skieswideopen (skieswideopen) wrote,

Winter Running (The Listener, Toby, Gen, 1015 words)

Written (very quickly) for the weekly writing challenge at gameofcards.

It started with a missing necklace.

Toby hadn't particularly liked the necklace, but he knew his foster mother did. He also knew, from having being cautioned several times, that it was worth a lot of money. It made for a bad combination when the necklace disappeared the day after Boxing Day.

Bruce and Carol had all five foster kids lined up and were in the middle of their best "lying makes everything worse speech"--something else Toby had heard several times--when Bruce's brother returned home and asked what was going on. Toby had already decided he didn't particularly care for Bruce's brother, who tended to slip in late at night smelling of smoke and booze, and whose presence had resulted in Toby, Mark, and Christopher all being crammed into one room. His regard for Rick slipped several notches further when, upon hearing the story of the missing necklace, Rick pointed at Emily--who was fifteen and had already been suspended twice at school before the break--and said that he'd seen her leaving the house with it, and meanly suggested it might be worth checking local pawn shops.

Emily denied it loudly and was grounded for a month for the lying, and told she'd been doing extra chores until she'd paid off the value of the missing necklace. Toby listened to this pronouncement, fuming but silent. He knew the truth, of course--had read Rick as he lied, seeing Rick remember taking the necklace when no one was looking--but he knew better than to tell Bruce and Carol. Talking about things like that was how you got kicked out of foster homes. Or worse, sent back to the Institute. He'd already taken a risk at Christmas, buying Carol a pair of earrings that she'd never mentioned wanting. That he could pass off as luck. But blaming Rick for the theft--he'd need evidence for that.

The issue taken care of to Bruce and Carol's satisfaction, Emily was sent to her room to ponder her supposed misdeeds and the rest of the kids were sent outside.

Toby joined Mark and Chris in a half-hearted snowball fight, trying to block out Emily's rage and thoughts of running away so that he could focus on how to help her. Not that he particularly liked Emily, who mostly ignored him and the other boys except when she was complaining they were in her way, but it bothered his basic sense of fairness that she was being punished for something she hadn't done. Besides, he disliked Rick a lot.

He could lie and say he'd actually seen Rick take the necklace, of course, but who would believe a kid over an adult? Especially a foster kid, and one who'd set fire to a previous foster family's house at that. No, he needed to catch Rick red-handed. Or rather, he needed Bruce or Carol to catch Rick red-handed. But in order to do that, he needed to find out what had happened to the necklace.

He waited until after supper, when Bruce and Carol were watching television in the front room and Rick had retreated to his borrowed room to get ready for the evening--Toby had seen glimpses of cards and drinks and piles of poker chips--then summoned his courage and knocked on Rick's door. Rick had snarled a bit at the sight of him, but Toby ignored that and asked his questions. What was a pawn shop? Why would you find the necklace in one? Where were the pawn shops? He paid careful attention to the images that played through Rick's mind with each question, focusing extra-hard to block out everyone else so that he could fix Rick's memories firmly in his head.

He'd gotten the name of the pawn shop from Rick; the Yellowpages provided the address. It was a long streetcar ride, but Toby was an old hat at navigating the TTC.

He breathed a sigh of relief when he spotted the necklace in the store. It was easy enough to read the guy at the counter and bargain the price down to an amount equal to what Toby had stolen from Rick's stash while Rick was out the previous night. (From the amount there, he assumed Rick's luck had improved after he sold the necklace.) Necklace safely in his pocket, Toby rode the streetcar home and pondered what to do with it. Hiding it in Rick's jacket pocket would be easy enough, but how to make sure that Bruce and Carol found it?

Eventually he decided he was just going to have to take a hit for the team.

He slipped the necklace into Rick's jacket the next morning when no one was around, then waited until both Anna--who was scrupulously honest and hated by Emily because of it--and Christopher were nearby to go searching with plausible surreptitiousness through Bruce's jacket. He had to sit there for nearly a full minute with his hand in Rick's pocket before Anna finally came into the kitchen, but it was worth it to have her see him pull the necklace out along with the cigarette pack he planned to say he'd been in search of.

Rick's claimed--rather weakly, Toby thought--that Emily had bought back the necklace and sought to frame him. When it was pointed out that Emily had been watched far too closely to have done such a thing, he suggested she'd planned this all along, hiding the necklace and biding her time. Bruce and Carol didn't say too much to that, but the next day, Rick was gone and Emily was told she could go join her best friend at the mall.

Toby was grounded until the end of Christmas vacation for trying to steal cigarettes from Rick. He didn't mind it too much; he needed to study anyway. He'd felt so guilty cheating on his history test before the holidays--even if Ms. Carlson did always think so loudly about what the answers were that it was impossible not to hear her--that he'd decided he'd do whatever it took to earn those grades come January.

He didn't want people to start getting suspicious.

This entry was originally posted at, where it has comment count unavailable comments. Comments are equally welcome on either entry.
Tags: fandom: the listener, fanfic, land comm challenge

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