoulder as Ororo bit her lip and looked like she was trying very hard to resist rolling her eyes. "You know better." She reminded her. Emma shrugged.

"My darling thundercloud, I would never slut it up with a soldier. I'm not into men in uniform. No fun in bed." She remarked offhandedly. Steve and Bucky both blushed. Tony cackled.

"I beg to differ." He purred. Steve shot him a look that would have fainted a lesser man. Tony just shrugged. "Hey, if I could, I would stand on the corner of 34th and 11th and spread the good news about your body, Steve, but I don't want you to turn into an evangelical cornerstone. Your body is my "good book," and mine alone." He said. 

"You are the only man I know who could turn the Bible into a reference to his fiance's penis." Emma remarked dryly, beginning to take measurements as Steve's face burned bright red. Tony just grinned. 

"Where else do you think I hide lube?" He reminded her. 

It took them all a minute to continue the measurements. Emma was laughing too hard to hold her hands steady. Steve just wanted to die.

...

The tuxedos took an hour of poking and prodding with needles and pins, but by the time it was done, Steve had to acknowledge that they looked perfect. Emma and Jan had worked wonders. 

But—and there always seemed to be a catch, with the life he lived—Steve had yet to see Tony in his tux. Jan had insisted they be separated, so it could be a surprise. Steve thought Jan was crazy, (though this, he didn't say out loud, out of a healthy self-preservation instinct.) But in all honesty, he really was excited to see what Tony looked like. Though he loved how Tony looked no matter what he wore, Tony always looked so good in a suit. Steve really needed to tell him that more...

"All right, all right, you can see him." Jan said. She didn't even need telepathy to know what Steve needed. "Tony! Come on out, Steve needs you!"

The door opened, and with the soft sound of his bare feet on the carpeted floor, Tony stepped out to meet him in his wedding tuxedo. Steve's heart skipped a beat as he sized him up; Tony looked handsome, brilliant, and oh so very much like himself in that tuxedo. It was perfect. 

Everyone else backed away a little, letting the two of them have their moment. Steve was vaguely aware of the massive grin on his face, but he didn't really care. Tony was beautiful. It was okay to smile, even if his face was practically aching. 

Tony came a little closer and let Steve embrace him, his hands around Tony's waist as he buried his face into Tony's hair and inhaled the soft musk of Tony's cologne. 

"Hey." He finally managed to say. "You look beautiful." 

"I should hope so." Tony muttered. "If it matters, so do you." He told him. Steve nodded and kissed his forehead. 

"Of course it matters, Tony. I want to look my best for you. This wedding matters just as much to you as it does to me, you know that." He reminded him. Tony grumbled, but there was a smile on his face as he cuddled a little closer.

"If you really cared, you'd let me buy those jewel-encrusted unicorns we talked about." He teased. Steve just huffed and ruffled his hair. 

...

The rest of the day flew by in a whirl of preparations and decorating, as narrated by Nick Fury. Tony suspected he was going to hear that voice in his dreams, bitching about eggshell versus taupe and how the curtains better match the goddamned drapes, Hill, or he was going to bring up the sheep again...

Tony was very grateful he was no longer in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D.

"Do you think we should make an appearance at the pride parade tomorrow?" Steve asked him, sitting on the edge of the bed as Tony got dressed in his pajamas. He shrugged, yanking on his boxers and crawling into bed beside Steve, who had laid down with a soft sigh. 

"If we've got time, we'll go pick up the kids. That'll have to be enough. I need to get this done; after all, we've only got about a week left before the rehearsal dinners and all that start up, and everyone's going to start flying into New York, so I have to organize a hotel specifically for heroes that'll keep identities secret if need be, and, just...ugh." Tony huffed. "Extremis makes this a lot easier, but it's still a lot."

"I know," Steve said, kissing his cheek and pulling him close. "You're doing great, Tony. After all this, I promise, we'll have a great honeymoon to look forward to. Someplace nice. Someplace without supervillains."

"Good luck finding that one, honey." Tony chuckled, but Steve was kissing him in that way that made his legs jelly, so he really was at a loss for sarcastic comments for awhile.

Chapter Text

"Teddy! Teddy, if you don't get up, I will never speak to you again, so help me god, because we have fifteen minutes to be up and dressed, and I can't find my feather boa!"

"Billy," Teddy grumbled into his pillow. "It is nine in the morning. I am barely above "sentient lifeform" at the moment. You can live without a feather boa. Stop being stereotypical."

"Don't tell me how to live my life, Teddy! I do what I want!" Billy shouted. Teddy laughed in spite of himself, rolling over and letting Billy snuggle into his embrace as he kissed the top of his head.

"I love you too, sweetheart, but you've gotta give me a minute, okay? You know I'm not a morning person." Teddy reminded him. Billy huffed and snuggled close apologetically.

"Sorry, but I'm just...really excited. You know how that is! I just...it's going to be awesome," Billy enthused. "I can feel it." 

"I know, I know," Teddy replied, stretching out a bit in bed before shaking his head and going to get dressed. "I'm excited too. But I need a cup of coffee."

"I'm on it," Billy said, bolting from the room. "Maybe Jarvis knows where my feather boa is." 

"I bet Loki took it!" Teddy called back at him. Billy started laughing as he headed down the stairs, waking up the other Young Avengers as he went.

...

"You sure you want to go, Ric?" Shatterstar asked, massaging his lover's shoulders as Rictor sighed. "If you're not up for it, I could—"

"Nah, nah. I wanted to meet the kids and get to know 'em a bit better. I'm just tired is all," he comforted him. "Could you make coffee?"

"That infernal machine beeps at me every time I try to use it," Shatterstar grumbled. "I have yet to decide if it is a worthy foe or not."

"...Nevermind," Rictor muttered, standing up and heading for the kitchen. "I'll do it myself."

...

The kids were out the door in ten minutes, and true to form, yes, Loki had taken Billy's feather boa, but a single look from Steve was enough to quell any argument that would have resulted. He really didn't need a reality warper duking it out with a god in his kitchen before the caterers showed up.

Unknown to them, it wasn't just the few other gay superheroes they were meeting up with at the parade. There were...others. People who were there to hurt. People who were there to find Captain America and kill him, and they didn't care who got in the way.

But that wasn't quite yet.

...

"Sir." Arnim said, choosing his words carefully. The Red Skull was pacing the room, and he didn't look too happy. One wrong word and Arnim would be facing the wrong side of a gun. "Are you even sure Captain America will be at the ceremony? It doesn't seem his kind of ordeal. Too garish. Gaudy."

"But that is exactly what his...concubine, so to speak, prefers." Johann Schmidt remarked, giving Arnim a look of contemptuous amusement, as if he considered his intelligence leaps and bounds above the biologist's own. "Stark is a man of glamour and disgusting indulgence. And the Captain can't say no to him, of course. They'll be there. And if they are not there, well, then we shall have at least wiped a few impurities off the face of the earth, correct?" He said. Arnim nodded hastily, not wanting to incur any of the Skull's current wrath.

"Of course," he agreed. "I will prepare the HYDRA bots, sir. Are you coming with us?" 

"Indeed." The Red Skull told him, standing up and covering himself with the full-length black leather duster he prized for intimidation purposes before he headed out the door. "If the Captain and his companion are there, I want to be the one to rip that drunkard sodomite's heart from his body and suffocate Rogers with it." 

The rest of the walk was in silence. The Skull was planning. Arnim was certainly not going to interrupt.

...

"Eli, you are way too nervous about this," Tommy said, clearly amused as he leaned on the other boy's shoulder. "Is something really bothering you?" He asked. For a second, Tommy actually looked concerned. "I mean, I know we've been busy with this wedding and all, but is it something else—hey, is your grandfather all right, 'cause I mean—"

"Tommy," Eli held up a hand and cut him off, silencing the speedster's prattle mid-sentence. "I'm...fine. Fine. Do you know where Kate is? I want to talk to her." He said. 

For a second, Tommy looked utterly crestfallen. But he shook it off almost as quickly as it arrived, and he smiled as brightly as he could at Eli before jerking his thumb over to the other side of the road that had been blocked off for the parade preparation.

"She's over there with Cass and Jonas," he said. "I think they're trying to put stuff together."

"Right." Eli said, hastily booking it for the direction of the other Young Avengers. Tommy watched him go for a minute before he closed his eyes and sniffled, trying to let all of the pain out in one quick sob so as not to drag the party down.

He and Eli had bonded after Tommy had come clean about what had really happened in "juvie." For Eli, it was proof that as much as he loved his country, there were things done in its name that he couldn't tolerate. For Tommy, it was just one more thing that had abused him.

Still. To see someone so enraged about the hurt he had been through—it was an entirely new feeling. A comforting one, though. Eli had been angry because he had been hurt. No one else had ever been angry because he had gotten hurt before. 

Tommy had liked Eli a lot. Tommy had liked hanging out with Eli, talking to him, training with him, sitting and playing video games or reading with him, or watching a stupid movie at two in the morning on a friday night because they didn't feel like going out. 

But he had liked Kate too. He had liked her calm, placid exterior that hid a brilliant, vivacious spirit, and the strength of a mountain that had been shattered by the same kinds of pain he himself had felt. He had understood her. He had listened to the stories she told him about how her body had been torn away from her, her private places violated so deeply it seemed like she could never pick up the pieces of her shattered sense of self, and been able to offer advice. He had liked being around Kate just as much as he liked being around Eli. They made him feel safe. They made him feel welcome and wanted and loved. 

He loved them both so much it scared him a little, but they loved each other, and so he was alone. 

Tommy just shrugged haplessly and shook his head. He was here for his brother. Now was not the time to start getting all mopey.

Still...

Tommy closed his eyes and looked away again as Kate threw her arms around Eli and kissed his cheek. 

...

Eli sighed and stroked Kate's hair, considering a few things as he watched Billy magic them up a float. 

He was probably the worst boyfriend in the world. Good boyfriends didn't fall in love with their male best friends. That was probably a big no-no. 

Still. He could ignore it. Sure, Tommy was bright and brilliant and witty and sharp, and so clearly broken, and all Eli wanted to do was fix him, and sure, the two of them understood each other so well it frightened Eli a little sometimes, but he loved Kate. Kate was just as bright and brilliant and witty and sharp as Tommy, and just as broken. He loved them both. He wanted to fix them both.

Without thinking, Eli kissed the top of Kate's head. He loved her so much it scared him a little, but he loved Tommy just as much. He didn't know what to do. 

So he held Kate a bit tighter and tried to banish any of the feelings he knew he had for Tommy. It would have to be enough.

...

Kate was really sick of all this. 

She wasn't dumb. She was a bit annoyed that they thought she was, but she knew damn well Eli liked Tommy. And she knew damn well it was reciprocated. And she knew her own damn heart well enough to know she liked them both too.

Kate was fascinated by Tommy; powerful, absentmindedly sarcastic Tommy, who seemed to see the world on such a different level. She understood what he had been through more than anyone else on the team, and the two of them had shared some of their darkest moments with each other, and found solace. She loved him because he understood her, accepted her, and wanted to be with her. 

Kate loved Eli, too. Kate was fascinated by him; steadfast, strong, determined Eli, who would part the ocean for her if she asked. He hadn't experienced anything like what had happened  to her, but he had listened, he had let her talk, and he had loved her all the same. That meant the world to her. So she loved Eli, too.

Kate Bishop always got what she wanted. And she wanted the both of them. 

So she would have them. 

Kate just grinned to herself for a minute before letting Billy give her a leg up on the float as they sat and waited for Rictor and Shatterstar. She would talk to them today and get this finally sorted out. Just in time for the wedding, too.

...

"Nobody else wanted to come?" Shatterstar said, sitting in the shotgun as Rictor drove to the parade. He shook his head and huffed.

"Madrox and Guido are both out on a job with Layla and Longshot. Rahne's still pregnant, and her ankles are starting to hurt—she didn't want to have to walk or get up." He shrugged and smiled. "It's fine. They'd come if they could. It just means I get to spend time alone with you."

Shatterstar smiled at him so brightly that Rictor had to blink. Tears were in his eyes as he pecked his boyfriend on the cheek and held his hand the entire way, driving one-handed and speeding just enough to make Shatterstar happy.

...

Steve yawned, waking up to see Tony with a plate piled high with toast and eggs in his line of sight, sitting on the bed and grinning. Steve just grinned back and let Tony snuggle close and lay the plates down.

"If I could wake up to that every day, I don't think I would want for anything else." He murmured. Tony laughed softly and nuzzled his hip from his position laying down beside him.

"I would love to be the person who wakes you up like that every day, just so you know." He purred. Steve stroked his hair gently as they both started devouring breakfast, starved. 

"What're the plans for today?" Steve asked. "I mean, the week's almost over, and we only have until next Saturday...what else do we need?" 

Tony blinked, yawned, and thought for a moment before stretching out. 

"We have to get the cake order done, but I think Jarvis is taking care of that. He and May are all over the catering...the tuxes are done...do we have flower arrangements? I'll call someone about those. Roses and daffodils okay?" He asked. Steve nodded. Tony huffed. "Good. Now, I think we just need...hm." He chewed his lip, deep in thought. "Anywhere you want to hold the rehearsal dinner? The reception's still going to be at the mansion, but I'm game for any restaurant you think can hold us."

"Serafina's," Steve replied. "It's been around since I was a kid, and I know the kids frequent it. It seems pretty superhero-friendly, and it's big enough to support all of us." He added. Tony nodded. 

"I'll arrange for it to get rented out exclusively to us for the night," he said. "We could use the room." 

Steve smiled and kissed him, nuzzling his forehead for a minute before Tony kissed him back. 

"So, cake is done, flowers are getting ordered this morning, all the invites have been sent—"

"Most of them," Steve said. "There's a few people I wanted to speak with personally. I'll take the Quinjet once we head downstairs." 

"Sounds good to me," Tony replied, stretching out languidly. "Talk to whomever else you think you need to talk to today, and once I organize the rehearsal dinner...all that's left is the honeymoon." Tony grinned wickedly and nuzzled Steve. "Any suggestions, soldier?"

"I just want to be with you," Steve said softly. "I don't care where we go as long as you're with me."

Tony was quiet for a minute before he smiled and kissed Steve's cheek.

"You're a sweetheart," Tony murmured. "I was thinking we could get as far away from the city as possible, though. Some beach, somewhere."

"That sounds nice," Steve told him. "I always liked going to the beach in the summer."

"Then it's settled," Tony said cheerfully. "I'll start looking at the nicest beaches I can find. Okay?" He asked. Steve nodded.

"Okay," he replied. "Are you ready to start the day?" 

Tony shrugged. "Yeah," he replied. "If you need anything and I'm busy, Bethany, Rhodey, Hap, and Pepper are all here, for what it's worth." He frowned. "I think I should check on Nick. Last I checked, the Asgardians had made him some kind of chieftain." He groaned. "Ugh. Not high on my "things I want to do" list." He muttered.

"Still, I fought with the commandos, back in the war. Not having them helping would be a disgrace." Steve told him, finishing his toast. "Don't worry about it right now. Let's just cuddle for a bit before we get up and go." 

Tony grinned and pushed the plates off the bed, snuggling into Steve's chest and sighing with delight as his fiance's warm, strong arms wrapped around his waist. 

"I am definitely okay with this plan." Tony murmured. "In fact, I think it takes first place on my "things I want to do" list." He said. Steve grinned.

"Good to know I'm higher in your priorities than Nick Fury." He teased. Tony snorted.

"Well, obviously." He retorted. 

At peace with the world, the two observed the New York sunrise and felt genuinely happy. 

Chapter Text

Billy shivered, nervous, and snuggled into Teddy's side for comfort.

"We must look like the biggest dorks," he muttered. "What if Ric and Star don't think we're cool? Teddy, they're like, way older than us. I'm sixteen, I'm a fanboy, and I—"

"You need to calm down." Teddy soothed him, stroking his hair. "Billy, you're the best boy in the universe—not that I'm biased or anything—and I'm sure they'll like you. They're not that old, y'know. I think Rictor's like twenty-seven. Just relax. You're the only one who's worried." 

"Yeah," Billy murmured. "Thanks, Ted." He smiled warmly and let Teddy hold him tighter. "I think I am worrying too much." He mused. "Maybe it's the boa."

"I'm not answering that." Teddy replied dryly. Billy just laughed.

...

"We must look like the biggest dorks," Rictor muttered. "I didn't even dress up, Jesus. I mean, I am literally wearing the same jeans I wore yesterday. And the day before that. And I don't think this jacket has seen the inside of a washing machine since shoulderpads and pouches were haute couture." He groaned. "Ugh, Shatterstar, what if they don't like us? They're way younger than us. They're sixteen, we must look like total perverts, and I—"

"You need to calm down," Shatterstar told him, idly ruffling his hair. "Rictor, you are the greatest man in the world—though I assure you, I am not biased—and they are good children. Captain America himself approves of them. Just relax. I'm sure they're just as worried as you are." He soothed him. "Now, come. If you are still troubled, perhaps you can settle your worries with them in combat."

"No," Rictor muttered, but there was a small grin of exasperated amusement on his face as he nuzzled Shatterstar's cheek. "They're kids. You're not challenging them to anything." 

"Not even rock-paper-scissors?" Shatterstar begged. "I quite like that game. Especially the way Jamie plays it." 

"No, not rock-paper-scissors either." Rictor replied. "...Wait, does Jamie play it any differently?"

"He punches you if you lose." Shatterstar said simply. "I get to punch him if I win, however. And I am very good at rock-paper-scissors."

Rictor just rolled his eyes.

"I bet, honey." He said. "Now come on, they're waiting."

...

Rictor and Shatterstar were showing up. Hell, they were right there, standing in front of him, looking nervous but excited. So Billy did what he did best, and fanboyed.

"You are much better looking without the ponytail." He blurted out. 

Teddy slapped his palm over his face as Rictor collapsed into hysterical giggles. Shatterstar blinked, before he grinned, clearly amused.

"That is exactly what Julio said." He replied. "I like you much better without the wings on your headband. They hid your face."

Billy flared bright red. Now Teddy was giggling. The other Young Avengers just watched, amused, before Rictor finally introduced himself.

"Nice to meet you all," he said. "I've heard a lot about you from the other X-kids. Billy, Tommy, you're the sons of the Scarlet Witch, right? Big deal and all." He shrugged. "Good to meet you in the flesh. Cap spoke highly of you."

"He knows we'd complain if he didn't," Eli said dryly. "I'm Eli Bradley. It's nice to meet you too. You're both coming to the wedding, right?"

"Yes, we are," Shatterstar said, accepting the hand up Eli offered him as he climbed onto the float. "I've never been to a real wedding. The television ones are fascinating, but I would like to see one in the flesh." 

"This is basically a reality show without the cameras, so you're not going to get a really "down to earth wedding," just as a warning." Kate remarked dryly. "We've got gods, the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., mutants, black ops agents, and superheroes all stepping in to help, and half of the journalists in New York camping outside the mansion gates. Reality is overrated."

"True," Shatterstar agreed. "Still, I do believe I need to find one of those suits that couples wear. I really only have my gladiator clothes and whatever Rictor helps me buy, and we don't really splurge on those sort of things." 

"Hey, don't you drag me into this," Rictor replied hastily. "You don't need a suit, you'd get it dirty." 

"I dunno..." Kate said, sizing him up. "He's got a lot of muscle. He might be fun to tailor for." 

"Don't you start." Cassie said, ruffling her hair affectionately. "You know you can't make suits for everyone, Kate, we've got things to do!"

"Watch me." Kate retorted. "Anyways, aren't we supposed to be heading out?"

"Yeah," Billy said. "Hang on; gonna use some magic and make us stand out a little..."

His hands glowed blue, and with a few quick incantations, the float was moving, the team reclining on it as the tiny platform wheeled its way out into the sun and down the street.

...

 

The parade was actually more fun than Eli had thought it would be. He did feel kind of awkward being here, but he knew it was for Billy and Teddy's sake, so he didn't protest much. Besides, he...well, he figured...Tommy and all...he had to be bi or something. 

He groaned. That was not what he wanted to think about at all. But frankly, it was kind of hard, considering that he was literally surrounded by happy gay couples. It wasn't really conductive to his "ignore the feelings I have and they'll go away" policy he was trying to enact on Tommy.

Still. He had to talk to him. He had to get this sorted out. He had to do something. 

Especially since now Tommy was draped over him like a rug. 

...Wait, what?

Eli looked down to see Tommy had practically oozed out over his chest, with his hands in his lap and his head on his shoulder. He wasn't being flirtatious; on the contrary, he looked absolutely miserable and exhausted.

"Is something wrong?" Eli asked, worry for Tommy overriding his anxiousness. "Tommy, have you been having—y'know, nightmares again?"

It was quite common for Tommy to wake up screaming for the first few months after he had joined the team. The experiments had taken their toll on him, and more than once, Eli had been the one to go sit with him while he tried to get all the panic and fear out of his system. 

After a few months of careful handling and support, the nightmares had stopped, but Eli could feel himself starting to worry again, like they had never left. Tommy shook his head and shrugged helplessly.

"S'just been a long night," he murmured. "Was up helping Kate sew. Wouldn't go to bed until we were done."

Eli sighed and shook his head, flicking Tommy's forehead.

"Quit that," he told him. "You need your rest, Tommy. You're a speedster, not an insomniac. Kate will understand if you need sleep." 

Actually, now that he felt the familiar weight on his shoulder, he realized Kate was falling asleep on his shoulder now as well. Eli just chuckled softly and stroked her hair.

"Kate, Steve will understand if the dresses aren't all done at once. You don't need to have them done right now. There's still a week left until the wedding, right?" He reminded her. Kate shrugged.

"I guess," she murmured. "No big deal. The sun feels so good right now." She sighed. "Can I just sit here with the two of you? Please?" She asked. Eli kissed the top of her head and nodded. Then, without really thinking, he kissed the top of Tommy's head as well, ruffling his hair gently. 

"Feels good," Tommy murmured. "Never had anyone do that before I met you all." He paused. "I mean, y'know. Touch my hair." He amended. 

Kate reached over and ruffled it as Eli had done, running her fingers through the strands as Tommy blushed, (an incredibly rare reaction from the speedster; he really must have been tired, to let his guard down like that.) 

"Feels soft," Kate judged it. "I'll remember to touch it more."

Eli just let the two of them be, snuggled against his chest, and tilted his head back to watch the sky. 

From behind him, Cassie giggled. Eli looked up to see her giving him the most mischevious look he had ever seen on her face in his life, eyes glinting with wicked amusement.

"Really?" She asked him. "You three need to get a room." She pointed to Tommy. "Can you not see he's been all over the both of you? It's kind of cute, really." She mused. "So unlike him, though. I never figured he would be the type to get all soppy in a relationship."

"Cassie!" Eli hissed. "I—you—I—"

"Jonas thinks you guys are adorable. Don't you, honey?" She said. The Vision sighed and gave Eli an apologetic look, as if he knew he was throwing his friend under the bus. 

"Both Thomas and Kate care for you deeply, Eli," he reminded him. "Though I understand your hesitation. Most humans do not look kindly on polyamorous relationships." 

"Yeah," Eli sighed. "What would my gran say? I mean, I think she'd be okay if I just said I was gay or bi or trans or something, but I just—it doesn't...it makes me seem like I'm slutty. Which shouldn't really matter, but...I don't want it to be about sex." Eli winced. "Because I really do care, you know? It's just like...some people think you can't care for more than one person. I don't get it." 

"Neither do I," Jonas replied, shrugging his shoulders haplessly. "But I really don't see the problem, since they both clearly feel comfortable enough with you to rest on your shoulders. Considering those two are perhaps the most touch-phobic members of our team, well..." He trailed off as Billy paused in his crusade of partying to come observe the scene. He just grinned.

"Ugh, Tommy. I wish I had a camera," he said. "I'd never let him live this one down." 

"Be nice, Billy," Cassie admonished him. "Tommy hasn't had a lot of people touch him that haven't wanted to hurt him. It means a lot that he trusts Eli and Kate like this."

"Yeah, I know." Billy said quickly, correcting himself as he shrugged. "I mean...he's my brother. I want to see him happy. I have Teddy, and Teddy's, like, perfect. In every way. He's everything I didn't know I wanted, and I mean—Eli, if you could do that for the both of them, then I mean—well, uh, do it?" He finished. "I'm not an expert on this. I've had—and intend to have—like, one boyfriend."

"True." Eli agreed. "I'm just glad everyone isn't going to freak out over this." 

"As long as you treat them both right, I don't see the issue." Teddy piped up. "It'd be kind of hypocritical to give you hell over all this, wouldn't it?" He reminded him. Eli laughed. 

"Okay, okay. I'll talk to them. They might not want this...I have to ask." He said. Shatterstar perked up at the conversation and finally quit reveling in the crowd's attention to come over and offer his (admittedly strange) advice.

"I didn't have the same kind of experiences everyone else here did," he began. "I was starved for affection...on Mojoworld, there really isn't anything quite like love. It's such a lovely thing. I don't know why we didn't have it, but...still. What matters the most is having as much as you can while you can." He explained. "If you are loved, you should act on it, I mean." He grinned ruefully. "That took me a few years to figure out, however, so I understand your trepidation." 

"Yeah," Rictor agreed. "He shared a bed with me for four months before he admitted he liked me." He teased, ruffling Shatterstar's hair as his boyfriend squealed indignantly and pushed his hand away. "You know it's true, love." 

"Okay, okay!" Eli said, holding his hands up in surrender. "People, this isn't a fairy tale. I'm not going to just like, turn over and have him say I love you, let's get married, or whatever, I mean—"

Tommy talked in his sleep. Eli had forgotten about this.

"M'love you, bro." He murmured, nuzzling into Eli's shoulder. "Me an' Kate an' Eli. Les' get married."

Eli groaned quietly. 

Only Billy saw Tommy open his eyes and, when the twins' eyes met, give him a wicked wink. 

Chapter Text

In the warehouse nearest the parade route, a giant, ominous-looking robot loomed over two men as they had their conversation.

"Sir, are you sure this is really the place you want to start a fight?" Arnim asked hesitantly. "There are heroes here. No one too high-profile, but I don't think it's wise..."

"Let them die," the Red Skull replied. "Because they will die today. If I cannot have the Captain, I will deliver the bodies of his friends and comrades to his doorstep. A warning, if you will." He strode off for the robot's control panel. "Start them up, Arnim." He demanded. "I am not a patient man."

Arnim rolled his eyes the second he saw the Skull's back turn.

"No, sir," he replied. "I know that better than anyone by now."

...

Rictor was the first one to sense the trouble. The storming of the robots on the ground caused vibrations, and after all, the earth was his conduit. He tensed, snarled, and his hands began to glow; Shatterstar, sensing his mate's stress on an instinctual level, grabbed his blades and stood beside him.

"Do we need to get the civilians out?" Eli asked immediately, gently shaking his, (lovers? were they, could he—the hell with it, for the moment, they were), lovers awake as he did so. "C'mon, sweethearts, there's trouble."

"Mmk," Tommy mumbled sleepily. "Whassamatter?" 

Billy screamed, and Tommy's eyes flared open. A spark of rage crossed his face as he threw himself up off the ground and bolted for his brother's side. 

"Billy! Billy, what's the matter?" He demanded. Billy was summoning up lightning as he spoke, but Tommy could hear him anyway.

"HYDRA!" He cried. "Red Skull!" 

Tommy stared at the robots slowly advancing down the street, and tried not to show panic on his face. Without a word, he came to stand in front of his brother.

"Lightning, now," he said. "Fuck with their systems. I'll cover you if I have to." 

"What a bunch of killjoys," Teddy muttered, disgusted, as he shifted into his Skrull halfling form, spreading his wings open with a sharp snap. "One awesome party all year and they screw it right up."

"They're Nazis. They kinda do that." Kate reminded him. "Since they're, y'know, pure evil."

"True," Teddy agreed. "I bet Erik wishes he had shown up. He would've loved this."

"Indeed," A sudden voice said from behind them, the man's tone grave, with only a hint of amusement in it. "I do love destroying Nazis. Their robots are simply too easy."

Both Billy and Tommy turned around to see Erik Lensherr and Charles Xavier, surrounded by a flock of mutant children, standing behind their float. 

"Grandfather!?" Both Billy and Tommy shouted, completely in unison. Erik acknowledged them with a nod before deflecting the metal robot aside with a swipe of his powers.

"Nice boa." He told Billy, a small smirk on his face. Billy flared bright red as Erik clapped Tommy on the shoulder.

"I'm sorry we have yet to discuss the question of custody, Thomas," He told him, eyes solemn as Tommy practically trembled at his touch. "I have only sorted out things with Charles, hopefully for good this time, recently, and we've had a lot on our mind."

Tommy just stared in awe, complete delight written across his face. 

"I...uh...okay," he finally said. "Now c'mon, we have to go punch Nazis."

"Such a delightful sport." Erik said cheerfully. The two of them actually high-fived, (though Erik clearly had no experience in the matter and almost missed), before heading off towards the bots. 

"What are you doing here, Charles?" Teddy asked, diving down with one of the robot's tentacle arms in his hands. "I didn't know you were going to show up." 

"The children insisted," Charles said dryly. "Erik came to the mansion last night looking for me, according to Beast, who had gone back to get something for Tony. After a bit of an awkward explanation, Hank brought him back with him and Erik..."

"Asked you out on a date, basically." Teddy said, giving him a rakish grin. Charles glared at him. 

"This is not a date. We are grown men, we don't go on dates—"

"This is a date." Erik said, throwing one of the robots into the ground, cracking the street around it. "Or as close to a proper date as a superhero can get." 

Charles was sputtering. Billy just sighed knowingly.

"I know that feeling," he agreed. "Every time I just want to go out to eat with Teddy, god damn it, there's a bank robbery or Venom or if we're really unlucky, Thanos or Doom or something. You just start scheduling fight time into your date night." 

"It's a good adrenaline kick, though," Kate added, firing an arrow into the glass cockpit of the robots. "Makes the date more fun."

"True, true," Billy agreed. "Not important right now, though. Where's the Skull?" He demanded. "I know I saw him. It isn't that hard to catch a guy with that kind of skin problem." 

"I'm not sure..." Charles closed his eyes. "I'm trying to pick up on any thoughts I could possibly recognize as his, but I'm not hearing anything..."

"I'll find him," Erik said, and his face went harsh and stony for a minute. "I have experience hunting Nazis." 

"Erik! Erik, damn you, wait!" Charles demanded. Erik was off and running, however, and Charles was left in the dust. He just sighed and massaged his temples. 

"Children, I need you to split up. Young Avengers, I want you to go with Rictor and Shatterstar off to find Erik before the Skull does. My children, you are with me; we will continue fighting the robots and perform as much damage control as possible. Understood?" He said. Everyone present nodded. Charles sighed, relieved. 

"Good. Get on it, then. If things get bad, contact me. I'll call in the calvary if we must." He promised. 

Without another word, the groups split and went off to do what they did best.

...

"Can you believe it? Grandfather's here!" Tommy crowed, delighted. "He came for us, I know it!" 

"Do you think he knows where mom is?" Billy asked. "Maybe he brought Wanda and Pietro with him. I...I hope so." He shook his head. "We'll ask him later, okay? For right now, we have to find grandfather...he's hunting the Skull, remember?" 

"Honey, you have a locating spell," Teddy reminded him. "Use it." 

"Oh yeah." Billy said, blushing self-consciously as his eyes began to glow blue. Shatterstar paused in his fight and began to glow lightly with power.

"If we find him, I can get us there as quickly as possible." He offered. Teddy nodded.

"That'll work. Once Billy comes out of this trance, he can amplify the teleportation power; a huge group like this is tough, right?" He asked. Shatterstar nodded, quirking an eyebrow as Teddy blushed. "Look, he's not the only fanboy on the team."

"Unfortunately." Tommy teased. Kate whacked him lightly on the head with her bow. 

"You behave. Billy's almost finished..." She didn't even finish her sentence as Billy's feet landed on solid ground again and the blue light dissipated from his eyes.

"Two blocks west!" He snapped. "Grandfather and the Skull both! C'mon, we have to go!" He demanded. Magic was sparking up around his clenched fists again, and as Shatterstar began to glow brighter alongside him, the twin teleportation spell swallowed up the whole group, the space where they had been empty within an instant.

...

Erik prided himself on keeping his temper level, generally speaking. His attacks were not often fueled by sheer berserk rage or hate, and even in mundane situations, he could deal with quite a bit before snapping.

This was not one of those placid times.

Erik was furious. This went beyond a desire for revenge, even; at the forefront of his mind was the reminder that both his grandsons, his last connection to Wanda, his last hope for a family, had been on the battlefield. It would have been effortless for one of the robots to destroy them. His grandsons had been in danger, and the Skull was going to pay, for that if nothing else.

He could hear him; the metal on his uniform, in his gun, all of it called to him in recognition. He knew how easy it would be to simply take the gun and manipulate it, or to strangle him with his own uniform, (fitting, he figured), but for reasons he both understood and refused to acknowledge, he did not. 

Damn Charles. Making him go soft like this.

And yet.

Erik took his helmet off. Immediately, Charles' voice was in his mind—and, to his surprise, his grandson's. 

William? William, what in god's name are you—

No time! Billy thundered. You stay where you are! We're coming to help, got it? 

I didn't know you were a telepath. Both he and Charles said in unison. There was confusion in his mind for a moment, a bewilderment not his own.

Uh, I didn't know either. I just needed to talk to you, and I guess I could? This is awesome! Billy said, clearly delighted. Erik sighed.

I'm not moving. But if you're going to get here, get here quickly. Charles, you stay where you are. I'm not going to kill anyone. Without provocation. He added. 

Erik, if you—

"We're here." A soft whisper cut through the mental link and Erik turned to see his grandsons, their team, and their companions standing behind him. Billy gave him a careful look before he shook his head.

"He's close. Grandfather, I—" Billy was cut off by the sound of a gunshot. There was no scream of pain, but Erik wasn't thinking clearly enough to notice the shot had missed. In his mind, it had hit his grandson, and he was done playing the pacifist. The Skull was going to die.

Bright energy poured from Erik's body as he roared in agonized hatred, underscored with the dark, low laugh of the Red Skull. 

Billy was panicking, too spooked by the sudden one-eighty of Erik's demeanor to even cast a spell. It took him a minute to find the words, but he managed to finally scream, "Grandfather! Please, I'm all right—the shot missed, grandfather, calm down—Erik!" 

Magneto didn't hear him. There was too much that was at stake, and in his mind, bloodlust had gotten in and refused to let go. He pulled the gun from the Skull, satisfied as he confirmed there were still bullets in the chambers, before he levitated in the air and prepared to fire.

"Lensherr, that is a terrible idea." A woman's voice suddenly cut through both Billy's screaming and the fight at hand, and without any further warning, Sharon Carter and Sam Wilson stepped from the shadows. "Put the gun down. You know Charles will be pissed if you shoot." 

The other heroes present had pretty much shut down their mental capacity for surprise at this point, so no one commented on the complete insanity that was taking place in front of them.

"Carter," Erik said coolly. "You honestly expect me to believe shooting, of all people, the Red Skull, is not a laudable act?" 

"No, he definitely has it coming," Sharon agreed. "But that isn't your choice, Erik. You aren't going to shoot him, because you know what? You won't be able to stop. If I shoot him, I can survive that unscathed, mentally, because I'm not motivated by revenge and hate. You, however, will jump off the slippery slope yet again, and I expect the both of us to be at Steve's wedding, so I advise you hand me the gun and let me arrest him."

Erik paused. Billy took the lull in conversation as an opportunity to speak up again.

"Grandfather, he didn't shoot me! I'm okay, I promise!" He said, standing up. "No blood, see? Hell, even the boa's okay!" He added in an attempt to inject some kind of normality into the situation. 

Erik faltered, but there was still bloodlust in his eyes. 

Then Tommy bolted in front of him, standing up and staring down the barrel of the gun. He came closer and closer until the skin of his forehead was pressed against the cold metal of the barrel. Kate blanched; Eli looked both furious and panicked. Tommy just gave him a cold, carefully calculating look.

"I expect to be adopted by the end of this month, and if you go crazy, that isn't going to happen." He snapped. Erik just watched him. Tommy shook his head and huffed.

"Put the gun down, grandfather," he demanded. "I want to go home."

That was it; the last brick that sent Erik's carefully constructed wall of fury tumbling down. He tossed the gun aside and yanked Tommy into the tightest hug he had ever gotten. He squeaked for a second, surprised and a little frightened; but in only an instant, he acclimated himself to it, smiling just a little and relaxing into the embrace.

"I don't deserve the two of you," Erik murmured. "But I am very grateful I have you."

"Yeah, so'm I." Sam remarked. Redwing cawed an agreement from his shoulder. Sam gestured to the fight scene before giving them all a look "Sharon and I can take this from here. I think you really should all go home." He sighed. "We'll be back at the mansion once we get this sorted out. I feel bad for not contacting Steve, of course, but we've been on this man's tail since the announcement; we didn't want to compromise anything." 

"That would be a pretty nice wedding present," Sharon remarked. "Congrats, here's the Skull's head on a tasteful platter. No need to thank us. "

Before she could react, however, the towering figure of the Red Skull loomed over her. He was unharmed, save for a gash across his cheek, and there was glittering, hateful malice in his eyes as he took a remote from his pocket and pressed a button on the smooth black surface.

"Do you honestly believe that after eighty years of this game, I did not have a back up plan? You shame me." He remarked. "There is nothing you can do, Carter. There is nothing anyone can do. I want Steve Rogers' head, and I will have it." 

Before anyone could even make the move to stop him, one of the robots had whirred to life again, and he disappeared into its coils before it rocketed off into the sky.

As had been previously mentioned, everyone's mental capacity for shock was shot to hell at this point, so they really just stared.

"...You really should have shot him." Sam remarked. Sharon glared at him. 

"You know this is what he does every damn time, don't give me that look." She snapped. "Anyways..." She sighed and sized up the group standing in front of her.

"Rictor, Shatterstar, take the kids home. Erik, I want you to go with them too. Explain what just happened to Steve and Tony. Don't tell them we were here, though." She actually grinned, and it made her look like a bright young girl when she smiled, despite the S.H.I.E.L.D. badge on her chest. "I want it to be a surprise."

"You have my word," Erik said gravely. "We should find Charles first, however. No point in remaining split up." 

"Fair enough." Sharon said. "Don't take forever, though. I think you all need to go home and sort yourselves out."

No one present disagreed with her in the slightest.

...

Charles' face lit up so bright that it made the streetlights beside him pale in comparison as he saw Erik leading the children back. It only took an instant for Erik to collapse into his arms, holding him so tight he shook. 

"I came so close," he murmured hoarsely. "I would have done it. I thought he hurt William. I would have killed him. I would have..."

"Everyone's okay," Charles reminded him gently. "Everyone is all right. There is no need to reminisce on what happened. Calm down, Erik." He soothed him. "Just calm down." 

Erik obeyed, sagging with exhaustion into Charles' embrace, all the adrenaline drained from him as Charles sighed. 

"William, could you and Shatterstar please start the teleportation spell? I think we need to get home. Immediately." He added. Billy nodded.

"Yeah." He murmured. "Um, 'Star, if you could—" 

Shatterstar grabbed his hand and began to glow again, giving Billy a quick grin. "I know how this works," he reminded him. "I have done this before." 

Billy blushed and mumbled something under his breath before speaking the incantation that would send them all home to the mansion. 

Once again, a flash of light obscured them all for a second. Then they were gone.

Chapter Text

Steve sighed and massaged his temples. He didn't know why he was doing this. Well, that wasn't entirely true; yes, he did, but he didn't feel comfortable doing it. Standing at the edge of the beach and calling his name made him incredibly self-conscious. 

It took about twenty minutes, in which Steve thanked whatever gods were listening that the beach was private, but eventually, the waters broke and Prince Namor stood before him, a single eyebrow delicately raised in confusion as he observed him.

"...Rogers." He greeted him. "Are you mad? You've been calling my name for twenty minutes." 

"No, I—ugh." Steve sighed. "Namor, listen. I'm getting married. I wanted you to come to the wedding."

Both of Namor's eyebrows were raised now. He listened, interested. Steve continued on, more than a little hesitant. Namor wasn't the same as he had been back when Steve knew him...still. Friendship went a long way. 

"We were friends, back in the war, and I know...I mean, I know you hate humans, and things have changed...I get it. But I really do want you to be there." He explained. "I just...I don't know." He sighed. "You don't have to come. But I wanted to invite you personally." 

Namor continued to observe him carefully for a moment. 

Then he took his hand and clasped Steve's shoulder for a second, nodding brusquely.

"I am truly honored, Steven," he said. "I will be there. When is the wedding?" He asked.

"July fourth." Steve told him. "I...I'm glad you could come." He gave him a warm, genuine smile, and if Namor wasn't too worried about his own pride, he would have probably told Steve how infectious and comforting his smile was. "See you there, okay?" 

"All right," Namor agreed. "The seas will be calmed that day. I assure you. Until then, Rogers." He murmured. Steve just saluted him.

With a small chuckle of amusement, Namor dove back into the water. There was someone he knew whom would be dying for this kind of information. After all, without even having to be told, he knew Steve was marrying Tony Stark...and there was someone who would be very excited about this knowledge. Oh, yes.

...

Victor von Doom was not a patient man. When Namor said he was going to be arriving on the shores of Latveria around seven that evening, and Doom had gone to the trouble of preparing a private banquet for the two of them, he supposed he had the right to be annoyed when it was five past seven and Namor had yet to show up.

Then, of course, the waters broke, and Namor stood in front of him, dripping wet and shimmering silver in the moonlight, and Victor realized with only the smallest hint of chagrin exactly why he was willing to wait. 

"You're late." He reminded him, trying to hide his entrancement. Namor shrugged and huffed, wryly amused.

"By five minutes, Victor." He retorted. "I have not been here in some time. I had to find my way." He paused. "I did not expect you on the beach to greet me."

"They are my beaches," Victor reminded him. "All of Latveria belongs to me, in fact. Should I not be allowed to stand on the beaches?"

"That's not really what I meant." Namor said dryly. "But it makes no difference. I am glad you did." He brushed a few stray strands of hair from his face, smoothing them back as he observed Victor carefully. "Shall we go?"

"Of course," Victor agreed, the two of them starting down the beach, back towards the forest that would lead them to the castle. "I had prepared a banquet, but since you decided to be five minutes late, I'm sure all of the food is stone cold by now." 

"Victor, for Atlantis' sake, it was five minutes!" Namor snapped. There was some comfort in the argument, and he knew that was exactly why Victor was needling him; after all, the two of them treasured each others' arguments as much as they did the company. It was familiar. It was home, in a way.

"Five minutes more than it should have been." Doom sniffed delicately as he straightened his cloak. "I suspect you were planning that grand entrance in the moonlight, Namor."

"So you were watching." Namor said smugly. "I wasn't putting on a show, Victor. Your twisted mind just assumes everything I do is some kind of seductive gesture."

"You are having this conversation with me in scaled green briefs and nothing more." Victor retorted. "I assume nothing."

The two of them continued to bicker well past making their way through the woods, and in fact only ceased when they were confronted with the banquet Doom had set out, (which was, to Namor's triumph, still warm.)

...

"STARK IS TO BE WED!?" Doom roared, throwing his goblet of wine on the table. Namor didn't even blink.

"Inside voice, Victor," he reminded him. "And yes. Steve Rogers and Tony Stark are getting married. I figured you ought to know." 

"WHY WAS DOOM NOT INVITED?" Doom shouted. Namor huffed.

"I simply cannot imagine." He said dryly. "Plus, let's be honest, you and I both know you were going to show up anyway, invite or no invite. I assume they figured as much as well." 

"...Hrmph." Doom muttered. Namor knew that meant he had won. He just smiled and sipped his wine. 

"At any rate, he seemed a bit on edge. It wasn't about coming to the beaches; something else was off. I believe there is a problem, and I'm curious. I would like to see what troubles a man like Steve Rogers on such a joyous occasion." Namor mused. Doom huffed.

"And I should concern myself with the matters of Steve Rogers because...?" He trailed off as Namor rolled his eyes.

"Only one man can truly get underneath the Captain's skin. You know exactly why you should care, Victor." He murmured. 

The gypsy king, the man with the Romany blood in his veins, clenched his throne rests so hard they snapped underneath his fists. Namor merely watched. 

"Yes. I do." He said stiffly. "All right, then. We shall go, you and I. We shall see how this plays out."

"Of course," Namor agreed. "After dinner."

"Well, yes." Victor said, his normal demeanor returning. For the rest of the night, in fact, even when they moved their bickering discussion up into the library, he was actually rather sedate; only once was the chess board thrown across the room as accusations of cheating flew around them. 

...

Steve sighed and covered a yawn with one hand, observing the empty sitting room with a bit of quiet rejoicing. This was the first relatively peaceful day he had experienced in a week, and with the way things were going, it would be the last one until next week as well. 

Then of course the kids came home.

"Hey. The Red Skull attacked us." Billy said, voice flat as he leaned on Teddy for support.

The coffee mug Steve had been drinking from shattered in his hand. Everyone present winced. 

"Is that right?" Steve said quietly. His voice didn't change much; it still had the gentle sweetness that Steve normally had, but...there was an imbalance. A small change in timbre that told them all to tread very, very carefully around him for a little while. 

"Grandfather stopped him," Tommy piped up. "Well, with our help, obviously. But...we figured we should come home and tell you." He shook his head. "I think he thought you were going to be there with Tony." 

"I bet," Steve agreed. "Did he hurt any of you in any way?" 

"No," Tommy told him. "Though grandfather thought he had shot Billy and almost shot him with his own gun. It was kind of awesome." 

Steve actually chuckled at that. A bit of the tension in the room dissipated, and everyone laughed lightly, hoping to keep Steve from snapping. 

"So you came back, Erik," Steve said. "You ought to be proud of your grandsons. They're wonderful heroes. Follow their example." He admonished him. Erik rolled his eyes and put his hands on Billy and Tommy's shoulders. 

"Charles is persistent, if nothing else," he agreed. "Still, I figure I should be the one to say this; do not let the Skull's presence stop you from enjoying your wedding. If the worst happens, you will have literally hundreds of heroes and three-fourths of S.H.I.E.L.D. to deal with the problem. You marry your husband, Captain."

"I plan on it," Steve said mildly, the only thing belying his fury being a small twitch in his right eye. "But if the Skull so much as comes near Tony, I will rip him limb from limb. I promised Nick Fury that." 

"Nick probably does appreciate that sort of thing." Erik mused. 

"Anyways, so since the parade kinda got ruined, we're back for the day." Teddy interrupted before the conversation got too morbid. "And we brought Rictor and Shatterstar."

"Afternoon." Rictor said, waving at him. Shatterstar was staring at the broken coffee mug, as he had been for a few minutes now. Rictor gave him a look of concern. "...Honey?" He asked.

There was a moment of silence.

"It is indeed a worthy foe, this caffeinated mead and the machine that produces it." Shatterstar decided. "But it is no match for the Captain. That is good to know."

That did it. The entire room broke down into hysterics, save Shatterstar, who was left smiling mildly at a world he figured had gone entirely mad.

...

Steve was, of course, still on edge. They all knew it, though it was simply just too awkward to acknowledge. Nobody wanted to tell him he was still a bit crazed.

"Ugh, I had a rough day today. Swear to god, I could've just died..." Tony muttered, walking into the living room, evidently intent on solving that problem for them.

Steve outright roared, fury on his face as he stood up, tossed the book he had been reading across the room and through the wall, and effortlessly crossed the room in two steps before yanking Tony into his embrace.

"If he laid a goddamned hand on you, I will tear him apart!" Steve roared. His rage was practically palaptable; the whole room could see it shimmering around him in shining waves of violence. Tony blinked, confused.

From behind him, the warriors three, Loki, Sif, and Thor edged into the room nervously. Loki raised an eyebrow.

"All I did was change all the eggshell decor to taupe to anger the grizzled lunatic with the cigar." He said. "I hardly think that qualifies as a limb-ripping offense."

"You've probably done something else that does qualify, Laufeyson." Sif muttered. Loki gave her a filthy look before Thor hastily cut in and gave them both the long-suffering look of a nanny dealing with bratty charges. Tony just stared up at Steve.

"...Honey, I've been outside helping with the decorations all morning. I know you're on edge too, but what the hell?" He asked. Steve actually had the grace to blush. 

"Oh," Steve murmured. "Uh, sorry. Tony, I, uh—the—the thing is—"

"The Red Skull attacked," Erik interrupted. "Steve is worried about you." 

Steve nodded. Tony just blinked again, still clearly confused.

"Ah," he said faintly. "I take it this is you getting overprotective again." 

"Naturally," Steve said defensively. "If anyone in this world needs to be taken care of, it's you." 

"Only by you," Tony agreed. "Still, Steve..." He sighed. "Don't let the Skull ruin our wedding, all right? I did let Nick install a few turrets, since neither he or the warriors would shut the hell up about it, and all the superheroes and like, everyone who isn't on a black-ops team in S.H.I.E.L.D., along with half of Asgard will be there. We'll be fine.

Steve didn't look convinced. Tony just smiled and kissed his cheek. 

"I'll be fine," he promised. "I have you, don't I?" 

Steve was quiet for a second. Then without another word, he bundled Tony up into his arms, cradled him close, and kissed the top of his head.

"You always will, Tony," he murmured. "Come hell or high water, I will be at your side." 

"Til death do us part." Tony teased. Steve tensed, remembering the courthouse; from the way Tony stiffened under his touch, he knew Tony had realized his mistake too. He just kissed Tony's forehead and shook his head.

"No," he murmured. "Beyond that. We are going to be infinite, Tony. Always and forever."

"Yeah." Tony agreed softly, love making him melt in Steve's arms as the two snuggled together.

Everyone else in the room just shot each other a careful look. Then they slipped out the door without a word.

...

"I cannot believe we have another week left of this." Tommy muttered darkly as he headed down the hallway with Eli and Kate in tow. They both just shrugged and grinned.

"I've got other things on my mind. They're not going to bother me." Kate said. "The two boys in front of me right now, though..."

"We've got a week until the wedding." Eli reminded her. "Let's try not to do anything stupid until all the adults are busy or on a honeymoon."

"Yeah, let them have their moment." Tommy piped up. "Threesomes during a wedding just seems awkward somehow."

The three of them slipped into one of the spare bedrooms and tried not to giggle hysterically until the door was shut and locked.

A few minutes later, with the trio snuggled together on the bed, warm and safe, they all decided in a silent pact that today had been a very good day. They laid there for a very long time, arms linked, not speaking, letting their hearts beat against each other.

Chapter Text

The rest of the weekend was a blur for everyone; it seemed like everyone had quite remembered how to have a wedding, but could not explain for the life of them how they put it together.

So Emma and Jan were done with the dresses and had started on the tuxedo tailoring and adjustments, alongside Kate and Erik, who was surprisingly handy with the sewing machine.

Jarvis had already gotten the caterers, and for the next few days, boxes upon boxes of appetizers and entrees and cakes and pastries were being carted in through the front gates and into the mansion. If anyone wanted real food, they had to fight their way through a sea of judgemental white cardboard boxes first. 

Somehow, the rest of the X-Factor crew, Rictor and Shatterstar included, had moved in; Tony just sighed and ordered a few more couches. Still, Madrox was insanely useful, so it wasn't a hindrance or anything; it was simply that the toxic combination of the Warriors three, Nick Fury, and Shatterstar was like asking for trouble. 

The weekend flew by and suddenly it was Monday afternoon and Tony was staring down the jeweler for the wedding in his kitchen, Jan and Steve by his side as they considered rings, and he was not entirely sure how this had occurred.

Still, he did need a wedding ring, so he would probably have to learn, and learn fast. Tony just thumbed his way through the catalogue and considered gemstones and shades of gold. He knew he would have a gold ring, though he thought silver suited Steve better. He wasn't quite sure yet. 

"Actually, I think I have an idea..." Steve murmured, breaking the silence. "Tony, can I see your engagement ring?" 

Tony took it off without a second's hesitation and handed it to Steve, who examined it carefully before handing it to the jeweler, a friend of Jan's. 

"I want something exactly like this." He said. "Only with two topaz stones flanking it, if that's possible."

Tony blushed bright red. Steve just grinned and squeezed his hand from underneath the table. 

"I...well." Tony huffed. "White gold. Ruby, zircon, sapphire. In that order, actually." He grinned at Steve, who was now sputtering, his face as red as Tony's. Jan just rolled her eyes, amused.

"The two of you." She said affectionately. "You're insane. I like the idea, though." She sipped her drink and grinned. "But no love for Steve's Nomad costume?"

"We try to forget when my husband went as a porn star for Halloween, yes." Tony said dryly. Steve glared at him so hard Tony could almost feel bruises on his skin. He just shrugged and smirked. 

"...I see." Nia Reyes said, clearly trying not to giggle and break the illusion of stoicism. "I think the rings you are asking for can be arranged." She took a few notes down, keeping Tony's engagement ring to use as a reference. "They'll be done by tomorrow. They are my top priority, I assure you."

"Thank you, Ms. Reyes." Tony said. "It means a lot." 

"No trouble at all, Mr. Stark." She said. "It's an honor to do this for the two of you." 

She left with a smile on her face. Tony suspected she was waiting until she got into her car to laugh about the Nomad costume. Steve was still sore if anyone brought it up. 

...

"Tony, at some point, you are going to have to move these boxes out of the kitchen before we all either starve or resort to cannibalism." Maria remarked dryly. Tony shrugged.

"I suggest if we turn to cannibalism, you start with Volstagg. Man's got enough meat on his bones to feed a small island nation." He retorted. Maria sighed and massaged her temples.

"Don't mention any of their names, all right?" She muttered. "Nick is now an officially elected Asgardian chieftain. They had ceremonies and everything." She paused, as if to let the fact sink in to her consciousness.

"I am literally never going to have another peaceful moment in my life ever again." She said, the horrible realization dawning on her as she slumped against the table.

"What'd they make him chief of, grunting in a New York accent and cigars?" Tony said incredulously. "Jesus, I need to talk to Thor about standards."

"Loki suggested it," Maria told him. "He argued that Fury was the personification of design-related rage. After his freakout over the taupe, I couldn't say I disagreed with him." She sighed. 

"It really wasn't going so badly until they sacrificed the sheep." She muttered, pouring herself a glass of wine.

Tony stared. Maria shrugged.

"On the plus side, Jarvis is making lambchops tonight." She added.

Tony continued to stare.

"Sometimes I think I'm going to end up in an insane asylum, Stark." Maria remarked. Tony just nodded.

"Yeah," he agreed, "me too." 

...

Steve sighed and massaged his temples, observing all the dresses laid out before him as Emma stuck pins into his side, finishing alterations on his tuxedo. 

"Don't you even start, Rogers," she muttered through three pins in her mouth. "You've got it easy. I don't even think half your team has any tuxedos to work with. Tony had to buy them."

"Yes, I know..." Steve said, giving her a long-suffering sigh. "Anyways, do you know where the kids went?" He asked. "They get lost in the shuffle with so many people, and I worry."

"You're such a mother hen," Emma said, amused. "They're with my kids. Shatterstar is babysitting with Volstagg—apparently the man has children. He's quite good with them, actually. Shatterstar...err." She frowned. "Well. He's having the time of his life, at least."

"I'm sure Julio will be thrilled." Steve said dryly. "At least it gets the two of them out of Maria's hair. I heard her on the phone with her girlfriend last night; I couldn't pick out much, in between the hysterical sobs, prayers to the sheep god, and pleas for mercy, but I believe Victoria has scheduled an appointment with Doc Samson already."

"Smart woman," Emma remarked. "I don't know how Hill puts up with Fury and the Norse boys. She needs a break."

"This was actually supposed to be her vacation." Steve said. "It says a lot, doesn't it?"

Emma actually raised an eyebrow, amazed.

"I hope Stark is paying for a nice trip somewhere for this poor woman," Emma said. "If not, I'm suggesting it. In the "obey me, I have boobs," way."

"You're a telepath," Steve told her. "Why are your...your, you know—your—"

"Can Captain America not actually say breasts?" Emma said, a grin creeping across her face. "Tits? Jugs? Melons? Gazongas? Nothing? Good lord. Yes. Yes, Steve, I am going to use my breasts as my first line of defense. Because they're useful and I don't have to expend any energy to do it."

"Please just use telepathy," Steve begged. "Tony will feel bad for being unfaithful."

"It's not really being a pervert if they're already halfway out of my dress by default." Emma said dryly. "Don't think I'm not aware of how I dress, Captain." 

"I mean, you would have to be to put it on..." Steve said. "Don't worry about it. I'll arrange for Nick to cover it with S.H.I.E.L.D. funds. He's a good man; he loves Maria like a daughter, he'll do it. He's just...a little rough around the edges."

"And completely insane." Emma added. Steve shrugged.

"I can't argue, but I'm not going to agree." He told her. "If I do, then he'll find me."

"He's more of a mythical figure than a man at this point, isn't he?" Emma remarked. "Like the Santa Claus from hell."

"...That's...actually a very accurate description." Steve said. Emma sighed.

"I bet. Now hold still. I have fifteen more tuxedos to finish, and you're almost done..."

...

By the time Tuesday rolled around, Tony looked around the whole mansion and realized he was actually getting used to the fifty-plus people who had suddenly moved in. It was like they had always been there.

He was tempted to go into the fridge and chug down all of Logan's beer at this thought. Then he reminded himself Steve would never forgive him. Still. It was very tempting.

He had already arranged for a hotel for every superhero that needed it, all the catering was done, or in the process of being completed, he had found a tiny, private beach that looked absolutely perfect off the coast of Japan, (the island had looked quite a bit like a microcosm of Hawaii, and Rumiko, though she couldn't make the wedding due to a business meeting the same exact day, had promised to drop in to congratulate them and bring sushi), and Steve was sitting beside him on the patio as they watched Victoria Hand pull up to the courtyard in a black Corvette, storming out into the middle of the Asgardians and Fury, absolutely furious.

"Should we stop her?" Steve asked, looking a little hesitant. Tony shook his head and sipped his coffee.

"Nah. They all have it coming." He said. "Maria had a nervous breakdown in the bathroom yesterday. We had to get Emma and Charles to force her to come out with telepathic suggestion. Then she ate one of the double chocolate cheesecakes, three lambchops, and sobbed into a bottle of wine." Tony took another sip of his coffee. "I had Jarvis order more." 

"...Ouch." Steve winced. "You're right. I think Fury needs a kick up the rear end on this one. I trust Victoria. She won't let him slide on this."

"Look, I'm just glad I'm not the one dealing with the Asgardians, all right?" Tony said. "No wonder Thor quit being king. Jesus."

"Such a good hero." Steve said wryly. Tony punched him gently in the shoulder and settled in to watch the show.

Chapter Text

"V-Victoria?" Maria said, her eyes wide with amazement as she watched her girlfriend storm up to them, her hair trailing behind her and her eyes wild.

Victoria Hand had seen, been, and done a lot of things. She had sided with Norman Osborn in the hopes of rebuilding the world before realizing he didn't want to better the world, he wanted to rule it, she had aided an entire team of psychotic, occasionally omnipotent lunatics, before Steve Rogers and his general holiness and patriotic glory had stepped in and sent her to deal with an entire team of psychotic, mostly heroic lunatics. She had taken all this in stride because she was a determined, competent, ruthless, and incredibly powerful woman, who was going to make the world better if it killed her. 

And that was exactly why she had no problem punching Nick Fury in the jaw.

"You listen to me, you psychotic, cigar-smoking, beer-addled bastard, and you listen good!" She shouted, completely unaware of the shocked stares of the warriors three, Thor, Loki, Sif, and, from the patio, Steve and Tony. 

"If I ever get a phonecall like I got from Maria last night about you ever again, I will rip you in half with my bare hands, stir-fry your innards, and bury your sorry ass in New Jersey! My girlfriend is not your slave, Fury, and so help me god, if you keep this up, I will bring the entirety of S.H.I.E.L.D. crumbling down on your miserable head! I have done it before and I will do it again! By myself if I have to!" Victoria snarled. She stood over him as she ranted, rage personified in high heels and a prim a-line skirt. Maria was shaking, she was laughing so hard.

"I don't know why the hell Maria thinks you're a good man, but I tolerate it, because she likes you. I am not going to tolerate it ever again. If anything like this ever happens again, I will hurt you. Hard. And often." Victoria snarled. "That goes for you Asgardians too! I don't care if you're gods! I will hurt you just the same! Have I made myself clear?" 

"...Crystal." Thor said quietly. No one else spoke. They were too busy shaking in their incredibly ornate boots.

Nick just stared up at her. For a very long, slow minute, he continued to stare at her.

Then he lit a cigar and exhaled smoke before whistling deep in his throat, awed.

"I really don't think I'm gonna need to break her legs, Hill." He told Maria. "You picked a damn fine woman." 

"Sir, she punched you in the jaw." Maria said, staring at him. Nick shrugged.

"Exactly. Clearly she cares enough about you that she's gonna hit me if I cross any line she draws." He set his jaw back into place, wincing at the snap. "Shit, that hurts. Any chance you wanna work for S.H.I.E.L.D. again, Hand? I could use someone that punches like that."

"If you learn how to treat your subordinates better, I might." Victoria said coolly. "For the moment, however, I am placing myself in charge of the decor for this wedding. Hop to it, boys, you've all got a lot more work ahead of you..."

As the Warriors Three and Nick shuffled off, grumbling, to pick up what was left of the decorations, Maria stared up at Victoria, awed. 

"You came," she said, delight showing clear and true across her face. "Victoria, I...I didn't know you had that in you." 

"Neither did I," she said, cracking her knuckles. "Never let it be said that Luke Cage cannot teach someone how to throw a punch, though. I'll have to thank him for those lessons."

Maria just hugged her tight and gave her a quick kiss. 

"Thanks so much," she said. "Another week of this and I might've gone crazy."

"You already did." Victoria reminded her. "In fact, honestly, I'd say you were crazy before this entire wedding started." She pecked Maria on the cheek to stop her pouting. "It's fine. I love you just the same."

The two headed off to curtail any more disaster that could come from the decorating crew, leaving Steve and Tony staring in utter shock at the now empty courtyard.

"...If I ever need another bodyguard, I know just who to hire." Tony finally said. Steve just nodded.

...

Doreen was a very normal sort of girl. She liked flowers and babies and kittens, and reading new books, and being a superhero. 

Of course, she wasn't exactly a normal superhero. But that was just fine with her. Tippy-Toe didn't seem to mind that she wasn't a normal superhero, either. After all, being a normal superhero was hard when you had the power to talk to squirrels!

Still. She had been raising Danielle for awhile—Luke Cage and Jessica Jones' baby, who was so sweet and wonderful and had learned how to say her name already!—but then Thanos had decided to annihilate Mars, so she had gone out to stop him. That had taken her about twenty minutes, sure, but getting to and from Mars took time, and she had stopped to visit the Inhumans along the way. Their king wasn't very chatty, but his wife was nice.

However, she wasn't the one who had owned the rocket she had used to get there. That was actually why she was in Latveria; Victor had been nice enough to loan her one of his rockets! She just had to return it now. Besides, she had to make sure he wasn't up to anything too bad. Reed was all the way in New York, so it was up to her!

"Are you sure we should interrupt?" Tippy-Toe asked. "It's only eight in the morning. He might not even have had his coffee yet." 

"You don't always need coffee to start the day, though!" Doreen defended herself. "He needs his rocket back! We're not thieves!" 

"...It's Doctor Doom," Tippy-Toe reminded her. "For starters, maybe not everyone needs coffee, but if there was anyone in the world whom I would prefer not to face pre-coffee, Doctor Doom is pretty high on top of that list. Second, stealing from Doom is like punching Galactus; it's not nice, per se, but it's not exactly like you're committing any crimes. They're supervillains."

"But we have punched Galactus." Doreen said, confused. Tippy-Toe put a paw over his face.

"That isn't...really the point." He sighed. "Whatever. We ought to have a scene change here anyway, just so the readers can check in on what Victor's doing..."

"Oh, yeah. That would be nice." Doreen said, helping the multitude of squirrels she had summoned for aid bring the rocket up to the castle doors.

...

Victor awoke in his bed, entirely unaware of how he had gotten there.

Namor was standing over him, entirely naked, with a tray of breakfast in his hands. This was a good thing. But he was a bit concerned about the nudity.

"I brought you coffee." Namor told him.

Victor was officially done being concerned.

"And, since I can see the questions in your eyes already, I was out for a swim." Namor told him. "You fell asleep last night in the library, and I brought you upstairs. You're incredibly heavy with all that damned armor, by the way. At any rate, since no one else is around, I didn't think my lack of clothes was going to be an issue."

The two of them just stared at each other for a moment. Then Doom huffed delicately, giving him a haughty look.

"To begin with, prince, if you dared to get water on my carpets, I will filet you with my bare hands." Doom muttered. Namor just huffed, calling his bluff with a single glance. 

"Secondly," Doom said, pointedly ignoring Namor's little smirk, "normally, I would have many words to exchange with you over your whorish and purposefully seductive behavior, but frankly, wear naught but one of those snide smirks of yours all you like, as long as you continue making coffee in the mornings."

"Well, I suppose if there was any doubt in my mind that my place in your life is in the kitchen, it has been quashed very effectively by now." Namor remarked, sitting down in bed beside him. "Oh, and I didn't add sugar yet. How much do you take?"

"The kitchen suits you, Namor." Doom said, unable to hide a growl of amusement creeping into his tone. "I ought to take you for a housekeeper, if nothing else."

"The prince of Atlantis is not a housewife!" Namor snapped. "I just happen to be well-aware of your brutish tendencies pre-coffee, you absolute pig!"

"Which is exactly why you would make a fine housewife." Doom remarked, sipping his coffee idly, adding five sugar cubes before he set it back down. Namor was overtaken with the sudden urge to smack the coffee out of his hands. "Once I have conquered the surface, you may keep your oceans, Namor, if you make coffee like this every morning."

"You are a horrible person." Namor muttered, frustrated. Doom actually chuckled at that.

"I have committed a multitude of terrible crimes in the name of world conquest—no, universal conquest—and you call me a monster for telling you the truth?" He said wryly. Namor stood up in a huff, storming over to the open window and turning his back on Victor.

"The prince of Atlantis bows to no man, and will most certainly not consent to being a mere housewife for the rest of his days!" Namor snapped. 

Victor just looked down at the plates in front of him.

"You put the bacon and eggs into a smiley face." He told him. "I think you have already consented."

"...I thought you would appreciate that." Namor muttered darkly. It took all of Doom's self-restraint, (of which, admittedly, there was not much), not to laugh.

"At any rate, I am impressed you have stayed here for so long." Doom said. "Normally, Namor, you come and go like the tides. Is there any reason you stay?"

"None in particular," Namor said. "I simply cannot find many Atlanteans who grasp chess properly. Nor do they pout so spectacularly when they lose." He smirked as he heard Victor sputtering in frustration from the bed. "Still, the truth of the matter is, I enjoy your company, tumultuous and chaotic though it may be."

"Likewise," Victor agreed, in a rare moment of what Namor recognized as genuine honesty. "I am glad you stayed." 

"Careful, your cold, black heart might unshrivel." Namor remarked, tracing his finger across the cool windowpanes. 

"There is no need to worry about that." Doom said. "I had my heart replaced with an artificial mechanism years ago."

Namor whipped his head around to stare at him. This time, it was Doom's turn to smirk underneath his mask.

...

"Oh, dear." Doreen said, staring up at the massive, ornate doors of Victor von Doom's bedchambers. "I hope we aren't interrupting anything."

"Not much," Tippy-Toe said. "Just homoeroticism."

Doreen blushed and shuffled her feet nervously, flicking her tail.

"Uhm. All right, then," she said. "I'll just...knock, I guess."

So she did, knocking on the door carefully and calling, "Victor? Victor, I'm back from Mars! And I brought your rocket back!"

...

Namor stared at the door. Victor just sighed and put his head in his hands for a moment.

"Stay in bed, you'll offend Doreen with your harlotry," he muttered. "I didn't think she was going to be back from Mars so quickly."

"...Excuse me?" Namor said, stunned. Victor had already opened the door, however, and was ignoring him for the girl and the squirrel on his shoulder that were standing in the doorway.

...

"Did you honestly bring the rocket to my bedchamber?" Victor asked. Doreen shrugged.

"I didn't know where you would want it," she said. "It's okay, though. I can tell the squirrels to put it wherever you want." She paused. "Hey, did you know you can get radio transmissions from it? I heard Iron Man was getting married! Remember when I was going to be his sidekick?"

"And then you assaulted my being with squirrels?" Doom said, unable to keep the note of wounded dignity out of his voice. From within the bedroom, Namor was laughing so hard he had begun to turn purple, burying his face in the pillow in a vain attempt to hide his laughter. Doom just gripped the doorframe so hard it splintered slightly. "Yes. I remember." 

"Yeah. That was fun." She said cheerfully. "Anyways, thanks for letting me borrow your rocket! Are you going to the wedding?"

"Indeed." Victor said. "And, if the prince does not shut his mouth, I will be skinning him and wearing him as a suit to the reception!" He shouted. Namor continued to laugh uncontrollably.

"...Did you have your coffee yet, Victor?" Doreen asked. "I think you need another cup."

"I believe I do," Victor remarked. "Especially with the sudden onset of this splitting headache." 

Doreen patted his shoulder soothingly. 

"Feel better." She told him. "Just direct the squirrels down into the lab, okay? They'll put it down there." 

"Two doors down, and follow the spiral staircase." Doom told the large gathering of squirrels. "There are acorns in the courtyard for you when you leave." 

They all chittered eagerly and bolted for the lab. Doreen just grinned.

"See you at the wedding, okay, Victor?" She said. "I'll be wearing the prettiest dress I can find, so you can come look for me, okay?"

"I believe I'm going to be wearing an Atlantean's skin." Victor remarked, shooting a glare so vicious it could have cut a lesser man to pieces back at Namor. Namor just laughed in his face.

Doreen just gave him one last grin and headed back down the grand, ornate stairs and out of the castle. 

"That went well," Tippy-Toe said. "I think he likes you. As much as Doctor Doom can like anybody, I mean. Probably because he's scared to death of you."

"Me too!" Doreen said. "I like him too, I mean; I'm certainly not scared of him. He would be much better off if he wasn't so crazy. Maybe that friend of his will be good for him."

"In more ways than one." Tippy-Toe remarked dryly. Doreen just tilted her head, confused. Tippy-Toe sighed. "Nevermind, Doreen. Listen, with that out of the way, we need to catch a boat to Providence."

"What? Why?" She asked. Tippy-Toe flicked his tail from side to side before sighing.

"Because I have a feeling that since he's on that island Cable owns, Wade doesn't know Tony's getting married. You know what a gossip queen he is; he'll have to know." He told her. "Besides, he's terrified of you. Watching him freak out is hilarious."

"It kinda is!" Doreen admitted cheerfully, heading down the forest path, towards the main road that would take her to Latveria's harbor. "Besides, I like that grandmother of his. She's really funny. We'll go let everyone on Providence know!"

"Good." Tippy-Toe said. "Now, if we go out of focus for a little while, we'll be there in minutes, so I suggest we end here for the time being..."
"Great idea!" Doreen told him.

Chapter Text

"Nate, honey, make me pancakes." Wade Wilson—alias Deadpool—called from the bedroom. Cable massaged his temples with a single hand, shaking his head in amusement.

"They're already on the stove, honey." He called back. "I don't know why you asked me to do it, though. I don't have much experience cooking."

"He had to choose between his lazy ass, you, or a blind woman." Blind Al remarked, biting into a slice of toast and raising an eyebrow. "Who do you think he was going to pick?"

"Given his sense of humor, I honestly would have thought the blind woman." Cable said. Blind Al chuckled, taking a sip of her coffee and setting it on the table with a quiet clack. 

"And that's why you can spend more time around him than anyone else on the planet, I think." She said. 

"Cable's a good boy." Wade said cheerfully, making his way into the kitchen in naught but a pair of My Little Pony-themed boxers. "A very good boy that makes me pancakes. We've come such a long way from our lives as 90s anti-heroes, haven't we, Nate? Look at us. We're domestic. We're Ward and June Cleaver."

"No, I'm domestic," Cable remarked dryly. "You, however, are just a lazy slob." 

Blind Al cackled. Wade huffed, leaning on the back of the chair and spreading his legs so as to deliberately torment Nate, who, to his credit, didn't even bat an eyelash. 

"I'm the breadwinner, and you know it," Wade said, taking Blind Al's cup and downing the rest of her coffee in one go. "I just made us twenty million dollars by tearing open the back of some South American dictator's head. Where would we be without my homicidal tendencies and giant guns? Nowhere, that's where. How much do you think it costs to live in a beautiful mansion like this, Nate? I thought so."

"You're going to spend at least half that money on exotic sex toys and Golden Girls box sets, don't think I don't know you." Nate remarked. "Though the former is greatly appreciated."

"That is exactly what I mean. I'm the breadwinner, the sitcom husband; I'm Desi Arnaz, and you get to be Lucy. You make a damn good housewife." Wade said cheerfully, reaching back in his chair to slap Cable's ass, if only to garner some kind of reaction out of him. Nate choked, dropping his spatula. Wade caught it mid air and handed it back to him. 

"I," Cable began, with a great, quiet sort of dignity, "am a prophesized messiah that can warp time to my will. I am not your housewife, Wade." 

"I kind of feel like someone else, somewhere, has had this kind of conversation today." Wade remarked. "What do you think, boxes?"

*Probably.* The boxes told him. *In fact, I would say all signs point to yes. I'm like a magic 8-ball that way.*

"They are such helpful little guys," Wade said cheerfully. "Anyways, are the pancakes done?"

"Yes," Nate said, sliding a few onto his plate. "You're getting your own butter and syrup, though." 

Wade whined. Nate just kissed the top of his head.

"So much for my planned sitcom; Married to a Merc." He grumbled. "It would've been beautiful. You sitcocked-blocked me, Nate. You ought to be ashamed." 

"And the heavens will swell with the laments of the angels as they mourn the passing of your sitcom, Wade." Cable remarked, taking the newspaper and opening it up. "Shut up and eat."

"There are so many other things you could put in my mouth to make me shut up, and you think I'm going to settle for pancakes?!" Wade said, putting a hand over his heart, stunned. "You insult me, Summers."

"If you dignify that with a response, he'll turn into a stray goddamned dog, only with sexual innuendo." Blind Al said, putting her hand on Cable's trembling shoulder. "It's best to ignore him."

"That is so cold." Wade said. "I am not sorry I used your cane to prop up this table. Not sorry at all."

"You couldn't spend eighty bucks out of twenty million dollars to buy us a new table, huh, fuckhead?" Blind Al said, doing her best to give him a dirty look. Wade huffed, taking a bite of pancake before replying.

"Eighty bucks would've meant I had to choose between the ten-pronged vibrator or the tentacle playset," he said. "I just couldn't make that decision." 

Nate's face was bright red. 

"Well, you've lost the table to use them on." Blind Al remarked. "Hope you're happy, asshole." 

"Sort of," Wade said. "See, I follow the Liefeldian principle of sex toys; the bigger, more anatomy-and-design defying, and uselessly intricate they are, the more I want six of them on the cover of the comic."

"Is that why I had to talk you out of using that 'sex carousel,' with those eight horses and seven seats, as a foyer decoration? It is, isn't it." Cable finally said. Wade nodded, finishing up his pancakes as the doorbell rang.

"Al's right, you really do know me better than anyone else." He told him. "It's kind of cute." 

*It doesn't seem right for you to say cute.* His boxes remarked. *You're a 90s anti-hero. You should be saying 'C.U.T.E.,' which obviously stands for 'Crush Ultimate Titties Extreme.'*

"That is an absolutely wonderful idea." Wade said, opening the door to find her standing on his doorstep. 

There was an awkward, silent pause for a minute.

"Hello, evil, evil man," Doreen said cheerfully. "I have some news I thought you might want to hear!"

"...Well. Doreen. Nice to see you." Wade said through clenched teeth. "I thought you were looking particularly crush-ultimate-titties-extreme today."

*Well, don't say it to her! She'll kick your ass, dude!*

"I have my boyfriend and a blind octogenarian backing me up." Wade said. "I ain't scared of her."

"I didn't come here to fight," Doreen said, giving him a look. "I just came to give you some news, that's all." 

"Oh, okay," Wade said. "I must not be keeping up with the newsstand releases. Most people just wait for the trade these days, anyway."

From in the kitchen, Cable sighed, adding more batter to the pan.

"Come in, Doreen, I have enough pancakes for you." He called. "Sit and explain, all right?"

"Okay!" She said, sidling in past Wade and shutting the door behind her with her tail. Wade just glared at his boyfriend from the foyer. Cable merely smirked and flipped the pancake with his spatula, offering Doreen Wade's seat.

...

"...Huh. So Steve and Tony are getting married," Wade shook his head. "It's almost like this is some fangirl's dream wedding or whatever."

*Hey, they pull in good sales. Better than you could, at least.* His boxes warned him. *Don't mock the fangirls. You know better.*

"I do, generally speaking. In fact, right now, the only reason I have consummated my incredibly homoerotic relationship with my loving boyfriend is due in many ways to the fangirl narrating this. Right here. It's nice, isn't it?" He said. "Say thank you, Nate honey."

"Thank you," he muttered, taking a bite of his pancake. "And you said they extended an invitation to all of the heroes worldwide?" He asked Doreen. When she and Tippy-Toe nodded, Cable considered something for a moment.

"It would be a partially diplomatic visit, as well..." He told himself. "Providence and all. So yes, I do think it is a good idea to at least pay our respects to the grooms." He paused.

"...Did Tony set up a wedding registry?" He finally asked.

"I think so," Doreen said thoughtfully. "Want to go with me? I don't know what to do to shop for a wedding!" 

"Fine by me," Cable agreed. "We'll take my jet. Al, are you coming?"

"Someone has to clean up this mess." She said, gesturing vaguely to the kitchen. Wade rolled his eyes.

"You're blind, Al Bei Fong." He muttered, flipping open his cellphone. "Fuck it, I'll call Weasel and tell him to get Bob to do this. They get to come to the wedding with us, this is the least they can do."

"Fair enough," Al agreed. "Get your lazy ass into the jet, Wilson, and don't forget; I already called dibs on shotgun."

"Aw, what the hell!?" 

*Woo! Shopping montage!* 

Chapter Text

It was Wednesday morning, and completely unaware of what had transpired somewhere over in Costa Rica last night involving three warring drug cartels, the Kingpin, eight goats, a hot glue gun, a shaman, two zombies, and a DeLorean to find him a wedding gift, Tony Stark awoke in the arms of his husband-to-be, warm and safe. 

"Hey, sweetie," he murmured. "We've got two days until the rehearsal dinner. Are you ready?"

"Mostly." Steve mumbled, blinking sleep out of his eyes. "Tony, what else do we have left to do?"

"Not much," Tony said, stretching out in bed and yawning. "In fact, I was thinking you and I could just spend today in bed, actually. I already called Jarvis."

"Really?" Steve mused, a smile stretching across his face as he leaned in closer to snuggle Tony. "That seems like a delightful idea, actually. Let the others fuss over this wedding. All I need to do today is remind myself exactly why I'm putting that tuxedo on Satuday morning and saying those vows." He purred.

Tony would never admit it, not even under pain of death, but he was a very, very closeted romantic. He loved it when Steve said that sort of thing to him. It helped, of course, that he meant every word.

"I don't even have to remind myself." Tony told him, leaning in close for a deep, ferocious kiss, their tongues tangling with each other as Steve rubbed the front of his pajamas eagerly, tugging the waistband down as fast as he could as they tumbled right back into bed. "I have all I need as a reminder right in front of me." 

"Good answer." Steve said, pecking him on the cheek. Then they fell silent, choosing instead for the rest of the day to communicate in body language, rather than words.

...

Fortunately, downstairs, everyone else communicated in the normal language of using their mouths, rather than their hips. Which was a good thing, because as luck would have it, everyone was starting to trickle in to say hello before heading for the hotel. 

"Jen!" Carol said cheerfully, hugging the green-skinned lawyer tight, ruffling her hair affectionately. "You brought Matt?" 

"Uhuh," she said, balancing her suitcase on her hip. "Honestly, since we live in New York, the hotel wasn't necessary, but they're classy suites, and I figured Matt deserved the high life. He'd only go if I was going, so hey, what the hell, in-suite jacuzzi." 

"I just didn't want to cause any trouble!" Matt Murdock protested. Jen just patted him on the cheek affectionately. "Besides, I...I feel awkward being surrounded by so many people." He finally admitted. "With my track record, I feel like I'm just going to bring doom and gloom on the wedding."

"If you keep that act up, you might," Peter said, hanging from the ceiling before ruffling Matt's hair affectionately. "Hey, Mattie. I bring death to damn near everybody when I work alone, y'know? That's why I'm an Avenger now. Less people die. You really should join. I know Steve wants you to."

"Steve wants a lot of things," Matt said. "Speaking of Steve, I have to help the two of them draw up the paperwork for their marriage license." 

"Yeah, we brought it with us." Jen brandished the paper in Carol's face. "D'ya know where they are?"

"Enjoying their conjugal duties." Peter said dryly, webbing a sandwich that had been left on the counter and taking a bite. "Leave the paperwork and come back tomorrow, if you can pry yourself from the jacuzzi. We'll see you then, okay?" He offered. Jen nodded.

"Fair enough." She agreed. "C'mon, Matt. I'm driving."

"I can't imagine why." He said dryly, but he was smiling as he followed her out, taking Peter's sandwich out of his hand with a quick sweep of his cane as he left, munching disinterestedly on it as Peter howled with anguish at the loss of his sandwich behind him.

...

"Loki? Brother, are you sure the wedding decorations are completed?" Thor asked. "I fear the wrath of the mighty Hand if we haven't done them to her satisfaction."

"That is a damned good superhero title." Victoria said, chewing on her pen as she observed the grounds. The two brothers jumped as Victoria smirked, amused. "Boys, you're doing fine. In fact, I think we're actually...pretty much done." She said. Victoria considered something for a moment.

"All right, then," she finally said. "You guys did a good job, and my girlfriend hasn't had a nervous breakdown. I think that merits a hot dog." 

"Huzzah!" Volstagg cheered from across the courtyard. "To the stands of New York!"

"...I'll give them credit," Maria remarked, watching the warriors and Nick bolt for the courtyard gates, "they are damned enthusiastic."

"This is true," Victoria agreed. "Now come on. I know you like chili dogs."

"You're such a good girlfriend." Maria told her, ruffling her pink streaks of hair affectionately. Victoria managed to remain composed, but there was a blush across her face as she marched down the street, smoothing her hair neatly as Maria smirked, triumphant.

...

"How many more dresses left, Emma?" Kate asked, taking a needle out of her mouth as Emma looked over their inventory.

"Kate..." She said slowly. "While I do think Jan wanted to put some finishing touches on the skirts...I believe we are pretty much done." 

Kate dropped her needle as her face split into a giant grin. Emma could feel her thoughts turn to joyous shrieks of relief as she read her mind, and she patted the other girl soothingly on the shoulder.

"You did a wonderful job," she said. "If you think you're up to it later, I would love to teach you more advanced techniques." 

"...About the sewing?" Kate asked, sounding disbelieving. Emma quirked an eyebrow.

"Clever. You could tell I was scanning your thoughts, then? Such a smart girl." She said. "And since you guessed, no, I wasn't referring to sewing. Managing two teenage boys is quite a lot of work, Kate Bishop, and while I think you've got what it takes in terms of raw talent, you need...finesse." She told her. Kate just nodded.

"Yeah. Learning finesse from Emma Frost. I'll let the boys know. I'm sure they'll love to watch." She said dryly. Emma laughed, putting a neatly manicured hand over her breast.

"Sweetheart, this is girl talk at its purest. Your boys can thank you later." She said. "Now come on, I know a nice place for coffee that doesn't have eavesdropping baristas. Heaven forbid we start another scandal."

"Yes," Kate said, unable to stop a smirk unwinding across her lips. "Heaven forbid."

The two of them high-fived and left the sewing room.

...

"So what now, Sam?" Sharon remarked, staring at the mansion. "There's no sign of him. This is too close to the wedding. I can't...can't let Steve stay in the dark about this." She sighed. "He'll probably be pissed I lied to him, but he'll get over that. I just want him to stay alive." 

"Yeah, I know." Sam agreed. Redwing ruffled his feathers and cawed in agreement from his shoulder. "I think we just need to talk to the man. He'll understand. He's Steve Rogers. Angels sing when he walks outside. Puppies and kittens trust him instinctively. He can bake an apple pie from thirty paces by smiling at it. You know the drill."

Sharon laughed, flashing Sam a sweet, affectionate grin. 

"Done deal, then." She said. "Come on. Let's go inside."

...

Jarvis let them in like there hadn't been a fuss over their absence, offered them coffee and a bagel, sat them down at the table, raised an eyebrow, and put his chin on his upturned palm, his elbow on the table as he stared them down, his other hand drumming out a steady beat on the tabletop. The both of them actively fought not to crumple under that glare.

"We've been hunting the Red Skull," Sharon finally said. "There hasn't been a damn sign of him, though, so we decided to at least...let Steve know we still cared. And that we would keep looking."

Jarvis' harsh look melted, and he patted them both comfortingly on the shoulder. 

"I understand," he said quietly. "And I believe Steve had a dress made for you, Sharon, if you chose to be in the wedding. And, of course, a tuxedo for you, Sam." He added. "However...there is one small issue with your idea of going to explain today." 

"And that is?" Sam asked. Redwing tilted his head and gave Jarvis a careful look. Jarvis coughed lightly to hide the laugh that bubbled up in his throat all of a sudden.

"My sons are upstairs," he said. "Consummating their vows before the wedding day, if you catch my drift."

Sharon and Sam looked at each other. 

"...The Marvel-ous Mo-tel is the one Tony rented out for the heroes, right?" Sam asked. "We'll...spend the night there. And just...come back and explain...tomorrow. Right, Sharon?" He said. 

"A wonderful idea." Jarvis agreed. "...Miss Carter?"

Sharon's face was twisted into a mask of complete and utter disgust. Jarvis blinked, confused.

"...Good lord, I hope Steve still doesn't call it fondue." She muttered.

Neither man understood entirely, but in their hearts, they had to agree with her.

Chapter Text

Steve and Tony remained blissfully unaware of what transpired downstairs for the rest of the day. Not even the television, after so many faithful nights of service, shorting out due to Logan throwing a beer can at it when his hockey team lost bothered them. Not even the whole entire house taking five cars to the nearest appliance store and somehow coming home with eight new TVs, a stereo, and enough White Castle to feed a small island nation bothered them.

Sex was a hell of a distraction.

That being said, however, the day having been spent both sleeping and screwing around, the night was definitely too tantalizing for Tony to actually sleep. So while Steve slept beside him, quiet and peaceful, his chest rising and falling with gentle breaths, Tony fiddled with some design sketches in bed.

The thought occurred to him, as he drew in the placings for possible repulsor generators in the elbow of the armor, that he was really going through with this. That he was marrying Steve, no take-backs or trade-offs.

He thought it would scare him. But...it didn't. Not really. He knew Steve loved him. Which meant a lot, considering Tony figured, a lot of the time, he didn't love himself. It was always good to know someone cared.

He couldn't stop himself from reaching out and stroking Steve's hair, careful and gentle, winding his fingers through the soft blond locks as Steve snuffled and rolled over a bit in his sleep, nuzzling into Tony's touch.

Tony just grinned, nudging his way over to Steve, just a bit closer. Steve stirred again in his sleep, but did not wake. Tony kissed the top of his head and squeezed his hand.

As he went over the design sketches, he realized with a hint of amusement that being with Steve was probably the first time that he had someone in his bed both to sleep next to and sleep with. Steve was funny that way.

"Goodnight, sweet prince," he murmured. "And let angels sing thee to thy rest."

Steve snored a bit in his sleep. Tony just smiled.

...

The next morning, Tony was the first one to wake up, putting his red silk robe on and heading downstairs for some coffee.

He managed to make a cup for both him and Steve before he turned around, sat down at the table, and realized Sharon Carter was sitting across from him, a bagel on a small plate beside her.

Anger flared up in Tony's chest, hot and raw and all-consuming, and he bit his lip, trying not to start screaming from the word "go."

"Do you have any idea what you have put my husband through?" He said quietly. Calling Steve his husband felt right. But that wasn't the point right now. "Steve thought you hated him. Hated us. Where the hell have you been, Carter?!" He snarled. "Because wherever you were, you were making Steve worry, and I will not tolerate that."

"She was hunting the Red Skull, Stark." Sam said, leaning against the doorframe of the kitchen. Redwing, who was busy chewing on a piece of toast, gave Tony a filthy look. He glared right back. "In fact, the only reason she and I are here is because we were looking out for Steve this whole time. We needed him to know there was a problem."

"You made him think you didn't care." Tony snapped. Sharon shrugged.

"There were times when you did the same thing, Stark." She said.

Silence. Tony could have strangled her. His fingers flexed around his cup at the idea.

There was a soft clatter, the fumble of footsteps, and then the door opening; Tony tensed at the sounds and waited for the inevitable.

"...Tony? What's going on?" Steve mumbled, looking dazed, sleepy, and awkwardly adorable in a bleary sort of way, standing in the doorway in a fuzzy blue robe. 

"Nothing, honey." Tony said quietly. "Except I believe Sharon has something she needs to say to you."

The look of agonized relief on Steve's face made him want to hit Sharon. That had been too much pain for Steve to go through. Never again. 

"Hey, Steve." Sharon said quietly. "I'm sorry I haven't...been here. Sam and I—"

"Sharon, if you have a problem with Tony and I, then—" Steve paused as Sharon held up a hand. 

"Steve, you're worrying too much." She said quietly. "The whole world isn't judging you."

Steve fell silent. Sharon continued on.

"We were hunting the Red Skull," she said. "You know how supervillains are. They always want to show up at weddings. It's like they hate happiness." She managed a small smirk. "Still. We couldn't find him, and it's getting close to the big day...so I came both to tell you that yes, we'll be at the wedding, and yes, we'll still keep an eye out on him."

Both Steve and Tony looked at each other. The hurt on Steve's face was gone, but Tony still looked angry.

"I have never stopped loving Steve, Sharon." Tony finally snapped. "Let me make that clear. I don't give a fuck what you think; I always loved Steve. Even at my worst. Which was the problem in the first goddamned place." 

He took his coffee and left the room. Steve watched him go, worry clear writ across his face. 

"...Sharon..." He sighed. "Thank you. I'm sorry I can't stay and talk. But...I need to take care of Tony."

"You always do." Sharon said quietly. 

Steve just stopped where he was, his whole body frozen in one spot. The only movement was the single shudder of fury that wracked his body.

"Sharon," he told her, "I didn't marry him to take care of him, if that's what you're thinking. I didn't resign myself to taking care of him. I take care of Tony because I love him. And because I love him, I don't regret taking care of him when he needs it."

"That's just how you love a person," Sharon replied. "I get it, Steve. But that's exactly why we didn't work out, isn't it? Because you couldn't take care of me like you can take care of Tony."

Steve didn't say a word for a minute. 

"No," he said quietly. "We didn't work out because we didn't work out. There's nothing more to it. Tony is nothing like you, Sharon, and that's fine with me. But I don't hate who you are, either." He sighed. "I think you're better off without me. That's just the truth. But the other truth is, the only way I can really better myself is being with Tony. I really do believe that." 

Sharon just watched him leave. Just before he shut the door, though, he turned back to the two of them.

"You're welcome at the wedding, of course." He said. "If you think you can deal with it, Sharon."

"Of course," Sharon said. "Anything for an old friend."

The group parted on good terms, even if they didn't all quite understand one another as the door swung shut between them.

...

Steve found Tony standing outside the door, shaking. There were no tears in his eyes, but the relief and love on his face was so evident that Steve shuddered from the display of emotion. Tony hugged him tight, so tight Steve actually felt winded for a moment. 

"I heard everything you said," Tony mumbled into Steve's fluffy sleeve. "Thank you." 

"I meant everything I said." Steve told him. "Tony, I don't think anyone understands how grateful I am that at least I can take care of you when you need it, and love you when you don't. Even if no one else can, I just...I'm glad you let someone do it. And I'm even more relieved you chose me."

"Yeah." Tony murmured. "That was one of my better decisions."

Steve just held him tight for a few minutes, the two of them standing in the hallway and watching the sun rise over the skyline. 

"So, ready for the rehearsal dinner tomorrow?" Tony asked. Steve laughed.

"Yeah, I am," he agreed. "But I think I decided on Jan for my maid of honor. I don't think I...well, Sharon..." He sighed. "I think Sharon's still bitter about what happened. Not between us, but, you know...back during the SHRA."

"Whatever," Tony muttered. "As long as she doesn't ever make you look that hurt ever again." He snapped. "Jesus, I was so angry. I just wanted to keep you safe from people's bullshit. It's the least I can do."

"You do fine at it." Steve comforted him, stroking his hair. "Don't worry, Tony. I'm fine. Jan will be thrilled. She deserves it, too, considering all the hard work she put into the dresses."

"Yeah," Tony agreed. "So, what do we have to do today?"

Steve just grinned.

"Pack for the honeymoon." He told him.

Tony's eyes lit up as the two of them disappeared back upstairs, already knowing exactly what he was bringing. And most of it involved lingerie.

...

The Red Skull always had a backup plan. Eighty years of war did not leave a man, and the Red Skull had always been fighting. It was a simple matter of how to fight, now.

He wanted this to be personal. He wanted to see the look in Steve Roger's eyes when he put a bullet into the brain of his partner. He wanted to make sure the filthy light that always flickered in his eyes was put out for good before he shot the fair Captain. It was the only way to go, really.

It was simply a matter of waiting. He had heard of the engagement on Friday, but that did not hold the same sort of precendence as a wedding. There was no elegance in shooting him at a formal dinner. There was not as much hope or love there that he could crush. He would wait. A few more days would not bother him; he had spent a lifetime trying to murder Captain America. A few days was like the blink of an eye.

He lifted his glass of wine to the light, letting the sunlight streaming in through the dingy window catch on the red liquid, shining in the glass like fresh blood.

"Arnim." He said quietly, watching the biologist jump and drop his journals. He resisted the urge to chuckle. "Is everything prepared for our special occasion?"

"O-of course." Arnim said quietly. "Everything you asked, sir. Is there anything else you believe you require?"

"Nothing much." The Red Skull said, before considering the half-empty glass of wine in front of him. "Though, in all fairness, I could do with another glass of wine. Would you be so kind?" He said, his voice a low, deep growl, edging on amusement as he watched Arnim take the glass so timidly from his grip. 

Perhaps he would flip through Arnim's biological notes, he mused, and examine the notes he had on the human brain. If he could, perhaps, rip out the part of Arnim's brain that made him such a fearful, stuttering fool...

The Red Skull chuckled. A fine idea. He would leave it for after the wedding.

...

"Okay, so we have to look pretty for the rehearsal dinner, right?" Billy finally ventured. Everyone who was outside—which was almost everyone involved with the wedding—looked at him, considering. Billy blinked.

"...So, how many of us own any fancy clothes?" He asked. 

Everyone looked at each other. 

"...Wedding planning ajourned to go shopping for nice clothes." Charles said. "Erik, you're in charge of your grandsons. Make them look pretty." 

And so it was written that approximately eighty superheroes decided to hit Bloomingdale's to go shopping for fancy clothing. No one was quite sure what transpired in the end; only that it involved several lengths of rope, sheep, a drag queen's makeup kit, three feather boas, the ten cars they had all taken to get there, an apple pie, Billy's copy of Mame, and eight hundred dollars worth of dresses and ruffled mens' shirts.

At least they were prepared for the wedding, Jarvis reasoned, as he poured tea and tried to listen to them explain what had just happened over the course of six hours out shopping, but even then, he added privately, this seemed rather...well, extreme.

Chapter Text

Friday was dawning far too fast for Tony, and he actively yanked his alarm clock out of the wall, exhausted and unwilling to get up. Fortunately, Steve was there to nag him into waking.

"Come on, sweetheart," he cajoled him. "You have to eat a light lunch, at least. I don't want you eating too many heavy things tonight and getting sick." He said. "Besides, this is a big day. This is when we gauge just how chaotic the wedding itself will be." Steve muttered, with only the slightest hint of sarcasm. Tony hid a smile in his blankets at Steve's pouting.

"It'll be fun," he agreed. "But really, I don't want to get up." He shrugged. "Few more minutes in bed with you?"

Steve smiled and snuggled closer. Tony wrapped his arms around him and pecked him on the cheek as Steve yawned.

"Sounds...nice." He mumbled. "Few more minutes..."

....

Six hours later, Jarvis was banging on their door and yelling something about how if they were both late to their own rehearsal dinner, he was going to filet them for the main course.

Tony yelled something about how he did what he wanted, and Jarvis just didn't know what it was like to be like him, after which Jarvis kicked down the door, threw the blankets out the balcony window, and tossed their tuxedos on the bed before storming back out. 

There was a moment of silence in the room. Then Steve began to laugh.

"You really are his son." Steve said, slightly amazed. "I can see you doing the exact same thing."

"Yeah, it's not as fun when I'm on the receiving end of the shit I do." Tony muttered. "You'd think I would learn this at some point."

"You would think." Steve agreed mildly. Tony punched him gently on his shoulder, kissing the spot in apology when Steve pretended to groan in agony. The two of them just snuggled for a minute longer before finally biting the bullet and putting on their tuxedos.

...

Downstairs, with everyone standing around the two of them, eager to head to the restaurant and party, Tony suddenly realized he hadn't thought to order a limo.

"...Shit." He said, massaging his temples. "Okay, so what now?" He asked.

Before he could even start formulating a plan, a massive limo purred its way quietly up to the curb outside the mansion. Tony just stared as the doors opened and Happy and Rhodey stepped out, giving him a look of amusement.

"Tone, you don't think we would've planned for a limo? I am hurt." Rhodey teased him. "C'mon. Get in. Jarvis told me you were lounging around in bed all day, lazyass." 

"I was. It was awesome." Tony agreed, helping Steve into the limo before he got in right behind him, sitting in between Rhodey and Steve with Happy driving, everyone else piling in, as it suddenly occurred to Tony that almost everyone he loved was in this limo, and that was a wonderful thing.

"Did Jarvis really kick down the door?" Pepper asked, sitting across from him. Bethany laughed lightly, giving her a look of amusement.

"Would it surprise you?" She reminded her.

"No, it shouldn't, and yes, he did." Tony told them both. "In his defense, we really were out for awhile." He winced. "Yelling "I do what I want" may not have helped my case, though." He added. Steve was clearly trying to hide giggles in his hands as Thor twitched.

"Shieldbrother, I love you dearly, but if you ever say that again, I may not be able to control where my hammer lands." He muttered in a tone so bitter that Tony would have assumed he was talking about skinning kittens if he hadn't spoken English. Beside Thor, Loki was biting the inside of his cheek, trying not to laugh, though Tony wasn't entirely sure why...

"Teddy?" Billy asked, his voice high and awed as he looked around the limo. "Can we have a car like this when we get married?"

"On Earth, yeah," Teddy agreed. "But that whole Skrull handfasting thing is a bit more...you know, rustic. And violent. If we took a limo, it would get torched, is kind of what I'm saying." 

"Damn." Billy mused, leaning back on the plush leather seats. "And I thought Jewish weddings got rowdy."

It took another minute or two, but finally, everyone in the house had managed to squeeze themselves into the car. Tony just grinned and leaned against the seat, letting Steve open the sunroof as he gazed up at the open sky, completely awed by the detachable roof, and he tried not to find his husband to be the most precious man alive as he told Happy, "All right, hit it." 

...

The restaurant itself was beautiful, all things considered. It was warm and red and well-lit, and pictures of vintage celebrities hung on the walls, which Tony could only hope would make Steve happy. There were chandeliers that lit up the entire place, soft and twinkling, shaking gently with the force of them opening and closing the door every so often, crystals catching the glimmering glow of the warm light within.

There were enough tables to accommodate them, Tony hoped; it looked like it, but he could never be sure, and he had a feeling the kids were going to want to push tables together, and what was he going to do about arrangements—

"Tony, honey, you're mother henning on me." Steve said gently, putting his hand on Tony's shoulder. "Leave that to me, for starters. Besides, this is going to be fun, okay? Don't worry." He soothed him. Tony nodded, kissing his cheek as the hostess came up to greet them, a warm smile on her face.

"Evening, Mister Stark," she said politely. "Do you all need help getting yourselves arranged?"

"God yes." He said. "And if you could put some ibuprofen next to the bread baskets, I would be greatly appreciative."

She just laughed lightly and led them inside towards the tables. Tony hoped she knew he was being serious. 

...

The party itself didn't start for another twenty minutes, but that didn't seem to matter; almost everyone who was coming had been at the mansion already anyway, and it just gave them time to order more food. Tony could practically hear the tables creaking under the weight, especially the table that Nick and the warriors had sat down at. Maria had made sure she was as far away from them as humanly possible. After the week she had been through, Tony couldn't exactly say he blamed her.

As it was, though, Italian restaurants went hand in hand with wine. Considering that the food took longer to arrive than the wine did, (and that Tony suspected they were doing it on purpose to get the Asgardians drunk), he figured almost everyone in the room had drunk at least a few glasses. Hell, even the Young Avengers looked at least a bit tipsy—Billy was blushing and draped over Teddy like a rug while Tommy was biting his hand to keep from giggling at something Eli had said. 

"Speech!" Thor called out suddenly, an entire bottle of wine in his hand. Loki had ducked the bottle only to get smacked in the face with his brother's grandly gesturing hand, and he hastily snatched the bottle away from Thor, massaging his temples and muttering something about threatening to bake his brother into a pie. "Speech, shieldbrothers, for the wedding eve!"

"Miss America!" Billy slurred—Tony knew he was drunk now, and as worried as he was that he was going to have Rebecca Kaplan at his door with a switchblade in the morning, it was kind of hilarious—"Miss America, speech! Tell me you feel pretty!"

"So he's like, an extra-gay drunk?" Cassie remarked. Tommy found this so hilarious he fell out of his chair, curled up on the floor and laughing hysterically. Eli just gently tugged the bottle out of Tommy's hands, having to maneuver around Kate, who had passed out on his shoulder, as he did so. 

"Uh." Steve shook his head. "I don't know what to say..."

"I'll do it." Tony told him. "Don't worry about it, Steve." He grinned. "I think you and I are the only ones left sober here. They probably won't remember this later."

"Why did we order so much wine?" Steve asked. Tony shook his head.

"We didn't. Loki did." He reminded him. 

"Really, I'm starting to regret it." Loki piped up. "My brother is not a fun drunk."

"LOKI." Thor bawled, latching onto his arm and burying his face into Loki's neck. "BROTHER, I AM SORRY FOR ALL THE TIMES I HAVE HURT YOU. LET ME MAKE IT UP TO YOU. YOU CAN HOLD MY HAMMER, BROTHER." 

"Inside voice, Thor." Loki said mildly, running his finger's through Thor's hair. "And you don't let me hold your hammer until you've had at least fifteen drinks." He paused and summoned a list in a puff of magic. "Last I checked, I had only given you nine."

"Volstagg is such a good friend." Thor slurred. "He gave me a whole bottle of wine, brother. I would share it with you in apology if I had not drunk it all."

"Of course you would." Loki said dryly. "Let me just up your drink count to twenty, then." He just looked up at Tony. "See what I mean, Stark?"

"Brother, you are so beautiful." Thor told him. "You're like a pretty pony. I want to brush your hair and paint on your flank." 

Loki just massaged his temples and took the bottle from Thor, downing the half-full bottle in one go.

"Speech, then, Stark," he said. "While we are all still conscious."

Tony sighed and massaged his temples, but he was smiling as he stood up and whistled, calling for everyone's attention. 

The whole restaurant was watching him, enthralled and more than a little drunk as he started his speech.

"So, as most of you are already aware, Steve and I are getting married." He reminded them. There were a few laughs at this. Tony just grinned. "Anyways, you all know how the wedding's going to go tomorrow; everyone shows up and trashes the mansion, gets drunk, and deals with the inevitable supervillain attack. That's just how any marriage between heroes works." 

The married couples in the wedding party all glanced at each other with a mix of amusement, dread, and understanding. Tony laughed. 

"See? But it's cool. We're gonna be able to handle whatever comes our way. Nothing will stop this wedding."

"And yeh can handle it 'cause you finally let me put th' fuckin' turrets in!" Nick snapped. "In goddamned eggshell! So it'd fucken match!"

From across the room, Tony saw Maria bury her face in her hands. Victoria was putting a comforting hand on her shoulder and murmuring something into her ear. Tony secretly filed away a small subsection of the S.H.I.E.L.D. budget for therapy sessions into Extremis' databanks.

"Yes. But not just because of the eggshell-colored turrets," Tony said. "Because you'll all be there. And that's the thing. I can safely say I speak for both Steve and I when I tell you all how much I am grateful for the fact that you all have stuck by us—not just through this wedding, but through everything that's happened since we got together." He bit his lip. He wasn't going to cry.

"It's been rough. I know most of you have probably thought at some point that I don't deserve Steve. Believe me, you're right." He said quietly. Steve's eye twitched, and he made to get up, but a look from Tony made him sit back down, albeit gripping the table so tightly Tony hoped it wouldn't snap.

"I...I don't know. I don't know what to say right now. Except thank you for being there, even though I am a seriously messed up human being. Even if you're just here because you care about Steve...that's enough." Tony tried to smile and realized he couldn't. 

"You guys are heroes. You guys are my friends. I'm sorry for every stupid thing I've done and will continue to do, and I hope I can make it up to you—and to Steve, who deals with the worst of it. I love you a whole lot, honey." Tony murmured. "And I'm sorry I'm not as great as I could be."

Then, like his outburst had never happened, Tony switched back to talking about the wedding tomorrow like nothing had happened.

"Ororo's going to have perfect weather ready for everyone, so don't worry about getting rained out—Jen's got all the legal paperwork ready and we'll have all of you as witnesses, it's gonna be great, but you know what, you're all going to be going through this tomorrow, so for right now, enjoy the party. Have fun, guys." Tony said, sitting back down.

There was a bit of applause, but Steve ignored it, surveying everyone's expressions. Each and every last person in the room looked as worried for Tony as he felt. All save Rhodey, Pepper, Happy, Jarvis, and Bethany, who all looked pissed—especially Rhodey. Rhodey? Rhodey looked furious.

Steve knew that look. He had seen it on Rhodey's face before. He got almost the same exact look on his face at times as well—it was the look that said that Tony was in for a very, very long lecture about how much he mattered.

Knowing Rhodey was going to chew Tony out later gave Steve peace of mind. He settled back down and comforted himself with simply taking Tony's hand underneath the table for awhile.

Chapter Text

A few hours passed, and everyone was enjoying themselves, Tony's little breakdown completely forgotten by most. The candlelight was warm and gentle as it flickered around the two of them, illuminating Tony's face in a way that made Steve's breath catch in his throat.

"Sweetheart?" Steve finally told him. "I love you. I love you more than anything else in the universe."

"Even more than apple pie and bald eagles?" Tony murmured. Steve rolled his eyes and smiled, kissing Tony's hand.

"More than anything," he repeated. "I wouldn't have ever wanted to marry anyone else. I could never see anyone the same way I see you." He said softly. "You're perfect for me, Tony. You're everything I ever needed."

Tony didn't say a word. Steve sighed and squeezed his hand.

"I don't know what you see in me." Tony said quietly. "I love you more than anyone else in the entire world and beyond. I just want to be with you for as long as I live. But you deserve so much better."

"I don't want better!" Steve hissed. "Do you know what most people would think is "better" for me? Sharon. Do I want to be with Sharon like this? No. Not ever. I don't give a fuck what you think is better for me. I know what I want, Tony, and I want you."

Tony was staring at him. The staredown continued for a few minutes, neither of them speaking.

"I don't think I have ever, once, in my entire life, heard you say 'fuck.'" Tony finally said. "I...I need a minute to get over that."

Steve massaged his temples as Tony shrugged, amused.

"Steve..." He sighed, getting serious. "I just...don't worry. I do want to get married. But...you know how I am. I'll worry for a little while and get over it. Just..." He shook his head. "I don't know. I don't know anymore. I don't know what I'm doing."

Before Steve could even open his mouth, Rhodey had gotten up and stormed over to their table, grabbing Tony's arm and giving Steve a careful look.

"Captain." Rhodey said, the epitome of politeness. "May I borrow Tony for a few minutes?"

A look passed between the two of them. Steve knew Rhodey's lecture would be brutal and crippling—but completely honest, and exactly what Tony needed. So he nodded a quiet agreement.

"Go with him, Tony," Steve said. "Rhodey can help you." He sighed. "Never forget I love you. Please. If you delete everything else from your brain like you did before...never get rid of that."

"I won't," Tony managed to tell him, his voice dry and hoarse. "It's encrypted with a code that would take even me a thousand years to break. I can't get rid of the file."

Steve just watched the two of them leave before he took one of the wine bottles, uncorked it, and drank the whole thing in two gulps. Sure, he wouldn't really get drunk, but it was nice to pretend for a little while.

...

"Tony, I'm going to kick your ass if you call this thing off." Rhodey snapped. Tony snorted.

"Yeah, you and Hill both." He muttered. "Rhodey, Jesus Christ, I wouldn't call it off now—Steve wouldn't mind, of course, but it would break him a little, and I would never hurt Steve more than I do now—"

Rhodey punched him.

It wasn't a hard punch—it was really more like what bickering siblings would do. But what mattered more was the emotional impact, and Tony immediately shut up. Rhodey wasn't kidding around, and he was in for a talking-to.

"Tony, I have put up with your self-destructive behavior because of how much I love you for almost twenty years now. I'm telling you here and now that ends today. Right now, in fact. Because if you call this off—if you walk away from this because you think you're not good enough—I will legitimately kick your ass." Rhodey told him. "You are not going to fuck this up. Not for you. Not for Steve. Because the two of you are so perfect for each other—you complement each other so well—that every time you look at him, I see you as you are."

"An ex-alcoholic fuck-up who lets his friends be emotionally stable for him?" Tony said dryly. A glare from Rhodey silenced him.

"No. As Tony Stark; as the dry-witted, clever, and downright heroic man I know you don't think you are. But you are, Tony, and it's not because of Steve. Steve didn't make you the man that you are. He makes you aspire to continue being that man, maybe, but the truth of the matter is that as much as you're your own villain, Tony, you're your own biggest hero, too." Rhodey hugged him tight. Tony could feel him shaking from the force of the hug, but he didn't protest the tight grip.

"Tony, you are one of the bravest people I know. If I asked Steve, he would say the same thing. He and I both love you because of who you are, not who you've been, or who you think you need to become. Right here and now—not in the future, not in some far-off plan of yours—you are a hero. You don't need to fight anymore, Tony. You've fought your entire life to get where you are, but at some point...you need to sit down and rest, okay? Let someone else help you along." Rhodey told him.

"Steve is marrying you tomorrow because of who you are right this minute. Think about that. In this moment—not in your precious future—you are good enough for him. He loves you. And he will keep loving you. So for god's sake, let him!" Rhodey snapped.

"Let him love you, because god damn it, every time you look at him—you don't see it, Tony, but your face lights up, and you look so happy—I've never seen you that happy. Not unless you're around him. You want to be a good man, Tony? You want to find peace? You want to be the best you can? You stay with him, then. Because he completes you in a way that absolutely no one else can. Everyone else can see it, Tony. Everyone else knows it. Everyone. But. You." Rhodey enunciated his last few words clearly, punctuating them with a shake of Tony's shoulders for each one.

"Go in there and tell him that you love him. Because you know you do. And you know damn well you don't need to deserve his love. Steve gave you all his love willingly—just go take it, you stupid—" Rhodey sighed. "I can't do this speech thing. Just go in there and kiss him, for christ's sake."

"I dunno," Tony said, his voice clogged with tears and emotion to the point of almost being unrecognizable. "You were doing a pretty good job."

"Good." Rhodey said. "Now get in there and do what I told you to."

"...Yes, sir." Tony replied, a small smile on his face. "Oh, and Rhodey?"

"Tone?" He asked. Tony hugged him tight without another word, leaning his head against Rhodey's chest for a second.

"You are my best friend in the entire world." Tony told him. "Thank you. I couldn't get by without you."

"I know," Rhodey replied, ruffling his hair affectionately. "That's why I'm out here kicking your ass. Now go inside and do something about it."

Tony headed in without another word, a huge grin across his face. Rhodey just grinned and looked up at the night sky, shaking his head in amusement.

"You and Steve are something else." He muttered. "That's good, though. We need more of that kind of something." He sighed and slipped back inside. If he got there in time, he would probably get to see Tony lay one on Steve, and Steve always freaked out pretty hilariously when he did it in public.

...

Steve had hoped Tony would be okay. He hadn't expected anything more than a nod and a promise that he was all right.

What he had gotten was getting thrown down on the table in front of everyone and kissed so passionately he felt his lips swelling up a bit already.

"I love you." Tony finally said, pulling away to breathe. Steve stared at him. "I love you so much, and I don't even—I don't care if I deserve you, because all I want is just to have you and hold you and be with you forever—it wasn't about deserving—"

"No, no it wasn't." Steve managed to say, despite his utter shock. "Tony, it's all right. I love you too. You don't need to kiss me to mark your territory or anything." He teased. Tony huffed.

"I just needed to remind myself how perfect we are." He murmured. "Together, I mean. Right here and now is all I want, because right here and now, I have you."

"Tony..." Steve sighed and hugged him tight. "You'll never lose me. I promise. Right here and right now can last forever so long as we love each other."

"Okay," Tony said. "I'm good with that." He kissed Steve again, slow and careful and loving, and held him close.

"So you're okay?" Steve finally asked. Tony grinned.

"Better than okay," he murmured. "I think I'm finally just...accepting that this is real. That I'm going to marry you. And that's the greatest feeling in the world."

"It is," Steve agreed. "And when we get married tomorrow, you will still be Tony, and you will still have problems, because you're Tony Stark, and problems seem to find you. But now I can be there to fight them with you, always." He promised. "You are never going to be alone again, Tony. I will be there by your side for as long as we both live."

"Why are you so goddamned perfect?" Tony demanded, tears in his eyes. "Stop it. You're not supposed to be this perfect. I can't handle it."

"I spend a lot of time around you." Steve confessed, his eyes twinkling as he grinned at Tony.

That netted him another table-slamming kiss. He heard drunken wolf-whistling this time; probably Billy. Steve was entirely okay with getting thrown on the table and getting wolf-whistled at, though. Tony was worth it.

"C'mon, soldier," Tony said quietly, pulling away to smile at him. "Let's head home so you can remind me of all the ways we can be perfect together."

"Ditching the rehearsal for your own wedding, Mr. Stark?" Steve teased. "Naughty."

"Nah. If I stay, I'll end up recording all of these idiots trying to stumble home drunkenly, and if it stays in Extremis, I'm going to be way too tempted to use it as blackmail." Tony said. "They are definitely on their own for the ride home."

"Did we even pick a designated driver?" Steve asked. Tony nodded.

"Yeah. Nick." He paused. "In retrospect, that was a terrible idea."

"Was it Loki's?" Steve asked. Tony shrugged.

"Yeah, probably." He agreed. "They'll make it back home. C'mon. We deserve some alone time."

"No, Tony." Steve said gently. "I told you. You're never going to be alone again."

Tony stopped. For a minute, after he found himself able to move again, he held Steve close, letting their hearts beat against each other.

Then he held his hand. He didn't let go the entire way home. He didn't let go for the rest of the night, in fact, and as they went to sleep that night, hearing the sounds of everyone stumbling drunkenly into the mansion, Tony was still holding Steve's hand as he lay on top of him, their hearts beating in soft unison as the stars glimmered and twinkled warmly around them.

Chapter Text

The next morning dawned slow and careful over the city, as if it didn't want to wake everyone up so harshly on a day like this. Tony was the first person in the mansion to wake up, for the first and probably last time in his life.

He let Steve sleep; if Steve could sleep, so much the better for him. Tony couldn't even dream of going back to bed, though he suspected it was ungodly early in the morning. This was the first time in his life in which he didn't care he was up early, and he was going to appreciate it.

He went downstairs and put the coffee on for his husband-to-be, (the words themselves sending a small thrill down his spine as he thought them), and as the coffee grumbled and burbled, he mixed some pancake batter and made pancakes. Just enough for two people, of course.

He had just finished setting the pancakes down on the table when Steve shuffled in, half-asleep, his robe half hanging off of him as he sat down in one of the chairs that were scattered around the table.

"Hey." Tony said gently. Steve just smiled wearily, excitement lighting up his whole face.

"Hey yourself." He murmured.

"I was going to let you sleep..." Tony trailed off as Steve shook his head.

"I felt you get up. I always feel it when you leave our bed; it's because of my heightened senses and all. Normally I ignore it, because otherwise I'd never get any sleep...but I just decided today, I couldn't spend a minute without you by my side." Steve confessed. "So I woke up."

Tony's eyes were shining with the telltale signs of tears as he set the plate and cup of coffee down in front of Steve, sitting across from him at the table as he smiled at his husband.

"Hey, aren't we not supposed to, you know, see each other—like, tradition or something—" Tony was cut off as Steve laughed, shaking his head, amused.

"You? Tradition? I'm shocked." He teased. "And even then, Tony, we're having a wedding that's attended almost solely by superheroes, gods, and black ops government agents. I think we threw tradition out the window ages ago." He reminded him. Tony nodded.

"True," he agreed. "Though when you think about it, that whole "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue..." we kind of fit it." He mused. Steve raised an eyebrow.

"How so?" He asked. Tony took a bite of his breakfast before responding, giving Steve a considering look.

"You're old, I'm new," he pointed to the two of them before pointing back downstairs to the lab, "the arc reactor was borrowed—well, borrowed time, that is—and..." Tony tapped the bridge of Steve's nose and grinned at the involuntary twitch and wounded look Steve gave him. "Your eyes are blue."

"S'pose you're right." Steve agreed. "That's enough tradition for me, anyway." He yawned and stretched. "Should we get ready? What time is it?"

Tony checked the clock and frowned.

"It's almost ten," he said. "I guess everyone else is still asleep...still, we ought to go check on things, at least. Probably shouldn't get dressed until later; don't want to ruin the suits." He sighed. "I'll call everyone's phones and wake them up. Jan organized a makeup appointment for everyone, and I don't think she would appreciate it if they all missed it because they were hung over."

"Agreed," Steve said. "So, do we tell the kids' parents that they got drunk, or..." He trailed off as Tony raised an eyebrow.

"If you want to tell Rebecca, Faith, and Peggy that they were drunk, you are a better man than I." Tony said. "They're teenagers. Let's just...pretend it never happened."

"You are a terrible influence." Steve muttered. Tony shrugged.

"I'm smart. I don't want to deal with the three of them." He said. "And the kids will wake up with bleary eyes and massive headaches and never want to drink again. It's like putting your hand on the stove, only with fine wine."

"Ah," Steve said. "Well, when you put it like that..." He shrugged and tried not to smile. It would only encourage Tony. "You make the calls, I'll clean up from breakfast. Let's get ready for the wedding."

The two of them kissed each other, loving and gentle as the warm morning light flooded slowly in through the kitchen, making the two of them shine in silhouette against the window.

...

Everyone else was out of the house the second Tony woke them up, cups of coffee in their hands as Billy muttered an incantation to get rid of his hangover, despite the sound of his own spell giving him a massive headache. Teddy wisely did not tease him, despite being unable to get drunk himself, because he happened to like all his organs where they were, (or not being a frog as a result of a spell cast in anger.)

Tony let them head out to prepare, choosing to personally check on the outside decorations and the like. He needed to shower, he reminded himself, but first he would check on everything...

Outside, he smiled, taking it all in. Everything was perfect. He would be all right. Now he just had to shower and make himself presentable for the wedding photos.

...

Steve cleaned up as quickly as he could, making his way up to the bathroom as quietly as he could as soon as possible. He figured Tony would be using their bathroom, so he would use the main one, which was fine; that was closer anyway.

He showered quickly, only taking the time to make sure he used the body wash Tony had bought him, soaping it over himself hastily as he conditioned his hair, washed it out, and wrapped a towel around his waist, brushing his teeth as he scrubbed his face, excitement making him operate much quicker than normal.

The two of them met on the stairwell and grinned at each other, soaking-wet and freshly scrubbed.

"Tuxedo time?" Tony asked. Steve just nodded, leading him upstairs so they could both get dressed.

...

Jan knew her cosmetologists and chose them well; all the bridesmaids, both maids of honor, and all the men in the wedding party were spruced up, tailored properly, and ready to go by the time two o'clock rolled around.

"Hurry it up, dears, we only have an hour to get back..." Emma said, opening car doors and getting the children in as Tommy, thanks to super-speed, managed to nab shotgun and insist on switching the radio stations the entire way home.

...

The Red Skull was ready. Rogers and Stark would die.

...

"Nate! Nate, damn it, get in the jet before Al decides she can pilot this thing all the way to New York!" Wade yelled, dragging Doreen onto the jet beside him. "And someone make me a cup of coffee!"

...

"Prince." Doom said, not even bothering to roll over. He knew damn well Namor was in his bed. The stench of aquatic harlotry was unavoidable.

"Victor." He said blandly, not even bothering to smirk. "Are you prepared for the wedding?"

"That depends," Doom said. "If we're judging my preparedness by your standards of preparedness, my simple undergarments and a tube of liquid eyeliner will suffice."

Namor smacked him in the face with a pillow, storming off to the wardrobe to get changed into something nicer in a huff. Victor just chuckled, low and deep in his throat, and let Namor get dressed. He would needle him about just how many clothes he seemed to keep over at Victor's castle later, after they had both had coffee.

"And you can make your own damned coffee this morning, you pigheaded sexist brat." Namor muttered.

Victor threw a pillow at him. Namor just rolled his eyes and kept getting dressed, leaving Victor to pout in bed.

...

"Erik, about the Skull—" Charles was cut off as Erik's lip curled into a snarl. He backed off immediately, shaking his head. "Nevermind. But all I ask that is if he does show up, you don't—"

"Don't what, Charles?" Erik said quietly, standing outside in the courtyard with him. His eyes swept over the soft green grass, the ornate decor, and then finally fell on the sight of his grandsons, sitting comfortably with their teammates, happier than he had ever been himself, more likely than not. Charles sighed.

"Erik, it isn't about your grandsons. They will forgive you, I think. But you will not be the you that would care if they did. Not if you murder him." He told him. Erik sighed and shook his head.

"I know you are right, Charles." He said gravely. "With their mother gone...I am all that is left of their heritage. Especially for Thomas. I know he has nowhere else to go—I am not a fool. My life is lived for the benefit of them now, and that means I have to change."

"You'll never change," Charles replied. "Not entirely. But enough that you can be their grandfather, I think. Given the time."

"I will have help," Erik said, a small smile winding across his lips. "I am not that concerned about time, Charles."

The two of them just sat together on the stone steps. It took a minute, but without much fuss, Erik's hand came to rest on top of Charles'. His helmet was off, as well, and Charles, as he normally did, performed a reflexive scan of his mind.

The only thing Erik had on his mind at that moment, with the threat of the Red Skull looming and all, was Charles.

So the two of them were content. And for a moment, Erik knew true, genuine peace, and as he saw his grandsons hug their partners, catching the looks on their faces—he realized that he felt that same kind of happiness now as well.

It was enough.

...

Black Bolt didn't say a word as he arrived in the courtyard, Medusa behind him, her hair trailing even farther behind her, one strand holding a leash that was clipped to Lockjaw's collar, the rest of the Inhumans following behind them. Still, he didn't have to; Tony hugged him warmly and nodded in greeting.

"Stark, we have our own gifts, but..." Medusa spoke now, pulling something out of the pocket of her ceremonial robes. "We are here so late, I am afraid, because we had to pick up something from a friend of yours."

Tony was confused until he examined the package. Then he grinned, delighted. Bruce had headed back up to Skaar after the fiasco involving the Hulk, (which Tony guiltily admitted his part in), and as far as he had known, had managed to eke out at least a bit of peace for himself up there. It probably wouldn't last, but for now...

He opened the box to find a letter inside, along with a small chunk of glowing crystal. He raised an eyebrow and read the letter, interested.

"Tony—whatever happened between us is over now. I forgive you. Enjoy the wedding. You and Steve deserve the happiness. As for my gift...Kryzinium crystals, native to Skaar. They have an electrical charge—perhaps a new power source for the arc reactor? Let me know. Congratulations, and find peace. We both need it.
Sincerely, Bruce."

Tony put the crystal away and grinned, relief washing over him. He and Bruce had not parted on the best of terms, and knowing that one of his oldest friends had forgiven him was a relief. Black Bolt smiled, apparently understanding what had transpired despite his silence.

"Thank you for delivering this," Tony said quietly. "It means a lot."

"It was our pleasure," Medusa told him. "Is there a place for the gifts, or...?"

"I definitely forgot you gave people gifts for weddings, so...maybe?" Tony replied. "Uh. There's a ton of tables; just throw it down wherever you can find room." He said. "Oh, and—watch out for the gun turrets. That was Fury's idea."

"Ah," Medusa said faintly. "Our kind is aware of the Howling Fury, yes. He is the boogeyman for our children."

From over on the other side of the courtyard, Maria put her head into her hands and tried not to break down either crying or laughing.

Nick wiped away a lone tear of pride.

Chapter Text

Steve stood upstairs and watched from the balcony as everyone began to arrive. He was a bit nervous—not about getting married, but more about the sheer amount of people that were showing up. What if he screwed up the vows? Oh, god. Please let him remember what he wanted to say.

Jen and Matt had shown up already—he could see the legal documents in Matt's hand. That was a relief. He just had to sign a few papers, and it was finally going to be a reality in the eyes of the state.

The kids were playing over by the willow in the courtyard—his arm twitched involuntarily, as if to grab them and make sure they weren't getting hurt, but he steeled himself.

Speaking of the kids, he saw Faith, Isaiah, Rebecca, and Jeff showing up. He sighed in relief. He was glad Tony had remembered to call them—he had completely forgotten...

Bethany was helping bring the pipe organ, which he wasn't entirely sure why Tony had ordered, but it was that or the bejeweled unicorns, and Steve had been willing to cede a little ground for that.

Except right behind it, getting led in on a lead by Rhodey, who looked like he was muffling hysterics into his leather jacket, was what looked like a unicorn inlaid with gold leaf and rubies.

Steve was going to murder Tony.

Despite that pledge, however, he couldn't stop his lips from quirking up in a smile, and before he knew it, he was laughing. He really should have expected this.

He surveyed the courtyard to find that almost everyone either of them had ever met in both of their careers as heroes and Avengers were already there; the only people he didn't see were Doctor Strange, (whom Steve knew was going to be late—he had promised to cast a circle around the courtyard for their protection—while he doubted it would actually keep the Skull out, it would nullify the possibility of the Cosmic Cube working), and...

Steve's eyes widened as he saw them walk in.

Oh, Nate. Why?

As if he could see him—which Steve would not dispute, despite the fact that he was relatively well-hidden—Wade grinned underneath his mask, waving cheerfully in his direction as he proffered up a neatly wrapped present box.

Steve put his palm over his eyes and waved back. He was, after all, better than that.

Doreen, standing beside Wade, just waved back at him, and Steve's heart sank. Why was she with him? He was going to have to check on her—by now, Wade would have dragged her along on something incredibly dangerous, and Luke would get annoyed if he lost his nanny.

Still, Cable would have kept them in check. He hoped.

He didn't see Namor, either, but that was fine with him—the prince would probably insist on being fashionably late or something of the sort. Steve smiled. He knew the prince was not perfect, nor particularly heroic at times, but...they were war buddies. It was a bond he wasn't willing to break.

Besides, so were him and Nick, and Nick was probably worse than Namor if you weighed them by metric tons of crazy.

...

Tony hadn't realized people would think he needed presents. It was both amusing and kind of hectic as he tried to find a place for them all; it took him a bit, but he finally decided the table wasn't big enough, instead moving them all over to sit comfortably beside the willow tree.

He checked his phone and frowned. It was two-forty-five. The ceremony started in fifteen minutes. Where was Steve?

...

Steve saw Tony looking around for him nervously and sighed. Despite his own nervousness, he had to go down there and make sure Tony was all right. He had left him down there to organize the gifts, after all—the least he could do is come back to be moral support.

He hadn't checked the time as he made his way downstairs, so he was, of course, very surprised when Pepper shoved him back into the house.

"No, no you stay in here, you're going to meet him at the aisle, you have to be the one to do it—I'll let Tony know you're okay, it's fine, someone get Jen and Matt, we have fifteen minutes, just—straighten your tuxedo, I don't know, look alive—"

"Pepper, I don't know what you just said," Steve confessed. "But if you need me to stay here, I will. Please just let Tony know I'm okay, he'll worry. Could you get Jen and Matt? I need to fix my tuxedo, hang on..."

"Which is pretty much exactly what I just said, but okay." Pepper sighed. "When you hear the organ play, go. That's your cue. I think Jen or Matt or Tony will take it from there, they know what to do—just—"

"Pepper, calm down," Steve said gently. "After this, you're not going to be the only person who keeps an eye on Tony. You can afford to relax."

"Oh, Steve," Pepper said, amusement and exasperation coloring her words. "You were always there to take care of him, too. This is just making it official."

She kissed his cheek and headed back outside, leaving Steve hastily straightening his tuxedo and trying to keep tears from pouring down his cheeks. He hadn't known he was going to be so weepy on his wedding day.

...

Tony was a nervous wreck as Pepper ushered him up the altar. Still, he was never too frazzled to make fun of her.

"You do know you're basically my dad giving me away right now, right?" He teased. Pepper rolled her eyes.

"You're right. I am. I am officially making you Steve's problem." She muttered. Tony winced.

"Oh, ouch. That's just cold. Why are you my maid of honor again?" He teased. Pepper huffed.

"Because Bethany would put a 'kick me' sign on your back, and none of your other exes could stand it. They would just think they'd made you gay. I, however, am completely aware you already were." She retorted. Tony whined, despite the smile tugging at his lips.

"For the last time, I'm bisexual!" He snapped. "...You're right about Bethany, though."

"I bet," Pepper muttered. "Tony..." She sighed and got serious. "I love you. I really am glad I get to be up here with you. Please, just take my advice; let him make you happy. Okay?"

Tony grinned and hugged her tight as they both stood on the altar.

"Okay," he agreed. "I love you too, Pepper. I'm glad you're up here with me."

Rhodey was already waiting for them both. He gave Tony a careful look before asking, "You are going to follow my advice, right?"

"You'd kick my ass if I didn't," Tony responded wryly. "But I was planning on it anyway."

The two of them took each others' hands for a second, squeezing carefully, before Tony inhaled sharply and turned around to wait for Steve, his heart hammering so loud and harshly in his chest he was worried he was going to damage it all over again.

...

Steve heard the first keys of the pipe organ—expertly played, in fact, and if there was one thing Steve would not have guessed Happy Hogan to have a talent for, it would definitely have been the pipe organ—and inhaled slowly, giving himself the fortitude with which to step outside and go meet his husband at the altar.

He was beyond nervousness at this point; as he stepped out onto the grass and made his way over to the path leading up to the altar, he realized his heart was filled with so much love that it had pushed any other emotion out of the way for the time being. He hoped he could spend the rest of his life like that. It was a lovely feeling.

He saw Bucky and Jan first, Jan in her maid of honor dress and beaming brightly, giving him an encouraging nod as he made his way up there.

Bucky was crying. Steve let it be. He was sort of proud Bucky could get emotional like that again; it was a sign of healing. He was just grateful, and very, very proud of his little brother.

He swept his eyes over everyone else in the wedding party; the bridesmaids dresses like tiny oceans underneath the pale blue sky, spreading out over the emerald grass in ruffled pools, the sleek crispness of ebony tuxedos complementing stark white shirts, corsages in all colors of the rainbow, the cool marble of the altar—

And as he finally made his way up to stand by his side, Steve's eyes fell on Tony. And he was complete.

He was radiant, just standing there, waiting for him to say the words that would bind them forever, for as long as they both would live, and in that moment Steve felt like his heart would have to either let some of the love go or flicker out—he couldn't handle that much emotion. No one could.

He managed to take Tony's hand in his own, trembling one, however, and that alleviated some of the pure and utter emotion threatening to overtake him. Tony squeezed it tight and tugged him a little closer.

The whole wedding party was hushed, waiting for them to make a move. Jen cleared her throat, finally, the only sound in the entire courtyard.

"So, we are gathered here today to legally bind Steve Rogers and Tony Stark in marriage—and I do emphasize legally, because let's face it, you all know they were married anyway." Jen teased. Everyone laughed, finally glad to dissolve some of the romantic tension that had been choking the room like a velvet rope. The two of them blushed, but they were smiling so wide Jen wondered for a second how their faces hadn't split.

"Matt and I are just here to act as justices of the peace, so don't worry, they're saying all the vows. Boys, if you please?" She said, offering them the floor to finally, after almost eight years of dating, confess everything they loved about each other.

Steve opened his mouth and couldn't think of a damn thing to say. Not in that moment. Not when love was making his heart hurt and his hands shake.

Fortunately, Tony could speak for him.

"Steve is my heart," he murmured. "More than the arc reactor ever was."

Steve hoped he wasn't gaping like a fish. He was not going to gape and bawl on the altar, he could hear everyone taking pictures already.

"I truly can't think of anyone else who has been so persistent, so dedicated, and so focused on making me come up from the lab, eat a decent meal every once and awhile, and get at least five hours of sleep a night." Tony teased. Steve couldn't help but smile as Tony continued on, "Steve has been my moral compass and my therapist and my emotional strength and my best friend in the world for years now. He loves me more than enough to make up for the times when I don't love myself..." Tony squeezed Steve's hands tight. If he felt them shake, he didn't say anything.

"He is everything I could ever want my future to be; perfect, full of hope and promise, and beyond my wildest dreams." Tony smiled and took the ring from its place on the altar, slipping the ruby and topaz studded ring onto Steve's finger. "I love you, Steve," he murmured. "I'm just glad I get to be with you forever."

Steve had to take a moment to compose himself. He was sure he was crying now, he could feel it. Jan would kill him if his tears stained the tuxedo, which, feeling her vicious look boring into the back of his head, was probably what dried most of his tears. That, and Tony's gentle hand on his face, wiping the tears away so he could see his husband smiling at him with love shining in his eyes.

"I love Tony so much." Steve finally said, and he was surprised at how much he didn't sound like his normal self. Too much emotion and too many tears, he supposed.

"Tony is everything I ever wanted. I couldn't even dream of a wedding like this before I woke up from the ice—I never could have dreamed of a man like him, either. Knowing that I can do this—that I can stand here today and marry Tony and have it be recognized and accepted—means more to me than I can really express." Steve swallowed. "And as for Tony himself..."

He squeezed Tony's hand tight.

"It was worth it," he said. "It was always worth those nights spent convincing you to rest, or eat, or take a break. Because you are worth it. I love you so much, Tony. You are as perfect as I could ever want you to be—I love you for exactly who you are, right here and now, and I always will." Steve told him. "You are the best person in my life. I will always love you. I promise."

He held Tony tight as he slipped the ring onto his finger. Tony's hands were shaking so hard that he actually had to hold him steady before he could get the ring situated on his finger, glinting warmly in the summer afternoon's light.

No one needed to tell them to kiss. Steve suspected he wouldn't have been able to stop Tony from leaning in and holding him close anyway. His lips were so close. So perfect and warm and inviting and right—

The crash made them both jump back, but the laugh was what really made Steve snarl, his lips pulled back as he bared his teeth, rage crashing over him like a violent tsunami.

"Captain," the Red Skull said, stepping over the parts of the gate that his HYDRA bot had destroyed. Camoflauged—it had to have been, there was no way they wouldn't have noticed. "I would say congratulations, but no one really congratulates a man for marrying a pig, do they?"

Steve snarled louder.

"I said that if you laid a single finger on Tony that I would rip you limb from limb. I meant it." He growled.

No one present doubted him.

"Go. Now. I will let you walk away right here and now if you just leave. I won't chase you. I won't do anything. I just want to get married." Steve said slowly. "But you are going to leave. Now."

The Red Skull grinned, the leering smile utterly ghastly across his twisted, mottled visage. He leveled a pistol that was aimed straight at Tony's forehead.

"You know as well as I that leaving was never an option, Captain," he said. "Truly, though, I cannot wait to see the look in your eyes after I tear his head open. The loss of hope in a man's eyes is even better than the dullness of death."

Steve made to move, but before he could, three things happened at once.

First, the gun barrel twisted into a knot, the gun itself levitating out of the Skull's reach.

Second, a blast of what looked like dark magic stopped the Red Skull in his tracks.

Third, with a mighty cry of "IMPERIOUS REX!," the Red Skull was blasted back at least thirty feet and into the street.

Steve stared.

Magneto, Doctor Doom, and Namor all stood in front of him, right by where the Red Skull had been. Erik shot him a look.

"Old grudges die hard," he said. "Besides, he was going to harm Tony."

"Indeed," Doom rumbled. "My hatred of the Romany-murdering scum aside, the respect I have for Anthony Stark would not allow me to let him die in such a manner."

Steve was gaping at Namor now. He just shrugged.

"I've pushed you out of the path of a bullet before," Namor reminded him. "Why should I not do the same for your husband?"

Everyone else was silent for a minute or two, just staring at each other.

"RICHARDS!" Doom roared, utterly triumphant. "FINALLY! I HAVE BESTED YOU! YOU CANNOT SAY YOU SAVED ANTHONY STARK ON HIS WEDDING DAY, CAN YOU?! I THINK NOT!"

"Oh," Tony said, with a great deal of exasperation and amusement. "So that was what this was about."

"Most likely," Namor agreed. "Still. Sharon Carter?" He called. "Will you see to the Skull?"

"Sure thing," she said, standing up and making her way over to Steve and Tony. She looked at the two of them for a minute. Then she smiled.

"I believe you had a kiss to attend to, boys," she told them. "I believe you have plenty more to look forward to, in fact."

Steve just wiped a few more tears away as she went to catch the Skull before he got away again. He was content with being a leaky faucet today. Just for today, though. And possibly for their honeymoon. And possibly every time Tony kissed him.

He was certain that he was crying this time, though, and Tony was very definitely kissing him. Steve held him a little closer and tighter though, just to make sure.

...

Sharon went to grab the Red Skull, before realizing someone already had.

Loki, sitting crosslegged in midair, had the Skull by the collar of his coat, as if he was disgusted by even that contact.

"Consider this a wedding gift," he said. "My dear Hela is not so forgiving of ones who cheat time like this one. I do believe his natural lifespan has probably run out by now, yes?"

Sharon grinned.

"He's cheated death more than once, yeah," she agreed. "I'm sure Steve will appreciate the wedding gift, Loki. But...you should probably keep it a secret."

"Yes, I should," Loki frowned. "Humans and their morals. Especially Rogers. He is particularly moralistic. It's quite adorable, if one is in the right mood to tolerate such holiness."

"True," Sharon agreed. "He's all yours, then, Laufeyson."

Loki grinned and kissed her hand.

"Much obliged, my lady." He told her.

Before he could teleport away to Hel, however, they were interrupted by a hasty, "Wait, wait, wait!"

The hilt of a katana thudded into the back of the Red Skull's head. Both Sharon and Loki looked up to see Deadpool holding the katana and grinning.

"I had to," He said. "He has a very punchable face."

*But that's a katana.*

"No one asked you!" He snapped. Loki just raised an eyebrow.

"It will at least make him easier to transport." He agreed. "Until then, Carter. Son of Wil."

Loki disappeared in a small spiral of golden magic. Wade pumped his fist with triumph.

"Aw yeah!" He said. "Finally, I got to punch a Nazi. They're a rare breed these days."

"Thank god for that," Sharon muttered. "Now c'mon, before Steve starts to worry."

"He worries too much." Wade grumbled, but he followed after her anyway.

...

Steve wasn't worrying at all, however. He was pretty focused on kissing Tony. And Tony wasn't going to complain about that.

When they did pull away, they pulled away to cheers and wolf-whistles, and Billy and Thor had both sent up sparks like fireworks in celebration. Steve smiled, holding Tony close.

"Come on, sweetheart," he said. "We have a reception to host."

"Then the honeymoon?" Tony pleaded. "I could use some time off."

"Then the honeymoon," Steve agreed. "The plane leaves at three in the morning tomorrow. I think we'll be partying until then, so I already packed our bags and sent them to the airport."

"You're a godsend," Tony muttered. "I should know that by now."

"Yeah, probably." Steve teased. Tony just ruffled his hair and kissed his cheek.

"So." Steve said. "Take my hand?"

Tony held both their hands up, still completely interwound.

"I never let go." He told him.

...

The reception was attended by a pack of fireflies, all of them warmly blinking on and off, swirling in little clouds of light that looked like stars come to rest upon the earth. Steve would have to thank Hank for that, but since he had his tongue halfway down Janet's throat right now, he decided he would just do it later.

The unicorn grazed contentedly in the corner as the kids debated who would get to ride him on what days, and who was in charge of feeding and taking care of him and who would brush his mane and what to name the unicorn, (Kate suggested "complete waste of money" until Tommy indignantly told her unicorns could never be a waste of money.) Steve wondered just how jaded these kids were that taking care of a unicorn was akin to getting assigned a science project for them.

As everyone else talked, laughed, stuffed themselves, and enjoyed themselves to the fullest extent, Steve quietly slipped away with Tony for a moment alone beneath the willow tree.

"We're going to have to go dance." Tony reminded him. Steve sighed.

"Yes, I know," Steve said. "But first..." He smiled. "I just wanted to remind you how perfect you are. And how lucky I am to have you."

"And I'll never doubt that again, I swear," Tony told him. "I can't. Not after all this."

"True." Steve agreed, kissing his cheek. "Remember when I proposed to you under a tree like this?" He whistled, awed. "Two weeks went by fast."

"Yeah," Tony agreed, "felt more like four months."

"Time drags when you're nannying all of the superheroes and black ops teams in New York." Steve teased. Tony just grinned.

"Yeah, I guess," he murmured. "Still...c'mon. They're waiting for us to dance."

"I promise not to step on your feet." Steve told him. Tony laughed and took his hand, leading him out onto the dancefloor.

...

It was an instrumental—Steve had to have picked it, Tony didn't recognize it, but it didn't matter, because it filled him with love and longing as he danced to it in his husband's arms, warm and safe.

The dance lasted for a pure, infinite moment, and Tony knew he would never forget this—especially since the whole wedding was already recorded on Extremis. He wanted to relive this whenever he needed the pick-me-up.

After the dance, when the two of them clung to each other, exhausted and exhilirated, Tony leaned on Steve's shoulder and smiled.

"Okay, that was great," he gushed. "You dance really well, Steve." He kissed his neck. "How about some fondue to go with it?"

"Tony!" Steve blushed bright red. "Tony, we're in public!"

Tony just raised an eyebrow and stared at Steve for a second.

"...Okay." Tony said. "I'm just...going to go over to the fondue fountain and stick my fingers in the chocolate. It's my wedding and I do what I want."

Steve was still blushing. Tony just chalked it up to weird 1940s slang and let it drop, taking his husband's hand and dragging him over to the fountain anyway. The realization on Steve's face, and the delight that ensued once he realized you could just stick your whole hand in the chocolate, was definitely worth whatever confusion Tony felt at the moment.

....

The rest of the night was spent in each others' arms, warm and content, watching everyone else enjoy themselves dancing. Steve was far too happy to sit underneath the willow tree with Tony in his arms to even consider getting up until he absolutely had to.

"You're the best." Tony murmured. "Wake me up when we've got to head to the airport, okay?"

"Too tired to party, Tony?" Steve teased. "I'm shocked."

Tony grumbled and snuggled closer.

"I just want to fall asleep next to you," he muttered. "It's all I ever wanted."

"Yeah," Steve agreed, suddenly swamped by a wave of emotion. "Me too."

The two of them curled up closer together, Steve stroking Tony's hair as Tony laid his head on Steve's chest.

"Steve?" Tony murmured. Steve blinked and yawned.

"Mm?" He responded. Tony kissed him, slow and soft and sweet.

"Just so you know, this is the start of the rest of our lives together," he reminded him. "And I can't wait to spend it all with you."

Steve was crying again. And it had been almost an hour, too.

"Neither can I," he whispered back. "Sweet dreams, my lovely husband."

"Night," Tony mumbled. "Love you too, husband dearest."

Steve held Tony tight as he fell asleep in his arms, just as the clock inside chimed to signify midnight.

And so, at the stroke of midnight, Steve headed towards the constant stretch of tomorrow with Tony in his arms. As far as he concerned, there was no better way to do it.