Ben's twelve when it happens, lurching through puberty, lamenting the changes to his voice and the lack of them to his body. Things are already weird but they get worse. His first girlfriend gets really sick after the first time she kisses him and has spent weeks babbling about the stars and darkness to anyone who will listen. They lock her up and ask if Ben was there, if he'd seen anything that might have been a trigger.
But there's this funny dead spot between the moment where his lips touch hers and the one where he's stumbling back home, his head pounding. Thirty missing minutes that haunt him. He tells himself it's a sign of growing older: body hair, wet dreams and missing time. If it happens again, he'll tell someone, but for now he visits the hospital and holds Lanie's hand. She babbles at him for hours, agitated, "There's two faces, Ben, you split. Right down the middle, golden tresses cut in the stream, so sorry, hail sunshine…"
He's pushed out of the room but frustrated doctors, her parents glaring. He can practically hear their accusations, You were the last one who saw her whole. He's twelve years old and he can't take people blaming him for something he doesn't remember.
Over the next decade, he gets used to it.
Thirteen years old, he comes home and finds his parents slaughtered by two horrible men with green skin, robes and scabs. The look on their faces as he walks in from school read something between awe and fear. There's a knife at his mother's feet. He picks it up, stabs one of them and then blacks out for a day and a half.
The minion things have multiplied while he was out. He wakes up fighting even though his fist against the things' flesh feels like the touch of disease. They placate him as best as they can, call him holy. The host of the great Glorificus.
They killed his parents, but they treat him like a Prince. Like he's precious.
For the next two years, Ben thinks he's going insane. This is a phase every resident of Sunnydale goes through. They generally come out of it dead or in denial. Ben hits the books, combing through tomb after tomb about multiple personality disorder and then later, through books on the Occult. His foster parents have permanently glazed looks on their faces and they don't seem to recognize Glory's lackeys for the monsters that they are. Which mean's it's madness or it's magic. Freshman year at Sunnydale high is enough to convince him of the later. "Keep your head down and get home before dark," an upperclassman tells him on his first day. "The trick to high school, is surviving it."
Seven of his classmates don't survive the year and another two dozen have the sort of stories. that this town refuses to talk about.
Ben is approached by a vampire just once, only to have the thing instinctually back away from him. There is something wrong with him and he knows it. The scabby things lurk in his shadows, waiting for the dark thing to surface. "You are the vessel of the most fantastic Glorificus. Your form, as fabulous and idyllic a specimen it might be cannot contain her true nature forever."
The blackouts are getting more frequent though the missing time rarely exceeds an hour. He leaves a message for that other part of him, the one he doesn't want to exist it says, Get out of my head.
Nearly two weeks later, he gets a response scrawled across his bedroom mirror in blood red lipstick, Benji, you're the one in my body. –Glory
He asks Glory's lackeys about how to make her go away, but they're not on his side. Never have been.
"If we could perhaps find the key, the magnificent Glory would be appeased."
"And what happens to me then? When she gets the key, when she doesn't need to be tied to this plain, what happens to her vessel."
The minion doesn't answer but that says enough.
Ben does what any rational person would do and invents a sister so he can rant about it to someone, about how she ruins his life, takes everything that's his and twists its purpose. It doesn't occur to him until far later that acknowledging it gives her power, makes it worse.
His life is not just his to live.
He'll wonder later if it would have been easier not to establish contact. If he'd have been able to keep more control if he never acknowledged she existed.
But she does exist. Ben can't deny it, two more students in his school lose their minds and that's a connection he doesn't like. Sunnydale has its own problems though, (Boca del Inferno whispers a voice in his head, Home sweet Hellmouth.)
There are people here in the know. The lady who owns the Magic Shop talks to him for almost an hour about demonic possession which can't be terribly different from Hell God possession. She doesn't know much but suggests another expert, who suggests another.
Ben graduates from Sunnydale High School and flees the great state of California, goes to Cleveland, and finds Em Murphy, the vampire slayer. Murphy is two years younger than him, has been active for two months and has already seen things he can't imagine. She has a cocky grin, a whip-sharp mind and when he sees her fighting, it's poetry. He's a little bit infatuated, a little bit in awe and entirely sure that she can help fix him. She breaks his nose and calls him crazy the first time he meets her. The second, she comes equipped with a Watcher and a spell.
"You're not possessed," the Watcher says. "In fact I've never seen anything like this. There are pockets of your aura that are hidden, pieces of you fused with shadows. It's fascinating."
Murphy blows a bubble of bright blue gum and then pops it. "What's the word? Slaying, exorcising, or tossing him out on his ass."
The watcher squints at him head tilting sideways. "You're not a beast are you? You're not possessed by one either, but you're not normal. What are you?"
Ben stutters and Glory comes out to play.
When he comes to there's a dead slayer in front of him and a watcher stammering, "Did you see where she went. Ben? Oh God, it killed Murphy. I have to--Did you see her?"
I am her. The thought is insistent in his mind, a truth. I am Glory.
Only he's not. He's Ben.
He goes to college. As far away from Sunnydale as he can. The University of Vermont is nice and quiet and it will take Glory's demons some time to find him. The blackouts are still there, but he's starting to anticipate them, starting to become almost used to waking up in unfamiliar places dressed to the nines. He's started to just keep the clothes he wakes up in. Better to give Glory a wardrobe that to have her come across it her own way.
His roommate thinks he's a cross dresser. He really has no defense for that so for the sake of consistency, he tries it a few times. It's not a concession if he uses it too and he looks damn good in that red dress.
Still, he gets an apartment to himself as soon as he can. He does the college thing, joins a frat, tries to be normal. He picks up girls, brings them home but after the forth time he wakes up next to a gibbering mess, he stops trying.
There's a small nest egg in his bank account. He doesn't want to think about where it comes from and often drives three hours out of his way to make a withdrawal. Glory's minions think he's living in Montreal until his senior year of college. By the time they find him, he's already planning to move to escape the wreckage in Glory's wake.
He finishes up his last year of university in Montana because he's heard there are fewer people in Montana, just a lot of farms and open spaces. Glory hates it and that's a bonus. Glory pitches epic tantrums which is less good. The collection of dresses takes up half his wardrobe and the amount of shoes is frightening. He's been trying to force Glory to stay put, but it's getting harder (he's getting weaker).
They broker a deal using the minions as intermediaries. Ben gets the feeling they're both unhappy with it: Glory stops brain sucking everyone he forms even the slightest connection with and Ben takes them somewhere warm for med school.
It's about that time that Ben stops trying to form a connection with anyone so he thinks he may have gotten the poorer end of that deal. He misses Vermont, misses the jaunts to Montreal where the locals laughed at his attempts at French and the winters got cold enough to make everything feel like it was frozen.
California is Glory weather, Ben hates it on principal. Med school is hard enough without his other half deciding she needs some time to search for her key when he could be studying. He skates past the first two years of med school, helping people without interacting because it's safer that week. The others complain about things like lack of sleep and the way their mood suffers. Ben on the other hand has taken to bouts of insomnia because sometimes he's Glory when he sleeps and he can't let her out more than he already does.
Something happens with the key six months into his internship and he loses an entire weekend and wakes up in Prague. The scabby things inform him that she was close enough to touch the key and then it was gone.
The taste of blood is on his lips but the first thing he does is find a pay phone and place an international call into work to fake a family emergency that explains his time off. He drags himself to a hostel, brushes his teeth, and then makes his way to the nearest airport, hoping his life in Sunnydale holds together.
It does. This time.
More pieces of Glory are seeping through to his life. Buffy, the slayer, her sister, the key, the crazies piling into the psychiatric ward.
He's losing more and more time. He tries to clean up Glory's mess, but it's not working anymore. In college it had been minutes lost, hours at the worst. Now it's routinely afternoons or entire days. The apartment he'd rented when he returned to Sunnydale is shifting. He's being pushed out of the living space. He's wasting, receding as she takes over more and more.
And he understands that, really he does.. He's an anomaly. A figment shoehorned into existence to be a cage for a God. He'll be gone as soon as Glory finds a way home. He's been on borrowed time for twenty-five years, but damn it that doesn't make him any less alive. He loses time, connections, his job.
But it in the ultimate twist of fate, he finds the key.
She's an innocent, a girl. Forced (like him) into existence and she doesn't deserve any of this. Doesn't deserve his other half looking to bleed her dry. They're the same him and Dawn. Neither of them would exist without The Beast, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't have the chance.
Dawn's a sister in this, almost. Dawn and Ben, they're just different sides of the same coin. They're both innocent (his parents dead on the floor) despite the carnage around them. He wants to stop Glory. Not just because the walls between worlds will be torn to shreds, not just because when Glory takes over for good, they'll be no purpose for him. But because she's a kid, just like he was, and no matter what cosmic mistake a group of monks in the Prague made, that part's not going to change.
But the closer they get to the day the more of Glory starts to bleed into the fringes of his mind, the more tempting it gets to let it go. He's starting to think it's not going to come down to Ben or Glory. It's going to be Ben or Dawn and when it comes down to it he knows what choice he'll make. If he cooperates, he can make sure it's quick, can make sure the walls are only down for the instant it takes to let Glory slip back home. Then he gets his reward. Gets everything he's ever wanted.
And all he's ever really wanted is a chance to live.