Dani slid into the chair in the hallway and smiled at the nurse that walked by.  She'd thrown on jeans and a sweatshirt and running shoes and her purse had been grabbed on her way out the door.  Meredith and Justin had slept through the phone call and didn't wake when she went to the first floor.  She scribbled a note to them and left it on the counter in the living room and left the house.

She should have gotten some coffee or something on the way over so that she could stay up and keep Chris's mom company, but she knew that she needed to at least try to nap or she was going to be dead the next day.  She figured that as soon as Taylor got back from surgery his mom would try to sleep or at least nap so she thought she'd do the same thing.

"Thanks for coming and staying with us," his mother said sliding into the seat next to her.  Even though his mother was still fairly young, tonight she looked like she'd led a long hard life.  Her eyes were tired and without make up she looked to me more worried than she probably was.  Dani knew that she'd been in the hospital before, taking care of Chris's many brushes with danger, but at eight Taylor was still a baby compared to the rest of her children, and probably needed a little more worrying about her than the others.

"No trouble," Dani said with a sigh and tried not to yawn.  She was tired as hell and still confused about Chris, but she didn't want to seem like this was a chore for her to be there.  It wasn't.  Actually she had been glad that he'd called her.  Taylor had become her little sister and she worried about her like she was family.  "I know that Chris was the one to call, but you could have called me too.  I don't know if I'm helping by being here, but if  you ever need me I'll--"  She stopped and laughed, "This is gonna turn into a sappy song if I continue."

His mother laughed and patted her hand where it lay on the armrest between them.  "I know that you're like family sweetie," she said and put her arm around Dani.  "I had a feeling that would Chris would be calling you so I didn't bother.  I know you two have had your bad times, but he knows how much you care about all of us and I knew that he'd want to let you know himself about what was going on."

"Yeah," Dani said, "That was a surprising phone call."

"Why?" his mother asked, "I know that you two have broken up--and I don't mean to repeat myself--but you've become a part of our family in the last few years and I know that he worries about you losing touch with Taylor and everyone."

"I worried about that for a long time.  I know that Taylor kind of got caught in the middle of this.  I was planning to come over to visit her later on this week after all the wedding stuff got over, but I guess that's out of the question now.  She won't be feeling like hanging out."

His mother smiled.  "You could come over and watch a movie or something with her.  She would love that."

Dani smiled thinking of  times that she'd spent with Taylor.

 

*****
 


Chris reached for the nail polish remover.  "Can I use some of this in a minute?"

"Yeah," she said as she lifted the nail polish brush from where she was doing Taylor's nails.  She and Chris had been in Utah the night before and she'd picked Taylor up at the airport that morning in Denver and instead of going to the spa they'd spent Chris's morning off doing make overs.  She'd convinced Chris that he should hang out with them and do girly things because his sister loved doing that kind of thing.  "I guess.  Why do you need it?  Please tell me that you aren't going to sniff it or something."

"No."  He took the bottle and shook it a little.  "How much stuff do you use when you use this?"

"Just a little..."  Her eyebrows lifted.  She wondered for a moment if he was going to do something crazy.  She'd heard that he'd one time gotten woolite and thrown it over the walls of a room at a party because he and his friends had figured out that it glowed under blacklights.  "What are you going to do with it?"

"I'm gonna remove Taylor," he said tipping the closed bottle over his sister's head.

"Dani save me!!" Taylor lifted her hands over her head and hit at him.

"Chris stop it," she warned.  "What are you really gonna do it?"

"I'm gonna do my nails."  He put his hand out and looked at his nails, admiring them.  "I want them to look nice."

"No Dani," Taylor whined with a smile, "You can't let him paint his fingernails. All the other guys will make fun of him.  That's what happened to Tommy Martin when his sister painted his nails red as a joke."

Chris shook the black nail polish and smiled at her.  "I can do them in black."

"Chris your sister is right.  You're gonna look strange if you do that."

"Steven Tyler does is," Chris said, "He's not getting made fun of."

"You're not Steven Tyler!" Taylor said.

"I'm not?" he asked.

"Noooo," Taylor said.

"I'm not in Aerosmith?"

"Nooo," she said.

"I'm sorry Dani.  I guess the nailpolish and everything will have to go back to the store."

"Nooo," Taylor said again.

"Is nooo the only word you say?" Chris asked.

"No," she said, "I can say a lot of stuff.  Is I love you the only words you say to Dani?"

Dani's eyes met Chris's as he took a seat and she leaned and kissed him.  "No, but they should be."

 

*****
 


"She loves when you come over to the house."

"I'd like coming over."

His mother leaned in her chair and got a serious look on her face.  She smoothed a hand over her hair and smiled.  "I know you've already done a lot for us tonight, but can you do me another favor?"

"What's that?"

"Talk to Chris," she said, "I know I'm the mother and that I shouldn't butt in, but I want you two to be happy and I don't see either of you jumping for joy right now."

Dani sighed and moved in her chair.  She wasn't comfortable talking about this with his mother.  She didn't want him to think that she was going behind his back or anything trying to talk to her about him.  "I'm not sure that there is anything more to talk about."

"There's always something to talk about.  You both were in love once and I can see it in your eyes when you talk about him.  There is some love left there for him in your eyes."

"I don't know about that."

Taylor's doctor soon appeared and they both got away from their conversation as the doctor explained that Taylor was going to be ok and that she would be brought back to the room she'd been in a little earlier.

 

*****
 


"Dani," a whispered voice above broke through her sleep.

"Huh?"  She opened her eyes and found that she'd been sleeping in the hallway outside of Taylor's room.  She looked over and found Chris watching her.  "Hi."

He tipped his head a little so he was looked at her straight and smiled.  "Hey."

She looked around as she uncurled her legs and let them fall to the ground.  "What time is it?"

He looked at his watch.  "Almost six in the morning.  You should go back to Justin's or whatever and go to bed."

She nodded and pushed herself up and yawned.  "Is Taylor ok?"

"Yeah," he said, "I talked to my mom and she came out of surgery ok and is back in her room.  She's gonna be ok."

"That's good."

"Dani.  I'm sorry that I called and woke you up last night.  I didn't mean to--"

"Chris it's ok."  She saw a serious look on his face and wanted to avoid any kind of a public discussion about what was going on between them.  "I have to go and hang out with Kelly and the girls tonight so why don't we talk about this later."

"Sure," he said.  He stepped forward then pulled her into a hug.  "Thanks again for coming over here."

Dani pulled them apart and stepped back.  "Tell Taylor that I'll come and visit her later."

"Ok," he said.

"Go spend time with her," she said.

"Ok."  He stayed there and watched her for the longest time.

Dani slowly walked down the hallway and out to the hospital, not knowing what to think.  She wanted to rush back in there and tell him the truth.  That day she didn't need to spend time with the girls.  She had another day until the bachlorette stuff happened.  She had wanted to get away and that was the only thing keeping her from talking to Chris more.

 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

 

Chris walked into the hospital room and found that his mother was awake.  He'd come in earlier to check on his sister then had talked to the morning nurses to see about Taylor's condition.

"Hi honey."  His mother moved from the chair and hugged him.

"Hi Mom," he said and hugged her back.  His eyes moved towards Taylor's sleeping body in the bed then looked back to his mother as she pulled him over to sit down.  He found an extra chair across the room and slid it up near hers.  "How's she doing?  I talked to the nurses, but you know her better than they do."

"She's doing ok," she said, "She was really grumpy when she woke up--"  She stopped.  "How did you get here?"

"Joey drove me," he said, "Tell me about Taylor."

"She's doing ok," she said then stared at him for a moment.  Her eyes searched his face and he knew he was in trouble. He knew her expressions well enough to know that she was seeing the fatigue that he felt.  Her eyes suddenly looked awake and worried, something that he didn't want for her.  "How are you doing?"

"I'm fine.  I got some sleep on the plane and I'm planning to go home after I have breakfast or whatever with Taylor."

His mother's head moved towards the door as if she remembered something with that statement.  "Is Dani still out there?"

"No."  He got up and went to the window.  "I sent her home."

"She stayed here all night ya know," his mother said.

"I asked her to Mom.  I wanted someone to be here with you and she was the first person who came to mind."  He looked back at her.  "I don't trust you guys with anyone else."

"I don't trust you with anyone else either."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Talk to her honey.  You're both hurting and you need each other."

Chris moved across the room and remembered to keep his voice low when he saw that his sister was still asleep.  He leaned and covered her up more then looked back as his mother.  "She and I have nothing in common anymore.  She and I have a past, but there's no future there.  There isn't--"

"Can we not talk about this?" he asked, "I don't want to be in a bad mood around Taylor when she wakes up."


 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
 


[Two days later...]

When her palms hit the dewy grass she instantly felt silly.  Her mind instantly ran to the thousand words that she'd ever said to Chris about doing stunts like the one she'd just done.  It wasn't that hard to do a cartwheel, but this was definitely something she wasn't in the habit of doing.  She righted herself and looked at Colton who was looking at her as if she'd performed a miracle.  "See," she said, "That wasn't that hard."

"I wanna try.  I wanna try!" Colton jumped up and down.

"Why don't you try a sommersault instead," she said wondering if he might hurt himself if he did something too extreme.

Colton looked at her with a confused expression.  "What's that?"

Dani moved and did a sommersault and looked at him.  "You think you can do that?"

"Yeah," he said, "I can do that."

She watched Colton do a sommersault on the grass and when she was staring back towards the house she saw Chris come out into the backyard.  She knew that he was coming to the rehearsal dinner, he'd been at the rehearsal, but she hadn't been prepared to see him and certainly didn't want him to see her doing cartwheels and sommersaults in the yard with the kids.  It was too silly for her and would make her look like a hypocrit to the worst degree if he saw her.

"What else can you do?" Colton asked.

"I don't know," she said, "Why don't you go ask Chris to do some tricks?"

Colton ran off and Dani started to brush the grass off herself.  She sat down to pull her shoes and socks back on.  She'd worn jeans and a shirt sleeved sweater set that night, after being in a skirt earlier in the day and found that she had gotten a grass stain on her knee.

"You still remember how to do cartwheels?"

Dani looked up and saw that Chris was now standing in front of her with Colton piggyback style on his back.  He looked less stressed than he'd been at the hospital, which was a good thing, but there was fatigue that showed around his eyes.

"It's been a while," she said, "But I remember."

"Isn't that a bit immature of you?" he asked.

Dani's eyes flew to where Colton's head was perched on Chris's shoulder.  He was smiling sweetly at her and even stuck out his tongue for a moment.  "Dani does the best stuff.  She even knows how to make cheese hotdogs."

"Oh really?" he asked, "Like what?  The last time I checked Dani didn't do cool things.  She's too old for that."

"You're the old one." Colton laughed.  "That's what Daddy and Mommy say anyway."

Chris moved Colton from his back and flipped him onto the grass where he started to tickle him.  Dani sat and watched them.

Chris looked over at her finally.  "Are you gonna help?"

"You look like you've got it under control," she said.

Chris looked over at Colton and they suddenly came towards her.  Colton tried to tickle her neck and Chris grabbed her middle and soon the three of them were laughing hysterically.

Dani was feeling a little bit strange about the whole thing, but she liked not being so stressed around Chris.  She hoped that over the next few days things could get better.  She didn't want to hope too hard that things would get back to normal, but she thought that there at least might be a chance.

"Dinner!" Joe Senior called from the porch.

"YAY!"  Colton got up and ran towards his grandfather.

"You need some help up?" Chris asked.

"Sure," she said.

He moved to stand up then reached down and pulled her up.  He brushed some grass from her hair and gave her a smile.  "Well I guess I'll talk to you later."

"Ok," she said not really understanding why he was saying good bye to her if they were at the same party.

Dani walked over to the porch and went and got in line with everyone else.  It only took a minute or two to get through the line.  She stood in line with Lance and Carrah who'd flown in for the wedding.

"So what are you doing now?" Carrah asked.

"I'm a traveling host for an NHL show on ESPN and I'm working on FuManSkeeto stuff in LA part time."

"Wow."

"What about you?"

"I graduated from school about six months ago and have been working for a PR firm in Orlando for a while.  Lance keeps telling me to quit though because I hate my boss, but I like the work so I've been sticking it out."

"That sounds like a fun job.  I hate my boss too sometimes, but I guess it's something that everyone goes through."

"I don't hate my boss," Lance said.

"You are the boss," Carrah said with the laugh.

"Don't tell him that," Dani laughed, "You're gonna give him a big ego."

"Sure sure," Carrah said with a laugh, "He doesn't listen to me anyway."

"I'll listen if you tell me I'm the boss all the time."

Dani finally reached the front of the line and grabbed some chicken from Joe and was about to leave when he tapped her on the shoudler.  "Honey can you bring this over to Chris for me?" Joe Senior asked passing her another plate from where he stood in front of the grill.

She thought about it for a moment and even though she didn't want to mess up the peace that come between them that she wouldn't mind getting Chris his plate.  It might give her a chance to talk to him some more.  "Sure Pappa Joe."

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