This fic is about the characters Ciara Brady and Ben Weston from Days of Our Lives. It's going to be a series of non-linear one-shots, some of which will diverge from canon whether by accident or design. This first one takes place after the cabin. Just as a heads-up, this fic is not friendly to Rafe or Claire, or really Tripp either. No, I'm a Cin shipper all the way.

When the door to her hospital room opened, Ciara closed her eyes and turned her head, not interested in the least in Rafe's smug hero act and condescending "There, there, overwrought little girl" platitudes, her mother's barely-controlled hysteria, or her Grandma Julie tearing Ben apart in a manner she usually reserved for the Hernandezes (though secretly, if Grandma Julie wanted to tear into Rafe for his "rescue" of her at the cabin, Ciara would have enjoyed that) while Grandpa Doug tried to rein her in.

Honestly, where did the women in her family get off thinking her time with Ben at the cabin was dangerous? She didn't know all the stories, but she knew enough to know that her mother, Grandma Julie, and even cousin Jen didn't only get involved with squeaky clean guys who would have bored them to death, or who didn't have a past, even a felonious past in some cases.

And she also really didn't want to hear more of Tripp's meaningless apologies, and she'd like to kick Claire in the face completely on purpose right about now. If Shawn was on his way here (her mother had mentioned something about calling him in the midst of her hysteria; after a while, Ciara had just tuned her out because it was just all too much), Ciara also didn't want to see him, partly because she was afraid he'd take Claire's side over hers, and partly because she didn't want to put her brother in a position where he felt he had to choose between her and his daughter, wannabe thot that Claire was. She wouldn't break Shawn's heart by informing him of Claire's true colors; let her expose herself to her father.

No, the only person she wanted to see right now was Ben...and her family had made sure she couldn't do that. She didn't even know where Ben was. She prayed he wasn't in jail, because he didn't belong in jail. He didn't even belong in the mental hospital. Their time together at the cabin had shown Ciara that Ben was the ex-serial killer, the changed man, he had said he was. Unlike a lot of people (how about you, for starters, Rafe, she thought bitterly), Ben owned what he had done. He knew it was wrong, it was horrible, it was evil, and he freely admitted it. But Ciara had learned enough about him to understand that there were reasons, terrible and sad reasons, that Ben had killed those people, had thought he had killed Will. And Will wasn't really dead. Will was back home and was getting to be more and more like his old self every day. And Ben had originally come back to Salem to tell everyone that Will was alive. But did anyone give him credit for that? Well, Dr. Evans, maybe; in addition to being Ben's therapist, she was Will's grandmother.

If Ben were truly the monster her mother and Grandma Julie and Idiot Rafe made him out to be, Ciara never would have it made it off the side of the road after wiping out on her bike. But when he found her, unconscious, bloodied, and with a broken leg, after being dumped in the middle of nowhere himself, he had carried her to the cabin, kept watch over her, splinted her leg, gone on foot for supplies, kept her fed, medicated, in touch with her mother thanks to that burner phone, and even washed her shirt for her, giving her one of his own shirts to wear while hers dried, and recovered admirably when she kicked him in the face while he was helping her with her sponge bath.

He had armed her against him. He had been so busy taking care of her that he had neglected to find a way to get his own medication, and before the hallucinations had completely swallowed him whole, he had begged her to go outside. "It's not safe for you to be around me now!" he insisted. Although she had taken hold of the knife he had given her, and she had since laid aside, when Ben began to spiral out of mental control, when he had taken himself to the furthest corner of the cabin and curled in on himself in a ball in that corner, she put the knife down again, knowing that no matter how bad things got, he wasn't going to hurt her.

"You didn't leave me when I really needed you, Ben. I'm not leaving you now," Ciara had insisted.

"I can't take the chance of hurting you!" Ben screamed. "Ciara...dammit, I hate this, hate myself. Get out! For your own good, I'm sorry, I know your leg...You gotta go. NOW!"

But she wouldn't go. Somehow, she knew that Ben wouldn't hurt her, no matter how bad the hallucinations tormenting him might get, and she had been right about that.

And somewhere in the middle of trying to reach him through the fog of the hallucinations he was fighting against with everything in him, Ciara realized that Ben was the one person that she really could trust not to hurt her.

Which, of course, had been when Rafe burst in and ruined everything. The idiot hadn't paid any attention to her splinted leg, and she could admit now, if only to herself, that not all of the tears that leaked out of her eyes when Rafe jostled her while hauling her out of the cabin to the waiting ambulance had been because of the pain shooting through her broken leg. He'd left uniformed officers to deal with Ben, and Ciara had been screaming at them that Ben needed his medication, that they needed to call Dr. Evans, not to be rough with Ben, not to hurt him. But her words had gone unheeded. Her last sight of Ben was him surrounded by a wall of Salem PD officers. She may be stuck here overnight, but she was out of here first thing in the morning, signing herself out against medical advice if she had to, and the first thing she was going to do was find Ben.

"I know you're awake, Ciara."

Ciara opened her eyes and turned her head. The voice that had uttered that sentence belonged to her Aunt Kayla, her dad's sister. Indeed, there stood Kayla, still in her lab coat and scrubs, with a wheelchair. "They said in the ER I have to stay here overnight for observation," Ciara said.

"You do," Kayla agreed. "But I finally got your mother to go home, and Doug peeled Julie off the ceiling and got her out of here, so even though technically visiting hours are over, since you're not in traction, I thought we'd take a little trip a couple of floors down to see a friend of yours."

Ciara sat up in bed. "Ben's here?" she asked eagerly.

"He's staying here overnight too, while we get him stabilized," Kayla confirmed. "Marlena's been with him, and he keeps asking about you. And given your state when you came in, I know you're thinking about him." Kayla gave Ciara a bittersweet smile then, silently reflecting how much like her father Ciara was. "So hop in."

"Why are you really doing this?" Ciara asked as she settled herself in the wheelchair.

"Honestly? Because you remind me of someone I knew years ago," Kayla replied as she pushed Ciara's wheelchair out of the room and to the elevator. "She spent a lot of time with this guy that everyone, especially her brother, thought was bad news. He looked a certain way, and he had a certain attitude, a certain kind of past. In fact, she later found out that this guy originally showed up in her life to stalk her."

"He stalked her?" Ciara asked. "Why?"

"Well, first it was because he was trying to get back at her brother. See, he knew her brother, but he didn't know her. He scared her so much that she moved back home to be near her parents and siblings," Kayla said as they reached their floor and she pushed Ciara's wheelchair off the elevator and down the hall. "He followed her back to her hometown. By then, he was working for someone else, someone who also had a bone to pick with her brother, but he was always around when she was, and he unnerved her, outright scared her at first, actually...but then she got to know him. She got to see the real man inside, not just the rough facade he put out there for the world to see. He'd had a lot of bad breaks growing up. He'd done things before he ever met her that he wasn't proud of. But deep down, behind the pain, behind his past, he was a good man. She learned this was true the night he saved her brother, the very same man he hated, and got hurt himself in the process, but didn't call any attention to his own injuries until he literally collapsed, and he didn't want any praise or credit for saving this man he claimed to hate, either. Then, when he got beaten pretty badly himself after that, she found him, and she took care of him. And that was a big turning point for them. And the more they got to know each other, the more time they spent together, the more they were able to trust each other. And what other people thought of them spending time the end, it didn't matter, because she knew the real him, and he knew the real her."

Kayla stopped outside a closed door. "Here we are," she said. She moved to open the door, but Ciara calling her name stopped her.

"Whatever happened to them? Do you know?" Ciara asked.

Kayla smiled. "I do," she replied. "They fell in love, got married, had a daughter, were torn apart for many years, found each other again, got married again, had a son, lost each other, found each other again and got married yet again. And I know this because I was that girl, Ciara, and your Uncle Steve? He was the guy. And the man he saved was my brother Bo...your dad."

Ciara's jaw dropped. "You understand," she breathed.

"I understand," Kayla replied. "Of course, I'm in a position to be more understanding than your grandparents right now. As for Hope..." She trailed off. "Are you ready to see Ben? Because he's been ready to see you for hours now."

"Oh yeah," Ciara said. She smoothed her hands through her hair while Kayla opened the door.

Ben was sitting up in his hospital bed, Dr. Marlena Evans seated at his bedside. They had been talking, but they stopped when Kayla wheeled Ciara into the room and cheerfully announced, "You have a visitor, Mr. Weston."

Ben's eyes lit with happiness when he saw Ciara. "Ciara," he said, part happiness, part relief.

Kayla wheeled Ciara to the side of Ben's hospital bed opposite Marlena, and then the two doctors exchanged a look. "We'll give you two some time alone," Marlena replied as she stood up. Then she and Kayla left the room, and Ben and Ciara were alone together for the first time since Idiot Rafe and his commando raid on the cabin.

"Are you okay?" Ben asked anxiously, seeing that Ciara's leg was now in a cast.

"I'm fine," Ciara replied. "Or I will be. You saved my leg, according to the orthopedist. Just a cast, no surgery or hardware needed."

Ben let out a breath Ciara hadn't been aware he was holding. "Good," he said.

"I am really sorry about Rafe and the police," Ciara said. "Are you okay? I was screaming at the cops to call Dr. Evans and get your medication and not to hurt you, but they didn't act like they heard me."

"Somebody did," Ben replied. "I was restrained in an ambulance, but when I...came back to myself...I was here," he gestured around him, "and Dr. Evans was here with me, and she made sure I got my meds, and we've talked. I've been frantic trying to find out about you. Dr. Evans told me you were here and you were in good condition, but I needed to see you for myself to really believe it. As for the cops, your mom's the commissioner. It's not like I wasn't expecting her to find us eventually. It's not your fault, Ciara. I'm the one who owes you a million apologies for losing it like that back at the cabin. I know I scared you, and I hate myself for that."

"Don't you dare!" Ciara exclaimed. "Ben, you were so busy taking care of me that you forgot to take care of yourself! My mother and that APB didn't make things any easier for you. You needed your medication and you didn't have it."

"Yeah, Dr. Evans gave me a very stern talking-to about that," Ben replied sheepishly. "All I can do is tell you what I told her: I won't make that mistake again."

"You'd better not," Ciara said seriously, "or I'll have to kick you in the face again. And you know I can do it even with one leg broken." Ciara lifted her good leg and wiggled the foot, making Ben laugh, which made her laugh.

"Okay, okay, I don't want to lose any teeth," Ben said. "I promise, I will take care of myself and make sure I keep my prescription filled and take my medication as directed from now on." His smile faded then. "I'm still sorry I scared you."

"Ben, once I realized it was the hallucinations, I was scared for you, not scared of you," Ciara said. His hands were folded in his lap, and Ciara reached out one of her hands and rested it on top of Ben's folded hands. "You were trying to get me to go outside, to leave you in the cabin alone, because you were afraid you'd hurt me, do you remember that?"

"Yeah," Ben replied, "but you, Miss Stubborn, you wouldn't go."

"You didn't leave me when I needed you," Ciara replied. "I wasn't going to leave you when you needed me."

They were silent for a moment, just looking at each other. "What happens now?" he asked. "Everyone but you and Dr. Evans...and I guess Dr. Johnson...still wants to see me ridden out of town on a rail, and it's not like they don't have good reasons to feel that way."

"I don't care what they think," Ciara declared, thrusting her chin in the air. "This isn't about them. It's about you and me. You're one of the only people in my life who doesn't push me or judge me...even when I judge myself. You are so much more than your past mistakes, Ben."

"You and Dr. Evans are the only people who think so," Ben replied. He was grateful he wasn't hooked up to a heart monitor, because he could feel his pulse rapidly pounding, the result of Ciara's hand resting on top of his.

"Well, that's a start, isn't it?" Ciara challenged.

"Yeah. Yeah, it is," Ben agreed. "But your family-"

"Needs to be grateful that you saved me," Ciara interrupted.

"I don't see that happening," Ben replied.

"Okay, neither do I," she agreed. "My family...most of my family...will be a gigantic buzzkill. They're gonna try to keep us from seeing each other. They're gonna hate you. They're gonna give us nothing but trouble. But I trust you. And I liked being with you at the cabin. And I want to spend more time with you. And it's not because I'm rebelling, and it's not because of Stockholm Syndrome. Ben, I want to spend more time with you because I want to get to know you better, and I want you to get to know me better. I'll understand if you don't want to deal with my family, and I'll respect that. But I really hope you won't cut me out of your life now that we're back in Salem."

Ben moved his hands out from under Ciara's hand, sending disappointment more acute than the pain in her leg when Idiot Rafe hauled her out of the cabin flooding into the pit of her stomach…

...until Ben took her hand in one of his and just held it. "I don't want to cut you out of my life, Ciara," he told her. "You're the only non-psychiatrist I can be myself with who knows it's for real, and not an act." The smile on her face was so radiant, Ben would later swear that in that moment, he felt his heart turn over in his chest.

And out in the hall, after looking through the window into Ben's hospital room, two doctors, two women who had deeply and passionately loved two complex, flawed but ultimately golden-hearted men for most of their adult lives, exchanged a look.

Marlena said, "They don't have any idea what they're in for."

"Not really, no," Kayla agreed. "And in terms of people being supportive, I'd say you and I are it."

"I agree," Marlena replied. She looked back at Ben and Ciara, and Kayla followed her gaze. Ben and Ciara were holding hands, and Ben said something that made Ciara laugh, which made Ben smile in return.

"God help them," Kayla said. "And Hope and Shawn-Douglas and Doug and Julie, because..." She trailed off, knowing that Marlena could finish the thought herself.

"Do they remind you of Bo and Hope too? Way back at the very beginning?" Marlena asked.

"Yes," Kayla replied, "among others."

Marlena nodded. "Well, if family history is anything to go by here, Ben and Ciara are in for quite a ride," she mused.

"We all are," Kayla reflected before she went to get Ciara and take her back to her own room.

"See you tomorrow?" Ciara asked Ben before Kayla took her back to her room.

"I promise," Ben assured her. When Ciara looked back over her shoulder in the doorway of Ben's room, Ben raised his right hand, which was still warm from holding her hand, and smiled at her. She smiled back, and then Kayla took her back to her room, while Ben leaned back against the pillow and clasped his hands behind his head, still smiling.