Premonitions II-A: The Long Week of Hell
|By : Hippo_and_Friends_with_Benefits|
Category: Final Fantasy VII > General
Views: 1956 -:- Recommendations : 0 -:- Currently Reading : 0
|Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VII or any characters therin. I am making no money off of this work.|
Chapter 23: Arrivals
February 2, 0008
The Wedding Day Arrives
Cloud stood in his backyard. It was one in the afternoon, and the time he and Tifa would be taking their vows under the arch was drawing closer. It was a beautiful day; there was not a cloud in the sky.
There were features in the backyard, other than the arch, of course. There were the seats that Elena and Tseng had carefully arranged by the arch. Near the eastern edge of the backyard, a tent was set up. Inside the tent, there were tables set up, complete with plates and utensils, along with an empty space set aside for a dance floor.
Cloud and all of his present groomsmen, Barret, Cid, Vincent, Tseng, and Zack (Reeve was on his way), had cleaned up and dressed, and one of them had already begun making his judgements.
"My God," Cid whispered.
"What?" Barret asked.
"Vincent," replied Cid. "Look at him!"
"He looks jus' like the rest of us," Barret said.
"He looks like he's at his own wake!" Cid exclaimed, noticing Vincent's lack of skin tone.
"Just get use' to it," Barret whispered. "He's technically dead."
Just then, Reeve arrived, along with Parker and Sage.
"Did I miss anything?" he asked.
"Not a thing," Barret replied. "Tseng and Elena did everything yesterday morning."
"We're basically table decorations," Cid added.
"It's that easy?" Sage asked. She was wearing a strapless burgundy dress and carrying her baton.
"Not usually," Reeve answered. "This wedding had less than a week to plan."
"What's that thing?" Cid asked, noticing the baton.
"It's what I dance with," she replied. She then began to twirl.
"And that just came naturally," Reeve said.
The non-party guests began to gradually arrive.
Red XIII came first. He seemed to have had his coat groomed.
"Hi, everyone," he greeted. He then went over to Cloud. "Congratulations," he said.
"Thank you," Cloud replied.
"I was hoping for this day," Red XIII continued. "I knew you two were meant for each other ever since you rescued me from that lab."
"Thanks," Cloud said. "But how did you know that?"
"I have really good hearing," Red XIII answered.
"Holy shit!" Cid suddenly exclaimed.
"Watch your mouth!" Sage reprimanded.
"What's wrong, anyway?" Barret asked.
"Hell has frozen over," Cid replied. "Reno is wearing a tie."
"And his shirt is tucked in!" Red XIII added.
In came Reno, wearing a gray suit with a red tie, with a blond stranger on his arm.
"This is Tara," he introduced. "Tara, this is Red XIII, Barret, Reeve, Parker, Cid, Vincent, and, the man of the hour, Cloud."
As Tara was meeting everyone, Rude appeared in the backyard, also with a blond stranger, who looked identical to Tara.
"This is Kara," Rude introduced. "Kara, this is Red XIII, Barret, Reeve, Parker, Cid, Vincent, and, the lucky bastard, Cloud."
"Are you twins?" Sage asked.
"We are," Tara replied. "We met our boys at the pub last night."
A few minutes later, Cloud peeked inside the tent. He noticed there was a small sheet of paper at every seat at every table.
"Is that one of those quizzes?" Zack, who had followed him in, asked.
"What quizzes?" Cloud inquired. "I wouldn't know. Honestly, I've never actually been to a wedding."
"They have these quizzes about the bride and the groom for guest to take while the happy couple is getting their pictures taken," Zack explained.
"I see," said Cloud.
"Who is older? I don't know that," Zack said as he picked one of the slips up. "I assume it's you?"
"You're right," Cloud replied. "I'm the older one by nine months."
"Who said 'I love you' first?" Zack continued. "I'm guessing it was her? She did propose."
"It was," Cloud confirmed. "She said it on the bridge of the Highwind right after I stopped thinking I was you."
"Who's the better driver?"
"That's a good one," Cloud answered. "I don't really know."
"I've never seen either of you drive," Zack replied. "Has anyone?"
"Just Barret, Red XIII, Reeve, and Yuffie," Cloud replied. "I'm sure opinions vary."
"Who's more of a thrill seeker?" Zack continued. "Who's needier when they're sick? I do know the answer to that one."
"Hey!" Cloud exclaimed.
"It sounds like I missed a lot," Zack pointed out. He then noticed that Cloud was quiet. "Nervous?"
"A little," Cloud admitted. "But it's better than the alternative."
"Alternative?" asked the perplexed Zack as he scratched his head.
"Remember how Lechar said we're living in alternate timeline?"
"In the original timeline," Cloud continued, "neither of us admitted our feelings for each other, and Tifa eventually married somebody else."
"Ouch!" Zack exclaimed. "You'll have to tell me more when you're back from your honeymoon."
Just then, Uncle Albert and Aunt Lara arrived.
Cloud and Zack returned to the outdoors to greet them.
"There's my future nephew-in-law!" greeted Uncle Albert.
"We're sorry Tobin couldn't come," Aunt Lara added. "God only knows where he's gone."
"I saw him yesterday," Cloud informed them.
"You did?!" Uncle Albert exclaimed.
"Is he alright?" asked Aunt Lara.
"He's fine," Cloud assured her. "He should be here any minute."
Uncle Albert then took a look at Zack.
"You look a lot like one of Tobin's buddies," he pointed out.
"That would be me," Zack corrected.
"Wait a minute," Uncle Albert said. "You're Zack?"
"But I heard Zack died," Aunt Lara added.
"I did," Zack confirmed. "Tobin's other buddy was good enough to bring me back. And I've been hiding out in Cosmo Canyon ever since so the Shinra wouldn't go after me. You know what they say, 'only a moron would try to kill something that's already dead.'"
Cloud smiled as he looked on. Everything was falling into place perfectly. Now, all there was to do was wait. He glanced at the patio door; Tifa would be emerging from there shortly.
And then, Tobin himself showed up.
"Tobin Lockheart!" Uncle Albert exclaimed as he marched over to his son.
Oh, shit, Tobin thought.
This was, indeed, an inevitability. He was happy to see his parents, for sure, but he knew he might get grilled.
"We haven't heard from you in forever!" Aunt Lara exclaimed as she followed Uncle Albert. "We thought something happened to you! Did you know Tifa was trying to reach you?"
"I'm okay," Tobin assured them. "Mostly."
"That's good to hear," Uncle Albert said. "I thought you might have wandered off to the Island Gulag or something worse."
He's still got it, Tobin thought. Always catching what I'm doing.
"I did wander off to the Island Gulag," Tobin sheepishly admitted. "But no worries. Tifa rescued me, along with Uncle Brian."
Uncle Albert gasped.
"He's alive?!" he exclaimed. "My brother's alive?!"
"He sure is," Tobin confirmed. "He's inside, but you'll see him walking Tifa down the aisle soon."
Uncle Albert wiped his forehead.
"So Brian's been alive all this time," he said. "Was he at the Island Gulag?"
"He sure was," Tobin replied. "With minimal damage."
"Wow!" sighed Uncle Albert. "That's amazing! And Tifa rescued him?"
"You got it," Tobin answered. "She went through a lot of trouble. She found out where the Island Gulag was by reading my journal."
"So you helped, too," Uncle Albert observed.
"Kind of," Tobin admitted. "I just really gave her a place to look."
"We are oud of you, son," Uncle Albert declared. "Thanks for saving my sleazy brother."
"You can definitely catch up with him once the vows are exchanged," Tobin assured him.
And then, Uncle Albert and Aunt Lara directed their attention to the red-haired woman standing next to him.
"And you are?" greeted Uncle Albert.
"Cissnei," she replied with a smile.
"You're the Cissnei we've been hearing about?" asked Aunt Lara. She then reached out and hugged her. "Thanks for being such a good friend to my baby," she whispered.
"Don't mention it," Cissnei happily replied.
Tobin, meanwhile, took his eyes to the seats near the altar. His parents would embarrass him sooner or later.
Cissnei took the hint.
"Which is the bride's side and which is the groom's?" she asked.
"Either or," Tobin replied. "All their friends are mutual." He then turned towards his parents. "We're going to take our seats," he announced.
"No problem," Uncle Albert replied. "We'll catch up to you."
With that, he turned and made his way toward the seats.
"It was nice meeting you," Cissnei said before following him.
"She's beautiful," Aunt Lara whispered.
Tobin and Cissnei took their seats in the third row to the left of the aisle. Red XIII had also taken his seat, as had Parker and Sage. Soon, the seats would all be full. As it turned out, Elena had invited just about everyone Cloud and Tifa had encountered.
"So Tobin," Cissnei began as she folded her hands in her lap, "what do you plan on doing now that the Shinra's gone?"
Tobin realized that he had not considered that. He would need to find a job.
"That's a good question," he replied. "I'm usually good at figuring things like this out."
Cissnei then got an idea.
"Would you publish your journal?" she suggested.
"It saved my ass," Tobin admitted. "I suppose I could share it with the world."
"It could make you a lot of money," she said. "I know it would sell. People hate Shinra now and would eat up anything that was critical of them."
"I never thought of that," he said. "Maybe I can become a novelist or something."
He realized that he might want to remove some of the intimate details.
"The only downside would be that it would have a sad ending," Cissnei continued.
She did have a point; the journal did not document his rescue. As far as anyone could tell, he died at the Island Gulag. He did need to confirm that he was still alive.
"I'll have to write a sequel, then," Tobin replied. "The first one does end on a cliffhanger."
"No kidding," Cissnei agreed.
"My incarceration at the Island Gulag would take up about ten chapters," Tobin theorized out loud. "The escape might take up another three. I think thirteen chapters is kind of a rip-off. Come to think of it, I might as well tag them on to the journal. But the ending would kind of suck."
"What do you mean?" asked Cissnei.
She wondered what could possibly be wrong with a memoir ending in Tobin's escape. It would satisfy the readers with his fate.
"It would have to end with Cloud and Tifa's wedding," Tobin explained. "Cloud doesn't appear until halfway through the journal. Tifa doesn't appear until two thirds in. I've got myself, Zack, you, Cloud, Tifa, Cid, Yuffie, and Vincent. And Tseng, Reno and Rude. All the other supporting characters are dead. That's kind of a downer. It certainly won't have that strong of an ending."
"That is true," she observed, realizing that they were not very prominent early on in the journal.
Then, Tobin realized the perfect ending.
"Maybe I'll just leave out the wedding and end it with reuniting with my best friend," he decided. "Yeah, that's what I'll do."
Cissnei smiled and affectionately rubbed his shoulder. She felt flattered that she was important enough to him to end his journal that way.
Tobin, however, was not quite sure. It was a strong ending, but not strong enough.
He was, of course, happy to be reunited with Cissnei. Still, something about it didn't feel right. To him, something about their reunion felt...unfinished.
As the parlor clock chimed two in the afternoon, Tifa was still sitting in her chair. All her makeup had been applied. She had even been given a pair of diamond earrings and a necklace to match; they had belonged to her mother. There was nothing more to be done, with one exception.
Jessie, meanwhile, had gone upstairs. It was not something Tifa had really taken notice of, but when she returned, she was wearing her beautiful blue bridesmaid dress. Shera and Yuffie then went upstairs to put theirs on.
It was that point when Elena noticed Tifa breathing heavier. More reality was setting in. But...this was unusual for the typically brave and confident Tifa.
"You okay?" Elena asked.
"I...think so," Tifa replied, her exhales becoming audible.
Elena looked at her friend skeptically. She was becoming able to read her like a book.
"You're nervous," she observed.
"No," Tifa insisted. "I'm not."
Elena was not convinced.
"It's okay," she assured her. "Look, it's just a little anxiety."
"Okay," Tifa admitted as she blushed, "I'm nervous. And I've never been this nervous before. I don't know why. It wasn't even this nervous when I turned myself to stone."
"It's a new experience for you," Elena informed her. "Marrying the man you truly love."
Tifa realized that Elena had a point; she had married Bo in the old timeline out of fear of dying alone. Now, she was marrying Cloud for love. It was a completely different situation.
"That's one thing," Tifa admitted in a nervous tone of voice. "I guess it just didn't hit me until now. There's just so much on my mind!"
"Shhhh," Elena whispered as she rubbed Tifa's shoulder. "Just talk it off."
"What if he gets cold feet?" Tifa asked nervously.
"He won't," Elena assured her. "You said he saw the future where you two didn't get together and he hated it, right?"
"I suppose," Tifa replied. "But I'm a little worried that the text might drive him away."
"What text?" Elena asked.
Tifa silently pulled out her cell phone and showed Elena.
"I sent it to him last night," she said.
Elena scanned the dialogue.
"Hmm," she said. "Nobody I know has ever done that before. But if he didn't approve of it, he would have just said no. And that didn't even happen."
Tifa paused, and looked Elena in the eyes.
"What do you think of it?" she asked.
"It's your wedding," Elena replied. "If it makes you happy, then go for it."
"I guess I'm also worried that Karnak might show up and ruin everything," Tifa added.
"I don't think so," Elena insisted. "Because he's still sitting in that cell, wondering what he did wrong."
Tifa began to notice that she was beginning to feel better. She realized that Elena was right; talking it off was helping.
"And I have this weird feeling in the back of my head that Sephiroth might pop up and attack us," she continued.
"That definitely won't happen," Jessie replied as she pulled something out of her duffel bag and showed it to Tifa.
"What is it?" Tifa asked.
"Barret created it," Jessie replied. "It's a Sephiroth cam!"
Tifa looked at the device. Sure enough, it displayed Sephiroth, still a stone statue and at the bottom of the Nibel Reactor.
At that moment, Yuffie and Shera returned, wearing their dresses as well.
"What if I get my vows wrong?" Tifa asked.
Elena simply smiled.
"Would you care?" she asked. "You'll still marry Cloud, either way."
"True," Tifa agreed. "I guess I just want this to be...perfect."
"No wedding's perfect," Elena insisted. "I've been to plenty. I went to one wedding that had to be postponed five months because the original date was snowed out. I went to another one where the best man died shortly before the wedding. There was yet another one I went to where the ring bearer dropped the ring and broke it. Finally, there was one where the groom got robbed on the wedding night. And that's just the people I know. But, you know what? They all happily look back on their wedding day just the same."
Tifa, by this point, felt better. If someone had told her a mere week ago that she and Elena would be friends, she probably would have laughed. But now, she had become her best female friend. She considered herself fortunate to have her in her life.
"But with that being said," Elena continued, "I think I need to get my dress on." She then took both of Tifa's hands in hers and pulled her to her feet. "And you," she added.
Elena led the way up the stairs and into the old master bedroom. She went into the closet and took out the garment bag that contained Tifa's wedding dress and handed it to the bride.
"So here comes the tricky part," Elena began. "Traditionally, we help you into your dress, but I respect how you value your privacy. It's up to you."
Tifa smiled. Elena, even if she did not understand her, respected her just the same.
"I'll put it on," Tifa said. "If I need adjustments after it covers my boobs and underwear, I'll let you know."
Elena smiled back.
"Well then," she said, "the bride needs to get ready. We've got less than an hour left."
"Thanks," said Tifa. "For everything."
She then turned, went to her bedroom, and closed the door behind her.
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