Haise would say he’s a pretty capable person in general.
He doesn’t freak out over everything and could think things through before making decisions and all that. He listens to others before giving his own opinions. He does his job as efficiently as possible. He faces various ghouls without thinking he could die at one wrong move. He gives up trying to wake Saiko up when they’re almost late for work.
Yep. He’s doing pretty good.
So he has no idea why the higher-ups would assign him a ‘caretaker’ of sorts out of the blue to watch over him and help him handle his squad. He already had Akira-san’s and Arima-san’s support! The team’s finally starting to work together! He’s getting on just fine!
..Is it because he lost control in that one battle with Serpent?
Haise had always known the CCG were keeping a close eye on him because of who he is - what he is. He knows his existence is like a double-edged sword to the commission. As long as CCG could keep him under their leash, he would grow to be one of the strongest weapon they ever had. As long as he doesn’t let his ghoul side consume him, Haise would be fine.
As long as he doesn’t accept the voice in his head, he’d be fine.
But to be so utterly bold about it - Haise actually feels offended by the turn of events. There couldn’t have been a clearer way to tell him that his standards are dropping and that he’s beginning to turn incompetent. Part of Haise wants to punch a wall (or even better - the pudgy face of one of his superiors). He’s trying his best, for god’s sake! Isn’t it a little too early to judge him? His squad had barely formed like, a year ago! Of course he’s having trouble keeping things together when half of the kids assigned to him had issues!
Haise breathes a heavy sigh as he trudges on, shoving his hands even deeper into the pockets of his trench coat. Actually, scratch that - it’s getting way too warm for a coat. He stops stark in the middle of the walkway and angrily removes the garment before messily folding it and slipping it over his arm. He wouldn’t usually opt to disrupt the flow of people around him like that, but he’s just too mad to care (the place’s practically empty, anyway). Really, all he wants to do at the moment was stomp home, take a shower, fetch a good book, and shut himself in his room until the next morning.
Because he has no idea what his anger would make him do if he allows it to burst forth.
The chateau’s empty when he gets home. The rest of his squad are still out investigating the Nutcracker case with Juuzou’s; Haise should’ve been with them if he hadn’t been summoned to HQ just for them to indirectly tell him he sucked. Heaving another sigh, Haise closes the door behind him and trudges inside, his wave of fury dissipating as suddenly as it had appeared and leaving him with the unmistakable feeling of misery and self-disappointment.
Maybe he really is starting to become a failure.
The Quinx were taught to always be ready to deal with unexpected situations ever since their days at the Academy. Forgot something at home? Compromise. Late for work? Find a good excuse that doesn’t involve oversleeping. Investigation going slow? Apologize when confronted and try harder. An aggressive ghoul appearing out of nowhere? Kick their ass. They were taught that almost every situation would have a simple - albeit temporary - solution as long as they thought of it properly.
But when they return home after yet another day of fruitless investigation to find their mentor holed up in his room with a note stuck on his door, they’re completely at loss. Rank 1 Sasaki isn’t exactly the type of person who would deliberately lock himself up in his room and refuse to see anyone until breakfast the following morning. As far as they know, he’s the kind who’d usually tell himself not to be a selfish prick and shove his own feelings aside for the sake of not bothering others.
“Even Sassan pulls a Saiko every once in a while, huh?” Shirazu muses aloud as he sinks down onto the sofa, crossing his legs before opening the can of juice he’d bought from a vending machine on the way back. He takes a swig of the drink before continuing. “Wonder what’s wrong.”
“Maybe he’s just tired?” Mutsuki says doubtfully, hanging his coat on the stand by the entryway. He knows Haise would never let such a pathetic excuse affect his usual enthusiasm. “What do you guys want for dinner tonight? I’ll try to whip something up.”
“The last time you tried to cook by yourself, all of us wondered if our diets were finally limited to human meat only,” Shirazu blatantly points out, and Mutsuki blanches because it’s true. He’s good at helping out but terrible at the actual cooking, apparently. “Well, it’s fine if you only cook for Uri’s share. The rest of us should just settle for some instant noodles.”
If Urie heard him past the music that’s blaring from his earphones, he’s not letting on. Shirazu rolls his eyes and mutters something along the lines of ‘cocky brat’ under his breath, taking yet another gulp of juice. Meanwhile, Saiko’s already heading back to her room, declaring that she has a boss to beat and that she’ll survive on the snacks she had stashed up under her bed. Knowing there’s no way to change her mind since a boss fight was involved, the boys let her be.
“Still, I’m pretty worried about sensei,” Mutsuki speaks up after a moment of quietness, furrowing his brow. He stands on tiptoes to reach for their stock of instant noodles in the top cabinet. “What if something bad happened?”
“Like you said - he’s probably exhausted,” Shirazu tells him, walking over and chucking his empty can into the bin meant for recyclable products. He then casually reaches above the shorter boy and helps him retrieve the cup noodles. “Or maybe he found this really, really godawesome book that doesn’t let him put it down until he finishes it.”
“That.. actually makes sense.” The tension in Mutsuki’s shoulders subsides by the slightest. He stares thoughtfully at the plastic container in his hands. Yeah, that could be it. The only things that could affect their mentor are books, and perhaps some good coffee. He’s just being paranoid. Sensei is fine.
The sudden ringing of the doorbell startles them out of their mechanical silence a little while later, causing Shirazu to nearly drop the jug of hot water he’s holding. The ginger turns and sees that Urie’s still hogging the couch with his eyes closed and earphones on. Since he’s the only one who has nothing to do and happens to be closest to the door, Shirazu yells at him to go get it.
“Squad leader’s orders!” he adds when the other boy shoots him a death glare for disturbing him. He returns the glare with a series of dirty looks of his own, relentlessly making rude gestures until Urie’s forced to do as he say in order to stop seeing his face and suppress the urge to murder him on the spot. Barely masking his annoyance, Urie rips the buds from his ears and stalks to the front door. It only occurs to him then that whoever’s out there had been repeatedly pressing the bell all this while like it’s nobody’s business. If it’s not someone important, he swears internally to himself, I’m slamming the door in his face.
As it turns out, it’s a stranger - a young man about their age. His bleached blond hair is cut short enough to spike naturally, and he wears a rumpled suit with a crooked necktie under his investigator’s coat. Set down by his feet is a thin briefcase Urie recognizes as a Quinque.
“Phew! For a second there I was afraid there’s no one at home!” the stranger exclaims in relief the moment he sees the teen’s unimpressed face. His grin seems almost too wide and obnoxious. Wordlessly, Urie moves to close the door.
“H-Hey, wait!” The blond manages to jam his foot between the wooden panel and its frame before he’s shut out. “At least listen to what I have to say first!”
Urie clicks his tongue, clearly pissed by now. He really hates dealing with overly bright and persistent people.
“Did something happen? I heard a loud noise,” Mutsuki calls out as he walks over to check on them. The blond spots him, and actually smiles even wider.
“Oh, man - thank god there’s actually someone else in this house other than Mr. Gloomy,” he breathes, and Urie feels a vein throbbing at his temple. Mr. Gloomy? “Hey, can you like, get over here and open the door again for me so we can have a proper conversation? I promise I’m not a suspicious guy or anything.”
That’s the single most suspicious thing a stranger could say, but for some reason, Mutsuki has a feeling that he isn’t lying. He’s learnt to trust his instincts when it comes to stuff like this. So he quietly tells Urie to go back inside while he handles this.
“So uhh,” the blond starts once things had settled down, scratching his cheek with a finger. “I know it’s a little late to ask, but this is the residence of the Quinx squad under Rank 1 Sasaki Haise, correct?”
Mutsuki nods, and the young man proceeds to search for something in his pockets.
“Actually,” he says, pulling out a crumpled piece of paper from the back of his pants. “I’m assigned to join you guys in two days but-“
“I’m sorry - what?” Taken aback, Mutsuki blinks blankly at the revelation. The blonde smiles sheepishly.
“It was Akira-san’s idea for me to come earlier to you know, pick my room and settle down and all that,” he says, attempting to smoothen the piece of paper he’s holding but not being very successful. He finally gives up and simply hands it over. “Here’s a note from her, by the way. I have the official documents if you guys need them but they’re stashed somewhere in my bag and.. yeahh.”
Mutsuki scans the note and recognizes the penmanship as one indeed belonging to his superior. But why a new recruit so suddenly?
“You think you can bring me to your mentor?” the young man asks, and though his eagerness something to be wary of, Mutsuki doesn’t feel any sense of danger coming from him. At all. In fact, the more he looks at him, the more he could almost see amiability oozing from his pores.
“I could, but I’m afraid sensei’s not exactly in the mood to meet people right now?” Mutsuki says, glancing nervously to the side. Wait, he shouldn’t have said that, should he? The stranger simply raises an eyebrow.
“Even when it has something to do with work?” he inquires, and the boy guesses he’s right. Sasaki’s the kind of person who puts work before everything.
“Alright, then,” Mutsuki decides, stepping aside and holding the door open to make way. “Come inside first. I’ll take you to him.”
“Awesome,” the blond cheers, and disappears for a brief moment before materializing again with a huge backpack on his shoulders. He looks like a very lost hiker, Mutsuki thinks, amused. He shuts the door and turns the lock once he’s in the entryway.
“Come to think of it, I didn’t quite catch your name,” he starts as the blond struggles to remove his sneakers without being toppled over by the sheer weight of his luggage. Isn’t wearing something other than dress shoes when he’s in uniform against the investigator dress code?
“Nagachika,” the blond answers, placing his footwear neatly aside when he’d finally taken them off. “Nagachika Hideyoshi.”
“Nagachika-san,” Mutsuki echoes, and he couldn’t help marveling at the way the smile comes so easily to the newcomer’s lips.
“Yep. That’s me,” he affirms cheerfully, adjusting the straps of his bag. “Now let’s find someplace I can put this down before I sign myself in.”
It’s big and possibly even a tad bit intimidating, but the place looks as cozy as it can be.
Definitely a nice contrast to the little apartment he used to live in.
It might not show on his face, but Hide’s actually incredibly nervous about meeting him again. Sure, he’d been watching over him behind the scenes all this while and the reason he’s still being kept alive by the CCG was solely for this purpose and stuff - but still. He’s both physically and mentally unprepared. Everything’s too sudden! They could’ve at least given him a little more time to get his act together! What if he fails to hold himself back and end up hugging him? What if he bursts into tears like the pathetic guy he is? What if he accidentally says something he shouldn’t?
What if he triggers one of those monster headaches Akira had told him about?
Whoa, calm down me, Hide chides himself inwardly, taking in deep breathes while trying not to be too obvious about it. The last one’s probably impossible since he’s already come so far. The higher-ups wouldn’t have allowed Arima to make him do this if it meant endangering their precious test subjects. After everything that’d happened to his best friend, Hide wants to laugh at the bitter irony of the current situation. Kaneki had suffered so much alone because he’d been turned into a monster against his will, and now there’s a bunch of kids actually volunteering to have those wretched organs implanted into their body in return for an admittedly large sum of money.
But who is he to complain, really. It’s not like he’s in a better position than any of them.
At least everyone seems nice, he thinks, breaking out of his reverie just in time to avoid tripping on the first step of stairs. Except that guy with the undercut and dorito eyes - he looks like someone who never really got over his emo phase. Well, whatever.
“Hey, I know this is a weird request,” Hide begins, turning to face the boy with the eyepatch whom he’d come to identify as Tooru. “But you think I can go meet him alone?”
Because I don’t want to hurt you guys or embarrass myself if something happens.
“I suppose it’s fine,” Tooru says, clearly finding it strange but not questioning. “His room’s the second one on the left.”
“Go continue your dinner before it gets cold,” Hide nods and tells him, flashing him one last grin before making his way upstairs. He clutches the paper file containing the necessary documents to prove his legitimateness close to his chest, trying his hardest to stay calm. He mustn’t heck up. He mustn’t heck up. He reaches the top floor and blows out a long breath. Don’t heck up and ruin everything you’ve worked for so far.
He heads toward the designated door, and stops in front of it for a moment to gather his wits. He then puts on his best mask of obliviousness, and knocks.
His heart’s banging so loudly against his ribcage that he’s sure it could be heard all the way down the street. His ears eventually detect the sound of the shuffling of feet, and before he even has time for second thoughts, the door cracks open, and there he is.
There he is.
Hide hasn’t seen him face to face since forever and he looks so different up close, yet there’s no mistake that he’s him. His bright grey eyes, the set of his lips, the way he looks at him with utter surprise, even the parting of his hair. Hide recognizes them all.
And wow, his heart hurts more than it should.
Hide takes a step back, and bends into a formal bow. “Rank 1 Investigator, Nagachika Hideyoshi reporting for duty!”
The look on Kaneki’s face is priceless.
No- not Kaneki. He’s Haise now. Sasaki Haise. He has to remember.
“H-Huh?” Haise stands there gaping at him in bewilderment, and it takes Hide’s everything to contain the giggles that are threatening to burst forth despite the situation. When he shifts to stand normally again, he sees, with a certain sense of delight, that the former’s once snow-white hair is now black at the roots (plus it’s so endearingly mussed up, gosh). That’s great. Even though he knows this already, it’s still a relief. It’s slowly growing back to how it should be.
“I’m the new guy those old dudes at HQ probably told you about,” Hide explains at once, hoping with all his might that his grin doesn’t falter. “I know I’m early and all - but here are the documents.”
Still looking pretty baffled, Haise takes the file from his outstretched hands and goes over the papers inside without any further questions. In the mean time, Hide’s tempted to kick himself because that’s the lamest move he’d ever pulled in his life. He could’ve at least given him a longer explanation! What happened to his usual smoothness when he needs them? Sheesh.
“So you’re starting your stay here tonight?” Haise asks after a moment, peering at him past lowered lashes. Hide abruptly and unnecessarily realizes that he’s become impossibly more attractive since the last time he saw him.
“Yeah,” he clears his throat and manages to answer without stammering or doing anything equally mortifying. “I’m sorry it’s so sudden, but it’s under Akira-san’s orders. ‘Go on ahead and fit in first; and surprise them while you’re at it,’ she said - or something like that. I’ve got a note she wrote with one of your guys downstairs if you want to confirm or you can call her if it’s not too late and-” He pauses, noticing that the other boy’s staring at him strangely. “Something wrong?”
“Ah, no,” Haise says quickly, blinking out of his daze. He busies himself by arranging the documents back into the file to avoid eye contact. “I just thought you’d be a different sort of person..”
“You were expecting some grumpy old guy to move in a watch you like a hawk?” Hide asks, and chuckles good-naturedly when Haise flinches before nodding abashedly in admittance. Hide doesn’t point out how his companion had unconsciously touched his chin with his left hand when he answered him the first time. “Well, too bad for you, then. It’s just me.”
“I’m glad, actually,” Haise tells him, tentatively looking up again to offer a smile of his own. Hide feels his breathing hitch and hurriedly works to control the emotions that are rapidly welling up at the sight of that expression. It’s been so long since he saw him smile like that; with so much genuineness, so much care freeness. Haise, blissfully unaware of the blond’s inner turmoil, reaches to scratch the back of his head. “Honestly, I’m not sure if I can handle another cranky person in the house.”
“The one you already have looks enough of a handful as he is,” Hide folds his arms and agrees drily, and Haise gives him yet another queer look.
“You’re not as bad as I initially thought you’d be, are you?” he muses, his smile turning lopsided. He tucks the file under his arm and holds out his hand. “I’m Sasaki Haise. Rank 1 Investigator and mentor of the Quinx. Welcome to the squad, Nagachika-kun.”
“I’ll be in your care.” Hide shakes his hand, allowing himself to enjoy the warmth of it a split second longer than he should before letting go. “And just Hide’s fine.”
“Hide,” Haise corrects himself, meeting his gaze. Hide searches for signs of recognition or even pain in those bright grey eyes, but fortunately (or perhaps not; he can’t exactly decide), he doesn’t find any.
“Why don’t I show you around? I’ll introduce you to the rest of the kids while I’m at it,” Haise suggests next, and to Hide’s slight surprise, he proceeds to dart back inside. Hide catches a glimpse of several bookshelves filled to the brim with reading materials before Haise reappears empty handed and obscures his view by shutting the door. He’s still a first-class bookworm even after everything, huh?
“The ‘kids’?” Hide repeats as he falls in step by the other boy’s side, thoroughly amused. “Some of them look even older than me!”
“Give it a week and you’ll understand,” Haise assures, his tone light and a whole lot more relaxed compared to the one he was using around fifteen minutes ago. Hide figures he’d probably been worrying over little things again like what kind of person the newcomer would be, if he would report his every mistake to the superiors, et cetera.
“Anyway, the bedrooms are all on this floor. I’m afraid you’ll have to use the guest room downstairs since all of them have currently been taken,” Haise continues as they walk towards the staircase. He motions to a room at the end of the hallway. “The one in there right now is Rank 3 Yonebayashi Saiko,” he says, and Hide swears he hears some rhythmic beeping coming from where he’s indicating. “I think I heard her say something about a boss battle or something like that earlier, so you’ll only be able to meet her tomorrow morning if you’re lucky.”
Hide whistles lowly at the new information. “She’s a gamer?”
“The other’s call her a shut in.” Haise frowns slightly. “Which, actually pretty much sums up her character.”
“And you guys never actually attempted dragging her out?” Hide asks further, the habitual grin already creeping to his face. This is getting interesting. “Or you’ve all just given up?”
“Shirazu-kun’s renewing his efforts lately after being made squad leader, so at least she’s moving around again these days,” Haise says, taking his first step down the stairs. “Oh, and Rank 3 Shirazu Ginshi’s the one who looks like a thug at first glance but-”
When the boy in question stops in his tracks and turns to him at the sound of his name, Hide registers his mistake at once, and nearly - nearly - splutters.
“S-Sorry!” He apologizes, feeling his face heating up without his consent. That wasn’t supposed to happen! “I was just wondering if it’s alright to call you that and-“
He trails off when Haise tilts his head slightly to the side and shoots him a bemusedly skeptical look. “Had you been listening to me for the past five minutes?”
“Shirazu Ginshi’s the scary-looking guy with pointy teeth, right?”
He stares at him for about a minute longer before finally shrugging dismissively. “I don’t mind.”
Really, if Hide could melt into the wall he would’ve done so already. He’s been nothing but a wreck since he met the guy! He runs his hand across his face and takes in a couple of deep breaths to clear his thoughts. Be natural, Hids. Be natural.
Thankfully, he manages to do just that for the rest of the tour around the chateau. Hide hadn’t really realized it earlier with his mind running wild and all, but the place is seriously huge. He figures the entrance hall alone is bigger than the apartment he’d previously been staying in. Twisted as they are, the CCG sure knew how to pamper a group of youngsters - even if they are mere tools created for their own benefit.
“Guys, I’d like you to meet the newest member of our team,” Haise announces once they’re at the dining area in the lower floor where the rest of the team were still hanging around. Two curious faces plus a very indifferent one turns towards them upon their arrival. Once their attention are settled on him, Hide takes a customary bow.
“I’m Nagachika Hideyoshi!” he introduces himself, straightening up to briefly meet each of their gazes. “A Rank 1 Investigator who specializes more on intel rather than actual fighting, but I can use a Quinque when I have to! I like American music and making the people I care for happy! My best qualities are my positivity and determination.” He pauses, and grins mischievously.
“Oh, and I guess ya’ll can call me Dad!”