Author's Notes: Hey there! I originally wrote this story for Karashi's contest on DevArt a month or two back, so you may have already seen it there. If not -- please enjoy!
After writing the drabble that can be found in "Seven Lies" I really wanted to write a true CashxGwenxKevin. I've definitely warmed up to Cash's character. The jerks always have more to pick apart in the characterization department. But, as a warning, this fic IS mostly about Cash. I'm not going to give away the ending of the story, but Cash is most certainly the protagonist. Unlike in the drabble I wrote, Cash is a legitimate character and not just a plot device. XD
Cash admitted to not liking Ben Tennyson – the little prick was way too self-righteous and his "hero" attitude had sickened Cash ever since the second grade. Ben would always be trying to help people out – even if he was just being an annoyance by doing so. And something about that bugged Cash. And for a long time, he couldn't put a finger on it. So he decided to put many fingers, curled into a fist, onto Ben's arms and face instead.
Whenever Ben stood up for the weakling in class, or tried to save another bullying victim, Cash only got more and more annoyed. Being a "hero" was pointless. It wasn't like in cartoons, where heroes always prosper and the bad guys get what's coming to them. Being a hero took hard work and rarely produced any results. That was it – being a hero took effort. Pointless effort, as far as Cash was concerned.
So why didn't he just leave the annoying Tennyson alone to go about his so-called "hero" business? Why did he make a point of it to torment Ben until well into High School? Ben was just wasting his time, breath, and that annoying effort Cash had surmised was a requirement for heroes. As Cash thought on it more, he realized that being a hero was hard work.
You stood up for people, tried to right wrongs, and rarely got any recognition for it. Sometimes, you failed and everyone hated you for it. But if you succeeded, life continued as normal and nobody really cared. And if they did care, you'd be expected to be a hero again and again. It was a losing battle.
And yet Ben chose to fight it.
Why was Ben so self-sacrificing? So naturally noble? Why did Ben have the strength, the bravery, and the determination to help people with no other agenda? What was it about Ben that made him a hero?
Whatever it was, Cash knew he didn't have it.
It was easier to be a bully, definitely. But Cash didn't want the easy route anymore. He wanted something with substance. He didn't want to be angry at nothing.
He wanted to be a hero too.
"I'll help you."
And later, rather than sooner, he had gotten his chance.
Kevin admitted to not liking Cash Murray. After all, the little prick was annoying as hell, and didn't have any real guts. Sure, he liked to show off whenever he got his hand on even a speck of authority, but by himself, he was nothing. Their fight had definitely made Kevin sore (in more ways than one), but what was even worse was how the jerk had gone around town bragging about how he'd beaten Kevin.
Kevin prided himself on being a tough guy – it was all he had – tough car, tough apartment, tough music he liked to listen to on his tough huge speakers. And the tough way he dealt with Gwen Tennyson.
Maybe that should've been handled with more care.
As much as Kevin hated to admit it, there was no point in trying to deny his feelings for the red-headed Tennyson girl. She had broken through his heavy shell layer by layer, eventually reaching his heart and grasping it in her tiny hand. But Kevin had been clumsy with words, even clumsier with feelings. And though she had spurred him on to pursue her, he simply couldn't – he was too afraid that he didn't have what it took.
And that brought him back to what he hated the most about Cash. There was nothing special about Cash, but he went around boasting as though he was God's gift to humanity. His confidence was almost annoying in its steadfastness. Meanwhile, Kevin, who could think of around a million things he could do better than Cash, was left with no semblance of self-esteem. He didn't even have the confidence to ask out a girl.
Cash believed in himself, albeit without good reason.
And Kevin couldn't.
It was easier to hate yourself. That was certainly true. Because once you started to like yourself, you worried about your own well-being. And with his job, that wasn't something Kevin could be concerned about. But Kevin was tired of hating himself, of pushing people away because he didn't think they'd like what they saw. He didn't want to be angry at nothing.
He wanted to be stupidly confident too.
"I love you and I think you love me!"
And sooner, rather than later, he had gotten his chance.
"Can we just buy those and go?" Kevin asked, rolling his eyes as Gwen stared at the pair of shoes in her hand for what seemed to be the billionth time. Gwen had practically begged Kevin to take her shopping, and Kevin, being the love-struck chauffeur that he was, couldn't say no. But now, after two hours in the shoe store, he was cursing his weakness.
"I don't know," Gwen frowned, looking at the box in her hand and the box on another shelf. "Those brown ones were cute too. Which did you like better?"
"Those," he said, pointing at the shoes in her hand, "definitely those."
"Really? I think I like the brown ones better," she said, pulling out the brown ones and blatantly ignoring Kevin's suggestion. Kevin didn't care – they were done with this shoe-crusade. "Thanks again! Sorry to drag you along, but I really needed a new pair – my old ones were definitely dying on me."
"No problem," Kevin sighed, "just let me take a couple sleeping pills next time, okay?"
Gwen gave him a playful sock in the arm, still smirking at him – a smirk which Kevin had grown to adore over the past year and a half he'd known her. "Ha ha, aren't you funny?"
"I try," Kevin shrugged as Gwen got to the front of the line and paid for the shoes. "So hey, you wanna grab some lunch at the food court before we go back?"
"Sure," Gwen said rather nonchalantly. Kevin sighed inwardly. He had yet to ask Gwen Tennyson out on a date, and now, even his offers of activities that sounded slightly date-ish were assumed to be strictly friendly. He remembered what Gwen had said to him:
"It has less and less meaning until soon, you don't have the chance at all."
Maybe she had been right. Maybe Kevin really had lost his chance with her, but he couldn't help but hold out on even a glimmer of hope that Gwen might still be interested in him.
The two left the shoe store and made their way up the escalator towards the food court on the top floor. Kevin and Gwen both looked on awkwardly as a couple made out while riding the escalator. "They're totally gonna trip at the end, and maybe their faces will get stuck like that," Kevin whispered to Gwen, and she snickered, trying and failing to give him a disapproving look. But Kevin's amusing prediction didn't come true. The couple stopped their make-out session just in time to disembark on the escalator, hands still held rather tightly together. "Oh too bad. It would have been hilarious to watch them fall over."
"Well at least they're together," Gwen said, and Kevin once again felt that awkward crawling feeling in his stomach. "I mean, we're both still single, so I don't think we can talk."
"Well, you know," Kevin laughed, trying to sound as casual as possible, "a handsome guy like me and a girl like you walking around together in the mall? People will probably think we're dating."
"Handsome?" Gwen asked jokingly.
"Ouch! Hey, you know I'm hot," he teased, putting his arm around Gwen. "Can't resist me, right babe?" Gwen frowned and plucked his arm off of her.
"My name isn't 'babe'," she said sternly. "And that's the sort-of pet name I'd save for my boyfriend. Which, despite what 'people' think, you're not."
With that, Gwen walked off towards the food court, not bothering to see if Kevin was still following her. He was looking out after her, getting more and more depressed by the second. It seemed like the longer he tried to pretend that he and Gwen were "just friends" the harder it got to be around her. He knew he was hurting her by not coming clean about his feelings, and, strangely enough, he was hurting himself too. He wasn't happy being just Gwen's friend – so why didn't he just go after her?
Speeding up to catch up to Gwen, Kevin's mind raced with questions, most of which could only be answered by himself. He didn't know a lot of answers right now.
He didn't even know that Cash and JT were currently sitting in the same food court, staring at them.
"Hey, isn't that Kevin and Gwen?" JT asked rather loudly, slurping up his smoothie in between sentences.
"Yeah," Cash said, narrowing his eyes at the two of them. His eyes focused specifically on Gwen, who was at the front of the line and about to order some lunch.
Cash had to admit, Gwen was rather pretty. She might have been related to that loser Ben, but she had obviously gotten the good genes of the family. And not only was she pretty, but she was smart and confident too. He had been in the same class as her in the fifth grade, and ever since then, Gwen Tennyson had been in the back of Cash's mind.
He couldn't really say he had "feelings" for her persay. It was more of a curiosity. A "what-if". After all, it was obvious that Kevin liked Gwen. And Cash wasn't about to mess with Kevin Levin. Without a super-powered alien gauntlet, Cash wasn't really a match for the toughest kid in town.
Still, one had to wonder: Kevin had liked Gwen for a year and a half now, and the two still weren't together. Why not? Maybe Kevin had been rejected – but then why was he still following around Gwen like her little lapdog? No, it had to be that Kevin hadn't even attempted to ask Gwen out yet. Maybe he had no intention to.
So if Kevin wasn't even playing, why shouldn't Cash be the one to win?
"Hey, isn't that Cash and JT?" Gwen turned her head as she and Kevin held their food on trays. Her eyes fell upon the two school bullies, and Cash and she met eyes.
Cash realized Gwen was looking at him, and, despite his better judgment, he waved at her, beckoning her and Kevin to come over. In the past year, Cash, JT, and the Tennyson clan had called an uneasy truce. Mostly due to the fact that Cash knew that Ben had put on the Omnitrix again and could royally kick his butt if he wanted to. Details, details.
Gwen and Kevin made their way over to Cash and JT's table. Gwen was smiling pleasantly, trying to be polite, but Kevin didn't bother to mask his annoyance. He was sporting a rather impressive grimace. "Should've known you were here," Kevin remarked nastily, "I thought I smelled loser."
"Kevin," Gwen warned, shooting him a look. She turned back to Cash and JT. "Wanna eat together?"
"What?" Kevin asked, unable to believe it. "You're kidding, right?"
"Sure, sit down. As long as Levin over there doesn't blow a casket," Cash remarked sourly, and Kevin shot him a nasty look before sitting down next to JT, across from Gwen. "So what are you guys doing here?"
"Had to buy some new shoes," Gwen said, holding up her bag. "You?"
"We're going to see Assassin's Tradition," JT spoke up. "Previews looked awesome."
"Oh yeah, I heard about that," Gwen said, smiling. "Hey, maybe we should all go see it."
"Sorry, I'm busy," Kevin interrupted, taking an overly large bite of his hamburger. "And since I'm driving you—"
"I could give you a ride back," Cash offered. Kevin's eyes widened. He didn't like that idea one bit. What was Cash trying to pull anyway? "If Levin's busy and all—"
"That's really sweet of you," Gwen said, smiling. "It sounds like fun—"
Kevin suddenly stood up and grabbed Gwen's bag of shoes before grabbing her wrist. "Sorry losers, but we're leaving. Have fun watching your lame-o movie."
"Kevin!" Gwen shouted as Kevin dragged her off, his and her food still unfinished, Cash and JT still looking out after them. Cash frowned, watching Gwen look back over her shoulder at him, trying to apologize with her eyes. It was a beautiful look – and something about it made Cash want her back desperately.
Cash had only been talking to Gwen Tennyson one-on-one for a minute, but in that minute, he had seen what could have been if she were his girlfriend. She was out of his reach, an unattainable platform. But just a bit ago, as he had offered to drive her home, his fingers had grazed that platform.
And what a glorious grazing it was.
"What is wrong with you?!" Gwen shouted when Kevin finally let go of her once they reached the car. "That was so insanely rude! I just wanted to watch the movie with them! Do you really hate Cash that much?!"
"Yeah, I do," Kevin said bluntly, opening the car for Gwen. She reluctantly got inside, her arms still crossed, her eyebrows knitted together in anger. Kevin walked swiftly to the driver's side and sat down, placing his hands on the wheel and staring straight ahead. "That little arrogant prick was totally flirting with you!"
"He was not!" Gwen scoffed. "He offered to drive me home when you were being a jerk! You weren't busy! You were lying!"
"Okay!" Kevin shouted. "You want some honesty?!"
"Yes, please!" Gwen practically snarled, turning to Kevin and looking him straight in the eye.
"I love you and I think you love me!" he shouted, and Gwen's eyes widened, her jaw dropping. Kevin stopped, realizing what he'd just said, but he didn't falter or take it back. He remained silent, still staring at Gwen, waiting for her to respond.
Gwen moved her hand ever so slightly until her slim fingers rested on Kevin's arm. She blinked a few times, her eyes filling up with tears, until she launched herself at Kevin, embracing him strongly. Kevin threw his own arm around her waist and held her too, his other hand stroking her hair. "I mean it, I mean every word," he whispered into her ear over and over again until he could feel her shaking with tears. "Don't cry," he whispered, but Gwen moved back from the hug to look him the eye. She tried to dry her tears, but Kevin did it for her, wiping away the tears on her face with his thumb. He realized her face was held nicely in his hand, and he decided it was now or never.
Bringing her close to him, their faces lingered in front of one another's for a moment, Kevin silently asking her permission before pressing his lips against hers.
The kiss seemed like a breath of fresh air – a "finally" – a relief. As if they had both been carrying heavy weights on their backs and had finally let them off, allowing their muscles well deserved stretches.
When they broke, Gwen put her head on Kevin's chest, breathing slowly, taking in his scent as he wrapped his arms around her. "So…you forgive me?" Kevin asked quietly, and Gwen nodded. "Good."