Toby can tell there's something different about Five Star Chef's kitchen manager the moment he steps in the room. He's not even looking for a connection yet, but he can feel an undercurrent of thought lashing around him so strong it's almost palpable. Still, he shrugs it off. He hasn't felt that kind of powerful mind since Magnus Elphrenson and from this guy's write up his genius extends to culinary organization and not much farther.
Michelle slips into the seat beside him and Toby lowers his shields in preparation, his partner's thoughts seeping in as easy as breathing. He's promised not to read her in anything but an emergency though and he brushes her thoughts aside with the ease of practise until they're a distant buzz in the back of his head.
Alex's description of Jesse Worthier as slightly OCD doesn't begin to cover it. He takes offence to the very idea of a contaminated anything in his kitchen, vehemently denies any chance of a peanut product at Marcel's station, and scoffs at the idea of needing a list of the items they took for evidence. Then he backs it all up with descriptions, badge numbers, and infinite knowledge of exactly what they confiscated giving Toby his first inkling into what that undercurrent of thought is.
"You have a photographic memory?" Toby asks just to confirm what he's already sensed.
"The correct term is eidetic recall." Worthier corrects and a flicker of thought from Michelle makes him bite back a smirk, Of course it is.
His partner's already recognized what kind of an asset a memory like that could be though and Michelle leans forward in interest. "You know a memory like that would be very useful in our investigation."
Jesse Worthier takes offence to that as well of course, "If you're suggesting that I saw anyone contaminating Marcel's food you're mistaken."
"We're suggesting that you might have seen something you don't even realize is significant," Toby asks. "Do you remember seeing anything unusual in the last couple of days?"
"Of course," Worthier agrees for the first time in the interview, "One sees unusual things every day. Lately there have been a few."
Toby nods, about to encourage him to continue. It's a simple rearranging of his mental shields to tap into Worthier's thoughts and he immediately wishes he hadn't. That undercurrent of thought redirects, a rapid torrent of images pouring from Worthier's mind through his faster than he can register them.
A car covered in parking tickets, the back of a woman with long brunette hair and high heels, a postmarked cardboard box being opened. Gabrielle slapping their victim, Marcel, as Raven Masters watches.
It blends and blurs until he can't separate the images anymore. A mix of sound and colour and thought and emotion so powerful it's almost physically painful. It's always been the bane and the boon of reading minds. He never just gets the information they're after, but the setting and the feelings, both good and bad, that go with it.
He squeezes his eyes shut and tries to pull back out of Jesse Worthier's mind. The hand under the table resting on his knee curls into a fist, trying to raise the mental walls that keep strangers' thoughts from overwhelming him, but his concentration's shot and he can't marshal his own thoughts enough to do much more than slow it down.
"Toby?" It's Michelle's voice, out loud and in his head, ringing sharp and clear through the confusion of Worthier's thoughts. He's going to have to apologize to her later for this, but he uses that beacon to gather his scattered concentration. Focus only on my voice, Ray had told him as a child. Later, when he was older and more in control. Find a single point of focus and use it to block out everything else.
He focuses on Michelle, on her concern, sees himself through her eyes for just a moment before the maelstrom of Jesse's thoughts washes it away, let's himself feel her steadying determination. It helps ease the pounding in his head and then he pulls away. He's already invaded her privacy enough, but that second gives him enough time to pull his walls back up.
She reaches out to him, hand hovering hesitantly over his shoulder, like she isn't sure if her touch will do more harm than good, but by then he has enough control to blink and meet her gaze. He startles to realize it's only been a handful of seconds since she spoke, it's felt like much longer inside of Worthier's mind, and their witness is still sitting there. Toby shakes his head and pushes his chair back, waving a hand at his temple in explanation to Michelle as he stutters, "Sorry, I just have this headache. Excuse me."
He slips out of the conference room and makes straight for the stairs. His control is still tenuous at best and there are far too many people around, their thoughts pressing entirely too close. It makes the pressure behind his eyes build as he pushes open the door to the stairwell and starts climbing.
Toby stands right at the edge of the IIB headquarters' roof leaning against the rail and closes his eyes. He's never been afraid of heights and it's easy to lose yourself up this high. He can feel the heat rising off the concrete at his feet, hear the whistling of the wind in his ears, but his attention is focused inwards. He lowers his mental shields and stretches his range as far as it'll go, letting the wash of other peoples' thoughts wipe away the tension of Worthier's rapid fire mind.
Toby doesn't really understand the concept of silence. It's an abstract thing to him, something he can't really grasp. Even with his mind shut down, there's always that brush of other people's thoughts against his consciousness, a stray whisper here and there slipping through. Instead he opens his mind until it all just blurs together and finds peace in being able to lose himself like this.
It's been a while since his control was tested to this extent, even longer since he's felt the need to fall back on the tricks Ray taught him all those years ago. He needs the reassurance that in his time as a full-fledged cop he hasn't lost any of his finely tuned control though and he focuses outward again. It's a tricky thing, pulling his senses away from the borrowed sensations of other people, but also one he mastered a long time ago. He blinks blurry eyes back into focus and sees only the Toronto skyline stretched in front of him.
He raises his hand in front of his face and curls his fingers slowly into a fist. The trick to reading minds has never been hearing peoples' thoughts; it's always been making it stop, and as he curls his fingers in he focuses on the illusion of silence. He raises his mental walls one brick at a time and grins to himself as the murmur of voices eases.
Great, how the hell do you break a mind reader?
The thought slices through his half raised walls like a knife, a familiar wave of exasperated irritation coming with it. Toby grits his teeth and tries not to act like he heard that. Instead he curls his fingers back into a fist and raises his walls the rest of the way, because as much as he'd like to eavesdrop some things are better left alone. "Becker," he says, making a point of not turning to see who it is, because sometimes he's far too easy to mess with.
The staff inspector pauses and Toby can almost feel just how freaked out he is, but Brian Becker has never been one to let anything throw him off for long and he moves closer after a minute, "You know you're breaking about a dozen safety violations just by being up here, right?"
Toby smiles at the hint of unease in the older man's voice, but moves to turn away from the rail anyway. His head spins and his vision blurs, spots dancing before his eyes like the after images of looking at the sun, and he barely manages to latch his fingers around the top rung before his knees buckle. He clutches his fingers into a fist before releasing them; it's not doing any good anyway. The pressure behind his eyes builds into a spike of pain reverberating in his skull as Toby presses his fingertips into the tender skin at his temple and tries to focus on breathing through it. He's had migraines before, they're an unfortunate side effect of his own rather peculiar brain chemistry, but this is something very different. Like the blistering pain of trying to read Magnus Elphrenson, it twists past his defences and worms its way into his mind.
He remembers being a kid in the institute before Ray found him. The sensory overload of so many minds pressing against his had almost driven him crazy, the constant stream of sight and sound and thought washing away his sense of self. It had felt remarkably similar, the pain writhing behind his shields and tearing them down from the inside out. Abruptly he realized that it made a surprising amount of sense. Jesse Worthier had a photographic memory and well Toby himself had a better recall than most people, he definitely wasn't used to that kind of input. It gave him a bit of an idea as to what he was dealing with.
He stopped fighting the read he'd gotten off of Worthier, let it flow over him. The images burned behind his retinas like the after effects of staring at the sun and the pain eased with it, his delicate mental balance stabilizing. As it did Toby became aware of other things as well, like the fact that there was a hand resting on his shoulder, Becker crouched down beside him shaking him, "That'sit.I'mcalling911."
Toby jerked back, alarm filling him, and snapped maybe a little too quickly, "No, don't. I'm fine."
Becker pulled his hand away into a moment of awkward silence and it took Toby a few seconds to realize that he hadn't spoken out loud. Well, shit. Becker already didn't trust him and he really didn't need to give him another reason. "I'm sorry," Toby said immediately, pulling back to stand on his own two feet as Becker followed suit. "I didn't mean to-" He waved a hand at his head in a slightly awkward explanation. He doesn't have an agreement with Becker like the one he has with Michelle per say and well Oz and Tia have gotten used to, or even accepted his occasional slip ups; he knows how unnerving that could be to a guy like Becker.
The silence stretched just to the edge of awkwardness before Becker nodded decisively like he'd come to some kind of conclusion. Toby doesn't really know what to expect from him, because Becker's reactions to him have varied from mild distrust to open suspicion. He opens his mouth to try to explain, but gets cut off as the staff inspector demands, "What was that? Because you didn't look fine."
Toby sighs, rubs his fingers against his still throbbing temples and debates how to answer that. "It's hard to explain," he settles on rather lamely and winces when Becker's expression hardens. "I wasn't expecting Worthier to have a photographic memory. I got more than I could handle when I tried to read him."
"So what? You can't read him at all?" Becker shifts, looking for the world like he'd rather be anywhere but having this conversation and Toby can relate in more ways than one.
"No, just the opposite," Toby says shaking his head and then grimaces as the move makes the world spin for a moment. "He remembers everything he sees with blazing clarity. I'm not used to that kind of input. It caught me off guard."
Becker shifts, looking vaguely uncomfortable but also cautious in a way that makes Toby nervous. Brian Becker is a lot of things, but at the base of it all is a brash cop that takes tact with a grain of salt. "I didn't realize you could be affected like that."
Toby straightens, pulls his fingers away from his temple, and tries to ignore the fact that his hands are still shaking with the last tendrils of adrenaline. There's a challenge in Becker's words, his questioning of Toby's abilities coming as a surprise that it really shouldn't. He pulls himself together and hopes he looks steadier than he feels as he completes Becker's train of thought without bothering to look. "You think it makes me a liability, the fact that picking through someone else's head can affect me."
"No," Becker said immediately, looking surprised in a way that makes Toby question everything he thought about the guy. "That's not what I meant. I just never realized."
"Telepathy's the superpower that no one ever picks." Toby retorts, because really it's true. What kid wants to read minds? It's always flight or super speed or strength.
Becker nods oddly silent and this time Toby can't resist. He drops his shields just enough to get a sense of what the other man is thinking. He lets the underlying emotions role over him, feels confusion and irritation and an odd current of concern underpinning it all. Concern. It's not something he's used to feeling from Becker whose thoughts usually range from cold to downright hostile. He let's go for a moment, dives deep and tries to follow that train of thought back to its source.
It's the mess of confusion he'd felt the edges of earlier that greets him, so strong and tangled that it leaves him a little breathless and swirling around it all is a constant litany of Charlie Charlie Charlie. He goes to pull back but pauses as another image rushes from the back of Becker's mind to the forefront of his own. He sees himself from the moments previous crouched by the railing, one hand desperately clutching at his temple. He sees Charlie from years earlier, eyes flashing her hair pulled back into a sleek ponytail that lashes around her shoulders as she shakes her head angrily at Becker, "He's not like that. Toby's a good guy."
Abruptly that confusion makes sense. She'd defended him and he'd gotten her killed. What kind of person did that make him, especially in Becker's eyes?
The staff inspector starts heading for the stairwell but pauses when Toby doesn't follow, "You coming, Logan?"
He remembers the psychologist he'd been forced to see after he saved Michelle's life in the mob case. "You can either choose to see yourself the way he saw you or you can choose to see yourself the way your partner does." Toby remembers Frank and Oz, Ray's care and Michelle's smile the first time he played with baby Carrie. He turns his back on the Toronto skyline and nods to Becker, "Yeah, I'm coming."