AU - Hospital - Mirrors

Tales of Us

The room reminds him of a holding cell, barren apart from a mattress on the floor and a pile of books. This room was altered specifically for Ben's condition - it's padded, but not because he's tried to hurt himself. He was diagnosed with Eisoptrophobia - the most severe fear of mirrors that his psychiatrists have ever seen - and the sight of any surface that could possibly hold a reflection sends him into an almost violent frenzy - glass, porcelain, water. Even some paint.

There is a half wall in the cell that hides a simple toilet, the porcelain and metal sandblasted to a soft, completely matte finish. The water runs through it but isn't stored in it, and the sink has been replaced by a wall-mounted container filled with anti-bacterial moist towelettes. There's no windows, and the light from the ceiling is filtered through thick, matte plastic tiles firmly bolted in place. He's heard from Amy that showers are a nightmarish affair that happen once a week and involve very strong drugs and three strong orderlies, but he knows Ben keeps himself impeccable otherwise, using the wipes for daily sponge baths. He smells a little of the anti-bacterial disinfectant, but still underneath like Ben. It's somehow reassuring.

Ben sits sprawled against the wall in a tshirt and slacks, which have a plastic zipper and button. His feet are bare. Larry wears a pair of disposable slippers, because his leather shoes were shined too brightly. The only bright thing in the room is the smile that lights up his face when Larry opens the door and steps in. "Lar."

"Hey." It always takes him a moment to adjust when he comes to visit Ben, to swallow down the lump in his throat. Ben always calls him by that old nickname, and it always makes him remember. They let him come once a week, just for an hour, and he pushes it every time. An hour is never enough. He crouches down in front of Ben, handing him the cloth bag he's brought with him. "I brought you new books. How've you been?"

Ben's mouth twists, and he glances away. "They think I killed my family, Lar. I didn't do it. It was the mirrors - "

"Ben, your family is fine." Sometimes Ben is calm, and they talk about everything they always used to - work, hockey, the books Ben reads. Sometimes all he can fixate on are the events that landed him here. And he never acknowledges that his family is alive. "Amy came to see you yesterday, remember? She - "

"Don't." Ben cuts him off, eyes suddenly bright with unshed tears. "Don't you do this too. I know you want me to feel better, but don't you lie to me like everyone else. You've always been the only one I could rely on."

Larry slips from his crouch to kneel in front of him, taking Ben's hand from where it rests on the floor and clasping it in both of his. "I wouldn't lie to you, Ben. You know that."

"Then don't try to tell me that the children are fine! I was there, Lar. I saw them, I saw the blood in the water - "

He's tried so many times to convince Ben of the truth, to convince him that his family is alive and well. The doctors think that it was Angie's death that triggered the delusion, the irrational fear that mirrors have killed everyone in his life and are still trying to kill him. He's argued with Ben about it through the entire hour they have together. He can't handle it today. "Shhh. All right. All right, lets not think about it right now, okay? Do you want me to tell you about the game last night? The Rangers are doing really well this season. Maybe we could get you a TV in here, one of those flat screens with the matte surface - "

"No." Ben is calm again, but sad, and shakes his head. "I can't chance it. Will you tell me about it, though?"

He's gotten good at this, taking mental notes throughout the game of all the plays, the brilliant saves and the last minute goals, and he relays them with the life of a sportscaster. Through it he keeps hold of Ben's hand, watching Ben listen with a little smile on his face. It doesn't really matter what they talk about, truthfully. He just needs to be here with him.

He's the only person from Ben's life that Ben acknowledges as still alive. The psychiatrists have never been able to figure out why, and Larry doesn't question it. He couldn't bear to live with this like Amy does, to have Ben talk to him with stiff politeness. But it's why he's only allowed to visit once a week, why he's only allowed this hour until the doctors can figure everything out. He doesn't tell them about everything that he and Ben once had, because he doubts it would matter and he doesn't want to break Amy's heart even more than it already is. Ben keeps silent as well, though he's never mentioned why.

All too soon a patterned knock comes on the door, signifying the end of his hour. Ben knows it too, and looks up at him pleadingly. "Lar..."

Larry leans in close, like he always does before he leaves, pressing a trembling kiss to the corner of Ben's jaw and breathing deeply of his scent. He wants to do more, so much more - wants to feel Ben's body strong and warm and nude against his own, Ben's kisses devouring his mouth, his teeth a brand of pleasure and pain on his shoulder. He wants to cover Ben's body in long laps of his tongue, wants to suck down the hard length of his shaft until he comes in his mouth. He wants Ben over him and inside him like he's been so many times before, driving pleasure through him with each thrust until his world falls apart from pleasure. He wants something, anything to distract him from this pain.

Ben wraps his arms around his shoulders, and his fingers tap a soft rhythm on the side of his neck where the hidden cameras can't see. Words the surveillance can't here. i'Stay. Dark. Want you.'/i

"Can't," he whispers. "They won't let me." His hand slips down to the small of Ben's back, though, fingers pressing to the small gap of warmth between his slacks and the hem of his tshirt, and he silently taps out the words he never had the balls to actually say before, and can't say now. i'I love you.'/i

i'Reason for life,'/i Ben taps back. He forces a smile as Larry pulls back, knowing he can't push their intimacy any farther than this. "You'll come back soon?"

"Soon as I can," he replies. "Let me know what you think of the books." He brings twelve every time, twelve books and one notebook filled with numerical code. He'd hidden the letters between the book bindings to begin with, but the doctors had found them immediately. After a heated discussion and careful monitoring of their effect on Ben they allowed it to continue, so he doesn't hide it now.

The code is different every time, based on one of the previous weeks books, and he's certain that the doctors have never tried to decode them. They would certainly question him if they did. The notebooks are filled with stories, with normal every day things that always involve the two of them. In tales they have a little house together in Queens, where they live and eat and make love. Ben cooks for him, and they watch hockey together with beer, they go on dates all around New York, they go on vacation to Hawaii. In the tales Ben is still with the force, still one of the NYPD's finest, but work isn't what he writes about. He writes about Ben, about the life they could have had together if he'd realized so long ago that Ben loved him as much as he loved Ben. He's not sure why he writes them. Perhaps it's the only way he can still live with Ben. Perhaps he hopes that some day Ben will want these stories to be real badly enough that he'll want to overcome his illness and come home.

"I will," Ben replies, clasping his hand and squeezing it. "The last one was beautiful."

The knock comes again, and this time the orderly pushes the door open, clearing his throught. "Captain Byrne?"

"Sorry. I'm coming." Larry squeezes Ben's hand back and stands. Try to get better, he wants to say. Come home to me. But Ben believes that the mirrors will never leave him alone, so instead Larry simply smiles. "Take care of yourself, okay?"

"You too," Ben replies, eyes holding all the emotion and longing that he can't say.

The orderly at the door clears his throat, and Larry gives Ben one last smile before he turns and leaves.

Larry changes his shoes and picks up his keys and wallet from the admittance desk, suddenly realizing that he'd forgotten to take off his watch. He pushes up his sleeve and glances down to find the glass face cracked and shattered. A few shards have fallen free of the face to work into the sleeve of his shirt, and he pulls them away carefully with a little frown.

Must have hit it against something, he thinks, and leaves the hospital.

****