It was a day Maria Hill had never fantasized about, at least not up until five months ago. She had never been one of those tweens (or younger) who had their entire wedding day mapped out before even being allowed to date. Pretty much because she never thought she'd ever get married. Ever.
Meeting Jack changed all that. Not only was she getting married, but she had quit her job and was well on her way to being a mom. Any nervousness Maria felt had more to do with uninvited aliens crashing the party than actually getting cold feet. She and Jack were a team. They had each other's backs. Most importantly, they loved each other without question.
However, had it not been for the growing bump between her hips, Maria would've gladly remained a "Hill" for a few more years. But her strong Catholic upbringing, though she hadn't been to Mass in decades, made her want to do right by the kid. They deserved to be a Flanagan.
The dress she had picked out was simple, yet comfortable and stylish. The lace, cap sleeves gave way to an open v-back held closed by a satin ribbon. There were no buttons to fiddle with. No tight corset to make breathing any more difficult. Even Pepper and Natasha had approved of her choice. Not that she needed their approval, but it was nice to have all the same.
Speaking of approval, Maria was fairly certain Jack would appreciate the dress's bra-less design. Especially when it came time to take it off later in the evening. The only thing that wasn't quite right was the fact she hadn't had a chance to do something about her Eagle, Globe and Anchor tattoo. Maria had been thinking about getting it covered up with a Scottish thistle and the words 'Mo muirnín' replacing the Marine Corps motto of 'Semper Fi'. As far as she was concerned, Jack had her six better than the Corps ever did.
"Please don't let anything blow up today… Please don't let anything blow up today…" Maria muttered under her breath as Pepper helped her step into the gown.
"Don't worry," Pepper replied. "Rhodey and Bruce are on Tony duty. They won't let him get too carried away."
"Good," Maria replied, pulling the sleeves up her arms.
Needless to say, the dress fit all her curves beautifully. The bump was conspicuous, but not a complete scene-stealer. If she held her bouquet of pale blue flowers just right, no one would really be able to tell she wasn't in peak physical condition.
There was a light knock at the door followed by a female voice. "It's Rhona. May I come in?"
"Sure," Maria called back. "I'm just about ready."
"Oh, love, you look a vision," her soon-to-be mother-in-law breathed. "I cannae tell yeh how glad I am yeh two found each other."
Maria's smile turned a bit watery. She couldn't help it. Pregnancy hormones were a complete bitch.
"Me too," she answered with a catch to her voice.
"Oh, now. I didnae come up here to make yeh cry," Rhona admonished softly. "I wanted t'tell yeh that yer grandfather's downstairs. Dressed in full uniform, no less."
"He is a General." Maria's answer was fairly wry. "Retired or not."
Rhona only waved a hand dismissively. "Now, the real reason I came up here was to give yeh these." She opened a hand to display a triple-stranded pearl choker. "These were my mothers and hers before her. Yeh'll be the fourth in the family to wear them. I brought them in case yeh didnae have something old."
Again, Maria had to clamp down on her impulse to tear up. The last thing she wanted was to walk down the aisle with mascara running down her cheeks, and looking like a cross between Grumpy Cat and a racoon.
The pearls were the perfect addition to the dress and veil. "Thank you, Rhona. They're gorgeous."
"Okay, checklist," Pepper said, trying to avoid an awkward pause. "Something old. Check. Something new…"
"My dress counts, right?" Maria asked.
"I think it should," Pepper answered. "Something borrowed. Check. The diamond earrings Tony gave me for my birthday. And something blue. Check."
Pepper then handed her the bouquet of pale blue flowers. For a moment, Maria had to choke back a feeling of 'shit just got real'. Her whole world was changing, and there was nothing she could really do to stop it. Not that she wanted to. But the idea of having a family was something she was going to have to get used to.
"Alright, love. Let's not keep them waiting," Rhona said as the last preparations were finished.
"Okay, I'm ready."
Pepper smiled and nodded before all three women headed downstairs. Rhona went to cue up the string quartet Pepper had hired. Standing at the bottom of the staircase, in full Class As, was Maria's grandfather. The last time she had seen General Hill was at her graduation commencement from West Point. She immediately snapped to attention when she saw him: shoulders back, chin up, back straight.
"At ease, Maria," he half-chuckled when she reached his side. "I'm waking you down the aisle, not to a firing squad."
"Yes, sir." It took a real conscious effort to at least relax her shoulders.
"Before we go out there, there's something else I want to give you." Maria watched as he pulled something from his pocket. Her eyes widened when she recognized the light blue ribbon.
Learning the deeds and histories of every Congressional Medal of Honor winner had been something every West Point Cadet learned practically from day one. Maria swallowed thickly as her grandfather placed it in her hand.
"General, I --"
"The greatest honor bestowed upon me has been having you as my granddaughter," he interrupted with a noticeable catch in his voice. "You have served this nation, and the world, with courage, honor, and integrity. I think you deserve this."
"I -- I don't know what to say," she replied, trying like hell not to break down. "'Thank you' just doesn't cover it."
"You're welcome," he smiled and leaned in to kiss her forehead.
Maria then wrapped the blue ribbon around her fingers before grasping the stem of her bouquet and taking her grandfather's arm. The ceremony awaited.
It was Pepper whose nod tipped off the string quartet to wrap up their rendition of Pachelbel's Canon in D Major. At their cue, every guest got to their feet and turned as Maria and General Hill started the slow walk down the grassy aisle created in hers and Jack's backyard.
The day couldn't have been more perfect. Unlike the winter polar vortices that had blown in sub-zero temperatures and blizzards, the summer one had brought with it pleasant seventies and a crystal-clear blue sky.
Maria, however, only barely noticed the weather. She had complete tunnel vision. The only thing she was focused on was the hunk in a tux standing at the altar waiting for her. Jack could rock a suit (or a bath towel) like no tomorrow, and in her humble opinion, not even James Bond could wear a tux like Jack.
The abrupt end to the wedding march brought Maria's attention back to the present and she handed off her bouquet and grandfather's medal to Pepper who took her place as Maria's Maid of Honor. The preacher then cleared his throat before speaking.
"We are gathered here today to witness the union of Maria Grace Hill to Jack Ian Flanagan. Whoso gives this woman to this man?"
Her jaw damn near hit the ground when every Avenger and SHIELD agent invited, and her grandfather, all replied in unison. "We do."
Again, it took a herculean effort to keep herself from crying, but Maria managed to keep it together. For someone who'd never thought she'd had much in the way of family, it was nice to be proven wrong.
The rest of the ceremony seemed to go by in a blur. Maria repeated the standard set of vows at the appropriate times, all the while thinking "well, no shit." She and Jack had made their own set of vows and promises over the year plus since they'd been together. Cheating on either side would not be tolerated, and they both knew that. Just like they knew that death would be the only thing that could permanently sever whatever bond they had. Rings were exchanged, and before Maria knew it, they had been pronounced husband and wife.
"You may now--"
But Jack had beaten the preacher to it by wrapping his arms around her and nearly lifting her off her feet as he kissed her. Cheers, applause and a few whistles broke out amongst the guests, but Maria didn't notice. She was too focused on her new husband.