Disclaimer: Nothing in The Listener universe is mine, sadly enough. All the recognizable characters are merely borrowed with the promise of returning them in good state. No money is made of this...
Summary: After his last ordeal Toby is uncertain where his telepathy is concerned. Will he loose control again? And what does he do when he unexpectedly ends up in the middle of an undercover police operation?
Author's note: My second fanfiction! After the overwhelming amount of very positive reviews I received for my first story, I decided to keep writing. The story is not finished, so this one will take a lot longer to publish compared to the previous one. However, as I noticed no one is posting anything new recently, I wanted to treat you guys to my story.
Of course I would love to hear your views on this new storyline. It sort of continues where the last one ended. Maybe you should read that one first if you haven't already. I think you can read this one on itself, but it may make more sense if you know more of the background. Especially for this first chapter as it mostly ties up the loose ends from the previous story.
Extra note 1: English still is not my native tongue, but your positive feedback has improved my selfconfidence with the language a lot. I have even tried writing this story in the past tense. Probably with more mistakes this time, as past verbs are very tricky for a non-native speaker...
Extra note 2: I am not a big fan of romantic stories; however, the relationship between Olivia and Toby will be a very present fact in the story. It's nothing fluffy, I promise. I just enjoy couples being attracted to each other and at the same continuously pushing each other away for some or other reason...
Extra note 3: I also love my main characters to have a rough time, hence the rating (to be on the safe side) for later chapters. No promises that Toby will not get hurt this time... Call me crazy!!
Extra note 4: As in my previous story all the telepathy readings will be in Italic.
Extra note 5: As the character of Ray is not really very clear to me in the series, I am not sure he's portrayed quite accurately in this chapter. But hey, call it writer's freedom, this is how he fitted nicely into my own universe. ;-)
Toby sat in Ray's office. Since his rescue a few days ago this was the first time he had actually left his apartment. He had come over very early to avoid the morning crowd. Not fully trusting his telepathy after the whole ordeal of his kidnapping, he didn't want to loose control again like that.
"So you got flashes from your past? And it mixed with the things you were getting from those guys?" Ray asked with his elbows resting on the desk and his hands folded underneath his chin.
Toby sighed. Ray wanted to know every single detail of what had happened to him, but since he himself didn't really understand it, he got tired of the never-ending questions. He just needed to get his gift back in control and that was it. "Yes, Ray. Flashes from my past mingled with their thoughts."
"And you couldn't distinguish between them?"
"Were the memories things you remembered before?"
"Yes. Things from when I lived out on the street."
"Yeah, right." Ray leaned back into his chair and studied Toby's face. The boy looked tired. Not tired as in a lack of sleep, but tired from deep within. Like he had been fighting battles with his inner mind. He probably had…
"Look Ray," Toby sat up straight, wincing slightly at his still healing ribs, and wiped a hand over his face. "I understand you want to figure out as much as you can and I am your very special project and all, but right now I need your help with my telepathy. Have you got any new techniques I could use?"
"Sorry, Toby," Ray apologized. "This is just sort of fascinating. But don't think you are just a project to me, ok? I care for you and maybe I get carried away a bit by my professional interest, but I deeply care for you."
"I know," the telepath answered softly. "But right now I need you to be a friend, not a psychiatrist."
Ray nodded. If there was one thing he regretted, it was not taking Toby home with him all those years ago. At that time he just couldn't see a way how. He was a single guy without much of a social life. He lived for his work; helping troubled kids was his calling, so to speak. Toby would be better off with parents who really wanted a kid, who had the time and could give him all the love he deserved. Or that's what he had told himself.
To be very honest, Ray had not been ready to give up his way of life to raise a small boy even if he had been giving the opportunity, which he hadn't. It had been a selfish decision and now, years later, he regretted it immensely. He should have fought more for the kid. But how could he have known Toby would become such a pawn in the foster care system?
"What are you thinking?" A soft voice interrupted his musings.
"You really need to ask?" Ray raised his eyebrows.
Toby cocked his head sideways. "I don't want to invade your privacy."
"Since when do you care?"
"I just thought I was being polite." Toby shrugged. "And don't blame yourself for how my life turned out. It's not your fault."
"So much for my privacy." Ray smiled and sat up again. "Let's not dwell on the past, ok? It's not why you're here. You say you can't control your telepathy anymore?"
"To be honest, I don't know. I haven't really been outside much," Toby admitted. How should he put this? "What if it happens again?"
"Why would it happen again? You're not planning on getting beaten up again, are you?"
"Of course not. But what if my telepathy has evolved to another level?"
"What do you mean exactly?"
Toby searched for the rights words for a moment. "When I was a kid and I couldn't control my gift, I just got hits from other people. There was never any interfering of my own mind."
"And this time you fear that every time you now get a flash you will also relive some things from the past." Ray understood the boy's apprehension.
"Is that possible?"
"Toby, everything is possible. It's not like there is a manual on how telepathy works."
"Thanks Ray, that's very helpful," Toby sounded annoyed.
"Look. From what I have learned over the years, I don't think you should be scared of loosing control again. And I doubt you will relive your childhood either. Those were extreme circumstances. However, the only way to figure it out is to go out there and train your gift again. Use the techniques you've always used."
Toby stayed silent. Deep down he knew that was the only way, but somehow he had counted on some more reassurance from Ray. He stood up. "Thanks Ray."
"You want me to come with you? You know, in case things do go downhill."
"And thank you so much for your belief in me." Toby nonchalantly waved his hand through the air. "I'll be fine. See you later, Ray."
See you later, kid. He should no longer consider Toby a kid, really.
Slowly opening the door from Ray's house onto the street, Toby let the morning rush wash over him. Hesitating a second he looked around, mentally checking his mind's barriers. Walking back towards his apartment he concentrated so hard on not hearing anyone's thoughts that he barely registered where he was going. On this Friday morning the city was alive and vibrant, people running left and right, trying to get wherever it was they needed to be.
To his own relief he did manage to control his gift without even having to use the techniques he mastered as a child. No uninvited flashes entered his brain, no memories plagued him. Some of the tension left his body. There was still one more test he wanted to perform, just to be on the safe side.
Entering his apartment block he went straight up to the roof. Looking down he had a fairly good view on this part of the city with cars, pedestrians and even a few cyclists crisscrossing each other in the streets. Toby sighed deeply. Ray was right: there was only one way to find out if he still had total control.
Slowly Toby let the defences in his brain down. Carefully at first. A few random thoughts strayed into his mind. How am I supposed to get there now? Stupid bus! Flash. Check out those legs! Wow! Flash. Remember to bring potatoes.
He easily managed to push these thoughts to the back of his mind. Feeling more at ease now, he opened up his mind even further. More thoughts came flooding in but nothing funny happened. Finally completely letting down his barriers, Toby's eyes lost their focus. The strange thoughts invading his head didn't mean anything anymore; they melted together in a buzzing hum of noise. Some flashes came with vivid images that were gone before he even registered them.
When asked how exactly it felt, Toby could never answer it truthfully. Right at this point he had no control over the thoughts as they entered his mind. They floated in and out, not making any sense whatsoever. He had lost contact with reality. There was absolute chaos in his mind. However he did stay in control of his own mind.
The feeling should be terrifying but Toby had never known anything else. In a weird way it was comforting to be able to let himself go for a few moments. As a kid, when he had finally learned how to control his telepathy, he had often lost himself in someone else's mind. It had been an easy way to escape his present life for a while.
When he grew up that need to run away somewhat lessened and he closed his mind off completely for most of the time. That didn't mean it was quiet in his head. There were always stray thoughts at the edge of his brain, a strange image flashing through his head every now and again. But over the years he had learned to live with that; he didn't know how silence in your head felt like, so he could honestly say that he didn't miss it.
And right now it was comforting to loose himself again like this, as it meant that he still had every control over his ability as he once had. The strange thoughts were still swirling uncontrollably in his head, a fact that would have caused every other person to panic, but Toby was smiling. His telepathy was like a very delicate game to play and he was glad that he still knew all the rules.
"Toby, come on! We'll be late." Oz waited impatiently at the door.
After a week of recovering from his ordeal, Toby was expected back at work today. And although he checked his control on his ability, he was still quite nervous.
At work was where he had gotten the strongest hits so far. Hits that slammed into his brain like a sledgehammer. They weren't the random thoughts from strangers in the street; they were the cries for help from people in need. And Toby wasn't sure whether he could handle those attacks yet.
Of course there was another reason for his nervousness as well. Since he left the hospital last week he hadn't seen or heard from Olivia. After the present she gave him, he had had good hopes of her finally coming to terms with his ability. But she hadn't called or come by and he wasn't sure where that left them.
Taking a final look in the mirror, he ran his hands through his hair. More prepared than this he would never be and he would have to face her at some point. "I'm coming!"
"Ryder will be glad to have you back," Oz said, driving his orange car through the morning traffic. "I don't know but I get the feeling he doesn't trust me that much and he actually needs you to keep an eye on me."
Toby shifted uncomfortably in his seat. His friend wasn't too far from the truth. "You are a great paramedic, Oz. It doesn't matter what Ryder thinks about you personally, as long as you perform well."
"Yeah, that's not reassuring," Oz glanced sideways. "You are supposed to say that Ryder does like me. Hell, tell me that I am his favourite."
"You are his favourite."
"Right," Oz shook his head. "You need to work on your ability to lie."
"That's a required ability?"
"Of course. Especially when you want to call yourself my friend."
"I'll keep that in mind," Toby said. He gazed out of the window, enjoying his friend's easy company and the absurd conversations they were always having. Things seemed to be back to normal and no unwelcome flashes had bombarded his brain.
"Should I ask him how he's feeling?" "Oh, sorry!" Oz' face reddened when Toby suddenly turned back to look at him.
"I am fine, Oz. Really," Toby insisted when he noticed Oz giving him a sceptical look. "I told you: I went to talk to Ray, I practised my techniques and nothing weird happened. Whatever occurred last week was a fluke. Extreme circumstances."
"Sure." Oz sounded unconvinced. "You got those flashes because they were beating you up, right?"
"Yes and I am not planning to let that happen again any time soon."
"Hey man, as long as you don't pass out on the job, I'm good." Thinking for a moment Oz grinned all of a sudden. "You know, Ryder may be wrong about trusting you more than me. After all, between the two of us, you are the freak."
Toby raised his eyebrows. "Thanks mate, just what I needed to hear."
Ignoring his friend's comment, Oz kept grinning during the rest of the ride. Ryder may not particularly like him, but at least he was the normal one in this partnership.
The hospital seemed to be fairly quiet for a change. No frantic doctors running back and forth, no patients were rushed through the corridors. Toby walked towards the coffee room further down the hall, where he knew Olivia usually spent her free time to keep up with her paperwork.
The pretty brunette indeed sat at a table, her back towards the door, which gave Toby the opportunity to check her out without her noticing. She wore her hair in a ponytail as usual and her wide lab coat hid her nicely curved body. Nevertheless, Toby thought she looked as beautiful as ever, especially since he knew what was underneath the coat.
"Knock, knock." He walked further into the room, smiling at her shocked face when she turned around in a fright.
"Toby, for crying out loud! You scared the hell out of me." Olivia clutched her heart and closed her eyes for a second.
"Sorry," Toby answered, not feeling apologetic at all. "How are you?"
"I should be the one asking you. You were the one being kidnapped." Olivia stood up from the chair she was sitting in. She studied the handsome man in front of her. He seemed ok, the bruises had healed and his eyes held that lively, boyish laughter in them again. But she also noticed the well-hidden carefulness in his movements. His ribs were still causing him some grief then.
He lingered on the spot a bit, not coming too close towards her. Olivia sighed. Apparently the secretive, distant posture that came naturally with the package seemed still in place as well.
"I am fine, Liv," Toby answered softly after a few moments of silence. "You could have called earlier to check up on me." His voice betrayed a hint of accusation.
"So could you," the doctor replied. "After all, I made sure my number was in your phone."
Toby slowly nodded his head. "You needed some time, I didn't want to be too pushy."
"Always a reason, haven't you?" Olivia's smile belied her rather harsh words. "And before you ask, I am still not very happy with the whole telepathy. But…" She hesitated.
"But what?" Toby insisted.
She stayed quiet, looked up and stared him deep in the eyes. "But I am willing to give it a try." And after another heartbeat: "Because I love you. I always have."