Hel & Back Chapter 9

Wedding Bells

By Dino Pollard

Three Months Later.

Red XIII scurried about the house, making sure everyone was set. Although he looked a bit odd in a tuxedo, he insisted that he wear one to the wedding. Cloud made sure that it was custom-tailored to his friend’s… unusual measurements. As an added bonus, he had begun to train himself to stand on his hind legs, so that he could stand tall as he watched two of his closest friends enter into a sacred union.

“You can slow down a little, Red. It won’t kill you.”

“Aeris?” he asked. “You look stunning. For a human, anyway.”

“Thanks, I think,” Aeris replied with a grin. “I can’t believe this is it. The big day.”

Red nodded.




“I think Cid’s having some problems with the limo,” Aeris noted with a giggle.

Red had a solemn look on his face, and quickly darted out the door. At this point, Aeris broke out into laughter.


She stopped herself and turned around.

“Sephiroth!!” she exclaimed. “You look wonderful!!”

“It’s too tight,” he replied, pulling at the neck.

“It’s supposed to be,” she said. “Don’t do that, you’ll mess up the tie. Oh… here, let me help you.”

She untied it and redid it. Then, she straightened out his jacket.

“There,” she said. “All set.”

They stood there and stared at each other for a few minutes, neither of them able to find words.

“I—I should probably go check on Tifa…” Aeris said. “See if she’s doing okay.”

“Yes…” Sephiroth replied. “You should.”


“You okay?” Jonah asked.

“I guess…” Cloud replied. “It—it just seems odd. Not having Rain here. It’s like he just disappeared. We haven’t heard from him at all.”

“We don’t know a lot about him,” Jonah stated. “The experiments that were done on him seemed to have warped his mind. To what degree is anyone’s guess.”

“Yeah, you’ve got a point…” Cloud said. “Still…I just…”

“Cold feet,” Jonah noted with a grin. “Every groom gets that.”

“Maybe,” Cloud said.

“Hey Cloud,” Zack said. “Cid’s still trying to get the limo up and running, but the car’s ready if you guys wanna get over to the church now.”

“Probably not a half-bad idea,” Jonah said.

“But if Cid needs any help…” Cloud protested.

“Barret and Red are already out there with him,” Zack replied.

“All right…” Cloud sighed. “This all just seems so hectic…”


“C’mon Marlene, why can’t you let me in?” Aeris asked.

“It’s bad luck to see the bride before the wedding!” Marlene replied.

“That’s bad luck for the GROOM!!” Aeris giggled. “It doesn’t apply to me.”

“You shoor?” Marlene asked.

“Yeah, I’m sure,” Aeris replied.

“Okay…” Marlene said, moving away from the door. “But don’t blame me if sumthin’ bad happens.”


She took Marlene’s tiny hand in her own and shook it. Once she entered the door, she closed it behind her.

“Ahh, she’s so cute!!” Aeris exclaimed. Then, she noticed Tifa.

“Tifa…?” she asked. “Wow.”

Tifa stood there, in front of three mirrors, her long, white dress scraping against the floor.

“Hi,” she said. “What do you think?”

“Let’s just say that even I’m willing to marry you!!” Aeris replied.

“Thanks,” Tifa said, blushing a little. “Is everything all right?”

“Yeah, I just decided to check up on you.”

“Did Cid get the limo working?”

“See for yourself,” Aeris said as she opened the window.


She immediately shut it.

“Oh god…” Tifa said, grinning.

“So… today’s the big day…” Aeris stated.

“Yeah…” Tifa said, looking at the engagement ring on her finger. “I still can’t believe this is actually happening… I mean, after we rescued your parents and Zack from Seido, and the way Cloud moved in battle, I was afraid that he would become addicted to his sword once more. But, once Helspont was defeated, and once we got back to the villa, he hung the sword back up on the mantle. I honestly think that he really wants to settle down. He refuses to become a mercenary again. In fact, he’s perfectly content with working at the bar. It’s great.”

“That’s good,” Aeris said. “I’m glad you guys have finally found happiness. I always knew that he deeply cared for you, but at first, I’ll admit that I tried to deny it. I remember we were competing for his affections. But, what I saw in him was just Zack. What you saw in him was something more, and I’m happy that he finally figured it out.”

“Speaking of Zack, how are things between the two of you?”

“We’ve barely spoken…” Aeris replied. “I loved Zack, and I always will. But, I don’t think I’m in love with him…”

“Oh, you mean…” Tifa began. “…Him?”

“I know you and Cloud have your issues with him,” Aeris said. “But, Sephiroth has changed. I see something in him that I never saw in anyone else. Cloud would say what I see is madness, but I think it goes deeper than that. I see warmth. He has a good soul.”

“Do you really believe that?”

“I do,” Aeris said. “If he didn’t, then he wouldn’t bother seeking penance for what he did to Nibelheim. But, every time I try to get him to open up, he shuts me out.”

“Give it some time,” Tifa said. “It took awhile for Cloud, and he’s not as reserved as Sephiroth is.”

“Well, let’s get going,” Aeris said. “We’ve gotta get you to a wedding!!”

As they walked out the door, Aeris stopped her.

“Tifa, I just wanted to say thanks.”

“For what?”

“For asking me to be your maid of honor.”

“Thanks for accepting,” Tifa said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better friend.”

“Same here.”



“Cid, calm down, please,” Red stated. “It’s just a car.”


“You guys STILL messing around with that thing?” Yuffie asked.

“SHUT UP!!!” Cid exclaimed. “JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!”

“Oh for the love of…” she said, pushing past them. She looked underneath the hood, being careful not to get her dress dirty. She fiddled around with a few wires.

“DON’T TOUCH THAT, YA DUMB BITCH!!” Cid exclaimed.

“Oh, will you just shut UP?!” Yuffie asked. “Gawd…”

She moved away from the car, opened the door, and started it up with no problem. Cid was left with a dumbfounded look on his face.

“How the fuck did you do that?!”

“The battery was disconnected, genius,” Yuffie stated. “World’s greatest mechanic—HAH!!”

As she walked away, Barret and Red couldn’t help but break out into laughter. Cid glared at them, before climbing in the driver’s seat.



“How much time do we have?” Cloud asked.

“Don’t worry,” Zack replied. “We’re making excellent time.”

“What about gas? Are we all right on gas? It looks like we should probably stop and fill up.”

“The tank is full.”

“Did the check engine light just flash on? Maybe we should head over to a mechanic…”

“Cloud, calm down, man,” Zack pleaded. “You’re so nervous your hands are shaking.”

“No they’re not,” Cloud replied.

“Here,” Zack said, handing him a napkin and a pen. “Write your name down.”

“This is so stup—“

“Just do it!”

Cloud sighed and tried to write his name. He showed it to Zack.

“No, no shaking at all,” Zack muttered.

“What? I just have bad handwriting.”

“You spelled out Eloua. Your name’s not Eloua.”

“It is in my native language,” Cloud replied.

“What native language would that be?”


“See? You’re nervous.”

“Yeah, maybe you’re right…” Cloud said.

The car went over a speed bump.

“Pull over, we should check the tires.”

“Jesus…” Zack muttered. “My kingdom for a well-placed bullet…”


As Cloud and Zack entered the church, they were joined by Red, Barret, and Cid.

“Everything all right?” he asked.

“Yes,” Red stated. “We’re all set to go.”

“Let’s go over to the altar then,” Cloud said. “You gonna be all right, Cid?”

“Yeah,” Cid replied, putting out his cigarette in a water pail. “All I gotta do is escort people to their seats.”

“Cid, that’s holy water,” Red noted.


The fire-red beast simply shook his head.

“Come on,” Cloud said, leading the way around the back. The three of them slowly stepped up to the altar, where the priest was waiting.

“You all right, son?”

“I’m a’right,” Barret replied. “Thanks f’r askin’.”

“I was talking to the groom,” the priest said.

“Oh,” Barret said. “Who cares ‘bout him?”

“I’m fine, father,” Cloud replied, shaking his head at Barret.


“Look,” Red stated, motioning out to the crowd. “It looks like everyone showed up.”

“All our friends.” Cloud noted. “This is… too much…”

“Don’t even think about getting cold feet now,” Zack warned, placing a hand on his shoulder. “You’re not leaving here tonight. You didn’t make me the best man for nothing.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Cloud muttered. “Hey… Vincent’s not here.”

“We weren’t able to contact him,” Red stated. “We tried, but no luck. He’s still searching for Hojo, most-likely.”

They kept quiet as music began to play. It started out with Cait Sith, minus mog, and dressed in a small tux (along with his cape) carrying a pillow with the rings on it. Next, came Marlene, the flower girl, dropping petals along the way.

She was followed by Yuffie, who looked very eloquent in her dress. Cloud was amazed at how much difference some make-up, a dress, and a hair style made.

Shera followed her, her glasses removed for the time being, her hair kept up in a neat, little bun. Cid grinned as she walked passed him, and she winked at him.

Aeris came next, and Zack watched her movements with rapt attention. Off in one of the far pews, Sephiroth’s heart stood still as she walked down the aisle, that ever-present smile on her face. He almost caught himself smiling as well.

Then, the organist stopped, and began to play the wedding march. All the guests stood up, waiting to see the bride come down the aisle. Most-shocking, however, was the fact that Red stood up as well, on his hind legs.

Then, she appeared. A vision of beauty in a long, white dress. Her veil was nearly as long, and she held a bouquet of flowers in her hands. She wore a smile from ear to ear, and Cloud did the same as she came closer.

Memories flashed through each of their minds. Memories of their childhood, memories of Nibelheim, of that night at the well, of their first kiss, of that night a few days before fighting Seraph, when they told each other how they felt.

They had both come so far, their lives were always in danger. They both loved that danger, the thrill of it, the rush it caused. Now, all of that was over. And, they were both ready to begin a new chapter in their lives—except this time those lives would become one life. As she stepped up to the altar, she linked her arm with Cloud’s, and their hands gripped. They knew that no matter what happened, no matter what circumstances they had to face, they would face it not as teammates, not as best friends, not as lovers, but as one. In the moment their hands touched, they both knew they had become one. They knew that this was right, that they were meant to be together.

The priest both smiled at them, and began.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today in the house of God and in the sight of these two young people. It is my understanding that both the bride and the groom have prepared their own vows that they would like to read at this point.”

“Tifa…” Cloud began. “Ever since the moment I laid eyes on you, I knew I was in love with you. As a child, I watched you. As a young teenager, I stammered and stuttered whenever you passed by. As a soldier, I always thought of you. Throughout the years, my feelings for you always remained the same. Despite everything that’s happened to us, my love for you never changed. The night we told each other how we felt was probably the happiest night of my life. Until now. Now, the two of us will become one. When you accepted my proposal to marry you, I was so full of joy that I was ready to explode. Now, here we are, standing in front of our family, and our friends.”

He took the ring from Cait, and slid it on Tifa’s finger.

“With this ring, I thee wed.”

“Cloud…” Tifa began. “When we were kids, we weren’t very close. Yet, I still kept a very special place in my heart for you. I could never explain it, but for some reason, I enjoyed seeing you. When you told me you were joining SOLDIER, I was filled with a great sadness. I started reading the paper every day, trying to find out if you appeared in the news at all. I followed the news reports every night on TV, waiting to hear something. I lost count of the number of times I wish I had your new address, so I could write to you. When I found you that night, at the Sector 7 Station, I could hardly believe it. But, there you were. Lying half-dead. I didn’t recognize you at first, until you called out my name. When you were in the Lifestream, I heard you calling out to me. I had always kept my feelings for you a secret, for fear of rejection. Then, in the Lifestream, when I found you had the same feelings and the same reservations, it was probably the one time I was truly happy. And that night, that night was also one of the happiest moments of my life.”

She took the second ring from Cait, sliding it on Cloud’s finger.

“With this ring, I thee wed.”

“By the power vested in me by the city of Midgar, I now pronounce you man and wife,” he said. “Now, you may—“

He was cut off, as Cloud and Tifa slid into a passionate embrace.

“—continue kissing the bride.”

They broke away, smiling at each other.

“It’s my pleasure to present to you Mr. and Mrs. Cloud Strife.” the priest stated.

Cloud and Tifa faced the crowd, arm in arm, and applause broke out. Boisterous cheering was started by Cid, as they moved towards the exit. All the time, people threw dry rice at them as they passed by.

The pair made their way to the limo, where Cardinal was waiting, opening the door for them. Zack, Barret, Red, Aeris, Shera, Yuffie, and Marlene followed. Once they were all inside, Cardinal climbed into the driver’s seat.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Cid began. “Where d’ya think you’re going?”

“Goddammit Cid, jes’ let ‘im drive!!” Barret shouted. “If I don’t get some alcohol in me soon, I’m gonna take it out on you!!”

“Cid, here,” Zack stated, opening the door and tossing him a set of keys. “Take my car.”

“…Fine,” Cid muttered.


The reception hall. The party was loud and lively, the wedding party all sitting at the head table, with guests scattered at tables throughout the room. Cloud and Tifa began by sharing their first dance, and then Zack stole her away, while Aeris snatched up Cloud. Barret held Marlene in his arms as he danced around the floor, and she was crying out with laughter the entire time. Cid and Shera shared a dance, memories of their own wedding fresh in their mind. In an act of kindness, Reeve shared a dance with Yuffie, and all the time, she kept stepping on his feet.

“Oops! Sorry!”

When the meal and alcohol came, many of the guests were quite happy. Cloud and Tifa looked out at their friends and family assembled.

“Look at this turnout!” she exclaimed. “I never knew this many people would come!! Look, isn’t that Lara?”

“Yup,” Cloud replied. “It looks like pretty much everyone we’ve ever been associated with turned up.”

Tifa giggled a bit, and then, something caught her eye. She saw a large, black man with dark sunglasses and a shaved head.

“Oh no…” she began. “Cloud… look.”

Cloud looked over to where she motioned, and noticed the man as well.


He stood up and began to make his way down the steps, with Tifa following. The crowd blocked their path, though, and they ended up being swept away in the various conversations as people came to congratulate them.

When Cloud looked again, he saw no sign of their enemy.



“Just a beer,” Zack stated, as he slid into the bar. The barkeep handed it to him in a mug.

“There you go,” he said. “Nice party, huh?”

“It’s all right,” Zack replied. “As far as I’m concerned, any party with an open bar is fine by me.”

“Heh,” he said. He noticed someone else on the other side of the bar with an empty glass. “Excuse me.”

Zack watched as the tender walked towards the other man. He had spiked red hair, and a ponytail. Zack stood and began to walk over to him. The man looked up as he came closer.

“How’s it going, Za—“

He was cut off as Zack swiftly delivered a right-hook to his face. Some people around them turned and looked to see what was going on.

“Sonnuva…” he began. “What the hell was that for?!”

“Pick a topic,” Zack replied. “What the hell are you doing here, Reno?!”

“I came to pay my respects,” Reno stated.

“Then allow me to pay mine,” Zack said as he pulled his arm back for another punch. Someone from behind grabbed his arm before he could do anything. He looked to see Midreian standing there.

“I can’t let you do that, sir.”

“It’s all right, Mid,” Reno stated. “Stand down.”

Midreian stood there for a second, before he released Zack. The former SOLDIER began to lunge at him again, but this time, Reno was prepared, taking him town with a swift kick to the chest.

“We’re not here to fight,” Reno said. “We’re just here t—“

Before the leader of the Turks could complete his sentence, Barret rammed into him.

“You sonnuva bitch!!” he exclaimed. “Dis is a WEDDING!! Ya damn Turks got no shame, do ya?!”

He pressed his large hand around Reno’s neck.

“Talk, or I snap it!!”

“That’s enough, Barret!!” Aeris exclaimed. Barret looked at her standing there. She was at least a few feet shorter than him, not to mention much more gentle and lithe. Yet, he couldn’t deny the respect she just commanded from him. Slowly, he released his grip on the smaller man, and stepped back, folding his arms.

“Watch ‘im, Aeris,” he stated. “He—“

“I know who he is and what he’s capable of,” Aeris replied, walking towards Reno. “Stay out of this.”

She lifted his face up, and stared at him straight in the eyes.

“What are you doing here?”

“Just… having a drink,” Reno replied. “We’re not here to fight. If we were, you would’ve known it already.”

“What’s going on?!” Cloud exclaimed, pushing past the crowd. “What the hell are you doing here?!”

“Look, we’re on the same side!!” Reno exclaimed, standing up. “I just came to let you know that the two of us need to have a long talk once you get back from your honeymoon.”

“Then what are the rest of the Turks doing here?” Tifa asked.

“Only Midreian is here with me,” Reno answered.

“Bullshit!!” Cloud exclaimed. “We saw Rude!!”

“You did…?” Reno asked. “Are you sure?”

“Of course, why?”

“Nothing…” Reno stated. “It can wait until you get back. Come on, Mid.”

Midreian looked at them a long time before following Reno out.

“What do you suppose that was all about?” Red asked, standing beside Cloud, looking up.

“I—don’t know,” Cloud replied. He felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to see his father.

“You all right?”

“Yeah, it’s just…” he began, then stopped.

“What?” Jonah asked.

“Nothing,” Cloud replied. “Come on, let’s get back to the party.”


Rude stood in the shadows as he watched Reno and Midreian exit. Once they were gone, he slowly made his way towards the door as well. That is, before Sephiroth shoved him against the wall.

The former general had a steak knife in his hand, and held it at Rude’s neck.

“It may not be the Masamune, but it can get the job done,” he warned. “What are you doing here?”

“Just keeping an eye on Reno,” Rude replied. “That’s all. We’re in this together.”

Sephiroth just looked at him, then removed the knife. Before Rude could move, Sephiroth slammed the Turk’s head against the wall and lifted him by his throat.

“You had better be telling the truth, or next time I won’t be so merciful.”

He walked back into the reception hall, as Rude watched him carefully.


Sephiroth barely had a chance to react. Practically the minute he entered the reception hall, Aeris pulled him towards the dance floor.

“Come on, I saved you a dance.”

He didn’t bother resisting, just allowed her to pull him onto the dance floor. He clumsily followed her lead, practically trampeling her in the process.

Sitting at a table, Zack watched them carefully, glaring at Sephiroth with a hatred and rage in his heart that easily surpassed Cloud’s.


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