Silence Says

Toby didn’t like to talk to people or look them in the eye. He didn’t need friends. Or did he? Shipped off to summer camp, Toby had more new things to get used to than he could deal with. Could his cabinmate, Noah, offer the support he so desperately needed?

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10. Chapter 10

Toby slept fitfully and woke up early the next morning feeling terrible. He didn't get further into his morning routine than going to the toilet before deciding he felt too awful to be doing things and crawled back into his bed. It felt wrong, not following his routine, but just then his entire body felt wrong so it was nothing more than another drop in the ocean of oh God please let me die.

When Noah offered to get him breakfast Toby declined, then declined again an hour later. He felt too nauseated to even consider food. It wasn't until Noah pointed out that he wouldn't be able to take his medication on an empty stomach that Toby sent him to get something with a grunt and a vague wave of his hand.

Toby didn't know why, when he heard a knock on the door, he immediately assumed it was Noah back with his food. Why would Noah have knocked on the door? It wasn't until the second knock that logic returned to Toby's mind. He dragged himself out of bed to answer the door.

Faced with his foster mum and Helen, all Toby could think to say was, "Noah went to get breakfast."

Toby's foster mum pulled Toby into a hug, tentative at first and then tighter when Toby didn't tense up or push her away. "I am so sorry, baby."

Toby gave a grunt. Not an it's okay, because it wasn't, but an acknowledgement of the apology.

She pulled back to look at him. "Why didn't you text me?"

"I didn't have my phone."

"You didn't bring it with you? I thought you weren't answering my texts because you'd forgotten to charge it again. Did you forget to pack it?"

Toby frowned. "No, you said I couldn't bring things to play games on. There are games on my phone."

"I didn't mean..." She sighed. "Let's just go inside, okay?"

Toby nodded and stepped aside to let them in.

"Noah's getting food," Toby said when his foster mum handed him his medication. "I need food to..." Toby waved the box.

"Yes, I know. You can take it when he gets back. Let's sit down so we can talk, shall we?"

"Don't want to talk," Toby murmured, but he sat down on his bed next to his foster mum anyway. Helen sat across from them on Noah's bed. Toby's foster mum stroked lines up and down his back, a motion that usually soothed him but now only made him think of how different it felt when Noah did it. The motion itself was quite similar, but the feelings it brought out in him...

"I know you're not feeling well, Toby, so let's cut right to the chase," Helen said. "You haven't done well at all here, so we feel it would be better for you to go home. What do you think?"

Toby crossed his arms firmly over his chest. "No."

"Toby, what I've been hearing about what's been going on... It's bringing back old behaviours, things I thought were behind us." Toby's foster mum squeezed his shoulder. "Pushing you into this was a mistake, and I'm sorry. I should have listened when you said you didn't want to go."

Toby shrugged her hand off his shoulder. "I'm saying I don't want to go now. I want to stay here."

"Is this because of Noah?" Helen asked. "He's been a very good friend to you."

"I want to stay with him," Toby mumbled.

"He's never been very good at making friends," Toby's foster mum explained.

There was a sound at the door, and then it swung open to reveal Noah.

"See?" Toby said, the nonsensical word coming out of his lips without thought. What were they supposed to be seeing? What about Noah’s form could reveal why Toby felt such an attachment to him?

Perhaps the uncertain but friendly smile Noah gave Toby's foster mum, or the gentle way he handed Toby the crackers. "Hey, I'm Noah. Want me to wait outside?"

"They don't serve crackers for breakfast," Toby pointed out.

"I asked the kitchen staff for them and they got me some from the back."

"Yes please, Noah," Helen said, but before Noah could leave Toby grabbed hold of his wrist.

"No, I want him to stay," Toby insisted.

Toby's foster mum kneaded at her temple. "Well, I guess this involves him anyway. Noah, I'm sure you've noticed Toby's struggling here quite a bit. Don't you think it would be better if he went home?"

Noah studied the three of them for a moment. "I'm not sure I really get a say in that."

"The only reason he wants to stay is for you," Toby's foster mum explained. "If he leaves, would you be willing to keep in email contact?"

"Yeah, of course," Noah said. "I mean, I'd be disappointed if we didn't keep contact somehow."

Toby wriggled his way out from under his foster mum's arm and shuffled away from her on the bed. "It's not the same. I want to stay here. I have my medication now and we have a risk management plan so it'll be better, it'll be fine. I want to stay."

Noah's lips twisted in consideration. "I'll be eighteen in a few months. I could come visit you then."

Toby shook his head. "I want to stay."

"Camp doesn't last forever," Toby's foster mum pointed out.

Toby's arms tightened over his chest. He wasn't sure if he was being defiant or hugging himself. "No."

"If he wants to stay..." Noah gave Toby's foster mum a shrug. "Can't you just come and get him if he changes his mind? He can use my phone any time."

Toby's foster mum chewed her lip as she considered that. "He's sixteen. I shouldn't have brought him here when he didn't want to come, and I have no right to take him away again if he wants to stay. As long as he's not in any danger, I shouldn't be making his decisions for him."

"I want to stay with Noah," Toby said. "That's my decision."

"And I respect that, but..." Helen was saying when Toby tuned her out and focussed his attention on getting the seal on his medication box open. He couldn't ignore the sound of her voice, but his brain felt scrambled enough that language took effort to process and so it wasn't difficult to turn her into background noise.

Noah knelt down in front of Toby and handed him the little packet of crackers and a bottle of water. Toby had the sudden urge to lean down and boof his head against Noah's like a cat seeking attention, but he managed to resist.

Toby slowly ate the crackers with one hand while watching his other gently tremble. Another withdrawal symptom. The conversation continued around them, Helen tactfully trying to convince his foster mum that Toby should leave and his foster mum insistently supporting Toby's decision. Noah sat down and leant against Toby's leg, close enough for comfort but not affectionate enough to put how free they were with touch on display.

It wasn't easy to force the crackers down around his nausea, but determination got Toby through enough of them that he could wash his medication down behind them without fear of them coming back up. Well, not for any reason the crackers on their own wouldn’t have made him throw up, anyway.

Eventually Helen gave up on trying to convince Toby's foster mum Toby shouldn't stay and left. Toby felt better with her gone, with only people who really cared about him around. He lay down on his bed with his head in his foster mum's lap and let her stroke his hair while she started up a conversation with Noah.

"Oh!" she said when Noah mentioned plans to buy his own car and began searching through her handbag. She pulled out Toby's little toy car and held it out for him to take. "Scott thought you might like to have it."

"Who's Scott?" Noah asked as Toby climbed off of the bed and sat down on the floor next to him.

"Oh, my husband," Toby's foster mum said. "He's not very good at the emotional things, but in his own way. When Toby first came to stay with us, he was all but unreachable. Wouldn't talk, wouldn't let anyone touch him, got upset at the slightest thing. Then Scott gave him that car and Toby just sat down on the floor and played with it for hours. Eventually he let Scott join in and that's how Toby started opening up to us."

Toby pushed down on the car and pulled it back before releasing it to send it skidding across the wooden floor. Noah went to fetch it and sent it zooming back in Toby's direction.

Toby's foster mum reached a hand out over the edge of the bed to stroke Toby's hair. "Scott engages with Toby's interests better than I ever have. They watch movies and play games. Scott tried to get him into fishing and sport, typical boy things, but you really have to engage with Toby's own interest."

"Yeah, I get that," Noah said while reaching over to grab the car as it skidded past him. "We watch movies on my iPad. Toby, you got any consoles? We could play some games together when I come visit you."

Toby frowned at him. "I'm not leaving."

Noah smiled and shook his head. "Not now, but eventually, when camp ends. Then I'll come visit, okay?"

"Okay."

Toby's foster mum offered to take Toby to lunch before she went home, but when she said Noah couldn't come because they didn't have permission from his parents Toby declined. Somehow Toby felt like if there was too much distance between the two of them Noah would be taken away from him.

After she left Noah brought Toby lunch from the cafeteria, then lingered for a while making sure Toby was okay. Noah wasn't like Toby, though. He couldn't stay cooped up inside for days at a time without getting antsy. Toby didn't mind. As long as he knew Noah was coming back, that he would be there to cuddle up with Toby and watch a movie after dinner, Toby didn't mind.

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