A/N: I had so much fun with the first one; I decided to do a second one. And maybe a long fic, if I can work out the problems with the plot that thus far seem to have no solution.
You know, no matter how many times I watch the movie, I always forget that Riley isn't Ben's little brother. I've seen it five times now, and I still expect him to call Ben's father Dad every single time. I think it's his loyalty to Ben. You expect someone that would stick by you through all that would be related.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the people populating this little fic. Which is a pity. The 'under the tounge' conversation between Ben and Riley isn't mine either, but I cannot for the life of me remember where I read it before. I know it's another National Treasure fic, but…well it ISN'T mine, anyway.
Summary: Riley has a cold, Abby gets to nag, and Ben once again plays observer in his own life. [BenAbby and BenRiley Brotherly Fluff.
"I don't think pancakes are supposed to do that." Abby made a face at the brown blob on Ben's ancient cast-iron skillet. The skillet may have fit in with the antique décor, but it was probably less than ideal for making pancakes.
"Oh, are you an expert on pancakes as well as ancient manuscripts?" Ben asked, mock surprise interjected into his voice.
"Yes, as a matter of fact, I'm particularly good at making them."
"Well," Ben paused long enough to flip his slightly lopsided pancake over. "It is, actually, supposed to do that with my Grandfather's recipe."
"It's supposed to make a giant bubble?" Abby pointed to the pancake. Said bubble was no longer visible, but her husband knew what she was talking about.
No, as far as Ben knew it wasn't supposed to form huge bubbles that threatened to explode and make a mess of the house he and his wife had just finished cleaning at ten o' clock last night, but he wasn't going to admit that.
He was saved trying to come up with an excuse by a loud sneeze that echoed throughout the multiple empty rooms on the spacious first floor. Abby looked at him in confusion before Ben clicked off the stove, and they both peered into the dining room.
Riley was currently wiping his nose on the sleeve of his jacket, engrossed with something on the screen of his laptop, as he sat at their dining-room table. Apparently, he hadn't noticed they had come into the same room as he yelled, loud enough to have been heard just about anywhere in the house, "I'm telling you, Ben! Maid service would do you wonders! This dust is murder on my allergies!"
"Does he even have allergies?" Abby whispered, frowning.
"It's Riley," Ben whispered back, "Of course he has allergies."
Not that he actually bought into the dust causing the sneeze. He'd been forced to dust in here just the day before. There might be dust in the room, but it wasn't the source of Riley's sniffley misery.
They watched as Riley, probably still oblivious to their presence, put his head on the table and proceeded to glare at his laptop like it was somehow responsible for his still-dripping nose.
Ben sighed and rolled his eyes as the young computer whiz began to cough slightly.
Abigail was on top of Riley before he'd even lowered the hand that was covering his mouth. He let out a startled yelp as Abby jerked him upright and put the back of her hand on his forehead – knocking his glasses askew in the process.
"Riley, you're hot!" Abby admonished as Riley managed to scoot back along the bench he was sitting on and out of her reach.
"I'd thank you for the compliment, but you're married, and your husband is standing right there," Riley quipped back with a scowl, straightening his glasses.
She ignored him, returning his scowl almost perfectly. "You're feverish."
"Am I?" Riley put his hand against his own forehead dramatically and looked up at the ceiling. "Hm…nope. Feels like exactly ninety-eight point six degrees Fahrenheit to me." He lowered his hand and quirked the corner of his mouth into a sarcastic smile. "Or thirty-seven degrees Celsius as you European types probably prefer."
"I'm American," Abby muttered without any real conviction.
Ben smiled to himself, shaking his head. If Riley was making cracks about her accent and national origin, he was too tired to come up with anything else. The last time he'd tried had been New Years, and Abby had promptly sent him to bed at around two A.M.
"You're sick, Riley." Abby reprimanded, standing up. "And you're getting it all over your sleeves and my oak dining room table."
"Last time you told me it was maple," came his pouted response.
"No, I definitely told you it was oak. Because it's oak."
Ben sighed, heading towards the bathroom. That boy was great at causing a distraction when he had to, and leading Abby off on tangents would be a great way to avoid talking about Riley's health.
Digging through the medicine cabinet, Ben quickly found what he was looking for and he picked the individually wrapped thermometer out of the well-stocked first aid kit. He headed back towards the kitchen, but Abigail met him halfway and snatched it out of his hand.
"Perfect. Thank you, Ben." Abby turned around, not waiting for her husband to respond before marching back into the kitchen.
Ben rolled his eyes and followed her, deciding that hoping those two could sort this out without killing each other was a bit too much to leave to chance.
"Alright, Riley, open your mouth." Abby's sweet smile and voice sort of reminded Ben of the way Jafar talked to Jasmine in the beginning of that Disney movie – forced and through his teeth.
Riley eyed the thermometer in her hand the same way Ben had once seen him eyeballing Ian's pet snake. He was afraid of snakes, and apparently thermometers too. "I'll take a rain check on that, Abigail."
"You really think you don't have a fever? Prove it." She smirked as she held out the object the younger man was still eyeing like it might be deadly.
He scowled before reaching out and taking it from her. A couple minutes of fumbling to get the wrapper off passed before Riley opened his mouth and, eyeing Abby the whole time, put the thermometer in.
Ben smiled as he watched the other man's jaw shift ever so slightly. He knew that trick. He'd tried to use it on his father once; when he was in eighth grade so that he could still go on a field trip to the Museum of Natural History. "Under your tounge, Riley."
"Traitor," he muttered, looking so much like a kicked puppy, with his bottom lip hanging out, that Ben almost wished he hadn't said anything.
"Time," Abby announced a beat later, and she looked up from studying her watch to remove the thermometer from Riley's mouth as he half spat it out. "A hundred and one, Riley, or, if you prefer it, thirty eight point three."
"Cute. You do the math for that in your head?" Riley asked, turning back to his computer, "So, I have a fever. It's not dangerous. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some presentations to do for that museum exhibit like I said I…"
Both Ben and Riley jumped when Abby reached over and slammed the lid of his computer shut before reaching behind it, unplugging it, and picking it up.
"Hey!" Riley sounded as indignant as Ben had ever heard him. "Hey, Abby, that's really delicate equipment! You can't just…"
The blonde ignored him, pushing past Ben into the kitchen. Ben followed her, partly to avoid getting shoved over as Riley chased her. She stopped, opening the lid to the garbage can holding the computer precariously over it.
"Abby, be reasonable," Riley was shaking his head, and Ben laughed a little as the kid pulled out his best pout, tilting his head so his glasses slid down his nose and he could use those big blue eyes of his to their best effect. It probably would have worked better if he hadn't started coughing.
"You're going to bed. And you're going to stay there until you're better. Is that clear?" Abby let the laptop swing loosely in her hand, and Riley's eyes followed it as he stopped coughing.
"It's just a cold, Abby. Please. Don't do this. You're not that cruel, you wouldn't…" Riley's last words came out as a strangled yelp as she released his computer. Ben was fairly certain the other man even stopped breathing until Abby caught it again, a few feet closer to the can.
"Wouldn't I?" Abby was full out smirking now, reminding Ben very strongly of when they'd seen her the first time in her office. She was in her element, and she was sexy like that.
"Ben." Riley turned on him now, looking pitiful as he sniffled and obviously struggled not to reach up and wipe it on his sleeve. Ben could feel himself wanting to give in like he did every time.
That's how Riley had 'volunteered' to come with him in the first place. He'd stopped by Riley's office after a lead that had told him Riley's boss at the time might have technology to help him. The man had laughed in his face, laughed him right out of the office. As he was leaving, Riley had rolled out of his cubical.
"I believe you." That's all he'd said.
It had been enough for Ben to turn around and look at him. Riley had looked pretty pathetic then, too; pale from lack of sunlight, his hair standing up in every direction, and a shirt that was worn down enough he could almost see through it. But he'd looked up at Ben, not a hint of a joke on his face, and had said it again. "I believe you, and I want to help."
"No offense, kid," he'd half-smiled, turning away again. "But I don't see how a scrawny little guy like you can help me all by yourself."
Ben had turned around again and found his vision instantly locked on the most desperate, pleading pair of blue eyes he'd ever seen looking at him over thick glasses. Standing there like that, in clothes far too large for him, Riley had looked just like a little kid asking for a few more minutes before bed. It was absolutely endearing, and the first genuine smile in several months had made its way onto Ben's face.
"You really think that you alone can help me?" He couldn't keep the disbelief out of his voice, but Riley hadn't seemed phased.
"Sir, I know I can." He'd lifted his head then, sliding the glasses back up. Ben still couldn't decide whether letting them fall down had been deliberate or not. He just couldn't find proof one way or the other that Riley always knew what his looks could do to people.
"Alright then, kid."
"My name isn't 'kid'. It's Riley. Riley Poole."
"Okay then, Riley. Let's see what you can do."
The younger man's face had instantly lit up, something it wasn't going to be doing this time. Prolonged exposure to what he secretly called Riley's "but-don't-you-love-me?" pout had given him a bit of a resistance. The fact that Abby's eyes promised prolonged suffering if he didn't agree with her was also helpful.
"You know, Riley, bed rest will help you get over it that much quicker." He smiled, trying to soften the betrayal, but the sniffling young man still looked completely disconsolate. Riley couldn't have looked more let down if Ben had dropped his laptop in the garbage himself.
"Alright," he whispered down to his converse, refusing to meet Ben's eyes, "Fine. I'll go home and go to bed."
"Oh no you don't. You think I'm going to let you go home, just so that you can get out of taking care of yourself? No, you're staying in your room here." Abby put the laptop on the counter, much to Ben's relief. He'd been sure that if she went on much longer he was going to have to take that laptop from her just to make Riley stop looking like that.
Ben walked over and put a hand on Riley's blue hoodie clad shoulder, steering him toward the door. "Come on, kid," he whispered, smiling reassuringly. "If you behave, I'll see if I can smuggle your computer up to you later."
He got half a smile for his effort, and Riley allowed himself to be lead up to the second-story guest-room that Abby had affectionately dubbed their son's room, since Riley kept most of his things in there. Ben was pretty sure the third member of their little trio had more of his worldly possessions—from clothes right down to his collection of original Transformer toys— in that little space then he did in the minuscule one-room apartment Riley rented in the city.
And Abby had made him clean it up during their pre-holiday tidying up, while Riley had complained the whole time about being bossed around like a child. The fact that about fifty-five percent of the time he acted like one was plainly willfully ignored.
Ben stood, supervising, while Riley stripped off his hoodie and shirt and put his glasses on the bedside table, before collapsing onto the bed.
"You all settled?"
"Yeah, yeah. You don't have to take care of me you know." Riley lifted his head off the pillow long enough to fix Ben with a keen glare, obviously forgetting he was still pouting.
"Somebody has to, Riley," was the easy response. To avoid making the situation awkward, Ben chose to ignore the surprised and pleased look that flashed briefly across his best friend's face. "Now, get some sleep if you can, alright? It'll get Abby off both our backs."
"I didn't know she was on yours," the man under the blankets muttered to him as Riley climbed under the navy blue comforter. "Or, if she was, I thought you'd enjoy it. Or is that if she's…"
"Good night,Riley." Ben shook his head before shutting the door and retreating back downstairs. Honestly, he didn't know which was worse; Abby in mother-hen mode, or a sick Riley trying to be funny.
"Is he going to sleep now?" Abby asked once he'd reentered the kitchen. She'd dumped out the half-cooked pancake and batter and was now working on making a completely new batch. That was probably just as well. He couldn't have said for sure if those pancakes would have even been edible.
"Yeah, he'll be good. Did you really have to threaten his computer? That was kind of mean."
Abby turned to smile at him. "You still don't understand the concept of a bargaining chip, do you?"
"Cute." Ben walked over the fridge, pulling it open and looking for the milk. He was sure it was there somewhere…
After a quiet breakfast with his wife and a few hours deciding how best to arrange the furniture for Thanksgiving, Ben was sent up with some cold medicine and chicken noodle soup for his best friend. He strongly suspected that Abby was just getting him out of the room so she could put the couch under the window like she wanted.
"Riley?" Ben stuck his head in the door, looking around for his friend, and he chuckled at what he saw. The younger man was fast asleep, lying on his stomach, with a comic book slipping out of his lax grip, and snoring softly.
Still laughing quietly, Ben put the soup and meds down on the nightstand. He removed the comic book and pulled the blanket up higher over his friend before gently ruffling the already mussed hair. "Sleep well, Riley, and get better soon."