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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5. Chapter 5

It seemed to have taken less time than expected for Noah to return, but time was doing funny things just then so Toby wasn't sure if that was an illusion.

"I brought you food," Noah said as he approached, his voice soft and his footsteps quiet.

Toby made a sound of acknowledgement. He could manage that much.

Noah sat down on the floor next to Toby's bed and leant against it next to Toby's head. "I brought you fruit salad."

"Not allowed to," Toby murmured.

"It's a stupid rule that doesn't take your needs into account. You want it?"

Toby made an incoherent sound.

"I don't know if that's a yes or a no."

"Later," Toby mumbled. "Maybe."

"Okay," Noah agreed. "I brought you a brownie, too. I don't know if you like those, but I had one and they're pretty good. Got you some more vending machine crap too. You like juice? You like fruit salad, so I thought maybe juice."

The mention of liquids made Toby thirsty. He was dehydrated, he realised. All that crying and now making himself sweat under the blankets had taken its toll. He reached his hand out, nearly hitting Noah in the face.

"You want the juice?" Noah asked.

Toby nodded, his face rubbing against his mattress. A moment later, he felt the cool juice bottle against the palm of his hand.

Toby didn't want to move, but sitting up was a necessary part of drinking. He kept his eyes away from where Noah sat with one arm leant against Toby's bed.

"Thanks," Toby said once he'd drained half the bottle. "And sorry."

Noah reached a hand out to Toby before thinking better of it and pulling it back. "It's no problem."

It was, Toby wanted to insist, but he was too tired to debate it.

Noah stood and walked across the room, and Toby found he missed his presence. It had been a comfort, having somehow there who cared to quietly help him put himself back together. It wasn't long before Noah returned, though, and now he had an iPad in hand. That got Toby's attention like few other thing could have.

"Want to watch a movie or something?" Noah asked.

"Yes," Toby said firmly, no hesitance or mumbling now. Short of being home, in his own bed in his own room with his own things, there was nothing Toby wanted more.

Noah knelt down next to the bed and handed the iPad to Toby. "Do you want to watch the movie with me or without me?"

 

Though there were the same number of options, somehow a yes or no question would have been easier for Toby to process. "With," Toby said after a pause that stretched too long.

Noah stood and walked to his side of the room, retrieved his pillow and returned. By the time Noah sat cautiously down on the edge of Toby's bed, Toby was already scrolling through the apps on Noah's iPad. Not looking for anything, just seeing what was there.

"Mind if I..." Noah gestured in a vague way Toby couldn't decode. "How about you lay down and I lay down next to you so we can both see the screen?"

Toby responded to that with compliance, not words. He was so distracted by the iPad that it wasn't until he felt Noah settle in beside him that he realised what had happened. Noah was in his bed, laying close enough that they touched whenever one of them moved. Toby was okay with that. He wasn't sure if Noah would be, though, if he knew just how okay with it Toby was.

When Noah held out his hand, Toby reluctantly relinquished the iPad to him.

"Preferences?" Noah asked as he scrolled through the apps.

"You choose," Toby said as he adjusted his pillow so that he could lay at an angle where he could see the screen. "No, wait. Nothing loud."

"Okay. What do you think, something restful?"

Toby made a vague sound of agreement. Now that his mind was clearing, he just felt tired.

"Uhh, let's see. I have to admit, most of my shit is pretty actiony. Hugo, maybe? It's a kid's movie, though. I only put it on here because I was babysitting my cousin."

"Good," Toby mumbled. He'd seen it before and had enjoyed it.

As the movie started they both settled in, close but not quite touching. Earlier even thinking about physical contact would have made Toby's skin crawl, but now all he felt was numb and sleepy and he couldn't help wishing he could just close the distance between them, snuggle up to Noah. Toby didn't think that would go down too well, though, so he stayed where he was.

Toby focussed on watching the movie and the last bit of tension left his body. Disappearing into a world of someone else's imagination allowed Toby to forget the real world, if only for a little while.

It was only about nine by the time the movie finished, an hour before Toby's usual bedtime, but he was fairly sure that if he had evicted Noah from his bed and wrapped his blankets tight around his body he could have been asleep in minutes. It was tempting to do just that, but he had an important routine to follow.

Noah had left the food on Toby's nightstand, so Toby didn't even need to get out of bed to eat. He ignored the vending machine food and went for the fresh foods, the fruit salad and the brownie. They wouldn't last long before they spoiled.

Toby wasn't really hungry, was too tired to want food, but he knew his body needed it and, more importantly, that he couldn't take his medication on an empty stomach. He'd only tried that once before and the results had involved vomit. Skipping a dose wasn't much better, leaving him feeling nauseated and anxious by the next morning.

Noah watched without comment as Toby took his medication. By this point in time, though it had only been a couple of days, Toby didn't feel the need to hide it. Noah could see that Toby was different, that he had issues, and if that hadn't scared him away yet a bit of medication wasn't going to make much difference.

On his way to the bathroom Toby grabbed the towels off the floor, reminding him of what he’d done earlier. "I used your towel.”

Noah glanced up from where he was sitting hunched over his iPad on his bed. "Something wrong with yours?"

"No. I used them both."

Noah turned his attention back to the iPad and tapped something on the screen. "Were you really super wet?"

"No. Are you angry?"

"Do I sound angry?"

"I can't tell," Toby admitted after a moment's pause.

"No. I'm not angry," Noah reassured him. "I just didn't get it and I still don't, but I don't mind. I'm not really the kind of get freaked out by shit like that. Who cares?"

"Some people, probably. I think. I'm going to go brush my teeth now."

Noah let out a huff of laughter, though at what Toby wasn't quite sure. "You do that."

Toby went to the toilet, changed into his pyjamas, brushed his teeth, washed his face, all strictly in that order. The routine of it soothed him. Knowing what came next in the sequence usually helped free up his mind for other things, but when he was tired like this it just allowed him to zone out into peaceful neutrality.

When Toby walked out of the bathroom, Noah looked up from his iPad. He was a lot more shirtless than he had been when Toby had left the room. "You're so adorable in your jammies."

Toby looked down at his green bubble patterned flannel pyjama pants and matching T-shirt. They were a little too worn in, but comfortable. They were perhaps designed with someone a bit younger than him in mind, though. Toby wasn't sure if Noah had intended to compliment or insult him, so he didn't respond.

Noah dropped his iPad down onto his bed and sat up properly. "Sorry, that was weird."

If Toby hadn't been so tired he might have made a joke about how 'weird' was his job, but instead he just made a sound of acknowledgement.

"Now I'm the one who can't tell how you feel."

"Tired."

Noah leant forward across his knees. "You know that's not what I meant."

"They're comfortable," Toby explained, because he was too tired and he really wasn't sure what Noah meant but apparently he was supposed to know. "Everyone keeps telling me to throw them away because they're starting to get holes in them." Toby pointed to a patch worn thin on his knee that he'd had to stitch up when it tore. "But I can't find any others this comfortable."

For a moment, Noah just stared. "I can't tell if you were being defensive or if you just defaulted to random rambling because you didn't know what else to say."

"I'm tired," Toby reminded him.

He decided not to add that Noah's shirtless state was really distracting. It wasn't easy to keep his eyes off of the smooth, toned expanse of Noah's naked torso. He had an almost overwhelming desire to go over there and just touch, find out what those muscles felt like under his hands. He didn't, though, because that would have been stupid.

Instead he indicated for Noah to turn on his lamp with a pointed finger and a grunt, then turned off the cabin light and headed for his bed. He wrapped himself up tight in his blankets and curled up, and despite the lamp softly illuminating the room he soon fell to sleep.

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