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let's dance underneath the soft lights

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“So what did you bribe Andrea with?”  

“Hm,”  Aerith  hums, fluttering her eyelashes innocently, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”  

“Sure,” Zack drawls, spinning her gently, “he just so happens to like you enough to let you have the Honey Bee for free tonight?”  

“I’m a very likeable person.”  

“I hope you are, considering this is your and  Tifa’s  wedding.”  

Aerith  laughs, lightly slapping his shoulder, and Zack grins, happiness nearly bursting out of his chest.   

“You clean up good, country boy.”   

“I hope so-  Yuffie  damn nearly lit my hair on fire in frustration.”  (Bless the woman for taking on the task of trying to tame his hair enough to tie in back into a low ponytail) . He also  gotta  give Andrea props for getting all the guys fitted three piece suits somehow. “And you look stunning,  Aeirth .”  

With her hair pinned up with white camellias, her V neck gown softly wrapping her in lace  (another gift from Andrea- pretty sure the man is the main supplier of this whole wedding),  low fairy lights casting light shadows across her skin-  Aerith  is something out of a  fairytail   (more so than usual) .  

(Once upon a time, they both thoughts they were going to get married to each other. And here they are- dancing together for  Aerith’s  father-daughter dance,  Tifa  dancing with Barrett a few feet away.)  

Aerith’s  smile grows a wicked edge, something  mischievous  dancing in her eyes, and Zack’s hair stands on end, bracing himself for whatever the woman is about to throw at him. She nods her head to the side, leering at him with a deceiving light note in her voice, “Cloud is also looking pretty good.”  

Gulping, his face warm, Zack glances at his best friend  (again, for the millionth time tonight, for the uncountable time in their friendship) .  

And by Gaia is Cloud breathtakingly beautiful, barely hidden in the shadows, glass of champagne in one hand and Marlene in his other arm, his figure sharply highlighted by the suit, hair swept to the side, the blue carnation pinned to his jacket lapel matching his tie.  

(But when is he not  breathtaking - from wide awake to half asleep, from snarky to bashful, from relaxed to battle ready, and everything in between. Zack hasn’t been able to keep his eyes completely to himself since Cloud pulled off his helmet on that snowy mountain top.)  

Aerith’s  fingers curl softly into his jacket, not enough to wrinkle the fabric, holding him close  (preventing him from running away) , her smile growing, “Hey, Zack?” Lying sweetness drips from each word.  

“Yeah?” He mentally pats himself on the back for keeping his voice steady  (don’t show weakness, don’t show weakness, don’t let her win) .  

“You remember,” she begins, the false sweetness mixing with casualness, “how you promised me anything I wanted, as your Best Man gift?”  

“Yes?”  (At the time, half drunk, it sounded like a good idea; next morning Zack wanted to kick drunk Zack’s ass for signing away his  dignity  to his evil, evil best friend.)    

Pulling him even closer just as the song starts reaching the end, she leans up and whisper in his ear, “I want you to dance with Cloud.” And then she pulls away, grin still in place as she does a short spin over to  Tifa  and Barrett, catching her wife around the middle from behind.  

Zack gulps, willing his face to cool down and for his heart to not jack rabbit out of his chest, fingers itching to loosen his tie. Instead  (also stopping himself from doing a squat in the middle of the dancefloor)  he turns and starts heading over to Cloud, giving a high five to Marlene as she goes running past, Barrett’s excited shout coming from behind him.  

“Can’t hide from me, Cloudy,” he sing songs as he gets closer, his heart squeezing at Cloud’s affectionate eye roll.  

“Just avoiding the dance floor.”  

“Can’t dance?”  

“Not my thing,” Cloud shrugs indifferently, setting the glass down on a random table.  

A wick grin starts curling Zack’s mouth, especially at the way Cloud’s eyes widen, darting to the side, looking for escape. “Zack no-”  

“Zack yes,” he says, snatching Cloud’s wrist and pulling him to the floor, nodding his head to Cid and Vincent, “if Cid can drag Vincent to the dancefloor, I can drag you.”  

Cloud shakes his head, his cheeks turning a bashful pink  (the grip on Zack’s heart tightening) , warning, “Don’t blame me if I step on your feet.” Zack turns and pulls Cloud close, the grip on his wrist sliding to cup his hand as his other hand cups his  (impossibly)  tiny waist. Cloud’s other hand lays itself on Zack’s shoulder.  

“If that’s the worst thing to happen tonight, I’ll take it.” Cloud laughs as they start to move to the music, spinning past Red and  Yuffie , the former’s front paws propped up on the latter’s shoulders, and Marlene and Barrett, the little girl cradled in the man’s arms. The good humor in Zack’s blood vanishes, replaced by the sudden knowledge of how close he and Cloud are, bodies pressed almost intimately together  (versus the  awkward  thing that Cid and  Vincent  are doing, hands weirdly clasped together, feet struggling to find a rhythm) .  

“You sure you aren’t a natural dancer? Because it feels like I’m more likely to step on your feet then vice versa.”  

“My mom and I use to dance a lot,” Cloud explains, Zack spinning him. “ Plus  Andrea has been putting me to work the last couple days.”  

“What?”  The word comes out harsher than Zack wanted but he couldn’t help it  (imagination running wild with that sentence, images of Cloud in less than innocent situations and outfits, Gaia forbidden the Honey Bee outfit, racing through his head.)  

Cloud nudges his chin with his forehead, not breaking their dance, “Calm down. I just danced a few nights over the past couple of weeks in exchange for him covering the venue and the outfits for us.” Zack opens his mouth, and Cloud cuts him off, “And no, he didn’t make me wear the girl’s outfit. I wore the men’s.”  

“Oh.”   It did little to sooth the overprotective dragon underneath his skin, but it was enough  (for now- he'll get more details from Andrea later) . The man in question catches his eye as he dips a blushing Biggs, Jessie and Wedge both giggling next to him, wiggling his eyebrows. But Zack couldn’t concentrate on that. “Oh,” Zack breathes again, more breathless this time, heart thundering, as Cloud tucks his head underneath his chin, pulling them closer together.  

“Hey Zack?” The man hums,  desperately  trying to avoid eye contact with  Aerith  and  Tifa , both of them making slight kissy faces at them  (actually he’s trying to avoid eye contact with everyone, every single traitorous one of them making some form of face between kissy faces, eyebrow wiggling, or just silent judgement stares and eyebrow raises) .  

“We should do this more often. Dancing together, I mean.”  

“Yeah,” his voice breaks on the word in  embarrassment , the next question coming out more hopeful, “like a date?” Even though he couldn’t see Cloud’s face, he could  definitely  feel heat raising from him as he nods.  

“Cool, cool, I would like that.”  (No one ever said he was smooth.)  

(But it really didn’t matter with Cloud in his arms, his shy smile on his collarbone.)