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‘He creeps me out,’ Souda says. ‘You watch him, Hinata. He likes you.’

Part of Hajime wants to protest – Komaeda does not, Komaeda tried to kill them all, didn’t he? But he knows that Souda is telling the truth, that Komaeda does like him, however reluctant Hajime might be to accept it.

Part of Hajime is weighing up the other parts, decided which is the natural response, who he’s going to be –

The moment’s long enough that Sonia takes over. ‘It’s agreed then. Hinata-san, you’ll watch him.’

‘I wish we could just tie him up,’ Owari says, wistfully.

But if they’re getting second chances, Komaeda gets one too. After all, they’re still waiting for all their friends to wake up. They’re still admitting to themselves that these things are in all of them.

 

The trouble with Komaeda is that you can’t ever forget. You can forget your school years, you can forget Despair, you can forget the girl you liked, but you can’t forget that that’s not his hand, you can’t forget that he chose to do that to himself (that he drove his own hand onto a knife, when Hajime had wondered who could be so cruel).

Hajime can’t forget that, and he can’t forget himself either. He can’t forget Kamukura.

 

‘Does it help you to have a name?’ Komaeda asks. ‘It must help – you can say, that wasn’t me, that wasn’t Hinata Hajime –’

‘I’m not trying to hide from it, Komaeda.’ Stern voiced, as if that would shut him up.

‘You’re not?’ Komaeda asks, and he ducks his head forward, eyes bright and curious. ‘Tell me then, if you don’t mind –’

Hajime slams his book down. ‘You don’t get to ask questions.’ This, this is why he knew this was a bad idea. Why does it matter if Komaeda likes him or not?

‘Oh, of course not,’ Komaeda says. ‘Of course you know best, Hinata-kun –’ and there’s that tone in his voice, that tone like he knows exactly who Hajime is and what he’s done, and he thinks exactly nothing of him.

It’s so easy to be angry at Komaeda. It’s easy because it’s the one thing all the parts of Hajime agree on.

Hajime gets up and leaves, before he can do anything he might regret.

Or maybe that’s the just way you treat someone like Komaeda. As if you could ignore them and they might go away.

 

Komaeda doesn’t go away. His mood alternates: sulky and sullen, righteous and raving; sometimes, when Hajime catches him at the right moment, quiet, an expression on his face that Hajime can’t read but which feels very familiar. Like Komaeda’s worn it before.

 

Hajime remembers what Komaeda said, at the hospital. ‘You’re the last person I want to see.’

Komaeda learns to stop raving, and he wears that expression more and more. As if ...

... but Hajime can’t quite catch it.

 

Komaeda is the first one to notice there’s something wrong with the generator. Hajime realises it in retrospect, that Komaeda had told him – ‘Don’t you think it’s odd that the lights keep flickering like that?’ – but at the time Hajime hadn’t given it a second thought.

When Kuzuryu is yelling at Komaeda later – ‘You knew? Why the fuck didn’t you say anything?’ – Komaeda tries to laugh it off, open-palmed, like he was the one who’d thought it was nothing.

When Kuzuryu mutters, only half to himself, ‘He’s still trying to kill us. Why is he still here?’ – Komaeda frowns, but he keeps quiet.

 

Hajime is sick to his stomach, while they wait for Souda to fix it, while they wait to see if Souda can fix it, while they wait to see that this hasn’t killed their friends for good, hasn’t destroyed any hope that they might wake up one day.

Kuzuryu gets antsier and antsier, until Hajime bursts out, ‘None of us noticed. Blaming Komaeda won’t fix it.’

Kuzuryu looks like he could kill Hajime, and Hajime hurries on. ‘You should blame me,’ he says, and he laughs. ‘I’m the one who didn’t realise.’

‘If she doesn’t survive –’ Kuzuryu starts his growl, then turns away, turns back to Owari, who has more sympathy. Who can touch him and maybe ease the worry, which Hajime can’t do.

Komaeda looks like he’s about to say something, his expression light. It’s a warning sign, and before Komaeda can speak, Hajime grabs his wrist and pulls him out the room.

Komaeda says, ‘Ah!’ but doesn’t protest. Hajime drops him as soon as they’re outside. Even though it’s hot, there’s a chill up Hajime’s back.

‘You can say what you want to say,’ Hajime says. ‘Just not in front of them.’

‘I appreciate you sticking up for me,’ Komaeda says. ‘Even if trash like me doesn’t deserve it.’ He’s softer than usual, turned in on himself. He holds his wrist close – Hajime wonders for a moment if he grabbed too hard. ‘Why didn’t you say anything, Hinata-kun? You must’ve noticed.’

Hajime doesn’t want to answer that.

‘Can it be that you don’t want the others to wake up?’ Komaeda says. ‘It must be hard, keeping hope when it’s only trash like me that comes back.’

Hajime bites his tongue, to stop himself from telling Komaeda to shut up. He’d told him he could say what he wanted.

‘You didn’t notice, did you, Hinata-kun? Even though I told you.’ Komaeda looks at him sidelong, almost slyly, but there’s still that calm about him, and Hajime isn’t scared.

He’s just frustrated. At himself. He’s the one who’s meant to watching Komaeda, and yet he went and forgot that Komaeda’s the quickest of all of them.

‘You’re right,’ Hajime says. He crouches down, not wanting to see Komaeda’s face. He doesn’t want to see which way it turns. ‘It’s my fault if they die.’

He hears Komaeda draw breath. ‘Ah,’ Komaeda says, ‘but isn’t that your fault anyway?’

Hajime squeezes his eyes shut. If he lets himself, he can remember perfectly what he felt, when he let Enoshima into the game world. The memory is pure and sharp and crystalline, and the edges of it make Hajime’s heart race.

‘Hey, Hinata-kun. You don’t like to be reminded, do you? I guess it must gall you, being as you failed. But you mustn’t blame yourself.’

‘I didn’t fail,’ Hajime says. He opens his eyes, focuses on the ground, the tiny movements of insects in amongst the leaf litter.

‘Oh?’ There’s a tone to Komaeda’s voice, like Komaeda thinks he’s kidding himself.

‘What I wanted –’ He’s not sure why he’s telling Komaeda this – ‘was something unpredictable.’ His lip curls; he wants to laugh at his own callousness. ‘I did it because I was bored.’ He digs a hand into his hair, for the sensation, curling his fingers to tug the strands taut. ‘I’m not bored now, so I guess I won after all.’

‘Is that it?’ Komaeda asks. He sounds ... a little surprised, a little disappointed. It makes Hajime’s stomach twist.

‘You can’t ... you won’t tell anyone that,’ Hajime says. He tilts his head to meet Komaeda’s eyes.

Komaeda looks at him a moment, then he smiles and his eyes scrunch up. ‘You’ll owe me,’ he says.

Hajime feels a flush of anger, but that’s good. That’s an emotion he’s not afraid to hold onto, because it’s normal, it’s what Hinata Hajime should feel when Komaeda’s ... being Komaeda.

 

No-one dies. But it’s still hard to say that anyone lives.

 

One night he forgets to lock Komaeda in. He forgets until he wakes in a panic from some dream, and he knows, he knows he forgot to do it.

Komaeda’s not about to let a thing like that slip past him.

Hajime stumbles out of bed. It’s his role – his penance even – to watch Komaeda, and he goes and forgets a thing like this. Inexcusable.

Outside, the night air turns the sweat on Hajime’s skin into chills. He jogs the distance to Komaeda’s cabin, the ground harsh on his bare feet. There’s not enough light to keep him from tripping, and when he makes it to Komaeda’s door, the panicked part of his mind has overridden the measured part; he opens the door without thinking.

And he sees Komaeda there in bed, and he realises it’s a trap.

In the moment it takes Hajime to catch his breath, Komaeda sits upright, the moonlight from the door catching on his face and hair. He yawns, moving like a cat, and it’s too late for Hajime to run.

‘It’s early,’ Komaeda says. He doesn’t seem annoyed, just curious. ‘Did you need something?’

Just say you forgot to lock the door, Hajime thinks, but he can’t bring himself to admit that. Because the door being locked is something they don’t talk about. Komaeda knows they don’t trust him; Hajime doesn’t have to rub it in.

But what that leaves ...

What that leaves is Komaeda sighing. He rubs at one eye and then beckons Hajime, saying, ‘You’re letting the air in.’

‘No,’ Hajime says. And he swallows, and tries to speak firmly. ‘No, it’s okay. I’m just going.’

‘I know why you’re here, Hinata-kun,’ Komaeda says. ‘Even trash like me’s not that thick. Close the door.’

It’s only because Komaeda’s right and the night air is cold. Hajime’s afraid his teeth might start chattering; he’s not dressed to run around in the dark; he’s not dressed for dealing with Komaeda. He pulls the door closed behind him, and he folds his arms across his body. It’s almost completely dark now.

‘How do you want to do it?’ Komaeda asks. His voice is stretched like he’s still yawning. ‘I don’t mind, but it would be nice to prepare myself –’

‘What?’

Hajime hears Komaeda’s feet hit the floor.

‘Everyone’s decided that enough’s enough, right? But really, Hinata-kun –’ Komaeda switches the lamp on, and Hajime can see him properly now – ‘if you’re going to kill me, you’d better –’

‘I’m not here to kill you,’ Hajime snaps.

‘Oh? You’re going to push me around then?’ Komaeda actually manages to sound excited. ‘Beat me? It’s okay, Hinata-kun, you can tell me.’

Hajime can see it now – the chain of bruises along Komaeda’s neck. In an instant, his brain closes out Komaeda’s words. ‘Who did that?’ Hajime demands.

Komaeda takes a moment, then he touches the skin there. ‘It can’t be that it bothers you,’ he says Hajime can’t quite judge the tone of his voice. ‘Still, I’m touched that you noticed such an irrelevant thing.’

‘It’s not an irrelevant thing,’ Hajime says. He steps forward without meaning to, his arms unfolded. Komaeda avoids his eyes. ‘Komaeda –’ he takes a breath, to be calm – ‘tell me who did that to you.’

And he wonders the same thing he always wonders. Why did it have to be Komaeda? Of all of those still sleeping, why did it have to be Komaeda who came to? Komaeda, who could split them apart.

Komaeda, who stood there worrying his lip, and who wouldn’t look at Hajime.

The silence stretched. Then Komaeda broke into a smile. ‘Is that what it was? You noticed and you were kept awake worrying –’

‘Hardly,’ Hajime says. And immediately feels guilty, because Komaeda’s face has lost the smile and he looks, again, solemn – friendless, Hajime thinks, and he doesn’t know why it’s that word that comes to mind now.

‘I won’t say.’ Komaeda’s next smile is smaller, turned in. ‘You mustn’t let it bother you, Hinata-kun. It’s not as if there aren’t lots of other things you can do to me.’

‘I don’t want to do anything to you,’ Hajime says. ‘I forgot to lock the door.’

Komaeda lifts his eyebrows; he’s not surprised, but neither does he seem to be turning it against Hajime.

‘Did this happen because I forgot to lock the door?’ Hajime’s throat goes tight. Because there are six of them on this island, and – maybe Hajime’s been thinking about this wrong, it’s not just that he’s meant to be watching Komaeda.

They’re all of them guilty of something.

Komaeda sighs. ‘This is getting tiresome. I’m going back to bed.’ Ignoring Hajime’s question.

Hajime feels like the breath’s been shunted from him.

He wants to press on, maybe to yell, but Komaeda is turning back the covers, has turned away from Hajime. There’s no use arguing with someone like Komaeda.

Hajime locks Komaeda’s door as he goes.

 

It has to be Kuzuryu.

Hajime runs it over in his mind. Souda would be too scared; he’d only go after Komaeda if he had someone backing him up. Owari would need to be egged on; she wouldn’t bother with someone so pitiful otherwise. Maybe if they both – no. If it’s only one of them, it has to be Kuzuryu.

So as they’re doing the gardening, Hajime says quietly, ‘You should leave Komaeda alone.’

Kuzuryu gives him a disdainful look from across the potato plants. ‘What’s he made up now?’

‘I saw the bruises, Kuzuryu.’

Kuzuryu snorts. Yanks out a weed. ‘Probably did it to himself. Make you feel sorry for him.’ He doesn’t seem bothered, to be accused. ‘You’re soft, Hinata. That’s why he keeps getting to you.’

But Hajime remembers the pattern of bruises on Komaeda’s skin. He knows Komaeda didn’t do that to himself. He can’t make Kuzuryu admit it though. What can he do? Only watch more closely. Only never let his guard down.

Why does it have to be Hajime anyway?

It’s too hot in the sun, and Hajime doesn’t know what trust is any more. When they first woke up, they had one thing they could focus on, one thing that bound them together. And Komaeda had to mess it up.

Why couldn’t it have been someone else who woke? Even Saionji was easier to deal with.

Maybe it would have started to fall apart anyway. There was a reason they’d all been seduced by Enoshima.

But no more, Hajime thinks. They’re not those people any more.

When they stop for lunch, Komaeda, who’s been busy inside, brings Hajime and only Hajime a drink. Another tiny aggression against everyone else.

His clothing hides the bruises, but Hajime knows they’re there. He knows they’re there, and the anger sits in his belly like a serpent. Komaeda doesn’t notice; Komaeda is in a good mood and speaks cheerfully and picks leaves off Hajime’s clothes. Everyone can see them. Everyone can see it.

You’re soft, Hinata.

‘It’s okay,’ Hajime says, pulling back. ‘I’ll only collect more.’

‘Planning on moving into the garden, Hinata-kun?’

Hajime draws his brows down.

‘Being as you can’t seem to stay in your own room at night,’ Komaeda says, still cheerful.

Hajime blushes.

There’s a flicker of a slyer smile on Komaeda’s face; sly, but not malicious.

‘Shall we go in?’ he says. And waits for Hajime.

Everyone can see it. They’re the ones who put Hajime in this position, but now they can see it. They’ll judge it.

Some things were easier, being Kamukura.

 

After dinner, Hajime is exhausted. From the long day, from worrying about Kuzuryu. He’s thinking of staying collapsed in the lounge and never getting up again, when Komaeda comes in from the kitchen and says, ‘Well done, Hinata-kun.’

It’s not in his easygoing tone of voice. It’s in the lilting, dangerous tone, and Hajime sits up, his stomach clenching.

Souda is across the room, talking to Sonia with too much enthusiasm. They’re not listening.

‘I’m sure you’ve got it all worked out, don’t you? And of course, you know much better than me how to deal with things. I’m nothing, after all.’ Komaeda draws breath; then his eyes flick across the room, like he too is wary of the others. His face is slightly flushed.

‘Kuzuryu,’ Hajime says.

‘Yes, well done, I’d give you a prize but I’m afraid you couldn’t want anything I could offer you.’

Hajime had been right. And Kuzuryu had said something to Komaeda.

Or perhaps Kuzuryu thought Komaeda had said something?

Hajime’s heart falls. ‘I’m sorry,’ he says.

‘You’re like someone’s busy-body aunty,’ Komaeda says. ‘Just lock me up already. I’m done with this.’

His voice is still silky, and Hajime gets to his feet, trailing after him.

 

The sun is still – barely – out in the sky. Days here stretch on and on. Komaeda walks ahead of Hajime, back stiff, and Hajime would like to be offended – he only wanted the truth of things – but he can see he went about it thoughtlessly.

Why does he always have to be trailing in Komaeda’s wake? It’s not something he remembers, exactly – the game world. But they all watched the footage. Hajime maybe watched more than the others.

Kuzuryu, he remembers, watched the early days the most. Watched Pekoyama.

He must’ve freaked out, Hajime thought. He must’ve freaked out thinking he might have lost her for sure. Blamed it on Komaeda. It would be easy, then to end up with his fingers around Komaeda’s neck – not wanting to kill him so much as wanting him to shut up, wanting him harmless. How far would you have to go, to make Komaeda harmless?

‘Ah, Komaeda – wait a minute.’

Komaeda stops short. He turns slowly, as if to emphasise how very inconvenient Hajime is to him.

It’s always one or the other, with Komaeda.

‘You should stay with me tonight,’ Hajime says, before Komaeda can say anything.

Komaeda’s mouth falls open. That Komaeda is disconcerted eases Hajime’s tension a little.

‘I know you’re mad at me,’ he says. ‘But I don’t want to leave you –’

‘What if I said no?’ Komaeda interrupts, his voice high.

Hajime wants to say the right words, to turn off Komaeda’s anger and righteousness. It might be justified, but ... it’s not useful. Hajime doesn’t think it’s useful.

‘Then I’d worry about you,’ Hajime says. For a moment, he thinks he got it wrong – sometimes it’s like Komaeda wants to be forced – but Komaeda relaxes, his posture easing.

‘You shouldn’t be worried about a worthless person like me,’ Komaeda says, like he can wave it off.

‘Well, I am.’ Hajime lets himself get angry again, just a little. ‘Will you stay or not?’

Komaeda’s gaze shifts away. ‘I think if it’s you asking, it must be okay.’ He seems almost perplexed.

‘Good,’ Hajime says, and he takes Komaeda by the wrist, leads the way.

 

Not that either of them is ready for bed. Komaeda sits and reads, his eyes constantly flicking to Hajime. He looks like he wants to say something, but he stays quiet. Hajime fusses over linen, pillowcases, his body hot and his fingers clumsy.

He’s seen the video footage. Some of the things Komaeda said, to the Hajime that lived in the game world ...

This has nothing to do with that, he tells himself. This is because he doesn’t trust Kuzuryu to leave Komaeda alone. Or he doesn’t trust Komaeda not to antagonise Kuzuryu further. One or the other. That’s all.

He likes you, Souda had said. Well, so what? No-one asked Hajime if he liked Komaeda. They just cared that they themselves didn’t.

‘Hinata-kun, that’s inside out.’

Hajime comes back to the present, disoriented; Komaeda comes over, and he takes the pillow from Hajime, gently.

‘You shouldn’t worry about this,’ Komaeda says. Now he’s within touching distance, he doesn’t look at Hajime. ‘It’s okay,’ he says, almost to himself. ‘You don’t want me, right? You’re just doing this because you’re trying to be a good person. But I would have been fine, Hinata-kun.’

‘If you were going to be fine,’ Hajime says, ‘you didn’t have to yell at me for talking to Kuzuryu.’

Komaeda flips the pillowcase back the right way. ‘But you were interfering.’ He slides the pillow back in, easily.

‘You want me to interfere with you.’ It sounds wrong when he says it like that. He doesn’t take it back. The words hang there and Komaeda smiles, slowly, lazily.

‘If I could be that lucky,’ he says. ‘Well, I’m here, aren’t I? That should be enough. You could pretend to be a little scared, though.’

Hajime stares at him. ‘Why?’ If Komaeda was going to hurt anyone, he would have done it already. And there wasn’t any reason to now. What was done was done, and there would be no memorials, no praise ...

No-one would even notice they’d gone.

‘It’s alright, Hinata-kun. I’m not going to try anything.’

Hajime looks away, face hot, heart twisting. ‘When you say that, you want me to think you will.’

‘Ah, Hinata-kun, you’re so clever. You’ve seen right through me.’ Komaeda hugs the pillow to himself.

‘You don’t even think that,’ Hajime says, and it sounds like a grumble. He gets to his feet. Of course, he hadn’t taken Komaeda’s moods into account.

‘Now you’re annoyed, right, Hinata-kun? I’m sorry to be so frustrating for you.’

Hajime goes to take a shower.

 

When Hajime gets back, Komaeda is lying on his bed, one arm splayed above his head. He’s not reading or anything, he’s just lying there.

Hajime is annoyed, but he’s not sure he can express it. He invited Komaeda, after all.

Komaeda turns his head to look at Hajime – opens his mouth and then turns away again, sitting back up, tugging on the edges of his sleeve.

And Hajime thinks, maybe he really does like me.

He can’t think about it too closely. He starts to put his things away, methodically. Komaeda still says nothing.

Hajime sits down beside him, and Komaeda starts.

‘You should make up your mind,’ Hajime says.

Komaeda wets his lips. His eyes are very big, and Hajime knows he shouldn’t taunt him, but maybe ...

‘Is that advice from Hinata Hajime, I wonder? Or from Kamukura Izuru?’

Hajime finds his hands curl into fists, and he forces them flat. It’s too much to look at Komaeda. He mutters, ‘Kamukura wouldn’t get mad.’

The thing is, even if he can remember how it felt being Kamukura, something got broken, in the game world. Something got healed.

Kamukura wouldn’t have bothered to avoid Komaeda’s eyes. Kamukura wouldn’t be sitting on the same bed as Komaeda, because he was too worked up to leave Komaeda alone.

‘Are you mad?’ Komaeda asks. ‘I still don’t want you to hate me. You understand, right?’

‘Being mad at someone isn’t the same as hating them.’

Hajime is mad at Komaeda. He hates himself. There’s a difference.

‘Is that what it is, then? I’m glad you still think like that, Hinata-kun.’

‘How else am I meant to think? Someone does something –’ something unforgivable – ‘and that’s it, there’s no coming back? I can’t think like that.’

‘Because you have hope, right?’

Hajime can’t tell whether Komaeda’s tone is sarcasm or not. Was he always like this? Mocking them all? Did he ever mean anything he ever said?

‘That’s not it,’ Hajime says. ‘But I can’t just give up and dismiss someone.’ They’re all of them fighting hard.

‘Not even someone as good for nothing as me?’ Komaeda leans forward, seemingly eager. vCome on, Hinata-kun. You can say it. Tell me how useless I am.’

Everyone’s fighting hard, except Komaeda.

‘That’s not what I meant,’ Hajime says.

Komaeda laughs. ‘No no, it’s only natural you think that. You beat me, didn’t you?’ Komaeda makes a dismissive gesture. ‘Even a talentless nobody like you could beat me –’

‘Stop it, Komaeda.’

‘But it’s true,’ Komaeda says, wide-eyed and insincere. ‘Stop pretending you’re any better and admit it, Hinata-kun.’

‘I said stop it.’ Hajime grabs Komaeda’s wrists, both of them, and forces them down. Komaeda’s eyes flash.

‘Don’t you touch me,’ he says.

But when Hajime doesn’t let go, his face changes and he laughs. ‘Ah, Hinata-kun. You’re always so serious.’

Komaeda is someone who can slam his own hand through a knife, but it’s easy to forget that.

‘Hey, Hinata-kun? Why are you looking like that?’ Komaeda doesn’t pull back; apart from his words, he hasn’t tried to resist Hajime at all. He’s too close.

‘Can’t you just ... stop fighting, for a minute.’ Maybe Hajime’s getting over-emotional, maybe that’s why there are tears pricking in his eyes. Because Komaeda, who plays at being easygoing, can’t let a thing go.

‘Who’s fighting?’ Komaeda says. Hajime’s hands are still around his wrists. Maybe it’s not Komaeda but Hajime who is too close. ‘Perhaps you’re the one who has to make up his mind,’ Komaeda says. ‘Or would you rather I did that for you?’

Hajime doesn’t know what Komaeda means. He refuses to know. He wets his lips, and loosens his grip on Komaeda’s wrists.

‘Is that a yes or no? Hinata-kun?’

‘I ... does it matter?’ Hajime asks.

Komaeda gives a short sigh, but he doesn’t seem unhappy. ‘You’re saying you don’t mind?’

‘Mind?’ He’s not sure what he’s meant to mind. Komaeda spouting nonsense? Komaeda unable to settle on a single attitude, as if everything about Hajime frustrates him.

‘In that case,’ Komaeda says, ‘I can do what I want, right?’

Hajime frowns a little. ‘You always do what you want.’

Komaeda’s expression darkens. ‘Not always,’ he says. He pulls his hands back from Hajime’s, moves his weight forward, leans into Hajime’s space and brushes his mouth close to Hajime’s. ‘You’re sure, right?’

Hajime’s heart is beating too fast and he can’t say yes or no, not when Komaeda is so close that Hajime can smell his skin, so close he can see the flecks in his eyes. The only thing Hajime can do is tilt his head up so very slightly –

And Komaeda’s mouth is open against his. And for a moment they’re just breathing the same air – then it’s like something in Komaeda snaps, because he pushes Hajime back down on the bed, and Hajime lets him. He lets him.

His fingers dig into the skin at Komaeda’s nape, and he’s overwhelmed: Komaeda’s teeth grazing his lips, Komaeda kissing him like he’s trying to prove something. He moves to straddle Hajime, pressing the distance between them closer. Hajime lets that happen too.

Komaeda’s fingers brush the skin of Hajime’s hips, and Hajime forgets to breath. He’s terrified, suddenly, how much he wants this. He wants Komaeda to press himself against him. He wants to feel Komaeda’s erection through the fabric of his pants, and Komaeda’s wet mouth, and the fall of his hair. He clutches at him, rocking his hips up, and Komaeda makes a surprised noise against Hajime’s skin. Hajime wants him to keep making noises; he wants to see his face when he comes.

Did he even know he wanted this?

Komaeda kisses him again, warm and wet, and he pulls away to meet Hajime’s eyes. And Hajime wants to protest but then words stop working, because Komaeda puts his hand over the front of Hajime’s pants and his smile is open and smug because he can tell how bad Hajime wants him. He can feel it. Hajime should be ashamed. Instead he cants his hips forward, encouraging Komaeda. He doesn’t care what expression Komaeda wears. This is what he’s watching for, isn’t it?’

‘Komaeda.’

‘Yes, Hinata-kun?’ Komaeda says it like he’s perfectly innocent, eyes slightly too wide, like he’s not stroking Hajime off through his clothing.

‘You’re too far away,’ Hajime says.

‘And we’re wearing too many clothes,’ Komaeda says, agreeable. He strokes his hand upwards and Hajime fails halfway to stop himself moaning.

Komaeda is smiling, and he tugs down Hajime’s pyjama bottoms.

It’s one thing to have Komaeda palming him through the fabric; it’s quite another to be exposed to him, to have Komaeda staring at him quite that blatantly. ‘You too,’ Hajime says, flushing. He grabs at Komaeda’s shirt, pushing it up, his blood heavy in his ears. Komaeda accedes, and he strips the top off, laughing when Hajime grabs at him. He kisses Hajime, and pulls Hajime’s top off too, while Hajime goes for the button on his pants. They’re trying not to get in each other’s way; they’re trying not to be further apart than they have to.

And Hajime thinks that he hasn’t seen Komaeda this happy, not once since he woke up. And he’s not meant to care about Komaeda’s happiness. He’s meant to be a warden, that’s all. A sacrifice on everyone else’s behalf.

But Hajime can’t live like that.

Komaeda kicks his pants to the floor and looks, for a moment, hesitant. The bruises on his neck still look fresh. ‘This is okay, right?’ he says, and he runs a hand up Hajime’s chest.

‘I already said,’ Hajime says. ‘What, do you want me to beg?’

Komaeda’s eyes go wide, and Hajime thinks, oh.

But it’s easier than he thinks, leaning up to kiss Komaeda, fingers tangling in the hair at the back of his neck. ‘Please,’ he says.

Komaeda seems to focus. ‘Please, what?’

Hajime hesitates, letting his fingers run circles against Komaeda’s skin. Even before he says it, he blushes. ‘Let me suck you off,’ he says. It’s all in a rush, and Komaeda’s face is so close and it’s stupid to feel embarrassed when they’re both already naked and hard, but it’s not like Hajime’s done this before.

‘Ah – Hinata-kun – why should I do that?’

Hajime is confused, for a moment even crestfallen. But Komaeda brings his hand up, traces Hajime’s lips. Hajime opens his mouth, and he wraps it around Komaeda’s finger. And Komaeda’s eyelids flutter and something in the movement jolts through Hajime’s body. He runs his tongue along Komaeda’s finger, his eye’s locked on Komaeda’s eyes.

Komaeda pulls his finger out, slowly, and Hajime says, ‘Please.’

‘Ah – Hinata-kun – we must both be worthless right?’

‘That’s not true. I don’t care what you say about me, Komaeda, but that –’

Komaeda tugs on his lip, to shut him up, Hajime thinks.

‘You’re always so sincere,’ Komaeda mutters. He pulls his hand back. ‘Tell me what you want, Hinata-kun.’

‘I said.’ Stupid to be embarrassed.

‘But you can do what you like.’

Hajime runs his fingers along Komaeda’s collarbone, ghosting the bruises on his neck. Doesn’t answer.

‘Then you’ll do what I say?’

Hajime hesitates; nods. Hesitates because he doesn’t know what Komaeda will be like, if he gets manic like this. Nods because it maybe doesn’t matter; he really just wants to rub himself against Komaeda until they both get off and there’s no way Komaeda doesn’t want the same thing. And Komaeda – Hajime knows this because he’s seen the videos – Komaeda has wanted it for longer.

‘You can suck me off,’ Komaeda says, and he maybe means it to sound dismissive, but his voice is too breathy. Hajime isn’t going to wait to be told twice.

He gets down and he runs his tongue along the length of Komaeda’s dick, hearing Komaeda gasp, his breath strangling. Hajime can feel his thighs trembling under his hands. When Hajime wraps his mouth around the head of Komaeda’s cock, Komaeda makes another strangled, cut-off noise; it could be the start of Hajime’s name.

Komaeda won’t move, so Hajime does – part of him, the sensible part, is stunned that he is even doing this. But he doesn’t want to be sensible. He doesn’t want to do what he ought to. He wants to do this.

It doesn’t take much to have Komaeda bucking against his mouth, shallowly – he’s restrained even now. Hajime wouldn’t mind if he were less restrained, but the tiny resistant noises Komaeda makes are good. Hajime can’t help himself; he puts a hand on his own dick and jerks himself off, roughly, out of time.

‘You’re into that–?’ Komaeda asks, in little gasps of breath. Hajime pulls back, lips wet, meets Komaeda’s eyes, slows the stroking of his hand. Hajime wants to kiss Komaeda then, now that he looks half-crazed but for such a simple reason. Even breathing on Komaeda makes him clutch his hand in Hajime’s hair tighter. And Hajime doesn’t mind that it hurts.

He meets Komaeda’s eyes, and then he takes him in his mouth again, deeper, and Komaeda doesn’t last long at all.

Komaeda kisses Hajime, after, with his own come still on Hajime’s lips. And he reaches between Hajime’s legs and finishes him off. And if Hajime cries his name, it’s smothered in kisses and no-one hears.

It’s embarrassing, how quickly Hajime comes. Because it’s Komaeda touching him. Because he was already so hard. Komaeda looks smug and says, ‘You’re so fucking easy, Hinata.’ He wipes Hajime’s come off on the sheets, perfunctorily; kisses Hajime with lazy indulgence.

‘It’s your fault,’ Hajime says, between kisses, his face hot.

‘Mmm.’ Hajime doesn’t know if Komaeda is agreeing, or if he’s just pleased.

And to see Komaeda so pleased is a strange relief. A light feeling in Hajime’s chest. Almost contentment.

 

When Hajime wakes, he’s not himself. He comes to, aware of the weight of his own body, the weight of Komaeda half-sprawled on top of him, and Kamukura is repulsed by himself, repulsed by the base desires of the human body and that he could be so easily manipulated. The feeling is fleeting, but it’s there; and it leaves a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, the knowledge that what’s done cannot be undone.

How can he live on this island? How can he live with the others and stoke their hope as his own, waiting for their friends to wake; how can their hopes be one when Hajime has betrayed them like this?

And yet. There shouldn’t be sides on this island. It shouldn’t be taking a side, to wake up with Komaeda’s legs tangled in his. Sleeping, Komaeda’s face lacks any guile or disdain, and his weight is reassuring. Comfortable. Hajime hadn’t thought of touch as something to miss.

Hajime wants to ease away, to clean himself up, but at the smallest movement Komaeda locks his leg tighter around Hajime’s and Hajime is caught. Komaeda wakes up and Hajime can’t take his eyes away; he’s stuck on the reluctant flutter of Komaeda’s eyelids, the expression on his face as he comes properly awake. Something Hajime can’t quite read.

It’s hope, he thinks. Small and wary, but it’s hope.

‘Morning,’ Hajime says.

‘Good morning, Hinata-kun.’

Hajime is already starting to blush. They’re all sprawled over one another, and Komaeda is showing no inclination to move.

‘We’re both still here,’ Komaeda says.

‘Yeah.’

No-one’s ever said what to do when you wake up with the boy you’re meant to hate. No-one’s ever told Hajime what to feel. He knows what he should feel; but the Hajime who got him into this situation is the Hajime that’s content to stay here.

‘It’s okay, right?’ But Komaeda’s talking to himself, that little hope still there; he doesn’t wait more than the smallest moment before he leans up and kisses Hajime, almost chastely, and he pulls back to judge Hajime’s reaction.

And Hajime thinks that, when he lets go of the combativeness, Komaeda is just about the loveliest person he’s ever seen.

He traces his fingers along Komaeda’s skin, matching fingerprints against bruises, and he thinks, if all of them were here, this would be easier.

If all of them were here, it wouldn’t matter so much what he and Komaeda did. It wouldn’t matter what they were to one another.

He misses them all. And that’s something Kamukura would never do – let any one person mean anything. But Hajime decided not to be Kamukura. If he has to live with that feeling, so be it.

Hajime buries his head in Komaeda’s shoulder, not to come onto him, but for comfort. For something to hold onto.

It takes Komaeda a moment. But he puts his arms around Hajime too.

 

At breakfast, before they go about their chores for the day, Hajime makes an announcement. He says, ‘If any of you have an issue with Komaeda, take it up with me.’ He’s looking right at Kuzuryu as he says it, and everyone notices.

Komaeda drops his toast. Hajime glares at him to keep his mouth shut, because he can hear Komaeda’s voice in his head and knows that Komaeda can say nothing to help himself. Not with anyone except Hajime.

Kuzuryu stares steadily back at Hajime. ‘Are you his keeper?’

‘Apparently I am,’ Hajime says. ‘You didn’t argue about it before.’

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Komaeda fidgeting. It’s a little cruel to talk about him like this. But this isn’t about sparing Komaeda’s feelings.

Sonia clears her throat.

‘It’s your neck,’ Kuzuryu spits out. And he pushes back from the table. ‘I’m out of here.’

Hajime doesn’t watch him go. He looks around the rest of the group – Souda, who puts his hands up in innocence; Owari, looking quizzically after Kuzuryu; Sonia, who simply says in her crisp voice, ‘I’ll talk to him.’

Maybe Sonia’s noticed things too. And it’s just as well, because really, Hajime has no right to talk to any of them. Not when he’s the one who put them here.

Hajime’s feeling a little shaky.

Owari looks back and forward between Sonia and the door. ‘What’s got into him?’

‘It’s nothing,’ Sonia says, and smiles. ‘We’re all a little unsettled still, that’s all.’

Komaeda watches Hajime from across the table, his expression pensive.

Hajime leans over, picks up the toast and shoves it back in Komaeda’s mouth.

 

Later, Souda asks him, ‘Are you really alright?’ He’s stood back from the fence they’re working on, scratching behind his head. ‘I mean, it’s not really fair, you and Komaeda –’

But it is fair. It’s right.

‘It’s fine,’ Hajime says. ‘He’s ... better, lately.’ Or Hajime’s worse. But he doesn’t feel worse.

‘Well, he still creeps me the hell out,’ Souda says. And he slaps Hajime on the shoulder. ‘But, carry on. It’s a noble sacrifice you’re making.’

 

In the evening, he sits outside with Komaeda, side by side, feet dangling off the deck.

‘You made a fuss,’ Komaeda says. ‘You shouldn’t have.’

‘You like me making a fuss,’ Hajime says.

Komaeda smiles beatifically, and knocks his leg against Hajime’s.

 

There are still things he can’t say. But the feelings are real.