Disclaimer: I don't own National Treasure or Rise of the Guardians
A.N - I haven't seen NT in months and I've only seen RotG once, so mangled character personalities aren't exactly unexpected. Still, I had to write it. The picture of Riley Poole writing to Santa Claus kept bugging me until I sat down and typed it out.
"Riley," Ben said dryly, staring down at the focused computer virtuoso.
Riley looked up from his scrawled writing, his expression less than pleased. "Yes, Ben?" he acknowledged testily. This was the third time this week his friend had popped in unexpectedly.
And it was only Monday.
"What in heaven's name are you doing?" Ben had to ask.
"Writing a letter," Riley said unnecessarily, flicking the notebook paper with the pen he'd picked up from a hotel.
"Not an e-mail?" Ben asked with trifling amount of awe.
Riley snorted. "This person," he said, popping his lips, "doesn't do 'fancy-pancy technology gizmos,' to quote him properly. If I want a response, I have to write him the old-fashioned way. The dreaded snail mail."
Ben raised his eyebrows in amusement. "And what happened to your printer?" he asked. If Riley was actually resorting to ink and flattened trees, the poor thing must have blown up.
Riley winced. "A very not pretty paper jam," he answered, refusing to elaborate.
"And the library?" Ben asked.
"Closed for renovations," Riley answered dryly.
"Mrs. Perkins?" Ben inquired, referring to Riley's surly next-door neighbor.
Riley let out a dramatic sigh. "Mrs. Crab Lady refuses to answer her door. Either that or she's visiting her son for the holidays."
"So you're resorting to desperate measures, I see," Ben teased, leaning against the desk with his arms folded.
Riley made a face at his friend. "Ha. Ha. Very funny, Ben," he deadpanned. "Now leave before I decide to take my key back."
Ben smiled good-naturedly. "I didn't ask you to hand over your spare apartment key," he said, patting his pocket.
"And I see that neither you or Abigail have bothered to give me one of your spare house keys," Riley bristled, crinkling his nose.
"Maybe for Christmas," Ben said, partially serious.
Riley scowled, then looked down to refocus on his letter. In his younger years, it would have resembled something more akin to an exciting grocery list. Now that he was older (and slightly richer), he had more to say and less to ask for.
"Who are you writing?" Ben's inevitable question finally broke the silence.
"No one you know," Riley said shortly, wrapping his arm around the paper so Ben couldn't lean over and peek.
Ben pouted, watching as Riley continued to move his pen across the paper, pausing every so often to think.
"Are you sure I don't know him?" Ben asked in a drawl. "I know a lot of people."
Riley looked up at the treasure hunter long enough to sneer.
"Positive," he said.
Then he looked back down, his arm clenched even more tightly around his secretive work.
Ben raised his eyebrows, now insanely curious.
"No hints?" the man asked, sticking out his lower lip. Riley looked up at him, unimpressed. The puppy eyes didn't work for Ben Gates. Abigail really was so much better at it, made evident by all the ridiculous history curios Ben had purchased for her.
"He's Russian," Riley finally admitted stiffly.
Instead of quashing his curiosity, the release of information caused Ben's eyes to widen slightly, the corners of his lips twitching upwards. He asked, "Since when have you acquired a Russian acquaintance?"
"Would you go away?" Riley asked snappily.
Riley sighed, banging his head against the desk in despair. When his head came up again, he focused on the area in front of him, only to discover wood instead of paper. His eyes widened and his head whipped around to see Ben staring at his letter with a slow frown on his face.
"Hey!" Riley yelled, making a feeble grab for his paper. Ben didn't lose focus as he stepped out of range, holding the letter out of Riley's short reach.
Unwilling to move from his chair, Riley slumped down, arms folded. "Well, Riley, there goes the last of your reputation," the younger man drawled to himself. His eyes were still fixed on Ben, his posture defensive and his tongue ready with a sarcastic retort.
Despite his nervousness, part of Riley didn't mind that Ben had stumbled across this annual habit. After all, he had a long list of strange Benjamin Gates secrets that could blackmail the man into silence for years. Not even Abigail knew about the firework incident.
"You got another parking ticket?" Ben finally voiced, sounding incredulous.
Riley made a face. "You just found out that I still write Santa Claus and that's all you can say?" he asked.
Ben did a double-take. "Wait, you're actually writing Santa Claus, then?"
Riley threw his hands in the air.
"Yes!" he exclaimed in exasperation. "See the name? At the top of the page? It clearly reads-"
"'Santa Clause,' I know," Ben said dismissively, giving the letter a second scan. He looked up at Riley. "So you're writing old St. Nick himself. Holiday tradition?"
"Partially," Riley said, tipping his head back and forth in consideration. "I also met the man, so I feel obligated."
"At the mall?" Ben deadpanned.
Riley snorted. "Those guys? Please Ben, I know a fake when I see one," he said with a sniff.
Ben blinked at him, staring at Riley as though he were the biggest puzzle he'd ever come across.
"You say you met him?" Ben asked after a moment, the catch in his voice making it obvious that he was on the verge of laughing.
"I just said that, didn't I?" Riley reminded, scowling.
Ben stared at him, the laughter gone from his eyes, replaced by a more inquisitive expression.
"With the reindeer."
"And the north pole. Yes, that Santa Claus," Riley huffed. "Are there any other Santa Clauses?"
Ben was silent for a moment.
"Who just happens to be Russian."
"His accent was Russian," Riley defended.
Ben nodded thoughtfully.
"And you actually believe this?" Ben asked with squinted eyes, as though he were x-raying Riley's brain for honesty levels. Riley wasn't exactly the prankster type, and usually very straightforward in whatever her had to say. So if he said that he actually believed that he saw Santa Claus.
"Yes Ben, I believe in Santa Clause," Riley announced, throwing his hands in the air.
Ben raised an eyebrow.
Riley shifted in his chair, the first sign of nervousness he'd allowed to get past his cranky disposition.
"While I admit I'm surprised, somehow I get the feeling that I shouldn't be," Ben finally said, sounding oddly content.
Riley clasped his hands in his lap, feeling strangely let down.
"What?" Ben asked, noting the younger man's downtrodden expression.
"That was slightly anticlimactic," Riley said dully.
"In what way?" Ben asked, making the pinched look he did whenever he was trying to hide the fact that he was confused.
"I dunno," Riley said with a shrug. "Most people – prepubescents in particular – are a bit more vocal, usually in the laughing department."
"Do you want me to laugh at you?" Ben asked incredulously. "Because I don't feel like laughing at you."
"And why not?" Riley demanded, tilting his head. "My own mother laughs at me," he said mirthlessly.
Ben looked at the ceiling. Riley thought he was going to start spouting the dryly ironic, like he usually did, but to his surprise, when Ben glanced back down to meet Riley's eyes, there was a kind expression on his face.
"Riley, did you laugh at me when I told you that I was searching for a treasure that the founding fathers had conspired to hide over two-hundred years ago?"
"Um, no," Riley said, not seeing Ben's point. Of course he hadn't laughed. Even if he hadn't believed in the treasure right away, he'd always dreamed of its reality.
"Right, and so when you tell me that you believe in a mythical being who delivers toys to all of the children in one night…"
"Actually, it's several nights," Riley interrupted. "Some cultures don't actually have Santa come until January."
Ben gave Riley a strange look. "Right," the treasure hunter deadpanned. "As I was saying… if you didn't laugh at my kooky, unfounded beliefs, then I certainly won't laugh at yours."
They stared at each other for a few seconds.
"Plus, it kind of fits in with the whole, 'Area 51,' 'Government Conspiracies' aspect of your personality," Ben admitted.
Riley popped his lips. "Okay, then… glad that's cleared up. I'll give you a good recommendation, then, shall I?" he said, reaching for his letter.
"Please," Ben said dryly, handing Riley back his paper.
Riley sat, poised to write before he stopped. "Why did you come over, anyways?" he inquired, looking up at his friend.
"Oh, I was passing through the neighborhood," Ben said airily.
Riley shifted in his chair.
"Abigail's gone to be a guest speaker for the university again, hasn't she?" Riley asked, pressing his lips together.
"Yeah," Ben said.
"Knew it," Riley sang, rolling his eyes and moving to refocused on his letter.
"Can I stay here?"
"I'll make dinner," Ben promised.
Riley looked up, tempted. "Italian?" he asked.
Ben let out a sigh of relief. "If you'd like," he said affably, trying to sound nonchalant.
"Very well, then," Riley conceded.
"Want to help with the luggage?"
"Go away, Ben."
Ben laughed. "You already invited me," he declared, turning to leave.
"Ben! You are not taking my bed this time," Riley warned, shaking his finger. "You get the couch."
"Of course," Ben snorted as he walked out the door, as though he'd planned to be a gracious house guest the entire time.
O o O
Later that night:
"Ben?" Riley said sleepily from his arm chair.
"Yes?" Ben answered absently.
"I figured I might as well tell you now," Riley said, leaning back into the comfort of the chair's stuffing.
"Tell me what?" Ben asked suspiciously, looking up from his book.
"I also believe in the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy, the sandman, and more recently, in Jack Frost – he's a new addition, you know," Riley said, his voice fading.
Ben pinched his lips together.
"Is he now?" he said, humoring the younger man.
"Mmm," Riley hummed, snuggling into the pillow he was holding.
Soon afterwards, he was snoring.
Ben smirked. Maybe he'd get the bed, after all.
O o O
As North perused the letter box, his eyes spotted a familiar name.
Riley Poole, one of the few remaining adults to believe in fairytales... that and in a whole lot of other nonsense as well. But his heart was in the right place, the guardian noted affectionately.
The letter was similar enough to all of the other letters the boy had written within these recent years, as more of a correspondence than as a list of wants – a refreshing change, North had to admit. Then his eyes hit the bottom of the letter.
At the bottom, written in a hurried scrawl, was a "P.S.," as though Riley had added it in a rush, or as an after-thought.
"Jack!" the guardian bellowed, twisting to face the open doors of his office. The post script, and the only thing Riley Poole had asked for, would best be answered by the youthful winter spirit. An odd request to be sure, but the boy deserved something fun.
O o O
Christmas morning, Riley blearily stared outside his fogged-up window. Then the phone shrieked through his thoughts for the fifth time, and he remembered why he'd sat up from the comfortable dream he'd been having.
"Hello?" he asked into the mouthpiece, barely holding in a yawn.
"Ben?" Riley asked, bemused.
"Are you even awake yet?" Ben asked in an accusing tone.
"It's only nine o'clock!" Riley exclaimed sourly.
Ben sighed in exasperation. "Well, have you looked outside yet?" he asked, getting to the point.
"Yes, why?" Riley asked, staring at the frosted-covered cars and the grey skies. Exactly the same as yesterday.
"I'm not sure we're going to make it for Christmas dinner," Ben said thinly.
"Why not?" Riley asked, bemused. Ben's mother had been planning the event for months.
"I don't exactly have a snow plow in my garage," Ben snapped.
Riley blinked in confusion, wondering what exactly he'd missed this time.
"We're up to our doorway in snow here, Riley," Ben ranted. He began going off about erratic power outages and Abigail's living room snow ball fight as what he'd said finally sank in to Riley's brain.
To Ben's utmost confusion, he only heard peals of laughter answer him.
When he finally got the demanded explanation, all Riley would tell him is, "I added a post script. You really shouldn't have taken the bed."