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Makoto considered himself to be a pretty good person. If there was a chance he could help someone, he’d certainly do so without any hesitation. This… wasn’t always a good thing, but since that fiasco with the jewelry thief, nothing too bad had happened as a result of his benevolent nature.

But, of course, his luck wasn’t going to change just like that.

A new amusement park had just opened nearby, and its producers had been pretty excited about the chance to gain some publicity by inviting the Ultimates for a day to have the park to themselves, as catering to the nation’s main focus was a surefire way to make a profit; after a bit of under-the-table funding agreements, Hope’s Peak had announced a mandatory field trip. The Reserve Course students hadn’t been invited, and honestly, Makoto felt pretty bad; after all, it wasn’t like he deserved to be here, either- “Makoto, come on! I told you not to worry about that anymore!”

“Huh?” Makoto tilted his head. “How did you know-“

“Because I’m-”

“-psychic,” Leon and Sayaka said in unison, the male making his voice high-pitched and effeminate. She pouted; he complained, “C’mon, you’ve said that like, a billion times by now, everyone knows how it goes! Let’s go on another ride!”

The three of them tended to hang out together often; no one was surprised that they were spending the trip in a group today. Makoto loved all his classmates, but these two in particular seemed to click really well with him and each other.

“Already? But Makoto just got sick from the last one,” Sayaka objected, her voice laced with concern.

“Awwww, come on!” Leon pleaded, punching him in the shoulder in a way that was supposed to be gentle but actually stung like the impact of a thousand baseballs. “You got another one in ya, right?”

“Ugh…” Someday, Makoto would stop being such an “herbivore man” and stand up for himself. Today was not that day. “If Sayaka’s okay with it, I’m fine…”

The idol sighed. “Well, only if get to pick the next one.”

‘’Fine, fine! C’mon, let’s go!” Despite what they’d just decided on, Leon was rushing ahead, Sayaka following close behind; Makoto couldn’t help but lag, his stomach still churning. The thing Leon had just made them do was so high-speed that that Gundham dude had lost his earring in the wind and Yasuhiro had passed out. Makoto was just grateful he’d made it away from the ride before hurling.

Of course, Leon had immediately bought him something to drink while Sayaka tried to make sure he was okay. He was lucky to have met them and his classmates- heck, even the elder students he’d encountered so far were super nice!

But at the moment, that wasn’t really important to him. He’d lost sight of Leon, only catching a glimpse of blue before Sayaka disappeared as well since he was walking so slowly. Crap! His anxiety at the thought of being left behind outweighed the bubbling in his stomach; he started to run, his gaze flicking all around in an attempt to find them. There were people everywhere- a girl with horns that cheered, “Run, Forrest, run!” as he passed, someone that could have been Hina’s sister standing right in the middle of the path and eating whom he almost stumbled into, Taka and Mondo chatting except Taka started yelling at him about how dangerous it was to run in a place like this, more people he didn’t even register in his mind- he paused, turning his head to scan the whole perimeter. How could they have gotten away so fast…? He kind of wanted to puke but he started hurrying along again, turning towards one of the less populated areas of the park, where where where-

Makoto cried out sharply as he somehow managed to trip over a damn trash can, the pain and smell of trash not helping his stomach at all. Geez… Makoto cursed his luck under his breath as he shoved himself up, feeling a bit dizzy but nevertheless looking around again. No Sayaka or Leon, just groups of friends and- huh?

Someone was sitting alone at one of the tables, their shape hard to make out from the shade of the umbrella looming above; it was almost like they were trying to avoid the sun from the way they kept their whole body hunched beneath it. Makoto headed towards them without thinking- he could just feel the depression emanating off them, despite the fact that he wasn’t, say, the currently comatose clairvoyant classmate he had… and he obviously had to help if he could. Perhaps it was Toko, she really hadn’t wanted to come here-

Oh. He’d recognize that mess of white hair anywhere. Their eyes locked at the exact same moment, and both of the lucksters gave an awkward wave. Nagito and him had never really… had a normal conversation before. (Makoto kinda got the feeling not many people had.) He’d said something about how Makoto should be as worthless as him, but for some reason, had an aura of hope even stronger than everyone in the school combined. And a bunch of other stuff that made no sense at all to Makoto, but, well…

He thought he seemed like a good person. A bit rough around the edges, yeah, but so were most of the classmates he loved! A lot of people seemed to hate Komaeda, but well, if a girl with a higher kill count than Makoto had ever scored on his old FPS games could turn out to be a close friend of his, why couldn’t Nagito?

And so he didn’t turn around, closing the distance between them. “Hey, Komaeda-senpai!” Nagito tilted his head to see the cheery smile accompanying his greeting…

…and then chuckled like Makoto had just made a joke. “Oh, please, there’s no need to address trash like me in such a way, Naegi-kun! It would be much more accurate for you to just refer to me as garbage!” Despite his words, that familiar smile was there… not like that would help Makoto guess his current mood as he always seemed to have that smile, no matter what was going on. Maybe he just hadn’t seen it waver yet…? Oh, well, that wasn’t important right now.

“Uh…” He chuckled nervously. “Let’s uh, not do that,” Makoto suggested, taking the seat in front of him.

Nagito’s brow arched, glancing over him as if to make sure it was really Makoto. “What are you doing?” There was a note of wariness in his voice that confused the younger boy.

“Uh… I just wanted to talk to you, y’know?” He answered dumbly. When he talked to people like Kyoko and Byakuya, he always got the feeling their questions had correct answers they were hoping for that Makoto always got wrong. Talking to Nagito was a little bit like that, but it didn’t seem like he was judging whether Makoto was worthy to talk to him. It felt different, too- the anxiety due to his pickier classmates was always from self-doubt, but with Nagito, it… felt like it wasn’t Makoto’s fault, kind of…? Makoto honestly didn’t know how to sum up his feelings, and he definitely didn’t know what he may have been testing him about, but again, it really didn’t matter. He kind of wanted to be friends with as many people as he possibly could, sure, but more than that, Nagito sorta… pulled at him, drawing him closer, even when Nagito leaved mid-conversation for seemingly no reason as he’d done so many times before. He hated hearing him talk down about himself all the time, and he wanted to- no, he was going to help him. That was just the natural thing to do, right? Nothing more that he could think of was behind it. “How come you’re over here by yourself? Are you waiting for food or something?”

Nagito laughed again. “Amazing! You might have been able to be the apprentice of the Ultimate Comedian or something!” His expression stayed cheerful. “Honestly I would much prefer death to being here, but unfortunately it seems like I’m not getting out!”

Makoto was the type of person to immediately get worried if he heard someone imply they wanted to die; honestly, he didn’t understand why no one else seemed to care. They always got annoyed and Makoto just didn’t get it- sure, it was hard to listen to that kind of thing, but getting mad at someone for it…? That just felt wrong. “Please don’t say that! We would never want anything like that to ever happen- we’ll be out of here soon!” 

“Oh?” Nagito stared at him quizzically. “Who’s this ‘we’ you’re referring to?”’

“You know…” He placed his right hand over his chest, his head tilting slightly to the side. “Like, me and the rest of your friends!”

Another laugh. “I don’t have anyone like that!” How could Nagito just… say it so nonchalantly…? It hurt Makoto to think that he was living like this…

“Well, care!” He refuted. It was like playing a choice-based rpg on the highest difficulty level without any idea what would happen with each dialogue option; the words were jumbled and hard to decide on, so he was just saying what came instinctively and hoping it worked, but… well, it probably wasn’t. “Really, it’s not that bad to be here…” he tried, “…is it?”

A little laugh left him, his eyes seeming a bit distant as he hugged himself. “It’s so dangerous! It’s practically a murder house just waiting to happen…!”

Makoto frowned, his hand reflexively curling into a fist by his side as he tried to make his point. “They won’t let anything happen to us!” Geez, why did Nagito sound so excited…?  “They made extra sure everything was safe before we came, remember?”

The taller boy smiled wryly, his arms now crossing over his chest as he matter-of-factly quipped, “I wouldn’t say my luck particularly cares about that. Would you?”

Oh. Yeah. “Ah… uh.” He put a finger to his mouth with a nervous, awkward laugh. He didn’t know what to say… it was always kind of hard to talk to people here, they were all so ultimately different from what he was used to, what he was himself, but strangely enough, the person whose “talent” mirrored his own was the most difficult of all. But it wasn’t like he could just give up, or pull his hood up and fiddle with his pockets while he tried to think like he wanted to. No, he just…. pressed on, his eyes not breaking contact. “But, uh! That still doesn’t mean you should have to spend today all alone!”

He let out a little “pfft” of amusement, resting his elbow on the table and perching his face on his palm, once more staring him up and down in a way that seemed scrutinizing. “Oh, please.” His words were slower. Deliberate. “Having me around would just make today completely horrible!” Nagito still had that huge smile.

“Komaeda-kun-”

“I don’t see why you’re here, anyway.” He tilted his head, his fingers now curling up beneath his chin. “Did your friends abandon you for people with more talent?” Nagito arched an eyebrow. “Or are you just a masochist?”

“Komaeda-kun-”

“You shouldn’t waste your time with worthless old me.” Each syllable was like a prick of pain, a weak bullet in the most delicate gun imaginable that still hurt nonetheless. “I must already be dragging your mood down so-”

“No, that’s wrong!” Makoto protested vehemently. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t care about you!”

The dust of pink scattering about his pale skin told him those were not the words he should have used. Or did it mean they were right…? “Oh, Naegi-kun… The fact that you’d extend some of your kindness, your hope, to scum like me…” Now Makoto could clearly see that his smile met his eyes. Was it because he meant it…? Or was he just amused, toying with him?

Either way, his next response came naturally. “You’re not scum! Komaeda, I-“

His words were cut off as he felt a pressure pull at his neck, a strangled gurgle noise slipping out instead. He’d been so focused on the boy in front of him he hadn’t heard his attacker’s approach- given the shocked look on Komaeda’s face, he hadn’t noticed either. Was he also focusing on him…? The thought would have been nice if he wasn’t currently terrified; they had been talking about his luck just a minute ago and now this was happening, and being attacked here seemed like such a Nagito Komaeda’s Luck kind of thing, and ahahaha he was going to die he couldn’t breathe, trying to do it shallowly with his nose and-

That sharp sting of too much cologne. Glancing down, he saw a white sleeve, and- “Hey, ya bastard!” It was obvious Leon wasn’t even aware that he was choking him; the corner of Makoto’s eye twitched in annoyance. Truly, this level of thoughtfulness would make for a person that could write lyrics people could relate to in a way that was genuinely awe-inspiring.

“Geez, Makoto!” Sayaka whined while Makoto feebly clawed at the arm until Leon finally got the message and let him go, the luckster’s panting way too loud. She continued regardless, “You just went and left us, we were so worried-” Her words cut off when she noticed the presence of the senior SHSL Luck, her skin going a shade paler. “Oh. Hello there, Komaeda-kun.”

“It’s truly an honor to be greeted by you, Maizono-san!” Nagito replied, his eyes sparkling as he stared at her- Makoto felt an odd pang of jealousy. Which made sense; he’d had a crush on Sayaka for so, soooo long before he’d realized she was too busy for that… yeah, that was why-… Leon huffed impatiently, and Nagito smiled wider; Makoto was aware that, suddenly, he could clearly see the pain thinly hidden there. Crap… And he just kept going, like his words weren’t pain-inducing to the people that cared about him- Makoto refused to believe he was the only one. “Really, Naegi-kun, you needn’t stay here! Go enjoy today with your friends, spread hope to those that actually matter! Just being in your presence for so long is already more than I deserve!”

“Hey, you heard the man. Let’s go!” Leon chimed in.

Makoto bit his lip, deciding to ignore the baseball star for now as he’d probably end up saying something rude to his best friend if he didn’t. “Komaeda-kun… how about just one ride? Just one ride and I’ll leave you alone!” His stomach felt way better now that his throat hurt instead, so surely this would be a good idea!

“No.”

Makoto’s heart sank at the apathetic certainty in his face. “A safe one!”

“No.”

“Come on!” Makoto whined.

“No.”

“But why not?!”

“It’s too dangerous.” Nagito replied flatly. Why was his expression so hard to decipher? Makoto bit his lip, struggling to think, only for his thoughts to be cut off by the SHSL Idol.

“Makoto, he’s not going to change his mind…” Leon nodded in agreement. Truly, a great display of support.

Makoto’s focus shifted back to Nagito. “Come on, really! I’ll protect you!” Leon burst out laughing; Makoto scowled while Nagito held in his own laughter.

After a few moments, his lips stopped quivering and that damn Celeste-level poker face came back. “I appreciate your persistence, really. It’s very kind of you, Naegi-kun. But I’m not going to-”

“Because of your luck, right?” Makoto’s eyes lit up as if he’d just found out the killer before the detective in a mystery show.  “But what if my luck could cancel it out? It would be like… a battle of talent, like we did with Celeste that one day! And this time Kirigiri-sensei won’t mess it up before we can find out the results! It’ll be cool, won’t it?” Hopefully Nagito couldn’t see how much he was floundering at this point.

“Luck isn’t a talent, but I assure you this certainly won’t work out in your favor!” Nagito replied cheerfully; Makoto didn’t catch the warning in his tone.

“But we won’t know unless we try! Let’s…” Crap, what should they do…? Something easy, obviously… oh! “Let’s flip a coin!’’ Sure, it was kind of lame, but it was the best he could come up with in the span of four seconds. “Heads, you go with me, tails, I’ll go away and I won’t bother you again!”

Leon’s eyes lit up. “Hey, that would actually be pretty fun to see!”

Nagito glanced down at the table, seemingly lost in thought. Makoto couldn’t help but worry about it. He knew all about bad luck, but except for that one day when he’d got his invitation to Hope’s Peak, he’d never really been in a life-or-death situation because of it. He’d spent time with Nagito before, enough to get a glimpse of what his luck was like. What kind of things had happened to him before because of it….? Still, he couldn’t just let him sit around being miserable because of what might happen, right? It was just wrong. No one deserved a life like that.

Nagito’s focus shifted to him for a moment, and Makoto smiled reassuringly; Nagito bit his lip for a moment before sighing, his shoulders sinking. “…Fine. Let’s get this over with.” His eyes met the younger luckster’s. “It is a waste of time, though. My luck is the only good thing about me!”

“That’s not true!” Even as he rebutted his comment, Makoto was inwardly jumping around in excitement. He’d done it! Sure, Nagito would almost certainly win, but maybe his determination to help him would finally become clear to him; after all, he’d spent all this time trying to convince him! Then, when he tried to help him again some other day, he might actually get through to him! He wasn’t quite sure why he was so excited about that, but well, he’d probably feel the same way if someone else was so miserable… especially if that someone treated him the way Nagito did, but uh… um.

Makoto watched as Nagito fished his own coin out from his pocket, neither of them expecting Leon to immediately swipe it from his hand. Nagito’s eyes went wide as he protested, “What are you-“

Leon chirped, “I know this really badass trick-”

Sayaka huffed, plucking it from Leon’s grasp. “Yeah, and then you’ll throw it and you’ll end up giving someone a concussion. I’m flipping it.”

“What the hell? That doesn’t even make sense-”

Woosh. Even Leon went silent as her slender fingers propelled it forward. Both lucksters’ eyes stayed glued to the coin; it was practically suspended in the air, glistening brightly as the sun fell on it just right, making it almost seem like the symbol of some grave fate being decided by something so simple in a poorly-written book before it bounced back down, rolling around on its edge.

“Oh, come on-!” As if Leon’s complaint had somehow summoned it, a light gust of wind blew over them and knocked it on its side. Immediately the redhead was leaning over- “Hey, what did heads mean again?! Who won- hey!”

Nagito suddenly shoved him out of the way, checking for himself. Makoto had never seen him do something like that to an Ultimate before… it was pretty concerning. But for some reason, he wasn’t moving to check on Leon and instead approaching Komaeda. His face had turned whiter than milk, his eyes terrified- a brief glance confirmed that it had indeed landed in his own favor. He’d usually be shocked or triumphant or something, but he was just… so worried about him…

Makoto placed a hand on his shoulder as Sayaka checked on their Ultimate Ball Thrower, feeling Nagito stiffen in response to his touch. “Hey, don’t be scared… We’ll go on a really slow one, okay?” Nagito wouldn’t meet his eyes, so Makoto kept going, feeling like a total idiot. “And then you don’t have to spend another second with me if you don’t wanna! But you totally will, ‘cause it’s gonna be fun! I promise nothing’ll happen!”

“Please, don’t make me do this. I’m begging you.”

His voice, his words. So tiny. Resolved. It made Makoto hesitate; luckily, Leon was there to grumble, “Dude, you made a fucking bet. Don’t be a pussy! Makoto’ll definitely pick some baby ride anyway!”

‘’Exactly!” Makoto enthusiastically agreed without a hint of shame.

“I don’t…”

“It’ll be okay!” Makoto repeated, giving his shoulder a squeeze. Nagito still wouldn’t look at him.

“Seriously… he’s lucky too, right? He just said it’d cancel it out and it did, right?” Sayaka pressed, the back of her hand gravitating to her cheek as her voice took on that Idol Tone that Makoto had only seen her use when she was trying to convince people to do something. “You can press your luck just a teensy-eensy little bit, riiight~?”

Nagito’s eyes were locked onto Sayaka, whose smile simply grew- there was that feeling again. Envy. Why…? Nagito honestly, uh… didn’t seem to be interested in those kinds of things, and still, it was like he was worried the girl he’d already accepted as being off-limits would be stolen away by him. But that didn’t seem right… like he didn’t even understand his own feelings. But his own feelings weren’t that important. Now or.. any other time, honestly…

Nagito sighed again, his gaze flicking back to Makoto before pleading, “S-Something safe…”

“Of course!” Makoto’s smile only grew- why did Nagito glance away like that? He took his hand, and now he was staring at him in complete shock, that faint blush coming back, and this time, Makoto thought his face might be burning too. “I-I’ll walk you there, okay? So our luck can balance each other out and nothing crazy’ll happen!”

For some reason, Leon and Sayaka were both staring at him strangely; Makoto swallowed, shifting his attention back to Nagito. “Come on, let’s go!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“No! NO! I’m not doing this! It’s an ‘effin couples’ ride, Makoto!” Leon practically screamed.

The four stood in the extremely short line for the slowest ferris wheel in existence. It was a couple’s ride, each seat intended solely for two people.

“It’s slow, peaceful, and relaxing!” Makoto insisted. And he was pretty sure he was right, dammit… The climax point was pretty damn high up, but this was definitely the best option here, and really, this was the kind of thing Makoto would prefer to do, too- he and Komaru used to ride these things all the time as kids. This one was made of metal circles, big enough for two people to sit comfortably but small enough that three would definitely lead to suffering. They were made of painted metal, each with a different Ultimate design- there was a cream-colored one adorned with cupcakes and candy, one that was black with playing card decorations, another painted like a baseball that Leon was glaring at with overt disapproval, even a lime green one with emerald four-leaf clovers.

“Well, I’m riding with Sayaka!” Leon huffed, crossing his arms.

“Who said I wanted to ride with you?” Sayaka shot back.

“Would you rather ride with me or Komaeda? Cause I sure as hell ain’t riding with him, he’s a ticking time bomb!”

At Leon’s response, Makoto glanced at Nagito. He still had that smile, but…

“Uh… yeah, I’ll ride with Leon, then.” Yes- there was pain in his eyes. How did no one else see it…? “Sorry, Makoto.” He only realized the idol he admired was speaking to him when she said his name. “But you arethe one that… y’know… forced him to come here, so…”

“I can always leave!” Nagito said hopefully. “It’s obvious you don’t want me here! I told you I’d ruin the mood!”

Makoto shot his friends a disappointed look before meeting Nagito’s eyes firmly. “I don’t see why it’s such a big deal to be with you. It’s literally just a freaking ride-“

“Yeah, I wouldn’t be caught dead riding this with a dude. ‘Specially one like him.”

“Let’s just leave them alone, Leon.” Sayaka said softly.

Makoto frowned. “You guys really don’t need to be mean about it,” he muttered, looking at Leon specifically. He re-focused on Nagito, smiling again. “I don’t have a problem going with you at all, if you’re alright with it!”

His face got red again. Was he starting to get a fever or something…? “I… th-that would be an honor, th… thank you so much, N-Naegi-kun…” He also wouldn’t meet his eyes again, but well, that’d hopefully change soon.

When Leon and Sayaka’s turns came, they were escorted to the baseball one; Leon glared back at them and mouthed “Fuck you both.” Nagito, of course, started apologizing while Makoto just laughed. Of course that was just how their luck would go, but well, it was pretty funny, all things considered.

And it turned out they were going to be in the lucky one. ‘’See? That’s a pretty good sign, right?” Makoto chirped as they got in. The seats were dark brown leather, and panes of thick glass made up the upper part of the containers; that way, they could look out and see the whole park. Nagito, however, just looked nervous, staring at him for so long it started to make him nervous, the little lights splattered over the ceiling accentuating the anxiety on his countenance.

Finally, he whimpered out those three little words- “You’re so tiny…”

What the hell…? Makoto didn’t even know how to respond to that, just staring at him dumbly. Why would somebody…? What did that even have to do with anything? Seemed like he still had no idea how his mind worked… “Geez, thanks, Komaeda-kun.”

Nagito seemed completely oblivious to not only his sarcasm but the words themselves, his hand running over the creases in the seats. “Where’s the seat belt?”

Ah…. hearing him sound all scared made him completely forget what had just happened. Makoto smiled softly, even though his brow was creased. “Don’t worry, it’s nothing like that! You saw how slow this was, right-“

Nagito flinched as they were locked in, and Makoto’s words cut off, another rush of guilt sinking in- he’d thought for sure that Nagito would relax when they actually got on… “Oh my god…” Makoto could barely even hear his voice. Why is he so scared…? God, this is all my fault, isn’t it? He thought miserably.

Still, he wasn’t going to give up- he had to try to calm him down! “It’s okay, Komaeda-kun… sit back, okay?” The leather seats were both on the same side, which just made it worse; their thighs were pressed together and Nagito was trembling so hard, it was making Makoto shake as well from proximity.  Seeing him like this completely shattered his resolve- they needed to get out of here before it got worse. “Ah… n-nevermind, I shouldn’t have made you do this, I’ll-“

And they were moving, the ride jerking with a sudden burst of speed that hadn’t been there the previous times people had rode it today. Nagito cried out sharply, slamming his hands against the glass, trying to get the attendant’s attention, but he currently had earbuds in and was looking in the opposite direction.

Makoto hastily grabbed his hands, his eyes even wider than usual. “Komaeda-kun! Stop, it’s okay, honestly! Don’t hurt yourself-“

Nagito was shaking even harder, Makoto’s wrists starting to ache in a matter of seconds from his own refusal to let go of him. “You’re right, if I b-break the glass, you’ll die-“ Nagito’s eyes were so terrified and Makoto felt like he was going to panic himself, but well, whose fault was that?

“You won’t break it, it’s-“

“I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry I’m so sorry-” Hearing Nagito apologize like this… it felt like his heart was being wrenched out. He looked so scared…. He was so worried. He was failing him when Nagito was the only person to even have expectations of him in the first place. But more than that, he just wanted Nagito to calm down and… be happy…

He interrupted his seemingly endless stream of apologizes, sure he couldn’t bear hearing it any longer, “What, why-“

“You’re going to die, now, oh g-god no-“ His eyes seemed to be staring at something far away, his trembling even harder. Why does it hurt so bad to see him like this…? No, that didn’t matter, he just… he had to help him somehow… While he’d always wanted to save help him, it now seemed like a priority, something he needed to achieve for his own happiness.

Makoto squeezed on his hands, meeting his eyes with a shaky smile. “Just c-close your eyes, okay? I’m here. Nothing is going to happen. It’s like Sayaka said, remember? I’m not going to die.”

Nagito reluctantly nodded, pressing his eyes shut. Makoto continued to hold his shaky hands, fighting off his own anxiety about being in a ride that seemed to be malfunctioning. Why was he so stupid-

The taller boy’s eyes snapped open when the machine started to creak, a low moan slipping out as he looked through the glass. “We’re so h-high … n-no…”

They weren’t even high enough to break Makoto’s leg if they fell out. Regardless, it felt like a stab through his chest. “Komaeda-kun, I swear, we’re gonna be okay… the only reason it’s shaking is because Leon’s probably trying to sing, y’know?”

Makoto laughed at his own joke to try and diffuse a bit of the tension, and Nagito joined in but it sounded even faker than his was. His eyes fluttered closed again, his hands still shaky and cold- rather than warming up from Makoto’s touch, it seemed like they were just starting to get clammy. “I’m sorry, I… I must be being so overdramatic, ahaha… no one should have to put up with me, I’m so disgusting…”

“No, you aren’t.” Makoto said firmly, refusing to break eye contact. “Let’s get your mind off this, okay? You’re not worthless. What do you like to do in your free time?”

“I don’t know…”

Oh. “Uh… what’s your favorite color?” Makoto tried again.

His eyes again became distant, practically glossing over. “We, we’re going to die I’m so scared oh god I can feel it going higher-“

“Okay, uh, listen to me, okay?” Makoto tried frantically, leaning forward enough so that Nagito had no choice but to look at him unless he closed his eyes, ahaha why was he so awkward his stomach was… stirring, and… “I uh. You like Ultimates right? I can tell you stuff about my class! Like… This morning Taka had to stop Junko from doing something with the cameras-“

Nagito seemed even more panicked than before at this, his voice high and breath-y. “Oh, god, no, please, tell me she didn’t come here, oh- oh, oh god, is she on this ride?’’

Makoto was more confused than he’d ever been in his whole life.“N-No, of course not! She was forcing her sister to play dress-up-“

“With bombs- “

What the…? Was he going insane? Well, it’d be Makoto’s fault if he did… “Komaeda-kun- ah, uh. So uh, um…” He desperately picked his brain for something that might divert his focus. “Hey, I saw my sister the other day! She’s so sweet, she can be friends with anyone! You’d totally love her if you ever met her, she can carry on conversations with literally everyone, even little kids and old people and gho- animals!” Nagito wasn’t whimpering anymore, his eyes closed and his hands not shaking nearly as violently as before. He didn’t seem to notice they were approaching the top; Makoto took it as a victory and pressed on.

“When we were kids, she always used to have to wake me up for school, even though I’m older than her…  heh, this one time I forgot to put shoes on and we were already halfway there before I noticed-“

BEEP! The lights abruptly turned off. Nagito jumped, jerking his hands away, glanced outside, saw they were at the very highest point, and screamed.

Makoto winced, the sound loud and and piercing and scary… he gazed down at the ground and gulped. They really were high… His stomach began to churn again. He was honestly terrified himself- if Komaeda’s luck did its thing, they’d surely die… horribly and painfully. And it’d be Makoto’s fault- no, no, they’d… they would be okay, it was just a damn ride!

“Komaeda-kun! Komaeda-kun! Stop screaming-“ Nagito didn’t stop; Makoto was pretty sure he couldn’t hear him, it was so loud and it was trapped in here with them, echoing in his brain and he was going to go crazy, but at least it wasn’t worse right now- before he could  even finish the thought, Nagito started to pound his fists against the glass and the whole compartment was shaking violently and Makoto’s heart was somewhere in his throat because the conpartment would fall off and, and they were going to die-

“Komaeda-kun!” No response; Makoto glanced outside, such a high drop oh god- “Komaeda-kun!” Oh, screw this- “NAGITO!” Makoto grabbed him by the hood and yanked him back next to him, the older boy tumbling into him as the whole ride shuddered at that exact moment; Makoto’s heart sank as he saw the tears in his terrified eyes.

Immediately, Nagito put his hands over his face and scrambled off of him, whimpering over and over “I’m so sorry I’m so sorry I’m so sorry-“

Makoto could feel his own eyes burning now. There were bruises all over his hands, the dark marks standing out against his pale skin like blood on a white sheet. His voice was downright broken at this point, and those apologies just didn’t stop and why was he apologizing so much when it wasn’t even his fault…? It made the logical, mystery-solving side of his brain assume things in Komaeda’s past that he didn’t want to imagine ever happening to anyone, especially him. It… hurt…

“N-Nagito. Look at me.” To his own surprise, he obeyed, staring at him through his tears. God, his eyes were a shade brighter from crying so hard, the color far more saturated and striking and pretty and… “We won’t die. I promise. If we were going to fall, it would have done it already, right? We’re just sitting still. There are a bunch of emergency precautions on these things, so nothing’s gonna happen!”

“O-Okay…” He was whispering, tears still slipping down.

“Yeah! We’re gonna be okay! I’m here for you, okay? I’m not gonna go anywhere.” He sounded so lame… when Sayaka repeated the word “right” it sounded convincing, but his “okay” mantra was just embarrassing… but Nagito was listening to his words like they were all that mattered. Weird. No one else had ever taken him seriously like this…or at all…

Another little jerk of the machinery, and Nagito jumped so hard he literally fell directly onto him, effectively crushing him and cutting off his breathing for the second time in an hour. A little choking noise tumbled from his lips and the taller boy immediately scrambled away, apologizing profusely, the tears flooding his face.

“It’s okay!” Makoto wheezed out, kind of hating himself for not staying silent- he just had to go and make Komaeda feel even worse, why did he always mess everything up… “Nagito, really it’s okay! Please don’t cry…” He kept using his first name, something he usually only did with close friends, and he wasn’t sure why it just felt so good to say it.

Nagito shook his head. “We’re at the v-very top, it’s too high…”

Makoto just wanted to hug him until he stopped panicking but that was way too embarrassing and would probably just creep him out, so he tried something else. “You don’t like heights?”

“N-No… I…” He hugged himself tightly, tears dripping onto his shirt. “Ifshe’s doing this, there won’t be a meteorite…”

“A meteorite?” Makoto repeated uncertainly.

“There’s no… no…”

Makoto hated the way his breathing was so shallow. “Who’s she?” Maybe Makoto could talk to her and help resolve whatever issues she was having with Komaeda-

“J-Junko Enoshima.”

Makoto’s mouth went agape. Junko…? Sure, she could be a bit bitchy but she generally didn’t seek trouble; she just kind of complained about being bored and breaking her nails and being called a slut a lot, which he supposed could be tiring, but why in the world would that lead to the conclusion that she was messing up the ride? “H-Huh? What about her?”

Nagito suddenly leaned forward, his eyes hysterical and his breath warm on his face as he muttered, “She’ll kill us all if she can, she reeks of despair, we’re going to die, we’re going to die…”

Normally, Makoto would be confused or afraid. Or offended. Junko washis friend, after all. Nagito was the one that acted… like that … but… none of that even crossed his mind now, though it surely would have with anyone else. Nagito was so clearly scared, and at the moment, he didn’t care if Nagito was worried an alien was about to float out of space and eat the entire earth. He just wanted him to feel better.

“She can’t hurt us. She…” Makoto already felt embarrassed about what he was going to say, but he didn’t care what it took to calm Nagito down anymore, he was going to do it. “You said I had more hope than everyone here, right? Well, I’m the one that’s here now.” His hand rested on his chest, his eyes much sharper than usual. “You said hope would overcome despair, too, didn’t you? I agree with that. Hope will alwaysovercome despair! I’ll make sure of it!”

Something about his words felt oddly ominous, even to himself with his own horrible self-esteem. Not that he really cared: Nagito was hanging onto every syllable like a lifeline, eyes wide, scared, teary. No one else ever had- why would anyone listen to such an ordinary, insignificant person, anyway?

Makoto grabbed his hand, vaguely wondering why his pulse raced when Nagito’s breath hitched in response. “I won’t let anything bad happen to you, either, Nagito. No matter what. You’re my friend.”

More tears leaked out, but they seemed a bit different now. “N-Naegi-kun… You’re… you’re really not a worthless waste of space like the other lucky students…” Makoto yelped in surprise as he was suddenly pulled into a hug, feeling him bury his face in his chest, his hoodie becoming soaked in moments. “Thank you, thank you, thank you…” Makoto’s chest felt oddly warm, but like, on the inside…?

He wrapped his arms tightly around Nagito’s shaking form, hearing him gasp again- yeah, his heart felt like it was melting, the… the same way it had when Sayaka had said she’d noticed him in middle school. H-Huh… that was… uh.“It’s nothing.” He didn’t reply to the first part of his words.

“The f-fact that you’d he-help scum like me-“

“You’re my friend, Nagito. I don’t think you’re scum at all.” Makoto replied simply. His words held so much gentle sincerity that even he himself could pick up on it and-

Nagito sobbed harder. Had no one ever treated him this way before…? Makoto hated the thought. He started to awkwardly rub his shoulder, murmuring soft, empty reassurances that must not have seemed so empty to Komaeda.

His stomach felt weird. He’d never had someone hold him like this, or treat him like he was some kind of hero, or act like his words meant more than the words of God Himself. It was embarrassing, but… it felt good, too. Special. He’d had a good life, wouldn’t want to change a thing, but he’d never once felt special before.

The sun was still bright outside. His mind was focusing on all the little things for some reason, memorizing them the way you would at your wedding or graduation ceremony. Like… even though Nagito dressed as casually as him, he smelled really, really good. That…. That rich kind of good, like Byakuya. Sweet. He’d never noticed it before. His mess of hair was tickling his chin. It was… really soft. Kinda like the fur of a fluffy dog. Vaguely, Makoto wondered if Nagito liked animals- Makoto loved them despite being forced to care for them in middle school and raise the chickens in the garden now. Maybe Nagito would want to help him take care of them later… Weird thought, but all his classmates were always too busy, so he’d always done it by himself.

But right now, that wasn’t really relevant. Nagito’s cries were softening from Makoto’s continued reassurances, his shaking gradually fading into little trembles. “N-Nagito… look at me, okay?” God, he’d never seen him look like this- he always had that easy smile, that snow-white skin. Now it was redder than Hina’s hoodie, those surprisingly dark, long eyelashes garnished with beads of tears that shone like diamonds in the sunlight…

Makoto gently moved to wipe away his tears- Nagito stiffened… like an animal that had been beat. “It’s okay, Nagito. I’m here for you.” His voice sounded so steady, somehow.

Nagito abruptly shook his head. “N-No, it’s all my fault… I’m s-sorry…”

Makoto’s heart sank; he thought he’d managed to calm him down…. “It’s really not-“

“You sh-should have left me alone. I r-ruined your life and now you’re g-gonna die too-“

Makoto’s brow creased. What…? “How did you ruin my life?”

“I m-made your friends hate you.” Nagito whimpered, not meeting his eyes.

“What?” Where had he even gotten that impression…?

Nagito stared out the window, his bottom lip quivering. “K-Kuwata-kun and Maizono-san… they were angry, b-because they hate me and you picked trash like me over them-“

Makoto waved his hands frantically. “N-No! They don’t hate you, Nagito!” He sighed, feeling like all the good responses had faded away, like he was playing the game he’d thought of earlier except it had glitched and now there weren’t even any options to choose from. He still didn’t give up. “It’s just… Sayaka is a famous idol, y’know? She has a lot of creepy fans that stalk her, and Leon has the same problems ‘cuz he’s a popular athlete, so when people get all, uh… fanboy-y around them they get nervous, y’know? But they don’t hate you, honest!”

Nagito blinked. “What do you mean…?” It seemed like he was taking him seriously. But why…? Makoto couldn’t even take himself seriously.

“Well… I mean, Sayaka is really nice, but I know Leon would tell you straight-out if he hated you.” He scratched his head. “But they aren’t mad at me. Or you. They just, uh… y’know, they don’t really… understand, I guess?” He was telling the truth, too- if they got to know him better, they’d probably like him, and he and Leon could certainly relate- Makoto had been there for quite a few of his secret panic attacks in the boys’ bathroom, but the concern he felt for Nagito now felt different from how it had for Leon then. “I mean, I don’t either, but I mean, I uh, I want to-“

Nagito’s eyes looked like something Makoto had never seen on anyone before- or at least, not directed towards him. “What did you say?’’

Makoto gulped. “You’re my friend, y’know? I wanna know as much about you as you wanna tell me, I mean, that’s what friends do, right?’’ He chuckled awkwardly, having no idea what he was saying anymore, but Nagito…  “H-Hey, don’t cry! C’mon, I’m…” Naegi’s voice faltered, nervous smile playing on his lips, “I’m sure someone else in your class has said this before…”

Nagito shook his head, tears rushing down yet again. Makoto was quick to brush them away with his fingers, noticing vaguely how soft his skin was. There was this… urge he’d never felt before, to just… run his fingers across the other parts of his face and see if they were this soft, too. He was kind of making himself nervous… “W-Well, I’m saying it now, okay?” Makoto smiled widely, his eyes softly staring into his. “We can hang out as much as you want. And talk. And take care of chickens and go on dumb rides and all that other stuff, okay?’’

And Nagito was leaning closer with no warning whatsoever, his eyes now starrier than the inside of that one underclassman’s jacket. Makoto’s heart jumped- now he could feel the warmth of the blush on Nagito’s face, the blush that somehow looked even cuter than Sayaka’s. “You’re so amazing…” Komaeda’s voice was suddenly breath-y.

Makoto’s face burned, his heart pounding against his chest. He didn’t… get it… Nagito’s voice  was so cute and he felt so warm inside and almost giddy, but… he hadn’t done anything to deserve this…! “N-No, not at all! I’m really just, uh. Normal and boring, honestly!’’ He protested feebly.

He shook his head no. “That’s not true… there’s so much hope inside of you.” His voice was oh, so melodic and Nagito made him feel so important and he wanted… he wanted to… to…? And he just kept going, innocently, adorably unaware of the effect that he was having on Makoto. “You’re… not like the others. Not like anyone else. You’re incredible.”

Incredible…? No one had ever told him that… Makoto gulped, his fingers starting to shake at the way he was staring at him, eyes oh, so earnest. It was… doubtlessly something he’d never seen on anyone before, and since it was so different it kind of scared him, but he… liked it…?  He liked it so much. The air was tense and Makoto was practically sitting on his lap but… he didn’t mind it at all… If anything, he kind of wanted… to be much closer-

The capsule jerked, and this time, when he fell on him yet again, their lips crashed together. Nagito immediately jerked back before Makoto could even feel it and clambered to the other side of the seat, his face as red as a goddamn crayon. “Oh Naegi-kun I’m so so so sorry I swear I didn’t mean to I’m so sorry I make every-“

Makoto wasn’t thinking, as per usual. He just crawled forward as Nagito spoke and did it again, his eyes staying open, meeting Komaeda’s, watching the fear fade out of them as his chapped lips became supple, watched the rest of the tension in them diminish until they relaxed so completely they fluttered closed, a tiny sigh tickling Makoto’s lips. Makoto shut his eyes as well, cusping his face in his hands, relaxing into him as Nagito slumped into the wall, hearing him whimper, feeling his mind slowly replenish his awareness which brought on his awkwardness and oh god-

“A-Ah! I’m so sorry! I should have-! Sh-shit, I’m so sorry!”

Nagito’s eyes were half-lidded, a tiny smile tugging at his lips. “You’re… you’re so cute, Naegi-kun.” He tilted his head forward, kissing him this time.

Ah…. ah. Makoto’s awkwardness left as quickly as it’d appeared, and oh, he could get used to this. Nagito’s lips caressed his own in a way Makoto couldn’t hope to describe, his breathing deepening as the older boy shifted his weight forward, slowly pushing Makoto down without ever moving away, lying on top of him and- his tongue brushed the edge of his upper lip, earning a tremble, which led to Nagito tentatively tugging at it with his teeth, sucking on that one area ever so gently, Makoto moaning and…

Nagito leaned up slightly, panting, their eyes blearily staring into the other’s. He could see the want hazing his brain reflected on Nagito’s expression. Adrenaline and need and so many other things he couldn’t hope to even name led him to press forward again, oh his lips, so soft and welcoming and yearning for him, and Makoto’s tongue worked its way in Komaeda’s mouth, oh he tasted so good and he felt Nagito collapsing in on himself so that Makoto had to pin him against the seat, like he wanted to submit to him and Makoto didn’t understand but god he hoped Nagito never stopped making that noise-!

And just like that, the lights flicked on. They broke away, a line of saliva connecting their lips, and it shouldn’t have made him feel so excited to see that… "K-Komaeda-kun… N-Nagito.” Said luckster was no longer panicking, his eyes focused on Makoto’s. Yet again, the weird, nice feeling was there. Makoto wasn’t sure if he wanted to bury his face in his hoodie or kiss him again.

He’d… actually kissed someone. A boy. He’d kissed a boy… How? He had just… Done it. What what what he could barely even tie his shoes-

“Are you alright?” Nagito’s expression suddenly fell. “Ah… I’m so sorry. You must be so disgusted-”

“No!” Makoto’s voice was so passionate it shocked even him. “I don’t regret it! I…” Makoto grabbed his hands- oh they were so cold and way too big in comparison to his own but they still seemed to fit together so perfectly. Nagito’s eyes were a mix of shocked disbelief and hope… wouldn’t it be nice if it was solely hope? If he could someday get him to the point where he wouldn’t assume he was disgusted with him if Makoto looked upset about something? His eyes met his steadily, but still took in all the details he could; oh, oh, that perfect shade of pink still dusting his face, those long, dark lashes that stood out in such a stark but pleasant contrast to the paleness of his other features… and his lips, all red and swollen and quivering in a way that was almost unperceivable. He was… beautiful… Makoto’s heartbeat wouldn’t slow down. “I… I want to see you more, Nagito!”

Why was the ride going back down? Makoto’s stomach sank in time with its descent; he wanted, no, needed more time alone with him, here and now while he was calmed down in relatively peaceful place and not scared out there in a crowd of people- he didn’t realize it, but those damn middle school animal raising habits were kicking in, activating the strategies he’d used on the skittish ones; within a minute or so, they’d be back around all kinds of outside stimulation that would make Komaeda go back to being… Komaeda. Which meant he had to make his words matter as much as Nagito thought they did, right now, without any time to plan it out, before he shoved him away again and probably never gave him another chance ever again.

Makoto really shouldn’t feel so desperate to succeed.

He squeezed his hands, eyes never leaving his. “Please keep talking to me, okay?’’ His thumbs started to rub shapes on the back of his hands- they were all heart-shaped, but Makoto wasn’t aware of this- and he continued to do so even as he spoke. “I really like talking to you…” There was the self-conscious awkwardness again, but god, no, he wasn’t going to let his embarrassment hold him back again, especially not when he’d literally just had his tongue down his fucking throat…  “I really like you, Nagito. I th-think you’re incredible, too! It, it really makes me happy when I’m around you and whenever I can make you happy, you deserve to be happy…!” He noticed the older boy’s Adam’s Apple bob as he swallowed from the corner of his eyes; his gaze remained locked onto Nagito’s, his eyes filled with so much hope it was practically overflowing. “So can we talk more from now on? Please?”

Lucky him- the last word left his lips just as the ride reached the ground. The attendants were checking on them, making sure no one was hurt, and at the moment, their attention was directed at Sayaka and Leon rather than them- the timing helped to add a dramatic effect to his words, and it seemed like somebody’s luck was being kind today, so surely, this would work…! Nagito had such a sweet smile- directed towards Makoto!- on his face as he replied simply, ‘’Of course.”

…!!! Makoto’s heart skipped a beat, a stupid smile tugging at his lips. He’d done it…! Nagito wasn’t running off! “Thank you so much! Really, I promise it’s going to be great!” …Huh. For a moment there, Nagito’s eyes seemed pained, but when he blinked, it was gone.

The container opened, the attendants barely glancing over them before moving on to the next one, grumbling something about not being paid enough. Makoto opened his mouth to speak, only to shut it as he noticed Nagito’s smile warp into a smirk. “But we can do that tomorrow, right, Naegi-kun? The bet said one ride and you’d leave me alone, remember?” His face was impossible to read, and before Makoto could even register what was going on, Nagito had slipped outside and walked off.

…What…? Makoto remained there dumbly, his stomach knotting up as he watched him leave. Had he made him upset…? No, he hadn’t seemed that way… Nagito probably would have said something if Makoto had pissed him off, right? He kept staring off into the direction he’d went, thoughts racing, heart sinking oh, so low. He’d heard some of the upperclassmen bitch that Nagito always seemed to be playing some sort of game with them. Hell, maybe he was getting back at him for forcing him to go here, giving him a taste of his own medicine… but Nagito probably wouldn’t do anything like that to him. He… try as he might, he just couldn’t understand it. But Makoto wasn’t the type to dwell on the negative; he’d said he’d talk to him tomorrow, and it’d definitely seemed like he’d meant it! He knew deep down that it’d all work out in the end, so why not just enjoy the rest of today and try to pretend he wasn’t rapidly getting addicted to the way Komaeda made him feel?

He was just so damn happy… He’d never felt like this before! There was a stupid smile spread over his face, his thoughts wandering off to how soft Komaeda’s hair was, how soft his lips were… ah, he wanted to feel them again-

“MAKOTO!” Sayaka’s hands were suddenly on his shoulders, pulling him out (why was she stronger than he was?) Her eyes were wide and her face flushed, as if she’d been trying to get his attention for a while now. “Did he hurt you?!”

Makoto fervently shook his head, completely shocked. “No! What are you even talking about?!”

Leon was grinning, his hand resting on the back of his neck. “Of course he didn’t hurt him. That’s the kind of face you make after ya score a big one!“

Sayaka’s brow creased. "What does that even mean?”

Ha… his face was burning, his gaze focusing on Sayaka rather than Leon. “I’m… I’m fine.” Yeah… fine… the dopey smile returned. “That was great, actually.” Funny; for some reason, that hope he’d been talking about felt… real. His thoughts seemed clearer, his shoulders felt lighter, and every color seemed to suddenly have more saturation. Leon and Sayaka’s faces both seemed more detailed than usual and he just felt so happy and-

Without even thinking of it, he was abruptly slinging both of them into a hug, a giddy laugh slipping out. “I love you guys!”

Sayaka grinned, returning the hug, and for once, this didn’t make butterflies flutter around in his stomach. “Awwww! We love you too, Makoto!” She smelled so good- it was a line of perfume she herself had produced -the way a lot of celebrities did- after she’d enrolled here, but god, despite how incredible it was, it still had nothing on Komaeda’s scent….

Leon’s brow raised. “Dude, are you high…? Did he make you eat something-”

Makoto laughed, which only made those gray eyes seem even more wary. “Of course not! It’s just a really great day, isn’t it? Look how bright the sun is!”

They stared at the sky, an endless sheet of blue that seemed to hint at equally endless possibilities from this point on. The clouds stringing the sky were as fluffy as the cotton candy being sold across from them, and Makoto was grinning like a total idiot because it reminded him of Nagito’s hair. Sayaka placed her hands on her chest, a smile that was more Normal Teenage Girl than Ultimate Idol on her face as she softly agreed, “It’s really beautiful…”

Makoto laughed again. He was so happy he didn’t know what to do…! “Yeah! Let’s go get ice cream, I’m thirsty!” And for once, Makoto led the way. Sayaka and Leon shared a confused glance.

They spoke at the same time:

“I’m worried about Makoto-”

“Why would you get ice cream if you’re thirsty-”

Sayaka looked like she could have stabbed him. “Leon, take this seriously!” After he apologized, her wrist gravitated near her face from anxiety. “Do you think they-”

“Nah. ‘Course not.” Leon replied, arms crossing over his chest.

Sayaka’s eyes focused on the ground. “But… Where did Komaeda-kun go…?”

“Uh… I dunno,” Leon shrugged, before changing the subject with a smirk, “I mean, I’m actually proud of him! Our boy’s growing up!”

Sayaka rolled her eyes, but it didn’t seem to stem from actual aggravation… Makoto’s innocent happiness was contagious.

They started to follow him, Leon drawling, “Y'know… I’m really glad we met up today. Feels like… no matter what happens, everything’s gonna work out.”

She glanced at the sky again before her eyes refocused on Leon, smiling sweetly. “Yeah… I agree.”