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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9. Chapter 9

The next day, Thursday, Toby took the last of his medication. Running out hadn't been a surprise — he'd known exactly how many days he had left — but it was a worry. His foster mum was supposed to come to visit after work on Friday and bring him more, he'd told her that was when he would need more, but... but he hadn't made sure she wrote it in her planner, he had been too busy being angry to stress its importance. It wouldn't have been the first time she forgot his medication.

Friday morning Toby woke up feeling anxious, and the later in the day it got the more anxious he became. It wasn't very logical. His foster mum got off work at five and the drive to the camp was at least two hours, so there was no way she'd be there any earlier than seven. It made no sense to be more anxious at three in the afternoon than he had been at nine in the morning.

It did, however, make sense for his anxiety to go up as seven passed and then eight. It should have been relaxing, laying in the curve of Noah's arm while they watched a movie, but all Toby could do was chew on his lip and tap nervous rhythms with his fingertips on the arm Noah had wrapped around him as he waited for his foster mum to come or not come. It was getting late.

Noah sighed and paused the movie. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," Toby said just a little too quickly. He'd known the question was coming.

"Nothing, huh?" Noah asked as he took hold of Toby's tapping fingers and stilled them. "Toby..."

Toby scowled and shoved Noah's hand away. "Don't."

Noah sat up, releasing Toby. "If you don't tell me what's wrong, I can't help."

"I didn't ask for your help," Toby grumbled, turning his face away from Noah.

Toby didn't want Noah's help because he knew Noah would just advise him to do what was sensible. To go to the office and have them call his foster mum or something. He knew that was the most logical solution, but he didn't want to go to the office. And what if they wanted him to talk to her on the phone? He didn't like phones.

"Fine, I'll back off," Noah said as he stood. He tapped the iPad against Toby's elbow until he took it. "Finish watching the movie on your own if you like."

Toby did finish the movie, or at least he held the iPad in front of him while it played. How could he enjoy it without Noah's arm wrapped around him?

When ten came around, time for bed, Toby had given up on his foster mum coming that night. His bedtime routine felt wrong, incomplete, without taking his medication. It took him a long time to get to sleep.

#

Toby woke up feeling okay, but wasn't surprised when, halfway through his morning shower, he started feeling twitchy and slightly nauseated. He'd missed a dose of his medication a few times before, so he was quite familiar with the sudden and extreme withdrawal symptoms. Ugh.

"Coming to breakfast?" Noah asked with a smile as Toby stepped out of the bathroom.

"No," Toby said, his voice taking on that tone that always got him accused of sulking. He flopped face down on his bed.

Noah sighed. "Toby, you really need to tell me what's wrong."

"No I don't," Toby said into his blanket. "I don't have to do anything I don't want to."

Toby felt Noah sit down on the end of his bed. "Okay, let me change that to should. You should tell me what's wrong. Did I do something?"

"No," Toby grumbled. "Go away."

As soon as Noah's weight lifted off the bed, Toby regretted his words. He didn't mean it, he just... Doing things about his problems was hard. He'd rather just wait until they inevitably resolved themselves.

"Want me to bring you back some breakfast?" Noah asked a couple of minutes later.

"No," Toby said again. "Wait, yes. Toast."

"What do you want on it?"

"Just toast," Toby said, and then realised he had an opportunity to excuse his behaviour without lying or giving too much truth away. "I feel nauseous. Dry toast or crackers help."

Toby heard Noah approach, felt him lean against the side of the bed next to Toby's head. "Do you need to go to the nurse?"

"Toast, please. Thank you."

"Pfft." Noah ruffled a hand through Toby's hair, getting a muffled grumble in response. "I'll be back soon. Feel better."

The cabin door shut behind Noah and Toby rolled over onto his back and stared up at the ceiling. His foster mum would probably come today. It seemed likely, even if she had forgotten he needed his medication. It was the weekend, and even Helen had said his foster mum would be here on the weekend. Of course, Sunday was also the weekend.

When Noah returned with the toast Toby sat up and rubbed a hand over his eyes. Movement made him dizzy. Without bothering with thanks, he took a piece of toast and ate.

The food helped with the nausea, but it didn't stop Toby's head feeling foggy every time he moved or the low level anxiety that had him making repetitive chh sounds with his mouth before he caught himself and stopped. He funneled the tension into tapping instead, a slightly more acceptable tic.

The tension between them was obvious as Noah hovered around Toby's bed or sat on his own fiddling with his phone, sending Toby frequent glances. He hadn't asked again if Toby was okay. Not when Toby got grumpy with him every time he tried to get him to talk about it.

Toby wasn't sure how much of the mounting anxiety was because he hadn't taken his medication and how much of it was because time was ticking away and his foster mum still hadn't shown up. He felt sicker and sicker as the day wore on, and more and more like a helpless child.

In some ways Toby was ahead of his peers — his grades were very good, and he would have skipped a year more than once if others hadn't thought it would have been bad for his social development. In other ways, though... There was part of Toby's mind that had never developed beyond the little kid stage. He wasn't sure if it ever would. That part of him came out at times like this.

It was dark by now and Toby was crying into his pillow as quietly as he could. He didn't want Noah to know. Of course, with the two of them in the same small room and Noah watching Toby so closely, it would have been hard for him to miss. Noah's footsteps approached and the bed dipped next to Toby's head, and Toby knew he'd been caught.

"I really think you should go to the nurse, Toby," Noah said. "If it's this bad."

Toby made a sound of annoyance and punched out at Noah weakly, not intending to hurt, just to express himself.

Noah took Toby's hand when it stilled against his thigh, stroked the back of his palm firmly like Toby liked. "You want a hug?"

The part of Toby that was angry, angry at his own vulnerability, wanted to shout at Noah and push him away, but the scared little boy part needed this. He wrapped his arms around Noah's thigh as best he could in place of answering, then clung to Noah when he lay down next to him.

This wasn't all anxiety or nausea. The medication did more than keep him calm and reduce his stimming. It steadied his emotions. Without them, especially when they were dropped quickly, Toby felt like he was lost in a storm of hurt, no shelter in sight. Noah's hand was in his hair now, though, and the other was stroking soothing lines down his back. It both helped and made Toby cry harder.

"Toby, come on," Noah said into the top of Toby's head. "We really need to get you to the nurse. I know you don't want to, but-"

"I'm not sick," Toby said into Noah's shirt, half whine, half sob.

"You said you were feeling sick earlier."

"Feeling sick," Toby stressed. "Not sick."

Noah rubbed at Toby's scalp with his fingertips. "Okay. Why are you feeling sick?"

Toby did his best to steady his breathing before speaking. "Because I ran out of medication." Toby had to pause to calm down before continuing. "My foster mum was supposed to bring me more, but she forgot."

Noah sighed, causing an unpleasant tickle to brush against Toby's ear. "Okay, then you need to call her."

"No, I don't want to go to the office." Toby twisted his hands in Noah's shirt. "I don't want to."

"Toby, hey, I have a phone." Noah stroked his hand down the side of Toby's face but stopped when Toby grimaced away from the touch. "Do you know her number?"

"I don't like phones," Toby mumbled, knowing he just sounded petulant.

"If you give me her number, I can call her."

Toby pushed himself out of Noah's embrace and rubbed at his teary eyes. "Okay."

Noah went to get his phone and Toby recited the number. He could remember the phone number and address of every house he'd ever lived in, plus any mobile numbers he'd been given.

There were a few moments of silence while Noah held the phone to his ear, and then Toby heard the sound of his foster mum's voice, quiet and indistinct, on the other end of the line.

"Oh, hey, my name's Noah," Noah said. "I'm sharing a cabin with Toby."

A pause.

"Well, not really. He said you were supposed to bring him his medication but forgot? He missed his dose last night and he's feeling a bit unwell and upset." Noah nodded along to whatever Toby's foster mum was saying on the other end of the line, though clearly she couldn't see him. "Okay, tomorrow morning. I'll tell him that. Yeah, of course. It's no problem. See you then."

As Noah hung up the phone, Toby crawled halfway into his lap and leant back against his chest.

Noah wrapped his arms around Toby, holding him securely. "She'll bring it tomorrow morning. The pharmacies will all be shut tonight."

"It's too late to drive now anyway," Toby murmured, his crying mostly stopped. "You shouldn't drive tired. It's dangerous."

"Mm, that's very true." Noah ran his hands up and down Toby's arms. "What can I do to make you feel better? Food? Movie? Game?"

"Movie."

"Okay, movie it is."

Toby felt a little better, a little more stable, now that a clear plan of action had been made. Unknowns scared him. He still felt nauseated and dizzy, but at least he felt safe, laying there with his head on Noah's shoulder as they watched some mindless shooty movie. Things weren't okay yet, but they would be.

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