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?


7. Chapter 7

"What can I do to make you feel better?" Noah asked as soon as they were safely back in their cabin.

Toby carefully examined his hands and decided they needed nothing more than to be washed. "Game."

Noah followed Toby to the bathroom and watched him from the doorway. "You want to play a game? You mean on my iPad?"

"No." Toby rinsed his hands, gently washing the dirt from the tender skin. "I want to watch you play a game."

"Sounds exciting."

Toby shrugged.

"Okay. What kind of game?"

Toby patted his hands dry on the hand towel. "One of those simple puzzle games. Colours and movement."

"Even more exciting. I think I have breakout, or I could download something else. My iPad has its own wifi."

"Breakout's good."

This time when they lay down together on Toby's bed they did touch, Noah laying on his back and Toby against his side pressed in close. Toby wasn't sure of the rules and expectations of these things, but he felt like cuddling and Noah didn't give him any weird looks so he figured it was probably okay.

As Noah started the game, Toby relaxed even further. Watching the simple movement helped clear his mind in the same way that tapping or clicking his tongue did. It was a point of focus.

The peace was shattered about an hour later by a knock on the door.

Toby didn't want to answer the door, wanted to stay hidden away with no one but Noah forever, but Noah seemed only slightly annoyed, letting out a sigh as he stood and stretched. Toby rolled over to face away from the door. Whoever it was, whatever they wanted, Toby was determined it would not involve him.

Of course, there were quite a few inherent problems with making decisions on behalf of the universe. Specifically, that the rest of the universe largely ignored those decisions. So naturally when Noah opened the door the female voice who greeted him asked, "Is Toby here?"

Toby rolled over to face his fate.

For a few moments Toby didn't recognise the woman Noah let in, but eventually he managed to place her features. It had only been a few days ago that he'd met her, but he hadn't looked at her much at the time. He'd been too busy being angry at the whole being sent to summer camp thing.

This woman, with her long blonde hair and slightly crooked teeth, was the camp mental health officer. He remembered her name was Helen, but only because he had a habit of finding associations to remember names by. In this case he'd used Helen of Troy.

"Hello, Toby," Helen said, giving Toby a smile as she sat down on the edge of his bed. "I heard there was a bit of trouble earlier, but you look like you're doing better now."

Toby made a noncommittal sound. He didn't want her. He only wanted Noah.

"I'll be honest with you, we're a bit concerned," Helen continued. "Your carers didn't inform us of the risk."

"Sorry," Toby murmured. "It hadn't happened in almost two years."

"And two of the other boys throwing things at you, that's what set it off?"

Toby nodded, his face rubbing against his pillow. "Mostly."

"That would be very upsetting for anyone, I expect. What do you think the best course of action would be?"

Toby liked that she wasn't talking down to him, but he wasn't very good at answering such broad questions. All he could offer her was a shrug.

"Well, if you don't think you can handle this environment then we can call your carers at any time to come and get you. They were keen to have you give this a go, but I'm sure they wouldn't want you staying in a situation that was causing you too much stress."

Toby hadn't thought about leaving in a couple of days, and now that it was brought up he found he didn't want to go. "No."

"Your carer is coming to see you on the weekend. Perhaps we could discuss things further then?"


Helen smiled. "Great. How about for now we come up with a risk management plan?"

"Okay," Toby said again.

"I think the most important thing is that we avoid a repeat of what happened today," Helen said. "Perhaps, when you go to your activities, you could stay near the councillor? The others are unlikely to cause trouble where he can see it."

Noah, who had been silently watching from his bed until now, spoke up. "But he didn't start it. He wouldn't. Why should he have to do anything different?"

Helen sighed. "If I could ensure all of the other boys would behave themselves I would, but I don't have that power. This isn't about blame or fault, this is about keeping everyone safe."

Noah huffed but didn't try to contest that. "Okay fine, but let me be a point of safety as well. I won't let anyone mess with him."

"That sounds good to me. Toby?"

Toby nodded.

"Great." Helen took a small notepad from the handbag she was carrying and jotted something down. "What else do you think might help?"

Again, Toby didn't know how to even begin answering such a broad question. He shrugged.

"I think it would help if he could skip activities and stay in our cabin when he needs to, no questions asked," Noah suggested.

Helen turned to Toby, eyebrows raised in question, then wrote something else in her notepad when Toby nodded.

"And food," Noah continued. "We're not allowed to take food out of the cafeteria, but when Toby's having a rough day he can't deal with going there. It would help if I could just bring him things when he needs it."

"What do you think, Toby?" Helen asked.

"That would help," Toby agreed. "It's bright and loud and... too much."

"Not a very pleasant environment for you at all," Helen said as she noted down something else. "What else?" Helen asked, her question still directed at Toby even though he had yet to contribute anything useful. She only turned to Noah when Toby shrugged again.

"You seem to know Toby's not an idiot," Noah said. "Can you please talk to the other staff? I swear to God I'm going to punch the next person who talks to him, or to me about him, like he's a fucking four year old."

Helen winced. "Ah. Yes. It can be difficult for those without much experience to understand, especially when they limited exposure they get to him is when he's under stress. I'll make sure to explain things more clearly to anyone who's going to be in frequent contact with him."

Noah nodded stiffly. "That's all I've got. For now."

Helen looked at Toby and, when he nodded too, she stood. "Well, I think this will be a good start. Hopefully we can at least contain things until we get a chance to talk things out with your carers. If you — either of you — have anything else you need to talk to me about, you can ask for me at the main office at any time. Even if it's out of work hours they can contact me if there's an emergency."

"Thanks," Noah said when Toby forgot to offer any response.

When she finally left, Toby let out a long sigh. A lot of good would come out of the conversation, but it has still left him feeling tense.

"More game?" Noah asked.

Toby nodded. "More game."


Neither of them even suggested lunch, just switched to a movie when Noah grew tired of the game and stayed laying close together. Toby had never done anything like this with a boy his own age before — not the friend things or the touchy things.

Toby wasn't sure what to label the cuddling as. It wasn't exactly a normal thing for two guys to do, but Toby wasn't sure it had any kind of significance. Maybe Noah cared just as little about normal as Toby did and was simply allowing it — encouraging it — because even platonic cuddles with other guys felt nice.

When night fell and their stomachs started growling, Noah went out for dinner. He returned half an hour later with their food on a tray instead of carefully smuggled away, so Toby supposed the new rule must have gone into effect.

"What do you want to do now?" Noah asked after they'd eaten.

"Movie," Toby said. "No, wait. You should decide. We keep doing what I want to do and that's not fair."

Noah shrugged and reached for his iPad where he'd left it on Toby's nightstand. "I like making you happy. What kinds of movies do you like?"


"Most. That's helpful. Tell me some you like."

"Fight Club, Casablanca, Lord of the Rings, Titanic—"

"Titanic?" Noah interrupted, shooting Toby an amused smile. "Really?"

"Not so much the romance part," Toby admitted. "But given the time period it was made in they had some really impressive special effects, and I like disaster movies. Well, good disaster movies. There are a lot of bad ones, but I guess that's the case with any genre."

"So this is the way to get you to talk, huh?"

Toby scrunched up his nose. "Sorry."

"I want you to talk to me. I don't even care what about. What else do you like?"

Toby hesitated. He'd been reminded many times that not everyone liked the same things as he did, that not everyone wanted to talk about them incessantly. He had a tendency to get carried away. But Noah was asking. Noah had said he wanted to hear.

"Movies, books, video games," Toby said. "Anything with a story. I want to be a video game programmer one day. I've already started learning to code. I was going to take some distance education courses this summer, but I guess that isn't happening now."

"I'd say I'm glad you're here instead, but that'd be pretty selfish." Noah tapped an app and waited as the loading screen came up. "You don't seem to be having a lot of fun."

"This has been fun. I mean, the second part of today. That didn't involve assault."

"Yeah, I liked the non-violent parts of this day too." Noah lay down next to Toby and wrapped an arm around him. It felt... natural. Toby knew, intellectually, that it was a very odd thing for Noah to do, but it didn't feel strange at all. Just... right. Like this casual touching was just closer to how things should be, a natural progression. Toby yawned as he snuggled in against Noah's side.

"So you like stories," Noah said as he scrolled through his movie library. "Lord of the Rings?"


Earlier Toby had been sure his actions would have pushed Noah away for good, strained their budding friendship beyond repair, but somehow the day had ended with them closer than ever. Despite the last few days having held more anxiety than Toby had felt in years, he was starting to feel glad he'd been sent here. He never would have met Noah otherwise.

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