Two days late? More like: Be patient and wait!

I have a life and a full time job, nothing more on the matter needs to be said.

Anyway, lets see how our two contestants did with the theme of Recovery!

Second Place

Ben 10 Vs The Universe spoiler warning

Chocobonnie's Entry
Recovery would be hard for Ben to even think of, after what just happened. After all, he did just save the universe, fight a giant amalgamation of Vilgax and Kevin's aliens, and even unlocked and met a few aliens. Normally, he would have been happy with what had just transpired, and even with unlocking the ability to have more aliens. But after what happened? He assumed he'd just like to have a little R&R from it all... that is until he suddenly was pulled into a portal and came face to face with a much older him. Recovery was not gonna come easy to him, was it?

Okay I appreciate what this entry was going for, but trying to predict the events of a movie that has just come out is a bit jarring. Otherwise, I get the idea of Ben not being able to recover but what this entry really feels like is filler between two more interesting stories, rather than telling a story about recovery itself or incorporating the following story into the recovery. It almost reads like a blurb advertising the next story. Still, a very good effort for one of your first entries on the wiki.

First Place

Jetra's Entry

Ben honestly had no clue how he'd gotten this far in life.

It had really been quite the ride.

They'd spent so long saving the multiverse, battling giant Time Beasts, saving timelines, forming a team with his alternate Omnitrix-armed counterparts, meeting new races of aliens left and right, not to mention finally beating Eon and saving the Temps once and for all.

And within that time, he'd managed to learn more skills as a Timewalker, discovered a few of the many secrets the Sword of Epoch held, and find so much confidence hidden within himself, it was hard to realize that he was the same average teenage boy who'd been nothing but a dreamer before all that.

The best part was, he wasn't even done yet. Not even close.

After recovering from their near-death experience when they evacuated everyone else from Tempuspatium (I won't disclose what actually happened, because spoilers), it was decided that he and his partner would find out more about the mysterious crystal that brought them here and try to see if there were more out there.

Finally.

After that, there would be nothing to fear, no more unanswered mysteries hanging over their heads. They could continue their apprenticeship as Timewalkers in peace, and maybe even fill in for Paradox someday when he passed the torch on to them. Though Ben couldn't deny the twinging feeling in his gut at the thought of some unknown danger waiting in the shadows, he was calmed with the added thought that he would be able to take on whatever hidden challenge awaited them. It was a nice reminder of how far they'd come.

He settled back further against the warm sheets under him, fingers stroking senselessly through Julis's fur, his dog's eyes half-lidded, head resting on his paws.

It was almost easy to forget why he was here, sitting back on his bed, watching the sun sink slowly into the horizon from his bedroom window, setting the sky ablaze with color.

He remembered when he would do something like this with Courtney. Just two eleven-year-olds sitting on the roof of his two-story house watching the sunset. The shingles would always burn his back at first, digging hot fingers into his skin. But the discomfort would only last a few minutes before the summer sun would calm, painting every inch of the sky with a new kind of fire. Then, long after his parents had gone to bed, they'd spend more hours pointing out constellations, though most had been made up of laughing over ridiculous new ones they made up, neither scared of the future, only certain that they'd go through it together.

He deeply missed the old times, back when they were both naive and carefree. They seemed a lot simpler compared to what they had just gone through. But he wouldn't deny that now was any less important to him than then.

Courtney...

It never took long for Ben to start thinking about his best friend. He hadn't really given it much thought until now, but she seemed to have taken a lot of blows on their adventures so far. Nearly breaking the space-time continuum with her powers, losing an innocent individual in the Temps, watching Courtney Prime die twice...it seemed that he had been doing all the winning for them while she took all their beatings. It wasn't exactly a fair trade.

Whilst swimming in his growing pool of thoughts, his phone rang, lightly vibrating against the surface of his dresser, showing a photo of a boy with curly hair and glasses.

J.T.

Ben's eyes never left the scene outside his window as he answered the call. "Hey, J.T,"

"What's up, man? Just wanted to check with you real quick. Courtney wasn't answering her phone, so Clem and I figured we'd call you and see if you knew what was up with her."

Ben hesitated upon confrontation. So even their friends were catching on to her despondent attitude. "It's nothing, dude. She's just been going through...some stuff. She just needs some time to recover, is all."

"You sure?"

"Yeah. I'm going out to Mr. Smoothy's with her later, so I can double-check then, so don't stress,"

"...Well, if you say so, you've known her for longer. I've got a date with Amelia later today, so, y'know, probably gotta run soon."

Ben's brows lifted a little at the combination of "J.T" and "date" in one sentence. "A date, huh? Wow, well done, J.T."

His friend let out a dry laugh from the other end of the phone, but Ben could sense a nervous waver in his voice for the night ahead, lost in whatever scenarios were playing in his mind.

Ben could relate to those nerves wholeheartedly.

"Try to be subtle with Lawrence tonight," J.T advised through the phone. "We both know she can be pretty uptight if she doesn't want to admit to something."

"Preaching to the choir on that one..." Ben muttered, knowing all too well confronting her wasn't going to be easy.

"Best of luck to you, Tennyson,"

"You too."

***

"Dammit...dammit...dammit all...!"

A sharp pain shot across Courtney's hand as her shield toppled to the floor with a loud clank before dissipating.

"DAMMIT!"

Courtney clenched her fists in frustration for the fifth time. Her arm was still wasn't at full strength since their last battle in the Temps and it was annoying her. She was about to attempt it again when she heard a knock at the front door.

She slammed her Timewalker's badge on the dresser with a huffed sigh before getting up from her chair, more than grateful for the much-needed distraction from failing over and over again with the shield because she could not lift that stupid thing up-

When she answered, Ben stood at the doorway, hands behind his back, looking about as chill about the coming outing as Courtney was irked. She noticed his eyes shift to her arm, whose rolled-up sleeve bore the scars from their last battle and seemed to look more agitated as a result of her recent tests of strength. Avoiding eye contact with him, Courtney quickly rolled her sleeve back down as to hide the scars, shifting from foot-to-foot and giving a halfhearted wave as Ben continued to stare. "...Hey."

Emerald green eyes blinked, snapping him out of his trance. "Uh...hi."

"Let me just get my MoPed from the garage. It's still a little busted up from before, but it should still-"

Ben grinned at that, hands finally going out from behind his back to toss her a pair of riding goggles. "Mmmmm, not this time. You up for a ride?"

Not seeing a vehicle parked behind him, it took a moment for Courtney to realize what he was referring to. Before she could say anything, Ben reached into his pocket and drew his own Timewalker's badge, which transformed him into his trench coat. He did so at full strength too, Courtney noticed, slightly miffed that their intense fight hadn't affected him as much as it did her.

Materializing the Sword of Epoch, Ben tossed it down and it caught itself low over the ground, blowing up tiny clouds of dust from the sidewalk, now in hoverboard mode. Hopping on, he turned and held a hand out to her. "Ready to go?"

Courtney reluctantly took it after a moment's pause of sliding the goggles still gripped in her hands over her head and into place. She let him pull her up onto the hoverboard behind him, hands immediately going to wrap around his waist as it roared to life underneath, the familiar thrum starting up as Ben leaned forward and maneuvered it up and into the orange-tinted clouds.

It was a quiet evening flying over Bellwood. The sky was partly cloudy, hiding them from the public eye, the seemingly endless canvas of stars starting to blink to life in the distance, stretching for miles in front of them, the rising moon their first source of light soaring over the open space sprawled out below. The city lights began to wink, signaling the presence of busy cars and office buildings, the very world they had fought so fiercely to protect continuing its common cycle of life as if it had never been under threat to begin with.

The scene made Courtney feel peaceful the further they flew, settling her chin against Ben's shoulder, braid whipping behind her. Her anger and frustration from before seemed forgotten as she viewed the calm scene beneath them. Ben noticed her closer presence and his cheeks stung red, putting more throttle into the hoverboard by leaning forward, hoping the evening breeze would cool him so Courtney wouldn't notice.

All too soon, the thrumming came to a close behind a Mr. Smoothy's and Courtney was sliding off the hoverboard and onto her feet. Seeing Ben transform back with such ease once again reminded her of her foul mood from before. She grumpily followed him through the familiar bright-green doors to the counter, where he ordered his usual grape smoothie and her mango and blueberry. They both took a seat in their regular booth, right by the first window with the fountain view.

Considering Courtney would usually be prepared with some random topic before they even sat down, Ben already knew something was amiss, the way she uncharacteristically stared wistfully out the window without a word, her mocha-brown eyes locked on the spewing fountain outside. Deciding it was up to him to start a conversation, Ben cleared his throat. "So...nice night out, huh?"

"I guess," she replied. "Still don't think it was the best idea to whip out the hoverboard, but I guess we weren't seen, so..."

Ben frowned. He was sure that a spin on the hoverboard would've cheered her up. Still, he didn't give up. Remembering seeing her scars back at her house, he brought those up. "Um...how's your arm?"

"My arm's great," she muttered back. "Wounds are getting bigger all the time."

Courtney lifted her head from the perch of her palm slightly upon seeing Ben's concerned stare and looked away, slightly embarrassed. "Sorry. Just trying to lighten the mood..."

"That's what she calls lightening the mood?" Ben thought skeptically to himself. He turned to see one of the employees hold out a tray with their smoothies on it. They both took the foam cups off the tray and thanked her, shifting back to silence as they sipped their drinks. Seeing as they weren't getting anywhere being subtle, Ben knew he was going to have to stop beating around the bush.

"Sorry, J.T..." he apologized in his head as he faced Courtney again. "Hey, look bud, I know our last battle was kind of rough-"

Courtney scoffed. "'Rough.' Right. All that happened was an event that nearly destroyed all of reality as we know it and let me with a possibly permanent reminder of all the times I've screwed up as a Timewalker apprentice. 'Rough' is the LAST word I want to use for this."

Ben shook his head and sighed. "Courtney...the hardest thing about this job is that we can't do everything right. I'm sure every once in a while Paradox slips up too."

"Oh, so now you're comparing me to Paradox? As if I need another reminder of how BACKWARDS I've gone!"

Ben was suddenly miffed. "Okay, what the heck is your deal?! A few months ago, you were this raring-to-go kickbutt warrior, but now, you constantly look like you just scraped something gross off your shoe!"

As expected, Courtney didn't take kindly to this. "Why is it any of your business? We won, didn't we? Just drop it,"

"Well, you're sure not acting like we won! Care to explain why?"

"You wouldn't understand,"

"What won't I understand?!"

"Dude!" the voice of a slightly older boy sounded from behind their booth. The two turned to see a customer sticking his head out. "I know you're having issues with your girl, trust me, I get it, but you're making a scene, man!"

Ben's eyes darted around to double-check, only to notice half of the other customers were looking in their direction, and his cheeks flushed again, hardly daring to believe this was actually happening. "What?! No, you're crazy! I just-!"

"Hey, no need to be hostile, man! I'm just trying to help out, one bro to another,"

"I don't even know you!"

"Do you people mind?" another patron called from another table not too far away from the booth. "Some people are TRYING to enjoy their smoothies in peace!"

"Hey, I'm just helping this guy out with his lady issues," the first customer said defensively. "It's the bro code."

"Alright, that's my limit!" Courtney snapped, standing up. "I'm out of here!"

Courtney stormed out the front door, the exit's cheery jingle sounding much more ominous than it should've to Ben. "Aw, very nice!" the random guy complained. "Thanks for the unwanted assistance there, lady!"

"Okay, young man, FIRST of all-!"

Ben ignored the budding argument and followed Courtney outside just in time to see her stomping past the fountain. "Courtney, wait!"

Courtney halted, her shoulders still squared in anger. "Just...leave me alone, Ben. I need some time to myself."

"That's the last thing you need right now," Ben protested, his voice stern for a moment before melting into one of imploring. "Talk to me. Please."

After a moment's hesitation, Courtney's shoulders loosened, finally digressing and sitting on the cold stone edge of the fountain, head hung. Ben sat down next to her, eyes set on her before tilting towards the starlit night sky, ears open to catch her voice.

"Look, I know I should be happy because we saved the Temps and all of reality or whatever..." Courtney began solemnly. "But I can't shake the fact that our last battle really broke me."

"What do you mean?" Ben asked, turning to her.

Courtney bit her lip. "I mean, it's not that I don't enjoy being a Timewalker apprentice. It definitely has its quirks. I just...don't think I match up to them anymore."

Ben blinked. "'Anymore'?"

"I've been training to use the Pendulum Shield for who knows how long. And before our last battle, I thought I was really good at it. But I LITERALLY got whooped while you and the others managed to fight on without a scratch. It made me realize...I'm nowhere near the level a hero should be."

Courtney gazed back into the fountain pool, where a rippled copy of her face echoed her forlorn expression. "And to think, when I looked into the mirror, I thought I'd finally see someone worthwhile."

A glint of tears began to form on her pale eyelids. "But I was wrong...I see nothing!"

Courtney turned fiercely away from the fountain pool, her hand splashing the water and further distorting her image. Ben felt awful for her, moreover because he couldn't say it wasn't true. He and the other Bens HAD left the battle unscathed, while those scars she tried and failed to hide from him were just a reminder of her worries.

Still, he didn't want her to believe that. If only he could tell her somehow, in a way she'd understand, that she wouldn't be like this forever. One glance back at the fountain, whose spout was steadily getting smaller, along with the ripples it caused in the pool, gave him an idea.

"...Well, obviously you can't see anything in a reflection that's so agitated," he said, looking down at the pool, where his own reflection also looked warped. "The surface needs to regain its original composure before you can see anything in there. If you just give it time to cool down...you'll find what you're looking for."

Almost on cue, the fountain reached its cooldown point and the water spout stopped. Eventually, without the flow to disturb it, the ripples vanished, reflecting a picture-perfect image of the two best friends sitting at its side, the stars above twinkling like diamonds within the water.

"And when it all clears up, you know what I see?" Ben said, gently turning Courtney back to the fountain so she could see herself again. "A strong, independent, go-getter of a girl whose perseverance and upright refusal to back down got her and her best friend to where they are now."

Ben's encouraging compliments seemed to bring some life back into Courtney's expression. Her eyelids lifted a little, able to see her face clearly reflected in the water.

Ben scratched the back of his neck. "Courtney, I can't say what happened in our latest battle didn't happen for comfort's sake. Bad things DID go down and I know it's really hurt you."

Ben lifted his hand out to her. "But if I'm sure of anything, it's this: you'll bounce back. You always do. You did it when we got shot down by the Plumbers and you'll do it again now."

Courtney gave him a slow smile, clasping his hand in a familiar sign of friendship, blinking at him with a grateful fondness, remembering all the times they'd done this before. She really was lucky to have a friend like him to remind her that the burdensome feelings rushing through her mind were only fleeting, and that she would be her old self again, given time.

Before Ben could react, Courtney had him wrapped in a tight hug. "Thanks, Tennyson. I didn't know it, but I really needed to hear that."

Ben seemed a little surprised at the sudden movement, but he returned the hug with a smile. "Good to know. I was worried it was going to come off as cheesy."

"Oh, it was cheesy, alright. Nacho-level stuff, really. But, y'know, considering it worked, I guess I'm in no place to poke fun,"

"Ugh, all this talk about cheese is making me hungry. Wanna hit up Burger Shack and pig out on some chili fries?"

"Ah-hahaha! Does it always loop back to chili fries with you? Must've used too many of your braincells just to have a serious talk once in your life."

"Aaaaaaand we're back to square one. What do you want from me, woman?!"

Courtney laughed and got up from the fountain's edge. "C'mon, Hero Boy. We've got a long walk ahead of us,"

"Aww, can't we just take the hoverboard again?" Ben playfully whined as he followed suit and also got up.

"I dunno, do I get to push you off and get to steer for a change?"

"Alright, alright, we'll walk!"

"There, was that so hard to agree to? Friggin drama queen..."

"You threatened to push me off a flying object, I'd say that was an adequate amount of drama!"

"Oh, please, it's not like that's the first time I've done that,"

"That doesn't make it better!"

And so, continuing their playful banter, the two friends walked into the cool night air, all troubles made up. Perhaps more challenges awaited them in the near future, but at least now, they had the confidence that said challenges wouldn't trouble them forever.

Now THIS. This is perfect. Well nearly, I have one complaint:

(I won't disclose what actually happened, because spoilers)

That bugs me a little cos I don't know what happened, which seems kinda important at this point, but it isn't. I get that you don't want to go into further detail, but you could just not go into further detail. Like remove that sentence and you have the PERFECT embodiment of what the theme asks for; characters meaningfully affected by previous events and trying to return to some form of status quo. What actually happened is alluded to enough that we can picture it as something terrible without needing any greater detail. Very well written stuff.

Closing

A good effort all around, and congratulations to Jetra for winning!

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