Chapter 1: Monster
A young man lay in the back of an ally, one small shadow engulfed by many larger ones. He was perhaps fifteen, sixteen, with black-rimmed brown eyes and wearing green pants and a black shirt. He leaned against the wall, curled up, his long, dark hair falling over his knees where he had buried his face. Violent tremors wracked his body.
’Why?’ He had asked himself the question so many times, and still he had no answer.
”Patience,” The Voice said inside his head. Why did everyone tell him that? ”Have patience, boy. Our labors will not be unrewarded, and then you will have everything you wanted.”
“I’m so damn tired of waiting!” he shouted at the air, jumping up. “That’s all I ever do is wait! Wait and watch! And what do I see?! Stupid Ben Tennyson with his stupid perfect powers and his stupid perfect family and his stupid perfect life.” He could feel himself losing it.
”Kevin, calm-“ But Kevin would not be calmed; he was beyond words now. He simply ran, and ran, and ran, blind to all but his destination, deaf to all but the blood pounding in his ears.
And then he was there, in his sanctuary, his safe house, his secret place. Kevin collapsed and for a moment just lay there, soaking it all in. Everything was going to be okay. He could just forget. There were only two things in the world that always managed to calm him down, and this was one of them.
He was in a small room. It was simple and windowless, containing only sparse furniture: a small bed, a desk, a lamp. In a corner there was a mannequin torso wearing a blue shirt. He did not look at those though, but rather at the walls, at the dozens and dozens of pictures and papers that hung from them. They covered every side, and they were all of her: happy, sad, angry, tired, embarrassed, but always beautiful. He had taken all of them (well, nearly all of them) himself, and they were his prized possessions. In their presence, his anger abated.
Then his eyes fell on the bed. He kept it there for the nights when he felt that he would come completely apart for not being able to be near her. His eyes were drawn to a small figure underneath the bed, though. It was a little doll with green pants and a black and white shirt and brown hair and looked like-
A scream tore itself from his throat as his rage returned. Ben Tennyson. He was the reason why everything was wrong in Kevin’s world. He was the reason Kevin had been so angry in the first place. Yet again Kevin had been admiring her from afar, only to have that imbecile approach her. That in itself wouldn’t have been quite so bad (though it still made him seethe with jealousy), as they did tend to spend a surprising amount of time together for all the arguing they spent most of it doing; but what had really set him off today was when Ben had grabbed her elbow and whispered into her ear. Not only had he touched her, but he had done so with the familiarity of two immeasurably close people, with the familiarity that Kevin so longed for, and he just couldn’t stand staying any more.
Then, as if that weren’t enough, as he had been leaving, he had heard her laugh. That wonderful sound that he loved so much had been for someone else. For him. Ben. Not. Kevin.
Oh, it made his blood boil!
He screamed again and began tearing fervently at the doll. “Why?!” His muscles strained as he tried to pull it apart. “Why-” A small hole appeared. “-does she-” The hole grew larger. “-like you?!” It wasn’t enough to sate him; he grabbed an arm. “Why-” It tore off. “-do you-” He went to the head. “-get to be-” It came off as well. “-near her?!” Kevin stared at the disembodied head for a moment; he suddenly realized that there were tears coursing down his face, and he found that he didn’t really care.
He spotted his small knife on the floor. He crawled to it and picked it up carefully, then began to stab the head periodically. “Why-” Stab. “-you?!” Stab. “Why-” Stab. “-not-” Stab. “me!?!” Stab stab stab stab!
Jerkily Kevin flung the head away, knife still embedded in its stuffed skull. For a few moments he was still, save for his heavy breathing.
It had done no good.
He still felt as though he was burning up from the inside out. He tore off his shirt, trying to relieve the unbearable heat; no good.
Slowly, Kevin crawled back to the bed, covered in a dark blanket, on top of which he found another doll, a different doll. This one had white pants and a blue shirt and orange hair. The tears returned with renewed force as he sunk down, clutching the doll to himself. He rocked, back and forth, back and forth, overcome now by his emotions in a completely different way. Eventually, he was able to sit back on his heels; he held up the doll and spoke to it:
“You are the difference between me and him, you know that? You are what makes him pure and me evil, and I want that, I want what he has. To get it I need you, I need you. Because you will make these feelings stop. Right? These confusing emotions that are driving me insane....you'll save me right? Once I have you, everything will be ok...”
His chest ached so much.
“I want you, Gwen. I want you more than anything.”
Chapter 2: Escape: Watching and Waiting
Kevin lay still, sprawled out on one the giant rocks that hung suspended in the Null Void. Currently, he was alone, with no monsters, no people, and most of all no Ben Tennyson: exactly the way he liked it. Floating through the endless abyss, sometimes Kevin wondered if it would be easier just to let go of everything, just to forget. Then he would remember some other way that life had done him wrong, and he would remember exactly why he could never forget.
Just the thought of that traitor made him clench his teeth. Involuntarily he glanced down at himself, at his mismatched, misshapen form, before looking away quickly. He tried to avoid glimpsing himself whenever possible; it just made things easier that way. Not that they were ever easy. And it was all. Ben’s. Fault.
Growling, Kevin rose from his position. His fists were clenched, all four of them, and his breath was becoming harsher. Ever since he had met that runt, everything had been going wrong. He had made Kevin into this monster. He had made Kevin even more of a freak. And he had ruined everything.
Kevin’s fist slammed into an out-jutting rock. Fissures appeared beneath his clenched hand. He hit it again, and again, finding satisfaction in watching it crumble at his will. If only Ben Tennyson would be crushed so easily. But no, no matter how many times he had him, within the grasp of his sweet, sweet revenge, something always got in the way! If it weren’t for his family, Kevin was sure Ben would be dead by now…
And that turned Kevin thoughts to someone else: the bothersome red-head that always seemed to be with Ben. Little do-gooder… But always saving Ben’s ass. She could be useful though, he was sure; he couldn’t count how many times his fantasies of revenge had included her, for bait or bargaining or just to make Ben riled. And from what Kevin had seen, there wasn’t anything that could do it better.
She would help him get his revenge, if only he could get out of this damned place. There had to be some way out of this godforsaken dimension.
“So you know them, do you?” Kevin practically jumped out of his deformed skin.
“Who’s there?!” he shouted. “Who said that?”
“Just someone who wants the same thing as you.” Kevin gazed around warily. If there was one thing he had learned in his relatively short life, it was trust no one. Especially not voices in your head.
As if he weren’t freaky enough.
“Sorry, whoever-you-are, but there’s quite a bit that I want. You’ll have to be a bit more specific.”
“Well, I believe that we have both been facing interference from troublesome Tennysons.” Instantly Kevin perked up. Any enemy of Ben’s was an opportunity for him.
“Ahh, that.” Kevin felt a grin fighting to spread across his mismatched features, but he suppressed it. Just because he couldn’t see that person didn’t mean they couldn’t see him – a matter which would soon have to be addressed. In the mean time, no need to appear too eager. “…I’m listening.”
The voice chuckled, a deep, definitely masculine sound. “Good. I thought you might be interested. Listen well then, boy: I have a proposition. You see, we both want revenge against the Tennysons, one in particular. However, due to circumstances, neither of us is able to achieve that end at the moment.”
“Tch, tell me something I don’t know,” Kevin muttered too loudly to not be heard.
“However, if we combine our particular skills together, I believe that end could be quite within reach.”
Well well well… Now wasn’t that interesting indeed.
“Alright then,” he said to empty air. “You’ve got yourself an interesting proposition. So, tell me the details, and then…well, we’ll see what happens.”
So that was how it began. He made a deal with the voice in his head (which he dubbed the Voice, for lack of a better name), and the next thing he knew he was dumped in some street, and he was human. But he could stop and appreciate that later.
“Okay Voice, where am I?” he growled, darting to the nearest dark ally. He was not comfortable out in the open.
“Much has changed while you were away. It’s been four years-”
“WHAT?!” Kevin yelled. “You mean to tell me I lost four years of my life in that damn hellhole!”
“…Yes. Believe me boy, in the grand scheme of things four years isn’t really that long.” Kevin fumed. What did this guy know? It was his life, dammit, that had been wasted. “Anyhow, you are currently in the town where all three Tennysons happen to be living. You’ll have to go to them yourself, but they aren’t far. Here’s the address.”
And suddenly there was a map in his head, the entire town, with all the Tennyson’s houses highlighted for him. He was only a few blocks from Ben’s house.
The day just kept getting better and better.
Three months later, and Kevin was damn tired of waiting.
Of course, the Voice said he needed to wait. The Voice said that he needed to be cautious, needed to think carefully about his previous encounters and what he had done wrong, needed not to underestimate him; then again, the Voice said a lot of things, and thinking too deeply wasn’t really Kevin’s style.
So, he was currently hiding in a tree, watching the red-head. She was in the process of practicing her martial arts moves in her backyard. In fact, he had already seen her do this a couple of times, and each time it never failed to amuse him. She may have grown, but she was still small, especially compared to someone like him. How could she ever hope to win in a fight, no matter how much she practiced? Really, it was a basic rule: the big ones win. End of story.
He conveniently forgot all those times little Ben had still managed to beat him.
It was kind of funny how different they all looked, though; the first time he had seen the two again, he had hardly recognized the cousins. Ben was taller, more mature; go figure. Kevin had even heard his voice crack. And the girl, Gwen, right? Yeah, that was it. She, well, she didn’t look like a little girl anymore, that was for sure. And she was only fourteen, too. He idly wondered how she’d look when she was even older.
Actually, she was a lot of fun to watch. If she wasn’t practicing martial arts she was practicing what would appear to be magic. Of course, Kevin didn’t really think it was actual magic; more likely she had some alien blood and didn’t even know it. But she obviously believed it was. Really, it was kind of amusing. And she always tried so hard at everything.
He could just watch her all day.
But he obviously couldn’t do that – he had to keep tabs on Ben too. Kevin was surprised to discover that somehow Ben had gotten rid of the watch. Or at least, it wasn’t on his wrist anymore. Not only that, but the two cousins had actually become quite close while he was away. It felt odd to see them without their familiar animosity. Then again, he had known for a while now anyway that she meant more to Ben than just about anything; he would even trade the Omnitrix to keep her safe.
Kevin wondered what it would be like to have someone care about you that much. He wondered what it would be like to care about someone else that much.
He wasn’t completely sure how it had happened, but Kevin was increasingly finding himself following Gwen’s movements rather than Ben’s. It was entirely odd, as she was not really his target; what would possess him to stalk her instead? But watching her was addicting in a way: how she moved, how she spoke, the way she acted. It all fascinated him, for whatever reason.
Maybe… Maybe it was because she seemed to accept pretty much everyone around her with little question. They were just people, same as anybody else. He bet it had something to do with running into her fair share of aliens in the past couple years – you kind of got used to people who were different.
More and more, Kevin also found himself entertaining fantasies that included not only a bloody, violently decapitated Ben but also a Gwen that looked at him the same way she looked at all the people around her: with cheerful, willing acceptance. (Sometimes, he’d even allow himself to imagine her look held more than merely that, too.) But that would require their past to not exist; no matter how open-minded, it was hard to trust someone you had a bad history with. Granted, his enmity had been mostly directed at her cousin… But, Ben was her cousin, who she cared deeply for, childhood antagonism or no. There was no way he could just erase all that.
But maybe, maybe, if he could convince her otherwise, that he wasn’t all bad, that he deserved a second chance…
(Everyone deserved a second chance, right? Even him the monster the freak the bad guy.)
She was good at giving second chances.
His first picture of her was not actually one he had taken.
The Tennysons, or really Ben, Gwen, and their Grandpa Max, had been going on a picnic. Max had brought with him some recent pictures he had gotten developed. For a few moments they had been left out on the table, unguarded, so on a whim (what do happy moments look like?) Kevin went and grabbed one.
The photo on top had been of Gwen.
When he got back to the place he was staying (not much really, just a smallish cabin in the woods not far from town that the Voice had told him about; he’d grown up in the city, but he didn’t want anyone finding him easily), Kevin spent a while just staring at the picture. He wasn’t sure exactly what it was, but he liked looking at her. It made him feel calmer, peaceful almost.
After that, whenever he went out to do some Tennyson watching, he always took a camera.
It was strange to see just how close the two Tennyson cousins had become. He had noticed it right away, yes, but really sometimes it could be downright unnerving. The way they talked to each other. The way Ben went to Gwen for advice. The way they looked out for each other. It was a kind of relationship Kevin had never had. It was a kind of relationship he found himself wanting.
And so, of course, it was all Ben’s fault. Stupid, lucky bastard.
Kevin’s fantasies kept expanding though. In place of Ben – he himself. Gwen would talk to him like she did Ben; she would look at him with the same happy green eyes; she would watch out for him, like with Ben, when he wanted it and he would take care of her always. He wouldn’t leave her like some people might, and she wouldn’t abandon him like some (Mom Dad friends family Ben strangers everyone) had.
They could be happy, just the two of them. They could. Couldn’t they?
Chapter 3: So We Meet At Last
“Augh,” muttered Gwen. She couldn’t believe she was doing this. Summer had finally come, her seventeenth summer, her final summer before college, and what was she doing? Going on a wild goose chase, that’s what. She couldn’t even believe that Ben actually thought they would find anything out here.
“We can’t take any chances,” Ben had said. “Too many weird things have been happening lately to overlook even the smallest, most unlikely hint. Do you want to ignore it and face the possible consequences?”
She had sighed and grumbled, but he knew, the little brat (even if he was the same age as her she had always felt older at least), that it was all a front to give him a hard time.
Damn it, when had he become the responsible one?
So, for the past week she had been investigating all those annoying little tidbits that Ben always seemed to have an unrelenting supply of. She was so tired of it too; they never found anything. But every time, even if she didn’t mention anything, he would say that same thing. Either she was becoming predictable, or he knew her too well.
At least this place didn’t seem too sinister. Although it was a little isolated, all the way out in the woods like this, it looked like any regular old cabin; most definitely not threatening.
As she got closer however, she felt a tingling sensation all over her body. It reminded her of being watched; when she gazed around warily though, she could neither see nor sense anyone, so she decided to simply move cautiously.
Approaching it from the side, she carefully peered in through a window. The interior didn’t seem anything special either, just a normal kitchen. There weren’t even any particularly menacing knives anywhere. She tried lifting the window; no luck. Well, that wasn’t really a problem. Checking again to be sure no one was around, inside or outside, she raised a hand. A glowing purple hole appeared in the wall.
She loved being a sorceress. Anodite. Whatever.
Staying alert, she passed through the portal, not paying attention as the usual tingling feeling of passing through a magical field engulfed her. She didn’t notice the slight second prickling surge as she entered the house.
The inside had remained unmenacing. Carefully she began investigating. This cabin was supposed to have been abandoned for a while, but apparently that wasn’t so. Food wrappers were stuffed in the garbage, and there wasn’t much dust anywhere. It looked entirely lived in. But that shouldn’t be.
She wondered if this counted as breaking and entering. Oh dear. Well, she could always say that this place was supposed to be empty, so how was she to know this was someone’s property. She was following an investigation.
Yeah, that sounded reasonable.
She passed into what appeared to be the living room; again, not much dust, and there was a TV plugged into a socket. Not on, but it looked new-ish. There were four doors off the living room. One was already open, and it obviously led to a bathroom. The other three were closed. Curiously, she walked up to the one of the doors. Stretching her awareness, she couldn’t sense any mana-emitting life-forces on the other side, so cautiously she opened it. There were stairs. She went up.
At the top there was a small platform and a door that was slightly ajar. Gwen reached forward and pushed it open. Then everything came to a shuddering halt as her world tipped in on itself.
Kevin was busy developing a new batch of photos in his basement dark room. The equipment had been mostly supplied to him by the Voice. In fact, the Voice provided him with anything he wanted or needed – food, clothes, cameras, a TV, even money if Kevin felt like buying something himself. All he had to do was say something aloud, and within a few hours, days at most, he would find it sitting in the living room. Kevin wasn’t really sure how the Voice went about doing this, but he’d made a careful note to himself when it had first happened – the Voice could physically affect things in the real world. That made him dangerous.
But for now, Kevin was fine with going along. He knew the Voice needed him, though he was not entirely sure why; obviously the Voice had some sort of physical influence. Maybe he couldn’t do anything immediate enough or powerful enough to take care of Ben on his own.
But whatever the reason, it meant that Kevin got a second chance at life. And a second chance at revenge. It also meant that he could see Gwen practically every day, even if she wasn’t aware of him.
He wanted her to be aware of him.
He wanted her to see him, wanted to be able to actually talk to her. It drove him nuts sometimes, watching her with other people, especially guys, but not even being able to approach her. The time just never seemed right, and if he didn’t do it perfectly, she would probably shoot him down before he could say much. Literally. So instead he watched. And waited. Gah. He thought he might go insane.
Then he wondered somewhat detachedly if it was too late for that.
Funnily enough, although the Voice always liked to preach the virtues (hah, virtues, that was funny) of patience and waiting, he seemed to be growing rather impatient lately. He kept pushing Kevin to become more active with his pursuits, to follow through on his plans already, to draw Gwen away and wait for Ben to come running (running to the rescue just like always). It made Kevin suspicious. Well, more suspicious than usual, anyway.
Suddenly the Voice informed him that there was an intruder. “You’ll want to get up there.” Kevin wondered if he was just imagining the hint of excitement underlying the message.
“Okay, okay, I’m going.”
Up the stairs he went, careful not to make them creak. At the top he looked around. He could see there was no one in the bathroom, and a quick check of the kitchen proved empty as well. He opened his downstairs bedroom door, but there was nothing. Only the attic left then.
That could be problematic.
Quickly he opened the door and went up these stairs as well. Then everything came to a momentary halt as his world tipped in on itself.
“What-?" her voice stuttered, stumbling over itself in confusion; disbelief in her eyes. For the first time in her life she couldn't calculate what she saw, she couldn't study it and understand it, she couldn't even begin to wonder how it all came to be.
She had lost all her logic and gained back all the childish fears she'd once thought forever gone.
How had a check up on a probably inconclusive hint, lead her to this place? This place where there was supposed to be a dead end like with every other anonymous tidbit and clue that poured into Ben’s hero headquarters.
Why was it so different all of a sudden?
She heard a click; the door shut. The presence behind her was overpowering.
She couldn’t bring herself to turn around.
“Well, well, well...” the voice cooed slowly, “Looks like I won’t have to take pictures anymore.”