1. The marks
Makoto doesn't know at first.
He's caught up in all the strangers, and the talking bear, and the killing game, and it's just too much to process for one day.
In fact, it's way too much, and it's made him clammy and sweaty. So when everyone has stopped arguing and he's finally able to retreat to his new room, he recalls the rule about water at night and decides he needs to take a shower before the opportunity is taken from him.
Makoto strips without much fanfare. As with any new bathroom, it takes him a moment to figure out how to get the water flowing (and how to get it to the right temperature), but after a minute or so of fiddling, he steps under the showerhead.
His bushy hair seems to melt under the water, sticking to his forehead and neck. The water is hot enough to sting, just like he likes it, and a bit of steam is already curling off the floor. He closes his eyes, letting the water run down his eyelashes, and hangs his head until he can feel his chin brush against his chest. He lets himself finally breathe.
Makoto is tempted to forgo even washing, to just rinse off and climb into his bed, but he knows he's gross from all the stress, and it's not a great idea to leave his face all greasy just to rub it on his pillowcase. He wipes at his eyes so he can open them and glances at the little metal railing with soap and shampoo. He has to tear open the soap's packaging. (At least he knows no one's used it before.)
He lathers up his hands, sets the bar down, and runs his palms up his stomach and chest. His muscle memory takes over, and he does his best to clear his head, lest he start to think about everything all over again. He focuses on the smell of the soap: soft, mostly neutral, but with a hint of honey, and maybe vanilla. It's surprisingly nice, considering everything. He tries to be grateful.
At some point, his shower habits bring his hands to his shoulders. This shouldn't be strange. Actually, it should be completely uneventful. But Makoto's right hand meets a slight indentation on his left shoulder.
He pauses. Carefully, he runs a finger over it. It doesn't hurt, so he keeps going.
There's another one.
When he checks with his hand, it seems to be a ring of them, just an inch or so away from his neck. None of them react to the soap, which is at least a bit of a relief, but Makoto's heart is still racing in his chest.
Slowly, Makoto steps out of the shower, not bothering to turn off the water or even get the suds off his skin. He has to run one hand under the sink so he can wipe off the fogged-up mirror.
Makoto has a bite mark. And he has no idea how he got it.
The next day, Makoto doesn't mention it to anyone. He figures it's not important. Confusing, sure, but not relevant. There's so many other things to do, and he wouldn't want to interrupt the others' search for escape with some stupid bite.
It's on the third day that something happens.
Even though Togami refuses to go to the breakfast meetings, Makoto feels like he should keep an eye on him for some reason. Well, maybe not "even though"-- it's more like because he refuses to go. So when Makoto has a little time that morning, he stops by the library.
Togami is sitting, reclined gracefully, in his usual chair, holding a thick book in one hand and turning the pages with the other. Makoto can't see the cover from this angle, but there's some sort of diagram on the page Togami's reading. It must have something to do with science, then, he supposes.
He walks closer, lifting a hand to nervously wave. "Uh… hey, Togami."
He doesn't look up. "Naegi."
"Yep," he says, then realizes how stupid it sounded. "Um, whatcha reading there?"
"It wouldn't interest you even if you could understand it," he says simply.
Makoto winces. "I… wasn't asking so I could read it. It's just a polite thing to ask, you know?"
Togami tucks his thumb between the pages and closes the book on it, finally tilting his head up. The change of angle makes even the soft lighting in the library glare off of Togami's glasses, masking his eyes.
Makoto smiles. Maybe he's actually giving him a chance.
"Are you going to let me read, or not?"
Ah. He's always been a bit too optimistic. "I just… thought you might like to talk. Sorry."
Togami purses his lips. "I'm good, thanks." His voice is cold.
Makoto should leave. It's the obvious choice. But his feet are glued to the floor every time he tries to walk back to the doors.
So instead, he shuffles over, grabs a random book off the nearest shelf, and takes a seat across from Togami.
He raises a blonde eyebrow.
Makoto doesn't try to make up an excuse, just opens the book. It's one he's pleasantly surprised to realize he's read before, the first volume of a light novel about a group of friends who solve crimes in their neighborhood. Pretty soon, he's all but forgotten who he's sitting with.
But he does notice the smell in the air. It reminds him of… something. Something familiar, and homey. It drifts in and out of his senses, so he doesn't try to decipher it too much, just lets it fall over him like a warm blanket.
The ocean, he thinks faintly after a while. It smells like the ocean.
He finishes the volume much more quickly than he'd expected. He still feels soft and safe, so when he closes it and looks up, he jolts a little at the sight of Togami watching him with an intense expression.
"T-Togami!" He yelps, then winces at the rather loud break in the silence. "Um-- sorry," he says, quieter this time. "Is… something wrong?"
Togami parts his lips, like he's going to say something, but closes them again just as quickly. He shakes his head lightly, fluffy hair swaying. "It's nothing."
It hadn't seemed like nothing, but Makoto tries to brush it off. A quick glance at the clock tells him it's been about two hours already.
"Uh… did you finish your book, then?" Makoto asks weakly.
Togami blinks, and for just a moment, Makoto thinks he loses his cool. "Not quite." He doesn't elaborate.
Makoto swallows. "Well, um… thanks for… letting me read with you, I guess." He smiles, and he means it. "You could have kicked me out or something. So… I'm glad we could, I don't know, coexist?"
Togami pushes his glasses up the bridge of his nose in a swift, clearly practiced motion. "Yes, well. It was easier to take advantage of the quiet than to start arguing again."
Strangely, Makoto feels like he might actually be chipping away at Togami's carefully constructed barriers.
"Well, thanks," he says again. "It was… nice."
Makoto stands, filing the book away in approximately the same spot. He glances back over at Togami. He's looking away, but Makoto can't help but wonder.
He leaves the library, his body feeling so much lighter than it has the past few days.
He tries to hang out with Sayaka. He tries really, really hard. But his shoulder itches, and everything smells wrong.
She's in the middle of rambling about something, but she stops and looks at him.
"Um… Makoto?" She asks softly. "You don't have to be here, you know. Don't force yourself to spend time with me if you don't want to."
He puts up his hands in defense, eyes wide. "No, no, it's not like that! I really like being with you!" He realizes what he's said and flushes. "Uh-- I mean, I like spending time with you. I just don't really feel like myself right now." He drops his hands into his lap, offering her an apologetic expression. "Maybe it's just…" he looks around them, "this place?"
She frowns. "I guess. I mean, I definitely haven't been feeling the most upbeat lately. But you seem really distracted."
He shrugs, scratching at his skin with his blunt nails. "I just feel off. Like something is missing."
"It's alright." She smiles softly. "Whatever it is, I hope you feel better soon."
"Thanks," he sighs. "I actually was feeling pretty refreshed earlier. Even at lunch, I was… relaxed. But now I feel kind of crappy again."
He considers this. "Yeah. Yeah, I guess… I haven't felt great since all of this started. But I got a breath of fresh air or something today."
She cocks her head to the side. "Huh. I wonder what it was that helped."
His hand freezes on his shoulder. "Wait."
It's not, right? It's literally not possible. Because a scar on its own is believable, but that's…
"I think I need to talk to someone," he breathes.
Sayaka only looks more confused. "Are you going to be okay?"
"I think so," he nods. "I… think I'm going to be a lot better." He offers her a smile. "I'll talk to you later, okay?"
"Ah-- alright," she nods, hands clasped. "Good luck, Makoto."
At first, he makes his way to the library, but that tug in his shoulder steers him the right way.
He rings the doorbell.
There's a long pause, then, slowly, the door swings open. Togami towers over him.
"Can I… come in?" Makoto asks feebly.
To his surprise, Togami steps aside for him. He closes the door behind Makoto.
Togami's room is so much more ornate than his, somehow. He would have thought they'd all be pretty standard, but clearly he was wrong.
Makoto turns to face him. He's not sure how to start, so he sort of just lets words fall out of his mouth. "Can you feel it too?"
Togami's shoulders draw up. Makoto braces himself.
"How could I not?"
Makoto's eyes widen. "So you-- do you have--" He can't seem to find a foothold on his words, so he settles for tugging the collar of his hoodie to the side.
Togami stares at it for a long time. At the bite. He doesn't move any closer, but Makoto can feel him examining it.
Slowly, Togami reaches up and undoes the first button of his high collar. Then the second. He pulls one side of the collar away.
There, on the side of his neck, just shy of poking past the top of where the collar normally sits, is a ring of teeth marks.
Makoto feels like he might topple over at any second. He lets go of his hoodie. "This is…" He shakes his head. "We're… mated." The word feels foreign in his mouth.
Togami's lip pulls up in a sneer. "Bonded," he corrects. "No… mating has taken place."
And for a humiliating moment, Makoto pictures it-- pictures himself under Togami, their bodies tangled as they--
"This has to be Monokuma!" He exclaims a little too loudly. "I mean-- he did this to us. While we were all passed out that first day, right? I knew there had to be a reason for him to put us to sleep, but I never imagined… I don't even know how he could have managed something like this!"
"However it happened, I doubt it can be undone easily," Togami huffs. "Just another way for him to try to draw despair from us, I assume."
"It's bizarre, isn't it?" Makoto asks, though he's not sure if he's talking to Togami or himself. "Why would he do something like that?"
"Maybe," Togami says slowly, "he was hoping one of us would die before we realized."
Makoto's blood runs cold. The other bondmate wouldn't die, of course, but it would be excruciating, usually physically and emotionally.
"Or," he continues, "one of us could have even killed the other. Doing something like that, and immediately realizing your mistake, would surely bring despair."
"That's… horrific," Makoto breathes.
"Indeed. But isn't that just Monokuma's style?"
Makoto sucks in a deep breath. "Look, Togami, I--" he hesitates, just for a moment. "When… we're around each other…" his cheeks are burning. "I feel calm. And safe. You smell nice, like the beach. And I know it's just instincts, but… it makes me drop all the tension in my muscles." He looks up. "And considering our current situation, I have a lot of tension lately."
Togami is silent for a moment, and Makoto wonders if he's said the wrong thing.
He clears his throat. "I… also tend to feel a great deal more at peace with you. Of course, it's just from the bond, but it's a significant effect nonetheless."
Makoto feels his face splitting into a grin.
"So," Togami says, "what do you propose?"
He bites his lip. "Um… it's a lot to ask you to trust me, or even be friendly with me. I know that. But I was wondering if… at least… I could sleep here?" He shifts his weight. "That is… with you. We could share the bed." Before Togami can protest, he puts his hands up. "It would keep us calmer and overall happier, because we'd be closer to each other more often, but we don't even have to talk to each other, because-- you know-- we'd be asleep!"
Togami pushes his glasses up his nose. "That sounds… reasonable." He pauses, seeming to think about something. "Would you be opposed to scenting?"
Makoto knows he must be bright red, but something in him wants that very badly. "Well--" he tries, but it comes out an octave too high. "I… that would be… alright."
Togami nods. "Alright," he echoes.
"But-- uh-- obviously we don't have to act all… coupley," he adds. "It's just… convenient."
"Exactly," he agrees.
"Right. Yeah." Makoto swallows. "So… yeah," he says again.
When the nighttime announcement plays, Makoto nearly goes to his own bed before he remembers. He grabs his toothbrush, his pajamas, and his pillow, just in case.
He has to take several deep breaths before he can ring Togami's doorbell again.
This time, when he opens the door for Makoto, he's already dressed for bed. Makoto can't help but stare a little. He's never seen him dressed so casually-- just a striped long-sleeve shirt and matching pants. They're the same as the ones Makoto was given, but Togami looks so… gentle. Like all his hard edges have been rounded off, just a bit.
Togami gestures to the bathroom, and Makoto nods weakly, slipping inside. He puts his toothbrush down on the counter next to Togami's (His is green, but Togami's is blue. He wonders if the colors were assigned randomly.) before changing into his own pajamas. He's not sure where to leave his clothes, so he folds them as neatly as he can manage and tucks them into the corner of the room.
He comes out with the pillow under his arm and feels a bit silly. Togami's room already had two. He supposes he'll have to use it anyway, because otherwise he'll just look like an idiot.
"Do you need anything else?" Togami asks, surprising him.
"Oh-- no, I'm alright," Makoto assures him. "Thank you. For all of this."
Togami nods and hits the light switch, leaving only a small lamp lit by the bed. He walks over, pulling the sheets back. Then, after a moment of pause, he takes off his glasses, folding them up and setting them on the bedside table. He lays down on the right side of the bed, staring at the ceiling, and pulls the covers up to his chest.
Makoto feels like he should say something, but he's not sure what. So instead, he carefully places his pillow over the one Togami isn't using and clambers up onto the mattress. He tugs feebly at the sheets and rolls over onto his side, facing the wall.
"Um… good night," he says softly.
There's a click, and the lamp turns off, plunging the room into darkness.
Maybe it has to do with not being able to see anything, but Togami's scent seems even stronger now, though it's never overwhelming. It curls around Makoto, holding him in a gentle embrace that makes him melt into the mattress and uncurl the fists he'd subconsciously made.
Togami shifts, and the soft creak makes Makoto tense again.
"Naegi?" He whispers.
He nods, then realizes Togami probably can't see him too well, both because of the darkness and because he's not wearing his glasses. So he murmurs back, "Yes?"
There's another squeak from the mattress. "Could I… scent you?"
He fights down his blush. "Um… I said you could earlier, right?"
"I just wanted to make sure."
An arm finds its way over Makoto's side, and he flinches automatically. Togami waits for him to relax before moving again. What must be his chest presses up against Makoto's back, and some part of his brain rejoices. Safe, it tells him. Protected. The collar of his pajama shirt is gently tugged to the side, just a little bit, but Makoto trusts him.
And then Togami's nose is pressed against his skin.
Makoto does his best not to squirm, but he's not even really uncomfortable as much as embarrassed. He's never been scented by someone who wasn't family, and it's somehow a hundred times more intimate than he thought it would be. And even more mortifying is the fact that he likes it. Stupid bond-influenced instincts.
Togami gently rubs his nose over the raised scent gland, and as Makoto smells his own scent growing, mixing pine trees with Togami's salt and sand, he realizes belatedly that it's the gland the bite is over. That only makes him blush harder.
He can feel Togami breathing him in. He probably wouldn't have asked for this if he didn't really need it, or at least that's what makes sense to Makoto. Togami is hardly a touchy person, and he doesn't seem like the type to ask for help, which means he was probably fighting this instinct-- the instinct to hold and scent his bondmate-- but even so, he was able to act calm when he asked Makoto, like he didn't really care.
After a few minutes of soft snuffling, Togami lets out a little puff of air over Makoto's shoulder, like a sigh.
He wonders if it's over, if Togami has satisfied whatever urge had overtaken him, and now he'll roll over and go to sleep like he didn't just do any of that.
Togami quietly clears his throat. "Do you want to do me?"
Makoto's eyes fly open, every muscle going tense. "Wh-- what? "
"Do you want to scent me?"
He lets out the breath he was holding. "Oh."
"What did you think I was asking?"
"Nothing," he says quickly. He didn't think he needed to scent him, the way Togami needed to, but now that it's been offered, his shoulder aches. "Um… yeah. That sounds nice."
He steels himself and rolls over. He's startled to find Togami's face so close to his, and he nearly changes his mind. His eyes have adjusted enough to the dark that he can see Togami just fine.
"Would it be easier if I roll over?" Togami asks.
"No, no, that's okay," Makoto says. "I can… do it like this."
He's hyperaware of the fact that Togami's arm is still draped over him as he scoots even closer. Before he can chicken out, he presses his face into the side of Togami's neck.
The smell of the ocean was so strong already, but up this close it's like the waves are crashing over him. He finds he doesn't mind it.
He starts by carefully moving his nose against the scent gland here, at the junction between Togami's neck and shoulder. He's not sure if there's a right way to scent someone, so he tries not to think too hard. If he does something wrong, Togami will tell him, he's sure.
Togami's hand is on his back. Makoto doesn't know when it got there, but it's keeping him close, tucked into the curve of Togami's body in a way that feels natural.
Makoto feels something tugging at him, telling him to rub his cheek over the gland, so he does. A soft sound fills the air, like a faraway motor, and it takes Makoto a second to realize it's coming from Togami-- he can feel it rumbling where their chests touch. He's purring. It's a sound only content alphas are known to make. In any other situation, Makoto might poke fun at him for it, but it's so unlike Togami, nurturing and soft, that he lets it happen. Before long, Makoto lets out a sound of his own: a quiet chirp of approval. It makes the volume of Togami's purring rise.
When Makoto wakes up, he's still curled up against Togami. The extra pillow has ended up on the floor.
That day, Monokuma gives them their first motive.
2. The trial
"So M-Makoto is the-e killer," Toko says, pointing a shaky finger at him.
"What?" He asks, eyes wide. "Why would you say that?"
"Isn't it o-obvious?" She shouts back. "The m-murder took place in y-your room!"
Makoto gapes. "But that's-- it doesn't mean I did it! In fact, if that's your logic, it couldn't have been me, because I wasn't in that room last night!"
Kyoko nods, eyes glinting. "I agree. Makoto wasn't in the room the murder took place in. In fact, he was in the victim's room. Isn't that right?"
Makoto opens his mouth to confirm, then hesitates. "Well. No, actually."
"Wait, wait, wait," Mondo says, shaking his head. "What's all this about Makoto being in Sayaka's room?"
"Uh, see, Sayaka came to meet me last night," Makoto explains. "She was terrified, because someone had tried to get into her room. So she asked me if we could switch rooms."
" What? " Leon yelps.
"We switched," Makoto says again. "Or, well, we switched keys, and she slept in my room. But… I didn't sleep in her room."
"You mean… y-you two slept in the same room?" Toko gasps, clapping her hands to her face in horror. "H-how indecent!"
"No!" Makoto says, waving his hands frantically. "I didn't sleep in her room or my room!"
Kyoko blinks. "I don't follow. Anywhere other than the dorms, and you would have been punished."
Makoto shuffles his feet, feeling heat rise to his ears. "I… was in a dorm room. Just not either of those."
There's a pregnant pause as everyone takes this in.
Togami raises his hand. Everyone swivels to look at him, except for Makoto, who stares at the floor of the faux courtroom.
"I can vouch for Naegi's innocence. He was in my room all night, after all."
Again, everyone is silent for much too long.
"So you two are fucking!" Leon exclaims.
The class erupts into chaos.
"We're-- we're not--" Makoto tries, but no one is listening. "Nothing happened! We were just--"
"An omega and an alpha in the same bedroom?" Taka screeches, tugging at his hair. "At school? I'd argue that's almost worse than murder!"
"I c-can't believe--" Toko sobs, using one braid to wipe at her eyes even as she points frantically at Togami. "How could you!"
"No way!" Hifumi yells, looking like he might faint. "Mr. Naegi-- and Mr. Togami-- sleeping together?"
"No!" Makoto shouts as loud as he can, slamming his hands on the wooden rail.
The yelling comes to an abrupt stop. Makoto's face is burning.
"We're not… sleeping together," he huffs. "Not like that, anyway. We were sleeping. Period. We just happened to be in the same room."
Hifumi makes a sound like a deflating balloon, but he only seems more energetic. "There was only one bed?! It's a popular trope for a reason, you know!"
"What are you talking about?" Makoto asks, but he doesn't really want to know.
"Why would you be there if you weren't fucking?" Mondo grunts. "I'm not saying I don't believe you, I just don't get it. What other reason is there for something like that?"
Makoto almost considers showing them all the bite, but he knows that would only cause more confusion.
"Listen," Togami says, pushing up his glasses. "Even if we had… done such unsavory things," (Makoto has to stop himself from adding "Which we didn't!") "why should it matter? Either way, the point is the two of us have alibis. So, although the murder took place in Naegi's room, that doesn't implicate him."
"Unless you're lying," Aoi glowers. "I mean, you two are already fucking. How do we know you wouldn't be accomplices, too?"
"We're not--" Makoto starts, but Togami cuts him off.
"If we were lying, then we wouldn't have spent the night in the same bed, which would mean we weren't fucking after all. In that case, why would we defend each other?"
There's something so strange about hearing prim and proper Togami say fucking so easily.
"Okay, but you two have reeked of each other since yesterday!" Leon protests. "So-- so maybe Makoto was such a good lay two nights ago that you agreed to cover for him last night."
"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard," Togami says, glaring down his nose at him.
"Look-- if you don't believe a witness' testimony, then… I'll just prove I wasn't in my assigned dorm with physical evidence," Makoto sighs. "Is that good enough for you all?"
"Physical e-evidence?" Toko hiccups. "That's d-d-disgusting!"
"What-- no! From the crime scene! "
Togami rolls his eyes.
"Kyoko," Makoto says, glancing over at her. "You have proof, don't you? That I wasn't there, and that I'm not the killer."
Kyoko nods, crossing her arms, and she smirks. "Finally. Let's get this trial back on track."
3. The bias
"Naegi," a voice whispers as Makoto leaves the locker room.
Makoto turns to look.
Togami waves him over, eyes darting to either side to make sure no one else is around.
"Uh-- Togami?" He asks, walking closer. "Did you want to go in and…" he winces, "examine the body again?"
He shakes his head, making his scent fly off him in waves as his hair is flicked around. "I don't have to. I've got a lead."
Makoto's eyes widen. "Really?"
"Yes, and I'd like to show you. Come with me." He holds an arm out, the other folded behind his back in a way that makes him look almost like a prince out of a storybook.
Makoto takes his arm and lets him lead the way.
He finds himself back at the library. He frowns. "Togami, we're in the middle of an investigation. I get it if you want to relax for a bit, but personally, I'd like to have as much information ready for the trial as possible."
Togami smiles. "Just trust me."
He shakes off Makoto's hand and saunters over to a small door near the back of the library. When he pulls it open, he gestures for Makoto to go in.
The back room he's revealed is easily large enough for three people, so there's plenty of space, but when Togami steps inside and closes the door, Makoto feels like they're right up against each other.
"Ah… Togami?" He asks again, but his voice is wavering.
Togami is very, very tall, Makoto notes. Or maybe Makoto is just short. Or maybe it's a bit of both.
The room is small enough that it's already filled to the brim with the smell of pine trees and the sea. Makoto steps a little closer, leaning up towards him. He starts to reach for the buttons on Togami's collar.
"This file," Togami says, startling him from his trance, "is highly confidential." He's pointing to a folder on the table, neither of which Makoto had noticed. "It's the kind of thing that was only seen by law enforcement and… very powerful people."
Makoto frowns, shoving his hands in his pockets to stop himself from doing anything stupid. "What's in it?"
Togami smirks. "Take a look for yourself. I think you'll find it illuminating."
The first look nearly makes Makoto faint. He's never been very affected by the sight of blood (which is a blessing now that he's had to examine two very bloody bodies), but the crime scenes in the folder are nothing short of horrific.
"What… what the hell?" He asks, swaying on his feet. He glares up at Togami. "Is this your idea of a joke?"
He steps up behind Makoto to look at it. When he reaches up to point again, his forearm brushes against Makoto's shoulder.
"Here," he says, voice steady. "See how all the bodies have been suspended? Doesn't that look a little too close for comfort?"
Makoto thinks back to how they found Chihiro, her arms up almost as if she'd been crucified. Her feet were several inches above the floor thanks to the positioning.
"You're saying… it's the same?" He asks softly.
"These cases are all from one serial killer," Togami explains. "Their modus operandi is very recognizable." He traces the Y shape of a victim's body with his finger.
"So it's an imitation murder?" Makoto suggests.
Makoto feels Togami's chest against his back. He leans into the pressure. "But remember-- this information was never released to the public."
Makoto shrugs. "What does that mean?"
Salt fills the air, making Makoto sigh.
"It means… this isn't any old imitation murder. No one could have imitated something they didn't know."
Makoto stiffens. "But that's…"
Togami pushes up his glasses. "This is the work of the real Genocide Jack. They're hidden in the group."
And Makoto agrees. He trusts. He listens. He believes. He follows the smell of the ocean.
It's not until they're in the middle of the trial, when Togami isn't pressed against him, using his scent like a parlor trick, that Makoto finally notices the inconsistencies in his story.
"Wait," he says slowly. "When you showed me that file… didn't you say only powerful people had seen it?"
"Exactly," Togami nods. "Which means none of us could have replicated it unless we were Genocide Jack."
"But… aren't the Togamis one of the most powerful families in the world?"
Togami's mask finally cracks.
The moment it's made clear that Togami isn't actually the killer, Makoto has to fight the urge to leave his spot in the circle and punch him in his stupid, stuck-up nose.
Togami purses his lips. "Naegi--"
"What the fuck!"
Everyone is staring. He's interrupting the trial, and Makoto isn't usually one to curse. He thinks this instance is justified.
"Naegi," Togami says again, putting on his most charismatic smile. "Don't you think you're overreacting?"
"Overreacting?" Makoto hisses. "Who do you think you are? Messing with a crime scene? Defiling Chihiro's body that way?"
"I wouldn't say she was--"
"Whatever you want to call it, it was wrong!" Makoto shouts. "And besides the ethics of-- of stringing up a dead girl's body when she's suffered enough already-- you tried to derail the trial! You could have gotten us all killed if you'd pulled it off!"
Togami adjusts his tie. "Well, I haven't yet, have I? I wouldn't have let it go that far."
"How far, then? How far is too far? I-- I can't believe I'm--" bonded to-- "stuck with someone who lacks so much compassion!"
Togami's smile wavers. "I… thought it would be interesting."
"It was heartless is what it was!" Makoto yells, throat tight.
Togami looks away. And, miraculously, he says, "I'm sorry."
Makoto is floored for a moment. Then, quieter, he says, "You tricked me. You used all your-- your alpha charm against me. To make me believe your lie."
His eyes go wide. "What? No. No, I didn't do that." He licks his lips. "And if I did… it wasn't intentional, Naegi. I thought… you'd be the best way to steer the trial my way. It had nothing to do with--"
"Enough," Makoto sighs, rubbing his temples. "That's enough. Just… God. I can't believe I have to say this, but please don't do it again."
Togami looks wounded. "I'm sorry," he says again. That has to be a record. "I didn't realize… how it would affect you."
For some reason, hearing him say that hits Makoto like a truck. And when he looks in Togami's eyes, he can tell how much he wishes he'd never done it in the first place. For his sake.
Makoto swallows. Togami has needed a lesson in empathy from the beginning, but he can tell Togami is finally willing to accept that. And it doesn't make him a good person, not yet. But it's something.
4. The example
Watching Mondo's execution is painful, but Taka's screams are worse.
Makoto finds him the next day, sitting by the new pool, cross-legged, still in his full uniform and boots. He's staring down at the water, but from his expression, Makoto isn't sure he even recognizes his own reflection.
He sits down next to him. "Hey," he says softly.
Taka doesn't say anything. Makoto doesn't push him.
He isn't sure how long he sits there. After a while, he tugs off his sneakers and socks, rolls up his pant legs, and dips his feet in the water. It's cold.
(It makes him think of Togami-- of how he'd rather go to the beach. Of how badly he wants to go outside again.)
He carefully scoots closer and leans on Taka. Taka doesn't speak, doesn't look up, but Makoto swears he pushes back against him, just a little bit.
Makoto won't pretend to understand. He doesn't know what Mondo was to Taka, or what he wanted Mondo to be to him. But he can smell Taka, and even if he won't speak, his scent says volumes. Among it all, he smells, most notably, like a distressed omega. It's the kind of smell that makes people want to protect someone, to find whatever's upsetting them and beat it into the ground. But this isn't something that can be tracked down and fought.
Eventually, Makoto's stomach grumbles. He pulls his feet out of the pool and picks up his sneakers, tucking his socks into them so he can carry them easily.
"I'm gonna eat lunch, Taka," he says. "Would you like to come along?"
He isn't really expecting a real response, but he hopes Taka will nod or something. Still nothing.
He offers Taka his free hand. "You wanna get up?"
Taka just sits there.
When Makoto opens the door to the dining hall, Togami practically explodes from his seat, storming over to him. His eyes are narrowed.
"Togami?" Makoto asks, frowning. "What--"
"He's just making sure his little omega is okay," Celeste says teasingly, batting her eyelashes.
Makoto flushes. "That's--"
"Naegi," Togami growls, stopping in front of him. "What happened?"
Makoto shrugs. "Nothing, really. Why? What's up with you?"
Togami purses his lips. "You smell… upset."
"Told you," Celeste calls in a sing-song.
"Stay out of it, Ludenberg," Togami snarls over his shoulder. When he turns back to Makoto, his expression is much softer than the one he used with her. "Did you get hurt?"
Makoto shakes his head. "It's not me."
"What is that supposed to mean?" Togami frowns.
Makoto sighs, crossing his arms. "I was, uh… keeping an eye on Taka."
Togami's shoulders drop. "Ah. I see."
"I guess it makes sense that his scent would rub off on me," he continues. "It was… bad." He makes a face. "Not bad like-- you know what I mean."
"But you're okay?"
Part of him wants to be glad that Togami is actually acting like a human being and showing concern for him, but at the same time-- "Sure, I'm okay, but Taka isn't. Aren't you worried about that? Cause I sure am."
Togami sighs. "It's…"
"I mean, when you thought I was the one smelling like that, it freaked you out. And it's way stronger on him."
He nods. "Admittedly, he's not in the best shape. But I don't know what to tell you. He's grieving. He'll recover."
"Maybe," Makoto shrugs. "But until then… I feel like we should look out for him. He has it rough."
Togami looks like he wants to argue for a moment, but Makoto holds eye contact, and Togami must remember what he said yesterday about compassion, because he nods. "Alright."
When Makoto has picked out his food from the kitchen, he sits next to Togami almost without thinking, landing him squarely in front of Celeste. She smirks at him, and he sticks his tongue out at her in return. She covers her giggle with a dainty hand.
Togami's hand finds its way to his shoulder as he eats, and he doesn't shrug it off.
Makoto makes a point of finding Taka again once he's eaten. But he picks up a book from the library first-- the next volume of that light novel, which he's wanted to keep reading.
This time, Taka is sitting in the middle of the dorm's hallway, hugging his knees to his chest. At first, Makoto doesn't understand, but he follows Taka's gaze. He's in front of Mondo's room.
Makoto swallows down the lump in his throat and sits next to him. He offers Taka the plate of food he got for him. He didn't see him at breakfast, so it feels important.
"I, uh, didn't know what to get you," Makoto says, and he laughs a little, but it feels strange. "I mean, I didn't know what kind of food you like. Which is dumb, because we've all been eating meals together for a while now. But, you know. I'm kind of ignorant sometimes. So… I kind of got some of everything."
He sets the plate on the floor and nudges it towards him.
And Taka, he actually moves. He looks down at the plate.
Makoto smiles encouragingly. "Hungry?"
Taka lifts his head again, back to staring at the nameplate.
Makoto sighs. "Okay. Well, it's gonna be right there if you change your mind."
He cracks open the novel, but none of the words stick. Everything slips through his fingers like running water. Before long, he closes it again.
Taka's expression is nothing short of shell-shocked, mouth hanging open slightly and eyes misty but unblinking. It's chilling.
"Hey," Makoto says. "I get that you don't want to talk. Or… that you can't. But you can listen, can't you? I think you are. I think you're listening."
There's no sign that Taka even knows he exists.
"If you are listening to me… I want you to know that I'm here for you. Okay? I'm going to make sure you're not all alone. You don't deserve that." Makoto runs his finger along the spine of the book. "I just wish I could help more. So… if there's any sign you can give me about something I could do to make things better, could you please do that?"
Taka's breathing is slightly ragged and wet-sounding, like he's fighting against a damp cloth pressed to his mouth and nose.
Makoto bites his lip. "I'm sorry, Taka. I'm so sorry."
There's something so wrong here, he can tell. This isn't just grief. But he can't quite figure it out. He's not sure he'll ever be able to pin down why Taka is so deeply affected by this, at least not until he starts talking again, if he does.
He reaches up to scratch at his shoulder, feeling defeated. The scent of Taka's despair is weighing him down, only adding to Makoto's apathy.
But all at once, he remembers something.
Maybe he was hoping one of us would die before we realized.
Bile rises in Makoto's throat, and he turns to Taka with wide eyes. He doesn't want to even think about it, but he has to discard the possibility.
"T… Taka?" He asks, voice trembling. "Is it okay if…" he reaches for Taka's uniform collar, "I unbutton this?"
Taka takes a rattling breath, then goes still again.
Makoto's hands are shaking too hard, and it takes a few tries. Makoto feels bad for wrinkling the pristine white fabric.
When he's gotten the button undone, he takes a deep breath. Makoto pulls the collar aside.
A bite, scarred over.
"Oh, Taka," Makoto shudders. "No, no. Taka, I'm-- I'm so… sorry."
He can't think of anything to do other than hug him. Taka still doesn't react, but Makoto holds him tight, hoping it'll help somehow.
That's how Togami finds them, Makoto with his arms thrown around Taka while Taka stares blankly at a room that will never not be empty.
Makoto shows him the bite. He feels awful for Taka, but in the back of his head, he knows Togami is thinking the same thing he is: neither of them can die.
To his surprise, Togami kneels on Taka's other side. He doesn't say anything else, just pulls Taka close. Makoto lets go so Togami can take over. His alpha scent fills the hallway, trying to soothe and calm.
Taka sobs into his chest.
5. The reveal
Kyoko looks furious. She glares at Monokuma like she's ready to tear the stuffing from his stomach herself. "What did you do to us? To all of us?"
Monokuma cackles. "It wouldn't be any fun if I told you, would it? You guys have to figure out all these mysteries yourselves."
Makoto's grip on the photographs in his hand tightens. The one he was given, a class photo. Togami's, a candid at the pool. Yasuhiro's, another angle of the classroom. Aoi's, of them all in gym clothes.
(He can't stop staring at that one. At the fond way Togami, in the picture, is looking at him from where he's sitting by the track, watching his pathetic attempt at a run with a genuine smile and big blue eyes.)
"I can't believe you tried to trick us," Yasuhiro huffs. "Those photos were such a dirty way to do it, too! The editing is freakin' elaborate!"
Makoto shakes his head. "I don't think… they're edited."
"What?" Aoi asks. "How else could he give those to us? They're totally fake! None of that stuff happened, right? The uniforms, the friendliness… Even Mukuro is in them! And we hadn't met her until she wound up dead!"
He squints at the pictures. "I don't remember taking them."
"Exactly!" Yasuhiro nods.
"But… that doesn't make them fake." He looks up. "Isn't that right?"
Monokuma snickers behind his fuzzy paw. "Those photographs are one hundred percent real!"
"Wait, I don't get it," Yasuhiro says, scratching his chin. "We didn't take them… but they're real?"
"No," Makoto says firmly. "We don't remember taking them. But we did take them."
"Uh, I don't follow," he says, raising an eyebrow. "You're not making a whole lot of sense today, Makoto."
Makoto looks over at Kyoko. "I'm on the right track, wouldn't you say?"
She nods, eyes glinting dangerously. "You're absolutely right. This isn't to do with whether it happened-- it has to do with why we don't remember."
"And that's because… we've all forgotten," Makoto says slowly. "In fact, these snapshots aren't the only thing we've forgotten. I'd say… we've spent a lot of time at this school."
"B-but, what does that mean?" Toko asks, eyebrows pulling together to create a crease on her forehead. "We spent time here? But we don't remember?"
"Those memories," Kyoko says, "were lost to us. I'd say all our memories of this school were lost."
"How is that possible?" Togami asks. "All of us got amnesia at the same time, and we all forgot exactly the same amount of time? What would cause that?"
"It wasn't an accident," Makoto muses. "They weren't just lost. They were taken."
Monokuma seems greatly amused by this statement, laughs turning into hacking coughs from his vigor.
"Well?" Makoto asks, feeling impatient. "What do you have to say, Monokuma? The pictures-- that video of us-- we don't remember that for a reason. Right?"
Monokuma grins his eerie, lopsided grin. "Very good. Very good indeed."
"So how did you do it?" Makoto prods. "How could you remove those particular memories? You even got Kyoko to forget her own talent at first, just because it was easier for you. How did you pull that off?"
"Oh, please! That's hardly the most interesting part," Monokuma says, voice lilting. "Who cares how I did it? Don't you want to know some juicier details?"
"Juicier?" Makoto echoes, unsure.
Monokuma leans forward on his stand. "All of you were friends. The best of friends-- a close-knit group. And you slaughtered each other!" He goes into another fit of deranged laughter, slapping a paw against his belly. "Isn't that just hilarious?"
Makoto grits his teeth. "No, not really."
"Oh, but it is!" Monokuma giggles. "And you know what else?"
"Get on with it," Togami says, pushing up his glasses. "I'm not in the mood for your games any longer."
Monokuma's expression is full of some emotion that can't be named. "This one applies to you, dear Byakuya!"
Togami flinches at the use of his given name. "Excuse me?"
He wipes at his button eye, even though there's no way any tears are there, no matter how hard he laughs. "You and Makoto-- you couldn't stand each other when this killing game began! You treated him like dirt!" He sneers at Makoto. "Not that I can blame you."
"Hey!" Makoto protests.
"But-- oh, this just tickles my funny bone," Monokuma continues, as if he hasn't heard Makoto. "Well, let me start with Taka! You saw him, didn't you? The way he collapsed into despair? It's because he was bonded to Mondo!"
"We know," Makoto says, a cold feeling clawing at his heart. "It was… awful." The gloom transforms itself into rage. "And you did that to him! You weren't happy with making us strangers to each other and pitting us against each other-- you had to throw in another trick! How cruel can you be?"
But Monokuma is laughing. "You really don't get it, do you, Makoto?"
Togami growls. "What are you trying to say?"
Monokuma launches into a frantic, frenzied laugh that echoes off the walls of the courtroom. Makoto wants to cover his ears and run.
"S-stop it!" Toko whines. "Stop messing with u-us! What's so-o funny?"
His laughter dies down, and he looks Makoto in the eyes, unwavering.
"I didn't bond them."
A jolt runs through Makoto's body. "What are you…"
"And I didn't bond you and Byakuya, either."
Aoi's eyebrows shoot up. "You two are…?"
"We have been since we woke up the first day," Makoto finally admits. "But we thought… it was Monokuma's scheme."
Monokuma slowly shakes his head, shrugging exaggeratedly. "And here I thought you'd connect the dots, Makoto." He smirks. "I didn't have to bond you."
Makoto's knuckles are white from his grip on the wood. "What… does that mean?"
His eyes bore holes in Makoto's psyche.
"You did that yourselves."
Makoto's knees give out. He almost hits his head on the railing, but suddenly, Togami's hands are on him, supporting him. Makoto looks up at him, wide-eyed. Togami sets his jaw and helps Makoto to his feet. He doesn't go back to his place in the circle.
Monokuma is having a ball with this. He laughs and points at them, expression somehow more manic than normal. "Now you see? You don't remember it, but during your time at this school, you two fell in love! It was so sappy and gross! And now-- now you positively hate each other!"
"That's… not true," Togami says. "Even when I acted like Naegi was beneath me…" he glances over at Makoto, and he can tell whatever Togami is about to say is the truth. "I was sort of enamored with him."
Makoto's heart stutters.
"I was… embarrassed by my infatuation, frankly," Togami adds, looking back over at their captor. "When he wanted to hate me… he supported me. He cared whether or not I was a good person." Togami takes off his glasses, and his eyes look so soft without them. "He fills me with hope. No one has ever been able to do that before."
Monokuma makes a retching sound, ruining the moment. "Jeez! I can't even stop you from making dumb proclamations of love by wiping your memory! How lame is that? Next you're gonna tell me you'd bond with him again if you had the chance."
Togami sneers, shoving his glasses back onto the bridge of his nose. "You disgust me. You knew what would happen to Kiyotaka-- what could have happened to Naegi or I."
"Yup!" Monokuma agrees, popping the 'p'. "And it was soooo funny! Only thing that could have made it better is if you really had hated Makoto and killed him, only to accidentally torture yourself with your bond! Man, now that would have been great television!"
"So that's the first mystery," Kyoko sighs. "You stole our memories of our school lives-- and as a result, tried to get former friends and oblivious bondmates to kill each other, as an added layer to this killing game."
"All sounds correct to me!" Monokuma grins. "And I'm the one that did it, so that means you're totally right."
Makoto has to close his eyes for a moment. He feels Togami's hand on his back before the smell of the ocean blows past him.
Full of determination, Makoto lifts his head, opening his eyes. "We won't lose to you, Monokuma. We've come this far."
1. The end
The mastermind's blood has spattered the floor, the walls, the machinery that killed her, even the ceiling. Makoto should be disgusted. But if he's being completely honest, when he starts to cry, it's from relief.
"Do you think… she's really dead?" Togami asks softly, rubbing his shoulder.
"I hope so," Makoto shudders. "I know I shouldn't, but God, I really hope so. Because… because…"
He nods. "Because it's over."
Kyoko is the one to grab the remote on the ground. She makes a face as she wipes some of the blood off onto her skirt. "We still don't know if this thing will do what she said it would."
Makoto scrubs his hands over his face, sniffling and trying to compose himself. "We… we have to try. Right? Otherwise… what was it all for?"
One by one, they peel away from their spots in the trial ground. Makoto isn't sure why, but he's almost reluctant to leave it behind.
Makoto pushes open the door leading back to the hallway, and their little procession trails silently through the school. He catches a glimpse of Aoi wiping at her eyes with the sleeves of her track jacket, but she refuses to make a sound.
Then they're right back where they began, in front of the huge hatch at the front of the school. The main hall seems a lot bigger now.
Kyoko takes a deep, steady breath. "What happens now?"
Makoto bites his lip. "I don't know," he answers honestly. "But… I can only hope it'll be good."
She turns to him, jaw set, and holds out the remote to him.
He shakes his head. "Please. You do it."
She nods, and looks at the hatch.
She presses the button.
For a second, nothing happens. Makoto's heart skips a beat.
Then, with a low rumble, the hatch slowly starts to slide open. Dust swirls through the air, blown up by the breeze outside.
Makoto turns, grabbing Togami by the lapels, and pulls himself up to kiss him. Togami falters before cupping the back of his neck with one hand and pressing the other against Makoto's back, holding him closer.
Makoto knows that his lips are chapped, and that he's so short his legs are shaking from having to stand on his tip-toes this long, and that above all he's probably a terrible kisser, but despite all that, when he pulls away, Togami is looking at him like he just hung the moon in the sky.
"You…" Makoto pants, "are an asshole. But you're also, like, really smart, and talented, and-- you do realize how hot you are, right?"
He smirks a little.
"And, um…" He licks his lips. "And I know you can actually be really sweet, and caring. It's hard for you, but… I can tell you want to try." Makoto shrugs. "And, I'm thinking… if we mated before… if we really did fall so deeply in love back then… it's because you can be better. Kinder. So I want to help you get there again. Okay?"
Togami raises an eyebrow. "Are you just saying that because you see the good in everybody?"
"No. I'm saying it because I love you."
Togami's eyes widen. And then he smiles. Really smiles.