Title: The Problem with Rumor
Author: Remember Me Never
Category: Cartoon Network Universe: FusionFall (Retro)
Disclaimer: I do not, nor will I ever, own the rights to the above mentioned series.
Author Note: I have no idea where this came from. I was working on a different idea for this little series (when did that happen?), and this just demanded to come out first. So, I decided to let Ben have some fun with Nigel and Dexter. (And I probably butchered Dexter's character, forgive me, it's been a while, I'm rusty and it's past midnight here.) Please enjoy.
- Remember Me Never (4/2/2020)
There was a running joke among the Earth Volunteer Force that Ben Tennyson had a bed with his name on it in the Medical Ward in City Station.
Without fail, there would be at least one mission while new recruits were training with the Omnitrix's Bearer, and he would always spend at least one night inside the Ward after each one.
The rumor had been passed around from new recruit to new recruit, so much so that during his first training lesson with anyone, Ben would have to field at least three questions regarding his extended stays, regardless of the reason.
Ben, for the most part, laughed it off. He never let it bother him too much. Yes, he was on the front lines, and yes, he ended up more banged up than most. But it was the least he could do. He was more durable when he was an alien. He didn't mind.
Most of the time.
About six months from the first time he had started hearing jokes of his time in the Medical Ward, he started to notice a trend. While in the field, the soldiers around him were leaving him more open, letting more of the hits come his way. It wasn't always obvious, but it was a pattern. Something that Nigel and Dexter were quick to point out when he brought it up at their monthly Dungeons and Dragons meeting.
He had just come out of Medical that afternoon, this time with a sprained wrist and bandaged cheek from a lucky punch from a particularly over-armored fusion. One that should have been slowed down by no less than six people, who all conveniently turned away while it was making its way towards him. Six people who didn't call out, who didn't warn him, who were slow to respond.
Six people that Nigel had spent the past 36 hours yelling about.
"I'm telling you, Ben, these kids just don't like you," Nigel said, leaning back in his chair and regarding his fellow commander with a look.
Ben crossed his arms carefully, game momentarily forgotten. "They were amazing during training. Had each other's backs, call outs, the whole ten yards. Now? It's like day one all over again."
Dexter adjusted his glasses behind his computer. "What could have caused them to lose all their training? I have been over their records. There is nothing to indicate that they would have forgotten, or that they have a grudge with you."
The teen in question looked at the two people he considered his closest friends. "You know… I heard a rumor the other day…" He trailed off, watching as the other two young men both groaned loudly.
This was why they had their Dungeons and Dragons nights. A time where they could just be normal teens and relax. Usually they forgot about Dexter's amazing and complex campaigns ten minutes in, and would instead spend hours discussing the latest developments in the war. But since they were hiding out in Dexter's basement, they didn't have to worry about decorum, or deal with one of the Eds interrupting, or an Imaginary Friend making an appearance to whine about the state of the toilet paper, or anything at all. It was just them. And it was the best thing for them all.
Dexter looked particularly pained at the announcement of another rumor. "Another one? Must I ask what this one is about?"
"I apparently have a bed in the Medical Ward with my name on it."
Nigel sat up straight. "What? That's it? Yes, you're more likely to end up there, but you're always the reason there aren't more volunteers there!"
Ben nodded. "It's the only thing I can think of. I've heard people chuckling about it when I'd arrive for training after missions, but I never put two and two together."
"It makes sense."
Both commanders looked at the Boy Genius.
"Don't give me that look. You can see the patterns, the same as I. Ben has spent an increased amount of time in the Medical Ward, yes? And Ben, when did you first start hearing these comments?"
Ben leaned back in his chair, thinking back. "Six months ago? Maybe more? The first time I really remember it was after my fight with Gwen. After Orchid Bay. Miguel - Numbub 528 - mentioned it to me my first day back in the field. He didn't think it was funny, and I guess I put it in the back of my mind."
Nigel's face was set in a grimace. "And after that, you kept on going back. Each time, a little worse. Another concussion, two broken fingers, that slice through your leg that kept you held up for nearly a month-"
"-And gave me another fight with Gwen."
Dexter broke in. "After that, I started monitoring your battles a bit more. While your injuries are usually minor - leg injury and concussion notwithstanding - the frequency was worrying. I was planning on mentioning it later tonight as it was."
A heavy silence filled the expansive room. All three teens, already with the weight of the world on their young soldiers, stuck on the same thought."
"Some of the new recruits think it's funny that I get hurt so much, regardless of the reason why," Ben muttered under his breath, burying his head in his hand.
"So they're setting you up in missions so that you keep the pattern going," Numbuh One's voice started to shake with anger.
"And if this continues, it could end in your accidental death." Dexter finished the thought, mind already making calculations as to how long it would be before Ben got killed by these kids' stupid ideas.
Ben pushed away from the table. "I think I have some people to yell at."
Nigel and Dexter rose with him. "We're coming as well," Dexter said, already pulling on his purple gloves and straightening his white jacket.
"It's not often we get to witness you lose your cool." Nigel clapped his friend on the shoulder.
Within hours, it quickly spread through the ranks of the EVF that Ben Tennyson was not happy.
Anyone who was in the dorms knew the reason in minutes.
By morning, the EVF was six volunteers lighter. The rumor had ended firmly.
Ben Tennyson may get injured more, but it was to save lives. So don't talk about it, unless it was to thank him. Also, move on.