A/N: Well, this is my first fanfic. Ever. I hope I did everything right, and mostly I really hope that at least one person enjoys it. It's a Kevin/Ben story and it's rated M for future chapters, though the first chapter is closer to being rated T. Anyway, please read and comment if you'd like. By the way, the name of the story comes from a song called "The King of Carrot Flowers, Pt. 1" by Neutral Milk Hotel. I got the idea to write this story while listening to it on a CD a friend mixed for me, so props to Rissa for unknowingly contributing to the birth of this fanfic. Enjoy!
Ben quite frequently felt alone. For a while, he concentrated on things he deemed more important than his own thoughts and feelings, like saving the world or keeping the peace between Kevin and Gwen on a daily basis, but the feeling persisted even while he was fighting the DNAliens. If nothing else, taking care of extra-terrestrial trouble in Bellwood served as a distraction from his own mind. In addition, it gave him a reason to cling to Gwen and Kevin.
But the truth was that Ben Tennyson felt alone. When Kevin would drop him off after a long night of fighting aliens, he'd lie awake in bed and wonder what it was like to be normal. Even when he was younger, he found it hard to make friends with other kids. Normal kids. Kids that didn't turn into aliens. Kids that weren't forced to endure incredibly relaxed hippies as parents. Kids without a grandpa that knew thirty different ways to prepare various desert bugs as a meal.
Maybe that's how he got so attached to Gwen and Kevin. Sure, Gwen had been annoying when he was younger, but they'd both grown up since then. They were practically brother and sister now. Ben would even admit that he looked up to Gwen for her ability to stay cool and collected under pressure and channel whatever anger she had pent up into something creative and healthy. He often cursed his impulsiveness and temper as just more abnormalities separating him from every other normal teen. Gwen, he noticed, seemed to fit in just fine with other kids. For that reason, he also envied her.
And then there was Kevin. Honestly, Ben didn't like to think about Kevin because it always left him feeling so confused. He never knew if Kevin was only being friendly (well, as friendly as Kevin gets) because it would make it easier for the team to work together or he was trying to impress Gwen, or if Kevin actually saw him as a friend. In Ben's mind, Gwen would always be there in one way or another because she was family. There was no surety in his mind, however, that Kevin would even stay in Bellwood after the alien stuff died down and there was no point in staying together.
With a small sigh, Ben rolled over on his bed to stare at the rain outside of his window. The feeling of loneliness gripped at him so tightly that he had difficulty breathing. With a thin, pale hand clutched to his chest, the emerald-eyed teen scrunched his face up in discomfort as he reached for the ceiling fan switch.
'Why can't I just be normal?' he thought to himself, watching how the headlights of the occasional car would reflect off of the puddles in the road. 'If I was normal, I could make a lot of friends and I wouldn't feel like this, right?' As he hugged his knees, the small brunette began to rock back and forth, thinking about normality and friendship and such until it finally hit him. He jumped up and grabbed for his cell phone, immediately dialing Kevin's number.
Kevin quickly answered with an anxious tone. "Tennyson, what's going on? Some aliens out looking for trouble or somethin'?" Ben bit his lower lip and took a deep breath.
"No, nothing like that. I just felt like calling you." It didn't calm Ben's nerves to hear complete silence on the other end. "K-Kevin?"
"I'm still here. Uhh…Ben, are you sure there aren't any aliens about?" Ben almost winced, but he controlled himself and swallowed hard.
"Listen, Kevin, you, me, and Gwen have been fighting aliens together for a while now, but I still don't feel like I know you very well," he said confidently. "…or that you even care to know me," he added quietly, almost too quietly for Kevin to hear. In fact, now that he realized what he said, Ben wished that he wouldn't have said it at all. He heard a strange sound on the other end of the phone, followed by a sigh.
"Uhh…sorry, Tennyson. Look, do you want to come over or something?" At first, Ben was taken by surprise. Kevin sounded sincerely apologetic, which wasn't a tone the younger teen had ever heard before. At least, not directed toward him.
Ben quickly answered, "Yes! Uhh….ah, I-I mean, yeah, I'll be over..umm…" Ben thought for a minute to himself and began to bite his lower lip again. "Um, Kevin? Where…exactly do you live again?"
After the two had gotten off the phone, Kevin quickly headed over to Ben's house while the brunette reasoned with himself nervously.
"Kevin didn't exactly sound that enthusiastic when he offered to pick me up, but it's just because we'd never really hung out before, right?" Ben turned to his bathroom mirror and nodded, checking his hair for any abnormalities in his commonly casual style. "If I don't screw everything up, we might actually be friends by the end of the night."
His once hopeful smile suddenly wavered as his reflection bore deeply into his own eyes. "I-It's me, isn't it?" he asked the mirror aloud. "It's my own fault I'm so weird, that I'm alone!" His lithe figure shook as he yelled at himself. The troubled teen sighed as his head became filled with more conflicting thoughts. "I-It's my fault that I don't have any friends…" he added quietly, vision blurring as his reflection seemed to laugh down at him.
"Ben?" The boy in question froze. "Are you almost ready? I don't have all night to wait for you to get your hair fixed just right." Ben, with a gulp, shook his head as if to clear it and focused on something positive: hanging out with Kevin tonight would be the first step in the process of being his friend. With a sheepish smile, Ben opened the door and walked out into the hall, face-to-chest with his tall, dark-haired, muscled teammate. While Ben stared up at him with a smile, it was quite clear to Kevin that the smaller teen had been crying; Kevin could see it in those deep emerald pools, still wet with Ben's tears.
"You ready to go?" Kevin asked in a more calm voice than his previous jabs at Ben. The oblivious brunette nodded happily, the tear stains still clearly visible on his soft, pale cheeks.
The boys hopped into Kevin's car and sped on down the road. It was just another quiet night in Bellwood and nothing was out of the ordinary. Honestly, the fact that everything was normal wasn't really normal in Bellwood, but it was a welcome change for the two teenage heroes. It was unknown to these two boys that the oddities of the night were truly just beginning.
The air in the car was uncomfortable for both Ben and Kevin. Ben, unsure of what to say now that he and Kevin were in the car together, rested his chin in his palm as he stared out the window at the scenery rolling by. Kevin, partially worried about Ben from the incident in the bathroom earlier and also feeling somewhat guilty that he'd never really taken the time to check up on Ben or let him know that he was the closest thing to a friend he had, kept his eyes on the road and his face a stoic as granite. When the tension in the car was finally unbearable, Ben reached for the radio dial, only to have Kevin's hand brush his own away. Ben looked up at Kevin, surprised to find the driver's eyes were focused on himself.
"Jeez, your hands are freezing! You need a blanket or something?" Our brunette hero merely shook his head in contemplation. The short memory of Kevin's hand on his own was what kept running through the smaller boy's head. He was most surprised by the warmth that his mutant friend held in his hand. Kevin had always seemed like the materials he absorbed: often cold, strong, self-reliant, isolated…empty. If Kevin felt warm and Ben's skin was freezing, did that make Ben the hollow shell? The more Ben thought about it, the more he felt like crying. He mentally thrashed himself at the prospect, but he'd bottled up too many emotions for far too long and he just wanted release.
"So, did you want to talk about something, or what?" Kevin's voice, thick with worry, easily cut through Ben's internal warfare. With a gulp, the boy in the passenger seat mustered up the courage to put on a fake smile and turned his head to look straight at his darker companion.
"I-I just wanted to get to know you more, y'know? I mean, we've been fighting aliens together, all three of us, but it's not like you ever actually come over just to hang out or anything…" Ben's voice trailed off as he started to lose heart. It almost seemed like a pointless endeavor to him, seeing as Kevin was an impenetrable wall and Ben was an emotional time-bomb. The rest of the ride to Kevin's apartment wasn't nearly as bad as Ben expected it to be. The two boys mostly made small talk, about aliens, cars, smoothies, music, the usual stuff. The more Kevin talked, the more different he seemed to be in Ben's eyes. Knowing much more about the taller boy didn't make him lose his mysterious feeling, it just deepened his existence.
By the time they had gotten to Kevin's apartment, both boys felt more comfortable about each other and Ben especially felt relieved that he wasn't alone. They continued to talk as they settled in on the couch, finally agreeing to Kevin's delight (and Ben's chagrin) on watching a zombie horror flick. The dark-haired boy smirked as he picked on his pale friend.
"You sure you're not gonna get too scared, Benny-boy?" Ben's lip twitched as he frowned back at Kevin.
"I-I can handle a movie about zombies! Besides, I've actually fought things that are like…a hundred times scarier than zombies!" he replied as he puffed out his chest proudly. Kevin chuckled to himself as he started the movie. Throughout the beginning, Kevin had to hide his smile as he saw the terrified look on the younger boy's face. Even though he knew Ben was completely horrified from the movie, it wasn't until a particularly gruesome part came out of nowhere, accompanied by a loud crack of thunder shaking Kevin's apartment, that Ben leaped to the other side of the couch and buried his face into the larger-framed boy's chest, his lithe figure shaking vehemently against Kevin's body as he gripped the fabric of his black shirt tightly, leaving his knuckles white.
Kevin, mostly amused, but still a little shocked, wasn't really worried. After all, he knew that Ben couldn't handle movies that scary, so he had already expected something like this would happen. "Relax, Tennyson, it's just—" When Kevin paused the film, his amused expression quickly dropped as he heard the smaller boy whimpering against him. When he moved the slightest bit, he could feel the drops on his shirt, the wet, hot tears soaking through to his bare chest beneath. The slight shift in movement only made Ben grip onto Kevin's shirt tighter. Kevin knew then that Ben wasn't afraid just because of the movie. This was apparently something much more serious.
"Ben…" he called quietly to the trembling youth, his tone serious and face stoic. His face showed that he was clearly worried about the boy who had become something of a little brother to him over time. Kevin had seen Ben stare danger in the face night after night and not once had he seen his brilliant green eyes waver. Even when he believed his grandfather was gone and he was at his lowest, Kevin watched as Ben pulled himself up from everything that had fallen around him to keep on searching. As much as he picked on Ben, the kid had never broken down into tears. For as long as Kevin had known him, actually, he had never seen Ben come even close to being overtaken by emotions.
But now, here he was, silent cries racking his form as he clung to the larger male's shirt, face buried into his chest. Kevin slowly brought his arms around Ben, pulling his lithe figure into his lightly. Whether it was the contact or just the gesture, it caused Ben to break down, relinquishing the tightness in his grip as he went weak. The boy's cries became loud sobs, his shaking body rocking in Kevin's arms as he tried to shush him desperately. He could barely make out an apology among the wails.
"Ben, it's okay…whatever it is, it's alright." Even though it seemed that his words fell upon deaf ears, the minutes melted away into still, silent moments. He had finally quit shaking as a light snore became the only sound in the room, cutting the tension and easing Kevin's chiseled face to a relieved smile. The giant teen repositioned his small-statured companion as he stood up, carrying the brunette in his arms bridal-style to his bedroom. The dark haired boy set Ben on his bed and carefully removed his shoes and socks, along with his jacket and jeans. He slipped the boy, now in his boxers and black tee, beneath the sheets while he stripped himself down to just his own pair of boxers and got into bed beside him.
Kevin turned to face Ben and noticed, even in the darkness, his soft, tearstained face, reflecting tension and pain. The black haired teen sighed and let his gaze fall lower to the boy's chest. The slow, rhythmic beating of his heart, the rise and fall of his chest, it was all hypnotic to Kevin as he locked his drooping eyes on Ben. Before closing his eyes, Kevin remembered Ben turning in his sleep and clinging to his bare chest, whimpering lightly in the stillness of the night. And before drifting off into a deep sleep, Kevin wrapped his arms around the small boy, hoping he'd never have to see him cry again.