(The Mute by Radical Face)
For the first few weeks, he spoke because he had to. They discovered each other, had their worlds shattered, and had gone on the run in such a short span of time that learning to love together required speech. But by the end of each day his voice cracked and his throat hurt. He would retreat outside to listen to them bicker and debate each other through the open van door. If either of them noticed his sudden silences they didn’t mention it. Not until the silence went from hours to days to weeks.
Sonic got frustrated quickly reading his written responses. It took up time. It became a liability during tense battles. He refused to take him out into the field and stuck him in the van often as “back up”.
Sonia was just concerned. She would poke and prod him for a reason why. “Was it something we did? Did something happen? Are you sick?” she ask in quick succession whenever the topic was brought up. All he could do was shake his head.
One night a particularly awful fight between him and Sonic resulted in a torn notebook and several thrown pencils. (Manic wanted to help with missions in the field. Sonic thought he was a safety hazard because they couldn't communicate effectively.) Sonia pulled up some jam session videos they had made in the first few weeks. Something in them might give them the guidance they needed right now.
It took a good half an hour or si before she suddenly noticed there was a pattern to how Manic's hands moved with his words. How he used them to fill the cracks his voice left behind in the early mornings and late nights. She didn't understand but she had the feeling it was the key to their problem. She waiting for Sonic to come home, pacing the living space of the van with the video paused.
As soon as he came through the door she grabbed him by the arm and tugged over to the screen. "I found something. Watch his hands as he talks," she said and hit play.
Sonic tapped his foot with annoyance. He really didn't feel like dealing with this right now. He was about to tell Sonia as much when his brain caught up to his eyes. "He speaks sign language," he said, voice soft with sudden understanding.
"So he can communicate with his hands? He should have just told us that to start with," she grumbled. Sonic rewound the tape to watch his brother again. He always stopped himself whenever he realized he was signing.
"I don't think he knows he can. It's a banned language and not really common anymore because of it," he replied. He only knew about it in passing because of Chuck, who had taught him a few basic signs soecific to missions. He played the video one more time before spinning the chair to face the communication panel and begin typing in frequencies for different rebel bases "I've got an idea,"
Sonic used a connection of his to find some books and how-to videos from the vast underground network of hidden libraries. They set up a study plan of sorts and decided to keep it quiet from Manic for now. Sonic also promised to be a little more patient (even if it took a lot of effort) with him.
Several Months Later
Manic sat tapping his spoon against his cereal bowl in a soft rhythm. He was getting anxious. Neither of his sibs had said hello this morning and he was beginning to think they were mad at him for something. They both sat down and he scrunched further into himself, pulling his feet up onto the rickety chair to cross his legs and hunching his shoulders down.
He was beginning to think they didn't need or want him around. Things had been better but not great and they still had fights over random misunderstandings. He even had his duffle bag half full in case he had to bail soon.
Someone tapped the table in front of him to get his attention. He glanced up, then did a double take because both Sonic and Sonia were grinning ear to ear over their own bowls. It was a little jarring to see them so happy after such a long bout of tension amongst them.
Sonic raised his hands with a bit of a flourish. “Good morning, little bro,” he said. As he spoke his hands signed the words flawlessly. Manic felt his eyes widen and he looked at Sonia as though asking her to explain.
“Did you sleep okay?” she asked. Her signs felt a little more stiff and formal. Maybe she had trouble learning? But she had. They both had. Just to talk with him!
He dropped his spoon onto the table with a clatter that made his older sibs jump. His chair toppled to the floor as he stood to pull them both into a rib bruising hug. Relieved laughter broke the long silence and someone sniffled back tears.
No signs, no words, were needed. He knew they loved him.