I Still Can't Believe We're Doing This
Summary: The long-awaited sequel to Tori's and Halo's random silliness. Title still says it all, and please bear in mind, we're still just having fun. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I wish we could say differently this second time around, but even though we've now been a part of National Treasure, we still own nothing. Except ourselves, of course.
Halo's A/N: Hey, guys, we're back! I figured since Tori just posted chapter one her newest NT fic "Gentleman's Masquerade," I figured now would be a good time to get this one started, too. Thanks to everyone for your support throughout our first fic, as well as for your encouraging responses to our trailer! It's nice to know some people besides Tori and myself are actually looking forward to this, lol. Oh, just a quick note to say that while we're still aiming to be funny like before, this one will probably end up having a bit more of a serious feel to it overall since it's a new, unpredictable story line for our characters. And so with that, let's get going, shall we? Enjoy the sweet fluffiness of Chapter One!
Tori's A/N: Hey, I concur (that is my word now, lol) with Haley when I say that I'm so glad you're all so excited for this like we are! And I did start "Gentleman's Masquerade" for all those fans of "The Forgotten Heir" for your literary enjoyment, and I think that you will all enjoy it! And also, it's true that this story will still be humorous, but it will be a little more serious than the last one as me move through it. And it won't run exactly like the movie because we are adding in our own little flair, but it'll still be awesome. And you know what else? This will be my 50th story!! So, I'm excited about that. But without further ado, let's get started!
"Home sweet home." Tori pushed open the door to her and Haley's large and comfortable house, situated no more than a mile away from the Gates' historical estate. "Although, I suppose it's not really home."
"It is now." Haley sighed and slumped down onto their couch in the front living room. Tori joined her.
"Did you really expect to find anything else?"
The older girl shrugged. "I don't know. I guess I didn't really expect anything different – but I could always hope."
"Yeah, I know what you mean," Tori empathized. "It was tough seeing our old homes when none of the people inside or in the neighborhood were the same. I was honestly surprised the buildings were even the same. But still, you don't think it was a totally wasted road trip, do you?"
"No, not at all. We'd both been wondering about our homes back in the Midwest for a while, so it was good just to go back and make sure." She sighed again. "Two years, Tori. It's been two years, and we still haven't been sent back home. I guess we really are stuck in National Treasure. And it's more like real life now, too, since we don't know all the details of what's going to happen next."
The younger brunette nodded solemnly in agreement, but her expression soon grew thoughtful. "Well, what about the second one?" she posed. "Do you think we'll be stuck in that, too?"
Haley worried her bottom lip between her teeth, suddenly hesitant and unsure. "I don't know. What do you think?"
"Well, I'm actually starting to think it's not going to happen. Like you said, it's already been two years, and I don't think there was that much time in between Book of Secrets and the first movie. I mean, Ben and Abi broke up a couple months ago, sure; but we haven't seen anything else happen yet that was part of the sequel. I guess we'll just have to wait and see, but I wouldn't count on it now."
"Right." Haley nodded, but didn't seem at all to share her friend's conviction.
"So, what do you want to do tonight?" Tori asked, changing the subject all of a sudden. "After we get all unpacked, of course, but it's only four o'clock."
Her friend chuckled and got up with her from the couch. Now that she was nineteen and entering the prime of her young adult years, Tori had acquired the habit in recent months of wanting to stay up late and being active almost every night. Haley would join her in such excursions every now and then, but recently the elder of the two young ladies, though only twenty-three, seemed to be losing her taste for the nocturnal exploits at a rapid rate.
But today, when asked what she wanted to do that night, Haley smiled. "Tori-kins, I'm glad you asked, 'cause I just remembered that I need to go the bookstore."
"The bookstore?" Tori was incredulous. "I mean, don't get me wrong, Halo, I love the bookstore, too. But we were just there the day before we left on our little road trip back home – back to the Midwest, anyway. Why do you need to go again so soon?"
"Because I read through most of my new stuff when we were driving, and you know how I can always use another book."
Tori shook her head, amused. Even in the movie world, some things just never changed. "Fine, go ahead."
"Excellent! I'm just glad that after a whole year we finally got things worked out with you being able to get your drivers' license, otherwise I would've had to do all the driving there and back. Oh, and you have to come to the bookstore with me, too, okay?"
"I do? Why?"
"To keep me from going overboard, of course, since it's so easy for me to do. But with you there, I promise I won't take too long, and then we can go do whatever you want. Deal?"
"Okay, deal! Maybe I'll give Riley a call and recruit him to join us, too."
"If he's even home."
"Please, I'll bet he's only left his precious laptop for a handful of hours the whole time we were gone," Tori joked as she picked up her duffle bag. "Why wouldn't he be home?"
Haley just shrugged innocently and followed her friend up the stairs. "Oh, no reason."
A couple of hours later, Tori and Haley were driving down the street in the direction of the local bookstore. After a week-long road trip, it would take some time for them to get back into their normal routines. Tori was attending a local university in the DC area with a double major in English and history, and Haley managed their finances while independently doing a lot of reading on specific topics more to her own interest.
"So," the elder began casually, "what are your plans for tomorrow?"
"Well, I'm supposed to meet Mike in the school library at nine thirty tomorrow morning to work on our physics project, so I probably shouldn't stay out too late tonight."
Haley grinned madly and threw a pointedly suggestive glance at her friend. "And how is Mike, anyway?"
Tori glared daggers back at her. If Haley hadn't been driving, she probably would've gotten slapped. "Hey, I can't help the guy's name," she defended herself. "It's totally a coincidence! And besides, he's just my lab partner."
"Ah yes, of course. And does Riley know about your little 'study-buddy'?"
Tori immediately grew even more defensive. "Why should this be any concern to Riley? For the thousandth time, he's just a friend! Like Mike."
Haley nodded, definitely not convinced. "Uh huh. Whatever you say, Tori-kins. And now look, we're here! Doesn't time just fly by when you're having fun?"
"Yeah, sure. Loads of 'fun'." Tori rolled her eyes and got out of the car once Haley had come to a stop in the bookstore parking lot, which struck her as being unusually crowded for a Saturday night.
"What's going on here?" she wondered aloud, but Haley ignored her and began leading the way inside. Once they passed through the automatic doors, Tori was shocked to see crowds of people all milling around something near the front of the store.
"Haley, what's going on here," she demanded again, rightfully suspicious now, and it didn't help when Haley just smiled and grabbed her arm, leading her further toward the center of the throng. Tori didn't recognize any of the faces as they made their way forward, but when they drew nearer to the front, she could have sworn she recognized a very familiar voice. But no, surely he wouldn't be here now – it was impossible!
Yet she would later have to admit she was mistaken when the crowds parted, and seated there at a large desk, surrounded by stacks of the same book, was Riley Poole.
She gasped. "Riley?"
"Tori!" he exclaimed happily, rising in his seat and motioning her forward. "I'm glad Haley got you here just in the nick of time. Are you surprised?"
The young brunette nodded, still a bit shocked. "Yeah."
Riley laughed. "Good! You were supposed to be. Thanks again for your help, Haley!"
Haley smiled at him from further back and gave him a "thumbs-up." It had been her pleasure to help him so surprise her dear friend.
But Tori was still confused. "Riley, what's going on?"
"What's going on?" The techie reached down to grab one of many identical manuscripts on his desk and held it up proudly for her inspection. It was a title and cover she already knew very well, indeed.
"I wrote a book," he went on excitedly, "about the Templar Treasure and all other kinds of obscure 'conspiracy theories,' per say. Isn't it great? And you get to have the first copy! Signed by me at the publisher's launch and personally dedicated to 'my awesome friend Tori'."
As her understanding had grown, so had her smile, and by now Tori was practically beaming! No one had ever done something quite this special for her before.
"Thank you, Riley," she said while promising herself she wouldn't cry and accepted the personalized first copy that he held out to her. "This really is incredible, and I can't wait to read it!"
"Great! I can't wait to hear what you think of it." Riley wrapped her up in a big hug, and then Tori faded back into the crowd while his attention was drawn back to the others present for the launch. She eventually drifted back to Haley's side.
"And here we were just saying that nothing else from the second movie had happened," she scolded her friend in a whisper. "Why didn't you tell me about Riley's book?"
Haley smiled and shrugged sheepishly. "I didn't want to ruin the surprise."
"Well, believe me, I was definitely surprised!"
"But in a good way, right?"
"Yeah, it was good." Tori nodded, gazing back down at the book in her hands. She opened the first page and found Riley's note to her inside the front cover.
Here's a special book for a special girl. Thanks for sharing all those crazy adventures with me!
Your friend always,
Tori smiled as she finished reading. This was something she would treasure forever! She then ran her finger affectionately over the last few words, not even caring that Haley was watching her with a knowing smile of her own.
"So, do you still want to run off and do something else tonight, Tori-kins?"
"Not anymore, of course not. But what's the plan? I assume you guys do have some kind of plan, right?"
Haley nodded and explained, "Yep. Ben's coming by within the hour, and when everything's through here, the four of us will go out to dinner to celebrate."
"Cool! But while we wait for him, I think I'm going to start Riley's book. I can't believe I'm actually reading it myself!" And so she did just that, settling into one of provided chairs, while Haley wandered off to browse through a display of classic novels. Too bad she already had most of them. She was just about to move on to see if there was anything new in the Tolkien section, when suddenly she felt someone tap her on the shoulder and whirled around.
"Ben! Oh good, I'm glad you made it."
"I wouldn't miss it for the world." He returned her smile and gave her a quick hug. "It's good to see Riley branching off into other endeavors besides computer hacking and treasure hunting."
"Amen to that! But his book is still about supposed 'conspiracy theories,' so I'm not sure it's much of an improvement. If nothing else, at least it's a different outlet for everything going through his incredibly complex mind."
Ben laughed. "I suppose so. Now where's Tori? I already talked to Riley and congratulated him, but it looks like things will be winding down soon. We should find her and get ready to go."
"I think she's still over here reading." Haley lead the way, and sure enough, they found Tori in the same seat as before, already a considerable ways into Riley's book. In fact, she was so engrossed in her reading that she didn't even notice their approach until Ben waved a hand in front of her face.
"Hey, Ben!" Tori jumped up to greet him with a hug and then immediately launched into an exhortation of Riley's book. "Oh my gosh, this is so cool – and not just because Riley wrote it. It really is fascinating! Halo, you've gotta read this when I'm done!"
Haley nodded her compliance, but she didn't quite seem to share her friend's enthusiasm.
Tori went on, "There's just so much cool stuff in here! I'm lucky I know the author so I can talk about it more in person with him later. Ben, do you have your copy yet?"
"Yeah, Riley gave me one." Ben held up his own copy, still in the plastic shrink wrap. "I'm sure I'll jump into it as soon as I have the time."
"Right. So, how are things over at your dad's?" Haley asked.
"Oh, about as good as can be expected. It's a big change living with him again now, but I'm grateful he doesn't mind."
Tori hesitantly cleared her throat. She hated to bring this up now, but she just had to ask. "Yeah, I noticed Abigail wasn't here. Should one of us get a copy of the book for her?"
"Riley gave me one to bring her tomorrow," Haley informed them. "She already had plans made for tonight."
No one dared to further pursue that particular topic, for they all knew that Abigail's "plans" involved a young White House security officer named Connor.
Tori tried to change the subject. "Well, what about Agent Sadusky? I'm kind of surprised he isn't here." The head FBI agent had kept in close contact with all of them over the past two years, even stopping by to check in on Haley and Tori in their new home on a regular basis, just to make sure all was well. For some reason, Tori always seemed happier to see him than her friend.
"Sadusky must be busy tonight, too," Ben told her. "I'm sure he would have been here if he could."
"Hey, guys!" Riley walked up to join them, looking incredibly happy yet relieved. "That was a lot of fun, but I'm glad it's over. So, what's for dinner?"
Two hours later, the four friends sat with smiling faces and full stomachs around their table at a nice restaurant in downtown Washington DC. Riley and Tori were already locked in a discussion about his book, and Ben and Haley were content to simply sit back and watch them in great amusement.
But after a while, Riley's head visibly perked up when he heard a particularly upbeat song being played on the nearby dance floor. He suddenly leapt up from his seat with a smile and extended a hand to the young lady seated beside him.
"Come on, T, let's dance!"
Taken very much by surprise Tori balked. "Are you sure?"
"Sure, lots of people are. Now, come on!"
The brunette grinned, reached up to take his hand, and allowed him to lead her out onto the floor.
Haley chuckled from a distance as she watched her two friends enjoy themselves during the dance and turned to Ben.
"So, do you still think it's inconceivable?"
He shook his head and deigned to confess, "No, not anymore. There's definite potential between them, especially now that she's older. I guess it just took me a bit longer than you to realize it."
Haley smiled, took a long sip of her wine, and brought her attention back to the dance floor where a slow song had started to play. This would be interesting.
Out on the floor, Tori recognized the song at once as Phil Collins' "You'll be in my Heart." Granted, it was one of her favorites, but she would have never considered dancing to it. She hesitated, not sure if it was still appropriate for her and Riley to be out here, but apparently, he thought otherwise. He took hold of her right hand, slid his other arm around her waist, and began to dance. Aware of a strange warmth rising in her cheeks, Tori followed his lead. It wasn't that she minded or that she was at all uncomfortable – she just hadn't expected it.
They fell into a predictable rhythm as they continued to sway with the music, and Tori found herself battling the urge to lay her head on Riley's shoulder. They weren't dating, after all, so it truly would be a bit out of place. But she also found it strangely curious that her partner's hand was sweaty. They hadn't been dancing that hard…
Riley's voice roused her from her silent musings, and Tori turned her face up to him. "Yeah?"
"There's, um…something I've been meaning to ask you, and well, I guess I just haven't had the chance." He trailed off for a moment, struggling to work moisture into his lips, and Tori looked up at him expectantly.
"Yes?" she prompted. "And?"
"And, what I wanted to say…or, what I've been meaning to ask you is – "
But Riley was cut off when all of a sudden the song ended, and the subdued mood between them was shattered by the opening strains of "The Hamster Dance."
Tori gasped, ecstatic. "Yes, I love this song! Come on, Riley!" She broke away from him and started into a dancing style more appropriate for the current song. The techie followed suit, but never again that night did he try to revive their previous conversation.
The dancing went on for just over another hour, and while Riley and Tori participated in every dance, Ben and Haley merely continued to watch. Though they had each other for company, a bystander would still have said they both looked uncommonly sad and lonely. The thought of dancing together never even occurred to them.
Halo's A/N: Okay, so maybe I'm not quite over Phil yet. I'm working on it, people, I promise! But weren't Tori and Riley cute? Hehe, this was a chapter I certainly had fun with. It does make you smile, don't it? And I love you, Tori – I really do!
Tori's A/N: Yeah, I love you too, lol. After all, I'm your adopted little sister! Come on, now… But this chapter did make me blush a little, I'll admit. And I'm making sure is that Haley's working on her thoughts of Phil, so her promise is legit. Oh, and the whole Mike thing at the beginning… that's a very long (and complicated) story. We won't go into it right now, but send me a message if you're really that intrigued. Thanks for reading! Your reviews are appreciated!