A/N: I had absolutely NO idea whatsoever on what to call this thing, so I'm just going to call it BEAR HUGS, for the heck of it! xD
Must I do a disclaimer?: Okay. I obviously wouldn't be here, writing a fanfic, if I actually owed anything about National Treasure, right? NT belongs to Disney, JB, and whoever else put their work into it. I wish I owned Riley, though. (Sigh.)
Summary: It's a long walk from the Charlotte to the village. Plenty of time to talk. POV. Ben/Riley brotherly fluff. No slash. Reference to childabuse. Oneshot.
It's a bit sad, actually. I wanted to get to know Riley a little bit more. About what happened during his childhood. Dig into his past a little bit. I was just reading A Boy Called 'It', by the way. Fantastic piece. It's strange how on the cover of the book there's a little boy with brown hair and blue eyes. Ironic a bit? Maybe Riley's real name is David? If you read the book, you'd understand. Ahem. Right.
And now, on with it....
Oh, and a word : My brother's computer on which I am typing has a rediculously wide screen so whatever paragraphs i'm typing seem smaller to me, but I'm they're actually quite long so I am very very sorry that I have ugly chunky paragraphs. Blame my brother xD
Just to let you know, I really am starting to miss that 'windowless-cubicle' that Ben found me in. I mean, this whole adventure thing seemed like a pretty decent plan. Ben's team was okay. I mean, sure, I don't think they appreciated me much. Ian surely had it out for me, let me tell you. Though the other guys seemed to pick on me every chance they got, Ben was always there to you know, back me up. They didn't like the fact that a kid , as they refered me to, was on their little team. I'll be glad to let you know I am in fact, as hard as it may seem, an adult. Heck, I'm 22 for God's sake! Ben trusted me, I know. Or maybe he trusted my computer skills. I honestly have no idea. Ben needed me for this 'treasure hunt' business, it was obvious. But, I hated my job, hated my life, and as soon as he asked me, I quit. It was probably the best thing I ever did. Still, I'm starting to hate my life again. Heh. Maybe quitting wasn't such a great idea, afterall. Where else am I gonna find a job? BestBuy? Nah, I don't picture myself part of GeekSquad. I mean, really, GeekSquad? Who came up with that name? Well, we'll see what happens. Of course, If I'm not dead then.
So, just to recap: Ben, me, Ian and a few other guys end up in the freezing cold (I mean it-freezing) in the middle of scenic nowhere, in search of a ship. Of course, me with my skills and all, was able to locate the location and soon enough we had ourselves the Charlotte. Naming ships after girls, though? Seriously, why do that? That's like getting a tattoo of somebody's name and having them dump you the next day. What're you left with? Nothing more than just a sad, permanent reminder of what once was. Ships are the same thing. Ever notice that all sailors are single? And have bad attitudes, too. Or, maybe those are pirates. Er, same thing, I guess. Uh, rambling. Where was I again? Hmm, oh yeah!- so, we all had made our way inside of her, (well, that sounds strange, doesn't it?) and found what I believe to be some kind of million (or billion) dollar pipe. It's decorated all fancy and what not. But, it turns out to be a clue and we're painfully aware that the treasure we're looking for isn't actually on the ship, at all! Ian was totally pissed. It was hard for me to follow their conversation, but they were talking about some kind of secret, invisible map on the back of the freakin' Declaration of Independance.
Ian wanted to borrow it on account of he had ways around 'questionable legality' , as he called it. But, as far as me and Ben were concerned, Ian was just being greedy. As soon as Ben didn't agree, Ian, the bad guy I always knew he was, decided it was a good idea to pull a gun out on us. He threatened to shoot us both, but Ben lit a flare and kindly explained that if he was shot, the whole thing would go up in flames. You know what that means? -BOOM!- No more Riley. No more Ben. No more Ian. No more Shaw, etc. No more Charlotte. What a waste that would be. Before I knew it, Ben had thrown the flare towards them, Ian caught it, he got a little frightened when it lit up on his glove and sleeve, and just like that, the flare was on the floor, with all the gunpowder. I didn't know what to think at that point. Ian and his goons shot a few rounds, missed us, and left. But, not before locking us in. Jerks. This place was going to blow soon. I was off hiding in the corner like a frightened little girl. As far as I was concerned, I was the closest thing to a frightened little girl I had ever been in a pretty good while. Ben somehow found some secret bunker-type place and, before I knew it, he was shoving me in there and practically tackled me to the ground. Weird timing too. As soon as we went for 'cover', the place exploded. I figured Ian and his goons were gone before that happened. After about 30 seconds of holding my breath in the snow, (which we were just completely covered in), Ben and I popped our heads up. I was relieved to be alive. I didn't have anything much to say.
That's where we leave off, here. Me and Ben just climbed out. There's smoke around us, debris everywhere and I can't help but have trouble walking all over the wreckage. Ben must've figured I was alright, because he didn't ask. But, the man practically had me covered when it happened. If he was okay, I most certainly was okay. I sighed.
"There's an Inuit village about 9 miles east of here." He caught my attention as I trailed behind him, teetering a bit. Nine freakin' miles east?! We have to walk 9 miles? Well, that's like, exactly the last thing I'd rather do at this point. Seriously. I can just feel myself shaking. I've never been in an exploding ship before, sorry for my inexperience. Maybe we can find a camel-stand? Like, where we can rent a few camels or something. Aren't they good in extreme temperature? Heat temperature, yeah. But, they're all furry and whatnot. Don't they store water in their humps? Heated water? That'd be nice. I don't have money on me though. I wonder if they'd take a million dollar pipe? Where is that pipe anyway? Seriously though, much rather ride a camel than tredge through this deep snow.
Somehow, I found my voice again, surprised in its' calmness. "Then what are we gonna do?"
"Head home." Stupid question.
"No.. I mean, Ian's gonna steal the Declaration of Independance, Ben."
"We stop him." Easy answer.
Hmm. Somehow I think it isn't going to be that easy. Is there a way I could just like, quit the team? Isn't the team sorta broken up already? He kept on walking, so I did the same. I definately had a lot of questions. This guy was a definate lunatic. Ian was a lunatic. And for signing on, I was a lunatic. I had only joined the team like, a month ago! Anyway, neither of us said anything for a few minutes. He was just walking on, all nonchalantly, like nothing had ever happened. How the hell does he do that? Me, on the other hand, a good ten or so feet behind. He was a bit of a fast walker. He probably just wanted to get to the village before it got dark. Oops, I hadn't thought about that. How long until the sun goes bye-bye? And, I can only imagine how long it's going to take us to get there. Heck, I'm pretty sure the day is still rather young. What if there're polar bears or something? Really don't wanna be mauled by one. Or some weird Yeti. I couldn't take on a Yeti! Or a bear. I wonder if there are any cannibals around here. I mean, humans shouldn't live here. There's nothing. Last resort, eating people would make sense to me. Kinda gross, but then again I am at an advantage. I am scrawny. Just bones, no meat. No reason to be eaten, right? Not by a human, anyway. We get stuck in a blizzard in the middle of nowhere when it's pitch black dark outside? We'd die, for sure. Freezing to death isn't one of the ways I'd like to go. Sure isn't on my list.
He must've noticed I was lagging behind, because I soon found him helpin' me out of my buzzling thoughts. "Hey, Ri, you frozen back there, or what?" Huh? Oh. Apparently, I had been so deep in thought that I was hardly walking anymore. I'm sort of tired. Not that I did any strenious excersice, much. But, the whole running and exploding thing-well, my mind was just exhausted. Don't blame me for wondering things though, I really don't want to be mauled by a Yeti. If you get attacked, you're supposed make yourself seem bigger, right? Er, well, for the polar bear? I literally had to shake my head into reality. I think he noticed, because he's giving me this weird look. That one look that just screams I-know-somethin's-up. He wasn't walking anymore, and neither was I. I took a breath. I never noticed I had stopped breathing. He just won't stop looking at me! It's..overwhelming, I guess. I hate it when people gimme that look. 'Specially him.
"Hey, you alright?"
Alright? After I'm dragged all the way to who cares where, when it's minus kajillion degrees fahrenheit, shot at, and left for dead in an exploding ship? Let me tell you, Buddy. I've had better days. I had to hide that annoyed look I really wanted to give him, and my sarcastic comment. "I'm fine." Wow. That didn't come out as expected. I didn't mean to sound so cold. But, I really am cold. And hungry.
"You sure?" I'd finally caught up to where he was and nodded, then just walked by him. He started after me. "Really? You don't seem too good."
Gee, what part of 'I'm Fine' don't you understand? "Just thinking."
Man, he's persistent. "Things."
"Things that don't pertain to you." Well, not entirely true. I mean, half the things I'm thinkin' 'bout now are about him. It's all his fault, kind of. If he hadn't offered me the job, I wouldn't be here. But, then again, if he hadn't offered me the job, I wouldn't be here and still would be with that hell of a boss in my cubicle. I liked Ben better as a boss, although he had told me I was his friend. My old boss never wanted to be my friend. Then again, I'd rather be in my warm, dry cubicle than in this knee deep snow, in the middle of nowhere-land. Yet, I owed my life to him.
"Oh, really?" He didn't seem bothered by my rude snip. He seemed utterly curious. It was just the way he was, with me at least. I mean, he just knows me so well already. Like, when anything pops into my head and I'm thinking 'bout it, he just like, never gives up. He only pesters me when he knows it's somethin' I'm bothered 'bout. Like, the time when Shaw told me that I shouldn't be on the team. He just didn't think somebody of my age was cable of doing it. Eh, I was way smarter than that idiot anyway. But, I thought he was maybe right. You know, these guys are like twice my age. I haven't even graduated college, yet. I'm almost going to, but haven't yet. I actually skipped preschool and started school a bit early. These guys, besides Ben, just didn't like me. At all. Somehow I didn't mind the feeling that they were just using me. It was better with them, than in my hell of a job. My windowless job. Gah, I almost miss my cubicle! Anyway, I keep rambling, don't I? Point is, I told Ben I didn't think me being on the team was such a great idea anymore and, he pestered me until I told him why, and somehow convinced me to stay.
"Yes, really." I responded. I sounded like a teenager, trying to get their parents out of their hair. I didn't want to sound like a teenager. But, seriously, must he pester?
"Oh." Oh? What do you mean, 'Oh'? "Okay, then. I'm sorry I bothered you."
Bothered? Is he trying to make me feel guilty or something? I mean, I know he was just trying to help. He was just worried. I don't know why I sounded so distant. It's not like I meant it, though. Ah- it's working, isn't it? Sigh. He knows his way around my brain. " 'S okay."
"So, you havin' fun?"
I snorted, almost, and immediately stopped. Havin' fun? What was this? Some kind of field trip? He gave me this look, but he had this horrible smirk on. Geeze. He sure knows how to get to the point. "Fun? This isn't exactly my kind of fun."
He'd caught up to me, and I started walking again. "Oh, really?"
"Yes, really." I sounded just like that teenager again. I matched his tone perfectly.
"Well, I thought it was kinda fun. Exciting."
"You're joking, aren't you.." It didn't come out as a question.
"Maybe a little." he almost chuckled.
Damn. The guy hardly ever says more than 3 words to me and can make me crack. I can feel it coming on already . He does that to me all the time. It's just the way he gets things out of me. Never lets it go until I finally give in. I mean, I know I complain a lot 'bout the little things, but when it comes to bigger things, I don't need him to know. I'm not even sure what this big thing he thinks I'm thinking of, is. I don't know how to pinpoint what exactly is bothering me. He was trying to get on my last nerve, eh? Leave me alone, dammit. I need to think up a plan just in case that Yeti really does come. I didn't say anything. So, he figured he should continue.
"And scary too, don't you think?" I'm not four, Ben. Don't talk to me like I am. That monotone voice didn't sound scared. So, if a Yeti comes? I still didn't answer him.
"I really thought Ian was a good guy." He sounded genuinely upset, now. Don't let it get to you, Riley. You were always right about Ian! Remember, make yourself seem bigger. Make a lot of noise too. That should scare whatever predator away.
"I see you're not up for a chat." He huffed. He was trying, at least.
"Sorry for what?"
"That Ian was a bad guy." Okay, now I was sounding like a real four year old. 'I told you so' just wouldn't fit in a time like this, though. Although, I had told him so.
"Yeah, me too."
And that's how the conversation ended. Just like that. The kid gave me this apologetic look for a second. He's just so stubborn. Okay, so he's not a kid anymore, I understand that. But, he practically is! I can take the hints though. He didn't want to talk about it. Whatever it was. So, I sighed and we continued on walking for a good five or more minutes without one word being muttered. I don't know about him, but to me, the silence was getting hard to tolerate. Small talk, Ben. Make small talk. "Y'know, I could really go for a long, hot shower right about now. Heck, maybe even a bubble bath."
"Or some hot chocolate", he quipped. Now we were gettin' somwhere. No more cold shoulder. Good, cold enough as it is.
"Or Campbells soup." They always made it seem so good in the old commercials, where the kid was in the snow and then went inside and the snowman melted because the soup was so hot, or whatever. That was quite a while back, though. They just don't make canned soups like they used to. Hah, it makes me sound old when I say that..I don't want to sound old.
"Hey, can I ask you sumthin' ?" I wasn't expecting that.
Just did. Though, another question wouldn't do any harm. I nodded. "Ask away."
"Do you really think that that pipe or whatever is actually gonna lead us to some treasure?"
"Well, I believe so." I honestly did.
"But, aren't you mad that there wasn't any treasure here? I mean, all we found was that stupid pipe and then we had the Charlotte blown up." He sighed.
"It isn't a pipe, Riley. It's a clue. Secondly, yes, of course I'm upset that we had the ship blown up. But, I'd rather have the ship blown up than having you, or me, get shot." Okay, I was in the moment at the time. Don't blame me for trying! I really didn't want to get shot. Then, they had to point it towards the kid. He's my responsibility and I wasn't going to let anything happen to him. I did drag him into this after all. I could never forgive myself if anything did. Maybe, lighting a flare surrounded by gunpowder on an old, historic ship, wasn't my brightest idea, but it was our only option. I'm just glad I got him into the bunker in time.
"But, Ian got away. They're gonna try to steal the Declaration. Do you really think they can do that?" I'm pretty sure Ian and his buddies would be quite capable to figure something out. How we were supposed to stop them, well, I hadn't figured it out yet.
"Ian's a smart man, Riley.''
"Are we really gonna stop 'em?"
"It seems logical that we would." Right?
"How the hell are we gonna do it, though?"
"Not sure, yet."
"So, where's this village you were talkin' 'bout?" There was nothing out here.
"About, 8 and three-quarters of a mile that way." I said, pointing forward.
I could almost hear his face fall. "Still?"
"Ri, we've been walking for like, 10 minutes."
"Are you sure there isn't another village, like, closer? And maybe, they could come pick us up?"
"Pick us up, with what? Dogs sleds?" I laughed.
"Er, well, I was thinking...camels. But, that works too."
Camels? Has this kid lost his mind? "No, Riley, there aren't any camel lifts around here. I couldn't call them either. No phone. We're just going to have to walk."
"But, 8 miles is so far away!" He groaned, in a tone that seemed if though he were actually informing me about the distance, and that I didn't know.
"It's 9 miles." I corrected.
"Even worse." I couldn't help but laugh.
"I'm sorry, Riley. I really am." The young man looked at me, gave me a blank expression then continued looking forward. "What?"
"Oh, come on! That was not a Nothing Face." Okay, it was honestly a nothing face. He just didn't seem to have anything productive to say to me. I could only imagine what was going on in his mind right now. Something about Yetis, maybe.
"It was a Nothing Face. I'm just thinking, that's all." He sounds annoyed.
"Well, why don't we take a little break. Sit down for a few minutes, then start again. It's a pretty long ways to the village and we'd better hope we get there before nightfall." I knew we wouldn't make it before the darkness hit, but I've got to stop his worrying. I stopped walking and took a seat right in the snow. A few moments later, he followed suit, plopping himself down beside me. Although we'd more than likely travel most of the 'trip' in the daylight, I'm certain we'd have at least one or two hours of dark. That is of course, if we continue on a steady pace.
"What if we don't?" He asked, casually. It was obvious he was trying to hide his worry. He wasn't doing such a swell job on it. Swell? Is that an old person word? Maybe I should stop using that one. I'l replace it with 'great'. He wasn't doing such a great job on it. There, much better. I feel younger already. Ahem, back to matters. "We won't have a camp to set up.." It was true. We had nothing.
"Look, don't worry about that right now. We'll figure something out when we need to."
"Riley. It'll be fine."
Sigh. " 'kay."
"But, aren't there like polar bears or something?" He looked at me hopefully. He wanted me to tell him 'NO'.
"Don't worry about any polar bears, Riley. "
"What about yetis?" The look on his face told me he was dead serious. I couldn't stop myself from grinning widely.
"Yetis? No, I don't think so."
"No, there's no cannibals. We're going to be fine."
"What about..some kind of weird...mutated sciene experiment gone wrong, that has 6 legs and....I don't know, eats brains or something like that..?"
I stared at that boy for a while. He stared back at me. It was like a staring contest, although I most definately lost. "Honestly, Riley....do you really believe there's a 6 legged mutated brain-hungry science expirement around here?"
"Just wondering." He smirked.
After a few more minutes of talking, me and Ben were up again and were walking towards that village. I sure hope that village is nice. Well, I don't think it'll matter to me when we get there how big or extravagant it is. I'll just be glad to be back with civilization. Not sure how civil. They might be cannibals, after all. We were still talking. Somehow, we had gotten into his childhood memory of a science experiment gone wrong. Soon enough, he was just going on and on about random things he did as a kid, and I couldn't help but laugh. I mean, these stories were pretty hilarious. I can only imagine Ben as a kid. Still history obsessed, as it seemed. The treasure we're looking for, he found out about when he was a kid. I heard that story a few times before we ever even got here.
I was beaming, almost. " You didn't!"
"I did." He beamed back.
"I don't believe it."
"Well, believe it. Because, it's true. I got in a lot of trouble for that, too. " I was most definately going to be asking his dad about this .
Ben had lots of stories of all the trouble he got into as a kid. He said he was sort of a 'problem child'. I know the feelin'. I was sort of the same way. Okay, I was wreckless at times. I was no stranger to felonies. Even from a really young age, I just sort of went around stealing chocolate bars from grocery stores. It's not like I wanted to steal. I knew it was wrong. But, when you're starving - you'd pretty much do anything. Sigh. Here we go. Back into my childhood. Something I never want to relive again. I hope he doesn't a-
"So, what were you like growin' up?"
-sk me. Huh. Weird how he does that. "Oh, you know, just..I was kind of like you."
"Had your fair share of trouble?"
"Oh, you've no idea." I was a handful. Maybe. I don't know. They called me a lot of things. Oh, great. Now I can't stop thinking about it. Another sigh. Well, Ben doesn't know much about me. I've know him for a few years, actually. We met when I was like 18, that's a long story, and we'll save it for later. Never hung out with him much, or anything. But, of course, when you need somebody with great computer skills, he was lucky to know who to call. I don't know if Ben would hire just a random person. How'd he meet Ian and his goons, anyhow? So, I was shocked to have him show up at my little cube and ask me. I hadn't seen him in some time! It was totally random. Where am I going with this again? Oh, yeah! Ben has known me for years, but doesn't know much about me. At least not about my past. Heck, pretty much nobody knows about it. Nobody was supposed to know about it. I doubt I was even supposed to know. Sigh, again. Shake your head and snap out of it, Riley! Before he asks you what's wrong!
"Something wrong?" Eh, same question- different wording, is all.
"What? Uh, n-no. Nope. " God! You're stuttering! Don't do that!
"Positive. Maybe we should just talk about something else."
Ben gave me a weird look. He knew I didn't like talking about my childhood. When it had casually come up a billion times before, I always changed the subject. He doesn't know anything about it. Nothing 'bout where I grew up or about my family, or anything. Well, I told him I had a sister. That part is somewhat true. I had a sister. I still consider her my sister, though. She was the only one who ever cared, until I lost her. No, she didn't die. Well, not that I'm aware of. I haven't seen or heard from her in years. There'd be no way of knowing. I hope she's alive, though. I love her. Her name is/was Halie. Anyway, I had Halie in my life until I was like, 9. So, I really have no idea what in the world happened to her. I hope she's alright. I think about her everyday. No, stop! You don't want to think about it. Not right now.
"Okay. What'd you want to talk about?"
"Mhm." My sister liked ponies. Every little girl likes ponies, right? She was my older sister. She was about 4 or 5 years older than me. I honestly have no idea anymore. I can't remember. It feels like so long ago. I had told myself to just forget about everything and live in the moment, which probably explains why I'm here in the first place.
"Why do you want to talk about ponies?" He asked. I could sense the laughter in his voice.
"They pretty." Oops. Did I just say that? That isn't proper grammar! They're pretty! I meant to say that.
"Very." Halie was very pretty. She had dark brown hair, just above her shoulders. Her bangs were too long and she constantly had to brush them out of her face. Her eyes. Blue like mines. But, better. (If you can believe that.) I can't believe I'm comparing my sister to a pony. Seriously, though. I miss her. So freakin' much! Sometimes, I dream about her. I dream about the times she'd helped me out. She protected me so much. And I find that when I wake up, there are tears in my eyes. That's gay. That's stupid. Men don't cry. I'm not a boy anymore. I'm a man. Right? Ahem. Clearing my throat. Sometimes, I have nightmares. Well, I wouldn't call my dreams about her, dreams. They were all nightmares. She was always protecting me from things. Bad things. Sometimes, I'd dream about her dying or something. Getting hurt. We always got hurt. But, when she got really, really hurt, I'd cry too. I don't usually cry, I honestly don't (although, when Papouli died on FullHouse, ah, I was bawling). But, every once in a while, I wake up and I've been crying. It isn't pleasant, really. I feel like a wimp.
"Huh?" I jerked my head in his direction. I don't like the expression he's giving me.
"What's wrong? I called your name like 4 times and you didn't answer." Really? Hadn't noticed. I space out in thought.
"Oh. Sorry. Couldn't hear you. I think I'm going deaf." I tried out a laugh. It was painfully fake.
"What's bothering you?"
"Nothing. Why do you ask?" Why do you care?
"Why wouldn't I ask?"
"Wh-..I....don't...uh. " Babbling like an idiot. You know, though. I think I know why I had been so bothered before. You know, right after we got out of our little bunker? Yeah, well...maybe I shouldn't go into it. Should I? Okay, fine. I'll tell you. Just don't tell Ben. "I'm sorry."
"Sorry for what?"
"I don't know. Everything I guess."
He frowned. " Riley..."
"Uh, I'm fine, Ben. I'm honestly fine. I'm just thinkin' and I tend to space out a little. It's not a big deal."
"What're you thinkin' about?"
"You're thinking so intently about nothing?"
"Look, I'm sorry but, it really has nothing to do with you. I'm glad that you care and all, really- I appreciate it, lots- but, I just don't want to talk about it."
"You know I'm here, though. If you do. "
"There's too much too say. I'd never finish. "
"We have a pretty long walk."
I looked at him. He was serious.
I coughed. Or, hacked. I could hardly breath in there. The smoke was thick and black and had surrounded the entire house. I thought I was going to die. I thought it was a good thing. It was about time. About time that I was put out of my misery. 'Dear God, if you're listening....can you take my sister too? I want her to go with me.' I know now how horrible it sounds to ask something like that. But, if I was going to Heaven (if I was going there. Momma said I wasn't.) I'd want her to come along too. She didn't deserve to go on like that. No way. You'd think an 8 year old wouldn't understand this type of stuff. Oh, boy. I knew it better than anyone. I didn't mean to be selfish. She deserved it just as much as I did. I knew for a fact that she wasn't going to Hell. Me, it was debatable. But for sure she was going to Heaven.
I couldn't see my hand in front of my face. I didn't know where anybody was and could hardly tell where I was. I coughed again, using my forearm to cover my face as I stumbled along. I was following a wall that I was leaned up against. I knew that if I followed it, I'd find a way out somewhere. It took me a long minute to find it. I was so weak. I couldn't breath at all anymore. I was practically choking on my sobs, and the smoke. I coudn't take it anymore. Even though I found an exit- I couldn't force my body to use it. Let's take it back a little.
He was yelling at her again. My dad was always yelling . At everybody. He was always angry. He always smelled like beer. Is that why I don't drink? I'd hate to be like him. I don't know what started it this time, though. As usual, as soon as he lost his 'indoor voice', I ran into hiding in my little room that I shared with my sister. I was already crying when I got there. Last time they had a big fight, a few days before, dad had thrown one of his empty beer bottles at our bedroom door. We closed it just in time. The fight was about how my dad hated the way my mom did the laundry. He blamed it on us, because we needed clothes to be washed (to be honest, we hardly had our clothes washed). As soon as I got into the room, I slammed the door shut and my sister instantly took me into a big hug. She kept telling me that it was going to pass soon, and that we'd be okay. I didn't know how much longer I could believe her. As thick as those walls were, we had absolutely no problem hearing every little thing they said. It wasn't pretty.
"I'm not fucking joking around, Jo!" Jo was my mother. Her name was Joanne, but he called her Jo.
My dad had come home from his usual trip to the liquor store we had down the block. He had already been drinking all afternoon. When he got home, he commanded me to 'Open the damn door'. I did as he asked. He strode in, in his sweatpants, his collared T-shirt (which seemed awfully nice compared to everything else) and his jacket. It was November. Pretty chilly outside. He was smoking a cigarette. I don't think I should go into details about what words they chose to throw around at eachother. Just know that it wasn't at all pretty. Me and my sister cowered in fear, in the corner of our room, where we always hid when things got out of hand. She kept telling me it was okay. I was afraid I was going to hear his stomping down the hall again. I was afraid he was going to bust the door down, and do who knows what to us. The fight lasted about 4 long minutes, of them just babbling away at eachother. I knew he had hit her. I could hear it. I heard her stumbling. It always happened.
And how we got to this certain situation? A cigarette and a curtain. Now, the house was just up in flames. It was incredibly hot. Unfortunately for me and my sister, our bedroom was on the second floor, as were the fighting couple. We had a 'family room' upstairs. That's where the curtains lit up. If we wanted to make it out alive, we'd have to find a way downstairs. As soon as the fire had started, I could hear them just cursing eachother out, coughing, and what sounded like running down the hall. I thought they were coming for us. I was almost glad. I thought maybe they'd get us out of there and realise that they didn't want us to die. Of course, I wanted to die.
No. The running went right past our room and down the stairs. They had left us there. My sister told me to cover my face and that she'd go check if we could leave. If the fire was blocking the staircase by the time she got out there, we'd be doomed. She didn't come back to me. Minutes passed. She couldn't have abandoned me. I heard her screaming and crying downstairs. I figured my dad had caught her. I was on my own, now. I waited another minute for her to arrive. She didn't. I thought I heard her crying for my name, though. She wanted to help me, but couldn't. A neighbor must've called the fire department, because I began to see shadows and lights flashing in the room. I couldn't hear the siren over the roar of the flames, but I could see them coming in from the window. I should've just went straight for the window, but it was too late. I needed to get out of that room and find my sister.
In the end, it turned out that both my parents had died. My sister was still alive. That's all that mattered. I was terribly happy when the medics told me they were dead. I passed out in the room and they found me right after that, apparently because my sister had told them I was in there. When I woke up, I was outside of my house, on a strecher and had an oxygen mask over my face. I was so scared. I was literally trembling. My vision wasn't that clear, but I knew there was at least 3 or 4 people around me, and my sister too. She had a mask on as well, but was sitting right next to me, her hand around mine. I could see their lights flashing, my hearing was muffled, and I saw the house up in flames. I looked into my sister's big eyes. It was okay, now.
"No, no. You wouldn't want to hear about it."
"Riley, stop." He grabbed my arm and stopped my walking. I looked back at him. "I know something's bothering you. Don't worry. You can tell me anything."
I bit my lip in hesitation. "I know."
He kindly let go of me, and still had this frowny, weird, worried, protective almost, look. "Was it something I said before?"
"Uh, not really."
"What was it then?"
"I don't know, Ben! It doesn't matter anymore."
"It matters to me." That had totally caught me off guard. He must've noticed because his expression of worry worsened. Why did this guy care so much? I don't get it.
"Why does it matter to you?" I asked, then began walking away before I could see his next expression.
"Because, you're my friend." He was catching up to me.
"I want to help."
"I could try."
"It wouldn't make any difference if you did."
"Can I ask you something?"
"What?" I sounded really annoyed.
"Why don't you ever want to talk about your family? Everytime something like that comes up, you just jump to another topic. I've known you for so long and hardly know anything. That isn't right. I'm your friend." Best friend, actually. He had a point there. "I know it bothers you. But, you know, if you got it off your chest, it might make you feel better."
He had another point there. I knew he was right. To be honest, I wanted to tell him everything. I wanted to pour everything out because I had never done it before. I never told anybody. I never had anybody. We had bonded so much in the past month and he's been nothing but great to me. Almost like a big brother. I dont see why he shouldn't know. Bound to hear about it eventually, right? Inside I was rambling to him everything. Outside, I shook my head in confusion.
"I don't know."
"You know, I won't judge you or anything."
"I know. I know."
"If you don't want to, you really don't have to."
"I just want you to know that, you can if you want. I'll always have your back, and I'll always listen to you when you have something on your mind. I just want you to know that."
Aw, shucks, Ben.
"Are you listening to me?" I nodded in response. "Well?"
Sigh. "You know about my sister?"
"Yeah. Halie, right?"
"What about her?"
"I don't know. I don't know about her anymore."
He kept getting frownier and frownier. "What do you mean?"
"I just don't know. I don't know what happened to her. I haven't seen her in like, a billion years. Since I was 9ish."
"I didn't know that." He shook his head in true disbelief.
"Yeah. I was just thinkin'. She woulda really liked finding the treasure, you know? I think she'd be excited about it all."
"Was she into history, or that kind o' stuff?"
"Eh, not really. She was more into animals if anything. Of course, if she was still around, I don't think I'd even be on this 'treasure hunt'."
"More than likely, we would have stayed in the city together. I mean, we were all eachother had. We didn't have any other siblings. Our parents really didn't give us the time of day. So, we just were really close." This is quite uncomfortable.
He let it sink in a minute, I'm guessing. "What do you mean stay in the city?"
"I'm actually from Detroit. Well, just outside of Detroit, actually. I hated that place. After I lost contact with her, I was pretty much on my own. After I graduated highschool, I moved. I was pretty happy to get out of there."
"I see." He nodded, " Do you mind if I ask what happened to her? Your sister, I mean. If that's okay with you."
Sigh, again. "Well....after my parents died.." he obviously had no idea my parents were dead. His expression is indescribable. "...me and her were living with an aunt of ours. We lived with her only for a year because she was having financial problems and eventually we were seperated and put into different homes. "
"I'm sorry. " He put his hand on my shoulder. It was obvious he didn't know what to say.
" 'S okay. No way of changing the past now. I just wish I knew what happened to her. "
"I'm sure she's doing fine, Riles. "
"I certainly hope so."
"Do you know what happened to your aunt?"
"Yeah. Uh, see, she was my mom's sister and she didn't have any kids of her own. She loved us, you know? When I was really little, she'd babysit us all the time. Then, as the years passed we saw her less and less. Her and my mother weren't on good terms. See, she didn't exactly agree to my mom, or dad's, parenting system. She just felt bad for me and my sister, because my parents..sucked. I mean, don't get me wrong, I loved my mom at first. She was like perfect. She was nice and pretty and whatnot. My dad was a workaholic. But, after my grandpa died, he got fired and starting drinkin' a lot. Their relationship just crashed and it was like I didn't know them anymore. "I could almost feel him squirming. "Uh, where was I? Oh yeah, so she had tried once or twice to help us out there. She had tried to get us out of my parents' custody but somehow we always ended up staying. She always told us how sorry she was and that she'd try again. We didn't really understand it, though. Maybe my sister did, because she was older, but I never did."
Wow. I have no idea what to think. I thought I had a rather rough childhood. I guess I was wrong to think that. I was lucky, compared to him. I can only imagine what he'd been through. I'm shocked. I mean, good grief. I always knew there was something about his past that he wasn't too fond about. I just never knew what it was. I couldn't have guessed. I know it sounds cheesy, but I honestly think he is pretty brave to do this. Strong enough to try to get past this all. Although he's being rather straight to the point, I can only imagine what this kid is holding back on. I know there is a lot he isn't telling me. I don't think I need to the know the details. I don't think I'd want to know the details. Probably too graphic. Too hard. It seemed as soon as he got over his first awkward barrier, it got easier for him to tell me things. It just get pouring out. I wonder when he's going to stop. I just wonder how much exactly he's been through. I'm proud of him, to be honest. To admit that. I don't think I could, easily. I'm glad he has me to confide in. Maybe I am the only one he can trust. It seems to be.
I just can't help but have this horrible frown. I bet I'm making things harder on him but I honestly can't push it away. It's so difficult hearing about these things without feeling so bad. How can somebody put their children through so much? Sickos. I'm glad they're dead. I think. I don't know.
"So, I didn't get to see her for a long time. I never thought I'd see her again, ever. My mom wouldn't let her talk to us, but she lived pretty close by and if I wanted to I could stop by on the way back from school. Somehow my mom always knew when we did though, and we eventually stopped trying. After my parents died, she took us in with her. It was a pretty good year, actually." A good year? "She really did like us. But, she was lonely. Didn't have a stable job and was like way in debt. After a year or so, she couldn't keep us. They took us away from her because she just couldn't take care of us anymore. She was totally sorry, too. I felt bad that she felt bad. I really owed a lot to her, you know? We both did."
I nodded. He waited a moment to make sure I was listening, and continued. " Anyway, I don't think I answered your question, did I?" He cleared his throat. "After we left, we got put into different homes. I got tossed around a few different families. The system was just crazy. Then, I found out that one of my foster mother's friends was related to my aunt's new husband. I was like 13 then, I think. I don't remember how I found out about it, but apparently my aunt got engaged to some rich guy. She had a mess load of money now, and so I figured maybe she could take me back. But, I found out that on their honeymoon, they had been in an accident and she died. Her husband survived but I wasn't going to stay with him."
She died? Are you kidding me? This is like a bad novela. How could one kid possibly go through all this crap?
He sighed rather big. I put my hand back on his shoulder. He took a deep breath, and continued forward. Will this ever end?
"Want to know something funny?" I nodded. I somehow didn't think it was going to be funny. "Well, I hardly ever saw my aunt growing up. But, when she died I was really bummed about it. She was like the last family I had. And, my parents, who I had known all my life...well, I was happy when they died. It's like, I didn't know my aunt as much but I trusted her a lot more and I was more upset that she was gone. I guess it was because I lost any hope to be reunited with family, again. I kept thinkin' that maybe she'd take me back and we'd find my sister and she'd take care of us. She was more like a mother to us, anyway. I just find it kind of ironic that it would play out like that. You'd think I'd be sad about my parents. I was thrilled. I thought maybe I should be feeling guilty, but I couldn't."
I think I understood his motives. I let him continue, ignoring all the emotions running through my veins. Sadness, concern, guilt, anger mostly.
"Ugh." That was big sigh. "I'm sorry, Ben."
"Why are you sorry?"
"I didn't mean to keep going on and on. You sh-"
"Riley. It's okay. I want to hear it."
He didn't seem to believe me for a second. "Really?"
"Yeah, of course. I'm still listening."
He licked his lips in thought.
"How'd your parents die, anyway?" I began, hopefully getting him back on a comfortable track. My tone of voice seemed to calm him down.
He swallowed. "A fire. They were fighting, again. My dad was smoking and somehow ended up burning the house down. In fact, I didn't think I was going to make it then. I thought I was dying. I didn't know where anybody was. But, when I woke up I was outside with my sister. The firemen were there. They told me that they couldn't save my parents."
"And that made your sister happy, too?''
"Oh, yeah. She was thrilled about it, too." He was making himself sound off like a jerk. He didn't want me to feel as bad for him.
"I'm sorry, Riley."
"Don't be sorry." It was like a command.
"I just can't believe that you had to go through all that. It must have been tough." Real tough. Must've been Hell, more like it.
"Yeah, it was. But, I sucked it up and got over it."
Woah. I've never heard that tone in him before. It was harsh. He almost sounded angry. It's a bit frightening, actually. What was I supposed to say to that? I caught a glimpse of his face. He had this horrible, just miserable expression on. I wanted to do whatever I could for him, but didn't know how. He was a complex kid, for sure. A whole different side of him just opened up to me, and I'm not sure how to react to it.
Then, without thinking, I grabbed onto his arm and stopped walking. He was jerked back a little bit, and gasped in surprise. But, before he could shoot me a dirty, annoyed look, I pulled him closer to me and wrapped my arms tightly around him in a hug. He was easily taken aback, and at first couldn't say anything. It was just like that for a few moments. His arms stuck awkwardly to his sides.
"Wh...what are you doing, Ben?" He asked, breathlessly.
"I'm giving you a hug."
"Why?" He didn't understand.
"Because, you need one."
"I- uh...." He didn't know what in the world to say. I didn't need him to say anything though. "What?"
"Don't talk, Riley."
"I'm sorry?" he was genuinely confused.
"Shush. Listen to me for a second, will ya?"
He hesitantly nodded.
"I want you to know that whatever happened back then, doesn't have anything to do with anything now. Things are different, okay? I know you didn't have anybody. No family. But, to tell you the truth, Riley...I consider you my family. You're my best friend. " It was true. I didn't have many friends, either. "I don't want you to think you're alone in anything, anymore. I'm sorry I dragged you out here. It was stupid of me to think that everything was just going to be alright. Gotta take care of my family. I'm going to get us out of this, I promise."
"Ben, I can't breath."
Huh? I immediately released my bear grip on him, and he staggered backwards a few steps. He still looked a little confused. "Sorry."
" 'S okay, Ben...." He nodded. He was telling himself it was okay.
"I can't tell you how much I appreciate you sharing though. I have to tell you honestly, I don't think I could ever do that. You're a strong kid. "
For once in a long time, I saw the kid smile. It wasn't a super-happy smile, but a soft one. It was still a smile though. I smiled back. Mission accomplished. "Come on, let's get to that village, shall we? I'm freezin' out here." I started walking again, but he grabbed my arm and stopped me as I had previously done to him. I turned to him in surprise. He looked at me for a few seconds without saying anything.
I smiled wider, moving my arm over his shoulder blades and playfully pulling him towards my side. "No need to thank me, Riley."
We started walking forward again. He looked at me with his signature grin. "So, you sure there aren't any Yetis around here?"
THE END!?!?! :D
A/N BOOYA! I finally finished it! Woot. It took me forever, really. I just kept rewriting stuff intil I got tired of it. I just been writing like nonstop because I wanted to get it over with. Its lengthy, I know. I apologise. But, I is happy its over. I hope you liked it. Please review it, of course! Yay, fluffish-ness! Tell me what you all think about it. I'm thinking about writing some more stories but I don't know if any of you want anymore from me. So, you've gotta let me know. I think I'd do one first about how they met or something. How's that? HMM. I'm tired. And happy. But, this is kind of sad, no? Poor Riley. I wish I could just hug him too. (Back off, people! I get dibs this time.) La la la. I'm reaaaally tired, now. This is like the longest thing I've ever written. Well, don't know how long it'll end up being for you, but for me, since I wrote it all, it seems like a really, really, REALLY long one. xD
Pfft. Bear Hugs. I wish I had a better title :P
Okay, I'll be going now. Bye-Bye.