Albedo’s mind started bringing him back into consciousness. He kept his eyes closed as he tried to figure out what happened. He felt a warmness on his chest, and something gripping onto his hand. There was a beeping going on in the background, and soft snores coming from below him. His mind was on high alert. The last thing he remembered was trying to put the Cassiopeian Dream Eater on Tennyson at Mister Smoothy… no wait that wasn’t right.
He was in Tennyson’s room, trying to put the Dream Eater on him. He was majorly unprepared for how messy the teenager’s room was and slipped on a smoothie. Everything was a rush of images after that point. He remembers being Tennyson and getting chased by people in Tennyson’s life, being told he didn’t deserve the Ultimatrix, and even being chased by himself. Even Gwendolyn and Levin were pleading with him to give up the Ultimatrix due to 'not deserving it'. He remembers being himself again and going into a fetal position against the wall at Mister Smoothy while Tennyson’s aliens were ganging up on him… no wait, that wasn’t right either.
The last thing Albedo remembered was seeing a shadow that was oddly familiar. It reached out a hand to him, and gave him words of comfort. He latched onto the shadow, being grateful that someone was saving him from the hell that he was seeing. There was a voice telling him that everything was going to be okay, and that no one would hurt him again. He remembers the warmth radiating from the shadow. He remembers how there was a warmth on his head and around his body.
Albedo groggily opened his eyes and looked around. He realized he was in some type of hospital room. There was a familiarity to this room, but he couldn’t place it. He tried to lift his right arm, but it was being weighed down by something. His eyes glazed over to where his hand was being weighed down. He noticed someone was laying on him. He blinked to get the tiredness out of his eyes, and realized it was Tennyson laying on his chest. The brown haired teenager was using his arm as a pillow, and gripping the blanket with his hand. Ben’s other hand was holding onto Albedo’s in a tight grip. Albedo noticed that Ben was still in the same outfit from when he snuck into the brown haired teen’s room, his usual black top being paired with gray sweatpants. Albedo used his free hand to flick Ben’s head to try and wake him up.
“If you don’t get off me this instant Tennyson, I’m shoving you off.”
All Albedo got in response was Ben groaning. Albedo tried ruffling his hair to wake him up, but that only made Ben lean into Albedo’s touch more. Albedo moved to try and shake Ben’s shoulder, but doing that yielded the same results. Albedo pulled the hand that was free away. Albedo tried to push himself out of bed but to no avail. The blanket being draped across him wasn’t doing him any favors when Ben was weighing it down. He tried to pry his fingers out of Ben’s, but Ben only squeezed harder.
“This can’t be real, I still have to be trapped in there. That’s the only explanation for why Tennyson is acting this way.”
Albedo tried to transform into an alien to get out of this situation, but no matter how hard he thought he was still stuck as a negative version of Ben Tennyson. That thing being trapped on him must have sucked out his brain chemicals. It must’ve messed up more of his DNA so he can’t transform anymore. Before Albedo could try to find another way to escape, he heard the door to the room open. He didn’t see anyone from the angle he was laying at. It was only when he saw a tiny thing walking on his leg, and toward the top of his chest did he realize it was a Galvan.
“Well looks like Ben fell asleep before he could tell me you were awake, how are you doing?”
“Who are you?”
“You don’t recognize me?”
“From where you’re standing I can’t see all of you, how am I supposed to recognize you?
Charly moved backwards and climbed on Ben’s head so Albedo could see her better. Ben continued to snore and made no movement or indication that he even felt the Galvan on his head. Albedo turned his head away from her. He did recognize the Galvan standing in front of him, but he didn’t want to admit it.
“You do recognize me don’t you?”
“Of course I do,” Albedo said, turning his head to face her again, “Why are you even here?”
“Do you not recognize the room?”
Albedo looked around and he knew this room was familiar.
“I’m back on Galvan Prime aren’t I?”
“Yes. Gwen Tennyson called for a transport, and specifically asked for a Galvan doctor. We brought you here soon afterwards. Imagine my surprise when I realized I was picking up my old colleague. Ben’s been worried about you. He even fought Azmuth to get him to help get that creature off you.”
Charly sat down in Ben’s hair and made herself as comfortable as she could on a human’s head.
“This is all a trick just to imprison me again.”
“Albedo, we may not have been friends but do you really think I would do that to you?”
“You have no idea what happened.”
“Funny, Azumth said the same exact thing. He refused to tell anyone what happened to you, and a lot of our old peers are still salty at him for it. We demanded for him to explain, and he still won’t. I asked Ben to, but he refused out of respect for you.”
“Why would Tennyson have any respect towards me?”
Charly didn’t know how to respond.
“Could you tell me what happened that got you in this form?”
Albedo sighed. He vaguely remembered Charly from when he was a younger Galvan, but for most of his life, he was mostly with Azmuth and didn’t have time for any type of friends. He didn’t want to be friends with anyone, his research and studies were more important. Despite that, a few of his peers tried to talk to him when they saw him and were nice to him. He wouldn’t call them friends, but they were someone to talk to when Azmuth was too busy for him. He also hung out with them from time to time when Azmuth and him would take breaks in their experiments.
“Okay, here’s how I got in this accursed form.”
Charly was in shock at everything Albedo told her. How could Azmuth force Albedo to stay with human DNA like that? Despite everything Albedo had done, that was pure torture. Azmuth knew as well as anyone how long Galvans lived, he also knew how little in comparison human life was.
“Azumth is an asshole,” Charly said in their native tongue.
“You’re lucky I still remember our language despite living as human for a few years and speaking only English,” Albedo said, “I agree.”
“How could he do that to you? It’s no wonder that Ben was so insistent on giving you help.”
“He never was before.”
“That Dream Eater makes its victims see their worst nightmares. Based on your reactions, you weren’t an exception to that rule. I don’t know what you saw in there, but the entire time you were trapped in the Dream Eater you were crying out in pain. I may not know your full history with Ben, but I doubt he’s the type of person to have wanted you to suffer in there. He was concerned the whole time you were trapped in there, and tried to comfort you the entire time. ”
“He shouldn’t have screwed everything up! ”
“Didn’t you say your friend Hugh was the reason Ben stepped in? Hugh just wanted you guys to stay together, I can’t say I really blame him. ”
“Hugh meant no harm, Tennyson shouldn’t have stuck his nose in where it didn’t belong. ”
Charly sighed, he was as stubborn as ever.
“If Ben hadn't stuck his nose where it didn't belong this time- ” Charly said before she felt herself sliding off Ben’s head.
Albedo lifted his left hand and caught Charly as Ben was lifting his head off Albedo’s chest.
“Have a good nap Sleeping Beauty? ” Albedo asked with a smirk knowing Tennyson couldn’t understand what he was saying.
“I didn’t know you were a fan of Disney movies,” Ben replied in perfect pronunciation of the Galvanic language.
Albedo’s eyes widened that Ben knew their language.
“Don’t look so shocked, you don’t spend years having Azmuth as a mentor without picking a few things up. ”
From Albedo’s palm, he could hear Charly laughing.
“Also I hated people talking about me behind my back on this planet. One day I started using Gray Matter to learn the Galvanic language so I could understand them. Azmuth was shocked, but also slightly amused I did that.”
“Okay now that we settled the fact you’re not entirely useless, let go of my hand before I cut it off!” Albedo said switching back to English while trying to pry his sweaty hand off of Ben’s.
“Oh!” Ben said with a blush coming on his face, “Sorry about that,” he said shyly laughing.
He released his hand from Albedo’s and sat back in the chair. Now that Ben wasn’t trapping him down on the bed, Albedo pushed himself up into a sitting position.
“Human sweat is disgusting!” Albedo exclaimed while flapping his hand trying to get feeling back in it from how long Ben was gripping it. “Should’ve cut your hand off the moment I woke up.”
Charly jumped off from Albedo’s palm and went over to the buttons on the bed to raise the head of the bed so Albedo didn’t have to hold himself up. Once it was in a good spot, she let go of the button and went to stand on Albedo’s leg.
“Hey Charly, could you give us some time by ourselves?” Ben asked, looking down at Charly and then back up at Albedo.
Ben was reminded about the conversation that woke him up. He heard Albedo explain about the last few years of him being trapped in Ben’s DNA. Ben opened his eyes for a second to see Albedo looking up towards the top of his head and talking. Ben immediately shut them again, and pretended that he was still asleep in order to listen to Albedo talk. He assumed that Albedo didn’t realize he woke up since he was still talking. Ben expected to hear bitterness coming out of Albedo’s voice, but he heard excitement when Albedo started talking about how he did the Ben 10 Live show. Albedo’s voice perked up more when talking about Hugh, Fridge, and Swamps.
“ You have friends on Earth? ”
“ They were more like people I worked with, but we got close during all those shows we did together. Dare I say I actually had fun with them, maybe even more fun than doing experiments with Azumth. We never had anywhere to stay so we slept in big and dark alleyways so people wouldn’t see us. Hugh was always comfortable to sleep on. It was nice having them around. ”
“ What happened to them? ”
“ I had to leave them because I didn’t want them caught up in my illegal activities. The Ben 10 Live was canceled after that last show, but we still roamed around together. One night when they were all asleep I left. I never got the chance to say goodbye to them and thank them for all they did for me when we were together. ”
“Could you stop staring at me like that Tennyson?”
Ben was shook out of his thoughts and looked down away from Albedo.
“I think that’s my cue to leave you two boys alone," Charly said hopping off the bed and heading towards the door, "Don’t try to escape on me with him, I need to make sure there’s no lasting effects of the Dream Eater.”
“I can’t transform anymore,” Albedo admitted before Charly left.
“What?” Ben asked, looking at Albedo.
“Your screw up at the theater let me transform with a thought, after the Dream Eater came off I no longer have the ability to transform at all and I’m forever stuck in this hideous form.”
“To be honest, I don’t know if I can fix that Albedo. No matter how much I want to, sometimes there are permanent effects from having the Dream Eater trapped on you. Usually the effects are memory loss, brain damage, or other very specific problems to the person that was affected. Despite how you feel right now, this was probably the best outcome out of what we’ve seen.”
Albedo glared at Charly.
“Don’t glare at me like that, I’m just speaking the truth. Now if there’s nothing else I’ll take my leave. Push the button if something else happens,” Charly said, “Albedo you are not to leave this room.”
“You can’t keep me prisoner here!” Albedo yelled.
“I wasn’t, but if you’re in here Azmuth won’t try to ship you back to prison. The Plumbers know you're here, but under Ben’s authority aren’t allowed to come get you unless he requests it.”
The boys didn’t respond to Charly. Ben didn’t actually tell anyone not to come and get Albedo, but he wasn’t going to tell Albedo that. Charly was trying to protect him too. She left the room when neither of them responded.
“Your authority huh?” Albedo asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Yes.” Eye twitch
“I knew she was lying.”
“Damn eye twitch giving me away,” Ben said, rubbing his eye.
“Which part was she lying about?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know? She’s just trying to protect you man. Just accept it.”
“I don’t have to accept anything.”
“Why are you so goddamn stubborn?” Ben asked while standing up.
Ben turned around and was about to leave the room. He almost didn't want to deal with Albedo's stubbornness.
“You’d think with whatever you saw in those nightmares you’d be grateful to still be alive dammit!” Ben said turning back around and staring at Albedo.
Ben made his way closer to the bed and bent down to lean towards Albedo's face. He grabbed Albedo’s shoulders and stared into his red eyes. The two looked at each other without saying a word. Ben grabbed Albedo’s chin and leaned his face closer to Albedo’s. Before Albedo could even think of pushing Ben away, he felt Ben’s lips on top of his. Albedo’s eyes went wide eyed in response. Albedo had no time to respond further, since as quickly as Ben’s lips were on his, Ben was pulling himself away. Without saying anything, Ben made his way towards the door. He stopped before it could open. His back was towards Albedo when he spoke up.
“Despite everything that happened between us, I actually give a shit about you and want to help,” Ben said with a brittle laugh and turning towards Albedo, “But maybe that’s just the hero in me talking cause lately I've felt like shit for never properly helping you when I should’ve.” He turned towards the door and spoke again, “I don’t know why I care about you so much, but I do.”
Albedo sat there in shock at what happened. All he could do was put a hand to his mouth where Ben’s lips were. Without any response, Ben left the room.