"I don't know what to tell you, Mister Orr," the specialist said. "There's nothing wrong with your son's brain. the MRI we ran clearly shows that it processes all the input it receives from the world around him."
"Then why doesn't he speak?" Brian asked. At four, Damian should have said something. Except for crying, when he was a baby, which had ended completely as he got close to his first birthday, his son had been eerily silent.
The doctor, a goat, looked at him, the lack of information clear on her face. "Since there's nothing wrong physically with his brain, it has to be something psychological. An emotional trauma of some sort."
Brian shook his head. Their lives hadn't been easy after Ariel left, but with the help of his family, they had made it work. Nothing traumatic had happened to any of his children, at least no more traumatic than any other kid their age.
"Thank you doctor." He stood and shook her hand. This had been the latest specialist, in a long line, since Damian had been two, and it had become obvious his silence wasn't normal, and she was the last. Each and every one of them had said basically the same thing, they couldn't find anything wrong with Damian. He simply didn't speak.
Damian took his hand when he offered it to him, and they headed to the car. Damian looked at the moving scenery as they drove home. He didn't have the agitated wonder his other sons experienced when they saw new things, or the million questions when they were trying to understand something.
If Brian had to put a word to what his son was doing, he was studying the outside world. He looked carefully at everything a if he was weighing them in his mind, evaluating them. Sometime he wished his son could talk, if only for him to tell him about how he saw the world. Other times, he wanted him to talk, simply so Brian could know his son was alright.
When they got home, the house was silent. Bobby had Dietrich for the day, and Donald, Daniel and Dominic were at school. He lifted Damian, and sat him on the counter. He wiped his face with a cloth, to clean the ice cream that had dried in his fur, the treat after the doctor.
"No more doctors, Damian," he told his son, as he cleaned his fur. Damian's eyes were fixed on him, as he spoke. "They couldn't find anything wrong with you, so you are fine. I wish you did speak, but you don't. I love you anyway. Even if you end up never saying anything, I will love you. You are my son, and I will love you no matter what." The face that looked back at him didn't show any reaction to what he said. "I hope you understand what I'm saying, Damian. I hope you know you are loved." Brian turned, and went to the linen closet for a clean facecloth.
"Father," a young voice said, making Brian turned, "the doctors were not that bad," Damian finished.
Brian as stunned motionless. "You spoke," he eventually managed to say. Emotions waring.
"Yes, father, I can speak."
He spoke. He could speak, why had he let him agonize like this is he could speak. He shoved the anger aside and hugged his son. "You can speak," he said softly. "Why haven't you said anything before now? Why speak now?"
Damian didn't return the hug, he simply stayed in his father's arms, not moving. "I didn't have anything to say before."
"And you do now?" Brian as crying again, as he looked into this son's expressionless face.
Damian shook his head. "No, but I realized that my silence is hurting you. You are my father, I don't want to cause you pain."
Brian's heart skipped a beat, and his blood cooled. Those weren't words he expected from a four year old.
"Have I hurt you again?" Damian asked.
Brian's instinct was to lie to his son, to deny the concern he felt. "A little," he said instead, "you aren't like other children, I can see that. You didn't mean to hurt me, not now, and not when you were silent, I understand that."
"So if I don't mean to hurt someone, it's okay?"
Brian stared at his son for a moment, and then answered, as best as he could, certain this was only the first of many difficult questions he was going to get. "If you truly didn't know you actions would cause pain, then yes, it's okay, provided you stop the moment you realize it, and that you do your best to make the pain stop." Damian nodded, and Brian added the rest, knowing he would have to pay attention to how his son used what he was going to say. "If you are going to hurt someone, you have to mean it. You have to make sure that they deserve it, and that you are willing to face the consequences of your actions. Actions always have consequences, you need to remember that."
Damian as silent for a moment. "I don't understand what you mean, when you say I have to be willing to face the consequences of my actions."
Brian nodded. Did children have moral codes at that age? "This is only an example. I don't want you do to this, ever, but lets say you were to hit Dietrich, I would punish you, and you would have to be ready to take that punishment, what ever it might be."
"What if he deserves to be hit?"
"He's your brother, and my son. It's my job to punish my sons. If he does something you think he should be punished for, tell me. Damian, I need you to promise me you will never hit one of your brothers. You know what a promise is, right?"
Damian nodded. "It's something you will do, no matter what happens."
"Or not do, in this case. This is important to me, Damian. I need you to promise me that."
Damian searched his face for a moment. "I promise," he then said.
"You said there are always consequences to our actions."
"Except, that isn't true. There are lots of stories on the news about people who do bad things, and nothing happens to them."
Brian let out a sad chuckle. "Unfortunately, it's a sad fact of life that a lot of people work very hard at not paying for their mistakes, or the bad things they do. I don't want you to be one of them. You are an Orr, and that means that if you get caught, you accept your punishment."
"Thank you for telling me this, father." He extended his arms toward him. "Can I get down now?"
Brian smiled and picked up his son, and deposited him on the floor. Damian turned and headed out of the room.
"Damian," Brian called after him, and crouched down. "Come here," he said, when his son looked him him. Damian came. Brian studied his face. "Do you love me, Damian?"
"What is love?" he had a look of honest curiosity, it was the most expressive Brian had seen his son since they had started talking.
"Love is complicated, but at it's simplest, I think it can be summed up with this. It's when someone else's well being matters more than your own. I want you to tell me the truth, this is important to me."
Damian thought about it for a moment. "I think the truth will hurt you, and you said I should never hurt someone, unless they deserve it. You don't deserve it."
Damian might not have realized it, but he'd given his answer, still, Brian needed to hear his son say it, he had to be certain. "I know, but the truth can be an exception to the promise. There are times when someone has to hear the truth, no matter how painful it is. I'd like you to make me this promise. If I ask you a question, always answer it honestly, and I will do the same for you."
Damian nodded. "I promise I will." He paused. "No, father, I don't believe I love you. I'm sorry."
"You don't have to be sorry, not with me."
"Shouldn't I be sorry, when I disappoint someone?"
"Not with me, not when it's about who you are. I love you anyway. I'm the one who is sorry, I shouldn't be disappointed just because you are different than I would have preferred. The person you are might present us with some challenges, but I don't want you to change. I will love you no matter what." He kissed his son's forehead. "Now. You go an play."
"Thank you father." Damian left the room.
Brian fell in a sitting position. Oboy. Well, he had wanted him to talk. He had wanted to get a glimpse inside his son's head. He had gotten so much more than that. He had his work cut out for him. Damian was going to need a lot of information if he was going to function in society, and that meant Brian was going to have to do a lot of research to help him with that.
But that could wait for a day. Right now he had to prepare dinner, something that would help mitigate the surprise of his other children finding out Damian could talk.
Cake, yes, tonight called for cake and ice cream.