Author: Here's the final chapter of this story, thank you to everyone who reviewed, favorited and followed.
Disclaimer: I don't own Ben 10.
To Kevin and Rook's surprise Ben let Max pick his lunch and followed the other to a large table in the lunchroom. He had some difficulty getting on his chair but refused to accept help. After the third attempt Ben finally managed to climb in his chair, and sat down besides between Gwen and Rook.
A moment later Max joined them, bringing sandwiches for Kevin, a chicken salad for Gwen and three portions of Masushian swamp hoppers.
Ben took one look at the plate n front of him, shrugged and started eating his meal.
Gwen and Kevin shuddered watching Ben eat the purple snail-like things. Ben didn't even blink, eating the meal like... like it was normal.
After Ben ate his fourth Masushian swamp hopper Gwen couldn't take it anymore. "Uh.. Ben-" She stopped talking when she saw her grandpa shake his head.
"But it's so gross." Gwen whispered, not understanding how her cousin, who was normally such a picky eater, could enjoy such food.
Hearing this Ben looked at his cousin oddly. "What are you talking about Gwen? It tastes yummy."
"Five-year-old you may like it, but normal you wouldn't even want to be this close to alien food." Kevin pointed out.
Ben frowned and looked at Kevin, he then looked back at his food, a pensive look on his (at the moment) too young face. Finally he pushed his plate away, a sullen look on his face. "I'm not hungry anymore." He murmured folding his arms on the table and resting his head on top of them.
"Ben?" Rook asked, concerned with how quiet the toddler had gotten. He missed Gwen shooting Kevin an annoyed look.
"My head hurts." The five-year-old moaned before burying his face in his arms.
"When did it start hurting Ben?" Max asked getting up and quickly making his way over to the child and started to rub soothing circles on Ben's back, trying to comfort his grandson.
Ben groaned, but otherwise didn't answer.
Worried, Max lifted Ben up and put his hand on Ben's forehead. "You don't have a fever."
"Something 's obviously wrong with him." Kevin muttered, now noticing how the color had drained from the toddler's face and how Ben had his eyes clenched shut in pain. "Is it the food?" He knew it was a stupid idea to let a kid eat Masushian swamp hoppers, dammit he should have said something!
"I'll tell you what's wrong." A new voice said, and the group turned their heads in the direction of the door to see Azmuth making his way towards them, a displeased look on his old face. "What's wrong is that the lot of you seem to think that the mind of a human toddler is capable of holding onto almost seventeen-years worth of memories and information, without there being consequences."
"Can you help him?" Max's question came out more like a demand, but then again, what was to be expected from a grandfather whose teenage grandson was kidnaped from his home, de-aged to a five-year-old, experimented on, and now appeared to be in serious pain.
Not saying anything Azmuth gestured to the table.
Quickly understanding what the first thinker wanted Max put Ben down on the table and grabbed Azmuth and put him down on the table as well.
Azmuth walked over to Ben and pressed down on a spot on Ben's lower back, he then pressed a spot on the back of Ben's neck, and finally he gently tapped Ben's forehead.
Ben's eyes snapped open and he blinked in surprise. "Hi Azmuth." The toddler smiled at the Galvan. "When did you get here?"
"What did you do?" Gwen asked wondering what the Galvan had done, Ben looked fine now.
"Pressure points," Azmuth replied shooting the red-head a sideways glance before focussing on the toddler in front of him. "that should keep you from experiencing more of those headaches un till I turn you back to your rightful age." The old Galvan informed the toddler in a surprisingly patient tone. "Looks like you got yourself into trouble again."
"Uh huh." Ben nodded. "That was easy, the getting out of trouble part... Was not."
To everyone but Ben's surprise, Azmuth actually smiled at Ben's words. "I don't doubt it." He looked at the Omnitrix, guessing what Azmuth wanted Ben lowered his wrist so Azmuth could get to work.
For a while Ben watched Azmuth tinker with the Omnitrix, feeling much better knowing that everything would soon be okay and he'd be back to normal again, but... Something was still bothering him. Ben knew he shouldn't ask the question that was on his mind. He'd seen how upset grandpa and Rook had gotten earlier, but... He needed to ask.
"Yes, Ben?" Azmuth replied not looking up from the Omnitrix's inner workings.
"Do you really see me as a guinea pig to test versions of the Omnitrix on?"
That question got Ben different reactions. Max and Rook tensed up in surprise, Gwen dropped her fork in shock and Kevin spat out a mouth full of chicken sandwich.
And Azmuth who normally was so good at ignoring stuff that seemed beneath his great mind, jerked his head around to meet the toddler's eyes. "Of course not!" Azmuth exclaimed horrified, sure he may sometimes appear uncaring, but that was far from the truth. "What gave you that idea?"
"Albedo said that, right before he..." Ben glanced down at his bandaged arms. "Started taking samples."
"He tortured you?!" Gwen gasped in horror, jumping to her feet and going to Ben, looking at his bandaged arms in worry.
"I'm fine Gwen." Somehow it was possible for a five-year-old to sound completely exasperated.
Azmuth sighed, a solemn look on his old face. "I've always seen you as exactly what you are Ben." He told the toddler, who was now looking at him with an uncertain, worried look on his young face. "A young man who wants to do the right thing and will try his best to that." He smiled and nearly chuckled when the five-year-old's eyes widened dramatically. "And I always take pleasure in knowing my greatest invention is being put to good use." He said before quickly going back to work. Knowing his words would be taken for what they were.
For three whole minutes Ben was completely stunned into silence, right un till he suddenly jumped up, Azmuth nearly falling forward with how fast Ben pulled his wrist away.
"Grandpa!" Ben cried crawling over the table to get near his grandfather. "Azmuth gave me a compliment!"
"I heard." Max chuckled while the others, except for Azmuth of course, burst out in laughter. Smiling he ruffled Ben's hair and made him sit down again. "Now why don't you sit still so Azmuth can turn you back to your normal age?"
"Okay..." Ben sighed and sat still again so Azmuth could get back to work.
"Once Ben's back to normal we'll need to figure out what Albedo is planning." Max voiced what they all were thinking.
Kevin nodded, frowning deeply as he leant back in his chair, his arms crossed over his chest. "Why would Albedo even want that..." He looked at the toddler sitting on the table and chose his next words carefully. "That stuff?"
"For learning." Ben answered. He didn't say it, but there definitely was silent 'duh' at the end of that sentence.
"We know that Ben." Rook calmly told the small child. "But we must figure out what he tried to learn and stop him before his next move."
Ben had turned to look at Rook when the Revonahgander started speaking and now had a somewhat annoyed look on his face. "But Albedo won't make a move for a looong time, so all we need to do is find him and lock him up again."
Azmuth paused his work, sighing dramatically. "Do you know that for a fact, Ben?"
"He's your Billy Billions." Ben stated as if it explained everything.
"I see..." Azmuth lied, going back to work. "Care to explain yourself?"
Ben grinned as Azmuth worked on the Omnitrix, pleased that he'd get to explain something to Azmuth for a change. "Billy Billions is this spoiled guy who thinks he's way better than me, so he tries to do things I do like becoming a famous hero, but he wasn't really better than me," Ben emphasized on the 'really' making sure no one got confussed and would think that Billy Billions actually was better than him. "So he tried to kill me." The toddler finished with a small shrug.
"What does that have to do with Albedo?" Gwen questioned trying not to dwell on how wrong it was to hear a five-year-old so casually use the word kill. 'It's still Ben' She reminded herself. 'He's used to having people threaten his life' Somehow those thoughts did not make her feel better.
"Albedo thinks he's better than Azmuth, but he isn't." Ben replied, a small, tired smile on his face. "So he tries to kill Azmuth, but he still wants to be like Azmuth so took the samples of me and my first ten aliens to see if can think like Azmuth."
Everyone was silent for a long time after Ben's explanation. For five whole minutes everyone but Azmuth was stunned into silence.
"Hold it!" Kevin cried, angrily getting to his feet. "You're telling me that all this," He gestured at Ben. "is because Albedo wanted to know how Azmuth thinks?!"
"No." Ben shook his head. "This," he looked down at his bandaged arms. "is so Albedo can learn." Ben pointed at his face. "This is revenge." He sounded far too young for the topic. "Now I'm in the wrong body too." The toddler giggled quietly, not able to help himself. "Just like he was."
"Not for long." Azmuth was about to press the dial which would return Ben to his rightful age when suddenly the large door to the cafeteria was pushed open and banged against the wall.
Ben turned his head in the direction of the voice, his eyes wide. "Mom?"
Before anyone could say something Sandra Tennyson had ran to their table and scooped the five-year-old version of her son up and hugged him tightly and started planting kisses all over his face.
"Sorry dad," Carl said walking up them in a less frantic way than his wife had. "but there was no stopping her." He looked down at Azmuth, an apoplectic look on his face. "I hope she didn't interrupt anything important."
"It's fine." Max assured before Azmuth could say something. He smiled watching Sandra hug her son. To bad Carl didn't want anything to do with plumbing during the time he met Sandra. Max was sure that his daughter-in-law would have made a great plumber had she'd been given the chance, and Max had wanted to give her the chance, but he wouldn't go against his son's wishes.
"I'm so glad that you're okay!" Sandra exclaimed planting wet kisses all over her son's face.
"Moooom!" Ben tried to squirm out of her grip. "Not in front of my friends..."
It was then that Sandra noticed they had been eating and noticed the plate near Ben and her eyes widened. "You ate that?" The blond gasped, before whirling around to glare at Max. "You gave him something like to eat! Max what if it's another planet's version of peanuts! Ben could have died Max! One nut that's all it takes!"
"I know exactly what I offer him Sandra." Max rolled his eyes. Ben hadn't had an allergy attack in years, and Ben pretty much got his own food these days. "I wouldn't give him anything that even had a chance to be even similar to nuts!"
"That doesn't make it worth the risk."
Carl and the others watched their discussion, not daring to interrupt in fear of having Sandra snap at them. She was fierce and clearly knew how hold herself in an argument as she steadily dismissed all of Max's counter arguments.
"You know," Kevin said, glancing at Rook who was still watching the semi-arguement. "this explains a whole lot about mr. picky eater over there." He nodded at Ben, who Sandra still hadn't put down yet.
"Indeed." Rook nodded, not looking away from Sandra and Max. No wonder Ben had become such a picky eater if this was how his mother acted every time he tried something new.
The only one not amused by Sandra and Max's discussion was Ben himself. "Mooom!" He protested, trying to get put down again. "Don't be mean to grandpa! It's not hi-" Ben stopped talking when he saw the large bruise on the side of his mother's head, and stilled completely.
Sandra noticed, and looked at Ben, her annoyance at her father in-law's choice for a 'healthy meal' instantly forgotten."Ben?"
"I'm sorry..." Ben mumbled, his head bowed and tears welling up in his eyes.
"Honey?" Sandra quietly asked. When Ben didn't look up she put him on the ground and gently cupped his cheeks, trying to get him to look at.
She had mixed feelings about seeing her son at this age again. While it pained her, knowing someone had done this to her baby-boy, at the same time it warmer her heart to see him as just that again. Her baby...
"Ben?" Carl asked, kneeling down in front of the toddler. "What's wrong, buddy?"
But Ben didn't look up, he kept his head bowed and his eyes clenched shut. "I didn't mean for to get hurt..."
"Hurt?" Carl repeated, frowning in confusion. "What are you talking about Ben? You didn't hurt us?"
Ben sniffed, still not looking up. "B-But I-" He opened his eyes when he felt a tug on his pant leg. "Azmuth?" He whispered not understanding what the Galvan could possibly want. Did he want to yell it him for messing up?
Azmuth pointed at Ben's arm. "Let me finish this."
"Oh!" Ben knelt down so Azmuth could connect two wired before closing off the inner workings.
"Did it work?" Gwen questioned. Her answer came in the form of a bright green light came from the Omnitrix and surrounded Ben completely.
When the light faded the group saw a now sixteen-year-old Ben sitting on the floor, a somewhat dazed look on his face.
Carl was still in front of Ben and held up three fingers. "Ben how many fingers am I holding up?"
Ben stared at the hand held up in front of him, blinking a couple of times to clear his vision. "Dude..." He muttered rubbing his head, feeling very disoriented. He then saw his hand. No longer small and chubby. Ben grinned. "I'm sixteen again!" The teen cheered jumping to his feet.
The next thing Ben knew both his parents were hugging him tightly. "Mom, dad!" The teenager smiled, hugging them back. "It's alright now." He mumbled, shoulder sagging with relief. "I'm okay."
Half an hour later Azmuth was getting ready to teleport when Ben rushed into the lab. "Wait!"
Azmuth calmly turned around, his hands folded behind his back. "I'm waiting." He informed Ben, a bored look on old face.
Ben walked over to the first Thinker and smiled a rare, grateful smile. "Thanks." The teenager told Azmuth. "You know... For everything."
A small smile formed on Azmuth's face. "I trust you and your team will have Albedo in his cell again, soon?"
"You can count on it."
A short while later Ben was about to leave HQ with his parents who were already waiting for him in the car. Ben had just finished saying goodbye to his grandpa, promising to be back first thing tomorrow to start the search for Albedo and was no talking to Gwen, when he was suddenly pulled into a noogie.
"Aww who was a cute toddler?" Kevin teased, rubbing his knuckles roughly against Ben's skull. "You were! Yes you were!"
"Dude!" Ben protested trying to escape Kevin's grip. "Let go!"
"What? No please?" Kevin cackled, now that things were back to normal he could finally rub in how adorable Ben had when he was five. "We should have thaugt you some manners."
Ben groaned, realizing one thing.
"You are never gonna let me live this down, are you?"