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this is not a grave

By cosmofluous

Other

'scapegoat'

'Akira. Do you hate me?'

On the third floor of Cochlea, the air has a curious quality. It's heavy and stale, but brittle and porous at the same time. Dead air. It's a creature with its entrails scraped out for preservation, pores pushed open and leaking, mind ravaged by some unidentifiable madness not unlike a many-legged parasite. Akira thinks of "cochlea" as an inner cavity of the ear, sending sound vibrations as nerve impulses to the brain. She thinks of the silence which permeates the white walls like a corrosive liquid substance.

'I despise you,' she says.

The figure behind the glass bows his dark head. If Akira looks closely, some white remains like bits of snow clinging to the ends of black strands. It echoes the white of the straitjacket restraining him, gleaming buckles strapped tight. If Akira thinks of him as Haise, she will break. If Akira thinks of him as Kaneki Ken, Centipede, Eyepatch, she will break.

Is it pity that wars with loathing? Loathing mixed with black fury, with crushing loneliness and despair. She remembers hot tears like acid tracking down her face.

'You killed my father, Mado Kureo,' she accuses him, and the figure hunches in on himself. He is a defendant with no defence, hands chained before the guillotine while she throws at him epithets like rotten pieces of fruit. She knows that Eyepatch did not personally murder her father. She knows that Eyepatch was connected with Rabbit and Fueguchi, who did. She knows that he stopped Amon from saving her father - Amon the goody-two-shoes, Amon the rising star of the CCG - but was reluctant to kill him. Amon. Amon.

'You killed Amon Koutarou,' she spits, and watches the epithet burst as easily as an overripe tomato on impact, red splashing everywhere. Murderer. Killer.

'No.'

'No?' Akira's lips pinch, pull back into a sneer. Her nails dig into her purse. She wants another death to throw, match to the flame.

The figure – Haise – raises his head again and his eyes are wild with some unspeakable emotion. They are so light and so dark at the same time. Grey like smoke rising in a summer sky, grey like rain-wet asphalt gleaming underneath weeping storm clouds. She imagines the sclera of one dyed with black ink, iris flaring bloody with RC cells. But no, Haise – no, no, no, he's not Haise, he's some other person, he's not Haise, she didn't agree to this – is pumped so full of RC suppressants he can't possibly reveal his single, damning kakugan.

He says desperately, 'I didn't kill him. He promised me.' He choked out, 'He said if he died that would make me a killer.'

She would break the glass and drag him out through the shards if she could. Even if she thinks it's reinforced with veins of quinque steel. But behind it, the voice of Kaneki Ken is undeniably the voice of some noble martyr, muffled, pleading, threaded through with a vulnerable and immortal conviction. Unshakeable faith of the sort that takes lives.

She hates it. She despises him.

When Arima first left Haise in her care, she knew that he was an amnesiac half-ghoul who had had hostile relations with the CCG. She knew exactly which cases he had been involved in, and she thought that she had more than enough professionalism and the emotional capacity to handle it. Standing face to face with him for first introductions was not as easy as she thought it would be, but the burden of knowledge was one with which she became accustomed, both its burning weight and its need to be hidden. Eventually, the person and identity of Sasaki Haise became separated from Kaneki Ken. One cannot spend a significant amount of time with another without becoming emotionally attached. And, helplessly, bitterly, that was what Akira had become. Attached.

'Akira, I'm sorry.'

What right does he have to use her first name? Akira covers her face, but not before she sees the tears in the corners of his eyes, catching the fluorescent light. His voice is small when he speaks again, and it's as if he's ten years old, a defenceless, abandoned thing to be protected. His words are too old for him to be that boy.

'I'm not asking you to forgive me for my part in your father's death. I don't have that right. And, in a way, it was part of the long feud between humans and ghouls. I can't apologise for all of it. And I can't ask you to forgive me for any of it.'

'You disgust me,' she says, a parting insult. She gets up to leave and slams the door as she does, ignoring the final beseeching look on his face.

What a martyr.

He is too much like Amon Koutarou.

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