A/N Being a silly response to 'Rude Removal' and some Bexter art by lizzamil, the link for which is on my profile. I own nothing but the blame for this story. Bexter slash abounds.
Chapter 1: Divide and Conquer
I know it's been a while. Don't be too surprised if I seem a bit different – it's temporary (I hope).
The note, written on graph paper in inhumanly perfect print, had been delivered just as Ben had been packing his duffle bag to get the heck away from Mt. Neverest (the most aptly named place on the planet). The timing was deliberate (but everything Dexter did was deliberate) and significant (ditto). The star-struck KND operative that brought it had no idea of what she held and did everything she possibly could to hang around and flirt, but Ben had a SCAMPER to catch back to DexLabs and would have none of it. Slinging his bag over his arm (he was sure Dexter wouldn't mind ordering a Dexbot to do his laundry), he walked out in the middle of a pointless giggle that ended in a disappointed whine. He read the note as he hurried to the hangar where his ride was waiting, and by the time he climbed into the airship, he was frowning.
"Bad news?" wondered Number One, recognizing the 'stationary.'
Ben was still staring at the letter and trying to read between the lines as he plopped into his seat. He turned the paper this way and that. "I dunno. I don't think so. Not completely, anyway." He looked at the leader of Sector V. "You haven't heard anything about Dexter blowing himself up lately or getting turned into a sloth or something, have you?"
"Not lately," Nigel Uno replied, amused. "May I?"
Ben handed over the note, hoping his friend might have some insight to the latest shenanigans going on in DownTown. It had been a while since Ben had managed to get home to DexLabs. While Dexter communicated with him fairly regularly, with an ongoing war and an ongoing romantic relationship they were severely limited to what they could talk about for fear of the messages being intercepted. Most of what they entrusted to phone conversations and emails and the occasional letter (from Dexter – Ben had zero interest in putting pen to paper, though he kept everything Dexter sent him) was vague and bland and said absolutely nothing to the casual observer, but Benjamin Tennyson had become an expert at deciphering what Dexter meant. The letter was a warning, a heads up. Whatever had happened wasn't exactly bad, but Ben needed to be alert.
"Temporary," mused Number One. "That rules out a tattoo."
Ben snorted at the notion. "Maybe not. Maybe he turned himself into a girl again."
Nigel's eyebrows raised high over the top of his sunglasses as he returned the letter. "Again?"
"Second grade was an interesting year for him."
Number One smiled faintly to himself as he watched Ben puzzle over the message a bit longer, enjoying the view. There was no denying it – the Wielder of the Omnitrix was quite an attractive young man. He was also a good friend and good company, not to mention a natural leader.
Though nothing had ever been said or even hinted at, Nigel Uno wasn't the leader of Sector V for nothing and he had suspected for some time that there was substantially more than friendship between the neurotic scientist financing the bulk of this war effort and the smoothie addict sitting next to him. Looking back, he was able to pinpoint the likely highs and lows of their relationship by Ben's mood swings over the past year. It was a sea change, obvious only to someone that knew him well, but Ben's whole attitude shifted to happy (or perhaps horny) anticipation whenever he was going to DexLabs and when he left it was as if he was being torn apart. A rocky introduction to Dexter had eventually led to a close friendship and now, unless Nigel was very much mistaken, they were lovers. They hid it very well, thankfully. So much strength joined with so much intelligence – it was a brilliant pairing. On his own each was a force to be reckoned with. Combining all that intensity must be nothing short of amazing in every way imaginable (and for good or bad, Nigel was possessed of a rather vivid imagination). Knowing them both as he did, Nigel wasn't quite sure who he was more envious of – Ben or Dexter.
They were lucky to have each other and Nigel was lucky to have them as his friends. Part of him wished he hadn't hit upon this train of thought because there was no way he could unthink these conclusions or prove anything. Now he found himself reading into Ben's every gesture and trying to figure out how and it related back to Dexter. He wasn't sure if he should be glad or annoyed that both young men had also invaded (and conquered) his teenage fantasies, completely outclassing his Lizzie fantasies in every way, shape, form, position, and technique, and waking him up to an itch he'd never known he had until recently.
But they were his friends, so he kept his silence and their secret and details of his fantasy threesome strictly to himself. Still, he was glad he was piloting the SCAMPER today. Flying the modified bus required his full attention, and it was better and safer, not to mention less embarrassing, to focus on piloting versus the hottie in the co-pilot's seat.
Two hours later the SCAMPER touched down on DexLabs' runway in the pouring rain. He didn't care. Any break from the relentless fighting against the Fusions was welcome. Ben gazed through the rain-streaked windshield, searching the area by the hangars slated for the KND and their various transports for the tell-tale SUVs. Sure enough, three black vehicles were lined up and waiting. He felt himself smile, anxious to see his boyfriend and unknowingly giving Nigel the answer he had been seeking.
"Need a lift?" offered Ben, generous with Dexter's things.
Dexter, Ben, and leather seats were a bit more than Nigel Uno wanted to deal with at the moment. He drove the bus toward the SUVs. "Thanks, but I have the post-flight check to go over and a few things here I need to catch up on."
"Meet up for pie later?" suggested Ben. They were both so busy, but they had made it a habit to take breaks for pie (cherry if they could get it) and ice cream with coffee.
"Deal." He blinked. "Look."
A small, slim figure in white stood outside one of the SUV's, sheltered by an immense black umbrella. Behind him, a wet and unhappy Sgt. Morton stood guard. Ben knew it wasn't the rain that bothered Morton – he had been a Navy SEAL, after all, and being wet was pretty normal for him - it was the fact that his boss was exposed to unfiltered air. Morton didn't do well when Dexter wanted to go outside, but fortunately that only happened about four times a year. On those four occasions though, the blond was always in full-bore grumpy mode. A mother bear protecting her cubs had nothing on Chief of DexLabs Security Charles Phillip Morton.
Number One pulled right up to Dexter and opened the SCAMPER's door. The younger teen grinned broadly and waved a purple-gloved hand.
"Good morning, Benjamin! Good morning, Nigel!" he gushed happily. "Thank you for delivering Ben! I trust you had an excellent flight. It's a little chilly, so I'm having the kitchen deliver some hot chocolate and cookies to Hangar 4 for you and your comrades. I hope you enjoy it."
Ben found himself staring. Usually Dexter was reserved to the point of coldness and he rarely called anyone with a title by their first name if there was the slightest chance of being overheard. This sing-song, enthusiastic, and effervescent Boy Genius was completely atypical and slightly disturbing.
"That's different all right," murmured Ben, not sure of what to make of this development.
"It's temporary," Nigel muttered softly, and then added, "hopefully."
Dexter had not stopped beaming. Ben waved back weakly, glancing at Morton for any sort of reaction, but he'd have a better chance of trying to read a marble statue than the former executive officer. Something told him, however, that the sergeant was fighting for control.
"Pie later," reminded Ben, desperate for reasons he couldn't quite figure out yet.
"Make it a double," confirmed the KND, determined to get the full story. "Good luck."
Taking a deep breath and scooping up his duffle bag, Ben took the plunge. Dexter's umbrella was large enough to shelter them both, so they were quite dry when Morton closed the SUV's door behind them. Immediately Ben noticed the partition that separated the passenger seats from the drivers was down, depriving them of privacy and any chance to sneak a kiss. He'd have to wait for a proper greeting, but for once he didn't mind. Their make out session could wait a bit until he had a better idea of what was up with his boyfriend.
"It's good to see you again," was Dexter's carefully neutral greeting.
"You too," he said in kind. "I got your note."
He nodded. "Good. I'm sure you have numerous questions, but I must ask you to wait please until we get inside. I'll be happy to fill in more details then."
Wordy, grammatically correct, and polite. There was nothing unusual in that, except the tone of voice was so thick with sincerity. Ben's curiosity was roused – among other things – but he let it slide for the moment. "Thanks for picking me up."
Dexter looked at him squarely, his voice dropping slightly. "The pleasure is entirely mine, I assure you, Mr. Tennyson."
In other words, Let me get you alone and I'll show you how happy I am to see you. Well, no matter what else was going on, the lust was most definitely there. Reassured, Ben settled back in his seat, ready for some rest, relaxation, and recreation – though not necessarily in that order.
". . . so the increased attacks equate to an increased demand for more, better weapons capable of stopping the Fusion monsters and so forth."
"I hear ya. Makes sense. So what's the latest and greatest?"
"Well, one thing we have in common with Fusion Spawn is water. Their forms contain low levels of moisture and without it in the correct proportion, they, like us, are little more than a mass of chemicals."
"I see where this is going and ew."
"Indeed. I'm developing a device – codenamed Sapsucker – that when remotely activated will instantly desiccate all organic matter within range of its signal."
"Draw all the water out of it."
Ben grimaced. It was a frightening prospect. "What's its range?"
"Right now, a fifteen-foot radius is the theoretical range. Normal production at DexCorp is up, but research and development has lagged simply because . . . well, I understand Neo-Neuroatomic technology the best and the bulk of the innovation and design inevitably falls to me. Essentially, I need to be able to work around the clock, at least until I can finish and fabricate a workable prototype."
"Placing undue stress on your cute self," said Ben under his breath.
Dexter smiled brightly. "Well said, and not just about the stress."
They walked side-by-side through the halls of DexLabs headquarters, Dexter with his hands clasped tightly behind his back, Ben with his hands thrust into his jacket pockets, each extremely aware of the other and working hard to keep his hands to himself. They were heading toward the elevator to Dexter's underground laboratory so Ben could see the latest, greatest version of the Megabot.
"So what's your solution?" asked Ben, knowing that Dexter would not be so serene if he didn't have all the answers already.
The elevator doors opened and Dexter gestured Ben onwards. "Something unorthodox and while not exactly dangerous, not without its risks. Allow me to show you, please."
"Did you clone yourself again?"
"Not quite. Computress, to the laboratory."
The ride across and down was smooth and fast. Ben was seriously debating throwing caution to the wind and yanking the redhead in for some non-verbal communication when the doors opened again and they were in the lab.
"When I was eight and at the height of my obnoxious arrogance," said Dexter in a matter-of-fact tone, sparing himself nothing as he lead the way, "I thought to remove what I perceived as all the negative aspects and emotions from DeeDee in order to make her somewhat tolerable to my senses. I therefore created a device I called the Rude Removal System. Due to her antics and my lack of control, we both fell into the removal chamber. The results were as planned – the machine removed all our rude, crude, violent, impulsive tendencies and manifested them in exact copies of us, leaving behind all the mannerly kindness and polite aspects."
Ben stopped in his tracks, finally knowing exactly where this was going. "You're kidding me."
Dexter smiled. "Not kidding, my love."
"You made your own evil twin? Dexter!"
"I wouldn't call him evil, seeing as how he's part of me. I thought to isolate aggression, little realizing at that tender age that a balance of soft and hard is needed in one's personality in order to be whole. The fact that the rude versions of both me and DeeDee were practically identical should have been an indicator that we are equal parts of nice and . . . naughty," he finished, giving Ben a shy, sideways glance.
"Hold on, Dex." Feeling his brain grind to a halt, Ben stopped, turning Dexter around to face him. Keeping his hands on those narrow shoulders, he quietly asked, "Are you saying there are two of you now?"
There was noise off in the far reaches of the laboratory, the sound of hammering on metal. Ben looked up, searching the depths for the source. Another person in the laboratory besides Dexter was so unusual that the sound seemed positively eerie.
The cool touch of latex covered his hand as Dexter gave his fingers a reassuring squeeze. "Yes."
"You did this to yourself again? What did the Professor say?"
The hammering stopped, and there was a distant, echoing sound of someone moving about.
"He's not happy, not by a long shot, but he can't deny the results have been fairly satisfactory thus far and we have managed to get quite an astonishing amount of work done. He's quite put off that I didn't consult him before acting, but I reasoned it was better to ask forgiveness than permission."
"But you said your other self was all violent and aggressive and stuff."
"Mmm, he's all that, but with maturity has come self-control far greater than what I had when I was eight. In that aspect, the results are highly successful. Despite his rather off-color vocabulary and surly attitude, he's as brilliant as I and considerably more focused."
Ben turned as someone approached, bracing himself even though he knew who it was. An almost exact copy of the young man standing beside him was walking toward them, his coat and gloves spattered with grease and a piece of armor plating in his hands. Ben found himself gaping - not at the fact that he now had a spare boyfriend, but because this new Dexter wasn't freaking out over being dirty. Dexter smiled to see himself, but the rude version glowered.
"So it's amateur hour again?" he grumbled, giving the chipper Dexter a sour look. His hard gaze shifted to Ben, making him feel as if he was a pork chop dangled before a hungry dog. "It's about freakin' time you got your ass back here, Tennyson. You know how long it's been since I've seen you?"
"Language, Dexter," admonished Dexter virtuously. He looked at Ben. "He promised Dad he'd curb his proclivity towards profanity."
The newcomer rolled his eyes in undisguised disgust. "Dad's not here."
"The promise stands."
"Whatever. Did you remember to get the specs for the heat shield to the foundry?"
"Uh . . ." It was the polite copy's turn to grimace and his answer was immediately evident. "No?"
Dexter leveled a hearty glare at Dexter. "I told you to do one stinking, lousy thing for me, which is the same thing as us, you moron, and you screwed it up."
"Hello! I was distracted!" Dexter gestured at Ben as if the presence of one green-eyed brunet was a valid excuse to leave simple jobs unfinished.
Shaking his head, the bundle of negative energy snapped, "I'll do it!"
"No, no! I won't hear of it!" protested the softer-spoken model. "I'll do it. I'll go do it right now. I promise I won't forget this time. You keep Benjamin entertained." Dragging Ben forward by the sleeve, he swapped the piece of armor for Ben's hand as if he needed constant looking after. "I'll be back!"
"Yeah, I was afraid you were going to say that," muttered Dexter. He watched his nice half head for the elevators, the armor plate held out at arm's length in case of grease. "Maybe the doors will crush him. How the hell are we the same person?"
"I heard that!" sang Dexter from afar.
"You were supposed to, idiot!"
Still holding Ben's hand - and looking rather disinclined to let go - Dexter looked up at Ben. A pissy Dexter wasn't anything new and like the Professor, Ben rather enjoyed the redhead's fiery temper, but this one carried it to an extreme. His eyes narrowed as he looked Ben up and down.
"I take it you're confused."
"That's an understatement," admitted Ben Tennyson gamely.
"I'd be surprised if you weren't."
His sneering expression never changed. "Confused."
"Thanks . . . I think."
"It's not a compliment and don't think, Ben, you'll just get hurt."
"Hey!" he exclaimed a moment later, realizing he'd been insulted. He could say with certainty that had never happened before in Dexter's company, and so he wasn't looking for it. "That was . . ."
"Rude?" finished Dexter with a nasty little smile. "Welcome to my world."