10. in which kevin learns about anticipation
For the first time since the stupid war began, Kevin was absolutely thrilled to be alone. Sure, Gwen was with him, but neither one of them particularly felt like talking. Especially when there wasn't much to talk about.
That was the thingthey didn't have to ask what the other one was thinking anymore. They didn't bother asking how the other was doing because they already knew the answer.
They were lousy, plain and simple.
In the hours that followed Buttercup's death, life wordlessly went on. The war effort wasn't going to stop in its tracks because someone died. And yet it felt cruel to continue living, knowing that Buttercup wouldn't be there. They were all sent the casualty list on their communication units, as they always were after a battle or an event of this scale. Kevin was relieved that the list was relatively short (only about ten names), and that he didn't recognize any of the deceased.
Kevin slept for several hours in someone's spare quarters at DexLabs, getting more sleep than he was used to. He was woken up by a loud ringing sound, and it wasn't until he was fully awake that he realized his phone was ringing.
"Hello?" he answered, his voice quiet from sleep and emotional exhaustion.
"Kevin, it's Ben," the voice replied. "I just got the casualty list
What's going on? How did Buttercup
? Kevin, she shouldn't have been anywhere near there! I thought she was supposed to come up and see you guys yesterday? That's gotta be a mistake."
Kevin was taken aback. "They put her on the casualty list?" It dawned on him that he didn't remember realizing that. "Hold on a second."
He checked the list again.
There she was, "B. Copular." He hadn't thought about her last name; he was so used to looking for Utonium that it hadn't dawned on him that she had taken Ace's last name when they got married.
Somehow, it made the dull ache inside of him throb a little more. "No," Kevin swallowed, not looking forward to telling Ben the story. "It's her. She came up to see us, but she went into labor during lunch."
"Whoa, that's early
What happened? Oh, no
Does that mean the baby"
"No, the baby's fine; it's a little girl. But Buttercup
Ben, Buttercup didn't make it," Kevin said, not wanting it to be true. He had made a friendan honest to goodness friend, who wasn't repulsed by his history, but instead, intrigued by it, understanding itand she was dead. Retelling this story was going to be miserable. He lived through it; he didn't need to relive it over and over. He wasn't going to cry, but this
This loss hurt. He felt a little emptier inside, a little hollowed out.
Ben was quiet for a moment, and Kevin knew he was trying to process the information. The old Ben would have immediately been concerned for Kevin and Gwen's reaction, as he knew they were close. The old Ben would have dropped what he was doing to see if they were okay. The old Ben would have made him feel better about the whole thing, or at least tried to.
But Ben had changed, and Kevin knew that the Omnitrix-wielder was lamenting the loss of one of his most effective frontline fighters. Buttercup was involved with nearly every aspect of the war despite her maternity-leave, and her absence would be greatly noticed. Kevin prepared himself for Ben's response, knowing it wouldn't be quite what he wanted to hear.
He did not expect what actually came out of Ben's mouth. "Oh no, Dexter doesn't know! He was out with me. He's going to be absolutely devastated when he finds out. They were close."
"Where were you guys, anyway?" Kevin cut in angrily. "You just disappeared. You do that, and it's really annoying and obnoxious. You say, 'See you in a few days' and you just take off."
"Out," Ben said flatly, and Kevin knew he wasn't going to get any more information from him.
"That's oddly specific," Kevin remarked sarcastically. He'd had about enough. "If Dexter was so close to her, why wasn't he here? Why doesn't he already know? Why"
"He doesn't like to look over the casualty lists, okay?" Ben answered, sounding irritated. "It makes him feel"
Kevin interrupted,"like the things he's doing have no consequences? We're all trying to beat this thing. Maybe it'll be good for him to see that people are dying, Ben. Maybe things will get done faster. People are getting hurt, and without help"
"Don't you dare, Kevin," Ben warned. "Don't turn this into another rant about how we won't let you fight on the frontlines. Don't do it. This isn't about you. This is about"
"This is about pooling together what resources we have!" Kevin was shouting now, anger taking over. "Listen, Buttercup was one of the best you guys had. All I'm saying is that she's gone now, and there are consequences."
Kevin heard stunned silence from the other end. "I can't believe you, Kevin. This is why you can't fight; you'll lose control. You lose your temper. You're so selfish! You can't handle the responsibility!"
"It isn't like that!" he hollered. Tennyson was really pissing him off. They hadn't fought like this in a very long time, and if the conversation hadn't been over the phone, they both knew that it would be very physical. Realizing this, Kevin tried to adjust his tone accordingly. This was the very last thing he needed. "Don't you trust me? Doesn't everything we've done together mean anything to you at all?"
They weren't just talking about the war anymore, and both of them were painfully aware of it.
"This isn't about that, Kevin, and you know it! Stop trying to make this about you!"
"I just watched someone die, Ben," Kevin said, and it came out in a much more bitter tone than he expected. "I don't think that would have happened if we weren't dealing with this war. The fusion matter? Yeah, that's what killed her, Ben." He was not going to get upset, he was not going to get upset
Ben tried to cut in unsuccessfully. "Kevin, I
"It made her condition get so bad, Ben. She was hurting so much
Do you know what that's like? Hearing people scream and knowing that you can't help them? Do you? And if we don't beat this, it's gonna get worse. More people are going to die, and they don't need to. Not like this. Ben, a little girl is gonna grow up without her mom."
"Kevin! Listen, I"
"I know, I know she's gonna be just fine. She's got family to take care of her, and a dad, and all that. But
Ben, I know what it's like to know that something's supposed to be there that's not. It's awful, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. Especially not Buttercup and Ace's little girl."
Ben sighed, and while Kevin knew that he had pacified the other boy for now, he hadn't quite convinced him. "Kevin
I need to go talk to Dexter. He should find out from me, not somebody else."
"Why, Ben? Why?" Kevin inquired, and it was a question that had been bugging him for a while. He hadn't even responded to Kevin's concerns. He just steamrolled right over them, turning things back to Dexter.
Tennyson didn't answer for a second, but finally said, "For the same reason you were with Buttercup when she died. That connection you had with her? I get it, Kevin, I really do. Because it's the same kind of thing I have with Dexter."
"But you're so different!"
"She had superpowers, was married with a baby, was wild and feisty as all get out, and was in a rock band. You're a badass, ex-convict, material-absorbing tech guy with a good heart and a bit of a temper. And somehow you guys hit it off. Look, Kevin, I gotta go, but pleasedon't ask me about changing your position again. You're right where you're supposed to be. We still need to talk, but now isn't a good time." Ben finished the conversation, hanging up.
Kevin clicked off the phone. You called me, man, he thought. Not the other way around. Then why do I feel like I'm the one bugging him?