Two weeks flew by for Rocco. So much happened, but he only felt all the happier and more settled by each event.
He’d been to the doctors to get a full MOT, which had him taking a handful of tablets every morning for various vitamin deficiencies. The doctor had proven, unequivocally, that he was deaf and that there was an old tear on his larynx that had prevented him from being able to speak when he was younger. The doctor said it had hurt him to try to talk, so he’d stopped trying. Since he didn’t have confidence in talking anyway, because he couldn’t hear himself, he decided not to make a big deal out of it.
Rocco also found his family getting more comfortable with him. Latimer and Chandler were learning sign language and taking to it really well. Even when Chandler didn’t know what to say, he made up gestures or wrote words on his whiteboard so that they could communicate even when they were alone. It felt so good having more than just Dominic to talk to.
“Where’s Dominic?” He signed to Chandler as he sat at the island in the middle of the kitchen.
Chandler was making lunch for them, putting together his ‘famous’ salad sandwich. He was interested to try it, since the rest of his weird concoctions had always come out great.
“He’s picking up a friend from the airport. He’s been away…” Chandler answered in sign, stalling for a moment. They were facing each other, but Rocco watched as he thought about it for a minute and picked up the whiteboard that he kept with him all the time. “to look at universities.” he wrote, finishing his explanation.
Rocco nodded in understanding. “He’s been scouted? Or wants to move?” He asked, eager to meet Dominic’s friend ‘Donny’. He’d been talking about his return home for a week now and all he would say was that they’d known each other forever. Latimer said that it was really just since they were kids in the orphanage together.
Chandler frowned at him and he didn’t even have to ask. He realised he didn’t know the word ‘scouted’, so he wrote the two options on the whiteboard; ‘choice’ or ‘scouted’. His big brother smiled and pointed to ‘scouted’ before giving him a thumbs up. He went straight back to making their sandwiches, cutting them in half and placing them on a plate that he slipped over the counter to him.
Rocco gave him a smile, signed thank you and tucked in. The combination of the lettuce, tomato and cucumber was delicious, but it was the tang of the cheese and branston pickles that really made it.
“Like it?” Chandler asked with his hands.
“Yum.” He signed back with a smile. He laughed at him, but he didn’t care; he’d already had two bites and he was pretty sure the sandwich wouldn’t last very long.
“Better or worse than the chocolate pizza with strawberries and almonds?” He asked, making him laugh.
He kind of loved the way that Chandler said more than he needed to say to test signs that he’d learned recently. “The same. Just as good.” He reassured him.
Chandler smiled to himself as if he’d done something amazing. It always made him happy to see that he liked to exchange skills with him, because that was how it felt. Chandler taught him about new things and he taught him sign language. It felt so good to have a brother who wanted to be there for him.
Rocco was halfway through his sandwich when the green light flickered on the kitchen counter. He turned and looked into the living to see that the light was going off there as well. That meant the doorbell was ringing.
Before Chandler could move from his spot, where he was packing up the ingredients from their sandwiches, he slipped off his stool and headed for the door.
Dominic was walking in the front door when Rocco arrived in the hallway. As soon as he spotted him, he started signing, making a request.
“Can we teach Chandler home sign? He’s finding ASL really hard.” He told him, admittedly going a little fast.
“Slow down.” Dominic laughed, signing to him with one hand as he dropped a bag by the bottom of the stairs. “Okay, I’ll tell him.” He promised, shaking his head in amusement as he pulled him into a hug.
Rocco hugged back with one arm, showing off his sandwich when they parted.
“Looks good. Is there one for me?” He signed.
Rocco made a face of uncertainty and looked back at the living room. He walked him into the room and waved to Chandler. He nodded when Rocco pointed to his sandwich. He loved that, just sometimes, not even signed words were needed. His father and his brothers always seemed to know what he meant.
“Rocco,” Dominic caught his arm, as he made his way back to the kitchen.
Rocco turned with a smile, only just spotting the very attractive boy beside his brother.
“This is my friend Donny.” He introduced them, signing and speaking at the same time. He looked back at Donny as he stepped forward, holding his hand out to Rocco.
He couldn’t help but blush and smile to himself, ignoring the offered hand to take a bite of his sandwich. He was afraid to take his hand, in case something happened. He’d read books about instant connections and true love sparked by a single touch; this boy was too perfect to risk it. The boy, Donny, didn’t seem to mind. He stood there, smiling to himself, hands in his front jean pockets as he stared at Rocco in return.
“Nice to meet you.” Donny signed to him finally.
Rocco coughed with wide eyes, choking on his sandwich.
Dominic rubbed his back, frowning, clearing trying to figure out what was going on. But he couldn’t tell him. He could hardly breathe. “Donny and I have known each other since before I was adopted. He’s deaf in one ear.” He explained, assuming his surprise was from the fact that Donny could sign. Well, it was, but not for the reason Dominic thought.
Rocco stared at Donny, while he stared back.
“He was away looking at colleges.” Dominic reminded him, as if he could forget.
“Being scouted.” He signed back with a nod.
“That’s right. Is that why you want me to talk to Chandler, because he didn’t know that word?” He wondered, suddenly realising the sense in his urgent request.
Rocco nodded but didn’t take his eyes off Donny.
“Okay. Well…will you show Donny up to the spare room? I’ll go talk to Chandler.” He asked, with a faint frown.
Rocco nodded again, still silent, and tipped his head to the stairs in invitation to Donny. He led Donny upstairs, unable to believe how utterly beautiful he was. He was stunning; there was no other word for it. He had well tanned skin, chocolate eyes and a sexy smile; it sent a shiver through him to think about the first electric look that passed between them. He could tell that Donny felt it too and understood that it was the reason he didn’t dare shake his hand.
This new man in his life was so different to his family. Donny felt dangerous, exciting. He had a sleeve of tattoos on his right arm, going right from his wrist to the curve of his neck. He could make out a banner with something that was in a font too intricate for him to read, a vine of cherry blossoms twisting and creeping up his arm, through and around other images. On his left wrist was a double band of black ink that looked almost like a bracelet or cuff. He was a complete work or art. With or without the tattoos.
His hair was dark, almost black with a purple tinge that shone out in the direct light, shaved down on both sides. It was an amazing, mysterious effect that perfectly suited the older boy. He knew from Dominic that he was twenty already, a whole three years older than him, but that didn’t stop his heart from drumming or his eyes from appreciating the fine specimen of a man he was.
Chandler had told him that saying, about God breaking a mould and how it meant he had created something special and unique. He hadn’t understood it the way Chandler used it, as if it was a joke, but seeing Donny it all suddenly made perfect sense. He couldn’t imagine there being anyone else like him in the world.
Rocco led Donny to the spare room down the hall, nervously eating his sandwich as he walked, so that he wouldn’t be expected to have a conversation. But when he stopped at the door and gestured for Donny to go inside he just stood there with a smile.
“Are you okay?” He signed to him, reminding him of one other too-perfect-for-words quality that he had. He could sign. And he was deaf in one ear, which meant that he understood how he felt more than his new family could. He had to frown at his words though, because he wasn’t sure what he meant. “It’s hard to be the only deaf person in the family. I know. It was the same for me. I was the only hard of hearing kid in my orphanage. I had no-one to sign with.” He explained with one hand, while dumping his bag on the inside of the open guest room door.
Rocco swallowed his bite and stared, trying to find his thoughts. All he could think about was that there was yet another thing that was great about Donny; he was an orphan. He knew the solitude, the silence, what I was like to be all alone in a world of kids who couldn’t talk to him. Could this guy get any more perfect? It was like he’d been made just for him.
“I was the same. I’ve not had anyone to talk to my whole life. Some tried, but,” Rocco stalled, not quite sure how to put it as he signed one handed. Eventually he gave up looking for the right words and shrugged.
“They treat you as if you’re stupid just because you can’t speak or hear?” Donny guessed with a knowing smile.
Rocco nodded, glad that someone understood.
“Well, we’re all family here. I was never lucky enough to be adopted; too wild, I guess. I ran away from my orphanage when I was fourteen and lived on the streets for two years.” He explained, with smiling eyes that pierced right through him. “I got jobs working as an errand boy and then as a waiter when I was sixteen. Dom never stopped checking in on me. Even when I refused to come live here with him.” He signed, intriguing him.
“Back then I didn’t think I was good enough to be adopted or to live in a nice place like this. Then I learned that I was really good at sports and I got a scholarship deal abroad.” He admitted, looking proud of himself for a moment. Then his smile fell. “But I’ve been to check out the place and it’s not for me. Their tolerance of my deafness and my need for sign language is atrocious.” Donny explained, making him angry. “They want my talent, but they don’t want me. So I’ve come home to get a job.”
Although Rocco didn’t really know how sports worked, especially with someone who was hard of hearing, he was angry that anyone had thought to dismiss such a great guy. Dominic said he had real talent on the basketball court. Why wasn’t that enough? Why did the fact that he was partially deaf make a difference to how special he was?
“Maybe you think I’m rambling, but…I know how it feels to think you’re not wanted. If you ever need anyone to talk to, I’m here for you.” He offered, with a heartwarming sincerity. “I know you’re really close with Dom, but there are some things that even he can’t understand.” He told him, with a mischievous smile. It was so intriguing that Rocco couldn’t help but try to find out what he meant.
“Like how it feels to be deaf?” He wondered.
Donny smiled and nodded. “He can sign from here to Sunday, but he will never quite understand what it’s like to experience the world the way we do.” He agreed, thoughtfully. “I know I’m only partly deaf and I can hear some things, but I haven’t told Dom yet…it’s getting worse. By the end of this year or the next I’ll be completely deaf.” Donny confided in him, shaking his thoughts back into fully functioning mode.
Now he wasn’t just mesmerised by him; he felt his pain. He couldn’t imagine what it was like to be able to hear, even at a depreciated level and then be told that eventually he would go deaf. It was almost cruel to have the wonder of sound and then lose it.
Rocco couldn’t help himself; he stepped closer and touched his arm. When he wasn’t pushed away he hugged Donny, trying to offer him what little comfort he could. He was held in return by those big strong arms and the most ridiculous sense of calm washed over him; he felt safer in his arms than he had ever felt his whole life. Then Donny pulled back with a smile.
“There’s something else Dom can’t help you with.” He signed.
“What’s that?” He asked, curious to find out what it was.
Rocco could tell he laughed because he could feel the rumble through his back, where he suddenly realised he had a hand pressed against his spine from their hug. He pulled his hand away.
“I’ve been gay my whole life. If you need advice or just someone to talk to I’d be happy to help you out. There was never anyone there for me, but I’m here for you.” He promised. “Do you know anything about how to be with another boy?” He asked delicately.
Rocco blushed, embarrassed by the question. But he refused to lie. He nodded.
“How much?” He signed.
Rocco looked around to make sure that no-one would see what he was about to say. Then he tried to sign his words as discretely as possible. “Dominic showed me how to buy books for my tablet. I got some free ones. They’re very…detailed.” He signed to him.
Donny laughed at him, but he didn’t mind. “Let me guess, erotica bordering on porn?” He signed back.
Rocco shrugged, since he wasn’t sure what ‘erotica’ meant.
“Educational if nothing else. But a bit scary, don’t you think? If you’ve not had any exposure until now.” He hinted, which only made him blush harder.
“Who said I haven’t?” He asked silently.
“Well, have you?” Donny asked, with that mischievous smile back again.
Rocco stepped closer. He wasn’t sure what shocked him more; that Donny was flirting with him or that he was actually flirting back. He’d always thought when it came to this kind of thing he’d be completely clueless, like in most other things. But with Donny, standing there being held down by those beautiful eyes, it just felt so right, so instinctive.
“You promise you won’t tell?” He checked.
Donny frowned at him, but nodded his agreement.
“One of the families I was sent to had an older son, Freddie. He was gay, but he wasn’t out to his parents.” He explained, recalling Freddie with warmth that he had forgotten until recently. “When he met me and found out I was gay, he would sit and tell me things about relationships he’d had. He took me to a club when I was sixteen and took care of me.” He added that last part just to make sure he didn’t get the whole ‘he didn’t hurt you or abandon you’ speech that he expected.
“You liked him?” Donny asked, with a less than happy look.
Rocco could only smile and hope that meant his attraction was reciprocated. “Not like that. I think he liked me, but he was seeing someone.” He explained the details, signing them out clearly so that there was no misunderstanding.
And there it was – that playful glimmer flickered back into Donny’s eyes, as if he was more than pleased to hear it.
“It was fun being at the club. I could see how happy everyone was. There was no hiding, no worry that anyone would see what you were doing.” He smiled as he thought back to that night.
It had been the first positive experience he had of being gay. More than a few guys tried to buy him drinks, but Freddie had hand-picked who he was allowed to talk to and dance with. No-one had been inappropriate or tried to get him drunk. It was just such a fun, carefree, happy place to be.
Donny smiled at him, making his stomach flutter nervously as he reached out and brushed his fingertips through the hair just above his ear.
“Maybe you could take me one time? I’ve never been to a gay club.” He admitted in sign.
Rocco frowned lightly, positive that couldn’t be true. From what Dominic said about him he was all for kicking back and having a great time. He was sure he’d ventured to one club or another at some point.
“I never had the time.” He shrugged, with a genuine sadness in his eyes. As if there was a bigger story behind that claim than he knew.
“Okay.” He agreed, hoping to make him happy again. Rocco couldn’t stop the blush from coming to his cheeks when Donny flashed that sexy smile at him. He tried to make sure he kept his mouth shut and his dignity in tact by taking another bite of his sandwich.
At this rate he was lucky if he had one more bite left, but he tried to make it last as he backed away from the door and the all too tempting boy.
Donny didn’t stop watching him. Even when he turned and walked towards the stairs he could feel his eyes on his back.
What made Donny so intoxicating when he had never had such an intense crush on another boy before?