“What the fuck just happened? ”
Albedo put his knees to his chest and leaned himself to the head of the bed. What reason did Tennyson have to kiss him like that? Was he still trapped in the Dream Eater? Was this a simulation? This couldn’t be real. Tennyson couldn’t have feelings for someone like him. Why did Albedo care that he did? Every action he’s taken over the course of being trapped in this accursed form has been to get back into his original Galvan body. He was never supposed to get wrapped up with a human teenager or even wrapped up in human feelings.
He refused to go back to sleep, mainly cause of fear of what he may see. Would he have another nightmare like the ones he had when he was trapped in the Dream Eater? Would he have other nightmares that he’s been having lately? Would he wake up in an entirely new location? Would he be back in prison, despite what Benjamin said? He didn’t want to think how he would feel if he woke back up in a jail cell, and knew that everything Ben did was a lie.
He cursed to himself, it was cause of the DNA he was feeling like this that had to be it. If he was a Galvan again, he wouldn’t be having any type of emotions towards the teenager he had the unfortunate pleasure of looking like. Why did Albedo want Ben to come back inside the room and hold him like the shadow he saw in his nightmare? Could what he saw be considered a nightmare if the shadow radiated warmth? Albedo was smart, he knew that it was Tennyson that comforted him, but he was always the type to be in denial of the truth. He didn’t want to admit that Ben holding him like he did was the safest he’d felt in a long time. He didn’t want to admit that Ben actually meant something to him. Albedo could feel tears running down his face.
“Stupid human emotions,” he said while quickly trying to wipe the stream of tears rolling down his face.
Albedo buried his hands into his knees, and wrapped his covered arms around them. He covered his eyes with the sleeves of his jacket so no one could see the tears running down his face if someone were to come inside the room. No matter how much he tried to stop them, the tears kept coming down. He stopped trying to force them to stop. What was the point? No one was here to see him be weak.
He just wanted to go back to his Galvan body, but was that truly the case anymore? He's lived so long as a human, it's hard to even imagine being a Galvan full time anymore. For that short time he was in his Galvan form he was uncomfortable. His mind was clearer than it ever was, but the sudden change back to human messed everything up and threw his emotions for a loop. He knew the incident wasn’t Ben’s fault. He knew Hugh had a hand in convincing Ben and his friends to intervene but Albedo couldn’t find it in him to blame the Vaxasurian for anything that transpired. Hugh just wanted Albedo to stay, as well as the group staying together. Albedo really couldn’t blame Hugh for it, despite the fact that Hugh tried to take the blame for it.
It was hard leaving them, but he knew the Plumbers would be after Albedo if they saw him again. He got lucky that Ben let him go after their last battle, he was lucky that he wasn’t turned back into the Plumbers. He didn't want Hugh, Swamps, and Fridge to get caught up in his mess ups. Maybe he'd try to find them again if he's allowed to go back to Earth. He really did miss having friends who saw him for him. They didn't see him as Azmuth's assistant, or Ben’s ‘evil twin’. They saw him for whatever he was now, and maybe that was enough for him.
Maybe that's just his, now, teenage human brain speaking. By Galvan standards he really wasn't that old. He was older than the oldest living human, but compared to someone like Azmuth he was a young Galvan. Azmuth was over 1700 years old, while he was barely 200 years old. His human brain couldn't adjust for the maturity level that Galvans had at a young age. Shit, his own age could probably be closer to a human baby since the age gap is so big between him and the First Thinker. After the tadpole stage, you're an ‘adult’ by Galvan standards and can take care of yourself.
Over the course of his life, he never got close to people. He thought experimenting and using his Galvan brain to the best of his ability was what everyone on Galvan Prime should strive for. He thought that working for the beloved First Thinker was the end goal of a Galvan’s life. He was aghast at how Azmuth treated his quit. Azmuth told Tennyson and his friends that he fired him, yet those who knew him on Galvan Prime were told that he quit. What Azmuth continued to fail to do was understand the real motivation behind everything the young Galvan did. Albedo refused to let the entire universe’s problems fall on a human child’s shoulders.
If the Omnitrix went to Max Tennyson as intended, Albedo would have had no problems with that. He knew Max was a Plumber with years of experience behind him. He knew what he would’ve gotten himself into over his adolescent grandson. Everything Albedo did was a piss poor attempt at getting Azmuth to realize that the universe’s fate shouldn’t have been trusted to a child who was forced to grow up way too fast in order to protect other people, including the ones that he loved.
Everything got out of control way too quickly. His human emotions started messing his Galvan intellect up. He was doing things he never would have if he stayed a Galvan. He stopped thinking things through and impulsively did things. It could have been because of Ben’s DNA, but it could have just been human DNA in general. He was smarter than that, he should’ve known things wouldn’t have gone properly without actually planning things through. Maybe if he’d just explained everything to Tennyson and his friends when they met up at the Forever Knight’s castle, things wouldn’t have gone so awry.
Although that may not have worked since both Benjamin and Gwendolyn didn’t recognize him by name when he introduced himself. He remembered that the girl thought he was a DNAlien, which he should’ve found more offensive than he did since those creatures are disgusting and an insult to the universe. If he could go back in time, he’d find a way to make Azmuth understand his motivations without fucking up his own DNA.
If he could go back in time, he’d 100% still become Azmuth’s assistant. Despite everything that happened, he still has fond memories of working for the First Thinker. If he could do it over again, he’d actually be friends with his fellow colleagues. He knew what it was like to have friends, and regretted not trying to when he was younger. It wasn’t lonely since he’d hang with them, but he still kept them at a distance. He thought that they were less intellectual than him, and didn’t want his Galvan mind to be poisoned with their defected brains. He had to do everything he could to not halt his process of becoming the next First Thinker.
He once dreamed that he’d become the Second Thinker because his intellect was on par with Azmuth’s. Galvan Prime respected the work he did, but Azmuth was always the one everyone wanted. He strived to be like that at one time, and wanted everyone to see him like they saw Azmuth. He failed to take into account that Azmuth spent hundreds of years earning the title he did, he failed to realize that nothing he could do would be as remarkable as the First Thinker’s achievements.
It took him until messing up his own DNA that he’d never be seen as just Albedo. He’d always be seen as the black sheep of the Galvan race who ‘betrayed’ them. He’d always be seen as an ‘evil’ Ben Tennyson, even though he’s his own person. The only people who ever saw him as just Albedo would probably never speak to him again from how he abandoned them the way he did. Did Tennyson see him for himself, or was Ben only taking pity on him because Albedo looked like him?
How did everything get messed up so bad? Albedo knew the answer to that, it just took him getting himself trapped in a backfired plan he had to realize it. It took him seeing his own demons play out to realize that he was the one to screw his entire life up. His whole life was dedicated to becoming Azmuth’s assistant, but what was it all for? At one point he even saw Azmuth like the father he never had. When Azmuth casted him aside and threw him in prison, it was worse than turning into Ben Tennyson. That betrayal along with the new pesky emotions he had turned his feelings into hatred and wanting revenge on everyone and everything.
Although now that he thought about it, that wasn’t always the case, especially when he started working with Hugh, Fridge and Swamps. He remembered how Hugh would lift him on his shoulder when Albedo’s feet were sore and he’d slow down. He remembered Fridge using his powers to cool them all off when they’d be in a town with excessive heat. He remembered them going inside a park late at night and Swamps using his vines to swing from different trees. He remembered Hugh pushing Albedo to swing from the vines to get some of his anger out. He never admitted it to them, but that was one of the best days of his entire human existence. He knew it was a huge risk to continue to do the Ben 10 Live show, especially when the commercials he posed for came out. He knew that at some point Tennyson and his friends would see it and everything he worked so hard for would be ruined.
The goal of the show was to gain money to buy the parts he needed for the DNA altering machine. They all knew that going in what the goal was, and yet Albedo couldn’t help himself by getting close to everyone. He wanted to go back to being a Galvan, but he also had regrets about what that would mean for Hugh, Swamps, and Fridge. At some point he started to see them as his friends, and wasn’t so stoic all the time around them. The money they earned was split between them, although the three aliens would give money to Albedo when he needed it. He’d be touched every time they’d help him, but he never let it show. Looking back, he wished he did. He wished he told them how much he appreciated them as his friends.
He had no plans on what he was going to do when he got his Galvan body back again besides getting off Earth, but he would’ve kept his word about not going after Ben anymore. The only reason he immediately fought the teenager was the sudden shift to a Galvan brain to a human’s in such a short time. He thought he had succeeded and yet he failed again. He always failed at everything he did. He failed with making friends as a Galvan, despite Charly insisting that their peers saw him that way. He failed at becoming the Second Thinker with being Azmuth’s assistant. He failed at turning himself back into a Galvan and not stuck looking like Ben Tennyson. He failed.
He was stuck in a body that he didn’t want to admit that he’s grown to. He’s stuck with a voice that isn’t his. Despite him being a Galvan for a short bit talking to Ben and his friends, he barely remembered what he sounded like. All he can hear is Ben Tennyson’s voice as the voice in his head. Anyone else would have reacted the same way, wouldn’t they? At least that’s something Albedo wants to believe. Maybe he should’ve stopped while he was ahead, but he never was. He always thought he was a step ahead with getting his original body back, but it always backfired on him.
Albedo squeezed himself tighter as the tears continued to roll down his face. He could feel a weight on the bed, and felt someone push him closer to him. He felt arms around him and his head being pushed into a soft cloth.
“I’m so sorry,” He heard a familiar voice say.
Albedo didn’t know why hearing those words and feeling Ben’s arms around him made his crying turn into sobbing, but it did. He was so wrapped up in his thoughts he didn’t hear Ben come back inside the room. Was Ben apologizing for what happened between them? Did Albedo accidentally say what he was thinking out loud? He remembered multiple occasions while going across the country with Hugh, Swamps and Fridge where he’d speak his thoughts out loud if he thought no one was around. The three aliens would ask him about it. If he spoke out loud, was Ben apologizing for everything Albedo has gone through the last year?
Albedo tried to stop this weakness he was having. He shouldn’t be crying over dumb human emotions he can’t control, but he couldn’t stop. He buried his head in Ben’s shirt and let all his emotions out. Ben rubbed Albedo’s back, and Albedo’s sobs got louder. When was the last time he was able to let it all out? He felt something on top of his head.
“I’m here,” he heard Ben whisper, “And I’m not going to fail you again.”
Why was Albedo comforted by Ben’s words? They were supposed to be enemies right? He was supposed to want to take the Ultimatrix from the boy and get his Galvan body back, not be here crying into his shirt. Could they even be considered enemies at this point? Would things have turned out as they did had Albedo explained everything properly without any tricks? Would he have stepped aside after the Ben 10 Live show if he actually explained about the device he got the materials for from the show’s profits? He sabotaged himself, and Albedo was realizing that it was no one else’s fault but his. Not Hugh’s, not Ben’s, just his.
Ben didn’t speak further to let Albedo let his emotions out. Ben had no idea how long Albedo had been suffering, even before he turned himself human. He knew the Galvan who looked like him needed to let this out. He thought if he said anything Albedo would shut him out completely and go back to masking his emotions.
After some time Albedo’s sobs became quieter, Ben continued to rub his back and have his chin on top of the white hair teen’s head. Once Albedo seemed like he got everything out of his system, Ben pulled back and looked at Albedo.
“I don’t know the last time you ate, so I brought food when I came in.”
“...Chili fries?” Albedo asked, pulling himself away from Ben’s chest and looking up at him with pleading eyes.
“Sorry, I couldn’t find any. It was hard finding human food here, but I found something you might enjoy.”
Albedo wiped his face as he looked over to the bedside table near the bed. He saw something that resembled a salad in a bowl with the limited options Galvan Prime had.
“Yuck, I’d rather eat insects or larva.”
“Ew, you have weird tastes.”
“Says the human teenager who eats chili fries all the time.”
“You eat them too!”
“Because of your stupid DNA.” Eye twitch
“Look who’s lying now.”
Albedo rolled his eyes. He looked at the makeshift salad and stuck his tongue out at it. To the left of it he saw a bowl that was filled with dead insects. By Galvan standards, that would be way more than enough for a full meal. He hadn’t had Galvan insects in such a long time. When he was stranded on Earth, he was excited when he knew there were insects for him to eat. Albedo was disappointed though when he ate them, they were okay when he needed something but they’d never beat out those on Galvan Prime. Insects from here were an incredible delicacy, so much so that they were a rare sight in Undertown.
Everyone who was an insectivore would buy them all out, sometimes for high prices depending on the seller. Last Albedo checked there was a black market sale for them, that was way above the money he was making from the Ben 10 Live show. He never had the money for normal priced ones after paying for machinery, and dumpster diving never gave him insects. No one in their right mind would throw out Galvan insects, that would be a crime against the universe.
Albedo pulled himself away from Ben so he could reach the bedside table. He picked up an insect and put it in his mouth. He grinned while chewing on it. If there was one thing he missed about Galvan Prime, it was the insects.
“Well since you’re happy with insects,” Ben said looking shocked at Albedo’s reaction to the insects, “I guess I’ll eat whatever’s in this salad.”
“You’re not going to like it,” Albedo said with his mouth full.
“I need food,” Ben said, shrugging and grabbing the bowl of salad.
Ben grabbed what looked to be a fork and started eating the salad. Albedo was right, this was terrible but he needed something to eat. He doesn’t know how long he’s been with Albedo and it was hours before everything that he ate last. He was asleep when this was all initially happening.
“Hey Tennyson?” Albedo started saying.
While Ben still had his mouth open, Albedo shoved a few tiny insects in his mouth. After Albedo removed his hand from Ben’s mouth, Ben leaned towards the bed side table and started coughing out insects on the table.
“Albedo what the fuck?” Ben asked, still coughing up the insects that were shoved in his mouth.
“You’ll live, it doesn’t taste that bad.”
“Galvanic insects are grosser than Earth’s!”
“You and I have two different definitions of the word ‘gross’.”
Ben looked down at the bowl of salad in his hands. He contemplated how to get pay back, and had to hold back a smirk when an idea came to him. He continued to eat his salad as if it was normal. Near his last bits of salad, Ben stared at Albedo still eating insects.
“What are you looking at Tennyson?”
Ben put down his bowl back on the bed side table. He scooted himself closer to Albedo to where their shoulders were touching. He placed a hand on the bed next to Albedo and another hand to Albedo’s chin. Ben turned Albedo’s face towards his and leaned forward while staring into Albedo’s red eyes.
“What are you-” Albedo started to ask before being interrupted by Ben’s lips.
Albedo’s mouth opened in shock with the teen’s lips touching his own. Ben used that as an opportunity to use his tongue to push pieces of salad that were in his mouth to Albedo’s. Before Albedo could even think of kissing back, Ben pulled his face back with a shit eating grin across his face.
Albedo licked the inside of his mouth when he felt something in there. He put a hand in his mouth and pulled out pieces of the salad Ben was eating. Albedo looked at the piece in confusion, and then looked at Ben. Ben’s shit eating grin turned into laughter. Ben leaned back to where he was laying on his back and continued to laugh.
“What the fuck Tennyson?” Albedo asked, getting the salad out of his mouth and placing the pieces on the table.