A/N: I seem to have lost my Christmas muse, but finding out one of my best friends is as National Treasure obsessed as I am gave me back a sort of muse for something. I hope you guys enjoy this one!
Don't look for continuity in my stories unless I say it's sequel/prequel to another one. The more I study a fandom, the more my theories and opinions on certain things change. So, if there are contradictions between this one and the others…the newest fic will be the one I currently believe.
Disclaimer: I still don't know for sure who would own these guys, but I do know it isn't me.
Summary: Riley and Ben take a break from life, and end up discussing it. BenRiley Brotherly fluff. Some BoS spoilers.
The only sounds that could be heard were the soft whispers of rain against their canvas shelter, the tap-tap of laptop keys, and the curses Riley was whispering under his breath in an uninterrupted stream.
Ben grinned, peering over the top of his book at his friend who was sitting cross legged on his own sleeping bag. "Can I say I told you so now or do you want a few more minutes?"
The younger man made a noncommittal noise and continued to try and glare his laptop into submission before shutting the lid with a snap and an aggravated sigh. If it had been anything but his precious computer, Riley probably would have thrown it at the tent wall. As it was, the laptop was placed down on the ground beside the younger treasure hunter with only the minimum amounts of care.
Ben rolled over onto his stomach, watching in amusement as Riley continued to scowl at the computer, "you're not going to get an internet signal out here. You know that, probably better than I do."
"I had to hope," was the muttered response as the young brunette took off his glasses, carelessly lying them on top of the laptop, before allowing himself to flop over onto both the sleeping bags and take up as much room as possible. "Ben, there's nothing to do."
"I told you to bring a book in case it rained."
"Can't I just borrow one of yours?"
"Nope." Ben shut his book with an audible snap and peered over his shoulder at his best friend. "Besides, you don't really want to read about Paul Revere anyway."
"Man, Ben, don't you read anything…you know, interesting?" Riley rolled over onto his stomach as well, looking idly out the tent flap into the drizzling rain. "This is almost as bad as that time we got stuck in the Amazon. Except then at least I had some magazines from our guide to look at."
Ben chuckled appreciatively, rolling over onto his back so he could continue to look at the younger man and still be comfortable. That Amazon trip had been back when it was just the two of them, looking for both clues and funding to help them find the Templar treasure. A lead had led them down to South America—something that wasn't uncommon for them; they'd been to every continent but Antarctica—during the rainy season. It had been wet, miserable, and in the end led them only to a dead end.
Riley had claimed the trip wasn't a complete waste of time, as he'd learned how to ask a girl out in Spanish from somewhere.
This, Ben reflected, was by no means the first time he and Riley had camped together, but this was the first time since Abby had come into the picture. No, before Abby. They hadn't been camping together since Ian had agreed to fund their search for the Charlotte.
He'd already worked with Riley for three years, since the kid was eighteen, before Ian had even entered the picture. A lot of that time had been spent globe trotting, and since they had little money to spare those trips had almost always involved camping.
It had been far too long since they'd been able to escape and just be themselves, so when Abby had suggested that they take a weekend for a boys' night out neither of them had complained. There were certain things—like their past exploits, or those magazines—that they avoided discussing around anyone else, and it was always good to get a chance to reminisce about them.
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the guide keep pushing them in your face, and you kept looking away all red faced and flustered?" The older man grinned as he sat up fully, folding his hands in his lap.
Riley pulled off some expression that was a combination between a scowl and a pout, leaning slightly towards the later. "Yeah, well, you didn't see what was in them. He left you alone. He was scared of you, you know."
"Really? Can't imagine why."
"Might have had something to do with you chewing him out in the first two minutes for trying to back out of the deal he made."
"Maybe." Ben snickered to himself, shaking his head. He might have been a little more understanding with the man if he hadn't just had a huge fight with his father before leaving. Patrick had accused Ben of not only wasting his own life, but dragging Riley down with him. And, hate it though he did, a part of Ben had agreed.
Some small part of Ben always regretted the way he'd come into Riley's life, disrupting it in every possible way when he suddenly stumbled into the teenager's life. The rest of him was selfishly glad that Riley had fallen into his life and been there to brighten the darkest times of his life.
Riley hadn't exactly dropped out of college when Ben had asked the younger man for his help. At first, it was even supposed to be a one time thing for Riley to hack into security and give Ben time to get a closer look at something he needed (he hadn't intended to turn that particular activity into a regular past time). By the time they'd gotten stuck in the Amazon, he and Riley had been working together for two years, and the younger man was taking primarily online classes to finish up the degree he'd left behind because he believed in Ben.
It had been the memory of Riley sitting up late after days of hiking and interviewing, trying to get the patchy internet service in some run down hotel, so he could turn in an assignment last minute that had convinced Ben to believe in the President's Book almost before he'd asked Sadusky for confirmation.
It wasn't that he didn't believe Riley, exactly. He had believed that the book existed, in some way, but he needed to be beyond a doubt sure, and try as he might he couldn't believe on pure blind faith like Riley could. Going to jail—and it would have been him going, never Riley, he'd promised himself long ago—for something that might possibly not be real just hadn't made sense.
He still hated himself for not being able to believe the way Riley could. Hated himself more every time the younger man showed just how deep his belief in Ben went.
Ben watched as the other man started picking at a loose thread sticking out of the seaming on Ben's blue sleeping bag, a distant smile on his face. "We had some fun times back then."
"Some," Ben conceded, lying back down again. "Some not so fun ones, too."
Like the time Riley had been held hostage by some people who wanted a cut in the treasure. Or when they'd been trapped in some ruins by a cave in. Or crashed in the Rockies miles from civilization. Or any of the innumerable times the two of them had nearly died in some horribly grotesque way.
In retrospect, it was no wonder that Ian trying to kill them on the Charlotte hadn't fazed Riley in the slightest.
"This probably will be your first camping trip ever that won't end in a near death experience," Riley conceded. They knew each other so well that Ben hadn't needed to explain what he meant.
They fell into silence for a minute or too, Ben could feel Riley still picking at the thread, before the youngest of the pair spoke again in a voice that was obviously trying and failing to be conversational, "do you ever wonder what it's like?"
"What what is like?"
"Death. Do you ever wonder what it feels like?"
Ben frowned up at the green roof of the tent, watching the shadows of the trees overhead play weirdly in the half-light created by the storm. "I can't say I have, Riley."
"You don't ever even wonder?" Riley rolled onto his back, tilting his head back so he could look up at Ben. "Not even a fleeting thought about it?"
"Not as a general rule, no," the former treasure protector frowned as his friend looked away. When Riley had reminded silent for too long, Ben nudged him with gently with his foot. "What are you thinking about?"
"It sounds more morbid than it actually is when I say it out loud."
Riley still wasn't looking at him, his face was turned toward the half open tent flap as if trying to catch the breeze blowing in through the screen, "I was just wondering if I died right now if it would matter."
Ben sat up so fast it gave him slight vertigo, but he managed to stay up right, "Riley, don't even think that! Of course it would matter."
Blue eyes rolled up to look at him, "I don't mean to you, Ben, though I appreciate the sentiment. I mean, like, to the world. Besides you and Abs, would anyone even notice?"
This was a more complex, though no less disturbing, question. One that Ben was not entirely sure he had an answer for. Instead, he settled back down on his elbows and waited for Riley to continue.
It took a few quiet moments, but Riley seemed to get that eventually as he began to elaborate. "If we were to, say, get in a horrible wreck on the way home tomorrow all the headlines would read something like 'Famous Treasure Hunter Killed', and the stories would talk about you and everything you've done. People would know you, and mourn that you'd died so young because there were so many great things you could have accomplished, and so on."
Ben was tempted to interrupt and point out that Riley never referred to him as young, but wasn't given the chance as Riley didn't even pause before continuing his thoughts. "Me, on the other hand…I'm a foot note, a side kick, a distraction. The author of a book that's only been read by people I know personally—IF even them. I've got nothing to leave behind. No one to remember me."
The older man cocked his head to the side, surveying his best friend's face with confused eyes. "That really bothers you, doesn't it?"
Riley sat up and faced him now, not even a trace of humor on his face. "Ben, being remembered is immortality. George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt…all those guys you and people like you enjoy reading about…they're dead but they aren't gone. Because you make sure that you remember them and all the things they did. That kind of fame keeps you from ever really fading away. You have that, Ben. Me?" Here his lips quirked into an almost ironic smile, "not so much."
This conversation was making Ben uncomfortable on several levels, mostly because he had no idea what to say to comfort his friend. As sick as it made him feel to admit it, Riley had a valid point. Though Ben tried to make sure Riley wasn't forgotten by the press and those who wrote about their adventures, but his efforts were met with relatively little success.
They just weren't interested in the young kid who worked behind the scenes, who'd been brought into the story later, not dedicated his life to it. It somehow just wasn't enough for them.
A gust of wind shook their shelter, and distantly they could hear thunder echoing off the mountains.
Ben reached over into his duffle bag and pulled out a flashlight. "That might be true, Riley, but you're not dead yet. You still have time to change that."
"Oh? How? Figuring out whatever is on page 47?" Riley looked up at Ben, grinning hopefully. The younger man had been hounding Ben for months, trying to trick him into spilling the information. Ben had promised Riley he'd tell him when the time was right, but that didn't seem enough for him.
"Not yet," Ben chuckled, shining his flashlight at Riley, who blinked owlishly back at him. "You've just got to find your own way to make a mark on the world. For someone like you, who can only hear his own drum, it shouldn't be that hard."
Riley frowned, reaching up to try and bat the flashlight out of Ben's hand. "I could die tomorrow and never have my chance."
"Yeah, possibly, but what can you do about it?"
The younger man paused, frowning at Ben thoughtfully, "well, nothing really."
"Then there isn't any point in worrying about it is there?" Ben flicked off his flashlight again as Riley sat back, seemingly stumped by this thought. "Instead we should focus on the things we can do something about. Like what we're going to do about dinner."
Riley groaned, curling up onto his own sleeping bag again. "Not the beef jerky! Please, Ben, not again! Remember what happened in Africa…"