"Okay, so may I just ask why you decided to learn sign language?" Ali demanded, "It's not like you're deaf or you know anyone who's deaf," she tried to reason out, "I don't understand why you'd learn a language that's, like, useless to you."

You're so dumb, I signed to her before answering, "Maybe one day I'll meet someone who signs, and when I do we can talk about you behind your back," I quipped, sticking my tongue out at her.

"Oh shut up, Elise" she pulled a face back at me, turning back to her work in defeat.

"Yeah, that's right," I yelled at her in jest, sticking my tongue out at her even though she couldn't see it.

"You're coming tonight, right?" she asked, referring to the orientation activities on campus.

"Yeah, why not?" I shrugged, "I bet you I can find someone on campus who also knows sign language," I challenged her, my mind still on the conversation from before.

"Yeah, alright," Ali replied with a shrug, obviously disregarding my statement, "You're gonna shower and change right?"

"Uh, yeah," I nodded, casting a sidelong glance, meaning that I hadn't intended to at all.

"Go," she ordered, pointing adamantly towards the bathroom, "Before I forget to remind you again."

"Alright," I mumbled, making my way towards the show slothfully before closing the door behind me & relaxing with a long, warm shower.

"Hey, you clean up pretty nice," Ali joked, looking at my outfit, which for once was suitable for a social gathering.

"Thanks," I laughed, grabbing the faux-leather bag hanging from a bedpost, "Ready?"

"Almost," she promised, running the mascara brush through her already-pronounced lashes, "Didn't you put on any make-up?"

"No," I deadpanned, "Am I supposed to?"

"No, you can pull off the whole natural-hippy-flowy look. It's good," she responded with a thumbs-up, a sign of her approval.

Yes, I passed! I signed just to annoy her, which promptly got me a pulled face of impatience.

"Come on, we can go now," she motioned towards the door.

"Finally," I breathed, following her out the door, down the stairs, and through the commons to Wygham Hall where the activities were happening, "Right, so what's the point of this little shin-dig again?"

"We're supposed to be meeting new people so we can become more cohesive as a class," Ali asked, "I'm just looking for hot guys," she confided in a stage whisper.

"Nice," I breathed, glancing around at the immediate area observing the masses of college freshman. It almost slipped my notice, but from the corner of my eye I spotted a tall boy signing to someone much shorter than him, talking about some comic book series.

You sign? I asked him wordlessly after catching his eye.

Yes, my father is deaf, he signed back, a look of surprise clearly displayed on his face.

Oh, I see. I'm sorry, I responded, smiling at his conversation partner, a stout, plain-looking boy with greasy looking hair who had whipped around to stare at me in shock of my ASL knowledge.

"Ali! Ali," I called, trying to rip her attention from the two built guys she was talking to.

"Yes, Elise, what?" she responded with a heavy sigh, indicating that she was hoping for this conversation to end quickly.

"I found someone who signs," I smiled at her triumphantly.

"Signs?" the taller of the two guys asked, "Like sign language?"

"Yeah, Ali thought that my learning sign language was completely stupid because I didn't know anyone deaf. Well, now I know someone who signs, so I win," I informed her before I felt a tap on my shoulder.

"Hi," the signing boy greeted me, speaking aloud as well.

"Hello," I returned the gesture, smiling up at him before turning to sign greetings towards his previous conversation partner as well.

"Oh, he doesn't sign," the tall boy interjected, seeing his friend's confused look.

"Then why were you-?"

"It's kind of a force of habit," he explained, "I'm Brandon, by the way," he introduced himself, extending a hand.

"Hi, I'm Elise," I said, shaking his hand.

"I'm Wiley," his shorter friend chirped, waving a pudgy hand at me.

"Hi, Wiley, it's nice to meet you," I smiled at him as well, slugging him lightly on the shoulder.

"So, do you have deaf relatives too?" Brandon asked, his hands signing as he spoke.

"No, I don't, uh, I actually decided to teach myself to sign the summer before junior year because I thought it'd be a cool thing to know how to do. I'm not really good, but I like to think I can manage a semi-fluid conversation with someone in ASL," I laughed.

"Well, we can always practice," Brandon offered, "That is, if you're still interested in improving and stuff."

"Of course I am!" I exclaimed, "Now, what as this debate about Green Lantern going on before I so rudely interrupted you guys?"

"Brandon was trying to incorrectly inform me that Green Lantern is the best superhero ever, which obviously isn't true. He's vulnerable to wood and the color yellow," Wiley supplied helpfully.

"Not the same Green Lantern" Brandon argued back, "Only Alan Scott was vulnerable to yellow."

"Yeah, so what? The guy is vulnerable to a common construction material and a color, he's pretty lame. At least superman was vulnerable to a material that's not even found on Earth, which basically makes him indestructible."

"Well, I think we all know that Batman is the worst superhero ever."

"Agreed," the two boys both nodded, "Batman, or Bruce Wayne, isn't even super in any way. He's just excruciatingly rich and technologically advanced," Brandon reasoned.

"He did get a lot of ladies though," Wiley added with a look of longing.

"Don't tell me the ladies don't love you!" I exclaimed.

"Are you kidding me? Wiley is-" Brandon started before I jabbed him sharply in the ribs.

"Nah, the ladies don't take too well to me," Wiley admitted, staring at the ground.

"Well, don't worry too much about it, girls are pretty much all stupid. You'll find the right one to balance your intellect eventually," I winked at him, patting him on the back.

"Thanks Elise," the short boy smiled up at me, genuinely placated.

"What about you? You got into this school, you're pretty smart," Brandon observed with an amused smirk.

"Well my superior genius scares all the guys away, so I'm just gonna become a cat lady," I supplied him with a wink.

"Really?" Wiley asked in awe, "But you're like, pretty," he finished somewhat pathetically.

"Yeah, but I ward guys off when I start talking about superheroes and the DC multiverse. I suppose it's made my mum happy enough, not having to deal with boyfriends and all," I smiled.

"Well, you'll find a guy soon too!" Wiley promised in an encouraging, "and if you ever need, anything, you know, I could be there, for you," he added shyly.

"I will definitely keep that in mind, Wiley, thank you," I smiled so widely, trying not to laugh at his honest attempts.

"Dude, she is way out of your league," Brandon choked out, his laughing impeding him from breathing properly.

"Yeah, I know," Wiley laughed out loud as well, "I can't believe you fell for it, Elise."

"You losers!" I exclaimed, giving each of them a good punch on the arm, "I was being nice!"

"Yeah, we know," Brandon tried to reply, but only succeeded in starting into another fit of laughter.

"Well, way to be mature guys," I stated, sitting there and feeling rather sheepish, "I hope you know I hate you now and I'll never speak to you again," I announced, feeling the need to give them a scare of my own.

"What? No, we like you, promise!" Wiley protested.

"Yeah, what he said!" Brandon exclaimed as well, "We promise we'll never pull anything like that again," he begged, his dark green eyes staring me down.

"How does it feel to be on the other side of the short stick," I asked, breaking into a string of chuckles myself.

"Terrible, let us repent and pray for forgiveness," Brandon admitted, showing heaps of false remorse.

"Oh shut up," I laughed, preparing to hit him in the arm again.

"Hey, hey! I need that arm for the Halo tournament next week, you can't just keep hitting it," he protested vehemently.

"Fine, fine," I conceded, "This is kind of boring," I stated, staring at the groups of people standing about awkwardly, trying to meet new people.

"That it is," Wiley nodded, "Wanna leave?"

"That," I immediately perked up, "Sounds like a great idea. Have anything in mind?"

"Soul Caliber in our room?"

"Yo, she's not gonna wanna play Soul Caliber," Brandon complained.

"Soul Caliber? I haven't played that in the longest time, I can't believe you actually have it!" I shouted excitedly, "Where's your room?" I asked Wiley, seeing his face light up.

"This way," he motioned, leading the way.

"Come on sweetie, prepared to get demolished," I insisted, grabbing Brandon's hand and pulling him along after his friend.

"Aaron, Aaron! You retard, she's right behind-"

"And boom! Headshot!" I announced, holding my game controller high into the air.

"Yo, Aaron, you suck. Even Elise beat you," Brandon commented wryly, staring at the strip of skin I'd exposed by raising my arms in the air.

"Dude, stop ogling Elise, man," Aaron complained, "Maybe if you concentrated on the game more, you could beat me."

"Shut up," Brandon brushed off the comment, simultaneously brushing hands with me as he took the controller over for a few rounds with Aaron.

"You know he likes you, right?" Wiley asked in a whisper, his eyes darting towards the two boys cradling controllers on the couch.

"Who? Aaron?" I asked, his implications completely going over my head.

"No, noob, Brandon!" he hissed impatiently.

"What? No way," I denied his claims softly, "There is no way!"

"Believe what you want, but I can see the way he's been looking at you lately," Wiley pressed, causing me to think. It was true, over the past few months, Brandon, Wiley and I had become extremely close. I almost spent more time at their dorm than I did at mine. But only recently had the dynamics of my relationship with Brandon changed. Where we used to sit next to each other during lectures, he now chose to sit far away from me, signing infrequently.

"Is he mad at me?" I asked after thinking for a while.

"No, you noob," Wiley sighed, "He likes you."

"But, he's been distant. If he liked me, wouldn't he be trying to get closer?"

"Not Brandon, he's never had a girlfriend before. He's scared, a little bit," Wiley spoke from a psychological standpoint.

"Well, he has no need to be scared of me," I insisted, staring at the tall, lanky brunette who was frantically jamming buttons in an effort to beat Aaron.

"Tell him that," Wiley shrugged.

"I-I have to go," I choked out, overwhelmed by Wiley's allegations, "I'll see you guys later," I informed the other guys, sending a wave in their general direction.

"Wait," Brandon called, trying to get up, but was stopped by Aaron, completely caught up in the game.

"You gonna forfeit?" the blonde boy challenged, "Not on my watch," he yelled as I closed the door quietly, making a break for the door.

Once I was outside I breathed the scent of autumn in and stuck my hands into my jeans pockets. I plodded along the cobblestone road in the yellowy light of the wrought-iron lamps in my course towards my own dorms.

"Elise! Elise, wait," Brandon called, only a few yards away from me.

"Hey," I greeted him shyly, staring somewhat towards the ground.

"Hey," he breathed, "Wiley told me what he told you," he trailed off, not finishing his sentence.

"Yeah, crazy huh?"

"Yeah, crazy," he nodded slowly, "Hold on, Elise. Close your eyes for a second."

"Uh, okay," I agreed, closing my eyes as Brandon made his way towards me.

"Okay, I'm gonna try something," he informed me, grabbing my hand and placing his into it.

"What are you doing?" I asked, feeling his handshape changing, "Oh, are you fingerspelling?"

"Yeah," he answered, the warmth of his breath hitting my left ear as he continued to sign.

"Okay, wait! Start over," I demanded, "I missed the first bit.

"First bit's not important, this part is," he explained.

"Í," I read as he signed, "Like. You." I finished and my eyes shot open, "Really?"

"Yes," he nodded, extremely unsure of his own actions. Smiling, I grabbed his strong hands and placed mine into his, signing my response.

"I. Like. You. Too," he read from my signs. Heaving a sigh he pressed his forehead against mine, "Really?" he asked softly, his breath hit my face, smelling of the spearmint gum he always took from me.

"Yeah," I admitted, biting my lower lip.

"You know, this is good, the whole you being able to sing thing," Brandon smirked at me.

"How so?"

"When I take you to meet my parents, you'll be able to communicate," he winked at me.

"Oh, I'm going to meet your parents, am I? We haven't even held hands yet," I quipped back, sticking my tongue out at him.

"Oh, you'd like to hold hands?" he asked me jokingly.

"Nope," I responded pretentiously, clearly joking.

"Well, that's too bad," he shrugged, grabbing my hands and pressing his lips against mine. Automatically, my hands reached up to cup his face. Despite their coldness, he didn't flinch, but continued to kiss me in the dull, incandescent light of the lamps.

"I think I'm gonna like your parents," I murmured against his lips as we pulled apart.

"Why's that?" he asked, enveloping me in his arms and resting his chin atop my head.

"Because they made you," I smiled, pecking him lightly on the lips.