Author: Auditory Eden

Rating: T

Warnings: Again, none! It's a miracle!

Notes: The long awaited sequel to Dress Up, my lone Marlene/Denzel fic. Ties in with my Yuffentine one-shot collection, One Hundred Themes. Please note, all ages are guessed at and approximated, not all that accurately. All Avalanche children are my OCs. Enjoy!

Square-Enix owns all except Zack Strife, Asana Kisaragi-Valentine, and Buddy Highwind.

The Wedding

Marlene was having what could only be called a panic attack. Her dress wasn't ready and the ceremony started in one hour. She had tried on the bodice before, but she knew she needed, and had been banking on, and hour or so to get used to wearing the tightly tailored dress before having to walk down the aisle in it. Fainting was not on her agenda. Perfect, flawless happiness was.

Until the dressmaker called to say one of the assistants had ripped the skirt.

While the woman had sworn to get it to her by the wedding, and on that count Marlene knew she could count on her, she really wanted to have it wear for a bit first.

A knock sounded at the door. "Hey, Marlene, honey, can I come in?" Tifa called through the door. When Marlene made a noncommittal noise, she opened it and walked in.

The sight that greeted her eyes looked more appropriate to a woman who had just been told that her husband or child was dead, rather than a woman about to marry the love of her life. Marlene sat on the stool in front of her vanity, hair unbrushed, dried in frizzy curls from her shower, tears welling in her eyes as she sat with her knees pulled up to her chest in a fluffy white bathrobe. Crying had made her skin blotchy.

"Look, honey, it's gonna be fine! You know that. You and Denzel…I thought you two had decided to get married when you were about five," she smiled warmly and pushed black hair behind her ears. "You remember that time you two had the play-wedding? The next day at recess some girl was flirting with him and you walked right over and grabbed his hand and told her off for messing with him."

"Y-yes," Marlene smiled wetly, "and he just froze and pretended to go along with it." She began to twist the hem of her robe in her hands. "But I just want today to be…."

"Perfect." Tifa smiled. "I know. That's how I felt when I married Cloud. But you know, all you two need for it to be perfect is you and Denzel. Whatever happens, as long as the world doesn't actually end, how can it be anything but perfect?"

Marlene smiled and began to stand up when Yuffie, face wide and grinning, burst into the room. "It's here!" she announced. Both of the other women stood and Marlene moved forward, hands outstretched, breath bated, reaching for the bag.

She took it from Yuffie, and in one quick moment, she slid the plastic bag off the dress and onto the floor.

A soft, full skirt, a pretty bodice, fitted with whalebone in the seams, with a line of tiny pearl buttons up the back. The whole dress was covered with an overlay of beautiful foamlike lace, and it was actually a soft cream, not a harsh white.

"Perfect," breathed Marlene.

xXx

Denzel fidgeted in his tux. The wedding was in fifteen minutes, and he was terrified. Not of Marlene. Of the wedding. He'd never been able to talk in front of crowds. How was he supposed to actually make his vows?

He remembered what Cloud had told him. "The wedding is horrible. It sucks. But marriage is amazing. Actually, the wedding is probably to make you appreciate being married more."

He glanced to the side, and looked at his adoptive father. Legally, he was only Tifa's son, but Cloud was as much his father as if he had been born to him. The blonde was still thin and strong, but lines on his forehead made him look older than his thirty-one years. Cloud had been talking to Vincent, who was about to fetch the girls.

Valentine didn't look old by any standard, but his age, now close to seventy-eight, showed the tiniest bit in the lines around his eyes from too many hours spent brooding. The addition of Asana to his and Yuffie's life together had etched dark circles under both their eyes, but on Vincent's pale skin, they looked like bruises. Five years had not erased them yet, and he looked quite tired, even as his five-year-old daughter ran down the stairs of Seventh Heaven in an adorable pale blue dress with marching ribbons in her hair and threw her arms around his legs. Lifting his daughter into the air, Vincent laughed a little, and she shrieked, "Daddy!" as he swung her around. Denzel smiled at them, but then Vincent put down his child and turned to Denzel and spoke. "You might want to get down to the altar." He caught sight of Denzel's slightly green face. "You'll be fine. Trust me; once you see her, nerves will be the last thing on your mind." Vincent turned away.

Denzel watched as the gunslinger ushered his daughter over to the group of other Avalanche children, Buddy and Zack. Cloud touched his shoulder, and the two made their way around the chairs set up in the main room of the bar.

To Denzel's relief, the wedding would be small, all of Avalanche, yes, but half of them were in the wedding party and there were only eight of them to begin with. There were a few extra guests, friends of Avalanche, mostly, as Denzel and Marlene had never really connected with other children their ages when Avalanche became famous. Shelke, Reeve, Rufus, Tseng, Elena, Rude and Reno had all managed to attend. No more than twenty people sat in rows, bedecked in formalwear.

The altar was pretty much just a table with a white cloth and a nice vase of flowers. For whatever reason, the women had chosen juniper, rosemary, jasmine, and orchids to make up the various bouquets around the room. The arrangement on the altar was almost three times the size of the more modest bouquets on the tables around the edge of the room. Denzel bit his lip as Cid walked up to him and Cloud. Just like in the play wedding they'd had years ago, Cid would marry them, this time for real.

After a moment, the children piled up through the door to the stairwell, running to take their seats. Cloud smiled at him, but Denzel still gulped nervously.

xXx

Marlene stood in front of the mirror in her room as Tifa pinned the delicate lace veil into her hair. She closed her eyes and felt Tifa's gentle fingers smooth the veil down over her face. When she opened them again, she took in her whole reflection. The bodice fit her well, the corseted structure meaning that she didn't even need to wear a bra. Straps of the same lace of the overlay decorated her shoulders. The buttons up the back were as straight as her spine, and she felt as though slumping was not an option. The skirt flared deliciously from her hips and fell in voluminous folds of satin. Her hair was half twisted up in a knot at the base of which the veil was pinned, and half fell in shining curls fell past her shoulders. A delicate necklace of silver bluebells, set with sapphires, was her blue. Her dress was new. Her veil was old, purchased secondhand because it matched the dress, made from antique lace. Her earrings were pearl teardrops, borrowed from Tifa for the occasion. Her engagement ring, a simple silver band set with a single tiny diamond, glittered subtly from her finger. She minutely examined her appearance for any flaw while Yuffie and Tifa got ready. When she turned back to her maid of honor and bride's maid, she felt shadowed by them. Dressed in dark blue, both looked stunning, and she began to wonder if all the white made her look washed out.

Before her panic could escalate further, however, a knock on the door heralded Vincent, clad in well fitting tux, hair neatly ponytailed, and Barret, who had even polished his gun-arm for the occasion. A significant look passed between Vincent and Yuffie, and then he spoke quietly to Marlene.

"It's time."

With Tifa and Yuffie on either side of her, Marlene made her way down the steps, bouquet in hand, Vincent and her father just behind her. She was going to get married.

They all lined up to walk in, and she heard the music begin to play. Vincent and Yuffie walked out first, then Tifa and a school friend of Denzel's walked in together, before the bride. Marlene took Barret's proffered arm as they began to walk as well. The small crowd was silent as they walked towards the altar. When they reached it, Cid began, "Who gives this woman to be wed?"

Marlene kept her eyes firmly on the ground, afraid that if she looked up, something awful would happen. She bit her lip as her father gave her away. Barret passed Marlene's hand to Denzel, then moved to take his place in the front row.

"Friends, we are gathered here today, in the sights of those who've passed to the Lifestream, in the sights of the gods, to celebrate the union of these two souls. Does anyone present have proof that they should not be wed? Speak now or forever hold your peace."

No one stood or spoke, and Marlene squeezed Denzel's hand. Cid reached for a glorified clip-board with the marriage certificate, and handed it to the couple who signed, then passed it to Tifa and Cloud, respectively, to sign as witnesses. After that, the couple turned to each other, and waited for Cid to begin the vows.

"Do you, Marlene Wallace, take Denzel Lockhart-Strife, to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do you part?" he asked. Marlene took a deep breath, and said, "I do."

"And do you, Denzel Lockhart-Strife, take Marlene Wallace, to be your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do you part?"

"I do." Cloud stepped forward to hand the pair their simple white-gold wedding bands. Denzel took Marlene's and her hand. "With this ring, I thee wed." He slipped it onto her finger.

Marlene now took Denzel's wedding ring and parroted him. "With this ring, I thee wed." She settled the band at the base of his finger, and finally looked into his eyes.

Cid spoke again. "I now pronounce you man and wife. You may now kiss the bride."

Denzel swept the front of her veil back, and kissed her soundly. The applause of the surrounding people was lost to them as they gazed into each other's eyes.

"I love you, Denzel," Marlene said quietly.

"I love you too, Marlene…"

xXx

Parting Comments: Well, that turned out well! Please tell me what you thought, if you feel so inclined. Stay tuned for Tifa and Cloud's wedding!

Hugs and Kisses

Eden