Author's Note: Hey everyone! Well, I won't go so far as to say I'm back, but I'm trying to get back into the habbit of writting again. I can't promise any sort of regular frequency when it comes to update, so far now I'm afraid you'll just to have to take my word when I say I will be working whenever occassion permits me to update this story as well as several others I've currently left hanging.
Hope you enjoy!
Gwendolyn sat in the middle of Tennyson Park, the sun shinning high, the birds chirping, and the sound of water running through the unnecessarily oversized fountain in the distance. Around her, the rustle of leaves could be heard as a gentle breeze pushed at the trees, while all around, children laughed and chased after their ball and one another, their pet Tutt yipping as it went along with them. It was perfect. She could spend all day like this.
When her schedule permitted her a visit to Earth, it was seldom leisurely, and often quite brief. She had spent the better part of the last six weeks tracking down several Null Void prisoners that had escaped. No one big named. The newest Negative 10, composed mostly Plumber rejects, bounty hunters, and lead by Albedo, had found a way out of the Null Void, and then run off into the galaxy, desperate to acquire any piece of tech that would help build Omnitrixs for every one of them. Fortunately, Albedo had abandoned the group at his earliest opportunity, which had left the lot of them disorganized and that much easier to find.
She had only returned to Earth for a quick visit to see her cousin Ben, her adopted nephew and Godson Kenny, and the newest addition to the family Devlin, who despite his upbringing and family heritage, she was told, had been settling in to the business of defending the planet very nicely.
'Thank the star clusters that apple fell as far from the tree as it did.'
The thought disquieted Gwendolyn from her meditation and she promptly cast it out. Tranquility. Serenity. Those were the ultimate goals of such meditation. To most effectively channel her powers required focus, precision, and perhaps most surprisingly of all, calm. To that end, such meditation was practically required.
Plus, it was a great way to reduce stress. In her much, much younger years, Gwendolyn Tennyson had not been one to slow down for anything. Always focusing her energies on one pursuit or another, be it her studies or saving the planet. Fortunately, age had taught her the value of focusing on the moment and appreciating the calm before another inevitable storm arose.
The chime of her Plumber Badge to the side was not unnoticed as she willed the small, cylindrical device to her, activating it with only a thought. "Gwendolyn."
"Hey cuz." The voice on the other end threatened to bring a mildly annoyed smile to Gwendolyn's face. "Calling to make sure you got into town alright. And that you're not gonna be late again."
"A sorceress is never late Benjamin Tennyson. Nor is she early."
"Yeah, yeah. She just always arrives five to ten minutes after the planned time."
"Not all of us have a dozen super fast aliens they can change into. Face it, if you had unlocked Master Control as a child, you probably would have never even learned how to drive."
"True." At this, Ben admitted "Good thing I'm a sucker for a sports car."
"Besides, I'm not the one who said we had to call to make sure you're gonna be on time."
"Dad!" A second, much younger voice came through the badge.
"Hello Ken Tennyson."
"Hi Aunt Gwendolyn!" Gwendolyn may not have technically been Ken's aunt, but that didn't make her smile any less wide whenever he called her by the title.
"I've missed you so much. You sound like you've gotten a lot bigger since the last time I saw you."
"A little. But guess what?" Ken explained proudly. "I made the team."
"Running back." The proud father interjected. "He hasn't got a chance in any of the games yet, but we're working on it."
"Don't worry Kenny. Your father actually tried out for the football team when he was a teenager to try and impress girls. Ended up going home from his tryouts with two black eyes."
"Gwen!" Ben growled over his son's amused laughter. "You have a big mouth."
"A sorceress' mouth is never..."
"Forget it. We'll see you at Mt. Rushmore an hour."
"Bye Aunt Gwen!"
"See you later boys." Gwendolyn smiled as she lowered the badge with her mind to the ground. She really hated the idea of leaving this spot. She always felt that of all the awards and recognition that had been showered on her super heroic cousin and their family, that this was the one she was truly grateful for. Tennyson Park was a landmark, and a peaceful one well maintained by the city. She always came here whenever she stopped by on Earth, those these days that was becoming fewer and further in between. While she did keep a place of her own just outside the city, her 'home' these days was where ever the job required her to conjure a makeshift mystical shelter for the night. She'd always told herself that one day she would make the time to settle down and make a home, and possibly even a family, for herself on Earth. If only the various threats to the galaxy would ever be so accommodating.
Her plain, calm expression tightened, upset, as something disrupted her meditation. Something at the edge of her awareness. Slight, but there, and refusing to be ignored. It was familiar, yet she couldn't put her finger on it.
Gwendolyn's eyes opened as her cape flew up from its resting place beside her, tying itself around her neck as she brought herself up to her feet. She decided to investigate on foot for the moment, lest a flying woman give herself away in the middle of broad daylight. It was probably a moot point to worry about such things but she couldn't be sure it wasn't worth the chance, at least without any evidence of immediate danger.
She ran as fast as her legs would carry her. Past a pair of teenagers on their hover skates going the opposite direction, past an elderly woman walking several house pets from different planets...
The figure caused Gwendolyn's heart to leap. It sat perfectly still, its unmistakable long dark hair and black outfit as clear and apparent to Gwendolyn as if he had been on fire. His posture, his demeanor; even though his head hung, casually staring at nothing, Gwendolyn's experience reading body language told her that he was every bit as aware of her presence as she had been of his.
He was waiting for her.
The voice startled Gwendolyn as she turned about to see a pair of young faces looking up at her nervously.
"See, I told you it was her."
"Shhh. You're not supposed to say that." The second chided his friend even as Gwendolyn spun around back to the bench.
He was gone.
"See, you made her nervous!"
"No I didn't."
Gwendolyn interrupted their innocent bickering. "Uhh, did you children see what happened to that man that was sitting over there?" She pointed to the bench.
"Excuse me, but are you Lady Gwendolyn?" The first child asked.
"I don't see nobody." The second ignored his friend.
"I thought I saw someone I know." Gwendolyn frantically searched the area for any sign of him, ignoring the children momentarily.
"See, I told you it wasn't her."
"Yes it is!" The first replied, upset. "I have all her action figures and her trading cards and her poster, and I even saw her give her speech at the White House after the third Vilgaxian invasion."
"No you didn't. You just watched it last week on meTv."
"I still saw it!"
"Children." Gwendolyn silenced their increasingly distracting conversation as she leaned in to get their attention. "I'm very sorry, but I have to find that man. Have either of you seen someone dressed all in black, he's got really long, dark hair."
"You mean that guy behind you?"
The children watched Gwendolyn's eyes go wide, the color fade from her face, as she brought herself upright and turned around.
"Hello Gwen." Standing there in all his self-imagined glory, tall and powerful, Kevin 11,000 seemed to cast a very dark shadow, a confident grin and piercing glare decorating his (for now) human features as he looked on at Gwendolyn.
"See, I told you it was her." The young girl exclaimed triumphant, having been proven right in front of her friend, completely oblivious to the tension between the two adults in front of her.
"It's good to see you again Gwen." Kevin eyed her, almost hungrily. "It's been a long time."
"It's Gwendolyn now." Her hands lit with magical energy.
"See? See?" The first exclaimed at the sight. "I get your board for a week; that was the bet!"
"Aww, shoot." The second child kicked dirt, the two interrupting Kevin and Gwendolyn's confrontation.
For a very long second, Gwendolyn starred Kevin in the eyes, determined not to let him stand her down. Yet for all her fury, Kevin stood confident, relaxed.
"Now honey, let's not fight in front of the children." Kevin mocked. Then before Gwendolyn could shoot him a dirty look, he looked down on the two children. "Hello there."
"Hi. I'm Sarah." The little girl responded first before indicating to her friend. "That's Grurrrrissts."
"Hi." The alien boy waved.
"I am Kevin. And this is Gwen Tennyson."
Gwendolyn ignored Kevin's deliberate use of her old name as she put on her best brave face for the children. "Hello. It's nice to meet you."
"Wow, cool!" Even Grurrrrissts didn't bother restraining his awe. "A real super hero. So do you really fight crime and outer space monsters and stuff on other planets?"
"Yes she does." Kevin deliberately beat Gwendolyn to the punch line. "Would you like to see her in action?"
At this, Kevin held up his left hand, cupping it as flames appeared in his palm.
Kevin never acknowledged her. Instead, he left loose with his fire blast, aimed directly at a nearby tree, setting it ablaze instantly.
"Potera hydro!" Gwendolyn extended her right palm outwards, summoning a blast of water to douse the fire.
"Whoa, cool!" The two kids exclaimed before turning back to their elders. "Do it again!"
"No!" Gwendolyn responded firmly and loudly before pointing. "I want you both to go find your parents."
"I told you Ben was the cooler hero."
Kevin and Gwendolyn paid the bitter young pair no mind. They had attracted quite a bit of attention themselves. Kevin seemed unconcerned altogether by the growing audience of onlookers, while Gwendolyn couldn't help but to feel suddenly trapped by the crowd's gaze.
"It is quite unbecoming for a self-titled Lady such as yourself to ask such an insincere question."
"Don't play games with me Kevin." Gwendolyn's hands tensed, ready to ignite with mystical energies.
Kevin said nothing. Neither about the crowd around them, nor about Gwendolyn's battle readiness. Instead, he seemed content to stare directly into her eyes, measuring her, gauging her. "An incredible woman."
Gwendolyn's ears couldn't make out all of Kevin's mumbling. She was sure it wasn't a compliment anyway.
"I have been this close to women before, but each time, I have seen fear in their eyes. Oh, there are those for whom my reputation precedes me, and they usually look on me with awe as well." At this Kevin seemed pleased, as he declared "But not you."
"You don't impress me Kevin." Gwendolyn stared right back at Kevin, meeting his resolve and confidence with her own. "You're a monster. I've seen dozens like you fall. If you wanna fight, then let's take this away from people. If you want me to repeat some pointless threat of death to Ben, just save your breath and I'll make up something. But don't think I'm going to give you the satisfaction of watching me dance for your amusement like some puppet. At the end of the day, you're still just some bully, and that's all you've ever been."
Kevin's eyes glared seemed to refocus, though his features remained otherwise stone like for a second. Then, he smiled. "I admire a brave woman."
With that, he reached out with his arm, grabbing Gwendolyn and pulling her by her arm toward him. For a long moment, the two stood transfixed on the other, their blood boiling at the smell of each others breath, both waiting for the other to blink first.
"But do not make the mistake of believing that you know me so completely, simply because we were acquainted as children."
Gwendolyn didn't give him the satisfaction of a reaction. She simply responded.
"You abandoned your own son, and tried to kill Ben and his son. Or am I mistaken?"
Neither said a word. They stared at each other. The world around them shrank and reduced to a small shell in which only the two of them existed.
"I can hear your heart pounding."
"I can feel your pulse throbbing."
"Would you do it? Would you destroy me here and now before I have even acted? Before I have harmed anyone?"
"You're a little late to play that card, don't you think?"
"I do not feign innocence. Any who would dare shame themselves deserve no such sympathy."
"What do you want Kevin? Am I supposed to be impressed by you? Dazzled by your power?"
Kevin stared at her a longer moment before answering. "Perhaps, I am to be dazzled by yours."
Gwendolyn never quite the meaning behind his odd statement, though the tone of sincerity behind it caught her off guard.
An explosion off in the distance brought the two of them back to the ground they stood on. Looking off, Gwendolyn saw smoke rising into the air less than a mile off in the distance.
"What have you done?" Gwendolyn's eye glowed with power, her energies radiating from her hands and outward, forcing Kevin to release his hold on her.
"Don't you dare lie to me!"
"I would not." Kevin proclaimed with a forceful calm. "If you wish to fight, so be it, but I am not responsible for this."
Gwendolyn glared at him. Once again, she found his tone to be sincere. This unnerved her.
"You can run if you want Kevin, but when this is over I will find you again." With that, Gwendolyn flew off into the distance of the disturbance.
Kevin stood perfectly still. His eyes were far better than that of a humans, and so he was able to keep a perfect view of Gwendolyn's form, her figure. As he continued to simply look at her, he had to laugh at her last warning to him.
He had no intention of going anywhere.