He says this for himself: “I’ll be back soon.”
Nothing is as devastating as leaving.
Kaneki never moves from his spot; his eyes never stray from Hide’s.
When their fingers finally unlink, Hide disappears and the God of Fertility replaces him. He wonders when this fracturing began. At home, when they are curled in tight parentheses against each other, he is himself: Nagachika Hideyoshi. When he must return to the world above, he is the God of Fertility, of Music.
But not Nagachika Hideyoshi.
His return to the surface is always a death march.
“Oh, oh, you’re always so glum now,” she whines from her perch, high in a persimmon tree. “That’s what all that time spent down there does to you. It sucks all the fun out of you.”
“It’s more like returning sucks that out of me, Roma,” he sighs, coaxing a particularly stubborn plum tree into waking. Some children, he sighs, they never want to wake up on time. “C’mmon sweetie, it’s time to rise and shine.”
The godchild makes a disgusted noise even as she continues to smile broadly. “It’s always disgusting to listen to your baby talk. Hey, do you do that with the evil god down there? Is that how you seduce him every night? ‘Hey sweet thing, how about some sugar?’”
Hide wrinkles his nose. He can’t imagine ever saying that to Kaneki. “I’m pretty sure you have strayed from the path of ‘babytalk’ and into… a field of corn. That’s terrible.” The tree finally shows sign of shaking off its slumber and Hide pets its bark fondly. “What a good child you are. I’ll let you stretch your branches a bit as I go wake your friends.”
It’s only after every tree had woken from their deep sleep that Hide rounds on Roma.
“Don’t call him an evil god,” he hisses after he has dragged her out of earshot of his children and towards a nearby lake. “He’s not evil. And many would say the Goddess of Mischief and Lies is as dark as any ‘god of evil.’”
“Oh, oh,” she titters, flying out of his grasp. “Lookit how our god of plants has grown! Finally have some fire in you now, huh? Good, good, good!
“Keep it,” she whispers into his ear, “It becomes you.”
Roma dances away on the fading winds, tinkling laughter lingering in her wake.
His friends comfort him, their soft fur warm and familiar against his skin.
“I don’t know who I am anymore,” he confides to them.
“I was… uh…” The sun god hesitates. “Do you… need to talk?”
“Why would you think that?” Hide asks. He’s being productive. Impressively so. Not only has he gotten a fair bit of the more finicky flowering plants to bloom, he has also created quite a few more.
“Your recent… creations have been,” Amon falters. “Unique.”
“Oh, don’t let Amon hurt your feelings,” Hide coos at his newest child. “I’ve named her Rafflesia. Isn’t she wonderful?”
“I…” Amon changes tactics. “I understand that you miss Kaneki, and I’m supportive of all your creative endeavors, my brother, but… you are starting to worry everyone. Even the mortals are a bit scared.” The man gestures at the flower, cringing. “As lovely as the Rafflesia is, it also… smells like the dead. And your other new creations… I am told one of them eats small animals?”
“I’d been told a nearby city was having some rodent problems. I’m just helping.”
“Hide,” Amon sighs. “I am available, if you need to talk.”
She’s not a goddess. She’s young; but all mortals are, their lives are so short, fleeting. She has not yet experienced the sweet anguish that is love, but it is her that he turns to.
“I don’t understand myself,” he tells her, troubled by the heavy weight he holds in his heart every spring, the hollowness that resounds so forsakenly deep within him. “I don’t understand the frustration I feel, the…”
He scrubs at his hair. Irritation, that’s what he feels.
Apprehension, yearning, agitation –these are all emotions he is unfamiliar with. Before…
Before. Before Kaneki, before he fell in love, hopelessly, irrevocably, he had never felt bereft of anything. Every day was a delight, another adventure.
“Love is a beautiful thing,” the shrine maiden assures him quietly. “But new love is also disquieting, the churning waters of a new, unknown sea.”
He doesn’t think love is meant to cause such distress, though. He gazes pathetically at the girl, feels distressingly young and naive under her kind smile.
“But I don’t think it’s love that ails you,” Yoriko says gently, hand gentle and reassuring against Hide’s knee. “It is the conditions that have been imposed upon it. You are too much like the wind; you don’t thrive well in enclosed spaces.”
Hide nods silently, unable to find a suitable answer on his own.
He misses Kaneki.
With the waning of autumn, Hide’s return is finally sanctioned.
As always, the first thing he says once he is again wrapped in familiar warmth are the words he wishes he said before leaving.
“I love you.”
And, when Kaneki’s arms squeeze just that bit tighter, Hide thinks Kaneki understands why he never says those words when he leaves, why they are absent when they speak, separated by water and magic.
He doesn’t want those words tainted by sadness and loneliness.