Chapter 18: The End Part 2
"So, that's what you really want to do, Ben?" Gwen asked as she and Ben sat close on the edge of a pier - viewing a large, orange sunset.
After Gwen had came home from school that day, she agreed to go with him for a while. Wherever, just somewhere. After walking through dying streets and dead, green parks, they ended up sitting together and watching the day leave, with boats from fishing ventures coming in off the glowing horizon.
"I know it is. It's what I have to do."
"I guess this means you won't be going to medical school then, huh?"
"No," he said, "I guess not."
They sighed. The solitude of the area was so peaceful at that time, and it made them wonder why they hadn't gone there before.
"But I did talk to grandpa about it," Ben added.
"Really? What did he have to say."
"Honestly, he was being a bit skeptical about this whole thing. At the same time, he seemed to be trying to tell me it's the right thing to do."
Ben began to swing his legs around as they dangled freely from the pier.
"What about you? Will you come with me?"
That was the question Gwen wasn't sure she could answer. Go to South Dakota? Become a full-time super-hero?
She did love him, that was for sure. She wanted whatever he wanted, and his decision was so obvious no matter how he tried to cover it.
"No," Gwen replied. "I won't. Not yet."
Ben began to smile. "I'm glad that you aren't letting me somehow pressure you. I understand if you want to finish school first. But if you decide to go to college - will you come live with me? I know it won't be the typical house, but a base. I promise it will be comfortable. And if everything goes according to plan, then I know I can get you a good word in a college. Especially if they are prepared to meet Gwendolyn - the only living spell-casting hero-girl."
Gwen laughed. "You know, I kind of miss the name Gwendolyn. I haven't gotten called that really. It sounds so much more mature and womanish."
"You should start going by it then, if you like it."
Their hands slid to cup one another's.
"What about Sarah, and your mom?"
Ben hesitated. "I don't know how Sarah will take losing another family member. Just the mention of dad and she...well...she doesn't agree with it. But I promise, by god I do, that I will come back for them just as soon as everything is sorted out. Mom isn't the same anymore and I don't know how much longer she can handle being on her own."
Gwen leaned onto his shoulder, rustling her hair upon Ben's neck. Oh, how much better it felt to have no guilt come into her actions - to be free from all the tugging and pulling that used to occur in her mind.
"I guess most people would call what you're doing selfish, but I don't see it like that. You're about to give up a whole lot to help and save other people. Ben, this is going to be much bigger, and better, than becoming a doctor. I think you're making the right choice."
He leaned his own head on hers. "I'm glad it's you who has to be my cousin right now. I don't know how anyone else would be handling all that's going on. And all that...we've been through."
"It's kind of funny, though. Grandpa had once said that we would always be fine as long as we stay together. Just the three of us."
Ben chuckled. "You remember that too? I still think back those good old days."
"Yep...it's in my head as well too. You really had me worried when you left that note on grandpa's hospital bed - saying that it was better if you left. That we wouldn't be in anymore danger if you weren't with us."
"Did you really believe that I was actually gone? I was ten years old. There wasn't anywhere that I could have gone."
"But you have the Omnitrix. You can go anywhere and be just fine."
Ben's gaze shifted. "I wish I could. But I'm too attached now. Too attached to you."
Suddenly, a thought crossed his mind.
"Will you be with Julian for now?"
"Hmm?" Gwen moaned sleepily. "No...we broke up yesterday. He called me over the phone."
"Oh," Ben sighed, "well that's a shame."
For a while, it seemed Gwen had fallen asleep. She breathed slowly and kept her eyes closed and her dangling feet still. Then, she said, "And yes, I will come with you just after I finish school here."
"Right after? No waiting. As soon as you are done, give me a call before you graduate. I'm gonna be there. No matter what. All the aliens in the galaxy are going to have to wait in line if they try to come here on that day."
Gwen laughed warmly. "I promise. You'll be the first person I tell."
. . .
The next morning, the day Ben had planned for he and his grandfather to leave, came with few surprises.
Ben packed very little - for he didn't believe he would need most of his current possessions. He stuffed only clothes and one picture frame into a duffle bag.
Heading downstairs, he met up with Max in the kitchen while Sandra was silently humming a tune and washing dishes from the night before.
Giving his grandfather a confirmed look, the two stood up.
"Ahem," Ben's grown voice rumbled.
Sandra stopped and turned, a bit taken back by seeing the two up next to each other. Then, she spied a luggage on the table that she recognized to be Ben's.
Still, she allowed little expression into her figure and her eyes. Why did she always look so tired nowadays?
"Mom...Grandpa Max...he's going to be taking me somewhere. Someplace that I can help people, and help our family."
Sandra remained silent as her focus shifted from one of the men to the other.
"And I'm not coming back here. But soon, I promise very soon, that I'll be coming back for you and Sarah too."
Pausing, Ben turned to Max, who, in turn, nodded.
"And there is something else too, mom." Holding up his left arm, Ben presented the Omnitrix to his mother. "This watch of mine, the one you and dad used to refer to as my favorite thing to wear, it's not what I told ypu it is."
Clicking the activation button and pressing down on the dial, Ben's body shifted and mutated inside a green aura until he became Diamond Head in the middle of the kitchen.
"Oh...my...god..." Sandra hesitated to speak as she almost fell backwards.
"I know this is a lot to handle, but I want you to understand why I have to leave. I want you to know about these secrets that I've been hiding away. Those times when you thought I was running away - I was actually out saving people in the city."
The room went quiet as Sandra moved backwards, shaking her head and allowing unkempt blond locks to fall carelessly.
Suddenly, she spat out, "Just like your father thought! You're nothing more than a freak! We always knew you were hiding things from us! We just thought it was about Gwen - never this! This...this abomination!"
"Sandra!" Max yelled.
"All I've wanted was for us to have a normal family. A peaceful, thriving family. And each time I thought we were getting somewhere - something like this happens!"
"Mom..." Ben whispered in Diamond Head's voice as multiple emotions began to swell around inside him.
"I'm not your mother! You never trusted me enough to be one! All these secrets...these lies!"
'"Ben, if you're all packed, then we should leave," Max said.
"I-I dont want to leave like this. Mom...you need to under-"
"Get out of this house now. You both aren't welcome here anymore. You've done enough damage." Her face was red, but she spoke calmly now.
Ben sighed, pressing the emblem near his chest to return to his human form.
Taking his duffle bag and slinging it around his right shoulder, he walked out of the kitchen with Max trailing behind.
"I can honestly say that didn't go as planned," Ben whispered.
When the two approached the front door and Ben went to open it, a loud and painful wail broke the atmosphere.
"Wait!" came a cry from the living.
With quick feet and light patter, Sarah came onto the tile entryway with a tear-struck face. Clinging to her brother's leg, the six year old whimpered.
"Ben...you can't leave. Not like daddy. Please don't be like daddy. He left me too."
Dropping his bag, Ben kneeled down to level himself with the little blonde girl.
"It's not forever, Sarah. Not like dad. I'll be back for you and mom. We'll go together. To someplace knew. Hopefully someplace better."
Her eyes still didn't let up. That large, pitiful gaze continued to beat him to the ground.
"You promised, just after daddy went away, you promised that you wouldn't ever leave me!" she shouted in the most pained voice anyone in the room had ever heard. Her chest heaved quickly and her eyes were like a river full of clear fluid.
"Please, just don't go. Mommy doesn't play with me and my toys like you do. Mommy never makes me laugh anymore."
It hurt, and Ben felt it. He could feel the terrible sting rising in him as tears formed in his own eyes. She was so young, and yet she could tell of all the pain that was inside of her. When would the sadness end?
Sandra, who watched from the kitchen, also began to realize exactly what she would be losing with Ben gone. He was that last drop of happiness and spirit in the house. Even after her husband had been killed, Ben learned to look passed it. He kept Sarah happy. He became the two parents that she had lost on that dreadful night. Nobody ever asked him to. Nobody ever told him that he was supposed to.
"I have to leave, Sarah. I can't tell you how much I am dying inside right now," Ben sniffled and wiped his eyes. "I love you - I always will. But you have to let me do this right now. Mommy needs your help. She needs you to be a big girl now."
He rubbed her soft cheeks and cleaned the tears from under her eyes.
I can't take her right now, he fought to convince himself, I need to move forward first. I have to.
Using every bit of willpower he had, Ben rose upwards and grabbed his duffle bag once more.
Sarah refused to even move. Her head was down as little droplets landed on the tile floor - splashing to pieces.
"Please..." she repeated.
Ben stared. Even so little, she could tell when there was nothing else to do. She could feel when defeat was in her face. She could understand when something important to her was being torn away.
Out of nowhere, Ben was put into a hug by his mother. She, too, had abnormal breathing. Almost hesitant.
"I'm sorry for what I said," she whispered. "I don't know what this is all about right now. But I trust you. You're the best thing this family has now. Don't let us down."
Sandra backed away and picked Sarah up. Ben smiled through his tears. "I promise. I would never let you guys down."
Max opened the front door, and Ben walked over to give his sister and mother a final kiss goodbye.
"I'll be back. I promise."
When Ben had gotten settled into the Rust Bucket that was parked in the home's driveway, he came up to the passenger seat and sat next to his grandfather.
"So...this is really it, huh."
Max started the engine with a single silver key. "This is it."
"You know...I feel really good right now. Knowing that mom and Sarah will be okay...I think I can handle anything that comes our way."
"Good, because I'm sure there's going to be a whole lot of trouble once we get everything in the ol' Black Hill's base up and running."
After sitting with the smooth hum of the engine for a few moments, Max then added glumly,
"Just like old times. Though, I still feel a missing piece."
"Oh I don't think she'll be missing for too long. Grandkids have an amazing way of rising to the occasion." Ben winked.
Max backed the RV out of the driveway and started the trek down the highway. The road was clear of cars and the day was smiling brilliantly.
"Since we've got a long drive ahead of us, you should really fill me in on what all those calls you and Gwen had together were about. What they were really about, Ben." Max beamed over him, smiling.
Ben smiled sheepishly, and then laughed nervously. "Yeah, grandpa, about that..."
Does anyone feel like something is missing? Maybe something that was overlooked...or forgotten? Hmm? No? Okay.
Oh wait...yes...and it's purple.