Author's notes: Hey, everyone! Here's the next chapter of Emergency, for your reading pleasure. Not a lot of Ben!angst in this chapter, I'm afraid, but I promise you there will be more eventually.
"A road trip?" a somewhat quiet, though still curious voice inquired.
"Yup. And can you believe that my parents actually agreed to this?" This voice was female, and slightly louder and calmer.
"Of course they did. I'll be babysitting you kids," a particularly lower and more bored voice boomed.
The first, weaker voice was Ben, still recovering from his short stint in the hospital, leaving the female voice Gwen, and the obnoxious… Well, it was Kevin.
They were in Ben's room for the first time since the "incident." Gwen had no idea when her Aunt Sandra had possibly had time to wash the sheets and clean every inch of her son's room until it shone. She was shocked that she felt okay being in Ben's room after what had happened, but she oddly felt nothing but relief as she flopped on her cousin's bed when she arrived.
It had been an exhausting few days, with Ben hospitalized, Gwen worrying, and Kevin… being Kevin.
But neither Gwen nor Kevin found themselves tired. Something had changed between them the night before, and although neither of them had spoken of it since, it was as if everything was different.
It wasn't, though. Nothing had changed, really. Except that she was positive he loved her now.
Stealing a quick glance at Kevin, who was sitting on the desk chair turned backwards, Gwen saw his playful demeanor provide instant support for her theory. Shifting her gaze to Ben, released from the hospital only hours before, she saw something different. An exhausted hardness, maybe, but she knew it was something deeper.
She knew what he was worrying about- his personal and alien-fighting life had collided, and he was terrified that it would happen again. But looking at her slightly shaken cousin, Gwen knew that he was not at all concerned for himself.
Why did they worry for her? Just looking at Ben's newly calm but silently fearful manner made her want to tackle him in a huge hug, bellowing at the top of her lungs that she'd be okay, and so would he, so would Kevin, and so would the world! But she couldn't just yet, and she wasn't sure she'd ever be able to.
He was something, that cousin of hers. What a sight he was! Sitting on his bed, leaning against the wall, with his knees tightly hugged against his chest. Even with his usual green jacket, she could see the ends of the bandages peeking out from under the green sleeves of his soccer jacket, and the bruises along the skin that showed. The gauze covering his forehead had been hastily discarded the moment he walked in the door, revealing a deep gash trailing in a straight line from the corner of his left eyebrow. He looked tired, but not like the day before when he would pass out mid-conversation.
"Earth to Gwen?" Ben said, waving a hand in front of her face. His voice was meant to sound a little annoyed, but it was too gentle to pull it off.
She let out a small chuckle at his accidental tone and eased back into the conversation. "I do believe you are barely a year older than us Kevin. I will have you know we turn sixteen next month, so guess who gets to take us to get our permits!"
Kevin rolled his eyes. "Oh, goody."
Ben raised an eyebrow. "Goody?"
"I doubt you'll be able to get an 'A' on your physical in the shape you're in, Tennyson," he retorted.
Gwen threw her head in her hands as Ben replied, "They don't actually grade you on your physical, Kevin, and besides, I just had mine done a few weeks ago so I could apply for soccer camp. How the heck did you manage to get yours?"
"Easy. I forged it."
"Figures," Ben replied, rolling his eyes.
"So, Gwen, do you have yours done yet?"
She looked up and replied, "Karate."
Kevin shrugged, and there was silence for a bit. Kevin rocked back in forth in Ben's chair until he received a hiss to stop from Gwen. "So…" he started, attempting to make some conversation. "Neither of you are driving my car, just so you know."
"I already know how to drive, Kevin, you know that," Ben said.
"I don't. So you won't teach me?" Gwen said innocently. She'd been waiting all day to flirt a little bit.
Kevin was caught off-guard. "Um… uh… Er, I have a strict no non-Kevin-drivers rule…" he said, trailing off, so she put on a tiny, hardly noticeable pout. It seemed to do the trick, because he quickly finished, "…but I might make a small allowance in your case."
"Hey, that's not fair!" exclaimed Ben, sounding stronger than he had in a while. He was oblivious, or at least pretending to be oblivious, to the flirting and tension in the air.
Finding it immensely entertaining to upset Ben, even a little, Kevin played it up for all it was worth. "Yeah, the day you guys turn sixteen, I'm taking Gwen out for a driving lesson."
Gwen smiled. "Sorry, Kevin, but Ben and I always do everything together on our birthday. Tradition and all that, you know."
"That's right!" Ben shouted (or at least tried to), happy his cousin came to his defense.
"Seriously? You guys have a cousin and cousin day?" Kevin said, as if it was the most absurd and ridiculous thing he'd ever heard.
"Uh huh," Ben replied.
Gwen added, "Yep. We didn't always like it though. It started out as joint parties when we were little-"
"-and then went into amusement park days with Grandpa Max-" Ben chimed in.
"and now, we actually can stand being in the same room with each other for more than five seconds," Gwen finished, feigning pride like a two-year-old admitting that she'd just used the potty all by herself.
Kevin laughed, shaking the chair with each breath. "Aw, I bet you guys have a scrapbook with a page for each year!"
Ben pretended to be insulted. "Only a page for each year? Who said we didn't have a complete twenty-page scrapbook for every birthday?"
They all laughed hysterically for a while, until Ben fell off the bed after a particularly hard snicker.
Ben didn't even notice he fell, and the whole thing just made Kevin cackle even louder and more obnoxiously, but Gwen's full-hearted giggles abruptly stopped the second her cousin crashed to the ground.
"Ohmigod, Ben, are you okay?" she asked, throwing herself on the ground next to him.
"Wh-wh-what?" he inquired between laughs. "Oh," he said, realizing that he was on the ground. "Oh! I'm fine, Gwen- no need to worry."
Too late for that, they both thought at once. Kevin, just now figuring out that he was the last one laughing, quickly shut his mouth to save himself from embarrassment. He hoped no one noticed the tiny blush creeping up from his neck.
Gwen brushed herself off, stood up, and tossed her long red hair behind her. She saw him fall… And she freaked out. She was still hyperventilating.
"Gwen," Ben said, genuinely concerned now, "are you okay?"
"I-I'm fine. Just a little startled."
Kevin just stared. He really didn't know what to say to her. How do you promise someone that nothing bad will ever happen? How do you make them understand, in the mist of reminiscing about good times and in the aftermath of bad, that everything will be alright and happy in the end?
He couldn't, so he kept his mouth shut. "You okay there, Gwen?"
"Yeah, I'm okay," she said, though not very convincingly.
Ben scrambled to his feet from the floor and put an arm around his cousin, who was now sitting on his bed again. "I'm okay, Gwen. And I'd love to be able to say that everything can be perfect forever and we can go on with our lives knowing that nothing can ever hurt us, but I can't. So you're going to have to trust me that I'm okay right now, we're going to get to the bottom of this, and that you have nothing to worry about right now. Can you do that, Gwen?"
Her head was in her hands again now, but not out of embarrassment for Kevin- she was truly distraught now. "Yes, I can, Ben."
The sixteen-year-old in the chair was marveled. He hated to admit it, but Ben had a way with words. Where as Kevin had always resorted to actions to explain his thoughts (like punching people, kicking people's asses… and kissing Gwen on the cheek the night before when he was at a loss of words), Ben usually spoke out his feelings before he acted. It was a trait Kevin silently admired, though he'd never let anyone know that. It was kind of annoying when they had these sappy cousinly moments, though- he felt like a third wheel sometimes. He had to say something…
"We're going to be okay, guys," he said suddenly as he rose from the chair and shoved it back under the desk.
Ben blinked as he realized that Kevin was addressing both of the Tennysons. He nodded in response, not taking his arm away from Gwen.
He still wasn't sure he liked the idea of Kevin and Gwen together. Ben knew it was a matter of time before something happened, and he liked the concept of his cousin and his friend as a couple. But he just didn't understand Kevin sometimes- it was annoying how hard it was to read him. He was always so unexpected, and it was almost obnoxious. But Gwen seemed to comprehend him, and he made Gwen happy, so he was all for it in the end.
Kevin made to leave the room, and then paused. "Oh, I almost forgot- you two better figure out what you guys want to for your birthday, so we can… Yeah, Well, I hope you guys don't mind having me along."
Ben smiled, and withdrew his arm from around Gwen. "We'd be honored to have your presence at our birthday, Mister Levin."
Gwen giggled, and Kevin knew everything was okay again. "Don't push your luck, Mister Tennyson."
And with that, he left.
Turning back to Ben, Gwen saw a very tired boy with a look of amusement on his face. "Figured… it wouldn't be long…" he muttered with a yawn.
With a small chuckle, she gently guided her cousin into a reclining position and placed his blanket over him. He was asleep before his head hit the pillow.
Gwen looked at the digital clock on the desk. Only a little after 5 at night, but he had a big day, she thought.
Exiting the room, she ran into her Aunt Sandra, who was carrying an absurd load of laundry through the hallway, blocking her vision.
Tripping over her own feet, the women wobbled, letting some of the dirty clothing tumble towards the floor, as the rules of gravity dictate. Before they could reach the ground, Gwen emitted a bright pinkish-purple mass to catch them.
Sandra forcibly threw the laundry into the washer, and pushed the door close with a satisfying slam. "You too, Gwen?" she inquired, more amused than shocked. She fiddled with the detergent and the knobs and buttons on the washing machine.
"Um, yeah, I guess Aunt Sandra," her niece answered sheepishly.
The woman turned around, and, putting her elbow on top of the washer, she rested her head on her hand. Tilting her chin up to look at Gwen, she calmly said, "Thanks for taking care of him, Gwen. I know how hard you try."
Gwen wanted to find something spectacularly deep to say in response to this, but could only bring herself to nod.
She skipped down the stairs, said a quick goodbye to her uncle, who was once again reading in his chair, and ran out of the house, straight into Kevin.
"What're you still doing here?" she said, curious.
"I'm pretty sure I was your ride here, Gwen," Kevin answered, smirking.
Her mouth formed a tiny O shape. But she didn't feel like going home- not yet.
As if he read her mind, Kevin plopped down on the cement step right in front of the door. "Ben asleep?" he asked.
"Yeah. I'm surprised he made it that long without passing out," Gwen replied as she sat down next to him.
He looked at her. "You know, he's going to be okay," Kevin said, with a slight amount of caution in his tone.
Gwen rested her chin in her hands. "I know, but… it's still so scary. Knowing that I might have lost him. It might be crazy, but I love him. I mean he's my cousin, but we're so close. Ken is my brother, but he's always been the cool older brother. He's always had his own life, and although he tried to include Ben and me as much as he could…" It suddenly seemed so trivial. "I don't even know why I'm telling you this," she moaned.
Kevin shrugged, his expression not changing at all. "I don't mind."
She looked up and smiled at him. "Well, Ben and I are so close in age, so we've always been close, even if we hated it when we were younger. But he's my cousin, and I love him. We don't always get along, but…" she trailed off.
"You wouldn't want anything to happen to him?" Kevin finished for her, still remaining absolutely stoic.
"Yeah, exactly." She smiled again. "But seeing him hurt like that… So weak. But he's so obnoxiously brave! I know when he's afraid, and I hate it, but he always hides it; he always puts everyone else first! It's so annoying!"
Gwen had perked up a bit; this was just a bit of ranting now, instead of a deep conversation.
Kevin had been thinking the same things himself. Another trait he admired in Tennyson- but he'd never tell!
Pretending he didn't understand, Kevin said, "So he annoys you because he's so brave, but you hate it when he's afraid?"
She saw right through his act. That was one of the things they liked so much about each other- Gwen could read him like a picture book, so he enjoyed having someone wordlessly understand him and she like that she was the only one who knew how to decode his thoughts.
"Stop trying to be stupid, Kevin, I'm serious. What if…"she whispered as the smile slowly drained from her face as the words she was saying seeped in. "What if something else happens, and Ben…?" she trailed off, not wanting to say dies.
"He won't," Kevin said, trying to be reassuring. "He might be a wimp, but Ben's not stupid. He'll be okay, Gwen," and he squeezed her hand.
The tiny grin was back again. "Well, I better get you home," Kevin stated, pulling her to her feet.
Gwen was still smiling as she said, "Thanks again, Kevin."
And so they walked, hand-in-hand, to Kevin's green car.
If anyone had been passing by the Tennyson's house in that moment, they probably would have stopped and stared at the sight.
They would have seen an adult man standing in front of a green sports car, attempting unsuccessfully to stuff many bags of luggage into the trunk.
They would have seen a tall, muscular boy wearing a black t-shirt wiping sweat from his pale skin, as the summer heat rained down upon the world. He took a sip from a plastic water bottle, threw it on the ground, and crushing it with his foot.
A girl with long red hair was talking to two of the people, apparently her mother and father, as they gave her hugs and seemed to say a lot of things that she found annoying and appalling.
And exiting the house was another boy with what must have been his mother, carrying a backpack. She seemed to be trying to take the box from him, and he brushed her aside, her complaints not breaking his stride a bit. The odd thing was, this boy was wearing a green jacket, even in the summer. If one looked even closer, they would see the ends of bandages sticking out from under the cuffs.
What was actually happening was this:
Carl Tennyson was frustrated, because he couldn't fit all of the luggage, enough to last the entire summer, into the trunk.
Kevin had just finished tuning up his car, checking to make sure everything was safe enough for an extended road trip. Thirsty, he chugged down the entire water bottle in one swig, but didn't really want to step on it. What he really wanted to do was absorb the damn thing (wouldn't it be cool to see himself be transparent?), but Gwen's parents were around, and he wasn't sure if they knew he had powers.
Gwen was getting… a sex talk. It was so aggravating- nothing would happen between her and Kevin; she wanted to take it slow. And besides, who was she going to run into on the road? Aliens, maybe, but boys? No. She'd miss her parents, but this was just infuriating. She certainly hoped Kevin didn't hear them going on like this.
This leaves the boy exiting the house and his mother, Ben and Sandra Tennyson. He was trying to explain to his mother that yes, he knew that he had just been released from the hospital three days ago and no, carrying a backpack full of water bottles and granola bars would not kill him.
Carl eventually employed Kevin's help in jamming the bags into the trunk, and slipped him a credit card and an envelope of bills somewhere between shoving in Gwen's books, Ben's soccer ball, and his own spare car parts.
"You kids really need all this junk?" Carl asked, tired.
"YES!" all three bellowed at once, before falling into hysterics once more.
The tearful parents said goodbye to their children, telling them to keep in touch.
And then the girl and the two boys got into the car and left, leaving the four adults alone in the sweltering summer sun.
"Be safe," Sandra Tennyson whispered to her son, already down the block, wishing that by willing it, it would be true.
She too went into the house, hoping that all would be well.
Author's notes: So the team has left for their road trip, which won't be much like the one in the original Ben 10 because I've probably only seen five episodes of that (I'm here for Alien Force). Boring chapter, I know. There won't be all of this sappy stuff soon- a little action is coming up after a while.
There's been a lot of Gwevin, and I know some of you like it, and some of you hate it. But I want you to understand that a lot of that's going to fade into the background for a lot of this, so if you are an anti-Gwevin, you can still read this fic in peace, I think.
Grr, I hate filler chapters. I always feel the need to explain why the chapter's so freaking stupid, but it needs to be there to establish background.
Please review, guys! I only got one new review, and although the hit count keeps rising, I'd love to hear feedback! Thanks a lot to everyone who has reviewed so far.
Edit (August 2009): I've decided to leave off the story here, as I think all of the current loose ends are tied up. I originally intended for this to continue on for a while, but I like where this stops. Sorry to anyone else who was looking forward to an update. Thanks for reading!