A/N: So, you gave me all those choices and I was like ASGDKJGH BENNY WAKES UP IN A WORLD WITHOUT ETHAN, HOW DARE YOU? And I had to fix it. So, merry Christmas!
Benny's normal routine pretty much consisted of wake up, eat breakfast, talk with Ethan, go to school, dick around with Ethan, come home, go to Ethan's house, play video games (with Ethan), and then go home (sometimes followed by "chat with Ethan on the Internet) and go to sleep. He'd wake up in the morning and do it all over again, and, quite honestly, he wasn't the slightest bit unhappy about his life. He had a good home, the world's best grandma, friends, and Ethan. At the end of the day, what more did a man need?
"I am not chugging a gallon of milk, Benny." Ethan hadn't been his usual self all night, snapping at Benny over every little thing.
Benny snickered, popping the cap off a fresh gallon. "Oh, come on. Whoever pukes first loses."
"It's going to be you because I'm not doing it."
"Ethan, Ethan, where is your sense of adventure?" he wheedled, throwing a friendly arm around his buddy's shoulders.
"It died, B. It died on the same night that we had to run away from vampires."
"Okay, okay, fine. When did you become such a party pooper? God."
Ethan frowned, shrugging off Benny's arm. "You don't like it, go hang out with Rory."
Benny snorted. "Oh, no. Sic me on Rory. Someone doesn't like me anymore." Even as he said it, though, he knew they weren't even talking about the milk or Rory. "E, dude, what's wrong with you?"
"Nothing." It was petulant and dismissive.
Benny packed up his stuff, swung his backpack back around his shoulders, and huffed. "Alright, be like this, whatever. You don't want me around, that's cool. Don't be such a little bitch about it, though, dude. Just say it, okay?"
"Benny, don't be that way-" Ethan reached forward to stop him from leaving, but Benny pulled away from him quickly.
"I don't want to be around you either, okay? Maybe it'd be better if I didn't inflict myself on you for awhile." He slammed the Morgan family door behind him, stopping when he heard a thump behind him. He thought about turning around but, instead, he muttered a curse and ran next door to his house. He'd call him in the morning, just like they always did after a fight, and they'd work it out. They always did; they'd never had made it as far as they have if they didn't. He dodged his grandmother's questions before he threw himself on his bed, still dressed, and fell asleep right there on top of his covers.
He woke up early the next morning, shivering in his pitch black bedroom. That right away was strange; he and Ethan always kept their blinds open on that side of their rooms so they could see if the other one was awake yet. He drug himself over to his computer and signed on through bleary eyes, a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. He brought his messages client up, yawning as it loaded all his settings, and frowned. None of the names on his list were right. Where was Rory? The worst of all was he couldn't find Ethan at the top. He scrolled through the various names on there, way more than he would have expected. He tried typing Ethan's name into the chat window but his call was denied.
Benny's heart sank. Ethan never denied his call, not even when they had pissy with each other the night before. He numbly went through his routine, startling himself when he discovered he had spent five whole minutes thinking in front of the mirror with toothpaste running down his chin. It had just been a stupid argument, over something they didn't even know what they were fighting about, and now Ethan was stonewalling him. He loitered over his breakfast, pushing eggs around desolately, until his grandmother pulled the plate out from under his fork. "You going to tell me what's wrong? You never sit still this long."
"Ethan won't talk to me." He threw the fork down and leaned back in his chair. "We had a fight last night and, I don't even think we were actually fighting over milk, you know? He was just, he was mad at me and I got mad at him pushing me out like that, and-" He ruffled his hair tiredly. "I don't know."
"Sweetheart," his grandmother sighed. "Who's Ethan?"
"Grandma," Benny snorted. "That's real cute but don't, okay?"
"Benny, I'm not kidding." Her eyebrows were low on her forehead, as if in confusion. "I know you have a lot of friends, but I've never met an Ethan."
"A lot of friends? Grandma, I've got four friends, and two of them would contest you on that fact."
There was a long pause before his grandmother put her hand on his forehead. "Did you hit your head in your sleep last night?"
"Whatever, grandma, I'm just going to go next door and-"
"I'm going to make Ethan talk to me."
"By annoying the Michaels?" she asked slowly, as if Benny really had obtained an unfortunate head injury in the night.
"No, the Morgans. Ethan Morgan. That's his name. They've lived next door to you for years. I was raised with Ethan. They have a little girl too, named Jane."
"The Morgans moved away years ago, before you ever came to live here. They didn't have any kids. They might now, though. How would you even know them?"
Benny felt itchy all of a sudden, like his skin was too tight, and he quickly shrugged on his coat and backpack. He ran out the door and towards the school. Ethan had loved Benny's grandmother all his life. Grandma had babysat Jane since the day she was born. None of this was right. He tore through the doors, sliding up to his locker, and quickly spinning the lock. All of his pictures and decorations were different. He couldn't find Ethan's face in any of them, where once he'd been in them all; a constant presence at Benny's shoulder. He dug through his papers but he couldn't find anything that was Ethan's. There were no notes passed in class, no stupid drawings down in the margins of his textbooks; nothing. He slammed it shut and banged his head against the unforgiving metal. A few other kids were filtering into the hallway, but Benny took no notice of them until a hand landed on his shoulder. He had expected it to be Ethan.
Instead, he found "Sarah!"
"Ben," she said with a smile.
Benny frowned. "You are way too happy to see me."
"Why shouldn't I be? Listen, Jesse-"
"Whoa, whoa, Jesse?" He stopped dead in his tracks. "Jesse's still around?"
Sarah frowned. "And why shouldn't he be? You're the one who helped him raise his coven once more, our little pet sorcerer." She ran a promising finger down his chest. "And we need your help again. The coven grows stronger-"
"Sarah, I'm sorry, I've got to-" he pulled himself away from her. "I'll help, I promise. I just, I got to-" He walked quickly down the hall, receiving slaps on the back from various kids, greetings from people who wouldn't have spoken to him in a thousand years before-
He swallowed quickly and ducked into the boy's bathroom. He locked himself in the largest stall at the end and sunk to the floor, throwing his backpack down beside him. It was all wrong. His hand fell into his hands, tears pricking at the back of his eyes, and he bit his lip to keep them at bay. After a moment of rubbing his temples furiously, trying to banish the emptiness he suddenly felt, he tore into his backpack and pulled out his grimoire. At least here he still had magic; at least he could try to fix this.
He sat there for hours, ignoring the shuffle of feet in and out of the bathroom and the ringing of the school bells. He read about earth magic, fire magic, water magic, but he couldn't find anything about time, about waking up in a world that was all wrong. He read every page of his grimoire, remembering nothing but the bitter taste of disappointment that nothing was going to help him. He threw it at the stall, feeling childish when it hit the tile at his feet. The bathroom was thankfully empty when he emerged, battered grimoire tucked back in the bottom of his backpack.
He walked quickly through the halls, hoping to avoid the teachers. He was cornered, though, by a tall red-head whose name he didn't know but she quickly introduced him to her tongue, pushed against the wall. "Did you miss me, Ben?"
"Um," he said stupidly. "Maybe I would have if I knew your name?"
He expected to be slapped. She laughed at him instead, placing kisses on his cheeks. "You are so cute, for a little human wizard boy." He saw then her red eyes and the sharp edges of her teeth. She was part of Jesse's coven, and he had a feeling that she was part of his reward for helping. He edged away from her slowly, letting her sharp, bloody red fingernails unravel from where she had been clutching his shirt.
He ran the rest of the way home, only stopping long enough to unlock the door. "Grandma!" he shouted.
"In here." He walked into his grandmother's library to find her surrounded by books. "I expected you home a lot sooner, Benny. As soon as you left this morning, I knew something was wrong."
"I read my grimoire, every page of it-"
"That won't help you. Your grimoire is basic spells, nature magic, things smaller than this. Benny, I think your magic misfired. You talked about Ethan like you knew him, and I didn't even know he was alive. You were too detailed, and you were unprompted. You knew the Morgans. I think you've been put in an alternate universe." Benny took the book she offered him and glanced at the pages as she continued. "You didn't do it on purpose, Benny. The opposite, actually. You wanted something so badly but your magic couldn't give it to you, so it took it away entirely."
His grandmother shrugged her shoulders, pushing another book in front of him. "A young spell master's magic does strange things, especially in the name of love and friendship." Benny felt distinctly uncomfortable under her gaze, and he shifted his focus to the second book. "They live one town over," his grandmother whispered. "I had to find my old address book. I had remembered that Sam had told me to forward any mail of theirs that accidentally came here before they left. And then I remembered, she'd been pregnant too. He might be there."
"Take the car. He's waiting." She kissed him, lips pressed into his head, and Benny leaned into it. He liked that there was one thing that was still the same, no matter what world he lived in.
He parked down the street, sitting still the car with the ignition turned off. He could see the house, and Jane was playing in the snow out front. He'd been sitting there for several minutes before he saw Mr. and Mrs. Morgan bundle Jane up and pack her in the car. He took a deep breath and bet it all on Ethan still being home. He knocked on the front door, stomach tied in knots. Ethan opened it, looking exactly like Benny had remembered him, even if he had only been away from him for a day instead of a lifetime. "Yeah?"
Benny opened his mouth and realized he had no idea what to say. Ethan raised an eyebrow at him and he cleared his throat. "Hi."
"Yeah, um, we're not buying anything today. Thanks."
"No, wait, um. I'm Benny and I, uh- I lost my best friend. And I was just- I realized something. I realized that, we weren't ever fighting about the stupid stuff we thought we were, that we were saying things without actually saying any of them.
"I work up this morning completely empty and alone and I couldn't figure out why, but then I did. I missed him. I missed him playing video games and I missed him making my bed for me in the morning after our sleepovers. I missed him getting hugs from my grandmother and I missed his mom giving me kisses goodnight, no matter how embarrassed we both were over it. And then I realized it was because, if there was anyone I wanted to fight about milk or clothes or how long my hair was, or how cold my toes were in the morning, for the rest of my life, it was him. And I needed to say that, out loud. Because I think I'd been saying it so much on the inside that everything went wrong out here. I can't save the world without him."
Ethan didn't interrupt his speech. He stood there, one hand on the doorknob behind him and a suspicious look in his eyes the whole time. "Okay?"
"I'm sorry, but- I need him back. I need him to know all these things. Thanks for, you know, listening." Benny walked away quickly, his hands deep in his pockets to hide the way his hands were shaking.
"My name's Ethan." Benny stopped. "And um, I hope you get him back. It sounds like you love him a lot." Benny smiled, because that was exactly the word he'd been too scared to use.
"Yeah," he agreed. "I do. I really do."
"See you around?" Ethan called.
"Yeah, see you around."
Benny didn't remember coming home. His grandmother was still busy at her spell books, muttering to him that there wasn't any simple spell that would fix it. Everything was iffy, risky, or downright banned magic. He closed the book for her, pointed at the clock, and told her to go enjoy bingo. He was just going to go to bed.
"I'll figure it out, grandma. Don't worry."
"But, you told him?"
"Sort of," Benny smiled sadly. "In my own way."
Up in his room, Benny opened the blinds. He looked across the yard at a Michaels' house. They had a home gym set up in what was Ethan's room in his world, and the young Mrs. Michaels was watching some cooking show while on the elliptical. He closed the blinds quickly, and laid down on his still made covers. He felt exhausted, even though it was early, and he could hear his phone chirping on his night stand, probably Sarah or Jesse, wondering where he was. He ignored them, preferring to wallow in his own grief.
He didn't even realize he'd fallen asleep until he woke up to the blinding winter sun reflecting off the snow outside. He could have sworn he'd closed them back last night. His phone was still ringing, and he wondered if they'd been blowing it up all night long. He buried his face under his pillow for a second, preparing himself for another day without Ethan, with Jesse and his coven running wild all over town.
His phone blissfully stopped ringing and Benny wondered if his grandmother would take pity on him and let him skip school today. He had to work out a plan on how to take Jesse's coven out, now that they were twice as big and twice as powerful. He heard his grandmother coming up the stairs and he drug himself up out of bed. "I'm up, I'm up, can I just not go today?"
"Why, so you don't have to see me?"
Benny turned around quickly, gaping. "Ethan?"
"Look, I know I was...touchy last night, but you can't just ignore my calls. You've never ignored my calls before, okay? That's not how we do things, Benny. Benny. Talk to me."
"What's your address?" Benny croaked.
"What? B, what are you- I live next door, idiot, what's your address?" Ethan frowned, crossing his arms.
"I'm back," Benny whispered. "I'm back!"
Ethan stated at his friend for a second. "Okay, so, I'm going to go out into the hall and I'm going to come back? And when I come back, you are going to be normal. Okay?"
"No, wait," Benny lunged for Ethan's arm. He caught him around the wrist and pulled him back. "Listen, I had- I had a nightmare, I guess, last night. I dreamed that you and I-, that we-, that we had never met. And in my dream, Jesse and his coven had won, and you lived in a whole other town and I... I found you." Benny kept his voice low and serious, brushing the pad of his thumb across the back of Ethan's hand. Ethan didn't move, didn't even take his eyes off of Benny.
"And you didn't know me. So I told you. I told you that I missed you, and your parents, and even Jane. That I missed you messing up my room and spending the night even though we both know we're too old for it now, and that I needed you back. That we needed to save the world again." Benny licked his lips, feeling suddenly more nervous than he'd ever been in his whole life. "I told you I loved you."
Ethan smiled, shy and nervous too, and leaned closer. "And what did I say?"
"You told me that you hoped I'd find you."
"And did you?" Benny was suddenly aware that Ethan's hand was sliding into his own, fingers laced between his.
"I think," Benny sighed, eyes fluttering closed, "that that's up to you now."
Ethan closed the distance, pressing his lips against Benny's gently. Benny wrapped his free hand in Ethan's shirt, pulling his as close as he could, with the intention of never, ever letting him go. Ethan licked at Benny's lips gently, tilting his head when he opened up to him. When they broke apart, Ethan rested his forehead against Benny's, letting their breath mingle between them, and their hands still tangled together.
"We weren't fighting about milk, were we?" Ethan panted, rubbing his nose against Benny's cheek.
"I don't think we ever were," Benny chuckled.