Chapter 19: Fit to be Tied
"I need your belt."
Dexter blinked, only now realizing that Ben was no longer at his side. Rocking back on his heels, he started to comply when Ben said,
"No, from your coat. I don't want Albedo getting smart and trying something."
His hands were clumsy as he pulled the long fabric belt off his waist. He almost laughed to see how sections of it that had been covered were still clean and white. The rest of him was too filthy to think about. He held it out for Ben, and as he took it, Ben paused just long enough to give Dexter's hand a gentle squeeze. Dexter knew his boyfriend was trying to reassure him, and he tried his very best to let Ben's efforts work. With detached interest, he watched as Ben secured Albedo's hands behind his back with unexpected efficiency. The Galvin was still out cold, and therefore offered no resistance. Dexter was a little surprised to hear his own voice asking,
"Where did you learn to tie up a person?"
"Soccer camp," Ben replied, never missing a beat.
"Such interesting extracurricular activities you pursued. I'm impressed."
"Goalies have to be ready for anything. Want me to teach you?"
"Yes." The answer escaped before he could stop himself, and even to his own ears he sounded dead serious.
Ben looked up, and even without his glasses, Dexter could see his wide grin. "I swear you were made for me."
That Ben could smile and joke even now meant the world to Dexter, and despite his fear and complete exhaustion he came close to smiling. If he'd had the energy, he would have blushed. Still, their situation was desperate and dangerous, very much so. They had a long way to go before they were safe.
"You have the Omnitrix?" he whispered.
"First thing I grabbed."
He held up his wrist with the wide cuff. "Can you get this off me, then?"
"Gimme a sec."
He paused to double check the knots around Abledo's wrists before rejoining Dexter. Ben crouched, studying the device for a long moment in the wane light coming from the storage room that had been Dexter's cell.
"I think my best bet is to freeze it and smash it, Dex."
"Have at it. Mr. Tennyson."
Ben dialed the Omnitrix. Dexter could see the green glow of the device. It was surprisingly comforting.
Dexter didn't react as his elbow was lifted by long-fingered, blue hands, and he struggled on stiff legs to rise. Big Chill steadied him.
"Sorry if this hurts," rasped the Necrofriggian, and Dexter only shrugged in response. After torture, being hurt was relative.
Leaning his face close to the cuff, Big Chill let out a quick, focused breath of air along its length. Dexter shifted automatically at the freezing blast that went through the metal and fabric and into his arm. Frost swirled across the cuff, and with a quick, sharp strike, Big Chill shattered the metal. Immediately he peeled the rest of the device off of Dexter's arm, easily ripping the metal apart before throwing the pieces well away. A sniff escaped Dexter as he fought the urge to cry in relief. A moment later, the Omnitrix powered down and it was Ben holding his arm and smiling at him.
"Let's go, Kiddo."
Gwen gasped at the sudden release as her perception was restored. A wave of sensation struck her and for a moment she reeled. Beside her, Kevin put a steadying hand on her arm.
"Whatever was blocking me – it's gone. Check the comms."
He checked his Plumber's badge. "Working. Who you wanna call?"
She cast him a look by the faint glow of the badge. "DexLabs has some pretty scary security officers. Maybe we should call them."
"Yeah, their boss is an arms dealer. They'll have guns. Good think-"
"-nder Tennyson, this is Numbah Five. You copy me, Ben? Five to Ten, you out there, pal?"
They jumped in surprise at the sudden call, and then twin sighs of relief escaped them. Gwen activated the badge to whisper, "This is Gwen Tennyson, Ben's cousin. We're in Ryden State Park. Ben is checking out an old mine near our location. He must have found or done something because there was a dampening field up until a few seconds ago."
"Copy that, Ten2. We concur. I'm with DexLabs Security and some ECF troops en route to your location. We're homing in on the DexLabs vehicle Tennyson signed out. Is Ben close? Have you seen what's his name – Albedo?"
Kevin snickered to hear Albedo get dissed in absentia. "No sign of either of them yet."
"Mr. Morton wants to know if there's any sign of . . . Dexter? You kidding me, Sarge?" Numbah Five asked to the side. "I thought he was stuck inside until the end of the war."
The girl's voice was uncertain, and Gwen realized she must not know that Dexter had been the victim of Albedo's wrath. Given his status in the war, it made sense to keep his disappearance a secret.
"No sign yet," Gwen replied. "It's been about half an hour since Ben left. I have to let you know – there's something headed this way. Something small and really powerful. It's closer than I thought before."
"Any idea what?"
"No," she said, hating to admit to fear, "but I really don't like the feel of things."
"Hold tight. We'll be there soon."
A kick or two to Albedo's rib cage delivered by Ben's foot was enough to rouse him. He was scowling even before he realized his arms had been secured. As soon as he figured out that not only could he not move easily but every advantage had been stripped from him, he tried to lunge at Ben. One raised knee stopped the attack before it – or Albedo – got off the ground and he dropped heavily onto his butt.
"Stop wasting our time, Albedo," snapped Dexter, glaring at the seething Galvin. "Make any unnecessary noise and I swear I'll have Ben gag you with one of my socks. You know how long they've been on my feet and you know how long it's been since I bathed."
The threat was enough to silence even Albedo.
"Get up," ordered Ben.
"If I refuse?"
"You've got two choices, genius," Ben replied. "You come with us and face the music for what you've done and maybe even get some help for being such a world-class jackass, or I lock you in that pit where you had Dexter and maybe, maybe I remember to tell someone who gives a rap where to find you."
For a long moment Albedo considered, staring at Ben and trying to decide if he'd keep that promise. It seemed the risk was too great that Ben would be a man of his word, because with a grimace he climbed to his feet, glaring at his bound hands, Dexter, Ben, the Omnitrix – everything, really.
"Take my hand," Ben ordered, reaching out to Dexter. He closed his hand over the familiar smoothness of latex gloves, gripping tight to still Dexter's trembling. "Stay close. Let's go."