A/N: Written for the Open Door - A Silent Voice fanzine. It's available free to download - just visit silentvoicezine at tumblr to link hop (since ffn hates links), to see the other amazing written and art pieces! I've also got a poetry collection in there.

Also written for the Diversity Writing Challenge, b12 - write a fic between 950-999 words


After the Words Come the Echo

It started there at the pond with Shoko in his arms and he in hers. Where they'd feed the koi with home-made bread from the local bakery. Where the wind now silently scratched at his face and hands, and the rain bounced softly off every surface it could find. Where the trees trembled silently in the cold. Where he vowed to never let that hand slip away again. Where he knelt in hospital pyjamas while drenched in sweat, tears, and rain.

It started there, where he spoke with his hands and she spoke out loud. Both of them were clumsy and cold, and neither of them thought anything strange at all.

It started there, the climax of his heroic tale in saving a maiden from death.

.

They gave him a bag full of paper cranes. There weren't a thousand in there, but it was close. But more importantly they talked without the need for spoken words.

They'd become comfortable without them.

And perhaps that was why it was strange now. Going back to school after the holidays, after he'd recovered some more. Hearing those grating sounds of teachers giving speeches. Hearing a blanket of murmurs—and he didn't think it was strange at all that he couldn't make out the words. Once upon a time he'd heard every whispered insult and wished he couldn't.

But maybe they weren't insults anymore. He'd changed after all. He had friends inside the classroom and out, and that meant he didn't need to look down anymore. And if that meant he didn't need to hear words that only caused pain, then so much the better.

.

"Hey, Ya-sho! I've been calling for ages."

He heard nothing before the sudden hand on his shoulder and familiar voice in his ear. The price of inattention probably. But he didn't mind.

"You look happier nowadays."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. You don't look at the ground as much. Find something interesting in the sky?"

In the sky? Not so much. "In the koi pond," he replied. "And in the movements of a girl's hands."

Nagatsuka grinned, and that grin said more than words. They had all learnt after all that there were far more important things than spoken words.

Shoya grinned back: a wordless grin full of words.

.

Nagatsuka pulled him back. That was the first Shoya thought that maybe, just maybe, there was more going on than just being content with his new lease on life. A car had pulled over on the far side and Nagatsuka was mouthing something. He was calling Shoya an idiot, and he could only guess as to why that was. Until he crossed the road thereafter and heard the tail end of that tirade.

"...and listen when someone honks the blasted horn—"

Truthfully, he hadn't heard the horn at all. And he didn't understand how that was, because it was instinctual to flinch back from such noises. Such warning signs—

But he hadn't heard it at all.

And Nagasuka pulled at his arm again, and Shoya realised he'd missed more of the conversation. Even now when he tried to focus, he was missing words.

"Can you speak up?" he asked. "I'm having trouble hearing you."

Nagatsuka frowned, but he spoke louder as asked.

.

Shoko spoke more often near Shoya, but he found himself understanding less than before. Hetried to hide it at first, because she was making an effort and he didn't want to make her feel bad. He had to make an effort as well. Yuzuru eventually caught him, which was the running pattern as of late.

Yuzuru seemed amused until she said something too quiet for him to hear. Then she just looked at him oddly.

"You could hear me just fine before," she said.

"That seems to be a running theme," Shoya mumbled. And it was, since he had returned to school anyway. "Apparently I've trained my ears a little too well to not pay attention."

She made a face at that. "You'll miss something important like that."

She was still worried, as evidenced by the card she slipped him before he left.

.

At first, Shoya wondered why Yuzuru would give him the contact details of Shoko's doctor, but it didn't take a lot of thought to draw the parallel. Maria, who he'd used to be able to hear thundering up and down the stairs, could now slip quietly in and out of his room. His mother complained she had to repeat things far too often as of late. His teachers stopped calling on him in class (or Nagatsaka stopped poking him when they did, and he doubted it was that). And then there was the time he'd missed the car honking at him.

And now he sat in the doctor's office with headphones on. Audiometry, the doctor said. He had to describe the sounds he heard, at different pitches while the doctor marked them off. He got a few ticks and a few crosses. The sounds he caught were mostly crisp and sharp: an alarm, a shriek, nails on a chalkboard or something reminiscent…

"Waves," the doctor filled in, once the file track had run and the headphones came off. "The rustling of trees. A cat's meow. A soft lullaby sung." He scanned his notes again. "Both ears are about the same. You've lost your sensitivity to lower frequencies." He reached for more forms. "Do you hear a ringing in your ears lately?"

A ringing? Shoya shook his head. It was more a comfortable silence he'd too easily missed.

They went through a few more things. Discussed scans and more formalised tests. And when it was time to go, the doctor said: "It's not often someone like you comes in and asks if they'll hear again."

"Will I?" He couldn't deny concern: his own, or his family's and friends'. "I suppose though… I have a place I can belong without spoken words."