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Fic -- I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends
There are two related stories in this post. You could see them as chapters, or separate pieces.

Title: Office Snoops
Rating: G
Word Count: 515
Characters: Hartley Rathaway and an OC.
Summary: Supporting others is essential.
Warnings: Ableism.
Notes: For katzedecimal's birthday!

The man crept into Hartley’s office like he was some kind of covert spy, and perhaps that’s what he was. He closed the door quietly behind himself, and his boss looked up curiously because he hadn’t even knocked.
“What’s going on, Craig?”

The man seemed distinctly scandalized as he glanced around to see if anyone was listening. “Did you know,” Craig said in a low voice, “that the new guy is rocking in his office? Like back and forth in his chair?”
“You mean Roscoe?” Hartley asked with raised brows. “Yeah, he does that sometimes. It’s not a big deal.”
“It’s really weird…I mean, is he crazy?”
“I’ve known him for a while, and he isn’t. Not that it’s any of your business,” Hartley replied in a chiding tone. He was now frowning and Craig realized the conversation wasn’t going very well, but decided to keep trying.

“But it’s unprofessional, and might make the company look bad.”
Hartley sighed. “Has anyone outside the office even seen him? And scratch that -- I don’t really care if they do. If a person outside the company has a problem with something so harmless, I’d rather not deal with them.”
“You know, maybe you should be talking about this with Roscoe, not tattling behind his back,” the boss said firmly. “Let me be clear: I don’t have a problem with it, and think you shouldn’t either. But I also don’t feel that it’s my place to talk about him when he’s not here. Why don’t you ask him about it, and see what he says?”
Craig reddened and looked down at his feet, clearly embarrassed. “He…he might get mad.”

“Yeah, he might feel angry because you’re giving him grief over something so unimportant,” Hartley said pointedly. “But at the same time, this is his business and not mine, so it’s up to him if he wants to talk to you about it. Understand?”
“Yes,” Craig muttered, defeated. He walked slowly out of his boss’ office with a sour expression, muttering a few choice words under his breath and not realizing the scope of Hartley’s enhanced hearing. Hartley wrote a note on the man’s file about him being a troublemaker and potential bigot, and spent the next hour drafting a company policy about the rights of employees with disabilities. It was a concept which was dear to his heart for obvious reasons, but he wasn’t the only person in the office with a disability, and the others didn’t have the protection of being the company owner.

Hartley looked over the new charter once he was finished, quite satisfied that its clarifications would be helpful for everyone. He’d read it to his employees at the next company meeting and would make certain that they all understood it. And he decided to give Roscoe the option of a safe space where he could de-stress without spies watching him, because he really was angry about this on his friend’s behalf. He went over to Roscoe’s office and knocked quietly at the door, hoping not to startle him.
“Hey Roscoe, you got a moment..?”


Title: Helping Hands
Rating: G
Word Count: 1450
Characters: Hartley Rathaway and Roscoe Dillon.
Summary: "Man's best support is a very dear friend." - Cicero
Warnings: None.
Notes: For katzedecimal's birthday! For those unfamiliar with Hartley's history and hearing implants, here's a page which recaps it.

It had been a long afternoon, though the workday was still hours away from ending. Roscoe typed at a hurried pace on a report he’d been dealing with all week, and successfully ignored the insistent buzzing of incoming texts for nearly ten minutes. But finally the noisy droning broke his concentration and he glanced at the phone in irritation, discovering three frantic messages from Hartley.

come to my office. important!!

now, PLEASE.

please, roscoe, i need you.

He stared at the messages, which were very unlike Hartley’s typical easy-going style, and ran to the boss’ office. Nobody answered his knocks, so he finally opened the door and went inside, feeling decidedly worried about Hartley’s well-being. He found him sitting at his desk, but with his head in his hands and clearly trying to maintain composure.

“Hartley, what’s wrong?”

There was no response.

“Hartley, are you all right?!”

Still no answer.

So Roscoe walked over to him and put a concerned hand on his shoulder. But before he could ask if something terrible had happened to James, Hartley looked at him and brightened up.
“My implants stopped working,” Hartley said, his voice much louder than usual. “I tried to fix it, but didn’t succeed and I don’t know what to do. Can you help?”
“Oh!” Roscoe exclaimed, surprised and more than a bit relieved that his friend was mostly all right. “Yes, of course.” But he’d turned his face away to hide his emotions, and Hartley couldn’t understand what he’d said.

“I need you to look at me when you speak. I’m not very good at reading lips, but it’s something,” Hartley told him in that same loud voice, which was a bit hard on his sensitive ears. “Do you know sign language?”
“No, I’m sorry,” Roscoe said regretfully, this time making sure to face his boss. He didn’t particularly enjoy the eye contact that came with looking at someone’s face, but focused his gaze on Hartley’s mouth instead. That was more comfortable for him, and satisfied both their needs. “I’ll collect my tools and get to work. It will only be a minute.”
“Please don’t tell anyone in the office about this…I don’t want them to know,” Hartley pleaded, and Roscoe nodded. He certainly understood the sentiment, and would calmly lie to his co-workers to protect the other man’s privacy.

Five minutes later, Hartley sat on the floor and Roscoe knelt beside him with a bag of tools and a powerful headlamp. He used another bright hand-held light to peer at the implant, which was still in place inside and around Hartley’s ear; Roscoe was no surgeon, and wasn’t about to extract it unless absolutely necessary.
“I think I see the problem. A few of the circuits appear to be burned out,” Roscoe announced, making sure Hartley could see his mouth. He also wrote it down on a pad of paper in case his words were difficult to understand. His friend nodded with a feeling of distinct relief, finally allowing himself to hope that the situation might be over soon.

“I didn’t know you kept your tools at the office,” Hartley noted as Roscoe got to work, and the man shrugged.
“I have a set here and a set at home -- you never know when they’ll be needed,” Roscoe replied as he simultaneously wrote it on the pad. “You will need to hold very still as I remove the damaged parts.”
He spent the next few minutes cutting out the scorched circuitry with a tiny laser scalpel, accidentally singeing part of the ear in the process.

“I hate this silence,” Hartley said plaintively as Roscoe continued working. “When I was a child, I couldn’t hear anything; not the voices of my parents or nannies, and no music. I could see people speaking and feel the vibrations of sounds, so I knew they were trying to interact with me, but I couldn’t understand them and most of them didn’t try to communicate in a way I could understand. They wanted me to communicate their way, so that’s how I learned to kinda-sorta read lips. I only learned ASL in adulthood, long after I’d gotten my implants…I thought it was important in case I got the chance to talk to other deaf people, or in case my implants failed. Well, now they’ve failed.”

Roscoe had always found it difficult to connect with people and respond in socially conventional ways, but he could hear the pain in his friend’s voice and could relate to the story.
“I understand, and I am sorry I can’t speak with you properly,” he said as he wrote it. “But don’t be afraid, I am fairly sure I can fix this and restore your hearing. And even if it can’t be repaired right now, I’m absolutely certain I’ll be able to fix it if I work on it under a microscope. Trust me, everything will be all right.”

“I appreciate that,” Hartley replied with a sad smile. “It’s just scary knowing that music can be taken away from me at any time. I know I’d now be able to communicate with other people if my implants were broken forever, and that’s fine. But the silence…and never hearing music again? I don’t know what I’d do.”
“We’d do everything possible to help you,” Roscoe told him with surprising firmness. “I would, James would, and so would all the other Rogues. We are your family, and you’ll never be left on your own again. Remember that.”

Hartley had been trying to keep his emotions in check ever since the implants had burned out, fearing that the situation would be much worse if he didn’t remain calm. But now his lip quivered and a few tears escaped, and Roscoe was afraid he’d said the wrong thing again.
“Thank you,” Hartley said quietly, struggling to maintain his equanimity. “I will remember that.”

Neither man spoke for the next half hour, because Roscoe was intently focused on his work and Hartley allowed him to concentrate. But eventually Roscoe gently poked his friend on the arm to get his attention.
“I have replaced the damaged circuits, and am going to give the new ones a bit of a jolt to get them started. You may feel a moderate electric shock,” Roscoe warned, and Hartley nodded. The engineer attached tiny clips to the outer edge of the implants, and these were wired to a small control box held in his hand. He gave Hartley a few moments to prepare himself for the potential discomfort, and then pressed the button.

“Ow!” Hartley exclaimed and rubbed the back of his head, but it took only moments for a delighted smile to spread across his face. “They’re working again!” He impulsively hugged Roscoe, who seemed startled at first but soon hugged him back.
“Thank you for everything,” Hartley told him softly as he once again struggled to hold back tears, this time successfully. “You’ve been a great friend and I owe you a lot.”
“Think nothing of it,” Roscoe said with some embarrassment. “You’ve always been a kind friend to me too, and I do not like the idea of keeping score. Besides, I enjoyed the challenge.”

“Okay, then just know that I owe you a beer, and really appreciate both your help and discretion. It means so much…and now I can tell James without worrying him. You want to cut out early and go for that beer? I’m emotionally and physically exhausted anyway.”
“I’d like that, but the report I’ve been working on simply cannot wait,” Roscoe answered regretfully with a slight frown. “No one would fault you for going home now, though, so maybe you should let James pamper you for the rest of the day. I’d be tired in your position too.”

Hartley was simply too drained to argue, so he allowed Roscoe to help gather his things and then told his secretary that he wasn’t feeling well. Being the boss had its privileges, so nobody batted an eye when he left an hour early and went home to James’ loving (and concerned) embrace. He really needed some rest and privacy in order to deal with the day’s stress, and James was incredibly good about that.

As for Roscoe, he went back to his report and stayed at the office until past seven in the evening. Finishing at a late hour didn’t bother him at all, as he was something of a workaholic even on his own time. He quietly headed home after concluding work, made a quick dinner and cuddled with Spencer on the couch for a bit, and then picked up his tablet. It was time to begin learning ASL.

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I commented at Archive already, but this deserved another thumbs up! Love to see you writing my sweet :)

Thank you very much, I always appreciate the kind words and comments :D

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