There are some people you instantly relate to, no questions asked. You know them long before you get to know them, because you recognise something in them that you’re afraid to put your finger to. Sometimes these scars are obvious, sometimes only you can see them. But they are always there. And they always hurt.

My connection to Barret was clear as day, I suppose. We had both lost an arm which had been replaced by an atrocity, though his was done by choice. Those were the physical scars. In truth, what we shared was guilt. We could see the blood on each other’s hands, the blood of people who had died for either siding with or opposing Shinra, the blood of loved ones who had paid for our mistakes with their lives. And even though we carried the same burden, we could never split the weight. We went our separate ways.

I cannot describe the shock of finding another pair of mako eyes staring into mine when I kicked the lid from my coffin. Though they were still blue, not yet red like my own, I could sense the Jenova in Cloud. And I heard the call as he did. Indirectly, she and Sephiroth had taken away my friends and family just as they had his. But he was too troubled to see, and by the time he really pulled it together, Sephiroth died and the link was broken.

Now, I don’t think Tifa ever realised how alike we were. Perhaps she wasn’t ready to admit it to herself just yet. When I warned her about it, she got angry at me, and we have not spoken since. But I know. One day she will wake up to find that everything she ever loved was a dream, and that no one will ever replace Aeris in Cloud’s heart. I just hope she doesn’t sleep thirty years of her life away first.

Aeris…she and I had nothing in common, or at least not that I can figure out. And yet she seemed to understand me in a way that sent shivers up my spine and inclined me to bury my face deeper in the collar of my cloak, fleeing her penetrating gaze. She knew something about me, something I felt I should know, too, but couldn’t remember. Once I had grown comfortable enough around her to ask, she disappeared, and I never got to see her again.

With Reeve, things were the other way around, because he was the one who didn’t have a clue about our bond. Cait Sith proved that he and I shared scars, though I’ll never know their exact nature, because they aren’t the kind of scars you talk about. The others wondered why he had chosen a toysaurus of all things, but I understood his need to get away from the pain and seek shelter in a new body that was by definition always happy and cheerful. However, as I said, he was clueless, and probably would have giggled at me if I had told him.

Yuffie reminded me of who I had been before I became who I was. Reckless, arrogant, and naïve. That about summed the both of us up. Her tongue is going to be the death of her someday. I wish mine had been the death of me. I do believe Yuffie knew what I saw in her, but her young mind couldn’t understand that some scars are not meant to be healed. She thought she could teach me innocence again, and she was wrong. I was not for her.

Nanaki and I had pasts more similar than I would feel comfortable sharing with you. Those are the kind of scars you can’t even explain to anyone. The kind that makes you wake up screaming in the middle of the night, ears ringing with the laughter of a madman who is slowly separating you from your arm and watching the effect of sodium chloride on the wound. Our scars have a name. And in Nanaki’s case, a number.

People are always talking about how they want someone who truly understands them, as if such a person could make them happy. That just goes to show how stupid people really are. Anyone who sees the marks on you knows where you got them. If you’re lucky, you can drive them away before they drive you insane. Luck has never been on my side.

And what I was left with is you. Life can be funny that way. The only person I had absolutely nothing in common with, except maybe the fact that we were both former Shinra employees, but that creates about as much connection as having the same hair colour. So many faces with familiar scars, and I had to go and fall for the one that was still intact.

What first struck me about you were your eyes. For one who claims himself to be so old, you have an infant’s eyes. They are the purest colour of blue, not dark enough to remind of me of my uniform as an assassin, but not pale enough to recall the waters behind which my Lucy dwells. When you look at me with those eyes, I do not think of my past. All I can see is you.

How many times have I wished I could be like you? Wise enough to accept what cannot be changed, yet too foolish to accept what cannot be stopped. I have told you before, Cid, I wish I had your go-get-them attitude. Your optimism. Your strength. Your innocence.

Do you remember what you said to us when we thought all hope was lost? "This Planet’s still a kid. A little kid sick and trembling in the middle of this huge universe. Someone’s gotta protect it." Those words were you, Cid. That was probably the only time you ever opened up like that, and I doubt you even realised it.

Still, on some level you must know exactly how innocent you are and how vulnerable it makes you, because you work hard to protect yourself. From morning to evening, your whole day is a show, a display of aggression that comes unnatural to you. The only reason you swear so much anyway is because you don’t want people thinking you might be sensitive.

But you can’t hide it, Cid. The way you move betrays you. Toddlers usually coordinate their feet better than you do. You walk like you’re always excited about wherever it is you’re going, even if that happens to be straight down into the heart of the Northern Crater. And you treat your plane like a little boy would his teddy bear, talking to it and patting it on the nose, whispering secrets to it that no one else can know. No use denying it, I’ve seen you.

I am glad to find you so protective of your innocence, though. There are plenty of people out there who would try and take it away from you, just out of cruelty. For the pleasure of hurting you. I know, because I used to be one of them, for only 2500 gil an hour. But I’ll be damned if I let that happen to you. Don’t worry, Cid. You’ll never have to be like me.

Would you be surprised to hear I’m still the same callous bastard I was all those years ago? Go on, ask me. Ask me if I’d ever do anything to hurt you. If I have ever tried to steal your innocence away from you. Because the truth is I’ve tried just this morning. In fact, if you think about it, I’m trying right now.

The first time I wanted to violate you in this way was that night on the Highwind, when we slept together believing we were going to die the next day. Our lovemaking was more intense and passionate than any I had known before, though I had to grudgingly admit to you that didn’t really count for much, and I soon found myself begging you to hurt me.

Looking back on that, it was a test to see how innocent you really were. You passed with flying colours. Not only did you hurt me in just the right way, you greatly enjoyed it, and when we were done, you were still as innocent as a lamb. I knew then that your innocence was strong enough for me to allow myself to depend on you. I still like to check for it, though, to make sure it’s still there.

Don’t swear when I say this, but I could not be prouder to have you as a lover. To me, you are perfect. You are everything I always wanted to be but never was, and I never would have dreamt someone like you could love someone like me. I can’t help but feel selfish for being with you. There must be a man out there who deserves your love far more than I do. Perhaps one day I’ll have the courage to leave you and force you to find him. Then again, if I could do that, I wouldn’t need to anymore.