Nino always carries a flashlight with him and when it’s dark, he clings to Sho or anyone in his proximity.
The first time Sho stays over, Nino slips in the bed next to him when Sho says he needs to turn the lights off, and crushes Sho’s hand.
The first time they kiss, Nino keeps staring at him until their lips touch and then Sho doesn’t know since he closes his eyes.
When Sho realizes that Nino is afraid of the dark, he tries to get used to sleeping with lights on. Most of the days he can’t and spends half of the night staring at the ceiling, listening to Nino’s regular breathing.
But he needs his sleep so he stops sleeping over as much until one day Nino notices and turns the lights off. Sho tries to sit up and protest but it’s too dark and Nino hides his hands behind Sho’s neck as he hugs him, his head pillowed on top of Sho’s chest.
Once Nino feels Sho finally relax, his arms coming up to wrap around his waist, he slips his hands from under Sho's neck to his shoulders. He doesn’t move from his chest though. Sho’s heartbeat against his cheek is soothing and he falls asleep quickly.
Sho ends up spending half of the night staring at the ceiling again because it’s too warm and the weight on his chest is uncomfortable but he doesn’t shift because he understands the message loud and clear.
Sho takes his signing classes at the Disability Resource Center near to the library. It’s there where he runs into Matsumoto Jun, or rather, Matsumoto Jun runs into him and Sho has to balance them both so they don’t topple to the floor. The books he was carrying do, however, fall noisily onto the floor.
While quickly gathering them, he opens his mouth to say that the other man should try to watch where he goes a little bit better because he is annoyed and running late but he stops himself on time when he looks at the man now on his knees nervously groping around on the floor. Sho’s gaze falls on the white cane lying a few inches away.
Without saying anything, he pushes it closer to the man’s hands and stands up, his books resting in equilibrium on his hip. He watches as the hand finally brushes against the cane. The man grips it tightly and quickly gets up but goes away without a word to Sho.
It’s only when Sho is at home going through the books about signing and hearing impairment he has borrowed that he notices a Braille book.
His mind quickly flashes back to the young man in the hallway and he opens it to the first page. It’s all in Braille except for a careful note in a corner: belongs to Matsumoto Jun.
The next day he goes to the Disability Resource Center reception to leave the book but the receptionist just smiles and points towards Matsumoto Jun, who has just entered the building.
‘He is new and needs a few friends.’
She winks at him and Sho throws her a dark look but she knows him well, and he owes her anyway, so he goes to him anyway.
‘Sorry for yesterday. You dropped a book.’
Matsumoto awkwardly stills. He is wearing sunglasses that cover a good portion of his face but Sho can still see how tight his expression is.
‘It’s ok,’ he mutters and extends his hand in Sho’s direction. Sho gently places the book into the open palm and that would have been it if Aiba and Ohno hadn’t appeared.
Ohno nods at Sho while Aiba signs excitedly.
Hi! Who is this? A friend of yours?
Sho is surprised that Aiba has managed to drag Ohno from his paintings long enough to step in the Center. Sho’s attempts have all been largely unsuccessful and he has been stuck being the interpreter for Ohno when Nino and Aiba can’t be bothered to write. Sho is thankful that Ohno doesn’t talk much.
Sho makes an inquisitive face towards Ohno. Ohno shrugs while Aiba's smile widens.
‘I promised to teach some art classes.’
At the sound of Ohno’s voice, Matsumoto clutches his book tightly on his chest.
‘Thanks for the book. I’ll be leaving.’
Aiba’s hand reaches for Matsumoto when he sees him stepping away but Ohno stops him before he can make contact. Aiba looks a bit sad and Sho sighs. This is for sure going to get more awkward and time-consuming and he has stuff to do, a degree to finish. He rubs his eyes tiredly.
‘Wait. I–’ He stops because he has no idea what to say but Matsumoto’s steps come to a halt so he goes on, ‘my name is Sakurai Sho and my friends Aiba Masaki…’
‘who can’t talk and I’m Ohno Satoshi,’ Ohno says.
‘Matsumoto Jun,’ Matsumoto replies before he leaves.
He seems interesting, Aiba signs, smiling once again.
Interesting seems to be the only requirement for anyone to become Aiba’s friend and Aiba’s definition is quite broad in Sho’s opinion.
He shovels food into his mouth, sulking a bit.
Ohno had been back at the Center with Aiba; for ‘singing lesson’, Ohno had said this time, which didn’t explain why Aiba was there too but Sho is not going to ask and he munches on his rice with determination. Matsumoto had been there too, and for what Sho can guess, has been dragged along to their lunch.
He is not surprised to see that Aiba has taken to monopolizing one of Matsumoto’s hands and tries hard not to point out that Aiba is preventing him to eat. Nino smirks at him knowingly. Matsumoto doesn’t seem that bothered though it’s hard to tell because of the sunglasses.
J is new in town, Aiba signs.
‘J?’ Sho draws a J in the air while voicing his question. He signs and speaks at the same time whenever they are all together. Jun’s head tilts curiously.
It’s his sign name. I choose it. Cool right? Aiba’s smile is blinding. Sho frowns, a grain of rice stuck to his lower lip.
‘Sign name? But you always spell mine!’
Sho’s voice is slightly squeaky but it’s ok since Ohno is used to it. Jun winces though but he seems to understand whatever is going on because he nods at the words sign name and starts eating his sandwich as Aiba has finally released his hand.
Aiba shrugs. Ohno has one too. Aiba turns towards Ohno. Right Leader?
Ohno nods and Sho realizes that he has been somehow sucked into the conversation against his will. While he is distracted by the thought and unfairness of it all, Nino removes the grain of rice from Sho’s lip with his finger and puts it into his own mouth. Sho gapes at him.
While this goes on Aiba writes something to Ohno, Ohno replies back and Jun takes another bite from his sandwich.
Sho is still gaping, trying to think of the appropriate response to sign at Nino, so Aiba kicks Sho in the shin from underneath the table to gain back his attention and goes on: Your kanji means to fly right? Ohno told me. Your sign can be flying then.
‘My sign name flying?’ Sho asks and he can see Ohno trying to stop his laughter. Unsuccessfully.
‘Why is Ohno laughing?’ Jun asks, probably speaking for the first time. Sho groans and hides his head under his arms.
‘Sho-chan is afraid of heights. He can’t even stand up on a chair,’ Ohno replies while sliding the piece of paper towards Aiba and Nino with the same response written on it.
Aiba finds it hilarious –it’s settled then!– while Nino pats Sho on his back.
Jun lost his sight when he was 12 and his parents had a car accident. No one was severely injured except for Jun. Shards of glass had flown to his face and his eyes hadn't closed fast enough.
Sho can’t fall asleep that night, after Jun tells him and he tells the others. Sho can’t help notice how slow it is for Aiba and Jun to communicate with each other, and they would have probably given up many times if not for Aiba’s stubbornness.
He wakes up with the image of his eyes bursting like bubbles.
He can’t get it out of his head. He knows the chances are slim for him to lose his sight but his brain keeps coming back to it the whole day.
‘Satoshi, can you lend me your notes for a while?’ Sho whispers. It’s just him, Ohno and Nino today at the library.
Ohno, though he excels at drawing and singing, is Sho’s classmate. When Sho had asked once, when he got frustrated with numbers, why Ohno didn’t just paint or sing instead, he had mentioned something about a bakery business that Sho isn’t sure he understood.
Ohno nods at the request and slides his notebook to Sho.
Nino, who has seen the exchange, snatches Sho’s notebook. Indeed, there seems to be a whole section missing as suggested by a gap in Sho’s note-taking. Nino frowns and signs to Sho: but you were in class, weren’t you?
Sho shrugs and tries to take his notebook back but Nino is quicker. Ohno looks up from his book. Nino asks again but this time it's Sho who is quicker and manages to get his notebook back.
He starts copying the notes, deliberately avoiding looking up even when Nino pokes him on the side several times. When Nino tries to take his hand and Sho pulls away, Nino slams his book closed and leaves. Sho only looks up when he can’t hear the sound of footsteps anymore. Ohno frowns at him from across the table.
Sho asks for Ohno’s notes a few more times until Ohno connects the dots.
‘It’s always when we sit at the back', Ohno says on their way to the library. It’s only the two of them because Nino is still mad at Sho. Sho figures he deserves it for purposefully taking away Nino’s only ways of communicating with him.
Sho looks back at Ohno with wide eyes. Ohno stares back at him.
‘You can just get some glasses,’ he adds but ultimately just leaves him alone and starts sitting near the front of the lecture theatre.
Sho isn’t surprised, though, when a few days later Nino drags him to an optician. He is told that he is only slightly shortsighted and, in addition to some common sense advice such as to read in well-lit conditions, he is prescribed corrective lenses.
Sho lets Nino choose the pair of glasses. They are kind of big and Sho isn’t sure what to think about the brown tortoiseshell frames –he is pretty sure he looks ridiculous in them– but seeing Nino shoot mean glances at anyone, and by anyone, he means Aiba, who tries to make fun of them during lunchtime is worth it.
Also, the weight on the bridge of his nose is kind of reassuring; they feel like a shield.
Sho still dreams of broken shards though, and starts leaving the lights on when they go to sleep. Nino frowns at him until Sho signs that it’s not because of you, it’s for me.. Nino doesn’t seem convinced but doesn’t insist because he does prefer it after all.
Sho knows he is being childish but he just can’t bear waking up in the dark.