Ben opened the door to his and Ciara's apartment. Ben lifted Ciara up bridal style and smiled down at his wife. Ciara shook her head, "What are you doing, Ben? We've already done the 'threshold carry over' thing and aren't you still healing from a collapsed lung?"
Ben lightly grunted as he carried Ciara through the door. Ben put Ciara down and closed the door behind them. "I'm fine and after all this time, it feels like we're newlyweds all over again." Ciara slowly nodded and looked around the room.
Ben sighed, "I know you probably imagined coming home to our room at the Salem Inn but after you-after I thought you died, I couldn't stay in that room alone. It was where we lived together since I got out of prison and it just felt so… quiet and lonely without you there. I had to get out of there. Being in that room alone, it made me go back to a dark place. Like…"
"Like taking Vincent hostage to demand the truth?" Ciara finished. Ben eyed Ciara curiously "Yeah, how did you-" "Rhodes told me. Vincent must've told him at some point and he let it slip. He tried to play off that he was smart but he was kinda stupid in some ways. That, leaving his phone where it was just a coat hanger away." Ben chuckled, "That's my love."
Ben shook his head, "I don't want to talk about that or think about that anymore." Ciara nodded, "Me neither."
Ben walked over to the closet and pulled several boxes out. Ciara asked, "Is that…?" Ben nodded, "Your stuff? Yeah. Jake tried to convince me that packing it away would help me grieve and accept. And I guess it did in a way. Not seeing all your stuff just as you left it, I could no longer play into the false narrative that you were just out and would be back soon. But I could never part with it."
Ben shoved his hands in his pockets, "I guess there was some part of me that always knew; knew that you were still out there and one day would come back to me." Ciara smiled, "And I did." Ben nodded, "You did."
Ciara walked over to the closet and picked one of the boxes and carried it over to the dresser. Ciara placed the box on the dresser and opened it. Ciara's eyes darted to the side of the box and saw her and Ben's wedding picture. Ciara smiled slightly and picked it up.
Ben walked up behind Ciara and wrapped his arms around her waist and resting his chin on her shoulder. "I talked to our picture so many damn times. I could feel your energy when I did. It was like you were with me when I did. All I wanted was you back and here you are." Ciara wiggled out of Ben's arms, "Except I'm not."
Ben looked at Ciara confused, "Wha-what do you mean, Love? You're standing right in front of me. You're not a dream, or a vision, or our psychic connection. You're real." Ciara sighed, trying to figure out how to articulate what she was feeling and had been feeling. "Ben, I mean the girl in the picture, the one who you were talking to and wanted back more than anything, she doesn't exist, not anymore. Vincent and then Evan killed her."
Ciara handed the picture to Ben and wrapped her arms around herself. Ciara pointed to the picture in Ben's hand, "That girl, the carefree girl that you married… I'm not her anymore. What happened to me, what Rhodes and Evan did to me, they killed the carefree part of me, probably forever. I'm not the same, that's evident for how I snapped at Claire over the locket." Ciara clutched the gold locket around her neck."
Ben put the picture back down on the dresser and placed each hand on Ciara's shoulders, "That doesn't matter, Ci. Whatever version of you you are, I love." Ciara tearfully shook her head, "H-how can you say that? You don't even know… her?"
Ben inhaled deeply, "Ciara, when I married you, I-I didn't just vow to love the current version of you. I vowed to love you in all of your versions, however you change and evolve for the rest of our lives, I will always love you and be head over heels in love with you Ciara Alice Weston." Ciara tearfully smiled, "Ben…"
Ben tightly pressed his lips together for a moment, "Let's switch this for a moment. If Vincent hadn't taken you from the dorm room and we had to deal with what he and Eve did to me together, would the brainwashing of changed your love for me or how you feel about me?" Ciara shook her head violently, "No, of course not. You are my husband, the other half of my soul. My love for you knows no bounds and transcends multiple realities."
Ben slowly asked, "And if I was forever different because of it?" "I wouldn't love you one ounce less or one ounce different." Ben pulled Ciara in for a tight hug and pressed his lips to her forehead, "So don't you see babe? Whatever this means going forward, know that I am in your corner and on your side now…" Ben leaned down and kissed Ciara's lips, "…and forever."
Ciara rested a hand on Ben's shoulder, "Thank you. I-I don't know how I'm going to move forward but having you in my corner and by my side… it makes me feel safe. Like no matter what, you'll be there to catch me if I fall." Ben swayed Ciara slightly as he spoke, "Always babe. Whatever you need, I am here. Whether that's sessions together with Dr. Evans, taking things slow and one step and a time, or taking time away to decompress. You've always been my anchor baby, now let me be yours."
Ciara closed her eyes and slowly nodded, "I will. As much as a part of me is screaming to become like a hermit crab, I won't. You've always known just what I needed and just when I need it. I want to pretend like the last 6 months did happen but…"
"But you can't. And that's okay. Ciara, whether you need to cry, scream, or… or blame me, it's okay. I'm here and I always will be." Ciara looked at Ben confused, "Blame you? Ben, Evan did what he did because of me. Because I figured out he killed Jordan and took him to the execution at gunpoint and forced him to admit it. I wouldn't let you die for what he did. And I don't regret doing that. I told him that, several times in fact." Ben chuckled lightly, "Somehow, I don't doubt that. But Evan wouldn't of had this golden opportunity to exact his revenge if I hadn't killed Wendy. I was the reason you were in that glass box to begin with. I started all this Ciara, I set this all into motion. You know that I regret what I did every damn day of my life and I will forever, but that pain and that regret has never been worse or stronger than when I knew you were being tortured because of me. You were paying for my sins."
Ciara put both on her hands on Ben's cheeks, "No, stop Ben. I do not blame you. Everything that has happened since our wedding has been Eve and Vincent and Evan, not you baby. Not for one single moment that I was trapped in that cage did I blame you. I never once thought 'this is because of Ben' or 'I'm here because Ben chose to love me or I chose to love him'. Never once did you cross my mind in any way other than love and faith that you would find me. I caused that gas explosion, albeit accidentally because I was so completely terrified that Evan was going to kill you. But he didn't, he didn't and you found me. Just like you have from the day we met. And you're right Ben, while we're not the same people as we were when we met, that hasn't changed our love. We evolve, we change together and we will grow only more in love until we are old and grey siting in our rocking chairs on the porch with like 20 great-grandchildren running around."
Ben chuckled, "'20 great-grandchildren'?" Ciara shrugged, "What can I say, I had a lot of time to think." Ben smiled, "So did I." Ben rubbed the back of his head, "I even dreamt about what we would've named the kids we wouldn't get to have." Ciara smiled, "Me too. And well, now we will. Little Bo and Faith Weston."
Ben's eyes widened, "B-Bo? Did you just say Bo?" Ciara nodded, "Maybe it was presumptuous to assume we would name our son after my father but-" Ben lifted Ciara up and kissed her spinning her around, "Oh my God, do I love you."
Ben kissed the side of Ciara's head as he set her down, "What was… well whatever that was?" Ben chuckled, "I had the same dream, us having little baby Bo. Our son named after a man so many people looked up to. When… when do you have that dream?"
Ciara thought for a moment, "When Vincent had be drugged up in Wendy's house. You?" "When I was in the hospital, sedated after I thought you died. I got to live a whole life in that dream. It was the only happiness I had until… until I had you back. Even all doped up, we're connected."
Ciara nodded, "That's right. And we will forever be, in this life and the next."
Ben chuckled lightly, "Agreed. But let's not talk about 'the next life' or the afterlife for quite some time." Ciara nodded in agreement.