Title: Right Where to Find You
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine, the world is not.
Summary: All things considered, a little attempted murder between partners was nothing. 1400 words.
Fandom: National Treasure (2004) & NT 2: Book of Secrets (2007)
Notes: Written for Fantasticmuse in Yuletide '08.
"You realize, of course, that this is completely crazy," Abigail informed him as they parted on the sidewalk, a rueful twist tugging up one corner of her mouth.
"And that's stopped me before, when?" Ben replied, amused, voice dropping to a murmur as he leaned in for a parting kiss.
"You're lucky I love you so much," she replied, shaking her head in bemusement as she walked away.
Ben watched her go, hips swaying in her smartly cut suit, ring-bedecked hand curved absently over her abdomen as she headed back to their car, and dwelt for a moment in acknowledgement of that simple truth: yes, he was lucky indeed, in a way that had nothing to do with the spectacular historical discoveries, treasure, and fame he'd fallen into over the last few years. Then he boxed up that thought, packed it neatly away in the back of his mind, and threw an arm over the back of the park bench he'd commandeered as he settled in to wait for the man he'd come to meet.
He didn't have to wait long. His part in the discovery of Cibola-- and all of the national security related shenanigans that had accompanied that particular adventure-- had raised his profile in a way that not even the recovery of the Templar Treasure before it had done; a few carefully placed requests could net him almost anything he could ask for, now. There was Page 47 to be considered, after all, and the backing of the President's unofficial interest.
Ben was still staring absentmindedly through the flowering bushes on the far side of the green lawn in front of him, fitting the pieces of that particular mystery together in his mind, when a familiar profile appeared in his peripheral vision.
"So," he commented, bouncing a knee in restlessness and anticipation as he waited for the other man to speak.
"So," his newest-- and oldest-- business partner replied, settling cautiously beside him on the bench. Several paces down the walk, a man in a suit with an earpiece as recognizable as any badge took up a station at the edge of the grass; Ben smirked at the agent, remembering the look on Sadusky's face when he'd made his request.
"How've you been?" he continued, eager to get the awkward part of the meeting behind them and see if they were still capable of working together as well as he remembered. "Prison treat you well? Decent food, lots of rest?"
"Well, it was no forty-six thousand square foot mansion, but I've done well enough," Ian said, a very dry note in his voice.
"Yeah, well." Ben turned to look at him then, taking in the slightly longer, slightly greyer hair, the slightly harder line of his jaw, and that same sharp, inquisitive light in his eyes that had prompted Ben to actually take his offer of financing all those years ago rather than dismissing it as yet another cruel joke at the expense of the Gates family. "I am sorry about that, you know; but you didn't exactly make it easy to reconcile after we blew up the Charlotte, and someone had to go to jail for that whole mess."
Ian snorted, then looked away, shaking his head. "I fire a few bullets, detain a couple of people, trespass on a few square meters of public property, and for this I go to jail-- while the man actually responsible for stealing the Declaration of Independence not only gets paid for the privilege, but goes on to kidnap the American President and get away with it to popular acclaim."
"You heard about that, did you?" Ben said, throwing the other man a half-proud, half-embarrassed grin.
"I think there might've been a few mountaineers up in the Himalayas who didn't hear about it that first week," Ian replied lightly. Then his brow furrowed a little, and he swept his gaze over Ben's dressed-down, jean- and leather jacket clad form. When he met Ben's eyes again, squarely, all the amusement had faded out of him, and several unspoken questions hung in the air.
"All right, look," Ben admitted. "I do feel bad about the way that all ended. I mean, I gave Mitch Wilkinson partial credit for Cibola, and he very nearly destroyed my family's reputation. In comparison, a little attempted murder between partners is nothing-- and all you had to show for it was a date with Agent Sadusky and a prison sentence."
"The thought had occurred," Ian agreed, warily.
"And I'm sorry about Shaw, too," Ben added, cautiously. "It was easy to stick him in a box marked 'bad guy' while you were herding us to our potential deaths, but he was fun to play cards with, and it was hilarious watching him drive Riley up the wall. It was like they were from two different planets sometimes."
Ian unbent a little at that, kicking his feet out like Ben's and leaning back rather than remaining perched on the edge of the bench as though he were about to bolt. "Well, I did leave you at the bottom of that staircase," he allowed. "Only fair that you essentially did the same to me."
Some of the tension left Ben at that; he loved the archives, the research, the cataloguing of material he'd been doing for the better part of his adult lifetime, but he never felt as alive as he did when in actual pursuit of a treasure, and they were on the verge of a hunt whose resolution would change the face of the world forever. "I thought it was about time I evened things out a little," he said casually, "and since I'm not considered a professional lunatic anymore, I've got some pull."
"Does that mean I get my one percent now?" Ian asked, lightly.
"Sorry, no," Ben shrugged. "But how would you like one percent of something even better?"
Ian did a double take at that, sitting forward again and staring at him. "You're joking with me, aren't you? Don't you have enough work to do already? You've had more luck in the past few years than any other treasure hunter in history. What could you possibly follow that up with? Atlantis?"
Ben ignored the sarcasm and grinned again, feeling like a kid about to share the coolest toy ever with an old friend. "My parents are at Cibola-- yeah, they're back together now, that was entertaining and kind of scarring to witness-- and Abigail's holding down the fort here while Riley's on his honeymoon. Besides, this was kind of a… special commission." He gestured toward the watching agent with his chin. When Ian's eyes widened in comprehension, Ben leaned over and murmured the rest of it in his ear.
"You're not joking," Ian said, staring at him in disbelief.
"Nope," Ben shrugged again.
"And you want my help?" Ian asked, raising his eyebrows in astonishment. "You're aware that I no longer have access to a goodly percentage of my former resources?"
"Yep," Ben agreed, remembering a moment of shared awe on a pew while they puzzled out the mystery of Parkington Lane, despite the fact that they'd already tried to kill each other. It had never so much been about the resources as the company, though the money and manpower had certainly helped in the quest for the Charlotte; Riley was a great friend, and knew the technology they'd needed inside and out, but he hadn't shared the obsession the way Ian had, or Abigal, or Ben's family.
And of all Ben's likeminded, history-mad associates, Ian was the one whose experience best matched what he'd need to pull this next caper off, hopefully without wildly endangering half his social circle, alerting half the world, or flushing out yet another group of homicidal treasure hunters in the process. Ben's morals had grown a little more flexible since the question of stealing the Declaration of Independence had broken his and Ian's initial working relationship-- and on the more cautious side of the equation, it was in Ian's best interests, both financially and otherwise, to make sure Ben succeeded this time.
And hell, all that aside-- Ben really had missed his friend.
Ian stared at him a moment longer, then shook his head and began to laugh. "Where do I sign up?"
"I hoped you'd say that," Ben beamed, and reached into his pocket for his notes.