Sorry about the delay folks. I was kind of tired and unmotivated so I didn't write for a week.
This is the final chapter of this story. I'm sorry that most of it is very bleak and full of angst, but I hope the ending will make up for it :)
* The Circus Freaks are about the same age as Ben in my story's continuity, like in the Reboot.
Ben was in a meeting with a veteran SECT agent, Elliot Jackson. Elliot showed some pictures of a dead man's body. Ben could barely recognize the man, but he remembered him. That man was a Vilgax worshiper who was involved in a terrorist attack to infect Ben's son Ken with a deadly virus. He had been arrested and Ben went to interrogate him. The man mocked Ben, and Ben beat him to death.
"He attacked me. I defended myself," Ben lied.
Elliot, a dark-skinned middle-aged man with gray hair, had known Ben for a long time, and from the look on his face it was obvious he had not bought Ben's story.
"Yes, an unarmed prisoner attacked you, and, to defend yourself, you turned him into a deformed pile of flesh," Elliot said, with an ironic chuckle. Then he showed more pictures of bodies with marks of werewolf attacks, "Let me guess: you accidentally ended up in these people's houses, they attacked you and you had to defend yourself, and they ended up dead?"
Ben was hunting terrorist Vilgax worshippers. He found clues to the whereabouts of one of them, and after a 'nice' conversation, that one gave the addresses and names of many of his peers. Ben released all of Benwolf's wrath upon them without mercy.
"I've never seen these people. There are lots of werewolves out there. I had nothing to do with this," Ben lied again.
"This won't work, Ben. You don't know the headache S.E.C.T's legal department is having to stop this shit from falling on you. Human Rights wants you to rot in jail," Elliot said.
"I think we're kind of friends, Elliot, but I'm not under the illusion that this organization cares about me. I'm a valuable asset. I get the job done. That's why S.E.C.T. is protecting me. I'm not going to lie. I'm counting on it too," Ben replied calmly.
"Ben, if you don't stop now, I swear, the higher-ups of the Global Security Council are going to throw you to the wolves. You're giving them too much trouble, and they're not sure how important you are now that Vilgax is dead. I warn you as a friend," Elliot said, "You don't want to leave Gwen raising Kenny by herself while you rot in jail."
Ben let out a long sigh. Elliot was right, "What am I supposed to do?"
"Go home, stay with your wife and you are on leave until next time the world is ending. We'll call you to save the day," Elliot said.
Ben thanked him and began walking out of the building. Before reaching the exit, though, he was stopped by an agent.
"Mister Tennyson, please come with me. There's someone who wants to talk to you," the agent said.
Ben followed him to the elevator, and the agent pressed a sequence of buttons on the panel very quickly. The elevator stopped on a secret floor, which most of the agents had no clearance to access.
"Ben Tennyson, how long," said a man covered from head to toe in a red suit. He stretched out his hand to Ben, "Don't worry. You won't get burned if you shake my hand."
He was probably smiling behind the red mask, but that couldn't be seen. Ben shook his hand, "Alan Albright, it's a pleasure to see you again, my friend."
Alan was born human, but he was turned into a pyronite - an alien of the same species as Heatblast - and he had to wear a special suit all the time to prevent him from burning everything around him. He was the current leader of the Dark Squad - a secret subdivision of S.E.C.T. for 'unofficial' missions.
"I'm very sorry about what your son is going through, Ben," Alan said, "Having to be turned into something non-human to preserve your life is a situation that I can closely relate to, unfortunately."
"Thank you, Alan." Ben said.
"I want to help you get your revenge. You have no expertise in killing people and erasing all traces. The Dark Squad has. And we're interested in eradicating Vilgax worshipers," Alan said, "Do you want to work for me?"
When Ben arrived in his tower, he collected several of Ken's toys that were lying broken on the floor. Unfortunately, having a diamond arm and lupine teeth made things such as toys and baby bottles short-lived. Ben let out a long, sad sigh.
Ben watched Gwen play with Kenny. Gwen had created tiny bubbles of mana and the baby crawled trying to catch them. If Ken couldn't play with ordinary toys, Gwen would find a way for him to have fun. Ben admired how his wife was a wonderful and dedicated mother.
He let Gwen play with the baby - he knew he could never take care of him as well as Gwen would - and went to his lab. As Grey Matter, for hours he unsuccessfully ran simulations with possible chemical compounds that could kill the alien virus and save Ken. Before each simulation, a twinge of hope lit up in his chest just to be put down immediately. In all the simulations he ran, either the compounds were not strong enough to kill the virus, or they killed the virus but they also killed Ken as well.
Absorbed in the simulations, Ben didn't notice the passage of time nor the arrival of his wife in the laboratory.
"Ben, come to sleep. You can't stay up all night again, please." Gwen approached him, and then began to give him a massage on his shoulders.
Gwen was not just taking care of Ken. She was taking care of Ben too.
He went to bed with her. Ben started kissing Gwen's cheeks and neck, but he smelled something weird, "What is this smell? Did you change your perfume?" He mentally wondered whether or not he should mention that this new perfume was definitely not as good as her natural feminine scent, which he loved.
"It's not a perfume." Gwen bit her lip, "It's Ken's antiseptics. I've consulted some experts on alien biology now that Ken's ... you know... in that alien hybrid form. Sometimes aliens are vulnerable to certain diseases on Earth and he already has a very dangerous virus inside his body, so call me a paranoid mother, but I'm using several special antiseptics on him."
"You're the best mother in the world. You know that, right?" Ben smiled.
"I hadn't noticed before that I was stinking, sorry. Maybe I should start using actual perfume at home just to cover that smell."
"Shh." Ben kissed her forehead, "I can take Stinkfly's smell. This is nothing."
Gwen smiled shyly. Ben stripped off her clothes.
The next day, Ben met his new "colleagues" from the Dark Squad who would be assigned to do missions with him.
Ben was already familiar with them. They were his enemies, the trio of mutants known as the Circus Freak. They were about the same age as Ben, though one of the men - Acid Breath - looked much older. He was thin, had few teeth in his mouth and was almost bald, with only a few strands of hair on his head. His power was to release acid - in the form of vapor or liquid - from his mouth.
The second member, Thumbskull, was tall and very strong. Ben would say he was almost as strong as his alien Four Arms. He had an unfriendly face and his only "hair" was a huge toenail on his otherwise bald forehead.
The third member of the group, Frightwig, had all the beauty that her partners were lacking. But she was just as beautiful as she was crazy. She had violet eyes and long red hair - which was as strong as steel cables, and she could stretch and control it any way she wanted.
Ben had put the three of them in jail. That could be a problem.
"Listen," Alan said, removing the mask on his face to expose his flaming head, certainly as an intimidation technique, "You all have nanites on your bodies that I can activate with the push of a button. If you try anything against Ben Tennyson, you're dead."
"Point taken, boss." Frightwig said with a cryptic smile, "Is Ben going to have nanites in his body too, or is he exempt for being your buddy?"
"Worry about yourself, Frightwig, not about Ben," Alan said, "Time to work."
S.E.C.T. had obtained information of a group of Vilgax-worshiping terrorists gathering in a shelter.
Thumbskull broke through the main door and drew the group's attention to him. Some had guns, but although Thumbskull was not invulnerable to gunshots, he was wearing a bulletproof uniform. The distraction worked.
Acid Breath sneaked in, approaching an armed man, and spat a huge amount of acid on his face, which made him scream in pain and drop his weapon immediately. Frightwig disarmed a woman with her hair locks, and then strangled her. Thumbskull himself grabbed a man, and broke his back. While Ben - as XLR8 - made sure no one escaped.
They were effective and brutal.
The surviving Vilgax worshipers were tied up and interrogated right there.
"Better someone start giving names and addresses of your buddies from other terrorist cells, or I'll start singing 'eeny, meeny, miny, moe' to see which one of you I'll kill first," Frightwig threatened, anxiously walking up and down in the room.
One of them asked Ben, "Please don't let them kill us. We did nothing wrong, we just believed in Vilgax, but we're not terrorists," the man tried to make Ben think that they were innocents. Obviously it did not work.
"I will not let them kill you." Ben grinned, "I'll kill you all myself if you do not cooperate."
The man was a bit frightened, but he was still convinced that nothing bad would happen to him, "You are a hero. You don't murder defenseless people in cold blood."
"Hero? Not long ago the press used to say that I was 'a disgusting pervert with powers that are a threat to humanity.' Maybe they were right. Maybe I was a bad guy all along." Ben turned into Heatblast and placed his burning hands on the man's shoulder while all the other terrorists watched in shock.
The man screamed in pain, and Ben increased the intensity of the fire, which torched him up in seconds.
"You were expecting Vilgax to give a paradise to you... But Vilgax is dead," Heatblast addressed the other terrorists, "The only thing you can expect now is punishment. And the punishment is FIRE and BRIMSTONE!" He increased the intensity of the flames in his hands.
"I'll tell you everything you want to know!" A woman in the middle of the group shouted.
"Tennyson, I didn't expect this from you. But I like this new you," Frightwig said, licking her lips. Ben just ignored her.
This had become Ben's new routine. He spent most of the time either hunting down the remaining Vilgax worshipers or in his lab trying to find a cure for Ken.
Ben avoided spending too much time with Kenny, because looking at his son was making him feel immensely guilty. Ken was still stuck in that bizarre hybrid alien form to survive the virus. And the person responsible, the leader of the remaining Vilgax worshipers, was still hidden incognito somewhere. Though many members of that terrorist cult had already been arrested or killed, the leader had not yet been found. Ben had yet to make good on his two promises: cure Kenny and kill those responsible for what happened to him.
One day, he arrived at the Tower while Kenny was asleep and Gwen was in the living room watching Netflix and eating ice cream. That pot of ice cream had been bought a day ago, but it was almost empty now. Ben imagined that Gwen was very frustrated with that situation just like him, and she was eating to relieve her anxiety. He saw dejection and sadness written in her face.
"I made a mistake," Gwen said, obviously referring to having used the other Omnitrix to turn Kenny, "You were right. I shouldn't have done that. "
"No, no, no," Ben said sitting down next to her on the couch, and placing a hand on her shoulder, "You did the right thing not hearing me and using the second Omnitrix on Kenny. Now we bought ourselves time. I'll find a cure for the virus. I promise.
"You can't promise that," Gwen said, tears starting to form in her eyes.
Ben hugged her, and made her lay her head on his chest.
"I wanted to keep our family alive, but I destroyed us." Gwen said in tears, "Kenny is a bizarre alien hybrid that will never have a normal life. You're never with us. You're always out there, hunting down the Vilgax worshipers that are still left, or held up in that stupid lab. And I'm here, filling myself with ice cream until I get fat while I pretend we're still a family."
"We're a family." Ben kissed her hair and hugged her even tighter, "I love you and Kenny. And I'll be spending more time here with you and Ken soon, okay? I'm very close to finding a cure and I'm very close to getting to the person who gave the order to infect our son. This will all be over soon," Ben said, even though he knew he was being way too optimistic.
Gwen cried to sleep in his arms. Ben gently carried her and laid her on the bed. He loved his wife and his son more than anything in the world, but he was failing them. Ben returned to his laboratory with the belief that this would be the night he would get a win, a cure for Kenny, but once again he failed.
A few nights later, Ben received an anonymous call asking him to go to a certain address with the promise of relevant information. When he got to the place, it looked like an ordinary house. He turned into Benmummy to slip through the crack under the door, and inside the house he turned back to normal. It was all dark.
Suddenly Ben felt his arms and legs being caught by something. The lights went on, and he saw that he had been immobilized by Frightwig's hair locks.
"Frightwig, I don't know how you escaped from your cell, but you made a big mistake-" Ben began to say.
"I didn't escape. This is my home now. Thanks to my good services with the Squad, I was put under house arrest. Obviously, I can't get out of here," she pointed to an ankle monitor that she was wearing," and since I'm not wearing a costume now, call me Frieda, please."
"I'm sure setting up a trap for me will put you back in a cell very fast, Frieda," Ben replied dryly, "But I'll give you one chance. You have until the count of ten to let me go, and we can forget that this happened. One."
"This is not a trap, Ben," Frieda said, as if she was feeling offended, "This is a proposal."
"Unless you really have some relevant information like you said in that anonymous message you sent me, I don't want to hear any proposal. Two," Ben replied, still wrapped in her hair.
"I have something very relevant for you," she said in a seductive tone. Ben noticed that Frieda was only wearing a towel. She dropped the towel, standing naked in front of him. Ben closed his eyes, "You were so boring before, but now that you're all brooding and violent, I'm totally crazy for this new you. Let's have sex!"
"I'm not interested. I love my wife. Three," Ben said, still with his eyes closed.
"I know you love redheads. What a coincidence! I'm a redhead too!" Frieda said with a laugh.
"Don't you want to smell my perfume, Ben?" Frieda grabbed Ben's head with her hair and rubbed his nose on her neck.
"Five," Ben tried to hold his breath.
"Feel this wonderful body," Using her hair to control Ben like a puppet, Frieda made Ben's hands touch her belly.
"Six. Seven. Eight. Nine," Ben started to count more quickly, and Frieda finally let him go.
"And I thought you were fun now, but you're still boring like before," Frieda said, rolling her eyes.
Ben walked to the door, but as soon as he put his hand on the doorknob, Vilgax appeared at his side.
Ben took a deep breath. He knew it was another hallucination induced by his PTSD - and probably by his sleepless nights too. "You are dead, I left you in pieces. You are dead, I left you in pieces," He began to whisper.
"Who are you talking to?" Frieda asked, "Do you have imaginary friends? And then I'm the crazy one."
"Please go away," Ben told her.
"Well, this is my house, but okay, I'll be in my bedroom at the end of the hall. If you change your mind and you want to join me there, feel free to come," she said with a wink.
"You should take her offer. You know you want her," Vilgax said, in a mocking tone, "Gwen smells like antiseptics and she's getting a bit chubby. Frieda has a wonderful smell and a fantastic body. Let Gwen take care of your ugly baby, and let Frieda take care of you."
"SHUT UP!" Ben punched Vilgax. Obviously, the punch did no harm, since that Vilgax wasn't real.
"I'm not like Kevin, who just liked Gwen because of her looks. Maybe back in the day when I was young and immature that was the reason that I wanted to date her, but now I truly love her for who she is!" Ben said, gritting his teeth, "And I love my baby too. My son being stuck as an alien hybrid doesn't change that at all! "
Vilgax laughed again, "Really? You tell yourself you're killing my worshipers as some kind of righteous revenge quest, and you spend hours and hours locked up in your lab trying to find a cure that you know that doesn't exist. The truth is you're using all of this as an excuse so you don't have to stay with your family because you're unhappy with them. I'm your hallucination, so you know I'm telling the truths that are buried deep down in your subconscious."
"I'll tell you one truth: This ends now!" Ben blinked and Vilgax disappeared. He knew what he had to do.
The next day, Ben locked the lab door and asked Grandpa Max to keep the key and not give it back to him. Ben also went to S.E.C.T. headquarters and asked Alan to be released from the Dark Squad.
When Ben returned to the Tower, Gwen was in the midst of the routine of sanitizing Ken with the antiseptics.
"Hey, love. Let me do it," Ben said with a smile, "You can do something else."
Gwen looked at him, a little surprised, but let him take care of Kenny and left.
Ben sanitized the baby and then played with him. Kenny apparently loved to see Ben transforming into several different aliens. And Ben also used Magus Viridis to create mana bubbles and do a little show of lights for Kenny.
Gwen came back a few hours later. Ben, still with a smile on his face, was watching Kenny sleep.
Gwen pulled him out of the room and asked, "Ben, I love that you decided to take care of Kenny today, but don't leave me with false hopes. You are always busy in the laboratory or hunting down Vilgax worshipers. What happened today will happen more often?" She asked, in a mix of confusion and happiness.
"Yes," Ben replied, hugging her, "I failed you and Ken, but not for the reasons I thought. I was obsessed with healing Kenny and avenging what happened to him, when in fact I should've cared more about being a good father to him and a good husband to you. I will not make that mistake again."
"Thank you, Ben," Gwen hugged him back.
Before, Ben and Gwen didn't want visitors. Although many had asked to go to see them, Ben and Gwen made excuses to postpone these visits. They didn't want people to actually see Kenny. He was no longer the wizard great-grandson that Grandma Verdona wanted so badly. He was no longer the baby that his parents and Gwen's parents had admired and said, "How beautiful!" They had a paranoid fear that their friends and family would 'reject' Kenny the way he was now.
But Ben convinced Gwen that they had to change their attitude. And it was worth it. Visits began to become commonplace, and some friends and relatives began to babysit Ken for Ben and Gwen as well.
Max and Verdona loved spending time with Kenny. Kenny loved all the strange foods that Grandpa cooked - yes, Grandpa had some recipes for baby food too, which were just as 'exotic' as all the other things he cooked. And Verdona's magic tricks also made the baby very happy.
Lucy also got along very well with Kenny, using her shapeshifting powers to change her appearance into something similar to him. Kenny loved his Aunt Lucy.
Ben and Gwen also went back to their normal couple activities. Although Ben insisted that Gwen was beautiful anyway, Gwen started a heavy exercise routine, saying she wanted to make up for all the ice cream she had eaten before.
Ben also wanted to make up to Gwen for all the months he wasted in his fruitless obsessions instead of being by her side. One day, when she was waking up, he brought breakfast in bed for her, accompanied by a bouquet of flowers.
Gwen loved it, and as soon as she finished breakfast, she said that Ben deserved a "dessert." They kissed fiercely, and soon she was moaning "I love you, Ben" as he released all his seed into her.
Two months later, Ben received a call from Alan Albright, letting him know that the leader of the remaining Vilgax worshipers had been killed and the organization was officially dismantled.
Ben was happy, and he didn't care that he wasn't there to kill the guy himself. Staying with his family was much more important than revenge.
A few weeks later, Ben woke up in the middle of the night hearing the baby's cry. Gwen was about to get up to check what was going on with Kenny, but Ben insisted for her to keep sleeping. He went to check on Kenny himself, and found... a very cute and completely normal red-haired human baby with a small Omnitrix on his left wrist.
"Gwen! Quick, come here!" He shouted.
"Oh my God, what happened?" Gwen rushed in. When she looked at the baby, she immediately reached for Ken's Omnitrix, "Ben, help me, you have more experience with this thing. His Omnitrix has stopped working. He will die if we do nothing."
"Easy, Gwen. See how healthy Kenny is. Based on all my sleepless nights studying this weird alien virus, I think the virus died. The only reason the Omnitrix was keeping Kenny in that hybrid form was for him to survive the virus. Now, the Omnitrix turned him back to normal because it was no longer necessary to keep him that way," Ben said with a smile from ear to ear.
"The virus died? How?" Gwen asked, confused and happy.
"I believe it died naturally. I've always theorized that this could happen, but it was a very small possibility."
Kenny was laughing, very cute, healthy and happy.
A tear of happiness rolled down Gwen's face, "I didn't imagine this story would have a happy ending like this."
"We already had a happy ending. Me, you and Kenny together, no matter the circumstances," Ben once again smiled, "But I agree that we have an even happier ending now!"
Gwen kissed Kenny on the cheek and then kissed Ben on the mouth.
This is it, folks! Thanks to everyone who read this. I hope you have enjoyed it. Leave me a review, please. Criticism, compliment, suggestions for other stories, anything you want to say.