A/N: I couldn't get this little ficlet off my mind last night, and I stayed up later than I wanted to write it. It was supposed to be a lot fluffier than it ended up… haha. I think you'll like it though. Not slash unless you really, really want to take it that way for some reason. Enjoy.

Disclaimer: National Treasure is not mine, OC is mine… right.

Ben

It was the first time I'd ever been to Riley's apartment. We usually researched at mine, but he needed something for his computer, and my research was fairly portable. The apartment was beyond cramped, partly because it was tiny, and partly because he had more stuff than should have been crammed into a space that small. I wandered while he went in the back for his part. It was like computer heaven. There were at least fifteen computers in various places in the front rooms of the apartment. There were all different sizes and ages, and they all seemed to be missing a part or two. I smiled. He had probably been tinkering with them.

I found a couch—I say found because it was covered in various comics and computer magazines—in the living room, and I cleared a space on one end for myself. I pulled my research out of my bag and was just settling when Riley reappeared.

I had to take a second glance—and then a third—to affirm that he really was wearing what he was. On top was a black "Nintendo Thumb" t-shirt, and on bottom, bright orange pajama pants lined in yellow. They were frayed at the bottom, and had holes in both knees among other various rips.

I was honestly dumbfounded, and I seemed to have lost my vocal chords for a moment. By the time I had regained my ability to speak, he had sat down and placed his laptop on his lap.

"Nice pants," I managed finally. "Where'd you get them?"

For a moment he didn't respond, but then his head popped over the top of his laptop. "My sister bought them for me when she was five."

I felt bad then. "You have a sister?" I asked. "What's her name?"

"Her name was Sarah," he responded. His face was covered by his laptop screen again.

"Was?" I asked, fearing the answer.

"She died when she was seven," he admitted, poorly veiling the pain in his voice. "Leukemia."

I was an idiot. "Riley, I'm sorry-"

"It's fine," he answered shortly. I could now hear his furious typing, his fingers hitting the keys harder than necessary.

An awkward silence followed. I had a hard time concentrating on the research, and Riley, for once, wasn't providing conversation. Then—

"She would have been twelve yesterday."

I glanced over at him, and he had stopped typing. "Riley, I'm so sorry. I feel like a terrible friend."

He nodded, and neither of us could return to what we were doing. He then put his laptop on a stack of magazines on the table and wrapped his arms around his knees. "My mom had a lot of trouble when she was pregnant with me. She wasn't supposed to be able to have another child. And she didn't, for eleven years. But then she got pregnant with Sarah, and she forgot all her fears. It was hard, but not as hard as when she was pregnant with me. At first, at least."

"Unexpectedly, she had a lot of problems in the beginning of the third trimester. She was bed-ridden for a month, and then Sarah was born two months premature. There was nothing wrong, it seemed; they told us she was just impatient to get out."

"She was diagnosed when she was three-and-a-half months old. We had all known her just long enough to have grown to love her, and they told us she would have three years at best."

"Mom was devastated, Dad was distant. Neither of them wanted to care for a baby who would leave them in three years anyway. At eleven, almost twelve, I'd become a parent for a baby that wasn't mine. I didn't mind though—Sarah was the most beautiful baby…"

Here he broke off and took a shaky sip of the water I hadn't noticed until then. After a moment of steady breathing he continued.

"She was sick all the time the first year. Mom cried so much, but at least she took her to appointments and such. Dad drank and didn't talk a lot. He'd always wanted a daughter."

"Suddenly, right around her first birthday, she got better. It seemed like a miracle… but the drinking had gotten the better of Dad. He punched Mom once, then beat the crap out of me and left."

He paused again here, avoiding my eyes because he knew he was shaking and felt embarrassed. When he'd calmed down he continued.

"And she was fine until she was six or so. She was gorgeous—had she made it to middle school, she would have been hoarding off the guys. She had a lemonade stand when she was five. She saved all her money to get me these pants for my birthday. Coolest present I've even gotten."

"But then it came back, and she got so sick. I knew we were going to lose her, and so did Mom. She didn't even look at her, and I had to take her to all her appointments and such."

"She held on just long enough to turn seven, and then she passed. I was eighteen. Mom killed herself a few months later, and I was alone."

Once he reached the end of his story I noticed the tears brimming over his eyes. "Riley…" I whispered. I felt helpless, seeing him so defeated and defenseless. I couldn't see another option, so I pulled him into a hug and tried to help him relax. It was a while before he stopped shaking, and even longer before the tears stopped.

"Don't tell Ian," he muttered when he finally let go.

I nodded. He sat back down and pulled his laptop back into his lap, and I went back to my research. Neither of us tried to force conversation, for the first time since we'd met.

It was a little while later when I found something in my research. "Turns out John Adams had a favorite dog named Charlotte," I told my friend. "But I doubt that's where the treasure is." I looked over at him.

He had fallen asleep, head rolled back, glasses still on, laptop still running. I smiled a bit and gently removed the glasses from his face. I found the right plug for his laptop and a blanket and pillow for him. I carefully lifted his head and placed the pillow under it, and I laid the blanket over as much of him as I could. Seeing no other chairs, I sat on the floor between the couch and the table and went back to work.

He scared me half to death when he muttered, "It's okay Sarah. You're safe now" in his sleep. When I turned my head, I noticed he was shivering. Unsure, I placed my hand on his.

"It's okay Riley," I murmured. "You're safe now."

And he stopped shaking.

A/N: Yay I typed it. Anyway, I'm going back and forth between two ideas for what's next (other than the occasional one-shot, of course). I think I'm settled on a shorter one for now, because I don't really have the time for the other. Don't worry, they're both National Treasure =D

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