The sun beat down mercilessly on the poor teenagers. Sweat dripped in rivers down Hajime's face and neck and back. His short, spiky brown hair clung damply to his skull and forehead. He had stripped off his shirt and changed into swim trunks and sat underneath a large shady palm tree, but he was still sweltering. The girls were splashing in the ocean to cool off, while the guys sat on the beach, groaning about the heat and fanning themselves with whatever they could find.
The water was warmed by the sun, but it provided some relief. Hajime watched from his spot under the tree as the girls splashed and giggled. He would have joined them himself if he wasn't so exhausted. Insomnia kept him from getting any sleep, as well as the heat. He blew out a long sigh and dragged his arm across his forehead, wiping the sweat away before it could drip into his eyes. Snatching a nearby palm frond, he waved it quickly in front of his burning face. Leaning his head back against the trunk of the palm tree, he let his eyes drift shut. He heard light footsteps approaching, and a familiar soft, slightly raspy voice.
Eyes snapping open, Hajime Hinata looked up at the sweaty-yet-smiling face of Nagito Komaeda. De'ja'vu struck him when he saw that face hovering above him, haloed by brilliant sunlight that made him look like an angel. He was missing his usual long green coat, and the legs of his black pants were rolled up to the knees. He was holding ice cream cones in each hand.
"I brought you some ice cream. I was going to get just one, but my instincts told me to get one for you, too. I'm glad I did. You look miserable." Nagito said, holding out the orange sherbert cone to Hajime with a sheepish smile on his face. "I couldn't decide which flavor to get you, so I just guessed. I hope you don't mind orange sherbert."
"I don't mind. Orange is my favorite flavor, actually. Thank you." He took the offered cone and moaned in relief as the cold, citrusey sweetness coated his tongue. "You can sit with me if you want."
Nagito blinked in surprise. "Really? I don't think I would make very good company."
Hajime rolled his eyes. "It's fine, Nagito. This is the shadiest place I could find, and you look like you could use the shade as much as I do. Sit." Hajime patted the sand next to him.
"Oh. Okay. If you really want me to. I can't say no to an Ultimate like you." Nagito sat down gracefully next to him, back pressed against the palm tree's trunk. Because he was so pale, Nagito burned very easily in the sun. He looked relieved to be in the shade.
A long silence stretched between them. If he was being honest, Hajime didn't mind the other boy's company. He, for some reason, found Komaeda's presence comforting. Hajime found himself wanting to know more about him. What makes him tick? Why was he so obsessed with hope and talent? Why did he like bagels so much? Nagito Komaeda was an enigma; kind and sweet and helpful on the outside, pitifully self-loathing on the inside. Nagito confused and annoyed and intrigued Hajime more than anyone else he had ever met. That aura of mystique and loneliness pulled Hajime in like a fishing line.
Hajime watched the boy out of the corner of his eye, who was licking innocently at his strawberry cone with his big grey-green eyes fixated on the ocean, and found himself unable to look away. Long, wavy, unruly papery-white curls, damp with sweat, clung to his high cheekbones and neck. Fluttering around his face in the breeze. His long, thick white eyelashes fluttered as he quietly watched the other teens play in the water.
"Hey, Hajime, aren't you going to join them?" Nagito asked, breaking the silence and Hajime's train of thought. "They look like they're having fun, despite the heat, and surely the water would be nicer than the hot sun."
Hajime shrugged, watching the others as they frolicked. Sonia Nevermind had instigated a game of water tag, shooting at people with her water gun and chasing them around with surprising ferocity. Screams and laughter rang out. Mikan Tsumiki burst into tears when Hiyoko Saionji shot a spray of water directly into her face, cackling like a mini maniac as she stumbled and fell face-first into the water in an awkward, embarrassing position. Mahiru Koizumi scolded Hiyoko, who sobered up but was still smirking. Akane Owari tackled Kazuichi Soda, jumping onto his back and laughing loudly as he fell over, screeching and flailing, and they disappeared under the crystal-blue waves. Peko Pekoyama was showing Fuyuhiko Kuzuryuu a big conch shell she found.
Farther up along the beach, Gundham Tanaka was intensely focused on building a sand castle with Nekomaru Nidai and Teruteru Hanamura, his hamsters were happily munching on sunflower seeds as they worked. Byakuya Togami sat munching on a chicken leg under a palm tree, and last but not least, there was Chiaki Nanami, who had her nose buried in a video game as usual; laying on her back on the sand against another palm tree and using her backpack as a pillow. Occasionally drinking from a bottle of water. Hajime couldn't help but smile.
"I would like to, but I'm too tired. What about you?" Said Hajime.
Nagito paused mid-lick to answer. "Too many dangers in the ocean. Who knows what could happen to me if my luck strikes while I'm out there. It wouldn't be anything good. Not that I mind if something happened." He gave a raspy chuckle. "I wouldn't want to ruin their fun with my disgusting presence, anyway."
Hajime frowned at him. "You're not disgusting."
"Yes, I am."
"No, you're not." Hajime said, growing frustrated. Nagito had a bad habit of degrading and being all self-deprecating towards himself, saying things like he was disgusting, filth, trash, talentless, useless, only good for being a stepping stone for the Ultimates and nothing else, and it always upset Haime when he did that. "Why do you always say things like that about yourself?
Large grey-green eyes flicked towards Hajime, blinking owlishly over his cone. "Because it's true. I'm only speaking the truth. I'm trash that doesn't deserve to be here with you Ultimates. In fact, I shouldn't even be here wasting your precious time with my boring chatter."
"That is not true!" Hajime growled, scowling at the scrawny, pale boy. "Nagito, you need to stop talking about yourself like that. It isn't healthy."
"Why do you care about my health? No one else does."
"Nagito." Hajime softened his tone and turned to face the other boy and looked him directly in the eyes. "I care about you. I don't know why I do, but I care about you. You're not disgusting and you're not trash. I don't know why you think that. Yeah, you can be a little confusing and weird at times, but you aren't a bad person. You're one of the smartest people I know, and your luck is something really amazing to behold. You waited for me to wake up when I passed out unconscious on the beach when no one else did, and you showed me around the island and introduced me to everyone." Hajime gave him a small smile. "You're my friend and I think you're great."
Those eyes shimmered with tears, shining like jewels. Nagito had such strangely beautiful eyes, shifting between grey and green with hints of blue in his irises. Depending on his moods, they would either darken to a stormy green, almost black, or lighten to the shade of seafoam. Sometimes, when the sun hits them just right, they turned into a beautiful, pale seaglass green. They were mesmerizing. Hypnotizing. "Hajime, that's the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me."
Hajime felt his face warm, and not just from the heat. "It-it's nothing. I was just telling the truth."
Hajime's heart squeezed as tiny, crystalline tears trickled down his cheeks. "I've never had a friend before." Nagito sniffled. "Nobody ever told me they cared about me before, either! I don't deserve it, Hajime! I don't deserve your kindness or your friendship. Please, don't waste your kind words on scum like me."
"I told you to stop saying bad things about yourself like that." Hajime scolded.
"Oh, I wonder what kind of bad luck this good fortune will bring me?" Nagito said with a giggle, and as if on cue, he yelped. A small orange crab had its claws latched around his pinky finger. "Ow! I guess that answers my question."
"Hey! Shoo!" Hajime firmly gripped the crab and gently yanked it off of his finger and set the creature down. It scurried away. "You okay?"
Nagito sucked on his pinky. "Yeah. It just stings a little."
"Here. Let me see it." Hajime took hold of Nagito's hand and examined the red finger, noticing a faint blush coloring the pale boy's cheeks.
"Oh, you don't have to worry about me, Hajime. These things happen to me all the time. I'm used to it."
"Hey! Why are you holding this guy's hand?" A new voice asked. Kazuichi stared down at them with visible confusion on his face, his pink hair dripping wet. "Don't tell me you-"
"Kazuichi, I think Gundham is making moves on Sonia." Hajime cut him off.
"What? Really?" The sharp-toothed boy whipped his head around so fast that Hajime thought he heard the bones in his neck creaking. Gundham and Sonia were walking along the beach, deep in conversation. Sonia laughed at something Gundham said and Kazuichi's face contorted with jealousy. "That bastard! Hey! Miss Sonia!" Kazuichi took off running towards the pair as fast as his feet could carry him.
"Poor Sonia." Nagito said with a chuckle.
"Hey. Do you want to build a sandcastle?" Hajime asked.
Long lashes fluttered as Nagito blinked at him in confusion. "Huh? Why?"
"Aren't you getting bored just sitting here?"
"No. I like talking with you." Nagito said with a serene smile.
Hajime blushed and awkwardly ran his fingers through the hair on the back of his own head, looking away. "I don't bore you?"
"Not at all! I find you endlessly fascinating. Also, you're an Ultimate. There's no way you could bore me."
What was wrong with his stomach? It kept twisting and fluttering as if it was full of birds.
"You're an Ultimate too, you know? You don't have to keep putting us on a pedestal."
The gleam in those soft green eyes dimmed. "I don't deserve to be called an Ultimate. My talent is useless. Luck isn't a talent. But you guys are amazing! You all have incredible talents and are full of so much hope that I don't even deserve to stand in your presence."
"Will you stop that!" Hajime said in exasperation. "I don't even know what my talent is. What if it's something incredibly dumb and useless? What if I don't even have a talent at all?"
"Don't say that." Nagito's voice immediately changed from calm and gentle to sharp and biting, catching Hajime off guard. "I'm sure you have a talent that's absolutely brimming with hope."
Taken aback by the sudden shift in his tone and personality, Hajime fell silent. It was strange, and flattering, that Nagito thought so highly of him and was so certain that he had a great talent. It made Hajime feel more hopeful and more confident in himself.
"Do you see what I mean, Nagito? You're so quick to boost someone else's self-esteem and praise them and make them feel better, but you're so cruel and hard on yourself. Why is that?"
"Because that's all I'm useful for." Nagito said. "I have no other purpose in this world than to be a stepping stone for you and the other Ultimates and make your hopes shine even brighter!"
The way he said that so certainly and passionately both saddened and wierded Hajime out.
"What happened to you?" Hajime asked him sadly. "Why do you see so little value in yourself?"
Nagito just gave a small smile, but his eyes were empty of any joy. Lifeless. "Please don't waste your concern on scum like me, Hinata-kun."
"Come on. Let's go build that sandcastle." Nagito finished the last of his ice cream cone and stood up and dusted the sand off his pants. "I warn you, Hajime. It won't be a good sandcastle. I'm pretty useless at building them." He gave a soft, breathy laugh.
Hajime was still curious, but he let it slide, for now, and built a sandcastle with Nagito Komaeda. It was looking really good and was almost finished, when Mikan, who had been walking by them, suddenly tripped and fell on top of it.
"Waaah! I-I'm s-sorry!" She cried, face red with embarrassment as she lay there spread-eagled on the ruins of the castle.
Nagito sighed. "It's okay, Mikan. I knew something like this would happen. Here." Holding out his hand, Nagito helped the flustered girl to her feet.
"Th-thank you! I-I'm sorry I ruined your s-sandcastle." She stammered.
"Don't worry about it. We can always build another one." Said Hajime, and they did. After she left, they went to work on another castle. This one was shaping up to be larger and more impressive than the last one.
It was the most fun and relaxed Hajime had felt in a while.
Even though he was trapped on a deserted island in the middle of nowhere with the rest of his class, with a pink, stuffed talking rabbit in a magical girl outfit as a teacher, he had to admit that the change of scenery was nice. His other classmates were nice, too. Except for Hiyoko and Fuyuhiko. Nice, and more than a little eccentric. Above all, he was glad Nagito Komaeda was there with him. He seemed like a chill, laid back guy. He just had some self-esteem issues and liked hope.
As the sun started to set, Hajime and Nagito observed their finished sand castle with pride. It looked pretty darn good, if he did say so himself.
"It looks good." He said.
"Yes, it does."
Something else looked good, too. The golden rays of the setting sun turned Komaeda's cream-colored hair and pale skin a soft, warm shade of gold, and he glowed etherally. His smile was serene and pretty and it made Hajime want to smile, too. Komaeda's smile was really pretty and when it was aimed at him, Hajime felt so calm and his heart skipped a few beats. He wanted to see that smile more often, and be the cause of it.
The wind playfully toyed with his wild curls, the pale wispy tendrils that stuck up everywhich way on his head and curling at the nape of his neck seemed to taunt Hajime, beckoning him to take them between his fingers or tuck them behind the pale boy's ear.
Hajime immediately shoved those weird, embarrassing thoughts away. There was no way he had feelings for Komaeda. Right? There was also no way he would ever have feelings for Hajime, either. They were just friends, that's all. Nothing more.
But why was he so entranced by Komaeda? He was just standing there, for crying out loud? Why couldn't he tear his gaze away from his tall, willowy figure or pretty face or captivating grey-green eyes?
"Hajime, is something wrong?" Komaeda suddenly asked, those big eyes looking down at him with concern. "You've been standing there silent and staring at me for the past few minutes. Are you regretting spending time with worthless trash like me?"
There was a little bit of pink ice cream smeared under his full bottom lip. He couldn't look away from it.
Entranced, Hajime lifted his broad, tan hand to cradle the side of Komaeda's face and softly wiped away the pink smear with his thumb. Those baby-pink lips parted as Komaeda let out a trembling, surprised breath. The pad of Hajime's thumb glided across the full, soft swell of his lower lip. It was even softer than it looked.
Those lips moved under his thumb as he breathed, "Hajime." His eyes fluttered shut as the thumb drifted over his upper lip, tracing the cupid's bow. Hypnotized by that pretty mouth, Hajime leaned in and-
"Ewww! Those two are kissing! Gross!"
The high-pitched, childish voice shouted, jerking Hajime out of his trance. Hajime pulled his hand away quickly, as if the other boy's skin burned him. Tiny Hiyoko was staring and pointing at them, making a disgusted face and gagging noises. Causing everyone to look over at them.
"No, we were not!" Face flaming with embarrassment, Hajime turned and ran away from the beach, leaving Komaeda stunned and confused. He faintly heard him shout his name, but he was quickly gaining distance. He did not have feelings for Komaeda. Not at all.