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Research and Smoothies

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Kaneki had noticed it in the hospital- how bad food tasted. He had chalked it up to the hospital serving food near its end date but watching other patients and nurses chow down without a care, he had a feeling he was missing something. At first, he blamed his lack of appetite on whatever drugs were in him from the surgery. Then, he decided it was a psychological thing because he disliked hospitals. Something in him told him neither of those speculations were quite right, so he kept thinking about it.

He listed a thousand things in his head that could cause his taste buds to change so drastically but none of the reasons felt right. Heh, he’d even joked to himself that the doctor turned him into a ghoul.

Fast forward a few days after being discharged to Kaneki staring in his mirror, desperately clawing at his left eye, he decides that making jokes is detrimental to his health.

He opened every package of food in his apartment and they all left him heaving over the toilet.

After realizing that he may be a ghoul and one suicide attempt brought on by temporary insanity later, Kaneki does the only logical thing in his mind.

He calls Hide.

“What’s up ‘Neki? You don’t usually call me!” Hide’s cheerful voice filtered into Kaneki’s ear.

“Um, could you come over? Like, now? Or as soon as possible?” Kaneki asked his friend, voice shaking.

“Dude, are you ok?” Hide asked, concern lacing his voice.

“I. . .I can’t talk about it over the phone.”

“Ok? You’re not in trouble are you? You sound scared. Are Yakuza bosses trying to track you down or something?” Hide joked and paled when he heard Kaneki start crying. “Woah! Kaneki, I’m sorry! Don’t cry, pleeaaasseeee don’t cry, man! I’ll be over in 10 minutes.” Hide assured his friend, trying to hide his own panic.

“Ok. Thanks Hide. The door will be unlocked.” Kaneki sniffled before hanging up.

Hide took off in a run the moment the line went dead. Kaneki, for the most part, was a pretty meek guy but Hide could count on one hand the number of times he’d seen Kaneki cry and he’d still have some fingers left over. So when Kaneki does cry, Hide knows something bad happened.

He makes it to Kaneki’s in record time and wastes no time slamming open the door; he doesn’t even take off his shoes, he just makes a mad dash over to his trembling friend curled up on the couch.

“Kaneki? What’s wrong? Are you hurt? Do we need to go to the hospital?” Hide asked, sitting down.

“No!” Kaneki gasped in alarm, looking at Hide with horror filled eyes. “I don’t know what they’ll do to me if I go back!”

Well now, isn’t that an interesting statement. Hide quirked an eyebrow at the response and took in the room; food was everywhere, the cabinets were opened, open containers of juice, milk, and soda were on the counters.

“Were you binge eating?” Hide asked and blinked in surprise when Kaneki jumped up.

“No!” Kaneki shouted, pacing back and forth. “I can’t eat anything, Hide! Ever since the surgery, everything except water tastes foul. Everything about food- the texture, the taste, the smell- it’s absolutely disgusting. I try to eat but I can't keep anything down. Just thinking about it makes me want to vomit!”

Kaneki stopped pacing; his back was turned to Hide.

“I. . .I thought it was just bad food at first but it’s not; it’s me. That surgery changed something inside of me,” Kaneki’s breath hitched. “And I don’t want to admit it, but I’m pretty sure I know what changed.” A shaking hand takes off the eyepatch and Kaneki turns around to look at his friend. Hide finds himself staring into mismatched eyes.

“They turned me into a ghoul, Hide!”

It’s a dramatic statement, a death knell, a grim reaper with a scythe.

“Wow, that’s the worst case of pink eye I’ve ever seen.” Hide says and giggles when Kaneki’s shocked look morphs into a blank one.

“Really? I tell you this life shattering news and that’s all you have to say? You do realize there’s a high possibility I could eat you, right?” Kaneki deadpans and heaves a heavy sigh when all Hide does is shrug nonchalantly- as if he'd heard this type of confession a million times.

“You could eat me but then you’d be out one best friend. Also, pretty sure I’m equivalent to something off the dollar menu at McDonalds; you should go for a higher caliber of food like a rich person or something. I bet gold and diamonds are good seasonings.”

“Very funny.”

“Hysterical, dear Kaneki, I’m hysterical.” Hide corrected, wagging his finger at Kaneki like one would to a naughty child.

“So it doesn’t bother you that I’m a ghoul?” Kaneki asked shyly after a moment of hesitation.

“It does- but not for the reasons you’re thinking of.” Hide tacks on when he sees Kaneki pale at his words. “It bothers me that these organs were put in you without your consent. Where’d they even get ghoul organs from anyway?” Hide wonders out loud, scratching his nose.

“Um. . .the girl I was with. . .” It was a quiet mumble but it made Hide’s ears perk up.

“Could you repeat that for me, Kaneki?” Hide asks with a smile. A smile Kaneki’s seen enough times to know Hide is trying to hold in his anger.

“The girl I went on a date with. She was a ghoul. I guess they used hers because she was already dead and there was no other option. It’s not like they knew she was a ghoul so I guess I can’t be too angry at them.”

“Bullshit.” Hide replied automatically.

“What?”

“You said she was crushed by steel beams, right? All of her, not just half?”

“Yes.” Kaneki said with a wince, remembering the sound of screeching metal.

“Kaneki,” Hide said gently. “If all of her was crushed, her organs would have been smashed to bits, right?”

“I suppose.” Kaneki admitted.

“Since there’s no way the hospital would transplant crushed organs into you, that means hers were fine. Any doctor performing that surgery should have found it fishy that the organs of the person crushed were in better condition than the person that wasn’t.”

“So they knew she was a ghoul.” Kaneki said sadly, catching on to what Hide was hinting at.

“I can’t see how they couldn’t know.”

There was silence as Kaneki took in this information.

“Soooooo. . .you gonna sue the shit out of that doctor or what?” Hide asked.

“Hide!” Kaneki exclaimed with a surprised laugh. “I doubt anyone would believe that lawsuit. Besides, he did save my life.”

“Yeah but at what cost? You said it yourself, you can’t eat food anymore and I know you, Kaneki. I know you don’t have it in you to kill a person, let alone eat one.”

“I know.” Kaneki moaned as he rubbed his hands in distress. “But what am I supposed to do? You’re right, I don’t want to eat people but everyone smells so good and I’m worried I’ll lose control and go on a killing spree. Even just being around you is making my mouth water. God, I feel like a monster-”

“Hey, hey, hey! Hold up there, Kaneki!” Hide said as he scrambled off the couch and over to his friend. “Listen to me: You are not a monster. You can’t help what’s happened to you. Ghouls eat people because that’s how they’re wired, they can’t help it. And of course I make your mouth water, I’d be offended if you said otherwise. I’m a god among men! But you haven’t attacked me, you didn’t rip out my throat the moment I stepped in the door; you are not bad for having these cravings. We just have to figure out a way to combat them, all right?”

“And how are we going to do that? You said it yourself; ghouls are made to eat humans.” Kaneki said wiping his eyes as he took a deep breath and tried calm down.

“Yeah, but you’re not all ghoul. You’re half, maybe even a little less, so maybe the same rules don’t apply to you. Or they shouldn’t. I don’t know! I’m not an expert on ghouls.” Hide replied, frustrated, running a hand through his hair.

“You’re right.” Kaneki said quietly and Hide silently cursed because he knew what was coming next. “I shouldn’t have called you. It was selfish of me to drag you into this mess. I understand if you don’t want to be friends anymore but could you maybe not tell anyone?” 

“For god’s sake, Kaneki! I’m not gonna stop being your friend because of this and I’m certainly not going to spill your secret. What do you take me for? We’ve been friends since elementary school, man. There isn’t anything that’s going to stop us from being besties. Shit, I’d help you hide a body if you needed me to!” Hide exclaimed, waving his hands in the air.

“The only body I would have to hide would be yours.” Kaneki said with a small smile.

“Cold.” Hide replied, sticking out his tongue and they looked at each other for a solid minute before laughing in sync. It was the kind of laughter that killed all the tension in the room and reminded the two why they were best friends in the first place.

“Ok, but seriously, what are we going to do? You can’t starve yourself, Kaneki.” Hide said, wiping the tears away from his eyes.

“I don’t know. I don’t suppose there are vegetarian options out there for ghouls.” Kaneki admitted weakly and blinked when Hide snapped his fingers.

“I’ve got an idea!” Hide exclaimed and Kaneki felt dread pool in his stomach.

“Oh?”

“Yeah! We’ve been looking at this all wrong. We don’t need a body. . .” Hide trailed off for dramatic effect.

“. . . we need ingredients for a body!” He ended, thrusting a fist in the air.

“Hide. . .” Kaneki groaned, knowing where the other was going.

“35 liters of water, 25 kilograms of carbon, 4 liters of ammonia-”

“Hide.” Kaneki tried to cut in but the other talked over him.

“250 grams of salt, 80 grams of sulfur-”

“Hide, stop quoting Full Metal Alchemist.”

“But Kaneki! It’s perfect. We just have to get those ingredients and make you a smoothie or something. No bringing back the dead or anything like that!” Hide whined.

“4 liters of ammonia would kill me.” Kaneki dryly told him.

“Would it?” Hide asked, looking thoughtful and Kaneki wanted to groan but stopped short. Hide was right- they didn’t know what Kaneki could eat, barring the obvious.

So Kaneki Ken decided to show his mettle and take a chance.

“Hide, you told me you would hide a body for me, did you mean that?” Kaneki asked gravely.

“Yeah, why?” Hide asked, a little scared at how serious Kaneki looked.

“I’m about to ask you to help me with something, something much worse than hiding a body.”

“Kaneki. . .” Hide trailed off, looking warily at his friend, knowing full well where the other was going with this.

“Hide, we need to do some research.”

“Noooooooooooooo.” The other moaned in despair, flopping back down on the couch. “Kaneeeeekkkiiiiii, we’ve spent the last few months doing that for our classes. We’ve finally been given a break and you- and you want to-”

“Please, Hide? I don’t want to be a flesh eating monster and this could help.” Kaneki begged and Hide made the mistake of looking into big grey eyes that always made him agree to things he’d rather not do.

“Fine! But I’m not taking notes!” 

It is a sacred rule that all college students, at one point or another, were forced to learn the fine art of research. There isn’t a student out there that hasn’t had their soul die a little due to this. That being said, college students may have large lazy streaks but when they were forced to do research, they fucking researched.

The next few weeks felt like studying for finals all over again. Hide and Kaneki visited almost every library they could find. Books upon books, internet searches that probably put them on some government list, notebooks filled with scribbled theories and citations were fast becoming a norm for them.

Thankfully, the day after Confession Day (as Hide dubbed it, much to Kaneki’s horror and embarrassment) they had discovered Kaneki could drink coffee. This led to several days of experimenting with coffee, coffee beans, coffee grounds and so forth.

What they learned: Coffee beans are edible (but not tasty) and black coffee is best. Coffee as a seasoning does not improve the taste of regular food. Also, coffee can only hold off the hunger for a short time.

“So, it’s like junk food.” Hide concluded, closing a book. “You can eat it but you’re not getting nutrients from it.”

“Yeah,” Kaneki sighed dejectedly. “At least we learned that the reason everything tastes bad is because of some enzyme and the structure of the tongue.”

“This would be a lot easier if these books would tell us which enzyme.” Hide groan, popping his back. “I still think we should try my FMA smoothie idea.”

“Ok.” Kaneki agreed absentmindedly, cracking open another book.

“What.” Hide looked suspiciously at his friend. “You were against it when I first brought it up. Why the change of heart?”

“Because we’ve read that a ghoul can survive for about two months eating one body. I’ve been a ghoul for three weeks and I haven’t eaten; I’m aware that my time is running out. At this point, it’s try everything or go insane.” Kaneki admitted, refusing to look up as Hide took a deep breath.

“This means we’re gonna be-”

“-Hide don’t say it-”

“-ALCHEMISTS! I’M SO PUMPED!”

They were kicked out of the library.

The next day, Hide showed up at Kaneki’s place, ingredients bulging from several bags and a blender tucked under his arm.

“Ready, Alphonse?” Hide teased, stepping inside and setting everything on the kitchen counter before Kaneki had a chance to slam the door shut.

“Ah! Safety first!” Hide chuckled as he put safety goggles on Kaneki’s head.

“How’d you get all the ingredients so quickly?” Kaneki asked in dazed wonder as Hide commandeered his kitchen.

“Told the science department I was doing an experiment and they let me have the stuff. I’m surprised it worked.” Hide hummed, wiggling in excitement. “Ready, Kaneki?”

“No, but I don’t have much of choice do I?” The other said, adjusting his goggles.

“Nope!” Hide snickered, turning on the blender. “Here we go!”

It takes several attempts before the pair made anything that somewhat resembled a smoothie. On the first few tries, they discovered that the ingredients had to go in a specific order (boy, wasn’t that fun to figure out) otherwise nothing would blend. Then, things kind of blended but were still chunky, so they had to find a way to fix that.

“We need a liquid base.” Kaneki concluded in a voice that Hide mentally called “Kaneki Ken: Science Mode.”

“Ok, what should we use?” Hide asked.

Kaneki shrugged. “Um, I think the only two we can use are water and coffee.”

So, after many a trial and error, there sat before them two prototypes of the human smoothie: Plain and Coffee. The plain one looked like a vanilla shake and the coffee one respectively looked like chocolate.

Neither looked or smelled pleasant.

“So, here’s the moment we’ve been waiting for.” Hide whispered excitedly.

“The moment you’ve been waiting for.” Kaneki corrected, looking at the smoothies with trepidation before picking up the plain one. “Hide, keep your phone out. You may need to call an ambulance to have my stomach pumped after this.”

Kaneki took a deep breath before bringing the drink to his lips and taking a big gulp. Hide looked on in awe.

“It tastes weird. . .not bad, kinda chalky.” Kaneki admitted before grabbing the coffee one and taking a sip. “Ok, the coffee one is a lot better.”

“So you can keep it down. That’s good but does it stop the hunger?” Hide asked. 

Kaneki sighed. “Only one way to find out.”

They walked to a crowded shopping district and spent the next few hours wandering around.

“It’s odd. I’m not sure how to explain it. Everyone smells nice and my mouth still waters at the thought but the urge is gone. I guess the best explanation is like when you smell good food when you’re full. It still smells nice but you won’t eat because you’re not hungry.” Kaneki’s eyes snapped up his own revelation and looked at an equally ecstatic Hide.

“I’m not hungry, Hide. It worked! For the first time in three weeks I’m not hungry!” Both let out whoops of laughter and screams better suited for a football game but neither cared about the stares they were getting.

Of course, this was just the beginning.

They discovered that all the ingredients they needed could be order in bulk online so Hide wouldn’t have to keep lying to the Science Department. Then they spent the next several weeks trying to put said ingredients into other forms such as meat patties.

It was a work in progress to say the least.

They hadn’t stopped researching. Hide wanted Kaneki to be able to taste normal food again. Now that they knew about the enzyme issue, they spent quite a bit a time bugging several professors at their school that specialized in anatomy and physiology.

Some of these professors wondered why a literature and an international studies student were so interested in the subject but were willing to share their knowledge. The information did help but since ghoul anatomy wasn’t a subject, they were still stuck.

“Kaneki! Look! Look! The answer to our problems!” Hide yelled out one day as he tackled his shy friend, shoving a flyer in his face.

“Commission of Counter Ghoul Tour: Come to our office on June 1st to learn about ghouls! You’ll be able to tour our buildings, look at our research department and speak with our investigators.” Kaneki read out loud with a big smile. “Where’d you find this?”

“Professor Yana gave it to me. She said I might be able to ask about the differences between ghouls and humans there and get better answers. So, we’re gonna go, right?” Hide asked with a big grin, already knowing the answer.

Kaneki’s hand clutched the paper.

“Definitely, but I wonder why the CCG is doing a tour?"

“Probably to raise awareness about ghouls. Lots of people still think ghouls are myths.” Hide reminded the other.

“That’s true.” Kaneki nodded, remembering an old memory of him and Hide arguing about what ghouls looked like.

“I wonder how many people will show up?” Kaneki wondered, absentmindedly putting the flyer in his bag.

As it turns out, not very many. Specifically, only Hide and Kaneki showed up.

“Did we get the date wrong?” Kaneki asked quietly, looking around the lobby as he nervously played with the band of his eyepatch.

“No, it’s June 1st. Maybe they cancelled it? That or they’re bad at advertising. I haven’t seen any other promotions for it.” Hide said as they walked to the receptionist.

“Hi! Is the CCG Tour still happening today?” Hide asked her cheerfully. She gave them a look conveying her surprise that someone actually knew about the tour.

Ah, so it was bad advertising.

“Yes, it’s about to start. Here are some visitor passes for you. Let me call the tour guide to let them know you’re here.” She told them with a polite smile, handing over two white badges.

Amon enjoyed his job. He likes bringing justice to the world. He likes taking down ghouls and avenging orphans. He likes his colleagues (most of the time) and enjoys the fast-paced work environment of the CCG. Today, though, today was a day he should have called in sick.

Every year the CCG has a tour for civilians and every year no one shows up.

Because no one in the CCG understands advertising. Honestly, 50 posters is not enough publicity. The best part? The tour guides (read: whatever investigator picked the short stick; this year it was Amon.) can’t leave in case someone does come to the tour. Amon’s positive that’s never happened.

So it was with great surprise when the call came in that two people actually showed up.

Amon’s not sure what he was expecting when he went down to the lobby. The two thin boys waiting for him were not what his imagination had stirred up.

(He had been thinking their guests might be middle-aged women who wanted to be informed or those buff, fighter type guys that wanted to fight everything and everyone.)

A boy practically bursting with energy and another boy so quiet, Amon hadn’t noticed him at first, were a surprise.

“Hello,” He greeted them, gaining their attention. “Are you here for the tour?” At their nods, he smiled. “Good. My name is Amon. Please follow me.”

“Yes sir! I’m Hide and this is Kaneki.” The hyper one chirped as he dragged the quiet one through the RC scanners. “Nice security scanners.” He commented.

“Oh, those are actually RC scanners; they detect the amount of RC cells of anyone who walks through. No ghoul can enter without setting them off. Hopefully, when they’re not so expensive to make, shops will be able to install them.” Amon told them enthusiastically. He hadn’t turned to look at them, so he missed the horrified glances they shot each other and Hide silently mouthing, “Oh my god!

“So, what made two high school students want to come here?” Amon asked, pressing the elevator button. His brow furrowed in confusion as Hide puffed up his cheeks and crossed his arms. Kaneki had an amused smile on his face and shook his head slowly.

“We’re actually in college, Amon-san.” He gently corrected the man. Amon’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.

“My apologies.”

“It’s fine.” Kaneki assured him. “By the way, is it all right to take notes?”

“Um,” Amon had no idea. There were guidelines and restrictions to the tour but he never learned what they were. “That’s fine. No pictures though.”

The tour wasn’t as bad as Amon thought it would be. Both boys listened attentively to what he said and Kaneki would write things down every now and again. Amon explained what he did, what the CCG did, the academy and many other things. It was only when he got to the subject of ghouls that things began to get a little odd.

“There are two physical differences that differentiate ghouls from humans. The first is their eyes-when they’re hungry the iris turns red and the sclera becomes black. The other difference is their kagune; it’s an organ that ghouls use to. . .” Amon kept talking and they were listening, but Hide was eyeing Kaneki up and down, silently asking, ‘Did you know about this?’ and Kaneki was shaking his head, ‘Nope. No idea what he’s talking about.

Amon was having the time of his life. He had no idea how cathartic it was to unleash all his passion about fighting ghouls on unsuspecting bystanders.

“Hey, that’s cool and all, but what about the tongue enzyme?” Hide asked. Kagunes sounded awesome but they were on a mission. Besides, he would poke and prod at Kaneki later ‘til they figured out what kind he had.

“Tongue enzyme?” Amon asked, stopping to look at the two.

“Yeah! All the books we’ve read say part of the reason ghouls can’t eat food is because of one of their enzymes but they never say which one. You know, right?”

“I do.” ‘I think.’ Amon thought. It was something he had studied in the academy and then forgot about after the test. “I can see why it’s not in most books; it’s not very important in the long run.”

“Are you kidding?! It’s the most important thing ever!” Hide exclaimed.

“Well, the enzyme does help identify ghouls, so that helps when it comes to exterminating them. Are you two interested in working for the CCG?” Amon asked, trying to contain his excitement.

“Eh? No, not really and I don’t care that it helps you identify ghouls; we need to know the name of that enzyme.” Hide replied, waving his hand lazily back and forth as if to shoo away Amon’s suggestion.

“Why?”

“To fix it of course.”

“Fix it?” Amon asked, brow furrowed in confusion.

“Yeah, so ghouls can eat human food.” Hide responded bluntly.

Thus, the Great Debate began.  Somehow the tiny group had made their way to the cafeteria to break for lunch, Hide and Amon bickering all the way. Akira, Takizawa, Shinohara and a few other investigators raised their eyebrows when they saw Amon sit down with a scowl on his face.

“Are you alright, Amon-san?” Takizawa asked hesitantly as Amon slammed his food onto the table. A blonde boy sat across from him with a frustrated look on his face while a black haired boy pulled a shake and book out of his bag and began to read.

“Even if combating the enzyme would allow ghouls to eat regular food, they’d still crave human flesh.” Amon told the boy, ignoring Takizawa’s question.

“You don’t know that. I bet a lot of ghouls would be happy to eat like us.” The other shot back.

“No they wouldn’t, Hide. They’re ghouls; they eat flesh-”

“Because that’s all they can eat! You’re not being fair.” Hide blurted out.

“Fair? They eat humans! Do you have any idea how much heartbreak their existence has caused?!” Amon roared back.

“Yes, I know they eat humans; I took Ghoul 101.” Hide responded sarcastically. “And, yes, I’m aware of the tragedies surrounding their eating habits; that’s why breaking down the enzyme is a good thing. They’ll have more options.”

“Again. They eat humans.” Amon stressed, trying to understand why this kid couldn't see how bad that was.

“The way I see it, they don’t have much of a choice, do they? Just because that’s all they can eat doesn’t mean all of them want to. But what choice do they have? It’s either eat or starve. Human food is poison to them. It’s like if someone who was severely allergic to peanuts was forced to eat peanuts. You make it sound like eating humans is the worst thing in the world.” Hide complained.

“You don’t think so?” Amon asked dryly.

“It’s up there but if you guys really thought it was that bad, why is Issei Sagawa free and alive?”

“What?” Amon asked deadpan.

“Issei Sagawa.” Hide sighed around his noodles and Kaneki took a sip of his drink. “He killed a girl, ate her and is now living the life of a minor celebrity because of it. Oh and here’s the kicker: He’s human. So why is a cannibal allowed to get away scot free while ghouls are persecuted for something they can’t help?”

(At this point, Kaneki had ignored them entirely and was having a lovely discussion about The Black Goat’s Egg with the white haired, bespectacled man who sat next to him.)

Amon’s mouth was moving but no words were coming out. Intrigued by this strange boy, Shinohara joined in the debate.

“I understand where you’re coming from but what would you have humans do? Just lie down and accept that ghouls need to eat them to survive? That’s not fair to the humans.” The older man pointed out.

“I know. Which is why ghouls need second, thirds, even fourth options for foods.” Hide told them with an annoyed look.

“I’m afraid that’s not possible right now.”

“Human cloning.” Hide replied bluntly and Kaneki held back a snigger.

“Er-well. . .”

“Synthetic meat. The components of the human body blended into a smoothie. Experimenting with things that humans don’t eat to see if ghouls can. You’re telling me an organization this big hasn’t thought of one peaceful way to resolve this issue? You guys suck.” Hide told them bluntly, ignoring Kaneki’s warning kick to behave.

“The quinques-”

“Oh yes, ripping a kagune out of a ghoul and molding it into a weapon.” Hide interrupted. “How very noble of the human race, hmm, I wonder why ghouls hate us again? I’m shocked a ghoul hasn’t come along, ripped off one of your arms and beat you to death with it- it’d serve you right.”

Pure silence interrupted only by Kaneki’s soft cough.

Of course once the investigators gained their bearings, it was a full on argument filled with slamming fists onto tables, screaming, frustrated tears and so forth. Kaneki looked upon the chaos and quite suddenly remembered why Hide was forced off the debate team in high school. Closing his book and thanking Arima-san for the riveting discussion, he poked Hide in his side to get his attention but the other was too busy arguing to notice. With a sigh, Kaneki stood up, put a hand on the back of Hide’s head and forced both himself and Hide to bow to the investigators.

“Thank you for allowing us to view your wonderful facility today but I’m afraid we must be going.” Kaneki told them. “I do find it rather sad that instead of finding peaceful solutions, you’ve resorted to extreme violence but I understand your reasoning. Please excuse us.” The calm boy told the seething investigators as he dragged a still yelling Hide out of the room.

“They’re anarchists, Kaneki!” Hide grouched on the way home. “Anarchists in the form of a government agency. Well, at least we got the name of that enzyme. I still can’t believe it’s called the RC enzyme; what a boring name.”

“They’re within their rights to feel as they do. I’m sure many of them have suffered greatly because of ghouls; it’s natural for them to fear and hate. Also, I’m sure they would have been more receptive to your ideas if you hadn’t lambasted them.” Kaneki pointed out.

“Bah!” Hide said, folding his arms behind his head. “So, now that we know the name, how do we break down the enzyme?”

“I have no idea. I’m not a scientist.” Kaneki replied.

“Me neither.” Hide snickered, elbowing his best friend in the side. “So where do we go from here?” Hide asked.

“Dunno. Probably have to do more research and talk to the biology professor.”

“Arg! You’re killing me, Kaneki!” Hide whined.

(As it turns out, Arima found several ideas from their young tourists quite interesting and worth investigating. Researchers at the CCG soon received several orders involving cloning, synthetic meat and the study of breaking down ghoul enzymes. Within the next year, a drug was created that allowed ghouls to temporary eat human food.)

Of course, Hide and Kaneki were unaware of this development until the drug was already available, making Hide throw a mini-fit in their apartment and burn some of their notes.

“They made it before us! Can you believe that, Kaneki?! The CCG is full of thieves!” Hide mock-complained.

“Of course they made it before us; they have actual scientists. Our end product would have probably killed someone.” Kaneki pointed out, putting out the flames.

“Oh shut up.” Hide pouted and Kaneki smirked.

“You know I’m right.”

“Yeah.” Hide admitted with a grin. “Want to go pick up this drug and head over to Big Girl? It’s been a while since you’ve had a burger.”

“I thought you’d never ask.” Kaneki said with a smile, grabbing his coat.

Chapter Text

Life after the drug was not all that different. It received a small blurb on the news and there was a moment of hype about it before it became just another medication on the shelf. A prescription wasn’t needed since it was classified as an antacid. It had been called ‘RC Stomach’ and its white bottle fit perfectly between the cold medicine and the eye drops.

“I gotta admit, I’m a little disappointed.” Hide said before taking a bite of cake. Their classes had finished up for the day and Kaneki had decided to kill time at Anteiku, a small café he had discovered last year. Hide decided to tag along, if only to annoy his best friend. It was also the place where Kaneki met his, um, ‘ex-girlfriend that was into pre-meditated murder’, as Hide put it (Kaneki tried to tell Hide that going on one date didn’t make her his girlfriend, let alone an ex. Hide had admonished him, saying that anyone who felt strong enough about someone else to kill them deserved better than being called a one night stand. This led to an argument about purposely misconstruing words that ended in a violent thumb war to prove who was right). Kaneki knew he should probably have an aversion to Anteiku but he liked the atmosphere; it was perfect for reading and the coffee was delicious. Attempted murder or no, he wasn’t going to stop coming here.

“What are you disappointed about?” Kaneki asked as he cracked open his book. The Hanged Man’s MacGuffin was one of Takatsuki Sen’s newer works. He had read it before and couldn’t wait to read it again. He had also ordered a slice of cake and was about to take a bite when he remembered he hadn’t taken his pill yet.

“I mean, I thought we started a revolution here! Where’s the hype? The respect? Without us, this miracle drug wouldn’t exist but everyone’s all, ‘Oh, antacid for ghouls. Cool.’ Not cool! Not cool at all.” Hide pouted. Kaneki was about to pop the pill in his mouth when the waitress accidentally bumped his arm as she rushed by with an order.

“Sorry!” She called over her shoulder as Kaneki watched the pill dissolve in his coffee.

“Well, it could be worse.” Kaneki said, taking out another pill. The drug only worked when taken orally. “At least our research didn’t go to waste, right? Ah-!” The waitress stumbled into him again on her way back, causing him to drop his pill. Again.

Hide stared at him, betrayal in his eyes.

“I can’t believe you just said that to me. ‘At least our research didn’t go to waste?’ What is wrong with you? No, no, don’t answer that.” Hide sighed. “I should’ve seen this coming when I decided to befriend the biggest nerd in Japan. I thought my presence would help you see that there’s more to life than stuffy books. Forgive me for failing you.”

“On the contrary, your presence has helped me see how important research and studying is.” Kaneki replied, looking at his book but Hide spotted the sly grin on his face and stuck his tongue out in retaliation.

“Rude.”

“Pot meets kettle, no?”

“How dare you use metaphors to define our relationship!”

“It was an idiom and I shortened it for you since I know your attention span is lacking.”

“Do you remember in high school when I told you not to be such a goodie goodie?” Hide asked and Kaneki nodded, “Yeah, see, I didn’t mean become a supreme being of sass that attacks his bestie with his clever wit when he’s bored. I was aiming more towards you sass-attacking other people.”

“What a sad life you live.” Kaneki muttered, becoming absorbed in his book.

“Shakespeare would write plays about me if he were alive.” Hide snickered before frowning when he realized he’d lost Kaneki to a world of fiction. “And the tragedies just keep piling up! I’m going to the bathroom. Maybe I’ll find the meaning of life in the urinal.”

“Hmm, sure.” Kaneki said and Hide had half a mind to eat Kaneki’s cake but decided to be merciful.

Kaneki didn’t notice Hide leave. Engrossed in his book, a faint part of him spoke up, reminding him that he hadn’t eaten yet. On auto-pilot, his hand dug into his pocket, uncapped the bottle, and took out another pill. As grey eyes scanned over words, taking in Prisoner 182’s story, he brought the pill to his lips-

-only for it to share the same fate as the ones before it; ending up in his coffee.

Jerking back into the real world, he sighed and looked at the waitress who was once again apologizing to him. Once was an accident. Twice was a coincidence. Three times was intentional.

“Um, excuse me.” He started out, voice soft, doing his best to hide his annoyance. “Is there a reason why you’re purposely knocking into me? I’d like to eat and I can’t do that with you making me drop my medication.”

The waitress- Touka, according to the name tag – bowed to him, looking for all the world as if she felt terrible. However, instead of saying sorry, she began whispering to him.

“What the hell is wrong with you? Are you an idiot?”

“Excuse me?” Kaneki asked, shocked at her accusation.

“That drug you’re about to take is made by the CCG!”

“Yes. . .” Kaneki trailed off, unsure of what she was getting at. “I know where it came from. Is that a problem?”

Touka’s face turned from red to purple. If they weren’t in a public place, Kaneki might have been worried for his life.

“You are an idiot!” She snarled quietly. “An idiot and a traitor! What sort of ghoul trusts anything from the CCG?! That pill will probably kill you!”

Kaneki blinked at her. What was she talking about? She made it sound like he was about to commit a cardinal sin – oh.

Oh.

He blinked again and glanced around the room. Almost all the customers and staff were giving him nervous looks. A few were glaring at him, as if they couldn’t believe how foolish he was acting. In their quest to find a way for Kaneki to eat again, Hide and him had learned quite a bit about ghouls. How they assimilated themselves into human society and how some had set up safe places for other ghouls when they couldn’t find food. Hide and Kaneki had made finding a ghoul safe house one of their many backup plans in case they failed.

To think there had been one right under their noses! Kaneki was also beginning to see why RC Stomach wasn’t catching on so well within the ghoul community.

Who was the #1 ghoul exterminator in Japan? The CCG.

Which humans did ghouls hate and fear the most? Those of the CCG.

Who made and manufactured RC Stomach? The CCG.

 “Listen,” Kaneki started, trying to find the best way to explain without offending her. Saying something along the lines of, 'I’m sorry for any losses you’ve suffered.', would probably make her rip his head off. Trying to defend the CCG would probably make her rip his head off. Snapping at her and saying it wasn’t her concern or anyone else’s would probably also end badly for him. “I understand you’re concerned, and I appreciate that, but this drug won’t kill me. It’s harmless.”

“Harmless?” Touka scoffed. “Nothing the CCG does is harmless.”

“Ok, that’s fair,” Kaneki conceded, taking out his bottle. She wasn’t wrong and he didn’t feel like fighting. He was hungry and he wanted to read his book. He frowned when he realized there was only one pill left. He’d have to get another bottle after this. “Harmless or not, it’s my choice to take this pill; not yours.” Normally, he wouldn’t speak so bluntly to a stranger but she had cost him 3 pills and this drug, while not outrageously expensive, wasn’t cheap.

As he put the pill in his hand, he saw Touka tense out of the corner of his eye. He turned to her and gave her a polite smile.

“If this pill ends up like the last 3, I will be speaking to your manager and you will be paying for my next bottle. Are we clear?” Her jaw dropped at his response and he took that moment to swallow his pill. “Good. Now let me eat cake.”

The eyes of the people around him widened and a few even gasped; as if they were expecting him to explode or flop dead on table. Kaneki was beyond them; already back into his book with one hand steadily pushing piece by piece of cake into his mouth.

“Man, Kaneki, you should check out their bathroom! It’s got- hey! It’s Touka-chan!” Hide said with a cheerful smile as he sat back down. His expression turned sheepish when she gave him a startled look. “Ah, sorry, you probably don’t remember me. I asked you out last time I was here.”

“N-no, I remember you.” She said but she was looking at Kaneki, recognition slowly working its way into her memory. This kid. . .wasn’t he the one Rize had been hunting?

“Well, I’m glad I left an impression even if I didn’t get a date.” Hide snickered as he looked at his friend. “My good friend here managed to score a date with a fine lookin’ lady last time. Can you believe that?” He asked, jerking a thumb at Kaneki, ignoring the kick to his shin.

“Oh. . . is that so?” Touka barely managed to say with a strained smile. “Coffee shops are a good place for people to meet.”

“Well, it’s not like they’re still dating.” Hide said, waiting for Kaneki to put his cup to his lips. “Turns out she was a man eater.”

Kaneki spat his coffee out all over the table.

“Oh my God!” Hide exclaimed, though Kaneki could tell he was trying not to laugh. “Touka-chan, I am so sorry! This guy is still learning about social interactions. I do my best, but he’s such a nerd, y’know? Breaking down all those introvert walls is hard.”

“No, it’s fine.” Touka said, face pale and looking like she was on the verge of panic. Thankfully, she felt a familiar presence come up beside her.

“Is there a problem here?” the manager asked, taking in the two young men and the messy table.

“No,” Kaneki said, giving Hide the stink eye before giving the older man an apologetic bow. “I have unsteady hands and lost a few of my pills in my coffee. I wasn’t expecting the taste. Sorry for causing a scene; we’ll clean up and leave.”

“Nonsense.” the manager said with a kind smile. “It is not our customers’ job to clean up messes. Touka, please go get a wet towel.” Touka nodded and made a mad dash to the back, eager to leave. “Please allow me to get you a replacement coffee to go. On the house, of course.”

“Ah, there’s no need for that! It was my fault, after all.” Kaneki stuttered nervously, one hand on his chin.

“Perhaps, but I believe Touka was a little clumsy today and bumped into you more than once.” The older man said without hesitation and Kaneki winced. He had been annoyed at her but he didn’t want to get her in trouble; he had gotten to eat his cake, after all. “I saw her apologize but, please, allow me to get you a new coffee.”

“Urm, ok. Thank you.” Kaneki said. “Oh, manager!” he called out to the man and smiled when he turned to look at him. “The cake here is delicious. I’m glad I tried it.”

“I’m happy to hear that.” the manager said with a smile of his own.


“I can’t believe he gave you free coffee and slice of cake.” Hide complained as they walked down the street. “The coffee I get, but why the cake? Favoritism, I tell you.” He looked at Kaneki. “By the way, did Touka-chan say why she kept running into you like that?” He asked, guiding Kaneki out of the way of another person because Kaneki had yet to understand how dangerous reading and walking were when combined. Hide was also forced to carry Kaneki’s coffee; revenge for making him spit up his coffee, according to Kaneki.

“Ah, I think Anteiku is one of those safe houses for ghouls. At least, most of the other customers were ghouls.” Kaneki said as he turned another page.

“Oh, cool. You think I’m still allowed go there? I’d hate to make anyone uncomfortable. I bet I smell hella delicious.”

“You smell like sweat and stale hamburgers.” Kaneki said, not missing a beat. “Turn here; I need to buy another bottle of RC Stomach.”

“Oh yeah? Well, you smell like-” Hide stopped walking and sniffed him, right in the middle of the street. “You smell like shampoo and ink. How is that even possible? It’s like you came out of a romance novel. Not cool, man. Be gross and smelly like the rest of mankind.”

“Did you just sniff me in the middle of a crowded street?” Kaneki asked, finally putting his book away and taking his coffee back.

“Yeah.”

“There’s this concept called personal space; do you know what that is?”

“Your strange words are lost on me!” Hide sniggered, slinging an arm over Kaneki’s shoulder as they walked into the small convenience store.

They bickered the whole time they were there, casually flinging insults at each other and cracking jokes. It took less than 10 minutes for Kaneki to find the medicine and pay the cashier. Then, the two young men were out the door, prepared to spend the rest of the day lazing about in Kaneki’s apartment.

Neither noticed the stupefied investigator, who had been in line behind them.

A few days later, Hide spotted Kaneki walking across Kamii’s vast campus grounds. For a second, he considered calling out but decided it was easier to just run up and jump on Kaneki’s back.

“Yo, Kaneki! Take a look at this!” Hide yelled, as he shoved a flyer into Kaneki’s hands. Kaneki glanced at the paper and smiled.

“Commission of Counter Ghoul Tour: Come to our office on June 1st to learn about ghouls! You’ll be able to tour our buildings, look at our research department and speak with our investigators.” He said, fondly recalling saying the exact same words last year.

“Professor Yana remembered how interested I was last year and reminded me. So, wanna go talk to some investigators?” Hide asked with a grin. Kaneki let out an exasperated sigh but he was smiling.

“You just want to argue with them, don’t you?”

“Yup!”


 

Amon glared at the short stick in his hand. Technically, Suzuya had drawn the shortest stick but the group had been worried he’d be too eccentric for the public. A fair point, he supposed, until he realized he had drawn the second shortest stick.  Well, it wouldn’t be too bad. The CCG never advertised the tour well, so very few people stopped by. he would probably be stuck doing paperwork all day.

Of course, right as he thought this, the phone rang. It was the receptionist letting him know two people were here for the tour.

As he took the elevator down to meet them, he couldn’t help but think of last year’s tour. It had been interesting, to say the least, and it was the reason the CCG started making RC Stomach. Amon thought the drug was useless- ghouls wouldn’t take it- but it wasn’t his place to say so.

He put the thought out of his mind as the elevator opened. Putting on a smile, he walked towards the lobby, ready to enthusiastically tell strangers why he loved his job.

“Hello! Welcome to the CCG Tour! Today I’ll be your guide. My name is-” He stopped, enthusiasm dying as he took in the two boys. One was grinning without shame while the other had the grace to look embarrassed. “Oh. It’s you two.”

“Hey Amon!” Hide greeted as they walked towards him.

“Amon-san.” Kaneki said with a respectful bow and Amon decided he liked Kaneki more than Hide.

“Is there a reason why you two are here?” Amon asked as he turned around and began to walk away.

“To learn about ghouls of course!” Hide said as they followed him past the RC scanner and Amon could feel a headache coming on. “We had a lot of fun last year, so why not come again?”

“Last year ended in tears.” Amon reminded both of them as he viciously stabbed the elevator button.

“The only people crying were investigators and that’s because they knew I was right.” Hide side as the three of them crammed into the elevator and Kaneki hissed at him to behave.

Amon took a breath, exhaled, and centered himself. He could do this, he told himself as the elevator opened and they stepped out. He could do this tour and not kill anyone.

He talked about the exact same things as last year. He spoke of the academy, the CCG’s mission, the quinques ( Hide had opened his mouth to give his opinion about that topic but Kaneki slapped a hand over his mouth before Hide could get a word out) and kagunes.

The last subject caused Hide to go into near hysterics while Kaneki turned an interesting shade of red.

It had taken them two months to figure out what type Kaneki had. They had done some research on the types of kagunes and Hide had bet Kaneki that his would be an ukaku.

“It would fit you. There’s a bunch of birds in literature- it’s perfect.”

Of course, neither knew how to get the kagune to come out. Hide had poked and pinched Kaneki’s back for two days straight before Kaneki told him to leave it be. Since kagunes were there for ghouls to defend themselves, it seemed the only way to find out was to put Kaneki is some form of danger. While both of them were curious, they weren’t that curious. The only – only – reason they had discovered Kaneki’s was a rinkaku was because Hide had accidentally knocked over one of Kaneki’s bookshelves.

The bookshelf fell on top of Hide, by the way. Not completely. Oh, Kaneki’s books had beaten him up, courtesy of gravity, and the bookshelf probably would have broken some of his bones had Kaneki not caught it with his rinkaku.

My God, you would have thought Kaneki had witnessed a murder by the way he reacted. There was this high pitched shriek, the sound of ripping clothes, and, suddenly, a bunch of tentacles setting the bookshelf upright and putting the books back, leaving a dazed Hide on the floor.

“Are you ok, Hide?” Kaneki had asked as he rushed over to him. “Do I need to call an ambulance?”

“Yeah. I think you shattered my eardrums with your scream. You ever think about a career with the opera?” This, of course, had earned Hide a punch to the stomach and a flustered Kaneki claiming he was worried about his books. Then, Hide got a good look at Kaneki’s kagune and busted up laughing.

“Don’t show foreigners your kagune; they’re going to think that all those rumors about Japanese people liking tentacle porn are true. Hey, how much hentai have you been- ow!”

Kaneki had noodle arms but his punches still hurt.

They then spent the rest of the day trying to figure out how to get the rinkaku to go back in. Hide let out a laugh at the memory.

“I’m almost afraid to ask what you’re thinking about.” Amon’s voice brought Hide back to reality.

“You don’t want to know, Amon-san.” Kaneki said, glaring at Hide, letting him know he knew exactly what the other was thinking about. “Nobody wants to know.”

“Right. Moving on.” Amon said as they continued to walk. “Last year, the CCG decided to try a new method for subduing ghouls. A drug was created that allows ghouls to momentarily eat human food. This was created with the idea that it would bring down human consumption among ghouls.” Amon shot them a grim smile. “While the researchers are still gathering data, early results conclude that ghouls still prefer eating humans even with an alternative offered.”

“Well, yeah.” Hide said and gave Amon an ‘Are you dumb?’ look. “You guys are marketing it all wrong.”

Thus, the Second Great Debate began. Like the year before, the small group made their way to the cafeteria, Hide and Amon arguing all the way.

Shinohara, Akira, and a few others looked up when they heard the commotion. Arika’s eyes narrowed into a glare when she caught sight of bright blonde hair and Shinohara groaned.

“They came back?” he asked and Suzuya clapped and let out a cackle.

“Hooray for an entertaining lunch!” He giggled as Amon sat down with a glare; Kaneki and Hide sitting on the other side.

“We’re doing all we can! It’s not our fault if the ghouls won’t take the drug.” Amon said, practically snarling.

“Uh, yeah, it is your fault.” Hide replied around the slurping of noodles. “I mean, you guys engraved CCG right on the pills. You are aware that you’re boogiemen to ghouls, right? Why would they take it? You should have created a sister company or something- anything, so long has it didn’t have the same stigma as the CCG name.”

“The CCG is the one who made the drug, so it’s only fair that the CCG gets the credit it deserves for it.”

“Oh, that’s rich! You hear that, Kaneki?” Hide asked his friend. Kaneki nodded a little but was mostly focused on his book. “Credit? If it wasn’t for us, you guys would have never done it, let alone thought of it! Where’s our credit?”

“Did you create a similar drug?” Shinohara couldn’t help but ask.

“No, we created a smoothie which brought forth the idea for the drug.”

“A smoothie?” Amon deadpanned and Hide nodded.

“Yeah. Kaneki was scared cuz he didn’t want to eat people and coffee can only do so much, y’know? So I snagged the idea from FMA- y’know, in the beginning how they wanted to bring their mom back? Gathering the ingredients that make up the human body was fairly cheap and easy. And – oh, shit!” Hide turned to Kaneki. “We did the exact same thing to the FMA creator that the CCG did to us! Crap!”

“So send her an apology.” Was Kaneki’s faint murmur.

“Yeah, good idea.”

Amon and the others just stared, unable to believe they were actually arguing with this kid. As Amon thought over Hide’s words, he realized Hide said some rather odd things about Kaneki. He looked at the dark haired boy. There’s no way Kaneki was a ghoul; the scanners would have gone off.

The sound of a food tray clattering to the floor caught his attention and he turned to find Takizawa staring at Kaneki like he was looking at a monster.

“How the hell did you get in here?!” Takizawa screamed, pointing at Kaneki, gaining the attention of the whole lunchroom.

“Hmm?” Kaneki looked up. “The front door?” He phrased it like a question.

“Impossible the scanners would have gone off!” Takizawa said before turning to the rest. “That boy’s a ghoul! I saw him buying RC Stomach the other day!”

“You’re mistaken, Takizawa.” Amon said, trying his best to calm the other down. “You probably saw someone who looked similar. Kaneki’s not a ghoul; I saw him go through the scan. . .ne. .r.” Amon drew out the last word as Kaneki brought out a familiar white bottle and popped a pill in his mouth.

All the air left Amon’s body.

“Wow, these people move quick.” Hide said as everyone around them leapt back about foot or so.

“Hide! Get away from Kaneki! He’s not what you think he is! He’s not human.” Amon called. Shit, no one brought their weapons to the cafeteria. Thankfully he heard Shinohara radio for help.

“Yeah, I know! No one can read as much as he can; it’s inhuman.” Hide yelled back.

“No you idiot! Your friend’s a ghoul! He could take a bite out of you at any moment.” Takizawa said.

“Uh, newsflash: he literally just took the pill you guys sell so he doesn’t have to do that.” Hide responded before sighing. “Look, can you all just come sit back down and not make a big deal out of it? You’re scaring him! Do you know how long it took me to get it through his head he wasn’t a monster? Don’t undo all my hard work!”

For the record, Kaneki Ken did not look scared. He was nose deep in a book.

“How did you fool the scanners?” Amon asked Kaneki, ignoring Hide’s request. This was a major security breach and they needed to figure out how to fix it. Ghouls liked to gloat, so Kaneki might tell them. Amon tried to ignore that Hide had to nudge Kaneki to get him to answer.

“I didn’t, I just walked through them.” Was all the other said, still reading his book, ignoring all the glares being sent his way. “It might be because I’m only half.”

“What?”

“I’m only a half-ghoul.”

“That is the worst lie I’ve ever heard!” Amon screamed back, more annoyed than terrified now.

“He’s not lying!” Hide interrupted. “He had a surgery last year and the doctor was a dick and put a ghoul organ in him. I still think you should sue that guy.” Hide ended, turning to look at his friend.

“For the last time, Hide, I am not suing Dr. Kanou!” The name drop made several older people in the room perk up.

“Why not? You’d get a good settlement.”

“Because no one would believe me. We just told all these people and they think I’m lying.”

“Did you say Kanou?” Shinohara asked. “Kanou Akihiro?”

“Er, yes? I don’t remember his first name. He works at Kanou hospital.” Kaneki said and went back to his book.

Shinohara turned to Amon.

“I don’t think he’s lying.” Amon shot him an incredulous look and Shinohara continued on, “Kanou used to be-”

The cafeteria doors slammed opened and, to the relief of many, there stood their savior.

Arima Kishou had entered the room, quinque suitcase in hand.

“I was told there was hostage situation?” He asked the room in his quiet voice. Several people pointed to the two boys sitting at an empty table. Upon seeing them, Arima blinked once, twice, three times.

“Oh.” Was all he said as he walked towards them.

Everyone stared, eagerly waiting for Arima to unleash his weapon and kill or detain the ghoul. Their heartbeats became quicker with each step he took. Soon, the Reaper was right behind the ghoul, weapon still sheathed to the confusion of many.

Arima did not take out his weapon.

He poked Kaneki’s shoulder. Kaneki looked up and smiled.

“Arima-san!”

“Book Buddy.” Arima greeted sitting down next to Kaneki.

“Did. . .did Arima Kishou just call that ghoul, Book Buddy?” Amon asked, voice strangely high.

“Hey Arima.” Hide waved to the older man who nodded back.

“Nagachika.” Arima greeted before turning his attention to Kaneki, “I’m sorry I couldn’t be your tour guide; I volunteered but was denied. Have you read it yet?” In response to the question, Kaneki showed Arima the title of his book and the older man’s lips twitched up into a small smile as he took his own copy out of his jacket.

“How far have you gotten?”

“I’ve already read it twice. Once for pleasure; the second for analyzing the language . . .”

All the CCG workers trapped in the cafeteria watched in stupefied awe as Arima Kishou, the best ghoul investigator the organization had ever seen, chatted with a ghoul about books.

“Investigator Arima! What are you doing?” Someone yelled, capturing Arima’s attention.

“Oh, my apologies, I was distracted.” Arima said as he picked up his radio. “There’s been a case of miscommunication. There is no hostage situation. Cafeteria is clear of any hostile forces. Lockdown is not needed.”

“You’re talking to the hostile force!” Several people yelled but became quiet when Arima leveled the crowd with a glare.

“Book Buddy,” Arima said, eyes never leaving the crowd. “Did you take your pill?”

“Yes.”

“Then. There. Are. No. Hostile. Forces.” Arima told everyone, turning back to Kaneki.

Slowly, ever so slowly, people went back to their tables.

“How do you two know each other?” Akira asked, taking in the odd scene of Arima having emotions on his face. Both of them turned to look at her.

“We’re in the same book club.” They replied in unison.

“By book club, they mean they meet up every week or so and talk about the morbid books they like to read. There is no one else.” Hide supplied helpfully. “I wasn’t invited to join; I don’t want to join. Discussing books isn’t my cuppa.”

“And how long have you guys been. . .friends?” Amon had to ask.

“We exchanged numbers last time I was here.” Kaneki told them. “We met up a week later and have been doing so ever since.”

“And when did you tell him you were a ghoul?”

“I knew that from the beginning.” Arima said, tone bored. “The lack of food and the questionable smoothie, along with Nagachicka’s progressive thoughts tipped me off. I did ask to make sure and Kaneki confirmed.”

“And you don’t care?” Amon asked.

“No. Kaneki Ken has never harmed or eaten a human. The smoothie kept his hunger at bay while RC Stomach was being created.”

Something clicked in Amon’s head and stared at Arima in shock.

“Investigator Arima, you were the one to push for the creation of drug. Is that because. . .?” Amon trailed off, gesturing to Kaneki. Arima understood and nodded.

“Of course. I wanted my Book Buddy to be able to eat again.”

Amon’s head hit the table with outstanding force.

“I can’t believe this.” He muttered to himself. “I can’t believe this.”

“I know, right? He didn’t even tell us! We had to find out through the newspaper!” Hide said.

“I was on a long term mission and did not know it had gone on the market.” Arima replied.

“You didn’t even give us a hint that you guys were creating a drug!”

“Because I did not know if it would be a success or not. I did not want to get your hopes up.” Arima said before Kaneki tugged on his sleeve, bringing the man back into the discussion of books.

“This can’t be real.” Amon muttered to himself.

 “But it is and isn’t it great? A new drug created to help ghoul hunger, ghouls and humans becoming friendly- what a time to be alive!” Hide said, laughing. “I can’t wait to come back next year!”

Amon groaned.