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A Different Time, A Different Place

by Sissy & Chris

My eyesWhy can’t I see?…… I can’t move...Maybe…I’m dead...Wait…I can hear.  I hear people…talking…so far awayGod…why can’t…I move? Oh… what’s that?… my face.  Something cool…on my face, ahhh…feels…good. I hear… humming…a woman… beautiful voice. Getting…sleepy… listen to her all day. If I’m…dead… must be…in heaven. Must…be…an…angel.   So… sleepy.’

“Alex, you can’t spend all your time with one patient. He’s not the only patient in here who needs attention.”

“No one gets neglected, Ruth, I just save him for last. What I do on my time is my business. Besides, I’ve got a feeling he’s gonna be different.”

“Hey, Alex, I’m off in 30 minutes.  Want to go the club later?”

“No, I don’t think so. I’m just gonna stay here.”

“Suit yourself.”

*****

‘That angel’s back… What’s wrong with me? Why can’t… I… move? Think…think…what’s the last thing I… remember? I was…on my way back…to headquarters…to see the Colonel. Talking to…my driver about…getting some R&R then…nothing. Must be…in…hospital. What…are… they talking…about?

“Is he the one they brought in from that jeep that was hit by mortar fire?”

“Yes, he is.”

“Did they ever find out who he is?”

“Yes, they found his dog tags underneath him. His name is Captain Cordell Walker of the 3rd Marine battalion. From what I can hear, he’s loaded with decorations.  Must be quite a man.”

“He’s gonna have to be to walk out of here.”

Oh, God. My driver…what about…my driver?

“I wouldn’t waste too much time on him if I were you; he’s in pretty bad shape. The doctor says he shouldn’t even be alive. His driver didn’t make it. They don’t know why he did.”

“Well, the doctor is wrong. He’s going to walk out of here as good as new.”

“You’re the only one who believes that, but maybe if you keep telling him that, he’ll start believing you.  That is, if he can even hear you.”

No…no. Why him and…not me. He was going home in two weeks to his wife and baby.  Oh, God.’

Just then Alex see a tear seep out from under his bandages. ‘Oh, God, he can hear. He just heard about his driver.’  She leans over him and whispers, “I’m so sorry.” then gently wipes his tears away with her thumb.  Tears fill her own eyes as she sympathizes with the pain he must be feeling at the death of his driver.

*****

‘She’s back.  Why doesn’t she just leave me alone.  I might as well be dead. I can’t move. I can’t see. Just a blob taking up a bed that could be put to better use.’

“Alex, you’ve been working on him for weeks and he hasn’t really shown any improvement. You’ve spent all your free time with him. Are you sure he’s worth it?”

“He’s worth it, believe me.  He’s going to be just fine.  Ruth, do you see that man in the doorway? He’s been here every day since the Captain was brought in.  Who is he?”

“That’s Colonel Parker. He’s the Captain’s commanding officer and I understand they are pretty good friends, too.”

C.D.’s here! Oh, God, I don’t want him to see me like this. Why didn’t I die, too?’

*****

“Alex, you’ve been here since early morning. Why don’t you go home? You look exhausted.”

“I will, after I finish the therapy on his arms and legs.”  When he was first brought in, she had noticed how muscular his arms and legs were.  That was what had prompted her to begin the therapy in the first place.  She didn’t want him to lose his muscle tone.  She had also noticed that his chest was pretty well developed, too and, since she was the one bathing him, the rest of him wasn’t too bad, either.  As she remembers, her face turns a light shade of red.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, then. Don’t stay too long, okay?”

Alex rubs lotion on his legs then puts them through the same exercises she’s been doing every day since he was brought in.  Moving up to the side of the bed, she picks up his hand and gently kisses each fingertip.  As she starts rubbing in the lotion, she sees his head move. Startled, she drops his arm. Recovering quickly, she picks it up again and, with shaky hands, continues to rub in the lotion.

“Why don’t you do as she says.” It’s barely a whisper, but she hears him perfectly. “You’re wasting your time on me.”

Swallowing hard, then taking a deep breath, “I don’t think so. How long have you been awake?”

“Not long. What’s wrong with my eyes? Why are they bandaged?”

“They were burned from the flash of the explosion.  They’re going to take the bandages off tomorrow.  I know you’ve been able to hear so you know what happened, don’t you?”

A whispered, “Yes. The driver…has his family been notified?”

“Yes, Colonel Parker took care of it. You know he’s been here every day checking on you. He’ll be glad to hear that you’re finally awake.”

“He should make better use of his time. He can’t help me, neither can you. I’ll probably be stuck in a bed or even worse, a wheelchair, for the rest of my life.”

“Well, it looks like you woke up in a good mood.  I guess you have it all figured out, huh.” She finishes with his right arm and moves around the bed to work on his left one.

“Not too much to figure out.  I can’t move.  It’s that simple.”

“There’s nothing simple about it.” He turns his head to follow her voice. “You’ve had shrapnel removed from your back.  When it heals, the doctors feel you could get some movement back.”

A sarcastic chuckle, “Could…Some, that really sounds great.”

“Well, a lot depends on how bad you want to recover and how hard you’re willing to work.”

“What else is wrong with me?”

You have some burns, but they’re almost healed. Some lacerations, and a lot of bruising. Considering what they said the jeep looked like, you are one lucky man.”

“Lucky?  I don’t think I’d call it lucky being paralyzed.”

“You’re lucky because you’re alive and as long as your alive, there is always hope. You should know that better than anyone.  For a man who’s won the Purple Heart three times, you’re quite a crybaby.” She lays his hand down and moves away from the bed afraid that she has said too much for his fragile ego to tolerate.

‘What does she know. She’s not the one lying here in bed unable to move. She can still walk, can still function like a normal human being.  She’s not going to have to have someone dress her every day or take her to the bathroom. She’s still able touch, to feel, to make love while I’ll be flat on my back for the rest of my life. A crybaby…I’m not a crybaby…I’m not…” He realizes that she has left his bedside. ‘Good, then she won’t see this…crybaby…cry.’

She watches him as he moves his head back and forth on the pillow.  As tears slip out below the bandages, her eyes fill with tears, too, knowing the overwhelming helplessness he must be feeling.  It takes all her will power to keep from going up to him but she knows that in order for him to get better, he has to hit bottom and she’s pretty sure that’s where he is now.

*****

“Captain Walker, the doctor is here to take the bandages off your eyes. We’re going to raise your bed up, that’s the sensation you’re going to feel now.” Alex slowly cranks his bed up, then moves to the head of the bed across from where the Doctor is standing.

“Captain Walker, I’m Dr. Price. When the bandages come off, don’t rush yourself, take your time and open your eyes whenever you feel ready. We have the lights turned down but not completely off. Okay, here we go.”

Walker is nervous as they slowly take the bandages from around his head.  He feels hands holding the pads over his eyes then the pads are removed and he feels hands wiping his face, her hands.  He has gotten to know the touch of her hands very well.

“All right Captain, they’re off. You can open your eyes whenever you’re ready.”

Several minutes pass before he finally gets the courage to slowly open them. When the first dot of light peeks under his eyelids, he snaps them shut then slowly opens them again, wider. Everything is fuzzy at first.  He blinks several times trying to bring the faces into focus. The first face he sees is a beautiful blue-eyed blonde with a sweet smile standing at his left side. His angel. Then he slowly turns his face to look at everyone else standing by his bed. He sees another nurse, a black man, and the doctor. He turns back to look at his angel again when he sees his friend and Commanding Officer, Colonel C.D. Parker, standing just off to her side. He sees the tears in the old man’s eyes and watches as he reaches out to lay a hand on his shoulder, a hand that he can’t feel.

“Are the images clear, Captain? No fuzziness, no spots?” When Walker shakes his head, “I didn’t really think there would be. Now we can get started on the rest of you. This fellow here, James Trivette, is your physical therapist.   He’s going to start working with you on a daily basis.  But not just yet, we’re going to wait till your back is healed first, okay?  So you have a little reprieve.  He’ll check on you daily to see if any sensation is returning.  Right now, though, how about everybody getting back to work and letting this man get some rest.”

As everyone walks away, Colonel Parker moves closer and takes Walker’s limp hand in his. “I have every confidence I’ll see you walk out of this place, Cordell. I’ve never known you to quit and I don’t expect to see you quit this time.” When Walker doesn’t answer, “You see that little lady over there?  She’s been by your side from the minute you were brought in here. For some reason, she believes you’re going to walk out of here as good as new.  You’re at this point because she wouldn’t give up on you. Don’t let her work go to waste. Are you listening to me, Captain?”

“Yes, sir. I heard you. I’ll … do my best, sir.”

“That’s all I ask, son.” He lays Walker’s hand down and places his hand on his shoulder. “Now that I know you’re out of danger, I’ve got to get back to Headquarters.  I’ll check back once in awhile but I think you’re in good hands.” He smiles at Walker then turns and walks away.

*****

After everyone leaves, Walker is left to himself while the nurses tend to the other patients.  Walker notices that the ward is almost full.  He sees three other nurses besides Angel, as he has taken to calling her, attending to everyone on the ward.  Funny, I don’t even know her name.  As he watches, the nurses seem to be constantly moving from one patient to another.  He closes his eyes, thinking about what the Colonel had told him.  When he remembers what his Angel had said, a smile tugs at the corners of his lips.  He would just have to prove to her that he wasn’t a crybaby.  With that thought, he drifts off to sleep.

Alex always waits till close to the end of her shift to take care of Walker so that she can take her time with him knowing that if she runs into her own time it won’t matter. As she walks up to the bed, she pulls the curtains around.  He’s asleep which will make it easier to check the catheter and get him ready for his bath.  After checking the catheter and the bandages on his other cuts and lacerations, she brings in the pan of water for his bath. She knows there is no way she will be able to give him his bath without waking him.  ‘Lord, this was easier when he was in a coma. He couldn’t watch her.  But now… This is silly.  I’ve given 100’s of baths to men and it’s never bothered me, why should it bother me now.  It’s not like I haven’t done this before.  But he’s never watched me before.’ She looks up to find him watching her with a smile playing at the corners of his lips.

“The water is going to get cold.” He murmurs.

She blushes slightly, feeling the heat rise in her face. “I need to turn you over to change the dressing on your back.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t help you there.”

“That’s okay.  I can handle it.”  She takes a hold of the sheet under him and pulls him to the edge of the bed then gently turns him on his side. She washes his back and changes the bandages then moves to the other side of the bed, pulls the sheet towards her and gently lays him back down.

She takes the wash cloth and starts washing his face, neck and ears. Drying him off, “Do you want shaved. You had a slight beard when you came in, so I’ve left it. But it’s getting pretty full now.”

“Do you have a mirror so I can see?”

Sure.” She turns around and opens the drawer in the table beside his bed, takes a mirror out and holds it up for him to see his face.

“What happened to my hair? I look like I just came out of basic.”

“They had to shave it to stitch up the lacerations.  Don’t worry, it shouldn’t take long for it to grow back.”

“Then I guess I’d better get a shave and let them both grow out together.” He looks up into her eyes, thinking she has the most beautiful blue eyes he’s ever seen.

She drops her eyes quickly, turns and gets the razor and cream and expertly shaves his beard off. After putting away the shaving gear, she knows she can’t put off the bath any longer. She picks up the pan of water and ducks out through the curtain returning several minutes later with warm water. Without hesitation, she pulls the sheet down and begins washing his chest, then his arms. As she starts washing his belly, she knows his eyes are watching her every move. As she moves the cloth down to his genitals, the same thing happens that always happens. It rises and grows as she washes it so she works just as quickly as possible.

“It seems to have a mind of its own.” She jumps when he speaks and, doing her best not to look at him, she quickly rinses him off and covers him up. She gathers up the bathing items and quickly ducks through the curtain, feeling the heat in her face.  But she also knows it isn’t entirely from embarrassment.  She takes her time putting the stuff away and also takes the time to wash her face in cold water.

She finally returns to his bed to do the therapy exercises and finds him asleep. Thank God for that. She sits in a chair, deciding to let him sleep and giving her more to time to gather her wits about her.

She leans over and lays her head on the edge of the bed next to his hand.  She has been working for almost eighteen hours and, before she realizes it, she falls asleep, too.

He wakes slowly, remembering that he can see, glances around, and sees that the curtain is still drawn. That’s when he notices his angel asleep, her head lying near his hand. Beautiful hair, …he’d love to touch her hair. Maybe just one finger…he concentrates fully on just one finger, sweat breaking out on his forehead, his breathing becoming more rapid, then slowly, ever so slowly, the finger moves just a little but enough that he feels her hair and lets his finger curl into it.  He closes his eyes and falls asleep from sheer exhaustion.

Alex wakes a little disoriented.  Realizing that she had fallen asleep, she starts to sit up when she feels a tug on her hair. Without moving, her eyes dart around trying to see what’s holding onto her hair.  She looks at his hand and sees his finger curled into her hair. She knows that he had to have moved his hand because it is on top of her hair. She pulls free and looks up into his face, noticing that his forehead and the hair at his temples are still wet.  Smiling down at him, she is elated, knowing what he must have gone through to get that hand to move. As she places her hand over his, his head jerks and his eyes open. She pulls her hand back quickly.  Glancing up at his face, she finds him looking at her.

I felt that. What did you do? God, I felt that.” His eyes take on a new brightness. “Do it again. Whatever it was, do it again.”

“I just touched your hand. Like this.” She puts her hand down on his again. When he smiles, it brings a smile to her face, too. “Oh, thank God. I knew it would happen. It’s starting, God, I knew it would.” She picks up his hand and holds it to her breast. “I am so happy for you.” Without thinking, she leans over and kisses him softly on the lips.

When his lips move under hers, she quickly pulls back. “Oh, I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t have done that.  I’m just…so happy for you.  I should get the doctor.” She lays his hand down and turns to leave…

“No…let’s wait till tomorrow. Let me just enjoy this moment for tonight. Okay?”

She looks at him for several minutes, “Okay, if you’re sure.”

“I’m very sure. Thank you.  If it weren’t for you, I’d never have gotten this far. Now, will you go home and get some sleep.  You look exhausted. Please, for me?”

She nods, then coming up to the bed, touches his hand and smiles at him.  She pulls the curtains open, turns and leaves the ward.

*****

When Alex comes on duty the next day, the first patient she wants to check on is Walker. As she nears his bed, she sees that it is made and Walker is nowhere in sight.  Panic sets in…could something have happened after she left last night.  She quickly looks around the room to see if they moved him to a different bed but he’s not in the ward.  Oh, God, where is he?  She’s on duty so she can’t go just take off to go look for him, but she finds Ruth, “Where is Captain Walker? Did something happen to him?  Where did they take him?  Ruth, for God’s sake tell me where he is.”

“Alex, calm down, I don’t know where he is. They were wheeling him out of here just as I came on duty.  Seems like I heard someone say something about Stateside.  Look, there’s Betty, she was on when he left, ask her.”

Alex catches up to Betty just as she’s starting out the door. “Betty, where did they take Captain Walker. He was fine when I left him last night.”

“Hmmm…I think he went to therapy, but I’m not sure. It’s not on my chart, but I think that’s where he went.”

“God, I hope so.” She knows she’s being irrational, but she can’t seem to help it. ‘If that’s where he is, he’ll be back here in a couple of hours.’  She spends the rest of the morning taking care of her other patients, always keeping one eye on the door waiting for him to return.  Finally, about 11:00, when she has just about lost it, she sees him being brought back to his bed. She hurries down to help put him into bed, “Jimmy, isn’t it kinda unusual to keep them in therapy this long the first day? God, he looks exhausted.”

“Well, he should be; he wouldn’t quit.  He kept saying one more time, one more time. He wore me out, so I told him that’s it. You’re going back to bed. He didn’t argue with me, so he’s probably pretty tired.” He turns and puts a hand on Walker’s hand, causing him to open his eyes. “I’ll see you tomorrow, man. Better get rested up, real good.”  Walker gives him a very tired smile and shuts his eyes again.

Alex turns and walks with Jimmy to the door. “How did he do, Jimmy. Last night, he managed to move one finger, but that’s all.”

“He got his arm moving pretty good before I called a halt. Man, he sure is motivated now. Big difference from two days ago, huh. Well, I’ll see you tomorrow, Alex.”

“Jimmy, should I stop the therapy I’ve been doing on his arms and legs?”

Jimmy turns and shakes his head, “No way, Alex.  You keep that up until he’s able to get back on his feet.  The way he’s going now that won’t be too far in the future.”

Alex spends the rest of her shift taking care of the other patients on the ward. About twenty minutes before it ends, she goes to her last patient, Walker. Feeding him, his therapy and then his bath. She isn’t sure how she is ever going to survive giving him his bath.

As she nears his bed, she sees him watching her. “Hi.  I bet you’re starved since you slept through lunch.”

He nods, “Even paralyzed my stomach still sends off signals when it’s empty.” She cranks his bed up and puts a towel under his chin, “Do I really need a…a…bib?” She watches, with her mouth gaping, as he slowly and with great effort, raises his right arm and pulls the towel down from his chin. By the time he drops his arm back down on the bed, he’s sweating profusely and breathing hard.

“That was terrific! You must really be working hard in rehab. At this rate you’ll be walking in no time.”  Her smile is contagious and soon his face shows one, too. “And if you don’t want that … bib, as you called it, then we just won’t use it.” She feeds him his dinner, which he eats heartily. “That’s it.  Would you like more?  I can go get some if you do.”

“No, no, that’s fine.”  He lays his head back against the pillow, takes a deep breath and shuts his eyes. “I guess I worked up an appetite. Now all I want to do is sleep.  You just do what you have to do and let me sleep, okay?”

“Okay, I’ll…try not to disturb you. Let me wash your face and shave you then the rest shouldn’t bother you.”

She turns to get the shaving gear, “No, no shave. Let it grow.”

“Okay, no shave.” She washes his face and neck, his upper torso and his arms. She turns him over and changes the dressing on his back, noticing that it is just about healed. She gets him turned back then she leaves to get fresh water for the rest of his bath.  When she returns, he is asleep.

She makes sure the catheter is all right, then finishes with the rest of his bath, managing to get it over without waking him.  Well, at least his eyes stayed closed.  When she finishes with the therapy, she puts everything away, watches him for a couple of minutes, then turns to leave for home.

When he is sure she’s gone, he opens his eyes, smiles and looks to the foot of the bed as he slightly wiggles his toes under the sheet and just barely flexes his knees. After she had left him last night, he knew that the feeling was returning.  His body felt prickly and was tingling all over so apparently what the surgeon had explained to him that morning was true. Once the swelling from the injuries to his spine and neck goes down, the nerves in his neck would let the signals through to the rest of his body.

He made Jimmy promise not to say anything to his angel. He wanted to surprise her.  He had pretended to be sleepy because he knew how hard it was for her to give him his bath while he watched. The first time she had bathed him, after he could see, his reaction was involuntary. But tonight it wasn’t and he knew he wasn’t going to be able to hide his recovery for very long because his body was going to give him away. Whenever she was near, he could feel his body responding to her closeness.  And the baths would have to stop even though he was enjoying them immensely. He closes his eyes and drifts off into a contented sleep.

*****

When Alex arrives for her shift the next day, Walker has already left for rehab.  She goes about taking care of the other patients in the ward giving hugs to two that are being released and crying when one dies from his injuries. When Walker is pushed back into the ward in a wheelchair by Jimmy, he looks tired but seems to be in good spirits.  He smiles when he sees her. As soon as she is able, she catches Jimmy before he leaves, “Jimmy, how is he doing? Is he still improving?”

Jimmy smiles at her, reaches over and takes her hand, “Alex, I’ve been told not to tell you about his progress. That’s something you’ll have to ask him yourself.  I’ve got to go.  I’ve got to get Johnny down to rehab. See you tomorrow.”

Alex looks over where Walker is lying in bed, supposedly resting and wonders just what is going on?  She decides that the only way she is going to find out is to ask. As she nears the bed, she hears his soft snoring and stops.  Better to wait till he wakes up.  Before she can get back to him, she is called to fill in for an operating room nurse who has gotten sick and doesn’t get back to the ward till well after her shift ends. She makes up her mind to talk to him anyway before she goes home.  As she walks through the darkened ward, she finds him sitting up in bed, almost as if he is waiting for her.

“I knew you’d come by before you left.” He smiles at her as she nears the bed, feeling his body reacting to just seeing her.

“Oh, you did, did you?” Running her eyes up his body starting at the foot of the bed, she notices that he has his hands clasped together in his lap. As she stands at the side of the bed, her body starts sending out signals at his closeness. “Well, are you going to keep me in suspense or are you going to tell me how it’s going since you don’t want Jimmy telling me.”

“I wanted you to see for yourself. Since you were gone all afternoon, I’ve managed to do most of the stuff by myself. I’ve fed myself lunch and dinner. I’ve even bathed by myself. So I guess you could say I’ve put you right out of a job--at least the job of taking care of me.”

“That’s great!  That’s one job I’ll gladly give up. Not that I thought of it as a job.  Jimmy told me to continue with your therapy, though, at least until you’re able to walk again.

“Well, then I guess this will be the last night for that because I’m starting on the bars tomorrow.” He notices her getting quiet and has an idea what is wrong but decides not to say anything. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t come by and visit if you want.” The smile returns to her face as she picks up the lotion and starts the therapy.

“I see you are free of the catheter so I guess you can navigate well enough to get to the restroom?”

“Well, I have to use the wheel chair but, yes, that is one thing I am glad is gone.” He watches as she slowly rubs in the lotion and starts the massaging of his legs. When she moves up to the side of the bed to start on his arms, “I don’t think you really need to do my arms but you can if you want.” As she finishes, he takes her hand in his, “You’re awfully quiet tonight, Angel. Is something wrong?”

“No, not really. I guess you’ll be leaving here before long, huh?  I guess I’ve kinda gotten use to having you around.”

He sees the brightness in her eyes, “Well, I’ve kinda gotten use to having you around, too, Angel.”

“Why do you keep calling me Angel, that’s not my name?”

“Well, partly because I’ve never heard your name but partly due to the fact that when I was in the coma, I thought I was dead because I couldn’t see or move. When I heard your humming, I figured I was in heaven and you were an angel.”

“My name is Alex. Alexandra Cahill and I’m sure not an angel.”

“It’s a beautiful name and I still think you’re an angel. Don’t worry, it’ll be awhile yet before I’m released, I’m sure.  Is there any reason you can’t still come by? That is, if you want to.”

“I’d like to…very much.” She smiles at him and looking at his lips she has the strong desire to kiss him. “It’s getting late, I should go and let you get to sleep. Sounds like tomorrow is going to be a busy day for you.  I…may not get to see you much tomorrow either.   I’ll probably still be in the operating room at least till Amy gets well.” She tries to pull her hand free from his, but his grip tightens and he starts pulling her down to him. As his lips touch hers, desire spreads like a wildfire through her body. He moves his lips against hers and she feels his tongue against her mouth.  She parts her lips to let it enter and moans as his tongue dances around hers.  Then slowly, ever so slowly, he withdraws and pulls back.  Looking into his eyes, she sees her desire mirrored in his.

Walker releases her hand, then in a voice full of emotion, “Will you come by tomorrow evening?”

Not trusting herself to speak, she smiles and nods her head.  Then, backing away from the bed, still nodding her head, she bumps into an empty bed, turns and quickly leaves the ward.

*****

During the next month, Walker progresses rapidly, gaining complete use of his upper body with his legs getting stronger every day.

Alex is back on the ward and since Walker doesn’t need that much attention anymore, she waits till she’s off duty to spend time with him. That time is spent telling each other all about themselves, their likes, their dislikes, and what they want for the future. Then one evening, when Alex arrives, he’s dressed in jeans and a black shirt. “Going somewhere, Walker?”

“I’d like to get out of here for awhile. Let’s go for a walk, okay?”

“I’m game if you are. Are you sure you’re up to walking?”

“I’m sure, let’s go.”

Leaving the hospital, they walk down the street, making quiet conversation, then as they pass a small park, Walker steps through the entrance pulling her with him. “Walker, it’s awfully dark in here.”

“I know.” He takes her in his arms and kisses her deeply. When her lips part, his tongue finds hers, sending sensations flooding through both of them.  His hand finds her breast and gently caresses it through her shirt. She moans and, as she melts against him, she feels his desire pressing against her stomach. He moves her farther back into the darkness and they gently sink to the ground. They spend most of the night making love until the sky starts to lighten in the east.

Then they make their way slowly back to the hospital where they kiss goodnight at the entrance.

*****

When Alex arrives for her shift, the hospital is buzzing with the news that the conflict is over. A treaty, for want of a better word, has been signed and the mop up has begun.  When she gets to the ward, the news has everyone in a joyful frame of mind. Talk of going home is on just about everyone’s lips. She rushes down to Walker’s bed to find him fully dressed in fatigues.

When she gets near, he turns to face her.  His face lights up when he sees her then changes to a look of concern.  He holds his arms out to her and she rushes up to him putting her arms around him, pulling him close. “You know you don’t have to go; you could be one of the first to go home. You’re still recovering.”

He tilts her head up with a thumb under her chin, feeling her trembling, he whispers, “I’m fine, Alex, and you know it. I’ve got to go back to help make sure my men all get out.  You know what it’s like after they sign a treaty. There will be some who haven’t heard or just plain don’t care and will still make it rough on our guys.  We’ll all be out of here in what…three months, tops, then I’ll join you in the States.  We’ll get married and live happily ever after.” He lowers his lips to hers kissing her deeply. “I love you, honey.  I’ll be home before you know it.”

“I know.  I’ll wait for you for as long as it takes. They will probably ship me out before you get back.  How will I know when you’re coming home? Where will you go from here? Darling, I’m so scared.”

“Alex, honey, I’ve told you about my ranch in Texas. Go there.  I’ve already written to Uncle Ray about you.  He’ll watch out for you until I get back.” He touches his lips to hers again then pulls her tight against him not wanting to let her go.

She murmurs against his chest, “When do you have to leave?”

He feels her tears soaking through his shirt,  “In about an hour.” Rubbing his hand up and down her back, he speaks softly, “I’m glad we made love last night.  That will be with me till we’re together again.”

“You knew last night this was going to happen, didn’t you? That’s why you wanted to leave here. Wanted us to be alone.”

“I had heard rumors about it, but I didn’t think it would happen this fast. I just wanted to be with you without an audience for a change. I love you so much.” He whispers as he pulls her into his arms.

They stay like this until someone touches him on the shoulder. “It’s time to go, son.” He looks up to see Colonel Parker.

“Yes, sir. I’m ready. Just a minute, please?” When the colonel turns his back, Walker tilts Alex’s head up, and looking into her tear-swollen eyes, he kisses each one, then lowers his lips to hers in a sweet, tender, lingering kiss. Finally pulling back, “I love you.” Kisses her softly again, then gently pushes her arms from around him.

“Walker, I love you. Take care of yourself.”

Kisses her quickly, again, “Always” then turns, and walks swiftly out of the ward.

“You’ve got a good man there, he’ll come back.” Colonel Parker gives her a warm embrace then he too, walks out of the ward.

*****

Alex returns to the States two weeks after Walker leaves.  She goes home to see her parents for awhile but after a month, she can’t stand it anymore. She tells everyone goodbye and takes off for Texas.  She finds his ranch without any trouble.  When she walks up on the porch, the door is opened before she can knock. A tall man with long salt and pepper hair stands before her.

“Alex?”

She nods, “Yes, is he…?”

“No, not yet. Come in, please. You are going to stay, aren’t you? He said…”

“If it’s alright. I…my luggage is in the car.”

“I’ll take care of it, later. Come on in, you must be tired. If you want to freshen up, I’ll fix us a bite to eat. Then, after you’ve rested, maybe we can talk?”

Alex smiles, already feeling at ease around him. “I’d like that.”

After lunch, he brings in her luggage, “Would you like to be downstairs or upstairs? We have lots of room.”

“Where is his room? Could I see it?”

“Sure can.” He leads the way up the stairs, stops in front of a closed door, pushes it open, then watches as she enters, stops, and as he sees her shoulders slightly shaking, he gently pulls the door closed.

When Alex enters his room, she could sense him, as if he is there, and it is the final straw. Her eyes fill with tears and run down her cheeks. Moving up to his bed, she lays down across it and cries until she falls asleep from emotional exhaustion.

Later, Uncle Ray, gently taps on the door, then slowly pushes it open. When he sees her asleep on the bed, he quietly puts her luggage just inside the door, then pulls it closed again.

Alex slowly turns over and opens her eyes.  Remembering where she is, she quickly sits up. Upon seeing her luggage by the door, she goes in search of Uncle Ray. She goes downstairs and not finding him anywhere in the house, she pushes open the front door and finds him sitting on the swing. “Uncle Ray, I can’t stay in his room, it wouldn’t be right.”

“Why not. He would want you to so I figure that’s where you should be. Did you have a nice nap?”

“Yes, I did. But Uncle Ray, I can’t…”

“Hush, girl, it’s settled. Now, tell me about yourself. I know from Washo’s letters that you were the driving force that got him back on his feet after his accident and that is what will bring him home, too.”

“Washo?”

“Yes, that’s his Cherokee name. It means Lone Eagle. He did tell you that he was half Cherokee didn’t he?”

They spend the rest of the afternoon getting acquainted. Alex tells him about her past and Uncle Ray tells her about Walker and how he grew up. The sun is starting to set when Uncle Ray stands and starts inside, “I think it’s time to fill our stomachs.  Come on, let’s see what we can come up with for dinner.”

In the coming days and weeks, they ease into a routine of taking care of the ranch and the house. Alex learns to ride and, with Uncle Ray by her side, she explores the boundaries of the ranch.  She quickly finds her favorite spot down by the lake under the trees dreaming about when Walker returns.

Three months after leaving Vietnam, Walker still has not returned and Alex is a nervous wreck. As each new day comes and goes, Alex becomes more anxious, even after reassurances from Uncle Ray that if anything had happened to Walker, he would have been notified.

By the beginning of the fourth month, she’s a basket case. After another restless night of sleep and feeling cooped up in the house, she saddles a horse and heads out to her favorite spot. When she arrives, she stakes her horse out and spreads her blanket under a tree. For a reason she can’t explain, this place gives her a feeling of complete relaxation, safety and security.  It’s as if he is here with her.  She lies down on the blanket and with her hands behind her head, she watches the clouds in the sky, remembering the night they had made love before he had left. The memories seem to be more vivid than before. It’s as if she can almost feel his lips on hers.

 She groans, not realizing she had fallen asleep.  As she opens her eyes, she sees him looking down at her.  She throws her arms around his neck pulling him down to her as tears flow freely down her face, joining the ones from his eyes. “Oh, darling. When… how…Are you all right?” She pulls him back down. “I was getting so scared. I was afraid you had been….”

He touches his lips to hers to stop the questions. “I’m fine. It just took longer than I expected but it’s over now.” He lies down beside her and they make sweet, tender love, knowing their life is just beginning.

Later, as they lie together wrapped in each others arms, looking up at the stars, “Darling, how did you know where I was. I didn’t tell Uncle Ray where I was going this morning.”

“I just felt it. This had been my favorite spot since I was a kid. This is where I always came to be alone and to think. Even in Nam, I would think of this spot when things started getting to me. And, lately, it seemed like I was always thinking of this place.”

She turns and looks into his eyes, “I know, that’s the way it was for me. It became sort of a safe haven. I always felt closer to you here.” Entwined in each other’s arms they fall asleep dreaming of their future together.

The sun is starting to rise in the east when the two lovers awaken,  “We need to get back or Uncle Ray is going to be looking for us.

“Oh, darling, I could stay here forever with you.”

“I know, but when we’re in our 70’s, this ground would be awfully hard.”

Alex giggles, “You’re right. Besides it might get crowded when the baby comes.”

He raises up on his elbow, “Alex, do you mean…?”

“Uh huh. A little over four months.” Walker quickly stands, pulls her up with him, dances around with her in his arms, then

Yippee!!!!