Numb

Summary: Riley is tired of living in Ben's shadow. Will their friendship hold out? No slash, just fluffy moments. Takes place in BoS. Set to the song by the same name. Warning: Contains spoilers!

A/N: I was randomly inspired for this when I saw the movie with my dad, and I think this is how Riley should be feeling. This takes place right after they all escape from Mount Rushmore, but right before Agent Sadusky discovers them. This is set to the song "Numb" by Linkin Park. Please review! This is my first National Treasure fic, so no flames please! Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I do not own Ben or Riley, nor do I own the song. That belongs to Linkin Park.

"Tired of being what you want me to be,

Feeling so faithless, lost under the surface."

Riley sat on the park bench that had been placed on the winding dirt path that led up to the four famous stone heads that made up Mount Rushmore. He shivered a little despite the towel that was draped over his shoulders, partially shielding him from the crisp mountain breeze. As he sat watching the many families excitedly climbing the trail to view the larger-than-life presidents, he couldn't help but feel relieved just to be alive. Nearly drowning beneath Mount Rushmore didn't seem worth it to him, even though he and Ben had found the City of Gold with the help of Abigail, Ben's parents Patrick and Emily, and Mitch Wilkinson, who had died to save the rest of their lives.

Then, he gasped when fear suddenly took him. It could have been Ben that had drowned, not Mitch. It almost was Ben too, but Mitch had decided at the last possible moment to stay behind, even though his best friend still had offered. Riley sighed as a thin line of tears formed in his eyes. He had tried to go back for Ben when he had been trapped, but he had been unable to do anything. Ben had only been saved by Mitch's sudden change of heart…

"Don't know what you're expecting of me,

Put under the pressure of walking in your shoes."

He had met Ben in his freshman year of high school, and even though Ben was three years older than he was, he had still been friends with him when he was in college, but they had lost touch after graduation. Riley smiled a little when he remembered how Ben had suddenly showed up at his tiny, windowless cubicle with another friend from college, Ian Howe, miraculously able to find him after about two or three years without speaking. That was the day that he had been invited to go on the adventure of a lifetime, and he had been wrapped up in treasure hunting ever since.

Riley sighed as his smile vanished, trying to blink his tears away while more appeared. Though Ben was his best friend, his brother, someone that he could tell anything to, he also felt something else toward him that felt dangerously close to being jealously. Ben was always getting the recognition for what they achieved together. Ben always seemed to come up with the plans to get them out of danger. Ben hadn't even opened the package containing the copy of his book that he had sent him until they had desperately needed it. And Ben got the girl. Compared to Ben, he was nothing- just some "extra baggage" that was being dragged along behind the famed treasure hunter. Riley knew that no matter what he accomplished, he would always be living in Ben's shadow.

"Every step that I take is another mistake to you.

And every second I waste is more than I can take."

Then, he gasped when a hand suddenly landed on his shoulder from behind him. "There you are, Riley," said a familiar sounding voice. "I've been looking all over for you."

Riley looked up and saw that none other than Benjamin Franklin Gates was standing behind him, the towel that had once been occupying his shoulders now hanging over his other arm. Concern flashed across the treasure hunter's face when he saw the thin line of tears in his friend's eyes.

"Oh, it's you," Riley muttered as he turned away from him. Not the younger man's normal greeting, Ben noted.

"My parents, Abigail, and I are going to be heading down soon," Ben continued, removing his hand from Riley's shoulder and sitting beside him on the bench. "Is everything all right, Riley?"

Riley slowly raised his eyes to meet his older friend's gaze, but he had no idea what to say to answer his question…

"I've become so numb, I can't feel you there.

Become so tired, so much more aware.

I'm becoming this. All I want to do

Is be more like me and be less like you."

"Fine," Riley lied, but by the look on his friend's face, he could tell that Ben didn't believe him. He always did have the ability to see right through him.

"Riley…"

"All right." Riley didn't even know how to begin to tell Ben what was on his mind. Ben had always been the one person that he trusted unconditionally, but now that feeling was beginning to crack inside of him. What would happen if it shattered?

"Can't you see that you're smothering me?

Holding too tightly, afraid to lose control."

"I almost lost you in there, Ben," Riley said, deciding to get his first concern off his mind. "A couple of times…"

Ben sighed as he watched a large group of people walk on the path ahead of them on their journey to Mount Rushmore, remembering clearly what his friend was talking about. He could see in his mind's eye when he, Riley, Abigail, and Mitch had to balance their weight equally on the large, perfectly balanced stone slab or else they would fall to their deaths. Both Abigail and Riley had done the math and determined that one of them had to stay behind so that the others could escape. Riley had offered, but it had turned out to be himself who had been the last one and barely escaped with his life. Then, as the City of Gold was being flooded, one of them had to stay behind to hold the door open so that the others could escape. Ben inwardly cringed when he remembered that Mitch had chosen him to keep it open, but the tables had turned. He had been able to get out while Mitch stayed behind, the heroic act costing his life. That had almost been him…

But what if it would have been Riley? What if Mitch had chosen Riley instead of him to stay behind and hold the door open? What if Riley had been the last one on the stone slab, teetering on the edge of life or death? Ben couldn't have lived with himself if he had allowed something to happen to his best friend.

"'Cause everything that you thought I would be

Has fallen apart right in front of you."

"It was better me than you, Riley," Ben finally said, getting a confused look from the computer whiz. "Trust me."

These words made Riley feel even more horrible instead of consoling him. He quickly turned his face away from Ben as more tears came to his eyes, hoping to hide them from his friend.

But he was too late. "There's something else bothering you, isn't there, Ri?" Ben asked quietly.

Riley grimaced at the name that Ben had called him. "You haven't called me that since we were in high school."

"Yeah, because I know you hate it, and it's the only way that I can get information out of you," Ben said. "Now, what else is bothering you, Riley?"

"And I know I may end up failing too.

"But I know you were just like me with someone disappointed in you."

Riley sighed as a single tear finally leaked from his eye. "Ben, let me ask you something," he said quietly. "Have you ever felt shadowed by someone as though no matter what you did, no one noticed?"

Ben felt his stomach drop at the question. "Riley…"

"No, Ben. Please, let me finish," Riley told him. "You're my best friend, and I'm grateful for that. But no matter what we do together, you are always the one being recognized for it. Don't get me wrong, I don't want all the fame and glory and stuff like that. But… I'm always being compared to you, Ben. All anyone ever knows is the famed treasure hunter, Benjamin Franklin Gates. You can ask anyone if they know who Riley Poole is, and they'll say, 'Riley who?' I'm nothing compared to you, Ben, just some… extra baggage that you have to lug around with you… I'm not even your shadow. I'm constantly in your shadow. I don't think I'm cut out for this treasure hunting thing, Ben. I'm not like you. Maybe… maybe I shouldn't have left my tiny, windowless cubicle after all…"

"I've become so numb I can't feel you there.

Become so tired, so much more aware.

I'm becoming this. All I want to do

Is be more like me, and be less like you."

The older man sighed as he placed his arm around his best friend's slouched shoulders, saddened when he watched tears fall faster from his eyes. "First off, Riley, I don't know where you get the idea that you are extra baggage that I have to lug around. You're anything but that," he told him. "Do you know how much you help these hunts along? I would never have been able to steal the Declaration without your help and technology. I wouldn't have been able to get into the queen's desk at Buckingham Palace without you. Riley, without you, we definitely would never have been able to find those treasures. You are not like me, but you are not living in my shadow. I couldn't have been able to do half of the things that you have done for me. I know that, and you know that. That's all that matters."

Riley looked up at him curiously. "You mean that?" he asked.

Ben smiled as he shook the younger man once. "You bet," he answered.

A smile spread across Riley's face as he watched his best friend stand up, not knowing hoe he thought that he could have ever doubted his unconditional trust of Ben. It now seemed impossible…

Ben bent down and picked up an oddly colored leaf, ranging from deep green to a sunset yellow. He inspected the veins that ran through it carefully, another smile appearing on his face as he recognized the pattern. "Hey, Riley. This will give you something to look at on our way down the mountain," he said, handing it to his younger friend as he passed him. "Even nature hides secrets sometimes."

Riley looked down on the leaf that had been handed to him in disbelief. "You're kidding," he scoffed. But when he got no response from his friend, he quickly followed him down the spiraling dirt path. "Ben?"

End

A/N: I hope you enjoyed it! Remember, no flames please. Thank you for reading! Your reviews are much appreciated!