He’d never thought it’d come to this.
Kaneki paused in his twisting of the key in the keyhole – how long has it been since it was used? Since Haise? Before? He couldn’t remember even with his restored memories – and hesitated, mulling silently over the sheer wrongness of the entire situation.
He shouldn’t be here.
Yet, at the same time, a part of him is screaming for him to be. A remnant of Haise’s emotions, perhaps?
When he didn’t remember.
But he does, now.
Every detail, the corpses that looked like flowers the blood that smelled like heaven –
He really shouldn’t be here, no matter how much he wanted to.
With a sigh, he turned the doorknob and bit his lips when he heard the distinct click.
Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath – ignoring the way his hands were shaking – and opened the door.
“Tadaima.” He caught himself greeting before pausing, feeling a reprimanding sentiment well up within him. It was noon. The other wasn’t home; there was no need to be so formal, especially towards someone who had destroyed his entire world –
And saved it at the same time, Kaneki thought, tilting his head like a curious cat and surveying the apartment. It looked the same as he – Haise, that is – last remembered it to be before he had moved to the Chateau. Clean, neat, crisp and generally lacking in a lived-in atmosphere.
Which, considering the occupant, wasn’t such a huge surprise. He thought with a small, fond, smile. Contrary to popular belief, Kaneki Ken really didn’t hate nor despise Arima Kishou. The other had indeed destroyed him – and everything he had ever known and believed in – once, but he had also been the one person – the one human, for truly he was only human – who had truly helped him to build up his new life.
One that was free from the constant insanity that plagued him ever since his fateful run-in with Yamori.
He can no longer remember the centipede crawling in his ear, even if he tried his damned hardest to.
If anything, I should be thanking him, he thought, stepping into the apartment that had once been his amnesiac counterpart’s temporary – but precious nonetheless – home, noting the plainness of it all.
The first thing that caught his eye was the innocent book lying upon the coffee table. He smiled when he saw the title, sitting down in front of it and running his hand down the spine lovingly, tracing the words printed in gold as he went.
The Black Goat’s Egg, Takatsuki Sen.
Oh, if Haise had known just who had written that book. Kaneki thought with a bitter smirk, if only he’d known.
Maybe he wouldn’t be here then. Maybe he didn’t have to remember – and, oh, would that not be the best thing, to continue living in ignorance.
Then, maybe, he wouldn’t have to say goodbye.
“I personally liked Dear Kafka better.” Haise looked up in surprise at the sudden comment, pausing to slide a bookmark in between the pages he’d been reading in order to turn his attention to the other sitting opposite him.
“Arima-san, I didn’t notice you at all.” Arima shrugged and sat down in front of him, plucking the book from him with long fingers.
“Her works are good, I like all of them, actually.” Haise remarked when Arima didn’t elaborate on his comment, choosing to browse through Haise’s copy of The Black Goat’s Egg instead.
“Mm. But I think…” He paused, and Haise leaned forward, prompting when the other seemed to be at a loss of how to phrase his words.
“I think… The story sounds a little too alike Haise’s to be comfortable. Don’t you find it so?”
That was true, Haise thought, “But I guess that’s why I like this one better in particular then.”
A frown crossed Arima’s face and he set the book down to lean back to look at Haise properly. The younger fidgeted at the feeling of being scrutinized.
“Does Haise pity himself?”
That had been ridiculously straightforward, Kaneki thought, biting back a laugh – even though there was no need – at the memory. But really, what could one expect from Arima Kishou?
Haise recoiled in shock, before blinking in confusion and waving his hands about wildly.
“No, no! I don’t mean it that way! I mean in terms of being a hybrid, oh, Arima-san, I don’t –“
Arima blinked, “Ah, I see…”
“Arima-san, I don’t know how you got that idea but –”
“It’s good, I guess.” Haise paused in his flailing at seeing Arima’s smile, once again blinking at him in a stupor. He didn’t know which surprised him more, the chance of being able to see his superior’s rare smile or the comment.
“Yeah, I don’t want Haise to be sad at all, even if it is for himself. I think you’re doing well here, so… I hope you are happy.”
Was he? Haise relaxed, returning Arima’s smile.
“I am happy, Arima-san.” Albeit a little confused about everything he is.
The other stared at him for a little longer.
“I want Haise to be happy."
Really, that guy’s way too straightforward for his own good. Just like how Kaneki himself is way too nice for his own good, didn’t Arima make that comment once to Haise?
“Haise, I heard Top-Class Shimoguchi has been disturbing you again.” Haise froze in his preparation of dinner. He turned around to find Arima – when did he come out of the study? – looking straight at him.
It wasn’t even an inquiry. It was a statement.
“Uh, Top-Class Shimoguchi was just doing his job, really! I mean, I did make some mistakes during my investigation so it was just natural that he’d –”
“I heard the whole story from Top-Class Mado.” Haise stopped and tried again after hesitating.
“Akira-san was exaggerating, you know how she can get sometimes and –” He paused, and deflated under Arima’s deadpan stare.
“He insulted you directly. That’s not how you would correct a subordinate.”
Like you’d know how to properly correct a subordinate, Haise thought offhandedly, remembering the stories he had heard from Associate Special Ciass Ui.
Arima sighed when he stayed silent.
“Haise. I heard from Take that you have been getting quite a bit of… comments from other investigators as well?”
“…” He nodded.
Arima heaved out a puff of air that might have been a sigh, and walked towards his dejected protégé. Haise blinked in surprise when he felt Arima’s hand on his chin, tilting his face up to look at Arima directly.
“Next time something like this happens, I want you to tell me directly, understand?” He hesitated, not wanting to disturb Arima-san over something so trivial – after all, the comments were all facts if you took away the bite they were made with –
“Haise.” He jerked out of his thoughts when Arima shook his shoulders firmly.
“Haise, it’s not a bother at all. You’re way too nice for your own good sometimes, and I don’t want the others to take advantage of that. I may not be able to take action without escalating their dislike for you further, but I want you to tell me.”
“Talk to me, I’ll be here. Always.”
It is too bad that they have to separate in the end. There is something saddening in their inevitable parting that made Kaneki want to curl up into his own warmth and just fade away from this world. Despite how low Arima Kishou’s EQ was – and that was a recognized fact within the CCG – those words had reached Haise’s heart on that day.
He remembers crying in Arima Kishou’s arms that night.
As Haise, he had undergone a lot of emotional stress due to his rather unique situation – not unlike the pressure Kaneki had built upon himself during his days of hunting Aogiri with his clique – but he had endured it alone.
Just like Kaneki had.
Look at where that had ended him.
(With how things turned out, Kaneki can’t honestly say it wasn’t all for the best, however.)
So, maybe, Kaneki thought as he stood up, letting the book slip from his hands and onto the table with a flop – he didn't care much for it anymore, considering the circumstances – maybe Arima Kishou was his blessing in disguise.
He had honestly no idea where he’d be if it hadn’t been for the other.
Walking towards the kitchen, he paused at seeing two familiar mugs sitting upon the dish rack, before closing his eyes and allowing a small smile to bloom.
Coffee, the one thing Arima never really liked drinking before Haise.
“You know, for some reason I’m really good at this.” Haise remarked, beaming over his steaming cup of coffee at the man sitting opposite him.
Arima hummed in reply, closing his eyes to sip on his coffee.
“Maybe it’s because it’s the only thing I can consume other than water so I’d want to do it well…” He ignored the possibility of his “past” life as it was something he really didn’t want – dare – to contemplate about.
His life is here, and now, with Arima-san.
Arima-san, who is apparently really enjoying his coffee – it came as a surprise for Haise, since he had heard from Top-Class Take that Arima-san never enjoyed anything (visibly, at least, the other had never shown any indication of his preference). It seemed as if everything Arima did was only to ensure that he continued existing, but there was never much heart and thought put into it.
The other still have yet to open his eyes but Haise knew – instinctively, he refused to ponder on how that came about either – he was enjoying the drink he held in his hand.
On top of his sharp nose, he has a sharp sixth sense too.
Smiling behind his own cup, Haise sat back to admire the features of his mentor.
Haise never really got many chances to really study Arima Kishou outside of that one incident, and Kaneki recalled that he had cherished that opportunity so dearly.
That man was a work of art.
All that perfection, despite being a human, Kaneki’s smile grew fonder as the features of the feared Shinigami of the CCG resurfaced in his mind. They had been so soft and tender, completing different from the chilling and sharp impression he’d gotten from him during their first meeting.
It was the way he looked at Haise sometimes when he thought Haise wasn’t paying attention, but Kaneki knew. Arima Kishou was human after all; even he wouldn’t be able to mask his affection completely.
Perhaps that was why Haise began to fall in love with him.
Oh, despite how dense Haise could be, he had known on a subconscious level. And that same subconscious had reciprocated the other’s feelings.
Perhaps that’s why saying goodbye right now feels like someone’s tearing a hole in his heart, Kaneki thought drily. He was accustomed to loss; however, there was no way it will hinder his plans of moving on.
He just didn’t think he’d ever be able to forget again, even if he gets stabbed by IXA in the head a million more times.
Because it will all come back.
Those memories will always stay right by his side.
“Just like Arima Kishou,” he whispered as he moved to the master bedroom – he couldn’t even stand looking at that coffee maker anymore, and he wasn’t a glutton for torture, despite his high endurance for stress – running his hands across the neat, silken sheet and taking in the calming scent the room’s occupant left behind.
“If I ever lose control to the point of no return, will you please –“
“You don’t have to ask.”
“And let me guess, I’m the bait because of the past ‘me’?”
“Don’t get angry, Haise, I’ll protect you.”
“That’s not the point! Ah, I mean –“
“Arima-san.” A pause.
“I think I love you.”
“Whatever Haise wants to do, I’ll stay by your side.”
“Arima-san should really be putting the CCG before me. We’ve been through this before, I’m just –“
“You’re more important to me. So I’ll stay by you, always.”
“If I remember –“
“When, you remember.”
“Even if I do remember, I don’t think I’ll say goodbye, ever.”
“Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Haise.”
Kaneki blinked when he felt moisture on his face. Looking down, he frowned at the wet dots that littered the light blue – Haise picked that one out, he remembered – fabric.
“I…? What… huh?” Grimacing, he wiped the tears off his face in frustration. He shouldn’t be crying, damn it! That’d only be a waste of –
“I knew you’d be here, Haise.” He jumped in surprise at the stern voice, refusing to turn around and let the other see how weak he was currently. When did the other arrive, anyway? He’d heard no indication of the door opening.
“Haise.” A soft touch landed on his shoulder, a stark contrast to the firm call of his name.
“Haise.” Another voice joined the first, and he had to suppress a shudder – right, wasn’t everyone waiting for him?
“Akira-san, Take-san.” He replied, turning around to face his fellow investigators. Akira’s eyes were soft despite her earlier calls, and Take was staring at the room they were currently in, his usually dull expression somber.
They were decked out in black, and so was he.
That was nothing new; investigators were constantly wearing black since it made it easy to cover up bloodstains. It was also the colour of death, a sign. Kaneki felt like laughing so badly, but he couldn’t stop his soft sobs enough to do so.
Death. Oh, the irony.
He can’t remember when was the last time he’d cried this hard. His mother, perhaps?
Her funeral. Ah, yes, that was it.
He remembered now.
“Let’s go, Haise. The funeral’s about to start.” Akira advised, peering into his eyes to search for something – what, he didn’t know.
He didn’t want to know.
He didn’t want to go.
He didn’t want to leave.
Didn’t want to forget, didn’t want to lose, didn’t want to move on.
(Hadn’t he lost enough?)
Suppressing the urge to lash out at Akira who was leading him out of the room and the apartment, he took a few deep breaths and looked around for one last time.
Feels unoccupied, as always. Except that from now on, it will become a reality.
He clenched his shaking hands, cursing a man – for indeed, he was only human, was always human – whom he’ll never be able to see (never talk to, never hold, never touch) again.
“Who’s making promises they can’t keep now, Arima Kishou?”