"Your father was a good man. But that was another world."
Star Trek 2009 film trailer
The Theory of Everything
Prologue: "Sins of the Mother"
It was a modest house in Bellwood, Ben's original hometown. That made it all the stranger as Devlin sat at the table across from the pale, thin woman. He was confused as to why he was here, but he couldn't help but look on her with sympathy. Grey hair framed a bony face, worn from grief and regret. Her clothes almost seemed to hang off her, and a gold locket around her neck looked far too heavy for her.
He saw it then, but when he looked back on it later, he'd wonder why it took so long to put the pieces together.
"I'm sorry," she apologized. "You look just like him."
Devlin was sorry too, but he didn't say that out loud. Instead, he just answered, "I know."
"Kevin wasn't always so bad," she remembered. "There was a time when he was happy. He was an angel. And then Devin died, and he took it so hard…"
He didn't want to hear this. Only a year ago had he built up the courage to confront his father in the Null Void, and though he was coping a lot better now, he still didn't have the strength to listen to his grandmother talk about him this way.
He guessed it was some kind of relief that Kevin's stepfather wasn't there. He wasn't sure he was ready for that meeting, if he could barely sit through this one.
"Why did you call me now?" he interrupted. "It's been eight years since I came to Earth."
She smiled sadly. "I suppose I just wanted to make amends. If I hadn't failed your father, then none of this would have happened to you."
Devlin felt a knot in his chest as he said, "It's not your fault. He made his choice. And I've been doing great since then. The Tennysons made sure to help me."
She was still smiling, though now, there were tears streaming down her face. "They shouldn't have had to. They've done so much for you that I should have done for my son."
"The past is over," Devlin insisted. "There's nothing we can do to change it. I'm happy now, and that's what counts."
"Yes, it is," she admitted. "I just wish I could help you. If Ben needs any help paying your tuition…"
"No, I've got a scholarship," he said. "Won it this year. I'm doing fine, I promise."
She nodded. "I'm proud of you. Devin would have been too." She clutched the locket around her neck.
Devlin got up. "I'd better go. I've got class tomorrow."
"I'm sorry I kept you," she replied, putting a hand on his. "Take care of yourself, Devlin."
"I will," he promised. "Goodbye."
She almost tried to hold onto him, but she finally let him go so he could leave. Devlin knew he should have tried to be a little more sensitive, but the whole situation was so awkward that he wanted out as fast as possible.
It was two years later when he got another call related to her. He'd just gotten out of the shower when his vidphone flew into his room, alerting, "Incoming call. Ben Tennyson."
"Patch me through," Devlin answered, pulling on a shirt.
The screen activated, revealing his adopted father. Ben Tennyson was in his fifties now, his hair greyer, but he was just as strong as ever. And he looked worried, which immediately but Devlin on alert.
"Hey, Devlin," he said.
"What's wrong?" Devlin asked immediately. "Did anything happen?"
"No, we're all okay," Ben quickly reassured him. "Sorry for scaring you. But a package just showed up for you in our mailbox."
"Is it safe?" Devlin checked, wondering why Ben hadn't just forwarded it to him.
"Yeah, but…" Ben hesitated for a moment before saying, "It looks like it's from your grandmother."
Devlin suddenly felt the same sense of urgency he knew his father had. He headed to the kitchen, the vidphone following him, and stood in front of the mailbox—a small teleporter pad built into the counter. "Send it over."
Ben nodded, and within seconds, a small cardboard box materialized on the transporter. Devlin ripped into the box, pulling out a gold locket and a letter. Recognizing the locket, he went to the letter.
"What is it?" Ben asked.
"'Dear Mr. Tennyson,'" he read. "'We regret to inform you that your grandmother, Elizabeth Levin-Hackett, has passed away. While she has named you in her will, she requested that you be sent this locket upon her passing. Our firm will be looking into the rest of her assets, and we will contact you as soon as we have everything in order.'" He looked back at the phone. "It's from her lawyers. That's why she wanted to meet me two years ago. She knew she was dying."
"I'm sorry," Ben apologized. "I didn't mean to open up any old wounds."
"No, it's okay," Devlin answered. "You couldn't have known."
"Are you going to be okay?" Ben asked.
Devlin sighed. Ben was getting more and more worried about him since he'd faced Kevin. He appreciated the sentiment, but right now, he didn't need his father trying to protect him.
"I'll be fine," he insisted. "I just need a little time."
"No problem," Ben answered. "Call back later, okay?"
"Yeah," Devlin promised. "Bye."
He switched off the phone and set down the letter. Steeling himself, he pried open the locket to see what was inside.
It was empty.
Somehow, that unnerved him more than if there had been something inside.
Ben 10 is the property of Cartoon Network. The title "The Theory of Everything" comes from an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. This fic is part of the same universe as "Leap of Faith" and "Reckoning," but it's written so you don't have to read them to understand this one. It helps, but it's not completely necessary.
The name "Elizabeth Levin" is my own for Kevin's unnamed mother, as seen in the Alien Force episode "Vendetta." If she is given a name in canon, I will come back and change it. I have this general rule for everything in the "Ken 10" universe: if it happened prior to Ben 10 classic, it happened in their history too. This rule will come into play as the story progresses.
Update 12/18/10: Included Mrs. Levin's new last name and threw in a reference to Harvey Hackett, in the wake of "Absolute Power."