Ch. 43

A week later as Bucky looked out at the crowd of people in the congregation, his eyes widened. Open invitation indeed, he thought. In addition to the regular church members, he could see half the retirement center, nearly everyone from the homeless shelter he and Josh volunteered at, some of his buddies from the support group, and almost every single New York-based S.H.I.E.L.D. operative, including Director Fury and the Avengers. It was so packed that it was standing room only in the back. He was glad that they had decided open the wedding ceremony up to everyone they knew, but he had a sinking suspicion that they were probably violating a half dozen fire marshall codes by cramming so many people into the converted warehouse. It was a motley mix of people, some sporting dark suits and long gowns, some wearing ripped jeans and dirty sweatshirts. And yet, Bucky felt a connection to every single one of them. In one way or another, each person in the building had touched his life one way or another in the past year, shaping him from the man he was to the man he wanted to be.

Erica and Michael were sitting near the front, their son cradled in his father's arms. Josh sat next to them, a smile on his face. In the row behind them sat Natasha and Clint, his arm around her shoulders. Next to them was Pepper in a lilac skirt and matching blouse, already dabbling her eyes with a small handkerchief. Bruce was seated between her and Betty and gave Bucky a thumbs up when he caught his eye. Sam was grinning up at Bucky, holding hands with Alice, who had volunteered with him during the church babysitting gig. Thor couldn't make it on such short notice during the holidays, but had ordered flowers for the event as a wedding gift and the heady scent of red and white roses was almost overpowering.

"Nervous?" Steve asked, standing next to him. He was wearing a tuxedo that matched Bucky's but his cumberband was dark blue instead of white.

"No . . . yes," Bucky admitted.

"Relax, buddy. Soon, it'll all be over and it'll just be the two of you," he told Bucky, placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder and giving it a quick squeeze.

Bucky's mouth quirked up into a smile. Just the two of us, he thought. Alone with his wife. He was definitely looking forward to that.

The music began and Bucky stood straighter. Slowly, Stacy walked down the aisle, wearing a deep navy empire-waisted maxi dress, her hair a wild cascade of strawberry blond curls. She was carrying both red and white roses in her matron of honor bouquet. Her steps were sure and her smile was wide as she beamed at them.

She took her place opposite Steve and then, the music changed. Everyone stood and Bucky saw his bride for the first time that afternoon.

As he first saw her, all that went through his head was a prayer. "Thank you, Lord, for opening my eyes. Thank you for bringing us to this day. Thank you for . . . . all that You've done."

Monica walked down the aisle with Tony standing in for her father, sporting a flashy velvet tux. She was wearing a sleek diamond white satin mermaid gown that hugged every curve. She had contacted Pepper to ask for help and within three days, Pepper's favorite designer had created a custom dress for her that fit her to a T.

In her hands was a bouquet of white roses so large that she looked like she was struggling to carry the cascade of blooms. Her hair was in soft curls, a diamond tiara holding her veil in place. She gave him a quivering smile, her eyes shiny and bright.

Bucky's pulse raced as he stared as his wife, his heart thumping painfully in his ears. He couldn't tear his eyes away as she approached.

"Who gives a blessing to this union?" the pastor asked as Tony and Monica stopped in front of him.

"Well, her folks do, but since they're not here, I guess I do," Tony replied goodnaturedly. He kissed Monica on the cheek. "Go get 'em, tiger."

She squeezed his hand. "Thanks. For everything," she whispered.

"That's what family does. Even the annoying loudmouth uncle types," he said with a wink before turning to go take his seat next to Pepper.

The pastor beamed at the crowd in front of him. "It is my very great pleasure to see our church packed with so many people. It's a testament to how many lives these two young people, Monica and Bucky, have touched. We were made by God to live in community with Him and with one another. As I see all the people who've come out today to celebrate this joyous union, it warms my heart. We were made to be a family. We were made to love one another and to show each other God's love and grace. That was the meaning behind Christ's sacrifice, bringing wholeness, reconciliation, renewal. We're a family, children of a loving Father, sons and daughters who were meant to live depending on and caring for one another."

He grinned down at Monica and Bucky. "This is the second time I've had the honor of officiating a ceremony that brings together a union that has quite literally spanned the century." He nodded towards both Steve and Stacy. "And I couldn't be more honored."

As Bucky and Monica recited their vows, Bucky couldn't help but stare at her. Because on the one hand, it was Monica, a woman he knew better than every other, one of his best friends, a familiar companion, a trusted pal who had always been there for him, a fierce advocate who always watched out for him. But, on the other, she was this gorgeous, amazing, enticing woman that thrilled him, a jolt of electricity passing between them whenever they touched, his heart pounding whenever he saw her.

This is what love really is, he thought as they placed the rings on each other's fingers. The best of both worlds. He'd always assumed that love would be all fireworks and breathless glances, and while that was definitely a part of it, it was only a weak shadow of what the fullness of love was. Because he could see her, at the birth of their first child, at the birth of their first grandchild and every moment in between. He could see sharing his life with her.

And he couldn't be more excited for it to start.

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Given the hundreds of people attending their wedding, Bucky and Monica had settled on just having a short, simple cake reception afterwards. The truth was, Bucky was more than eager to start their honeymoon. Tony had provided a limo, waiting outside, full of all of their luggage for their week-long vacation. Monica had told him earlier that morning that she'd packed the little red nightgown from Thanksgiving for their wedding night and Bucky had nearly choked on his coffee when he'd heard that information.

Instead of a traditional cake, they opted for cupcakes. A local bakery that Erica and Michael frequented had been contacted, but when they found out who it was for, the bakery donated them for free. It seemed that their store had been saved by Captain America himself during the battle with the Chitauri and they were eager to show their gratitude.

So, row upon row of tiered cupcake stands were set up, nearly forty all together with a variety of different flavors. A thousand cupcakes in vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, and a dozen other varieties were lined up to one side on long tables. Next to them, the church had set up coffee urns for the adults and huge punch bowls full of lemonade for the kids in attendance.

After taking a few pictures feeding a cupcake to each other, Bucky and Monica began to mingle with their guests, thanking them for attending. Monica spotted Stacy standing to one side, yawning and holding a glass of lemonade.

She tackled her friend in a tight hug, nearly spilling her drink. "I can't believe that we finally made it."

"I can. I knew you guys would," Stacy declared firmly.

"Hey, don't you want some coffee? It's fresh," Monica said, her brow furrowed.

"No. I'm good."

Monica's eyes widened. "You're pregnant?"

"What makes you say that?" Stacy countered, a guilty look on her face.

"I've known you for years and you have never, ever turned down a cup of coffee. Not once."

"I wanted to wait until after the wedding to tell you," Stacy explained.

"How far along are you?"

"Just a few weeks."

"How are you feeling?"

"Honestly? Like I can barely keep my eyes open," Stacy confessed, rubbing her eyes and stifling yet another yawn.

"You should sit down," Monica insisted.

"I'm pregnant, not infirm. I'll be fine."

"A baby? Oh my goodness . . ."

"I know."

"This changes everything," Monica said.

"Yeah."

"But for the better. More people to love. And now I get to be Tía Monica again!"

"Yes. Because I'm going to need you more than ever now," Stacy said, her eyes glazing over a bit at the prospect of becoming a mother.

"We're here for you and Steve. Both me and Bucky," Monica assured her.

"Thank you. We're going to need it," she replied as she hugged her friend tightly.

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"You're going to be a father," Bucky said accusingly when he tracked down Steve a half hour later. He and Monica had been taking photos with nearly everyone at the reception when she had spilled the beans.

Steve scratched the back of his neck and looked apologetic. "Sorry . . . sorry . . . how'd you find out?" he asked sheepishly.

"Monica offered Stacy coffee."

Steve shook his head, a grin on his face. "Didn't want to take attention away from your big day," he explained.

Emotion overcame Bucky and his voice wavered. "You're going to be a dad." He grabbed his best friend and gave him a hug, patting him on his back in congratulations. Then, he held the back of Steve's neck and stared him straight in the eyes. "Who would have thought it? You and me marrying best friends?"

Steve batted his hand away and laughed. "Worked out pretty well though, didn't it?"

Bucky thought about it. He thought about all the things they'd lost, the journeys they'd both been on, the trials they both went through to get where they were.

"It sure did."

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Snuggled in the back of Tony's limo together a few hours later, Bucky gave a sigh of relief. They were married. They were together.

"Happy, Mrs. Barnes?" he asked, turning to his wife and putting an arm around her shoulder.

"Deliriously, Sergeant Barnes," she said. "I love you."

"I love you, too." After a beat, he continued. "So, it looks like we're going to get roped into babysitting the Rogers' kids after all," he teased.

"Well," she said with a come hither grin and crooked a finger, "We'll just have to even the score," she added as she pulled Bucky even closer.

"I like the way you think," Bucky said roguishly as he took his wife in his arms.

It was the beginning of a wonderful wedding night.

It was the beginning of a wonderful honeymoon.

It was the beginning of a wonderful life together.

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Bucky still has good days and bad days.

He still has nightmares from time to time, even if they are few and far between.

He still winces when a blood-soaked memory from the past comes roaring back to life.

But, he's getting better and stronger everyday.

He knows that he's loved by his friends, by his wife, by God.

And, he's found that it makes every struggle worth it.


Author's Note-

1. Tía - Aunt

2. Yes, I made the colors for the wedding red, white, and blue. I couldn't resist!

3. Thank you so very much for everything! I've spent over a year and a half on these two stories and your outpouring of kindness and support has been overwhelming!

At the moment, I'm going to mark these stories complete. However, I do have some very concrete ideas about Steve and Stacy and Bucky and Monica and their future families, so I am definitely thinking of expanding on their stories, perhaps with a series of short stories. If you're interested in me continuing with these characters or if you've enjoyed these stories at all, please let me know in a review! You can always follow me on here or on tumblr (creativereadingfanfiction). Also, feel free to PM me anytime!

Thank you again, for everything! You have been the most wonderful readers. I'm going to miss every, single one of you. You have been so uplifting and kind. I feel so blessed to have known you!

Again, the best gift you could ever give me is letting me know in a review that you've liked this story. Even if you haven't commented on any of the previous chapters, I would greatly appreciate it if you could leave a review and tell me that you've enjoyed this story.