Note: In this JJ is still a police officer and the whole Eli/Lani/JJ/Gabi thing never happened
Once is an incident, twice is a coincidence, three times is a pattern, but the Salem PD don't wait for that to pin any crime on Ben Weston.
Ciara was never one who felt like she had to be popular or liked by everyone, but being the town's pariah was not something that she ever could have expected.
She knew that being with Ben came with some sacrifices, but the way Ben made her feel, especially after Chase, was well worth 'losing' people that were never really true to her in the first place.
Ciara and Ben were walking through the Horton Square hand-in-hand ignoring the usual stares that plagued them.
Whenever a stare would start to get to one of them, a gentle hand squeeze from the other made all worries go away.
They settled on getting some lunch at the café.
Ciara reached across the table and put her small hands in Ben's considerably larger ones. "I love you."
A smile bursted out on Ben's face, "I love you too."
Ben never thought after everything he had done as 'The Necktie Killer' he would feel as loved as he did with Ciara.
Before they could even order Eli and JJ walked up to them, faces looking stern.
Turning toward Ben, JJ spoke first, "Ciara, can you give us a few minutes?"
Ciara began to take her hands out of Ben's and get up when Ben interrupted, "Anything you have to say, you can say in front of Ci."
Ciara smiled smally at Ben's nickname for her.
Eli sighed, "Very well. What can you tell me about Brandon Caswall?"
Ben furrowed his eyebrows, "Um, he works at the Brady pub."
Eli continued, "And you and him got into a verbal altercation, correct?"
Ben shook his head slightly, "He accused me of stealing his tips."
JJ interrupted, "To which you threatened him?"
Ben continued, "No, I told him that I had no idea what he was talking about."
Eli pulled out a photo on his phone, "Mr. Caswall was found dead this morning. Strangled. Sound familiar?"
Ben looked at Ciara for a moment, but before Ben could answer,Ciara intervened, "Are you seriously accusing Ben of killing Brandon?"
Eli shrugged, "It is Ben's MO, he's done it before."
Ciara stood up and got in front of Eli, "Yeah, back when he was sick. He's not now."
Ben put his hand on Ciara's arm, "Ciara…"
Ciara continued, "He's a good, kind, and gentle person. Plus, Brandon made all kinds of enemies. Maybe you should look at the people that he surrounded himself with instead of going the easy route and just accusing Ben."
JJ tapped Eli on the shoulder, "We're not gonna get anything out of him. We'll be back with hardcore evidence that your angelic boyfriend isn't such."
With that, Eli and JJ walked away.
Ben had suddenly lost his appetite and walked away.
Ciara knew exactly where he was going, back to their place. Before she could get very far, she was blocked by her mom and Rafe.
Ciara put her thumb and index finger on each side of her forehead and sighed annoyed, "What do you want, Mom?"
Hope looked at her daughter sternly, "I think you know exactly what I want. I told you, I told you Ben was no good, but did you listen? No, you swore that he had changed, and now, an innocent is dead."
Ciara put her hand to her forehead not wanting to go through this again.
She was sick and tired of having to defend Ben to the people that she loved. "Look, you're too late. JJ and Eli already accused Ben of murdering Brandon Caswell. They didn't get anything out of him and you won't either because he is innocent."
Hope sighed not believing that her daughter could be so naïve, "People like Ben don't change. It was only a matter of time before he killed again. And before he kills again."
Ciara sighed frustrated, "Look, I don't have time to have this argument. I have to go find my boyfriend."
Before Hope could get in another word, Ciara stormed off.
Hope looked at Rafe, "What do I do?"
Rafe put his hands of Hope's shoulders, "That went about as well as it could have."
Hope shook her head, "We HAVE to find proof, that Ben is back to his strangling ways, before Ciara becomes his next victim."
Rafe whispered, "We will. Before you know it, that psychopath will be back behind bars where he belongs."
Rafe pulled Hope in for a hug. Hope closed her eyes, "I hope you're right."
Ciara ran all the way to her apartment, knowing that that is where Ben would be.
As soon as Ciara opened the door, she breathlessly shouted, "Ben?! Ben! Ben, where are you?!"
Ciara found Ben sitting on the hardwood floors of their bedroom with his legs spread like a 'V'.
Ciara dropped her purse, "Hey."
Before Ciara could get in another word, Ben started on a tearful rant, "I didn't do it Ci, I swear. I know what it looks like, but I swear I—I'm not that..."
Ciara shushed Ben before he could continue, "Shh, I know."
Ciara sat down on the floor with the back of her knees over Ben's hips, "I know."
Ciara touched her forehead to Ben's, "I know who you are."
Ben continued, "I just don't get it. When are people in this town gonna see that I have changed?! That I'm not the same person that I was back then?! It's just…"
Ciara looked right into Ben's eyes and put a hand to his cheek, "I know. Ben, you don't need to defend yourself. Not to me. I know that you didn't do it. Ben, you are the kindest, sweetest, most patient person I know."
Ciara wrapped her arms around Ben's neck and rested her head on her arm. Ben instinctively wrapped his arms tightly around Ciara.
Ben pulled his head back after a moment, "I don't know what I did to deserve you. I love you." Ciara smiled tearfully, "I love you, too."