Hey my lovely readers! Thank you so much for your support, I greatly appreciate it. I have to apologize though for the late updates. Same old, LAME excuses: finals, Christmas break, New Year's… But now that that's over, it's time to move on with the rest of the story. Hope you enjoy this chapter!
"Kevin?" Gwen raised her head from his chest, hoping to still find him wide awake.
After dropping Ben off, who was already falling asleep and drooling in the backseat, Kevin floored it to Gwen's house. They made a quick beeline to her room, threw furtive glances in the hallway to make sure that Gwen's parents were nowhere to be found. Gwen then went to her closet for her sleeping bag, pillow, and comforter, and accompanied Kevin to the roof, where they were now snuggling and slowly drifting off to sleep.
His obsidian eyes were still open but were clearly looking at another place and time, far away from where Gwen was now. She fluffed her pillow against his chest to get his attention but it did no good. He was completely ignoring her.
She sighed, gave up, and closed her eyes. She couldn't think of anything else to say, to comfort him. She yawned once more. She never felt this tired before. Fighting aliens may take a toll out of her time but never her energy. She always left that for researching Kevin's cure. But after tonight, she felt completely drained. Trying to remember today's schedule, she was soon slipping into slumber's dark embrace when Kevin adjusted her comforter and put his arm around her shivering body.
Gwen sleepily looked up.
"Go to sleep. You're tired." Kevin said solemnly, gently pushing her head back down.
"Kevin, can I ask you something?" Gwen mumbled, half-asleep.
"Aren't you happy to see your father?"
Kevin was silent for a moment. He thought about it the entire time after finding out that his father was back—temporarily—wielding a gun and an army of badass aliens he never knew of before. He may have always known, believed, that his father was alive, still out there, a Plumber fighting crime. But this was just so sudden, so new to him. He felt mixed emotions fighting for dominance within him. A part of him yearned to know his father. But the other part… not so much. He could feel the tightening in his chest—hurt, pain, rejection. Emotions that consumed him during his childhood.
His mind wandered briefly to his mother but he didn't want to think about it now. Not tonight.
He was too tired to think straight, that's why. Before long he was fast asleep, snoring very loudly.
In their bedroom, Lily Tennyson, Gwen's mother, turned away from her book and to her husband Frank. "What was that?"
Frank shrugged his shoulders. "The neighbor's dog?"
"But none of our neighbors has dogs," Lily said, putting her book down.
"An owl then," Frank suggested, flipping through his magazine.
"A really tired owl," Lily shook her head to ignore another possibility and resumed her reading.
"You got sand in your eyes," Kevin pointed out, raking his hand through her hair.
Oh, thanks," Gwen rubbed off sleep from her eyes, started stretching her body awake.
Gwen nodded, patted her face.
"You?" she asked.
He nodded. "It was blank."
"I had a dreamless sleep." Kevin sat up as Gwen began folding her comforter and sleeping bag.
"And that's bad…?"
"No, it's good." Kevin paused, contemplated. "I would think that the nightmares would come back and haunt me, especially you know, after meeting my… dad." Kevin felt rather uneasy and strange for saying the word out loud, now that his father was alive and real.
"Oh Kevin," Gwen dropped her blanket and hugged Kevin, pecked him on the cheek. "It's ok, I won't leave you," she whispered in his ear.
"Good, cuz I don't want you to." Kevin said, looking into her emerald eyes. He was leaning in for a kiss when Gwen cupped her mouth.
"After I brush my teeth."
"Huh?" Kevin was puzzled.
"Bad morning breath. Gotta freshen up." Gwen quickly grabbed her things and tiptoed to the window and into her room.
When she was gone, Kevin checked his breath and was appalled by his own exhalation. "Ugh. Nice, Kevin. Way to start the morning."
He looked over the roof, was about to make a grab for the branch when Gwen, toothbrush in her mouth, poked her head through the window and asked, "Where do you think you're going?"
"Uh… home? Like you said, gotta freshen up."
"You're not going anywhere." Gwen felt worried about Kevin being alone. "You can use the bathroom here."
"Are downstairs fixing breakfast. C'mon," Gwen looked annoyed when he didn't budge. "Kevin…"
"On my way," Kevin nearly ran to the window.
"Morning Mom, Dad," Gwen called out cheerily.
Frank and Lily returned the greeting, not bothering to look up. Lily was busy flipping pancakes and Frank was reading the obituaries.
"Um… we have a guest," Gwen said through gritted teeth.
Both her parents looked up, saw Kevin—in his disguise—and immediately stopped what they were doing.
"Um… hi. Good morning, Mr. Tennyson, Mrs. Tennyson. Smells really good." Kevin could feel his palms growing damp.
Lily, her mouth hanging slightly open, still didn't register the compliment.
"The pancakes I mean," Kevin filled in for them when neither responded.
"Oh! The pancakes, of course. Thank you." Lily flipped the browned pancake over. "Kevin, right?"
Gwen held his hand, pulled him toward the table. He pulled back a chair for Gwen before sitting down himself.
"Sorry for interrupting the family breakfast," Kevin started.
"Not a problem, Kevin." Frank said with an awkward smile, put his paper down. "We just didn't expect company, that's all."
"And we don't mind it," Lily set the plate of pancakes on the center of the table. She had to admit that the minute she saw Kevin, she knew that he was right for Gwen. Her daughter could have chosen a lot of guys in her school, but Kevin was right for her. Though he shouldered personal issues and manly ego, Lily had an inkling that no matter what, Kevin would be by Gwen's side in a heartbeat. And the fact that his smile and presence could make her daughter happy was all that mattered.
"So what brings you to the neighborhood?" Frank asked, pouring black coffee into his cup. Lily did the same after Frank was done with his.
"Gwen left her books in my car, told me she needed them for homework so… yeah," as soon as he trailed off, Kevin's cheeks went red. He had no problem with bending the truth just a little but, when Gwen was concerned, even the whitest lies were difficult to sound as smooth and believable as he hoped.
But Frank and Lily didn't doubt him. They simply nodded and beamed at him.
Kevin awkwardly returned a smile and bit into his syrup-soaked pancake.
"So, uh… I heard you guys are spending your nineteenth anniversary in a cruise. Cool," Kevin said, trying hard to make conversation. Gwen smiled up at him, squeezed his hand.
"Yes, we're planning on spending a few days in the Caribbean, soaking in the sun and sipping pina coladas. Can't wait," Frank seemed to be already fantasizing the warm sun, sandy beaches, salty sea, and palm trees in his head.
Lily merely shrugged it off, shook her head. "Frank's planned it for a long time." She looked at his excited face. "And it's good to get out once in awhile. It can get boring every now and then." Lily paused for effect, continued, "But I shouldn't worry at all about you two…?"
"Of course not, Mrs. Tennyson. I will take real good care of Gwen. I'm not gonna let any alien lay a slimy finger on her," Kevin vowed, his face serious.
Gwen and Lily exchanged a furtive glance, stifled their laughs. "That's very… comforting. But it's not really what I'm implying…"
"Mom…" Gwen warned, rolling her eyes as she tried to deter her mom from giving them both some lecturing about raging teenage hormones.
"Just…" Lily shifted in her seat, tried not to make it seem awkward. Kevin just looked at her with a puzzled look. "Be careful." She eyed Gwen warily. Her daughter briefly nodded, ignored her hard, motherly gaze.
"It's nothing," Gwen whispered in Kevin's ear when he continued to look at her expectantly. He finished three stacks of pancake and was already grabbing another when the doorbell rang.
"I'll get it," Gwen said, pushing back her chair. She made her way out the kitchen and into the living room within seconds and opened the door. The man's presence at her doorstep caught her by complete surprise, making her jump.
"Devin! I mean, Mr. Levin," she corrected herself. "What… brings you here?"
"I… I want to speak to Kevin. We didn't really come to good terms last night," Devin looked at her with pleading eyes. "I activated my Plumber's badge and tried contacting Kevin but he turned his off. So I went to your cousin's…"
Gwen craned her neck in search of Ben, who was hiding behind Devin. Gwen narrowed her eyes at him. "Morning, Gwen. Had breakfast already?"
"Think I'm pretty much done now. Ben, can I talk to you… in private." She grabbed his sweater, pulled him in, and shut the door after whispering an apology to Devin.
"What were you thinking, bringing Devin here?" Gwen hissed.
"Kevin wasn't home. I tried calling his phone but all I got was voicemail. So I figured that you guys were together… And Devin was desperate. He really wanted to talk to Kevin."
"And why were you hiding behind him?"
"I knew you weren't gonna like this, with him showing up at your doorstep."
"Of course not. Kevin's hurt right now because of him. He needs time to think things through and with him showing up here—"
"Who's here?" Kevin's voice boomed from the doorway, his eyes squinting at Ben suspiciously.
"Why, Yours Truly of course," Ben took a step back from Gwen, adjusted his sweater. "How are you feeling?"
"Like I could knock a skyscraper off with one blow. You're hiding something, aren't you?"
"What? Hiding something? No… more like someone."
"Ben!" Gwen exclaimed, feeling very annoyed with her cousin.
"He's here, isn't he?" Kevin clenched his fists, kept his anger in check. He didn't want Gwen's parents to find an outline of Ben on their living room's wall.
"I had to… he wouldn't stop asking." Ben paused. "He showed up at my place since you two turned your badges off. I couldn't say no."
Kevin stomped to the door and opened it. "I'm not in the mood for talking right now."
"I understand that, but I just want to talk, Kevin. If you'll let me explain." For the first time since they saw him, his expression was soft and distressed. His eyes were dark-rimmed and his face looked like he aged overnight.
Kevin averted his gaze. "I know a place where we can talk." He walked past Devin and strode in the direction of his car. He got in and gunned the engine, all the while fighting back the urge to let his guard down. The sight of his father made him feel weird. It was strange seeing him still kicking alien butt, but the thought of talking and listening to his father chilled him; the memories of Kevin's childhood constantly reminded him of lonely, sleepless nights.
As soon as Devin hopped in, Kevin sent his car flying, paying no heed to the fact that they were in a neighborhood area.
"He's going to get someone killed," Ben said, as they watched the car disappear into a curb.
"I'm not blaming him," Gwen glared at him.
"What? I told you already I didn't have a choice."
"Yes, you did. You could have turned him away."
"He wouldn't budge," Ben was growing tired of explaining himself. It was barely eight in the morning when he woke up to a constant tap against his window. Trying hard to ignore it, he simply tossed and turned, burrowed his head under a pillow but the noise was relentless. Annoyed, he shuffled toward the window, and found Devin Levin waiting by his window.
"That was incredibly rude." Gwen said, crossing her arms over her chest after Ben told her this morning's wake up ploy.
"But you have to understand where he's coming from," Ben said, dissuading Gwen's annoyance at Kevin's father from growing permanent.
"But that doesn't give him the right to barge into your room and ask you to bring him to my house to talk to Kevin. He should wait for Kevin to come to him."
"Well, he can't wait for Kevin. He's only staying for a couple of days, and that's more than enough time for his men to stock up for their next mission. He's running out of time and he wants to make amends with his son really badly."
Gwen sighed, conceding defeat. "I guess you have a point. I just don't want to see Kevin get hurt, that's all."
"I know, I feel the same way too," Ben said, planting a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
"Ben! What brings you here?" Lily asked, clearly bemused, as she walked through the archway. "It's 9:30 in the morning and it's a Saturday. Is something wrong?" Lily knew Ben all too well. It was early and it was a Saturday, and Ben spent most of his Saturday mornings in bed. This day just got more unusual by the minute.
"Nothing that you have to worry about, Aunt Lily."
"Well all right." Lily raised her brow at Kevin's absence.
"He had an errand to run. It's pretty urgent." Gwen filled in for her mom. "He says he's sorry but he'll come back once he's done with it."
"That's fine, I was just slightly concerned when you took so long at the door and then he followed you and then just disappeared. Oh, which reminds me, who was at the door?"
Ben and Gwen exchanged a glance. Gwen then answered, "Kevin's dad."
"Didn't he leave a long time ago?"
"Yeah, it's a long story, Aunt Lily," Ben said.
Before Lily could say anything else, her phone rang. She picked it up and ended it in a minute before sauntering into her room.
"I won't ask but I hope everything's fine. I have to get ready for work so try not to get into trouble, all right?"
"Got it, Aunt Lily."
"You seem to be doing well these days," Devin mused out loud, an attempt to strike conversation with his son. When Kevin didn't say anything, he continued, "While I was gone doing Plummer business I was keeping tabs on you. I heard news about you and Ben Tennyson having a number of standoffs, and you getting trapped in Null Void, eventually." Devin stopped, but Kevin didn't object though his face hardened at the memory. "It's not your fault that you had to go through such difficult times. It's my fault, and I know that leaving you and your mother made things worse and I don't deserve to be forgiven for that. To be honest, I was going to come back to help you but I got caught up. I—"
"Enough," Kevin interrupted him, closed his eyes to stop the tears from coming. "Did you only come back because I'm an official Plumber now? Because I'm on the good side, because I'm no longer an out-of-control monster?"
"Kevin, that's not it."
"I was a monster, a rogue, your son. You were ashamed of me, that's why you never bothered to come back. You could have, but this excuse about getting caught up with work is a load of bullshit." Kevin sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose to hold back the tears.
"Kevin," Devin laid a hand on Kevin's shoulder. Kevin abruptly shrugged it off as if he'd been electrocuted.
"Don't touch me. I have to go," Kevin got in the car. "Go catch a ride with your alien buddies. I can't deal with you right now."
And with that Kevin was gone, leaving a dust of smoke in his wake. Devin only stared at the retreating vehicle. He breathed out a sigh, closed his eyes and let the breeze ruffle his hair and clothes. He breathed in the air blowing around him, let his mind wander to the good old days, during the time when he met Alice, Kevin's mother, and when they were just about to start a family…
"He never gave you the chance to explain," a voice from behind the trees said in a sympathetic whisper. Philux, taking a human form this time, stopped right behind Devin and waited.
"I didn't expect him to forgive me right away."
"We have to leave soon."
"I know. But I can't just leave things like this. I can't leave, Philux, not without telling him everything."
"You have less than three hours."
"That's not enough time. I might have to catch up with you later," Devin said, his mind decided.
"With all due respect Sir," Philux started to disagree.
"I'm not hearing it. I made a mistake once for not being there when Kevin needed me most. I'm not going to do it again." Devin turned around to face his friend. "Philux, please. I need to do this."
Philux let his head drop, admitting defeat as always. "Well, you did make me second-in-command for a reason. I got it covered, don't worry."
"Thanks, I owe you one."
"You always do," Philux grinned slyly.
"You're enjoying this, aren't you?" Devin punched his friend's shoulder.
"Always." Philux briefly enveloped Devin in a bear hug. "Just send me a message once you're done here. We'll be waiting for it."
As Philux was about to lumber into the woods, he stopped and said, "Word of advice, Sir. Perhaps, letting your son see your past may help him understand." When Devin didn't respond, Philux countered, "Just a suggestion, dude."
"Don't you mean Captain?" Devin teased.
"Captain," Philux theatrically saluted and disappeared into the forested darkness.
Devin then turned on his heel, switched on his Plumber's badge and tracked down Kevin. To his relief, Kevin's badge was on, giving him the coordinates to his son's whereabouts.
"Mr. Smoothie. Perfect. I was just craving a soda."
"Smoothie's on me today," Ben exclaimed, hoping that it would at least bring Kevin out of his reverie. But it did no good. Kevin was still silent and grave, his face hard, his lips drawn in a thin line. Gwen sighed, patted Kevin's hand.
"I don't feel like a smoothie today," Kevin sighed, squeezed Gwen's hand.
"At least have a soda," Gwen suggested.
With Ben out of earshot, Gwen leaned her head on Kevin's shoulder. "So, I was thinking… why don't we have a movie marathon tonight?"
Kevin looked at her. Finally, a topic that didn't revolve around his father. Not to mention that it meant spending the whole night with his girlfriend. "What do you have in mind?"
"Oh, I don't know. We can watch Fast and Furious, Aliens, Terminator, Saw, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th…" These were the kind of films that Kevin would actually buy a ticket for in theatres instead of waiting for the DVDs to be released. As for Gwen, they were maddeningly revolting. Crazed serial killers wielding saws and foot-long claws unnerved her; but as long as it kept Kevin's mind off his father, she would endure it… just for one bloody night. Even if it killed her in the end.
Kevin eyed her carefully. "You're actually gonna watch Friday the 13th and the Saw movies with me? You do know what they are about, right?"
Gwen playfully punched his shoulder. "Of course I know how bloody and sadistic Jason can be. And mysterious," Gwen stroked Kevin's cheek. "But I don't mind. It'd be a… an interesting change for me." And there was the underlying motive of snuggling next to Kevin without him noticing how tight and painful her hold around his arm could be.
"Gwen," Kevin looked at her. "If you're doing this just because…"
"Not a word of it." Gwen pressed her lips against his to shush him. And the strategy never failed. "You've had it rough lately. Tonight's your night. Have your pick."
Kevin instantly closed the gap between their bodies, his arms wrapping fiercely around Gwen, his lips and tongue hungry for more. Gwen didn't hold back and gave in completely, letting Kevin explore with his hands and lips…
"Well, this is awkward," Ben's voice briefly extinguished the heat between the couple.
"Sorry," Gwen's face was bright red. She smoothly freed herself from Kevin's hold, who was frowning with such intensity that it nearly made Ben do a double take.
"Uh… maybe I should…"
"Sit down, Ben. It's fine." Kevin couldn't look at Ben, as his cheeks had a pinkish tint. He couldn't care less that people were staring and whispering God-knows-what behind their backs while he and Gwen were making out. But with Ben, as much as he hated to admit it, he was conscious around him. He didn't know why, but it could be for the fact that Ben and Gwen were related and he wanted approval from Ben just as much as from her own parents.
Silence filled their table as they slurped their drinks quietly, not daring to break the quiet. It was neither awkward nor comfortable. But all three were content for the moment, until Ben destroyed it with his reverberating belch.
"Excuse you," Gwen hissed at him, rolling her eyes.
"Sorry," Ben said, resuming his drinking as if he did nothing wrong.
"Mind if I join in?" a familiar voice chimed in, making their hearts trip in astonishment.
"What are you doing here?" was Kevin's immediate response to his father's persistence.
"I want to show you something, son." While taking a large gulp, Devin laid a hand on Kevin's.
Kevin was just about to move his hand away when a blinding jolt numbed his body but transported his mind to what seemed like another dimension. Darkness consumed all around him. Ben and Gwen, even Devin, were nowhere to be found. He cried out for help, for Gwen, but no one responded. The vacuum was void of sound and color. He turned around, tried to move his feet, but the dark wouldn't let him.
Suddenly, a menacing growl prompted Kevin to turn around. It was a black bear, its height a staggering seven feet, its paw angrily clawing at the air, all its teeth bared and hungry.
Kevin took a step back, his arm morphing into a mace. "I ain't here messing around your porridge or chair or bed. So don't—"
A scream right behind Kevin sent his heart clambering up his throat. "What the hell…?"
And the figure looking up at the big, dark creature with her green, scared eyes made Kevin drop his guard and his jaw.
"Mom?" Kevin choked out the words.
But she seemed to be deaf and blind to his presence. She continued to shuffle backwards, cowering and whimpering closer to a dead-end, to a cliff overhanging a sheer drop. The bear, undeterred, inched closer and closer until Kevin's mom could no longer move.
"Somebody… please…" Kevin's mom said as if praying for divine aid. Shifting her frantic gaze from left to right in search of someone, Kevin followed it, and for the first time Kevin noticed their lush surroundings: the setting suddenly changed from nothingness into a forested area, with trees towering around him, the sound of thundering waterfall making its continuous decent toward rocks below, the distant chirping and twittering of birds…
Kevin couldn't move, couldn't speak. Where the hell was he? And what was his mother, looking much younger than now, doing here?
"Mom—!" Kevin was crying out and at the same time sprinting toward his mother when out of nowhere a figure cut him off and jumped on the bear's back, who suddenly head-locked the wild animal. Seriously ticked off, the bear swayed its arms, its claws few inches from where Kevin's mom stood, shocked at her savior's brave yet stupid rescue.
Suddenly, what seemed like flashes of light—electricity, rather—enveloped the creature, stunning it. It yelped and slowly crashed onto the rocky floor. But as the impact shook the cliff, Kevin's mom lost her footing and fell off.
"NO!" Kevin yelled, horror immobilizing him. Stupid feet, move!
The man that electrocuted the bear let go of the unconscious animal and dove after his mom. At that moment Kevin managed to get his legs working again and precariously made his way toward the cliff. As he looked down, there was no sign of his mother and her hero. Puzzled, he looked left and right but found no sign of life anywhere. In addition, the air around him was foggy but, as he looked up he noticed something soaring toward him. He instantly moved back and was confronted by a man that suddenly sprouted wings, holding his mom tightly in his arms.
That man was his proclaimed father, Devin. A younger version, that is.
"No shit. Could this be… my parents' past?"
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Oh, and to be continued…