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The first time it had happened, Kaneki’s mother had just died.

They were young, but old enough to know what death was, and the weight it held. Kaneki had come to meet Hide at their normal spot in the park thirty minutes late, and Hide immediately saw through his weak smile to know he was hiding something.

Without words, Hide carefully led Kaneki back to his house, where he pulled him into his room and closed the shutters to prevent the harsh afternoon sunlight from leaking in.

“You can cry now, you know, it’s alright.” He said, as he sat next to Kaneki on his bed. There was a brief pause, and Hide wondered if he had been wrong in his reading of the other after all, but then Kaneki suddenly turned and leaned into his shoulder, silent tears soaking into his shirt.

-

As they got older, Hide became even better at being able to tell when Kaneki was hiding something, the pair of his chin-touching tell and that look that never quite left his eyes when something was wrong allowing Hide to read him for any problems, and he did so constantly, even if he would be hard-pressed to admit it.

Hide continued to keep Kaneki with him as much as possible, their bond somewhere beyond just friendship, becoming more of a reliance on one another. It was an unspoken fact between the two that neither really cared to address or worry about, and it had gotten them this far.

Hide tried to hide his hatred for Kaneki’s aunt as much as possible, but it got hard sometimes. When Kaneki would come to him and not seem to remember how to speak for a moment because of how often he had to be silent, Hide felt useless. He knew he couldn’t say much, as Kaneki would begin to argue that he should be thankful of them for taking him in, but he hoped that someday Kaneki would be able to escape and finally be happy.

For now, Hide offered everything he could. He invited Kaneki to go out as much as possible, and still offered a literal shoulder to cry on whenever he saw that Kaneki needed it, doing his best to never ask for any sort of explanation from the other if he didn’t want to give it.

-

Hide looked around the small apartment as he helped to unpack Kaneki’s (disconcertingly few) belongings. He had practically forced Kaneki to let him help unpack, and now realised why he had said his help wasn’t really needed as he looked around at the measly two small boxes of belongings, a bed, and a shelf.

This was still a new start, though, and Hide was keeping his hopes that a life finally away from his family would help Kaneki more than anything. He could tell that the other was nervous at the idea of living alone, but Hide tried to keep convincing him that he would be fine, and this was just the first way he planned on showing Kaneki that just because they would be in college now, they didn’t have to stop helping one another through it.

Kaneki had been fussing nearly constantly over what to do with everything in a new environment, but he finally seemed to find some peace when Hide placed his large box of books in front of him, a subtle reminder that the good things didn’t have to change. Kaneki looked at the box for a moment, then smiled back up at Hide, his expression shaky at first, but still something.

“You really do think this will be better for me, right?”

“Would I lie to you about that?”

Kaneki laughed a little, something that Hide prided himself on being able to do, and started to place the books on the Ikea-made shelf.

Hide noticed that he didn’t see any trace of that sadness in Kaneki’s eyes.

-

He sees it again, a while later after Kaneki starts working at the cafe. It makes him do a double take as he jokingly orders his coffee as a cover to watch Kaneki for a moment to see if he was right.

Sure enough, when Kaneki handed him his coffee with a forced smile, the look was still there. He stopped for a moment and stared at the other, conveying that he knew something was wrong to the best of his ability, but Kaneki just turned around and went back to his work.

It hurt, to be rejected at one of the few things he really did pride himself on, but he calmly waved goodbye as he took his coffee out the door, hoping that he was still affected by that accident, rather than anything more serious. In this case, he decided, there was really nothing he could do unless Kaneki was willing to come to him for help.

-

He hated himself for doing nothing. He knew that something had been wrong, and now the pieces seemed to fall into place only too well as he sat in a dark room, his tired eyes scanning the late night news for anything that could help him. It was hard, especially on nights like this, to pretend that everything was fine. He hadn’t realized how much of his identity really did rest on his ability to protect and help Kaneki until he left, taking a part of Hide with him.

That was the night he made the decision to join the CCG. He had considered it before, but feared it would only made Kaneki want to come back to him even less, but now, he was running out of leads and options.

He couldn’t give up hope, he told himself nearly constantly, he couldn’t give up hope that Kaneki would let him take him back home where they could continue to live like they had as kids.

-

Talking to Touka on campus that day was a struggle, not that he showed it. Really, Hide had nothing against Touka, and even considered her a friend at this point even if it was mostly through a mutual cause. He couldn’t help the flare of possessiveness that rose up when she spoke to him, though, a guilty part of him feeling upset that he wasn’t the only one going to great lengths to get Kaneki back.

He pushed that down, though, as he told her about Kaneki’s quirks in a desperate attempt to casually help while making conversation. Any help in finding his best friend was good help, and honestly, he felt like Touka would be able to find him and talk him down if anyone could.

He still didn’t tell her about the look in his eyes,though, and as he walked away he tried to reason with himself that it was only because he couldn’t describe it in a way anyone could understand. He knew deep down, though, that he was lying to himself to an extent. He still cherished the fact that he was the only one who could read and help Kaneki like that, even if it was starting to feel so long ago, and he wasn’t quite ready to let go of that, even if it was selfish.

-

This definitely wasn't how he had planned their reunion in the millions of times he had pictured it in his mind, but at the very least, Kaneki didn’t seem to hate him like he had expected, and when he realized that the reason Kaneki had hid was fear of Hide hating him, he let out a bitter laugh at how dense they could be despite knowing each other so well.

It only made sense, Hide thought, that this was how it was all going to end. As he watched Kaneki, barely recognizable but still somehow himself in essence, clinging desperately to life in that sewer. He knew what his role was now, he just had to accept it.

Really, that was the own reason he was still able to smile as he stood in the spot where he was suddenly sure he was going to die, as it only made sense for him to die as he had lived, fulfilling his role as Kaneki Ken’s protector.