The pre wedding ceremony events had been going on for the last two hours. The wedding party pictures began promptly at 90 minutes prior to the start of the wedding and finished 45 minutes before the ceremony. I watch as a harried wedding planner herded the Potts family into the open air garden lining up the family for the photos. It was a sea of red hair, from a deep russet colour to the bright red of a fire engine. The men stood in the back watching everyone while the kids ran and played all but ignoring the poor wedding planner.
An older woman emerged from the auditorium; he could recognize the elder Mrs. Potts anywhere. An older more stern, if that was even possible, version of Pepper. She said a few words to group and they all lined up for the picture. They are finished in twenty five minutes and are then ushered into the hall to be replaced by the other family. This group is far smaller, far more solemn in comparison to the previous rambunctious Potts tribe. They listen to the photographer smile politely and are gone from the garden in less than ten minutes. I sit in my basement staring at the screens displaying the garden; it is a cool day not a cloud in the sky. June 24th, so far I survived 12 hours the worst day of my life.
"Tony! Hey, Tony where are you man?" Rhodey asks from the top of the basement stairs. I stare at the screen for a bit longer. I can hear his shoes clicking across the floors as he approaches my chair. He stops a few paces away from me.
"Did you reroute one of my drones?" Rhodey asks in a disbelieving and disapproving voice.
"Uh yeah I needed it for a few minutes or hours." I say absently,
"What? Tony I am begging you please stop doing things that would upset National Security." Rhodey adjusts his tie dropping into a chair next to me.
"National Security, really you do know that I am Iron Man right?" I sink deeper into the chair curling my toes absently.
"Forget national security I can guarantee Global security, Galactic security too, not many other people in this world can claim that!" I say smugly turning away from best friend. I am trying to be upbeat hoping to deflect the forthcoming emotional questions. It almost worked too, almost.
"Ok Mr. Avenger, why did you reroute my drone thousands of miles off its position observing an active war zone?" I can hear the smugness in his voice relishing in the fact that I was caught with my hand down my pants.
"Just playing big brother" I clear my throat trying not to meet his eyes. The drone focuses on a large building with an extensive garden and atrium. A few large white tents are visible; the drone flies low giving a perfect view of a few workers still arranging the last of the floral decorations. Rhodey exhales a deep breath; I know he is looking at me expectantly wanting to but just not sure how to broach the topic.
"Why did she invite me, Rhodey?" I rise from the chair putting on my jacket and I try not look at him.
"Maybe she needs closure as much as you, just her closure did not involve upsetting my job!"
"Fine since it so important to you I will put it back"
"Jarvis return the drone to its previous mission" I say quietly sitting down in my chair again to pull on my shoes, it creaks lightly under the new pressure. I need to remember to replace that.
"Returning drone to the co-ordinates 32.0162° N, 71.6926° E." The AI says in a clipped tone.
I stand up adjusting my belt as a team of small cameras surround me, projecting an image of me on the screens. I adjust my hair turning my back to Rhodey
"Tony you ran one of the most extensive background checks on a man in modern history, I thought you got some closure there." He moves from the chair to stand next to me his image invading the cameras. I ignore him still admiring myself in the mirror.
"You know you don't have to go today, what you guys had was something special and…."
I interrupt him before he even finishes the thought. I cannot bear him rehashing those memories right now; I just want the remaining twelve hours of this day to end so I can go back to my life. I have not been able to think straight since someone delivered the invitation to the house. I wanted to burn it so many times, but what did I expect I told her to move on. Now why do I feel like an ass just because she listened to me, for once in her life.
"I have to go, she invited me, Rhodey" I adjust my jacket as I walk out of the basement laboratory and into the garage area.
"Jarvis don't wait up for me okay"
I get into my Audi waiting two beats for Rhodey to get in the passenger side.
"Don't worry about me, I got this" I put the car into gear speeding out of the garage.
The wedding party is dressed, ready and waiting outside the doors of the hall patiently awaiting the start of the ceremony. A white stretch limo sits on the curb the quiet hum of the engine disturbing the sereneness of the garden paradise. Rhodey and I are under a tree a few feet away waiting for the party to enter the hall. I tell myself I don't want to disturb the wedding party's walk in since we arrived after the designated seating time. But I know that I just wanted to be the first to lay eyes on Pepper before everyone else especially her fiancé. I want to steal that small joy from him. He wouldn't know nor would he care but to me it was a small victory.
The musical prelude starts quietly in the distance signaling the start of the ceremony the doors open and the wedding party start their processional. The limo door opens and the chauffeur exits making his way around to the far right hand door facing the main doorway. I lean forward expectantly; I want to see her in all her beauty. Her father approaches the door extending his hand, because of my angle I have to wait for her to emerge fully from the vehicle. I watch as her father tells her something then smiles warmly. She emerges a beautiful angel all in white with red hair, absolute perfection. I look at the back of her head calmly willing her to look at me. I need to see her face for one moment, to see her happy again. She looks at the few stragglers from the bridal party waiting for their turn walk down the aisle, waving slightly. I take one step away from the tree willing her to look at me, my eyes boring into the back of her head.
"Please just turn baby, look at me one last time"
She grips her father's hand and they turn toward the door, I can hear the live band playing in the distance. She starts to walk up the aisle. I turn my back on the entire scene unable to bear the fact that I am outside watching her walk away from me. I look at the parking lot, feeling Rhodey shift beside me waiting patiently.
"We going in or what?"
"Yeah" I clear my throat "yeah let's go"
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God, and in the presence of these witnesses, to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony; which is an honorable estate, instituted of God. It is therefore, not to be entered into unadvisedly, but reverently, discreetly. Into this holy estate these two persons come now to be joined.
I sit in the back row craning my neck to see her face. I am sad I can't see her face but I take pleasure in staring openly at her ass.
"Who gives this woman to this man?"
I am twisting my hands now, why didn't I bring my tablet; I need to do something with my hands before I explode.
"If any person here can show cause as to why these two people should not be joined in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace."
My eyes are glued to the floor, my hands are sweaty and I take quick short breaths in an effort to remain calm. I glance at Rhodey; he looks me in the eye for second and starts to lift his hand. I grab his hand wrapping my arm around his neck pulling him close. He struggles slightly but I tighten my hold around his neck. The moment passes in silence with some members of the congregation chuckling slightly. The priest looks around the room again and then resumes with the ceremony. I look to Pepper and she is smiling at the groom, she looks gorgeous. A quiet choking sound alerts me to Rhodey who is still in my grasp. I slacken my hold on him grinning sheepishly; he angrily shoves me off the rest of the way. I slide over to the very end of the pew my eyes moving from a disgruntled Rhodey to the soon to be happily married couple.
"I Virginia Potts, do you take this man to be my lawfully wedded husband, and in the presence of these witnesses I vow that I will do everything in my power to make my love for him a growing part of my life."
"And will you continue to strengthen it from day to day and week to week with your best resources? Will you stand by him in sickness or in health, in poverty or in wealth, and will you shun all others and keep yourself to him alone as long as you both shall live?"
I am tugging absently at my tie; I feel the sweat gathering on my forehead and under my jacket. When did it get so stuffy in here? I contemplate how much of an interruption it would cause if I open one of the windows so I could breathe.
"The wedding ring is a symbol of eternity. It is an outward sign of an inward and spiritual bond which unites two hearts in endless love. And now as a token of your love and of your deep desire to be forever united in heart and soul, you may place a ring on the finger of your groom."
"I give you this ring as a symbol of my love and faithfulness to you."
"I give you this ring as a symbol of my love and faithfulness to you." I quietly repeat after her, in my own pathetic way imagining myself on the altar.
"You may now kiss your wife"
I look away shutting my eyes as they lean toward each not opening them until the entire room is empty. Rhodey left to watch the couple takes photos in the garden. I sit all alone on the wooden pews, realizing that I have never been more alone in my entire life.