Hinata shouldn’t have left Souda and Komaeda together in the living room, but the realisation came a minute too late.
There was no doubt the two of them had gotten along far better since waking from the simulation, but there wasn't a solid foundation of understanding between them.
The class on a whole thought of Komaeda as something between an embarrassment and a cause for concern; while seeing him counted as an unconditional member of the group was encouraging, it didn't change the fact that Souda wasn’t equipped to deal with his more challenging turns of mood.
Souda’s mind worked in black and white, which made him an expert with machines. He understood things as being simply right or wrong, broken or fixed, and Komaeda had always been a misunderstood shade of grey.
Hinata had barely left the room for a minute to rifle through his desk drawer, but what he heard from down the hall sounded like nothing short of an argument.
When the post-despairs had divided themselves up, it felt almost natural that the three boys to survive the game naturally should take up an apartment together- but it did complicate things when things went wrong.
“What the fuck are you on about?”
The first thing Hinata realised when he reached the living room doorway was how agitated Komaeda’s posture was. He stood in the middle of the room, arms outstretched and hands tense. He moved as he talked but it was almost anxiously robotic, like his body was faintly malfunctioning.
There was a look in his eye that Hinata recognized well and was kicking himself for not picking up on earlier; he was like a clock that’d been wound just slightly too far past capacity.
Souda was up from the sofa, fists balled.
"Bombs aren't going to fall on the house! The mains aren’t gonna blow either, ‘cause I checked them!” Souda was saying. His expression was somewhere between horror and anger, and all of it was directed as the apartment’s houseguest. “Nothing is going to go wrong!”
Komaeda tangled his hands in his hair and laughed breathlessly. “You really think I’m lying? Well, that’s alright- it can’t be helped…”
“Of course I think you’re lying! You’re fucking crazy, man!”
“Hey.” Hinata said, sharply. “What's going on?”
Souda turned to Hinata. “It's no use! He's not listening to common sense, he keeps saying the mains might blow or that lightning might hit the house or something. I thought he was done with being a basket case!”
Hinata glanced between Komaeda and his housemate.
Souda could be more tactless than even Hinata, which was saying a lot, given Hinata couldn’t decipher a love confession directly to his face, and unsympathetic to what that scared him - which was most things. It wasn’t that Souda was a bad person, deep down- it was that, like of most the class, he needed some things explained to him.
Komaeda looked visibly, unusually rattled.
He’d been acting off all morning, anxiety building on paranoia- and Hinata was quickly realising he’d not clocked the extent of it. Of course, Komaeda had said he was alright, nothing to be worried about- but he’d not been telling the complete truth. Komaeda could lie with unmatched proficiency, often to himself as much as Hinata.
Hinata pushed Souda to the doorway that joined the living room to the kitchen. "Wait here- alright?”
Souda had no chance to respond as Hinata pulled the door to and stepped towards Komaeda. The sternness he’d used on Souda vanished from his posture instinctively, replacing it with as calm an expression as he could.
“Hey, Komaeda. How are you feeling?”
Komaeda crossed his arms but couldn’t commit to stillness. He shifted one arm over the other and drummed his fingers over his coat sleeves. “Like I’ve said, Hinata-kun- I’m fine. I don’t expect anyone to take human garbage like me seriously, but I’m serious- I have an awful, awful feeling about my luck, and you’re not safe. I think you should leave.”
"Can I touch you?”
Komaeda looked at him with huge, swirling eyes. “If you want to touch someone like me.”
“Hey- none of that. I want to know if you’re okay with me touching you right here and now- not if you think I should want to or not.”
Komaeda didn’t tense when Hinata’s hand took his shoulder, so he guided him towards the sofa.
"Sit down here for a minute.”
For a moment Hinata didn’t think he’d agree, but he did sit down despite the agitation.
Komaeda was more receptive to Hinata’s suggestions than those from others.
They’d started talking after the simulation, aided by extra intelligence and knowledge that didn't quite fit. They’d argued about hope and disagreed about luck, but somewhere along the way, Hinata had begun to know how Komaeda worked. Now, what he thought what the two of them had was something like trust.
"Hinata, I wouldn’t want you to think I thought this was funny- because it isn’t- I'm not joking, and I wouldn’t lie to you- you're going to die if you don't get out soon. So, please- just get as far away from me as possible."
A sound from the kitchen- a spluttered sound of shock from Souda. “See? Absolutely crazy...”
Hinata felt his expression give away some of his irritation but reeled it back in quickly. "I will. I just have to tell Souda to leave too- alright? Will you stay here while I tell him?”
“No, Hinata- you won’t come back- you’ve got to just run away. Please?”
Hinata glanced from Komaeda to the door and knew he couldn’t help Komaeda if Souda was set on interjecting from the kitchen.
“I will. I’ll be right back. I swear. Komaeda- I swear, I’ll be two minutes.”
He nodded and quickly paced to the kitchen door, glancing over his shoulder to keep an eye on Komaeda.
"Souda,” he said, quietly as he could, “you can't call him crazy-- he wasn’t anywhere near this bad before you started winding him up.”
"Yes he was! He was rambling about luck and hope!”
Hinata fiercely motioned him to be quieter.
“He’s crazy!” Souda whispered, pulling his hat down over his eyes.
"Okay, well- you're crazy!”
"But the difference is, I'm not!"
"And that's the point- he's not well and he knows that but he doesn't think what he's saying is lying . You can't argue with him- it won’t make this better.”
"You're not a doctor!"
Hinata rubbed his mismatched eyes- one green, one red. "Well... I was. And a therapist, and a psychologist."
Not all of Kamukura’s knowledge remained, but they came back when he forced them - in drips and drabbles, mostly. They helped him if he focused hard. He needed talents in abundance for Komaeda.
Following a trail of forgotten memory was like edging along in the pitch-dark labyrinth with only a thin string as a guide. He couldn't see ahead, or behind him- he just had to follow it until he knew what he had to do.
“So you want to just lie to him and say sure, you’re right, you’re just fine?”
"I’m not going to lie to him. I’m just going to reason with him, maybe distract him if I can. Souda, I’m not even asking you to do much- just don’t make it worse. That’s all.”
“How am I supposed to not tell him he’s talking crap?”
“Okay, okay- think of it like this. You're making a machine, right? And it's broken. A really important part starts going wrong.”
“I'd fix it.”
Hinata sighed out. “You can’t fix it right now.”
“I'm the ultimate mechanic, I'm sure I could.”
Hinata did all he could to resist telling Souda to shut up before he lost all faith in his analogy.
“ Souda - how are you this block-headed?”
Souda looked like he’d been shocked. “Are you kidding? You’re calling me a blockhead?”
“Yes, I am!” he had to lower his own voice before he caught himself yelling too. “All I’m saying is it isn’t his fault- he's not trying to lie to you.” For once , he added internally.
Souda glanced at Komaeda, who was still sat where he'd been asked to, fidgeting with his hair.
Something in Hinata’s tone seemed to have gotten through to him, because he reached to rub the back of his head and glanced away.
Hinata took his chance. “I know where you're coming from- I've had lots of arguments with him, I'm not saying I wouldn't because oh my god, does he say some god awful things- but please trust me on this one. I can try and help him- I think.”
Souda crossed his arms.
"Whatever, man- do whatever you think’s best. This is beyond me, anyway.”
Hinata put his hand on Souda's shoulder. "Thank you."
With one problem out of the way as quickly as possible, Hinata left the kitchen to come and kneel by the sofa.
"Komaeda?" He began, evenly.
Komaeda gripped his hair, either side of his temples. "You've been ignoring me for hours- I'm telling you, we're in danger.”
Hinata took his hands from his hair and held them loosely in his own, his thumbs either side of Komaeda’s pale knuckles. They felt unusually clammy, and Hinata could feel him trembling. Komaeda’s wide-eyed stare was intimidating but better than him looking off into space. He should have realised Komaeda was panicking far earlier.
"How are we in danger?"
"My luck will have the house flattened- I keep telling you we have to go, but you just won't listen-”
"Then we have to go!"
Komaeda seemed on the verge of frustration- Hinata rubbed the back of his hands with his thumbs, firmly and precisely.
"You think your bad luck will do something to the house, and that's why you want to leave?"
“Look, Hinata,” he didn’t pull his hands away. “You think I’m a little bit crazy, don’t you? I’m not surprised, I’m incoherent garbage, I don’t know why you’d want to talk to me! But my luck is a talent and it’s real - I have a horrible feeling something terrible is going to happen, any minute now- because of my bad luck-”
Hinata looked up at him and spoke casually, like he was chatting about nothing of importance. He enclosed his hands more firmly between his own. "Okay. Well- what if your good luck keeps me safe instead?"
"That's not how it works, Hinata! It only saves me!"
Raised voice. He changed tact, speaking more firmly, keeping him grounded.
"Hey- look at me. Kamukura had good luck too."
Komaeda, through a haze, seemed to consider this. "Yes, but you aren’t Kamukura.”
Komaeda's head let him down socially frequently, but he was logical, analytical and clever. Hinata knew if he was steady and patient, he could prove the flaw in what Komaeda was saying. Komaeda didn’t respond to being told he was baselessly fine, because a life’s worth of experience told him he wasn’t; but he could take a refute to an argument.
"I’m half of him. I do have his luck. It isn’t perfect, I haven’t exactly got all his talents- but I’m lucky. I'd not lie to you, Komaeda- would I?"
A real question, not a rhetorical- he didn't give Komaeda a chance to choose silence or ignore the question. "Would I?"
"No,” Komaeda said, shifting his posture. “Not on purpose."
"And I wouldn't make a mistake either. He had luck, and now I have it. I think that'll keep me safe. And you trust my judgement, right?"
Hinata wished talking Komaeda down wasn’t a skill he had to learn, but for what it was, he was glad he’d learnt it as best as he could.
The Hope Restoration Programme had done its best to repair most of Komaeda. With that said, what it did best was fix what the traumatic deaths of the killing game had done to the participants while they played. There were things that had been present in Komaeda long before he’d ever taken it on himself to kill the despairs.
It wasn’t Komaeda’s fault that there were so many parts of him failing him. If Hinata thought about it too long, he would become emotional- so instead, he held Komaeda’s hand.
“Listen- I don't think anything will happen. I don’t think your luck will hurt us now- I wouldn’t lie to you about this. But listen- if something did happen to us- I’d be right here with you and my own luck would stop it affecting me.”
“But you could die.”
“I could die, you’re right. We could all die at any time. But I don’t think it’ll be tonight.”
The obsession with luck was a twisted expression of care; Komaeda wasn’t worried directly about himself, but about the few people he had left around him. Hinata could only imagine how frightening it was to know everyone he’d loved had died, and how freshly scary it must be to suddenly have more people to lose.
"And Souda isn't very lucky like us- so I've told him to leave."
"Huh?" Said Souda, from where he was eavesdropping.
Hinata turned from where he was knelt and nodded imploringly.
"Oh- huh- right. I mean, yeah- I'm going."
Komaeda took a shaky breath in and shook his head. "You probably can’t stand the sight of me and are lying to make me stop talking. Don’t worry- I’m happy just knowing you talked to me at all.”
"Hey. Hey." Hinata patted Komaeda's knee. "I'm not. I don't. Look at me. Why would I hate you?"
"You’re not even listening-”
“I’m listening to everything you’re saying. You’re the one who’s not listening.”
By the wide eyes, Hinata thought he might he might have caught Komaeda by surprise with how determinedly he’d stuck to his guns.
"I don't hate you." he reiterated. “You’re wrong about that.”
Komaeda looked resolutely at the floor and breathed hard. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude- I don’t know why I get like this- I could just die of loathing.”
Pity welled in Hinata's chest. Sometimes, Komaeda did completely unacceptable things that he absolutely deserved to feel self loathing or at least guilty about, but this wasn’t one of them.
Hinata got up from where he’d knelt and sat beside him, close enough for their shoulders to touch. “That’s okay- you're not rude. And dying of that'd be a shame, after everything we’ve been through- so you better not.”
Hinata breathed a sigh of relief when Komaeda didn’t jump up to talk about hope or luck. He could still feel him trembling but it was far less pronounced.
Komaeda turned to look at him with that wide-eyed stare that made people feel like they were being looked straight through. “I do feel as if something horrible is going to happen, Hinata-kun.”
In turn, he placed his hand over Komaeda’s. “And I don’t think it is. But if you’re right and I'm wrong, because sometimes, honestly, you're right and I'm wrong- I can handle it.”
Souda had been lingering in the hall as if he wasn’t seriously expected to put on his shoes and go- but Komaeda’s gaze solidified the decision. He grabbed his wallet and jacket, pulled on his sneakers and called a sheepish goodbye as he made for the front door.
Hinata felt relief when the door shut.
He tried for a tentative smile, just to test the water.
Komaeda returned it. Though it was forced, it was relieving to see.
Hinata opened his arms and moved in slowly to give Komaeda every second of time to pull away from the embrace- but he accepted and the two came together. A wash of protectiveness filled Hinata with how fast he could hear Komaeda breath. He enveloped him, rubbing a soft circle over his shoulders.
Komaeda felt thin but warm as he rested stiffly against Hinata’s chest.
Hinata spoke softly over Komaeda’s shoulder, into his tangle of hair.
“I think we're going to be alright. If you won’t believe it, that's okay. I don’t mind if we don’t agree- we’re allowed to do that.”
Hinata then added, “breathe slowly, if you can.”
Hinata felt a change in Komaeda's body as he settled himself better, reaching around Hinata's back.
For a few minutes they stayed like that, neither pulling away from the other and content to just be still.
It was Hinata who pulled away first, but felt a little guilty to do it, so leant forward and pulled a few strands of Komaeda’s hair to press a chaste kiss to his forehead.
"Now it's just us, do you want some tea? You don’t have to- it just might be nice-”
"The kettle will break with me here. You'll burn yourself on the boiling water.”
Hinata was proud of how quickly the answer came, without any hesitation. "That's fine, how about juice? Nothing hot at all- I'll even use those leftover paper cups from your birthday, so there’s no glass to smash.”
He went to stroke the back of Komaeda’s hair softly, careful not to catch his fingers in a tangle. Komaeda’s hair didn’t take well to brushing.
Komaeda hummed in consideration. Paper didn't sound dangerous. Anything that happened to him could be dangerous- but Hinata made it sound so confidently safe. Hinata always could- there was something about him that put everyone at ease.
"That should be fine, then.”
Komaeda took a breath and gathered himself.
Komaeda looked at Hinata in the mirror as he did the last button of his pajamas up. Hinata caught his gaze from where he was texting in bed and smiled as he turned around.
"You feeling okay?"
“I’m alright, Hinata-kun. I'm always working myself into states like that, it's good that you're around to stop me doing something ridiculous."
His smile felt brighter, more genuine than it had been, even if there was something just a little bit sad about it.
Without the need to work towards a solution for a bad situation, Hinata could relax- and with it, be more of himself and less of Kamukura, as intertwined as the two were.
“I don’t know why you’d care enough about someone like me to want to help me, though.”
“I care about you because I want to- and your feelings matter to me, Nagito.”
The first name tacked on briefly robbed Komaeda of words.
“Do you want to sleep by yourself? I’ll just go for the floor or sofa if you want. I don’t mind- I promise.”
Komaeda used to take the sofa when he stayed over, because persuading Komaeda to take someone else's bed or share it was a nightmare that still haunted Hinata to the present. Things had progressed;,it went without saying that they didn’t bother with the sofa anymore, but after such a rough day, Hinata felt he should offer Komaeda time alone.
But Komaeda shook his head. “I’d like the company, to be truthful. You make me feel better.”
Completely sincerity, an answer that’d make someone else avert their eyes or blush. Hinata appreciated the honesty.
"Sure. Could you hit the light? I'm going to sleep too."
Without saying anything else, Komaeda slipped into bed next to him and curled up under the sheets.
The dark of the room was safe and unrevealing- the quiet, slow breathing of two people was soon the only sound.
"I'm. Ahah, this is embarrassing and a little bit lame- I guess I just want to say I'm... very lucky to have you."
Hinata was glad for the cover of darkness, because while he could cover the surprise in his own voice, there was nothing to be done for the way his expression softened.
"That's okay. You don't have to say anything back. I just wanted to tell you."
Hinata reached over the pillows. His fingers brushed first Komaeda's shoulder and then his wrist before he took his hand, interlinking their fingers. Komaeda's felt slender in his, cooler and softer.
The place Komaeda went when he rambled was scary, strange, but most of all, it was lonely. To be misunderstood by everyone, and to in turn misunderstand others- it couldn't ever be an easy way to live.
"I'm glad you did," Hinata whispered. "You know, I could get used to it."
"I'll try not to spoil you, then?"
He heard Komaeda laugh under his breath as he took his thin hand between his own and pulled it close to his chest.
Hinata didn’t think he would ever effortlessly understand Komaeda, nor Komaeda him- but together, they could get as close as they were willing to try.