Ben 10 Alien Force

Homecoming 12

By Crystalquirt

Early Thursday morning Ben is very upset about Tetrax and is very quiet. The others plan what to do next after finally getting a nights rest after the crazed Galvin lost them. A little angst, a little romance.

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From part 11 pt 2 – Hero Rising

"I think we're all starving, but I need to make another stop right here before we stop for food." He pointed to a little town nearby on the map.

"Why, what's there?"

"I need to pick up a little something from a friend of mine."

"Another Plumber?"

"No, he is a veterinarian friend that I went to school with for a while. He is expecting us."

"Oh man, it's not some sharp animal doctor instrument used on cattle or something for me is it?"

"No Kevin, but I will keep things like that in mind if you keep getting yourself hurt."

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When they were far enough down the road, and exited the freeway, the first place they stopped was a truck stop with showers and luckily, a big store. Well, 'big' for a truck stop. The clothing area of the store even had socks. After they ate Gwen and Julie shopped for everyone who needed something to wear. Kevin stayed in the truck with Ben. Gwen took food out to them since they didn't want to come in wearing their torn up clothes. Joe went to the trucker's laundry and did a load of the few things they had left since everything couldn't be replaced at the truck stop.

They got more drawstring-type sweat pants and t-shirts and socks and they took turns showering. Once they were all dressed, Joe rebandaged Ben's arm and Kevin's leg before they pulled out and headed for Joe's veterinarian friend's office. Gwen went with Kevin in his car. Ben was on the gurney facing the wall. Julie was worried about him and she tried to talk to him, but he was just too distracted and didn't hear most of what she said. No one questioned Joe about what he was up to.

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Kevin and Gwen pulled into the dirt parking lot at the Best Care Critter Doctor's Center after the truck. It was right at the edge of town, near some very expensive ranches and horse breeding operations. Kevin rolled his eyes at the giant murals of a dog, cat, bird, horse and cow - with pink ribbons in their hair. The giant silly animals were painted on the outside walls of the office buildings and barns that made up the large veterinary hospital. Kevin backed the car into a spot behind where Dr. Joe parked where he could see the truck and watched as Joe got out and went in.

"I'm gonna go check on Ben." Gwen announced and got out.

Ben was still lying on the gurney, facing the wall. It looked like he was asleep. Gwen climbed in and whispered to Julie.

"How's he doin'?"

Julie looked up at her and just shook her head.

Ben answered, "I'm fine, it's Tetrax who isn't."

"I thought you were asleep, sorry."

"I don't think I will ever sleep again. I just can't believe Albedo killed Tetrax."

"Oh Ben."

Julie stood next to him and put her hand on his shoulder. He crossed his right arm up across his chest and covered her hand with his. She couldn't think of anything comforting to say. All the usual, standard responses, 'his suffering is over, he's in a better place' blah-blah-blah – sounded like such crap as she searched her thoughts. She chose not to say anything, knowing that this was something she could not fix with fancy words. She just stayed close, to be there for him.

She and Gwen sat quietly with Ben until Joe came back. When Kevin saw him coming out of the office, he joined them in the truck to see what he had borrowed from his friend. Ben rolled over to see, but he seemed so distracted, Gwen could tell he wasn't really paying attention.

Joe opened a large case and showed them a long weapon, like a rifle. "Hey Doc, you never cease to amaze me. Your ability to obtain weapons from unlikely places is astonishing, but in most of Albedo's alien forms this primitive earth weapon would be useless."

"Yes, but this isn't a weapon that shoots to kill, it doesn't fire bullets. I am sure Chromastone, Swampfire or Big Chill wouldn't be affected. But Albedo's human form, and from what I have seen and what you have told me his alien forms similar to earth's monkey, Jetray, Humongousaur or Echo Echo, probably would be. It is a high powered tranquilizer gun like the kind they use for elephants and rhinoceros. My friend here is the on-call veterinarian for the Wildlife Planet Zoo down the street."

"It may work. Some of Ben's aliens are susceptible to chemicals just like a human is. Just in case though we will need a backup plan in case it doesn't work and once we capture him, what do we do with him? Since Tetrax is dead, how do we get him back to prison? Ben, can't you 'call' Azmuth with your watch somehow?"

"Probably, but I don't know how unless I overload it again."

Julie was thoughtful, "After you get Albedo, maybe Ship would take us to see Azmuth?"

"That is probably our only option without Tetrax being here. We can worry about it more after we capture Albedo. His capture is the only thing we know we have to do, no matter what."

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After they had been driving for about two hours, they found a small town right next to the freeway that was just big enough to have three fast food places in it and one of them had Chili Fries! Kevin called Ben on his phone while they were parking across the street to see what everyone in the truck wanted. Joe answered Ben's phone since when it ran, Ben didn't even look up.

Joe and Julie said they would be happy to get whatever they got for them and Ben refused food. Kevin took his car through the drive through and got six of the same cheeseburger meals. One was for Ben anyway in hopes he would eat after all, and another for Plumber, of course.

Gwen was a little grossed out by what he ordered for her and ordered a grilled chicken sandwich with apple wedges for herself and Chili Fries for Ben. Maybe Ben would at least eat some of those.

Ben still wouldn't eat. He said he was sick to his stomach and threatened to throw up every time it was mentioned. Dr. Joe told him he would let him go this time if he would drink a lot of water, but the next time they stopped he promised to get him back on something like rice and chicken that would be easy on his stomach. If he still couldn't eat it, he promised him more IVs and a stop at the next urgent care center for more tests.

Kevin got his and Ben's burgers. He also had Gwen's burger and Julie helped finish off the Chili Fries when he wasn't looking.

They didn't talk much as everyone had their mouths full, and Ben didn't talk at all. His eyes were wet and red and he didn't even feel like moving. What happened to Tetrax hurt him more than any of his injuries.

Kevin pulled out the bottom of his 'Peterbuilt' t-shirt and looked at the design on the front. "I will never forget this trip where all we had to wear was hospital and truck stop 'fashions'. I can't wait until we get home and can get back into our own clothes."

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Albedo found himself in a small town, one with three fast food places at the freeway exit. He was sickened by his cravings for Chili Fries, but was excited anyway when he found them on the menu of the restaurant he chose. That's where he was when he saw Kevin Levin's car outside in the drive-though.

Albedo smiled and said out loud, "I knew I had not really lost them - my superior intellect prevents me from making such mistakes." The two other customer's waiting in line just looked at him like he was crazy – they would never know how right they were. He watched the car through the restaurant window as it went across the street and parked behind the familiar looking truck.

Joe parked in the last row pointing out towards a short guardrail at the edge of the parking lot. Behind the railing was a cliff that dropped straight down to a river below. Farms and ranches stretched as far as they could see from the other side of the river.

"And there are the rest of them, including Ben Tennyson!" he watched and planned as some of them got out of the car with bags of food and climbed into the truck.

About halfway through her sandwich, Gwen stopped eating it looked like she was scanning the interior of the truck with her glowing eyes. But really she was focusing in on the presence she felt.

"ALBEDO! He is nearby!" Ben rolled over and paid attention. Gwen kept the mask that Albedo had worn in her pocket ever since Kevin gave it to her. She got up to get out of the truck. She was going to go find Albedo.

"No" Kevin stopped her. "Don't go out, can you tell how close he is or what he's doing from here?"

"Very close, and right now, his is not moving around. He is in the restaurant across the street."

"Maybe we shouldn't let him know yet that we know he's here."

Ben stood up. "Now that we know Albedo is still with us, we should set a trap for him here, and end this."

"Your right, we should take care of Albedo before we get home."

"Right, I will make him pay for what happened to Tetrax."

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Gwen really didn't like the plan Ben came up with at all. He decided he would be left alone as 'bait' to lure him close enough for Joe to get him with the tranquilizer gun. She knew he was in no condition to be taking chances like this and there was no guarantee the tranquilizer would work on any of the alien creatures, and they knew it wouldn't work on some at all if he chose to turn into one of them. Kevin, herself and the laser lances were to be the backup plan, but she was still very worried since a similar situation had already gone badly at the truck stop.

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First, Ben went Big Chill and went invisible and intangible. Then Plumber, Julie, Kevin, Joe and Gwen all climbed out of the truck and went to Kevin's car, but Julie got in the driver's seat with Plumber sitting next to her. Kevin looked uncomfortable, but not because of Albedo, but because someone else would be driving his car. "Julie just take it easy! You don't even have a license!

"Don't worry, my dad taught me how to drive, I will be careful and get back as soon as I can."

"No" all they could hear was Big Chill's voice, since he was intangible and invisible. "Julie, stay away, where you'll be safe. I will call you as soon as Albedo is captured."

Julie said nothing, but glared at him, she had no intention of staying away.

As Kevin and Gwen got in the back of his car, Big Chill turned them invisible and intangible and flew back to hide them inside the truck one at a time. Once he released them inside the truck, they became visible. Then Big Chill flew back out for Joe, and managed to make him invisible and intangible, but hissed loudly trying to catch his breath. He really strained to try to take off while carrying him. Ben didn't have the strength left to fly with him, even the short distance to the truck.

"I can't lift you! What do we do?" he panted.

"No problem Ben, just keep me invisible while we walk to the truck and I will climb in through the door without opening it."

Ben tried it and it went well. Invisible Big Chill climbed up in the truck through the door after him. Julie had already driven away. She got on the freeway, only to get off at the next exit. Ben's instructions for her, was to just leave and stay away out of danger. The more Julie thought about it, the more she just couldn't. She had to get back, to at least watch and if they needed help, maybe she could do something.

Julie parked the car in front of a closed real estate office near the exit ramp, and then looked around trying to figure out how to get back. Plumber got out and marked the office's trees as his own. There was a small town cab company's vehicle right across the street at the Big Macs! The driver had just gotten something to eat through the drive through and had pulled over in the driveway across from her to eat. When she approached him, he ignored her at first, wanting to have his lunch break in piece.

But she offered him fifty dollars just to take her back three miles to the last exit where her friends were. He got her to add another fifty to take Plumber, saying that he didn't allow dogs in his cab. So a hundred dollars got her and Plumber a ride and even a disguise. She found a ball cap in the back seat of the cab and when she asked about it, the cab driver tossed it into the deal. She paid the driver and went to the outside dining area by the restaurant across the street.

No one could be seen around the truck, except Albedo Ben standing between a parked car and the building. Julie stood up to watch him as he moved toward the truck. Plumber growled.

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Albedo was watching what they did and asked himself several questions. "Why would they go off and leave Ben alone - especially since he is injured? Maybe they think that they are that safe now. I wonder if I should have followed them for a little way to see what they are up to, but why waste time?

"Humans are completely illogical. I get a headache just trying to figure them out. Ben Tennyson is right in front of me, and alone. I will kill him and take his Omnitrix right now." Albedo walked out in the empty parking lot and slapped his Omnitrix. Spidermonkey appeared after the flash and leapt up to the back of the truck.

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Kevin and Joe sat in the front, inside the truck and Joe put the tranquilizer gun together. Ben changed back to his human form and leaned over on the gurney, panting and holding his chest. "That was harder than I thought it would be."

"Ben, it's only been a couple of days since you were injured severely and had major surgery."

"Ya Ben, if something goes wrong here, you have to let me and Kevin take care of it. You and Joe stay in here."

"No promises." Ben smiled at her.

"Ben, I'm not kidding!"

Joe interrupted, "Alright, we're ready, just understand that even if this works you will have to keep him busy and prevent him from running off, or injuring any of you while the drug takes effect. It will take 15 or 20 minutes at the best to drop him."

"Oh man . . . that's a long time." Now Ben was very nervous.

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Ben turned to look at the back truck doors when they suddenly flew open. Gwen pushed Ben out of the way and stood in front of him, ready to protect him as Albedo Spidermonkey and blocked the doorway. Albedo hesitated for a moment, surprised at seeing Ben's friends back with him when he was sure he saw them leave.

Joe took the chance and fired a tranquilizer dart. The syringe buried itself in the fur in Spidermonkey's chest, right next to the Omnitrix symbol. A bang and a puff of smoke rose from his fur as it injected the tranquilizer under his skin.

"What is this? Some feeble attempt to stop me? It didn't even hurt . . . stupid humans!" He pulled the syringe out of his skin and threw it aside.

Gwen threw energy at him, and knocked him back off the truck. Albedo Spidermonkey howled, spun in mid-air and landed on his feet. He shot web at Gwen and hit her, pinning her arms to her sides. He yanked her out of the truck with the web and before she landed Kevin was under her to catch her. Plumber charged passed Kevin and attacked Albedo Spidermonkey.

Kevin put Gwen down on her feet and tore the webbing from her arms. Plumber landed next to them all wrapped up in webbing. He growled and snarled as he started chewing on it to get loose. Spidermonkey howled and screamed like an enraged chimpanzee and jumped on Kevin. Gwen got a lash around three of his six feet and pulled him off of him. She put an energy barrier around Spidermonkey to try and contain him.

Albedo Spidermonkey effortlessly jumped through the top of her energy barrier and landed on Kevin, he fell on his back with Spidermonkey on top of him. Kevin's arms were held together over his head with Spidermonkey's first pair of legs, his hind legs stood on Kevin's knees and his second pair of legs kicked him in the ribs and stomach. Kevin yelled in anger and struggled.

Gwen fired energy balls of mana at Spidermonkey. She forced him to stop kicking Kevin and turn to face her. He swung Kevin around by his arms and threw him at Gwen. She effortlessly caught Kevin in her energy but fell with her legs tangled in webbing. Albedo changed into Humongousaur while they struggle to get up again.

Joe and Ben were watching. Joe said "Uh Oh" as they watched Kevin reach for the nearest car to absorb the iron frame. Ben got ready to slap his watch, and Joe grabbed his arm. "No Ben, you can't."

"But . . . Oh man - this is going to be the longest fifteen minutes of our lives." Ben argued, but lowered his arms to watch the battle. Kevin gritted his teeth as he absorbed the metal before going to protect Gwen. Too late, Gwen was already down trying to kick her legs out of the webbing and firing at Humongousaur as he landed over her.

Gwen created a bubble over herself as Albedo Humongousaur pulled his fist back to pound her. Kevin tackled Humongousaur, or tried to, but his full weight landing on Humongousaur did no more than distract him from Gwen for a moment while he slammed Kevin across the back with his tail.

Another strike and Kevin flew back through the air. He landed next to a red car and rolled back up to his feet just in time to try to jump away as Humongousaur charged him again. As he jumped, he felt rows of large teeth crushing his ankle and yank him to as stop in mid-air. Next thing he knew he was dangling upside-down from Albedo Humongousaur's teeth.

Gwen pulled the webbing off her legs and wrapped a heavy lash of mana around Humongousaur trying to make him let Kevin go. Albedo Humongousaur turned and grinned at her with Kevin hanging from his foot in his mouth right before he smashed her mana and hit her with his tail. She fell back and exhaled audibly as her eyes shut and she went limp.

Kevin called to her and kicked Humongousaur's jaw and neck with his free leg and punched air with his fists frantic to get to Gwen.

"I have to!' Ben cried and jumped from the back of the truck. After a wobbly landing, he also went Humongousaur and charged Albedo from behind. He chomped on Albedo Humongousaur's thick leathery neck so hard he tasted blood. He dropped Kevin and pushed back into Ben's Humongousaur with his huge legs. The two Humongousaurs fell backwards with Albedo on top of Ben.

Kevin ran over to Gwen and held her in his arms. The tough guy got tears in his eyes when he couldn't get her to wake up.

Ben twisted out from under Albedo and punched him. Albedo turned and elbowed Ben in the jaw as he got up. Ben jumped up too, but even as Humongousaur, he looked shaky and weak. "You look pitiful and pathetic Ben. Just give up and give me the Omnitrix, save yourself and your friends some suffering."

"Forget it, you are responsible for anything that happens to my friends!" Ben readied himself for Albedo's next charge. As their huge bodies slammed together the ground shook.

.

Albedo knocked Ben down and jumped on top of him. Ben Humongousaur roared when Albedo Humongousaur punched him in the middle of his chest right where he had been stabbed. Ben's Omnitrix deactivated and he changed back to human Ben.

Albedo laughed and picked Ben up with one giant fist around his waist. Ben screamed and threatened Albedo as he grabbed his Omnitrix arm.

Joe gasped, "I won't let you ruin my hard work! I just got done patching him back together after the last time." He shot Albedo with another tranquilizer and then ran at him firing a laser lance. Plumber got out of the webbing and joined Joe in the charge with his teeth bared.

During the chaos Julie circled around and ran up along the railing along the cliff and got a laser lance out of the front of the truck. She ran at Humongousaur at the same time as Joe, firing a solid beam at Albedo's neck and head as she went.

Ben saw her and nobody but Albedo heard him whisper, "Julie, no . . ."

With two laser beams pounding him and a large wolf-dog chewing on his tail, Albedo dropped Ben and changed into Chromastone. He redirected the lasers sending each shot off in different directions. The bolts of energy striking all around the nearby buildings, and restaurants sent the few people that were nearby running away.

The shots hit close to Julie and Joe and they got back behind the truck but they kept firing. Plumber stayed at Joe's side waiting for his next command.

When a shot from Chromastone hit a car next to Kevin and Gwen, she moaned and looked into Kevin's eyes. He reached over and absorbed the iron from the car, enveloping Gwen in his armor too. Another shot hit near her feet. He pushed her back down flat on the ground and covered her with his own body.

Now nearly invincible as Chromastone, Albedo absorbed and redirected Julie and Joe's shots. They stopped shooting as soon as they realized he was just turning their own attacks back at them. Albedo stared at Ben while he nonchalantly fired at his friends. Ben was still curled up on the ground with his arms crossed around his chest. He returned Albedo's stare as he panted and struggled to get up and save the others.

"You are no threat to me anymore Ben Tennyson. I will get back to you after your friends pay for what they have done - and you get to watch them suffer." Chromastone Albedo turned his attention to Kevin and Gwen. Kevin saw him take aim at them and quickly covered Gwen with his own armored body.

Kevin smiled at her and stared into her eyes the whole time Chromastone's shots were hitting his back over and over. She begged him to get off of her and protect himself. "I'm ok – it's nothing – I won't let him hurt you!" he insisted. The fourth shot blasted large chunks of his armor away from his back and shoulder. He cried out and fell on her with his eyes closed.

"Kevin, no! LET ME UP!" Gwen concentrated trying to put her barrier back around them. A weak energy field appeared around them but shattered with the first shot that hit it. Kevin braced himself as another hit his leg and went through the armor. He reached for the car again to repair the damage the repeated shots were making in his armor.

When he reached for the car, Gwen took the chance and tried to get up. Kevin held her down with one hand on her shoulder.

"No, Gwen-stay down!" he whispered as he gritted his teeth against another bolt of energy as it took a large piece of armor off his side over his ribs. Chromastone was walking toward them now, his shots getting stronger as he got closer. Another shot into his unprotected back, Kevin let go of the car frame and fell with his full weight on Gwen.

"Kevin Get off!" she cried as she pushed on him.

"Ha! You two are so pathetic." Albedo was interrupted by the sound of a diesel engine starting. Joe had jumped in the truck and put it in reverse. He stopped on the accelerator and the tires squealed as the big four-wheel drive machine backed over Albedo Chromastone. Joe stopped and jumped out to run to Ben. He wasn't trying to get up anymore and looked unconscious.

Under the truck Albedo changed to Swampfire and sent vines out from under the truck at Joe. With vines around Joe's legs, Swampfire pulled him over to the cliff edge. Now Julie's laser fire just tickled him as they went through his vines and his body instantly reformed at the damaged sites. He formed more long vines and wrapped them around Julie. She dropped the laser lance as she was pulled along the ground. Albedo Swampfire suspended them in the air for a moment and laughed before he dropped them over the cliff. Plumber went to the edge and whined as he looked down.

Ben heard their screams as they fell and adrenaline alone enabled Ben to struggle to his feet. He slapped his watch and went Jetray before he dove off the cliff after Joe and Julie. He wrapped his arms around each one of them and strained to hold onto them and slow down. He pulled out of the dive uncomfortably close to the ground and went crashing through a cornfield with them. Ben Jetray held them close and rolled to protect them as the cornstalks slapped his tough alien hide.

When they stopped Joe got up right away, Julie hugged Ben Jetray close. "Ben? Can you hear me?"

"Ya, I hear you. Gotta get back up to Kevin and Gwen." Ben gently moved out of Julie's hold on him and after a shaky liftoff streaked back up to the parking lot.

"No Ben! Take us back up with you!" She cried, but even if he had heard her, he would have left her as far away from Albedo as he could.

When got back up to the top, he involuntarily changed back to his human form and fell a few feet back to the pavement. In pain, he panted and held his Omnitrix arm against his chest while he looked at Gwen and Kevin, the armor that covered both of them had dissolved and it looked like Kevin had passed out.

Gwen was weak from the ongoing battle and was still trapped under him. She was calling his name and trying to push him off of her. Gwen tried weakly to keep a barrier up but Albedo Swampfire was playfully shattering it over and over by throwing fireballs at them, just to torment her.

"Crap! Why hasn't Joe's tranquilizer taken affect yet?" Ben summoned all the strength he could.

"I can do this – I can take him alone." He held out the Omnitrix and prepared to go Big Chill. He really would have preferred Goop, as he had no body to feel pain with, but wasn't sure he could since goop had been damaged fighting with Steel. While he tried to concentrate on what he was doing he didn't realize how long it was taking him to make up his mind. Pain made him feel disoriented and he blinked trying to focus on the watch dial.

Before he could activate the Omnitrix, Ben stumbled sideways, just barely keeping himself from falling. He got so dizzy all of a sudden and his vision went blurry. He fell to his knees with his arms hanging limply at his sides. Albedo Swampfire was walking back over to Ben. He was laughing at all of his fallen enemies and changed back to his human default now that they were all defeated.

Ben could hear Albedo laughing at him. It sounded like his own voice laughing and he thought "How creepy that sounds," as Albedo walked up to him.

Ben was too weak to prevent Albedo Ben from picking him up across his arms. He mumbled to himself as he started to walk away.

"I will take you to the kitchen in this restaurant and use their knives to take your arm before I kill you." He spoke to his victim as he walked and thought happily about how this would be Ben Tennyson's final moments. Ben kicked weakly but Albedo didn't react.

Now that they weren't being attacked, Gwen used an energy lash to roll Kevin off of her. She saw Albedo pick Ben up and carry him away and used her mana energy to propel her through the air and landed in front of Albedo, blocking his path.

"Put him down!"

"You dare to challenge me again! Why do you continue to protect this worm at the risk of your own life?" Albedo stuttered. "He is not worthy of . . ." Albedo stopped talking and closed his eyes for a moment. He was finally beginning to feel very dizzy.

Gwen yelled and ran forward when Albedo dropped Ben on the pavement. She wasn't in time to catch him, but she landed an energy blast right in Albedo's face pushing him away from Ben.

Albedo fell back and held his head in his hands trying to think why he felt so weak and dizzy. "NO! I am SO close to getting my revenge and Ben's Omnitrix! What is going on?" Albedo panicked and turned into Jetray to try and escape.

Julie and Joe ran out from behind the truck. They grabbed the laser lances and started shooting again to bring Albedo Jetray down. He screamed when he found he couldn't stay in the air and fell. He struggled on the ground for a moment before the tranquilizer forced him to sleep.

Albedo changed back to his human form again as Joe went to him to confirm he really was tranquilized, and just in case Joe shot him with another dart right in the butt just for the sheer pleasure of it.

Kevin woke up and staggered over to where Gwen was sitting with Ben. Julie and Joe were there too. Joe was taking Ben's pulse. Ben saw Julie and Joe and asked them how they got back up the cliff.

Julie didn't really answer him, saying only that they had a little help. She looked like she was about to burst with a secret.

"Lets get them back to the truck, Albedo too. We probably should get out of here before the cops show up to see what's going on"

Joe picked Albedo up and shouldered him in a fireman's carry. Kevin picked Ben up in spite of Ben's arguments that he could walk. Kevin noticed that Ben seemed lighter. "You've lost weight man. We better force-feed you some Chili Fries." Even in Kevin's own weakened condition, he had no trouble picking him up across his arms and carrying him.

Gwen asked about Albedo as they crossed the parking area. "What do we do with him now? How long will he be out Joe?"

"Not sure, if he were an elephant I would guess he would start waking up after about an hour, I shot him three times, I think – I might have lost count so he should be out a long time." Joe grinned.

A deep voice boomed from the top of the truck as they got near. "I see you've done my job for me."

"TETRAX- you're ok!" Gwen exclaimed as he hopped off the top of the truck. Julie smiled at Ben. "He is how we got back up the cliff so fast."

Ben was speechless, he wasn't even sure he really did see him. Kevin let Ben down, but hung onto him to help him stand. Julie joined them and held Ben's hand. Joe put Albedo on the ground at Tetrax' feet and Gwen stood nearby.

"Tetrax! I told you guys he couldn't be killed!" Ben smiled and Julie helped him stand. Ben stared at Tetrax and finally spoke, "What happened to you, we thought you were dead."

"I can't be destroyed by the likes of Albedo! Not completely anyway. He shattered me into such small pieces it took a long time for me to regenerate. I'm sorry I couldn't be here sooner."

"Its ok. We kicked his butt!"

"I will take Albedo off of your hands and return him to prison. They have made some changes that will keep him there this time."

Tetrax put Albedo in a level 6 containment unit and flew off with it in tow to go back to his ship. Ben was so happy, his chest actually felt better. He looked at the others "I am really hungry!"

Joe smiled at him and messed up his hair.

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Back in Kevin's car, he was going to take Gwen back and get Ben some Chili Fries. While they waited in the line at the drive-though, Kevin spoke first. "You know what Gwen? Ever since I absorbed the metal and covered you too, I feel all tingly."

"Do you really?" she teased. "Why do you suppose that is?"

"Not sure, but I think more research should be done. I will hold you very, very close and include you when I absorb many different surfaces and we will see which ones 'feels' the best. It may take hours, or even days if we are lucky.

Gwen giggled and scooted closer to him. She put her hand up under his shirt and lightly traced circles with her fingertips over his pecs.

"Hehehe, let's have none of that while I am driving – here, just let me pull over!"

He parked behind the truck where they were and pulled Gwen over to him. "Are you ok, really?" he asked her. "You scared me."

"I'm fine." She assured him. "Well okay then. Fine enough to do this?" he pressed his lips to hers and moaned as they kissed passionately. She got goose bumps as his hands ran up and down her back. Her hands found their way up his shirt and she worked his abs and chest muscles under her fingers like she was kneading dough.

Gwen drew in a quick breath and stopped suddenly. "We better take Ben his fries before he starves."

"Oh man, can't he wait?" Kevin looked like a puppy left out in the rain as she got out and skipped over to the truck.

"Alright, if we must." Kevin got out and followed her. Ben ate ravenously. Gwen held Kevin's hand while he lay on the bench in that familiar position while Joe rebandaged his back and leg. Joe instructed Kevin, "Now that Albedo is on his way off the planet – I expect you to behave yourself and finally let these heal."

"Maybe." Kevin grinned.

"Maybe you say? Kevin-I will take you down with a dart and doctor you like I would a wild animal if I have to." Kevin grinned at him and said "maybe" one more time. Joe reached for the tranquilizer gun and Kevin gave in. "No doc, that won't be necessary-I promise!"

Ben quickly ate the whole box of Chili Fries, except the three that he gave to Plumber and then held still while Dr. Joe rebandaged his chest and arm. He felt so much better with Albedo captured, and knowing Tetrax was alive he had trouble holding still.

"You have some more bruises Ben, but I think everything looks ok. Your healing fine considering all you have done to yourself since you had surgery."

"Sorry doc, I'll get some rest now. Maybe you can write me a note to get me out of going back to school right away."

Joe glared at him. "You shouldn't be wrestling dinosaurs, but I think sitting at a desk in school will be fine. Even your PE class won't hurt you. Just be a little careful with your arm."

"Oh man." Ben moaned.

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They got back on the road again without incident and Joe stayed with them all the way back to Bellwood. Gwen thought their injuries would be easier to explain if he was with them, and their parents wouldn't be so upset if they met the Doctor that took care of them. She couldn't decide what kind of car accident to blame their injuries on. Whatever she thought of, she was afraid they would blame Kevin since he was the one that always drove them around.

Joe parked the large, odd looking truck in front of Ben's house. Kevin drove Gwen to her house. Greeting her parents and telling them about Ben's injuries when they got home went smoother than she thought it would. Her parents were worried about Ben and promised to visit him later at his house, but otherwise stayed cool. Kevin waited for Gwen in the car and when she came out and got back in the car, they went to Ben's.

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Ben and Julie went in together to introduce Joe to Ben's parents and tell them what happened. Ben was glad Julie stayed with him. Maybe they wouldn't overreact as much with her there. Ben's mother freaked a little, but did calm down after talking with Joe.

They knew it wasn't a car accident, but didn't press their son for the details. They knew he would tell them later if he wanted to, and didn't want him to feel pressured. Since they knew about the Omnitrix, they suspected he was hurt in a fight with an alien.

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Ben went to his room when they got finished talking and fell back on the bed. Ben's mom made coffee and Joe sat down at the dining table to talk some more.

Julie followed Ben quietly. She knocked softly on his door and he told her to come in. He was on the bed on top of the covers and she seemed a little nervous being in his room. She fidgeted a little while she sat on the edge of the bed next to him. "You sure you don't mind me being here."

"Of course I don't mind. I am always happy when you're near me."

"This is the first time I've been in your room."

"Hopefully it won't be the last." Ben blushed and took her hand in his. She turned and leaned over him to hold his other hand too. The bandage went from the edge of the Omnitrix almost up to his elbow this time. Joe wanted to protect it well and also hide some of the bruising from Ben's parents.

But Ben was still worried about all that had happened to them, and especially to her. "I'm so sorry you got hurt. I just can't stand it."

Julie put her index finger against his lips to quiet him. "I'm fine Ben, I am not sorry for anything that happened and feel thankful to be with you, no matter what happens. You saved me, and Joe fixed it so I wouldn't even have a scar." She thoughtfully ran her fingers through his hair before reaching over to find his hand to hold it again. He continued worrying, apologizing and explaining.

"I was very happy you came with us, but I always thought I could protect you, and now I know . . . after all that happened . . . I can't. I felt so helpless. When you really needed me, I couldn't protect you. Maybe we shouldn't see each other anymore-if my enemies see us together, it would be too easy for them to threaten to hurt you to try and stop me. Some of them are even more dangerous than Albedo was. I have a lot of different species angry with me and any of them could . . ."

Julie realized there was only one way to shut him up. She already held both of his hands so it was easy to push his hands over his head and press them into the mattress. He barely noticed she was holding him down at first and kept talking. As she leaned over him, gently resting her body against his chest, she began kissing his neck near his shirt collar.

"Julie, I . . . "Ben found it harder to concentrate on what he was saying. She kissed him more aggressively as she went. He put his head back to make it easier for her to reach wherever she was aiming. On his neck near his jaw, she started a 'doozy' of a hickey. He moaned and squirmed a little.

"Ben, are you going to be quiet?" she sounded a little threatening when she asked.

"No . . . um . . . I don't think so, yet – you may have to keep this up, maybe cover my mouth somehow."

She brushed her lips past his, teasing as she went to the other side of his neck. Finally she took his suggestion found his lips again. Her eyes closed she explored every corner of his mouth with her tongue. Still holding his hands over his head she felt him arch his back to press harder against her.

She rose up and looked at him. The heat from the sun in the window poured across his bed and left a thin sheen of sweat on Ben's face. He felt so warm and relaxed. Julie stretched out next to him keeping her body close to his. She was so happy to see him smiling and relaxed again.

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Kevin parked on the street behind the truck and they went in. they greeted Ben's parents and went right up to Ben's room. Kevin went in without knocking and giggled when he saw Julie on the bed with him. Nothing was going on, but it was still worth some teasing.

Dr Joe came to the doorway and they told him to come in too. He sat cross-legged on the floor with Plumber in front of Ben's dresser.

Ben sat up before speaking. "Joe, thank you so much for all you did for us. We wouldn't have lived through this without you. Is there anything we can do for you?"

"No, I don't need anything at all. It has been quite an adventure, and resulted in a chance to see new places, new friends, and start over someplace new. It's all good!"

"What will you do now since the Forever Knights destroyed your house?"

"I think I will get that truck painted and fixed up, register it in my name and stay on the road for a while. Plumber and I will probably settle down in San Francisco for a while when we get tired of being on the road."

Kevin wanted to know if he had a secret that even he didn't know about. "How will you get the truck registered in your name, I'm sure it belongs to someone in the Forever Knights?"

"Hey, like you – I know some people." Joe smiled and excused himself to leave. Gwen and Julie jumped up and gave him hugs. He made sure they had his cell number and told them to call if another adventure came up that he could join them on.

Kevin followed Joe out to 'his' truck just to be polite – after Gwen poked him. She stayed just long enough to be sure Ben didn't need anything, and then left to join Kevin in his car.

Julie gently poked Ben in the ribs and told him to turn over on his stomach. She helped him take off his shirt before he lay back down and first, put a pillow under his chest so he'd be more comfortable. As he waited apprehensively to see what she was going to do, she searched his nightstand and found lotion. She warmed a big glob of lotion in her palms and started rubbing his back. She expertly worked and manipulated each sore muscle from his shoulders to his waist. He was sure now, that this was the best homecoming he had EVER had.

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Out in the car, Gwen put on her seatbelt before Kevin pulled out to take her home. When he stopped in front of her house, he turned off the engine like he was planning to stay a while.

In no hurry to get out either, Gwen scooted over and sat close to him so she could lean her head on his shoulder. He turned on the radio and found something soft and relaxing to listen to. Gwen was exhausted, and couldn't help but yawn. She covered her mouth and buried her face in his shirt.

"You warm enough? I can start the engine and turn on the heater."

"I'm fine, really tired, but fine. You?"

"I'm ok, now that I'm here alone with you." She saw the mischief in his eyes and thought she better be the practical one before he suggested something too fun to refuse.

"I guess I should go in so I can get some rest. School's gonna be brutal tomorrow."

"Ya, probably . . . school."

Gwen noticed he seemed too thoughtful, like he was trying to decide if he should talk or not.

"What's going on Kevin? Is something wrong?" He looked guilty about something when he looked at her.

"Come on Kev – spit it out."

"OK - Um, Gwen? I l-lo-luf-love you."

Gwen shot him a huge smile and hugged him. "Ditto." and then added, "I love you too, Kevin."

He coughed a little and continued, "Um . . . Do you think you'd wanna someday, maybe um, well only if you wanna . . . Gwen? Do you think someday you might wanna marry me?"

Gwen squealed softly and hugged his neck. "I think that maybe, someday I would wanna marry ya – no promises!" she giggled.

It looked like Kevin caved in on himself. He was confused. She looked so happy, at first. If it were possible he would have pulled his head into his chest, like a turtle. That wet puppy look melted her heart every time she saw it.

"Silly! I'm only teasing! Of course I PROMISE! I can think of nothing I would like more than to marry you, someday!"

A wave of relief washed over his face and he pulled her close, they kissed a long passionate kiss before finally separating their lips. He still held her close and she noticed he still looked a little confused, "So uh, does that mean we are engaged?"

"I guess it kinda does." She replied. "This has been a GREAT homecoming, don't you agree?" Kevin said "ditto" and got out to walk her to the door.

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[End]