AN: just a reminder, Kaneki and Hide gave Anteiku fake names to keep their identities secret until they trust them. I honestly wrote this chapter and remembered this at the end, so then I had to go replace all the names in Anteiku with the fake names.

Chapter 21

Kaneki frowned, pulling lightly at the vest of his waiter's uniform. Today would be his (and Hide's) first day of work at Anteiku. The implications of a first day of work in a business run by ghouls was so far making him sweat like crazy. Was it detrimental to health to try and rub deoderant all over his body, just to stop sweating?

Glancing at the clock, Kaneki frowned again. He was supposed to be meeting Hide at the road junction a block away in just five minutes. No more time to rectify his appearance…..

Kaneki grabbed his phone and wallet, donning his coat as he walked out the door. He locked the door of his apartment with a sigh, hoping that it would not be the last time he ever saw the place. It was small, but it was home. It had a lot of good memories for him and Hide, recently Kimi, too.

It was a few days since their attempted recon of the CCG. So far, no CCG investigators had come to break down anyone's door, so Kaneki assumed their subterfuge was a success. Kimi had met with them just yesterday to go over the information they had gathered from their excursion. She was quite pleased with the turnout, though she had felt the need to scold Hide for provoking the poor old timer, and then scold Kaneki for leaving Hide to his own devices. Of course Hide wasn't going to behave like a rational adult on a reconnaissance mission, did Kaneki really think Hide could be left alone with a ghoul investigator unsupervised?

As Kaneki came up to the road junction, he sighed in resignation. Hide was there, on time, wearing the uniform. He also sported a top hat with a bright yellow ribbon along its base. Hide had this thing about uniforms. He always had to personalize them somehow. In high school, Hide was constantly getting written up for modifying his uniform or breaking dress code somehow.

Hide just had to be his own special little snowflake.

As if guessing what Kaneki was thinking, Hide glanced up from his phone and waved at Kaneki, comically tipping his hat to the other as he approached. "Do you like the hat? I got it from a thrift store about a block from here. I bet with this, that Touka girl will be all over me. Don't worry, you can be our best man."

Kaneki rolled his eyes. Why?…. Hide must know she was a ghoul. And even from just their meager interactions with the waitress so far, surely Hide could tell that she had absolutely no inclination towards either of them. Hide was supposed to be the people-person, not Kaneki. Then, again, this was just the excuse Hide was using to wear his uniform-breaking hat to work, so it probably didn't mean anything at all.

"Uh-huh," replied Kaneki, letting his disbelief color his voice like gray across a watercolor painting.

"No, really," argued Hide as they started walking in the direction of Anteiku. "I have this feeling, she's not going to be able to resist me."

"Your're right, Hide."

Hide almost trips. "Wait, I am?"

"Of course, Hide. Maybe you taste good."

"Ha-ha, that's funny, Kaneki."

"No," replied Kaneki. Memories or sharp teeth, inhuman strength, and a hungry red eyes flashed behind his eyes. He keeps walking, forcing the memory to fade. "I'm serious, Hide. This girl works at a ghoul cafe. She is almost 100% a ghoul. Don't go anywhere alone with her, I don't tell what she tells you. Do you understand?"

"Kaneki, don't be like that, these people could be really nice. They-"

Kaneki grabbed Hide's shoulders and turned him around to face him, stopping on the sidewalk. "Do you understand, Hide?"

Hide blinked, meeting Kaneki's gaze. "Yeah, I understand, bud."

Kaneki let go of Hide's shoulders, beginning to walk down the sidewalk again. "Good."

By the time they reached the cafe, there were already several customers inside, being served by the Anteiku staff. Hide and Kaneki quietly walked in and one of the baristas immediately met their eyes and smiled warmly at them. Kaneki thought it was Enji Koma, who they had met previously.

The man(ghoul) greeted them happily. "Hideki, Kenichi! Welcome to your first day of work! If you'll just come with me, I'll give you the grand tour and then we'll start training you."

"Ok!" Chirped Hide. Who, in Kaneki's opinion, was way too excited about this. And, wow, good thing Hide was on top of the fake names they gave out a few weeks ago, cause Kaneki had been very confused being called "Kenichi" for a minute.

For the next 30 minutes or so, Koma led them throught he kitchen, where the pastries and other foodstuffs were prepared every morning until around 3, when their deli closed. They still sold the pastries they had made all throughout the day, but after 3 they didn't make anything new. Koma and the manager, Yoshimura, were the primary chefs, apparently Irimi and Touka could not cook….. Then he led them though the pantry,a large storage closet with carefully organized human food, labeled and given little signs next to them with taste descriptors. Some read "sweet" while others read "tart" and so on.

Kaneki who now understood that there was no way for ghouls to know how human food really tasted, thought it was rather brilliant. This way, when they cooked, it didn't bake out into some disgusting mess. Kaneki also tried his best to silence the little voice inside that told him, one day he would forget what human food tasted like and there would be a similar labeling system within his own pantry….

In the back of the pantry there was a hidden door, which Koma showed them how to open. Behind it were nondescript paper-bound packages. When Hide asked what they were and why they were kept all the way back here, Koma just laughed awkwardly and said something about cross contamination and health department checks. Kaneki, who could smell what was in the packages whispered in Hide's ear, "Ghoul food." Hide was quiet after that.

Then they were shown the other supply closet, where cleaning supplies were kept. Then the bathrooms. And any other place that seemed important to Koma, like the common room upstairs where there were board games and a game console that Koma said was sacred on Friday nights.

Once the tour of the backrooms was over, Koma brought them to the front of the store and gave them aprons. This was fine. What was not fine was when Koma introduced them to Touka and told her she would be teaching them how to wait tables, since she was closer to their age. He left after that, likely to avoid the death glare she was now sporting.

Unfortunately, she didn't seem to warm up to them as they went. She seemed especially irritable with Hide, constantly criticizing him and herding him around. To be fair, the one time she let him try to make the coffee, they ended up with a nasty, burned mess that smelled like skunk.

Kaneki tried to keep his head down and avoid the scolding as he cleaned tables. To the side, he could hear Touka snapping at Hide again.

"Hold that tray straighter, you're going to spill it everywhere. No, not like that, you look like an awkward butler."

Kaneki winced as every time Touka snipped at Hide, Kaneki knew Hide's patience was running thinner and thinner. Eventually, it just snapped.

Hide stood up straight and looked Touka straight in the eyes. He leaned forward, speaking softly, so the customers in the store didn't overhear. "Miss, I understand if your version of flirting is different than mine, but if you want to get my attention, you can just get my number. You know, like a normal person."

Kaneki bit back a wince as he meticulously scrubbed an invisible spot on a table. Hide was trying to be nonconfrontational- in his own way- by not straight up asking her what her problem with him was, but Kaneki was pretty sure it was still pretty confrontational. At least Touka seemed to think so.

She scowled fiercely at Hide, her cheeks pinking lightly in anger. She seemed to be thinking of something appropriately scathing to say, but Hide beat her to it. He said, "Aww, are you blushing Touka-hime?"

She seemed to quickly find something to say. "Oh, don't worry, it's secondhand embarrassment for you."

Kaneki winced and scrubbed the table harder.

Hide gasped in mock injury, clutching his hat and a hand over his heart. "You wound me, dear Touka-hime."

Touka sneered, "Oh, if I were to wound you, you would know it."

Hide laughs and Kaneki wonders how his friend is not afraid. "Naah," says Hide, "you wouldn't hurt me."

Touka huffs, rolling her eyes and grabbing some empty mugs from a table. "Keep being so gosh-darn annoying and I just might."

Kaneki straightens up, finished scrubbing the finish off a clean table, he figures it's time to distract them before things get out of hand. "Excuse me, Miss Touka, I'm done wiping down the tables. Is there anything else I can do?"

Touka glances at Kaneki with a look of disinterest. Whatever bone she had to pick with Hide, it didn't extend to Kaneki for whatever reason. For the life of him, he couldn't imagine why. "Yeah, can you take these," Touka gestures to the mugs she has in her hand and some others sitting on the counter, "And wash them in the sink. Once they are washed, they go on the drying rack. Once you're done with that, you can either clean the bathrooms or ask Koma what he needs in the kitchen."

Kaneki dipped his head, "Yes ma'am," he answered.

Thankfully, after Kaneki intervened, Hide and Touka didn't start anymore arguments the rest of the day. While there was still tension in the air, there were no more unconfrontational confrontations for the rest of the day. Kaneki still felt the pressure keenly though, it was like watching two feral cats circling each other. Why did Hide always have to stir the pot? This happened everywhere they went.

Finally, to Kaneki's immense relief, it was closing time. The last customer left the cafe to the well wishes of the Anteiku staff, the dishes were washed, the floors swept and mopped. They were clocking out at the register as Koma and the manager did cash-check. Kaneki clocked out and grabbed his lunch box, waiting impatiently for Hide to finish clocking out so they could leave. He had never been more thankful for a day of work to be over. Between the knowledge that every customer ordering plain black coffee was likely a ghoul, and Hide and Touka circling each other, Kaneki felt like the feeling of euphoria that washed over him as soon as he clicked the clock out button was completely justified and healthy.

Just as they were leaving, however, Touka pushed forward and grabbed Hide's wrist. "I need to talk to you," she said, despite looking through narrowed eyes at Kaneki. Kaneki took that to mean that she wanted to talk to both of them.

"Okay, Touka-hime," Hide said, always happy to run forward into likely demise.

They ended up walking through the back of the building and into the back alley, where Kaneki had fought with Nishiki. Kaneki was thankful there was no sign of their past conflict in the alley. Although the concept that the scene had been reset for a possible new conflict with Touka was not a very comforting thought either.

"What did you need to talk about, Touka-hime?" Hide asked.

"You," answered Touka, "Or, more specifically, your job here. You need to quit."

"Ouch, tell me how you really feel, Touka-hime," Hide said, laughing slightly to shake off Touka's blunt statement.

Kaneki frowned at Touka. Out of anything she could say, that wasn't what he was expecting. "You want us to quit?" asked Kaneki, speaking slowly as his mind raced. He tried to subtly edge himself and Hide towards the open end of the alley, in case they needed a quick exit. Touka's eyes never strayed from them, so he wasn't sure how successful he was.

"Not you," answered Touka. "Just him." she gestured to Hide. "The human."

"Well," said Hide, drawing himself up- he wasn't that much taller than Touka, really just a few inches- "This human wants to keep working here. And, this human would appreciate if you wouldn't complain about everything this human does, cause this human is trying to help out."

"This human," mocked Touka, "is going to get killed."

Kaneki frowned, taking a step forward in between her and Hide. "Are you threatenin-"

"Not me," Touka cut him off. "He doesn't have anything to fear from me. You do realize that dozens and dozens of ghouls frequent Anteiku." She looked to Hide, "You are coming into contact with dozens of ghouls and you have nothing to keep them from hunting you down after hours except the manager's good will. I refuse to be your babysitter."

"Good," answered Hide, "I don't need one."

Touka seemed to give Hide up as a lost cause- something Kaneki could relate to when it came to arguments- and turned to Kaneki again. "You're a crappy friend if you're letting him keep working in a place full of people who will literally eat him alive. He has no natural defenses and form the looks of it, he's a dumb, easy meal."

Kaneki shifted uncomfortably, Touka being so angry made him nervous. "No, I'm letting Hideki make his own choices, and I'm respecting him." Nevermind that Kaneki had tried to convince Hide of this same thing yesterday, but, still. Hide made his choice and Kaneki was going to support him.

Touka settled for glaring at both of them. "Fine," she snapped. "Have fun being retarded." Touka immediately turned back around and went back into the cafe through the back door.

Kaneki couldn't help but breathe a sigh of relief. She was stressful. Beside him, Hide did the same.

Hide said, "Man. She's nuts. Just psycho."

"We shouldn't say these kinds of things about co-workers, Hideki." Kaneki gently admonished Hide as they began to walk home.

"It doesn't mean they're not true," replied Hide.

Kaneki couldn't really argue with that.

AN: Hi! glad to see all of you again. Once again, I am so sorry the update is late. I'm still going through college in a premed program, so there's that. Next update will probably also be late. I hope I have time over spring break or the summer, but I probably won't, I'm supposed to be getting shadowing hours.

Anyways, I have a huge announcement to make. I'm opening a redbubble store! here's the link- redbubbledotcom/people/Zovanah/shop

I'm super excited about it! I'm opening it with my twin sister, you all would know her as the writer Blitza, and we are putting art up like crazy. We are also looking into opening stores on similar stores, like Zazzle and Teepublic.

I would totally love it if you guys could take a look at it. You don't have to buy anything, but if you would give us some views and maybe favorite a few things it would be super helpful. if I can get 15 new hearts on products, I will post the next chapter early. And, it would be super awesome if you could share our products on social media if you like them.

We also do customs, if you want something specific drawn, just send me a PM. we don't charge hardly anything for customs right now because we're just trying to push sales. Part of the customs thing is that you can send me a picture of your animal (cat, dog, horse, etc) and I can draw it and put it on redbubble for you to buy a sticker of. I'm super good at drawing animals:)