Hajime Hinata wasn't exactly the best at dealing with emotions.
For example, if someone were to come crying to him after a break up or something, he wouldn't have any idea what to do. It wasn't as if he wouldn't care, because he would (unless it was Souda, who had come crying to him plenty of times complaining that Sonia rejected him). It's just that Hinata didn't understand what to do when faced with any emotion, even the good ones. He could barely manage his own feelings, let alone someone else's.
So that's the reason why when Komaeda suddenly started crying out of nowhere, Hinata immediately panicked.
It happened a while ago, but Hinata could still remember it clearly. The two boys were just hanging out when Komaeda started bawling out of the blue, much to the other boy's bewilderment. At first, Hinata stayed silent, afraid to say anything that could make the situation worse. He eventually decided that remaining silent wouldn't help anything though, and finally asked Komaeda what was wrong.
“You...you complimented me….no one’s ever done that before…” Komaeda explained, smiling even though tears were running down his face.
Hinata was confused, to say the least. He didn’t remember complimenting Komaeda.
“I...I did?” Hinata had asked. If he really had complimented Komaeda, he would’ve remembered it.
Komaeda nodded. “You said that I....I wasn’t as terrible of a person as you initially thought…”
Hinata stared at the other boy in disbelief. So that’s why he didn’t remember “complimenting” Komaeda. Hinata didn’t even consider that as a compliment, but he guessed that someone as traumatized as Komaeda would take anything even slightly positive as praise.
Luckily, it wasn’t long before Komaeda got over it and finally stopped crying. Hinata was relieved, mainly because if Komaeda had continued crying he wouldn’t have any idea how to help. How the hell do you comfort someone who’s crying over something as small as a compliment?
After the whole compliment incident, Hinata made sure to watch what he said around Komaeda. After all, if he could be reduced to tears with a simple compliment, then who knows what would make him have a full breakdown?
The answer was, not a whole lot. Much to Hinata’s surprise, Komaeda rarely ever cried. Or at least, not in front of him. In Hinata's opinion, the things he did cry about were basically meaningless. For example, seeing a dog in the streets. It's not like Komaeda would break down crying, but Hinata always noticed that there were tears in his eyes whenever he saw a cute dog roaming around. Meanwhile, talking about things that should make a person cry didn't seem to affect him at all. Hinata still remembered the day where Komaeda talked about how his parents died in a plane crash and he was the only one on the plane who survived. It horrified Hinata, but Komaeda seemed to be completely unaffected. He talked about it so calmly and so matter-of-factly that Hinata was kind of worried about the other boy. What happened was obviously a traumatic experience, but Komaeda talked about it with a smile on his face the entire time. Hinata decided not to ask why he seemed so detached, partly because he guessed it was some sort of coping mechanism and partly because he really didn’t want Komaeda to have a massive breakdown or something.
The only other person Hinata knew who had witnessed Komaeda cry before was Chiaki. The three of them frequently spent time together, since they were all close friends. Hinata and Chiaki were kind of like opposites in the sense of how they dealt with other people’s feelings; Chiaki showed her concern with words while Hinata was more likely to comfort someone through actions. Thankfully most of the times Komaeda had cried was when Hinata was with Chiaki, so Hinata rarely ever had to worry about what to say. Honestly, it was fine regardless of whether or not Chiaki was there, since Komaeda always cried over the smallest things and got over them fairly quickly.
As the three of them spent more and more time together, both Hinata and Chiaki picked up on Komaeda’s feelings faster and faster. He never said it outright, but sometimes his body language betrayed him and even Hinata, the one who was almost always oblivious to the emotions of people around him, could tell that Komaeda wasn't feeling great. It was then that Hinata realized Komaeda was probably affected by a lot of things, even though he tried his best not to show it.
Hinata and Chiaki had talked about it before in private, since it was becoming more and more obvious that something was bothering Komaeda.
“Do you think we should bring it up to him?” Hinata had asked one day, while the two were playing Mario Kart together.
Hinata didn't think Chiaki heard at first, but that was only because she was so concentrated on the game and because she was just slow to reply. After she had won the race (little to Hinata’s surprise), she finally gave him an answer.
“No...I think we should wait it out. If something was really bothering Nagito, then he'd tell us about it, right? After all, we’re friends, so that means he must trust us with his feelings...I think.” Chiaki answered, giving Hinata a warm smile.
Despite Chiaki’s “I think”, Hinata believed her. It made sense...if something was going on and it was bothering Komaeda, then he would surely tell them. Right?
Hinata soon found out that he was wrong. That tended to be the case when it came to Komaeda.
The trio was hanging out just like usual, talking and playing videogames since Chiaki always insisted that they play whenever the other two came over (Hinata didn’t really get why Chiaki always asked though. It’s not like he or Komaeda had any chance of winning when it came to her). Nothing really seemed out of the ordinary, at least not to Hinata. The only thing that really caught his attention was Komaeda not speaking as much as he usually did, which was noticeable since he usually couldn’t stop talking. If it wasn’t for that, Hinata would’ve assumed he was feeling fine.
“Ah...it seems like you beat us once again.” Komaeda said, right after Chiaki came in first place for about the tenth time that day.
Hinata sighed, putting his controller down in defeat. “You really don’t ever go easy on us, do you?”
“It’s not my fault you guys are bad.” Chiaki replied, grinning triumphantly.
Hinata was about to make up an excuse for his terrible game playing skills, but Komaeda interrupted before he could start.
“Oh, sorry guys, but I have to use the bathroom. You can still play without me though. I might take a while, but you don’t need to worry!” Komaeda stated, giving Chiaki and Hinata a weak smile as he got up from the couch and went upstairs to the bathroom.
As soon as the door closed, Chiaki and Hinata gave each other a look.
“He said he’s gonna take a while….does that mean he needs to poop?” Chiaki asked in a completely serious tone.
Hinata looked at her in shock. “I mean...that’s a possibility but...I don’t think that’s it.”
“Hm...yeah, you’re probably right. He’s obviously not in a good mood. I hope he’s okay…”
Hinata scratched the back of his head. “Yeah...but I don’t think it’s that bad? Right?”
Chiaki shook her head. “No...I think you’re wrong. I didn’t expect you to notice, but he was shaking a little when he got up. The way he smiled too...it was sad. It wasn’t a genuine smile...I think.”
Hinata wasn’t surprised that Chiaki could pick up on Komaeda’s mood better than he could. Thank God she was there, or else he wouldn’t have realized how bad Komaeda’s mood was.
“I see...well, let’s wait a little. If he doesn’t come back in say, ten minutes, then we can go check on him. Does that sound good?”
Chiaki nodded in agreement, and so the pair waited. And waited. And waited. They waited until ten minutes had passed, and after exchanging a concerned look, the two went upstairs to check on Komaeda.
Once Hinata got upstairs, he found that the bathroom door was closed.
“Hey, Komaeda? Are you still in there? Can you hear me?” Hinata asked tentatively, knocking on the door once.
He waited for a reply, but received none. Growing increasingly worried, he turned the doorknob, surprised to see that the door wasn’t locked.
“Um….okay….if you’re indecent, be sure to pull your pants up fast. Chiaki and I are coming in, alright?” Hinata warned, waiting for a reply again. Unsurprisingly, there was none once again.
Hinata opened the door, bracing himself to see Komaeda taking a dump on the toilet. Chiaki was right behind him, shielding her eyes.
Thankfully, Komaeda wasn’t on the toilet, but the sight Hinata saw wasn’t much better than witnessing Komaeda taking a dump. He was sitting in a fetal position against the wall, facing away from Hinata and Chiaki. Hinata couldn’t see his face, but from the way he was rocking back and forth, he could tell Komaeda was definitely not doing so well.
Chiaki was the first to move, going over to Komaeda’s side and sitting down besides him. Hinata trailed behind her, sitting in front of the other boy.
“Nagito...what’s wrong? What happened?” Chiaki asked softly, taking Komaeda’s hand gently.
The other boy flinched at Chiaki’s touch, and getting the message, Chiaki quickly pulled away.
Komaeda breathed shakily. “You guys….I don’t deserve you guys…”
Hinata was confused. “Huh? Why’re you saying something like that?”
Komaeda buried his head in his arms. “You....how can you guys spend so much time with someone as worthless as me? I don't understand...don't you guys hate me?”
So that’s why. Hinata had heard Komaeda say self-deprecating things all the time, but he had never seen him so distraught like this before.
“Nagito, you’re not worthless at all. We don't hate you, either.” Chiaki said quietly but firmly. For a brief second, Komaeda looked up at her, but then looked away again.
“...Komaeda. Look at me.” Hinata said, tapping the other boy’s arm.
For a few seconds, Komaeda didn’t look up. But after a little bit, he did what Hinata said and looked him in the eye.
As the two made eye contact, Hinata hesitantly spread his arms open for a hug. Komaeda knew what the gesture meant, but he didn’t move.
“You...why are you being so nice to someone like me...?” Komaeda asked, his voice shaking even more and it was clear that he was on the verge of tears.
Frustrated, Hinata threw his arms around Komaeda’s waist, pulling him in for a tight hug. The other boy instantly froze, not knowing how to react.
“Komaeda...you’re not a bad person. Stop saying that.” Hinata said, hugging him even tighter.
Everything was silent, but then suddenly Hinata could feel Komaeda’s hair tickling him and then his face was buried in his shoulder and his arms were wrapped around his own waist and Hinata found that his nails were digging into his back. Komaeda completely broke down, his whole body racking with sobs and his cries were loud but muffled by Hinata’s shoulder. Hinata ran his hand through Komaeda’s hair, not saying a word because he felt that what needed to be said had already been said.
Chiaki looked at the two, pleasantly surprised that Hinata actually hugged Komaeda. After getting over her shock, she scooted next to Komaeda’s side and leaned into his shoulder.
“See, Nagito...you’re not worthless at all. We both love you so much!” Chiaki said, quickly kissing Komaeda’s cheek, which made the boy laugh a little even through his tears.
“Yeah...exactly.” Hinata agreed awkwardly, still playing with Komaeda’s hair.
After a moment of silence, Komaeda finally spoke.
“Y’know, Hajime...you’re not that great with words.” Komaeda said, sniffling and laughing at the same time but refusing to let go.
Hinata scoffed, but he didn’t say anything in response. He was completely right, so it’s not like he had an excuse.
Chiaki gave a knowing look at Hinata. The two nodded, and before Komaeda could do anything, the pair tickled him.
Komaeda made a noise of surprise, but it was too late. Hinata and Chiaki were already tickling him, and Komaeda couldn’t help but laugh.
“H-Hey...stop...I’m gonna pee!” Komaeda laughed, struggling to get away from the dangerous duo.
Hinata instantly stopped once he heard that, while Chiaki tickled him one last time for good measure.
As Komaeda slowly got over himself, Hinata spoke without thinking.
“I’m really glad you’re laughing, Komaeda...it’s a much better sound to hear than what we were hearing just a few minutes ago.” Hinata said, his voice so sincere that it even surprised Chiaki.
Komaeda stared at Hinata, his cheeks beginning to flush and his eyes starting to water more and more by the second.
Even though he was somewhat panicking, Hinata masked it with a smile, and after nodding to each other, Chiaki and Hinata simultaneously kissed Komaeda on both cheeks.
The white haired boy immediately burst into tears, covering his face with his hands and turning away from the two. Chiaki and Hinata gave each other a high five, grinning.
“Y’know...I think Nagito was wrong when he said you're bad with words, Hajime.” Chiaki said, watching Komaeda bury his face in his hands and scream softly.
“Huh? You really think so?” Hinata asked, genuinely curious.
Chiaki nodded. “Of course...I mean, look at what you did to Nagito. He's no longer crying all because of what you did and said! You should be really proud.”
Hinata thought about it for a minute. “...Huh. I guess you're right.”
And from that moment on, Hinata decided that maybe he wasn't so bad with dealing with people’s emotions. After all, he did manage to cheer up Komaeda.
Even if he still wasn't that great with helping other people feel better, one thing was for sure. He could definitely help Komaeda, a person who he loved with all his heart, and that's all that really mattered to him.