AN/ This was the first NT story I wrote. Its also the first fanfic I ever finished As a result, in my opinion, it is full of flaws! I'm actually not very happy with it (did I mention I'm my own worst critic?) but there are some parts that hopefully everyone will find amusing. If nothing else, I guess it can be read for comparative purposes. I'm still honing my relative writing skills, and I probably will be still ten years from now! :P

Thanks to Raina/Aimme for being my beta and urging me to post my work (even if it isn't all that it should be) You are a good friend, and an inspiration, mellon nin!

Riley's POV

Sometimes you do things because you want to, and then, sometimes, you just end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. I found that out as I was walking to Ben and Abigail's house for dinner three days before Halloween.

Normally, it's not my habit to walk anywhere — I own a red Ferrari Spyder after all! But well, I had been sitting in front of my computer for literally days without getting out at all, and I had convinced myself the fresh air would do me good. Well, okay — actually, Abigail convinced me the fresh air would do me good, which is why she invited me to dinner in the first place. I practically live with the Gates, but lately work had been a little evil so I hadn't seen them for awhile. If I had refused Abbi's invitation, she probably would have come over herself and kidnapped me, the humiliation of which I would never have gotten over... so, therefore, I walked — just to prove to Abigail that I could. It was only... *wheeze* a couple of miles... *gasp*

Ben and Abigail lived sort of on the outskirts of town, where the houses were spread farther apart. More private, nicer, old-fashioned, not to mention bigger. Just the thing for a couple of eccentric history freaks. Me, I like to be closer to civilization. But then, I'm not old enough to be nostalgic.

As I rounded a corner of the sidewalk, about half-way to Ben and Abigail's, I could see the next house through the trees. It was set back away from the street, with a tall hedge and a row of trees mostly screening it from view. There's nothing like New England trees in the fall. The red and orange leaves were everywhere, and I was having fun making them shuffle with my feet as I walked.

Suddenly, I stopped shuffling because I saw something weird. There was a car parked next to the hedge, which actually had a wooden gate set into it at one point, and crouched in front of the gate was a man, probably younger than me, and wearing all black. I know what you're thinking, "Wow, yeah Riley, really weird and all, but you really should get out more," but the guy was talking in whispers to something behind the gate and looking around furtively like he didn't want anyone to see him. That's kind of weird, you have to admit. He hadn't seen me because I was standing at the corner of the hedge out of sight.

I concentrated on looking through the thick hedge to try to get a glimpse of whomever he was talking to, wishing I had Superman's x-ray vision. I couldn't see much, but the whole situation was feeling kind of creepy. I was about to come around the hedge and scare the guy out of his shoes by yelling "trick or treat!" or something of that nature when he suddenly stood up, reached over the gate, which was about waist-high, and came back over holding a struggling little boy about three- or four-years-old. The guy had his hand over the kid's mouth and was about to shove him into the car!

"Hey!" I yelled, my adrenaline finally kicking in as I stepped into sight. "What do you think you're doing!?" Like he was going to say, "Oh, I'm just kidnapping this kid. Do you mind?" Well, what can I say? It all happened rather fast and I hadn't had time to come up with anything clever. I just knew I had to do something.

Unfortunately though, I found out that vicious kidnappers, at least part of the time, prepare themselves for things like scrawny computer geeks leaping out of hedges at them. Still holding the kid, the man reached behind him and pulled out a gun, pointing it directly at my chest.

"Get in the car. Front passenger side. Now!" the man ordered.

Heart pounding in my ears, I looked around. There was no one in sight. I mean, this was a quiet part of town and it was going on 7:00 in the evening, but still, you'd have thought there would be someone nearby...

"If you yell, or do anything stupid, I will shoot you," the man said calmly. Huh, hard to argue with something like that.

I couldn't see an immediate way out of this, so I complied. Besides, I wasn't going to leave the kid alone with that creep, and I didn't want to give him nightmares by seeing a bloody me laid out on the sidewalk either. I could only hope that someone had seen us and would go to get help.

Only after getting in the car did I discover that the heavily-tinted windows had concealed an accomplice, another man, this one maybe a few years older, but also dressed in monotonous black and, what do you know, also holding a gun. He gave me a creepy smile. "You're going to regret your interference."

"Yeah, probably," I agreed. "But you know, if no one in this world interfered, psychos like you would pretty much run things and that would be bad." If at all possible, my current plan was to annoy these guys into letting us go. Abigail does say that I can out-talk anyone -even her- which is saying something. Who knows? It might work.

The other deranged kidnapper got in the car and threw the kid in the back seat next to his friend. As soon as the child's mouth was released he set up a loud wailing, but unfortunately since we were shut in the car and driving away (at very unsafe speeds in my humble opinion) it didn't do much good. And lest I was entertaining thoughts of escape (how on earth did they know?) I was made to understand by Psycho Number 2 in the back seat that if I tried anything he would shoot the kid. So, I settled down and concentrated on watching where we were going.

"Hey Jack, blindfold this guy, will ya?" Psycho Number 1 called over the screaming of the kid. "And shut that kid up!"

Great. So much for that plan. Ah well, I could still talk them to death. "You know, it isn't safe to be unbuckled while driving." I admonished, as Jack climbed forward and tried to pull a handkerchief over my eyes. I made it very difficult for him by twisting around and facing him over the seat as I talked. "If your buddy here were to lose control, you would shoot right through the windshield. Where'd he get his license anyway? Out of a cereal box? I mean, he can hardly see over the dash board! What is he, like, twelve?"

"Shut up!" Jack yanked me by my hoodie back against the seat and pulled the blindfold tight over my eyes. I did not appreciate that, so as soon as he was preoccupied with gagging the kid, I pulled the blindfold off. I knew I was playing with fire here, but there's a part of me that just doesn't like doing what bad guys tell me to. It had gotten me into trouble before, but had not yet proven fatal. I had to make sure I wasn't losing my touch.

"I think you take the next left to get to Dairy Queen," I informed the driver helpfully.

He waved the gun in my face, still managing to stay on the road, which I thought took a certain amount of insane talent. "Jack! Take care of him!" he ground out.

Jack finished tying up the kid in the back seat, and then grabbed something out of a bag. Uh-oh. Before I could move, or come up with a smart-aleck retort, a long needle was shoved forcefully into my upper arm and something unpleasant injected into my bloodstream. Lovely. I yelped and jerked away, but the damage was done, and it was only moments before I passed out.

NTNTNTNTNTNTNTNT

My head hurt so much when I came to that I was actually glad that there was no light when I peeked through my eyelids. That sentiment lasted all of five seconds before I began to panic at the lack of light. My breathing sped up to hyperventilation level which of course compounded the pain in my head. All in all, I was having a really sucky day... night. Whatever it was. I had completely lost track of time.

I was lying on my side on a very hard, cold floor which I suspected had made firm contact with my head not long ago. I had been relieved of my coat, which had held my glasses and cell phone, and my watch was no longer on my wrist. I groaned and tried to sit up, but my head throbbed so badly I thought I would pass out again - which wouldn't have been too bad at that point, considering how I was feeling.

My limbs felt like they were made of wood, so I rolled onto my back and just laid there with my eyes closed, trying to slow my breathing down. With my eyes shut, I could imagine that when I opened them I would be able to see and that would have made things more bearable. There's something downright depressing about waking up in the dark somewhere, after being drugged senseless, with a headache the size of Greenland!

"Is he awake?" A lispy little voice found it's way to my ears, and I doubled my effort to calm my breathing. I opened my eyes, trying to ignore the pain that caused, and hoped my eyes would adjust to the darkness.

"Don' know," another little voice spoke, this one lower and shaking. "Go see, Sophie," it urged.

"I guess I could…" the first voice said uncertainly.

I heard something crawl toward me and then a very small hand tentatively settled on my face. My eyes had adjusted enough so that I could dimly see the shape of a little girl with messy hair leaning over me. "Are you awake?" she whispered. "Hey, are you awake? Are you dead?"

"Yes," I groaned. "I mean, no." Geez! My brain was so foggy I couldn't think straight, much less talk. "Yes, I'm awake. No, I'm not dead." There. Got it that time.

I struggled into a sitting position, trying not to throw up. Fortunately, my head slowly cleared and the meager contents of my stomach remained in there. "Who are you?" I asked, rubbing the bridge of my nose.

"I'm Sophie. I'm six years old." The little girl informed me. "Are...are you hurt?" She sounded really concerned and scared. I needed to buck up. I had been kidnapped, drugged, and bashed on the head, but unless I was mistaken, I was now the sole protector of at least two little kids. Maybe more. For their sake I needed to shake off the desire to swallow a whole bottle of ibuprofen and sleep for a week.

"Yeah, but I'll be all right." I assured her, trying to make my voice sound not pitiful. "Where are we?" I wasn't expecting a whole lot of information from a six year old, but even knowing a little more would be helpful.

"I don't know. I think it's a basement."

Ah. That would explain the deep, cold darkness and the hard floor.

"Who else is here?" I looked around, but it really was too dark to see much beyond two feet in front of me.

"Me and my brother Luke. He's my twin. And Andrew. He came with you."

Good lord! What had I stumbled into? These lunatics had kidnapped three kids all under the age of ten! I took a deep breath. "Is there any water?" I did not like the harsh sound of my own voice, or the way my tongue felt big and clumsy in my mouth.

"I'll get you some. And we have blankies over here, if you're cold," Sophie invited. I was cold; in fact, without my coat and sweatshirt I had begun to shiver almost uncontrollably in the last few minutes and I knew it was only partially because of the cold. Drugs do weird things to you, trust me.

I followed Sophie as she crawled over to the boys who sat huddled against the wall wrapped in blankets. Even in the dark I could tell they were scared. Sophie handed me a blanket and a big Aquafina type bottle and I drank a little bit. The water helped a lot. I felt like I might live now.

"You tan sit hew," Andrew said quietly, motioning beside him and Luke. Translation: 'You can sit here.' Man, these kids were young! So young that Andrew wasn't even pronouncing his 'c's and 'r's for goodness sake! I snuggled up next to them, hoping I could keep anything bad from happening to them. 'Real good start on that, Riley,' I thought sarcastically.

"What's your name?" Luke asked, scooting closer.

"Riley," I said.

"I want my mommy, Wiley," Andrew said quietly. I could hear tears in his voice. "I'm scared of the dark." Hmm... what would Abbi do?

I picked him up and sat him on my lap. Sophie and Luke snuggled closer to me on either side. We must have looked pretty pathetic, but Andrew wasn't the only one who wanted his mommy, thank you very much.

"Hey, it's ok," I said. "Don't be scared. It's ok." What a joke. Well, as soon as my brain stopped trying to pound its way out of my skull, and the kids calmed down a little, I was going to look for a way out.