the wretched automatons

Published: July 22, 2013.

Words: 2,637.

Chapters: 1/1.


Yesterday, two people died. Today, Komaeda, wannabe murderer and murder victim, makes Hinata breakfast.


don't ask me why the layout of locations is suspiciously dissimilar from what you saw in the game.

don't ask me why japanese teenagers are eating american breakfast foods.

On AO3.

His hands encircle the mug, knuckles starkly white with forceful effort. He half fears the mug might crack and crumble into pieces, but a more pungent concern burrows its roots in deeper yet and racks him with fear. What if he lets go, he thinks, considers, frets. Mug in hand, he is safe, inside and sheltered from the storm. Outside, the winds whip by at an awe-inspiring speed, brandishing whatever objects it might find as weapons, armed and dangerous. The mug acts as a center of gravity, as a coddling anchor.

He sips the coffee, a cold leftover from last morning, but still electric in its caffeine. An involuntary shiver runs through Hinata and fears unthought unfold, what ifs collide as a wrecking ball into reality. His hands jerk, and, in his shaky-as-is state, the mug flies off the table to the floor. It crashes; it shatters.

It's white ceramic shards in a dirt-brown puddle, an insignificant fuck up.

Hinata rakes tremulous fingers through his hair. He is bared, vulnerable, about to be ripped open and asunder and his skin and muscle stripped from his bones as the hurricane engulfs him.

He inhales. The beat of his heart swells in volume and vibrates in his ears. Crickets chirp softly and out of sync. A barely-there wind ripples through the palm trees.

The restaurant and his body remain intact. The storm doesn't come for him.

The clock reads quarter of four when he glances at it, and when he looks out into the beyond, it's unsurprisingly black. He sighs, wobbly and semi-relieved. There are floorboards beneath him and a rooftop above him, immutably existent and both adequately built and assembled with at least basic understanding of what those concepts mean. The floor holds steady, not collapsing like a house of cards in the gentle, tropical breeze. No moonlight withholds the night in the restaurant; instead, it is by the artificial means of electricity, the slight, familiar buzz it generates a comfort. They carry on with their solemn, rational duty. The world has not flipped on its axis since Hinata last checked.

And it genuinely shocks him, steals his breath, and every other cliche.

Togami is dead. Hanamura is dead. Yet there is no tangible apocalypse. Flames don't mimic a false dawn on the dark horizon. Silence envelopes the island thickly in place of voice-wrenching screams and cries for help as fire makes a meal of his remaining classmates.

No, because nothing has stopped. The Earth still spins, and it will keep going for millions and millions of years to come.

Hinata can't sleep. That's all.

It should be a moment of triumphant drama when the sun breaches the skyline, a goddamn miracle of a fiery explosion from under the sea. The music would crescendo, warm and maybe saccharine because this is the end of a journey and credits will soon roll. The bombs have landed and now humanity will re-civilize the land's tattered crust.

The aftermath begins.

Hinata leaves the mess uncleaned. He is no grizzled, action-movie hero, unchanged and vibrant from the show of gore. He is tired and worn, a second-hand garment strung out to dry in the desert sun. He neither wants to nor can handle the trek back to his cottage. In place of a bed, he curls up behind the counter, on the floor he failed to find solace in earlier and does no more to sooth him now.

Horror finds and stirs him in his short-lived rest.

Resistant to consciousness and too encrusted with the film of dreams to open his eyes, he first simply smells and hears. He catches the odor of coffee, the machine brewing a fresh pot. The scent and sizzle of what he thinks must be bacon, a quiet potency beneath the overbearing coffee, entices him. Toast pops, and a plate and silverware clink as they're laid out. It doesn't fit well into Hinata's image of the world, but it's queerly homey.

Slowly, he unwinds into a stretch, then he sees. His stomach drops out. Anger tastes acidic like bile and is heavy and thick on his tongue. Hidden wells of energy power his fatigued limbs to life despite his poor sleep.

Komaeda cocks his head down at Hinata, who scrambles to his feet, and smiles, full and vibrant. "Good morning, Hinata-kun!" he chirps, cheerful and almost singsong for the still silent birds.

Hinata sputters incoherently, loose and tense at once. Fear cripples him into a taut paralysis, but if not for his grip on the countertop and the support it offers, his weak, limp legs would cave in.

Komaeda turns back to the stovetop to poke at the bacon with a spatula. "How are you feeling? I can't imagine you slept very well after that showdown."

"You—what are you," he starts to speak, trailing off as myopia steals in and he loses the course of his sentence, veers into the perilous waters of the What the Fuck Sea.

Komaeda hums a brief tune and shuts the burners off.

Hinata manges and eloquent mumble of "Fuck."

"Hm? I'm sorry, Hinata-kun! I wish I could offer a more stimulating conversation or keep up with your thought process!" Komaeda says. "Terrible as it is, if you'd like to talk, I will try my hardest!"

Yesterday, two people died. Today, Komaeda, wannabe murderer and murder victim, makes Hinata breakfast.

Hinata exchanges a weary look with Komaeda, who sighs, free hand on his hip. It feels as though it devolves into unreality, a series of happenings unrelated to Hinata. A hand wraps around Hinata's waist and another sits on his opposite shoulder. Komaeda gives a gentle push to spur Hinata into movement and guides him over to a table, nudges out a chair, and sits Hinata down.

Hinata complies, no complaints, a spectator locked inside himself, his soul mismatched to his body's wavelength. He recognizes the floor, the roof, and the other components that make up this world, though he views them through the hazy lens of unreality.

"Food's almost done, if you can hang on, Hinata-kun!"

Pep in his words, and spring in his steps, Komaeda is no worse for wear. His behavior doesn't seem all that different, Hinata vaguely notices, or, then again, maybe nothing about Komaeda has changed. Maybe Komaeda has simply deigned to make them aware of something there from the start. If he had succeeded, Hinata wonders if they'd talk about him like the acquaintances of known killers do on the news. "He seemed like a nice kid," they'd say. "It's honestly a bit scary to know that's what he was really like. It makes you think, I mean, do you know what anyone is like truly? Could anyone be capable of snapping like that?"

Then rage flows like lava in his bloodstream. Heat glows red up his spine and into his mind. It drags him, voice-wrenching screams and all, back.

Komaeda's voice slips unabsorbed in and out of Hinata, and a plate appears before him, steaming high with breakfast foods, then a mug beside it. Komaeda takes a seat across from Hinata, hands entwined and his chin resting on them, and smiling, smiling, smiling.

The scene sinks in succinctly past his skin and mingles in his systems: Komaeda made him fucking breakfast. It's altogether bizarrely charming and horrifying. The words to express the emotions stewing and boiling in him hover just out of grasp. He stares vacantly down at the meal, making no move to eat.

He thinks, not entirely sure, that he wants to cry, though his eyes are creaky, dusty things. He knows the storm won't come; he won't be lost in a flood of righteous sorrow and outrage. He is dry and flattened, and so very, very tired.

Food fails to tempt any sort of response from him. He isn't hungry.

"It's understandable if you don't want to eat anything," Komaeda comments. "Someone like me did touch it after all."

"That isn't it," Hinata mumbles into his hands. He neither knows what to say or do. It all swirls together into one hell of a headache.

If the gods were good, meteors would rain down from the sky, pelt the island, and erase it from existence. If fortune favored Hinata over Komaeda, he would phase down into the ground and maybe reawken in the superior company of the Earth's core. If Hinata were truly so talented, he wouldn't be here. He's not ready to contend with this. He isn't ready to have the aftermath with Komaeda over how:

"They're dead because of you." He says it quietly, almost shamefully, hands lowered into his lap. "You started it. It doesn't matter that you didn't succeed, that you didn't manage to fucking kill Togami. You played straight into Monobear's hand. It's your fault they're dead, Komaeda." Here it comes out a boiling, rancid slide of sludge, an angry, upset, hurried tirade of accusations. Komaeda begged for the gun; he's getting a fucking bullet to the face.

And it envelopes Hinata. He's on his feet, banging the table on his way up, and not giving a flying fuck.

"Seriously, what the fuck, Komaeda? You try to stab our classmate in the back last night, now it's fucking eggs and toast? Now you're making me fucking breakfast?" The plate clatters as Hinata slams his hands on the table, and continues in a low tone, "How the hell did you even know I was here? I don't exactly make a habit out of three-in-the-morning coffee."

Hinata's stomach vacates the building because there is no way for it to drop any lower at the sound of Komaeda's laughter. It's small, nothing like the display during the trial, and Hinata can't place the intent as to mock him or just something insane.

Komaeda practically breathes, "You're amazing, Hinata-kun! You have the potential" —he sucks in a little gasp— "for the greatest hope. I knew I was right when I saw it in you." Then he laughs again, waves a dismissive hand, and says, "A pathetic person like me will be long dead as a stepping stone before you display that sort of magnificence! I can only imagine."

"Were you watching me?" Hinata asks, fists curling.

Komaeda smiles, starts to speak before Hinata interrupts him, "I'm serious Komaeda. Were you watching me?"

"Of course not, Hinata-kun! I couldn't sleep either after that amazing clash of hope, so I went on a walk! I honestly just happened to find you here!" Komaeda strikes a thoughtful pose. "Useless as it doubtlessly was, I thought I might at least try to be less of disgusting burden! To even help you rejuvenate your potential for hope..."

It's an answer for which Hinata juggles a thousand potential responses. He groans and whispers, "I wish Owari had punched you."

"We can still do that, Hinata-kun!" Komaeda exclaims, and Hinata nearly jumps out of himself. "I want nothing more than your dreams to be realized! Ah, we might not even need Owari-san! I'm sure you could do it on your own."

Komaeda comes around the table and grabs Hinata's hand. "See? We can do it, you and me! Unless you'd prefer to be an audience, in which case, Owari-san is only a walk away! It's all up to you, Hinata-kun!"

"Let go of me."

"Of course," Komaeda says with a laugh, but he stalls a moment or two before doing so.

Hinata walks away without another word, down the stairs and out into the dull-colored morning. Weakness preys on him and slows his stride at the sound of the restaurant door rattling open and shut, then strikes a second time when he stays slow and does not escalate into a sprint at scurrying footsteps and then the inevitable return of Komaeda to his side. Hinata spares Komaeda a quick glance, contains a sigh, and keeps on keeping on toward his cottage.

"Ah, are we going to get Owari-san?"

"No," Hinata replies, a third count of weakness when he should have kept quiet. Komaeda makes an understanding noise, so he adds, "It's not what you think it is, so go away."

"If that's really what you would like, I suppose I could walk back in the opposite direction around the island!"

A moment of silence passes. Hinata determined not to encourage Komaeda, and Komaeda presumably waiting on a declination from Hinata.

"Have a good night—or would it be morning? Ha ha, oh well, be careful, Hinata-kun!"

The arrangement falls apart faster than Hinata could have anticipated and for reasons he scarcely cares to think in depth about. His iron will weathers under misplaced pity, and Komaeda barely makes it more than ten steps in the opposite direction.


"Yes, Hinata-kun?"

"It's...probably safer if we go back together," Hinata says, a stupid, obvious lie. There isn't anyone alive that Komaeda could make feel better.

"You're so smart, Hinata-kun! If someone tries to attack you, you can use my useless body to shield yourself! Or, maybe I could be a distraction while you escape!"

Discomfort is an unspoken third companion for the remainder of the walk back to the hotel. It's largely a muted affair. Komaeda keeps too close to Hinata in a continuation of a worrying trend, and Hinata bites his protests and buries his misgivings in a continuation of an even more worrisome trend. Their hands bump more times than Hinata wants to acknowledge (but four to be exact), sending a careening shock up Hinata each time and a strong sense of not knowing how the hell to respond.

They get to Komaeda's cottage first. For all his anxiety, Hinata is mostly awkward, having a hard time meeting Komaeda's eyes and torn between simply leaving without a goodbye and maybe talking or something. Komaeda makes a choice for him: "Thank you for tolerating me for this long, Hinata-kun! It was nice!"

"It wasn't as bad as it could have been, I guess," he doesn't say.

"You're welcome," he doesn't say.

"Thank you for not trying to kill me, too," he doesn't say.

Hinata doesn't say anything because Komaeda leans in and lightly touches Hinata's cheek. Another hand slides behind to hold Hinata's head, drags him in so their foreheads bump and touch and they're so fucking close. Hinata unthinkingly winds his hands around clumps of Komaeda's jacket, to throw him to the ground and run.

"Komaeda, what the fuck—"

Komaeda speaks in a hushed tone over him, warm breath brushing over Hinata's lips and chin. "I'm sorry, Hinata-kun. I know I shouldn't but it isn't surprising that someone so disgusting and repulsive as me can't control itself, right? You'd know better, right, Hinata-kun?"

Komaeda seals his lips over objections forming at Hinata's, chaste and sudden. Hinata almost gasps into it as a faint groan from Komaeda vibrates into him. Hinata moves to shove Hinata away, but is met by a firm resistance from Komaeda, who lowers an arm to wrap around Hinata's waist and keep him in place. Hinata redoubles his efforts before abandoning that course of action to paw at Komaeda's face and turn it away.

It ends strangely subdued and grossly overwrought.

Hinata drags the back of his arm over his mouth, inhales noisily and deeply through his nose, and watches Komaeda, taking in nothing of his countenance. Static filters through his brain as he desperately turns dials to try and tune back in. Some sort of jabber escapes his mouth. He trips back a few steps before it morphs into a complete scramble, a messy bolt to escape a bemusing situation.

He tears inside his cottage as fast as the laws of the universe allow. He shucks off his shoes and falls onto his bed.

Hinata doesn't sleep at all that night. He is a broken wheel in the machine, and that's all.