Disclaimer- I don't own National Treasure. If you don't believe me, check for the absence of Riley running around shirtless in the movie.

Chapter One

Ian Howe stared at the decrepit hellhole that was his jail cell, wishing desperately for the millionth time that he had never heard the name Ben Gates. Or that he had scoffed at the idea of funding his ridiculous expedition- or at least killed him when he had the chance.

There were so many times I could have done it, he thought in agony. Why didn't I?

He could have been sitting in a custom built Ferrari on some Caribbean island, far away from the goddamned FBI, if he had just killed Gates and his minions instead of leaving them to die. He winced in distaste as a cockroach crawled across his floor. That old FBI officer must have had some wicked vendetta against him-he hadn't been able to bribe his way into a nicer penitentiary in the four months after his trial. Why was that guy Sadusky mad anyway? For Christ's sake, it was only a moldy old document!

He closed his eyes and mentally blew Ben's head off repeatedly until he calmed down. Then the tiny pangs of guilt started. He tried to will them away, but they hovered around his head and berated him with tinny, annoying voices that were beginning to sound like that insufferable brat Riley.

You never really wanted to kill Ben they whispered. You didn't…You didn't… You didn't……..
"Argh!" he yelled in frustration, banging his had against the bedframe.

The voices were gone, but now his head hurt like the devil. I'm going insane he thought. This place is slowly driving me insane.

It was true though, what the voices had said. Deep down, beneath the layers of deceit and cunning, he had never really wanted to kill Ben Gates, for a number of reasons. He had admired the man undeniably, with his determination to follow his dream, not to mention granite moral fiber, something Ian hadn't seen in years. Its that "moral fiber" of his that landed you in here, he reminded himself bitterly.

Ben had also trusted him entirely. At the time, he had considered that entirely foolish. No one trusted him, not even his own men.

And for good reason, he thought, smirking. Ian Howe was known to pull double, even triple crosses on a day-to-day basis. However, he had come to enjoy his trust as the time passed on. It had been a long time since anyone had trusted him.

Well, except for one person, he reminded himself.

And speaking of Claire, where is she? It was Wednesday-she came every other Wednesday. A sharp knock on his door interrupted his ponderings.

"Mr. Howe?" A sharp voice rang out. "Mr. Howe, you have a visitor."

Ian's door opened and his guard handcuffed him, leading him out of his room and down the harshly lit hallway to the state penitentiary's visiting room.

The third and final reason, Ian concluded, as he stumbled into the room, why he never wanted to kill Ben was that his determination and trust reminded him of the young woman who was watching him with concerned blue eyes as he sprawled out onto the char opposite from her. The Howe eyes. Grabbing the obnoxiously orange phone hanging on the Plexiglas that separated them, he lifted it to his face
"Hey little sis."

Claire Howe walked out of the state penitentiary trying hard not to burst out in tears. A parking lot next to a prison didn't seem to be the best environment to have an emotional breakdown, so she waited until climbing into her silver Jetta to let the waterworks come. Her big brother, her only living family, was rotting away in that stinking pit.

She tried to block out from her mind the gaunt face that greeted her with one of his trademark smirks that had been reduced to a pained grimace.

"Tell me all about Harvard Claire. You're not eating the food there, are you? It's probably worse then the crap they serve here"

Her brother, the comedian, she thought bitterly. He had reassured her that he was "peachy" and tried to bombard her with questions of graduate school meant to distract her. But she had noticed how much weight he had lost, his hideous orange jumpsuit hanging on his frame.

But what had really panicked her was the look in his eyes: That desperate wild look that James Howe had gotten the days before he took a self- inflicted bullet to the head, leaving his two children with millions of dollars to replace the presence of their father.

Ian's parole was in a week. She knew without a doubt that the board would not consider letting him out of a 20-year sentence after only four. All thanks to that asshole FBI officer who had insisted the "somebody needed to go to jail"

"Well, go find someone who isn't my brother!" She had screamed at him. Mentally, anyway. It seemed that she was always restricted to yelling at people in her head.

Next week the parole would be hell, just like it had been the last 3 times. She would sit and beg her heart out for them to release her brother, getting her hopes absurdly high and being crushed and angry when they, once again, reported that Ian Howe wasn't going anywhere. It would be exactly the same next week.


Unless she could get him to testify at the hearing next week. Shaking her head, she dismissed the thought immediately. She hated him. In other circumstances he would be her idol, but that asshole put her brother in jail and she hated him.

Plus, he would never testify…..would he?

Never…she had the feeling that he hated her brother as much as she hated him. But there was one way……….
She would do anything short of springing him out herself to get Ian out of prison. And if she possessed something that would tip the scale, it shouldn't matter how much she wanted it. Desperate times called for desperate measures. Digging out her cell phone, she pressed "0" and waited for the operator.

"Hello? Yes, I'd like the number for Benjamin Gates."