Kaneki stared in the mirror. He couldn't understand how he could look this way. So normal. Like he wasn't skipping meals. Like he could actually taste and eat again.

Kaneki was starving, he knew he should be starving. But, he wasn't even very hungry. And food tasted like crap. Literally in some cases.

Yet, his body didn't reflect it. His cheeks were soft and round, that baby fat he hadn't been able to shake in puberty still hanging on. His eyes were bright and clear, though distressed. His lips were un-chapped and lightly pink. He was healthy. Starving, yet healthy.

How could this be?

The television hummed still in the other room. He had turned it on this morning while getting ready- in a house alone, background noise staved off a lot of loneliness or the occasional bout of depression.

Frowning, Kaneki went to turn it off. If he wasn't listening to it there was no point in letting it run the power bill up. However, when Kaneki saw the contents of the program, he stopped.

A month ago, he would never give much credence to this kind of show. It would have been far from him, some other place or person. But after the incident with Rize, ghouls weren't a myth of some other district. They weren't the boogie man that only came out for naughty boys and girls who refused to eat their greens. They were real. And they were close.

So he watched, with a morbid curiosity and a small bit of learned self-preservation. Knowledge was power, right?

He came to regret this decision a few hours later at the expense of his previously meticulous apartment. There were food packets on the floor and on every flat surface, milk and other liquids were spilled haphazardly around, and the bathroom would need to be mopped where he hadn't been able to make it to the toilet after he tried eating the ice-cream. So far, he had yet to find anything he could actually eat. Even foods he had absolutely loved before, now made his stomach churn just thinking about them.

He was standing in the hallway observing all the mess, when a noise broke him from his horrified reverie. It was his cell phone, forgotten on the living room table during his temporary insanity. Taking a few steps closer, Kaneki could see the caller id was Hide. He picked up the phone and his thumb hovered over the touch screen. He swiped right, ignoring the call.

Hide couldn't see him like this. He couldn't be allow to know. If Kaneki somehow got Hide involved it wouldn't do Hide any good. And if Kaneki was consistently more of a burden than a boon, Hide would leave him and be friends with someone else. Someone with more to give back in return for company. It had happened with others before.

And Kaneki couldn't lose Hide. Hide was like the sun, bright and full of life. Fierce and brave, Hide was the exact opposite of Kaneki, who was quiet and shy like the moon. Hide was also exactly what Kaneki needed in his life. To balance out the empty feeling in his chest that took over after Mom died.

Hide was the best brother/friend Kaneki could ask for. And Kaneki knew that Hide could just as easily be lost.

Kaneki couldn't scare him with this. Couldn't depend on him to chase this boogie man away with his shining smile and sunny attitude. This monster didn't live in the closet, it lived inside of him.

Even now, Kaneki could feel a dull pang of hunger, and if his theory was right, then Hide coming over was the exact opposite of a good thing.

So, for the rest of the day, Kaneki turned off his phone. It's not like anyone else would call him and if he answered the phone to Hide, Hide would be able to tell something was wrong before Kaneki could say, "ithinkimaghoul." Hide was uncanny like that.

So, Kaneki sat silently, his silent phone beside him on the soft carpet, a sharp knife laid innocently in front of him. He had a choice to make.

Hide scowled down at his phone as the call went to voicemail for the nth time. Kaneki must have turned his phone off. Typical little brother. Trying to hide something. Well, not for long!

That's right.. Kaneki was Hide's little brother. Kaneki was a brother that Hide's parents were unaware of, but he was.

See, this all started when Hide was little. Hide lived in a large family as the youngest child. Hide had seven older brothers, the younger his senior by four years. Hide was the recipient of mush teasing, noogies, and hugs growing up. He was even perhaps a little spoiled, he supposed. As he grew up, he noticed that just as much as he loved to be the baby of the family, his older brothers seemed to have just as much fun caring for him. So much that on thanksgiving, when they listed what they were most thankful for that whole year, each of them answered with, "my little brother(s)".

Well, that decided it. When Hide was the wise age of almost five, he knew what he wanted for his birthday. A little brother. Hide wanted in on some of that older brother action.

When he told his mother that, she laughed and asked, "You don't want to keep being the baby?"

He repeated his wish and she laughed some more, before returning to kneading the bread she was baking. However, it soon became apparent that he was at least semi-serious when he continued repeating the same request over and over again. His parents laughed and smiled indulgently while his older brothers tickled him in response.

On his birthday, he got a dog. She was eight weeks old, golden retriever and already house broken with the gentlest, most playful attitude.

Hide hated her. He scowled all day on his birthday, no matter how much his parents or brothers tried to cajole him into being a 'good boy'. There were toys, a collar, and a nice doggie bed that came with her. He wouldn't touch them. His parents took excited pictures of him and his new puppy, but at the end of the day, Hide turned to his mother and asked, "Can i trade the dog for a little brother?"

His mother's smile strains- poor woman of forty-seven years wants no more babies- and she laughs like he's said something funny.

Except, it's not funny when he asks the same thing at Easter. At Valentine's day. At thanksgiving, he says he would be more 'thankfuller' for a new baby brother. And he asks again at Christmas.

So, naturally, when Hide finds a little dark haired waif crying on the playground that says his Mommy is dead, he thinks that God has answered his prayers.

And they had been inseparable ever since, Hide had made sure of it. He pitched a fit until his parents enrolled him in Kaneki's class and the rest is history.

And Kaneki was an adorable little brother. Always shy with his head stuck in a book. It was really fun, getting him to branch out and try new things. Like- although this is not a very good example- that date a few weeks ago. It really didn't end well- hearing Kaneki was in the hospital had sent Hide into an absolute panic of 5 year old-didnt-want-a-puppy proportions- but it was Kaneki's first date!

Kaneki was obviously growing and flourishing under his older brother's tutelage. Hide could preen with pride, except, now it was two steps forward, one step back. Because Kaneki was trying to hide something from him.

Honestly, hadn't Kaneki learned not to hide things from Big Brother the last time? Hide will find out.

The light in front of Hide turned green, indicating it was time to walk and he strode forward with confident strong paces.

It only took a few more minutes to make it to Kaneki's apartment complex. Hide decided to give Kaneki the shadow of a doubt and knocked on the door. The guy's phone may just be dead.

When there is no answer, Hide pulls out his spare key. He'd argued his way into one after Kaneki had caught mono and been too sick to walk to the hospital or answer the door. If Hide hadn't called one of his bros to pick the lock, Kaneki may not have been able to get to the hospital in time.

As he opened the door, he is surprised to see Kaneki with his back turned to him, arms wrapped around his thin torso in a self defensive gesture. When Kaneki turns around, his eyes are red rimmed and tears are still fresh on his cheeks. Kaneki never cries. Ever. When they met being one of the few exceptions.

"Ok, Kaneki, what's wrong?"

It was done, the decision was made. Kaneki couldn't- shouldn't- live as a ghoul. Even if he didn't end up consuming human flesh, it would leave him starving. He would be manic, wild with hunger- there would be no controlling him. He could- would- hurt people. He might even hurt Hide.

There wasn't anything else for it. There wasn't anyone he could go to for help, Kaneki had never heard of this happening before so there would be no quick fix for this situation, and he dared not go back to the hospital. If they did this, then they could do worse, surely.

So, he had to die. For the sake of himself and those around him. He repeated this to himself as he raised the blade up above his head. It was a good blade, a sharp, broad butcher's knife. His favorite, he sharpened it this morning. It would do the job well.

Gathering all of his courage, Kaneki plunged the blade toward his vulnerable belly, soft skin defenseless. His eyes were closed, but they flew open at the resounding screech. There was no pain as he lifted the knife to his face and stared. The innocent kitchen knife would never again serve its purpose; the impact with his skin had warped it irrevocably into a spiral pattern.

He would have stared at the blade in awe- and mounting terror- had he not been interrupted but the firm knocking on the door.

Hide. It could be no other. Kaneki didn't have other people who would be willing to check up on him.

Kaneki's eyes flashed to the knife in his hand. He had to hide it. Hide would not be pleased with Kaneki's attempt at self harm. The one time and only time Kaneki had tried self harm, Hide had been furious. Upon seeing the row of neat pink scars running up Kaneki's arm, Hide had promptly kidnapped him in a never ending spend the night.

For weeks, Hide was constantly by Kaneki's side. He made Kaneki realize that even if he didn't put very much stock in his own life, there were plenty of people that put stock in it for him. Even if he didn't want to live for himself, on those days where he found himself bereft of the will to get out of bed, he had to live for others. To leave the with an angry, painful hole in their hearts would be cruel and wrong. It was better to live for them to be able to fill that hole. To fill it with joy, love, and peace. Even if Kaneki could offer people nothing else, he could give them that.

And here Kaneki had tried to rip that hole into their souls deliberately. Guilt washed over him even as he rushed to slide the ruined knife under the couch cushions. There had been a good reason, but it wouldn't be good enough in the wrath of Hide. But, what he didn't know wouldn't hurt him.

He turned around as the door opened, arms wrapped around himself in a self hug. He knew his eyes were still puffy and red from his spilled tears as he lifted them to meet Hide's.

"Okay, Kaneki, what's wrong?"

Kaneki opened his mouth- after forcing his suddenly paper dry mouth to swallow- and answered, "I think I'm a ghoul."

Hide stared at Kaneki before walking into the apartment and shutting the door. "Umm, buddy, you know you don't just wake up a ghoul, right?"

Hide started picking up some of the trash, Kaneki was bound to be horrified by the state of his house when he calmed down.

"Yes, I mean, no, I- Rize was a ghoul."

Hide jerked his head around so fast, he swore he had whiplash.


Kaneki nodded shakily. His red rimmed eyes seemed even more frantic now. "She was a ghoul, and they used her organs in the operation, andnowI'monetoo! AndHide,whatdoIdo?!"

Kaneki's knuckles were white against his long-sleeve shirt where he gripped his arms in manic intensity. He could feel the breath racing in his lungs, a quick whish-whoosh that left him chilled and dizzy. If it had been a normal day, he would already be secluding himself in a quiet corner with a distracting book to wait out the anxiety, but this was important and he was so scared. So very terrified. Cause he was dangerous now and the last person alive to care for him was in the same room as him. Unarmed.

Hide's eyes widened as he darted forward to pull Kaneki to the couch. "Whoah! Hey, slow down. You're okay. It's over. Come on! It's not that bad, just slow down and let's figure this out, okay?"

Hide pasted on a reassuring smile, watching as Kaneki's eyes lost their hollow, dead look and his breathing slowed. Little brother panic averted.

Kaneki sniffed, holding back tears as he thought about everything. "It started after the surgery. I was doing fine and they put me back on food. But, I couldn't eat any of it. It tasted foul. The nurses said it could be a temporary side effect of stress, cause sometimes that makes people's taste change for a little while. But even when I got released, I couldn't eat anything. I ignored it because I wasn't hungry anyways. But, when we went to Big Girl's, it changed. I felt hungry again, but I still couldn't eat the burger, Hide. And... And.. When I was walking home... The people smelled good."

Kaneki took a deep breath, steadying himself. "I- I'm a monster now Hide."