Ben pretends he doesn't remember. It's easier that way, you know? He can have Julie explain that he was eating metal and pretend he doesn't remember the feel of liquid steel sliding down his throat, he can let Kevin tease and taunt without wanting to burst into tears.

Most of the time, he thinks it would be better if it had been all Big Chill doing it and nothing of him. Big Chill's not the one who'd never hurt Julie, though, or the one who gnawed on Kevin's clothes but would never have broken his skin.

That was all Ben. And Ben. Ben remembers.

There are twelve little pieces of himself out there, growing in the frozen wasteland between stars, feeding and living and breathing because of him.

Sometimes, he just lays out under the stars and aches for them, his tiny little offspring, way up there in space. He's not a girl, alright? He's not, no matter what stupid Kevin likes to tease him about, a sly, "You want me to grab you some pickles?" every now and then.

He doesn't even remember carrying them around, not when it was happening, but for days afterwards he's surprised at how light he feels, something intrinsic gone in a flash. His stomach's flatter, not that he'd been flabby or anything to begin with, but.

Smoothing a hand down his belly leaves him feeling stupidly empty. He wonders if this is how Sandra felt after she'd had him.

"Sandra," he doesn't say at dinner, pushing food into his mouth and keeping one hand clenched tight low on his stomach, "Did you ever feel empty after you had me? Like something was gone and you weren't sure you were ever gonna get it back?"

Yeah, he can see how well that'd go down. He'd have both Sandra and Carl asking him frantically if he'd impregnated a girl. And, yeah, his parents are freakishly liberal about most stuff, but he's pretty sure that's one thing no parents wanna think about.

So he keeps his mouth shut and clambers onto his roof afterwards, needing to see the night. He needs. He needs to be close to his kids, okay? The only things in the entire universe that share strands of his DNA, little pieces of him that flew away to find themselves.

"Be safe," he says, spreading his palms. He can see the stars through his fingers, bright white light in the dark, and he curls his hands like he can grab it and haul his... his babies back to him.

The universe is a really big place. It's full of death and aliens intent on taking it over. He can barely fight them off sometimes. How were a dozen tiny infants going to survive out there without him to back them up?

"I am such a girl," Ben hisses and rolls over onto his stomach. He digs his hands into his hair and pulls, hard.

Something chirps at him. Ben lifts his head incredulously. Really? It's the middle of the night. There shouldn't be any birds up and it hadn't--

There's a Necrofriggian hovering at eye level. An infant, all huge green eyes and tiny chubby hands and feet. It gives him a purring, chittering sound when he makes eye contact.

Its small wings flutter. Ben's stupid, girl heart flutters too. "Hey there," he says. "Shouldn't you be up there?"

It chitters again.

Ben holds out his hands and the Necrofriggian drops into them with an exhausted sounding trill. It weighs next to nothing, even though it's about the size of Ben's head, and stares up at him through first one compound eye, then the other.

It's shaking in his hands. Its shivers are almost enough to make Ben start shaking.

"You too tired to get all the way up there?" Ben asks. He sits back on his heels and cradles it to his chest. It eases the ache. He's really, really glad that Kevin isn't around to make fun of him right now.

It squeaks at him and makes a clumsy go of wrapping its wings around itself like Ben knows it should while resting. It screws it up, though, one paper-thin antenna draping across its eye while its wings tangle haphazardly into one another.

Ben laughs. "Lemme get that for you," he says.

The baby Necrofriggian trembles trustingly in the cradle of his knees, tilting its head this way and that as Ben carefully folds and wraps the wings the way he knows they should go. They're paper-thin, but heavy, strong. He hasn't torn a wing yet, so he's not concerned about touching them.

"There," he says, satisfied. The Necrofriggian purrs up at him and lifts the two small wings at the base of its neck to wave them at Ben's face. "Hey, come on, I just fixed those!" he laughs.

It purrs louder, adding a chitter on the end. It's still shaking though and Ben spends a second fiddling with the Omnitrix because. Well. He needs to know. Nobody's ever accused him of not being a slave to his curiosity.

"Big Chill," he hisses out, his wings fanning wide even as he cradles the baby to his broader chest.

It coos up at him and Ben purrs back down at it, the sound coming from deep in his throat, where some organ steals all the warmth from the air and sends back frost.

He knows, suddenly, that it's pre-verbal. His baby. "Why aren't you with your siblings?" he asks anyway, his voice an echoing rasp of sound.

The Runt, shivers through his skull. Too small and frail to make it to the stars. Big Chill tilts their head and this is weird, like, really, really weird. Usually, his aliens don't talk to him.

It's all instincts, though, not actually his alien form whispering in his ear. It's not Alien X, Ben tells himself firmly, even if it did get him pregnant and let their children go off alone into the universe.

"So, what's gonna happen to you?" Ben asks. It trills up into his face and spreads its wings like him, stretching, as it looks up into the dark sky.

Death, his instincts murmurs. Too weak to feed.

"What?" Ben asks out loud. His double hearts thump hard in his chest, off time and off beat. "No! I'm not just going to. I can't let him die."

The Necrofriggian scratches at the top of its head with one claw and it's like the thing is designed to look as cute and harmless as possible. Just. No. He wasn't going to let a piece of him die and.

His dreams are already haunted with tiny skeletons, three toed feet and four fingered hands and sloping skulls, fragile and bleached and broken. No. He's not going to let it happen to one of his kids.

It shivers up against his chest as he lets the transformation go. Food, Ben thinks. Solar plasma, Kevin'd said, and Ben looks up at the sky and cradles his baby closer to his chest with a frown.

He can get up there. If a bunch of infant (his infant) aliens could get up there to eat, so could he.

But for right now, Big Chill'd whispered an alternative, clean fire and molten lava. Ben scratches at the Necrofriggian's skull with a tentative finger and it purrs loud at him, still shaking.

His kid is exhausted and hungry. He transforms again and feels his alien mouth attempt its version of a smile when the baby squeaks happily and flutters its wings up at him.

"I'm gonna call you Nippy," Ben says.

Nippy tilts his head and blinks twice, its antenna floating up to touch feather light on Ben's blue skin. Ben spreads his wings into the cold air and pulls out all the heat he can, funneling it into the shuddering ball of infant cradled to his chest. It perks up a little, its shivers winding down.

Inside, where he always thinks of himself as human, Ben smiles.

"Don't worry," Ben whispers down at it, "I'll take care of you."

Sandra and Carl've said that he watches too much TV, but at least he'd been paying attention to those PSAs on fatherhood. Nippy's his, his baby, his egg, his responsibility.

Ben's mpreg babies made me giggle when I saw them, so, of course, I had to turn around and make him angst about them instead.