The Theory of Everything
Epilogue: "A Boundless Life"
By the time they reached home, Devlin was exhausted. He'd already been running on very little sleep in the other timeline before the Mori Spell had gotten him, and the battle had only made things worse.
He was on his way to his old room when Gwendolyn came down the hall from the opposite side, looking serious. He stopped immediately, giving her a worried look.
"Is something wrong with Ben?"
"No," she assured, shaking her head. "We don't know how bad the Mori Spell affected him, but he'll recover after some rest. You too, it looks like."
Sheepishly, he blushed slightly. "It was kind of an accident."
Gwendolyn smiled. "The truth is, I wanted to apologize to you for yesterday."
"What?" he asked. He couldn't seem to remember just what had happened yesterday; the timelines had blurred together in his mind. But after a moment, he remembered volunteering to go to the past to retrieve the spell, and Gwendolyn storming out.
"I overreacted a little when you told me your plan," she admitted. "It was wrong, and I'm sorry."
"It's okay," he insisted. With some reluctance, he added, "Great-Grandpa said it was because I reminded you of my dad."
"You do," she said, the smile not leaving her face. "You're just like Ben sometimes."
He blinked, taken aback. In an entire decade, no one had ever told him that before; the comparisons had always been to his other father. "Really?"
"You've got the same drive he has, or at least what he had when he was younger," she explained. "When he was a kid, things weren't easy for him. Other kids picked on him, and whenever he tried to stand up against the bullies in school, he only got in trouble. When he got the Omnitrix, he immediately decided that he was going to use it to become a hero, and he fought to prove himself. In the same way, you're constantly trying to prove yourself to the whole world, trying to show you can follow your own destiny, and you're not just your father's son."
Devlin was speechless for a moment, but he finally asked, "What about Ken?"
She shook her head. "He doesn't have that drive. For him, it's more what he wants, not something he needs, the way you do and Ben did. He's finding his motivation, but it's a different one."
It was all beginning to make sense, and he said, "So when I gave my idea, it reminded you too much of Ben, and with him hurt like that…"
Gwendolyn nodded. "It was too much to take right then. But I knew you'd be able to do it, even then. Another thing you and Ben have in common is the ability to make people want to believe in you."
Even as he thought on how the younger Ben seemed so willing to trust him and how Gwen and Kevin came to believe in him, Devlin again asked, "Really?"
Gwendolyn put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed it. "I think you know the answer to that already," she said as she walked away.
Slowly, a smile spread across Devlin's face, and he nodded as he opened the door to his room and went inside.
Ben stopped off at a local pharmacy before he went home, picking up some alcohol wipes and bandages. Once he found a little privacy, he pulled up his shirt to check the cut on his side. It wasn't as big or as deep as he'd feared, so he wiped away the blood and sweat before sticking a large bandage over it.
"The dangers of superheroing?" asked a familiar voice.
Ben jumped, looking up to see Reiko Momoi of ORE Journal. She smiled patiently at him as he pulled down his shirt and walked over.
"Look, if this is about earlier…" he started.
"Yes," she answered. "I wanted to apologize for my intern." Ben gave her a look of surprise. This was not how his dealings with the press usually went. "Shinji is eager, but he lets that get ahead of him. Our editor is putting him on smaller stories until he learns to control himself a little better."
"Um, it's okay," Ben replied. "You didn't have to come out here to…"
"I did have another reason," Momoi admitted, and Ben suppressed the urge to groan. "Your battle with Captain Nemesis."
Ben really did groan now. "I really don't want to talk about it."
"That is your right," Momoi agreed. "But The Harangue Nation has exclusive interviewing privileges with Captain Nemesis. So far, his story is the only one we've heard, and only through one reporter. I think we should be allowed to hear your take, if The Harangue Nation isn't willing to interview you."
"Hold on," Ben said, shocked. "You're actually willing to hear my side of the story?"
"Not all of us in the press are as unbalanced as Will Harangue," she insisted. "ORE may be a small paper, but we do have high standards of journalistic integrity. I understand you haven't always dealt with that."
"Not really," he answered. "Oh, but that's between us, okay?"
Momoi smiled. "Our secret. I believe there were other witnesses on-scene? Mr. Okubo, our editor, is trying to get in touch with Jennifer Nocturne's agent for a statement. Would anyone else be willing to offer their statement?"
"I don't know," Ben admitted. "Julie might still be mad, but she does want to help. I'm not sure about Gwen and Kevin, though. And I'm kind of worried about putting them in the spotlight, after everything I've been going through."
"If they're minors, then we're bound to protect their identities," Momoi assured him. "We'll be fair to all sides in this."
It was a big step, trusting one reporter after all of the trouble he'd had with the rest. Still, Ben nodded, and Momoi took out a tape recorder as they began the interview.
Ben sat at the computer, monitoring Ken as he fought Sixsix. He offered advice when needed, but otherwise, he let his son handle the situation his own way. He'd certainly proven he was ready.
It was a little hard to accept that he wasn't going to be going out there again. Charmcaster had used up enough of his lifeforce that he knew he couldn't fight again. He'd live a long, healthy life, as far as he could tell, but his days using the Omnitrix were over.
Maybe he'd take up teaching after this. The Plumbers had contacted him about it a few times in the past. Maybe this time, he'd take them up on their offer.
But for now, he needed to help his son the one way he could.
Ken closed his eyes out of instinct as he was thrown back, so he didn't see Sixsix leaping above him, a spear pointing down.
"Above you!" warned a voice in his ear.
Ken slid out of the way, narrowly missing the spear as it stuck into the metal next to him. He leapt to his feet as Sixsix pulled his spear free, turning toward him with an incomprehensible snarl.
"Sure, whatever you say," Ken quipped, switching to Ultimate Big Chill.
Since acquiring the form, it had quickly become his favorite. It seemed considerably stronger than some of the others in his arsenal, and its ice flames were more than useful in a pinch.
Sixsix came at him, swiping with his spear. Ultimate Big Chill went intangible, then blasted endothermic fire at him. The flames absorbed heat from the air around Sixsix, quickly encasing him in ice. Ken changed back into human form and tossed a containment capsule, trapping Sixsix—ice and all—within.
"You know," Ben joked over the comm, "that form makes things too easy. You're going to have to find stronger enemies at this rate."
"Thanks, Dad," Ken deadpanned.
Gwen struck a match, watching the flame come to life for a moment before she set it against the torn pages of the Archamada and then waved it out. The Astra Spell burned quickly, disappearing into embers with ease. The Mori Spell was still damp and took longer, but it too became nothing more than ashes.
"Never thought I'd see you of all people burning a book."
Gwen failed to hold back a smile. "I wanted to be sure nobody could ever use that spell again."
"Yeah, can't blame you," Kevin answered, coming over. He glanced at her hand and saw she was holding her locket. "What happened?"
She held it up. "The chain broke when I was fighting Charmcaster."
Kevin took it and absorbed a little bit of the gold, using his powers to repair the chain. "Not surprised it did. This thing's kind of old."
"You got it from your mom, right?" she asked. He looked startled, but she smiled and lied, "I guessed. I didn't think you'd be able to pick out jewelry on your own."
"I can so!" Kevin protested. "I know how to be sensitive!" As Gwen laughed, he admitted, "Yeah. Dad gave it to her when I was born."
Gwen suddenly stopped laughing and gave him a sympathetic look. "I'm sorry, I didn't know."
"Don't worry about it," he insisted, putting the locket back in her hand. "Mom used to have a photo of all three of us inside there. When she gave it to me, the picture was gone. Don't know what happened to it. I'd figured she threw it away, but…"
But she'd kept the locket. And she still had a photo of her son and late husband. She must have kept the photo that had been in the locket too, Gwen realized. And the same in Devlin's timeline. In both worlds, Kevin's mother had kept the picture before giving over the locket.
It made it a little easier to forgive her.
"Anyway, that's old memories," Kevin said, trying to shift the mood.
"Yeah," Gwen agreed, hugging him. "We've got new ones now."
Devlin stood on one end of the portal to the Null Void, staring into the other end, where his other father's lair was. As he expected, Kevin 11,000 made his way out, sneering at him.
Not wanting to hear his taunts this time, Devlin tossed the locket through the portal. Kevin caught it without trying, but when he recognized it, he stared at Devlin in shock.
For a moment, their eyes met, and it was almost like they understood each other.
Then Devlin turned away and closed the portal.
Curiosity got the better of Kevin, and he opened the locket. There wasn't anything inside, but all the same, he kept it with him as he ventured back into his lair.
On the other end of the closed portal, Devlin set down his bracelet and walked out of the Null Void Chamber. He wasn't sure if he was ready to forgive Kevin, but he could at least accept that he was capable of change, if the other timeline's Kevin was any indication.
"Are you seriously in here again?" Ken complained, as Devlin made his way out.
"Hey, someone's got to take care of the capsules you keep bringing in," he argued. "I've got another two days before I have to head home. Stop making me work on my vacation."
"You work?" Ken repeated. "When are you going to get out there and help like you said you would?"
"Doctor's orders," Devlin answered with a smirk. "No fighting until I'm completely recovered from the spell."
"And since when do you listen to the doctor?" Ken asked, shoving his brother. Devlin grabbed Ken in a headlock, being just gentle enough that he wouldn't hurt him.
"Jealous that big brother's all grown up?" Devlin teased.
Ben grinned as he watched his sons wrestle, while Gwendolyn crossed her arms with a smirk.
"Aren't those two ever going to grow up?" she asked.
"Not a chance," he answered.
In another time and another world was a similar scene from another pair of brothers in all but blood.
"You went and sold us out to the reporter?" Kevin asked, keeping Ben in a headlock as he gave him the noogie to end all noogies.
"Ow, my head!" Ben protested.
"It's soft enough to take it!" Kevin insisted.
Reiko Momoi watched in surprise as Ben struggled against Kevin's death grip. Meanwhile, Gwen palmed her face.
"When are you two going to grow up?" she asked.