Characters: CloudxTifa, Denzel, Marlene, all characters from Avalanche, the Turks, Shera and Dinne
Word count: about 3700
Summary: Making a different set of promises at last. Songfic.
Beautiful dawn - lights up the shore for me.
There is nothing else in the world,
I'd rather wake up and see (with you).
Beautiful dawn - I'm just chasing time again.
Thought I would die a lonely man, in endless night.
But now I'm high - running wild among all the stars above.
Sometimes it's hard to believe you remember me.
Early mornings belonged to Cloud. That subtle change from dark to light was something he usually experienced on his own, his internal clock rousing him long before everyone else. These days, he usually spent the time tranquilly, comfortable in his solitude as he listened to Tifa breathing beside him. Other sounds slowly added to that comforting rhythm as the world began to stir again. Birds would start chirping, and the sound of cars going by would gradually pick up as the sun peeked over the horizon. And when the sun was truly up it would be time to rouse his family, and their voices and the clatter in the house would become a tune of a different sort, a lively one that he was happy to be a part of.
Today was no different, but the importance of the day made him feel unusually reflective as he watched the room brighten by minute degrees. There had been another dawn years ago, when he had been on the verge of making history, and plagued with doubts and hopes instead of quiet anticipation.
He’d spoken aloud by accident, and had the guilty pleasure of her drowsy smile when she’d startled awake and mumbled her good morning, and then the warm weight of her head on his shoulder as she’d protested the hour.
Just thinking of it tempted him to recreate that memory.
She was always so adorable when she resisted waking by snuggling away from the light. And he hadn’t had the right to kiss her awake then.
But he knew they had a long ride later, and she needed the rest. As impatient as he’d been to get the actual ceremony done, he knew that nothing would really change. For the rest of his life, he could watch her stir from sleep into waking, as he had done every morning in the months they had shared this bed. And he didn’t think it would feel any different tomorrow when he watched her open her eyes, or even 50 years later.
Ten o’clock wouldn’t come any faster, and he could savor this moment.
After all, it would never come again.
So he waited, watching her slumber peacefully until the curtains glowed warmly.
And then he bent, gently kissing her until her eyes half opened.
“Morning. Sorry to wake you.”
She kissed him back automatically, before she scrunched her face.
“Already? What time is it?”
“Too early. But you said you wanted to be up at dawn to get ready.”
“Mmm, my hair… and the makeup and the dress will take so long to put on,” she mumbled reluctantly, burying her nose into his neck and trying not to resent the white gown and the accessories waiting for her.
“I told you dawn was too early. You hate getting up,” he chuckled as she yawned into his shoulder.
“Yeah… but I can’t be late to our wedding,” she moaned.
“You can just blame me. I’m always the late one.”
“Mmm, tempting. But I’m up now. Thanks,” she said softly, sitting up. She could feel her own excitement bubbling through the cobwebs in her head, dissolving her usual desire to stay in bed as long as possible. He usually indulged her, letting her doze in his arms for another few minutes, but she could feel the slightly quicker beat of his heart as well, how ready he was to get moving.
“You know, the next time I wake you up, you’ll be my wife,” he said, grinning as he snagged her close.
“I was just thinking that,” she said, smiling and planting a soft kiss on his lips.
“I’ll go wake up the kids,” he decided, and eagerly swung out of bed.
She laughed and clambered out after him, wincing a bit when her feet touched the floor. The sun hadn’t had the chance to warm anything yet, and she always hated leaving the cozy cocoon of the bed. But somehow, seeing Cloud raring to go made it easier to get out.
“Cloud! Do it after I’ve got breakfast. They’re not going to be happy if you wake them up this early,” she protested as he strode over to the door.
“Ok, I’ll get the coffee on, then,” he called back, grinning. His feet sounded on the stairs.
Last time Tifa Lockhart puts on these slippers, she thought to herself, and smiled as she hurried out after him.
The air of excited anticipation was palpable from the light buzz of chatter in the pews. Everyone was dressed in their Sunday best: mostly 7th Heaven regulars, and families from around their neighborhood. Johnny had made it in with his girlfriend from Costa Del Sol as well, the only 2 tan faces in the crowd.
The Turks had claimed a pew to themselves. Elena was hardly recognizable in an elegant dress rather than a suit, and Reno was uncharacteristically -and obviously uncomfortably- tucked into a tux. Tseng and Rude cut handsome figures in theirs, although they still held themselves rather stiffly in contrast to the celebratory nature of the occasion. Reeve also looked particularly dashing in his tux as he gallantly escorted a glowingly pregnant Shera up to the front row. Nanaki’s tail betrayed his excitement, sparking as it waved about even after he and Dinne took seats in front of Reeve and Shera.
And then Cid entered with Cait, and strode up the aisle to take his place near the pool. He turned and waited as the animatronic cat cued the music, making everyone hush expectantly and turn towards the doorway.
And so it began.
Cloud stepped into view, feeling a rush of self-consciousness when he saw all the eyes on him. But he could also see the goodwill on everyone’s face, how happy everyone was for them on this day, and that made it easier to walk up the aisle, nodding slightly as he caught their eyes to acknowledge their support. He did blush when he overheard the approving comments of some of the ladies, although he could admit that he was rather pleased by the way he looked. Tifa had chosen well, despite the trial it had been.
But he still breathed a quiet sigh of relief when everyone turned to watch the best man and maid of honor enter.
It was a rather lovely sight. The consummate tomboy had seemingly transformed into a graceful nymph, dressed in a slim dress the color of sunshine. Her escort looked elegant himself in a sleekly tailored tuxedo- a marked departure from his usual tattered cape and menacing gauntlet. Murmurs at what a startlingly handsome couple they made filled the pews as he escorted her up the aisle.
A vision shattered when Reno gave a low whistle, causing Yuffie to make a face and Vincent to direct a cold glare in his direction.
Cid muttered behind Cloud’s back, but a hiss from Shera cut him off before they got to the front, and everybody looked picture perfect again once they turned to face the guests.
From his expression, Denzel was obviously no more comfortable in the spotlight than Cloud had been. He also gripped the pillow as though the rings might roll off into the pews any second, although they were tacked on with thread. But he remembered to keep his face up and his steps in time to the music as instructed, and Cloud gave him a discreet smile and thumbs-up.
In contrast, Marlene had no need for encouragement while she performed her role. Cloud smiled wider when he thought briefly of the scene at breakfast as she scattered petals like a pro, beaming when she overheard comments about how adorable she was. It had taken a few minutes to convince her that the white dress with the gauzy yellow sash should be put on after the meal.
But the true highlight for the guests came when Barret finally escorted Tifa into the doorway.
Brides are always dazzling creatures, and she was no exception.
Tifa was perfectly radiant, a truly lovely version of herself. She smiled joyously, and tears glimmered in her eyes when they fixed on her groom.
Cloud felt like a dumbstruck boy again as he watched her approach.
She was still the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.
Barret slowly walked her up the aisle until they reached the spot where Cloud stood waiting. Then he gruffly accepted her kiss on the cheek and whispered thanks before she slid her hand from his arm and placed it into Cloud’s outstretched palm.
They shared a smile as they turned together.
There are few moments in life where reality is just as heady as fantasy, and this was one of them.
“We are gathered here today to witness the joining of Cloud Strife and Tifa Lockhart in the holy state of matrimony…”
Cid spoke with both warmth and reverence as he looked at their faces. Weddings are one of the nicest responsibilities of captains, and it was an extra pleasure to be able to do this for his friends. He was also well aware of the sacredness of this place. The deck of his airship usually sufficed when he performed weddings. In fact, he’d offered the Shera after they’d asked him to do the honors.
He had to admit that the church seemed more appropriate though, somehow.
So he piloted them smoothly through the ceremony until it came time for the vows.
And remembered just in time not to curse when Cloud managed to stall things anyway.
In the hush, he became uncomfortably aware of all those people waiting on those next few phrases.
And to his horror, his mind went blank as he tried to recall the words that came after, despite all those practice recitations he’d made.
As the silence stretched out, Vincent slid his hand to his breast pocket, ready with the hard copy they’d prepared just in case.
But then he looked into her eyes, ashamed and apologetic.
And the warm concern and understanding reflected there helped him remember exactly what he wanted to say.
“I think everyone here knows how hard it is for me to use words,” he said shakily, smiling wryly, and there were a few chuckles of agreement in the audience. “So I’ve thought long and hard about which ones to use today, when I make my vows to you,” he continued more steadily, and Vincent stepped back, a ghost of a smile on his face.
He took a deep breath.
“I adored you as a boy, and I guess some things never change. You have always been the light and love of my life. You’ve been there through the worst of times, and shared some of my best experiences. I will always be grateful that you’ve chosen to share your life with me.
I know I’m not the best at telling you how I feel. So I promise to show you that I love and honor you.
I can’t promise that I’ll never make you cry- but I can promise to try to make those happy tears.
I can’t promise I’ll never be late- but I promise that I’ll do my best to be there for you.”
He took the ring from the pillow Denzel held out with a careful tug, and slipped it slowly onto her finger.
“I give you this ring to represent
That I will share my past, my present, and my future with you.
That I am your friend, lover and family.
And that I vow to be faithful, loving, and joyful as your husband.”
It fit with an audible click to the two he had already given her, fusing the pieces into one unit.
And then he smiled- the hard part was finally over.
Tifa inhaled raggedly, her eyes brimming as she smiled back at him, ready to make her own vows.
“Cloud. I asked you once, to promise me something. And you, my hero, honored that promise. I’ll always cherish that memory.
Just now, you’ve made new promises to me.
But this time, I’ll make you promises, too.”
She gently pulled his ring from the pillow, and Cloud’s eyes widened as he noticed the design. He lifted his astonished eyes to hers, and there was laughter in her eyes and voice as she slid it home.
“Please accept this ring as a symbol of my vows to you.
I promise to always be there for you, as your friend, as your lover and as your family.
I promise to help you grow from the past, make the most of every present moment, and continue to build our future together.
And I promise you my love forever, faithfully and joyfully.”
They stood there holding hands until Cid realized it was his turn again, and cleared his throat.
“May the Goddess bless your union, as you continue your journey through life together. By the power vested in me, and in the presence of these witnesses, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.”
And they kissed tenderly, as if they’d forgotten all the witnesses.
“I present to you- Mr. and Mrs. Cloud Strife.”
Applause swelled once Cid made that final proclamation, and they broke apart, laughing as they turned to their friends and family.
And inhaled sharply when they caught sight of two very special guests standing witness in the doorway. Tears welled up in Tifa’s eyes, and they both smiled exultantly as they bowed.
It was a pretty good party, all told. The staff were marvelously professional, and although they got to the restaurant a little late, the courses and speeches and cake cutting all flowed seamlessly. Reeve and Cait took turns with Cloud’s camera, although he still insisted on setting up the tripod for the group shots. While he acknowledged the need to be in front of the lens rather than hiding behind it for once, he preferred being the one to set shutter speeds and frame shots, and had been rather reluctant to hand it over despite Reeve’s reassurance that they would take the utmost care of it. Still, he was more comfortable than usual in this crowd of familiar faces, so he gave in fairly easily.
It really did feel so special to have everybody celebrating for them. They shared the first few hours as a married couple among the people they cared about, accepting well wishes and good-natured teasing. Every event just added to that euphoric feeling, from hearing their friends toasting their marriage to that silly first bite of cake.
“Excuse me? Mr. and Mrs. Strife?"
They both smiled at the novelty of those words.
"We’d like you to start the dancing when you’re ready,” one of the waiters informed them with a short bow, indicating the way to the space they had cleared while everyone had gathered ‘round the cake.
Cloud took her hand, smiling proudly as he tilted his head.
“Well, Mrs. Strife? Will you do me the honor?”
Beautiful dawn - melt with the stars again.
Do you remember the day when my journey began?
Will you remember the end (of time)?
Beautiful dawn - You're just blowing my mind again.
Thought I was born to endless night, until you shine.
High - running wild among all the stars above.
Sometimes it's hard to believe you remember me.
They’d prepared so carefully. Their rooms had been booked long in advance, bags packed days ago, and traveling clothes laid out before leaving the house. The weather had also cooperated- rain hadn’t fallen for a couple days, so they wouldn’t be covered with anything more than road dust upon arrival. But separation anxiety was something they hadn’t bet on.
Marlene and Denzel were fine- they’d known long in advance about the week apart. They were both excited at the prospect of so many cool guests visiting, and the fun activities that were planned while the delivery service and bar were shut. But Cloud and Tifa were a different story. This was their first time to be away from the kids, and while they’d been looking forward to their honeymoon, it was harder than they’d thought to just get on the bike and go.
“Remember, you can call us if you have any questions,” Cloud said, unnecessarily checking over Fenrir one last time.
“Or if you just want to tell us something that happened at school,” added Tifa, hugging Denzel, who rolled his eyes.
“We’ll be fine, guys. We’ve got loads of grown-ups to take care of us.”
“Just enjoy yourselves. You know we’ll be having a good time here, too. Cait has promised to teach them all sorts of games. And I’ll keep on top of their schoolwork. We’ll phone if there’s anything we overlooked.” Reeve assured them.
“Yeah, Aunt Yuffie said she’s going to teach us Wushu, too!” Denzel piped up.
Somehow, that statement did nothing to smooth the worried frown from Tifa’s forehead.
“Barret, I’ve written the cooking instructions on all the containers. Marlene, set the timer for your Daddy, OK?” she reminded them again.
“Okay,” Marlene said, obviously exasperated.
Cloud got on and started the engine, starting to feel foolish. It was their honeymoon. They were supposed to be lovestruck and self-indulgent for a week. Tifa got behind him as he put on his goggles, tucking an arm around his waist. She put a determined smile on her face when she looked back and waved. Everyone waved back encouragingly as they peeled off.
“Don’t forget to buy us presents!” Marlene suddenly called, jumping and waving frantically.
“Yeah, bring us presents!” Denzel leaned forward and shouted, before he too waved.
“Geez, think they’ll even miss us?” giggled Tifa, squeezing her arms around her new husband. A whole week without responsibilities- and all alone with Cloud- was just so decadent…
He chuckled. “Sounds like they’ll be fine as long as we come back with gifts.”
“Did you know we were raising such little mercenaries?”
“I think they get it from you.”
He smiled fondly at the memories that word stirred. “Probably.”
They talked briefly at first, recalling the highlights of the wedding as they sped southeast. It had really been a day to remember, and they both laughed again over the crazy hijinks of their friends (“Oohh, I just can’t believe Yuffie!”) and the touching moments the day had brought. But they spent most of the ride in silent companionship, her hands against the steady beat of his heart even as he felt her warmth against his back and her head on his shoulder. They passed plains, and carved through the mountains as they raced away from the sun. And as the moon rose into the evening sky ahead, the sky became a watercolor meld of pinks and golds behind them.
“I’d forgotten how magical the full moon is. Occupational hazard of working in a bar, I guess,” Tifa noted as they took a break near the end of the journey. She stretched luxuriously, glad to be off the bike temporarily, and inhaled deeply of the salty sea air.
Cloud looked up and smiled, sliding his arm around his wife. He got back home so early nowadays that he too rarely saw the moon. He wondered how long it had been since he’d last heard the lonely howl of a wolf directed towards it. And even on the occasional late night delivery, he focused more on the stars that surrounded that scarred, white globe in the darkness. They helped him navigate his way back, to where a light would always be on in the window and this woman would give him a warm welcome home.
Will you be my shoulder when I'm grey and older?
Promise me tomorrow starts with you,
Getting high; running wild among all the stars above.
Sometimes it's hard to believe you remember me
Author’s note: That stage fright feeling during the wedding is from my own experience- the decision to spend your life with that one person is so much more natural than announcing it in front of so many prying eyes. Weddings aren’t for the couple- they’re for the audience!
I hope you’ll agree that James Blunt’s “High” is a fitting song to describe Cloud and Tifa’s relationship, and also the Highwind scene.
I purposely left the details of Tifa’s dress to the imagination of the reader. Everyone always has their own ideas about what the perfect dress is. I also wanted to convey that her beauty had nothing to do with fussy bridezilla details. It’s the joy of being married to the man she loves that really makes her (and every bride) so gorgeous.