The years weren’t easy on Devlin. Becoming a Tennyson and being part of such a highly respected heroic family, he became more and more determined to prove he wasn’t just his father’s son. Every battle was a chance to try and prove himself as a hero in his own right.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take the criminals long to realize he had a hair-trigger when it came to his father. And his temper was explosive. Nobody ever got hurt, but he often caused large amounts of property damage from charging in angrily and then getting thrown aside easily. And the humiliation only made him angrier. It only led to more and more comparisons made and parallels drawn, and no matter what Ben and Ken said or did, they couldn’t stop it. Not even in themselves, where Devlin knew they couldn’t help but wonder if he might be toeing the line his father had crossed.
The reminders were everywhere; his appearance, his powers—everything was just another reminder that Devlin was the embodiment of his father’s legacy. One day, when he was sorting through a box of his old belongings from the group home on Saturn, he found an identification bracelet he’d had to wear the first few weeks he’d been there. The name read “Devlin Levin,” and even back then, he’d done all he could to hide his name, deny it, pretend that it was another Levin entirely. Deny his father, refuse his name, and nobody asked questions. The memories made him sick to his stomach, and he transformed his arm into a crystal blade to scratch the name out, as if erasing his name would erase his past.
Devlin got stuck in the transformation for six hours before Ken got the idea to try using the Omnitrix’s bio-feedback energy to get him back to normal. It worked, but Ben forbade Devlin from transforming again, making him promise never to even partially transform. It was obvious he feared that Devlin would only get stuck again and become the same monster Kevin had. For the very first time, Devlin understood what Ken always complained about that Ben didn’t trust them, and he thought he hated Ben for it.
Though he wasn’t allowed to transform, Devlin figured out his own way to continue the fight. Maybe his powers were a ticking time bomb, but no one ever said you needed powers to fight. He began practicing with weaponry—always in secret so the adults wouldn’t yell at him. Thanks to his hybrid nature, his strength and speed were out of proportion with his body, so he focused heavily on close combat—axes, swords, hammers, and the like. He wasn’t a particularly good shot, but he at least knew his aim was good enough with Null Void containment eggs, and his accuracy made Ben rely on him at the very least for the arrest. It wasn’t until he was nearly sixteen that he had to show everyone what he was really capable of, using a pair of Morotesi crystal tonfa to hold off an alien that had knocked out Ken, buying more than enough time for Ben to get there.
Ben wasn’t angry or disappointed that Devlin had been practicing in secret, but all the same, Devlin felt like he hadn’t lived up to expectations—even if half the time, the expectations seemed to be that he’d just follow his father’s path. He continued to practice in private, sticking with the tonfa or whatever weapon was available at the time. He never asked to borrow anything, and his plan of attack for most battles when his whole family was there was just to keep out of Ben’s way. It wasn’t that they were fighting or they hated each other or anything—otherwise, they acted like a perfectly normal family. But there was always that undercurrent running through everything, and Devlin couldn’t even begin to guess what Ben wanted from him.
So it came as a surprise to no one when Devlin moved out when college started. Ken offered to room with him, but Devlin knew that Ken needed to learn everything about the Omnitrix and so needed to stay with his dad. It wasn’t the first time Devlin had been on his own, and he doubted it would be the last.
At first, communication wasn’t a problem, but over time, Devlin stopped returning phone calls and Ken only managed to hear from him after massive effort. During that time, Devlin found himself running into the old issues at high speed, with other students recognizing him and asking about his past. He avoided the topic as much as possible, but as always, it only invited comments and questions. Be it the assholes in high school or the drunk frat boys in college, nothing ever changed—they taunted him by saying he would only turn out like his father in the end, a criminal rotting away in the Null Void. But now, Devlin didn’t have Ken to defend him or Ben’s faith and reputation to depend on. There was no one to remind him that he wasn’t trapped in his father’s long shadow. There was no longer anything to shield him from the jokes and pranks, and after one too many nasty surprises left behind at his apartment, he knew he was headed for a breakdown. And he knew he had to do something about it at long last. After months without communication, Devlin called Ben and asked him for the first favor he’d ever asked in the years since his adoption.
It took a while to work up the nerve to make that small step through the portal to the Null Void. He’d come armed, but it was with blasters, which he was never really good with. The grenades he stood a better chance with, but those were short in supply. Approaching his father’s lair was like walking into the lion’s den, and he knew no amount of weaponry would be enough to protect him.
“Who’s there?” came the voice inside.
Anger won out over fear, strengthening Devlin’s voice as he answered, “Just me, Dad.”
There was a laugh—a horrible, bitter sound. “And the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. All those years trying to defy me, and you only wind up in here. Just like your old man.”
Hearing the same comparisons and taunts from the man himself only made Devlin more defiant. He stepped inside, letting the light reveal the expedition suit he wore and the weapons he carried. He then crossed his arms and said, “Just here for visiting hours. Sorry to disappoint.”
Faster than the human eye could interpret, Kevin sped over to confront Devlin. Giving him his usual insane glare, he said, “If you’re looking for a fight, you won’t have the chance to pull one of those weapons.”
Devlin was eleven years old when he last confronted his father. Eleven, small and frightened, it didn’t take much to intimidate him when Kevin threatened him. But now he was eighteen, taller, and jaded. Kevin didn’t scare him anymore. He barely had to lift his head to look him in the eye, and that made him much less frightening.
“In case you forgot, Dad, you passed all your powers on to me,” he answered flatly. “I’m just as strong and fast as you are.”
Kevin’s face twisted into a smirk. “In human form, at least.”
It was the only warning Devlin got before his father shifted to alien form and sent him flying across the Null Void. Only his abnormal strength saved his life as he lay stunned in the remains of an asteroid, defenseless against a second attack. But it never came—there was a flash of green light, and a white-and-yellow sphere hit Kevin 11,000 with furious power. Devlin watched in confusion as Cannonbolt became Heatblast and attacked Kevin again.
It was then that he noticed the hidden microphone in his suit.
Ben and Kevin were ready to attack each other again when Devlin jumped to his feet, one arm transformed and blasting fireballs at them.
“You had me wired?” he demanded, furious enough that he nearly transformed completely. He didn’t know why he even bothered keeping this much of his promise, but his alien form wasn’t strong enough to stop either Kevin or Ben anyway. “Goddamnit, Ben!”
“Devlin, listen,” Heatblast answered, his tone short—trying to be patient but having two potential fights on his hands.
“No, you listen!” Devlin shouted back. “Everything you ever told me about trust—you were lying from the start! You’ve always expected me to turn out like him,” he said, motioning toward his father. “No matter what I did, I never could prove myself to you, could I?”
Kevin laughed. “Hear that, Benny boy? It looks like your plan to turn my flesh and blood against me backfired.”
“Oh, shut up, Old Man,” Devlin groaned. “You’re the one who betrayed me first, when you decided that your damn revenge was more important than your own family.”
“You miserable little—” Kevin started, but faster than he’d expected, Devlin pulled a blaster on him and shot three times, forcing him back.
“Told you I was at least as fast as you,” Devlin said. “Next time, it’ll be the bombs. Those I’m good with.”
His arm returned to normal as he looked at both of his fathers. No one attacked, and finally he shook his head.
“Yeah, I might be miserable,” he confessed, “but I’m better than you’ll ever be. I just never thought I’d have to prove it to the both of you.”
He tapped the recall button on his suit, and a portal opened above him. Using his jets, he flew toward it, ignoring the sounds of fighting behind him. The silence he’d managed to shock Kevin and Ben into had ended, and they were back to continuing the fight they’d started long before Devlin’s birth. He just hated that he was being used in all of it.
Ken was waiting on the other side. He blinked in shock when Devlin came back alone before shooting a worried look at the portal.
“Where’s Dad?” he asked.
As soon as he’d asked, Ben exited the portal, simultaneously reverting to human form. Ken hurried to close the portal, sealing off the dimensions just before a black tentacle tried and failed to tear them open again.
There was a long and heavy silence. Ben watched Devlin carefully, Devlin wouldn’t look at Ben, and Ken looked between the both of them. Finally, Ken left, knowing that he wasn’t going to be able to help. His footsteps echoed eerily in the tense silence of the Null Void chamber. When he was gone, Ben spoke:
“Save it,” Devlin answered, his voice weary.
“No,” Ben argued. “I didn’t put that wire on you because I didn’t trust you. I’ve always trusted you. But I didn’t trust Kevin. I knew he was going to try and hurt you, and I couldn’t just sit by and let that happen.”
Devlin sighed, but he still couldn’t make himself look at Ben. “I know that. And I really am grateful. I know you care, and he never did.”
Very carefully, as if he was afraid Devlin would break, Ben put a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry for everything. I’ve tried to keep Kevin from hurting you, but his whole legacy is hurting you. I can’t do anything about what the press and our enemies keep saying about you. I tried to protect you from transforming because I thought it might protect you from a little more of what they’d say if you ever got stuck in the transformation. When I thought you were avoiding the battles, I thought it would be better—just keeping you from harm in general. I should have realized that you were only going to try and find another way to fight.”
Devlin felt like he had no choice but to look at Ben now. His face was pleading, full of regret. When Devlin was younger, it would have stopped him, but now, he could only ask, “What do you want from me?”
“Nothing,” Ben insisted, the sorrow deepening. “I just wish you could live without feeling like you need to live up to what people want from you. You’re your own man, Devlin. You don’t have to be your father’s son—you’ve proven that over and over. Whatever you want to be is your choice alone and no one else’s. And we’re still going to be there for you. We’re your family.”
Family. For the first time in seven years, Devlin felt the word resonate with him. He remembered what it meant, everything it had symbolized to him as a child.
And everything he’d tried to cut himself off from, to try and avoid the pain of what he feared his destiny would be.
“Thanks,” he said at last, even though he knew that he didn’t need to thank Ben, that he wasn’t expected to.
“Are you going to be okay?” Ben checked.
Slowly, Devlin nodded. “I think so.”
“Okay,” Ben answered, and he squeezed Devlin’s shoulder for a brief moment. “Call this time.” Devlin nodded again.
“Yeah,” he replied. “I won’t shut you guys out again.”
“Good,” Ben answered.
Devlin started to take off the suit as Ben started to leave. But halfway out the door, Ben stopped and turned back to Devlin, who looked over at him in surprise.
“You know, you are better than Kevin was,” he affirmed. “And both you and Ken are better than I’ll ever be.”
Stunned, Devlin could only watch mutely as his adoptive father left the room. Finally, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his old ID bracelet, running his thumb over the deep scratch marks where his name used to be. It didn’t matter anymore what had happened in the past; he had his own destiny, and for once, he was looking forward to it.
Ben 10 is the property of Cartoon Network. This story began on my Livejournal as a closure piece after I dropped an RP where I’d played Devlin. But the story was too good on its own, so I cleaned it up and made this standalone version. Devlin’s issues with Ben were inspired by Dick Grayson in the Batman: The Animated Series episode “Robin’s Reckoning,” with a little bit of Tim Drake and Terry McGinnis in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.