Taylor's eyes flickered open. Even after almost eighteen years, Walker was always a little surprised at the startling blue of his eyes, so unlike his own and his other sons' deep brown. "Where are we?" Taylor whispered, rubbing his face.
"St. Louis. How do you feel?" Walker asked.
Taylor thought for a moment, "Fine, I think." He answered.
"Good—you really had me worried last night."
"Yeah, me too." He said, sitting up slowly. Avery stirred, but didn't wake. "Did she sleep out here all night?" Taylor asked his father.
"Yeah, she saw you were sick and you know how she is." Walker smiled. Taylor looked down at the little girl. She'd curled up into a ball now, pressed against his side, her pink satin pajamas not giving her any protection from the cold. Gently, he got himself up, then pulled her up to put her on his shoulder. "I'll get her, Tay." Walker said, reaching for her.
"It's ok, I got her. Could you grab her a blanket or something, though?"
Walker walked back to the little girl's bunk and pulled the curtain back. There, the same blanket she'd had as a baby lay, the pattern of blue bunnies and yellow flowers long ago faded away. He grabbed the priceless piece of material and walked back to join them, placing it around her shoulders, tucking it tightly around her. She sighed and nuzzled her face into Taylor's neck. Once they stepped off the bus, Taylor noticed the sun had come up bright and gave everything a golden glow and he huffed into the air to test whether he could see his breath. "It got cold last night, didn't it?" Walker said, opening the door of the hotel lobby.
"Yeah." Taylor answered sleepily as he stepped in. They made their way to the desk. "
Hi, could you get us keys? My wife already checked in—Underhill's the name."
Taylor grinned, knowing the alias came from his father's favorite book. The clerk smiled as well, "Certainly Mr. Underhill. Here you go." And he handed Walker two cards, "The top one is yours, the bottom one is, uh…the younger Mr. Underhill's."
Walker laughed, "Thank you." And they turned towards the elevators at the other end of the lobby. When the doors opened, Taylor shifted Avery to his other shoulder, then stepped inside. The doors shut and his father pushed the number of their floor. "Tay, did something happen last night?" his father broke the silence, "I mean, if you ever need to tell me anything—you know I'm here, right?"
"Dad, I swear, I don't know what happened. I don't." Taylor answered softly, not wanting to wake his sister. The doors slid open and Walker stepped out and held the door for his son. "You want her in your room or should I put her in with Zac?" Taylor asked, changing the subject.
Walker sighed, "Put her in with me and your mother, Zac might roll over and suffocate her."
Taylor chuckled, "Yeah, you might be right." His father slid the card in the lock, turned the handle and they both walked into the dark room. He stepped over to the bed and gently lay his little sister down next to his mother.
"Tay?" Diana said, noticing it wasn't her husband standing over her.
"Hey Mom." He said.
"How are you feeling this morning?" she asked sleepily.
"Better." He whispered.
She smiled, "I'm glad baby—now go to bed for a few more hours."
"I'm on my way." He said, and he reached down and hugged her, "Night, Dad." He said to his father.
"Goodnight son….er…good morning or something. See ya at breakfast," he looked down at his watch, "in about two hours."
Taylor left his parents' room and went into his brothers'. Two king size beds greeted him, each with a large mound of sleeping Hanson smack dab in the middle. Some nights, Mackenzie slept in their room, but apparently, he'd chosen to bunk with the girls tonight, at least Jessica and Zoë, as Avery had slept first with him, then with his parents. He sighed and without figuring out which was which, he climbed into a bed next to an unknown brother and closed his eyes.
At ten o'clock sharp, the phone rang. And rang, and rang some more. Finally, Isaac picked it up, "Hello?" he mumbled into the receiver.
"Get up—we're meeting down in the hotel restaurant in a half hour. Who is this, anyway?" his father asked.
"It's Ike." He replied.
"Well, get Taylor up—he didn't get a shower last night. Half hour Ike, be there."
"Alright Dad, we'll see ya, bye." He said, and he hung up the phone. He looked over at the other bed. Taylor was indeed there, though when he got there, Isaac didn't know. Zac's hand lay on top of his head, and he had no covers to speak of. He was still fully dressed in the clothes he'd worn at the show. He smiled as he watched Zac drape his arm over Taylor's shoulder.
"Mmm…Chelsea…" Zac mumbled and moved his arm down to his brother's waist. It was all Isaac could do not to burst out laughing.
Taylor furrowed his brow. When Zac tightened his hold a little, his eyes opened and he looked a bit confused before growling, "You better get your paws off me, you little pervert."
Now Isaac could no longer hold it in. He and Taylor both laughed as Zac's face turned crimson and he turned his back on the two, murmuring, "Damn, you go to sleep by yourself, and you wake up with an asshole."
Taylor sat up and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. "Dad says you need to jump in the shower, we're eating in, like, twenty minutes." Isaac said, sitting up as well, "You better today?"
Taylor nodded, "Yeah, totally." He answered.
Isaac looked at him, wondering, "Well, I sure hope so, 'cause that spaced out, freaky stuff was too much. If that's what you're like on drugs, just say NO!"
Taylor shook his head, "I didn't do any drugs!!" he exclaimed.
"Yeah, but if you did," Zac said from the other side of the bed, "that's what you'd be like I'll bet."
Taylor looked from one brother to the other, "You're both freaks." He said, then he got up and went into the bathroom, closing the door behind him.
A half hour later, the family had gathered in the lobby of the hotel. Diana stayed close to Taylor, hoping he was alright, and to her relief, he seemed to be back to his normal self and ended up eating more than both his brothers combined—not an easy feat. They'd decided to go to the Arch that day. It had been arranged for them to bypass the long lines of tourists and go directly to the tiny, Ferris wheel like elevators that would make the long trip to the top. "Man, I don't think I'll fit in there." Zac said, ogling the contraption.
"Well," Walker stated, I do think we'll have to split up you and me—it's four to a car, but the lady said Zoë could sit on somebody's lap and we could fit in two."
Diana looked doubtfully at the car and then back at her long legged family, "I think you're all nuts." But ten minutes later, she found herself squashed in one of the little compartments with Zac, Taylor, Jessica and Zoë. As they shut the door, they all looked at each other wide eyed. By a third of the way up, it had gotten very warm.
"It's hot in here." Taylor commented as sweat beaded on his forehead.
"Yeah, I was thinking the same thing." Zac agreed.
Jessica looked at both her brothers, "Hope you all remembered deodorant this morning." She said.
"Well, I hope you didn't forget some tic-tacs." Zac retorted.
As his siblings jabbed and played with each other, Taylor started to feel very uncomfortable in the tiny space. Zoë looked at him from her spot on her mother's lap as he leaned his head back and swallowed, watching his Adam's apple move up and down. "Whatsamatter Tay?" she asked. Now Diana looked at him as well.
"Ugh, I don't know," he answered, "this thing feels like a coffin or something…" he had his eyes closed.
"Are you getting seasick?" Zac asked, "'Cause Mom's probably got some Dramamine somewhere—you gotta come back down too, y'know?"
Jessica scooted as far from him as she could get, "If you puke in here, I will kill you." She said.
Taylor rubbed his face, then leaned forward, hanging his head, "No, it's ok—I'm not gonna hurl or anything."
Diana wasn't so sure and she was very relieved when the elevator came to a stop and the little door opened. Taylor wasted no time untangling his long legs and freeing himself from the tiny metallic prison he'd been shut up in. They all made their way into the center of the Arch and leaned out to the windows. The rest of their family joined them and the older boys found themselves lifting their younger, smaller siblings up to the windows that looked out over the city on one side and the river on the other. The sun was bright and the view was beautiful, but soon, they had to go back down. This time, Taylor waited and he and Isaac rode down together, promising to meet everyone at the huge stuffed Grizzly bear at the entrance to the museum. He didn't think he could take being packed like a sardine in a can again. As they rode down, they made small talk until, once again, Taylor felt very closed in, "Damn, I must be getting claustrophobic in my old age—I seriously don't like this thing." He said.
"Well, Tay," Isaac said, "it's just like being put in a clothes dryer, I'm not too fond of it myself—but, it was worth it. The view from up there was incredible."
"Yeah, it was. Zoë didn't seem to care too much for it, though." Taylor smiled remembering her shaking her head and refusing to look out the windows a second time. Isaac suddenly broke out into a grin. "What?" Taylor questioned.
"Where'd you get that big hickey? You better not let Mom see that!" Isaac said, pointing at his brother's neck.
"I don't have a hickey—that's gross." Taylor said.
Isaac raised an eyebrow, "Whatever." He said, and the two rode the rest of the way down in silence.