A/N: Just a thought that spiraled into a series of thoughts and this came out of it… So yeah. Here goes nothing.

Disclaimer: I don't own Ben 10 or anything else.

Closer to the Edge

Ben had always pegged Kevin as the tortured type. It was readable on the dark Osmosian's face. It was part of who he was; it was something Ben had come to accept. Maybe not like or enjoy, but he did accept it as part of who his friend was.

But ten years later and Ben wasn't so sure he'd been completely right. Tortured may have been an understatement on his behalf. Of course, Ben hadn't thought suicidal to be part of Kevin, but maybe there were factors that played into that that were more recent than his last evaluation of his teammate.

Ben had just been relaxing with a beer and the television remote when he got the call from Julie that she'd spotted Kevin's car on her way home from the daycare center that she worked at. She usually saw the muscle car, but it was parked this time alongside of the bridge that connected one side of the river with the other. The Asian-American had mentioned seeing a dark form against the sun, and, although she had no inkling whether it was Kevin or not, she wanted her husband to check it out. Just in case.

Knowing better than to just let it go, Ben put down his beer and the remote and slid into a black jacket before snatching his car keys off their hook. He was the only one looking after Kevin now to make sure he didn't stray from the forged path.

The drive had been easy, Tennyson having just expected the car to be broken down on the side of the road and to find his old enemy beneath the undercarriage with some kind of tool in hand, spitting out rude remarks about how Benji was stupid for checking on him.

He was wrong.

After pulling over behind the green and black car, Ben stepped out of the driver's seat and slammed the door behind him, looking for any signs of the Osmosian under the vehicle; he saw neither shoe nor tool. Quickly peering inside the tinted windows, Ben saw it empty inside except for discarded wrappers and old water bottles. So Kevin being with the car wasn't the answer. Giving a sigh and shoving his hands in his jacket pockets, Tennyson followed the bridge out towards where he could see a broad-shouldered form standing against the sun.

Ben was no fool. He picked up on the signs easily enough. He'd known Kevin far too long to miss these sort of signals. Levin was troubled, distressed. And maybe this was something Benji couldn't fix; that was his worry.

Kevin could've been given hundreds and hundreds of second chances and Ben wouldn't mind one bit. He had a lot of faith in his friend. The first person he would go to with a problem was the twenty-six-year-old. Ben trusted Kevin more than anyone else. The raven-haired man just always seemed to have an answer that made sense. Kevin was just that kind of guy. Ben'd been nice enough to give him extra chances that most others wouldn't have. And Levin had saved the universe with those extra chances. But maybe another try wouldn't fix whatever was bothering him now.

"Your car isn't busted," noted Ben, stepping up beside his best friend with his hands still shoved deeply in those pockets. "So what's the deal?"

The bridge hung about fifteen stories above the river, a good hundred and fifty feet at the least. Kevin's obsidian gaze was intent on the churning cerulean waters below that flowed and shifted like tides do. He was silent for a long moment, trying to piece together how Benji had found him; it hit him like a ton of bricks. Julie. Of course. How could he have forgotten? "Man, I'm so sick of this." Kevin also had his hands shoved in the pockets of a forest green jacket that was faded enough to look like it had been washed at least a million times. "Everything just... It just sucks." That was to put it bluntly.

"I know," confirmed Ben, face grim. So that put that puzzle piece into place. He was still upset. But how could he not be? Even Ben was still pissed at himself most of the time so he couldn't hardly imagine how Kevin felt. "It does suck."

It'd been two years since Gwen had been poisoned by Dr. Animo and hospitalized. She'd been in a state of unconsciousness for five days, giving her two teammates enough time to go searching for an antidote. They'd been through jungles, fought mad scientists, and killed a minimum of twenty people before finally getting what they needed and running back to Gwen's side. She'd flatlined only seven minutes and thirteen seconds before Kevin had burst into the room with the vial that would save her life. Ben remembered how crestfallen and just completely /shattered/ Kevin had been. They'd been engaged too, their wedding day only a month and a half away.

Since Gwen's death, more had been lost. It was slow, every few months, but they were all slowly dropping like flies. Helen had had a problem with a hand grenade. Manny said it had hit a pipe overhead and bounced back and... She couldn't run fast enough to escape it.

Losing Helen hadn't disturbed Kevin at all. Inside, maybe, but he hadn't showed much emotion at the news or at her funeral. But Ben had caught him lingering a bit longer than anyone else at the cemetery.

It was almost six months later when the next big hit rolled around. Cooper. The kid had been so young too, that was what was so upsetting to everyone. Out of all the rookies, he was the youngest, the most innocent. He'd been a victim of dark magic from an alternate universe's Hex. It was something that couldn't be helped. They'd all been there to see him collapse in convulsions, his eyes rolling into the back of his head as his body began to shrivel and wither away like a wilted rose. And in the blink of an eye, he was gone.

Most recently, they'd lost Max.

It was under better circumstances though. He hadn't been on the battlefield nor in a warzone. He had been in his RV listening to Shag Carpeting before leaving. Peaceful instead of brutal. Ben could only be grateful for that.

Kevin, on the other hand, was reeling from that almost as much as he had from Gwen. Max had been somewhat of his father-figure. Or at least a role-model, something that everyone knew Kevin needed. And with his role-model and tie to his father gone, Ben could tell that Kevin was slowly crumbling.

"Why does it have to be like this?" The question was so simple that it sounded stupid aloud. Kevin drank in a deep breath, the car fumes and rain-smelling air filling his lungs. Part of him was ready to escape, but every bit of him wanted to stay just as much.

"Because we chose this. I slapped on a watch. You didn't get a say in it, but I'm pretty sure a choice somewhere determined this life for you." Ben leaned against a support beam, his heels crossing as he looked out at the sun that was dipping below the horizon and turning from a shade of golden yellow to a blazing orange. "Destiny and all that crap."

There was a long silence from Kevin as he stood there without moving. He just stood and breathed, blinking only against the brightness of the sun. "Why her?"

Ben always hated this. Whenever he and Kevin got together anymore whether just to hang out in a bar or to actually get some Plumber work done, Gwen always came up. Sometimes her name wouldn't come up, but just an inkling of her. She was the one that belonged with them. The two couldn't work on their own. Gwen had been what held them together. Her loss was why they had become more distant in the past two years. That, and Kevin had just pushed everyone away so soon after, his mind not fully capable of healing.

Unable to give him a better answer, Ben gave the default response. "I don't know." It was the truth. That was the best answer Ben could offer.

Another long silence came. It wasn't an awkward silence; it was a peaceful one, a relaxed quiet that had settled over the pair. The sun continued to descend from it's original position in the sky.


Without a response, Kevin's obsidian orbs flitted over to his best friend, his mind still dark with the pain of remembering. So many things could've happened… There were so many times when he could've done something more…

"You want to crash at my place tonight?" Ben was only trying to help, knowing that he had to reach out a hand to his friend to pull him back from the brink; every single day was pushing Kevin closer to the edge. "Julie won't mind."

A long pause followed. Silence filled the air between them while outside of their bubble was the roaring of cars and the rustling of the wind in the trees just near the edges of the bridge. Then Kevin finally said, "I'll be fine." His hands stayed buried in his pockets, fingers wrapped around a golden chain. "I got places to be anyway."

Ben knew what that meant. So he stood there, leaning against the bridge's support beam as Kevin walked on past him, calloused fingers still running along that golden chain that was wrapped tightly around his fingers. So the Osmosian moved back towards his car, eyes watching the glint of the sun off the vehicle's hood. Kevin quietly got into his car and hung the locket on the rearview mirror.

When Ben drove by the cemetery later, he saw a burly form standing under a tree. Ben knew exactly what grave he was standing over, but Tennyson drove on past, knowing Kevin would heal on his own time. Slowly and painfully, but he would heal.

A/N: Ah, just one of those one-shots that I felt like I had to get down before I lost the idea. Like it? Leave a review! Don't? Tell me what I could do to make it better.