The Elephant in the Room

written by: OfficiallyBored

Inspired by Doom Patrol vol 5 #6

DISCLAIMER: I don't own the characters or settings, I just like them.

Larry (that was his name) hated Oolong Island. The humidity crept under his bandages, making him incredibly uncomfortable, but he quickly got used to that; and anyways, it was really all the nutcase scientists that made up a significant bulk of the population that bothered him; the humidity was really just an inconvenience. While not nearly as manipulative or evil, each of the Science Squad, in his or her own way, reminded him of Chief. And one Chief was bad enough. But he could deal with the humidity and the pelicans and the mad scientists; he had suffered through far, far worse. And he would suffer through it all again to be here, with the one person who mattered.

Rita.

She was the only reason he had ever come back. He loved Cliff like a brother, but even than love was not worth spending the pain that came with being part of the Doom Patrol; at least, not on its own. He (he was a he, wasn't he? He hadn't always been, but he was now, right?) wouldn't put Larry on the line for no reason. What did he have to fight for? For justice? Peace? If he was honest, he had never truly cared about any of that "big picture" stuff. That was for the bastard running the group. Years went by, years that he had no real recollection of; there was some weird gap in his memories. Depression and lethargy had set in. But then Cliff revealed that the one person that Larry loved the most in the whole universe was alive again.

Rita.

God, he loved her.

He hadn't even fully realized how much he loved her until he saw her that day in the square, when she and Cliff had come to re-recruit him to the Doom Patrol. But when Larry saw her, it was as if something in his head woke up. All of a sudden, he knew he was Larry, and not Rebis or Tom or Valentina. He was Larry. And she was the one person who brought Larry back to the forefront of Negative Man's mind.

Rita.

The three of them were finally together again, and Larry was unsure of how to feel. He had never actually thought he would see her again. So he embraced her tightly, and she did the same, and they just stood there in the middle of the crowd for a whole minute, with Cliff standing to the side, smiling, and passersby glancing at the three freaks in the middle of the foot traffic. Rita was crying, and Larry might have been, too. He had always thought that, if there was an afterlife, it would be Rita, Cliff, and him. Just together. That was heaven enough for him. But he never referred to it as heaven. He had another word for pure happiness.

Rita.

Unfortunately, the three of them seemed to be drawn to the person who was, in Larry's mind, the antithesis of Rita; Niles Caulder. Chief. The man who damned them, and yet also the man who brought them together. The calculating son of a bitch who ran the show. Larry was generally not a hateful person, but he hated Dr. Caulder. Not disliked. Hated. He could never really touch Rita, since, thanks to the Chief's interference with his life, he was rapped from head to toe in bandages. But then again, he would probably have never known Rita were it not for that crippled madman. He had considered taking his bandages off and punching the Chief with his radioactive hands, but last time he had interacted with a normal human…well, he remembered that, as Rebis, he had given Kate her superpowers. And the last thing Larry or Rita or anybody needed was Niles Caulder flying around like Superman. He didn't want to inadvertently cause such a disaster. Not because he could get hurt, or the people of Oolong Island could get hurt, but because she could get hurt.

Rita.

When he slept with Kate, he was thinking of her. He closed his eyes and saw her in bed with him, not some prostitute he'd found. He had been so lonely; he needed her so badly. But they could never be together in reality; at least not in that way. So he ended up leaving the Doom Patrol; he was Rebis, the holy androgen, a god. He flew into space; perhaps he could find someone else amongst the stars. Someone like her. Like the person who served as his psychological anchor.

Rita.

He didn't find her in the stars. He found nothing in the stars; nothing that concerned Larry, anyhow. He returned.

Rita.

He found a body similar to his old one, prepared by Caulder. He took it. He gave up his god-like power, but he was Negative Man again.

Rita.

She returned.

Rita.

So did Larry.

Rita.

Her name echoed around his skull as Larry sat on the edge of his "decompression" area, contemplating…what exactly? Larry wasn't sure. Rita and him, he supposed. He realized that his love for her, while sexual at first, had transcended sexuality completely. Not that she wasn't drop dead gorgeous (she was), it was just that her beauty wasn't what he focused on anymore, though he would try to provoke her with crude compliments on her looks. Pulling pigtails? At his age? Absolutely. He was Larry, after all. But he loved her. Really, really loved her. And that was the elephant in the room, wasn't it? Larry Trainor loved Rita Farr, unconditionally. It didn't matter that she had chosen Dayton over him all those years ago, it didn't matter what the two had been through or what they had become; throughout it all, the only person who had been on his mind was Rita. Why had he not realized just how deep his love for her was until now? Maybe that was the thing about elephants; they were so large that you could never see all of them at once when they were cramped in a room. Maybe not looking at the bigger picture had been a mistake on his part. Stupid bigger picture, why couldn't it have been smaller? Why couldn't he have realized all of this sooner? Why did people never realize what they had until it was gone and came back from the dead?

He heard soft footsteps in the sand behind him. He didn't do anything, just remained motionless. It could be a pelican sneaking up to attack. He was ready. At a moment's notice he could leave his body and disrupt that pelican's nervous system and…

Rita.

She sat down next to him, and rested her head on his shoulder. He rested his head on hers, and wrapped his arm around her. This was what he had wanted to find amongst the stars and amongst the endless alternate realities. This was what kept him crawling back to the Doom Patrol. Heaven.

Rita.

"God, I hate elephants." Larry sighed. Rita softly smiled; she had long ago accepted Larry for who he was, disassociation and all. She leaned closer and closed her eyes.

"I hate them too, Larry."

And they sat on the dock until the sun came up.