Even before Ra'ad, lightning's been a pretty common element in Ben's nightmares.
And why shouldn't it be? Lightning meant storms, which usually meant DNAliens, revealed by that streak of electricity. Ghostfreak's monster mash of aliens appeared with purple lightning. Lightning always meant danger.
It was like that in the dream too. It's hard to make sense of the details, but Ben thinks it took place while he was really young. There was a storm, and he was scared. And then there was darkness, and someone or something holding lightning right in front of his face.
The funny thing is that the dream was never really a nightmare until Ra'ad. After that, Ben started waking up in a cold sweat, numb in half-conscious fear. He'd rack his brain trying to figure out why, especially since the dream had always been so harmless before then.
But no matter how much his curiosity ate at him, he'd always have to give up just to get some restful sleep. Any soul-searching or quests for answers just weren't worth it in the end; recurring or not, a dream was a dream, and if it was tainted by Ra'ad's attacks, then that was just the answer he'd have to live with.
If he'd let himself think about it a little longer, however, he'd realize that the dreams started soon after he met Kevin in New York.
If Vilgax won…
Ben doesn't know how lucky he is that the Omnitrix refused to respond to him during the battle with Vilgax. If it had gone just as planned, things would be very different.
Vilgax was expecting Way Big or at the very least, Humongousaur. It was why he made sure to take Ultimos's power before coming to Earth. It would give him the edge he needed against a very tall opponent. Ben would be completely blindsided by the attack, hitting the ground and reverting to human form as Vilgax held his sword at his throat. Given the choice to surrender or die, Ben would glare daggers at Vilgax before Gwen and Kevin yelled at him to take the chance to yield. Ben would, no matter how much it killed him to say it.
Earth immediately became part of Vilgax's empire and when he was ready to take the Omnitrix, it was only some fast talking from Grandpa Max that saved the day. He insisted that because the Omnitrix was fused to Ben's wrist, it meant that it was a part of him and would have to remain with him in exile. Vilgax threatened to take it from Ben, but Max insisted that Ben was leaving peacefully and Vilgax's territory or not, if he attacked Ben now, the Plumbers would have to consider it attempted murder against a galactic citizen. Foiled by the very law he'd exploited to get this victory, Vilgax had no choice but to let Ben and the Omnitrix go, but he forbade Ben's friends and family from contacting him. Reiny offered to let Ben stay within the boundaries of the Highbreed Empire, and those on Earth had to deal with the terror of alien occupation.
A rebellion would quickly form on Earth, remaining underground and cut off from the Plumbers for their own safety. Unsurprisingly, the command included Gwen, Kevin, and Julie. Though racism would be in full swing on the planet, those three made sure that the Resistance welcomed aliens and half-aliens who hated Vilgax, insisting that it might help relations if they helped the humans free the planet. The aliens didn't really believe it, but they had little choice; Vilgax had ordered all Plumbers offworld, and they ran the risk of being deported at any moment with their parents. Max, however, was pretty much forced into retirement. Vilgax refused to deport him and had threatened to hold him as a political prisoner, as he was afraid that he would help Ben try to defeat him.
Ben heard a little bit here and there from Plumbers who were deported, and it gave him an idea. With Reiny's help, he researched the laws of the galaxy and learned that each of the planets Vilgax had conquered had an outstanding warrant for his arrest. Once he'd conquered them, however, the charges were dropped. The idea was half-baked, but Ben knew that if he was going to defeat Vilgax, he was going to have to fight fire with fire and use the law against him. With Reiny sponsoring him, he joined the Plumbers officially and began putting his plan into action, contacting exiled Plumbers and working out a loose alliance. It was dangerous, trying to bring down Vilgax when he had an entire empire behind him, but it didn't deter Ben in the least.
One of the Plumbers' kids would take the chance to be deported, passing along a message from the Resistance—that they could meet with Ben through the Null Void. Jumping at the chance, Ben took a few other Plumbers with him and met up with Gwen, Kevin, and Julie for the first time in months. Though they were glad to see him after so long, they had bad news—a Highbreed sleeper agent had been activated on Earth some weeks ago and in the battle to stop him, Grandpa Max had been killed. Worse, the entire Resistance was sure that Max's death could have been prevented if Vilgax hadn't barred any contact with the Highbreed Empire—specifically Ben and Reiny, who would have been able to neutralize the threat with a minimum of casualties. Devastated, Ben became more determined to defeat Vilgax and told them his plan. Naturally, they thought it was stupid, but they promised to keep an ear open for anyone outside the Vilgaxian Empire who might have a legal way to overthrow him.
The perfect opportunity came some months later, when Tetrax stole back the sacred crystal of Petropia from Vilgax. Afraid to go directly to the Highbreed homeworld and risk a war between the empires, he sought help from Azmuth, who reluctantly contacted Ben. Meeting on the neutral ground of Galvan Prime, Tetrax told Ben how Chromastone could restore his planet, and Ben realized that it meant there would be one free planet with the absolute worst crime Vilgax could be charged with. They began to head off to implement the plan, but Azmuth warned Ben that Vilgax would attack again and he risked creating a war between the Highbreed Empire and Vilgax's, which would surely destroy the Earth in the process. Ben asked how he could restore Petropia otherwise, and Azmuth separated Chromastone's template from the Omnitrix, allowing it to go in his place. The mission would end with Petropia restored but Tetrax killed protecting Chromastone—or rather, Sugilite—and Ben would ask why Azmuth refused to let him save his friends. Azmuth reiterated that Ben needed to protect the Omnitrix and Vilgax could not be allowed to possess it, and if it came to it, it would be better off destroyed than captured.
With Petropia restored, a formal complaint was raised to the Plumbers against Emperor Vilgax. A charge like genocide was one they could not ignore, and the governing councils weren't as willing to pardon him as they were with the Highbreed. The Plumbers outfitted themselves for a difficult arrest, and Ben's allies across the galaxy readied themselves for the final battle. The Petrosapiens and the Highbreed hid just outside the Solar System, a few sneaking to Earth to contact the Resistance so they'd be ready. Ben, however, was discouraged from joining the battle by all of his allies. He was still banished from the Vilgaxian Empire, and his presence would only make things worse. But as Ben found, when you had your helmet and a visor on, it was difficult to prove who was who. They managed to chase Vilgax to Earth, where the ambush was waiting. His ships clashed with the Highbreed Fleet, and the Emperor himself faced the Resistance, who were quickly backed up by one lone, nameless Plumber.
The battle was brutal, and the Resistance and the Plumber were hard-pressed to keep civilians out of harm's way. The Plumber was thrown aside, his helmet saving his life, though the visor shattered, revealing his distinctive green eyes. Vilgax recognized Ben immediately and grabbed him, ripping the armor right off his arm to get to the Omnitrix. He nearly took off Ben's arm entirely, had not Kevin jumped in and distracted him. Ben was able to pull his arm away, but Kevin was knocked unconscious by Vilgax. Remembering Azmuth's words, Ben shouted at Gwen to keep a shield over Kevin as he decoupled the Omnitrix. Setting it to self-destruct, he threw it at Vilgax. He braced himself for the explosion, but a Ship-armored Julie managed to get him out of the blast range just in time. The Omnitrix exploded, leaving Vilgax dazed, and Ben raced over to get the cuffs on him before he could recover.
When all was said and done and the Plumbers brought Vilgax to a transport ship, a large crowd of civilians and Resistance alike gathered to watch the tyrant be taken away. Naturally, the press decided this needed to be recorded for posterity, and a reporter asked who should take the credit for such a daring arrest. Without warning, Gwen and a once-again human Kevin pulled Ben out of the ranks and brought him forward. Hesitantly, Ben removed his helmet, much to the shock of many of his fellow Plumbers and Resistance, who cheered wildly.
It took some time before the legal mess was cleared enough for Ben to be allowed home again, but the courts were already leaning on his side, since he'd been acting as a Plumber during the arrest. They'd all been kicked off the planet; they figured they were allowed to be bitter. Azmuth visited Ben when he arrived home and called him out on his irresponsibility with the Omnitrix. Ben apologized for hacking it but not for the self-destruct. Azmuth agreed that that was the best decision and said that Max would have been proud of him, and so too was he. Grateful for the praise and forgiveness, Ben went silent for a moment before Azmuth admitted he had another reason for visiting him—Albedo had stolen one of his experiments, the Ultimatrix, and had fled to Earth, so he needed a Plumber to take care of the situation. And since whatever Albedo had done to it had undoubtedly made it useless to Azmuth, if it happened to end up in Ben's hands, he might as well just keep it. Grinning, Ben raced to meet with Gwen and Kevin, unable to know how things would have changed had things not gone according to plan.
One day, it'll happen. An enemy will prove to be too dangerous, or just a mistake in battle, and Ben will have to break his vow not to kill. It will be quick and clean and he'll know it was what he had to do, but Ben will still feel the blood on his hands.
He'll hide it well at first, maintaining a calm front when Gwen gives him a worried look, and he'll pretend everything's okay. But his hands will shake, and when he sees that Kevin notices, he's going to quickly stuff his hands in his pockets. He'll manage long enough to give his report to Grandpa Max, but when it's time to go home, he's going to abandon his car and fly off, finding a nice, secluded place to vomit until he nearly cries.
It'll be Cash and JT of all people who find him, and without asking, they'll understand what happened. They'll take him to their hideout and break out the liquor, going straight to the hard stuff. Ben won't say a word the whole time, but they won't expect him to.
The next morning, when the others track him down, they'll find him asleep on the couch, pretty much looking dead to the world. The oddly protective looks from JT and Cash will keep anyone from trying to lecture him, and it won't help when Ben does wake up and it looks like something inside him has broken. It'll take a while for him to put it back together, but he'll never be able to regain whatever it was that he lost.
Everyone knows it'll happen one day. They just hope that when it does, Ben will at least be legally old enough to drink.
Ben has been imprinted on no less than four times in his life. The first time was when he was a young child—he'd been at the park and came across an apparently abandoned duck nest. Seeing a hatching egg, he rushed to show it to his parents, and the duckling hatched in his hand, immediately mistaking him for its mother. He spent about three days trying to take care of the duckling until his parents convinced him it would be better off in the hands of a vet who'd know how to take care of it better.
The second time was the Big Chill incident. This was an unusual case even by Necrofriggian standards, as normally they just lay their eggs and move on. Ben's own human instincts led him to fiercely protect the nest, and the "Baby Chills" had the novel experience of actually meeting their parent at birth, and they recognized him immediately as such. This too is perhaps because of the human element; there's no telling how much human drift there is in their genetic matrix. In any case, even well into his adulthood, Ben gets a little nervous around young Necrofriggians, and Kevin has convinced any he meets to follow Ben around and call him "Mommy."
The third time was the Tiffin. Thanks to their treaty with the Pantophage, the Luodan Royal Family ended up matrilineal—all Crown Princes were sent to be eaten. Crown Princesses were allowed to live, as the Pantophage needed somebody to breed their favorite dish. The Tiffin's father is unknown by design—it's just easier to avoid heartbreak that way. Rath was the first male who actually took an interest in the Tiffin, caring for him and playing with him, even while trying to insist that he wasn't. Neither of them realized it, but the moment Rath jumped down Jarrett's throat to save the Tiffin, he pretty much cemented himself as his surrogate father.
The fourth time was a bit of a combination of the first three. Ben, Gwen, and Kevin were called to help an insectoid race who were under attack. An enemy race had been attacking in the dead of night, stealing their eggs from their colonies and devouring them. In the middle of the mission, Ben was thrown in the middle of the colony nest and had to do everything he could to fight off the enemy and keep the eggs safe. He won, but as he transformed back, he was in for a surprise. When Gwen and Kevin found him, he was in the underground nest, being mobbed by hundreds of cooing alien babies. Naturally, they laughed themselves sick. Ben refused to speak to them for a month. They were impressed with this feat, however, as Ben had no real interaction with anyone for two weeks; he couldn't leave the nest because the babies wouldn't stop crying every time he left them with their real families.
In another world, Ben had a son named Ken, whom he gave the Omnitrix to. In this world too, Ken was born, but not under the same circumstances.
Ben had been coming off of a long-term relationship that had gone horribly sour. While trying to get his mind off of the heartbreak, he ran into Kai again after many years, and they started a relationship. Ben tried to tell himself that it was a rebound and that he shouldn't let himself believe it would get serious, but what was supposed to be casual sex got more serious than Kai wanted, and she called it off. It hit Ben harder than he'd thought it would, and he promised himself he wouldn't get into a relationship again until he was ready to get it right.
He didn't learn he had a son until nearly a year later, when Kai had been seriously injured on a mission and was no longer able to take care of him. She'd named the boy Ken, as a wry joke—a portmanteau of his parents' names—though she'd hoped she wouldn't have to tell him about his father. Now, she knew she had no choice. Ben had been shocked to see the baby and his very, very green eyes, and he knew he had to take up the responsibility he hadn't been so careful about before. The boy was officially adopted, and Ben made sure that this time he was going to do everything right the first time.
It was worth it
Ben has managed to turn heckling villains into an art form. He's always been argumentative, and one of his favorite parts of heroing as a kid was mocking the bad guys. But back then, it had mostly been just backtalk: immature, childish insults that merely annoyed the bad guys.
Now that he's a teenager, however, he's got insight on a few things that make it a little more fun. Particularly when it comes to captures.
It started when someone tried to kidnap him in the middle of his ongoing war with Vilgax. Ben had cracked that he was flattered, but Vilgax was his only nemesis and surely he'd be all jealous that Ben had let himself get tied up by someone else other than his one true hate. The guy had given him a confused look, giving him just enough time to beat him into the ground.
The second time, Albedo had caught him. Ben had been feeling especially snarky that day and asked if this meant that Albedo was into twincest bondage sessions. The Plumbers arrived just in time to hear Ben respond to an angry tirade with "Okay, fine, but I top next time." Manny still can't stop laughing whenever he thinks about it.
The third time, Charmcaster held him prisoner as a part of a trap for Gwen. Ben proceeded to make such raunchy and over-the-top jokes that a furiously blushing Charmcaster put a spell on him that left him mute for the better part of a week until Gwen managed to find the countercurse. Kevin loudly proclaimed that Charmcaster had done them a favor by shutting Ben up, but it was mostly to hide the fact that he couldn't stop laughing hysterically when Ben wrote down exactly what he'd said to Charmcaster. Most of it had involved lesbian bondage scenarios. Kevin hadn't known Ben had it in him.
Don't like, don't read
It's well-known among his closest friends that Ben is a geek, but nobody knows that when he was eight, he wrote SumoSlammers fanfiction. His only story was this horrible, unfinished, self-insert crossover with KangarooCommando, but when he found it many years later in his desk drawer, he grinned at the memory no matter how awful it was. Because the thing about Ben is that he never forgets what it's like to be a kid.
It's also the reason why when he discovers that Jimmy wrote a really bad fanfic about him fighting Kenko from SumoSlammers, that he doesn't facepalm. Much.
It's about helping people
There are some days when Ben really doesn't mind the loss of his secret identity.
It's not the VIP access to places he could never imagine. It's not the fangirls who beg him for his autograph. It's not even the unconditional trust of the government and the military simply because he's a Plumber and he knows what he's doing.
It's when people need help, and he's able to bring awareness to the issue.
It happened when a volcano blew and spewed ash all over an island nation. Sure, the news reported on it, but little aid made it there; it was just too far away, removed from public consciousness.
It was unusually quiet for Ben, Gwen, and Kevin, so he suggested that they fly over and see what they could do.
Naturally, word got out that the famous Ben Tennyson was providing aid to a distant country. And predictably, Will Harangue took this as an opportunity to criticize him for finally trying to do some good, but not for the people his antics had hurt.
It pissed Ben off, but at least he had Gwen and Kevin to cool him down and give him an idea. The very next day, during Harangue's broadcast, Ben set up video feed from the island, interrupting the show. Harangue was furious with Ben's "childish prank," but Ben opened the lines for a direct interview. Covered in volcano soot from rescue efforts, he was tough to discredit; he looked every bit the kind of real American hero that Harangue praised.
He kept his interview short and simple. Nothing about him, everything about the people who needed it. And then he challenged Harangue to do what he could for the people there, prove what it means to be a real hero. It was the one and only time Harangue actually shut up and went along with him, donating thousands of dollars for aid and asking his viewers to donate what they could; anything less would have forever turned the people against him and toward Ben.
Ben honestly didn't care that the money came from Harangue's pride. At least it was coming, and the people who needed the resources it would bring had it. And if nothing else, that was worth the hell his fame put him through.
Ben has a love-hate relationship with destiny.
For the longest time, he thought his future was set in stone. He would grow up, master the Omnitrix, and become the greatest hero in the universe. Sure, he'd go through a rough patch when he'd forget that he needed to depend on his family and that it was actually fun to do all the heroics, but it would all work out. Everything would unfold with time.
His future was shattered with just a few words: "There are over one-million samples encoded in the Omnitrix."
In that one moment, Ben suddenly had no idea what his future held. But Paradox had let slip that he'd one day save the universe, so he guessed that ending the Highbreed War was the moment, and everything was okay again. Things were just moving faster. Instead of waiting until he grew up to be a hero, he was one already as a teenager. And he hadn't lost his sense of fun yet either. More aliens just meant that he had to be ready for the nickname of Ben One-Million instead of Ten-Thousand. His destiny was a little shaky, but he still had a lot to look forward to.
Then Kevin sacrificed his sanity at the Forge of Creation, and Ben thought Paradox was telling him that he would have to kill him. Destiny, then, became a curse. He had no alternative. As far as he knew, this was the only way and he had no other options. Any chance of trying to get Kevin back was going to fail because Paradox said it would come down to him, and he knew what he had to do. He didn't even let himself think he was misinterpreting the prophecy; as long as it was his fate, he didn't have to make the painful choice on his own. But then he had to make the even more difficult choice to set his fate aside and try another way, and it all worked out in the end. He didn't have to become that bitter man working all on his own.
Ben has no idea what his future will have now, other than what Azmuth has let slip about having a great destiny ahead of him. But it doesn't scare him. Maybe he doesn't have the comfort of knowing that he will definitely become a great hero, but he knows that whatever happens to him will happen by his own hand, and not because he's trying to fulfill some grand plan. He'll be the master of his destiny, not the other way around.
What do you do when you've done everything? Been everything? Gone everywhere? Ben really isn't sure. He's got over a million aliens at his disposal, from two galaxies. He's fought and won against enemies that far older and far stronger people have failed to defeat. He's found ways to overcome difficult choices—trusting old enemies and daring them to prove themselves friends, healing instead of killing, and triumphing when failure seems inevitable. He's been beyond the universe and seen the source of creation itself.
What next? When you look at the stars in the sky and know you've been beyond them, where do you go next? How do you exceed infinity?
If there's a way, he's going to find it. If there isn't a way, he'll make it. If destiny prevents it, then he'll overcome it, and he's willing to bear the burden of someone else's destiny for them. That's who Ben is, and he understands that now. This is why he will be a great hero one day and why he is one right now. He has gone and will continue to go beyond everything for the causes he fights for and the people he believes in. It's what truly makes him the ultimate hero.
Ben10 is the property of Cartoon Network.
This fic marks my hundredth published piece on , and I thought it would be appropriate to do a ten-by-ten set of "truths" on the various characters of my current fandom. Mostly, it's a random mix of headcanon, some alternate universes, and the odd crossover or two. Any ideas are free for use if anyone likes them. I just ask that you credit me, just in case I decide to take something and run with it down the line. There's at least one that I am using as part of an upcoming fic, and I'll point it out when I get to it.
Here's to another hundred!