Latimer chuckled to himself as he got up from his seat and walked over to his boys. He needed a break from all that typing and staring at the computer screen.
Dominic and Chandler were distracted as they argued over who had the better jump shot. They didn’t notice Rocco pressing his hand into Donny’s. But he saw it. He saw the movements that suggested Rocco was signing into his hand as discretely as he could. Donny appeared surprised for just a moment, then smiled and brushed his fingers into Rocco’s, signing back.
“Dom, I’m going to have a chat with Rocco for a while. You two go on and play the next one without me.” Donny called over his shoulder.
Rocco slipped his hand into Donny’s and silently led him out of the room, just as Dominic turned round to question him.
“Wait, what?” He shouted. He made a move, about to go after him, when Latimer stepped forward into his path.
He didn’t want him to cause a scene, especially when he hadn’t been entirely ignorant of the situation over the past two days. He hadn’t wanted to interfere then, sure that it would blow over, but he had a feeling it was about to get a whole lot worse.
“Leave them. They will explain in due time if there is anything to explain.” He advised.
“I warned you, bro.” Chandler laughed, patting his shoulder as he walked past on his way to the fridge.
Latimer raised an eyebrow at him, seeking an explanation.
“I told him. Rocco has had a crush on Donny since he showed up.” He chuckled, grabbing an apple before heading back outside.
Dominic stood there staring at them both, as if he didn’t have a clue what they were talking about.
“Would that be so bad?” Latimer wondered. He didn’t understand what the big deal was or why it was so terrible for Rocco to date someone he wanted to. He was seventeen and he was smart enough to make his own choices, which included choosing who he wanted to date.
“What? Donny and Rocco dating?” He asked, shrugging his shoulders as he pondered it. “Probably not. But…I’m just worried about Rocco. Donny hasn’t said if he’s going out of state for college or not. I don’t want him getting attached and then getting hurt if he moves.” He admitted with a shrug.
Latimer smiled at him, rubbing his arm gently. “Well, in that case, I would prepare yourself to tell Rocco the same thing.” He suggested. He had a feeling that the two would be dating before the end of the day. And whether Dominic was prepared for that or not, he was pretty sure he wouldn’t be allowed to have a say in it.
He sighed and nodded rather reluctantly, shaking his head as he followed Chandler back outside.
Latimer returned to his computer, hoping there were no fireworks to come. He had enough stress from running Beau’s charity without dealing with a broken friendship and two feuding brothers.
Rocco was probably the only one who would take the whole thing in his stride and do what he wanted to do without worrying too much.
Donny would likely get frustrated, but he would hopefully take Rocco’s lead and ignore it rather than confront it. He would just have to wait and see.
It was impossible to get his mind off the possibility that when Rocco next appeared he would be dating his best friend. Dominic wasn’t even entirely sure why that bothered him, but it did. He didn’t want to lose Rocco to Donny and he didn’t want to lose Donny to Rocco; which was ridiculous because he knew he wouldn’t lose either of them. But it didn’t seem to matter what logic he used. All he could see was his world changing in a way that would make his opinion obsolete.
Chandler handed him a bottle of water from the fridge. He took it without a word, took a drink and looked around the kitchen and living room.
Latimer was sitting at the dining table, working hard on his laptop with various folders and books open nearby. It looked like he was working on updating his database of the Friends of Beau Fernier charity.
“Where’s Rocco?” He asked, having thought he and Donny would have been back from their private chat already.
“He never came back down.” Latimer answered with a faint smile.
Chandler ignored him in favour of sitting down and switching on the TV.
Dominic wasn’t even surprised that he went straight to the cooking channel; he left him to it and headed upstairs.
He told himself he wasn’t going to pry or spy on them. He just thought he’d wake them because it wasn’t long before they would be sitting down to lunch. He was careful as he opened the bedroom door, peeking around the corner to make sure he wasn’t walking in on anything awkward. He got off lucky.
They looked like they were sleeping, so he walked over to the bed and tried to accept what his eyes were telling him.
Rocco was lying next to Donny on his bed, head on his chest, arm across his waist, on his front. Donny lay on his back, one arm under Rocco, wrapped around his back and the other across his stomach, his hand on top of Rocco’s arm. They looked so calm and peaceful together. So content to be with each other.
He checked his watch again; it was quarter past twelve, giving them fifteen minutes to get organised before they had to pry their dad away from the laptop. He would wake the boys and then help Latimer pack away his files for the foundation.
Dominic stepped closer to the bed and gently rubbed Rocco’s back to wake him. He shifted uncomfortably at first, his hand twisting on Donny’s chest until he was holding his hand. He rubbed just a touch harder and tapped his wrist with his other hand, to get his point across. He noticed his eyelids flickering, the little frown forming on his brow, before blue eyes opened and Rocco turned to look up at him. He gave a sleepy smile.
“I thought I’d wake you for lunch.” He signed to him. “I wanted to give you time to come to.” He explained.
Rocco nodded sleepily and put his head back down. He closed his eyes and hunched in on himself for a moment.
Dominic took his hand from Donny’s and signed into it. “I’m happy for you.” He told him, even though he wasn’t entirely sure happy was the right word.
Rocco smiled and took his hand in a firm grip, as if he wouldn’t let go.
Dominic wondered if he should pull away or wait for Rocco to let him go. He couldn’t stand there all day, but if Rocco was tired then he felt he should let him sleep a little while longer. Then, a long minute later, his little brother turned over and gazed up at him, refusing to let go of his hand as he signed with the other.
“I didn’t want you to be mad.” He said, looking worried.
“I would never be mad. I’m worried because I don’t want you getting disappointed if Donny moves to go to college.” He admitted part of the truth, in sign. The other part was too selfish to acknowledge, never mind confess to.
“He won’t move. He’s going to look for a job tomorrow.” Rocco told him.
Dominic was surprised. He knew nothing about Donny looking for a job or deciding not to go to college. For all he knew he’d only come home because he needed to think his offer through some more.
“He has something to tell you. Something sad.” He signed, in explanation. “I don’t think he would have told you until he found out about me. I think I showed him that it was okay.”
“Whatever it is, we’ll all get through it together.” Dominic reassured him with a smile. He didn’t know what he was talking about, but his eyes said it really was serious and he had better listen. “And if he’s home for good then I want him to live here with us. Not as a brother, but as my best friend. As your boyfriend.” He signed to him in return.
“Should I tell him?” Rocco asked, smiling a happy smile.
“Yes. And wake him, so he has time to come to before lunch.” He suggested.
Rocco nodded so he left them to wake up some more and headed for the door. He got his hand on the door handle before a paper aeroplane suddenly shot past his face and hit the closed door. He turned to see Rocco flushed and sitting up.
“I love you, Dominic. You and Chandler and dad. I’ve never been happier than when I’m with my family.” He signed to him.
“We love you too.” He promised in sign. He shot the aeroplane back to him and left the room, struggling to compose himself.
He wasn’t sure if he had ever heard anything more genuine or innocent in his whole life.
Chandler hadn’t said the L word since Beau died, probably afraid that if he did he would jinx himself. Latimer said it all the time, but it was always heartfelt and real. He loved him in such a way that he knew, without a second of doubt, that he meant the world to his father. And now to Rocco too.
Dominic returned downstairs and sank onto the sofa beside his brother. Chandler was engrossed in his cooking show. He had to take a few deep breaths before he was able to speak, and when he did, he could hear a crack in his voice that spoke of his internal struggle.
“I-I think I’m going to cry.” He admitted, already welling up.
Latimer looked over at him with a worried frown before getting up and crossing to sit on the arm of his side of the sofa.
Dominic bit his lower lip, trying to hold his emotion in check. “Rocco and Donny are dating. They were…adorable. Just lying on the bed together, sleeping.” He confessed, quietly. “I woke Rocco because I thought we should have lunch. He said that Donny’s not going away to college; he’s going looking for a job tomorrow.”
“But there’s something sad he has to tell us and he might never have said it if it wasn’t for us adopting Rocco. Something about him, he says, has changed Donny’s mind.” He explained everything at once, well aware that he was rambling as he wiped an errant tear away. “Then he said he loves us.” He confessed, hoping they would understand.
Latimer smiled and caressed his arm lovingly. “Are you all right?” He asked.
“I just…I’ve never met anyone like him, dad. He’s so…innocent. So sweet. And he needs us in a way that I’ve never known before.” Dominic sighed and shook his head when Chandler laughed at him and embraced him in a hug. Since when had he turned into such a touchy feely person? “And I’m really scared about what Donny has to tell us.” He said, trying to face the truth of the matter.
Whatever Donny had to say wasn’t going to be good. And now he felt really stupid for not supporting his new friendship with Rocco. If his little brother had inspired him to be honest about something that worried him, who was he to say it was a bad thing?
“But you told him we want him to stay?” Latimer asked.
“I told Rocco. Donny didn’t wake up. I was about to leave and he had to chuck a paper aeroplane at me to get me to turn round again.” He said, with a frown. “I forgot to get him something for that. Do I get a bell or would he think that was rude? And is it weird that I’m considering a whistle?” He asked, gazing up at his family as he thought logically about what needed done.
Chandler shoved him, playfully. “Yes. He knows he can clap if he needs us. I told him that the first day he came home.” He claimed, shaking his head at him.
Dominic could only stare at him; since when had he been the sensible one?
“What? I do have a brilliant idea, every now and then.” Chandler said, with real conviction.
“I would say he didn’t want to wake Donny, and that’s why he didn’t do so with you.” Latimer reasoned it out for him. And it made sense.
“Don’t feel bad, kid. Over the past two days, those two have been off having long conversations every time I turn around.” Chandler nudged him. “They sign so fast that I can’t make out a word. I figured it was better that way, since I could detect some serious flirting from Donny.” He wiggled his eyebrows at him suggestively, making him feel a little sick.
He knew his feelings about Rocco and Donny dating were ridiculous, selfish and unfounded, but he couldn’t help it. Dominic shoved him and Chandler laughed as he got to his feet.
“You’ve got to face it sooner or later. It won’t be long until you have to see them kissing.” He teased, running off upstairs.
Latimer laughed as well, which only made it worse. It seemed everyone was enjoying his suffering. “He has a point.” His dad conceded.
Dominic groaned and held his head in his hands, hoping that day never, ever, ever came.