Meeting the witness

"Hey! Hey, Detective Strife!" Cloud Strife stopped dead in his tracks and turned round to the young officer who tried to catch up with him. "What's up?" he asked impatiently. "You are from Eyewitness Protection, aren't you?" the officer asked. "Yes, I am." "See, we have a witness in case Sander. She doesn't want to go in protective custody, so we need someone to watch over her until the trial starts." "Ask Chief Harris about that." Cloud answered before he started to walk away. "I already did. He recommended you for the job." Cloud gave a heavy sigh. "Great. Just before my holiday." he thought before looking at the officer again. "What's her name, and where do I find her?" he asked. "You'll find her in a bar called Seventh Heaven. It's in Miller Street. And her name is Tifa Lockheart."

Cloud stopped his car in front of Seventh Heaven, got out and calmly walked into the bar. Behind the counter stood a young woman, around 20, and looked at him. Cloud walked over to her and asked his question: "Could I speak to Tifa Lockheart?" "She's standing in front of you. What do you want?" the woman answered. "I'm Detective Cloud Strife. I'm here to protect you from Sanders buddies." "Oh, okay." Tifa looked at him with a lack of respect, and he decided to change that. "From now on", he said in a hard voice, "I'll be everywhere you are. I'll be there when you eat, when you drink, even when you go to the toilet. You won't take a single step without me. Is this clear?" "Yes, Detective." Tifa answered intimidated. "Good." Cloud snarled before taking a seat at the counter. "How long is your bar open?" "Two more hours, Detective." Tifa answered. "Stop calling me detective." Cloud begged. "I don't want the whole town to know that I'm a cop." "Okay Detec...Mister Strife." "There are a few rules I'd like you to obey." Cloud told Tifa. "First: Never stand in front of a open window with the light on. You are the perfect target if you do so. Second: always check your car before driving. Third: never order something to eat. Cook yourself. It could be poisoned. Fourth: only open the door to people you know. Clear?" "Clear." Tifa agreed. "Do you have a boyfriend?" Cloud suddenly asked. "Wh-what?" Tifa stuttered. "I want to know if you have a boyfriend." Cloud answered patiently. "Well, yes, I do. Why do you..." Suddenly her eyes grew wide. Cloud turned around to see what upset her, only to be hit in the face very hard. He fell from the chair and crashed on the floor with a heavy "THUMP". A loud slapping sound could be heard, and then Tifa whimpered. Cloud got up fast and grabbed the mans wrist before he could slap Tifa again. "What do you think you are doing?" the cop asked, venom in his voice. "You were hitting on my girl!" the man yelled at Cloud. "Johnny..." Tifa started, but Johnny snapped at her: "You keep your mouth shut!" Tifa lowered her head, and a single tear ran down her swollen cheek. "I didn't hit on her." Cloud growled at Johnny. "I'm a cop, and I'm supposed to protect her." "A Cop, ha? Where's your badge?" Cloud held his cop badge under Johnnys nose, and the man paled. "And now get your ass outta here." Cloud ordered. "Before I arrest you for attacking a detective and hurting Miss Lockheart." Johnny quickly ran off, and Cloud turned to Tifa. "You alright?" he asked gently. Tifa nodded and turned her back on him. She didn't want him to see her tears. Cloud gave a inner sigh; he hated situations like that one. He slowly walked behind the counter and placed a hand on Tifas shoulder. Tifa flinched from the touch, and Cloud got very angry at Johnny for beating her like this. Suddenly Tifa surprised him by turning around and leaning on him. After a second of hesitate, Cloud wrapped his arms around her and held her tight. Tifa cried on his chest, her tears staining his blue shirt. In this moment, Cloud wasn't a cop for her; he was just a man who was there and cared for her. "How old are you, Tifa?" Cloud asked gently. Tifa looked up at him and answered: "22." "You are so young. Please, leave him before it's too late." Cloud literally begged her. "I can't." Tifa answered softly. "I tried once, and he..." "What did he do to you?" Cloud asked her in his gentlest voice. "He stabbed me in the stomach." Tifa managed to say before she burst into tears again. Cloud held her and slowly stroke her back. Suddenly a customer entered the bar, and the cop let go of Tifa. The moment of closeness between the two was gone, and Tifa silently regretted it.

First Attempt

After Tifa had closed the bar, Cloud and she drove to Tifas apartment. Tifa readied the couch for him, so he had a place to sleep, and then cooked dinner. They ate in uncomfortable silence; after Cloud had finished, he looked at the young bar hostess and said: "I know that this isn't a pleasure for you." Tifa just looked at him. "I don't have a choice, right?" Cloud looked at his shoes and thought about what he could say next when he saw the bright red light dot that wandered through the kitchen – until it stopped right over Tifas heart. Cloud reacted very fast, he jumped from his chair, grabbed Tifa around the waist and threw her to the floor, with himself landing on top of her. The next second the shot rang and hit one of the shelves. Splinters flew everywhere; one of them dug itself deep into Clouds right shoulder. Cloud moaned in pain; underneath him he could hear Tifas soft whimpering. "Oh God...oh my God..." "Don't faint now." Cloud begged. Tifa shook her head; although Cloud was lying on her with all his weight, she didn't seem to mind at all. Slowly, Cloud reached up and closed the curtain before he got to his feet again. Tifa also stood up, and she saw that Cloud was hurt. "Cloud, your shoulder." she told him. Cloud looked at the wound and nodded; he grabbed the splinter and pulled it out. The last five centimetres of the wood were red. "Do you have dressing material at home?" "Yeah, sure. Wait a second, I'll get it." Tifa left the kitchen and soon returned with a first-aid-kit. Meanwhile, Cloud had taken his shirt off and looked at the bloodstain angrily. "That will never go out." Tifa told him. Cloud just snorted, and Tifa started to bandage his shoulder. "Thanks." Cloud said after she was finished. "No prob." Tifa answered smiling. "Are you okay?" Cloud asked concerned. "Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks to you, bodyguard." Cloud grinned and gave a sigh of relief. "Good. If you get hurt, the Chief will kill me." Tifa smiled at him, and he smiled back. "Tomorrow the bar is closed." she told him after a few seconds of smiling to each other. "I need to go shopping." "That's okay, I'll come with you. You are not in prison, you know." Cloud grinned at her. "He can be so cute." Tifa thought to herself. "Okay." she finally said.

The next day Cloud and Tifa went to the next supermarket. People who met them greeted Tifa heartily, and Cloud came to the conclusion that she was a very popular person in this part of town. Little did both of them know that Johnny was following them. If Tifa had known, she would have gone down the street without taking Clouds hand.

In the supermarket, Cloud was shocked about how much a single person could buy. "Tifa! What are you doing with all those vegetables?" "Eat them, of course." Tifa answered grinning. "Guess what." Cloud mumbled. "Didn't think about that." Tifa chuckled, but suddenly her eyes grew wide and she dropped the can of carrots she was holding. "Cloud, watch out!" Cloud spun around very quickly, he managed to block Johnnys kick and countered with a high punch in the mans face. Johnny groaned and tried to grab Cloud by the collar, but Cloud grabbed his wrists and threw him over his shoulder. The other customers cheered when they saw this; everyone hated Johnny for what he did to Tifa. Johnny tried to stand up again, but Tifa quickly hit him on the head with a deep-frozen steak and he fell to the floor again, staring at his "girlfriend" with anger in his eyes. "You'll pay for that, bitch." he growled. Cloud knelt down next to him and grabbed a handful of his hair. "Don't count on it, dumbass." he growled. "If I ever see you coming near Tifa again, I'll rip your balls off. Is this clear?" Johnny tried to escape from the cops grip, and Cloud smashed his head against the floor. "I asked, is this clear?" "Yes!" Johnny yelled. "Yes! Now let me get up!" Cloud let go off Johnnys hair and he stood up. "Got tired of you anyway." he spat to Tifa before heading to the exit. The other customers started to congratulate a confused Cloud. A young, beautiful woman ran up to him and pressed a sloppy kiss on his mouth. "That was great!" she called out. Another customer, a big, fat man, hit Cloud on the back, shouting: "You are one damn cool guy!" "Thanks." Cloud muttered. "Tonight there's partytime at my bar. Wanna come?" "Sure." Tifa answered before giving Cloud a pleading look. Cloud nodded slightly, and Tifa smiled at him, mouthing a silent "Thank you."

Later in the evening, Cloud and Tifa went to Butch's party. As soon as Cloud had entered the door, Butch already had given him a glass of beer. "Beer's free for you two. Have fun." he grinned. "I will." Cloud answered, also grinning. He took Tifas hand and led her to one of the free desks. The two sat down, and Cloud smiled at Tifa. "I like it. You people sure know how to party." Tifa laughed and took a big gulp from her beer. "Yeah, we do. I'm glad you enjoying yourself, detective." Cloud groaned, and Tifa had to chuckle. "Look at the two lovebirds." Butch yelled through the bar, pointing over to them. Both blushed. "We aren't..." Cloud started, but he was interrupted by Butch yelling on. "Tifa sure has a good taste! I bet that blonde guy is much nicer than Johnny." Everyone who was at the party agreed, and Tifa giggled at Clouds red face. "What's the matter, Cloud" she teased him, "don't like rumours?" "Not if they are almost true." Cloud answered, and Tifa stopped giggling immediately. Before she could ask what he meant, Cloud stood up and headed off to the bar, leaving Tifa with her thoughts.

When the two of them returned home, Cloud was so drunk that he almost fell down the stairs. "Cloud, you are drunk." Tifa told her bodyguard, giggling. "That's...nonsense." Cloud slurred. "I'm never dunk...durnk...forget it." Tifa led the drunk cop into her bedroom. "You'll take the bed tonight." she ordered. "You need it more than I do." Cloud wanted to protest, but Tifa had already left the room and turned the lights off. So Cloud undressed, laid down and fell asleep the next second.

The dark shadow broke the lock of the door without making any noise and tiptoed into the bedroom. The figure raised a knife, it's blade glistening in the moonlight. Before it could stab the person lying in the bed, a strong hand grabbed it's wrist and twisted it. Cloud jumped from the bed, holding the attacker tight. "That was a big mistake, buddy!" he growled before hitting the attacker on the head. Tifa entered the room groggily, but awoke immediately when she saw what was going on. She quickly hurried into the kitchen, got her pan and returned to the bedroom. Cloud gave her a questioning look when he saw her with the pan in her hands, but he grinned when she raised it high above her head. *BANG!* The attacker moaned and fell to the floor unconscious. Cloud quickly got his handcuffs and chained the guy up. Then he recognised that Tifa stared at him. "Uh, Cloud..." she started. "You...don't wear anything." Clouds face flushed when he realised that he used to sleep naked. He quickly grabbed the pillow and covered his "private parts" with it. "Tifa, call the police." he ordered. Tifa nodded and quickly ran out of the room.

In the morning, Tifa stood in the kitchen and was busy with readying breakfast, when a sleepy Cloud trotted into the room and sat down. "Good morning!" Tifa called out cheerful. "Morning." Cloud mumbled. Tifa gave him a bright smile. "Come on Cloud, be happy!" "Not at this time." Cloud grumbled and let out a loud yawn. "Oh, you are not a morning guy, huh?" Tifa teased him. Cloud just shot her a look before helping himself to a cup of coffee. After emptying it with three big gulps, he started to talk. "I'll work as a waiter in your bar today." "Do you know how to do that?" Tifa asked curious. "Yeah, I did it once before." Cloud stayed silent for a moment before he continued to talk. "An assassin shot me down." "Dear god." Tifa whispered. "Was it bad?" "Yeah...the bullet got stuck in my left kidney. I was in a coma for two weeks." "Oh, poor guy. I hope this doesn't happen to you again." "I hope so too." Cloud answered grinning. "It's not fun, you know." Tifa just smiled at him, and he smiled back.