Shouya's life was—for a time—bleak, without hope for a happy ending. As he had once stared out onto the vast abyss of the water below him, standing on the bridge's edge, one thought probably went through his head.
It isn't going to get any better
He was wrong. After all, he met her, Shouko Nishimiya. The girl who couldn't hear, the girl he once broke all those years ago, the one he attacked both verbally and physically, the girl whose younger years he practically ruined. How strange it was for that to be the light guiding him through a once foggy path.
There were many moments they shared, some happy, some sad. One thing's for certain, Shouya Ishida would treasure them—pasting those memories into the scrapbook that lied inside his head—until the day he died.
Confessing their love to one another wasn't easy. Given the nature of their communication, it's understandable how difficult it could be to properly express what was on their minds. Not helping them was the shyness they both possessed. One might recall when Shouko first confessed her love on the epochal bridge not too long after they'd first met, but that went the opposite of well.
Her second attempt, which occurred sometime after Shouya's school festival, came with the knowledge that her pronunciation was less than perfect. They were walking back to her house from their familiar meeting place after another round of "Who can feed the most fish"—a new game they invented where both tried to get as many koi to react to the bread they dropped.
"You beat me again," Shouya signed, playfully grinning.
Shouko shook her head before her fingers began to move, "That's just because you gave up."
"Well," Shouya spoke aloud before beginning to sign again, "I wasn't, I just have bad accuracy. You have a great aim though!"
Shouko forcibly smiled to herself, he always did this. He would seemingly insult himself, albeit not always harshly, and then compliment her. His words of kindness were always appreciated, but Shouko would never tolerate him putting himself down.
Tugging at Shouya's deep brown jacket, Shouko got his attention. Her eyebrows narrowed down, her lips pursed, she gave him an upset, disapproving frown.
Shouya replied with his own concerned look, signing, "What's wrong, Shouko?"
"I think you're cool."
"Huh?" Shouya internally did a double take, unsure of why his friend suddenly complimented out of seemingly nowhere.
"I think you're cool and nice and friendly and," as Shouko—completely embarrassed—frantically signed off every positive adjective she knew up until she noticed the surprise that spread across Shouya's face. Her confidence somewhat feigned, but she pressed onward, continuing, "…I wish you didn't say such terrible things. I don't like it when you get like this, insulting yourself for no reason."
"S-sorry," Shouya was quick to apologize, holding his hands up in concern before he began to sign once more, "I'm still a little hard on myself because of all the things I did back then."
"But, I said it was okay."
"I think," Shouya thought aloud, his fingers dancing in the air at the same time, "I haven't forgiven myself yet, but being with you has helped me to be more positive…so thanks, Shouko."
Shouko stared at him in silence, her heart pounding so hard it practically screamed to escape from her chest. She truly dreamed of the day she could find someone who didn't pity her, but instead relied upon her. This man in front of her, he once was someone who filled her with fear and hatred, but now he filled her with a warmth unlike any other.
She once again grabbed a hold of his jacket causing Shouya to eye her, curious as to what she wanted to say next. Shouko's face heated up, realizing the next step she needed take to further this relationship she cared so much about. The difference between this moment and the one that happened months ago was that Shouko no longer gripped onto her skirt, instead she decided to leave her hands free. Mimicking the boy in front of her, Shouko spoke and signed at the same time. It was slow, almost monotonous, as the girl frantically tried to convey her emotions whilst simultaneously keeping them in check.
"I love you."
Once again, her voice couldn't perfectly articulate the words, but she made sure to signal what she stated with her free hands, lowering her middle and ring finger before slowly shifting her hand. It was a sign that was taught on the first day of just about any sign language class, most everyone knew it—Shouya was no different.
Completely speechless, he gazed at the girl who now averted her eyes from him out of embarrassment. A strange feeling washed over him, as though multiple emotions flung around inside in his head all in succession. First there was surprise, then denial, then acceptance, then excitement, and finally a mix a happiness and sadness.
He tapped the girl's shoulder, immediately getting her attention. The first thing she was greeted by were the tears swelling in the boy's eyes, causing her own eyes to widen in surprise. Fear rose throughout her stomach, the reaction made her believe she had done something she would regret. That is, until the boy's right hand slowly rose up, just in time for him to speak his mind with both words and motion.
"I love you too."
That same cycle of emotions soon passed through Shouko, her face went from fear to shock to the same happiness as the boy's, her eyes also tearing up. Not waiting any longer, giving into those desires she held for so long, Shouko ran right at Shouya, as she flung her arms around him.
Shouya looked down at the girl, the tears now streaming down his face, before he wrapped his arms around her, returning the hug. All the while, Shouko continued to repeat over and over the truth she had longed to let her friend know.
"I love you! I love you! I love you!"
Shouya understood her perfectly.
Whenever they went out, it was usually to take long, carefree walks around whichever path looked best. Rarely were words ever spoken, perhaps because their hands were usually caught in each other's. The silence didn't bother Shouya, just being around the brunette was enough to put him at ease.
Shouko, on the other hand, found their afternoon strolls to be the perfect time to take part in one of her favorite activities.
"Shouya," she called out to get his attention after they'd first met up.
"What is it?" He signed.
She then resorted back to her more comfortable form of communication as she asked, "Can I…hold your wrist?"
"Of course!" Shouya was quick to answer, "You don't have to ask."
And so she grabbed ahold of his wrist, gripping onto it as soon as she could. One might wonder why Shouko sometimes chose holding her boyfriend's wrist over his hand; the reason was simple. It was because it allowed her to place her thumb just below Shouya's palm, which in turn allowed her to feel his ever-so-steady heartbeat.
As they walked in peace, she was constantly reminded of the person next to her. Every time she felt worried that maybe this was all some dream she'd soon wake up from, the constant feeling of his heartbeat would put her at ease, reaffirming to her that this was reality.
After walking for a while, they'd find a place to sit—preferably a bench. There they would speak for hours about their day, about the challenges they faced, and the people they met. Usually it would divulge into pointless nothingness, but that's what made it so relaxing.
"How are Yuzuru's test scores?" Shouya once asked.
"Better than last time," Shouko responded, adding an affirmative smile at the end.
"That's good," Shouya grinned, as he signed that, "She's really smart, she just doesn't like to study."
"I know, but she's doing better."
"She's not the only one."
Shouko raised her eyebrows at Shouya's comment, unsure of what he meant, signing him a request for him to explain.
"Well," he clarified, "I think a lot of our friends are doing better. I think we're doing better."
Understanding him, Shouko nodded, before her cheeks turned a shade of crimson and she signed to him that, "I'm doing better because you're by my side."
Shouya's face flushed, replicating hers, as he commented, "The same goes for me. You make me a better person."
They continued talking about their love for each other; they listed off all the positives they each possessed, figuring out every good trait that characterized them. No matter where they were, no matter the occasion, they could always take the time to appreciate how wonderful the person next to them was.
And that was a truly beautiful thing.
When they first moved in together, a whole new world was available for them. More specifically, they discovered the joy of snuggling up close to each other as the night washed away any sunlight that remained in the sky.
After a long day's work, when either party was tired from all the stress they had to deal with, they could always look forward to their partner's loving embrace. It would greet them no matter the time, weather, or any other circumstance.
There'd be times when Shouko would walk up to the extra-large couch Shouya occupied. He'd take one look and immediately notice the anger, annoyance, or heartache that weighed on her. As soon as he did, he'd drop whatever he was doing—usually reading—and open his arms for her dive into.
This wasn't an act of pity, Shouko knew that. It was a way of coping with the hardships of everyday life, by being there for the person you cared about. And it was for those reasons that Shouko would allow herself to melt into Shouya's embrace. She didn't mind the chill that came from Shouya kissing the top of her head, she found it rather pleasant in fact. The way they were seated made it hard for them to sign with each other, so Shouya instead traced the letters into Shouya's back.
"Everything will be okay," he would write.
"I'm here for you," would come next.
Then, "I'll always be here for you."
And finally, "Because I love you."
Shouya would look up at him, a smile replacing the grimace from moments prior. She'd lean up, giving a quick peck to her partner before her hand began to trace its own message.
"I love you too."
There would also be times where Shouya felt down, perhaps because of school or work, maybe some other reason. Every time this happened, Shouko immediately picked up on her boyfriend's anguish. One might believe that she'd be inept due to her lack of hearing, but they would be unbelievably wrong. True, Shouko couldn't hear Shouya's drawn out sighs, however, she most definitely could see the stress that rested upon his shoulder.
Once when she noticed, Shouko sat herself on their couch, capturing Shouya's attention. He was unsure at first, but this only lasted until Shouko pulled out a notepad and pencil. Then, he quietly strolled over to her side before he flopped onto the cushions below. After, he slowly lowered his head onto Shouko's lap, immediately being enveloped in the warmth she possessed.
Shouko laid the open notepad by her side, scratching Shouya's head with one hand and writing with the other. Once she finished, she held the pencil and paper in front of her boyfriend's head.
"Not feeling too well?"
Shouya would then write a reply, holding it for the girl to read, "Yeah."
"What's wrong?" she questioned.
"It's just been a long day, I'm sorry."
Shouko eyed the boy's response with worry, before giving her response.
"You have nothing to be sorry about."
"I just don't want to bother you."
Shouko flipped onto a new page, continuing, "You aren't bothering me."
"Are you sure?" Shouya appeared genuinely unsure. All those years ago, his concerns meant nothing to his peers as they tormented him day in and day out. Of course, even back then the girl he laid upon was looking out for him.
In her next statement, Shouko declared, "Even if you wanted to do this every day, I wouldn't be upset. I like being there for you, so don't ever feel like you shouldn't tell me about your problems, because I want to help you."
Shouya's felt his eyes water as he read what the girl wrote. He asked one more question, "Why?"
Shouko's response was instantaneous.
"Because I love you."
The two fell asleep where they sat, with the boy feeling much more reassured that everything—no matter the time, place, or reason—would be okay.
A couple years after their first reunion, life was seemingly perfect for the two. Both had jobs they love, they made enough income to support one another, they kept in touch with their friends, all was good. Of course, Shouya had one major issue weighing on his mind.
He had previously suggested that, as a possible date, he and Shouko would revisit the bridge they met each other on all those years ago. One might argue that was incredibly simplistic, but Shouko was not the time who enjoyed anything big or grand and Shouya knew this; since the moment they began dating, he would always make sure to avoid that which he deemed "over-the-top."
As for his actual nervousness, it wasn't surprising. He often got nervous in these situations. No matter how much Shouko reassured him, he would always get anxious at the thought of what could go wrong—that's just who he was.
It was evening when they first left the house, walking hand in hand. There was an obvious silence—and just as obvious ambiance—as they travelled along the side of the road. The entire time Shouya looked to be deep in thought, something which did not slip past Shouko.
Once they had made it relatively close to their destination, Shouya suddenly unhooked his hand from his companions, pointing to a nearby building before giving an explanation.
"That's the place where we first met up again, I just realized we haven't been there in a long time. Would you like to go visit it?"
As soon as his hands stopped moving, Shouko's head bobbed up and down, furiously nodding at the suggestion much to Shouya's delight.
The inside of the building was somewhat unfamiliar, which made sense there were bound to be changes. Still, they were able to find the hallway where they had first reunited.
"You know," Shouya signed, "You were pretty scared of me when we first met."
Shouko's eyes widened, her hands flew around as she quickly replied, "I'm sorry!"
"Don't be," Shouya gave her a reassuring smile, "I'm just glad we could become friends."
Shouko feverishly agreed, replying with a "Me too!" in record-breaking time. The two shared a laugh there afterwards, as though they both simultaneously recognized how much of a dork they both were.
It might not mean anything to her, but Shouya always thought Shouko had the most adorable laugh, her voice was always soothing to him. He could recall the time he once tried and succeeded in convincing her to record herself for their voicemail. When she asked what he thought and replied that is was "very cute," they both felt their faces flush.
Following their little walk through memory lane, they made their way to the bridge—once more their hands intertwined. Looking out into the vastness of the view in front of them, a surge of memories came rushing back to both parties. The ups and downs they had experienced together, the hardships and the triumphs that changed who they were.
"Hard to believe how fast time has gone by," Shouya noted.
"It's a little scary."
Confusion arose from Shouya's face, with him asking, "Why?"
"Because I think about change…and I get worried I might lose you."
Shouya quickly retorted, "I promise that won't happen!"
In response, Shouko smiled, giving a quick "thanks," but it was clear that the worry of him somehow leaving still remained. Given her situation and all she'd been through, such a fear wasn't alarming—far from it in fact. The horrifying memory of when she once nearly ended her life only to put his at risk never faded from her mind much to Shouya's dismay.
Shouya recognized this, he was aware that the girl in front of him was often hard to reassure—they were similar in that regard. With his plan finally being set into motion, Shouya got the attention of his brunette companion before he began signing again.
"Actually, there's a way to make sure that doesn't happen."
Shouko's opened, childlike wonder filling her eyes as she inquired, "How?"
Taking a deep breath, Shouya inwardly cursed at himself for how on edge he was, "Just close your eyes."
While initially unsure, Shouko decided to comply. She was ready to be amazed by her boyfriend's intelligence, as though it were a magic trick and she was a participant from the crowd.
Some ruffling around on Shouya's part occurred, he appeared to grab something from the bag he carried with him. There was the faint sound of a marker rubbing up against paper, then some more ruffling. Finally ready, Shouya tapped on the girl's shoulder to alert her that he was finished.
Shouko's eyelids gradually rose, her vision coming into focus. She was greeted by Shouya kneeling on one knee both his hands occupied. One held a fine, shining piece of jewelry that managed to both be stunning and avoid being ostentatious. The other held a familiar notebook, the one Shouya returned all those years ago that kickstarted their relationship. On it, a simple, one-sentence question appeared.
"Shouko, will you marry me?"
The girl stood, completely frozen, eyes wide as she read and reread what was written over and over again as though in was in another language.
"S-sorry," Shouya slowly mouthed so the girl could understand, "I know this tacky, but I wasn't sure how to sign if my one hand was already holding the ring—"
He was cut off as a body collided with his. Much to his surprise, Shouko had all but tackled him—squeezing her arms around them as they fell to the ground.
His eyes widened, breath slowly being lost by the second.
"Yes! Yes! Yes!" Shouko continued to repeat, not caring about anything else other than conveying her answer. She hastily raised her self up, her hands on both sides of Shouya's head allowing her to gaze deep into his emerald-green eyes.
"Are you sure?" he barely managed to mouth the words.
Reading his lips, Shouko nodded, tears of pure joy trickled down her face—and soon the same could be said for Shouya.
Breaking his emotional limit, Shouya's head slowly rose until it managed to reach that of the girl he loved. In one swift movement, their lips connected. All the passion built up over their many years of being with one another finally coming together in a single act of pure love.
There they say, wrapped in each other's arms, their lips not parting ways anytime soon as they soaked in the sunset off in the distance. The road to where they were at was long, hard, and grueling in many ways, there's no doubt the same can be said for the future. And yet, as they lied in each other's embrace, allowing their love to truly shine, neither the past nor the future mattered.
All that mattered was that they loved one another with all their hearts, and that would stay the same for as long as they lived.