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eyes peeled

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“Hey, Komaeda.”

Komaeda turns his cheek into Hinata’s thigh so he can look up at him. The chain about his neck swishes and clinks as it drags along the wooden floor.

Sometimes Hinata looks at Komaeda with what he imagines love looks like.

Hinata plants a hand in his hair. His fingers only tug a little. His voice drops. Whispers in the reeds.

“I have something for you.”

Komaeda comes back the same way he'd gone in - muscles wasting away to thin skin stretched over bone, body eating itself from the inside out. He opens bleary eyes to harsh lights, head full of rainclouds, limbs weighed down with sedatives. Then he blinks, and all he can see is red.

There's something wrong, he thinks- some fragment of reality that's dripped in from through a crack in the floor of somewhere else. He barely comprehends the boy leaning over him, red eyes bright in the gloom, long dark hair spilling over his shoulders.

“Welcome back,” he says. His voice, soft and measured as it is, screeches in Komaeda’s head.

Komaeda wets dry, cracked lips, dazed blinks filtering out the harsh lights like they're being switched on and off rapidly. The dark haired boy’s eyes are liquid with curiosity. Komaeda lets himself be peered at for a moment, because there’s something consumptive about that stare, and Komaeda thinks he’d rather let that eat him alive than whatever rot is chewing at his insides.

Komaeda doesn’t speak. He can’t.

“Hey,” says the dark-haired boy, “Did they do something to you?”

His voice. It rings in his ears, it sounds wrong, too flat, or too musical, or-

Komaeda doesn’t speak. He can’t.

The boy's brow creases. Komaeda looks into his eyes as a hand reaches down to settle in his hair. “Do you remember me?”

And, after a moment, he does.

Komaeda would scream his throat raw if it weren't already rough from chemically induced silence. As it is his voice cracks before it spikes, before a strong hand clamps down over his mouth.

There you are,” whispers the boy he'd loved, and even if his touch is rough his voice is soft, and the light in his eyes is bright and sharp.

Komaeda thinks, chest heaving, saliva slick against the palm over his mouth, that no one’s ever looked at him that way.

Memories drone on a maddening loop in Komaeda’s head as he sits in a chair, chained in place as he is between the dizzy drag of painkillers and the cold drip of chemotherapy drugs leaking into his veins:

Bright lights. Humid air. Skin breaking out into a sheen. The taste of his heartbeat at the back of his throat. Rope scratching against his skin as it’s pulled into tight knots. Enough to squeeze purple bruises into his skin when his blood eventually settles in the bottom of his veins. A warm hand pressing tape over his mouth, a thumb smoothing out the wrinkles. Soft eyes. Komaeda thinks that no one's ever looked at him that way.

He's never been good for anything. Except this.

Komaeda weeps with joy when Hinata comes to him after the fun house and tells him about the file, about how he's ready to take Komaeda up on his offer. He has his hands on Hinata before he knows what he's doing, and his stomach sinks for a moment, because he's forgotten himself so badly, just when Hinata’s finally decided he trusts him with something so significant.

Then Hinata tightens his grip. Fresh tears spring to Komaeda’s eyes.

“Hinata-kun,” he says, breathlessly, shameless enough to revel in Hinata allowing him the privilege of touch, “Did you finally learn what your talent is?”

Hinata laughs. Later Komaeda will think about how tinny it had sounded. “Yeah,” he says, “I did.”

Komaeda's wondering if he dares to even ask when Hinata links their fingers together.

“I'll tell you before we do it,” he says, softly, “It can be our secret.”

Komaeda couldn't stop the shrill giggle that bursts out of him even if he really wanted to.

None of them ever mattered. Nothing ever mattered. Not like him.

They'd planned for it, together.

Komaeda hadn't planned for the flash of serrated knife edge gleaming under the warehouse lights.

His sharp cry is smothered by the tape stuck down over his lips when Hinata drives the knife into Komaeda’s arm with the lurching squelch of flesh being lacerated. Next time it's deep enough to hit bone. It scrapes when Hinata drags the blade down, ripping a gouge open in Komaeda’s arm. Komaeda tastes bitter adhesive when he screams again, mouth open so wide he thinks his jaw cracks. The knife stills for a moment before it pulls away.

“I know you don't understand.” Hinata’s voice cuts through the screaming static. A shudder peels through Komaeda when he feels something blunt prodding into his wound, and he tenses so hard he thinks he might just snap in two when he realises those are Hinata’s fingers. Komaeda trembles at the foreign, nauseating feeling of being touched like that, fingers rubbing at the slashed open layers of muscle and tendon like Hinata’s searching for something. “But you will.”

Komaeda squirms, pants against the tape. It does him no good - he's tied down. Of course he is. They'd planned it this way.

“You have no idea how badly I want to kill you with my hands,” Hinata says, gently, “But this is all you deserve, so I guess I'll have to make do.” Komaeda screams, arching his back all the way up off the floor, when Hinata stabs his thigh. His spine coils with each stab, screaming in between gasps until he's sure his throat is halfway bruised, struggling against the rough scratch of his binds until he feels his skin start to graze. Hinata fingers these cuts too, pressing inside him, dirtying himself, Komaeda shivering violently as he pictures his blood on Hinata’s hands, soaking into his jeans.

“Give in,” Hinata murmurs, petting a bloody hand through Komaeda’s hair, “Just give in, Komaeda.”

Komaeda knows it’s not his choice to make. He'd given that away a long time ago.

Hinata stares down at him for a moment. Komaeda tenses when the knife hovers above his stomach, muscles trembling, screwing his eyes shut as Hinata drags the sharp point across his stomach, then another line downwards, cutting a cross through his t-shirt. “This is where I'll do it,” he says, prodding the centre of the cross, and all Komaeda can think is he's being butchered. He arches his back all the way up off the warehouse floor when Hinata stabs a point into the centre of the cross, plunging the blade so deep it severs layers of muscle and viscera and makes him choke up blood.

“But before I do…” Hinata plants a hand above Komaeda’s head, leaning in so close he can feel his breath ghosting across his face, so that Komaeda couldn't shrink away from those intense eyes even if he tried.

“I promised you something, didn't I?” he says, not unkindly, “You asked me what my talent is.”

Komaeda sobs so loudly it's almost a scream when Hinata leans down and whispers it in his ear. His blood is thick, sliding down his throat to congeal around the teary lump rising in it. He shakes with violent tremors when Hinata retrieves the spear from the floor. The scrape is almost deafening.

“Is it everything you'd hoped it would be, Komaeda?” he says, idle even with Komaeda’s blood all over his hands. “Does it make you happy to hear?”

Komaeda is glad for the tape over his mouth. It means he doesn't have to admit the truth.

“I'll see you soon,” Hinata says. If feels like a promise. Komaeda doesn't understand.

Not that it matters.

Hinata raises the spear. There's a light, so sudden and dazzling and bright Komaeda almost feels like it shatters his irises, leaves them in a thousand glittering pieces on the warehouse floor, reflecting the sudden sharp twin splashes of red in his vision, and then-

And then the light goes out.

“Do you hate me?”

Komaeda swallows, expecting to taste blood, wincing a little when he doesn’t. The other boy doesn't seem bothered by the notion, curiosity plain and open on his face. He never hides his emotions, as if Komaeda isn't even worth it, as if Komaeda could never even hope to comprehend.

Komaeda doesn't answer. The truth makes him feel sick.

When Komaeda says nothing, he sighs and continues. “You had to die. You understand that, don't you?”

“I asked for it.” I begged for it.

“But do you understand why?”

Komaeda says nothing. After a moment the other boy just sighs and turns his head away to look out the window, like he's in a boring class, chasing more thrilling visions in his head.

Once, Komaeda asks what happened after he died.

“The plan worked,” says the other boy, “That's all you need to know.”

Komaeda doesn't dare ask for more.

The other boy looks up at him after a moment.“It took them a while for them to find you,” he says, like he's commenting on the weather, “You were starting to rot.”

Komaeda gets a flash of his corpse, crusted in dried blood, mouth frozen in a scream, petrifying in a sweltering warehouse.

“I was already rotten,” he says.

Something flickers in his eyes. Something warm.

“That's why I had to die,” he says, “Isn't it?”

Komaeda feels shaky beneath the hand resting solid and warm against his scalp. It's the first time the other boy touches him when he doesn't have to.

“What did you find,” Komaeda asks him, sometime later, days, or weeks, or years, “When you played the game? In that file?” He thinks he might be getting better. He thinks he might be getting sicker.

“The truth,” says the boy he'd loved. He leans forward, breeches Komaeda’s personal space. “I thought you were special, you know.” Komaeda doesn't even flinch when a hand settles itself in his hair. He used to, but the impulse is gone now, worn down under careful hands and an unwavering stare. “But you were just as worthless as you said you were.”

Komaeda smiles. It feels strange - almost painful. “I never lied.”

“No,” Hinata says, “I guess not.”

His hand remains. Komaeda makes no attempt to shake him off. He tells himself it's because he's frightened to.

“What does despair feel like, Komaeda?”

Komaeda isn't expecting the question, the curious stare that comes with it. He’s felt it since he woke up, knows that he's filthy with it, crawling with it. Sometimes he loses himself to it, comes back to himself drooling and wheezing with laughter, strong hands pinning him down.

“I'm repulsive,” he says after a moment, “Vulgar.” Rotting.

“That's not what I asked you.”

Komaeda holds his gaze until he feels the familiar gnaw of nausea. He turns his head, drawing his arms around himself. The IV line tugs a little when he turns too far, and then there’s a hand snatching at his wrist, wrenching it back.

“You’ll blow your vein out.” Displeasure is stark in his voice. It makes him angry, when Komaeda is thoughtless with his own body. Like he's taken ownership of it. Komaeda’s thought about the idea a lot, in the dark as he overdoses on the forced survival Hinata inflicts on him. It always makes him tremble, makes him swallow deep, choking on his own anxious heartbeat.

“It feels good, doesn't it?” Hinata murmurs, “Giving in?”

Komaeda isn't sure if he smiles or grimaces in response. His gut churns, out of nowhere, and he doubles over, acid burning in the back of his throat. Hinata is there with the filmy plastic of the emesis bag before Komaeda can even open his eyes, and he grips at Hinata’s wrists with shaking hands as he screws his eyes shut tighter against his body shoving the poison out of him.

Hinata is never rough with him. Komaeda remembers, though, what he'd been like when he'd murdered him. He's waiting for it to happen again, for Hinata to turn on him, hurt him like he deserves.

Hinata’s already given him what he wants once.

He's panting around a bitter mouth when he sits upright again, Hinata kneeling in front of him, peering into Komaeda’s eyes, his own still so unfamiliar, so wrong, so consuming.

Servant ,” murmurs the boy he'd loved, but there's something savage about it, acid in the air, enough to aspirate on. Even still, there’s something soft about the contempt. Komaeda wishes there wasn’t.

“Hinata-kun.” The name tumbles from his lips without him meaning to.

Eyebrows rise over sharp red eyes. There’s a flicker of interest in them. Something in Komaeda pulls, wants to chase that flicker, choke on it.

“If you have to give me a name.” He smiles a little as he says it, like Komaeda’s being silly.

Maybe he is.

“You cut your hair,” Komaeda says one day, when he comes in looking like the boy he'd loved.

Almost. It still sends an awful, shivering pang of longing through him.

Hinata is quiet for a second. “I needed to kill the parts of me that were holding me back.” He traces his finger down the narrow tube bleeding corrosive cold into Komaeda’s body. “Just like you. Call it an exorcism.”

Komaeda tilts his head. “What are you exorcising?”

Hinata looks up from the saline bag in his hands. Komaeda thinks that no one’s ever looked at him the way Hinata does. “The part of me that forgot how to see what was in front of him.”

Komaeda doesn't know what to say to that, doesn’t know what Hinata sees when he looks at him.

Doesn't know why he buries his face in his pillow and cries and laughs until he feels sick after Hinata leaves him alone in the dark.

“Hinata-kun,” he says one morning, “What if I die?”

When he looks into Hinata’s eyes he sees a rusting sky. He thinks he might be starting to get used to them - after spending so long in the ribs and bones of a rotting city under endless corrosion, they almost feel like home.

“Then I'll bring you back again,” is all Hinata says.

Komaeda knows it's not his choice to make anymore.

“You already ruined yourself once,” Hinata says often, petting a hand through Komaeda’s hair, “I won't let you do it again.” Open disgust crawls across his face when he looks down at her hand. It always does.

Komaeda’s given up on telling him he crawled out of his mother ruined. Hinata isn't interested in hearing it. Komaeda just lets himself go limp, sinks further down into the mattress. He turns his head to look at the sun when Hinata pricks his vein with a butterfly needle.

He barely feels either.

A day comes when he's well enough to stand and leave the hospital under the influence of a numbing cocktail of drugs. Some of them he knows, remembers from before. Some of them are new. He takes what Hinata gives him, doesn’t even bother to pretend he has a choice. He thinks it must be noon when he walks through the hospital doors for the first time in (he doesn’t know how long), judging from where the sun is, high up overhead, blazing down. It’s hot. If Komaeda dwells on it for too long, he starts to think the unfiltered sunlight is stinging his skin. He shivers as he pulls the hood of his jacket up over his unruly hair, a nest of split ends now, pulls his sleeves down to cover his hands. If Hinata notices, he doesn’t say anything.

While Hinata leads him back to his room, his own withered stamina begins to fail him. He ends up leaning on Hinata’s shoulder towards the end, almost breaking into tears at how Hinata silently accepts having to deal with the wretched burden Komaeda is when he’s already done so for so long.

Komaeda sits on the bed that had been his in the simulation. He feels out of place in his own clothes and his own room, like he’s wearing someone else’s skin, breaking and entering into a place he doesn’t belong. He’d gotten so used to hospital gowns and cardigans and cannulas and blood drawing and sheets so stiff they’d bordered on plastic. He’d grown used to discomfort. It feels strange to let Hinata wrap a blanket around his shoulders, but he pulls it tight around himself, curling his legs under himself on the mattress so that only his head is visible.

Hinata talks him through the muted rainbow of pills that will help ensure the management of Komaeda’s continued survival. Komaeda can barely focus, brain scrambled by neurochemicals and the rot that had been present before Hinata ever even spared him a thought.

“Are you paying attention?”

Komaeda gives a slow blink. He can feel his shoulders drooping, the exhaustion sitting at the bottom of his bones.

He isn't quick enough in opening his mouth. Hinata takes him by the chin and forces eye contact. “I didn’t bring you back so you could kill yourself through your own negligence.”

“I’m sorry,” Komaeda whispers, and he is, sick to his churning stomach with the realisation that he can't even manage this.

Hinata’s gaze softens. Komaeda wants to laugh and rip his own hair out to punish himself for the perverse little thrill he gets from Hinata’s mercy, snatching the breath out of him and jolting down his spine.

“Of course it's hard for you.” Komaeda closes his eyes against the soft lull of sympathy he'd done nothing to earn. “You've never been able to look after yourself, have you?”

Komaeda says nothing, only shakes his head. He's too cautious to speak.

Hinata sighs as he turns to the bottles on the nightstand, picking one out and cracking the lid open. “Open your mouth, then.”

Komaeda’s a little taken aback. He parts his lips obediently anyway. They catch at Hinata’s fingers when they pry their way inside his mouth, brushing against his tongue a little as he feeds Komaeda a pill. Komaeda tries to lower his gaze at one point, but a hand cupping his jaw stops him, forces him to look right into Hinata’s eyes as he's fed. Komaeda can't help but feel like he's an animal, a pet , not when Hinata’s eyes are soft like that, detached like that. It makes a shiver drip down his spine, and he shakes with it, swallowing harder because the pressure in his chest is too much and he thinks he might burst open.

Hinata's fingers are wet by the time he's done. Komaeda feels empty without them, empty enough to make him anxious, reaching out with an unsteady hand to retrieve one of the orange bottles of pills just to give it something to do . He slowly tips it back and forth, sending the pills sliding from one end to the other. The rattle is offbeat. It doesn’t matter - Komaeda’s long since given up on keeping time. Hinata stares at him, eyes bleeding darkness from the centre like a solar eclipse. Komaeda’s mouth fills with saliva as he stares back, pectin dissolving thick and gel-like on his tongue.

Hinata cups his cheek. Komaeda swallows final grainy pill remnants. His spit feels viscous as it slides down his throat.

Hinata smiles, and Komaeda thinks it’s a terrible thing, that something so beautiful is wasted on him. He trembles a little when Hinata curls his fingers around his throat. He doesn’t squeeze much, doesn’t squeeze enough . Komaeda looks up at him through his lashes, begging, praying -

“Good,” says Hinata, softly, and Komaeda thinks he might be disintegrating.

Komaeda’s sure his mouth must taste bitter from the pills when Hinata kisses him. Hinata doesn’t mention it. Komaeda barely notices - he feels feverish all of a sudden, wretched, empty vessel that he is trembling as he feels the heat of Hinata’s body flow into him. He whimpers into Hinata’s mouth, tears springing to his eyes as rapture twists in his chest and need burns in his belly.

The blanket falls from Komaeda’s shoulders as he lets Hinata push him back to lay on the bed, climbing up after him to kneel between Komaedas open thighs. Komaeda doesn't dare touch Hinata, hands laying tense and useless on either side of his head, because he doesn't want to dirty Hinata with the hand he loathes so much.

Hinata stares down at him. “Your eyes changed,” he says, and Komaeda gasps out a laugh that wheezes a little as it leaves him. “Is this what you needed all along?”

Komaeda doesn't answer. He doesn't know how.

“How much do you need this?” Hinata breathes.

Komaeda’s hand twitches. Still, he doesn't dare touch Hinata. “So much.” His voice croaks and trembles.

“You were too filthy before,” Hinata murmurs. A hand creeps up beneath his shirt, fingers skimming across his the flat of his stomach.

There's a whisper of a snarl when Hinata kisses him harder, Komaeda whimpering under the press of his teeth. He lets himself be torn to pieces, Hinata’s mouth so eager against his own it makes another sob bubble up in his chest.

Hinata’s been so soft with him ever since he woke up, too soft, softer than Komaeda could ever deserve. This feels better, Hinata’s teeth cruel against his throat, his collarbone, rough fingers yanking Komaeda’s pants down his hips to expose him. Komaeda is panting without even being touched, shivering under sharp teeth, a sharp gaze when Hinata draws back enough to look at him again, like he's trying to make sure what he's seen is real.

He ends up flipped over with his chest pressed against the mattress, Hinata gripping his hips, keeping them raised. His eyes go wide when he feels himself be pulled open, warm breath against him, and-

“Oh,” he gasps, full body shiver dragging down his spine when Hinata licks him, “ Oh-

There's a part of him that feels sick at the feel of Hinata's mouth on him, lips and tongue working him over until his spine pulls so tense it feels like it's going to snap. “ Hinata-kun ,” Komaeda whimpers, squeezing his eyes shut, fingers of his only working hand clutching at the sheets, “You shouldn't-” It’s not about shame. They’re past that point - Hinata’s seen him in all manner of indecent states now.

He winces when nails rake down the underside of his thigh, pictures angry red welts.

“I shouldn't?” His voice is flat and calm and eerie, an ocean with no moon to make it move.

Komaeda breathes, so tense he can feel the wasted muscles of his stomach trembling. It's dizzyingly, desperately silent for a moment. He knows he's spoken out of turn, opens his mouth to beg forgiveness, only he chokes on his words when he feels a sting and pressure where there'd been insistent, hungry wetness before.

“I shouldn't, Komaeda?”

Fingers, Komaeda thinks, squeezing his eyes shut - he's tightened up while he's been sick, gone so long being so empty that things that once came easy to him are a struggle now. He gasps at the feeling of a hand pressing down on his shoulder blades, shoving him down so his chest is flush against the sheets. Komaeda can't help the pathetic little sob that escapes him when Hinata pulls his hair so hard it feels like it's about to tear right out of his scalp, head yanked back so he has no choice but to stare at the ceiling. He feels Hinata lean into the arch of his spine, lips against his ear.

“I don’t remember asking.”

Komaeda hiccups with desperation, because Hinata’s still working him over with his fingers, and the sounds are wet and filthy and loud enough to compete with how harshly he's breathing. “Where did something as useless as you get the idea you could tell me what I shouldn’t do?” It isn’t anger in his voice - just a coldness, resignation, like Komaeda’s disappointed him.

Komaeda keeps quiet. Then Hinata’s fingers rake down his shoulder blades, the gasp he lets out pitching up into a wordless, brittle cry when Hinata’s shoves inside him, and it hurts so much and Komaeda knows he's drooling against the sheets, doesn't care, knows that drooling like a mindless animal is something that befits him.

Hinata fucks him while he stares at the sun, and Komaeda closes his eyes and thinks about how this is what he wanted. When it gets to be too much he squeezes his eyes shut and sinks his teeth into her arm before he even knows what he's doing, spilling warm and sticky and shameful all over himself with a broken whimper.

A growl scrapes against his ears from somewhere up above. Komaeda groans as the hand against his back shoves harder, a savage snap of hips driving him further into the mess he's made on the sheets. He can tell it’s meant as punishment.

“You're disgusting,” Hinata breathes.

He’s drifting and incoherent, cheek pressed into sheets damp with his own spit, when Hinata comes inside of him. He shudders back against every snap of Hinata’s hips that drive him further into the bed, tears stinging his eyes as Hinata fills him up, smooths over the jagged void inside of him.

He knows it won’t be long before he feels empty again, so even if it hurts, when Hinata’s thumb skims against his cheek, smearing saliva into his skin, he squeezes his eyes shut and turns into the touch.

Komaeda feels safe in Hinata’s lap. Sometimes when he's on the floor with his head in Hinata’s lap, Hinata will reach down and offer him his hand in the same way he'd beckon a pet.

Komaeda knows what Hinata is signalling to him by now. This is the only way Hinata will let Komaeda touch him, and Komaeda lives for this, if he lives for anything at all.

He always makes sure to keep her hand covered by his sleeve and trapped firmly at his side.

Hinata watches him with raised eyebrows. Considering him, detached - like Komaeda is just an object to be considered. Komaeda doesn’t mind - not when he knows it’s true.

He forces himself to keep his eyes open, drags his tongue along the raised vein protruding from Hinata’s wrist and thinks about how this is what he wanted. He trembles at the drag of Hinata’s zip opening, saliva bleeding out from underneath his tongue in anticipation. Red eyes fix him in a knowing, patient stare. Komaeda’s gotten used to them - the only eyes that have ever seen him.

“Not yet.” His voice is gentle. Komaeda’s eyes well with tears. Like always. “Show me first.”

His eyes go half-lidded by instinct when he pulls back enough to let Hinata slip two of his fingers between his lips. It's almost as good as what he really wants, not as hot or heavy or leaking on his tongue, but Hinata sometimes shoves his fingers in up to his knuckles, grabs his tongue between two fingers, treats him roughly, and that's enough to make him shiver in the rare instances when having something to suck on isn't.

A breathy giggle escapes him when Hinata says the words he's been aching to hear. “Go ahead.”

Sometimes he makes Komaeda swallow. Usually he takes Komaeda by the face and pries his jaw open, trails his fingers through his own come before dragging them across Komaeda’s lips and kissing him, wet and filthy and wrong. Komaeda can tell Hinata likes the taste of himself on his lips, and those are the times when he presses between Komaeda’s legs with his foot, trapping him against his leg and forcing him to make a mess of himself in his underwear, and it'd be a cruel thing, if Komaeda didn't love it so much, if Hinata’s eyes weren't so fathomlessly affectionate.

Hinata’s never denied him anything.

Sometimes Komaeda stands naked in front of his bedroom mirror just so he can see the map of bruises and bitemarks Hinata’s left on his skin. It gives colour to his ugly, anaemic skin, purple and yellow and blue swirled like watercolours against the dirty pink of gouges left behind by the edge of cruel nails and teeth. Hinata is good to him - he cleans every scratch and cut meticulously, watches Komaeda wince against the sting of antiseptic. Komaeda’s thankful - that Hinata touches him like this, takes care of him like this, marks him up so that he almost dares to let himself feel a little less repulsive.

“You could rip me open,” Komaeda says without thinking, one day.

Hinata pauses, down below. He's still for so long Komaeda wonders if he's angered him.

When Hinata looks up his red eyes are bright like corrosive dawn. “Are you asking me to kill you, Komaeda?”

“No.” He's quick about it. He's learned by now to not ask that particular favour of Hinata.

Hinata doesn't respond. It must be convincing enough.

Then, slow and affectionate:

“Maybe that's not such a bad idea.”

Komaeda’s about to ask what he means. Then teeth break through the skin of his inner thigh, and he just tilts his head back with a self indulgent sigh as Hinata takes what he wants from him.

Hinata squeezes his other thigh. Good, he may as well be saying, and Komaeda lives for this if nothing else.

“Will you do something for me?” Hinata asks what Komaeda thinks might be a few days later.

“Anything,” he says.

They both know that Hinata’s only asking out of courtesy. Komaeda knows he doesn't deserve it, doesn't deserve the smile he knows Hinata is pressing against his shoulder blade.

He tilts his head into Hinata’s warmth and drinks it in anyway.

Komaeda’s always been selfish, when it comes to Hinata.

Komaeda supposes that he'd asked for this. Hinata’s never denied him anything.

It's just like before - Hinata marks him out like he's under the thin tissue paper of a dress pattern, only this time it's with a clever scalpel instead of a dull knife, and the cross is longer, slicing beneath the bottom of his ribcage and up through his sternum.

It hurts, of course, being peeled open like a cheap paperback, centre-out, letting the searing lights of the operating theatre flood his darkest corners. He knows he's screaming and shaking, sweat trickling from his hairline, saliva dribbling from his lips as he lets the pain swallow him whole. He can taste his own blood, viscous in his mouth, as Hinata pins skin back, pins him open. His eyes are soft with affection but so bright , glittering like he's never seen something as beautiful as the inside of Komaeda’s ribcage. Komaeda thinks about the light reflecting off his bones, brighter than he could hope to shine on his own. He smiles, despite everything, even if it's probably more of a grimace, more tension, more teeth, imagines pale pink blood, streaky with saliva, oozing from his mouth.

“I touched you like this,” Hinata breathes, reverently, like Komaeda is something sacred, and the thought makes him sob, “I put my hands inside of you, I…”

Komaeda squeezes his eyes shut, squeezes tears free at the image: Hinata plunging his hands into still-warm flesh, echoes of breath and a pulse, feeling out the cavernous viscera of the mortality he'd torn out of Komaeda.

“But this is so much better than before.” He's speaking rapid and soft, almost rambling, and Komaeda can't even remember a time when he's seen him so ecstatic. “You're here, and you're so…”

Komaeda’s trembling violently, overdosing on adrenaline, and even still, when Hinata traces a finger over a rib, he feels it like Hinata’s cracked it open and is tracing his marrow. He thinks about his lungs expanding and contracting, visible beneath his ribcage, amazed at the inexplicable sensation even in his agony.

“You feel it,” Hinata whispers, and Komaeda squirms a little against the feel of him tracing his finger down across Komaeda’s rib cage, hopping over every edge. “Periosteum,” he explains, breathlessly, “It's why you can feel-”

Komaeda tenses at the pressure of Hinata’s palm pressing down against his ribcage, breath stuttering out of him when Hinata leans down, trails his tongue across a single slat, licks the blood off. Hinata’s lashes flutter, and a desperate little moan tumbles out of Komaeda when he realises Hinata likes it, when Hinata lets out a low, animalistic sound in response. He sets his lips and tongue to each rib on the left side, licking and sucking his way down, and when he raises his head to glance up at Komaeda, his mouth is smeared with Komaeda’s blood. Komaeda is too fucked up to do anything but shudder violently as he moans loudly and tips his head back, eyes unfocused and blurry with tears,wracked by thoughts of Hinata devouring him-

Komaeda,” Hinata murmurs, almost sweetly, and through his agonised daze Komaeda registers pressure, tighter and tighter, bones bending, making his lungs heave, until he realises, too late-


He doesn't scream. He can't. He doesn't have a voice anymore, not like this, crushed between Hinata’s palm and the vice of this incomprehensible agony, overloading his mind until it sparks and fissures and all that's left is base physicality, instinct, reflex, the steady thrum in his brainstem. Komaeda isn't built for this kind of pain, being ripped open and shattered like this, not as frail as he is, human as he is - all he can do is lay on the operating table and tremble, cracked, whispery sounds tearing from his raw throat.

The slow, drippy lull of endorphins starts to roll in, swirling together with the screaming pulse of adrenaline, a paralysing cocktail of neurochemicals, a dull, thickly pulsing cage. It almost numbs him, but not quite - just takes him down enough to really feel the pain, comprehend the edges of his cuts, the blood in his mouth, the shatterpoints in his ribs.

It occurs to him that he could die like this, exposed and bleeding out, barely even a human, just a science experiment for a precocious child.

“Komaeda,” Hinata coos, sing-songs, exhilaration wired into him from trembling hands to eyes like twin firecracker embers just about to burst, “ Komaeda, god, you…”

Komaeda breathes out a helpless, wheezing, delirium-soaked laugh when Hinata sinks down on top of him, burying his face against Komaeda’s neck. He winces at the pressure on his already shattered ribs, but more at the knowledge that his blood must be soaking into Hinata’s shirt.

He's already so incoherent to begin with that he can't even worry about Hinata's shirt when Hinata creeps up to press their lips together, licking into his mouth with aggression and hunger , and even if Komaeda’s mouth is full of his own blood, it's different, tasting himself on Hinata’s lips. He pushes back, weak and flickering in and out of consciousness as he is, tongue slicking against Hinata's, blood and saliva swirling together over the filthy noises escaping the both of them until he feels it leak from the corners of his mouth.

Hinata sits up then, breathing heavy, shoulders trembling. The sight of him, pink blood pale, diluted with saliva around his mouth, dark and sticky where the white fabric of his shirt pressed up against Komaeda’s open torso, makes Komaeda whimper, open-mouthed, helpless, knowing he's going to spend the rest of the life Hinata allows him craving the sight before him.

Hinata reaches out with blood slick fingers to push Komaeda’s sweaty hair back from his face. “Let’s put you back together, hm?”

Sometimes Hinata looks at Komaeda with what he imagines love looks like.

Komaeda licks his own blood, Hinata’s spit, off his lips.

Hinata, bright eyed, will tell him later that that's when the shock set in.

He ends up back in bed after Hinata staples him back together. Sometimes he goes days without seeing the sun. Hinata always asks if Komaeda wants him to open his shades. He never pushes Komaeda when he says no.

It’s hard to tell how much time he loses, waiting for his skin to meld together and his broken bones to heal, fuse his perfect wound together enough for him to be able to sit up again without it hurting. Without the sun time feels like fiction, the only proof being his wound scabbing over and softening into a scar, Hinata treating his wound and feeding him his pills and telling him he's lowered the dose again (that he's recovering so well he's so good -)

He supposes it doesn't matter. It's not like it's his time to waste.

Hinata sits and talks with him sometimes - talks to him, most of the time, because Komaeda’s often too incoherent to be able to respond in a meaningful fashion.

“It was nice out today,” Hinata sometimes tells him.

This time his head is tucked between the junction of Komaeda’s neck and shoulder, chest warm against Komaeda’s back through the press of tshirt and sweater. Komaeda doesn't care about the blue sky outside. He only cares about the soft, wet skim of Hinata’s open mouth turning sharp on the edge of his teeth, biting down hard enough to make Komaeda gasp.

Komaeda lets his head loll back against Hinata’s shoulder, sighing over wet noises as Hinata sucks fresh cruel bruises into his skin atop fading old ones. A moan flits from his throat when Hinata’s hand creeps around to Komaeda’s front, slipping up under his sweater to trace all the way down the perfect scar he’d carved into his skin. Komaeda lets his eyes focus on the ceiling for a moment, and then Hinata’s hand slips beneath the too-loose elastic of his pyjama pants.

“Hinata-kun,” he murmurs, syllables tumbling together on his clumsy lips and tongue.

He shivers when Hinata blows a breath against his skin, wet and still tingling from his teeth. “Just relax,” he says, like Komaeda has a choice, trapped between the thick fog clouding his mind and muscles and the warmth of Hinata’s hand around his cock.

Komaeda thinks it might be the way Hinata keeps stroking his scar, soft touches, up and down, that gets him there in the end.

When it's over he lies on his back with his head in Hinata’s lap. Komaeda traces his fingers over the perfect scar that mars him from sternum to stomach, eyes fixed on the ceiling.

He doesn't think he's ever been happier.

It becomes habit, when Komaeda’s well enough for more than careful handjobs again, for Hinata to lick and nip his way down the fully healed scar on the way to his real goal. So does Hinata biting hard enough to gouge shallow cuts that fill with blood, reaching for the scalpel when that isn't enough for either of them.

Komaeda develops a habit, too, or maybe it's crippling enough to be an actual addiction - tasting himself on Hinata’s lips always leaves him weak and shivering and wet in his underwear, clinging to Hinata as he feeds his own blood back to him, clinging tighter still when Hinata finally swallows.

He thinks he understands why Hinata always wants to kiss him when he comes in his mouth.

He wants to feed - he wants to give, dirty as he is.

Something pulls in Komaeda’s chest when his fingers brush against cold metal, digging through his dresser for clean clothes one day. He’s frozen, for a moment, before he curls his grip through the loop, pulls the collar and chain free with a soft, musical clink.

He doesn't remember how or when it got there - only that it’s there. He raises his free hand to circle his throat, realises how naked he's been this whole time. It's dirty, now - had started to tarnish by the time he'd been captured, is worse now, neglected, forgotten.

How Komaeda can relate.

He leaves it beside his bed. Hinata pauses when he comes to see Komaeda that night, hand tensing a little on Komaeda’s shoulder. They both stare at it for a moment. Komaeda can't read Hinata’s eyes, but the other boy takes it with him when he leaves. Komaeda doesn't know if he's offended him or not.

Hinata comes to him a day later, the chain clutched in a fist and gleaming, free from tarnish. Komaeda only wishes he could be as good for Hinata. He tries his best anyway, knowing he never will, getting naked when Hinata asks him to.

He holds his hair up while Hinata circles around to stand behind him, baring his neck for Hinata to lock it around his throat. It’s tight enough to make Komaeda realise how freely he’s been breathing since Hinata had taken it off a thousand years ago. The constant pressure makes Komaeda feel everything, senses sharpened down to focus on every flicker of his pulse, every breath. He brings his hands up to circle fingers against the cold metal, and even with the chilly air of the room swirling across his bare skin, making his pulse race and his skin prickle, he no longer feels naked.

“I'll never take it off,” Komaeda says around the lump rising in his throat.

He almost thinks Hinata tastes like rust when he winds the chain around his fingers and pulls Komaeda forward to press his open mouth to his.

“No,” Hinata promises, and Komaeda trembles at how affectionate he sounds, “You won't.”

Servant, thinks Komaeda. This time when the laugh bubbles up he lets it dribble from his lips.

“I have something for you.”

Komaeda hasn’t seen Hinata’s eyes shine so bright since he’d opened him up. He sits up a little straighter, not quite willing to raise his head all the way from Hinata’s lap just yet.

Hinata smiles down at him, benevolent, sun god. A hand pets through his hair. “You'll like it.”

Komaeda knows he will.

Hinata stops medicating him, in the lead up. Withdrawal makes him sweat and shake and spit up sour acid and saliva. He goes days without sleeping or eating, drifting in and out of lucidity, brain snapping and shutting down when the gnawing, maddening need becomes too much for his frail body and weak mind to cope with.

Sometimes Hinata is there. Sometimes he's not. Sometimes Komaeda can't tell what's real. Sometimes he doesn't care.

Sometimes he wishes he was dead. He knows this is the gravest sin of all.

It's like a fever breaking, when he finally wakes up. He's passed from over unreality once before - knows what it's like to wake up to Hinata, the real Hinata, red eyes that know him, eyes that have seen more of him than he's seen of himself and still don't look away. He's drained and twisted and broken, and yet he still has the will to roll over, settling his head in Hinata’s lap and letting his eyes drift shut with the spike of warmth. He's filthy - he can feel it, and still Hinata makes no move to push him away. He licks his dry lips as Hinata pets his hair, and thinks about how this is what he wanted.

“Do you want to see it?”

Komaeda is too drained to do anything but cry silent tears when Hinata shows him the prosthetic. He thinks if he moves, if he even thinks , he’ll be sick.

He turns his gaze to Hinata’s face, finds him watching him, shoulders tense with visible excitement. His eyes gleam, stars in the dark.

Komaeda doesn’t know what Hinata sees when he looks at him.

“It’s going to hurt,” Hinata tells him, hand stroking through Komaeda’s sweat-soaked hair. “You’re going to feel it.”

Komaeda wants to feel it. He'd want it even if Hinata didn't look at him like that.

Komaeda had always known Hinata would take her hand.

In the end he tears it off - takes it between his hands with a snarl of disgust, fingers tense and bruising like the revulsion is almost too much to bear. Komaeda realises what's about to happen after the first tug, beginning to tremble when Hinata yanks , slipping his other hand down to pin Komaeda’s shoulder to the operating table. He pulls and pulls, Komaeda panting with each jerk, squeezing his eyes shut when he feels the thick, gnarled stitches start to give, wearing grooves into skin dead and living. He cries out when he can't stand it any longer, the feeling of his flesh ripping more and more with each tug, until there's an audible tear and snap of flesh and thread rupturing free. He twists onto his side, panting harsh through little whimpers, already beginning to sweat and cry from the strain.

There's a thud, somewhere - flesh hitting the floor.

Strong hands seize him by the shoulders and roll him back over. He pants as he stares up at Hinata, into serious red eyes, cold, calm focus.

“Listen to me,” he says, slow and measured, skimming his touch down Komaeda’s torso, holding the misshapen, bloody stump of Komaeda’s arm with his other hand. As though Komaeda would ever do anything else. “This is delicate work. It can't be like the last time. You can't move around.”

Komaeda nods. He watches Hinata reach over him for the tray by the table, coming up with a long skinny syringe.

“If you can't behave yourself, ” he says, “I'll give you this. It's a muscle blocker. You won't be able to move, but you'll feel everything.”

Komaeda trembles, wordless, breathless.

“And if you really can't behave,” Hinata continues, showing him another smaller syringe, “ This one's for your throat. In case you scream too much.”

Komaeda just swallow and nods again. He's not frightened. Not quite.

Of course, Komaeda can't behave himself. The feeling of his skin being peeled back, nerves agitated, wired into metal, almost breaks him, has him spasming and thrashing against this foreign pain that feels so much more invasive than anything that's been done to him . It's so forgiven and immense, Hinata separating the braided networks of nerves and drawing them out, jolts of pain that snap right through his brain. The pain disorients him so much he barely even registers that those are his screams, echoing off the walls of the theatre until they're a shrieking feedback loop.

He thinks they'd both known he wasn't strong enough. Hinata doesn't even look disappointed as he holds Komaeda down and pricks him with the first syringe - just pure focus, eyes sharp and electric. It's strange, the way his limbs slowly turn staticky, go limp, like the bones and joints have sunk right out of them. When the second syringe goes in, he's not prepared for how wrong it feels for his vocal cords to slacken, turn loose and useless.

For a moment, even with the pain still fresh in his nerves, he almost feels disconnected from his body.

Then Hinata resumes work.

It isn't like the last time. Hinata gives him nothing but precision and his undivided attention. This way there's nothing to distract from the pain, no raw hunger to be devoured by, nothing to cling to. His body is a cage, dead iron bones and lurching, phantom awareness of things that are there but no longer answer to him.

He knows he’d asked for this. It feels weak, spineless, abject , to wish he could drift, but he can't make it stop. Komaeda’s always been weak.

He's silent, nothing but a ghost haunting a broken doll covered in nicks and chipped paint, as Hinata unlaces his wires, twists them apart and then back together, transforms him. The only physical evidence of pain are the tears that slide from his eyes, silent and soft. They go unnoticed until Hinata is done.

His brow creases, when his eyes light on Komaeda's face. He feels his tears being brushed away, warm lips against his forehead.

Komaeda thinks this might be the first time he's ever been given mercy.

Hinata is merciful enough to finally drug him into near unconsciousness before he strips them both down and pulls Komaeda into the shower to wash the blood off them. He has to be supported, limbs compromised, delirious and worn through to his last trembling thread from pain. His eyelids drag, pale pink circling the drain the last thing he sees before he blacks out to the sound of water pattering against the floor.

He comes to once in his painkiller haze. His brain doesn't know how to comprehend the sensation of having two functioning hands, or the way Hinata is looking at him.

He thinks it might be hopeful. Then he thinks it must just be the painkillers addling his mind. Then he slips back into nothingness.

Komaeda bursts into tears when Hinata takes both of his hands without disgust crawling across his features. He knows it won't be the last time he does.

He knows no one's ever looked at him that way, like he means something, like he shines enough to cast light to look away from.

Komaeda’s on his knees in front of his mirror again. This time it’s different. This time his mind is the sharpest it's been in months. This time he isn't wearing her hand.

This time he isn't alone.

Hinata is still mostly clothed when he circles around to stand behind Komaeda. He tugs at Komaeda’s hair and Komaeda lets him, allows his head to be tugged to the side, exposing the narrow strip of throat above the collar. This seems to satisfy Hinata, who sinks down onto his knees, peering over Komaeda’s shoulder and meeting his eyes in the mirror.

He starts soft, hands skimming across Komaeda’s shoulders. Komaeda isn't sure where he's going with this.

“This is you,” Hinata says, simply.

Komaeda isn't sure what to say to that. He knows he's meant to look, so he does: the blush-toned roots growing out from his scalp, face still sharp but not near as pallid as it once was, the gleaming collar and chain around his throat bright and stark, offsetting the splashes of blue and purple on his skin. He traces his gaze across his new hand last, twitching the fingers like he does often, just to prove it works, that it hadn't been a dream.

He doesn't recognise himself. He's used to seeing a pale hollow creature looking back at him that it's strange seeing colour on himself, proof that he's alive.

He's blinking back tears before he even realises that they're there.

He shivers a little when Hinata trails his hands down, clinking his chain, smoothing teasing fingers over the sensitive dip of his waist, coming to fan out over the belt of bruises that decorates his hipbones, his lower stomach.

“You're different now,” says Hinata, “Than you were.”

“Better,” Komaeda croaks out. He wonders if it's vain to say it, blurt the truth out like that.

Hinata smiles at his words. Komaeda could swoon, almost does, ends up leaning back against him, Hinata's chest warm against his naked back. Hinata doesn't correct him, just slides his hands further down to skim across the bones of his pelvis, turning to press his lips to the junction of Komaeda’s neck and shoulder. Komaeda shivers at the sharp edge of his teeth, sinking into the bruises already splashed across his skin.

“Don't look away,” Hinata says.

It never takes long. Not with Hinata. Heat coils in him, tighter and more agonising with every press of Hinata’s teeth and tongue, every single idle, drifting touch, so close to where he wants it. He shudders when Hinata bites hard enough to break skin, and that's enough, Komaeda tilting his head back with a whine, hips jerking, his body begging for touch. Hinata’s eyes are sharp when they open, meeting his in the mirror.

“Touch yourself.” Hinata’s voice is low now. Rapturous. “My hand. Not yours.”

Komaeda breathes out. He doesn't dare take his gaze off Hinata’s eyes in the mirror as he curls his fingers around himself, flinching a little at the cold burn of metal. A little sigh escapes him at the contrast, the knowledge that Hinata is watching him. He thinks he catches a smile, but only a flicker before Hinata raises a hand to curl around the collar and squeezes on his throat, turning his head to run his tongue against the metal of the collar.

“You were nothing ,” Hinata murmurs, mouth open and wet against the side of Komaeda’s throat, “Until I brought you back. You know that, don't you?”

Komaeda knows better than to not answer Hinata’s questions by now, even if he has nothing of value to say. “Nothing,” he whispers by way of agreement.

“You were pointless,” Hinata tells him, affectionate, slippery, “Garbage. Everyone threw you away. The world threw you away.”

Komaeda swallows. Speeds up the flick of his wrist. “Yes,” he whispers. It's awful, that he doesn't go soft at being spoken to like this, reminded of how worthless, unwanted he is - humiliating.

“They didn't know.” He's almost sighing, like he's impatient, bored. The fingers of his free hand trail up to skim across his lips, and Komaeda lets out a little sound of neediness and opens up for him, lets Hinata get his fingers wet. “None of them knew. So caught up in their simple visions of hope and despair that they didn't even understand what they were talking about.”

Komaeda moans a little when Hinata takes his fingers away, a feeble strand of saliva chasing his touch before it breaks.

“Even me,” Hinata says, softly, “Even you.”

Komaeda forces his eyes to stay open when Hinata pushes inside of him with his fingers. He has to see. He needs to see.

“I let them change me. Because I didn't understand. Just like how you were changed.” Gentle fingers skimming over his prosthetic. “How all of us were.” Hinata keeps talking, low and reflective, as he fingers Komaeda. Komaeda would almost think Hinata is bored, checked out of the moment, but there's a roughness at the edges of his voice, and his eyes glitter in the mirror. “Even after, I didn't understand. I only really understood when you…”

Komaeda’s thighs are starting to tremble, little whines bubbling up in his throat - Hinata is merciless with him, and he knows he's reaching the point of over stimulation.

“So much time,” Hinata says, “Wasted on futile things. Trying to kill what can't be killed.”

An insistent press of fingers. Komaeda whimpers, wets his lips.

“You know,” Hinata says, petting an affectionate hand through his hair, “Better than anyone.”

Komaeda wishes he could agree, but all he knows in this moment is Hinata.

“Come here,” Hinata says, gentler than Komaeda could ever deserve. Komaeda’s shaking too much to do anything else, lets himself be readjusted so he's hovering over Hinata’s lap, lets strong hands grip his hips with bruising force and guide him down.

“Eyes open,” Hinata reminds him, when Komaeda’s eyes squeeze shut at the delirious burn of finally being on Hinata's cock. He's already panting when he opens them again.

“Look at you.” The honest affection in his voice brings tears to Komaeda’s eyes, and he whimpers something that barely even sounds like please with how wrecked he is. He sobs when Hinata finally starts to move, reaches out with a hand to steady himself.

“I know you wonder,” Hinata says, “What I see when I look at you.”

Komaeda thinks he knows. No matter how much he wishes he could be hope, he knows he'll only ever be a pointless, frothing afterbirth. “Worthlessness,” he whimpers, “A waste.”

Hinata's eyes go wide.

Strong hands press against his back, shoving him forward. Even in his wrecked up, pliant state, instinct throws his hands out to catch himself. He cries out a little when his hands slam into to the mirror, crunching and shattering beneath flesh and metal, broken glass jutting into his palm. He slips in his own blood, braces his forearms against broken glass to save his face from getting slashed, sickened by his own vanity even in the flurry of his own panic. A hand seizes his hair, pulling tight enough to jerk tears from his eyes and a stinging sensation from his roots, and for a moment he's sure Hinata is about to shove his face forward anyway.

Instead his head is wrenched back, so far he almost loses sight of the mirror. Part of him, the weak, thankless part, almost wishes he did, because Hinata’s eyes are brighter, more manic, than he’s ever seen them, and there's something frightening about them.

There's a moment of terrifying silence. Then Hinata shoves into him again, and Komaeda goes boneless, lets himself be fucked as raw as Hinata wants, aching to be punished.

“You still don't understand.” Soft but so eerie . Hinata, for all the gentleness he shows Komaeda, is dangerous. It's good that Hinata’s seen fit to remind him. “You were the one who made me realise, but you don't get it, do you? It's all pointless, without both. You've shown me that. ”

Komaeda can't speak. Can't breathe. He can only listen - only be consumed.

“You're my darkest despair,” Hinata whispers, sinking his teeth into Komaeda’s shoulder as he wraps his arms around his waist, pulls him tighter, closer, higher, chest against the curve of his back and shoving deeper inside of him, and Komaeda’s trembling, fracturing, about to fall apart-

“You're my shining hope.”

Komaeda’s close - to orgasm, death, something else, he doesn't know.

“It feels good, doesn't it,” Hinata whispers, “Giving in?” A hand squeezing down on his throat throat.

Yes, ” Komaeda sobs, clutching at Hinata’s wrist with bloody fingers, writhing back against him, and even if it feels awful and sickening enough to make his gut twist

“Then give in, Komaeda.”

So he does.

Of course he hadn't recognised himself, he'll think later.

He resurfaces to broken glass and blood, head still spinning as he slumps against Hinata. He knows he deserves to be dropped, cast aside, but Hinata’s arms are tight around him anyway.

Darkest despair, he thinks, as he lets Hinata tilt his chin up to kiss him, Shining hope.

“I don't know what I'd do without you,” Hinata breathes against his lips.

He looks into the eyes of the boy he loves in the shattered, streaked mirror, and knows he means it.

Komaeda lives for this and nothing else.