2008-01-26: Classified


Benjamin_icon.gif Church_icon.gif

Summary: Church visits Ben in his office, and the innocuous gesture turns into something deeper.

Date It Happened: January 26th, 2008


Out of the hospital wing and back on duty, albeit light, Benjamin's found in his small and very cramped office. It's a bit of a glorified cubicle really. Taking him back to the days of working in an accounting bullpen. Only if the work was as simple and cut and dried as it was then. There are reports up on his computer monitor and open folders in front of him. None of it is being looked at.. oh he's looking at it, but not really. Among the folders are the paperwork for Elena Gomez and Kitty Hanner. His mind is mostly elsewhere as he fails at getting down to the business at hand. The dream whose details are fading a little while some aspects remain vivid is on his mind, as well as its timing. Looking at the calendar reminds him that it's a few days shy of when his daughter showed up in his life and his life took several unexpected turns.

Here's another unexpected turn. Partly, because it has been a long time since Church has come to visit Benji in his own office. Having missed the man while he was sitting wounded once again in the hospital clinic, Lawrence appears outside of the window to Ben's office door, lifting a closed hand and hitting the door with his knuckles in a Very Obnoxious Manner, smiling disarmingly into the glass. Knockknockknockknockrattatattatatta, etc.

Benjamin is startled from his thoughts at the knocking on the glass and looks up, almost appearing paranoid. Visibly he relaxes seeing Church on the other side of the glass and gestures for him to come on in. Hastily, he starts to clean up the papers on his desk one-handedly. Holding paperwork on Elena, his gaze drops distractedly to the woman's name, trying to mentally separate himself. It's just too personal to him.

Church turns the doorknob and slides in, quickly shutting the way behind him. The man has a singsong voice built contrary to his true mood, but it's not easy to tell that fact. "Ben-ja-min Winters. I heard you got shot, man. Again." He's going to be covered in bulletholes by the time he retires. Church wanders in a few paces, hands finding his pant pockets. "Haven't seen you in a while. How's it going?" The teasing volume is mostly gone, replaced by an earnest question for Ben.

People retire from this place alive? Could have fooled him. People try to leave and there's a bounty on their head. "I messed up on bringing in someone," Benjamin starts to explain, but falls silent as without warning, the details of that dream practically smack him upside the head. It's probably a little like being hit with a bag of bricks. "I.. it's going," he says as he tries to shove the odd recollection from his head. Thinking that busily shuffling papers will work, he winds up just throwing them on his desk. Looking at Elena's name is /not/ helping.

As Ben starts to explain, Lawrence is finding an empty chair to pull up on the other side of the desk. Then he goes silent, and Benji gets a curious look as he begins to apparently stammer up and start moving things around on his desk. Something disturbed Benjamin in the last three seconds, so of course Church isn't entirely sure if it is his fault or not. "You sure you want me to visit? It looks like I disturbed you." Lawrence cracks a small smile, a chuckle bubbling out of his chest.

Benjamin doesn't look so hot, and it has nothing to do with his latest injury. He forces a smile at Church as he decides to just turn the papers over. There. Can't see the name. That's better. "No.. it's okay. Really. Just a lot on my mind." And a dream that's bothering him more than it should, which makes him feel silly on some levels. Although, it does bring him back around to something Church said the last time he saw the man. ".. I've been wondering though. What did you mean, 'at least I have a choice' in being here? From what I'm seeing lately, we don't have much of a choice."

It seems as if the incident has slipped Church's mind, the comment having been idle and in passing after that visit. Lawrence peers back at Ben as he takes a seat, shoes tapping the hard floor. "Hm? When'd I say that?" For the moment, Church is playing clueless. Mostly because he is.

Benjamin shuts off his monitor, the items on his screen distracting him, when he doesn't need the additional help. "When I visited you at your apartment. I guess it's not important.. but maybe it is. I've just been thinking about that a lot since last week. What little choice we're actually given here. I suppose I could have refused the offer of employment, but then what? Would I have been forcefully brought in?" Sure he's babbling a little, but he trusts Church as much as he can trust anyone in the Company, he thinks highly of the man, so maybe that's why his words aren't guarded. "What happens to people here who say no? I see Elle Bishop, she wanted out, and look what's happening. Peter Petrelli is telling the Company no, so what happens? I have to kidnap two of his friends, one happens to be the daughter of a mutual friend."

Lawrence goes quiet, watching Ben from across the desk. When he finishes, Church adjusts himself in the seat with some part of uncomfortableness. Oh. "Peter…and Elle-" He says her name as if he says it too many times- he'll lose it. Elle, Elle, Elle. "Were in too deep, with things that are bigger than them. Back when I said that, first of all, I thought you were gone." And at this, Church does have a somewhat shameful look, though a half-smile. "I meant when they had first brought you in. The Haitian, or just…hurting you in other brain-y-ways until your memories vanish or get put away. That's how we put anyone back into things, if they pass our offers and have a choice." Ol'Larry didn't. As he speaks about the method, the other agent also seems grow an unusual little frown for it. "It makes it so there are less snags, if people don't… remember."

Benjamin laughs without humor as he leans back in his seat and looks up at the ceiling. "In too deep.. what does that mean and how do you know when you're in? Does anyone ever leave, or stand up and say they have a problem with these methods?" He raises his good hand up so he can rub at his eyes tiredly. "I believe you, but in a way, it can't be as simple as that." He's getting other impressions from a situation that feels as if it's spiraling out of control. "Doesn't anyone tell upper management they have a problem with just.. wiping someone's memory.. or kidnapping a friend to use as bait? Elena's father.. he's.. I hope he never finds out about this. He will /kill/ me. I know I volunteered, because I wanted to talk to her first, but still." He falls quiet, unable to sit still, but finally stops fidgeting when the pain in his shoulder grows too great. "What choice were you given about working here? You seem so.. comfortable with what we do, with what's ask… with what we're /told/ to do."

Church sits quietly still, leaning back into the seat and watching the tip of his right knee. At first it doesn't seem as if he's going to answer, but eventually he does. "I do tell them. When I don't like something, I mean. That doesn't mean anyone listens. That is why I don't really respect most of my bosses. They give me a purpose and pay my bills, though." Church shifts in his seat again, obviously a little caught off guard by the curiosity, but willing to involve himself in it.

"I don't remember." The choice. It's never been there. That is why Lawrence said what he said, some time ago when he thought Ben was gone. "…I don't remember my choice."

"I see," Benjamin says, but it all just sounds more frustrating to speak up and not be paid any attention to. As for the money? He doesn't care about it. He made a decent living without all of this. "Why doesn't anyone /do/ something then? About those that have no regard for others, or the bosses that should be replaced?" Now we're talking crazy here. About to go further on that topic, he's visibly derailed by Church's next statement and admission, "…" Ben doesn't know whether to be repulsed, disgusted or angered. He's never felt like this before. "Maybe they did, you said no and this is what happened. It's not right."

"I woke up in a cell, Benji. That is my first memory. My first real memory." Lawrence picks up his gaze and sets it on Ben again, sharp yet careful. "I've had twenty years to figure out why. I had a chance to actually find out why, too. But I didn't take it. With my… ability? I've long figured that before I was here- I was probably a public danger. A man that could take out city blocks if he got so much as angry about stubbing his big toe." Church seems to be biting his words, and he doesn't seem to be wholly sure of how he is explaining.

"And my life from when I can recall- it wasn't as if I were the enemy being-" He hates to say it:" "-reprogrammed. It was more like… I was someone to pity. So they took care of me. It's not right sometimes, but sometimes- it has to happen. I'm not saying that I like this way, and it's not like I haven't tried to change things over the years. There's never a Good decision when it comes to this line of work, and a leopard can't truly change its spots. If I could, Ben?" Church leans forward, eyeing the other man carefully. "Then I would carry on the work of helping people, with or without this Company. That is what I do. There's baggage that comes with being here, and it's just part of the job now. But I still think about why I do this. And in the end, it's the only thing that I know how to do, and help people like me at the same time."

Benjamin is silent as he listens to Church, not willing to interrupt or speak until he's done. He honestly doesn't know exactly what to say. What do you say? I'm sorry? He looks almost as if he's going to be physically ill, even as he admits, "I understand about being a danger, even when the person doesn't mean to be. Not knowing they have an ability, or knowing they do but unable to control it." He's quiet as he responds, not really looking at Church. "I keep trying to look at this as no different from working in the military or the police. Having to take down suspects by whatever means necessary. I.. just.. I feel the same way. Wanting to help others like me, like us. This was the only way I knew of, after they helped me.. but what I've been doing this past week? It's /not/ helping… I'm sorry.. I just don't really know what to say about your situation, your past. They still should have given you a choice.. I guess it's easier when you don't remember your other life, no outside attachments."

"We're more like police. They have a job to help keep a rhythm, and so do we." Church sinks slightly in his seat, folding both hands between his legs and leaning back. "It's so easy to say what we want to do, and be unable to do it. We can't really change the color of this car, but I like to think that someday it can at least get by with a new engine." He aches all of a sudden, still moving slightly in his seat. He also lifts a hand to his head, frowning for a moment and squeezing his eyes shut. "Sometimes. But I do always wonder. Mostly about who I had to leave behind, I guess." But that guy is dead now, right?

Benjamin nods some, before fishing around in one of his desk drawers. A can of Coke Zero is pulled out and tossed at Church, "Here." He then gets out one for himself and a package of cookies. Which will probably disappear really fast. "We can't just think about it. It's.. going to take action." Which is something that's liable to get you killed and fast. "I'd wonder too." Although he doesn't have much.. just a nagging mother and a daughter who kinda acts like his presence does and doesn't matter. "Is there anyway for you to find out? Or is all that information just kept from you.. If you really wanted to look, they can't just keep it from you."

"Action here has to be subtle. That is why I've been working my way up for the last couple of decades, Ben." And the fact that Church is on his side? That's saying something. "Seniority matters." He's really up there in that particular ladder, you see.

"I could find out, if I wanted. My personnel file is… classified, but only to people below me. Someone can get permission to see it, though- but I don't know why anyone would need to do that. I could look anytime I wanted. But it is probably best that I don't."

"So you just more or less play the system," Benjamin muses aloud as his drink sits untouched. "I don't think I have what it takes. I keep thinking about walking down there, letting Elena and Miss Hanner go. It's pointless to hold them when the target won't turn himself in. That would be my way of saying no." Again, with the crazy talk. The type that's liable to get a person's head on the chopping block. "I probably shouldn't have said that," he mumbles before turning his attention and focus back to Church. "I think that takes a lot of strength and willpower. To keep doing what you're doing, and to not look at your own file."

"I figure that I'm me now, and whoever I was, well. He's probably dead, missing- the life there has moved on. I wouldn't have anything even if I looked, so I just… don't." Church opens the soda idly, sipping at it to calm his own nerves. "You know darn well if you did that, you'd end up nowhere fast. Playing the system is the only way to play at all, unless you're Bob Bishop or Angela Petrelli or someone equally influential." So that is really all that they can do. "I find myself breaking more rules as the days go by, really. Maybe I am finally getting there." With no addons as to what rules he has broken, just the fact he has and has not been countered.

"I know.. It's just.. stupid morphine. Sorry. I shouldn't even be talking like this." Benjamin taps his finger against the soda can idly with some agitation. "In a way, I think I'm a little jealous of how well you look at this, and do your job. Then again you've had more time. I've just been here maybe half a year. I thought I was going to be fine with this.." Then stupid drugs and that freaky dream that's bothering him more than it should. "I'll get over this, learn from your example."

"It's not really getting over anything, just-" Lawrence sits straighter, eyes skirting the desk in thought. "-placing my attributes where they'd be more useful. I can get angry and throw a fit, or break a dozen rules, but instead I work my way up and displace my negative emotions where they'd be helping me. I don't think I've gotten over a lot of things over the years, Ben. I just know where to put my anger and my unrest, I guess? Somewhere that it'll do good instead of making trouble for me. You know what I mean?" There is a part of this where he is only trying to make sure that Benjamin doesn't do something stupid- that he's going to be able to find a better way to do anything after this.

Everything just looks so … futile and bleak though. "Thank you," Benjamin says, probably sounding as if he's holding a conversation in his head. "I'm sorry I'm having a little trouble seeing past the now. If I get like this again, just hit me, keep me from doing something stupid." His smile is hesitant and a little rueful. "I just have to stay focused and keep my head on straight. Like you."

"It takes practice. And I'll be happy to hit you." At that, Church does smile again, for real. "It's all a matter of patience. You'll grow into it soon, I hope." The man takes a longer drink from the soda now, as if it were as familiar as taking a big breath. He must be feeling better. "If you find yourself against a figurative wall, ask yourself- What Would Church Do? I should make rubber bracelets for that." Yes, feeling better.

Benjamin laughs weakly at the more senior agent. "I'll keep that in mind, and since I don't like to be hit. That should be incentive enough. You should make some of those. I can put it on my keys with what Meryl gave me." He rummages in his pocket and pulls out his keychain, now with the BFF in Klingon charm bracelet on it. "I can have a constant reminder that I'm not as alone as I feel, and that others make it through the day."

Church smirks and leans forward to inspect this Meryl gift. "Nice." He wants to laugh, but knowing Meryl- she was completely serious. "Something like that. You've never been alone, Ben." The smirk turns into another smile. "Just hadn't pulled up the right rock." There are beasties under these rocks.

Which Meryl was. She was quite serious and proud of this gift. From anyone else, and Benjamin wouldn't be carrying it around. Even if he gives the gift a slightly odd look. "I guess.. just the stress of the past week. I should have been able to take it. I've been bothered since the other night by something that shouldn't be getting under my skin. Maybe I should just go home, be a good patient and not try to throw myself back into routine so soon. Bennet said he needs me in top shape."

"If he says he needs you in top shape, then you need to be. There's little dealing otherwise, when Bennet wants something or expects it. If he expects you to be well-rested and ready for- well, whatever, then you need to be. It's been awhile since I was with him, but I always make sure when he does need me- that I'm good to go." Noah is a mover and a Shaker, Ben. If Church says rest yourself, then it's probably a good idea. "If you're not a hundred percent, you should be working on that, not on your paperwork. It isn't going anywhere, y'know."

"I know. We're working on getting the healer on call to come and finish this up." This being the bandaged and bound shoulder of Benjamin's. "Without her, I'm looking at more rehab than with the last time." Since the freshly healing tissue just took /another/ hit. "I've only been with him on one small task. He was pretty.." Scary? "I'm not sure what he's going to want out of this next operation, he didn't say." Leaving the cookies and the other unopened can of soda for Church to take, Ben looks at his desk. He's always been an ethical worker, but Church has a point. He's not in a good mindset. "Maybe I should take myself off the case of working on Elena Gomez and Miss Hanner."

"Maybe." Lawrence answers, his fingers rapping against the aluminum can in his hand, deciding to stand up as if to debate leaving. He's not sure; he could stay and scuff around with Ben, or go out for some air. That was an inadvertently deep conversation. "You should just not be here in the office, is all. Not a good thing for wounds like that one to be taxed."

Benjamin can't argue with that, for mental reasons as well as physical. "Thanks.. between talking to you and Meryl today," he pushes himself up from his chair as well. "It's helped." Even if it's a little. It has put perspective on the situation. "I think the both of you can keep me from doing something stupid."

Church gives Benji a nod, short but friendly. "Yeah. No problem. If you need to talk again- you know how to reach me." Lawrence would insert a clap on the shoulder if Ben wasn't injured. "Just keep yourself in check, buddy." At that, Church does turn to leave again.

"I'll do my best," Benjamin says as he closes up his work. Maybe he confessed to the two he trusts so that maybe it helps in that he'll have no choice but to keep himself in check.

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