Hiya!! I managed to update a little sooner this time but sadly this is the last chapter :( ducks as random objects are hurdled at her I'm sorry! I just felt that Riley needed a break so I let him have it. But I plan on doing a prequel-esque story on my take on how Ben and Riley met so that should be up and running soon. Also, I was in an odd sentimental mood when I wrote this so if it's a little sappier than normal I apologize :D Onward!!
P.S. I shamelessly added a quote from CSI:Miami :D Kudos to anyone who finds it!!
P.S. Again: I left it implied that Ben and Abi get back together :D Jazz handz!!
Ben blinked awake as Riley shifted next to him, rolling onto his side to face the wall and falling back into a deep sleep. Sitting up a little straighter, Ben looked at the clock and rubbed his eyes, not entirely sure when he'd fallen back asleep. It was 8:58, already almost an hour past the lecture he was supposed to give at the university that morning. Stretching a little, Ben checked Riley's pulse and breathing one last time, satisfied that nothing had changed dramatically in the past hour since he'd last checked. The rest of the night had passed by without a hitch, Riley sleeping comfortably next to him the entire time. Occasionally, a lingering cough would make itself known but the fit was short-lived and would quietly die out as easily as it had come.
Ben swung his legs over the side of the bed, popping his neck as he did so. He was relatively certain if he stayed in the bed any longer, he'd go stark raving mad so the idea of getting up and moving around the house was more than a little appealing. He tucked the blankets securely around Riley's shoulders and stepped out of the bedroom, closing the door softly behind him. Somehow, the cell phone had been left out in the kitchen and was blinking furiously with the indication of missed calls/voice mail waiting.
The treasure hunter trudged to the phone and snatched it off the counter top as if the very image of it was pissing him off. Sighing at the 7 missed calls and 5 new voice mail messages that flashed annoyingly across the screen, he made his way into the living room and fell onto the couch. He dialed the number for his voice mail and winced as a very polite yet very angry Ivy League professor proceeded to tell Ben exactly how disappointed he was that his guest speaker had decided to play hooky and not show up for the lecture. He requested a conference with him at once to which Ben just rolled his eyes and pressed delete. The next one was from his father asking if he and Riley would like to come to dinner at Emily's house later that night and the last three were from Abigail. Two were asking about Riley's condition and if anything had changed and the Ben-so-help-me-God-if-you-don't-answer-the-phone-I'm-going-to-rip-your-spinal-cord-out-and-beat-you-with-it kind of messages. She'd called the house about two hours earlier so that threat was now all but exhausted but the effort was still cute. The third was a rather timid and embarrassed invitation to dinner once she'd returned from her conference so they could "catch up a bit." Ben smiled warmly at her request and made up his mind to call her as soon as he was sure her meeting was over.
Ben sighed and let the phone fall onto the coffee table, flicking on the television and flipping through the channels. He'd thought about reading over his notes or doing some research or anything that could be considered productive but the lack of motivation prevented him from moving very far. He settled on Singing in the Rain, keeping the volume low so it wouldn't disturb Riley in the other room.
Ben glanced out the window, realizing that another snowy day was upon them. Dark, slate-colored clouds hung low over the tree tops and an icy drizzle had blanketed the windows. Sinking a little lower into the armrest, Ben focused his attention back on the screen just as Gene Kelley began his trademark singing number that earned the musical its title.
There was a soft padding of feet through the kitchen and a few seconds later, Riley had fallen onto the couch next to him. "Singing in the Rain?" He asked quietly, a small smile pulling at the corner of his mouth at his best friend's movie choice. A thin, fleece blanket was wrapped around his bare shoulders and he snuggled deeper into the couch, watching the movie nonetheless.
"Come on, it's a classic." The older man defended, nudging the other gently and giving him a warm smile. "So you feel okay?"
Riley nodded after a second, clearing his throat as another cough swelled in his chest. "I'm alright. Tired I guess, but I'm okay." He smiled reassuringly at Ben, glancing past him to look out the window. "Hey look, it's snowing…"
Ben followed his gaze and a comfortable silence fell between them as the watched the tiny flurries of snowflakes swish through the air. Riley watched wordlessly for a few seconds, suddenly remembering the mind-numbing chill of the frozen river. He shivered once, burrowing deeper into his blanket in an attempt to hide the action. Ben, however, noticed and looked at him with concern.
"Riley, you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Just got a chill is all."
"Do you want me to turn up the heater?"
"No, it's okay."
"Are you sure? I don't mind."
"No, really. It's fine, I promise."
"I can get you another blanket if you-"
"Ben…!" Riley protested weakly causing the older man to close his mouth instantly. "I'm fine, really." He looked at his best friend with honest yet tired blue eyes. "I'm fine."
Ben was silent for a minute longer, his gaze falling to the floor. "But I'm not…" He whispered, his voice barely above a whisper. The younger man looked confused and Ben shook his head slowly. "Riley…yesterday when I pulled you from the ice and you weren't breathing I….I've never been so scared in my entire life…You're my best friend and to think I could lose you so easily…it terrifies me…"
Riley regarded him with an apologetic stare and squeezed his shoulder. "Ben, I'm fine. You're not going to lose me anytime soon…"
"But if I hadn't been there-"
"But you were there, Ben. Just like you always are…" Upon getting no response from his best friend, Riley continued. "If you hadn't been there I'd still be that geeky kid glued to the floor of the chemistry lab at Penn State." Riley gave him a goofy smile and earned one in return. "Ben, you were there for me when no one else was and you were there yesterday as well…I've never doubted you nor have I ever felt you would abandon me."
Ben took a slow, steadying breath and closed his eyes. Watching him carefully, Riley rummaged around through some unknown pocket within the blanket and retrieved something from inside. "Here, you dropped this." He said, placing a small, metallic object in the center of Ben's palm.
The older man gasped, a heavy feeling settling in his stomach. His ring. The one he'd thrown out on the ice…the one Riley had gone to retrieve… "This is why you were out on the ice…?" He choked out incredulously, his voice breaking as he spoke.
"Well yeah, I mean I didn't want it to get lost." Riley tried to laugh but it was cut short as Ben suddenly engulfed him in a tight, crushing hug.
"Riley, you idiot!" Ben growled next to his ear, his voice strained with emotion. "How could you have been so stupid?! You nearly died!" Ben hugged him tighter, if that was possible, and gripped his shoulders through the blanket. "How could you have been so stupid…" He whispered again brokenly, a surge of emotion overwhelming him completely as hot tears began to stream from his eyes.
Riley said nothing but wrapped his arms around Ben's back, hugging him in return. "I'm sorry…" He whispered after a minute, utterly unnerved by the sight of his best friend crying on his shoulder. "I'm sorry Ben…"
Ben took a few shuddering breaths and shook his head, refusing to let go for a minute. "God Riley…" He muttered into the blanket. "I've put you through so much and risked your life so many times and you nearly get killed because of some stupid ring I threw during a temper tantrum…"
"It's not stupid-"
"Yes it is!" Ben snapped suddenly, looking Riley in the eyes and gripping his shoulders loosely through the blanket. "Don't you get it? The ring doesn't matter, a ring can be replaced…But I could never find a replacement Riley…" He shook his head, blinking back the remaining tears that threatened to fall. "Don't you ever do anything like that ever again, got it?!" He shook the younger man with each word to emphasize his point.
Riley nodded, a small smile resting across his face. "I promise…I'm sorry for worrying you…"
Ben closed his eyes for a second and released his hold on Riley, falling back against the couch. "No, I should be the one to apologize Riley. I've taken advantage of you far too many times and you don't deserve that." He looked at the younger man with honesty in his eyes. "Is there anyway you can forgive me?"
Riley thought for a second before a mischievous smirk quirked the side of his mouth. "I can think of a way."
The older man raised an eyebrow, not sure he liked the look Riley had. "Oh yeah? What's that?"
Scooting a little closer, Riley leveled his eyes with Ben's. "Tell me what's on page 47."
"Riley, I can't do that…it's too big."
Riley sighed dramatically which made him cough. "Oh come on, Ben. You and I both know you're going to need my help at some point along the way because, like it or not, we are partners and I'm not letting you search for the next ground-breaking, history-altering treasure all by yourself."
Ben glared at Riley and Riley glared right back for several minutes.
"It's more than Top Secret." Ben started.
"That's okay. I know it was in the President's Book."
"Tell anyone and I'll murder you."
Sighing deeply, Ben muted the television and made himself a little more comfortable on the couch. Riley followed his actions and leaned against the older man's shoulder, huddling a little deeper in the blanket.
"Alright, well during the War of 1812, the original Presidential Mansion, before it became the White House, was attacked by the British and burned to the ground. After the fire was put out, a few colonists discovered a metal chest with strange encryptions across the metal that had been hidden beneath the floor boards of the Mansion. When they attempted to investigate the contents of the chest, a company of armed guards surrounded them and immediately took it away, threatening to send all of the colonists involved in the finding to jail if they ever told anyone what they'd seen." Ben felt Riley shift against his shoulder, his breathing becoming slightly deeper as he relaxed. He knew full well the younger man would be asleep by the time he finished the story but continued anyway. "Several years later, after the Presidential Mansion had been rebuilt and painted white, better known as the White House, a man claiming to be one of the explorers from the company of Juan Ponce de Leon requested to meet with the president for what he explained was a matter of dire importance. His search was for one of the greatest treasures said to be hidden in the new world and believed the contents of the chest would hold to key to finding such a treasure. In French it was called La fontaine de Jeunesse." Ben stroked Riley's hair away from his face, smiling as the young man used his shoulder as a pillow. "The Fountain of Youth…"
Yay!! So I left it with what I thought might be on page 47 :D It would be cool cause Ben said whatever it was was "life altering" Get it? LIFE altering? Hehe! God, I'm tired... Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed and I'm so thankful for all of your comments!! Thany you all so much!! Much love!!