When the Sky Cries

Pale-part 2

Remember, you don't ever want to break a boy's spirit…

Those words from my Grandfather hadn't left my mind for the hours or days following the event. Nothing registered with me, anymore. It was as if my head was treading water; I was paddling but getting nowhere. The atmosphere around me felt heavy, dense like a fog. Maybe that's what it was. Reality. Maybe reality wasn't anything but an endless murky ocean.

I somewhat had come to terms with everything. I had to; otherwise I would have been bordering on ballistic insanity. Yes, I did have a meltdown. In fact, that's probably what got me locked away the minute we arrived, here. Here, meaning where, I'm not sure. I pressed my back against the steel cabinet. My legs hung over the edge of the sink counter as I rolled my ankles. My eyes scanned the off white scratched floor. I decided one day to try and count those little marks, hoping to entertain myself. I lost count at four hundred and sixty-seven.

Kaneki never apologized. He simply kept shaking his head and reminding me, that I was a poor listener. That he had indeed warned me not to venture away from the complex without him and that it was in fact, quote; 'my fault'. And for a while, as I sat isolated in this industrial bathroom, I believed him.

I wasn't sure what happened after Raiden was eaten. I didn't even know what came of Ume. I assumed the worse. The scary part was, I was more at ease thinking she was gone, and that her fear was over. I didn't want her to see her favorite blue gown mangled. However, I refused to talk with her. The guilt prevented me from disturbing her spirit. What was I to say? I wasn't even ready to apologize.

Though I wasn't in a proper bedroom, I had all the necessities I needed. Food was a given. Kaneki eventually left all my clothing from my apartment with me, which I took time to organize. Strange I never was one to color-group shirts before. I even had access to a shower down a narrow hall. It could have been mistaken for a gym locker room, expect for the contemporary chrome décor. The only reason I was able to use the shower was due to the open floor design. There were three stalls, each with its own roll of buttons and nozzles. There was even a separate wash for chemical hazards. If I hadn't been so lost in thought, the environment might have made sense.

As I sat on the cold counter, curiously soon got the better of me. My attention had drifted to the hollow sounding doors under my feet. Every time my heels hit the metal frames a loud, clank would talk back. I decided to investigate the cabinets. After I hopped off the ledge, I let myself crouch down before I grasped the thin steel handles.

I pursed my lips at the cluttered mess. It resembled a medical station waste dump. Rubber gloves, syringes, white masks, and first aid cluttered the entire space. As I looked closer I could see little drops of dried blood scattered over some of the items. I shrugged it off; I figured someone simply needed a Band-Aid. I let my hands roam through the stash. Occasionally, I would pick up a syringe or some gauze, play with it, and then toss it back. I reached further back. My hand lightly touched the base of the cabinet as it searched for a new find. As it fished, my fingers caught the feel of a cool smooth object. I had to use my fingernails, what was left, to grip the item.

I reeled my arm back to stare at a single razor blade.

It was unused. The metal glistened under the florescent lights. I rotated the blade in my hand. My mind examined the surface and edges of its make up. I liked the weight and balance of it. The razor allowed me some comfort, knowing I found a secret treasure. A little grin tugged at the corners of my mouth.

I heard the pounding of footsteps. Quickly, I slid the blade into the back pocket of my jeans. Immediately, I shut the doors before relocating myself back onto the counter. I wore my usual unsatisfied face when Kaneki strolled in. He gave up knocking, since I never responded.

He looked the same. His Ghoulish smile was stitched over his mouth. I hated that fucking mask. His non-accusing grey eye starred at me. I figured he was doing his typical food drop off. Instead however, he just stood for a moment before letting out a long sigh.

"Would you care to accompany me, this evening?" His voice was slightly higher, almost nervous sounding. It reminded me of the familiar Kaneki I once knew. I was slightly taken back.

I raised a brow, "What?"

"I would like to show you something. I figured I shouldn't be the only one to enjoy it." I know my face returned a contorted statement. Kaneki gave a light-hearted chuckle. He was probably used to the many facial expressions. Words were never needed to now what was crossing my mind, so I was told.

He held out his hand.

I blinked. What was this all about?I then let out a snort, "Seriously, if you want to eat me then just do it. You don't have to lie and lure me out like some sort of poacher." I twisted my head away to avoid his gaze. I was done with the games. Kaneki just laughed my attitude off as if I were a fussy toddler. He advanced forward only to once again extend his arm and restate his offer.

"F/N, think of it as-" He slightly hesitated, "-as a date."

I nearly fell off the sink. What? After everything that has occurred, after all the tears, the let downs, the anger, the deaths, he is asking me to go out with him? I just about roared with my own laughter. I shook my head with half a smile plastered on my face. I was amazed; flabbergasted that he would even suggest such a ridiculous idea. We were predator and prey, cat and mouse, monster and human.

"I haven't decided if you need mental help or your just dense, Kaneki." I swayed my legs back and forth.

"It's just for one evening, besides we have to hurry or we'll miss it." He said eagerly. I cocked my head.

"Miss what?" I said annoyed.

"That's the surprise-" He said in his charming manor. Not satisfied with his response I let out a huff. I wasn't even going to entertain the idea of running off with a cannibal. I didn't care how desperate I was to be free. He was a heartless murderer.

"Funny." I said sarcastically.

Kaneki went back to the door, jiggled the knob, and proceeded to open it. The metal frame creaked open as its heavy weight strained the springs. He turned around to face me with a relax posture.

"If you want to see it, we have to go outside-"

My ears pricked up. Outside? It had been days since I had even ventured pass the bathroom walls. Not being confined sounded refreshing and maybe that is just what I needed. I didn't care where, outside was, all that mattered was I wouldn't have to see that hideous tile flooring. I chewed the inside of my cheek before jumping off the counter. I ran a hand threw my hair hoping I was making a wise choice.

I walked pass Kaneki who simply held the door open for me.

I barely had a chance to take in the halls. Kaneki was dead set on getting to our destination. I had to take double the steps just to keep up with him. And surprisingly, once I we got in sync we walked next to each other like old friends. There was no role-playing of prisoner and hostage. No, we strolled down the dingy green-lit path as equals. That simple action felt so empowering.

My brown-cropped boots clapped with his as we neared the entrance to an elevator. I rocked on my heels and nervously rubbed my fingers together as they hung at my sides. The building was quiet enough to hear a pin drop or the beat of my pulse. I had to allow myself to wrangle my anxiety. The idea of being trapped in that moving box, with no means of escape, was enough to make me faint. Hence, the reason I always took the stairs.

Bing.

The doors to the elevator chimed open. I swallowed, hoping to coat my stress.

"Common." Kaneki gently beckoned me to follow. Strangely, I remembered the razor blade I tucked into my back pocket. I let my hands slide into those reassuring folds. Just feeling the smooth weight of that object gave me support. I took a hushed breath before joining him.

It was an awkward silence. I kept my mouth buttoned as I watched the elevator's numbers light up as we climbed higher. I could hear the turning of the cables and feel of the unsteady floor wobble underneath me. The smell of the musty interior odor was chocking. I mentally had to restrain myself from clawing at the sealed doors.

My attention was drawn to the keypad when I heard the familiar ding. I squinted my eyes when I noticed the lights were no longer lite by any particular floor. The doors slid open. The room on the opposite side was dreary and dark. A broken florescent light flickered above as a fly buzzed around it. We did go up, right?

"Almost there." Kaneki whispered as we walked through the door. We turned around a sharp corner before seeing a tower of stairs. My escort motioned for me to follow. Unbeknownst to him, as I trailed behind I was counting each step. My brain and legs were exhausted at one hundred and forty-two.

Once we reached the top, we stood on nothing more than a platform. A small iron railing encircled us while another thick door blocked our passage. Next to it, a titled discolored No Trespassing sign hung. Kaneki's painted fingers gripped the rusty handle. I heard the tumbler twist before the door moaned open.

"I would tell you to close your eyes, but I figured that would be pushing it." Kaneki mumbled. I remained quiet with a frown; I figured that alone stated the obvious. My hair caught an unexpected warm breeze as the entry was further nudged opened. I let my jaw relax as Kaneki lay a gentle hand on my back and guided me onward. My boots left the slick title platform and were greeted with the sturdiness of concrete. I let my eyes scan the openness. It felt foreign to see the sky and to realize there were no limits. I allowed myself to take several more steps. I was in complete awe as the space around me was boundless. There was no ceiling or confining walls. My skin wasn't subjected to those radiating lights. Instead, the serene rays of the dimming sun energized my soul. It reminded me of life I once lived. I let myself break into a genuine smile.

"This-This is breathtaking Kaneki-" I said as he appeared next to me. The wind whistled over the rooftop and threw the buildings.

"Here-" I watched as Kaneki made his way to the edge. His sleek outfit hugged his frame as his ivory hair flickered like a burning candle. He turned to me and without hesitation, I made my way over to him. "This is the best view."

Together, we shared the most sensational sight.

The sky shifted colors as time passed. First, the tender harvest hues of oranges and reds were painted. Then gradually the atmosphere allowed for the pastel tints of blues, pinks and purples to run through the horizon. It reminded me of an abstract canvas. And for that moment my mind was allowed to wonder. My shoulders were spared from pressure and my gut was relieved of any guilt. I felt normal, again.

"I come here often to think." Kaneki said. I blinked in order to snap myself out of my daze.

"Huh-?" I asked, hoping I could comprehend his words.

"You never realize how lonely you are until you can tell time without a clock." The Ghoul next to me starred off. His one eye lightly scanned the city below. The familiar clamor of honking horns and screeching tires echoed across the landscape. The evening soon brought on the turning of the night-lights. Everywhere buildings, stores, signs, and headlights exploded like a vibrant decorations. It was a new wave of beauty. I pondered for a moment before replying.

"There's nothing wrong with being independent. Sometimes-" I let out a sigh through my nose, "Sometimes- its better to not carry the extra baggage." I wasn't sure why I gave him my moral advice. No one ever really supported me. Having had my head in a sketch pad most of my life caused me to become a lone wolf. However, I've never complained nor have I ever had a problem with this theory.

"I beg to differ." Kaneki faced me, his tone daring.

I pinched my brows, "Only sane individuals would understand." I tried not to think about my past. I had just liberated my swimming mind from worries. I didn't want to drown, not again.

"I use to watch you and Touka always enjoying each other's time. You guys laughed and complained like old friends. Similar yet different-just-just like Hide and myself-" Kaneki turned back to toward the roar of the city. The air blew another gust of warmth in our direction. I could see a wad of trash tumble down the sidewalk.

"Who?" I questioned. I couldn't believe I was actually engaging in the conversation. After everything that I had endured, I still had the decency to give him my attention. Then again, it wasn't like I had my pick of companions.

"Hide, my dearest friend. Except he's more like family, now that I think about it. Been together since we were little." I wasn't one to usually get entangled in emotional discussions. However, hearing about a monster's past, his memories were like getting a bonus treat from the cookie jar. Curiously was irresistible.

"H-How did you guys meet?" I placed my hands into my jacket's pockets.

Kaneki was silent for a moment, "He was the new kid in town, and I-I was the shy boy with no company other than a hard cover book. He picked me. " Kaneki casually said openly. "Been friends ever since." I nodded with a smirk creeping across my lips. As I mentally treaded water, I finally reached a figurative island where a reel of flashbacks started to play. And for once, I grabbed a bag of popcorn and allowed myself to become engrossed with the past.

"Touka and I met on the corner before you turn into the college entrance. You-you known the one by the storeDiscount Liquors? Anyway, I was sitting up against the iron fence sketching, while she was a normal pedestrian walking by-" I started to chuckle, "And as I recall, she stopped and told me my work looked like shit. Then I promptly told her hair color looked like a dyed Easter egg and she should get a refund for such a bad coloring." I caught Kaneki intensely listening as I continued.

"And wouldn't you know- she and I got into the biggest argument. We cursed like sailors at each other for hours. Shit started to fly, police showed up, and we have been coffee buddies since." I felt my shoulders rise and fall as I laughed.

"You're no loner, F/N" Kaneki replied. I let out an exhausted sigh from my bellyaching.

"Maybe that's true. But I know I can live with or without people. Others come into your life to make it better not to be a permanent crutch. " I was sincere when I spoke. Kaneki turned his attention back towards me. His eye barely met mine as he absorbed what I said. I couldn't tell if he sided with my ideals or was contemplating starting an argument. Either way, I was prepared.

Unexpectedly, a small squeak interrupted our conversation. A scuffle of clanking tins bounced around the pavement rooftop. I jumped at the startling disruption. My heels spun as I investigated the area. My pulse was slightly elevated from the excitement. Kaneki bravely went to scout the mystery behind one of the abandoned metal barrels, while I stood by. Little had I realized the blooming dark clouds that were approaching over the fading sky.

Another cry broke out when Kaneki allowed his red tentacles to retrieve what was causing the commotion. I grew uncomfortable at the sight of the extended arm. It made my stomach become wrenched like a broken pipe. Sadly, it reminded me of the many feverish nights before this.

"Nothing but a rodent-" Kaneki dangled the rat by its tail. The creature squeaked endlessly as it squirmed under his hold. "Don't worry I'll get rid of it."

"Wait- don't eat it!" I trotted up to the panicked animal. Its almond ebony eyes were wild with fear. His whiskers were bent and his claws were unruly. Its chocolate coat, dirty and matted. As I starred at the helpless creature I realized how much I related to it. It was trapped. His freedom was stripped. His body resembled what had become of me. Kaneki kept his grip strong as the rodent wiggled harder. I felt myself straining with discomfort the more I saw it plead to be let loose. I knew that pain.

With a dry mouth I interjected, "Let him go Kaneki." The Ghoul's hold unraveled once the rat's four paws were softly lowered on the ground. I could see his rapid chest had clamed, his petrified look disappeared, and his fur was no loner ruffled. My heart fluttered as its grateful eyes thanked me before scurrying off. I smiled as his tail retreated down a hole. Knowing a part of me left with him.

"You're a beautiful person F/N." Kaneki said, his mask did not hinder his words. I blinked several times. If it wasn't art related, compliments were few and far between.

I shrugged.

"I figured it had a life still to live. Let it enjoy another scrap of cheese or a dive in a dumpster. Though it seems pathetic to us-he's enjoying life." I closed my eyes and inhaled another fulfilling breeze. The freshness and endless atmosphere was soup to my healing soul. When I reopened my eyelids I caught sight of Kaneki's hand extended out to me.

"May I have this dance?"

Mentally, a mirror just shattered behind me. I was dumbstruck. I glanced around myself trying to brew up a reasonable excuse. Maybe I could fake an injury or lie and say I was feeling light headed from being at such a high altitude. No, no then I will never be able to come back outside! The horrible thought of not being able to see the sky sent pins of worries through me. Being here, on this rooftop with no cover was like having a dose of ecstasy, as some would describe it. It was a drug I couldn't live without.

"Uh-well-" I stuttered.

"Remember F/N we're on a date." Kankei's offer was still waiting.

"Right-uh but-but it has been years. Honestly, I'm sure I would do more tripping than actually dancing. "

"It's a slow dance I'm sure you will do fine."

I swallowed before shyly taking his hand. I flinched when our fingers touched. I half expected his palm to turn into a gruesome slimy mouth and rip off my flesh. But instead, he kindly cradled my nerves. Our hands melted into one another's.

"Fine but the costume has to go." I replied, as I crossed my fingers hoping for results. That mask reminding me of a grinning devil, creepy in all aspects. Without an objection or hatred Kaneki removed his second face.

He then gradually closed the space around us. I breathed through my nose as his left arm fell behind me. His hand then firmly rested on my lower back. Kaneki's body moved towards mine until our heads nearly touched. I slightly rolled my shoulders. My insides were turning like a steam engine. He waited until my knotted knuckles unlatched themselves and found his shoulder. My lungs let out a jittery breath.

As he shifted his feet, my legs automatically picked up his vibe. I followed his lead as we glided toward the right then the left. I kept my chest tight and my heels as light as possible. Kaneki however, never seemed to falter. His energy was steady and calm. I watched him as he stared at me. His eyes were fixated while his lips were sealed. I prayed that wasn't a hunger face.

"Hopefully our music will begin shortly." Kaneki half smiled. His hand warmly held mine, as we kept moving across the rooftop. Our hair danced with us.

"Music-?" I asked. I was about to accuse him of being crazy when the booming of thunder interrupted me. I looked up to see blotchy soot clouds rolling in. I somewhat frowned. "That's annoying-"

"No, that's our orchestra." Kaneki said as he stepped quicker. Our heads rose and fell with our springy turns, "You just have to listen."

The storm's roars turned into the acoustic sounds of pounding drums. Each hit was a different wave of intensity. Soon our slow dance was subjected to the rhythm of the cloud's percussion. My ears listened to the wind whistled its high-pitched flute. And soon I began to enjoy the city's nightly rowdiness. Even our own movements, our tapping feet against the ground became included in the music.

"I knew you would be a wonderful dancer." Kaneki chimed in over the sounds. I felt his hand on my lower back loosen as he sent me into a twirl. He was graceful and smooth; it was hard to believe he was a flesh-dining monster. For the first time I was seeing the familiar bus boy from the coffee shop. I had almost forgotten his old self. This time, I was seeing him with his dark hair and not the icy threads.

Our bodies remained in harmony as the orchestra played its melodies. My hand was no longer tense on his shoulder nor was I hesitating with my movements. In fact, the tables were turned and I was the one leading. This moment, this scarce hour gave me the rejuvenating vigor I so desperately needed. I envisioned the puppet strings being cut whenever I took the next step. I may have been down, bruised and even deeply wounded, but I knew as I spun into another pirouette that I had found myself once more.

The thunder clapped as my partner pulled me into his grasp. My shoulders lay on his chest for a moment with his arms crossed over me, before I was twisted outwards. Both our hands returned to the regular position and our feet correctly reset in proper alignment. Forward, back, left, and right, we made our time worth wildly. And strangely enough, I was enjoying the tranquil setting. The storm was the high while Kaneki was the gravity. Somehow, it all balanced out.

As the final climax, the clouds let out a heavy rainfall. Its droplets bounced off abandoned objects, which began to create a variety of beats to the current soundtrack. Everything around us either rang like a bell or hummed like a base. The car's tires splashed and the sound of scrapping treads on wet pavement added an extra spice to the mix. My eyelashes collected the rain as it fell. And I could see the streaks of water rolling off Kaneki's face. His eyes never parted from mine.

After a while of being soaked, Kaneki allowed our tired muscles to halt. I was relieved knowing I could catch my breath. My substandard health was straining to me. The cuts over my body began to sting. I could feel my sore bones pleading for rest.

"Kaneki I-"

I couldn't even get the remaining words to escape my throat. The side of my face had been cupped and drenched lips were pressed onto mine. I was slightly startled, but his arm wrapped around my spine, refusing to let me go. His fingers rubbed my cheek as his mouth kneaded gently. My heart pulsed harder the longer the kiss continued. As the rain fell between us, the thunder drummed in the distance. I gripped Kaneki's arms when I felt his teeth rake across my lips. His curious tongue soon passionately tangled with mine. He hugged me tighter not allowing any gap between us. Even when he relaxed his hold remained. His head traveled to my neck. I stiffened as I heard him inhaling my scent. I could feel the rim of his moist lips brush against me. His tongue finally emerged and delicately licked under my jawline.

"I could never let you go, F/N." Kaneki's words pierced through me. Reality trampled me like herd of mustangs. I held onto Kaneki the more I felt his hot breath lingering on my skin. I feared letting go would spiral him into his formal Ghoulish self. My fingers tightened around his charcoal sleeves.

My heart nearly leapt into my throat when the edge of my jaw was delicately kissed. Kanek's hands drifted from my face and towards my shoulders. His ticklish hands slid down my arms before wrapping me into an earnest hug. His grip was forceful as my cheek laid in the crook of his neck. Kaneki's arms squeezed and trailed in all directions of my back as if I would turn to dust and vanish. My wrists were propped against him as he continued to hold me. I could faintly feel his chest hammering as we stood under the pouring rain.

"Never-" He whispered. I let myself heave an emotionless sigh. Disturbing memories began to wash up on shore.

"You shouldn't have let my sister go." I mumbled angrily into his neck. The sensation of being held captive soon crept its way back into my stomach. My body itched to get away. His hold was suffocating, his kiss-distasteful. I would never accept him.

Kaneki tensed. I felt his hand rise to my head and stroke my hair. He nuzzled his face into my locks as he hummed with the crying sky.

"She-She's gone. And now I-I have to live with the guilt." I pulled back from Kaneki and looked past his shallow eyes. His arms still wrapped around my back but I felt no restraints. "How-how am I suppose to live with myself-?" I shook my head. I wasn't given an answer. The Ghoul before me acted as though the questions and emotions floated by him. I broke away from him and stormed my frustration in all directions. I roared with the thunder.

"Do you honestly believe that I ever wanted this-? Any of this?" I held my arms out, "You think this is living? This isn't life- it's a fucking nightmare!" I was relentless with my anger.

"I've been locked away, closed off from my family-my home. I've witnessed things worse than soldiers have seen! I've-I've been nearly eaten several times and have more injuries than a POW! Look at me! I'm dead to the world. No one knows I exist! My-My sister-" I kept stepping backwards, my hands pulled at the sleeves of my jacket. The devastation and agony of being alone erupted internally like a volcano. The heel of my boots rammed against a hard surface. I looked to see that I had reached the edge of the building. My shoulders leaned in the wind.

I thought about it.

I so desperately wanted to rid myself of the guilt, the emptiness, and the sickness that twirled in my hollow body. The fall bellow looked endless. Would I ever reach the bottom? Through blurred vision I could see the solid pavement below. The idea of my skull cracking against the ground scared me. I was even too afraid to die.

"Wh-why me? Why-?"My knees buckled and I found myself using my arms to brace my weight against the low stonewall. Below, a prowling Ghoul, a monster in the night was hunting an innocent pedestrian. A young beautiful-obliviously-stupid women whose attention was elsewhere, was not alerted by the growing threat in the dingy shadows. It was like watching myself the night of my attack.

Except…

I felt Kaneki's presence behind me. My nails gripped into the rock. Small cries shrieked into the swirling weather as the Ghoul ripped into his prey. The women's cherry colored umbrella was soon taken by the wind. Her body was pulled into the alley and her predator never hesitated. His blood thirsty lips howled in delight as the flesh was torn from her.

I heard Kaneki sniff the air.

"At least have the decency to make it quick-" I heard the Ghoul's words behind me. I mouthed the horrible sticky slim that had coated my tongue.

"That's what we all want." My voice was lost within the wind. Kaneki's cradled my hand in his. The trail of blood was washed down the street as the rain continued to fall.

"All the glitters are not gold-" was his reply.

The boy next to me firmly held our fingers together however, I was standing solely alone.

She's alive. The words struck me like a brick. I slide my back down the bathroom door. I sat there quietly as I absorbed the insane thought. The world that I built and barricaded myself in to survive had just crumbled. I shook my head. No, maybe Kaneki wasn't telling the truth. I wouldn't doubt for a second that what was said was probably a lie, a fib to keep me happy. Even a Ghoul would have the sense to realize bandaging a wound would be better than pouring salt over it. I pursed my lips.

Even so, was it worth the false information?

I felt the stiff blade in my back pocket. My eyes scanned the bathroom before they landed on the arranged shelving of clothes. I pondered for another moment before rising to my feet. Instantly, I stuck my hand into the piles and began tossing different fabrics around. I wasn't exactly sure what I was looking for until I stumbled upon an old scarf. Its black threads were slightly worn and the ends were scraggly. My fingers ran over the soft fibers as an idiotic plan brewed in my head.

I quickly walked back towards the smudgy mirror that hung above the cabinet. I stood there with a determination and mildly soaked hair. My horrid pale completion with multiple shades of bruises reflected back at me. I could have been mistaken for a painting; I was beyond unrealistic looking. Even my lips appeared chalky. My olive colored jacket with a faux fur collar was the only presentable unstained feature on myself. I shook off the negatives and proceeded to test my theory.

I placed the black scarf over the bridge of my nose and allowed the remaining fabric to drape over the lower half of my face. There, the realization hit me.

"I'm going to walk right out the front door." I said quietly.

It took patients.

Minutes, hours, and days had passed before all my prepping could come together for today. A mixing bowel of anxiety and excitement radiated through me. My hands were barely able to hold my eating utensils when Kaneki arrived. As usual he would company me around 9 am for breakfast, 3pm for lunch, and followed by an 8pm dinner.

Currently its 3:45 pm.

My eyes drifted from the clock to my cup of noodles. My tongue felt tasteless, as I sporadically would slur down a pasty spaghetti roll. My gut was turning as we sat together. Even my palms were moistening from anticipation for tonight. I would have about three and a half hours to execute this plan. Otherwise, I was well aware of the chains I would forever be in debt to.

A sharp shiver clawed my back.

"You're not eating much today, F/N." Kaneki broke my train of thought. I stirred my food robotically. I had to force myself to act interested in the meal. Even though I was boarding on nauseous.

"I-Its nothing. " I gulped.

Kaneki brushed my cheek with the backs of his fingers. My eyes met his as I accepted his stroking hand. Though I was egger to leave, my chest felt hallow as I thought about what was to come. I wasn't sure if Kaneki had grown on me or if it was the idea of no longer having protection. Regardless of how I truly saw the scenario, reality was he saved me countless times. And deep down my heart ached knowing once I fled, this connection would snap. I prayed for successes and part of that victory would be no longer having to rely on him or see him ever again.

"What are you thinking about?" Kaneki asked. I looked at his relaxed expression and decided to venture into a normal conversation. Maybe I could calm my tension before the evening begins. Besides, I don't need my head in the toilet that would finish me off.

I placed my meal on the floor. And sat with one leg pulled toward me while the other lay stretched out. I mentally instructed myself to breath.

"I've been thinking about many things." I replied. I saw Kaneki nod which suggested to me to continue. I crunched my lip. "Well-I've been thinking about my family. About-about my mom who has probably gone into a comatose state since I haven't returned her calls. I've thought about old friends. Even have had longing wishes to return to school-" I lightly laughed.

Kaneki leaned in as I rambled on. I sat there mindlessly spilling out all my reels of memories. It felt natural to be talking with him. He listened quietly and casually would nod or give a smirk here and there. I guess I hadn't realized how desperate I was for someone to hear me. Having been caged and stripped of control I had been isolated. Hearing my voice, and not an unhappy one, made me feel alive.

"And sometimes I even ponder about that damn dog Pinky Lee. I sure do miss that scruffy mutt."

"What do you think about me-?" Kaneki hesitantly asked. I nearly choked on my next words. I hadn't expected him to engage in my thoughts. I honestly, didn't think he was paying attention. Now, the pressure was forced on me. I tugged at the knee of my pants.

"Huh-wh-what do you mean-?" I scratched my leg.

"I'm-I'm probably just a monster to you." Kaneki glanced away. It was all I could do not to shout an agreeing response. It took will power to button my lip when the answer was beyond obvious.

"I don't see it exactly like that." I stretched my other leg to the floor. "But what I don't understand is what happened to you?" Kaneki gradually faced me. In his eyes, I could see the reluctance to talk.

"When you're weak- people take advantage of you." Kaneki spoke lightly. He swallowed and proceeded to crack each knuckle on his right hand. I grimaced at each hard pop. It chanted the reminding sound of snapping toothpicks or chilling noises of Raidan's bones.

"But-" Kaneki continued, "when you forsake something to protect the other it leads to the greater good." I watched as my visitor's fingers reached under my chin. His touch danced over my skin like a piano. I narrowed my eyes at him.

"And you've just-just now come to terms with this?" I asked matter of factly. As a child I was raised under the mentally, life should be seen in black or white. You couldn't have cake and pie. And you sure as hell couldn't put all your eggs in one basket. Kaneki then leaned in closer. Our noses barely met and my eyes grew wide at the lack of space between us. His fingers still were propped under my chin, as if he was reinforcing my flighty self.

"All it took was a feeble mind to be broken and for pain to be the variable to rewire the system. " I slightly edged myself away. His mood had drastically become shadier. His words were pitched in an eerie tone that made my nerves crawl.

Remember its hard raising kids…

"Uh-Kaneki-you can let go-" My neck went stiff when his grip on my jaw refused to leave. His nails were embedded in my flesh as his emotionless face challenged me. "now." I retorted firmly. Slowly, his retractable claws pulled away. I readjusted my tense shoulders and tried to unwind.

Especially boys…

I shrugged off the moment and decided to reach for my food bowl. Except my hand was never reunited with my meal. Suddenly, I felt the points of my spin collide with the title floor. The wind was busted from my chest as the searing pain pooled in my back. I rapidly inhaled and gasped intensely as my inflating lungs stretched like a balloon. A pair of legs straddled over me as a single hand pressed forcefully on my bridge of my collarbone. I hissed at the brewing headache heating in my skull.

"The endurance that it takes to rise above suffering allows for the greater good to be born. It allows the weak to become unbreakable-for a human to become ghoulish. It allows-" Kaneki 's moisten lips nearly lined up with mine. "the lonesome shadow to protect what's his." His hand creased my protruding bone.

Remember you never want to break their spirit… My grandfather's words washed through my brain like violent waves.

"I'm sorry Kaneki." I roughly said through clenched teeth. My predator tilted his head before placing a warm hand on my aching skull. I could sense the anger draining from his veins. His frustration steamed off, as a look of disbelief crossed his face.

I placed my cold hand on his, "I'm sorry I wasn't there to help you."

Kaneki shyly looked away. I could see my sincere sentence tugged his heart. I felt for him. In some ways I knew some awful event occurred that dramatically altered that once cheerful server. Though he scares me, I'm assured no outside harm will ever come to me. He's the knife people sleep with under their pillow. He's a defense weapon but also the blade that can get you killed if not careful.

A pair of lips met with mine. Their petal soft touch tickled before I surprisingly melted myself back into his. I didn't resist wrapping my arms around his neck as he leaned over me. His sturdy limbs elevated me from the floor as our kiss deepened. I hugged his clothing tightly hoping to ease the fluttery beat in my ribs. Kaneki returned a stronger hold as his teeth nibbled here and there. We broke only for a moment. Kaneki then planted another final kiss.

"I'll never let you go, F/N. You'll always be forever mine." He held me as he restated his vows.

"I'm glad you chose me." I said with a quivering lip. A tear escaped my eye as I spoke a painful statement.

It didn't take long for Kaneki to have to redirect his attention to a different area of focus. He kissed me good-bye before promising to return early. He even hinted about another possible surprise for tonight. I ran my tongue over my teeth before I let a heart-warming smile reflected off my mouth. I was going to miss him.

Click.

The door locked shut and I waited as the moments ticked by. Foots steps faded and soon nothing engulfed me but my own heavy breathes.

I waited another several reassuring seconds.

Finally, I let exhaled my relief.

I marched towards the sink before running the facet. Cool water exploded from the nozzle. I threw my head under the pipe and collected all the rushing liquid. My cheeks would fill before I would swish and spit. Again and again I rinsed my mouth. I snatched my toothpaste and brush and frantically squeezed out half the tube. My tongue, gums, teeth, and back of my throat received a thorough cleaning. I let out few gags.

"Thank god that shit is over."

I smeared the false tear from my face.

It's 4:32pm.

All the prepping I had completed days before, paid off. Everything was set. The only enemy I had was the dreaded clock.

Now, just the final touches remained. I faced that mocking mirror once more and confronted myself. For the longest time I had hated what I had become. The confident girl, the artist in me, had been broken. It had felt as though my identity had been stripped from my soul. And for days I had refused to even see myself. The glass showed my flaws. I saw the helpless slave I never imagined I would be. And it crushed me further into the winding abyss.

But, looking with a clear perspective I became aware of what needed to happen. My sister, Ume, needed me. She-us- we couldn't afford for me to be throwing pales of water out of the sinking boat. No, our raft was going to sail.

We were going to survive.

I stroked my hair. Its mousy locks ran between my gnarled nails as I examined the split ends. I chewed my lips as I built up the anticipation. It was all-physiological. I had to mentally perch to myself that the importance of life. My parents, my sister, my freedom, all mattered. I rubbed the threads of my hair.

"It's hard raising kids-" I said to myself.

I pulled out the razor from my back pocket. My fingers were clammy as I held the silver blade. I pulled a strain towards my face.

Slash.

The first pinch of my hair floated to the counter. I swallowed a lump of confidence as my hands continued to shape myself. I watched as my lengthy hair was butchered to just below my jaw line.

Slash.

"Its especially hard to rise boys-" I turned my face to the side as the razor shredded more weight off. The counter became cluttered with dead ends.

Slash.

I coated my dry lips with moisture as I felt my way around the back of my head. I started at the midsection of my scalp and layered down. The blade cut through my thick hair like fine paper. I felt the final strands flutter past the back of my neck. My heart pulsed. I didn't want to see myself. It was hard to forsake one thing for another. I guess Kaneki wasn't far from the truth.

I swept my hand quickly through my choppy ends as I collected my feet under themselves. I didn't have time to waste mourning the loss of lifeless threads. My pulse sped as I quickly jogged to the narrow hallway and toward the shower closet. It was massive and well suited for the storage of a large locker size washing area. I flung the white doors open and scanned my eyes for the cleaner.

Once located, I instantly grabbed the plastic jug, a white mask, and a pair of rubber gloves, then quickly dragged the material to the shower. I could feel my head swelling from the rambling checklist that was circling in my brain. I felt as though I was running a marathon, the nerves were making me nearly break out in a sweat. The clock kept the pressure on as I poured the clear fluid into an already empty shampoo container. I removed my jacket and rolled up my longs sleeves. My jagged bangs brushed over my eyes as I fiddled with my gloves. I slapped my mask on, shook the bottle, before I leaned my face over the drain in the stall shower.

I choked as the toxic fumes evaporated from the open end of the shampoo bottle. Frantically, I coated my hair with the substance, from my roots to the ends of my hair shaft. My eyes leaked from the burning sensation that penetrated them. I had to squeeze them close and blindly massaged the chemical. As I let the toxins set, I wasted no time to continue with the other tasks at hand.

It read 5:05pm.

The fear poured through me. I pushed my wet bangs away and hurried back to the private bathroom. I snatched my prepared wardrobe that was stuffed inside a trash bag behind the toilet. Next to it was a small separate pipe that laid against the wall. With my items in hand I returned to the shower. My scalp was scorched with pain. The lower half of my face sweated as the mask trapped the heat. The suffocation prickled at my phobia sensitivity. I jerked my shirt collar.

Shaking off the strangling feeling, I climbed the far right wall that divided the showers. My jittery arms hoisted me up. My adrenalin rushed under my skin as the clock ticked by. Being caught would be a automatic death sentence. I stood up on the tips of my feet and did my best to balance myself as I reached towards the vent. With my handy razor I wedge the thin end of the metal into the top of the nail. Acting like a screwdriver, I started at the bottom and made my way around all four nobs. I collected the parts but failed to juggle the oversized frame.

The industrial metal slammed onto the shower floor. My blood ran cold as the horrors of thoughts bombarded me.

"Please-Please" I chanted to myself, "Please-"

I let out a shaky breath. My raw scalp flared but I pushed forward; I had to keep moving. After removing the vent frame, I turned the shower on and scrubbed the burning chemical from my head. The warm water made the stinging worse. I groaned in agony until I was sure my hair was cleared from any remaining toxins. The mask around my face automatically was removed and I allowed my hot skin the relief of fresh air.

I collected the dyed gloves, mask, and stranded fragments of hair and decided to dispose of them down the toilet. I used my razor to chop all the materials into fine pieces. Everything was planned down to the fine details. After flushing, I stripped from my current attire and neatly folded the edges. With swift feet I shoved my jacket, shirt, and jeans deep into their organized sections. Now it was time.

With hesitant eyes, I took it upon myself to revisit the person who had been forgotten. It took me a second to adjust. My hair was layered with springy ends like a messy pixie cut. Its once dark luster was traded for nearly stark white threads. My bangs contrasted over my dark brows. Surprising, seeing a confident stranger was rewarding. Acting fast, I pulled a bottle of baby powered from the trash bag and started to pat the snow dust on my face. I had to cover my blemishes and had to make due without my make up. I coughed out the particles of straying powered.

Though it wasn't perfect, I was seeing a charming fighter. My alabaster skin looked smooth and polished like a new coin. I fixed my new hair around my face. Then I shook my clothes free from the bag and dressed according.

I figured Kaneki had rummaged through what he had brought over. If I was to win this, I couldn't slip up and leave a trace of my former self. No, I wasn't a fleeing failure. I squeezed myself into a pair of tight pants. I had slit holes into the thighs and knees. Bleach, had become my right hand tool. The fabric was no longer blue but instead had a washed, almost faded appearance.

I even went as far as to tailor to my once fleece coat. When I finished I was anything but a shade lighter than chalk. I placed the warn scarf up over my nose and tucked the rest of the material past the zipper. From a distance, I was anything but F/N. I looked like a Ghoul, rugged with painted skin and an encasing mask.

I nodded at myself.

"You're wrong grandfather-" I smudged the mirror clean, "its harder to raise girls." I turned on my heel. I twisted the shower nozzle on red. The hot water began to steam up the room. I finished hiding my used materials, shoved the small pipe into the side of my pants, and then stepped up on the wall.

After seeing myself, I realized the old F/N couldn't endure this kind of suffering. I gripped the opening of the vent's walkway. I might have been at my lowest; I may have fallen too far. But instead of rocking in darkness, I embraced it. I would use it against anyone who dared to challenge me.

I didn't hesitate to pull myself and out of the pit.

I wouldn't suffocate; they couldn't break me.

Author's note:

Alright, well…sorry for a really boring chapter. But every story always has those, right? It was an important chapter to show how your perspective of life is constantly changing. Also, I'm a huge fan of girl empowerment (if you haven't noticed). So, everything that took place is setting up for the events to follow. All details are critical.

Anyone else see two characters that are starting to resemble each other? LoL-its not a coincidence.

Nobody panic-readers please be aware this is not the end of the romance. I tried to make it realistic. You, as the reader, are not going to accept someone right away who you view as a murder. Just saying.

But I can promise you…the next chapter is going to be intense! I have some old faces returning so it's going to be a wild ride! Hello horror fic ;)

Thanks to all who keep reading, commenting, liking etc.

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