A/N: Written for the alphabet_soup challenge over at LJ. Prompted by Katikat and beta-read by Pennythepants. Enjoy!
D is for Danger
When Toby spotted the man, he knew he should just turn around and leave. He didn't have to be a mind reader to see the big sign screaming Danger! Keep out! above the man's head. The stiff posture, the furtive glances across the restaurant, watching everyone. Toby instinctively paused and the man's eyes landed on him, searching. It was clear the man wasn't in his right mind, even before Toby caught a glance at his thoughts. He couldn't stop the shiver that ran through his spine. The thoughts were jumbled and dark.
-what if she's gone? What if she's with Him?-
-I will kill her. I will kill them both.-
-what is he looking at?-
The last one was delivered with a snide smirk directed right at him and Toby jerked. The man averted his eyes and the thoughts were silenced. Toby blinked, shaking off the sudden urge to cancel the whole diner and go home. But he could see Olivia already sitting at a table so he resumed his steps toward her. Olivia looked up from the menu and gave him a smile.
"Hey Toby. You're just on time. I'm so hungry I could eat a horse."
"And here I thought you loved all animals and became a vegetarian," Toby replied with a smirk and settled down opposite her, only slightly disconcerted by the fact he was now looking straight at the back of the strange guy's head.
"Okay, so I wouldn't eat a horse, but chicken sounds just as delicious."
"Well then let's order," Toby looked over the menu and called a waitress over, putting the man out of his head for a moment. It had been several weeks since he last had contact with anyone from IIB, and he thought it best to keep it that way. It wasn't his job to play cop. He was a paramedic, nothing more. It didn't hurt that since he stopped helping out at the precinct, his headaches has abated. They didn't vanish completely, but he hadn't felt like thumping his head against the wall all day and that was enough. Oz was still wary about his sudden decision to quit his second job, thinking it was just a temporary thing, but he was supportive. Olivia on the other hand didn't look a gift horse in the mouth, and accepted his change of mind happily. Which was the reason Toby invited her to the restaurant, as a sign of gratitude.
"You know it will be hard to convince Oz we are not hooking up again," Olivia said between bites of her lemon chicken and Toby rolled his eyes.
"I doubt he even knows. He was fretting over what present to buy Sandy for Valentine's Day when I told him."
"Oh. What did he say?"
"His exact words were: 'Man, they have the best steaks. Do you think I should ask Sandy to dinner? You know it would be so much easier if you just took a peek... Come on, what should I buy her?'" Toby sighed and Olivia laughed.
"He didn't!" She snorted in disbelief, and then her eyes went wide. "Did you?"
"What?" Toby tried to look innocent.
"Toby Logan! Did you read my friend's mind just to learn what present she would like?"
"What? No! Of course I didn't," Toby shook his head vehemently and Olivia let out a sigh.
"So what did you tell Oz?"
"That Sandy would love to have a boyfriend that could think for himself, and didn't use me to invade her privacy. And that diamonds are always appreciated," Toby added as Olivia laughed.
"I bet he took it well."
"Yeah, didn't speak to me for a whole five minutes. Oh, how I treasured that time."
They were halfway through their desserts now, enjoying the evening, and Toby had already put the stranger out of his mind. Olivia was just telling him about her first year at med school and the pranks her roommate used to pull on her, when Toby jerked, the fork falling from his fingers.
"Toby?" Olivia asked, the smile on her face replaced by a concerned frown. Toby blinked and shook his head.
"I'm okay," he said but didn't pick up his fallen fork. Instead he turned to look at the entrance, just to where the man was looking. His eyes fell on a young woman who was obviously searching for someone. The man stood up and she waved at him with a hesitant smile. Toby watched as she made her way over to the man and kissed him on the cheek. They appeared to be a normal couple, but Toby saw the tension in both their bodies. She was hiding something and he knew it.
-God, just let me get through this. One dinner, then I'll leave and never come back. Matt will never find us.-
-She's so beautiful. Why did she betray me? They're all the same.-
The last thought was filled with so much hate that Toby felt like throwing up. Someone touched his arm and he was startled.
"Toby? Talk to me." It was Olivia, looking concerned. Toby reached for his glass of water and took a sip, ignoring the slight tremble of his hands. The headache was back too.
"Was it a vision? Toby?"
"It's alright, Liv," he finally spoke and tried to look anywhere but the couple sitting behind her.
"You're white as a ghost and your left eye is twitching. That's definitely not okay, Toby," she said in a whisper and Toby frowned.
"My eyes don't twitch," he protested.
"Your left one does, when you're focused on something or when you have a headache. What happened? And don't lie to me. I might not be telepathic, but I'm pretty good at reading people too. You saw something."
Toby suppressed the urge to try and make something up. They were past the point where he needed to shield her from his abilities and in truth, he needed someone to talk it through. So he told her about the man, grabbing her arm to stop her from turning around and take a look. She huffed, then bent down and picked up the fallen fork, stealing a look at the pair.
"They seem normal. They aren't arguing or anything," she commented, but Toby shook his head.
"No. They're both trying to look as if everything is just peachy. But it's not."
Olivia pushed away the rest of her dessert, her appetite gone. She wanted to tell Toby that relationships were complicated, but he knew that already.
"I'm not overreacting, Liv," Toby muttered and she jerked, for a second forgetting that he could read her mind too.
"Sorry," he said and rubbed at his temple. "I'm just trying to say that it's not normal. I don't go around reading everyone. I might skim over the surface, but it's like when you walk around a corner and catch a word or two from a conversation. This is different. Matt's thoughts are... Loud. And too emotional. He's close to losing it."
"You get all that from a short read?" Olivia wondered and Toby realized she didn't know how his gift really worked. She had some preconceptions from the media and literature, but they never really talked about it on this level. He wanted to tell her about it, to explain, but this was not the time or place.
"He's dangerous," he said instead, and she risked a look back. The pair was eating in silence, the women looking a little uncomfortable but not really scared. The man was holding a glass of wine and following her every move. Olivia turned back to Toby.
"Do you think we should tell somebody?" She asked, a little hesitant.
"Tell them what? That he seems to have murderous thoughts? Hardly enough to get him arrested." Toby seemed more and more frustrated, which wasn't usual for him. Olivia touched his cheek and turned his face away so she was blocking his view of the pair. Toby blinked, as if coming out of a haze.
"Maybe we should just go."
"It's not your responsibility, Toby. There's nothing we can do. He might be just angry. You said yourself that she's planning to leave him. If we interfere, it might do more harm than good."
Toby thought about it and after a moment gave a defeated nod.
"You're right. We should leave." Olivia squeezed his hand and smiled in relief. She wasn't used to these situations and she didn't know what to do. She never thought what implications the telepathy brought Toby. How hard it had to be to hear some things and being unable to change them. How many people were walking the streets, filled with violent thoughts? How many of them were really dangerous?
"Many," Toby replied to her silent question and gave her a sheepish smile. "Sorry," he apologized but she waved it off.
"It's okay. Let's just pay and go." She looked around for a waitress and few minutes later they were ready to leave. Toby helped Olivia into her coat and they headed towards the exit. In order to get there though, they needed to pass right by the table with the couple. At that moment the woman's cell phone started ringing. She jerked, throwing a look at the man, then at the display of the phone. Matt's eyes narrowed as he saw the caller's name.
"I knew it!" he roared and Toby stopped dead in his tracks.
He saw the caller's name, which changed into an image of a younger version of Matt. It was his brother and he was holding the woman, touching her bruised cheek. Toby knew the bruise came from Matt, just as he knew the woman wanted to leave him and run away with his younger brother.
"Matt, I can explain," the woman said panicking but Toby didn't hear her. Another bunch of images rushed through his head.
Matt sitting in a car, following her to work. Matt slapping her face when she came home ten minutes past her curfew. Finally, he saw Matt walking into a store and paying for something small and dark...
He saw Matt stand and reach into his jacket, which he'd suspiciously kept on during the whole night. Toby saw the glint of metal and heard Matt's thoughts clear and loud. There was no doubt of what he was going to do, and there was no one to stop him.
For a second the scene changed and Toby was back at the parking lot, talking to the guy that had hurt his mother. He saw the gun in his hands and Charlie rushing to his aid, only to be shot. He couldn't let that happen, not again.
The woman's eyes went wide and she stumbled backwards, the chair falling to the ground in slow motion. Toby was moving too.
-You were mine!-
-No one will take you from me!-
"No!" Toby heard himself shout, as he slammed against Matt, knocking him off his feet. The gun fell from his hands, landing on the floor and sliding under the table. The safety must've still been on because it didn't fire, but Toby had no time to thank the heavens. Matt might've wavered, but he was bigger than Toby and full of rage. Right now he didn't care who his victim was, he just wanted to kill.
The people around them started to scream, and the ones that had seen the gun ran for the exit. Olivia shouted for someone to call the police and pulled the shocked woman by the arm, out of harm's way. She watched as Toby fought the man, knowing he had no chance of winning.
Matt grabbed Toby by the collar of his shirt and threw him across the table and onto the floor. Toby fell hard, the breath kicked out of him. He was being assaulted, and not just in the physical sense. His mind was in chaos, unable to distinguish between the thoughts running inside his head. It didn't help that the restaurant was filled with panicking people either.
When a hand landed on his shirt and pulled him back up, Toby was too dazed to know friend from foe. He kicked out and heard a grunt as his foot connected with his attacker's shin, but his triumph was only temporary as a knee crashed against his stomach. Doubling over, Toby wasn't prepared for another flying lesson. He landed on another table, plates and glasses breaking under him, but he didn't have time to care. His head hit the edge of the table and for a moment he blacked out. When he opened his eyes he saw Matt looming over him, brandishing a steak knife, his eyes shining with insanity.
Oh god, I'm gonna die, Toby thought and raised his hand in a feeble attempt to stop the blow. It never came. Instead there was a loud crack and then a thump, as a body hit the floor. Toby lowered his hand and blinked. In Matt's place stood Olivia, face flustered and still holding the remains of the chair she'd used as a club. Matt was lying at her feet, unconscious.
"Next time, I'm picking the restaurant," Olivia gasped and Toby let out a chuckle.
"Next time, we're getting takeout," he muttered and then promptly passed out.