The hot desert sun beat down on the back of Tom's neck as he walked across the sandy earth. His navy blue football jersey was practically sticking to his body, stained by the sweat. Even the fact that he was wearing baggy cargo shorts didn't help matters! He removed his ballcap and wiped his forehead dry, then fitted the cap back on his head and continued on. 'Man, this is why I'm fonder of cooler weather,' he thought to himself sardonically. 'I don't mind a little warm weather every once in a while, but I just don't cooperate with anything above 85! I have to wonder, how does Taylor put up with this kind of weather...?'
'Speaking of which...' a smile spread across his face.
Through the blazing sunshine, Papa T could make out a young woman running towards him. She had long, flowing blonde hair, set down across the crown of her head by a rope-like headband, and bright blue eyes. On her back was a pair of long, white wings; she also wore a pink tanktop, shorts, and sandals.
"He-hey, Taylor!" Tom laughed as the young girl tackled him into a hug. The two shared a good laugh as the big lug hoisted Taylor high in the air and spun around a few times before finally setting her on her feet. "How are ya, birthday girl?"
"Wonderful!" Taylor bubbled. "I can't wait to see this birthday present you've been talking about so much!"
"Birthday present...?" Tom arched his brow. "Hmm...can't seem to recall mentioning anything like that to you."
"But...but you promised..." Taylor's lower lip quivered as she gave Papa T the biggest, saddest set of anime eyes one could muster.
Tom rubbed his chin thoughtfully for a moment...but couldn't supress a goofy grin. "Nah, I'm just funnin' with ya, kiddo," he chuckled as he ruffled Taylor's hair playfully. "C'mon, you know how I like to kid with you! Alright, I'll take you there. But first, you need to close your eyes, okay?"
Taylor nodded enthusiastically as she shut her eyes. Then, Tom took one of Taylor's small hands into his own large ones, and started leading her across the desert.
"So, how's your birthday been so far, TayTay?" Tom asked.
"Mmm, not too bad so far," Taylor shrugged. "But a few people have been acting weird lately."
"Yeah...Edward, Sonic, Stitch, even Molly's been acting a little strange recently," Taylor said. "I dunno what it is, but they all said that they had something else to do."
"You don't say," Papa T said. "Well...I'm sure whatever it is they were working on, it was something important."
"That's what they said, too," Taylor added. "That it was something really important! I dunno, Tom, it just kind of strikes me as odd."
"Oh, don't worry," Tom said. "You'll get to spend A LOT more time with them real soon..."
Taylor tilted her head in confusion. It seemed to her that Tom knew something that she didn't. "Tooom?" she asked. "Are you hiding something from me?"
"Hiding?!" Tom responded flabbergastedly. "Taylor, what would give you that sort've idea?"
"Well, you seem to know quite a bit about what the others have been up to as of late..."
"Hmm...now that you mention it," Papa T said. "I DO happen to know a thing or two...oh, hey, we're here!" Quickly, he spun behind Taylor and covered her eyes.
"You better have a good explanation for this, Mister!" Taylor pouted.
"Oh, I do," Tom chuckled as he lead Taylor forward a few steps. "Almost there...aaand...okay, open your eyes!"
Taylor slowly opened her eyes...and couldn't believe what it was that she saw.
Before her was a large canyon wall. But something was carved into the bottom of it. It was a large basketball court, with a hardwood surface, and two baskets on either side. In the middle of the wall was a large Phoenix Suns logo, and carved into the walls behind the baskets were larger-than-life statues of Steve Nash and Charles Barkley. Rows of bleachers sat underneath the Suns logo, and a ways out from the court sat a flowing river. And above the entrance of the court was a large sign; the sing read, "Tayto's Court."
Taylor's eyes widened at the sight she beheld. "Oh, my gosh...oh, my GOSH...Tom! This is...how did you...?!"
"Look down near center court," Tom pointed.
And down at center court, clear as day, was a group of Molly, Sonic the Hedgehog, the Elric Brothers, Stitch, Carter Smith, Jaqulin Strife, Reminy, Panchito Pistoles, and a whole host of others. They all stood around a birthday cake, and they shouted,
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TAYLOR!!"
Taylor's eyes teared up as she kicked off the ground and took flight. Tom followed close behind, running down the dirt path, over the bridge, and to the cove. There is where they met up with her friends.
"This is amazing!" Taylor gasped. "You all remembered!"
"Ih, course we remember!" Stitch nodded. "You think weega forget Taylor's birthday?"
"Tom asked us to help him work on this court for you," Molly explained. "So we all decided to pitch in and lend a hand! Even if some of us doubted we could pull it off...Edward..." Molly shot Edward Elric a look.
"What?!" Edward shrugged. "I just said it would be impossible, that's all!"
"Come on, Ed, you helped out, anyway," Carter smirked. Edward harumphed grumpily.
"We know how much you love basketball," Jaqulin said with a small smile. "And we know how you LOVE the Phoenix Suns...gotta admit, Tom really had it together for this one."
"Oh, just this one time?" Papa T retorted, earning laughs from everyone else.
"So, what do you say, Tay?" Sonic asked. "Do you like it, or do you like it?"
"I...I..." Taylor studdered, too awestruck to find the right words. "...I LOVE it! Oh, thank you so much, everyone! If I could, I could give you all the biggest bear hug right now..."
"We can help with that," No Limit remarked as he and the others all gathered around Taylor for a group hug.
"Aww, thanks so much, everyone," Taylor giggled. "So, anyone wanna get a pickup game going before we dive into this cake?"
"Si, I am game!" Panchito said excitedly.
"Eh, why not?" NL shrugged.
"Alright, how 'bout you and me pick the teams, birthday girl?" Tom asked with a big smile. "Don't think I'll give you a free pass just because it's your birthday!"
"You're on!" Taylor said. And the two got down to picking their teams.
Happy Birthday, Taylor!!!