A Difficult Choice
By Sissy (sissy@svs.net)
& Chris (ckline-usa@foreverliving.com)

Walker finishes the last of his paper work and tosses it into his out basket. With a long sigh, he picks up his coffee and leans back in his chair, thankful to finally be rid of that chore. Now, he can go home, knowing that he won't be facing a mound of paperwork in the morning.

Trivette turns around and sees him all relaxed in his chair, "Walker, if you'd learn how to use a computer, you would have been done with that paperwork a long time ago. As it is, your kids will probably know how to use one before you do."

"You're probably right, Trivette. Jessie is already good at it and John is starting to play around with it. But Jimmy, he's like me, he could care less."

"Yeah, but he's what seven, eight months old? Just give him time, pard, he'll still beat you."

"Almost ten months. But you're probably right, Trivette. The paperwork still gets done, though, doesn't it. Besides, if I had gotten done any earlier, I would still have had to wait on Alex. This way I keep busy till she's ready to leave." Glances at the clock on the wall, "Which should be any time, now." Just then, the door swings open and he hears the clicking of heels on the hardwood floor. He looks up and smiles, "There she is now," stands, gets his hat, "See you tomorrow. Give my love to Josie. Hey, how's that baby doing?"

"He's doing great. Just turned four months old yesterday."

Alex comes up to him and kisses him softly, Walker puts his arm around her waist, turns to Trivette, "Enjoy him, Trivette, once he starts walking, your life will never be the same."

"Walker, I thought you enjoyed having your kids around."

"Oh, I do Trivette. I didn't say you wouldn't like it, I just said your life would never be the same." He turns Alex around to face him and whispers, "I wouldn't go back for anything in the world."

He kisses her on the tip of her nose, and she murmurs, "Neither would I darling. Neither would I."

"Let's go home," They turn and head for the door. "Goodnight, Trivette."

< * > < * > < * > < * >

While Alex is upstairs getting Jimmy and John ready for bed, Walker and Jessie are in the process of cleaning up the kitchen. "How's school, Jessie? Any problems?"

"No Daddy. School is alright." Jessie is quiet for a minute, then asks, "Daddy, do they have girls in the Texas Rangers?"

He senses a discussion coming so he sits down in a chair and pulls Jessie up on his lap. "Sure they have women in the Texas Rangers. Why do you ask?"

"When I told Billy Marshall I wanted to be a Texas Ranger like you, he laughed at me and said they didn't take girls, just boys."

"Well, he's wrong. There are lots of women in the Rangers. As a matter of fact, you know one. She works with me sometimes. You remember Sydney, don't you?"

"Oh, yes, I remember her." Jessie leans back against his chest, "Is it hard?"

"You mean hard to become a Ranger? Well, no, not if you prepare yourself ahead of time."

"How do I do that?"

"By going to school and studying hard."

She smiles and says, "I'm already doing that."

Walker gives her a big hug, "You sure are, princess. Now, don't you think you should get upstairs and get your bath?"

"Okay, Daddy." She kisses him on the cheek then jumps down and races upstairs.

*****

Alex is coming from the kitchen with two cups of tea on a tray as Walker is coming down the stairs. "Everyone tucked in?"

"Yeah, finally. I though I'd never get Jessie settled down. But they're all quiet now." He follows Alex into the living room and sits down next to her on the couch.

"I think I overheard a little of why she is so wound up." Alex pours the tea and hands him a cup, "something about the Texas Rangers?" She picks up her cup and leans back into his arms.

"Yeah, I guess Billy Marshall told her that they didn't take women into the Texas Rangers and that upset her."

"I take it you straightened her out."

"Yes, I did." He hears concern in her voice, "Alex, are you upset about Jessie wanting to be a Texas Ranger?"

"Aren't you?"

"Not right now. Maybe when she gets older and is really serious about it, it may concern me but right now, I guess I'm kinda proud that she wants to be like me."

"I know and you should be. If she does make it into the Rangers, I've got a feeling she'll be just like you and I'd be very proud of her but I would still worry about her, just like I worry about you. It's not exactly the safest profession."

He sets his cup on the table and pulls her close, nuzzling his face into hair and murmuring, "And the District Attorney's job is?"

Alex giggles, "I guess I asked for that, didn't I?"

"Yes you did." He kisses her hair, "Honey, have you been feeling alright? You looked awfully tired when you came into Ranger Headquarters this evening."

"I've feel alright, maybe a little tired. It's been pretty hectic trying it get back up to speed at work. I'm sure that's probably all it is."

"Why don't you make an appointment with Dr. Wilson. Maybe he can give you something to perk you up or maybe you need a vacation."

She turns around and with a twinkle in her eyes, "Honey, I've only been back to work for five months since my maternity leave. I think they'd frown if I took a vacation now."

Walker chuckles, "Well, you might be right. But promise me you'll call Dr. Wilson tomorrow, okay?"

"I promise."

"Come on, hon, you're exhausted. Let's turn in early tonight." He helps her up and they walk arm in arm up the stairs.

*****

As Walker and Alex sit together in a booth at CD's having lunch, "Honey, I've got an appointment with Dr. Wilson at 4:00 so I'll probably go on home rather than coming back to work. I'll pick up the boys and Jessie."

"Okay, honey. Do I need to pick up anything before I come home?" He watches as Alex finishes her salad and starts eating his french fries. "Like more groceries?"

"Why would you say that? We just got groceries yesterday." She looks up at him, seeing the smile on his face. "Oh, you." She elbows him and drops the french fry. "I guess that salad wasn't very filling." She glances at her watch, "Oops, I've gotta run. I'm going to be late for a deposition if I don't hurry."

He stands and lets her out then pulls her tight for a tender kiss, "Drive carefully, baby."

"You, too, honey. See you at home. Bye."

*****

When Walker pushes open the door, the first thing he notices is how quiet it is. He stands by the door listening until he finally hears quiet chattering from upstairs. When he hears a clink in the kitchen, he heads in that direction and finds Alex pouring tea into a cup.

When she looks up and sees him, a smile lights up her face. She sets the teapot down and moves into his arms. He kisses her softly and holds her close. "Sure is quiet around here, everything all right?"

"Yes, honey, everything is fine, now."

"Now?" He remembers her doctor's appointment and leans back to look into her eyes. "Alex, what did the doctor say?"

She pulls away from him and takes his hand, "Come on, let's go sit in the living room."

When he sits beside her on the couch, she sees the worry in his eyes. "Honey, please," she touches her lips to his lightly, "I'm fine but we do have a small problem."

"A problem? You're fine but there's a problem? Come on Alex, what did Dr. Wilson say?"

"Well, after reading me the riot act, he told me that … I'm pregnant ... again" She watches his face closely for his reaction. She breathes a sigh of relief when she sees his big beautiful smile. He pulls her into his arms holding her tight against him.

"Oh, honey, is that all? You had me scared to death." Then his face sobers, "Alex, are you sure you're alright? Isn't this awfully close to Jimmy?"

"Well, that's why Dr. Wilson chewed me out but I checked out fine. I'm about two months, due in early fall!"

"Honey, that's great." His emotions bounce back and forth between being thrilled to being worried. "Are you sure you're all right?" He pulls her close and kisses her tenderly, letting it take them where it will.

But the kiss is interrupted by, "Mommy, Daddy, I think Jimmy needs a diaper change, he stinks."

Alex and Walker laugh and pull Jessie into their arms, hugging her against them.

"What are you guys so happy about?"

*****

Later that evening, they gather the kids in the living room to tell them the news. John's only comment is "Hope it's a boy." whereas Jessie's is, "Another one?"

After tucking everyone into bed, Walker and Alex sit on the couch snuggled together, "Honey, you haven't stopped smiling all night. You're as excited about this one as you've been with of the others."

"I can't help it, baby. Each one is a product of our love. I would be as thrilled with the tenth one as I was with the first."

"Whoa, cowboy. I think you'd better settle for four and I'm betting this one's a girl."

Walker is silent for a minute, then "Your elusive dream! Could be, honey, maybe a little replica of you this time?"

"Time will tell."

*****

"Congratulations, partner. I don't know how you do it." He smiles and gives Walker a congratulatory pat on the back.

For once, Walker manages to get one in on Trivette. "Yeah, you do, Trivette, you've got one at home."

"Ha … Ha. I meant how you manage everything like being a Ranger, the Kick Drugs program, helping out at the HOPE Center with Alex, managing the ranch and being a father and a husband all at the same time. It's got to be wearing on you."

"No, not really. When you love what you're doing and have a good woman at your side, that's all you need."

*****

As the pregnancy progresses, Alex seems to breeze through it just as easily as she did with the other three. All of her previous pregnancies had been easy, although she would probably disagree. She seems to be a natural, whether it's because of the way she's built or just her attitude toward motherhood. Of course having a caring husband is definitely a plus. The farther along she gets in the pregnancy, the more of the load Walker takes on. He does it so discreetly, though, that she doesn't even realize he's doing it until the ninth month when she discovers she is hardly doing anything other then walking and eating and sometimes he even helps her walk!

At about 8 months, she is still carrying a full workload as the District Attorney (much to Walker's displeasure). He has convinced her to cut back some at the HOPE house. With Walker in Ft. Worth, and it being Friday, she decides this would be a good day to take Jessie to the mall so she leaves work early and picks Jessie up at the HOPE Center. She had been bugging Alex all week about a pair of shoes that she wanted.

*****

Walker and Trivette are just sitting down at their desks after returning from giving their depositions when Ranger Willis rushes into the room, yelling, "Walker, your wife has just been taken to Methodist Hospital. She's been shot. You'd better hurry, it looks bad."

Walker is out the door before Willis finishes his sentence and Trivette is right behind him, knowing that his partner is going to need his support.

When Walker arrives at the hospital, Patrolman Dobbs meets him at the door. "Follow me, Ranger Walker, I'll take you up." He leads Walker and Trivette to the elevator and bars anyone else from getting on. After the doors close, Walker turns to him, "Were you there when it happened?" The patrolman nods. "What happened?"

"Your wife was coming out of the mall with your daughter, Jessie." Walker's head jerks around at the mention of his daughter's name. As he opens his mouth to inquire about her, Dobbs cuts in, "She fine. Officer Jenkins took her over to the HOPE Center and Mrs. Trivette is taking care of her. Anyway, when they walked out of the mall, they walked right into the middle of a gang rumble. When your wife heard the shooting start, she pushed Jessie to the ground and covered her with her own body. A stray bullet must have hit her. By the time I got to her, she was bleeding pretty badly. I had Jenkins get Jessie out of there as quickly as possible. I didn't want her to see all the blood."

"You saw all of this?"

"Yes, sir, I did. I was responding to a call about a disturbance at the mall. I just didn't get there soon enough. I'm sorry."

Just then the elevator doors open. As Walker rushes out, he sees Dr. Jerry Matthews coming up to the nurse's station, "Locate Ranger Walker immediately…"

"I'm right here, Jerry. How bad is it?"

"Walker! Thank God, you're here. I'm afraid it's as bad as it gets. They're prepping her for surgery now." Seeing the despair in his friend's eyes, he regrets what he has to say next. "Walker, you know I will do everything in my power to save Alex and the baby. I've already paged Dr. Wilson and he's on his way, but…"

"But what?"

Matthews sighs heavily, finding it difficult to go on. "If things start to go bad, a choice may have to be made between Alex and the baby. Walker, I'm sorry, I hate to do this to you but I'm afraid you have to make that choice."

As the words sink in, Walker begins to feel physically ill. He can't believe what he is hearing. They are asking him to make a choice between his wife and his child. How can he do that? His legs begin to feel weak and he stumbles back slightly, right into the arms of his partner and best friend.

"Easy, partner. I've got you. Come on, let's find you a place to sit." Trivette and Dr. Matthews help Walker to a nearby waiting room and guide him into a chair.

"Walker, I know this is devastating and I hate to push you but we don't have much time. I need your answer now."

His voice is barely audible as he looks up and says "Alex."

"I promise you that I will do everything I can to make sure that it doesn't come to that." Dr. Matthew turns instantly, heading toward the operating room doors.

The look on Walker's face when he looks at Trivette nearly tears the younger man apart. Trivette places a hand on Walker's shoulder as Walker lowers his head into his hands. A few minutes later, Walker gets his emotions in check and begins pacing from the waiting room to the operating room door and back. He goes to the window and stares wondering about the decision he had made and how Alex will react if they lose their child. Looking up to the skies, he closes his eyes and prays to God to spare his wife and child then turns and resumes his pacing.

"Walker, they'll be all right. Alex is a fighter, man. She won't give up." Trivette sits back down, not even sure that Walker heard him.

When C.D. arrives, Trivette fills him in on what had happened and the decision Walker had to make. C.D. sees the despair in his friend's eyes. "Cordell, you did what you had to do, son. Don't beat yourself up over it."

"But…what if…I lose them both?"

"Cordell, you stop thinkin' like that right this minute. That little lady in there is one of the toughest people I know. Hell, she married you, didn't she? It's gonna take a lot more than this to take her away from us. You just gotta have faith, son."

C.D. comment elicits a small smile from Walker. "I do C.D., I do."

After nearly four hours of pacing, Walker suddenly stops and turns to look at C.D. and Trivette. "She's okay…they both are." Tears fill his eyes as he looks up and mouths the words, 'Thank you'. He finally allows himself to sit down as he watches the door for the doctor.

When Dr. Matthews comes through the door, Walker rushes to him, "Can I see her?"

"How did you know…? Never mind that was a dumb question. I guess you knew about the same time I did. Yes, Alex is fine and so is the baby, a little girl, by the way. And yes, you can see her as soon as she comes out of recovery in about an hour." He places a hand on Walker's shoulder, "But you can see your daughter now. Come on," He looks at C.D. and Trivette, "all of you." He turns and takes them into a small room off the nursery. He hands all three of them gowns and masks to put on then leaves momentarily. He returns shortly with a small bundle in his arms. "She's small, just barely five pounds but she's quite a fighter. She's perfectly healthy, though." He moves up to Walker and places the baby in his arms.

As Walker takes his daughter in his arms, tears fill his eyes. He gently moves the blanket back from her face and sees the blonde hair and blue eyes. He whispers, "A perfect copy" as he leans over and places a light kiss on his daughter's forehead. He then turns to proudly show his friends the newest addition to his family.

*****

"Walker, you can see Alex now, but there's something I need to tell you before you go in."

"What is it, Jerry? You said she was all right?"

"And she is, Walker. She should make a full recovery. But … the bullet did quite a bit of damage and she was hemorrhaging badly. I'm afraid we had to remove … what I'm trying to say is that she won't be able to have anymore children. I'm sorry."

Walker takes a deep breath and releases it, "But, otherwise she's fine?"

"Yes, Walker, she's fine." Dr. Matthew's stands aside and pushes open the door to let him enter.

When he enters the room he sees Alex lying in the bed with the head slightly raised. She has her eyes closed and Walker notices how pale and very still she is. He hesitantly moves up to stand beside the bed, reaches down and picks up her hand bringing it to his lips, touching it softly.

When Alex feels him pick up her hand, she opens her eyes, and seeing the tears in his eyes, she murmurs weakly, "Hi, cowboy."

"Hi, baby, how are you feeling?" He caresses the back of her hand with his thumb.

"I'm fine." As he sits on the edge of the bed. "Jessie … they told me she wasn't hurt."

"Jessie's fine. She's with Josie and the boys."

"Our daughter, have you seen her yet? She came so early … how is she? Is she all right?"

He sees the worry in her eyes and as she becomes more upset, "Shh … Alex, she's fine. I've held her and she's fine. She a little small but she has all her fingers and toes and Jerry says she's healthy."

"You're not just saying that are you?"

"No, honey. I promise. She's fine and beautiful, just like her mother. Our blonde-haired, blue eyed baby girl." He pulls her gently into his arms, holding her against his chest. "The doctor says you're fine, too, except …"

She pushes back slightly, "Except what, Walker?"

He pulls her back into his arms, "When they operated they had to … you … we can't have any more children, Alex."

She snuggles closer, "We have four of the most beautiful kids in the world. I think our family is complete. I can handle it as long as it doesn't affect our love life."

Just then Dr. Wilson enters the room, "You don't have to worry about that Alex." He grins as the blush creeps up her neck into her face. Walker slips off the bed to stand with his arm around Alex's shoulder, grinning at her embarrassment. "They'll be bringing your daughter in a few minutes and if you feel up to it, you can begin nursing her."

Tears spring to her eyes, "Yes … oh, yes. Can I? I feel fine. I need to hold her, please. I haven't even seen her yet." She reaches out to place a hand on Dr. Wilson's arm, "Please?"

"If you're sure you feel up to it. I don't want you passing out on me. You've lost a lot of blood and your body needs time to recuperate."

"Alex, maybe you should wait…"

"Please, I promise if I start feeling faint, I'll tell you. Walker's going to be here with me. He can watch me and help me. Please, Dr. Wilson. I just want to hold her for a little while."

"Well … Walker you're going to stay right here with her?"

"Right here, I promise. I won't let either one of them out of my sight."

Just then the door is opened and a nurse pushes in a bassinet with a very small bundle in it. "Here is your daughter, Mrs. Walker. If she wants to nurse, you can try it for a little while, okay?"

With eyes full of tears, she reaches out to take the tiny bundle and bring it to her chest. Holding her gently, she pulls the blanket away from her face and for the first time sees her beautiful baby.

"Well, I'll leave you two alone. She's small but she won't break." Dr. Wilson leaves the room, knowing that they've already forgotten about him.

Alex rubs her finger over the baby's cheek and she instantly turns into it. "Oh … she's hungry, darling." Alex tries to move the gown around without much success. It is definitely not a gown conducive to nursing a baby. With Walker's help, she finally bares a breast and the baby knows exactly what to do. As she begins to nurse, Alex looks up into Walker's eyes, seeing them bright with tears. She smiles up at him and reaches for his hand as he leans over to kiss her lightly on the lips.

Walker sits on the edge of the bed by Alex's side, his arm around her shoulders. They watch as their daughter takes her first meal. Since she's small, the baby doesn't nurse long but Alex is reluctant to lie her down so Walker brings his arm under hers for more support and just lets Alex hold her. When he notices Alex's eyes start drooping, Walker takes the baby and, kissing her on the cheek, lies her in the bassinet. Turning back to Alex, he lowers the bed down so she can sleep more comfortably. With Walker holding her hand, she reluctantly gives in to sleep.

<*> <*> <*> <*>

Just as Alex drifts off, Walker hears a soft knock on the door. He looks up and sees Trivette peaking through the door. He motions for Walker to join him in the hallway.

As he exits the room, he sees C.D. standing behind his partner, "What do you need, Trivette?"

"Walker, I just talked to Josie. I think you need to get over to the HOPE Center."

"Why? What's wrong?"

"Well, from what Josie is saying, Jessie hasn't spoken a word to anyone since Jenkins dropped her off. Josie's been trying to get her to talk but she won't. This thing must have really gotten to her. About the only thing she's said is that she wants her Daddy."

"Oh, God. I was so worried about Alex and the baby I didn't even think how all of this must have affected Jessie. You're right I should get over there. I just hate to leave Alex."

"Look, why don't you go over to the HOPE Center and talk to Jessie and the boys. Let them know Alex and the baby are okay. I'll stay here with Alex and then when you come back, I'll go over and Josie and I will take the kids for tonight."

"Jimmy, hold on there a minute. You and Josie have your hands full with that little one of your own. You don't need three more. Cordell, I'll follow you over to the HOPE Center and then I'll take Jessie and the boys out for some ice cream and then back to your place. I'll just wait there until you get home and if you wanna stay here with Alex tonight, that's fine. I'll be fine at your place."

"Thanks, you guys. I don't know what I'd do without you. Trivette, you're sure you don't mind staying here with Alex until I get back?

"Not at all. Now go, your kids need to see their dad."

******

C.D. and Walker arrive at the HOPE Center about 30 minutes later. When they enter, Josie gives Walker a hug "How's Alex and the baby?"

"They're both doing fine. I understand Jessie's pretty upset though."

"She's in the play room. Walker, it's so sad. She won't talk to anyone. I tried but all she would say was that she wanted you."

"I'll go talk to her. I'm sure she'll be fine."

As he enters the playroom, he sees Jessie sitting in the corner of the room on a stool, hands folded in her lap, head down. He walks up and squats down in front of her. "Hey, princess, you okay?"

Jessie looks up and as soon as she sees him, she throws herself into his arms crying. "Daddy, I'm sorry. It's all my fault. I'm sorry." Walker nearly falls backward when she throws herself at him but somehow manages to keep his balance. He wraps his arms around her and picks her up holding her tightly and speaking to her softly. "Shhh…princess…it's okay." As she calms, he sits on the couch and places her on his lap. "Why do you think this was your fault?"

Jessie tries to calm herself down enough to talk. "Because…I…wanted…a pair of shoes. That's why we went to the mall."

Walker chuckles slightly as he pulls his daughter back into his arms. "Sweetie, this is not your fault. There's no way you could have known that something bad was going to happen when you came out of the mall." He pushes her back slightly and looks into her swollen eyes. "It's okay, baby. Everything's gonna be okay."

"Is Mommy hurt bad?"

"She was but the doctors made everything better. She's going to be just fine and guess what, you have a new baby sister!"

Jessie eye's grow wide with excitement. "A sister? Really?"

"Yes, really."

"But Mommy said she wasn't going to be born until next month."

"I know, honey, but when Mommy got hurt, they had to deliver the baby early. She's a little smaller than your brothers were when they were born but she's gonna be just fine."

"What's her name?"

"Well, to tell you the truth, your Mom and I hadn't really decided on a name yet. Would you like to name her?"

"Really. Can I."

"Of course, you can. What would you like to name her?"

"Chrissy."

"Chrissy, huh. That's a very pretty name. How about we name her Christina but we call her Chrissy?"

"You mean like you call me Jessie but my name is really Jessica?"

"Yep, just like that. Would that be okay?"

"Okay."

"Okay, princess, Christina it is. Now, how about if Grampa C.D. takes you and boys for some ice cream and then home while I go visit your Mom again."

"Okay, Daddy. Will you be home before we go to bed?"

"I'm not sure, hon, but if I'm not, I'll check in on you when I get home."

"Okay."

Walker gives her another hug and then rounds up the boys and turns all the kids over to C.D. He thanks Josie again and promises to send Trivette home as soon as he gets back to the hospital.

******

Walker enters Alex's room and finds Trivette standing by the window. He turns when he hears the door and puts a finger to his lips to let Walker know Alex is sleeping. They go out in the hallway so as not to disturb her.

"Everything okay with Jessie?"

"Yeah, she's fine now. She got it in her head that this was her fault because she wanted Alex to take her to the mall to buy shoes."

"Oh, man. No wonder she was so upset. You got her calmed down?"

"Yeah. C.D. took her and boys for ice cream."

"Hey, I meant to ask you what's the little one's name?"

"Well, truthfully, we hadn't decided on a name but when I told Jessie she had a new baby sister, she was so excited I told her she could pick the name."

"Yeah, what'd she pick?"

"Chrissy, but we decided together that her name will be Christina, but we'll call her Chrissy."

"Chrissy. I like it. You gonna tell Alex?"

"Yeah, when she wakes up. Hey, Trivette, I wanted to thank you for today. It meant a lot to have you here and I appreciate you staying with Alex until I got back."

"No problem, partner. I'm gonna head out. Josie's probably waiting."

"Yeah, I told her I'd send you home as soon as I got back here."

"I'll talk to you tomorrow. Try to get some rest tonight, huh."

"I will. I'm just gonna sit with her a little while and then I'll head home."

******

Alex wakes to the touch of her husband's hand against her cheek. "Hi, beautiful."

"Hi. Jimmy said you went to see the kids. Is everything okay?"

"Everything's fine. Jessie was a little upset but we talked and she's fine now. In fact, she was so excited about having a new little sister than I told her she could pick her name. I hope you don't mind."

"Of course not. What name did she pick?"

"Chrissy, but we decided that her name will be Christina but we'll call her Chrissy."

Alex smiles. "I like it."

"Now we just have to come up with a middle name."

"I already have. Elizabeth after your mother."

Walker smiles down at her. "You're amazing, you know that. Okay then, Christina Elizabeth it is."

<*> <*> <*> <*>

A week later, Dr. Matthews releases Alex on the condition that, "You take it easy. Find someone to come in and help you with the other children. I don't want you doing any heavy lifting. That means anything over 15 pounds, you let someone else handle. Okay?" He looks at Walker, "And I want your word that you'll make sure she follows my orders."

He puts his arm around Alex, "You got my word, doc. I'm taking a short leave so I'll be there to make sure she doesn't overdo it."

Jerry reaches over and takes her hand, "Good. Alex, you'll have plenty to do just taking care of Chrissy. Other than that, I want you to relax and pamper yourself. Your injury was very serious, now give yourself time to heal. I want to see you back here in a week for a check up." He backs away then and turns to Walker, "If you've got her release papers signed, you're free to take her home."

When he turns to leave, Walker catches him at the door and takes his hand in his, "I can never begin to tell you how grateful I am, Jerry, for taking such good care of Alex and Chrissy. I hope I never have to make a decision like that again."

"I'm glad I was able to do it, Walker. And … I hope I never have to ask anyone to make that decision again." Their eyes lock for a few seconds, then placing a hand on Walker's shoulder, a slight grip, he turns and walks away.

Walker watches him for a few minutes, then brushes his sleeve across his eyes and turns back to Alex. "Well … let's get out of here. You ready?" He moves close to her, and takes her into his arms, just holding her close.

"Honey, are you alright? What was that with Jerry?"

"I was just thanking him for taking care of you and Chrissy. I owe him more than I'll ever be able to repay him." Just then the nurse comes into the room pushing a wheelchair. She helps Alex into it, then gently places Chrissy in her arms. Walker picks up the luggage and the flowers and follows the nurse to the front exit.

<*> <*> <*> <*>

When Walker stops the car in front of the house, everyone is standing on the porch waiting for them. Walker took the boys and Jessie in to see Alex only once while she was in the hospital so everyone is anxious to welcome mother and baby home.

Getting Alex inside was quite a job. John wanted Alex to pick him up for a hug, and if Trivette hadn't been holding Jimmy, he would have been pulling on her, too. Jessie hovered over her mother like she was in charge of her care, making Walker wonder if she was still feeling as if she is to blame for what happened. He made a note to talk to her later after everything settled down.

After getting Alex settled on the couch with Jessie sitting on one side of her and John on the other, Trivette stands Jimmy on the floor and, with a big grin on his face, he toddles up to Alex with his hands up for her to pick him up. When she reaches for him, Walker scoops Jimmy up and places him on Alex's lap since he is definitely over 15 pounds.

Finally, after getting all the kids to bed and saying goodnight to Trivette, Josie, their son, and proud Grampa C.D., Walker puts an arm around Alex and they climb the stairs to their bedroom. Knowing that Alex is more exhausted than she lets on, he helps her undress and get into bed then he quickly undresses and joins her. He puts one arm around her, drawing her into his side. She lays her head on his shoulder, an arm across his stomach, and brings one leg up across his. She tilts her head up and kisses him softly on the lips, then snuggles in close.

"I missed you being next to me."

Walker tightens his arm slightly, and caressing her arm that's across his stomach, kisses the top of her head, and whispers, "I missed you next to me, too. Welcome home, honey."

The End