Dominic smiled as he watched his family. He was happy to see them so casual and accepting of Rocco, and Rocco so comfortable with them so soon. He’d always been comfortable around deaf people, since his grandmother was born deaf and taught him sign language from the minute he was old enough. He kept it up after she died and Latimer adopted him because of his best friend Donny.
They’d grown up in the orphanage together and he was deaf in one ear, with deaf friends. The only privacy they would get back in the orphanage had been when they did sign language together. He knew all the right equipment they needed for the house and the right style of phone to get for Rocco’s needs. He wiped his hands clean on a towel and walked over, to tap his dad on the shoulder.
“I’ll do it. You watch the game.” He offered, holding his hand out for the laptop that sat unopened on his knee.
Latimer frowned at him, but he persisted.
He didn’t want him feeling like Rocco was his sole responsibility just because he was the only one who could talk to him so far. But he didn’t feel that way; he just wanted to help. “I know what we need and I can order it while I’m waiting for everything to cook.” He promised.
His dad reluctantly handed over the laptop and shook his head as he walked it back over to the kitchen.
Dominic sat it on the breakfast bar and switched it on. He gathered up some ingredients while he waited for it to come to life and then wandered over every now and then to click a button or type a word into the search bar. He had a mental list of everything they would need. It all came easily to his mind as he moved around preparing a light dinner, after their late lunch.
The dinner was going to be pasta with salad. The only prep work required was to make the salad and chop up the vegetables that he would add to the pasta later. He only needed ten minutes to make the sauce and the pasta, but they wouldn’t be eating until maybe seven or eight o’clock, so he had plenty of time on his hands.
As soon as everything was prepared, ready just to switch on, heat up and dish out, Dominic joined Rocco in the reading area. He gave his brother some room, since he was curled up in the right hand corner, reading. But as soon as he sat down at the other side, the laptop sitting on a cushion on his knee, Rocco moved over and curled up next to him. He smiled as he lifted his arm around his shoulders and let him snuggle in.
It wasn’t hard to order everything he needed online with one hand as the other, rather absently, brushed through Rocco’s thick hair. He ordered a light alarm that would sync with the doorbell, the smoke detector and the house phone, emitting a different colour for each device. They also had the mobile phone he wanted, so he added it to the cart and went through the next items on his mental inventory. School books, Classic novels in paperback form, a laptop, a tablet and a handheld white board with different coloured pens all went into the basket. He also ordered two copies of the ASL handbook for his dad and brother.
When he was done, he clicked on his dad’s credit card, already imputed to the site, and had it all delivered to the house, choosing to select the express delivery so they would have it in just a few days.
Dominic felt that prickling feeling on the back of his neck, that usually came when someone was watching him. He turned and noticed Rocco was gazing up at him with a curious look of total innocence. He lifted his hand from the laptop keys and signed to him.
“Are there any books you would like to read?” He asked, returning his hand to the keys to that he could bring up the page for e-books. He showed Rocco a few options and he pointed out a few free Classic books that he wanted to read.
Dominic wasn’t at all surprised that he’d gone straight for the free options, but he bought them and had them delivered to his e-reader. Then, just a minute or two later, he showed Rocco how to download them. “I’ve ordered you one like mine, where you touch the screen. It will come in a few days.” He told him, signing with one hand.
“I can’t afford one. I don’t have any money.” Rocco objected.
“You don’t need money. Dad is buying it for you. As a welcome home present.” He promised, glad to see that he just smiled and leaned on his shoulder again, accepting the gift.
Yes, he had a lot to deal with and yes, he was getting a lot of gifts thrown at him, but that wasn’t his fault. He was a child and he was now Latimer’s son, so it was perfectly within his rights as his father to spoil him or treat him to anything he wanted. Especially when it was such simple gifts as clothes and books.
“You’re my brother; I can tell you anything, yes?” Rocco signed to him suddenly.
Dominic felt a little apprehensive about that question and what it meant, but he knocked a ‘yes’ and waited to hear what he was going to say.
“I’ve always dreamed that I would have a brother like you.” He admitted with a gentle smile.
Dominic ended up returning it with one of his own, in relief. “Chandler can be this close to you too, if you let him. He just doesn’t know how to talk to you yet. He never learned sign language.” He explained, with his hands.
“And your dad? Will he learn too?” He asked, nodding to himself in acceptance of that fact.
“Yes, our dad will.” He reassured him, hoping he would one day adapt to calling Latimer dad. It would make them both happy.
“Chandler’s very sad, isn’t he? Because of Beau?” Rocco asked, one handed.
“Yes. They were very close. I’m more academic, like Latimer and Chandler’s very carefree the way Beau was. We sort of naturally gravitated towards the father that was most like us.” He confessed, hoping he would understand that and not think they had picked a favourite.
Rocco nodded and cuddled in, hugging his torso with a look that said he was going to think it over very seriously.
“How long have you been so alone, Rocco?” He signed to him, seeing a lot of Chandler in him already. He was holding onto him desperately every moment he could, because he was the only one he’d made a tangible connection with so far.
They both knew that he would eventually bond with Chandler and Latimer too, but until then he was in a new place with people he barely knew and he was clinging to the only person he could talk to. He didn’t mind, but he didn’t want it to stay that way; he wanted Rocco to know that he had all three of them to turn to.
“Forever.” He signed back, as he snuggled in closer.
Dominic could hear his breathing slow down and it barely took ten more minutes before he fell asleep. He figured that was probably for the best. If he was sleeping then he was comfortable and he felt safe.
He continued to thread his fingers through Rocco’s hair as he checked the internet for a definitive check list of what they would need to help him settle in. Then he only had to check his social media accounts, check in with his friends and he would be free to do some reading of his own.
First though, he pulled out his phone and snapped a picture of himself, lying there with his new brother and saved it to his cloud account. It was the fourth he’d taken of Rocco that day.
One was from the restaurant, with Rocco beaming at the camera, sitting between Chandler and their dad. He’d taken the second at the mall, when he was buying his gay Pride merchandise, looking like a kid in a candy store. The third was from their playing around time while unpacking his new clothes.
Chandler had nicked his brown hat and started doing ‘model’ poses, teasing him for being such an eclectic dresser. Rocco had insisted it looked good on him so, naturally, Chandler had wanted a snapshot to prove it.
He made Dominic delete the first one, where he was on his own and then insisted that they do a group shot. They’d taken one of Rocco’s new hats each and done a male Charlie’s Angel group shot.
He actually really liked it. He was considering getting it framed for Latimer’s birthday. It would be a great gift, but he held off just for a little while since there were ten months left and he planned to document Rocco’s first year with them extensively.
Later that night, around nine o’clock, Dominic got that prickling feeling again. He looked over to where Rocco was curled up on the sofa in Latimer’s arms and noticed his new brother staring at him, chewing his lower lip nervously.
They were watching a movie together, something Rocco had picked from their collection of DVDs, that he’d never seen before. Since he had the control, he paused the film and turned back to his brother to find him trying to hold back a yawn.
“You okay?” He signed to him, the paused movie only catching their dad’s attention.
Chandler was already asleep next to Dominic. He gave him a nudge to wake him up and rolled his eyes at the snort he woke with.
“Can I go to bed now?” Rocco asked, with one hand.
“Of course. You can go to bed whenever you want.” He promised, speaking and signing at the same time, wondering why he even had to ask. “We’ll keep the rest of the movie for you. You can watch it tomorrow.” He told him, so that he didn’t feel bad about missing the last half hour.
“Will you come with me?” He asked as Latimer removed his arms from around him so that he could sit up.
Dominic smiled; he had already promised to stay with him throughout the night and he wasn’t going to turn his back on that promise now.
“Go up and get changed. I’ll be there in a minute.” He signed to him.
Rocco nodded and sat up straighter, turning to smile at Latimer. Their dad brushed a strand of his fringe from his eyes and kissed his forehead goodnight.
Rocco hugged him so tight Dominic wasn’t sure he would let him go. If he’d been younger he was pretty sure Latimer would have carried him up to bed.
Latimer hugged back and frowned in confusion when he released him and Rocco signed to him.
“He said, ‘Goodnight dad’.” Dominic translated with a smile, not in the least surprised that their dad beamed in delight. Then Rocco walked over to the sofa he was sitting on and hugged Chandler from behind. He hugged the arms around his neck and gave him an absent, tired wave while he yawned.
Rocco didn’t seem to care; he smiled and made his way upstairs, without another word.
“I better go. I promised him I’d spend the night in his room until he’d got used to the house.” He explained for his brother’s sake.
“Night.” Chandler murmured and turned to snuggle back into his chair.
Latimer shook his head but didn’t bother telling him to turn in as well. He would wake him before he went to bed and insist that he could wait one more night before calling his friend in South Africa. Cape Town was six hours ahead of them and he would want to check in to see how his friend’s first day at work went, during the only hours Koby was free to talk.
They both knew he wouldn’t agree to it; Chandler and Koby had been friends for eight years and there wasn’t a day went by without them talking, texting or e-mailing. Unfortunately Koby didn’t have a phone so the only way they got to talk to each other was through Skype or by using the phone at his work. His boss docked the price of the calls from his wages, but it was cheaper than having to buy a phone.
Dominic couldn’t get his mind off Chandler as he hugged his dad goodnight and went upstairs to his bedroom. He used the family bathroom, got changed and headed for Rocco’s room. He was slowly realising that it might just be as hard for Chandler to adjust to Rocco as it would be for Rocco to adjust to them.
Rocco was like a walking book of memories that no-one had seen or wanted to open for years. Now their fingers were twitching, ready to face the past and confront their demons. All because Rocco was too like Beau to ignore.
He opened Rocco’s bedroom door just a fraction and reached his hand in to flick the lights on and off a few times. Until the equipment he’d ordered had arrived, there was no other way to ask his brother if it was okay to walk into his room. The door pulled open to show Rocco in a t-shirt and joggers combo, looking nervous but exhausted.
“Get into bed.” Dominic smiled as he signed to him.
Rocco rushed over and slipped into bed on one side, facing away from him. He walked over with the full length pillow he’d brought from his own room and slotted it behind him before climbing in. He tapped Rocco’s arm, making him turn with a smile.
“This is for you. To snuggle or to make you feel more comfortable. Do you want me to share the bed or sleep on the floor, because I’ll do whatever makes you feel safer.” He promised, not wanting to assume anything.
“The bed. I trust you.” Rocco beamed at him dozily.
Dominic returned the smile and got himself settled. He wasn’t entirely surprised that when he switched off the bedside lamp, he found Rocco turning over and snuggling into the body-length pillow.
“Thank you.” He signed, with drooping eyelids and a sleepy smile.
“Wake me if you need me.” He signed back.
Rocco nodded and closed his eyes, so he did the same. He lay there in the dark, facing his brother with his eyes closed, thanking God that they had found Rocco. If ever there was someone meant to be his brother it was him. With Beau’s eyes and a sweet, innocent nature, it was love at first sight for all of them. And now Rocco had a family, for the first time in seventeen long years.
Dominic smiled when he felt something brush against the back of his hand. He opened his eyes and found Rocco curled right around the pillow, his hand sitting just beside his. He reached out and gently held his hand, letting their fingers intertwine. Rocco’s lips curled into a smile and he returned the grip, slipping their joined hands closer to the pillow. He let him.
He figured that brief contact had been his instinctual search for something solid to hold through the night, in a reminder that he wasn’t alone.
Dominic wanted Rocco to know that just because he didn’t fancy other boys didn’t mean he couldn’t be affectionate. He was happy to hold his hand, hug him and let him share his bed if that was what he needed to feel safe and comfortable in a strange new place.
Rocco was his brother now. He would do whatever he could to help him settle into his new home. And he had to admit to himself that it was nice to have someone who needed him so desperately. He felt so blessed to have the family he had.