DISCLAIMER: I do not own Riley Poole or National Treasure. I only own Casey and Alex.

(5 ½ years ago…)

"I still can't believe that you even went there in the first place…" Alex said as she shook her head at Riley.

"Well, how was I supposed to know that Mia would have stood me up on the date," Riley retorted.

"You're an idiot," Alex replied as she did her homework.

"Am not," Riley snapped back, working on his laptop.

"Are too."

"Am not."

"Are too times infinity times infinity times three."

Riley looks up from the laptop screen to stare at the tomboy-dressed woman sitting on his cousin's bed. Her hair, cut short when he first met her, was now at her shoulders in layers. Her layered tresses were a dark-chocolate color with faded red highlights and a caramel bronze coloring at the tip of her layers. Dressed in black cargo pants and a white tank top underneath a red zip-up Element hoodie, Alex looked more of a skater-punk than a 3.7 GPA student.

"How do you do it?" Riley asked out of nowhere.

Alex looked up from her homework.

"How do I do what?" she asked, confusion etched onto her face.

"Keep the façade of this tough person in front of others while, with one or two close friends, you can be rather annoying and act child-like?"

Riley would have expected Alex to get offended and try to stray away from the question…but, he was rather surprised when she answered his question.

"Because I look up to my older brother. Ever since we were kids, Ben was always convinced of finding the lost treasure," Alex said with a sigh. "So, you would think that he would be popular while growing up and forget about the treasure…well, he didn't forget about it and he never was popular. He was made fun of all the time in middle school and it didn't stop until he graduated from high school. So…in light of that, I had to make a reputation of a hard-ass, cold-hearted bitch. I still believe that he'll find the treasure and that he'll be popular someday…for now, I'll just have to act all uninterested."

Riley was surprised at the way she answered his question. He nodded his head in agreement.

"One of these days, I'll let down my guard of being tough…and act like I would be when I'm not being tough…and it does feel rather nice for a change."

"But, haven't you even tried to-?" Riley asked.

"Having a boyfriend isn't easy for me…I have my standards and I rather date someone that I can trust and be comfortable being myself than date someone that would want me to change completely for him," Alex replied.

So, she wanted someone to treat her right, Riley thought to himself.

"…If I had to choose out of the selective few that I can trust to date…I'd choose you over anyone else," Alex said, looking into Riley's eyes.

Riley's heart stopped for a few seconds before continuing its beating. She would date him??? Over anyone else that she knows of???? Before Riley could say anything, Casey walked into the room.

"What's this? You two are not fighting for once? That's a first in six months…" the pink-highlighted blonde said as she plopped on her bed next to Alex.

"Nah…just a mutual understanding, Case," Alex said as she went back to her homework.

"Mutual understanding of what, may I inquire?"

"Nothing more than a mutual understanding in general, Cassandra," Riley said as he focused on his laptop again.

Casey shrugged her shoulders as she went to read her novel. She would have noted the glance that the two had given to one another if she had looked up at the right moment. Overlooked by her, there began a sincere admiration from Riley Poole towards Alex Gates.