Shouto stared at his computer screen, completely frustrated. The lists he had pulled up about possible birthday gifts for friends had been of no help. All of the suggestions were either thinly veiled advertisements or generic. He knew he could get something that Izuku would like. The kid was a huge nerd - not that Shouto wasn’t the same. He could get him an obscure comic or figurine and he would be over the moon! But Shouto wanted this to be really special for his first and best friend. Something unique and personal, but he was drawing a blank.
Izuku had become a huge part of his life, despite them never meeting in person. He had been there for Shouto during some of the roughest points of his life. Izuku was the only other person in his life besides his mom and siblings that he could converse with without any need for a translator. He had even encouraged him to see his mom again.
The dilemma started because they had recently discovered that they both lived in Musutafu. Izuku then excitedly mentioned that he was having a small get together on his birthday and that he would love for Shouto to stop by. This lead to Shouto obsessing over what to get his friend as a gift.
He sighed as he dropped his head on his desk in defeat. Suddenly, the light flickered in his peripheral. Shouto turned to the door and saw his brother Natsuo standing there. He waved halfheartedly. Natsuo began signing.
“What’s wrong? You looked like somebody kicked a puppy,” he said.
Shouto sat up and replied, “I am stuck on what to get Izuku for his birthday!” Natsuo raised an eyebrow at that.
“Isn’t he a bigger nerd than you are? Just get him a comic,” he said, looking perplexed. Shouto shook his head vehemently.
“No! It needs to be special!” he insisted. Natsuo frowned.
“You are thinking about this way too hard, baby bro,” he said. “He will be happy enough to have you there! You could just tell him ‘Happy Birthday’ and he would be happy, I think.” Shouto blinked.
“Say that again?” he asked. Slowly, a crazy idea was forming in his mind.
“What? Tell him ‘Happy Birthday’?” he asked. That’s it! He could do that. It would take some work, but he could try. If all else failed, there was merchandise.
“Yes! I need your help,” Shouto said.
“With what?” Natsuo asked.
“Teach me to talk,” he said. Natsuo blinked and then slapped a hand to his forehead.
“Shouto, I did not mean literally!” he said after a moment.
“I’ve got four months! I can learn that simple phrase, right?” he asked, pleading with his eyes.
“Fuyumi is the teacher, not me!” his brother complained. Shouto pouted.
His sister appeared in the doorway a moment later. She and Natsuo traded a few words before a delighted smile passed over her face.
“I can help you with that! I have a co-worker that comes to the campus frequently. She is a speech therapist. I will get in contact with her,” she said excitedly.
It had almost been a year since their father had been taken into custody and charged with a multitude of crimes against them. He was also collared for some unethical business practices. Back when his father was around, giving any extra help to Shouto was forbidden. So, the siblings made do with the sign language they had learned. None of them had thought to try talking or even attempting to teach him to speak.
But he was willing to try now, for Izuku’s sake.
The four months passed by in a blur. Suddenly, Shouto had been out of the house more than he had ever been in his entire life almost. Twice a week he would travel to the speech therapist’s office. She would work with him on enunciation and how to gauge his speaking without actually hearing his own voice. Once he got most of the sounds down, they started working on simple words and names. The day he managed to say most of Fuyumi’s name, she cried. Shouto had been alarmed at first. But she quickly signed that she was happy.
At this point, it was now two weeks from the party, and Shouto was trying to tighten up his pronunciation for his meeting with Izuku. They were hanging out in Unplug per their usual, except this time, Izuku was in a voiced group chat with some of his other friends. Shinsou Hitoshi was in the Altered Reality RP with them. Kirishima Eijirou was also in the server - the mod, as a matter of fact. Uraraka Ochako was a friend from Izuku’s middle school. Thankfully, he had figured out how to get his dictation software to separate who was talking.
At this moment, he was reading along with the conversation, adding an emote every now and then. He was mostly lost in his own head as he sounded out the words on the screen. His therapist had encouraged him to practice at home by reading things. He had to learn to rely on the way the words felt in his mouth. Suddenly, the conversation derailed.
Deku are you muttering again?
I am stuffing my face atm
I love katsudon
Especially my mom’s
No fair man!
You’re making me hungry
Then who is?
Shouto turned red. They could hear him. He forgot. He typed an apology.
Some ad playing in an internet tab
I was just wondering if I was losing it
The chat laughed at that before they continued their original conversation. Thankfully, they were not too excited and his software could keep up. But Shouto spent the rest of the session mouthing the words instead of vocalizing them. He still wanted it to be a surprise. He had also caved and ordered a special copy of the first volume of Altered Reality Academy for Izuku, too. It was signed by the author Yagi Toshinori. He really hoped that Izuku would like his gifts.
Finally, the day arrived and Shouto was literally frozen by nerves. But he took his present and got in the car with Fuyumi. She had noticed his anxiousness and was doing her best to reassure him that it would be fine. His brain was putting forth the worst scenarios possible, while he sat in the passenger seat muttering what he wanted to say to himself over and over again. Eventually, they pulled up to an apartment building and before Shouto could blink, he was standing in front of the door. His hands were trembling around the wrapped comic book. Fuyumi knocked politely. After several moments, the door opened to reveal a very familiar face. Izuku beamed happily at them. He said something to his sister before signing to Shouto.
“Hi Shouto! I am so glad you could make it!” he said, hands moving rapidly in his excitement. Shouto’s heart rate picked up. He definitely thought Izuku was adorable. But seeing him away from a computer desk was a different thing entirely. His eyes were brighter and greener in person. And there were several more freckles than the few that his camera picked up. But his smile was the same. Shouto took a deep breath and spoke,
“-appy Birth-d-day, Izu.” Izuku gaped at him. Shouto felt his heart drop as he wondered if he completely butchered it. Then it suddenly took flight as he was squeezed around his middle and fluffy hair was brushing against his throat. Izuku eventually let him go, wiping his eyes with his wrist. A wide smile was still plastered on his face.
“Thank you!” he mouthed over and over. Shouto sagged with relief, the comic almost slipping from his hands. He tightened his grip before it fell. He then held it out shyly. Izuku blinked before taking it with another grin. He signed thank you this time. He then took Shouto’s hand and practically dragged him over the threshold. Shouto grinned happily to himself.
His birthday plan did work out after all.