this is not a grave

'coup de (scape)grâce'

Kuki waits on his side of the glass, fingers tapping idly in time to his music. He stares straight ahead, eyes blank and lidded. If he is nervous or excited in any way, he gives no indication.

Sasaki appears on the other side of the glass, duly restrained. He looks like a wolf in sheep's clothing. Perhaps he has always looked that way to Kuki. When his strangely-coloured hair had started to grow in black at the roots, it was like the guard hairs of his furry hide were showing through sparse white wool. Kuki had always known that something lean and predatory lurked behind his innocuous white smile, and his snowy white investigator's coat. And now the rest of the world does too.

'Urie,' his superior says, and the greeting is nearly a rebuke. (But Sasaki is not his superior anymore. He is just a prisoner, and a ghoul with no rights. Kuki has to remind himself of that, not that it was a fact that had been all that relevant to him to begin with.) 'I didn't expect to see you.'

Kuki lets the moment stretch and dangle, then removes his headphones before it snaps. 'I didn't expect to see you either. (I really didn't want to see you.)' The words are devoid of inflection, so it's difficult to tell whether he's being sarcastic or not. Good: Kuki thrives off of the effect of his enigmatic exterior.

Sasaki tips his head to that as if he understands and Kuki feels his upper lip lift slightly in a sneer. He obviously didn't plan to be here. He had meant it when he had told Shirazu, that idiot, 'I'm not going. (Are you fucking kidding me?)' But today the paints refused to mix properly, and his brush sat awkwardly in his grip. An emotion like a Stygian black tangle had begun to form inside him, insisting on his attention. He had picked restlessly at it like it was a half-healed scab. He wanted it to bleed. He wanted the pressure to go away.

'You look like shit,' he says bluntly. (And he does. The wolf has been caught in a net of whip-thin cord and thrown into a cage as small as it is bare. The mighty hunter brought down. There is no longer any need to censure himself. Surely.)

'Well,' says Sasaki, and there it is, that sheepish smile, the one that says he is naive, and good-natured, and not dangerous at all. When he looks at Kuki, his grey eyes are flat. 'That's to be expected. How are you, Urie?'

'Fine. (I didn't come here to make small talk.)'

But then, what had he come here for?

'And the others?'

'The same. (How should I know?)'

Sasaki's innocence is a pitiful thing, stained and strained by his madness and his strength. And something else, too, something he can only describe as a weighty and sinful influence. This is something that Kuki knows to the bone, to the cold white space between the back of his skull and the top of his spine, where the sadness sometimes solidifies. Deep inside and far away from prying eyes. Nevertheless, it shows itself sometimes, in a hardened gaze, or in the colours mixing on his palette. Muddied ground after a sudden shower.

Does he show it now? (What else did he come here for?) Sasaki doesn't speak as Kuki stares at a spot on the wall behind the ghoul's head, deliberating. Because it's true; regardless of the ridiculous mummery the CCG had attempted to play out, Sasaki is a ghoul. Sasaki is the ghoul that was called Centipede, who had disrupted the Owl Suppression Operation two years ago. If Centipede hadn't appeared, Arima would have returned to deal with the One-Eyed Owl earlier. If Centipede hadn't appeared, the power balance wouldn't have tipped. If Centipede hadn't appeared...

'You're strong, aren't you? Why don't you break out of here? (Why can't you fuck off already if you're not going to die?)'

Sasaki's expression is hard to read. Kuki starts to tap his foot out of boredom when he doesn't get an answer.

'I'm not that strong,' he says, and it's a staid line that sounds practiced, rehearsed. 'And it's not that easy to break out of Cochlea.'

'… (Don't try to be modest.)'

(Because he had seen the deadly precision with which Sasaki had wielded both kagune and quinque. He had seen the white-lipped fear on the faces of the investigators tasked with his capture, now that memories of bloodshed and brutality had been returned to him. The battle experience of one who survived only through killing. And he remembers envy so sharp and pure that it was like a shard of broken bottle-glass had been wedged between his ribs, puncturing his lungs. Kuki had been the top of his class at the CCG Academy, both scholarly and athletically. Yet, at his age, Sasaki had already been classified an SS-rate ghoul, deemed lethal to any investigator below Special Class. What has he done, what has he not done? The world is not fair, life is not fair, and that is something that Kuki knows too. Or does he?)

'…I've always hated you,' he breathes, softer than a whisper.

Sasaki is the one staring at the wall this time. Kuki wants to get a rise out of him, and he is not sure why. Did he not hear him? Is he deaf now?

(Sasaki was and is, clearly, unstable. Kuki hadn't witnessed the exact event that triggered his breakdown and awakening, but he had been party to the wretched spectacle that had followed. An interminable period of time was filled with screaming, laughing and sobbing. Sometimes the sounds were interchangeable, and sometimes each one was indiscernible from the others. When Squad 1 arrived, they had been unable to approach him due to the number of kagune tentacles he had produced, lashing angrily at the air. A summer storm, inflicted with hot winds bearing burning embers.

Arima was dispatched, of course. Sasaki's gabbling reached an unbearably high-pitch, but Kuki couldn't make out the words. They had constructed a barricade and forced all investigators under the rank of First Class behind it. Overkill, he had thought. An altercation occurred. Kuki heard scuffling, furious outbursts. It was hell on earth, but nothing he couldn't handle.)

Sasaki speaks up, peering at Kuki through the strands of hair that fall over his eyes, 'You're a good investigator.'

Kuki looks at him and sees the map of his countless injuries, like the roots of some poisonous plant, spreading throughout his body. He sees the snake-strike of his kagune, the deceptive white of his bared teeth. He says, 'I don't believe you. (What would you know about being a good investigator? Damned ghoul.)'

And, '... (Don't lie, it doesn't suit you.)'

(It was over quickly once Arima arrived. To his shock, he had not slaughtered Sasaki like the inhuman beast he was, like the monster he had given himself away to be. Muttering rose in the ranks and was quieted just as quickly; Arima had a plausible excuse ready. Besides, one did not question the invincible face of the CCG, the undefeated shinigami graced with bloody white wings and an equally bloody scythe.)

Kuki had long ago discovered that Director Washuu's order to Sasaki had been, 'Raise an investigator who can surpass Arima Kishou.' But Special Class Arima is a one-of-a-kind irregularity, and as long as Sasaki himself exists, there is a glass ceiling to break. Overkill. Annoying.

He wants to say, 'I hope they kill you soon,' but Kuki is not given to displays of emotion. He is not so savage. He is better than that. (He is worse than that.)

The world is unfair; life is unfair. Kuki knows that he knows that, just as well as he knows the falsity of Sasaki's torn innocence. But still the glass shards, broken-bottle-sharp and sickly green, collide in conflict, producing sparks. He will burn himself up with impotent rage and infinite sorrow. It's not fair. He doesn't deserve this. He deserves better. (He deserves worse.)

The metal legs of his folding chair scrape along the concrete as he gets up to leave. He strides towards the door without so much as a, Have a nice death.

'Take care, Urie,' says Sasaki, and Kuki doesn't know if it's sarcasm or not.

He really has always hated Sasaki.

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