Characters: CloudxTifa, Denzel, Marlene, all Avalanche members and Shera.
Word count: about 4600
Summary: Something's getting delivered all over Gaia this month... and preparations are in full swing for that big event in April...
“I like this one.”
“Hmm…it’s awfully pink…I don’t think Cloud would be comfortable with that, sweetie.”
“This one’s cool Teef, look!”
“Oh! Well. It’s certainly very shiny.”
“Denz, it’s not for a disco opening!”
“But it looks like Cloud’s sword and everything!”
“Well…that’s true… but actually, I was hoping for something a little more traditional.”
“Like with a bride and groom?"
“No, not necessarily, just maybe… something like this… What do you think, guys?”
“Ooh, it feels nice.”
“It’s not as expensive as the shiny one either.”
“Do you think Cloud will like it?”
“Why don’t we bring one home and ask him?”
“There’s a good idea. What would I do without you guys?”
Spring blew in with a whirl of lists and appointments. There was just so much to do in order to prepare for the big day. Cid dropped off a few of the things Tifa had requested one afternoon and wondered aloud why they were in such an all-fire hurry when they had dawdled enough coming together in the first place.
So Tifa pointed out that he and Shera had done the exact same thing. The plans for their wedding had been so soon after the change in their relationship that more than one person had wondered if there had been a shotgun involved.
“Yeah, well.” Cid offered a sheepish grin. “Guess there’s not much reason to wait once it’s been decided.” He studied her face as she inspected the contents of the small box he had brought along with the ring pillow, Shera’s veil, and a list of wedding songs she recommended. “What do you think? The smith said I could bring it back if it wasn’t right.”
“It’s perfect. Thank you for doing all the legwork. I could never have gotten this made without him knowing otherwise,” she said, blinking rather quickly as she carefully turned it between her fingers.
Cid blustered, cringing a bit.
“Hey, anything for an old friend. Just let Shera know if you need anything else and she’ll send it over with me. Seems like she’s more excited about your wedding than she was with ours. Says it keeps her from worrying about the baby.”
That did the trick. Tifa looked up abruptly, concerned.
“But you said the doctor said she was doing fine. She’ll be able to make it out, right?”
Cid shrugged, automatically lighting a smoke.
“Sure, sure, due date’s well after and the Doc says it’s good she keeps active. Everyone makes sure she doesn’t try to do some fool lifting or straining when I’m out here. Just that we’re not exactly experienced with babies.”
He grimaced. “She wants me to quit smoking. Says it won’t be good for the kid. She’s been reading a lot and working herself into a panic about folic acid and low birth weight and whatnot. You know how she can get.”
Tifa smiled at the rough talking man across the bar as he puffed, silently daring her to challenge him.
“I’m sure it’ll be hard to quit.”
“Damn right it will be! Probably been smoking longer than you been alive! The woman’s unreasonable!”
“Babies are precious. Don’t you want to give him the best possible start?”
“I don’t smoke in the house anymore. And the Doc says it’s a girl.”
Tifa lifted her eyes, exasperated.
“Fine. Her the best possible chance to spend more time with her dad?”
He sighed and took another guilty drag.
“I know, I know. I’ve been trying to cut down. But having fewer smokes makes me cranky.”
“What, more than usual?”
Cid glared at Tifa’s cheeky smile.
“You give Cloud this much lip and he’s gonna take back that ring.”
She grinned, unfazed.
“You quit smoking and you just might be able to take me in a fight.”
“Chaining limit breaks is cheap!” he sputtered.
“Oh! As if having an airship do the work for you isn’t cheap! Healthy lungs equals better jumps,” she retorted, laughing. “Seriously, Cid. We’re not just nagging for fun.”
“Huh,” he snorted. “You enjoy it.”
“True. But seriously. Cid.”
“All right, all right, I’m putting it out. See?” He growled as he butted it out. “Isn’t this a bar? What is it with women and nagging?”
“It shows that we care. In a really annoying, persistent kind of way,” she said, squeezing his hand as she beamed.
“Yeah, sure. I’ll make sure to warn Cloud next time I see him.”
She smiled to herself as she looked down at the box on the counter.
“Oh, he knows what he’s getting into.”
Cid would be damned if he’d let her have the last word, but his voice was gruff as he made his comeback.
“Well, never said that Spiky was smart.”
“You like it then?”
“Yeah, it looks good. Not too fancy.”
“That’s what I thought. So…how many should we get?”
“Well, Cid, Vincent, Yuffie, Nanaki, Reeve.”
“He lives here on weekends.”
“He still deserves one. It’s only polite. And how about the Turks?”
“You want to invite our former enemies to our wedding?”
“They’ve helped us out before!”
“But I don’t like them.
“You could forgive Kadaj but not Reno and Rude?”
“That was different!”
“Fine. But they’re going regular.”
“I know. Special is too much. But it wouldn’t be right if they weren’t there, don’t you think?”
“… I guess.”
“What about Rufus?”
Cloud could endure all sorts of punishment. He’d been slashed, punched, poisoned, bitten and memorably, even impaled a couple of times in his twenty-three years. But none of that was as bad as the torture he was being forced through at this very moment. It was just that he couldn’t fight back. A tongue-clucking matron was hardly a worthy adversary for a hero, even if she wasn’t drawing any blood with those damnable pins.
The admiring look on Tifa’s face made up for a lot, though.
So he stood still and held up his arms as instructed, letting the woman drape and measure and cluck and pin to her hearts content. He could take this like a man. Especially because it wasn’t a dress this time.
“How is this material for the vest? It comes close to those eyes of his.”
“Mmm, I agree. What do you think, Cloud?”
Amusement warmed her eyes. She knew that tone.
“It sounds like the best choice then. Will the fitting take much longer? We have reservations. The tasting, you know.”
“Can’t rush a fitting. Won’t cut as dashing a figure if I don’t do this right, no matter how handsome he is. Do you want to dance with a man wearing a lopsided jacket?” she demanded, turning a stern eye on her.
Tifa shook her head quickly, abashed. Poor Cloud. Barret and Denzel had already gone through similar trials, and had looked desperately relieved to leave early with Marlene. She was glad that the seamstress at the wedding dress place wasn’t such a dragon.
But she seemed to soften a bit when she turned back to mark and pin the material. “Now I know how busy wedding preparations can be, so the last thing you want to worry about is a poor fitting that has to be redone. So just give me just a few more minutes and then I’ll set your man loose. You’ve got to learn to take the bad with the good if you’re getting married. And I promise everything will fit like a dream if you just endure a little longer.”
“We’re like a factory!”
“Yeah! I’m the folding robot and you’re the stuffing one.”
“And Cloud and Tifa are the writing ones.”
“And Daddy is the sticking on one.”
“Jus’ gets done faster that way, kids.”
“Yeah, thanks guys. I’ll be able to get the first one out this morning.”
“Special Delivery? But they’re small enough to go regular.”
“We know…but they’re special, right?”
“I guess so. Still, it costs more.”
“Well, I might just get a discount, seeing as how I know the delivery guy.”
“Ha ha ha.”
They made it in time for the reservations after all, and the host promised to take them through the details of a possible reception booking after the meal before summoning the waiter to recommend a wine to go with the first course. So they both awkwardly nodded at his descriptions of each wine and sipped samples and finally went with the wine he suggested. They were still flustered when he came back to set the appetizers in front of them, giving each a lovely description before encouraging them to enjoy the meal and departing.
They both took a nervous sip of wine. This wasn’t the usual sort of restaurant they went to, and while everything had looked wonderful in the pictures in the magazine, it was just a little intimidating to actually be there. Tifa fervently prayed that she wouldn’t spill something on the linen- real linen- tablecloth. Cloud tried to recall the rules of eating at a fancy place. Was it outside fork in, or the other way around? Well, he would just do whatever Tifa did.
“Wow. Looks fancy. And really small,” Cloud said, looking dubiously at his plate.
“Cloud!” Tifa admonished, giggling. But that broke the ice, and they both smiled at each other.
“I suppose these big plates do make the portions look smaller,” she chuckled.
“It’s a good thing there’s a whole bunch of courses.”
“Ok, ok. If it’s not enough we’ll try a different place. It just sounded so special, and I wanted the day to be…”
“Special. Me too. I guess I’m a little uncomfortable with all this fancy stuff. I don’t want to screw it up.”
“Should we make the reception simpler then? Maybe I can just cook some things and everyone can just come over. It’s not like we’re fancy people…”
“I think Shera would kill me if I let you cook for our wedding reception.”
Tifa laughed at the image of a pregnant and furious Shera, waving one of her ubiquitous clipboards at them as her glasses slid down her nose.
“She’d kill me too if we had it at the bar, no matter how much she likes 7th Heaven.”
“Sounds like we’d better try this food.”
She took a small bite, and closed her eyes and groaned. Cloud did the same, and his eyes widened.
“Oh…I wish I could cook like this,” Tifa moaned. “Are you sure we don’t want fancy?”
Cloud chewed and swallowed slowly. “I think we can handle the melt in your mouth part. As long as we get some pointers about which forks to use and stuff. I mean, we’ll be dressed fancy after all.”
“I was hoping you’d say that… Oh Cloud…just think about dessert…”
“Good morning. You look well. Special delivery.”
“Ah, how exciting! Dinne will be pleased. But you hardly look like a soon-to-be groom. Want to clean up before heading out again?”
“Naw, I’ll just look like this again after a couple of hours. It’s spring. Thanks, though.”
“Doesn’t Tifa do your laundry?”
“I hose off before I go in. Spraying all the mud off is the new highlight of the day for the kids.”
“Ha! I’m sure it is. I wish I could join them.”
“Ha ha. Well, I should head off again. We’ll see you next month?”
“We wouldn’t miss it.”
“How’s this, Cloud?”
“Great, Denz. Thanks for helping out.”
Denzel shrugged and grinned back as he carefully sponged off a stubborn cake of mud from Fenrir’s headlights. He secretly wished Cloud had time to wash Fenrir every weekend, but with all the wedding stuff over the last few- they had even had dance lessons last week- he usually just got a cursory hose down. But he'd taken a chance and made the suggestion to Cloud over lunch, and to his delight, Cloud had agreed.
“I don’t mind. It’ll be slower if you had to do this all by yourself. And bikes are cool.”
Cloud smiled as he carefully scraped between the exhaust pipes with a rag.
“Yeah. It’s too bad he’ll get all dirty again when I do my deliveries tomorrow.”
“But we’ve got to go to the suit shop today. We can’t go there on a dirty bike. We might get the shop dirty. And that lady is scary.”
“You thought so too, huh?”
Denzel’s mouth fell open.
“She scared you, Cloud?”
“Well, not scared exactly… just… I don’t like sharp-tongued women.”
“Yeah, sharp-tongued! I wasn’t sure if I could put my arms down even after she took all of the stuff off!”
“You’re not allowed to tell Tifa I said that about her. She said she was supposed to be the best,” Cloud warned, “but she did sorta make me feel like I was a naughty boy in school again. Always getting shouted at for things I didn’t know I was doing wrong.”
“You got shouted at in school?”
“Sometimes. Usually ‘cause I was daydreaming instead of paying attention. My mom worried about that a lot.”
“I’m not as smart as Marlene at school stuff. Tifa worries about that, too.”
“Yeah, I know.” Cloud, paused, trying to think of how to phrase his next words as he rubbed at some dried mud. “School is important, Denz. It might not be as easy for you, so you just gotta try harder. Everyone’s good at different stuff. So if you’re not so good at something you need, you’ve got to make up for it with effort. Like snowboarding. Remember how hard it was for Marly to stand up?”
“Yeah. At first she cried ‘cause she kept falling down so much.”
“But she wanted to learn anyway, so she didn’t give up. She just had to try harder to catch up, right? I think it’s the same with a lot of things.”
They worked in companionable silence for a few minutes before Denzel took the courage to make another suggestion.
“Don’t you think Fenrir will look nicer if we polish him too?”
Cloud eyed him, struggling to hide his smile. The bike was almost clean.
“It’ll take even longer to do that. We still have to go to the tailor’s. And remember how it’s spring?”
“I know. But maybe the polish will keep off some of the dirt this week. And since there’re two of us, it’ll be faster.”
Cloud thought it over- the tailor or spending more time on Fenrir…
“Great idea, Denz. It’ll only add a few extra minutes.”
“Excuse me. Sorry to interrupt. Just want to make a few special deliveries.”
“Cloud! Of course, come in. We were expecting you.”
“Sorry, Cloud. Mighta let it slip.”
“Oh, come on! It would have been way cooler if you’d gone out to Wutai to deliver mine!”
“But inefficient. Ah, I see my companion has also been invited. Has Marlene figured out our connection yet?”
“No, I don’t think so. She didn’t mention anything when we were putting them together.”
“Why aren’t you opening yours, you old chimney?”
“Ah- Figured Shera would like to.”
“Mind your own &#& business!”
“So what’s it like to kiss him?”
“Oh come on! I’ve never had a boyfriend! Just a couple of details! It’s not like I asked you about how often you two-“
Tifa made an outraged sound and jerked her head at the little girl, all ears, primping in front of the mirror.
“-make out. Geez, Teef, what did you think I was going to say?” Yuffie’s evil grin almost spoiled the effect of the elegant silk crepe dress she was wearing. Tifa gave her a warning glare, but had to smile. Yuffie knew just how to toe the line between cheeky and inappropriate.
“I wanna know too! I bet it’s romantic!” Marlene said, grinning and bouncing before twirling to see her dress billow out. She hugged herself as it settled. “When I grow up, I want my boyfriend to kiss me on the steps like you guys do after your dates,” she sighed.
“Marlene!” Tifa felt her cheeks flame.
“How come I’ve never seen them kiss?” Yuffie demanded.
“They don’t do it if they think somebody is looking. Denz and I can see them if we stand on their bed to see out the window when they get home. It looks kind of wet and gross, but you both smile lots after. Is it nice?”
If she was this mortified, Cloud would absolutely die if he ever found out. She would have to tell Barret to keep them out of their bedroom on date day.
“It is. Better than nice. But it’s supposed to be private, OK? We’re showing each other how we feel and it’s embarrassing if you watch. I’m sure you’ll both understand when you find guys that you want to kiss one day,” she said, fanning her face with one hand as she adjusted her bodice with the other.
“See? Romantic,” Yuffie sighed dramatically. “We need to know these things so we can be proper bridal attendants. Here, let me do that.”
She carefully did up the last few inches of Tifa’s dress, and then they all stood back to look at her.
Details were hardly necessary. All they really needed was pretty dresses.
“Oh, Tifa, you’re beautiful.”
“Just gorgeous,” Yuffie breathed, no trace of sauciness in her rapt expression.
“Oh, it is perfect, isn’t it?”
“Not it, Tifa! You!”
“It just seems so bigheaded- but I do look pretty nice, don’t I?”
“Special Delivery. You sure were hard to track down.”
“…I like my privacy.”
“It’s hard to make a special delivery without an address.”
“… Sorry. … Ah. I hadn’t expected it so quickly.”
“…Didn’t you get my email?”
“…So you’d prefer not to.”
“…How many attendants does Tifa have?”
“… I thought Barret or Cid would be more appropriate choices.”
“They’re already doing stuff for the wedding. You were there with us, so I wanted- but if you’d rather not-“
“I’d be honored.”
“Well… it means a lot to me.”
“I look forward to it.”
“Thanks. Tifa will be glad to hear it.”
“ Just… make sure Yuffie doesn’t get this address.”
Reeve wanted to help out, but the WRO kept him up to his ears in work. Luckily, he had an animatronic solution to that problem, so Tifa spent the last few days of preparations with a short, fuzzy and incredibly organized assistant. Cait Sith took care of all those last minute errands, like running flowers to the restaurant, decorating the cars for the wedding party, or compiling and delivering the wedding music CDs- something they’d completely forgotten to do. Tifa was grateful for the help- Cloud was working overtime again because of the time off they were taking, and the extra bar work combined with all the wedding and honeymoon preparation had been causing her to worry.
So with one day to go, everything was ready- well, everything that they had remembered, anyway- except for a few last minute details at the church and the rehearsal.
Tifa and Cait got there first- Cloud was making one last delivery, and Barret, Yuffie and Cid would pick up the kids once they finished work.
“You said Cloud got a hold of Vincent?”
“Yup, he mailed and said he’ll be here sometime around five.”
“Did he mention where he was based?”
“Ah… he said it was a secret. Sorry.” She glanced around to be sure Vincent hadn’t decided to arrive early before continuing. “He refused a WRO job, hmm? I guess that’s not so surprising. I wish he wasn’t so set on being such a stranger. It’d be nice to see him more than once every few months. It’s really been great to have so many of the old gang working so close together again… Can you start polishing those pews? I’ll take this side.”
“Anything for the blushing bride. If only the lad would answer his mobile once in a while. Only polite, you know.”
“He’ll probably refuse to join the WRO until something makes him. Remember how many times Cloud bugged him? He didn’t join until after Sephiroth showed up himself.”
“But it’s not like he’s been doing anything useful! He could make some gil at least.”
“Cait, he purposely spent 30 years asleep. I think being useful isn’t his primary drive. Maybe keep hassling him. Yuffie seems to get under his skin that way. Or give him a problem to solve. ”
“A problem, you say…” Cait frowned thoughtfully as he buffed.
"Is that it? Oh, Cid! I'm so glad you waited until we could open it together."
"You already know what it says, woman."
"But it's different to actually read it. You know, see all the details in print. Ohh..."
"What does it say?"
"... I'm onto you, Cid Highwind."
"Yeah, yeah, read it out already."
Once everybody was there, they all walked through the steps as Cait cued the music. Cloud was the only one that got it right the first time. Yuffie and Vincent strode up the aisle and took their positions in flagrant disregard for the beats in the music, ignoring Cait’s mournful protests. Denzel hurried up the aisle, obviously wanting to get it over with as quickly as possible. Marlene was literally bouncing, too excited to walk sedately until reminded. And finally Barret escorted Tifa down the aisle in an awkward gait as everyone shouted out advice- “In time with the music! Left... Right, Left... Right!” “Be careful not to step on Tifa’s toes, you big clod!” “Smile, Daddy!” “Barret, not such big steps- I don’t want to run up the aisle!”
Needless to say, they had to do it over, with Cloud grinning as he stood watching Barret’s discomfiture as he took lessons in how-to-walk-not-lumber from the stuffed cat. A grin he quickly wiped off his face when Barret glared at him as he tried to walk her up the aisle again. He hastily looked at Tifa instead, and his face softened.
Finally. He’d fantasized about this a lot when he was a kid, on and off through their friendship, and with increasing frequency once they’d become lovers. And maybe it was because it was just the rehearsal, but he felt amazingly calm as he saw her murmuring to Barret as they approached, coaching him gently until she was confident he had gotten the rhythm. And when she turned her eyes to him, he forgot everything else as he reached out his hand to her.
“Hey, Spiky, snap out of it! We still gotta get to dinner. Denzel, you’re up.”
Cid’s cantankerous voice snapped them back to reality, and Denzel shuffled over self-consciously with the ring pillow.
“You remember what you’re gonna say?” Cid demanded.
“You don’t have to rehearse this part if you don’t want to. My- uh- friend would like to witness this firsthand so he’s hoping it’ll be tomorrow!” called Cait.
Tifa looked up at Cloud.
“I think I want to wait.”
“Me too. But I know what to say. Wrote it down this time, too,” he said softly, and she smiled and squeezed his hand.
“Alright, so vows, vows, the kiss, and I say my bit,” Cid said, gesturing.
“And then back down the aisle with the music,” Cait called, and they turned and walked together as Cait nodded his approval.
“Good, good rhythm! Well, that’s a wrap, folks. Anything else to go over before dinner?”
“Looks fine to me,” said Cid, nodding as he surveyed the church and their party.
“Well, I still need to gather my bouquet. So we’ll see you all at the restaurant. Shera’s holding the table, right?”
“Yeah. Probably went way earlier than she needed to. Said she had to sort out some problem with Red,” grumbled Cid, reaching for his phone.
“His real name’s Nanaki,” Yuffie pointed out.
“I’m not goin’ round changin’ what I call him! It’s a habit, and it’s stickin’!” he declared, glaring meaningfully at Tifa.
“Give us a lift, Barret?” Cait asked.
“Sure, hop in the back with the others.”
Yuffie latched on to Vincent’s arm, tugging him out of the church.
“Sit next to me, Vinny! I can tell you all about how Reeve’s made me the head of the WRO’s Intelligence department!”
His face twitched, and he suddenly ducked further behind his collar.
“Did you say intelligence?”
“Yeah! Probably because of my amazing- Hey! Are you laughing at me?!”
“We won’t be long,” Cloud reassured Barret.
Tifa started cutting flowers carefully as the others filed out, and Cloud held out the vase to collect them.
“Are you nervous?” she asked.
Cloud tilted his head and smiled at her. “No, not at all. I know I’m supposed to be.”
“I’m not either. That’s weird, right?”
“Maybe it’s ‘cause we already live together.”
She gave him a perplexed smile, and he shrugged.
“…Think she’ll come?” she ventured as she slid the last of the flowers into the vase.
As if I’d miss this.
Their eyes widened and they looked around wildly for a second, trying to identify the source of that feminine giggle.
Tifa would never get tired of watching Cloud laugh. It was like his whole face lit up.
“I think that’s a yes.”
Tifa Lockhart and Cloud Strife
request the pleasure of your company
when they celebrate their union in marriage
on Sunday, the twentieth of April
at ten o’clock in the morning
Great Gospel Church
Sector Five, Midgar
A/N: Another experiment in writing style- thought you readers needed a break after all the heavy prose in the previous chapters. So I took some inspiration from Biskitty’s adorable “Talk” and S&TC’s Jack Berger to “milepost” this chapter with snippets of pure dialogue.