A/N: Written for my alphabet_soup challenge over at LJ. 26 letters, 26 fics. This one was prompted by starrylizard, and betaed by Tania. My first dip into the Listener fandom. Enjoy and let me know your thoughts about it:)
C is for Colors
People say that when someone is angry, they see red. That wasn't true and Toby could attest to that. He'd met several people who were 'seeing red' and it was never real. Anger didn't have a color. It pulsated and it hurt his mind when he read an angry person, but he never saw any colors involved. Only pulsating light beating dark thoughts into his brain. He felt the danger and either tried to calm the person down or find the quickest way out. Most of the time it was enough. Not today.
"Sir, calm down. It's okay, we don't want to hurt you. We are here to help." Oz spoke softly, both hands held up in a sign of peace, while their supposed patient was waving around a golf club. Toby was standing to the side, hands equally raised.
"You bastards, I lost the fucking game! Get the hell off my property!" The man was screaming, eyes wide and unfocused. Toby was trying to read him, but all he got was a string of hateful curses and inexplicable anger.
"Sir, please. Put down that club. You are sick, we just want to help you," Oz continued, drawing the man's attention to himself. Toby stepped aside, out of the man's peripheral vision. Oz was still talking and Toby carefully started his way towards the patient, cursing the man's friends all the way. It seemed like there had been a party at the house, drugs and booze involved, when the party of three decided to do a little golfing in the back yard. It was the middle of summer and the sun was high in the sky. The man was probably suffering from sunstroke as well as dehydration, not to mention being drunk. His equally drunk friends chuckling from inside the house hadn't helped, nor did the grumbling neighbor that called the EMS in the first place. Toby felt the anger and confusion reaching its peak, and knew there wasn't much time. The guy would either attack Oz or have a stroke, or maybe both.
Toby saw the golf club fly up into the air and the body wavering, and took his chances. Lunging forward he tackled the man to the ground. The club went flying one way, while Toby and the man landed on the grass and rolled several feet. Unfortunately, somewhere during the fall the man's elbow had connected hard with Toby's nose. Pain exploded in his face and Toby cursed. Oz was by his side in a moment, making sure the man wasn't a danger anymore.
"Damn, he got you good, Toby. You okay?" He asked, giving his partner a quick once over before focusing on the now docile patient.
"Just peachy," Toby grumbled, red dribbling through his fingers and making him speak different. Looking at the drops of blood on the grass Toby shook his head. Maybe 'seeing red' when one was angry was to be taken more literally. When one saw red, there was a pretty big chance that someone else would have red dripping down their face.
Toby never really understood why people said they were feeling blue. The books and the internet told him that feeling blue meant someone was depressed and unhappy. Liv sometimes felt blue when a patient of hers died. She felt blue after an argument with a family member or good friend. Toby once asked Oz if he ever felt blue, but all he got in reply was a raised eyebrow and a frown.
"I don't have the genes to feel blue. You met my parents, right? You're either happy or you deal with the things that bother you. Feeling depressed isn't on the menu. Why do you ask?"
"Was just wondering," Toby muttered and looked out the window at the street whizzing by.
"Are you feeling blue?" Oz asked carefully, the concern in his voice palpable. Toby gave him a reassuring smile and shook his head.
For Toby, feeling blue had a different meaning. Blue was the color of the water when Toby and his mother hit the surface of the river in their run for freedom. The current was strong, but Maya never let go of him. Not until they reached the ground. Toby wasn't sure what had happened later. How he made it to the hospital where Ray was the on duty doctor. He didn't remember his mother handing him over to a stranger who brought him there and left him in Ray's care. One moment he was looking into the wild blue of the river, surrounded by cold water, the next he was standing before the man who became his mentor and friend. For Toby, feeling blue meant being cold and wet, being scared and lost. Feeling blue was being abandoned by his own mother.
Blinking, Toby looked at Oz who was already talking about the last game and pizza, and Ryder totally hating his guts. He paused as he felt Toby's gaze.
Toby realized that while he spent a long part of his childhood feeling his own definition of blue, he hadn't felt like that for a long time now. Not since there were people around he could call friends.
Nah, not blue. Never blue, he thought and with a grin turned his attention back to Oz.
"What was it like?" Oz asked over the third bottle of beer, and it took Toby several seconds to figure out what he meant. After all, Oz wasn't the only one drinking tonight. They were sitting in Toby's apartment, eating pizza and pretending to watch some game on TV. At least Toby was pretending. Until now, he thought that Oz was paying real attention, but the beer must've tampered with his abilities because he didn't see that question coming. Still, Toby pretended not to understand.
"What do you mean?" He asked, hoping that Oz would lose his courage, but either the beer was stronger than Toby thought or Oz really wanted to hear an answer.
"Dying. What... What was it like?"
Toby looked at Oz, wanting to scowl him, to tell a lie, whatever it took just to get him off his back. But Oz was staring at Toby wide eyed, anxious, and Toby grit his teeth.
"I didn't die, so I wouldn't know," he snapped, hoping it would deter Oz. It didn't.
"Come on, man. You know what I mean. I just... I want to know." The voice was soft and curious and Toby felt suddenly too old. He didn't want to think about death, but today that choice was taken from him. Their patient coded right in the rig and there was no amount of medical attention that could keep him alive until they reached the hospital. He was an eighty year old man, whose heart simply stopped beating, but not before he grabbed Toby's hand and their eyes met.
"I didn't see an angelic choir or St. Peter's gate. There was no tunnel with a light at the end. There was no devil or demons either," Toby said wearily, hoping the answer would be enough, but knowing it wouldn't.
"So... What did you see?"
"Why do you think I saw anything, Oz?"
"Well, you were white as a ghost and shaking like a leaf when you popped out of that guy's head. You must've seen something."
Toby snorted and shook his head.
"Whiteness. That's all I saw, Oz. One second there was this man's whole life, all the love and pain he lived through pushed into one single moment. Then everything went white. No more thoughts, no more feeling, just white nothingness. It was a lot like being in an avalanche," Toby added dreamily.
"I thought it would be black," Oz spoke and Toby blinked.
"I dunno. It's either a tunnel with a light on the end, or total darkness. Like when you're knocked out, the lights go out."
It was Toby's turn to shrug.
"When I was a kid I fell off a bike and hit my head pretty hard. Had a nice concussion, which wasn't fun," Toby grimaced, remembering the headache. "But I remember the moment my head connected with the pavement. Everything went white. The next thing I'm I know, doc's shining a pen into my eyes. I almost took off his hand," Toby smirked and Oz gave a chuckle.
"So... No angels?"
"No demons either."
"No. But that doesn't mean there's nothing," Toby said and Oz sighed.
"Great. So we're back to square one."
"Even with your great powers, we know squat about the afterlife. Which means I'll have to stay on the side of light."
"So you're saying that you'll clean the rig next time, and not flip off Ryder the moment he turns his back on you, right?" Toby laughed and Oz rolled his eyes, throwing an empty can at him.
"Shut up and watch the game. I bet a fiver on the Leafs and I would like to know if I'm risking eternal damnation for a win or lose."