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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14. Chapter 14

When summer ended and Toby had to return to school his foster parents and the slew of professionals responsible for him hoped that having Noah's friendship would open him up to other relationships. It didn't. Noah was Noah and school was school. Noah being awesome didn't suddenly make Toby like anyone else more.

Noah spent his eighteenth birthday alone in a hotel room. Well, not alone, or so Noah said. He had his webcam and his chat client and through them he had Toby. Toby still thought Noah would have had more fun out with some of his more exciting friends, but Noah didn't seem in much of a partying mood. He hadn't planned to leave his dad's house quite so suddenly, but a fight had reminded him that he could leave any time, that he didn't have to put up with any shit from his dad ever again.

Still, it wasn't long before Toby had him smiling and laughing. Toby wasn't sure how he always managed to do that. He didn't really know how to be intentionally funny or cute or seductive, but somehow he always seemed to manage it through Noah's eyes.

Though it was Noah's birthday, he was still the one who put on a show. Toby felt a little bad about that, like he should be doing what he could to make the day special for Noah, but he'd decided he wanted to hold off on doing anything new until Noah came to visit. It wouldn't be long, just as soon as Noah got his life back under control. Besides, the amount of grinning Noah did suggested he didn't mind at all.

As days passed, though, Toby started to worry. Noah had bought a car, and it was only a few hours drive each way between where they lived. Couldn't he have spared a day?

That was selfish, though. Toby knew that. Noah had his own life, his own things he needed to get sorted. Noah seemed more tired these days and went to bed earlier.

#

Wherever Noah was right now, it wasn't a hotel room. He was on his old bed with his fluffy white cat curled up next to his head. When Toby had asked Noah had just smiled.

"I know you don't like things happening on short notice," Noah said, "but I'm coming to visit you tomorrow. If that's okay."

Noah was right, Toby didn't like surprises, but he was fairly sure he could deal with this one. What time? Toby asked.

Noah laughed. "Hmm. I'm tired, so not before, say, ten? Wait, fuck, it's Friday, isn't it? Downside of dating a schoolboy is all that school."

I get home at three thirty, Toby typed.

"I could pick you up from school."

But I have to take a shower after school.

"I have a shower here."

Toby twisted his lips in contemplation. Noah, or a well preserved schedule. Okay, but I have to ask if I’m allowed.

Toby dashed out of his room, then dashed back in with his foster mum in tow when she said she wanted to speak to Noah. As soon as Noah saw her through Toby's webcam he grabbed his shirt and pulled it on.

"Hot wherever you are, is it?" she asked.

"Yes, that's absolutely why I wasn't wearing a shirt. Toby hates it, but you know, gotta take care of my own comfort."

"Of course. Now, I hear you want to borrow Toby tomorrow night?"

Noah's cat, deciding she wasn't get enough attention, head butted Noah's shoulder. He scratched her ear before she became any more demanding. "Yup. Though it pains me, I promise to give him back."

"I'll need your contact information and the addresses of any places you'll be visiting. You'll also need to have him back here by ten."

"Yes ma'am," Noah said, and then got a paw poked at his face because he'd stopped stroking his cat and that was just unacceptable.

"No, seriously, by ten. I'm legally obligated to call the police if he's not back by curfew."

"Ten's his bedtime," Noah said like that was important, because it was and Noah understood.

"Good. We'll see you tomorrow."

Noah let out a deep breath. "Give me some warning next time so I can maybe not be half naked."

I think it would have been more suspicious if I'd done that, Toby typed. Better to act like it's nothing that needs to be hidden.

"Smart," Noah said around a yawn. "Tomorrow, then?"

Toby nodded. Tomorrow.

"See you then."

#

Toby didn't get much work done at school the next day, but that was okay. He frequently had bad days, and as long as everything averaged out to good grades his teachers had learnt it was easier for everyone not to make a fuss when he struggled more than usual.

It was nice, for once, to be worked up and fidgety over something good. It was a little kid at Christmas feeling he usually only got when someone was going to buy him something he really wanted. He couldn't remember ever feeling this way for another person before.

When school finally let out Toby's foster mum was waiting outside the school gates for him because that was where she always waited. The difference today was that Noah was waiting with her.

Toby wanted to leap into Noah's arms and kiss him and... and all kinds of things. That would have been unwise, though, in front of the other students, so Toby settled for a tap of his fingers to the back of Noah's hand and a, "Hi."

Noah gave Toby a grin in return but seemed to understand the need for discretion. Toby was vulnerable enough to bullying as it was.

They said goodbye to Toby's foster mum and then walked to where Noah's car was parked down the street from the school. The car wasn't anything flash as far as Toby could tell from the little he knew about cars, but it was bright red and shiny and new.

"Okay," Noah said once they were both inside the car, "I have a surprise for you, but I know how you feel about surprises. So I'll tell you now if you want or you can wait and have it be a proper surprise."

Toby reached out for Noah's hand and squeezed it as he contemplated. "Is it a good surprise?"

"Why would I-" Noah shook his head. "Yes, it's a good surprise."

"Okay. I trust you."

Noah took his hand back so that he could start the car. "Safe and consensual surprises. It's important."

"Of course."

"You're adorable as hell in your school uniform, by the way."

"Bleh," Toby said as he tugged off his tie. "I hate it. It's uncomfortable."

"I'll give you some of my clothes to change into after your shower," Noah said as he pulled out onto the road.

"You're bigger than me," Toby pointed out.

"That's where the wonders of sweatpants with drawstrings and you looking cute in baggy clothes come in."

"I like sweatpants."

Toby watched out the window as Noah drove. Though he didn't know exactly where they were going, it became clear fairly quickly that they were headed in the direction of the beach. Toby frowned. They weren't going to the beach, were they? Toby hadn't brought his beach shoes.

They got within sight of the ocean before turning off down a side road. Toby assumed they were going to one of the oceanside hotels, but the sign next to the driveway they pulled into said, 'Welcome to Seaview Apartments'.

"It's an ocean, not a sea," Toby said as Noah eased his car into a parking spot. "The North Pacific Ocean. It should be oceanview."

Noah smiled at Toby and shook his head. "I'll put in a strongly worded letter, shall I? Come on."

Toby got out of the car and took hold of Noah's hand as they walked towards the entrance of the apartment building. "Why are you staying here?"

Noah stopped them just inside the doors. "I have to be more direct, don't I? Sorry. I'm renting an apartment here. I've always wanted to live near the beach, and it's close to you, so... surprise?"

Someone better at expressing their emotions might have put on more of a display, but Toby didn't really know how to so he had to rely on words alone to express his feelings. "That's a very good surprise."

Most people took Toby's underwhelming responses to things personally, assumed he didn't care as much as he should, but by now Noah knew him well enough to understand. He swung Toby's arm as he led them towards the elevator. "You want pizza for dinner? I'd cook you something, but I haven't really been food shopping yet and all my cooking shit's still packed."

"I like pizza. But I don't want pineapple on it. Or olives. Or-"

"You can have your own pizza with whatever you want on it."

The elevator doors slid closed and Toby leant his body against Noah's, making a happy humming sound. Pizza was good and Noah was warm. He moved away only reluctantly when the doors to the elevator slid open on Noah's floor.

Noah tried to build up tension before opening the door to his apartment, but Toby just stared at him blankly and swayed from side to side until he gave up and opened the door.

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