He was kind of the same as Hagakure. A foil, if he thought about it long enough. She was invisible. He looked like a tanned rock given human features. People didn’t notice her, because her quirk was invisibility. People didn’t notice him, because he chose to be silent.
And not being noticed was boring. It was hard. But to be noticed, sometimes, was even harder. Like now. It was only the fifth day, why was this happening?
“Kouda-kun, how didja get all the hot girls around you like that?” Mineta leaned over his desk, inches away from his face. Kouda leaned back.
[They like the animals.] He signed. He knew it was pointless.
“Huh? You know I can’t understand you when you flap your hands like that.” Kouda rolled his eyes. “Can’t you just talk like a regular person?”
Kouda frowned and shook his head. That was one sign anyone could understand. “Aww, come on man! How’d ya get those smokin’ hot babes climbing all over you? Tell me your secrets!” Mineta crouched on the floor, literally begging him.
Kouda glanced around. They were starting to attract an audience. He signed again, knowing that nobody would understand him. He wasn’t going to write with the creep. [Please stop. I’m not, please stop!] He grimaced as the bell rang.
“I don’t know what that means! Dude, do me a solid!” Was Mineta crying? “Their boobs, their as-“
“Hey little listeners, what’s going on here?” Kouda almost wept. Present Mic looked between them with a bland smile. “Mineta-kun, why’re you on the ground?”
Mineta got up, dusting himself off with a comically angry look. “Kouda-kun won’t tell me what he did to get all the gorgeous babes all over him! He just, keeps waving his hands everywhere!”
“Hmm.” Present Mic turned to him and Kouda grabbed his notebook. He would actually communicate with his teacher, he wasn’t stupid- [What actually happened?] His teacher signed.
[How-how do you know sign?] Present Mic signed like he talked: expressive and encompassing.
[Quirk. Accidentally blew out my parents eardrums’ when my Quirk first came in.]
Kouda winced. In the back of his mind, he noticed the rest of the class staring at him and Present Mic. [I’m sorry.]
[It’s okay. Why do you sign?]
[I don’t like to speak.]
[Okay. What happened with Mineta-kun?]
[It, exactly as he said.] Kouda signed, hands shaking. [He, it was uncomfortable. He kept asking me about the girls earlier. He didn’t, nobody understood. No-nobody understood.]
Present Mic nodded before signing again. [Is it okay if I tell the class about this?]
Kouda took a deep breath and thought about it. He found himself slowly nodding.
“Okay.” Present Mic said out loud, nodding his head. “Okay, Mineta-kun, how do you tell if someone feels uncomfortable?”
“What? Why, what the heck-“
“They wince when you speak. They cross their arms to create a barrier. They try to soothe themselves. Kouda-kun was performing all these actions, and you didn’t notice. You were making your classmate feel uncomfortable, and very much not acknowledging it.”
Mineta frowned, eyebrows scrunching. “But I was just asking a question!”
“Yes, a question that Kouda-kun wasn’t comfortable answering. And for your information, all you listeners,” Everyone looked away as Present Mic swept his gaze around the classroom, “Kouda-kun signs. He doesn’t want to speak. Nobody should try to make him speak. Understood?”
“Yes, sensei.” Everyone replied. Kouda sighed with relief as Present Mic went up to the front. It wasn’t like he didn’t appreciate Present Mic doing that, but he hated all the eyes that focused on him. There was another difference between him and Hagakure. She craved attention. He shied away from it.
“Good. Today, we’re going to be doing something different.” Present Mic smiled, eyes on Kouda. “We’re going to learn some basic signs!”
Kouda smiled. But this, this was something he could get behind.
Present Mic taught them the basics: ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’ and the like. Kouda drew in his notebook and observed.
Some people were better at it than others. Bakugou, Todoroki, and Midoriya all seemed to know some sign already. Kouda brightened. Maybe they knew enough to have a conversation.
Kouda stared out the windows. Frost crept across the pane, snow steadily piling up and transforming U.A. into a veritable winter wonderland. He shivered. Iris wiggled in his arms, patting at his face. Kouda smiled, snuggling her. Thank you, Quiet One. Pulling his blanket (forest green with bunnies) closer around them, he watched the snow fall. Each flake was unique. Perfect in its difference. A million of flakes formed a hill of snow.
“Hey Kouda-kun!” Kouda startled and Kaminari winced. “I’m sorry, I uh, just wanted to ask if I could go over my signs with you?” Kouda nodded. “Sweet!”
Kaminari grinned, plopping down next to Kouda. His own blanket sported a black thunderbolt in gray clouds. “Sooo..um, Present Mic-sensei said you don't like to speak?" Kouda nodded, gripping Iris a bit tighter. "If-if it's okay, can I ask why?"
Was this okay? Did he feel like telling someone his story now? To Kaminari-kun no less, someone he didn't really know that well? Turning it over in his mind, Kouda reached for his notebook and started writing.
Another time. Kouda bit his lip. Was Kaminari-kun going to get mad? Did he have to tell him? Kouda really didn't want to but what if- Kaminari leaned over his shoulder and read off the page.
"That's totally fine, Kouda-kun! I-I wasn't sure and I'm sorry if I made you nervous." Kaminari grimaced, errant sparks flying through his hair. "Sorry if I brought up some bad memories."
Kouda took a deep breath and waved a hand. Kaminari brightened. "It's okay?" Kouda nodded. "Awesome! So, to say hello is like, this?” He laid the side of his hand to the side of his head and then out. Kouda nodded. “And goodbye is…?”
Kouda performed the sign and then the lights went out. Someone screamed. The fireplace crackled merrily.
“There is no need to panic!” Iida commanded from the kitchen. “It’s only a temporary problem, and our teachers will rectify it soon!”
“Eh, I wasn’t really worried.” Kaminari winked at him, face awash in flames, and Kouda smiled back uncertainly. Was this really happening?
“Time for common room cuddles then!” Ashido jumped down to Kaminari. Kouda liked her outfit: a topaz-blue nightgown with little birds fluttering on the collar. “Whatchu two doing here?”
“Kouda-kun’s helping me sign!”
Ashido grinned. “Can I get some help too?” Kouda nodded. “Perfect! What was the sign for thank you?”
Kouda put his hand on his chin and then moved it outwards. He smiled as the two other students repeated his movements.
“What else should we know, Kouda-kun?” Ashido asked. Him? They were asking for his opinion? Kouda tensed up before remembering his notebook. He grabbed it and started writing. Ashido and Kaminari didn’t interrupt, which he appreciated.
He handed it to them.
“Thank you, you’re welcome, the alphabet!” Kaminari read before smacking his forehead. “How could we forget that! 'Where’s the bathroom,' and you know all of these?” He addressed Kouda before realizing what he said. “Yeah, no duh.”
Kouda grinned brightly as Ashido chortled.
“Can we join in bros?” Kouda turned to find Kirishima, Shouji, Yaoyorozu, and Sero all crouching behind him. “Sign language is definitely hard to master.”
Kouda nodded and handed the notebook to the new group.
Their movements were shaky and inexperienced, but just seeing them trying to learn, being eager to learn, was more than enough. Granted, it was an assignment from Present Mic, but they were taking it farther, and it was all for him. Kouda wanted to bottle this moment forever and tuck it next to his heart.
Kouda leaned against the wall with a camera. Almost all of 1-A had converged in the common room, and divided into groups for an impromptu ASL study session. The rest were in the kitchen for Satou’s latest lesson.
Little pinpricks of light dotted the various groups. Kouda grinned as he took a picture and headed to to the empty couch.
Yaoyorozu waved as he passed. "Kouda-kun? How-"
"Oi, here 3D Printer." Bakugou stormed into her group, Midoriya and Todoroki trailing behind him. Kouda bit his tongue as he took a seat. He really, really wanted to see if they knew enough sign, but like all good things, he waited. "Don't bother him. I'll show you." He knelt next to her group. Kouda startled once he realized Todoroki and Midoriya were right in front of him.
Midoriya beamed as he signed, putting down a little lantern in the middle of the couch. [Hi Kouda-kun!] His signing was like his writing: a little sloppy but genuine.
[Hi! I was wondering if you already knew sign!]
[We do!] Midoriya nudged Todoroki, who glanced at him, and then at Kouda.
[It was necessary to learn, in my household.] Todoroki's signing was smooth and efficient, each finger spelling out the sign exactly. Kouda tried not to cry as he replied.
[I'm so glad that you two sign.]
[We are too! If I can ask, why do you choose not to speak? You don't have to answer of course and I'm sorry if this is going overboard or crossing boundaries wait it totally is-!] Todoroki laid his hand on Midoriya's.
Kouda laughed, hurrying to answer. [I didn't know you mumbled in sign. Or that you could mumble in sign.]
Midoriya grinned shyly. [Bad habit.]
[That's okay. Speaking to people is hard. Too many mistakes and bullies and,] Kouda's hands shook as he remembered middle school. [Things go wrong too easily. Animals are easier.] Midoriya frowned, a glint of remembrance in his eyes. Todoroki nodded.
[I understand. At the beginning of the year, I didn't want to speak to anyone because of those reasons.] Todoroki looked away, still signing. [I usually said things wrongly, or misunderstood the situation. It's better now, but I understand.]
[Thank you.] Kouda replied.
Midoriya waved to get Kouda's attention, and then signed. [Are you okay?]
Kouda tilted his head, a frown creasing his features. [What do you mean?]
[With, with Mineta this morning.]
Kouda grimaced. [I, I don't like it. I wish he wasn't here anymore.] He stopped. Was he okay? [I'm not sure.]
Midoriya brightened. [That's okay! You don't have to be okay. Take your time.]
Todoroki smirked. [He's right.]
[Idiots.] Bakugou sat heavily next to them. Kouda scurried to open up their little circle. Bakugou stared at him for a moment, something indecipherable behind his eyes before taking the offered seat next to Kouda. [These morons need to get their act together. They're getting stuck on 'D'.] Midoriya chuckled as Kouda laughed.
"I don't know what you're saying Bakugou-kun, but I know you're shit talking us behind our backs!" Sero called from the other side of the room.
"Good thing you know that already, Soy Sauce Face!" Bakugou yelled. "Keep reviewing the alphabet!" He turned back to their group and rolled his eyes.
[Why do you know sign, Bakugou-kun?] Kouda asked. He watched as Midoriya and Todoroki winced.
Bakugou stared at him. [I'm going deaf. Because of my Quirk.] He seemed to challenge Kouda with saying something negative. Ha.
[Better to have a head start then, huh?] Kouda smiled as Bakugou raised an eyebrow, mouth set in an almost impressed frown.
[You're not that spineless, Rock Head.]
Kouda signed graciously. [Thank you, Bakugou-kun.]