Title: Red Jello
Disclaimer: I don't own National Treasure. Disney does. They own everything. If you check, you'll see they own your soul.
Summary: Riley's sick. What more can you want?
Note: Hey! The story is done, and I am happy. You can't see, but I am smiling. Thank you all for reading. By the way, the quote has nothing to do with the content of the chapter. I just really like the quote.
Chapter V: The Couch and Confessions
"Why waste your final hours racing about your cage denying you're a squirrel?" Faber "Fahrenheit 451"
Ben set Riley's bag of clothes down by the front door and watched with amusement as his friend went directly to the living room and plopped down on the couch. Riley immediately opened up his laptop and waited for it to load.
"Where's my dinner?" Riley asked jokingly as Abigail sat down next to him on the couch.
"Keep talking like that and you can make it yourself," replied Abigail with a laugh. "Didn't Dr. Shaw say you should be resting?"
Riley shrugged. "I'm just on a computer. That isn't exactly stressful."
"I have to disagree," said Ben as he made his way into the living room. "The way you work on a computer, it can be stressful."
Riley looked shocked at the fact Ben and Abigail were ganging up on it. "If you want this computer, you're going to have to fight me for it." Ben raised his eyebrow, and Riley changed tactics. "If you want this computer you're going to have to challenge me to Paper, Rock, Scissors."
Ben tried to hold onto his straight face, but it was no use. "I'm only kidding, Riley. You can go ahead and work on your computer. I'm going to take your bag to your room."
Riley nodded and then smiled when he saw that his computer had loaded. He hadn't gotten much work down in the hospital between sporadic sleeping, fevers and chills, and, what Riley had enjoyed the least, his bouts of nausea. He quickly connected to Ben and Abigail's wifi, it was easy to get around the password he couldn't remember, and started up a game of Tetris.
"I thought you were going to work," said Abigail, looking over her friend's shoulder at the game he had started. "That certainly doesn't look like work."
"It helps me think," said Riley, defending one of his favorite games in the world. "Sometimes, I have to clear my head."
"Most people use a tissue."
Riley did not grant Abigail's joke a laugh. "Come on. I just spent two days in the hospital. Let me unwind."
"I'm not saying you can't play Tetris," said Abigail. "I was just confused because you said earlier you were going to work on your book." She paused for a moment. "What is your book about? You haven't told me."
Riley was surprised that Abigail hadn't heard about his book either, but a thought occurred to him. He hadn't been over to Ben and Abigail's for close to two weeks, and it was during that time that he really started working on his book. For a moment, Riley felt guilty about his attempts to give Ben and Abigail space, but he quickly pushed that to the back of his head; he'd been doing it so that his friends could spend time together.
"Riley? Riley?!" Riley was startled from his thoughts by Abigail and looked over at his friend to see that she had a very worried look on her face. "Are you okay, Riley?"
"Um…yeah. I just kinda spaced out. What were you saying?"
"I asked you what your book was about?"
"Oh. The Templar Treasure and other American Conspiracies. You know. Like Roswell and Kennedy's magic bullet."
"Riley, the Templar Treasure wasn't a conspiracy. It existed. You have a Spyder Ferrari that says so."
"Correction: The Templar Treasure was a conspiracy that just so happened to be true. That does not make it any less of a conspiracy."
Abigail laughed and shook her head. "Whatever you say, Riley. Are you going to send me a copy of your book?"
"Of course," said Riley. "I'll even autograph it for you."
Abigail chuckled. "Why thank you, and if I am ever hard up for money, I can sell it on ebay."
"That was the plan," said Riley.
Abigail shook her head and gave Riley's knee a friendly slap. "Well thank you for your concern of my future finances." She stood up from the couch. "I'm going to go fix some dinner. Call me if you need anything."
"Will do. What are you making?"
"Well, I still have some leftover ingredients from when I made the soup the other night, so I was thinking about making other batch. It will give you a chance to actually taste my soup."
"Great," said Riley. "I don't know what happened to soup Ben brought me."
"I put it in your fridge. I don't know how good it will be by the time you get back to your apartment."
"How long do you plan on keeping me here?"
"How ever long before you are better. Even if it means that I have to tie you down to make sure you get some rest."
"The doctor and Ben threatened to do that to me at the hospital. Did you guys get together and plan it or something?"
"There was a meeting about it on Tuesday. Didn't you get your invite?"
For a moment, all Riley could do was stare at Abigail, but after a moment, Riley broke out laughing. Abigail smiled as she walked do to the kitchen listening to the sound of Riley chuckling and typing on his laptop.
Abigail, who had to get up and go to work the next morning, had gone to bed about an hour ago, but Ben and Riley were still sitting in the living room. Ben was sitting in an overstuffed armchair with his feet up on the coffee table, aimlessly flipping the through the television channels while Riley was typing away on his computer. Normally, Ben preferred to spend his evenings reading, but his mind was still trying to find away to approach what had happened at the hospital and he couldn't focus on a book.
"You ever going to settle on anything there, Ben?"
Ben started a bit in his chair and looked up to see that Riley was staring at him. "What?"
"That is the third time you have been through the channels. I know you're always saying that there isn't anything on TV, but I think you have proved your point."
Ben smirked and then flipped off the television. He leaned back in his chair, ran a hand over his face, and sighed.
"Is there something on your mind, Ben?"
Ben looked up and saw Riley slowly closing his laptop; Ben knew that it was now or never if he wanted to talk to Riley about what had happened. "Yeah. There is. Riley, do you ever have…I don't know…nightmares about being trapped down in the temple?"
Riley looked at him like he was crazy. "What?"
"Do you ever have nightmares about being trapped down in the temple? You know, Ian leaving us and us not really finding a way out right away."
"No." Riley paused and fiddled with the blanket Abigail had insisted he sit under. "Why?"
"Because at the hospital…the night your fever spiked…you did."
Riley continued to un-straighten and straighten the blanket for several minutes, before he finally responded to Ben. "Maybe I've had a couple." He looked up and saw the look on Ben's face. "Seriously, only like two…three if you count the one at the hospital, but it's not really a big deal."
"Why didn't you tell me?" asked Ben.
"Because it was no big deal. Ben, we were stuck underground in a temple that was falling apart and had already cost someone their life. You can't tell me you weren't scared too."
"Well, yeah. I was, but you still could have told me."
"I'm fine, Ben. I'm not traumatized or anything. I don't really want to travel to any underground temples for awhile, but other than that, I'm fine. See." Riley gave Ben two thumbs up. "I'm still the same ol' Riley."
Ben laughed. "Okay. I get it; I'll drop the subject. You can talk to me about those things you know."
"I know," said Riley, "but I wasn't going to bother you and Abigail with two nights of lost sleep."
While Riley may have only meant what he said as a passing fact, it spoke volumes to Ben. Suddenly, all the times Riley had avoided coming over and the fact he hadn't wanted to stay with them after getting out of the hospital made sense. Riley hadn't been too busy or too sick…okay maybe he had been too sick the other day, but it was more than that.
"Riley, is that why you haven't been coming over?"
"What do you mean?"
"For the past three weeks, Abigail and I have been trying to get you to come over for dinner or to watch a movie or just to hang out, but every time we've asked, you've made up some excuse not to. I want to know why?" There was a pause. "Did we do something to make you mad?"
"No," said Riley. "You guys didn't do anything." Riley was quiet for a moment. "I was trying to give you and Abigail some space."
Ben was confused. "Why?"
Riley shook his head. "Ben, this is the first time since I have known you that you have been in a serious relationship. I was trying to give you space because I didn't want to make you feel like I was being a third wheel."
Suddenly, it all made sense to Ben, and he felt like an ass for not trying harder to make Riley realized that even though he had a girlfriend, he still needed his best friend. "Riley, you do realize that it has been both me and Abigail who have been trying to get you over here, not just me. You're a friend, Riley, and we want to spend time with you."
"Ben, I don't want to make you guys feel like I am crowding you."
"Riley, trust me, I will be the first to let you know if you are crowding Abigail and me."
Ben and Riley laughed, and after a few seconds, the laughter turned into a yawn for both Ben and Riley. "I think you better get to bed, Riley. Remember what Dr. Shaw said."
"I'm not four, Ben. I don't need a bedtime."
Ben stood from his chair. "Don't make me get the duct tape."
Riley shook his head and set his laptop on the coffee table. He'd probably spend the next day on the same couch, so there was no point in taking the laptop up to the room he was staying in. As they left the living room, Ben switched off the light and set his arm around Riley's shoulders. It felt good to have just about everything back to normal with his friend.
Around five days had passed since Riley had been released from the hospital, and everything seemed to be going back to normal. It was the night before Riley was going to return to living at his own apartment, and Abigail had decided that a big meal was in order to celebrate. She'd even decided that the dining room had to be decorated, so she had sent Ben and Riley in search of the table cloth and good dishes which hadn't made it out of their moving boxes yet.
After the table had been set and Abigail had decided that her lasagna was cooked to perfection, the three settled down for the first real diner they'd together in a long time. For awhile, the three friends talked, and Abigail got to hear a bunch of stories from when Ben and Riley had first met.
It was close to the end of diner, and the conversation had turned into a pleasant lull. It was Abigail who broke the silence.
"Riley, can I ask you a question?"
Riley shrugged. "Sure."
"Why are you so afraid of hospitals?"
Ben looked up from what was left of his food. "Yeah, I've been wondering that too."
Riley chose that moment to become incredibly interested in the crust of garlic bread he'd left on his plate. "It's really not that great of a story."
Abigail and Ben looked at each other. "Did you have a bad experience at a hospital?" asked Abigail.
Riley shook his head. "No. Nothing like that."
"Can't you just tell us?" asked Ben.
Riley looked up. "It's ridiculous…and kind of embarrassing."
"We won't laugh."
"You guys can't guarantee that."
"We won't," insisted Abigail. "We promise." Ben nodded in agreement.
Riley sighed but relented. "When I was little, the night before I was supposed to have my tonsils removed, I stayed up late and watched this old zombie film that took place in a hospital on this little TV in my bedroom. When my parents took me to the hospital the next day, I was freaking out. Ever since, I've had this irrational fear that if I stay in the hospital, there will be this zombie uprising, and everyone in the morgue will become flesh eating zombies." He looked up and saw the stunned looks on Ben and Abigail's faces. "I told you it was ridiculous."
For a moment, Ben and Abigail were silent, but a snicker escaped Abigail, and Ben couldn't help but join in.
"Come on. You guys said you wouldn't laugh!"
"Riley, you told us it was ridiculous. Not paranoid and delusional," said Ben. "Without fair warning, we're going to laugh."
"See if I help you guys when there is a zombie uprising." Riley crossed his arms as his friends continued to laugh, but after a few moments of sulking, he joined in. Even though everyone was technically laughing at his expense, it felt good.
I am well aware of how ridiculous Riley's reason for hating hospitals is, but after the angst I had earlier, I wanted the story to end on a happy note. I hope you all enjoyed the story. Happy Halloween!