"Nervous?" Tony demands, bounding into the room again; an action that would have made him jump had he not been doing it for the last few hours.
"No, no, I'm fine." He replies absently, rolling his shirt sleeves a little higher up his arms.
"Got your vows?" Tony enquires, and Bruce could tell he was in for a few of these. He patted at his trouser pockets and jacket before he remembered he had his vows memorised. He nods to Tony.
"Rings?" He presses relentlessly, raising his eyebrows and bouncing slightly on the balls of his feet.
"That's your job." Bruce reminds him, widening his eyes, a mixture of worry and mild amusement stirring in him.
"Oh yeah..." Tony muses thoughtfully, as though this fact has just struck him, then he squints back at Bruce again and, "The Big Guy?"
"We're good." Bruce nods, trying to keep things that way.
"Sure?" Tony pushes maddeningly.
"I, yes I'm sure." He says, staring hopelessly at Tony, "Aren't you supposed to be reassuring me?" He asks pointedly.
"I'm just saying, it'd make for some interesting wedding photos." Tony grins at him. He glowers back. "But you're good, you're good." He says airily, waving the idea away.
Bruce sighs and turns away from him before rolling his eyes. Tony seems to read his mind as he says with a wry smile, "At what point exactly did you regret make me your best man?"
"When did I ask you?" He shoots back, running a hand over his face and shaking his head.
"About three hours after you got engaged." Tony replies, grinning, "Champagne may have been involved." He adds.
"Then." Bruce tells him bluntly, wondering how he could ever have decided that putting Tony Stark in charge of organising certain important factors of his marriage could have been a good idea.
"It'll be fine." Tony insists cajolingly, clapping him on the shoulder in what was apparently supposed to be taken as comfort and support, "You'll be fine. She'll be way out of your league. And as long as no-one hits her over the head and makes her remember that fact then-"
"Tony." He cuts in with a warning glance. Not least because everything Tony is spouting in jest has been growing into a faint, niggling doubt in the pit of his stomach for a few weeks now. Ever since she said yes...
"Okay, okay." Tony relented, raising his hands to show surrender, "Married life has changed you." He grumbles in a low voice.
"I'm not married yet." Bruce tells him with a weak stab at a light smile.
"Which reminds me." Tony announces cheerfully, his demure abandonment of his trademark teasing gone for all of two minutes before he returns to the relentless attack, "It's not too late to change your mind you know-"
"Can you check and see if the car's here yet?" Bruce interrupts firmly, staring pointedly from his watch to Tony, "I'm not sure about it."
"I've organised the car." Tony reminds him, looking mortally offended by this insinuation.
"That's why I'm worried about it." Bruce informs him, glancing up at him, smiling.
Tony glares irritably and flounces from the room, muttering darkly to Jarvis as he goes, leaving Bruce standing alone with his steadily mounting nerves.
He takes a deep breath, slowly beginning to move around the room at a slow pace. Stuffing his hands in the pockets of his jackets he feels a small piece of paper on the bottom crunch beneath his fingers. Curious, he draws it out and finds his name written in what he recognises at once to be her handwriting.
Glancing around him and seeing he's still alone, though he's not entirely sure why that matters, he picks the little note open.
'Don't kill Tony before the ceremony' was all it said.
A soft, tender smile brushes across his lips and this more than anything else settles him again.
"Nat you look beautiful, Bruce won't know what's hit him." Pepper tells her, smiling as she walks back into the room and finds Natasha critically smoothing down the front of the simple white dress she has on.
"He never does." She smiles lightly, accepting the glass of champagne the other woman offers her with a grateful nod of her head.
Pepper smiles then says in a business like tone, "Now, I know you said you didn't want prompt cards for your vows but I've made you a couple just in case." She tells her, pushing them firmly into her hands with threateningly widening eyes that warn her not to bother arguing.
"Thanks, Pepper-"She begins but before she doesn't get the chance to say anything else, Pepper is still in full, unstoppable flow.
"Everyone knows to meet us there at two. I've arranged everything, it should all be fine."
"Pepper-"Natasha tries again.
"You look amazing and you'll be fine, completely fine, I know it. But it's okay if you're nervous, that's completely normal." Pepper continues, steamrollering determinedly on.
"I'm fine, Pep-"She tries to convince her.
"And don't about Tony, I've sorted him out too, it'll all be fine." Pepper insists firmly to her, "And you know the plan?" She checks, speaking more to herself than to Natasha, "We're going to leave here at half past and then-"
"Pepper, I know the plan." She interrupts raising her voice at last and finally getting through to the other woman, nudging the glass of champagne she had handed her earlier into her hands, deciding she has more need of it while she reassures, "I trust the plan. I trust you. Relax."
Pepper takes a deep breath and a sip of the champagne before she says, "Okay, okay, you're right." She squints at Natasha for a moment then asks curiously, "Aren't you even a little nervous?" Natasha shrugs noncommittally.
"How can you be so calm?" Pepper demands, looking as though this was a luxury she would love to be able to afford, "I feel like I'm more anxious about all of this than you are and you're the one getting married in an hour."
"You're responsible for Stark's behaviour, I'm responsible for Bruce's." Natasha smirks lightly at her.
Pepper takes a larger gulp of champagne at this reminder before she answers. "That." She says, pointing towards Natasha, "That is exactly it." She sighs in despair of her own husband then checks her watch again then takes a deep breath and smiles bracingly at the woman opposite her, "Okay, are you ready? It's time."
"It's time." Tony's voice breaks through the tense silence he's worked himself up into, already counting down the seconds himself to when they'd need to leave. Technically it's two minutes past 'time'.
"Yeah..." He murmurs quietly, fear and anxiety beginning to well up inside him, surpassing the 'pre-wedding jitters' Tony had been insisting he was suffering from.
"Come on, you'll be fine." Tony says encouragingly, following up this almost reassuring comment with a typical trainwreck line of reasoning, "There's no pressure on you. If you screw up she'll still love you. Me on the other hand." He says woefully, "Pepper warned me if there's so much as a stray hair on your suit that it's going to be my fault and she's going to tie me to the bed, and not in the way I usually want her to, there was one time she-"
Bruce, who's heard too many of Tony's tales similar to this one to care for another, especially now, says wearily, "I get the picture."
"Are you sure? It was something." Tony tells him, his eyes shining nostalgically.
Bruce is still following the earlier conversation point and runs his hands together as he says, forcing his voice to remain steady, "And if I screw up, there's less chance of Nat tying me up-"
"Shame." Tony interjects, his lips twitching.
Bruce ignores him, "And more chance of me breaking...Everything." He mutters darkly to his still anxiously twisting hands.
"You're going to be fine." Tony tells him, his voice a little more firm now, but still light, "You're in control, right? You have been forever."
"I'm still dangerous, Tony." He mumbles, shaking his head, his voice barely audible, unable to look at the man opposite him.
"Hey, don't start that now." Tony says, suddenly sharp and serious, seeming to know exactly what's going through Bruce's mind right now.
"What if I'm right?" Bruce snaps slightly, looking up at him again, "What if this is a bad idea? What if I'm putting the woman I love more than anything else in danger for the rest of her life? What if I hurt her? What if-"
"You could never hurt her." Tony says softly, "Never. You love her. That runs too deep for you to ever do anything to hurt her, you know that." Tony pauses when he doesn't get a reply to that then valiantly tries to spur them back into action, "Now come on, we can have more panic in the car."
"This is serious Tony." He says shakily, still not moving, his hands curling into fists, his fingernails biting into his palms, "What if, if she, if she..."
"If she what?" Tony asks, stopping again and rounding on him, his eyes flashing, "Deserves better? Is that what you're thinking?" His silence is enough of a confirmation. "Bullshit." Tony growls firmly, "And she's happy with you; she's happy because of you. She knows you. She trusts you. She wants you. She loves you." He says, taking a step closer with every word until he's standing opposite him, forcing him to meet his eyes, "She's marrying you. Today." He waits a beat then his voice drops the serious notes and becomes off-hand again as he reminds him, "And you know, she's a world class assassin and super spy and scary enough to make me talk so if you run now, pretty sure she'll hunt you down."
A soft smile to dares to cross his lips at this point and something loosens inside him. Tony's right. Natasha made her choice, really, she made her choice years ago. If she's in, he's in. As it should be. As it always has been. As it always will be.
His fingers close gently around the little note in his pocket and his smile broadens and something like hope pulses through him from his fingertips.
"Okay." He says at last, heading for the door, "It's time."
He looks nervous as she goes to him. The music muffles her steps but he seems to know, seems to sense her approach as she draws nearer and nearer to him.
She's completely alone as she walks up the aisle. She didn't need anyone to give her away but herself. What she has is hers to give and hers alone and she had made that perfectly clear while they had been drawing up the plans. Steve had offered, and for a moment she had been tempted, but in the end she had stuck to her guns.
She fixes her eyes back on Bruce's back just a little ahead of her now and a smile tugs at her lips, a strange nervous excitement bubbling in her, whatever she had told Pepper earlier. She remembers that she had also made it equally clear who she intended to give herself to. Him. It could only really be him.
He smiles as she reaches him and gently takes his hand in hers, shifting the little bouquet of flowers she holds to allow her to gently lace her fingers through his. He's shaking slightly but he steadies himself again at her touch. He always does.
She feels something centre and balance in her too. He could do things to her that no-one else could, that no-one else had ever been able to do. If he looked into her eyes the way he was now, like a blind man suddenly gifted with sight and she was the first thing he had ever seen, and the most beautiful thing he thought he would ever see; she felt like he could make her do anything.
She trusts him. She feels safe with him. She is her with him. Unconditionally and unashamedly her. They both had monsters and demons in their hearts that they hid from those that ran screaming when they saw; and that they opened to each other in all their glory.
He knows her better than she'd ever dared to let anyone know her. And he loves her for it all. And she loves him. They're both dangerous; as monsters were made to be. But together...Together it felt as though they were made for this. It felt as though their monsters had made them for this. Made them for love; made them for each other.
The ceremony passes in something like a haze for him. Nerves then excitement then a bliss so complete it seems to numb him to everything but her.
Later all he could remember were details. The scent coming from the little bouquet of flowers she held. The sound of her soft breath in his ear as she drew level with him. The ease that seemed to settle over him as she tenderly threaded her fingers through his. The way she looked at him. The way she smiled. The way she kissed him when they were told that they were now man and wife.
He remembered her. He remembered every single inch of her. When he had forgotten the faces and the flowers and the music he remembered her. The way she made him feel. The way he always feels with her; happy and safe and free. Free of the burden his life had become since the accident. Free of the burden that everyone else saw in his eyes when they looked at him and that only she saw past. Free to be himself. Free to be with her. For now, until death parted them.
It's late now. Too late for her to bother trying to correct his posture anymore. She had lost the battle of trying to shape a dancer out of her doctor a long time ago though she had been nothing if not persistent, and he had been nothing if not patient with her, it had been a battle that had been long since lost before she had ever started fighting it.
A warm darkness has settled over the guests now, most of whom have had their fill of dancing by now and have gone to sit down and drink and talk and watch the few on the floor that remained. Including the bride and groom.
She was certain that no instructor of hers would ever call what they were doing right now 'dancing' in the strictest sense. But Bruce seemed perfectly happy with it. And so was she.
His arms are looped gently around her body, his hands pressed flat to her back more cuddling her than leading her in a proper dance hold but she had long since stopped caring. Her head is resting on his chest listening to his soft breathing as they sway gently on the spot. Her arms are curled around his torso in a similar way his are wrapped around hers. His chin is resting lightly on the top of her head, rising every now and then to allow him to press a tender kiss there instead.
Her eyes are closed, trusting him to lead them in their small circle while she keeps them swaying more or less in time to the slow rhythm of the music that hummed quietly over them.
She glances up when she feels him shift against her, turning his head slightly. She follows his gaze to where Tony is holding court in a dark corner, a small, tittering audience around him, Pepper despairing at his elbow but still smiling at his antics in spite of herself.
He notices her watching him and lightly rubs noses with her, making her blink in surprise then smile before he says, "What about now?" Jerking his head towards Tony.
Her smile broadens, "You got my note then?" She grins at him. He nods. She nestles a little closer to him, settling herself then tells him matter-of-factly that, "Now, you can let your wife handle it."
"Oh." He murmurs, seemingly struck by this notion, looking around them again as he considers it then back down at her as he teases gently, "So there are some benefits to marrying an international assassin then?"
"Mm, a few." She informs him smoothly, standing on her toes to kiss him before she dips back down and nuzzles innocently against his chest once more.
"So can I just send you a list of names, or...?" He asks, smiling at her, his eyes twinkling, his hands running lightly over her back.
"It's already been taken care of." She replies calmly, her face still buried at his shoulder, her lips brushing against his neck as she stands on her toes to press in closer to him.
She feels his answer vibrate through him as he chuckles, "Of course it has."
Pepper and Tony have outdone themselves with this he thinks as he and Natasha turn to face their luxury wedding gift that Bruce decides automatically makes up for all of Tony's antics as his best man in the run-up to the ceremony.
He slides a gentle arm around Natasha's waist; the new ring spins slightly on his finger as he does so, reminding him of its presence and the bond it's struck between them. He gives her waist an absent squeeze. She smiles and nudges gently against him to refocus him.
The jet Tony seemed to have conjured from nowhere a few hours earlier takes off behind them and leaves them completely alone to savour this. The honeymoon neither of them had planned or had thought that they wanted until now stretches before them.
The villa that stands before them overlooks calm still water on one side and distant mountains on the other. It's quiet and isolated; they might be the only people around for miles. And it was entirely theirs, and theirs alone, for two weeks.
He glances down in time to catch the faint, soft smile on her face that told him she is as happy to be here as he is, just the two of them.
She tenderly slides her hand into his and then proceeds to lead him off to investigate. He falls easily into step beside her and lets her steer them around the villa without offering much resistance. Her hand is soft and delicate in his larger, rougher one and it feels nice to be alone with her in the wide open space and calm coolness of the fresh, soft air, especially after the hot, claustrophobic feeling of the jammed reception.
Tony and Pepper have chosen perfectly for them. It's small, quaint and clean with modern, minimalistic furnishings that suit them both that he can already see being put to good use.
The last room they come to, by design rather than happy coincidence he's fairly certain, is their bedroom. Spacious and open with a view over the lake the villa is perched on top of. It was warm and inviting, the large double-bed set pointedly in the middle of the room in particular.
He turns his back on the still water behind him to face his wife instead. His wife... That's still going to take some getting used to, even now.
He's distracted from his vaguely wandering thoughts as she takes a step towards him. His hand tightens gently on her hip, drawing her in closer to him, his attention focussed entirely on her now.
He leans in and tenderly tucked a loose strand of her thick red hair behind her ear. She smiles softly and he answers in kind before he dips down and tenderly kisses her. His hand rests comfortably on her hips and she moves in closer, pressing against him and deepening the kiss.
His hands move smoothly around to settle on the small of her back. One hand remains there, the other glides evenly up her body, following the curve of her spine, finally tangling in her thick hair and tugging slightly, creating another, tauter level of tension between them.
He feels her body relax and soften against him, melting in to him. Her kiss becomes hungrier and rougher, her arms tightening around his torso and pull him in closer to her as she kisses him.
He slips his hands under her, lifting her easily into his arms and holding her against him. She leans down, her forehead pressed gently against his, her lips slightly parted, her eyes holding his as he slowly carries her back towards the bed.
She lightly nuzzles against his neck, the sheets curl around their bodies as she shifts slightly against him. She smiles in satisfaction, feeling his chest rapidly rise and fall beneath her fingers. His eyes are still closed. Heat radiates from him, from both of them.
She leans down and brushes her lips against his, ghosting a quiet 'I love you' against his skin before she draws away, tugging the sheets up with her.
She barely reaches the edge of the bed before he growls his displeasure and gently but firmly tugs her back to him, kissing her to stop her pulling away again. "No." He breathes quietly, his fingertips gently running along the valley between her shoulder blades, making her shiver slightly, "Stay."
She shakes her head, softly kissing his lips again, "I won't be long." She promises him lightly, disentangling herself from him and ignoring the faint whine of displeasure that greets her withdrawal.
Smiling to herself she slithers from the bed and pads away from him, dragging the sheet with her, wrapping it around herself as she crosses the room. She glances back at him, catching him sprawled easily across the bed, his eyes following her progress out of the room. She flashes a soft, wolfish smile at him then slips into the en-suite bathroom attached to the bedroom.
The tiles beneath her feet, large slabs of rough, black stone, are cold beneath her bare feet. She shimmies quickly from the sheet she had wrapped around herself and steps into the shower instead.
She shivers as the jet of water sputters into life above her. It's ice cold but she doesn't mind, it's refreshing, and it heats up quickly. Thick steam soon fills the small glass cubicle around her. She closes her eyes and let's herself indulge in the now warm pulse of the water over her skin.
She feels breath rush sharply past her lips as a soft gasp betrays her as soft hands with rough skin, warmer than the water spiralling around her settle lightly on her hips. She would have turned and had a hand at his throat already if she hadn't expected this, and if her body wasn't so used to his that it seemed to have sensed him before he ever touched her. It was as though her skin could read his fingerprints, recognised him instantly and welcomed him for it.
She smiles as he leans in closer, his chin resting on her shoulder, his lips gently kissing her neck, just below her ear before he murmurs, "You couldn't ask me to spend any part of our wedding night alone."
"Mm, that does seem unfair." She agrees sleekly, tilting her head ever so slightly to glance back at him.
His lips find hers and seal things as he steps in closer still. His hands slide supply from where they were resting on her waist and curve around in front of her instead, clasping neatly over her stomach, his arms wrapping tenderly around her before he pulls her body tenderly against his.
He's warm. He always is. And she lets that warmth envelope her even as he does, his body slowly moulding around hers drawing her in closer and closer to him until she's almost afraid she'll never find herself again; that she'll become lost in him entirely and won't be able to tell where she ends and he begins.
A moment later she wonders if that really matters. She's happy here. Truly, unconditionally happy. Without the almost constant fear that she could lose it at any moment. She won't lose him. She's safe here with him. Warm and happy and safe. In this light, in his arms, she could almost feel normal; could almost feel like she deserved to be.
She feels his lips brush delicately against the nape of her neck, still holding her, almost protectively to him. She has no idea what he's protecting her from, here when they're alone together. But there's a strange comfort to it, and to him, all the same.
The soap he spreads over her skin is cold at first but quickly warms under his encouragement. She gives him his moment of intimacy and tenderness, let's him take care of her as he wants to, closing her eyes and enjoying the feel of his hands moving easily over her, cradling every one of her curves and brushing more lightly over the few scars that pepper her skin here and there as though he knows her body better than she knows it herself.
It's nice, really. Which isn't a word she tends to use often. Nice wasn't a word that life had given her much reason to use in all fairness. But this was. It reminded her of times with him that felt like life times ago. When these moments of intimacy with her she began to realise he craved were stolen and secret. When being enclosed in steam and sweat with him had felt almost dangerous.
The idea that she could have this, that she could have a relationship like this, that she could love someone like this had been terrifying and abstract and impossible. And any moment they had seemed precious because it was likely to slip through her fingers at the first possible opportunity. That those minutes, hours, even whole days that she had had to just be with him seemed as though they could crumble her to dust and burn her until there was nothing but ash if she dared to let them into her heart.
He had won out in the end. There had always been something about him. Something in him that she could never hope to win over. That she had never wanted to. She had come to love that instead. He had something, some part of him that she had never been able to touch. He had seemed to understand her, her deepest secrets, her deepest fears, from the first glance. And she had had been unable to pin him down, to box him up and know just how to handle him.
She had no control over him. There were cracks and scars and chips in him but none she could dig her fingers in to, none she could hold on to, none she could use to manipulate him. He had slipped away from her. And she had chased him. She had been unable to stop herself chasing him, unable to stop trying to know him, trying to understand him, trying to learn how to control him so she could feel safe.
Instead she had learned to love him. She had found an understanding between them while she had been trying to understand him. And she had been so caught up in the impossibility of controlling him, as she did everything else around her, that she missed the possibility of simply trusting him for so long. But once she had, she had done so absolutely and entirely.
And now here they were. Married. Bonded in a way she had never seen for herself. But yet that felt right. It feels right, here with him.
She turns in his arms and stands on her toes to kiss him and murmur in his ear. Words that she was sure would never fall from her tongue or dare to touch her lips. Words that she had been sure had been a game, a trick, a weakness, and never something she never would, or could, consider speaking. Words that were meant for him; and for him alone. Words that she meant with every breath and beat of her heart that she was human, words that swore she was alive. Words that would be true until her last breath and the last beat of her heart. Words that, when he whispered them back to her made her feel more alive than she ever had done and sent soft shivers through her even now.
He glances up as she drifts lazily back into the room. He'd left her alone in the bathroom to dry her hair and change while he indulged a guilty pleasure of hers in procuring some hot chocolate for them to share.
A soft smile tugs at his lips. She pauses in the doorway to watch him, leaning languidly against the frame. Her thick, red hair falls in dense, damp curls around her face. Her eyes are gentle and calm as they watch him. She's acquired another one of his shirts that he doubts he'll see in his possession again any time soon, buttoned up lazily in the front it falls easily over her thighs and sits loosely on her slender frame.
"You look beautiful, Mrs Banner." He tells her quietly, stretching out a hand to her, inviting her back to his side.
A small, mischievous smirk, one that he's come to know so well, plays across her lips at the same time as an eyebrow raises and he knows he's said something wrong.
She consents to return to him, crawling back onto the bed and curling up like a kitten beside him, delicate and almost innocent looking apart from the wolfish grin that still curves her mouth.
She waits until she's kissed him, softly, slowly, before she deigns to clue him in on his misstep, "That's a little presumptuous for a man of science, isn't it?" He raises his eyebrows questioningly at her as she continues to toy with him, brushing a gentle finger over her lips as he studies her. She nips playfully at him before she asks smoothly, "What if I don't want to take your name, Bruce? What if I'd rather not be 'Mrs Banner'."
"Mm, very modern of you." He murmurs gently into her lips as he kisses her again.
"Does it surprise you?" She wants to know, her fingers dancing lightly across his chest, sliding down his body and to the bed beneath him until she finds his hand and gently threads her fingers through his.
"Not at all." He replies. It doesn't. "I know you, Natasha."
"You think so?" She smirks, pressing against him.
"I do." He answers, a faint echo of the vows they'd recently exchanged, "I know who I married, Ms Romanoff." He tells her evenly, watching the corners of her mouth twitch at the deliberate pressure he puts on the last two words.
She considers him for a moment then settles beside him, her head resting on his chest. He lies back, getting comfortable and she follows him, her arms wrapping possessively around his torso, holding him in place and holding him to her. He absently lets his fingers twine through her hair, tangling in the thick crimson curls.
Finally, she glances up at him with bright, playful eyes and suggest with a wicked little kick in her voice, "Maybe you should take my name." He smiles at that and she goes on, adding, "You can be Mr Romanoff."
He slides his hands around her hips and tugs her into his lap, growling firmly, "That's Dr. Romanoff to you." Before he kisses her and steals the smile that was tugging at her lips and feels it melt into their instead.
Her breath huffs out hot against his skin when she exhales contentedly. He absently strokes her hair with one hand, the other brushing lightly against her shoulder, moving in small, tender circles over and over, the motion soothing and familiar.
Her body relaxes on top of him and she sinks in to him, melting against him, their hands entwined. Her head settles on his chest, and he watches her outline gently rise and fall in time with his steady breathing. Her fingers tap out absently against his wrist, the beat of his pulse played out on his skin as she burrows against him.
She shifts slightly and he glances automatically down to her, meeting her eyes, warm and full of a fire that could only ever be hers as she says softly, "I love you, Bruce."
He answers her smile as he answers her words, pressing a soft kiss to the top of her forehead, his hand lightly squeezing hers as he says, "I love you too, Natasha."
A/N: I'm still relatively new to this pairing and to this fandom in general really so any and all feedback on this would be very much appreciated. Thank you for reading!