Dominic was walking in the front door when Rocco arrived in the hallway. As soon as he spotted him, he started signing almost frantically.
“Slow down.” He laughed, signing to him with one hand as he dropped one of Donny’s bag by the bottom of the stairs. He would take it upstairs later, once he had time to get past his little brother. “Okay, I’ll tell him.” He promised, shaking his head in amusement as he pulled him into a hug. Rocco hugged back tight 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. It seemed they had become mind readers in the last hour he’d been away. Dominic smiled and turned to find Donny walked into the room, waving and shouting hello to Chandler, while dropping his second bag onto the sofa. He took that as a sign that he was jet lagged and wanted to go to his room soon.
“Rocco,” He caught his arm as he made his way back to the kitchen. Rocco turned with a smile, so he explained. “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. Surprisingly, his brother blushed and smiled to himself, ignoring the offered hand to take a bite of his sandwich. He wasn’t sure what that look was, but he looked back at Donny to see if he’d noticed. It seemed he had because he was just standing there, smiling to himself, hands in his front jean pockets as he stared at Rocco in return.
Was he completely invisible, or was there something going on that he didn’t know about?
“Nice to meet you.” Donny signed to him finally. Rocco coughed with wide eyes, choking on his sandwich. Dominic rubbed his back, trying to figure out what was going on.
“Donny and I have known each other since before I was adopted. He’s deaf in one ear.” He explained, since his kid brother seemed surprised that he could sign. But he’d told him about Donny before; he was sure of it. Rocco just stared at Donny while he smiled at him. “He was away looking at colleges.” He reminded him, just in case he forgot that too.
“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, wanting a minute with Chandler to find out what had happened while he was gone. Something had to have happened; it was the only reasonable explanation for why Rocco was acting so strange. Rocco nodded again, still silent, and tipped his head to the stairs in invitation to Donny.
Dominic walked into the kitchen, mulling over that curious atmosphere that had suddenly taken over the minute Rocco and Donny clapped eyes on each other. It wasn’t natural, but he was at a loss to explain it. He walked over and took a seat at the island, opposite Chandler.
“Hey, how was the drive?” His brother asked, sliding a plate with a sandwich across to him.
“Fine. A lot of traffic though.” He admitted, as he picked up his sandwich. It was a salad one again; one of Chandler’s favourite concoctions. It had looked good and said all the right things to his growling stomach when he saw Rocco’s, but now he was too troubled by his reaction to Donny to even risk eating it.
“What had Rocco so excited, when you walked in?” He asked.
“He thinks it would be easier for you to learn home sign rather than ASL.” He explained, since it took his mind off the other situation.
Chandler frowned at him so he continued to explain what he meant.
“Home sign is an alternative to ASL,” he began to explain. “Rocco would develop his own signs for you to learn, that he associates with certain words.” He said. “So ‘love’ would be holding his hand over his heart and ‘see’ would be pointing to his eye. Simple gestures and connections that would be easier for you to remember and use on a daily basis.”
“Oh. I guess.” Chandler shrugged non-committally. “It’s just so much to remember. I couldn’t remember how to say university earlier. Or ‘scouted’.” He complained to himself, packing up the sandwich ingredients again since he’d made another one for Donny.
“‘Scouted’ is not an everyday word. I only know it because Donny used it before he left and had to explain it to me.” Dominic said, reminding him that he couldn’t know every word.
Spoken words were taught to them throughout their lifetime by parents, teachers, other kids; it was an exposure thing. If they didn’t encounter a word, like with foreign languages, then they couldn’t be expected to know how to say it properly first time around. It was the same with sign language; unless a word cropped up, how were they to know they would need to know it?
By the time they moved into the living to sit and watch the TV for a while, Rocco made his way back into the room. He stopped by the kitchen to grab his plate, with the second half of his sandwich on it and took a seat on the second sofa.
Dominic frowned to himself. Normally he would wedge his way into the space between him and Chandler, wanting to be as close to them as possible. Was it an independence thing or was it because of Donny?
“Uh-oh. Donny opened his big mouth.” He realised, as he noticed Rocco’s neck was flushed red and he was trying hard to look only at the TV and not smile.
Chandler turned to him in surprise and looked at their brother. “What happened?” He wondered.
“I told Donny that Rocco was gay and might need someone to help him deal with coming out.” He confessed, only to frown when Chandler laughed.
“Nah, brother. That is not a look that says he’s embarrassed. I think our kid’s got a crush.” He whispered to him, as if it was a secret.
Dominic turned to stare at him; he refused to believe it. There was no way that Rocco could have a crush on Donny.
Chandler just sat there chuckling to himself as he watched the Food Network show he’d picked.
A minute later Donny walked into the room and along the back of their sofa.
“There’s a sandwich for you on the counter.” Chandler called over his shoulder.
“Cool. Thanks.” He replied casually. His footsteps stalled and Dominic looked round in time to see Rocco signing to Donny.
“I forgot my drink. It’s on the counter. Can you bring it?” He signed to him, as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
Donny saluted him and headed to the kitchen, returning right away with his own plate and two bottles of coke. One was open, with a straw inside. He handed it to Rocco and took the seat next to him. It was all done so naturally, as though they were used to working as a team, sitting together, signing together.
Dominic’s frown turned into a scowl as Donny took the first bite of his sandwich and Rocco took a drink. As soon as he replaced the cap he handed the bottle over to Donny without even looking at him. His best friend took it, put it on the side table and went back to his sandwich as if nothing had happened.
He was speechless; if that had been him sitting eating next to his brother, Rocco would have politely asked him to place the bottle on the table for him. If it had been him with the bottle, Donny would have told him to get stuffed and put it on the floor because his hands were full.
What was worse was how calm and accepting Rocco was of this new person in his life. He had never met Donny before; he knew nothing about him. Yet there they were, sitting together, eating and signing to each other about the program as if they’d known each other forever. The only other person he’d ever seen him connect with and accept so easily, and so quickly, was himself. It even took him a few days to get used to their dad and Chandler.
What the hell was going on?