A Dream no Longer 1
Story Start

Summer. Something Ben Tennyson found himself looking forward to each year since he was 10. Now 15, he had outgrown the passion he had for traveling around an RV with his Grandpa Max and cousin, Gwen.

But now he wasn't yearning for the opportunity to travel around the country, playing hero with the Omnitrix.

He wasn't longing to spend quality time with Grandpa Max. He lived in Bellwood too now, in his RV.

He was dying to be with Gwen, the individual that the Ben 5 years ago would have initially almost rather go to summer school than be with her. Almost. It was that whole summer 5 years ago, the fun and hardship that they endured together, the ups and downs they shared that brought them closer together.

Maturity really did a number on Ben. He started to take a lot of notice about the girls in his school. Gwen was no exception. And he wasn't the only one. Gwen was beautiful, smart, athletic and charming. One of the most popular girls in school, in fact. There were many who would suddenly befriend Ben, just to get close to Gwen. And he was sick of that. Sick of the fact that there were others he had to compete with for Gwen's affections.

At least this summer, he'll be able to spend it all with Gwen. No other boy knew her phone number, e-mail or MSN. Those who did have those records in either their phones or computers were deleted by an unknown cause. Can anyone say Upgrade or Grey Matter? Ben knew he was being a little immature by doing so, but he couldn't bear to see Gwen in the arms of another. Sometimes he couldn't understand why he was acting so rash, instead of just plainly confessing to her.

But he knew the risk. Awkwardness, alienation, rejection. So all he could do now was just sit back, and be grateful for the relationship he currently had with her, wistfully hoping one day they could be something more than just cousins.

"Ben? Ben…Ben!" That melodious voice rang through Ben's head as he continued to daydream. Then a pair of dainty arms grabbed Ben by the shoulders and started shaking him senseless. Ben was rudely brought back to reality by what seemed to be a fiery-haired angel. Oh, she was an angel. It was Gwen who was shaking him. Only then did Ben remember they were at Gwen's living room. He paid her a visit earlier that day when her parents were out and a few minutes ago they were talking about random stuff.

"Ben! Stop daydreaming and listen to me!" Gwen said, still shaking her cousin. "Okay, okay! I'm awake!" Ben whined, feeling nauseous. Gwen truly did stop, proceeding to folding her arms with a skeptical look on her face. "Honestly, I don't know how you managed to get this far in life," she said. Ben shrugged. "Simple. I have you," was his reply. He wasn't lying, but Gwen blushed at Ben's simple and honest answer, like there was a hidden meaning behind. There was. "So what were we talking about earlier?" Ben asked with an apologetic look on his face. Gwen sighed, brushing her long orange hair with one hand.

"I was wondering whether we'll be able to go on another trip with Grandpa this year," she muttered, sounding hopeful. Ben wouldn't want anything more than to spend some more time with Gwen, and a road trip with Grandpa left many opportunities.

Unfortunately, Ben already asked Grandpa yesterday. "Umm…Gwen? Grandpa said a road-trip this year would be impossible. The RV blew a Plumber-tech gasket. It won't run till the replacement part comes next month," Ben said with an emphasis on the end. Gwen raised her eyebrows. Then she heaved a sigh. "So we're stuck here in Bellwood, then," Gwen muttered. She looked disappointed, avoiding eye contact with Ben. He knew something was up.

"Gwen? What's wrong? We didn't get to go last year too," Ben said rather matter-of-factly. Gwen just shook her head. "Ben," she started out. He gulped. Was she going to confess to him?

"I wanted to go this year because I don't think we can do this anymore next year onwards," Gwen said finally, looking very sullen. No confession. Better luck next time, Ben. "Why?" Ben asked, curious. Gwen sighed again. "We're 15, Ben. We're growing up. We'll be busy with other things, so we won't have the time to go out all summer like that….and I'm gonna miss all the good times we've had before!" she wailed, suddenly flinging her arms around Ben's neck, locking him into an embrace. Right there and then Ben's heart leapt to his throat after having a major heart attack. He was too stunned to even say anything. All he could do was nervously wrap his hands around her in return, enjoying her warmth. "It's ok, Gwen," he said, caressing her hair. It smelled like strawberries. Ben was almost intoxicated with the divine fragrance.

Gwen sniffled. Ben had a revelation. He never saw -or even heard- Gwen cry before. She was always the prim, proper and level-headed one. Yet there she was, tearing in Ben's arms. Ben felt it was his sworn duty to comfort her. "There-there, it's okay, Gwen. It's okay. I'm here," he said, burying his head in her luscious hair. "Besides, what's stopping us from having more good times now? We live just a few houses away from each other. I'll still see you almost everyday of the year. In fact, if you want, I'll spend every day of the summer with you. Okay?" He was pushing his luck with that last statement. Would Gwen notice his true intentions to that offer?

She just looked up at him with a sad, yet curious expression, several locks of her hair falling off her face. Her emerald eyes practically sparkled with inquisition. Ben had never seen such an adorable expression before. And he doubted anyone else except Gwen could pull it off. "You don't have to do that, Ben. You've got other friends to hang out with. And so do I," she said, smiling on that last part.

Ben returned that smile with a rueful one. "None of my friends mean as much to me as you do, Gwen," he replied, gazing into her eyes. She blushed an even deeper shade of red and looked down. Ben frowned in curious dread. Was she taken back by Ben's encrypted confession?

"…I don't know what to say to that, Ben…." Gwen muttered. Ben's heart fell. This wasn't what he'd expect her to say. "Well…you can just accept my offer, then. No thanks needed," he simply replied in a cheerful manner, shrugging. Gwen just looked up, avoiding eye contact with Ben. His dread grew even further. "…Gwen? What's wrong?" Ben asked, almost putting a hand on her shoulder, but withdrawing it in the last second. He knew he would be pushing his limits with that.

"Ben, why would you do so much for me?" she asked, still looking out the window. Ben was trying his best to patch up an answer. Telling her about his true feelings for her was out of the question. Then Gwen's eyes grew wider and her mouth fell open, as if she just had a shocking realization. She actually was. Then she smiled slyly at Ben. "Ben Tennyson," she started out as if ready to give him one big lecture, but still smiling. "Do you have a crush on me?" she continued, breaking into a large mischievous grin, the type she used to give when she caught Ben red-handed doing something wrong. Ben's heart skipped a beat at that moment. He tried to hide his shock, but his expression of sheer horror betrayed him.

"Don't try to deny it Ben. That was the same look you gave about 2 years ago when you walked in on me while I was bathing," Gwen said with a lecturing index finger raised, still smiling at her discovery. Ben winced. Then her smile faded. She realized something there and then. Oh no…Ben thought, horrified.

"Oh no….oh no you didn't! Benjamin Carl Tennyson!" she growled, suddenly becoming mildly furious. Ben gulped. Besides yelling at him during the bathroom incident, Gwen has never called him by his full given name that included his father's name. She was really angry now, despite her expression. "You did that on purpose didn't you?" she bellowed. Ben honestly couldn't answer that. He was well, Ben.

"I…uh…-well you see-I wasn't…really paying attention at that time and.. know..." he stammered. Gwen's expression turned from enraged to just plain confused. "Wha?" she simply asked, distracted by Ben making a fool out of himself, again. Ben sighed in deeply. "Gwen, listen," he started, putting both hands softly on Gwen's shoulders. She stiffened up instinctively to that reaction but did not flex his hands away. At least then he knew that she was letting him explain himself.

"I wasn't fully aware that you were taking a bath at that time. I was halfway thinking about some old Sumo Slammer junk when I went into that bathroom. I'm sorry if I did anything to hurt you back then -and even now- Gwen…" he apologized, looking extremely rueful. "Even though we used to play stupid pranks on each other, you know the last thing I wanted then –and now- is to see you hurt, right? You're my cousin, Gwen. You mean too much for me to see you hurt."

Gwen put a hand on her mouth to cover her gasp at Ben's heartfelt words. Ben could have sworn he saw tears beginning to well up in her eyes. "Oh Ben…." she said, her voice breaking. Yup, she was crying. If she's this emotional about me saying how important of a cousin she is to me, I can't wait to see the look on her face when I confess my undying love for her…Ben thought. Then she flung herself again on Ben, sobbing. She lunged at him with such force that she overthrew Ben and herself till she was on top of him on the sofa.

Ben was extremely surprised at Gwen's reactions today. Puberty really did a number on Gwen too, then. "I'm really sorry for shouting at you like that, Ben. I really am!" she sniffled. Ben didn't like her being so sad, but he had to admit, she was so adorable that way. "If only I knew the truth….oh Ben..." she continued, burying her head on Ben's shoulder this time. Ben smiled a silly smile. "It's okay, Gwen." He said, ruffling her hair for the second time today.

"Hey, let's go for some ice cream to cheer you up, 'kay? My treat," Ben offered. Gwen looked down at Ben's face and said "You don't have to, Ben. I'll pay for my share." Only when she was done did they both realize the closeness of their proximity. They could feel the warmth of each other's breath and the heat of each other's bodies, Ben's arms still locked tightly around her. Gwen wanted to move away, but something inside wanted her to continue remaining in Ben's arms, knowing she was, as always, safe in his care. Another part of her mind remembered Ben was hugging her tightly. She couldn't break free even if she wanted to.

"Umm…Ben? I can't move," she finally said, smiling nervously at him. "Hmm? –Oh, right," he said, still half-dazed by how close they were. He reluctantly let go, Gwen easing off and sitting back straight on the sofa. She didn't increase her distance from Ben though, still sitting next to him. "It's okay, Gwen. The ice cream's on me," Ben said, smiling at Gwen as she tried to straighten her ruffled hair, still blushing a cute shade of pink.

"Besides," he continued, getting up. "I'll do anything for my favorite cousin." With that her bent over to give her a kiss on her forehead, sending Gwen past pink into blushing scarlet red, her heart thumping overtime. Her cute expression made Ben smile contently. She clearly did not expect that kind of action from Ben. She just looked up at him and smiled in return, grabbing his outstretched hand and following him out the door, hand-in-hand all the way.