Hey guys!! Hope everyone is doing well :D I picked a really horrible time to write this because we're leaving for Georgia tomorrow I won't be able to update until at least Tuesday -.-; But this idea nailed me in the head earlier today and would not rest until I wrote it...there is a really awful cliff hanger so I will apologize now...
Quick note: I'm not entirely sure if the FBI can actually tap your phone lines but with all the trouble Ben's caused in the past I'm surfe they can make an excuse :D
Hope you like it!!
A cold, grey haze had fallen across the cloudy December sky, tiny flurries of snowflakes swirling through the silent air. The trees hung tall and barren, their naked limbs heavy with snow and ice. The walkways of the park had been shoveled earlier that morning, muddy, slushy snow pushed into small piles along the sidewalk. Occasionally, the shout of children from the park further up ahead could be heard, their voices sounding small and thin in the cold atmosphere.
Riley shoved his hands a little deeper into his pockets and hunched his shoulders forward in a desperate attempt to fight off the cold. His breath was coming out in short, white puffs of steam as he walked and the back of his throat burned in the harsh, raw air. Ahead of him, Ben was marching one stride for every three of his, and, even though he usually considered him self to be long-legged, Riley was having a hard time keeping up with his best friend.
"You know, when I asked if you wanted to go for a walk this wasn't quite what I meant." Riley stated loudly from behind, jogging a little to catch up to the older man. "This is more along the lines of a drag."
Ben slowed to a stop and smiled tiredly. "Sorry Riley," He apologized softly, running a hand through his dark hair. "I just have a lot on my mind and kind of lost track of what I was doing…"
Riley shrugged, noticing the lack of energy in his best friend's response and offered him a light-hearted smile. "It's alright, I need the exercise anyway." Falling into step with the other man once again, the two walked on side by side into the icy park. After a few silent minutes, Riley cleared his throat and peered out across the frozen river to his right. "So are you going to tell me what's been bothering you?" He asked, casting a sidelong look to the older man. "You've been really distant over the past couple of weeks…"
Ben sighed slowly, his breath hovering in the air in front of his face. "Ugh…where to begin…?" He asked to no one in particular, looking up at the clouds as if they held the answer.
"Not like either of us have any prior engagements." Riley teased, sidestepping a tree branch and zipping his jacket a little more. "Seriously, I've got all the time in the world so lay it out."
Ben kicked at lump of ice and watched it skid over to the side of the walkway before he answered. "Well, you'd figure after finding the City of Gold we'd be happy right?"
"Well that's just it." Ben muttered. "I've been anything but happy since we found it. The FBI is keeping an incredibly strict leash on everything I do, even going as far as to tap into some of my telephone conversations and sending various agents by my house at random points in time, day or night, to "check up on me." Not only that, but the reporters and museum owners have been hounding me like crazy in an attempt to get some information about the discovery."
Riley nodded knowingly, remembering the insane amount of press coverage that followed he, Ben, and Abigail everywhere they went for about six months after their first discovery. "While that's true, I know it can't be the only reason you're upset. So go on."
The older man took a slow, deep breath and continued. "Mitch's family tried to file a wrongful death suit against me a few weeks after the incident and I just got through signing off on all of the paperwork yesterday. The money wasn't an issue but they weren't happy with anything that was offered let alone the fact that I wasn't going to jail for the matter." There was another sigh, this one a little more frustrated. "His family won't be content until I'm behind bars…"
"Ben, it wasn't your fault…" Riley explained gently. "I mean we all saw it…you offered to stay behind in order to let him escape but when that plan sank, pardon the pun, he ended up staying instead. You tried everything you could to make sure he could get out and it just didn't work out that way…you can't blame yourself."
"I know Riley…it's just…" Ben stopped and looked out across the river. "God…I just can't help feeling there's more I could have done…" A cold wind whipped across his face and the older man pulled his jacket a little closer. Riley stood next to his best friend, unable to think of any other consolation but offering his presence in any case.
"Abigail is dating Connor again…" Ben said suddenly, cause the younger man to look over at him.
Ben shrugged and blinked as a snowflake landed on his eyelashes. "Don't know…few weeks probably?"
Riley shifted his weight a little, something gnawing at the pit of his stomach. "Hey Ben…there's something I need to tell you…"
"It's about Abigail."
The older man turned slightly to regard his friend with a careful look. "What about her?"
Riley looked at the ground for a second before answering. "The week before you guys split again she came to talk to me…" Noticing the sharp attention he was being given, the younger man continued quickly. "She told me you guys were having some problems and she wanted my advice…"
"And what did you tell her?" Ben asked, his words as sharp and clipped as the cold wind.
Riley shifted nervously, clenching and unclenching his hand in his pockets. "I told her you guys just needed to talk it out and see what happens and if that didn't work I told her she needed to do whatever was best for her." A thick, heavy feeling had developed in the back of his throat as he spoke. "She said she was beginning to wonder if you guys should have gotten back together after all…"
Ben felt his jaw clench tightly and his eyes narrowed. "So you're saying my girlfriend told you she was planning to break up with me and you didn't tell me…"
"Wha-? No!" Riley said quickly. "Ben I just told her to do whatever she thought was best-"
"Yeah and that happened to be breaking up with me!" The older man snapped, glaring at his best friend coldly.
Riley was slightly taken aback by the outburst but recovered quickly. "Ben I tried to tell you…" The older man turned on his heel and began walking the other way, leaving Riley standing behind. "I called you like three times a day for the rest of the week but you were always busy…! Ugh…I see why she was mad…"
"What was that?" Ben growled, whipping around to face the younger man.
"Ben, you always let your work take over and I understand that and I'm used to it but Abigail wasn't…" Riley explained, his face flushing with each word. "You were never at the house and when you were there you were always doing something that involved work! Abigail couldn't take it and you didn't stop even though you knew it bothered her!"
"You don't know what you're talking about…" Ben growled, turning his back to the younger man and starting to walk again.
"So are you mad that I'm right or that Abigail actually came to me when she was upset rather than you…?"
Without thinking, Ben whipped around quickly, his fist connecting sharply with Riley's cheek. The younger man stumbled backwards down the snowy bank, landing painfully on one hip on the frozen river. His gloved hand brushed across the bruising flesh, his blue eyes widening a little. Realizing he'd crossed a line, Riley shook his head a little and looked up at his best friend. "Ben…I'm sor-"
"Stop Riley." Ben snarled fiercely. "I don't want to hear it." He ripped his glove off and pulled at something on one of his fingers. With a sharp jerk, a thin golden band was removed from his finger and tossed out into the middle of the river. "Stay the hell away from me…" He growled deeply, his dark eyes cold with anger. Turning once again, Ben stomped down the walkway, refusing to look back at the younger man.
Riley sat on the ice for a few silent seconds, watching his best friend walk away. He stood slowly, looking out across the ice to the little shimmering band Ben had discarded. He knew exactly what it was and exactly what the symbolism of it being thrown away was as well. It had been a birthday present he and Abigail had gotten for Ben about two years ago: a ring worn by George Washington himself. Abigail had found it through several phone calls and more than a small share of cash. Together, she and Riley had taken it to a jeweler who had engraved Thesaurus Peto, the Latin words for Treasure Seeker, into the band. Seeing Ben throw the ring away like that said more than any word could; he was discarding Riley along with it.
Sighing quietly to himself, Riley walked across the ice to the area where the ring had landed. If nothing else, he couldn't leave it out here, it was far too valuable. The snow and ice crunched beneath his feet as he walked, the coppery taste of blood radiating from the sore spot in his mouth. Occasionally he'd spit a small glob of blood onto the ice and keep walking, ignoring the morbid trail it was leaving behind.
The ring shimmered against the pristine ice, the faded gold of the band causing the snow to look whiter than it already was. Riley bent over, picking up the tiny band and clutching it tightly in his hand. There was no telling if Ben would ever want it back or not but he would hold on to it regardless. The younger man turned to head back to the shore but stopped suddenly, his entire body going rigid.
A deep, hollow crushing sound vibrated the ice around him and the surface of the river shuddered violently. The ice sagged downward suddenly and Riley fell to one knee, a cold, sick feeling developing in his stomach and his heart pounding wildly in his chest. Impossibly cold water rushed over his pants leg, chilling him to the bone.
"Oh God…Oh God…" Riley muttered to himself quietly, looking toward the shore for his best friend. "Ben…!" He called weakly, convinced if he yelled any louder the ice would shatter completely.
Up ahead, Ben heard Riley yell his name but kept walking. The panic in his voice however, caused him to instinctively pause for a split second, but his previous anger pushed him forward. 'Riley can deal with his own problems; he obviously had no problem dealing with Abigail's' He thought bitterly.
The ice shuddered again and Riley felt the water rising higher against his leg. Clutching the ring to his chest, the younger man very carefully tried to push himself forward to get away from the crack. Fate, however, had a different plan and what little solidity the ice still held gave way, plunging the helpless Riley into the frigid water.
Riley gasped as the freezing water sucked him under, the river's current threatening to drag him beneath the thick ice. Razor sharp needles of cold pierced his skin and made it hard to breathe. He gripped the broken edge tightly, coughing as water splashed against his face. "Ben…! Help…!" He yelled as loud as he could, inhaling a mouthful of water in the process.
A strong current wrapped itself around his leg and jerked him forward suddenly, his head dipping beneath the ice. Realizing that if he let go death was imminent, Riley gripped the sharp, broken ice as tightly as he could, his hands becoming more numb by the second. His head dipped again and Riley coughed raggedly as more water was sucked into his lungs. His strength began to fail and his gloves slipped a little, dragging across the ice.
Riley could hear the blood rushing through his ears but the cold was too intense for him to think of anything else. Somewhere in the corner of his mind, he thought he heard someone yell hang on. He wanted to hang on, if only for a few more seconds, but he couldn't. The current tugged again and Riley's grip failed, sending him spiraling into the icy water.
The hood of his jacket caught on a broken shard of ice and he was momentarily stopped. The stop, however, was enough to cause him to exhale what little oxygen he still had. The air escaped him in a short gasp and Riley coughed, freezing water rushing into his lungs like a torrent. Instinct kicked in and he automatically tried to get a deep breath but it only made the problem worse as more water filled his lungs.
Still gripping the ring weakly, Riley felt his body grow heavy and his sight grow dim. He looked up and for a brief moment he could see the clouds through the ice. Deep in his subconscious, Riley thought 'Ah…isn't that pretty…' before the light faded and his consciousness slipped away as well.
AGH!! Poor Riley!! Don't worry, I can't kill him...it's emotionally impossible for me. I will, however torture him like all get out until then :D I promise to update as soon as possible but in the meantime let me know what you think okay?? Please no flames...Loves!!