The bridge of the Waverider is shiny, polished and blank, every surface spotless, the screens rid of dust, broken parts either fixed or stashed away in an empty broom closet.
Is there such a thing as a broom closet on a futuristic space ship?
Astra blames these pointless questions on her nervousn—her anger.
“Tell me again why it has to be me?” she asks into the void.
It’s dark outside, and the ship’s lights are off, a trail of candles lining the walls and a single corridor. It’s the one leading to Charlie’s room. She’s been holed up there for seven days now, since their last mission, to be exact, mute trails of punk music occasionally sneaking past Gideon’s soundproof walls.
Otherwise, no sign of life.
Astra has to admit that this plan might just be the most extreme route to getting Charlie out of her self-imposed isolation, which means that it should be right up her alley.
She exhales. This is a plan. A mission. She’s part of the Legends now, and as much as that admission makes the blood curdle in her veins, it means she has to pull her weight.
The month they’ve had since bringing down the Fates’ empire has been mostly uninspired. Two missions—one of them extracting a cat of all people who’d broken into the former Time Bureau and somehow made her way into a medieval European village, where she’d managed to stage an elaborate uprising against the ruling class—aren’t what one would call eventful.
Certainly, it’s been time enough to get to know the Legends, which means it’s in no way been what Astra signed up for.
(That Zari’s been able to give her some decent fashion tips is beside the point. Astra won’t thank her, because the way she sees it, it’s this damn team’s fault that her life is all uprooted, anyway.
And Zari’s little smile after her makeover had been downright insulting. The warmth in Astra’s chest was just… a side effect of their disgusting food fabricator. Or maybe she’s reacting badly to the chemicals that go into nail polish on Earth.)
Especially if the one Legend she actually wants to know has been hiding out in her room.
“Astra, you good?” Sara asks into her comm. “Rory and Lita are all set to go. You remember your lines?”
“I’d be concerned for myself if I didn’t,” Astra snorts. “They’re two words.”
“We practiced four, but whatever, I guess, as long as you get those right,” Sara sighs.
“I’m so excited!” Mona squeals in the background.
“Remember, no pressure,” Ava adds evenly, and Zari blows out air dramatically. Honestly, it gives Astra that last bit of confidence she needs. Zari is clearly jealous, and there’s time to examine that later, because this moment is Astra’s.
“Don’t you worry,” she says, grinning. “I’ll kill it.”
“That’s not really—” Ava starts, but Astra cuts off her comm, crumples the thing up between her fingers and discards it into an air shaft.
She crosses the room in confident strides.
Music starts up, a cheesy song that’d never go on either of their playlists, and almost at that exact moment, Astra hears the click of the heat gun and then a roar as fire crashes against Charlie’s door. It’s surprisingly violent, which makes it all the stranger that it hadn’t been Astra’s idea but Lita’s.
Astra can’t stand children, but she appreciates Mick’s kid, if only because she’d been the only one able to break through Charlie’s funk long enough to drag her with them to bring down that megalomaniac cat’s peasant empire.
“What the fuck are you on about, mate?”
Despite herself, Astra can feel her shoulders relax at the sound of Charlie’s voice, her hand slip into the pocket of her suit to fidget with the box.
“Yeah, alright, kid, but for you only,” Charlie says down the corridor. Exactly the way they’d planned it. “The hell are all these candles doing here?”
The seconds of Charlie’s walk to the bridge seem like the longest of Astra’s life. She tilts her head to the side to keep from staring too intensely at the entrance, studies herself in the blank panels.
She looks good enough, she supposes. Her curls fall loosely into some kind of mini-updo, her makeup lighter than she’d usually prefer it. She’s wearing her classic red suit, but without shoulder pads this time, loosely fitted, made out of thick, soft material. High heels, of course, because she still doesn’t like to feel small—and because they make her look good.
It doesn’t really matter, of course, and Astra isn’t fretting, because this isn’t the real thing, it’s just the beginning of a mission. It’s just Charlie.
This next song really isn’t better. Astra regrets crushing her comms, because now, there’s no one she can tell to shut off this damn cheesiness. Couldn’t they have chosen something that Charlie would like, instead of this crap?
We staked out on a mission to find our inner peace
Clearly, it was a mistake to put Behrad in charge of the music. Retro for him apparently means early twenty-first century.
Make it everlasting so nothing’s incomplete
It’s easy being with you—
It’s not even true. Nothing is easy, and especially not other people. Especially not Charlie. She’s more complicated than every hell creature Astra’s ever met and John Constantine thrown together. She’s a rollercoaster, a whirlwind, a chaos.
Strolling so casually
The boxes sputter their last two lines—we’re different and the same, gave you another name—before they die.
And there she is. Even after seven days of bedroom funk, she’s in full punk attire; ripped red thighs, black skirt, black, partially see-through shirt with red elements sewn along the hems where it’s been cut up, high, black, spiked boots, a spiked choker.
It all looks hastily put on, like Charlie’s been wearing something else but didn’t want her team to see.
She’s alone, standing in the entrance to the bridge in the flickering candlelight. And something in Astra’s heart aches—she finds no better way to describe it—something bursts, like a star, a colliding force, a shock, an explosion. The practiced line falls from her mind.
“What is all this?” Charlie asks, tone muted. It’s not quite softness but it’s something. It’s a hesitation, a stillness. Her eyes meet Astra’s across the room.
It’s hard not to notice the way she’s changed since they’d first met. The lines in her face are all downward curves, and her fire is hiding beneath something that—something that’s almost—almost guilt, almost resignation, almost fear.
And suddenly Astra understands why it was never about the mission or the plan or simply Charlie leaving her room, why it was always going to be Astra doing this, because she understands, because this isn’t Charlie, this isn’t that bratty punk god. This is what happened to her in her time with her sisters.
And Astra is not gentle, she’s not, she can’t kiss Charlie’s fears away. She can’t be her touchstone, but she’ll be her fire, she’ll be her rewrite, and she’ll damn well kill this mission.
“Charlie,” Astra blurts. Charlie walks closer slowly, her boots meeting the floor with noise, bursting through the quiet. She spins around a step, taking in the hundreds over hundreds of candles, and finally comes to a halt before Astra.
Astra hesitates. She’s never even seen one of these before. Should she do it traditional? But no, she’d just hurt her ankles, and there are probably thousands of traditions that Charlie’s witnessed that she could be choosing from.
“Well, fuck it,” she says, already way off her script.
Charlie’s lip quirks up, amusement mixing into the confusion; the two of them in a sea of romantic candlelight is reason enough for humor. “ Whatever you’re gonna say, love, just get on with it,” she says, and the way her mouth forms around the pet name, so different from Constantine’s obnoxiousness, but instead cocky and gentle at once, seals the deal.
Astra takes Charlie’s hands in hers. She thinks about lacing their fingers together, but this simple gesture is already too much in a thousand different ways.
“Charlie,” she begins again, “marry me?”
“Sure,” Charlie says. “I’d love to.”
The music starts up again, trickling into the silence without quite filling it.
we’re a thousand miles from comfort, we have traveled land and sea
Astra lets go of Charlie’s hands. “W-what?”
“Well, from my point of view, it looks like you were proposing to me, and I said yes,” Charlie answers. “Of course, I can say no if you wanted me to humiliate you.” She grins. “No judgment. I just don’t know what you’re into yet.”
Astra feels anger boil up in her throat, hot and scalding. She’s much too close to Charlie, and she pushes roughly at her shoulder, determined to stand her ground.
“What the hell?” Charlie catches herself before stumbling, and she bounces back immediately, leans up and into Astra’s space until their noses are almost touching, her breath hot on Astra’s face. Her eyes are dark and intense and livid, and there’s satisfaction in that, in that fear that’s been dulling them crawling off into a corner.
“We haven’t fucked,” Astra hisses, a bit off spit flying out of her mouth and sticking to the corner of Charlie’s. “We haven’t kissed. You barely know me at all, and—”
She cuts herself off.
“One of that, we can fix,” Charlie says, voice low, and goes off her tiptoes, her face lower than Astra’s, daring her.
Astra doesn’t care, takes her up on it, leans down. Their lips crash together, and Charlie is immediately all there, biting down on Astra’s lip sweetly, gently. She’s playing, having fun, and maybe this is better than anger, especially at their proposal site.
Charlie pulls away after a few seconds. She pushes at Astra’s shoulder playfully, and Astra, caught off guard, still a bit dizzy from the kiss, stumbles back.
Charlie grins. “Yours?”
“I’m not joking,” Astra says, still roughly. “I’m serious. I suppose it’s for a mission, too, but, I mean… why not?”
“That’s what I thought.” Charlie turns around the tiniest bit, so she’s facing the wall of candles, and Astra was wrong—she’s not what her sisters did to her, not in the least, but it’s still buried inside of Charlie, little fragments of explosions long past, of hurt and of that awful way she’d been found, trying to atone simply for existing in that dark little room.
Astra should have helped her then, should have stood beside her against Lachesis, not each alone, but she’ll be with her now.
Charlie tugs at her hand, and she’s brave enough to lace her fingers with hers. It’s a sensation like none Astra’s ever felt. She inhales deeply. Charlie tugs her to two of the seats, facing the ship’s front, the stars outside, the hundreds of little waxen fire hazards inside.
“Look, love,” Charlie says, and by that little crinkle at the corners of her eyes it’s clear she knows what she’s doing to Astra. “I’d love to marry you. Legally, neither of us exists, so we don’t have to do formalities. We’ll throw a rocking party and we’ll have fun, alright?”
It sounds so much clearer now, so much less stressful than Astra had imagined it. It’s not quite love between them, but something even deeper, something that transcends just emotions—or actually, maybe that’s love. Astra wouldn’t know.
As much as they can be angry, rough, spiteful, she’d be lucky to marry a person like Charlie—to marry Charlie.
“I’ve lived so long,” Charlie says, her smile weary. “I’m not a forever person. Maybe we’ll divorce tomorrow or we’ll stay married long past we’ve moved on or we’ll be a little forever for a while. I’m just… my one sister is dead and the other broke herself, alright?”
Astra finally, finally, gets it. That unfamiliarity in Charlie’s eyes isn’t fear, but the absence of it; the absence of being hunted, being controlled, the absence of feeling small, of running for her life.
Astra feels that absence in herself, too.
“A party would be lovely,” she admits to herself. “Apart from the fact that we’ll have to let that insidious marriage fairy crash it.”
“Ah, the bloody mission. Tell me about that later.”
Charlie jumps from her seat, struts into the middle of the bridge. “ Everyone, I said yes! Watch this, and then turn off the bloody music!”
Charlie climbs on the newly polished control set and produces the ring box from her pocket. She whoops, puts the thick, matted silver ring on her finger, and gestures for Astra to join her.
“You stole that,” Astra grumbles. “I’ll set you on fire. And I’m not climbing on that thing.”
Charlie smiles then, with all her teeth and all the lines around her eyes, and sits down the control set. Astra steps up to her, clumsily leans in, hands on the screens so as not to lose balance, and kisses her right on her smile, teeth and all.
if you gave me a chance, I would take it
it’s a shot in the dark but I’ll make it
know with all of your heart, you can’t shame me
when I am with you, there’s no place I’d rather be
“I will stab this bouquet through his head,” Astra promises.
“Oi, mate, that’s not necessary,” Charlie shouts to Behrad over the roaring wind. The Tarazi siblings are both looking a bit sour—jealousy for sure, and it’s not that Astra doesn’t want to marry Charlie, it’s just that now she really wants to marry Charlie.
It’s not that they’re exclusive or monogamous or whatever. But this party is still theirs, and theirs alone, and fine, maybe Astra is a bit competitive, but she’s definitely won this round of most gorgeous spouse.
Because Charlie is… she’s stunning. She’s in a suit jacket and trousers that barely go over her knees; beneath, ripped thighs. None of it is fabricated; they’d taken the time to choose, to shop in three different centuries, and then Charlie had chosen something completely nondescript and somehow transformed it into the punkest wedding suit Astra could imagine.
Her hair is braided on one side, fixed with a few pins on the other. She’s in bright makeup and bright everything, eyes and smiles and gestures.
Astra barely matches her, curls loose around her shoulders, a blue suit with shoulder pads, high heels. They’re on a rooftop far above London, the sky matching Charlie in its brightness.
This might be the first time since childhood that Astra feels truly here on Earth. She’d watched over Hell’s cities many times, lethal but indifferent, the colors dull, the buildings burning.
Now, it’s blue and bright and busy, and the wind roars over their heads with impressive force. They’d agreed on somewhere in the early 2000s, this windy rooftop nowhere, no church or state documents in sight.
The foolish little marriage fairy trapped in a Tupperware container on the ship.
The Legends bustling around them.
There’s something stupidly heartwarming in how happy they all are for them. Zari, despite clearly being into Charlie, at least subconsciously, had helped them sew and make preparations, and she keeps touching them, their arms, hands, shoulder blades, like she’s trying to make sure they’re okay, that they’re really all here with her.
(She cares about you, Charlie had said, but Astra hadn’t believed her. Not at first, not when who Zari so clearly cares about is Charlie.)
She’s shining, of course, her outfit a loose, flowery thing that’s made even more stunning by the wind.
Behrad seems happy, too, just to be alive, and here with his family; Nate has abandoned his pathetic puppy eyes for the day, and there’s Mick with his beer, and Ava, coordinating anything that didn’t need coordinating while trying to keep Sara from walking off a ledge she can’t see, (“Babe, we’ve gone over the layout a thousand times, you’re just doing this on purpose now.” “And where would the fun be otherwise?”) and from touching too many people, so as not to spoil the ceremony.
Mona is a tad too excited, and Astra should probably apologize to her, but it’s not her fault that this is a bit much. Lita all buzz and enthusiasm, but it’s her first wedding, and—
What is she doing?
This isn’t her family. It’s not her place to be noticing these things instead of their weaknesses, the ways they can be exploited.
John’s already drunk, of course, the bastard, but in his own way, he’s happy for them.
And Astra decides right there and then that she can figure out a plan to burn it all down later, if she needs to. Today—today is her wedding day.
Astra scoffs. What has her life become?
“You good there, love?” Charlie asks, slinging an arm around her waist, and yeah. She’s good.
“Let’s burn it all down,” Astra says.
Charlie laughs. “Fuck, yes.”
“I didn’t prepare any vows.”
“That’s ideal,” Charlie promises, “because I didn’t either, and we don’t have that kind of time. Everyone, turn around!”
At first, there’s just the sun beating down on them, and the wind fighting to blow them off the roof; the empty street and the city beyond.
—it starts out slowly, the sizzling, crackling, the vague idea of smoke in the air.
Then, rapidly, it spreads, dark clouds curling out of the broken windows in the building across from theirs. Waves of heat roll towards them, just short of uncomfortable, and seconds later, she can finally see it.
It goes up into the sky, hissing at the air. It curls inside the slowly collapsing building. It’s a small inferno, an apocalypse, an eternity collapsing endlessly inside itself, a fixed point in time, a storm, Hell, heaven, chaos.
“Do you like it?” Charlie whispers. “I picked it for you. No deaths, no injured, but it’s still something, isn’t it?”
“Yes, I suppose.” Astra means to say it half-seriously, but her voice ends up with wonder in it, and so she sighs, tears her eyes away from the fire just long enough to look into Charlie’s.
“My wife,” Charlie says.
“My partner in crime,” Astra calls her in return, as adoringly as she manages, especially and only for Charlie’s ears.
Zari’s phone’s camera goes off just as they’re kissing, as the roof across from them collapses into the fire, and it’s as much of infinity as they’re ever going to need.