Avenues of Communication (Complete)

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Avenues of Communication (Complete)

Post by Lap » Wed Dec 19, 2018 12:13 am

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Epilogue

And now! With a musical accompaniment. Feurox wrote a piece of music, titled Different Frequencies, inspired by Shizune in this fic. See it on YouTube. With many thanks to Feurox!!

This story is also available on Ao3 for those that prefer to read there. And Ao3 also has nice options for downloading the story as a PDF or other ebook formats for easy off-line reading.

________________________


Chapter 1
________________________

Shizune screamed.

It was not a sound that any of us had ever heard before. I think it was that sound, even more than the spectacle of her tumbling down half a flight of stairs, that froze everybody to immobility and silence for a long heartbeat.

Then the frozen moment broke, and Misha dashed down the stairs and dropped to the floor. She cradled Shizune’s head in her lap. “Shicchan, I’m sorry, so sorry, please be all right, oh god, be all right,” she babbled, looking utterly terrified. Shizune was curled up on her side, her left arm clenched tight in the grip of her other hand.

I also ran down the rest of the flight of stairs, but I continued past Shizune and Misha the short distance down the hall to the nearest medical emergency call button and slapped it. Apparently none of the staring bystanders around us could think to do that obvious task. Then I paused, bent over, hand on my chest, terror and the short sprint having accelerated my heart an unfortunate amount. After several gasping breaths, I decided that I wasn’t going to have a heart attack today, and hesitantly stood upright. Thankfully, I didn’t pass out, so I turned and staggered back to Shizune and Misha. I dropped to my knees beside the two of them and tried to assess Shizune’s condition.

The arm Shizune was holding cradled to her chest…looked like it had two elbows. Blood was dripping from the place of the second “elbow” in the middle of her forearm. Shizune was no longer screaming, but she was making a continuous high-pitched, piteous whine of pain. She would have hated knowing she was making that noise.

“Misha? Misha!” I tried to get her attention, but she was wholly focused on Shizune. Given that her position holding Shizune’s head didn’t seem to be adversely affecting Shizune’s arm, I decided to ignore her.

I tried to give Shizune a reassuring smile, but it was probably more of a grimace. I wasn't sure if she even saw me. I gently tried to pull her hand away from the broken arm, but she clenched it tighter.

Blood was trickling down Shizune’s arm to puddle on the floor. Her shirt sleeve was soaked and stuck to her skin. I clenched my teeth and swallowed hard against nausea when I saw the grey and red end of a broken bone poking out through her skin and the sleeve. Pressure on the wound would probably only cause her more pain, I thought. Maybe put a tourniquet on the upper arm to slow the flow of blood? Shit, I wished I knew more first aid. I glanced up at the crowd of stunned students gathered around us, staring at the spectacle.

“Where the hell is the staff?” I growled. What was the point of having emergency call buttons if no one responded to the damn call?

As if in response to my question, the gawking students pulled away to the sides of the hall, making way for a trio of medics, lead by Nurse, running down the hall. Nurse had a medical bag in hand, and the two behind him, a man and a woman, were pushing a rolling stretcher.

“Nakai! What happened?” Nurse barked. Gone was the warm and fuzzy nurse who made mildly inappropriate jokes with me while taking my blood pressure and listening to my heart. He focused in on the bleeding Shizune with a laser-like intensity.

I found myself responding to his intensity in kind. I flung myself back away from Shizune, to give him access to her, and said, “Shizune fell down the stairs and broke her arm.”

“Mikado?”

“She’s not hurt, just scared.”

“Right. You?”

It took me a moment to get what he was asking. “I’m fine.” I was panting and my heart was racing, but it didn’t feel dangerous.

“Good, then you deal with Mikado.”

Oh, great. I stood up and circled Nurse and Shizune, trying to get to Misha so I could get her disengaged from Shizune.

Nurse began to pull bandages and a splint out of his kit, and the other two medics shooed the students away from us as they pulled a back-board off the stretcher. Of course; any fall with a force great enough to snap her arm like that might have damaged her spine, too. You didn’t become a medic at Yamaku by taking things like that for granted.

“Crap. Nakai. Change of plans, I need you to translate, I can’t sign and work on her arm at the same time.” I moved back to crouch beside Nurse, putting myself in Shizune’s line-of-sight. She was whimpering more quietly now, her eyes glazed with pain. I realized she didn’t have her glasses on, and looked around for them. With impeccable timing, I heard a crunch of broken plastic under the foot of the male medic as he moved to Shizune’s feet with his end of the back-board.

Okay, I’d just have to make my signs broad and large. “What should I tell her?” I asked Nurse.

“Ask her if she has any other injuries she’s aware of.”

[Any other hurts you?] I signed, my vocabulary and grammar failing me a little in the strain of the moment.

I wasn’t sure if she’d noticed my signing at first, but after a moment she gave a tiny nod, [Yes.]

“Yes,” I said, just in case Nurse was too focused on what he was doing to her arm to see her nod.

“Crap.” I could understand his frustration. With her arm injured, she was effectively mute, so asking her where was pointless. “Run down a list for her. Spine, head, other arm, legs, knees, pelvis, teeth, et cetera.”

I didn’t know the signs for half of those, so I’d have to finger spell them. Shizune’s gaze was vague and foggy as she looked at me. [Spine hurt?]

[No.]

[Head hurt?]

[Yes.]

“She says her head hurts.”

Nurse grunted. “Not surprising. Possible concussion with a fall like that.”

“Her pupils don’t match,” I said, worried. I’d seen enough medical dramas to know that that wasn’t a good thing. Nurse grunted again.

“Marada, is the ambulance here yet?”

The male medic glanced toward the front of the building. I looked too, and could see flashing lights reflecting off the front doors, heard the sound of sirens dopplering closer to us. “Almost here,” Marada said.

“Okay, I’ve got her arm stabilized, let’s get her loaded so we can get her out of here as quickly as possible.”

Somehow the female medic had managed to get Misha to let go of Shizune, and the three professionals gently and quickly slid Shizune onto the backboard, then lifted her up onto the wheeled stretcher. They strapped her in, then Nurse and Marada quickly pushed her toward the front door.

I stared after them, too stunned by the whirlwind of what had just happened to get up and follow. I was startled to realize I was panting as if I’d just run a race with Emi. Reaction and adrenaline, I guessed.

As the stretcher disappeared out the door, I turned to look at Misha. She was curled up against the foot of the stairs, sobbing quietly. I hadn’t known Misha could do anything quietly. The female medic was crouched beside her, one hand on Misha’s shoulder.

“Shh, shh, she’ll be all right, it’s just a broken arm, and they’ll have her to the hospital in no time,” the medic said quietly, trying to calm and reassure Misha.

It wasn’t just a broken arm, but telling Misha that probably wouldn’t help anything at this point, so I kept quiet. Quite aside from a concussion, a break that bad might require surgery, and who knew what other injuries she’d sustained in her fall. Lots of bruises, at the very least. And she’d probably be in a cast for months, seriously limiting her ability to speak. Very few signs were single-handed ones, so she would probably be reduced to finger-spelling an inordinate amount for the next however many months.

I scooted across the floor to Misha, then grimaced as I realized I’d just dragged myself through the puddle of Shizune’s blood. I glanced at my hands, then tried to wipe my bloody left hand clean on my pants leg before placing my hands on Misha’s shoulders.

“Misha? Misha!” I gave her a gentle shake. She didn't respond at all, just stared blankly at the stairs.

“Give her a minute,” the woman said, placing a restraining hand on my arm.

I glanced at her—her name tag said Nurse Ota—and I nodded. I ducked down a little, to put my eyes in line with Misha’s vacant gaze, trying to make eye contact with her. “Misha? She’s going to be fine, Misha. She’s going to the hospital. They’ll set her arm, she’ll be fine.” I kept repeating variations on that for a minute before Misha’s eyes finally focused on me.

“H-hicchan?” Misha whimpered.

“Yeah?”

“It’s all m-my fault, Hicchan.”

“No, it’s not, Misha. I was there. She just took a bad step.”

“No. It wasn’t just that. I bumped into her. I…I got dizzy and swayed and bumped into her. She was looking at me, signing at me, and not looking where she was walking, and then when I bumped her…” Tears streamed down her cheeks. “If we hadn’t been arguing…”

I tried to smile reassuringly at her. “If you hadn’t been arguing, it wouldn’t have been Shizune. You know she loves a good fight.”

“But not with me…”

I hadn’t realized she was wearing eye makeup until I saw the dark streaks running down her face. I reached out to brush the tears from her face, then jerked my hand back when I realized I hadn’t gotten all of Shizune’s blood off of my hand. I shuddered. The last thing Misha needed was Shizune’s blood on her face. I grimaced as I realized I’d left a vague bloody handprint on her shoulder, too. Hopefully someone could get her to change her shirt before she noticed.

Nurse Ota seemed to realize what my problem was, and she handed me a moist towelette to clean my hands. “Thank you,” I said. Unfortunately, Misha’s attention to the outside world had returned enough that she noticed what I was doing. She stared at the red-stained wipe in my hands, then closed her eyes and whimpered some more.

“Ohhh, Shicchan~…” She slumped forward, as if she were going to fall to the floor, and I caught her and wrapped my arms around her.

“It’s all right, Misha, she’ll be all right,” I murmured. She nodded against my chest, and held me tight for a long while.

Nurse Ota persuaded the two of us to go back to our rooms to clean up. She said that Shizune would probably be in surgery for a few hours, so there was no point in our rushing to the hospital immediately. Her clean-up of the accident site completed, she took Misha in hand and lead her back to the girls’ dorm. That left me to stagger back to my room under my own power.

As I went, I tried to reassure myself just as I’d reassured Misha: Shizune would be all right.

_________________

Next Chapter ->
Last edited by Lap on Tue Aug 13, 2019 10:22 pm, edited 26 times in total.
Avenues of Communication: Shizune suffers an accident.
Akira's Surprise: Akira pays a surprise visit to Lilly, Hanako and Hisao on Christmas eve. S9 Entry.
Arrival: Hanako's first days at Yamaku. (On Hiatus)
Home: Hanako & Hisao at University, sharing an apartment with their friend Lilly (on Ao3).
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Re: Avenues of Communication (Chapter 1 of 9)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Wed Dec 19, 2018 10:41 am

Interesting premise but too early to tell where exactly it's going...
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

My collected KS-Fan Fictions: Mirage's Myths
griffon8 wrote:Kosher, just because sex is your answer to everything doesn't mean that sex is the answer to everything.
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Re: Avenues of Communication (Chapter 1 of 9)

Post by JoesAlot » Wed Dec 19, 2018 1:35 pm

Mirage_GSM wrote:
Wed Dec 19, 2018 10:41 am
Interesting premise but too early to tell where exactly it's going...
Probably damage to Shizune's arms and hands, with resultant complications.

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Re: Avenues of Communication (Chapter 1 of 9)

Post by NoticeMeOppai » Wed Dec 19, 2018 6:35 pm

Not at all what I expected but I like it so far. Curious to see where you're going with it.

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Re: Avenues of Communication (Chapter 1 of 9)

Post by Hanako Fancopter » Thu Dec 20, 2018 4:16 am

Yikes! It will be interesting to see what Shizune does when she can't use sign language.
An Unusual Friendship (Misha x Hanako Route)
Riposte (Rika Mini-Route)
One-Shots Thread (Random Smut/Meme Stories)

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Avenues of Communication, Chapter 2

Post by Lap » Fri Dec 21, 2018 10:28 am

Chapter 2
_________________________

I spent far too long in the shower, washing off Shizune’s blood, trying to relax, but eventually I realized I was stalling. I really didn’t want to go to the hospital. But my girlfriend was there, probably in pain, and I should be there to comfort her if I could. So I swallowed my discomfort and got dressed and headed out. But when I got to the hospital, I was told she was still in surgery, so I ended up waiting anyway.

When I went to the waiting room to, well, wait, Misha was already there. Thankfully, she had changed her shirt, so she was no longer sporting my bloody handprint on her shoulder. She looked up as I entered the room, then she sprung to her feet and threw herself into my arms. I gasped a little, staggering back, but fortunately the points of impact on my chest were cushioned enough that it didn’t hurt. Under other circumstances I might have more fully appreciated the soft warm feel of her body pressed against mine, but at the moment I was grateful for her lush feminine padding for more pragmatic reasons. Heh. Saved by the boobs.

She didn’t seem to notice my momentary pained reaction, but buried her head against my shoulder. “Oh, Hicchan,” she whimpered, but then, unusually for her, she seemed to run out of words.

I raised my arms and hugged her back for a moment, taking comfort in feeling close to someone else who cared for Shizune as much as I did. I ran my hands up and down her back, soothing her, and said, “She’s going to be fine, Misha. The doctors will take good care of her.”

“I know, Hicchan, I know,” she said quietly. The lack of volume, and her usual boundless good cheer, was unnerving. We stood like that for a while, until I felt my shoulder getting damp from her quiet tears. I gently let go of her, and steered us toward a couch, where we sat down together. In a show of good planning, many of the end tables in the waiting room had tissue boxes on them, and I pulled a few tissues out and handed them to Misha.

She gave me a tremulous smile. “Thank you.” She dabbed her eyes dry—her makeup was gone, too, I noticed—then she blew her nose with enough force to make me jump a little at the sound. I looked away from her, embarrassed, and grabbed a few more tissues to cover my reaction. As I turned back to her and handed her the tissues, she gave an apologetic smile. “Sorry. I just…I’m worried about Shicchan.”

That was four sentences in a row from her without her trademark laugh. I was worried about Shizune too, but there wasn’t anything I could do to help the surgeons. So I focused some of my worry on Misha.

“She’ll be fine, Misha,” I repeated. Then I remembered what she’d said when the ambulance had taken Shizune away. “It wasn’t your fault that she fell. You didn’t bump into her on purpose. It was just an accident.”

Misha closed her eyes and shook her head. “But she wasn’t looking where she was going because she was looking at me, ‘listening’ to me. If I hadn’t been talking to her—arguing with her—she wouldn’t have had to look at me to know what I was saying.”

“I’ve seen you and her talking on the stairway before. Heck, I’ve talked with her while walking too. That wasn’t the problem. It was just an accident. You bumped into her—not even very hard—and she slipped. Took a mis-step. Nothing more.”

Misha shook her head, looking like she didn’t believe me, but she didn’t say anything else. The fact that the two of them had been arguing at the time probably just compounded Misha’s sense of guilt. After several long moments of silence, she sighed deeply, and leaned against me. I wrapped an arm across her shoulders, and together we settled down to wait.

________________________________


I hadn’t been aware of falling asleep, but I opened my eyes to see Nurse standing over me, gently shaking my shoulder. I tried to sit up straighter, only to realize that my left arm was pinned under a sleeping Misha. My shoulder was wet again, but not from tears this time.

“Hey, Nakai,” said Nurse quietly. “Kinda thought I’d find you two out here, though I didn’t didn’t expect to find you sleeping together.” He was sufficiently deadpan that I wasn’t totally sure if the double-entendre was intentional or not.

Oh, who was I kidding? It was Nurse. Of course it was intentional.

I was too tired to banter, or even blush. I looked over at the wall clock. Only a little after ten? It felt like it was the middle of the night. It had to be ten in the evening, not the next morning, right? The windowless room messed with my sense of time.

I tried to sit up a little straighter, and Misha mumbled, “Shicchan?” as she opened her eyes and sat up. She blinked at me, then at Nurse, looking confused for a moment, then she repeated, “Shicchan~?” more urgently, directed at Nurse.

“She’s fine,” he said with a small smile. “The surgery went well, her arm is set. They attached plates to the bones in her forearm to make sure they heal properly, and they’ve splinted the fingers on her right hand. Her concussion isn’t as bad as I’d feared at first, no signs of internal bleeding. There were no other injuries aside from assorted bruises.”

I frowned. “They splinted her right hand? I thought she broke her left arm.” I hadn’t even noticed anything wrong with her right hand, although admittedly I had been distracted by the blood and the screaming.

“She did. But she also broke two fingers on her right hand in her fall. Fortunately, it was the ring and little fingers, so she can still hold things with the other three.”

Holding things wasn’t the main issue here, really. Misha seemed to have the same thought. “How is she going to talk?” she asked.

Nurse pulled a chair over to sit down in front of us, and I realized that he looked tired, too. Accompanying a student to the hospital must be a distressingly regular occurrence for him, but I doubted it ever got easy. For a change, this time it was because of an accident, not because of anyone’s disability.

Although the accident was certainly going to have an impact on Shizune’s disability.

“Short term, she’ll probably be able to hold a pen with her fingers and thumb, although it will be painful while the other two fingers heal. Additionally, I’m going to get her a keyboard to type on, like some of the speech-impaired students use. Long term…” He hesitated, looking at us. “Actually, long term, I think the two of you could be of some help.”

“We’ll do whatever we can to help~!” said Misha excitedly. “Right, Hicchan? Wahaha~!” It was the first time I’d heard her laugh since Shizune’s fall.

“Of course,” I said, although I wanted to know what we were pledging ourselves to.

“Long term, I think Hakamichi would benefit from having speechreading and speaking instruction. But she’s refused to take those courses in the past, so…if the two of you could help talk her into it, it would be helpful.”

“She’s refused?” I asked, startled. I’d learned during my sign classes that lip reading, or speechreading as it was more accurately called, wasn’t as easy and accurate as TV or movies made it seem, and some people just couldn’t get the hang of it. I’d assumed that Shizune, for whatever reason, was one of those who couldn’t do it, not that she’d refused to try it. Since I knew how touchy she could be about things beyond her abilities, I’d never asked her about it.

Misha’s brief good cheer at the prospect of having something she could do to help Shizune faded, and she looked sad. “Oh. That.” The news that Shizune had refused to take those courses didn’t seem to be a surprise to her, but then, she’d known Shizune a lot longer than I had. She sighed. “We can try, Nurse-san, but getting Shicchan to change her mind about anything can be…difficult.”

Nurse gave a wry little smile of agreement. “Well, I’m confident that if anyone can change her mind, it’s you two.”

“We’ll try,” I said. “No promises, though.”

“That’s all I ask.” He glanced at his watch. “She should be waking up shortly. Let me go check, then I’ll come get you for a brief visit if she feels up to it. Just a couple of minutes, mind you.”

“Of course. Thank you, Nurse.”

He left us sitting there, and I took the opportunity to stand up and stretch. I felt a little stiff from sleeping sitting up. I spotted some vending machines on the other side of the waiting room. “I’m going to get a drink, Misha. Do you want anything to eat or drink?” I looked at her, still sitting on the couch. She was staring at the floor, shoulders slumped, and didn’t seem to hear me. “Misha?”

“Hmm?” She looked up at me. I was still getting used to seeing her with short hair, even though it had been several weeks since she got it cut.

“Do you want anything from the vending machines?”

“Oh. No, thank you, Hicchan.”

I bought a melon soda for me and a strawberry milk for her, since I’d seen her drink it in the past. Even if she didn’t think she wanted it, she needed to get some calories into her; we’d both missed dinner, and had gone through a lot of stress.

“Here,” I said, as I sat down next to her and pressed the milk into her hand. “Drink up.”

She didn’t even comment on the fact that she’d said she hadn’t wanted anything. She just unwrapped the straw, stabbed the milk carton with it, and started drinking. I drank my soda fairly quickly, wanting to be ready for Nurse when he came back to get us, but of course hospitals run on hospital time—slow and methodical. We sat in silence for several minutes after we finished our drinks, waiting.

“Misha, do you know why Shizune refused to take speaking and speechreading lessons?”

“Hmm?” Misha shook her head sharply as if trying to wake up and looked at me. “What, Hicchan?”

I repeated my question.

“No. I asked her about it once, and she didn’t answer, but she got angry. Like, really angry. She tried to pretend~ she wasn’t angry, but she was.”

Great. And Nurse wanted us to talk her into it. Well, I just had to hope that she would be willing to talk to her boyfriend about it.

Nurse stuck his head back into the waiting room. “Hakamichi’s awake. She’s a bit groggy, but she indicated that she’d like to see you both.”

Misha practically bolted across the room to where Nurse was standing. I picked up her purse, which she’d forgotten in her rush, and followed. Nurse held out a hand to stop Misha from pushing past him. “She’s tired, and in pain. I know that being…calm and quiet isn’t your strong suit, but it’s what she really needs right now.” He gave her a sympathetic smile. “So, do you think you can be calm and quiet, for her?”

Misha took a deep breath, practically quivering with the desire to push past Nurse and get to Shizune, but she nodded. “Right. Quiet. For Shicchan,” she said, almost whispering. Then she frowned. “But…Shicchan can’t hear me~?”

“No, but there are other patients in the recovery ward who need quiet. And Shi—Hakamichi needs calm.”

“Oh. Okay.” Misha nodded energetically. Nurse sighed, and we exchanged a commiserating glance.

“We’ll be good,” I promised. I handed Misha her purse. “Right, Misha?”

“Right~!” Nurse winced at her usual volume, and she repeated in a quieter voice, “Right.”

The first thing I noticed walking into Shizune’s room was the traction set up holding her left arm aloft, as she lay on her back. The head of the bed was slightly elevated. Her eyes were closed when we entered the room, and she looked exhausted. In addition to the cast on her elevated left arm, there was a splint on her right hand, which rested on top of the covers. An IV drip fed into her right arm, further limiting her motion. Her face had several dark blotches that I suspected would develop into some spectacular bruises over the next few days. It was odd to see her without makeup and glasses, and her hair was in disarray too, contributing to the overall impression of unwellness. The green hospital gown she was in made her look even more sallow and ill. I thought she’d hate being seen like this, but Nurse had said that she wanted to see us.

Misha tiptoed almost comically over to Shizune’s left side and gently touched her shoulder. Shizune’s eyes flew open. “Hi, Shicchan,” Misha said and signed in her usual simultaneous fashion. “How are you feeling?”

Even groggy and in pain, Shizune managed to look exasperated at the question. She just rolled her eyes and glanced pointedly at her left arm.

“I think we need to stick to yes or no questions for the moment,” I suggested to Misha, also signing simultaneously. I stepped around the bed to Shizune’s right side as she gave me a weak smile and nodded. I bent over and gave her a kiss on the forehead. Her pupil sizes matched now, I was grateful to see, but there were tension lines in her face indicating that, even with the medications she’d undoubtedly been given, she was still in pain.

Shizune reached up with her right hand and mimed pushing her glasses up her nose. I grimaced. “I’m sorry, but I’m afraid one of the nurses stepped on your glasses.”

“Oh~!” said Misha excitedly, then, catching herself, she said more quietly, “I got your spare glasses from your room, Shiichan.” She reached into her purse and pulled out a tortoise-shell patterned glasses case. She flipped it open and pulled out a pair of glasses, which she held out to Shizune. She smiled gratefully at Misha, and gingerly took the glasses in her thumb and first two fingers of her right hand. She seemed to relax a little as she slid them onto her face. The frames were a slightly different style from what I was used to.

“Is it good to be able to see again?” I asked. She nodded. “It’s good to see you, too. We’ve been worried about you.”

“I’m so so sorry I bumped into you on the stairs~, it’s my fault—” Misha began, but Shizune shook her head sharply to cut her off. She hissed in pain, closed her eyes and grimaced, the sudden movement apparently having been too much too soon. She clenched her jaw and took a deep breath, then opened her eyes to give Misha a slower head shake, staring at her intently.

“I tried to tell Misha it wasn’t her fault,” I said. “That it was just an accident.”

Shizune nodded, her eyelids drooping. Even this little bit of conversation was exhausting her. Nurse cleared his throat meaningfully.

I bent to kiss her again, on the cheek this time, and she opened her eyes a little wider. “We’ll come back to see you tomorrow,” I promised. “You sleep now.”

“Get better soon, Shichhan. We’ll come visit tomorrow. And…I’m sorry,” she repeated.

Shizune nodded slowly, her eyes fully closing. I reached out and pulled her glasses off, and placed them on the bedside table within her reach.

Nurse escorted us back out to the waiting room. “You two should get back to Yamaku, try to get some sleep. I’ll let your teachers know you won’t be in until after lunch tomorrow. Sleep in if you can. You’ve had a lot of stress today, too.” He shot a quick glance at Misha, then asked me, “Has that given you any problems?”

I frowned, wishing, not for the first time, that Nurse had a better sense of patient confidentiality, but said curtly, “No. I’ve been fine.”

“Good.” He walked us toward the hospital exit. “I called the Yamaku shuttle van for you before you went in to see Hakamichi, so it should be here by now. And I let security know why you’re coming back after curfew.”

“Thank you, Nurse-san,” mumbled Misha. Now that the excitement of getting to see Shizune was past, she seemed to be falling asleep on her feet. I took her arm and guided her the rest of the way out.

When we got back to Yamaku, Misha was again asleep on my shoulder. I roused her enough to stagger back to the girls’ dorm with her arm wrapped around my waist. I was grateful to be able to turn her over to the attention of a female security guard at the dorm entrance.

I shuffled back to my dorm, where there was another guard waiting to let me in. “Rough night?” he asked sympathetically.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “Thanks for letting me in.”

“Just doing my job,” he said with a smile. “Is Miss Hakamichi going to be okay?” I guess even the security staff wasn’t immune to gossip.

“Yeah, they set her arm, splinted her fingers. She’ll be fine. Eventually.”

He nodded. “Good.”

I barely had the energy to swallow my evening ration of pills before falling into bed. For once, insomnia wasn’t even a question.

________________________
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Last edited by Lap on Sat Jan 19, 2019 7:00 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Avenues of Communication: Shizune suffers an accident.
Akira's Surprise: Akira pays a surprise visit to Lilly, Hanako and Hisao on Christmas eve. S9 Entry.
Arrival: Hanako's first days at Yamaku. (On Hiatus)
Home: Hanako & Hisao at University, sharing an apartment with their friend Lilly (on Ao3).
One-shots

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Re: Avenues of Communication (Chapter 2 of 9)

Post by Scroff » Fri Dec 21, 2018 12:04 pm

Lap wrote:
Fri Dec 21, 2018 10:28 am
Heh. Saved by the boobs.
All hail our saviour!

Really enjoying this, thanks for posting.

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Avenues of Communication, Chapter 3

Post by Lap » Tue Dec 25, 2018 3:19 pm

Chapter 3
________________________

Misha and I visited Shizune the following afternoon, after classes were done. Unfortunately, she was asleep when we arrived. We’d come prepared for that possibility, and we settled in to do homework while waiting for her to wake up.

I kept looking over at Shizune, worried about how battered and bruised she looked. It was good to see that she no longer had an IV in, at least. I had been right about the dark marks on her face becoming more dramatically visible bruises. I was glad she was sleeping well, I knew it would help her heal, but I really hated spending more time in a hospital doing homework and killing time. It felt too much like last winter.

But at least this time I had Misha with me. I helped her with her math and science homework, and she helped me with my history and signing. In order to keep Misha from waking the other patients on the floor (or in the whole hospital), I asked her to converse in sign to help me practice. Speaking out loud while signing was such a habit for her that it was difficult at first, but I pointed out she’d need to be able to sign silently sometimes while teaching, which seemed to help her get into the right mindset to do so.

At one point I looked up from my textbook to see Misha staring at the sleeping Shizune, a sad expression on her face. Her expression was so unusual, so unlike her, that I froze, not wanting to intrude on her. Not wanting to make any motion that might draw her attention away from Shizune.

After a minute, she sighed quietly, and glanced at me. She didn’t seem surprised to find me regarding her. She plastered a bright smile on her face, but it didn’t reach her eyes. She wasn’t up to faking it that much.

“She’ll be all right, Misha,” I said quietly.

Her broad smile faded to a smaller, slightly sad smile. “I know, Hicchan. It’s not that, it’s…” she trailed off, then shook her head and looked back down at her history textbook. “Never mind.”

“It’s what?”

She looked up and stared at me for a long moment, her expression unusually serious. “Hicchan…should I even be here?”

I felt a shiver run down my spine as I recalled her casually asking me last week if it wouldn’t be better if she just died. Was this another suicide reference? Or was it something else? I cowardly chose to assume the latter, because I didn’t feel qualified to deal with the former.

“Of course you should be here. She’ll want to see you when she wakes up.”

“Are you sure about that? I’m the reason she’s in here in the first place.”

“No, you’re not,” I said, as firmly as I could.

I’m the one who bumped into her~!”

“Misha…” She seemed determined to feel responsible for Shizune’s accident. “Has Shizune ever hesitated to assign the blame to someone for their failings?”

“Um…”

“Yet she said, very emphatically, that you’re not at fault. She doesn’t blame you. I don’t blame you. Maybe you shouldn’t either.”

She buried her face in her hands for a moment, shaking her head. She looked back up at Shizune, a sad expression on her face.

“She’ll want to see you,” I repeated. “You’re her best friend.”

“Am I, Hicchan? You’re her boyfriend. Shouldn’t you be her best friend? I’m just…I’m just the pathetic fool who can’t let go of her silly schoolgirl crush. All we do lately is fight.”

I considered my words carefully, feeling out of my depth. “You two have been fighting, yes, but—this is Shizune. You know she loves a good fight.”

Misha shook her head. “No. She loves to compete, to ‘fight’ in a game or some other thing. The fighting that we’ve been doing…there’s no winners. Just losers. We just…disagree. About…stupid things.”

“Yeah. I noticed.” I glanced at the sleeping Shizune, then back at Misha. “I gotta say, don’t always understand exactly what you two are arguing about at any given moment.”

Misha shrugged. “It doesn’t really matter. What we fight about usually isn’t what we’re really~ arguing about.”

“Huh?” I asked intelligently.

Misha looked at me, a remarkably somber expression on her face. I was so used to seeing her smiling, laughing, joking around, that this solemnity unnerved me. I looked back at her for a long moment, then, she closed her text book and started to gather her papers. It took me a moment to realize she was packing up her things to leave.

“Misha—wait,” I protested.

“No, Hicchan. I shouldn’t be here. Your place is at Shizune’s side. Not me.”

I grabbed her wrist before she could stuff her notebook back into her book bag. “Misha—please wait?”

She tugged against my hand, but not very hard. She sighed wearily. “What do you want me to say, Hisao? You’ve won. Shizune is yours, not mine, and I should stop trying to pretend otherwise.” Her voice was flat, unemotional, as far from her regular booming, laughing voice as it was possible to get.

I shook my head. “This isn’t a competition between us, there’s no winning or losing—“

She cut me off with a bitter laugh. “Really~? Then why do I feel like such a loser~?”

I stared at her, shocked at first, then the shock gave way to anger. Not at her, but at myself. For not seeing what was going on in front of me.

Misha had told me she was in love with Shizune. But I had had no idea how to react to that. It made me uncomfortable; I’d never had any lesbian friends before. So mostly, I’d just ignored it. I’d filed that fact away but not thought much about it. Hadn’t considered what being around the two of us must be like for her. Of course she was uncomfortable around us, around me—I had what she didn’t have, could never have.

“Misha…” I loosened my grip on her wrist and slid my hand down so I was holding her hand. “I…I get why you resent me—”

Her eyebrows shot up. “I don’t resent~ you.” I was pleased that she didn’t pull her hand out of mine.

I took a deep breath to fortify myself, then asked, “Am I still your friend?” I was surprised at how nervous the question made me.

“Of c…” She trailed off and bit her lip, looking uncertain. Had she been about to say “Of course?” Or “Of course not?”

“Because…I like to think you’re my friend. I hope you are. You’re one of the few friends I have here at Yamaku.” I grimaced. “I may not have been a very good friend to you these past few weeks, but…I value you. Your friendship.”

Misha blinked rapidly, holding back tears, her golden eyes suddenly appearing even more molten.

“And I know Shizune values your friendship, too. Do you know what she’s been obsessed with, these past few days?” I didn’t wait for a response. “Trying to figure out a way to make you happy.” I rolled my eyes and gave a wry smile. “Mind you, I had to remind her that you were a person, not a project or thing to be repaired, but she really does care for you. In her own odd way. Maybe not…in the way you care for her, or the way you wish she’d care for you, but she does care. She’s realized she’s taken you too much for granted—that you’ve given her far more than she gives you.”

“I…” Misha looked over at the sleeping Shizune. Her shoulders slumped, and she squeezed my hand hard.

“You said that after you…confessed to her, she didn’t let you pull away, didn’t let you disappear from her life. You could disappear now, if you really wanted to, while she’s too tired and injured to pursue you. But I think it would break her heart a little, if you did.”

Misha shut her eyes and bowed her head, a frown furrowing her face. After a long moment, she gave my hand a final squeeze and let go of me. She looked up. “All right, Hicchan. I’ll stay.”

I smiled at her, relieved. “Thank you.” I hesitated, then asked, “You never answered my question. Am I still your friend?”

She gave me a small smile. Not as broad as the wahaha~! grin I was used to, but more genuine. “Yes, Hisao. You’re better than I deserve, but…you’re my friend. Thank you for that.”

“Thank you.” I regarded her for a moment, wondering if I should ask the question that had been bothering me for a while now. “Misha? You…you don’t like guys, right? I mean…you know…physically?”

She flushed and looked away from me. “That is what homosexual means~, Hicchan.”

“So you aren’t, um, bisexual?”

“No.” Her voice was firm.

“Then…what was that about? The night you visited me. In my room.”

She grimaced and closed her eyes. “Never mind. It’s not important now.”

“It feels important. To me.” I tried to make a joke of it, to lighten the mood. “You’re only the second girl who’s ever expressed any interest in getting into my pants. I can’t help but wonder what it means when a lesbian expresses that kind of interest in me. Am I really that effeminate?”

That actually succeeded in getting a small snort of laughter out of her, which I counted as a victory.

“I mean, I can think of several other possible reasons for what you did, but none of them are very…nice.”

“No, that’s true,” she said quietly.

“So…what was it? Were you…trying to break us up? Trying to discover just what it was that Shizune sees in me? Trying to see if maybe you could, ah, like guys after all?”

Misha shook her head wearily. “No. Well, a little of some of those, maybe, but mostly…” She opened her eyes and looked at me, her expression sad. “If you made love to Shizune, and I made love to you, that might be the closest I ever get to making love with Shizune myself.”

I stared at her for a long moment, trying to understand her logic, if the term “logic” could properly be used here. “That…that’s not really the way it works, Misha. Sex—love—isn’t transitive.”

A wry smile twitched on her lips. “And if you hadn’t tutored me in math, I wouldn’t have understood that reference.”

I smiled back, briefly. But mostly, her answer just made me incredibly sad.

“I’m so sorry, Misha.”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t matter, now. I’m glad you didn’t…take me up on my offer.”

“Me too. But…as a friend, if you ever need comfort—like if you need a hug, or someone to talk to, I mean, not, you know—I’m here for you.”

“Thank you.”

I felt relieved, and also exhausted. These heavy emotional conversations were a lot of work. A kind of work I wasn’t used to.

I switched back to signing. [So, do you think you could help me practice some more?] I asked with a hesitant smile.

[Of course.]

As the afternoon wore on, and the end of visiting hours approached, I felt myself getting more and more on edge. It was bad enough being back in a hospital, but the thought of having been here for several hours without a chance to see Shizune awake was especially depressing.

[Are you all right, Hicchan?] Misha asked, apparently noticing my rising tension.

I grimaced. [I…don’t like hospitals.]

Misha looked sympathetically at me. [Have you spent a lot of time in hospitals?]

I hesitated. I hadn’t yet told anyone about my heart, but… Misha was a friend. Shizune was my girlfriend. If I couldn’t tell them, who could I tell? It wasn’t as if they hadn’t seen all my medications. I obviously wasn’t at Yamaku as a non-disabled student like Misha, there to learn sign language.

[Yeah.] I sighed. [I spent over four months in the hospital last winter.]

Her eyes widened. [Why?]

I decided to be as straight-forward as I could. [I had a heart attack. I have a heart arrhythmia, a weak heart.]

“Wow.” She looked concerned. [Is it—are you—]

[I don’t know how long I have to live. It could be decades. It could be days.] I rubbed at my scar, which was suddenly itching. [I have literally no idea how long my heart will last, but it probably won’t be a full, normal life span.]

“Oh, Hicchan~,” she murmured, abandoning sign language as she leaned over and wrapped her arms around me. I was startled by the sudden contact, but after a moment I relaxed into her hold, and returned her embrace. “I’m so, so, so sorry,” she said, still managing to be quieter than her normal.

I was startled to feel tears forming in my eyes. It was the first time anyone had expressed sympathy for my condition. Everyone else—the doctors, the specialists, my parents—had focused on the optimistic possibilities. Focused on best-case scenarios and what might go right, how long I could live, if I somehow beat the odds. No one had ever said that they were sorry for my loss. For the probable decades I was never going to live to see. I took a deep breath and held it, squeezing my eyes shut tight against the tears. “Thank you,” I whispered to her.

She was silent as she held me. After a long minute, I took another deep breath. Reassured of my self-control, I gave her a gentle squeeze and pulled away. I tried to smile at her. [Thank you], I repeated. I didn’t trust my voice just then. I rubbed my face, trying to get rid of the tears.

Misha stared into my eyes intently for a long moment, concern evident on her face. [You need to live as long as possible. Shicchan…needs you,] she signed.

I suppressed a bitter bark of laughter, trying to set a quiet example for her. [Sounds good to me. If only I knew how.]

She looked thoughtful for a moment, a worrying expression from my point of view. [Emi…] she started, then paused.

I grimaced and looked away. But, unlike with Shizune, not looking at her didn’t shut her up.

“You were supposed to work out with her, weren’t you?” Misha asked.

I sighed and looked back at her. I nodded.

“To make your heart get stronger~?”

I nodded again. [But it didn’t go so well.]

[So you just quit? After one try? What would Shiccan do?]

I rolled my eyes. [If Shizune were in my position, she’d probably keep trying to beat Emi until she died of a heart attack. She’s not the best role model.]

Misha frowned and shook her head. [No. Shicchan wouldn’t kill herself. But she wouldn’t give up, either. Wouldn’t quit. Ever! You need to go back to Emi. Exercise. Make your heart stronger.]

I grimaced. [I…don’t think Emi’s very happy with me.]

[For quitting on her?]

[Among other things.]

[So apologize. Or find something else to do. The school has thousands of things you can do for physical therapy.]

I smiled at that. [Maybe not that many, but, yes, you’re right.] She continued to stare at me, a firm expression on her face, one which I was pretty sure she was copying from Shizune. I half expected her to reach up and adjust her non-existent glasses. [All right, I’ll talk to Emi. Or ask Nurse for something else to do.]

Misha’s smile returned. [Good!]

Shizune made a small pained sound, and opened her eyes. She looked around blearily, then reached for her glasses. She donned them as Misha and I stepped over to her bed side.

“Hi, Shicchan, how are you feeling today?” Misha asked and signed. Shizune squinted up at her for a moment, then lifted her right hand and traced a kanji in the air with her forefinger. Given that she couldn’t move two of her fingers, finger spelling was out at the moment.

[Sorry, what was that?] I signed. Reading air kanji was my weakest sign language skill; I had problems with mentally mirroring the symbols and remembering the strokes as they occurred.

“She asked for water,” Misha said, as she reached for the pitcher and water glass sitting on the bedside table. She put a straw in the glass, and held it for Shizune. Shizune drank thirstily, then nodded at Misha when she was done.

[Thank you], Shizune signed. So there was at least one sign she was able to do single-handed and with broken fingers. I wondered how many others she would be able to do. Not enough for normal communication.

[Nurse said you’re recovering well, and should be able to go back to your room at Yamaku tomorrow,] I signed. Shizune nodded briefly.

[We’ll be here to help you,] Misha said.

Shizune nodded again, and tried to smile. It looked forced. [Are you in pain? Do you need painkillers?] I asked.

Shizune’s lips tightened. She looked for a moment like she was going to say no, but then she sighed and nodded, [Yes.] I wondered if she felt that using painkillers was a sign of weakness.

“I’ll get the nurse~!” Misha said, and she darted from the room.

“There’s a call button…” I trailed off as she disappeared. I looked at Shizune and gave her a smile and a shrug. [Misha’s being Misha,] I signed.

Shizune snorted. [Yes.]

I took the opportunity of being alone with her to add, [She’s feeling guilty about your fall. If you can reassure her somehow that it wasn’t her fault, that’d be good.]

Shizune gave me an incredulous look, How? plainly written on her face. I flushed. [I don’t know how. Maybe not today. It’s just…something to keep in mind.]

She sighed, and nodded.

[I’m sorry. I know it must be incredibly frustrating not being able to sign.]

She rolled her eyes and nodded again.

[Nurse suggested you might—] But I was cut off by the return of Misha, with the nurse in tow.

“Ah, finally awake, Miss Hakamichi?” chirped the nurse, sounding almost as cheery as Misha normally did. Either she didn’t know Shizune was deaf, or else she knew Misha would translate for her. “And how are you today?”

“She said she wanted some painkillers,” I offered, also signing simultaneously so Shizune could know what I was saying. Shizune nodded in confirmation.

The nurse pulled Shizune’s chart off the wall. “Well, I don’t see any problem with that,” she said, after examining it for a moment. “We can do some acetaminophen for now, but the doctor wants to speak with you before giving you anything stronger.”

Shizune, watching Misha’s translation, nodded again. The nurse left, and returned a few moments later with a couple of white pills in a tiny cup. “Here you go.” She held out the small cup, and Shizune gingerly took it with her right hand and tossed the pills into her mouth. Misha was ready with her water glass, and Shizune washed them down. Shizune gave Misha a grateful smile and signed, [Thank you.]

“I need to check the stitches and change the dressings, so would you two be so kind as to step out of the room for a moment?”

I hesitated, glancing at Shizune. “Pardon me, nurse, but do you speak sign language?”

The nurse looked startled. “Oh, right. I didn’t think of that.”

“I can translate~,” offered Misha. I wanted to volunteer too, but I couldn’t deny that Misha was a better translator than I, so I kept quiet.

“You aren’t the type to faint at a little blood, are you?” the nurse asked Misha.

Misha shook her head, “Nope~!”

“Very well. Young man, we’ll be just a moment.”

Taking the hint, I returned to the waiting room. I felt my shoulders drop a few centimeters as I exited the hospital room. I was glad Shizune was going to be okay, and I was really glad she’d be coming back to Yamaku tomorrow. Anywhere but the hospital would be good, as far as I was concerned.

________________________

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Last edited by Lap on Sat Jan 19, 2019 7:00 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Avenues of Communication: Shizune suffers an accident.
Akira's Surprise: Akira pays a surprise visit to Lilly, Hanako and Hisao on Christmas eve. S9 Entry.
Arrival: Hanako's first days at Yamaku. (On Hiatus)
Home: Hanako & Hisao at University, sharing an apartment with their friend Lilly (on Ao3).
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Avenues of Communication, Chapter 4

Post by Lap » Sun Dec 30, 2018 12:09 am

Chapter 4
________________________

As it turned out, Shizune was moved back to her room during the afternoon while Misha and I were still in class, much to both Misha’s and my annoyance. We’d both wanted to be there to help her. Nurse sent a note to Mutou’s class for us to let us know.

When classes ended, Misha was one of the first out the door. I just hoped she didn’t run into anyone in the hallways and cause an incident. I followed at a more reasonable pace, not wanting to celebrate Shizune’s return with a heart attack, though I still walked more briskly than usual, eager to see her.

My elevated pulse as I arrived at the girls’ dorm reminded me of my promise to Misha to talk to Nurse about an exercise program. I paused at the entrance to let my breathing and pulse return to normal. A small stream of students entered the dorm, since classes had just ended. One girl bucked the flow of traffic and came back out, her running prosthetics click-click-clicking on the tile as she came.

“Hi, Emi,” I said, trying to smile as I panted.

Emi paused long enough to frown up at me. “Hisao. Feeling a bit winded, are you?”

“No, I’m fine,” I lied, trying to make my breathing slow and regular. Something I could only keep up for a couple of breaths before my body’s desire for oxygen made me suck in a deeper breath.

“Pfft.” She shook her head and looked disgusted. “Maybe if you worked out a little more you’d be in better shape.”

I sighed. “I know. I know. You’re right.”

Her eyebrows shot up for a moment at that admission, then she frowned again. I remembered what Misha had said, and I added, “I’m sorry I stood you up. It was a lousy thing to do.”

“Yes. It was,” she said, acknowledging but not accepting my apology. She turned away. “I’ve gotta go. Practice starts in ten, and unlike some people, I keep my appointments.”

I winced at that, but before I could reply she was off, jogging down the path towards the track. Maybe I couldn’t mend that fence, or maybe it would require a little more groveling to do so. I sighed and headed into the dorm.

I pressed the doorbell button by Shizune’s door, which rang a bell and flashed a light inside her room. Misha, of course, answered the door.

“Hi~! I was wondering where you were.”

I snorted. “I can’t sprint as fast as you can. Did you beat Emi back to the dorm?”

“Almost~!” She grinned and stepped aside to let me in. “Look, Shicchan is back~!”

“Yes, I know, that’s why we’re here, right?” It warmed my heart a surprising amount to see Misha smiling so broadly again.

“Right!”

I looked at Shizune as I entered the room. She was propped up on a large wedge pillow on her bed, with her left arm resting on its own support pillow. One side of her face was turning interesting shades of black and yellow as the bruise spread out around her eye. But it looked like she’d had a bath and brushed her hair, looking less unkempt than before. Her clothes weren’t quite pajamas, just a plain blue t-shirt and sweatpants. I couldn’t help but notice she wasn’t wearing a bra, but I resolutely didn’t stare. Much. She smiled when she saw me.

“Hi,” I said and signed. “It’s good to see you. Are you feeling any better today?”

She nodded, [Yes.]

“Do you need any pain killers at the moment?”

[No.]

“Show Hicchan your keyboard,” Misha prompted.

Shizune pulled a small keyboard from beside her on the bed onto her lap. The top of the keyboard had an angled double display, one small screen facing Shizune, the other screen facing out so whoever she was talking with could read her responses. She tapped at it with the three mobile fingers on her right hand. This thing is annoyingly slow, she typed.

“But it’s better than playing twenty questions for everything,” I observed, signing and speaking simultaneously.

Shizune grimaced and nodded.

“Do you know when you’ll be able to come back to class?” I asked.

She shrugged. 3-4 days maybe? As soon as I’m not loopy on drugs.

That prompted me to look at her more closely, and I realized she was unusually relaxed. She normally held herself erect with a rigid posture that almost quivered with her suppressed energy, ready to tackle the world, or at least the latest stack of student council paperwork. Now, she looked almost like a sleepy cat, melted into her pillows and bed. Her eyes drooped a fraction even as I looked at her, then she shook her head and sat up a bit straighter, obviously forcing herself to fuller awareness. The movement provoked some interesting jiggling in her t-shirt, which I strove to not stare at.

“We can leave you if you need to sleep,” I offered.

[No.] I’ve slept too much.

I rolled my eyes. “You broke your arm and had surgery. Sleep is a good thing, it helps you heal, and also escape the pain for a while.”

[Yes.] But I’m not sleepy now.

I wasn’t sure I believed that, but it was her choice.

Misha and I helped her learn her way around the keyboard. The user manual had seemingly been written in Urdu and translated to Japanese by way of Norwegian, but we eventually puzzled it out.

One of its features allowed her to pre-program macros for commonly used phrases, and we killed some time coming up with common phrases she could use. “What can your student council do for you today?” was one of Shizune’s first choices, perhaps unsurprisingly. Misha suggested she should add “No running in the halls, Miss Ibarazaki!”

Misha giggled. “I can just see you chasing her down the halls, waving your keyboard at her, trying to get her to read it~!” I couldn’t help but laugh at the mental image too, much to Shizune’s annoyance.

Macros helped with common phrases, but Shizune still found the typing frustratingly slow and somewhat painful. We took a break from keyboarding by spending some time on homework, with Shizune playing catch-up, and the three of us silently working on our own for a while.

Around six, I made a run to the cafeteria to get food for Misha and myself—since Shizune was on the sick list, someone from the cafeteria had brought a meal over for her.

When I got back with our food, Misha was signing something to Shizune, not speaking out loud for a change. She shot me a glance as I entered the room, looking guilty, and Shizune pinned me with a frown.

“What?” I asked nervously. Misha wasn’t meeting my eyes, so I unpacked our food and set it on the desk, as Shizune laboriously typed out something, pounding on the keys with unnecessary vigor. She finished typing and shoved the keyboard at me.

Have you talked with Nurse about setting up a regular exercise program yet?

My stomach sank, and I frowned at Misha. “You told her about my heart?”

She tried to smile at me. “I’m sorry. I thought she already knew. Why would you tell me before telling your girlfriend~?”

Shizune typed, Yes, why?

“Oh, hell,” I muttered, but didn’t sign. Not that that mattered; Misha translated as usual. I faced Shizune and resumed signing along with my spoken words. “I hadn’t told anyone about my heart. It wasn’t just you. I’m…still getting used to it myself. You’ve lived with your disability all your life; I’ve known about mine for less than a year.” I glanced at Misha. “I only told Misha because it came up while we were waiting for you to wake up at the hospital.”

“That’s true, Shicchan,” Misha put in.

“There just never seemed to be a…right time to bring it up.”

She scowled at me. And what would I have done if you had a heart attack while we were being intimate?

Misha made a small noise at that, and looked away from us, her face red, her expression pained.

“Sorry, Misha,” I said quietly.

Shizune looked at Misha at my words, and she flushed a little, looking abashed. Sorry, she typed.

Misha tried to smile, and shook her head. “It’s all right. It’s not as if I didn’t know.”

Still, I felt guilty about rubbing her nose in it. Apparently Shizune did too, because she redirected the conversation back to my failings, not our intimacies. She pulled up her previous question from the keyboard’s history. Have you talked with Nurse about setting up a regular exercise program yet?

“I only said I was going to do that yesterday! I haven’t had a chance yet.”

Shizune frowned. No chance since you arrived at Yamaku? I was startled to see her jaw muscles rippling, like she was clenching her teeth.

I threw up my hands. “Yes, I could have done it before now, but I didn’t, okay?”

“Why not?” asked Misha, apparently beating Shizune to the question, because she pulled her hand away from her keyboard and looked at me with an expectant scowl.

I pinched the bridge of my nose for a moment. “I don’t know,” I muttered, trusting Misha to translate my words for me. I looked at Shizune. “Why are you so angry about this?”

Her expression changed to one of disbelief. I don’t want you dropping dead from something you could have prevented!

“I’m taking my meds,” I protested weakly.

“But you said working out could strengthen your heart,” Misha said.

I was beginning to feel a bit ganged up on, not that that was an unusual situation with these two. But this time their attention was focused on me, personally, not student council paperwork or some school project.

I sighed. “I know it’s stupid. Not working out, I mean. It’s just…” I trailed off, unsure as to exactly why I’d been avoiding it for so long, despite Nurse’s repeated reminders.

Denial won’t make you live longer, Shizune typed.

“But exercise will,” added Misha.

I groaned. “All right! All right! I’ll go before class tomorrow morning and see him first thing, okay? Will that make you happy?”

Misha and Shizune exchanged a glance, then they both turned to me and nodded. “Yes. Very happy. I don’t have many friends~, Hicchan. I don’t want to lose you either~!”

“Okay. In the meantime, our dinner is getting cold. Can we eat, now?”

Shizune nodded, and we dug into our food. Shizune’s meal had come with a fork instead of chopsticks, which she gingerly handled with her three functioning fingers.

Since it was impossible to sign or type with utensils in hand, the meal was silent, as usual for us. Which gave me unwelcome time to brood on my promise.

Denial, Shizune had called it, which certainly was a part of my problem, I guessed. Well, okay, it was probably the major part of it. Just getting winded walking back from town depressed me. I hated the thought of staggering around the track a few laps while watching Emi racing around me like the wind.

Then do something where you don’t have to see her, idiot, I scolded myself. What, I didn’t know, but I was certain Nurse would have some suggestions. Alas.

________________________

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Last edited by Lap on Sat Jan 19, 2019 7:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Avenues of Communication: Shizune suffers an accident.
Akira's Surprise: Akira pays a surprise visit to Lilly, Hanako and Hisao on Christmas eve. S9 Entry.
Arrival: Hanako's first days at Yamaku. (On Hiatus)
Home: Hanako & Hisao at University, sharing an apartment with their friend Lilly (on Ao3).
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Re: Avenues of Communication (updated 12-29-18)

Post by Scroff » Sun Dec 30, 2018 6:14 am

Lap wrote:
Sun Dec 30, 2018 12:09 am
The user manual had seemingly been written in Urdu and translated to Japanese by way of Norwegian
Hey, that's my secret technique for naturally flowing prose :evil:

Another great update, thanks for posting!!

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Re: Avenues of Communication (updated 12-29-18)

Post by Feurox » Sun Dec 30, 2018 3:58 pm

Loving this story so far. Seems particularly well thought out, and the relationship of the three is natural, (though I won't say fun given then circumstances.) Shizune's characterisation is very good and I'm enjoying it profusely. Haven't got much in the way of constructive criticism, very well written and I think the concept is fascinating.

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Avenues of Communication, Chapter 5

Post by Lap » Thu Jan 03, 2019 10:40 am

Thanks all for the kind words! Here's the next part—

Chapter 5

________________________

I decided to visit Shizune during lunch the next day. When I informed Misha of my plan to do so, she smiled and said, “Have a nice lunch, Hicchan~!”

I was startled. “You don’t want to come, too?”

She shook her head. “No. You two should have some time together alone. I’ll visit after classes!”

“Okay…” I said hesitantly, feeling a bit awkward. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to spend time alone with Shizune, but I didn’t want to feel like I was pushing Misha away, either. “You’re sure?”

She gave me a little push towards the door. “Really, Hicchan, it’s fine~. I’ll see her tonight~!”

“Okay. I’ll be back in a bit.”

I grabbed something vaguely edible from the cafeteria and headed over to the girls’ dorm. I rang the doorbell to Shizune’s room, then waited a moment. I was considering just trying the door so she wouldn’t have to get out of bed to answer the door when I heard something thump against the door from the other side. Taking that as a invitation, I opened the door and peeked in.

Shizune was sitting up in bed, and there was a slipper on the floor in front of the door. She smiled when she saw me, and waved me in.

[Hi, I thought I might join you for lunch, if you didn’t mind.] I picked up the slipper and brought it back to her bedside, placing it beside its mate. I was only mildly disappointed that she was wearing a sweatshirt today, not a t-shirt.

She smiled and waved toward her desk chair, and I pulled it over next to the bed and sat down. She already had a lunch tray on the bedside table. It looked like she’d just started eating. She pulled her keyboard onto her lap. Thank you for visiting. It gets boring here.

[I can bring you the homework you’ve missed if you like,] I offered with a smile.

She rolled her eyes at that, then gave a reluctant shrug. You probably should. I shouldn’t get too far behind.

I nodded and took a bite of bread. One advantage of sign was I could talk with my mouth full, as long as my hands weren’t also full. [Misha says she’ll visit after classes are out.]

Shizune nodded. Did you visit Nurse this morning to discuss an exercise program?

I sighed. I couldn’t help but notice that she’d put that question into a macro. [Yes. He was…insufferably pleased that I asked him about it.] He also guessed that I had been nudged into it by Shizune, but I didn’t need to tell her that. [I’m going to start swimming in the mornings. Apparently there are a handful of students who swim every morning before class.]

She smiled approvingly at that. Good.

For a few minutes we just ate in companionable silence, using our hands for eating instead of talking.

Once I’d finished eating, I decided to try and broach the topic Nurse had asked me, again, to bring up with Shizune. [Nurse told me that Mrs. Shibata is willing to tutor you in speaking and speechreading if you’d like. Since your hands will be—]

She cut me off with a scowl and a swipe of her hand, then looked away from me to completely shut me up. I was startled at such a strong, immediate reaction—I’d assumed we could at least talk about it a little bit before descending into conflict. I studied the side of her face as she stared at the far wall, avoiding my gaze. Her lips were pressed tight, and she was breathing deeply.

After a minute, she didn’t look back at me, but she focused on her keyboard as she pecked out a response. I do not wish to study with Mrs. Shibata, thank you. The response was ludicrously vague and polite, given the strength of her reaction to my suggestion.

[Why not?]

I do not wish to discuss it.

But I wasn’t willing to let it rest so easily. [Why not? Your won’t be able to properly sign for months.]

She shook her head sharply, and looked back at her keyboard. It would be a waste of time to learn a skill I will not need once I am healed.

I gave her an incredulous look. Speaking and speechreading were skills she could use for the rest of her life, not just the next six months. I didn’t even say anything to her, just let my expression speak for me. She flushed and looked away, apparently realizing how ridiculous that argument sounded.

I tried a different approach. [You already have to mouth a lot of words as you sign them anyway—why not go the extra step to learn how to voice them, too?]

She shook her head. Mouthing is just gesturing with lips. Not always the same mouth shapes as speech.

[But isn’t it a step in that direction?]

She shook her head. Not really.

I felt exasperated, and I probably let it show. [Why don’t you want to learn how to speak?]

Shizune glared at me for a long moment, then typed out, Because deaf speakers sound stupid.

I just stared at her blankly for a moment, not comprehending. [Stupid? How so?]

She grimaced. Poorly modulated speech. Mispronunciations. Odd tone and inflection. Sound brain damaged.

I was truly baffled. While at Yamaku, I had met a couple of deaf students who could speak. Although one of them had been a little difficult to understand, like he had a minor speech impediment, the other one had sounded mostly normal. But neither of them sounded “brain damaged,” whatever that meant.

[Where did you get that idea?] I asked, although I had a feeling I knew the answer before I asked.

Shizune looked to the side for a long moment before reluctantly typing, Father.

Ah. Yes. Jigoro. I wasn’t at all surprised. I buried my face in my hands for a long moment, trying to consider how to approach this.

In my admittedly not unbiased opinion, Jigoro treated his daughter—both of his children, really—abominably. I had only been mildly surprised to hear that he had expressed no interest in visiting Shizune after her accident. “The care at the school is adequate,” he’d said, according to Nurse.

But Shizune never seemed to perceive his treatment of her as wanting. I still hadn’t figured out what the dynamic was, but she truly seemed to look up to the bombastic blowhard, despite the fact that she frequently mocked him. I mean, I know love is blind and all that, but I thought Shizune took the concept of filial devotion to a ridiculous extreme. An unthinking extreme, which was all the more surprising, given how she analyzed and dissected everything else in her life.

I looked at her and hesitantly signed, [I think perhaps you should consider the source.]

She glared at me again. I could see a muscle in her jaw twitching. She just raised an inquiring eyebrow at me instead of typing anything.

[Your father…] I paused to try and find the most politic way to phrase this. [Has not always been…the most understanding person when it comes to dealing with your deafness.]

Shizune got a sour expression on her face, then closed her eyes, effectively shutting me up. I gave her a minute to think, then rested a gentle hand on her arm. She sighed and opened her eyes. She had a stubborn set to her lips that I knew all too well.

This keyboard will suffice. My fingers should be healed in a month, then I can sign again.

I thought a month was optimistic, and even if it were so, being able to finger spell with one hand or trace kanji in the air was nowhere near as fast as she was used to being able to speak.

But before I could follow up on that argument, she typed out, Tired. Hand hurts. Sleep now.

I looked at her. It was a little hard to tell with the bruising, but she did look tired. Using her fingers to type put strain on the adjoining broken fingers, causing pain. And pain was certainly exhausting. I stood up and leaned over to give her a kiss on the forehead. She hissed at that, and grabbed my shirt with her thumb and forefinger to pull me down for a kiss on the lips. It was brief, but pleasant. I was pleased to see her smiling as we broke apart, and I smiled back.

[Sleep well,] I signed. [Misha and I will visit after class.]

She nodded. She took off her glasses and set them on the bedside table. She shifted down on her pillow a little, reclining more, and closed her eyes. I bent over and gave her another gentle kiss, on the cheek. She didn’t open her eyes, but she smiled briefly at that, then took a deeper breath and relaxed.

I stood watching her for just a moment, just admiring her beauty and strength, which still managed to shine through even with her injuries and immobilization. Then I turned and left, turning off the room lights as I went.

________________________

<-Previous Chapter ||| Next Chapter->
Last edited by Lap on Sat Jan 19, 2019 7:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Avenues of Communication: Shizune suffers an accident.
Akira's Surprise: Akira pays a surprise visit to Lilly, Hanako and Hisao on Christmas eve. S9 Entry.
Arrival: Hanako's first days at Yamaku. (On Hiatus)
Home: Hanako & Hisao at University, sharing an apartment with their friend Lilly (on Ao3).
One-shots

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Avenues of Communication, Chapter 6

Post by Lap » Mon Jan 07, 2019 10:50 pm

Chapter 6


________________________

Swimming the next morning proved to be slightly less embarrassing than I’d anticipated. No one objected to me wearing a t-shirt in the pool, thank goodness. There were five other students at the pool that morning, including Molly from my class.

The physical therapist/life guard on duty, “Coach” Shiraki, was an intimidatingly fit silver-haired woman. She watched me swim a lap and then set me up with a plan of exercise. I was depressingly winded after just a half hour of splashing around in the water, but Molly was encouraging.

“The important thing is that you’re here,” she reminded me. “You’ll get better at it faster than you think.” I tried not to brood on the fact that I was now slower than a girl with no legs both on land and in the water. Molly had apparently been swimming for years.

I managed to stay awake in class, despite my early rising and unaccustomed exercise. At lunch time, I told Misha it was her turn to have lunch with Shizune. I’d decided that I needed a fresh perspective on Shizune. So I bought a can of coffee to help me keep awake through the afternoon, then sought out the person who’d known Shizune the longest.

I hesitated for a moment before knocking on the doorframe of Lilly’s and Hanako’s “tea room.”

“Hey, Lilly, it’s Hisao.” I was surprised but also a little relieved to see that Hanako wasn’t with her for a change.

She paused in the midst of pouring herself a cup of tea, and cocked her head towards me. “Hello, Hisao.”

“Would you mind if I joined you?”

She smiled, and gestured gracefully toward the other side of the table she was sitting at. “Not at all.”

I sat down in the chair opposite her, then started to pull the lunch I’d packed out of its bag.

Lilly finished pouring her cup of tea, then asked, “Would you care for a cup of tea?”

“No, thanks, I brought a can of coffee.”

She took a careful sip of her hot beverage. “So, to what do I owe the pleasure of your company today?”

I opened and took a swig of my coffee, trying to figure out how to raise this slightly awkward subject. “I…was hoping to pick your brains about something.”

“Oh? About what?”

I sighed. “Shizune.”

Lilly froze for just a split second as she was raising the cup to her lips, then she completed the motion, taking another sip. “Ah. And…why are you asking me about her?”

“Because you’re her cousin. Because you’ve known her longer than anyone else around here. Because, despite the…friction the two of you currently have, I get the impression that you two were once closer. And so I hope you might be able to tell me what I need to know.”

Lilly sighed and gently put down her cup. She folded her hands on the table in front of her, looking calm and collected, but there was still some subtle tension about her. “I was sorry to hear about her accident.” She sounded sincere. “How do you think she’s coping?”

I shrugged, then realized it was a useless gesture. “I guess ‘mixed’ is the best way to describe it. Physically, she’s doing as well as could be expected. The headaches from her concussion are fading. She should be back in class by Monday. But not being able to sign is frustrating, and I suspect being dependent upon others even more than usual is not easy for her.”

“That is true.” Lilly actually looked sympathetic to Shizune’s plight. “Given her love of arguing—of talking—having her speaking ability limited like that is hard on her.”

“Yeah.” I shoveled some noodles into my mouth, and Lilly also took the opportunity to tear off a piece of curry bread and eat it.

“So, what did you want to ask me about?”

I chewed and swallowed. “She probably won’t be able to start physical therapy for at least six to eight weeks. And her arm’s mobility will be severely limited for months after that. Since she won’t be able to sign properly for quite a while, Nurse suggested that it seemed like this would be an ideal time for her to take speechreading and speech lessons. Mrs. Shibata is willing to tutor her intensively, given her situation, to help her get up to speed more quickly.”

“But Shizune refused,” Lilly stated. It wasn’t even a question.

“Yeah. How’d you know?”

Lilly toyed with her tea cup, turning it around and around so the handle was facing first left, then right, then left again. “My uncle…” she trailed off and made a little moue of distaste.

I scowled. “Dammit. Jigoro is such a…a…” I swallowed my words. He was her uncle, after all. I didn’t think there was any love lost between them, but it felt wrong to insult her family to her face.

“Yes,” she said, agreeing with my unvoiced sentiments.

I felt like I was picking my way through an emotional mine field, but it would probably be easier to discuss this with Lilly than Shizune. “I’ve only met him a couple of times, but…I get the impression that he almost takes Shizune’s deafness as a personal affront. It’s like he thinks she’s being deaf just to spite him. And he seems to feel that she should somehow be able to ‘overcome’ it just by working hard.”

“If hard work were all that it took to cure deafness, Shizune would have been ‘cured’ long ago,” Lilly said.

“Yeah.” I was surprised that Lilly was so complimentary of Shizune.

“Have you ever wondered why Shizune is in Mr. Moutou’s class and not Mrs. Shibata’s class?” Lilly asked.

“Ah…” I was startled to realize that the thought had never occurred to me. “No. I didn’t even know that there was a class for the hearing impaired students until I’d been here for a month or so, and by that point…it just seemed normal to have her in my class.”

Lilly gave a small smile. “Well, then that part of her plan succeeded.”

“Plan?”

“Maybe calling it a ‘plan’ is overstating it, but…her desire to fit in to a normal class.”

“As normal as any Yamaku class can be,” I said drily.

Lilly waved that aside with a graceful gesture. “Even at Yamaku, there are varying degrees of ‘normal.’ She didn’t want to be in a class that was defined by her handicap. Mr. Moutou’s class is a general cross-section of students.”

“Yeah. Okay, I can see that.” I winced a little at using the word “see,” but Lilly didn’t seem to mind. “But why didn’t she want to be in Mrs. Shibata’s class?”

Lilly sighed. “I’m not totally sure, but I suspect Shizune has absorbed certain…prejudices from her father.”

I frowned. “Prejudices?” I had to think about that for a moment. “You mean, she’s prejudiced against…deaf people?” I shook my head. “That doesn’t even make sense.”

Prejudice may be overstating it. She would certainly deny it if you put it to her in those terms, but she has absorbed enough of my uncle’s views that she views other deaf people as…annoying, at the very least. Despite the fact that they are the people with whom she can most easily converse.”

I thought back over the past few months, and Shizune’s interactions with other people. We’d dealt with a few of the other deaf students during the course of doing student council work, and she’d always been polite, at least. But certainly not warm, or welcoming of them. Misha and I were the only people she could claim to be close to, and neither of us were deaf.

“That…is really weird,” I said. I frowned as I thought about it more. “It almost feels like a form of self-hatred. I mean, if she hates deaf people, does that mean she hates herself?”

“‘Hate’ is also probably too strong a word for her attitude, but, yes, there may be an element of…self-criticism involved there. My uncle is…almost a caricature of toxic masculinity. He abhors any kind of weakness. An attitude I think Shizune shares, to a lesser extent.”

I frowned. “But…everyone at Yamaku has a weakness of one sort or another. It’s practically the defining feature of the school.” I realized I was rubbing my chest scar, and stopped. “And she’s dedicated herself to serving the student body.”

Lilly shrugged, a graceful lift of her shoulders. “It is not a simple dynamic. I believe that Yamaku students earn her approbation by virtue of the fact that they—we—are all striving to do well, to deal with and adapt to our handicaps. We all face challenges, yes, but the very fact that we are working to overcome those challenges makes us strong, in her eyes.”

“Unless you’re deaf.”

A sardonic smile flitted across her lips. “As I said. It’s not a simple dynamic. Perhaps a bit irrational.”

“Irrational is not a word I normally associate with Shizune. She’s usually almost coldly calculating.”

“Unless there’s a competitive element involved. Then she pulls out all the stops, rational or not.”

“True…”

I frowned and took another bite of my lunch as I tried to wrap my mind around the notion of Shizune disliking deaf people. Disliking herself? I’d never seen any indication of that. She’d never even shown any annoyance with her disability as a disability. She seemed to accept that that was the way she was, and since there was nothing she could do to change it, it wasn’t worth wasting energy thinking about it.

“Why wouldn’t she want to learn skills that could make her interactions with hearing people easier? If nothing else, it’d make it easier to compete with others, which is one of her joys.”

Lilly looked thoughtful for a moment. “I think…maybe it comes down to that competitiveness. The person she competes with most fiercely is herself. Which sometimes expresses itself through a streak of perfectionism.” Lilly grimaced and shook her head. “Unfortunately, she doesn’t limit that perfectionism to herself.” Which made me suspect that Shizune’s perfectionism was at the root of at least some of the conflict between the two of them.

“That makes sense.” Speechreading was by its very nature imperfect—most people who used it only understood about a quarter or less of what was said, and had to infer the rest of the conversation from context. But Shizune would probably have difficulty settling for less than a hundred percent comprehension, something that was basically impossible.

Lilly poured herself another cup of tea. It was fascinating to watch her, her movements so smooth, her spatial memory of where she’d left the tea pot precise and sure. I smiled as I reflected that Shizune wasn’t the only perfectionist I knew, but Lilly expressed it in a different way.

Lilly took a sip of tea, then said, “The reason I was able to say so authoritatively that Shizune refused speech training is that she has, in fact, had such training before.”

“She has?”

“Oh, yes. Many years’ worth. Uncle Jigoro thought that her being able to speak and speechread would make her seem more…‘normal.’” Lilly delivered the word “normal” with delicate loathing in her tone of voice.

Jigoro had mentioned that he had hired multiple tutors for Shizune over the years, but I hadn’t realized he’d meant for speaking and speechreading. I shook my head slowly, then realized Lilly couldn’t see my expression of disbelief. “That…man. Is such a…such an…” I cut myself off again.

“I believe the word you are searching for is ‘asshole.’” Lilly’s expression and tone of voice were utterly deadpan, although her cheeks did flush a light pink.

I gave a startled laugh at the unexpected vulgarity. “Indeed,” I said. “So she had training?”

“Yes. She was making good progress, but…no one who is born profoundly deaf will ever sound totally normal, or be able to read another person’s speech completely accurately. Shizune’s progress wasn't good enough for my uncle. As you can imagine, he berated her for her lack of effort. They argued about it more and more as time went on, culminating in a spectacular fight a few years ago, according to Hideaki. After that, Shizune stopped all lessons. Stopped speaking out loud to anyone.”

She hesitated a moment, then leaned forward and added quietly, as if confiding a secret, “Although she occasionally speaks with me, if no one else is around to hear, and tactile signing between us is going too slowly for her tastes.”

“Really?” The notion that Shizune spoke to anyone, let alone to Lilly, was startling. That she would show Lilly that kind of vulnerability—utilizing a skill she was less than proficient in—seemed to indicate a deeper connection between them that their overt hostilities couldn’t completely erase.

My curiosity compelled me to ask, “What does she sound like?”

Lilly pursed her lips for a moment, then said, “She is mostly comprehensible. She has trouble with certain sounds, and slurs a little, but she works around those sounds when she can.”

“Huh.” So, she could already speak and speechread to a certain extent, which was good, but she’d been emotionally bludgeoned about limitations that were beyond her control by her father. I’d suspected Jigoro was a major part of her problem, but having this confirmation didn't necessarily help me figure out what to do next.

The end of lunch bell rang, and I gathered the remains from my lunch. “Well, thank you for you assistance. You’ve certainly provided me with some new food for thought.” I realized I was unconsciously modeling her formal speech patterns. I hoped she didn’t think I was mocking her.

She smiled as she gathered the remains of her lunch and her tea supplies. “You’re welcome. Best of luck with Shizune.” I wondered if I was imagining the slight edge to her smile as she said that. You’re going to need it seemed to be the unspoken subtext.

Pondering all my new information, I headed back to class.

__________________________

<— Previous Chapter ||| Next Chapter —>
Last edited by Lap on Sat Jan 19, 2019 7:01 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Avenues of Communication: Shizune suffers an accident.
Akira's Surprise: Akira pays a surprise visit to Lilly, Hanako and Hisao on Christmas eve. S9 Entry.
Arrival: Hanako's first days at Yamaku. (On Hiatus)
Home: Hanako & Hisao at University, sharing an apartment with their friend Lilly (on Ao3).
One-shots

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Re: Avenues of Communication (updated 1-7-19)

Post by Feurox » Wed Jan 09, 2019 8:48 pm

Caught up - once again. You post these pretty rapidly, which I am by no means complaining about. But thought I'd give a somewhat more thoughtful comment than merely stating how much I like this story, which I do. I'll admit; sometimes the past tense throws me. That's nothing to do with your writing, in fact it's very consist with the tenses. The reason I mention it, is because I think it leaves us a bit disconnect from the narrative - like we're going to eventually have some reveal that all of this is in conversation, a recount of events to Mutou, Nurse, Shizunes father or some other figure of authority. Again, not a bad thing, just something I picked up on when reading this.

With chapter 6 specifically, a few things come up that I like. The revelation that Shizune not only can speak, but chose to do so to Lilly is a nice one and very feasible. It's bittersweet, since that kind of closeness and vulnerability with one another seems to be irreversibly lost, but you never know. I especially like this, since it makes her refusal to do so for Hisao a bit rough. Her wounded pride has been done well so far, and I think that in having this interaction outside of her scope, Shizune has become simultaneously vulnerable and resilient. I don't think that was easy to do, but you've pulled it off masterfully. It sets up the potential internal struggle of Shizune's obligations. Sure, Lilly was family and it was perhaps more necessary than it would be with Hisao, but the principle remains.

I also really like the implications that Shizune has, unfortunately, adopted some of her fathers prejudice. It's a good knife, and you twist it well. Accepting speech therapy is not a straightforward answer for Shizune, and again her pride rears its head, ugly too. I think that's a great crinkle on a great story.

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Avenues of Communication, Chapter 7

Post by Lap » Sun Jan 13, 2019 11:45 am

Thanks for the kind words & thoughtful analysis! I really appreciate it.

Chapter 7

________________________

I tried to bring up the idea of lessons with Mrs. Shibata again that evening, but Shizune shut me down even faster that time. Misha told me the day after that that she also tried to talk to Shizune about accepting tutoring, but was likewise cut off.

Knowing that she sometimes spoke to Lilly made her refusal to consider lessons even more puzzling and frustrating. She obviously could see some utility in knowing how to speak. I was reluctant to bring up talking with Lilly as a point of argument, though, since it felt like Lilly had told me that in confidence. Even though she hadn’t said as much at the time, it felt that way.

I spent Sunday afternoon with Shizune, helping her catch up on homework in preparation for returning to class the next day. After a particularly long and tediously typed out exchange, she gingerly flexed her three mobile fingers and grimaced.

[You know, your hand wouldn't hurt if you were speaking,] I said, with an innocent look on my face.

Shizune wasn't buying it. She scowled at me and shook her head sharply, [No!]

Her response just exasperated me. She was obviously in pain from all they typing, frustrated by the slow speed of her communication, but she stubbornly refused to even discuss continuing speech lessons. I mentally cursed her father once again.

I hoped if I could get her to at least discuss her issues with Jigoro, I might be able to provide some counter-arguments. Though I admittedly had a poor track record at winning arguments with Shizune, it was worth a try.

[Why are you so set against this?] I signed, my gestures jerky with annoyance.

Shizune glared at me for several long moments, then said, “Behaws…I showend…shtupit.” Then she clenched her teeth shut with an audible snap, and redirected her glare to the wall, her face flushing red.

I just stared at her, my jaw hanging open, my hands frozen speechless. Despite having heard from Lilly that Shizune could speak, the reality of it was startling. Her voice had been…well, surprisingly sexy, actually. Much deeper than I would have predicted for a girl her size, a husky, throaty alto that was probably at least partially due to her vocal cords being largely unused. I gently reached out and placed a hand on her cheek, turning her head so she was facing me again. I smiled warmly at her.

[Actually, you sound rather sexy.]

Her eyes went wide, and her blush deepened. She jabbed her right index finger at me, then spun it in a spiral at her temple. [You are crazy.]

I laughed a little at that. [Crazy for you,] I teased, still smiling at her.

She rolled her eyes and shook her head, but there was a ghost of a smile on her lips.

[You sounded sexy,] I repeated. [How long has it been since you’ve had speech lessons?]

She sighed and looked resigned. About 4 years.

I was impressed. [Given how long it’s been, you spoke very well.] Then, because I knew she wouldn’t appreciate me sugar-coating anything, I added, [Your pronunciation wasn’t perfect, but I understood you without any problem. And you certainly didn’t sound brain damaged.]

She sighed again, and her shoulders slumped a little. Father didn’t think so, she typed.

[I think you just need more training and practice.] And a supportive environment, I didn’t say, but not having Jigoro around to discourage her could only help. A sudden inspiration prompted me to add, [Shori Takagi is perfectly understandable when she talks, and she’s also been deaf since birth. Are you saying you can’t do something she can?]

Shizune scowled at me. Don’t think I don’t know you are trying to manipulate me by appealing to my competitive nature.

I smiled. [Of course I am. But the real question is, is it working?]

She closed her eyes for a long moment, and I could see the exhaustion and pain in her face. Eventually, she gave a small nod, then opened her eyes.

[Was that a yes? Should I tell Nurse?]

She nodded again. She looked…both relieved and a little sad. As if this were something she always knew she’d have to do someday, but she’d been putting it off.

I leaned forward and gave her a kiss on the cheek. She gave me a wan smile, but didn’t return the kiss. [You sounded sexy,] I repeated. [And I can’t wait to hear more from you.]

[You—] she started to sign, her left hand twitching, then she winced. She typed, You are, then stopped.

I waited a moment, then asked, [I’m what?]

She stared at me intently, her eyes searching my face. I stared back into those lovely blue eyes, her beauty undiminished by the fading bruises. Then she shook her head slowly and smiled. Too good for me, she finished.

[Now you’re talking crazy. You’re the one who’s too good for me. But I’m glad you put up with me.]

She shook her head again, more forcefully. [No.] I’m better than you in most things. But you’re more good than I.

I didn’t know quite what to make of that one.

Her eyes fluttered shut, and I could see that exhaustion was taking her over. Nurse had said that recovering from her concussion could take up to a week, to say nothing of the pain in her arms and hand. I leaned forward and kissed her forehead, then took off her glasses. She opened her eyes in response to that, and I signed, [Sleep. It’ll help you heal. Misha and I will join you for dinner.]

Shizune nodded, and closed her eyes again. “Sleep well,” I said, even though I knew she couldn’t hear me. Then I left to go tell Nurse the news.

________________________

It came as no surprise to anyone who knew Shizune that she threw herself into her new studies one hundred percent. She may have been reluctant to do them in the first place, but having committed to them, she went all out. The limiting factor to her learning speed seemed to be instructional time more than anything else. Shizune met with Mrs. Shibata for a couple of hours on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays after regular classes, and worked with another speech therapist on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Since she’d had years of training in both speaking and speechreading when she was younger she wasn’t starting from scratch, but rather was working on recalling her prior training and advancing her skills.

I resented Jigoro for his years of discouraging Shizune, and for being what I thought was a generally lousy parent. He didn’t even visit her after her accident. But, in his favor, he did send her a laptop a week after the accident. It was an amazingly sleek silver machine, with a trackpad she was able to trace kanji on in addition to keyboarding. Even Shizune was a little taken aback by the generous gift.

Maybe he’s not a complete jerk, she typed out in the word processor as she tried it out.

[And it has a DVD drive! We can watch movies in your room!] Misha noted.

The laptop was heavier and didn’t have the macros and other ease-of-use features that her smaller keyboard had, so she continued to use that for daily conversation. But at least now she could type out her homework instead of painfully scrawling it with a pen clenched in three fingers. And when she discovered what she could do with spreadsheets for the student council, she was overjoyed.

One thing I found a little disconcerting about Shizune’s lessons was that, with all the extra practice she was doing, she wouldn’t practice speaking with me. She’d practice speechreading, but not speech.

I don’t want you to hear me again until I’m perfect, she typed to me when I asked why. An impossible goal, but I assumed she meant, she wanted to be much better than she was now.

“You’re already perfect as far as I’m concerned,” I replied, which earned me silent snort and an eye roll. Okay, perhaps that had been a bit over the top. I was still trying to figure out how to do all this “romantic” stuff. But at least her response let me know that she’d read me properly.

Of course, those hours Shizune spent in lessons were hours she’d normally have spent on Student Council activities, so suddenly Misha and I found we were doing the vast majority of the work. Not that Shizune could have done much in the way of paperwork anyway, what with her injuries. Now she was more like an executive director, occasionally swooping in to give us directives and check up on us, grumbling about how sloppy we were. But without Shizune’s ever-present anal-retentive attention to detail, Misha and I were getting things done much more quickly, and, I was pretty sure, only slightly less accurately. Overall, it made for a more pleasant experience. It was also nice to be able to spend more time with Misha and get to know her better as herself, and not as Shizune’s mouthpiece.

One afternoon, I finally worked up the nerve to ask Misha, “Have you ever thought of dating someone else?”

She gave me an incredulous look. “Who would I ask~? Yamaku doesn’t exactly have a gay students’ club.”

“Maybe you could start one?”

She rolled her eyes. “This isn’t America~, Hicchan! I can’t think of a faster way to be shut out of everything~ than to come out to the whole school.”

Unfortunately, she was probably right. Despite the popularity of yuri and yaoi stories, our society was still pretty homophobic. “Is that why you want to study in America? Because they’re more open about that sort of thing?”

She shrugged. “It’s not the main~ reason, but it’s certainly a nice bonus.”

I had a sudden inspiration. “Maybe we could bribe Yuuko to tell us who checks out yuri mangas most often.”

Misha looked startled for a moment, then she burst out laughing. “Wahaha~! I hadn’t thought of that. Though if they’re anything like me, most girls would be too shy~ to check them out, so they’d either sneak them out without checking them out first, or read them in the library.”

I thought of Hanako, who it seemed spent half her free time sitting in a beanbag in the back of the library reading. I wondered what her reading tastes included? I tried to picture the quiet, shy Hanako with the loud, outgoing Misha, and shook my head. The resulting mental image made my brain hurt. It was almost as ridiculous as the idea of the library stocking yuri mangas in the first place.

“It would probably just turn out to be a list of pervy guys anyway,” I added.

“Oh? And what would you~ know about pervy guys? How many yuri mangas have you checked out, Hicchan~?”

I’d set myself up for that one. “None!” I protested.

“Oh, so you read them in the library instead? No wonder I see you in there so often~! Wahaha~!”

I gaped at her for a moment, then burst into laughter along with her.

After our laughter died down, she added, “But…if you ever wanted to read some…I do have a few~ you could borrow!”

I felt my face turn bright red at the notion. “Ah…I don’t think Shizune would appreciate that very much.”

She gave me a wicked grin. “I won’t tell her if you don’t~!”

“Umm…”

I was saved from temptation by the arrival of Shizune herself. She gave my flushed face a suspicious look. She cocked her head at us inquisitively, “What’s going on?” plainly written on her face.

[Hi, Shizune.]

[Hi, Shicchan!]

Our innocent expressions didn’t seem to reassure her any, but she just shook her head and ignored it.

Do you have the ballot boxes for the election ready yet? she typed to us.

Misha and I exchanged guilty looks. “Ah…” I mumbled.

Shizune sighed dramatically, and we got back to work.

________________________

Oddly enough, it was because of Hanako that I next heard Shizune speak.

Shizune, Misha and I were working in the student council office together one evening a couple of weeks after the accident when I heard Misha say, “Hi, Hacchan~!”

I looked up to see Hanako hovering in the doorway, a notepad clenched in front of her body like a shield against Misha’s volume. She looked on the verge of fleeing, so I said, much more quietly than Misha—though I suppose that’s a given—“Hey, Hanako. What’s up?”

Hanako opened her mouth, closed it, then took a deep breath and stood up a little bit straighter. She faced us squarely, no longer looking quite so much like she was going to bolt at any moment. “I’m here from the n-newspaper. I w-wanted to ask some questions…about the…elections?” She brandished her notepad as if to prove her bona fides as a reporter.

“Okay! Sure~!” chirped Misha. “Did you want to talk to Shicchan~?”

Hanako hesitated a moment, then nodded.

Misha beamed at Hanako and waved her towards Shizune. “You can just talk to her and she’ll type back at you! She’s getting really good at speechreading.” Then Misha’s smile faltered a little, as she contemplated Hanako’s hair—which, as usual, was draped over half of her face. “Er…”

“Or, I could translate for you,” I offered.

Hanako flashed me a grateful smile. “Th-thank you.”

Shizune was working on her laptop with her back to the door, and had missed Hanako’s entrance. I gently tapped her on the shoulder to get her attention. She turned around, her eyebrows arching up in an inquisitive expression.

[Hanako wants to ask you some questions about the election for the newspaper], I signed. Shizune frowned, then glanced at Hanako. Hanako cringed a little before that frown, but she didn’t retreat. She flipped her notebook open and pulled out a pen.

Shizune opened a note on her laptop. She can talk to me without you translating, she typed.

[Maybe not,] I replied. This was why I was signing instead of speaking out loud to her. [Not only does she stutter, she hides behind her hair—I don’t think you’ll be able to see her face and lips very well.]

Shizune’s frown changed to a more thoughtful expression as she regarded Hanako. The change of expression didn't seem to reassure Hanako any. Shizune shook her head at me. Let me handle this, she typed, then she picked up her smaller keyboard and walked over to a desk near Hanako. She set the keyboard down on the desk and waved Hanako to a seat on the other side of it as she sat. Shizune tapped a couple of keys, calling up the pre-programed phrase, What can your student council do for you today?

Hanako looked over at me. “Ah…”

“You can just talk normally to her,” I said. “She's pretty good at speechreading. You may need to repeat your questions occasionally to allow her to fully understand you.”

“Oh. Okay…” She looked down at her notepad at a list of questions. “I w-was hoping to ask you about—”

Shizune snapped her fingers, not as loudly as she could without broken fingers to limit her, but enough to cut Hanako off. Hanako looked up, startled. Shizune hit another macro combination and her keyboard spat out, You need to face me directly for me to be able to understand you.

“Oh. R-right.” She looked down at her notes briefly, then faced Shizune more squarely and started again. “How are th-the preparations for—”

Shizune held up her hand to stop Hanako, shaking her head. She mimed brushing her hair back behind her ear.

Hanako shot me a slightly desperate look. “What?”

“She wants you to brush your hair back. Speechreading involves the whole face. She needs to see your jaw and cheeks move, not just your lips.”

Hanako lifted her right hand to her face, hesitated, and stopped with her hand covering her scars in an all too familiar gesture. “I…I don't…” Her eyes were wide, and her hand started to tremble.

Shizune placed her splinted hand on Hanako’s shoulder. Shizune looked more gentle and sympathetic than I'd ever seen her. Hanako took a deep breath and dropped her hand. Shizune resumed typing, not a pre–programmed phrase this time. I need to see your full face. Your scars are nothing to be ashamed of. They are just your past. Your history. But now you are forging your path into your future. Shizune stared into Hanako’s eyes for a long moment, then said, “Pleece. Let me shee you, sho I han hear you.”

Hanako looked startled to hear Shizune’s voice. But she seemed to realize that Shizune was sharing with her something that was almost as rare as her revealing her face. She nodded slowly, maintaining eye contact with Shizune, then she brushed her hair back off the right side of her face.

I had caught glimpses of Hanako’s facial scars here and there, but this was the first time I'd seen them fully. They managed to be both better and worse than I'd imagined. Better in that, although they were extensive, they weren't as textured and ridged as the scars I’d seen on her arm. I supposed she'd had a bit more cosmetic surgery on her face than elsewhere. But they were worse in the mental image they provided of just how badly she'd been burned. I just barely suppressed a wince at the sight, and I was glad Misha couldn't see Hanako’s right side from where she was sitting. I doubt she could have refrained from a gasp or some other response.

I think if Shizune had flinched, or even looked sympathetic, Hanako might have fled. But Shizune just smiled brightly at Hanako, and nodded. “Than you. Mush betteh.” Hanako blinked several times, as if startled by that response, then she gave a hesitant smile and nodded back.

Shizune resumed typing. So, you had some questions for me?

The interview went on for about twenty minutes. Hanako had to repeat herself frequently due to her stutter, but not as often as I'd feared. Watching Shizune, I got the impression that she was also surreptitiously reading Hanako’s notepad upside-down for the questions to make things easier. Occasionally, Hanako ducked her head as she looked down at her notepad, causing her hair to fall into its usual place. The first time that happened, Shizune reached out with her left arm to brush the hair back with her fingertips. Hanako jumped a little at the contact, but she didn’t retreat. The next time her hair fell forward, she brushed it back herself. By the end of the interview, she seemed to be pushing it back without conscious thought, as she focused on writing down Shizune’s responses to her questions.

Finally, Hanako closed her notebook, gave Shizune a grateful smile, and said, “Th-thank you, for taking the t-time to talk with me. The…article will b-be in the next issue of the newspaper.”

Shizune smiled back. “And than you. For lettin me…hear you.”

Hanako looked startled, as if suddenly reminded that she had her face fully uncovered. Her hand jerked up toward her face, as if to brush her hair back down, but then she aborted the gesture, and smiled again at Shizune. “Thank you,” she repeated quietly, and I didn’t think she was referring to the interview.

Shizune just smiled and nodded, then she returned to her laptop and her spreadsheets.

As Hanako turned to leave, I said, “Take care, Hanako. It was good seeing you.” I hoped that wasn’t too heavy-handed, but I meant it.

Hanako didn’t look like she believed me, but nor did she brush her hair back down either. She just nodded to me and Misha. “G-good bye.”

After waiting a minute, to make sure Hanako wasn’t going to return with any follow-up questions, I turned to Shizune and laid a hand on her shoulder to get her attention. Again, I got a querying lift of the eyebrows in response.

“Since when do you need to see someone’s full face to understand them?” I asked drily. “I’ve seen you respond to someone from seeing only one side of their face.”

Shizune gave me an innocent look. It is easier with a full face, she typed.

“Uh huh.” I smiled at her. She shrugged.

It is the duty of the student council to help Yamaku students however we can. Sometimes that help is…less obvious than other times.

I leaned in and gave her a kiss on the cheek. She frowned reprovingly at me, although her heart didn’t seem to really be in it. I heard Misha giggle behind me. “Tsk! Public displays of affection~! Naughty, Hicchan!”

I turned so that my body blocked my hands from Misha’s view and said, [And I still think your voice sounds sexy.]

Shizune blushed a charming shade of pink, then pointed firmly at the stack of papers behind me. I grinned back at her, and returned to my work.

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Last edited by Lap on Sat Jan 19, 2019 6:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Avenues of Communication: Shizune suffers an accident.
Akira's Surprise: Akira pays a surprise visit to Lilly, Hanako and Hisao on Christmas eve. S9 Entry.
Arrival: Hanako's first days at Yamaku. (On Hiatus)
Home: Hanako & Hisao at University, sharing an apartment with their friend Lilly (on Ao3).
One-shots

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