"Cloud," Vincent's voice said from the other side of the phone, "something is going on between Peter and Tifa. Something bad. I talked to her earlier to express my concerns but all she would say is that nothing is going on. I talked with everyone else about it. We think Peter's threatening Tifa and we all agreed that you should be the one to take care of it. I know that you most likely don't want to, so here's some incentive: Yuffie was walking by the bar once and heard arguing. She looked in the window and saw Tifa and Peter arguing about you. Peter insulted you and Tifa rushed to your defense. He slapped her for it. I'll leave it to you." And he hung up.
Cloud stood next to Fenrir, stunned. His mind was reeling with questions. Peter slapped Tifa? And yet she still defends him? Why? He knew that he had to find out. He was going to have to post-pone his trip with Yumikia for another time. He had to get back to Tifa. Yumikia had obviously known he was going to do this because she was on Fenrir already. "Are we going back or not?" she asked after waiting a few minutes. "Something important has come up and we need to go back, right? We can save this for another time. I'm in no hurry to retrieve my memories."
Cloud nodded and got on behind her. He put his shades on and started up Fenrir. Within minutes, they were out of the town they were in when Vincent called Cloud and headed back to Edge. Cloud was confused by Tifa's actions. "If he slapped her, why did she stay? Why didn't she fight back?" he thought. Peter had something on her, but Cloud just didn't know what it was. That bothered him. He had been gone from Edge for only a couple of days. It would take him a couple of days to get back. He wished that he could get there sooner. He wanted to kill Peter for everything he had done. He wanted his head to roll. "He will pay," Cloud thought, fuming with anger.
Night fell and he had to stop. Yumikia was tired and so was he. Cloud started a small fire and cooked a simple soup for them while Yumikia set up their beds for the night, which consisted of a blanket and bundled up clothes for pillows. They ate quickly and went to bed. Cloud wanted to get an early start tomorrow. He wanted Edge to be in sight before dark.
Cloud awoke before dawn and roused Yumikia. He made a quick breakfast and they left. Anticipation and a lust for Peter's blood sent Cloud to push Fenrir. The speed limit on the road on which he traveled was seventy-five miles per hour. He was pushing on one-hundred. Yumikia tried to correct him only to be told to shut up. Shortly after noon, Edge was in sight. He flew toward Edge, anger and hate for Peter building in him. He zoomed past Zack's grave and into Edge, heading toward Seventh Heaven. He hoped Peter was there waiting.
Denzel and Marlene sat in the living room and watched TV while Tifa and Peter were in the bar, Tifa cleaning and Peter watching. "Ya know, I'm kinda glad that Cloud's gone," Peter said. "Makes it easier."
"For you," Tifa said.
Peter glared at her. He turned to the kids in the living room. "Hey," he said. "It's a nice day out. Why don't you guys go play outside instead of sitting in front of the TV?" The children nodded, turned off the TV, and went to play with the children in the neighborhood. "I take that Cloud means a lot to you? Remember our deal, Tifa. You go back on it, and something bad could happen. Surely you don't want that?"
"No, I don't want anything bad to happen," she answered. "But at least Cloud was kinder. He actually cared. I care more for him than I do for you."
She said her words thoughtlessly, obviously unaware of the consequences. She heard his chair scoot back and when she turned around he was there and he punched her in the face. She went down heavily, bringing a picture of Cloud, Denzel, and Marlene, glasses, and plates with her. Before she could get up, he was on her. He punched her four more times in the face and then stood and kicked her. Soon, he turned and walked out the door. Tifa groaned and stood up. She looked in the mirror and saw her face. She was bloody and had a broken nose. Peter had slapped her before but he never punched and kicked her and now she was scared. "So this is what my life is gonna be like until I die, huh?" she said softly to herself. She went upstairs to her room and got out her make-up box. "From now on, this will probably be to cover up bruises and cuts instead of getting dressed up." She put on her make-up and covered up her bruises and cuts. She put a brace on her nose. She looked at her dresser and saw the picture of her, Marlene, Denzel, and Cloud. "Cloud. Where are you?"
"Tifa, are you okay?" Marlene asked. Tifa whirled around and saw Marlene and Denzel in the doorway, hand-in-hand. "We heard a loud sound and then Peter walked out looking really mad. Are you okay?" she asked again.
"I'm fine, sweetie. C'mon. Let's go for some ice cream," she said, trying to be optimistic. She took each child by the hand and went down the stairs and out the door.
Cloud pulled up in front of Seventh Heaven. He got off and picked up Yumikia. He went to the door and tried to open it. It was locked. "She's probably not home," he thought. He took out his key and opened the door. He looked around all the lights were off and Denzel and Marlene, who had stayed home by themselves before, weren't there either. He figured that she took them out. He walked into the kitchen and was shocked by what he saw. Broken glass and porcelain littered the floor behind the bar. The picture that Cloud and the kids had taken together a few years ago was now in a broken frame on the floor. Things on the counter that were usually kept in order were in disarray. "What in the- What happened?! Everything is a mess!" he said out loud.
Yumikia came to his side. "Maybe someone tried to break in and Tifa tried to fight him or her off? Or maybe something a little more on the home front happened."
Cloud walked around the bar to the broken pieces of glass and porcelain and examined the area. "Well, there definitely was a fight here," he said. He caught something out of the corner of his eye. He picked it up. It was a wallet. He opened it and immediately saw Peter's ID card. "Peter," he said. "Something here happened and Peter was involved. If someone broke in, he was the victim of a robbery. If not, then he did something to Tifa."
"Maybe we should check if anything has been stolen. That might give you the answer you seek," Yumikia said.
They searched the entire building, looking for anything that might not be there. Nothing was missing. They went back into the bar and checked the cash register. All the cash that should be there was there. Just as they finished, the front door opened and Denzel, Marlene, and Tifa walked into the room, laughing and smiling. The group froze as they saw Cloud and Yumikia and then smiled. The kids ran to him and hugged him but Tifa remained where she was. "Cloud," she said. "I thought you left. Why are you back so soon?"
"Well, we did leave but yesterday at around noon, I got a call from Vincent." He looked at Marlene and Denzel. They didn't need to know anything about Peter and Tifa. "Why don't you guys take Yumikia and introduce her to your friends outside?" he said to them. They gave him a look but took Yumikia anyway. As soon as they were out the door, Cloud said, "Vincent told me that you and Peter have been having some problems."
"Oh, what? Are you a relationship counselor now? Last time I checked you didn't even like Peter! And also, couples have disagreements, Cloud! It happens!"
"Vincent told me that you've been having serious problems, Tifa. Abuse problems. I want to help."
"Vincent told you WHAT?! Okay, A: Vincent needs to back off and mind his own business. B: No abuse is going on! Now leave it alone!"
"No. Tifa, I might not like Peter very much, and I might want you to be mine and you don't, but I want you to be happy more than anything. Please, Tifa. Tell if Peter is hurting you," he pleaded.
"Nothing is going on, Cloud." Tifa said.
"Then if I may ask, why are you covering your face with your hair and make-up? And why is there a brace on your nose?"
"For the make-up, I wanted to try a new style. For the nose brace, someone came in and tried to steal all the cash. He punched me in the face. I got rid of him though," she answered.
Cloud grabbed her arm and moved her hair and wiped off the make-up. Cuts and bruises littered her face. "And is all this also from your 'robber?'" he asked sarcastically. Tifa nodded but the look in her eyes told a different story. "Peter hit you, didn't he?" Cloud asked venomously.
"No! Peter would never-" Tifa started.
"Liar!" Cloud declared. "You don't know this but I had Yumikia look up information on Peter. He has a record. Did you know he was married five times before he met you? All five wives charged him with domestic violence, Tifa. This man is abusive and the look in your eyes and the marks on your face prove to me that he is doing the same with you."
Tifa stared at him. Tears filled her eyes and spilled over. "I don't know what to do, Cloud!" she sobbed. "He's never done this to me before. Sure, he's slapped me, but he never punched and kicked me before!" Cloud pulled her into an embrace and cradled her gently. "I am so scared, Cloud. Help me. Please," she begged.
A voice came from the doorway. "Tsk tsk. Tifa, Tifa, Tifa. Didn't I tell you the consequences of telling him what went on in our little relationship?" Tifa and Cloud faced the door and Peter was standing there with his arms crossed. He walked forward. "If you want him to help you so badly, then why don't you tell him WHY you're my girlfriend? Ya know, since you've already told him nearly everything else." Cloud looked at Tifa and she looked back at him. She opened her mouth, then closed it again, and buried her face in Cloud's chest, tears spilling from her eyes. Peter shook his head. "Well, I guess I'll tell him, then. Cloud, Tifa has an undying love for you. I used this love to get her to be mine. You see, when a girl is in love with someone, she foolishly believes that she can protect him. When I first met Tifa, I knew that she would be a perfect seventh wife."
"Seventh wife?" Tifa asked. "I thought you only had five other ex-wives!"
"Hah! Quite on the contrary. My fourth wife, Matilda, was too strong. She was going to divorce me and take everything I had. She was also very violent. I knew that I could not handle her, so I hired a hit man. That is why there is no record of her pressing charges against me," Peter said with a smug smile.
"A hit man? You had your wife killed?!" Cloud asked with outrage.
"Yes. But we're getting sidetracked here. I told Tifa that if she wanted you to be safe and alive, she would have to do as I told her. If she did not, then you would die. It was surprisingly easier than I thought it would be, seeing as she is a member of AVALANCHE and is very dangerous."
Cloud stared at the woman in his arms. "You wanted to
..protect me? From him?" he asked her. She nodded. "I can protect myself, Tifa."
She pulled away from him. "It's not about whether or not you can protect yourself! It's about doing anything you can so that they don't have to protect themselves from anything! I didn't like the possibility of you getting hurt
.. So I did what I could to protect you. Even enduring abuse for you. As long as you were out of harm's way, I was willing to do anything."
"Even get yourself killed?" he asked, shocked. Somewhere deep inside, he was happy that she would do that for him, but he didn't know why he was happy. She was getting hurt.
"Anything," she answered.
Before he could ask why, Peter came to Tifa's side and pulled her farther away from Cloud. "So sorry, Cloud, but we have more important things to do. Like plan our wedding."
"Wedding?" Cloud asked, a touch of pain in his voice.
Peter looked at Tifa. "You didn't tell him?" He looked back at Cloud. He grabbed Tifa's left hand and showed it to Cloud. On her finger was an extravagant diamond ring. "We're getting married, Cloud. In a few weeks. She agreed to marry me if I left you alone. So I am leaving you alone and marrying the woman you love so much." Tifa closed her eyes and a tear fell down her bruised face. Peter grabbed her arm and walked to the door. "Well, see ya. We have some shopping to do. Tifa needs a wedding dress."
"A-actually," Tifa stammered, "I was thinking of wearing my mother's wedding dress."
"Hm. We'll have to see," Peter replied and walked out the door, dragging Tifa with him, and leaving Cloud standing there in the bar, sad and alone.