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Avenger Assembled

Be Complete One Day (IC)

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January 2019 

Gina Evans' House 

 

It was a Sunday morning when Miss Americana had nothing particular to do that Gina awoke without Steve - which was not uncommon in their relationship. His cybernetically enhanced constitution meant that he slept at odd hours and his troubled dreams meant he slept erratically even then. Given how stealthy Steve could be when he wanted to be (especially since he'd figured out all the boards that creaked when he stepped on them in this house), she'd awoken with the other side of the bed empty many times. What was unusual today was there was a note on her endtable, a carefully printed bit of block penmanship inside an Archetech postcard. 

 

FRIAR TUCK. A codeword (from the ancient pre-Internet days of hacking) that everything was fine. I AM IN THE KITCHEN. I WILL MAKE FOOD. YOU SHOULD COME OUT WHEN YOU ARE READY. The last was underlined. Her bathroom was between her and the kitchen anyway. It was easy enough to call up an image from one of the robots zipping around the home to get an image of Steve working in the kitchen on the hash browns and eggs that were the best of what he cooked, and the meticulously set kitchen table with papers on one side and a small wrapped box on the other. 

 

They hadn't done much for Christmas that year outside of their home - but this was one present he'd managed to keep to himself. 

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"When I am ready?" Gina mused aloud, studying the note. It was obviously important somehow, but she wasn't exactly sure what he meant by ready. Sleep in if she wanted? Get dressed for the day before braving the kitchen? She decided she was too hungry and curious to take a shower and get dressed before finding Steve, but compromised by putting on yoga pants and a sweatshirt and brushing her hair before venturing out into the house. "You're up early," she observed as her bare feet hit the kitchen tiles. "Smells good." 

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"It-thank you," said Steve with unusual animation. "I, uh, it is nearly ready." He had learned, from great study and practice, to cook like a diner fry cook - which was what television had taught him was how people ate in Gina's homeland. "I am glad I did not wake you," he added, turning his head to look at her as he stirred the hashbrowns and eggs for her plate. Her share got some of the bacon and some of the hot sauce - his would have more of the first and much more of the second. Peering at the table, Gina could see the small box in the bright blue wrapping paper on the table, next to a three-ring binder thick with papers that bore no title. 

 

Steve could see her seeing it. "I hoped we could talk over breakfast. I have not cooked for you in some time." 

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"I'm not sure anything short of picking me up and shaking me would've woken me," Gina admitted. "I was up till five reworking the security firewalls for Claremont just to keep all the little metahuman script kiddies busy." She yawned and stole a piece of bacon, then set it down again when Steve mentioned wanting to talk. Talking wasn't necessarily bad... but it wasn't exactly good, either. And Steve was exactly the sort of guy who would think it was appropriate to provide a gift to accompany bad news. "All right," she said, just a little bit carefully. "I've got the time if you do." She took the plate he handed to her and carried it to the table, sitting down at the spot obviously laid out for her. 

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Steve joined her after just a few minutes, taking the opportunity of being alone at the kitchen counter both to settle himself and to make sure he actually had something to eat. Once he and Gina were sitting together at the table, he ate, and passed her the salt, and it took him a moment or two to realize he hadn't said anything for too long. "I have been thinking," he said seriously, "about the future." He folded his hands on the table in front of him, then thought better of it and reached out one hand to put on hers. "Since my arrival in this dimension, I believed I had no future - that whatever time I had on Earth-Prime with you was just a passing moment in a life that would end in darkness, and that I would only be deluding myself to imagine anything greater." They had worked together to fight a great many powerful enemies in that time, many of whom could easily have ended their lives. "I no longer believe that to be true." 

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Gina hadn't so much as picked up her fork, fiddling with her napkin instead until Steve stilled her fidgeting with his hand. She thought back to the first night they'd spent together, how sad they'd both been, how despairing of ever having anything better. They'd come a long way from that, she thought, they had a pretty good gig going... if you were looking at it from the perspective of somebody in a deep hole of depression. To anybody, well, anybody even a little bit normal, it probably still seemed like a complete disaster, especially for Steve. "Well, you deserve better," Gina offered, trying her best to make her voice sound like she meant it. She was terrible at lying outside her Miss A armor. "You deserve to be happy, whatever that looks like for you." 

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"I..I think so too," said Steve, looking profoundly relieved. He'd thought for years that even thinking so would be the height of arrogance, but years of friendship, of love, and therapy had helped convince him otherwise. "And so do you. You have been very understanding of my...mistakes." He was silent for a moment or two, considering his next move. "And I understand that there are things I cannot give you, that a normal man could. I think that we can both have something better than I have now - that we both deserve " Tentatively, he pulled over his file of folders. "I have done the research. This can be done quietly, without attracting attention, but we will both benefit - now, and for the rest of our lives." Despite his usual reserve, the thought of having lives to spend together made his voice tremble. 

 

He took the box suddenly and tore the wrapping in a sudden movement of his fingers - and handed the small, instantly recognizable black leather ring box to Gina. "Gina - will you marry me?"

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Back when Gina had first come into her powers, she'd constructed tests to measure the cognition speed of her newly enhanced brain. Even back then, she'd been able to think at something like twenty times human average, and a bit more when it came to computer processing. She'd only gotten faster since. As a result, the experience of having a completely blank mind was rather novel. She stared at the box, feeling the runaway train of breakup-panic speed off into the distance without a blessed thing to replace it. "Steve... I..." She looked up at his face, a little startled by the naked emotions there. "Are you sure?" 

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"Yes. Now, and forever, I am sure." Believing in forever had been, if anything, even harder than making the decision about what sort of ring to buy. He opened the box for Gina, showing the band inside, a gold band set with diamonds cut close against the metal. The gems were cut small enough that her fingers wouldn't catch in machinery, and the diamonds themselves were made by science rather than naturally - but he decided she didn't need to know that just then. 

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Gina stared at him for another second, then reached out all at once and grabbed the ring, box and all, pulling it in towards her chest before she could sabotage herself the way she always did. "Yeah, okay. Yes. Yes." She ran the tips of her fingers over the ring, the analytical part of her mind calculating color, cut, clarity, the weight of the materials and filing them away as mostly unimportant. It was cool and solid and real and hers. She looked up at Steve again. "We're probably both crazy," she told him solemnly. "But no takebacks." 

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Steve would have wept, if biology allowed for such a thing. "We have always been so. And no takebacks. I love you." He stepped around the table with a smooth economy of motion, picked her up with casual ease, and planted a long, lingering kiss on her lips. Perhaps in some objective assessment of reality it wasn't perfect - but it was still the best. When they were done, he set her down, trembling slightly for reasons besides fatigue. "We will decide what we want to do..." He smiled a little. "A few people have seen the ring," he admitted, "but all of them discreet. They had plans, but I thought something that was ours was better." 

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Gina cocked her head at him and smiled a little, her eyebrows going up. "Oh my god, you told the Interceptors you were going to propose, didn't you," she guessed. The thought was enough to have her laughing. "I can't begin to imagine what kind of strategies they must have come up with, especially since they think you're dating Miss Americana the high-profile CEO superhero." She patted him on the chest with both hands. "Thank you so much for not listening to them. I would've hated to die of embarrassment on such a nice day." 

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"I came up with some myself," said Steve, smiling back. He put his hand on hers, holding it over his heart so she could feel the powerful rhythm of cybernetically-enhanced muscle. That was one thing he still had inside him that was his, anyway. "Here, let me show you..." Opening the folders on the table, he showed her what was actually a fairly detailed series of arguments about the benefits of marriage: social under typical Earth-Prime cultural conditions, financial under the particular laws of the United States of America and New Jersey, and its many health benefits. The latter was especially detailed; now that he was growing more convinced he might not die imminently, Steve had found himself thinking about Gina's all-too-human body and the many things that could befall it. But that was a discussion for another day. "You see? A multi-part, multi-front strategy that would have solved the conflict from multiple vectors. But...it is better things happened how they did." He looked down again at the ring on her finger, and couldn't help but smile. 

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Gina scanned the flowchart, one eyebrow raised as her eidetic memory absorbed the fairly significant amount of data. "Yeah, I'd say it's just as well," she agreed dryly. "As romantic as it sounds to be argued into accepting a proposal, this was probably better all around." She hesitated for a moment then looked up at him, pursing her lips with sudden nerves. "It's going to be complicated," she told him. "I've... I've been working on it, but I'm not ready to go public yet. I don't know when I'm going to be. And I don't want to marry you as Miss Americana. That would just be messed up. I'm not sure how we're going to make it all work out in front of the public."  

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Steve nodded in understanding; part of growing for both of them had been learning to accept what the other could and could not do. "It can be private," he suggested. "Miss Americana will go into a retreat," which was not uncommon given the need to repair or replace the android, "and return with a husband." He had given this some thought. Considering the details of the ceremony had been a difficult question, but fortunately that was not his job to figure out. At least, not alone. "Few care who I marry. You will have a harder task than I will. Though my friends will approve." He had certainly asked enough of them for ideas. "We should discuss that," he said. 

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