niki_chidon: (cold and frost)
Niki ([personal profile] niki_chidon) wrote2012-02-21 08:36 pm

Fic: From the Cold and Frost 4/6 (National Treasure; Ian/Ben, Riley/OFC)

I suck. I suckety suckety suck. So, [livejournal.com profile] jedibuttercup, I am one year and a month late. But it's here. The story is finally finished. (Blame Riley for clamming up on me for a few years. And then he wouldn't stop babbling...) I fear the seams show quite clearly on the new bit but, well. It's here:) Now all that remains is posting the final chapters.

Title: From the Cold and Frost 4/6: Finland; “This Cold and Cruel Country”
Author: Niki
Fandom: National Treasure (movie)
Series: Follows A More Perfect Union and The Age of Fire and Gravel
Pairings: Ben/Ian, Riley/OFC (Mina)
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Disney owns most of them.
Summary: The *next* treasure, though to be fair, it's really a part of the previous one...
Notes: Book of Secrets didn't happen. Reading Fire and Gravel before this recommended.
Previous Chapters: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3
Thanks to Sila for yet more Dutchisms! Source reading at the end of the final chapter. Thanks to Mr Niki (he chose the name;) for random historical data. Oh, and to my mom for the suggestion for the location of the treasure.


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Part 4: Finland; “This Cold and Cruel Country”
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Abigail's contact in the Helsinki University was there to meet them at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport. She told them she had contacted a colleague in the history department who was willing to meet them immediately.

It took almost an hour to get to the university from the airport, then their guide led them to professor Takala's office before excusing herself, explaining she had a lecture.

“On civil war era USA. How I wish Abigail could do that one for me.”

Professor Takala's – 'please call me Heikki' – office made Mina feel right at home. Books and documents covered every surface and the few pictures on the wall were all maps.

The man himself was in his forties, turning grey and growing heavy in the middle. He reminded Mina of her old history teacher.

“I am honoured to meet you,” he said, shaking Ben's hand enthusiastically. “All of you. What you have given to the historical community... I'm speechless.”

“Should we go to the coffee room where we can all sit or is your business... secret? I got the idea from Krista's call that you don't want much attention to your presence here.”

“Yes, we would prefer keeping this meeting as private as possible,” Ben said, offering the only guest chair to Mina.

“A new discovery?” their host asked, obviously exited at the possibility.

“You understand anything we say here must stay in the office?”

“Naturally, yes. I will not tell anyone anything you will tell me.”

“We have found clues that the missing treasures of Atlantis were hidden in here.”

“Here? Finland? By the Nazis who took them from Atlantis?”

“Here.”

Ian handed him the photocopies of the letters and documents they had found.

“They are in German, we do have the English translations if you need...?”

“I'm fine with these, thank you,” he replied, digging his glasses from his pocket.

“Fascinating...” he muttered. “The drawings?”

Ian handed him the copies wordlessly.

“Unbelievable!”

“I don't suppose you have any idea as to the place they depict?”

“No, unfortunately. The coast looks the same from the Russian side border to Norway, pretty much. You say these were drawn by Ola Forsell? I have seen no record of an expedition in coastal Finland... as to where Yrjö von Grönhagen would have hidden them... I would have expected Lapland, where there were German troops. They did have troops in the south, too but that was never... I wonder...”

He studied the drawings wordlessly for a couple of minutes. “I'm afraid we have to arrange for some help with these. Maybe the geological department... But I'm afraid even with all these landmarks it will be impossible to find the place unless someone has seen them previously. That one rock, for example... There were no further clues?”

“Well, presumably the recipient of that letter knew the expedition of von Grönhagen's the writer was alluding to, so to them it would have been more obvious.”

“I'm afraid I see no way to find the location except by going public with these. Maybe if I try to keep your names out of it and just say they are something I ran into in the course of my own research?”

“I'm afraid we're limited in the publicity by the owner of the originals, as well. He, uhh, didn't actually come by them legally.”

“Don't tell me. The less I know, the less sleep I lose over it. Okay then, how about I enlist the help of some of my co-workers and students. We have people from all over the country. And the archaeology people travel widely. We start small, only widening the search if needed. How does that sound?”

“And you'll keep our names out of it?”

“You have my word. I'm afraid someone will have seen you here and the word might get out but I'll tell anyone you were here on a social visit. That we met during some conference and you just looked me up when in town. I don't know how believable it will be but... I'll try.”

“Thank you.”

Ben shook his hand again and handed him a card with a number to the German mobile phone he and Ian had gotten to take care of local connections during their stay in Europe.

“We can also be reached through the hotel, which is...?”

“Intercontinental,” Mina supplied, checking from the printout in her pocket.

.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.

“Look, I don’t think we’ll hear from him any time soon, so go ahead and see a doctor already,” Ian said.

“I know you did the DIY test in the plane, but we’d all feel better if you’d see a professional, just to find out everything is okay,” Ben elaborated.

“For what it’s worth – I agree with them,” Abigail said.

Riley merely looked at her with his puppy dog eyes.

“Fine! Fine, jeez. To think that a little over a year ago I was a lonely woman with only her books for company, her parents on another continent, and now I have a… a horde of people who are only interested in keeping me in line…” Mina muttered tetchily.

“Aww, babe, you know we’re just worried about you,” Riley said, moving to hug her.

“I know, I know. That’s the only reason I haven’t killed you guys yet!”

She hugged Riley, then moved to hug Ian, too. “It’s not like I’d change anything in my current life, and you know it. Fine, I’ll go ask the reception desk about doctors, okay?”

“We’d all breathe easier if we knew you were okay,” Ian said quietly.

“I’m fine. I feel fine. But just to satisfy you all, I’ll get an appointment. Okay? But if it clashes with the quest, you all know which one I’ll put first,” Mina threatened, smiling.

“Your and your – our – baby’s health, as you should,” Riley countered, grinning, and steered her towards the door.

.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.

Mina’s appointment with a gynaecologist was a few days later, and Riley took her there. The others stayed behind in the hotel room.

Heikki had not made any progress in identifying the scenes in the drawings yet, and they had all spent the past days with their noses in reference books. Afraid of attracting too much attention they had not gone in the library themselves but Heikki had couriered countless tomes for them.

They only paused in their research to eat, which is what they were doing when Heikki finally contacted them; Riley had promised to take Mina out to eat after her appointment.

The tinny rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" chiming from Ian’s pocket turned everyone’s head. He got up from the table to take the call and Ben shrugged at Abigail’s expression. “It’s his idea of a joke,” he explained.

“That is wonderful news!” Ian was saying to the phone.

Their attention was now firmly on Ian, getting up from the table, the meal forgotten, both just waiting for him to finish his call.

“We’ll be waiting for you,” he finished.

He turned to the others, grinning widely. He kissed Ben on the lips, then turned to Abigail, arm around Ben’s shoulders.

“Heikki found someone who recognised the place in the pictures. They’re both on their way here.”

“That is wonderful news!” Ben admitted, grinning as well.

“What is?” Riley asked from the door. He and Mina had apparently arrived just in time to hear the last statement.

“Never mind about that for a moment, do you have wonderful news?” Ian asked, disentangling himself from Ben to walk to Mina.

“Well, that’s depends on your point of view, grandpa,” Riley grinned.

“I’m fine, baby is fine, tell me the news!” Mina rushed them, hurriedly hugging ‘grandpa’ Ian.

“Heikki and a colleague are on their way as we speak. Apparently, she recognised one of the pictures, the one with the big rock. That’s all I know.”

.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.

Heikki’s colleague turned out to be a thirty-something woman he introduced as Elina Kytönen. (“That’s K-Y-T-O with dots-N-E-N”) (“Just call me Elina, you’ll sprain your tongue otherwise.”)

They went straight to the point.

“She came to my room to discuss something else, and asked why I had a picture of ‘Tuolikivi’ on my desk. Seems her family owns the land it’s on.”

“Okay, coincidence much?” Abigail said, sounding almost affronted (and surprisingly lot like Riley).

“What did you expect? Map, star disc, Atlantis, ring a bell?” Riley reminded her.

“Thank you for your contribution, Riley. Where is it? And do the other pictures look familiar at all?”

“I did not tell her what this is about, I thought you could do the honours,” Heikki explained, and Ben proceeded to do so.

“Wow,” was Elina’s first reaction. “You mean I’ve been picnicking right next to the treasures of Atlantis? Wow.”

“Picnicking?”

“See this? The big rock is on the mainland shore, this one here seems to portray the tiny islands on the way to a bigger island a little further away. This one is quite noticeably the highest point of the island, and I know there are some caves nearby, because my mom used to tell me about the auntie Naana who lived in the cave, knitting, because occasionally you could hear the clicking of her knitting needles. At least, that’s what her mother had told her, but you couldn’t hear the sounds anymore.

“I think that’s because someone disturbed the caves at some point. And I’d definitely have heard if anything had been found. So… shall we go find your treasure?”

.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.

It was not as easy as that, of course. But at least this was just a reconnaissance mission as they had no idea about the kind of equipment – or permissions – they'd need for extracting the treasure, assuming they'd even find it. All they needed, really, was transportation. Which, considering their crew had grown into seven people by this time, wasn't that simple.

Ian and Heikki (whom they couldn't very well drop at this stage) considered the issue with Elina as she was the only one who knew the lay of the land, and debated over the merits of two cars versus a minibus.

"Two cars would attract less attention, especially if one of them was mine," Elina said in the end. "It's not like there are many people this time of the year but..."

"You have a point," Ian admitted. "We do want to keep this quiet for as long as possible."

"So if we meet anyone, you are my American friends whom I'm showing around the historical sights. We've got a Viking burial site and everything. The oldest graveyard on an island still in use in all of Finland. Not to mention, a cave filled with looted Nazi treasure! Okay, so maybe I'll leave the last bit out."

"I like her already," Riley said. This latest specimen was of course not as hot as Mina or even Anne, and, really, he did have Mina these days, but he still approved of Ben's ability to collect young women to help in his Quests. Besides, as a staid married man he appreciate her more for the irreverence than her looks. Well, that's what he'd tell Mina anyway.

"A Viking site?" Ben was distracted from the point. "I thought they never came this far?"

"Well, the long-held belief was that they tried but we kicked their ass. All I know, we used to picnic on this small island with a big pile of rocks we were always told is a Viking burial site. Looks authentic to me, but what do I know, not my field."

"No," said Ian forcefully, looking at the expression on Ben's face. "We will not be sidetracked by another treasure hunt when we still haven't finished the previous one."

.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.

The drive was three hours, and the last half an hour on a dirt track through a forest. Mina kept feeling sick the whole way, and the first thing she did when they reached their destination was throwing up in the woods.

"I used to do that all the time when I was a kid," Elina consoled the others when they looked worried. "The curves and the uneven terrain were always too much to me."

"It's not that," Riley said, distracted. "Are you okay, baby?" he asked, kneeling down next to his wife and offering her a bottle of water Ian had dug up from their bags.

"Both of your babies are fine," Mina reassured him, getting up.

"Oh. Congratulations," Elina said, catching on. "We should get going. There's only so much sunlight this time of the year and trust me, we do not want to get stuck in the woods after dark. There are no street lights here."

They walked to the shore and could see the island looming in front of them, surprisingly close to the mainland. The big rock of one of the drawings was clearly recognisable, as were the tiny islands in the middle.

"Wow," Mina said, with wonder in her voice. Ben was grinning widely.

.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.

Elina's family had three boats in their wooden boat house, of which she chose the biggest and oldest. "The sea is a bit rough. We need the power, and this has enough room for all of us."

Before they set off she dug up life vests for everyone. "Even though you can see land on every side and the distances look small it is still the ocean and I have healthy respect for it. We need to go slow.”

At first the speed she insisted on going felt frustrating but when they left the shelter of the shore even Riley, who had least experience on the ocean, had to appreciate the difficulty of piloting the small vessel among the suddenly huge waves.

Riley looked at Ben and saw him nodding his head as their guide steered them head on towards the waves. Okay, maybe she did know what she was doing.

When they approached the island that was their destination the waves got smaller again, and their landing on a sandy bit of the shore was uneventful. They tied the boat down and started their trek towards the woods.

They had barely reached the first trees when Riley realised the stuff falling from the sky was actually snow.

“Snow? This early?” he asked, looking at the natives.

“Hey, you're right, first snow!” Elina enthused.

“Is it going to be a problem?” Ben asked, eyes on the sky.

“Shouldn't be, the first snow fall never stays on the ground long, and there were no warnings about storms. But let's hurry up, just in case.”

Elina led them through the woods, choosing from seemingly identical paths among the pines and firs until they reached a clearing on a rocky slope. When they looked around they realised they were on a hill, even though the ascent hadn't been noticeable.

“Welcome to my picnic spot,” their guide said, smiling widely. “Now to find the entrance. Show me those pics.”

Riley took a moment to look at the view while she conferred with Ben and Ian and the drawings. The snow was falling heavier by the minute, and the ground was starting to turn white.

“There, I think,” Elina said, and Riley turned in time to see Mina hurrying towards the rocky formation first.

The next hour resembled their flower hunt in the Antarctica, all those months ago. Even the amount of snow seemed to match, and Riley suddenly wished he had worn different shoes. And that his wife had gloves and that she wasn't so eager to kneel on the cold ground.

It was also totally unfair that Ian was the one to discover the tiny opening in the rock face. Did that man have eagle eyes or something?

After careful study (and dusting off plenty of snow) they discovered that the opening was a crack between the rock wall and a boulder of stone, and after nearly dislocating Riley's spine (seriously, he almost died right there, stop laughing, woman!) the men managed to move it enough for someone slim to wiggle their way in.

Riley really didn't like the sound of that.

“Abigail is tiny! She can go!”

Mina looked at him like he had said something sacrilegious.

“That's my treasure in there,” she said, lightly, but Riley could hear the steel in her voice.

“But...”

“It'll be safe,” Ben said, from where he had been trying to peer in through the crack with a torch. Huh, Riley hadn't even thought about torches, good think he wasn't in charge of the arrangements.

Riley held on to Mina's hand as she wiggled her body through the way too narrow opening, and nearly had a heart attack when her grip suddenly got tighter and she started shouting. When he could make out the words through his panic he started grinning, despite everything.

“They're here! They're here!”

Abigail pushed Riley out of the way, and made her way into the cave.

“What do you see?” Ben asked, again trying to see inside the cave.

“There are boxes... like those in the lake Toplitz. Six, seven... they are piled high in places and it's too dark to see... Mina?” Abigail sounded almost girlish in her excitement.

“One of them is broken,” Mina shouted. “And the contents are spilling out – oh my god!”

“Honey! Honey, are you okay? Mina!” Riley shouted into the sudden silence and pushed Ben away from the opening, trying in vain to make it through.

“It's okay, I'm okay, it's okay,” Mina's voice made it through his panic and he stopped his wriggling.

“Don't do that to me, woman,” he said, voice shaking.

“We found... there's a star disc here. And a box of... I think these are the seals they used to stamp the symbols...” Abigail's voice sounded reverent.

“That's not all.” Mina sounded like she was crying. “There are more seals. They are hieroglyphs. And something else... they are... they look like letters. Riles, all our dating efforts...”

“Are you sure you should be doing that?” Abigail was asking, and Riley heard something break inside the cave.

“I just want to see what else there is!”

“We can't risk exposing more of th... oh my god.”

“Oh my god,” Mina echoed her. “I think... I think we can go now.” She sounded... Riley couldn't even decide, and then he saw her face. She really looked like she had seen a god.

She met his eyes through the crack, and smiled. “I think I found my bloody Rosetta stone.”

.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.


Mina couldn't tear her eyes from the clay tablet she held in her hands, even when her husband tried to help her out the cave. It was a star disk. But the markings were not the heads and flowers of 'their' star disk. This one was stamped with hieroglyphs.

She knew she probably shouldn't have extracted it from the find, for all she knew she was stealing from the government or the landowners but... she couldn't leave it behind. So close to her greatest dream coming true, deciphering a new language...

The others were talking about the logistics of extracting the treasure, she heard helicopters being mentioned, but she couldn't concentrate on that, she kept staring at her find, trying to remember the sequence of signs on the Phaistos disk, reading the hieroglyphs over and over again, recognising some, but the rules of the language were shady in her mind, years since she studied it.

She knew it wouldn't be enough on its own, of course not - the Rosetta stone hadn't been, either - but who knew what else there was to be discovered in those boxes? Maybe more star disks, in more languages...

Riley's warning shout came too late, her mind and eyes being on the disk, and then she felt her feet losing their footing.

She had wandered too close towards the edge of the hill, and the snow made the stone slippery. Her every instinct shouted at her to let go of the tablet to regain her balance, to grab for purchase, but the disk was clay, it might not survive the drop, and it would be lost in the snow and she would be fine, the drop wasn't that long and... She screamed, trying to regain her balance, throw herself backwards without the balancing aid of her arms and then Riley was there, his hands secure on her shoulders, round her waist, and the disk was safe, she was safe...

“Watch out,” she snapped, when Riley's arms threatened her grip on the disk.

“Watch out? Watch out?Mina! You... that damn disk...”

“I could survive the bumps, the disk wouldn't,” she said, tetchily, trying to disentangle herself from his arms.

“What about our baby?” he yelled, and Mina could feel her face going pale.

The baby. She was carrying their baby, and the fall...oh god, she had forgotten the new life inside her, the concept somewhat abstract until now.

Apparently Riley could see the shock on her face because he closed his mouth with a snap, as if fighting to keep the angry words inside. She wanted to hug him, to get comfort for the belayed feelings of fear, to feel his forgiveness in his touch but... she feared he wasn't ready for that.

.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.


Riley watched his wife walking a few feet from him, and bit his tongue to keep the angry words in. 'One of those,' he had joked, long ago. 'Obsessed.' And this time her obsession had threatened the life of his child.

He closed his eyes, and followed the others through the snow.

Snow, always snow. He latched on the thought and used it to distract himself from the anger he could still feel bubbling inside himself. He escaped to whining.

"Snow. Snow! Always snow. The way snow permeates every aspect of my life these days, we'll be naming our child after it. Hey, natives, what's the Finnish word for snow?"

"Lumi," Elina replied, and Riley was actually testing the word on his tongue.

"Lu-me?" Sounded kinda pretty, actually.

"L-U-M-I," Heikki clarified. “It's actually a girl's name here.”

Mina seemed to take his choice of subject as a sign of his forgiveness, and moved closer to take his hand. He held it tight, unsure whether he wanted to hold on and never let go... or let go and run away as fast as he could.

“I once saw Ben drop Abigail to save a piece of paper,” he said, quietly. “You have to understand... I'm not like you people, and I can never be like you people."

"That 'piece of paper' was the Declaration of Independence!" Abigail interrupted defensively, turning to face them and bringing the whole procession to a halt on the narrow path.

"My point exactly. For me, human life – any life – will always be more valuable than any object, be it my car, the Declaration, or a frigging Rosetta stone for your precious language."

He was so angry again he felt like he was going to burst. He didn't want to do this here, not with them, not when all of the others were in the other camp, Abigail at least ready to side with Mina, and they weren't even that friendly.

But Ben surprised him, his best friend, who looked at him with compassion, and grabbed Abigail's arm to pull her along. Ian walked after them, Elina and Heikki taking the lead. Riley stood there, by the pine trees, and held on to Mina's hand, afraid to let go.

,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,


He wanted to shout but when he spoke it felt like he was whispering.

"You are carrying my child and yet you are willing to injure yourself – maybe die, to protect a piece of clay?"

"Riley... Riles... Love..."

"No! Are you really saying you value that dead bit of mud with markings more than our baby?" He had never been so serious about anything, or so scared. If she said 'yes', he would still love her but could never ever go back to...

She was crying.

"If it was my life, I'd say yes." She was never anything but brutally honest, and Riley felt like crying himself.

"My insignificant little life compared to the information potentially carried on that tablet, and what it might mean for the world? The choice is simple."

"But," she went on before he could say anything. "It's not really that simple anymore. Because I value you, and you place value on my life, too. In a test environment I couldn't make the decision without consulting you. But this is not the controlled environment of a lab, this is real life, and there was no time to think. And," she paused, letting a small smile play on her lips. "I quite forgot about the baby. What ever you think, Riles, never, ever doubt that I want and love this child as much as you."

"Well," Riley said, wavering against his better judgement. He didn't want to be angry, and by god, he didn't want to be scared. "Don't... please don't forget the baby again."

"In a few months it will be quite impossible," she replied, reacting to the lightness in his voice despite the tears.

"Yeah, but think about it... If I have to constantly follow you around making sure you don't forget our offspring in stores or parks..."

Mina laughed, obviously knowing she had been forgiven and the crisis avoided, and moved to embrace him.

"I could do it, just to have you follow me around forever."

Riley sighed, pulled her closer, and said seriously: "I don't think you need to go that far. I'll be doing it anyway."

"You don't need to make it sound like a life sentence."

"I'm... scared, all right? I'm not like you, and you're not like me, and it... it scares me. One day we could really hurt each other because of it."

"You aren't comparing me to Anne, are you?"

"No. I don't think you'll ever pull a gun on me, no. But if someone told you they'll either blow up Atlantis and destroy every note you've ever made, or shoot me, and they ask you to make the choice..."

Mina swallowed, not breaking the eye contact for a second.

"I love you," she said desperately.

He sighed. "And I love you. Will it be enough?"

,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,

Ben and Ian couldn't help but hear the most of the conversation, the forest silent but for their foot steps, even a whisper carrying far. They met each other's eyes seriously.

"Poor children," Ian said quietly.

"At least we don't have that problem," Ben said, offering him a lopsided smile.

"No," Ian answered seriously. "We've both seen the choices we made."

"Ian..."

"Don't. I chose the treasure over you, and so did you. That's who we are. That's what we live with."

"I wonder... Had Abigail been pregnant with my child would I have still chosen the Declaration over her?" Ben mused, knowing Ian was done with his jealousy on the subject of his relationship with Abigail.

Ian looked away, and when he answered his mind was obviously in the past.

"Yes, you would have. I suppose I never told you why I wasn't in the building with Joanna when it burnt down?"

Alarmed by his dead tone Ben moved closer. "No."

"I was doing my job, chasing my dream, even though I knew leaving her alone was dangerous. The men I had been working with..."

"You couldn't have known that they would..."

"The risk was there, it was enough. I should have been protecting her and our child, and I wasn't. Which is why I know you will always choose the treasure over me, and I will always choose the treasure over you."

There was no guilt in his voice, not any more – he was done with it. There was no reprimand either and Ben walked closer.

"Doesn't mean I love you any less," Ben said when Ian finally met his eyes, and they both smiled.

"No, it doesn't."

The kiss that followed was forgiveness for a fight they didn't have.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - End of Part 4, continued in part 5 (on its way. For real, this time;)

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