A/N: hey hey :)! i hope you like this chapter! and because i'm currently eating Halloween Peeps, i'm happy to say i'm going to be working on a series of holiday stories! i'm not sure if they'll be oneshots or not. i hardly know what i'm doing, just that i want to write a story for those major holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. If you have any ideas you'd like to see written then please tell me! I have no clue what to do! Help!

Oh, in other news, I'm excited to say I went to Borders yesterday and ordered the Book of Secrets novelizition plus the first two books in the Gates Family Mystery series. I'm a nerd, yeah. Oh, and picked up a copy of Common Sense. -__- Shh. My mom found me in the Government & Politics section, hah! Oh, and they told me I had to be 18 to work there. Sad! Darn this youth of mine. So, I have to search for a job to last me a couple years until I'm old enough. (grumbles to self). Enjoy the story.

P.S. I didn't have anything creative to call the diner so I took the last name of Anthony Bourdain from the show No Reservations. I hope he doesn't mind.


Tory found herself at her apartment quicker than she had expected. Not that she was complaining or anything....

Just as she told herself earlier, she tried her brother's cellphone again, only to be met with the answering machine. She sighed and plucked the keychain from her belt loop, inserting the key into its slot. The morning was proving to be exhausting already and she was more than happy to be home, so she could get her things together and go to Riley's. If there was anytime they needed eachother, it was now. As she closed the door behind her, she tossed the keys onto the couch carelessly.

Her mind was flooded with memory after memory, some good some bad. She remembered how it was when they were younger and how little they knew about death. Sadly, the two of them were forced to understand it after an incident that left the once family of five, a family of three. Things like this were supposed to get easier as you grew older, she once heard. That once you understand what death and life are all about, it would make sense. She didn't think so at all. When you're little and loose somebody, you just think they've gone away- on some sort of vacation to a 'better place'. - she would imagine people going to Disneyland or something. Easier that way.

No, when you finally understood that these people had just stopped living....well, it wasn't as nice.

As if on auto-pilot, Tory stumbled into her bedroom, grabbed a change of clothes from her drawer and made her way into the bathroom. She shut the door behind her and undressed herself, stepping into the shower while fixing the water to a nice warm temperature. As she began to wet her hair, she couldn't shake the feeling that just yesterday ( and this very morning, for that matter) her mother was alive and well. She realized how valuable life was and how easy it was to have it taken away. Christina Poole did not deserve to have her life taken away, yet. It was not her time.

The victim of a sudden, freak heart attack that nobody could have predicted.

Tory momentarily wondered when she was going to die. It could very well be on the way to her brother's apartment. She could slip and fall in the shower and sustain a bad head injury. She could bleed to death. She shook the image out of her head vigurously and grabbed the shampoo. It wasn't a pleasant thought. Yet, when somebody dies, death is a thought that lingers in your head. As unpleasant as it is, you can't get it out of there. You begin to wonder who else died this morning. If anybody else feels what you feel...

She scrubbed at her head, knowing the answer. Of course. Was it selfish to think that people didn't feel that way? That other children weren't suffering as well from the loss of a parent? That she almost wanted people to feel bad for her brother and herself? She knew it was. She had gone through dealing with death before -hell, she almost died herself! At the time she was only about 10 or 11 years old. She was so relieved when she was released from the hospital after being 'captive' there for what felt like too long.

It seemed she thought about that day everyday. Whenever she merely spoke to her brother, especially when she was with him in person, it reminded her of that moment in time when everything seemed to stop. When their lives changed forever. To see a spitting imagine of somebody you once had in your life- well, it doesn't allow you to ever forget.

Rinsing the shampoo out of her hair, she could feel the tears coming. She didn't bother stopping them, just letting them run as needed. She often felt sad when she thought about things of the past. The childhood the three Poole children had taken away. It wasn't fair. And sadly, thousands of other kids were having to live with the same problems.

Turning the flowing water off, she grabbed for a towel and ran it over her face. She had to get to Riley.

X X X

The young man in question had( much to his relief) regained control over his tear glands. Dry tear marks streaked across his cheek reminding him that he'd lost it for a minute. Thankfully, nobody was there to witness it. He coughed, pulling the car into the small and rather empty parking lot. It had been some months since he'd visited the place and was glad to see that it still was the same as when he had left it. He parked the car, shut off the engine and stowed the keys into his pocket. He lightly cursed, feeling that he should've listened to Abigail and changed into normal pants.

But, him with his checkered-pajama glory pushed forward, walking straight towards the door of the Bourdain Diner.

Memories filled his head as he pushed the door open, hearing the familiar ding of the small bell that alerted them when they had another customer. His eyes verted around hurriedly, noting there was only two more people there; one reading a newspaper in a booth by the big window and the other on a stool, drinking coffee. Just like ever, the diner never had been so popular. It was in a less occupied part of town, or rather on the outskirts of civilization, it seemed. It was almost hidden. Riley had always liked it that way. And somehow, they never managed to go out of business.

The man in the booth looked up from his newspaper, acknowledged the young pajama-clad man's presence then looked back to his paper.

Riley cleared his throat, giving a last weak attempt of wiping the dry streaks on his face with the backside of his hand and trudged forwards, taking a seat on a stool not four away from the older gentlemen with the coffee. Said man looked over, and Riley forced a sad smile, nodding his head in a way of greeting. The man nodded back and returned to his coffee. Outside, the sky had turned a nasty dark gray, and Riley noticed the ground was already being speckled with thick raindrops. He glanced back over at his car, and was about to get up, when a voice he knew quite well spoke out in surprise.

"Riley!"

He whirled the stool around quickly, allowing a true small smile to form as he locked eyes with an older woman.

The woman, most likely in her late 40's with black hair and a rather faded blue uniform, stepped out from the kitchen --the door still swinging wildly behind her. She smiled widely, looking the boy over, her expression mixed with surprise and happiness. "Riley!" she said again, shaking her head in disbelief. "It's nice to see you again!"

The other gentlemen seemed oblivious to the loud exchange, continuing to boredly drink their coffee and read.

He nodded slightly, still wearing a look of genuine happiness and relief to see his friend. Her name tag, as old as her outfit, read 'Janice' in bold letters. She approached the counter, and leaned over as much as possible, engulfing him into a hug. She broke away, still holding his arms and looked him over more closely. "What're you doin' here?"

"What- there has t' be a reason for me to visit my friend?" Riley asked, struggling to get the sarcastic tone in.

She shook her head and released his arms, handing him a menu. " 'Course not!"

He took the menu, skimming over it. There weren't any new items on it this time, and he placed it down on the countertop in front of him. "I'll take my usual, Jan."

Janice nodded, a smirk creeping onto her face. "I knew you would." He cleared his throat, forcing himself to keep a straight, glad-to-see-you face, instead of the sad frown that was trying to claw it's way over. She scribbled something hastily onto a small white post-it note and stuck it up by a medium-sized window, for the people in the kitchen to see.

"Now, what brings you here, my boy?"

He looked back at her, barely realizing she'd ask him a question and smiled sheepishly. "Sorry, what?"

"What brings you here?" She asked, leaning slightly on the counter, her arms crossed over her chest. She tilted her head to the side comically, "You're not running away again, are you?"

Riley tried to hide that shocked look he wanted to give her, then shrugged. "You could say that." In attempt to reassure her everything was alright, he shook his head softly, hardly enough for her to notice, and shot her his signature charming grin. Being around Janice was always a comforting thing. He found the irony in the situation humorous. How she had just asked if he were running away-- the exact reason they had ever met in the first place.

He remembered that day easily. When he was at the mere age of nine (and a half- he had proudly stated), and had just moved into the area. After a terrible first day at school, being the new kid, Riley had dumped the contents from his backpack onto his bedroom floor and promptly re-stuffed it with two shirts and one clean pair of underwear. Not to mention the wind-up robot toy, and a few comic books. He hardly knew his way around but still, with $4.72 in his pants pocket, he did his best to 'run away'.

He took off, not bothering to leave a message to his mother and sister.

After wandering around for two hours, he wound up sitting with a nice lady named Janice in the Bourdain Diner. She wore her hair up, and she smiled kindly at him. She even gave him a nice bowl of miso soup on the house - which later became his 'usual' -since he didn't have much money. After much subtle probing, she got a home phone number out of him and called his mother to pick him up. After those forty-five minutes together with that sad little boy, her heart had already made a place for him. She told him to visit again - of course, on different standards- and he promised he would.

She ruffled his hair goodbye, watching them through the big window as they climbed into their car.

That very same boy she'd met that cold October afternoon had grown up into a charming young man she was proud of knowing. Throughout the remainder of his childhood, he had spent a lot of his time with her in the diner. She enjoyed his company, and he had even been allowed to go back in the kitchen and help her. He always thought it as a fun way to spend the day, albeit tiresome.

Whenever he had a problem, he knew she was the right person to go to. She was the wisest person Riley had ever met and he admired her greatly. She played a part in his life like no other. And despite the age difference, he saw her as a friend, rather than a babysitter.

He'd been so lost in thought that she had to physically tap him on the shoulder to get his attention.

He blinked, looking up at her confused. She fed back a worried frown. "Are you okay?"

He nodded too quickly, increasing the worriedness in her expression; her forehead creasing. "Yeah, sorry. I was just....thinkin'."

"About what?" She questioned.

"When my soup was going to be ready." He smirked, receiving a mild smile in return. Nice save.....

"You real hungry or what?" she chuckled, " No, wait. Don't answer that. You're always hungry."

He shrugged shyly, "You know me so well."

"Yeah, well enough." She nodded in agreement. "And well enough to know when something's bothering you."

He looked at her, slightly taken aback at the forwardness of her statement, but let his faux smile crumble into a frown. "You know me so well...."

X X X

Tory, now comfortably dressed in loose jeans and a band T-shirt, tied her hair up into a ponytail. She looked in the mirror, admiring her black Rolling Stones tee that Riley had given her for Christmas last year, and shut the drawer under the sink. Flicking the lightswitch down and off, she rushed into her bedroom, leaving the bathroom door open in case her dark coated cat needed to use the litterbox. She saw the fluffly cat perched just below her pillow on the bed, licking at its paws.

She smiled, watching it groom itself for a moment. The cat had grown into a decent size- not too big nor too small- since she'd gotten it about four months back. The reason she'd moved apartments was halfly because the manager had discovered the kitten(which she'd properly named Bastet- after the cat goddess and daughter of Re, the sun god in ancient Egyptian theory) she'd stowed away, and firmly told her they had a No Pets Allowed policy and to get rid of it or find a new place to live. The other half was to be closer to her brother, closer to school, and just because she needed a bigger place.

Tory was content with the new apartment she'd gotten, and was eager to move into it. Her and Riley spent days packing and moving in all her things. She smiled slightly, remembering what her brother had said about her having so many things.

Riley threw the empty roll of tape onto the couch, tiredly. "Ran out of tape again, Tory."

She looked up from across the room, where she was busy piling boxes on top of others. She nodded and looked around, finding another roll beside her foot. She picked it up and tossed it to him. He caught it clumsily with a sigh. "You're lucky you're my sister and I love you."

She glanced at him, eyebrows up in an amused way, urging him to elaborate.

"Or else I wouldn't help you with all this. You've got more stuff than the department store down the street."

"You mean Clydes?" She asked, huffedly. "You're comparing my apartment to Clydes?"

He nodded pointedly. "Don't worry though. You're a girl. You're entitled to a bunch of useless junk."

"Hey!" she barked, stifling a laugh, " just because I have a lot of stuff doesn't make it useless. "

He peered into an open box next to him and dug through it, pulling out an old broken camera. He held it up to prove his point. She shrugged, coming over to him and plucking the camera out of his grasp with a groan. "You know, this was my favorite camera once!"

"And that means you should keep it?"

"Now you're catching on." She said, patting him on the head lightly. He shook his head and smiled up at her.

Tory giggled with fondness, "I am not a pack-rat." The cat's ears perked up, and its head shot in her direction. She gave the cat a suspicious look, "Am I?"

The cat stared for another moment, then resumed licking itself. Tory sighed, moving towards her dresser and pulling out another T-shirt for tomorrow, along with a larger shirt for pajamas. She pushed the drawer closed, tossing the shirts onto the bed -landing beside the startled cat- and opened the drawer right below it, searching for some shorts.

After acquiring the things she needed, she grabbed the pajama pants from her bed and stuffed all the clothing items into a nice, small duffel bag. She left the bag unzipped on her bed, so she could wander into the kitchen and grab a Ziploc bag for her toothbrush, and another to put some cat food into. She was very attached with her cat, and somehow Riley had become extremely fond of it. Whenever he was over, he took to the cat immediately, it purring on his lap. She knew having the kitty there with them would be a nice emotional booster for them both.

Which reminded her, she should call Riley and let him know she was almost ready. She had called him twice before she had gotten into the shower, and the second time he didn't answer made her worry even more than before. She told herself to relax, that he was fine and on his way home and couldn't answer the phone in the car. He was trying to play it safe. She thought it was a legit reason, although she knew he talked on the phone and often texted while driving. She had instructed him not to.

Maybe he's listening to you for once?

She told herself it must have been the case and focused on taking a shower.

She grabbed the phone, which she had earlier placed on the bed, and put the Ziploc bags into her duffel. Dialing Riley's number without a glance at the keys - something she'd learned to do what with calling him so often- she grabbed a small blue squeeky rat toy from the floor, also settling it into her bag for the cat.

Again, the voice mail machine answered instead of Riley, and she felt her stomach swirl. Nothing's wrong...she said mentally, waiting for his voice to cease, he's okay.

She decided to leave him a message, which she only did on rare occasions, and listened for the beep. "Hey, Riley...Pick up the phone, mister! Uh, I'm almost ready here. I've been trying to call you but I don't know if you've got your phone off or lost it or if you're trying to ignore me or something but....I just wanted you to know that I'll be over soon and you need to call me back when you get this message, okay?"

She sounded as if she were addressing a six year old at the last statement, " Erm, okay. I'm gonna go now. I love you. Byeeee."

She hung up, hoping that he would call her back within a few minutes. She held the phone tightly in her hands, while she finished up packing her things. With a quick fluid glance at the clock, she slipped into a jacket (not bothering to zip it up) and grabbed for her Converse. Again, she slipped then on without untying them and scooped the cat up quickly.

"Come on, Bastet. Let's go see Riley."

X X X

Riley wondered if Janice had mind-reading powers or something, because she did this everytime he came with a troubling thought on his mind.

She read through him like a book, much like his sister could. "What's wrong?"

He shrugged, struggling to find the right words to explain. She was a rather close friend to his mother's as well as her sisters. The news would surely break her heart, but she deserved to know. To his surprise, Riley was saved from the awkward silence that followed, by the man beside them on the stool. "Hey, could I get another cup of coffee?"

Janice's eyes flowed slowly from Riley's to the man and nodded, taking a few steps over and reaching for the still-hot coffee pot. He thanked her, holding his cup out so she could pour him some more. Apparently, Riley noted, the man drank it black. Something Riley didn't like to do in the least.

But his relief was short lived when Janice appeared in front of him, staring intently at his face. "Now, what's going on?"

Riley cleared his throat, looking sideways at the man, silently begging him to interuppt again. The man payed no attention. Sighing, Riley looked back at the woman and gave her a miserable half smile. "My uh....mom had a heart attack this morning." He couldn't recognize if he'd ever used that tone of voice before. Saying the phrase to someone else made his stomach hurt.

Just like he expected, Janice's face exploded into a million different expressions: starting with shock, then sympathy, and settling with a frown. "Oh my god. Is she alright?"

He shook his head gravely, not daring to look the lady in the eyes.

"She passed away already." He explained, "Tory called me this morning when I was at a friend's house and told me."

"Was she there with her?" She asked softly.

Riley shook his head. "No, she got a call from our mom's friend at the hospital."

"Honey...I'm so sorry." She said, consoling-like. Without a second to spare, she rounded the corner, exiting the 'employee only' section and went straight for him. She grabbed him and hugged him tightly, feeling bad herself. That day she had met Riley and called his mother, she became good friends with the woman.

She held him, rubbing his back softly. "She was such a good person. She knows you love her, too. So stop feeling guilty about not being there, alright?" She demanded, although softly. Again, Riley wondered if she was a mind reader. He clung to her, already feeling that lump forming into his throat.

"It's just....I don't know..." He tried. She shook her head, pulling away from him and rubbing his shoulder.

"Don't think like that, Riley. She knows you loved her. She is always going to love you no matter what you think. You might've not been there when it happened but neither was Tory. I know you wish you were there. I wish I could have been there, too. I'm going to miss your mom so much. But, you need to know that I'm proud of you and she's proud of you and I'll be there for you whenever you need me to be."

He looked into her eyes, listening.

"And so is that sister of yours. " You're not alone, is what he knew she meant. "And I know those friends you spoke so fondly about are going to be there for you, too."

Riley winced slightly, instantly remembering how he'd stormed out of Ben and Abigail's house earlier that morning and frowned deeper. "Is that soup ready yet?"

She smiled sympathetically, going back around the side and peeking her head into the kitchen door. She looked back at him with a slight nodd and said, "I'll be right back."

" 'Kay." He watched her disappear behind the swinging door, although he could faintly see her in the kitchen window before she turned out of sight. Riley glanced back at the man beside him, who had obviously heard the conversation but said nothing. Then, he looked back at the man sitting in the booth by the window. The man caught Riley's stare and briefly glanced at him sadly, before turning his attention back to his paper. Riley never understood what was so special about newspapers, anyway.

To his surprise, Janice arrived quickly, with a nice bowl of hot soup. She placed it on the counter in front of him and he smiled at it, "Thank you."

"No problem, honey." She said, nodding. She watched him, spooning the soup into his mouth after blowing on it. "Are you going to be okay?"

He shrugged lightly, setting the spoon down into the bowl. "I guess so."

"What about Tory? How's she holdin' up?"

Riley looked up at Janice, wondering what in the world his sister was doing. Probably going crazy with concern he figured, remembering he'd shut his phone off in the car. "I uh...dunno." In his head, he knew that she was trying to get a hold of him, and by now she'd be heading towards his apartment, cat in tow. He felt even guiltier about it now.

"You haven't talked to her?"

"Not since this morning, no."

Janice sighed, "D'you want me to give her a call?"

"No, no." Riley mumbled, shaking his head. He didn't want to think what Tory would say after he'd practically ignored everyone else. His stomach was angry with guilt, sorrow, and any other possible emotion the human body was capable of feeling. Some of them he never knew he could ever feel.

He was sad that his mother had died. He was angry that she'd left them like that, angry that Tory had called him and that his nice morning that been ruined. Which made him in return feel more guilty that he wanted to blame it on his mother for ruining it. That he wanted to blame his sister for calling him, and wanted to blame Ms. James for calling her. He felt mad at himself for feeling mad at everyone else and that he wasn't there to tell her he loved her, and to help her, or anything. He wanted to be there for her.

And now, he felt even guiltier for dropping off the face of the Earth like that (even if it wasn't that long), when his sister needed him the most.

He couldn't bring himself to talk to her now. Now that he'd hurt her like that.

"She's probably worried, Riley."

"I know she is." He muttered, taking a spoonful of his soup.

"You need to call her." She said, knowingly.

"After I finish eating."

Janice sighed loudly, leaning back against the counter again.

X X X

Ben closed the kitchen cupboard, relieved in finally having finished putting away all of the bless-ed groceries.

Abigail turned around, smiling lightly. "There. All done. Now I can start making lunch. D'you want a sandwich?"

Ben nodded, grabbing a water bottle from the counter top and almost chugging it with pure thirst. They ended up buying a lot more groceries than they had expected, along with the items they needed for the baby shower Abigail was helping with, and it had taken not less than twenty minutes to find a spot for it all. Riley's going to be very happy.

"Ham or turkey?" Abigail asked him.

"I guess ham." She nodded, already setting out napkins. "You know, they really should be paying you for all this stuff you bought for them."

Abigail stifled a laugh, agreeing. "Yeah, well....pregnant women like food, Ben. "

"I like food, too. Does that make me pregnant?"

She glanced at him, reaching for the loafs of bread. "No. Although that reminds me, when we showed up at your father's door...."

Ben groaned in his head, Oh, here it goes again...

Luckily, he was saved from the common whining when his phone rang in his pocket. He wondered if maybe it was Riley and eagerly pulled it out checking the caller I.D. as Abigail watched on. His brows furrowed, not recognizing the number but answered it anyways, holding the phone up to his ear.

"Hello?"

"Uh, is this Ben Gates?"

Ben hoped it wasn't another interviewer. "Yes. May I ask who's calling?"

The young lady on the other line cleared her throat before responding, her voice shaking slightly. "It's Tory. Uh, Riley's sister." She wasn't sure if Ben would remember her from when they had met the year before.

Ben was clearly shocked to get a call from her, "Oh, yeah. Hello."

"Sorry, I got your number from Riley's phone book. "

"It's fine. Is something wrong?"

"I was just wondering if Riley was maybe over there with you?"

Ben shook his head, but remember that she couldn't see the gesture and said, "No. He spent the night here but left this morning. Said you were going over to his place and left in a hurry."

"Oh."

"Is something wrong?"

"I can't get a hold of him."

"You tried calling him?"

"I've only become best friends with his answering machine. I think his phone might be off or something."

"Hmm." Ben mused, frowning slightly. "Well, I'm sure he's fine. Where are you?"

"I'm at his apartment. I've been here for the past twenty-five minutes. I let myself in with the key he gave me but he's not here..."

"Is his car there?"

"No. " She said, worriedly.

"I don't know what to tell you. I haven't heard from him all morning either. I sent him a text earlier but he didn't reply."

"What if something happened to him?"

"Look- do you want me to give him a call for you?"

"Yes, if you don't mind..." She sighed, "and if you get a hold of him, would you tell him to please call me right away?"

"Of course."

"Thank you. And, I'm sorry to bother you."

"It's no trouble at all, really."

"Alright. Thanks again."

"No problem. "

"Bye."

"Bye."

Ben hung up the phone confused, and looked up to see Abigail staring intently at him, with concern. "Who was that? What's wrong?"

"It was Riley's sister. She's having trouble getting a hold of him and asked if he was here. I told her I'd call him."

Abigail bit her lip, thinking back to how Riley had left in the morning. "Is she at his place already?"

Ben nodded, "Yeah. She's been waiting there but he hasn't answered her. Hold on." He dialed Riley's cellphone number and listened to the ringing, before Riley's perky answering machine began. Ben cleared his throat, ready to leave a message. "Hey, Riley. It's Ben. You're sister called me. She's worried about you. So, call me or her when you get his message. Bye."

"Do you think he's alright?" Abigail asked him when he hung up, slowly going back to her sandwich-making.

Ben shrugged, " I hope so. He might very well be on his way home right now."

"Ben, he left a long time ago. " She said, "And you saw how weird he was acting when he got off the phone with her. He decided to leave right away and didn't even finish his breakfast!"

"I'll call her back and let her know." He sighed, looking up the number and redialing it. She picked up after the first ring.

"Hello?"

"Hey, it's Ben."

"Did you call him?"

"Yeah, didn't get a hold of him though. I left him a message."

"Oh, God."

"What's wrong?"

"Oh, nothing....except my brother's missing."

"I think you'd better calm down. You don't know if he's missing. I'll keep trying to reach him, okay?"

"Ben....I-I'm sorry...you're right. It's just....well, I really need to see him right now. I just want to know he's okay."

"I'm sure he's fine, Tory. He's a big boy. He can survive an hour or two alone."

"Ben, you don't understand...."

Ben frowned. "What do you mean?"

"Our mother died this morning..."


A/N: Ugh. I like this chapter better than the other ones, it's longer too. But, I don't love love it. I didn't want to say where Riley was because I wanted to build suspenes and make you all think that he went all uber-emo and vanished, but that would be stupid and I feel it sorta came off lame-ish. Sorry to disappoint. Anyways, I hoped you like this chapter and Janice. She's a nice lady! And did anyone else notice the 'still-hot coffeepot' ? Hah! I was like "OMG! I made a rhyme!" xD Ah, review it then. I'll try to update it soon.

You know it's funny though, how this plot idea seemed SO GOOD in my head and I had such high expectations from it....yet, I can't seem to write it how I imagined it. Oh well, I'll give it time. Lots more chapters to go. Planning a funeral and such takes a lot more than just saying "we'll take that casket." believe me, I know. And I know I've added some stuff into here which might confuse you. Like when Tory's in the shower...yeah. All that mysterious Poole family stuff will be explained in later chapters.

Happy Reading!