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Authors Note’s

It is no secret to most of you, how the season premiere upset me this year. The uncharacteristic behavior of Walker in that show; in my eyes and many other peoples eyes, begged for some reasonable explanation of ‘why’ Walker would act the way he did towards the woman he loved. That is the reason I sat down and wrote this story. I needed the answer to that question and this is what I came up with...Take it for what it is worth.

A Lesson in Love

Dakota

dakota@lindbergcomputer.com

The lone figure exited his vehicle. Walking mechanically to the porch he stopped to look at the house before him. It was so dark...so empty...and that’s when it hit him with a force so great it threatened to take the life out of his body. It hit with a force so strong that it felt like it was ripping his heart right out of his chest.

She was gone.

She would never live here.

She would never be his wife.

She would never be the mother of his children.

The tears began to stream down his rugged face. Agony clutched at the very depth of his soul. Dropping to his knees he let his wails of sorrow fill the silent night air.

God it hurt.

It hurt like nothing had ever hurt him before in his life. Not the death of his mother and father...not the death of Ellen...not even the death of Lucas had come close to hurting this badly.

Those had all been deaths that were out of his control. Deaths he couldn’t prevent. Deaths that were predestined to happen the way that they did.

But this one...

This one he was totally responsible for. He could have prevented it but he didn’t. Instead he had chose to let his stupid fears blind him to what was really important. And by the time he realized what he was doing, it was already too late.

And now...

Now he was faced with the hard and devastating reality that for the rest of his life he would have to live with the fact that he and he alone was responsible for what had happened. He could hold no one else accountable for this death except himself.

He had caused this death.

The death of the one thing that meant more to him than anything else in the world ever had before or ever would again. 

The death of their future together.

The death of their love for one another.

The death of his and Alex’s love...

********

Three days later, C.D. pulled behind the Ram that was parked half-hazzardly in the driveway. Shutting his vehicle off he shuttered at the thought of what he may find in the next few minutes.

Was he really ready for this? Did he have his own anger at this whole situation under control enough to even attempt to deal with what he would find?

Yes!

 It had taken him three full days to over come his own anger, but he now knew that he was indeed ready to deal with the man he loved like a son. He had to be. Even though he could never remember being more angry at anyone in his entire life than he was at Cordell these past three days, there had to be something he could do to get through to him. The people he loved as his family were being torn apart and he couldn’t just stand by without giving it one last try. Even if he failed, he would have the satisfaction of at least having tried to make things right again.

Taking one last calming breath, C.D. exited his vehicle; and began walking with renewed determination towards the steps of the ranch. The fact that the Ram was here, gave him the slightest glimmer of hope that Cordell was even here and hadn’t disappeared off somewhere; as was his usual trait. He knew he was grasping at straws but maybe...just maybe that was the first small ray of optimism that there was indeed something he could do to change the course of events that should have never happened in the first place.

********

What C.D. saw when he entered the front door of Walker’s ranch brought tears to his eyes and tore at his heart. The place looked like a tornado had ransacked it. Pictures were off the walls and smashed on the floor. Furniture was overturned and broken. Glass from windows lay shattered everywhere. Holes were punched in the walls.

As he cast his eyes around at the devastation that lay before him, a trail of blood on the stairs caught his attention and fear overtook his senses with lightening speed. Hurrying up the stairs he followed the trail which led directly to Walker’s bedroom.

“Oh my God...” C.D. gasped as he quickly took in the site before him. The room was trashed much as the down stairs had been, but the image of the broken man before him would live in his memory forever.

Where once, a proud and strong Cherokee warrior had stood; there was now just a shadow of a man. A broken man who felt there was nothing left to live for. A man that had given up all hope.

C.D. moved to the big bed where Walker lay huddled and crying like a baby. Taking him into his arms; as he would a small child, he comforted him the best he could as Walker sobbed “She’s gone C.D....she’s gone...”

The anger that C.D. had tried so hard to suppress the past three days was immediately forgotten when the true and unconditional love of a father burst forth; encompassing his heart with a fury all it’s own. His ‘son’ was in deep emotional trouble, and if it took his very last breath on this earth, C.D. vowed to help him make right what had gone so horribly wrong between him and the woman he loved.

********

Trivette still couldn’t believe that C.D. had talked him into coming out to Walker’s ranch. He was by no means ready to see Walker; the man he had once looked up to and loved like a brother. The man who had taught him so much about being not only the best Texas Ranger he could be; but also about being the best person he could be. Walker had done both by sharing his wisdom and knowledge so freely with him.

But the man he had seen in the past five weeks was someone he didn’t even know anymore. The man who had once been nothing short of his hero had become a total stranger to him. Three days ago when Walker and Alex had left C.D.’s he knew that they had been quarreling about something, but never in his wildest imagination would he have thought that it would be bad enough that Alex would call the bar several hours later saying she had broken the engagement off and that she was leaving Dallas first thing in the morning. He and C.D. had both tried to convince her to stay and calm down before doing anything that rash but when it came right down to it; neither of them could blame her because of the way he had been acting towards her.

Trivette had finally relented to C.D. and swallowed his anger; albeit for the time being and had indeed come out to the ranch. Something in his mentors voice when he had called had cut through the intense anger he was holding towards his partner and convinced him to make the journey.

When he had stepped through the front door; calling out C.D.’s name, Jimmy felt as if he had stepped into a war zone. A whispered “woooo” escaped his lips as his eyes roamed around the room before him.

“If you think this here room is bad Jimmy, you should see the rest of the house.” C.D. said as he stepped round the corner from the kitchen.

“Big Dog...what the hell happened here? It looks like a bomb went off. Are you OK?”

“I’m just fine Jimmy. This here all happened before I got here. But you’re right...it was a bomb. A bomb named Cordell.”

“Walker did this?”

“Yeah he did. Trashed the whole place. I came out this morning and found the place like this. Found Cordell too...he ain’t in too good of shape Jimmy.”

“Where is he now?” Jimmy questioned with a hint of disgust in his voice. Even though he had tried for C.D.’s sake; he wasn’t quite able to hide the fact of how distasteful the subject of his partner was to him at this point in time. This fact didn’t go unnoticed by C.D.

“He’s upstairs passed out. Cordell was drunk when I got here Jimmy. Never seen him drink more than one beer at any sitting all the years I’ve known him, but this time I think he drank the whole dang gum brewery. I called a doctor friend of mine earlier and had him come over to repair the damage that Cordell had done to himself. The Doc couldn’t even give him nothin’ for the pain...not that Cordell could feel anything anyway with all the alcohol in him.”

“Damage he done to himself?” Jimmy asked nervously.

“Yep...Cordell tore up his hands pretty good when he was doing his ‘redecorating’ job around here...took pretty near twenty stitches to sew him back up...and that was just on the one hand.”

Jimmy mumbled, ‘serves him right’ under his breath as he continued to look around the room.

“Jimmy, I know your still angry with Cordell.”

“You’re damn right I am.” Jimmy shouted.

C.D. placed a calming hand on the younger man’s shoulder. “Jimmy I know how you feel, believe me I do. Hell son, it took me three days before I could get over the notion of strangling the man with my own two hands before I could even come out here to check on him my own self. But I did and believe me when I tell you that what you see right here is bad...but it is nothing compared to how Cordell is. He’s in really bad shape. The worst shape I have ever seen him or any other man in over loving someone. Alex breaking off their engagement and leaving town the way she did has hit him hard.”

Jimmy shook his head in loathing, as he heatedly replied. “He deserves for it to hit him hard...it was all his fault she left...we don’t even know where she is C.D....or if she’s all right...”

“That’s why I’m goin’ to find her.” Walker slurred as he half stumbled down the steps towards them.

“Cordell.” C.D. shouted as he managed to catch his arm; steadying him until he reached the bottom stair. “You’re in no shape to go off and find anyone.”

“I gotta find her...make it right...” Walker said as he pushed C.D. away from him; knocking him into the banister.

That was all it took for Trivette’s anger to snap, as he grabbed Walker forcefully; slamming him against the nearest wall; holding him there.

“You son of a...what the hell is wrong with you man?” Jimmy growled threw clinched teeth. “First you push Alex away and now you’re pushing C.D. around. You want to push someone around Walker...give me a try. Come on!”

Jimmy shoved him against the wall again as he released him and took a step back.

“Jimmy this isn’t gonna solve anything.” C.D. stated firmly as Jimmy glared at Walker; waiting for him to make a move.

“Maybe not Big Dog...but it sure will make me feel a lot better.” the young man replied.

At that moment Walker took a clumsy swing at Trivette; which he avoided with a slight step to the side. Trivette delivered a resounding punch to Walker’s face, knocking him to the floor.

“Don’t get back up man.” Jimmy hissed. “Just stay down there.”

Walker slowly got to his feet, placing himself back in front of Trivette. Once again Walker swung half-heartedly at his partner. This time Trivette hit him with a hard left hook to the jaw.

As Walker slumped to the floor yet again, C.D. grabbed Jimmy’s arm as he said, “That’s enough Jimmy.”

Walker looked up at the two men before him; trying to focus in on them with unseeing eyes. “No...no...that’s not enough...not near enough...I deserve it and so much more.....” he barely got out, before the welcome state of oblivion over took him.

C.D. stooped to check on Walker, as Jimmy fought the overwhelming emotions that were coursing through his body. He couldn’t believe he had just hit his best friend in the whole world; not once but twice and he had done it with him being in the state he was in. He had told C.D. he would feel better, but the truth be told he felt a hundred times worse. Softly he whispered, “is he all right C.D.?” as tears welled in his eyes.

C.D. moved to his side as he placed an arm around his shoulders. “He’s fine Jimmy. I think the booze in him caused him to pass out. Oh...he’ll have a pretty nice shiner and a bruised jaw to add to his collection of injuries; but he’ll be OK.” C.D. looked into his dark brown eyes. “How about you? Are you OK?”

“No C.D. I’m not. I just hit my best friend...when...” Jimmy couldn’t continue as the tears of regret for his actions began to fall.

C.D. drew him into a fatherly hug. “I know son. Things seem totally out of whack right now, and they are. Sure enough they are. But we’re family...You, me, Cordell and Alex. We have to stand together right now because of this. Cordell needs our help. He is gonna need our help and understanding to heal himself before he can even think of attempting to fix things between him and Alex. And you and I are gonna have to help him with his healing, because we are his friends...his family Jimmy. No matter how angry we are with him right now...we still love him. It’s gonna be a tough battle...His battle and ours...there’s no getting around that cold hard fact...he is one mighty stubborn man...but we have to stick by him.” 

As Jimmy pulled away and wiped at the tears that still lingered he asked, “Do you think he can ever make things right with Alex C.D.?”

“Of course I do.” C.D. said confidently.

“How can you be so sure though? Alex gave him back the engagement ring...she even left town because of him.”

“Jimmy, let me tell you about one of life’s mysterious little secrets that I have learned. Some folks; like Cordell and Alex, well now they were just meant to be together. Sort of like predestined. From the very first day they met they have been in love with each other. Oh, they both swore up and down that they didn’t even like each other; they both called each other some pretty uncomplimentary names at first...but I didn’t believe either one of them for a second, neither did Cordell’s Uncle Ray. He seen it too...in a vision he told me that he had on the very day that those two met. We both believed that fate put them together and nothing; not even death is ever gonna keep them apart. Their hearts and their destiny has been one since that day, son. This here is just a little set back. Things will work out...it’s just gonna take a little bit of time that’s all...and a ‘whole’ lot of patience on our parts. Their love runs strong and true Jimmy. It’ll all work out...you just wait and see.” C.D. slapped him on the back before he continued, “Come on now Jimmy...let’s get him back upstairs so he can sleep this here stupor off, then we need to get busy and start straightening this place up a bit.”

“I’ll take him up and get him settled back into bed C.D.”

“Good...how about getting him out of those clothes while you’re at it...they’re so dirty they could stand up in the corner by themselves.”

“Yeah and they don’t smell to good either. I sure hope you’re right about all this fate stuff CD.” Jimmy said as he hoisted the prone body of Walker over his shoulder and started up the stairs.

“Of course I’m right...I can feel it in my bones.” C.D. called out as he turned back towards the kitchen.

********

The rain fell heavily on the window outside of her room. With a soft sigh and a shrug of her shoulder’s Alex turned away from the window; thinking how much the rain fit her melancholy mood. Walking over to the thread worn couch; she perched herself on the edge of it as she surveyed her dismal surroundings.

When she had left Dallas, she had left with no destination in mind other than to get as far away from there as she could. When she had finally decided that she could not continue to run from her problems, she had rented this room. It was small, with only the bare necessities that were needed; a couch, table and two chairs, a full size bed, bathroom and a small kitchenette, but it was clean and it suited her needs for the time being.

Her needs.’ Alex laughed out loud, as she felt the hot sting of tears once again. What she needed was to be with Walker. She needed to feel his arms around her. She needed to tell him that she hadn’t meant what she had said on that night...the night her whole world had fallen apart. She needed to tell him that she still loved him. She always had. And she always would.

As the tears began to trickle softly down her cheeks, she stood and moved the few steps to the bed that sat in the corner of the room. On the pillow lay a shirt and a picture of her and Walker. Reaching down she lifted up the bright blue shirt of Walker’s. He had once told her it was his favorite because it was the exact same color as her eyes. Lifting it slowly to her nose she closed her eyes as she breathed deeply of his masculine scent; it was very faint but it still lingered from when he had last worn it. As her red-rimmed eyes came to rest on the picture of the two of them, she smiled slightly; Walker had been wearing this very shirt the day the picture had been taken. As memories of happier times began to flood her senses, the tears began to fall even harder; matching the rhythm of the rain outside.

“Oh Walker...how did everything get so messed up.”

Flinging herself face down upon the bed she clutched the shirt and the picture to her breast as she sobbed until she eventually fell into a sleep of total, mind numbing exhaustion.

 ********

Trivette flopped the dead weight of his partner none to easily onto the middle of his full size bed. He was still so angry with him that he didn’t care that Walker moaned incoherently as his body hit the mattress beneath him.

“Good for ya...you deserve to be in pain.”  Jimmy said out loud as he set about removing Walker’s clothes as C.D. had requested. When he finished this not so easily done task, he pulled the quilted blanket up; throwing it over top of him. Walker shifted in his intoxicated slumber; turning onto his right side; burrowing his entire body deep down under the covers. By the time he was done the only two things you could see were the top of his head and his right hand.

Bending over to pick up Walker’s dirty clothes, he caught a glimpse of something in the palm of Walker’s hand. Taking a closer look he realized it was Alex’s engagement ring. He thought about taking it and putting it somewhere so it wouldn’t get lost, but before he could do just that Walker clinched his hand tightly around it; pulling it under the covers with the rest of his body.

“Well if he loses it, we at least will have a clue of where to start looking for it...that is IF he ever has a reason to need it again.”  Trivette thought with a shake of his head as exited the room; closing the door behind him.

********

C.D. and Jimmy had worked for more than four hours straight before the house was finally back in some semblance of order. Furniture had been turned right side up; and repaired if needed, before it was moved back to it’s proper place. Pictures where hung back on the walls. Glass from the broken windows had been cleaned up with the windows being temporarily boarded up with plywood that Jimmy found out in the barn. Anything that had been completely destroyed, they put in boxes for Walker to go through once he was back on his feet.

When they had done all they could for the time being, C.D. went upstairs to check on Walker as Jimmy grabbed a glass of milk before heading out onto the front porch.

As he stood looking at the full moon he wondered where Alex was and more importantly, if she was all right. He knew if he was this upset over the events that had occurred in the past few weeks he could just imagine how upset she was. His heart ached for the woman he loved as a sister. He knew she loved Walker with all her heart and soul. He also knew that even though she had given the engagement ring back and had left town, that she continued to love him and always would. And he also knew that Walker loved her the same, but still the question that kept arising was, “Why was he acting so strangely lately?”

He knew without a doubt that Walker loved Alex or he would never have asked her to marry him. He had seen it come rushing to the surface on more than one occasion. The anger when LaRue had tried to hurt her, not once but three times. He remembered how upset and inconsolable Walker had been when Alex had been shot at Kim and Phil’s wedding. He remembered the pain in his voice and the tears in his eyes as he had whispered the words “Alex...don’t leave me.” as she struggled to survive. He had watched as Walker actually breathed life back into Alex, by giving her CPR, after he and Alex both had almost drowned at the hands of another mad man. There were so many times; and that wasn’t counting the times that weren’t life and death situations. There were the times that you would see the love shine in his eyes at her mere entrance into the room. The times that the simple mention of her name would bring a loving smile to his face.

But lately that had all changed; and for the life of him, Jimmy just could not figure out...WHY?

That is a question that only Washo can answer and he will; in his own time.”

Jimmy; unexpectedly brought back from his thoughts, spun towards the voice to see White Eagle standing at the bottom of the porch steps.

“White Eagle, you startled me.” Jimmy said as he moved forward, extending his hand in friendship.

C.D. stepped onto the front porch to greet their unexpected guest. “Well I’ll be...I thought Jimmy here was taking to talking to himself. White Eagle...it’s good to see you. What the devil are you out and about at this hour of the night for?”

White Eagle shook hands with both of Washo’s dear friends. Slowly, he moved to take a seat on the porch swing as C.D. joined him. Jimmy perched himself on the railing of the porch; as he and C.D. waited for White Eagle to speak.

“I have journeyed here because of Washo. The spirits have revealed to me that he was in great need of some special Cherokee healing.” White Eagle said as he handed a jar of liquid to the young Ranger.

Jimmy took one look at the substance in the jar and replied, “OH MAN...this is Cherokee purge. This stuff is TERRIBLE.”

Jimmy visibly shuddered at the thought of the time that Walker had made him drink it after he had been trying to drown his own sorrows. He would never forget the smell of that stuff; and the taste...Jimmy screwed his face up with a grimace at the thought of ever tasting the disgusting stuff again.

White Eagle and C.D. both chuckled at the look of disdain that was on the younger mans face. “You are right Ranger Trivette, that is the Cherokee purge. Washo will be needing to cleanse his body of all the alcohol he has consumed in the past three days; before he can begin to make things right in his spirit.” 

“White Eagle, you sure enough are right about that. Cordell is passed out upstairs right now as we speak because of drinking.” C.D. said.

White Eagle nodded his understanding before speaking again. “Washo will also need these healing herbs. Mix them into a thick paste and apply them to the cuts on his hands. They will help to speed up the healing time of his outer body.” White Eagle handed a pouch of herbs to C.D.

Looking intensely at the two men that meant so much to Washo, he continued to instruct them, “He will need to heal with the purge and the herbs completely. Then you must make sure that he does a sweat lodge ceremony with the contents of this pouch spread over the fire. This healing ceremony will be difficult and very demanding on his heart and spirit; but only then will the true Washo be allowed to emerge once again. He must not be allowed knowledge of his life’s love until he has completed all of these steps. Only then may he have that knowledge; for then the demons of the past and future will be at peace with one another.”

Jimmy and C.D. sat listening intently to what White Eagle was saying. When he had finished giving his instructions to them, he rose from the swing and said his good-byes as he moved off the porch. Turning to wave goodbye to the two Rangers he reminded, “Remember...Washo must not know where his life’s love is until the cleansing of his inner spirit is complete...only then will they both be able to move forward to be able to join as one spirit.” Then he turned and walked into the shadows; disappearing instantly.

C.D. and Jimmy sat silently as they reflected on all that White Eagle had said to them. They had both known Walker long enough to know that the power of the Cherokee people was more than just something that was in a fairy tale. They had both seen Walker’s Cherokee instinct get them all out of more than one dangerous situation in the past. They knew the power of the sweat lodge and the visions that one saw in there. They had seen it work miracles on Lucas, as he fought his demons and found the courage to move on in his tragically short life. It was definitely something that could not be dismissed lightly; and at this point in time they were willing to give anything a chance if it meant that the man they had always known as Walker would in fact return to his old self and that he and Alex could then resolve their problems and be able move forward into a life together. It was well worth giving it a shot.

 Breaking the silence C.D. stood and moved towards the front door of the house as he said, “Come on Jimmy...we have some healing to put in motion. We might as well get started.”

Jimmy nodded in agreement as a sly smile creased his lips and he too stood; moving into the house. To say that he was looking forward to making Walker drink the purge was an understatement. He knew he was being childish with these thoughts but he was still very angry with his partner and the thought of Walker’s discomfort when he did suffer through the effects of the purge would; if nothing else, help to lesson his own anger just a little.

********

Alex had spent yet another restless night crying until there were no tears left as she had searched her own soul for answers to all of the questions that continued to wreck havoc on her every thought. She knew she had made a big mistake by getting so angry at Walker. She should have tried to let him tell her what had been bothering him instead of jumping to her own conclusions and not even giving him a chance to explain himself. She also knew she had made an even bigger mistake by leaving the way she had. That had been such a cowardly thing to do. Now she had to decide what to do to try to rectify the situation of her own mistakes in all of this.

Should she just get in her car and head back, hoping that Walker would even want to try and talk things out with her? Or should she call him and talk to him first? What if he didn’t want to work things out? What if all the things she had said to him in her anger had caused him to stop loving her all together? This thought tore at her heart; threatening to rip it completely out of her body. What if he didn’t love her anymore? How would she go on? She loved him more than life itself. Why had she been so damn stupid? “STOP IT ALEX!”  her mind screamed at her.

Alex turned and moved shakily to the phone. Picking it up she stood staring at the receiver in her hand as she listened to what her heart was telling her. “Come on Alex...you have to at least try to make things right with him. He is worth fighting for and you are a fighter. You love him too much to give up on him. Make the call.”

“I do love him and he is VERY worth fighting for.” she whispered as she then took several deep and calming breaths. Slowly dialing the phone she hoped that she could catch him at the ranch before he headed off to work for the day.

********

“Morning C.D.” Jimmy said as he entered the kitchen where C.D. stood cooking breakfast.

“Morning Jimmy. How about giving me a hand and grabbing some plates. The home fries and sausage are ready. I’ll have the eggs done in a minute.”

“Sure Big Dog. It sure smells good.” Jimmy moved to the cabinet and grabbed the plates; placing them on the table. “Did you check on Walker this morning?”

“He was still sleeping when I checked on him before I started breakfast. He sure did tie one on. I don’t think he will be in too good of shape when he does wake up. Good Lord only knows how long of a binge he had been on. Could have been since Alex left. Did you call the station and let them know that he wouldn’t be in for awhile?”

“Yeah...I just got off the phone with the Captain. I didn’t exactly tell him the truth...just said Walker needed some time off for personal reasons. Captain figured there had to be a mighty good reason for him not to have shown up or even called the past three days, and he pretty well figured it had something to do with Alex leaving town so unexpectedly. He said he could have all the time he needed though.”

“Well that’s one good thing then. Cordell needs some time to get things straight that’s for dang sure. Come on...let’s eat.”

“Should we try to get Walker up?” Jimmy asked as C.D. placed a plate full of food down in front of him.

“Nah...he ain’t gonna feel much like eating anything until he sobers up for awhile. Probably won’t be in too good of a mood either for awhile. When we’re done eating we’ll get some of that Cherokee purge into him and get the process going a might faster.”

“What if he won’t take the purge voluntarily Big Dog? You just said he won’t be in too good of a mood, and he knows how nasty that stuff is. What are we going to do then?”

“Well Jimmy...we will just have to use plan B.”

“And that is?”

“You sit on him; hog tie him and hold him down while I pour it down his throat.” C.D. said with a chuckle as he good naturedly clapped Jimmy on the back.

“How come I get the job of holding him down?”

“Cause you are a hell-of-a-lot younger than I am son.”

“I think it would be easier to do it while he is still asleep then.”

“We can’t do that Jimmy.”

“Why not? It sure would be a lot easier.”

“If we did that, I would miss all of the fun watching you hog tie him.” C.D. replied as he burst out laughing.

“Ha Ha Ha...Very funny.” Jimmy replied not at all seeing any of the older man’s humor in the whole situation.

“Let’s just eat son, then we’ll worry about what happens next.” C.D. said just as the phone rang. “You go ahead and eat. I’ll get the phone. You are gonna need your strength to wrestle Cordell.” C.D. laughed even harder as he went to answer the phone.

********

Walker tossed and turned as the vision of Alex drew further and further away from him. The fight they had, stormed through his mind torturing his very soul.

What had happened? Why had Alex gotten so angry at him? What had he done that was so bad that she would give him her engagement ring back and even leave town over it? What was wrong with him? Why couldn’t he make that final commitment of marriage?

Everything was so jumbled. So disoriented. Sheer panic set in as the image of Alex disappeared altogether.

Walker sat bolt upright in bed. Sweat poured off of his bruised and battered body. His breathing was hard and labored. His heart beat wildly in his chest. The pounding in his head was like that of a stampede thundering through it; causing him to grab it, praying that the room would quit spinning out of control. Nausea from all the alcohol he had drank, churned in his stomach.

“Oh my God...she’s GONE. What have I done?” Walker gasped, as the tears began to flow freely down his rugged face.

********

“Hello...C.D. Parker here.”

“C.D.?”

“Alex honey, is that you? Are you all right?”

“I’m OK C.D.” Alex replied, trying to sound convincing.

“You don’t sound all right, but I glad that you finally called. We’ve been worried about you darlin’.”

“I know you have been C.D. I just needed to get things straightened out in my head. I’m sorry I didn’t call before this; I didn’t mean to worry you.”

“Well now I know you didn’t mean to worry us none and I also know that you had some thinkin’ to do. Can’t fault you on that none. Are you sure you’re OK?”

“Yeah C.D., as OK as I can be after everything that happened the other night.”

C.D. could hear the tears in her voice as she continued, “C.D. where’s Walker? I need to talk to him. I need to tell him I didn’t mean what I said the other night.”

C.D. found himself in a real quandary now. Just what and how much of the truth should he tell her? He remembered what White Eagle had said about Walker needing to complete a total healing before he and Alex should see each other.

“C.D.? Are you still there?”

“Huh...Oh yeah...I’m still here.” he stuttered.

“C.D., where’s Walker? Is something wrong?” Alex questioned, as the fear of Walker not wanting to talk to her began to grow by leaps and bounds.

Making his decision to tell her the truth C.D. said, “Well now Honey...Walker is here but he...well he isn’t exactly up to talking to you right now.”

Alex felt her heart break completely in two. “You mean he doesn’t want to talk to me does he C.D.?” she whispered. Her greatest fear had come true. She had indeed destroyed everything that they had had between the two of them. Tears began to stream down her face once again as she began to weep uncontrollably.

“Woo now, you hold on here just a dang gum minute Alex.” C.D. said firmly, “Little lady, you have got to calm yourself down so I can tell you what is going on. I want you to dry those tears and get a hold of yourself right this minute. Do you hear me?”

“Yes...I hear you.” she murmured; much as a child did when they were being scolded for their bad behavior. Alex sniffed as she wiped furiously at her tears; trying to contain them. After several moments she took a deep and calming breath; blowing it out slowly before she whispered into the receiver, “OK C.D. I’m all right now.”

“That’s better.” C.D. said in a now soothing and fatherly tone, “Now I want you to listen to me and listen closely. Alex honey, of course Cordell wants to talk to you. That man loves you with all his heart or he wouldn’t be in the kind of shape he is in right now. The fact of the matter is, he isn’t in any shape to talk to you. He’s been on a binge and is in pretty bad shape.”

“A binge? You mean drinking? C.D....Walker doesn’t drink.”

“Well usually he doesn’t. But you and I both know that Cordell hasn’t been himself lately; doing things that none of us would ever expect him to do.”

Alex nodded silently as C.D. continued, “Anyway, he went and got himself all liquored up over the past few days. I came out here to the ranch yesterday and found him and what was left of the house. He tore the place up pretty good in the state he was in. He’s upstairs right now sleeping off the drunk.”

“OH C.D....what I have done?” she gasped, “Is he all right?”

“Well he will be; when Jimmy and I get done with him anyway.” C.D. chuckled softly as he continued, “Honey...now you have to understand something here. You didn’t do this. When you gave Cordell back your engagement ring and took off the way you did, you gave him a great big dose of reality. The reality that things couldn’t go on the way that they were.”

“But C.D....don’t you see...I was wrong for doing that. He just made me so mad the other night that I lost my temper. I love Walker. I love him so much that it doesn’t matter anymore if we get married or not. I just want to be with him.”

“He knows you love him honey and so do I. But, there has to be a reason that he has been acting the way he has lately. That is where the real cause of all of this lies. There is something buried deep within him that is making him pull back from taking that final step into the future with you. White Eagle seems to think it has something to do with demons of the past and future warring with each other.”

“You had White Eagle come to the ranch?” Alex questioned.

“No...he showed up here last night; just out of the blue with some healing herbs for Cordell.”

“Healing herbs?”

“Yep. Some Cherokee purge and some herbs to make into a paste for on his hands.”

“What’s wrong with his hands C.D.?”

“Well now I told you he tore the inside of the house up bad; broken furniture...holes punched in the walls...windows smashed. He ripped his hands up pretty good when he was tearing the place apart. Had to have quite a few stitches put in them.”

“Oh God....” she moaned as she fought to keep her composure.

“Now Alex, listen to me. There isn’t nothin’ wrong with Cordell on the outside that won’t heal itself, and White Eagle assured me and Jimmy that this purge and these herbs will hurry that healing process right along. He also said that once those were healed that Cordell was to do a sweat lodge with some other special herbs that he gave us. He told us that this was the only way that the real Cordell would come back to us all.”

“Do you think he will take White Eagle’s advice C.D.?” Alex asked uncertainly.

“Well now Alex honey, Cordell has been pretty unpredictable lately, but we both know how much Cordell admires White Eagle and how much faith he has put on what he has always told him in the past.”

“Yes, White Eagle is a very wise man.” Alex agreed.

“Yes he is. It might just take some persuading; maybe even some more of Jimmy’s not so gentle persuading, but I think we can convince him to take to heart what White Eagle has advised.”

“C.D.? What did you mean by some of Jimmy’s ‘not so gentle persuading’? Did something happen between Jimmy and Walker?” she asked curiously.

“Well...nothing to serious...let’s just say that Jimmy was none to happy with Cordell at one point last night and he let him know about it.”

“Oh C.D., this is all my fault. I am coming back to Dallas right now. I have to get this mess straightened out...the sooner the better.”

“Woo now, just wait up a minute honey. White Eagle specifically said that you and Cordell could not see each other until his healing was complete.”

“But C.D....”

“Now Alex, you; yourself agreed that White Eagle was a very wise man. He stated several times that Cordell’s demons had to be conquered before you two should see each other. And deep down I think he’s right. I know it is gonna be hard on you honey but you are going to have to stay where you are for the time being.”

“I don’t know if I can do that C.D.” she replied honestly.

C.D. could hear the pain in her voice and it tore at his heart. “I know darlin’...but will you at least try? For me? And for you and Cordell’s future happiness together?”

Alex thought about everything that C.D. had told her. Her heart was so torn up by emotions. Part of her wanted to throw caution to the wind and hurry back to Dallas. She needed to make sure that Walker was all right. But as she continued to think about all that had happened she knew that Walker hadn’t been himself lately. Maybe White Eagle was right. Maybe there were demons unknown to even Walker himself, that were keeping him from totally committing himself to her. Weighing her options, she made her decision.

“All right C.D. I will do as you ask and stay where I am. I hope I am doing the right thing. BUT...if I do stay here, you have to promise me that you will keep me informed of everything that goes on there. I mean EVERYTHING. Every detail. Promise?”

“Well now of course I will honey. You have my word on it. Give me the number you are at and I will call you every couple of hours with updates on how things are going.”

Alex gave him the number of where she was staying. As he wrote it down, a smile crept onto his face. He realized as he looked at the number he had just written down that Alex hadn’t gone that far away; in fact she was only three hours away from the ranch.

“OK. I have the number and I will keep you informed. Now...is there anything you need Alex? Anything I can do for you?”

“There’s only one thing I need C.D. and that’s to be with Walker.”

“I know honey. I know. It’s just gonna take a little bit of time and a whole lot of patience. But it will happen. I can feel it in my bones.”

“I hope so C.D.” Alex whispered, as she prayed she had made the right decision by staying away as C.D. had asked her too.

********

Trivette and C.D. stopped at the closed door of the bedroom; hesitating. C.D. held the herbs that he had prepared for Walker’s hands, as Trivette held the jar of Cherokee purge. Both were mentally preparing themselves for the yet unknown situation that lay ahead of them.

Jimmy was the first to break the silence as he said, “I guess we should go in, hugh Big Dog?”

“We don’t have a choice in the matter Jimmy. Cordell is our friend and he needs our help; whether he wants it or not. We are going to have to give him some gentle persuasion to head him in the right direction.” C.D. looked at the nervousness that was etched on the younger mans face. With a soft chuckle; and not being able to resist a quick taunt towards the younger man he continued, “At least I hope it will take only gentle persuasion; if not we will have to use plan B...you hog tie, I pour.”

“Oh God...” Jimmy moaned as C.D. gave him a good natured  shove towards the door. Casting a disgruntled look at his mentor, Trivette slowly turned the handle.

********

Walker stared out the window. It never failed to amaze him, how everything he looked at reminded him of Alex. The sky was exactly the same color as her eyes. The soft breeze carried the aroma of beautiful flowers which reminded him of the perfume that she always wore because he liked it so much. The graceful sway of the tree limbs reminded him of the way that she walked.

Lowering his eyes and sadly shaking his head at his own stupidity; he heard the faint click of the door being opened. Turning slowly, he faced his friends with shame written all over his face.

“I figured you two would have given up on me and left by now.” he mumbled; not being able to look either one of them in the eye.

C.D. crossed the room to stand before Walker. Placing his hands on his former partners shoulders he spoke lovingly; straight from his heart. “Cordell...we would never give up on you son. We are family. Yes...we may have all lost our heads a little over things that have happened lately and gotten pretty dang angry at you...but we would never give up on you because we are family...and we all love each other. But we realize from your uncharacteristic actions lately that something is bothering you. Something; I am willing to bet, that is buried so deep in your subconscious that even you can’t figure out what it is. Am I right?”

“C.D....I honestly don’t know what is wrong with me. I love Alex with all my heart and soul...but lately...lately I have been doing nothing but pushing her away. I couldn’t see that I was even doing it until she...” Walker paused not even being able to say the words ‘until she gave me the engagement ring back and walked out of my life’. Raising his eyes to meet C.D.’s and he asked, “Why would I do that C.D. when I love her the way I do?”

C.D. could see the desperation that overflowed from his friends eyes. He could see the torment that tore into the very depth of his soul. “I don’t know Cordell...I really don’t, but me and Jimmy here are fixin’ to help you figure that out. If you’ll let us.”

Walker looked to his partner who was still standing just inside the door. Their eyes locked and held for a few seconds before Walker glanced down to the jar that Trivette held, quickly returning his eyes to his before he questioned, “Cherokee purge?”

 “Yeah. White Eagle brought it last night.” Jimmy replied; losing all of his anger that he had harbored towards Walker the instant that their eyes had locked. He had never; in his wildest dreams, imagined he would ever see Walker the way he was right now. Where there had always stood a proud warrior; now stood a man that looked like he had nothing left to live for. A fallen man; lost and silently begging for his friends to help him be found.

A smile found it’s way to Trivette’s lips. Feeling the need to lighten the somber mood that hung heavily in the air and also let Walker know that all was right between the two of them, he moved to stand beside both Walker and C.D. Handing the jar of purge to Walker he said, “Oh yeah...White Eagle also told us specifically that you had to ‘willingly’ drink it all...WILLINGLY and EVERY...LAST...DROP OF IT!”

Walker looked at his partners; both former and present. Their expressions held amusement as they waited for his response on whether or not he would willingly drink all of the Cherokee purge. But even more prevalent on their faces were their looks of love and concern for him.

Walker silently thanked the Great Spirit for the love of these two wonderful friends. Where only minutes before he had felt as if he stood alone in his quest to rectify the wrongs that he had done, now stood the strength and will power to start making things right again. Because of these two men, he now had the optimism and courage that he; so desperately needed to believe that he right the wrongs and be able to have everything he had always longed for in his life. In one word...Alex.

C.D. spoke up; breaking into Walker’s thoughts. “Well Cordell? What’s it going to be? Do you take the purge willingly or do we have to use plan B?”

“Plan B?” Walker asked; a small smile of hope touching his lips for the first time in days.

“Yes sirree...good OLE plan B. The plan that if you don’t drink that under your own power, Jimmy here is going to hog tie you and I’m gonna dump it down your throat.”

“Woo...wait a minute C.D. There is no need for plan B.” Walker reached up to rub his black and swollen eye before he let his hand lower to his equally damaged jaw line as he continued, “Trivette did enough damage to me last night. I’ll drink the purge...willingly. I don’t want to face his wrath again...drinking this stuff is punishment enough.”

C.D. and Jimmy laughed as they headed towards the door; leaving Walker staring at the jar of liquid in his hands with a look of distaste on his face.

********

“Don’t you think we ought to go up and check on him?” Jimmy asked for the tenth time in as many minutes.

“Jimmy for pete’s sake. Would you please come over here and sit down. You are more nervous than a man waiting for his first youngun’ to be born. I told you Cordell will be down when he feels up to it. Good Lord son, you of all people should know what that stuff does to a man. You do remember don’t you?”

“Yeah I remember.” Jimmy replied as his stomach did a flip flop at just the thought of it.

“Well good. Now come sit down. How about we play a game of checkers? We haven’t done that in a coons age. It will help to kill some time.”

“Big Dog...the reason we haven’t played checkers in a long time is because you cheat.”

“I DO NOT!”

“Yes you do. The last time we played...”

“It’s nice to see that some things haven’t changed.” Walker said as he entered the room.

“Hey there Cordell. How you feelin’ son?”

“Better.” Walker replied simply as he seated himself in the recliner by the window.

“Well I have to say you do look a might better than you did. Except for that there black eye that Jimmy gave you that is. He’s got one hell-of-a right hook.” C.D. said with a chuckle.

Walker’s hand moved to his eye; wincing as he touched it gently. “Yes he sure does.”

“Walker man...I’m sorry about that. I should have never hit you last night...”

“Don’t worry about it Trivette. I deserved it.” Walker said as he looked at his partner. “I do wish you wouldn’t of hit me so hard though.”

Jimmy rubbed the knuckles on his right hand as he replied, “I wish I wouldn’t have hit you so hard either.”

C.D. watched as they looked at each other; knowing that they had each in their own way apologized to the other. They both now knew that they were once again best friends and brothers.

“Cordell you must be hungry. How about I whip you up something to eat?”

“I’m not hungry right now...Thanks anyway. I would like a cup of coffee though.”

“How about you Jimmy? You want anything?”

“No thanks C.D. I’m fine.”

“All right then...one cup of hot and steaming coffee coming right up.” he said as he rose and headed into the kitchen.

Silence filled the room as Walker turned to look out the window. Thoughts of Alex filling his mind instantly. ‘Where was she? Was she all right? Did he have a chance of making things right with her? Did she still love him?’

Trivette watched his partner who was lost in thought. His heart ached for him. He knew he was agonizing over what had happened with Alex; he could see the mist of unshed tears in his eyes. Not knowing what to say to make his friend feel any better, Trivette walked to his partners side and placed his hand on his shoulder; giving it a firm and supportive squeeze.

“Thanks Trivette.” Walker said; with a quick glance and a sad smile of thanks, before he turned once again to stare out the window. 

********

The past few days, had fallen into somewhat of a routine for Alex. She spent all her time thinking about Walker and counting down the minutes until C.D.’s next phone call. He had been calling her every couple of hours through out the day to update her on Walker’s condition. The last call she had received, he had told her that Walker’s hand were almost healed and that the effects of the binge he had been on were totally gone now. All that was left for Walker to do to complete his healing, was the sweat lodge ceremony.

The sweat lodge ceremony.

This worried Alex. ‘What if Walker had a vision that told him not to be with her? How would she go on with her life then? Walker was her life. Would ‘she’ be able to let go of him if he did decide that he didn’t want her in his life?’

Pulling herself away from the tirade of thoughts and emotions that kept running through her mind, she turned to look at the clock. C.D. had said he would call around 10pm; right before he would be ready to turn in for the night. Seeing that it was only a little after 9, she decided to grab a nice long shower to try to kill some of the monotonous and seemingly never ending time.

********

C.D. had waited until Jimmy had left to go home and Cordell had gone upstairs for the night before he picked up the phone and called Alex.

“Hello.”

“Hi honey...it’s me.” C.D. said, as he settled down into the recliner to prop his feet up. Today had seemed like it would never end and he was exhausted.

“How’s everything going C.D.? You sound really tired tonight.”

“I am tired...it’s been a long day. This evening Jimmy and I helped Cordell get the sweat lodge built and gathered the wood and rocks for in it. He’s planning on starting the ceremony by first light. How about you honey? You doing OK?”

“Other than I am not there I am fine C.D. How’s Walker?”

C.D. chuckled as he replied, “Yeah he did. In fact he took em out himself. Wouldn’t let me call my doctor friend to do it...said it would be a waste of a trip just for a few stitches to be removed when he could do it himself. You know how stubborn he is.”

“Yes I do.” Alex replied.

“Well now, Honey you go and get yourself a good nights sleep and we’ll just wait and see what tomorrow brings, all right?”

“I’ll try C.D. Good night.”

“Night Darlin’.” C.D. replied. Turning to hang up the phone he was startled to see Walker standing in the door way.

“Cordell...you scared the day lights out of me son.”

“Sorry.” Walker said as he looked at the older man. Taking a deep breathe he asked, “How long have you known where Alex is C.D.?”

“For the past three days.” C.D. replied, waiting to see what Walker’s reaction would be to the news.

“How is she?”

“Well Cordell, she is pretty much in the same state as you are right now. Needing answers to certain questions. But she’s hanging in there.”

Walker simply nodded as he turned and headed back upstairs.

********

Walker had left the house well before day break, to travel the short distance to where he and his friends had built the sweat lodge the day before. After he had started the fire inside, he changed into a loin cloth and began to prepare himself mentally for the tough journey that lay ahead. He knew that his and Alex’s relationship...if indeed there was any chance left of their ever having one again...all depended on whether or not the spirits would guide him and help him discover the answers to his questions.

The snap of a twig caught Walker’s attention. Without turning around he said, “You’re getting better Trivette. I might just make a Cherokee out of you yet.”

A grin of pleasure at the complement came to Trivette’s face as he came to a stop beside his partner. “Are you ready for this man?” Trivette asked with concern. He had done a sweat with Walker before and he knew how physically and emotionally draining it was on a man.

Walker nodded as he rose agilely to his feet.

“Do you want me to do the sweat with you?” Trivette volunteered.

“No Trivette...this is a trek I have to take alone. But I do thank you for asking.” Walker hesitated before continuing, “I want to also thank you for being my friend. I know it hasn’t been easy the past while.” He then extended his hand to his partner.

Jimmy accepted it happily as he replied, “Well, you know, you’ve helped me through some pretty tough spots yourself. I guess it was my turn to do the same for you.”

The two men nodded and smiled at each other knowing that their friendship was still intact and stronger than it ever was. Walker then moved to the opening of the lodge and entered; dropping the flap down behind him.

Jimmy stood silently watching for several minutes before he turned and headed back to the ranch.

********

The steam hung heavy in the air of the sweat lodge. Sitting cross legged; Walker’s body glistened with perspiration. Emptying his mind of all thoughts, Walker added the special bag of herbs from White Eagle onto the coals of the fire and the hot rocks that surrounded it. Closing his eyes, he breathed deeply of the aroma from the herbs. Immediately he could feel the drug like effects taking over his body and soul. Slowly, he began to chant the ancient song of the spirits; waiting for his journey of discovery to begin.

********

The visions began about an hour later. Horrors of days past filled his subconsciousness.

The visions presented themselves separately at first. One by one, Walker was forced to relive each and every horrifying incident.

The stabbing death of his parents.

The death of Ellen.

The death of Lucas.

The day Alex had been shot.

The day that he, himself had to breathe life back into Alex’s body when she had nearly drowned.

The beating and near death of C.D.

Over and over again they appeared.

Abruptly the visions began to change. No longer were they coming separately. They began to blend together; over lapping each other to become one before they would separate once again. Faster and faster the visions churned until they were spinning wildly out of control; carrying his emotions with them. His tears of sorrow mixed with the sweat of his over heated body. His heart breaking sobs of grief filled the air.

Suddenly the visions were gone.

Walker felt himself being released from the jaws of their terrifying grip. Exhaustion consumed his entire being as he slumped; unconscious, to the ground.

********

Alex gasped and screamed, as she was awakened from a deep and troubled sleep. Sitting up in bed, she sobbed uncontrollably as she hurriedly checked the still dark room; making sure she was alone. Not finding anyone, she clutched the tangled blankets to her breast as she concentrated on trying to calm her rapidly beating heart. Curling up tightly into a ball she began taking slow and calming breaths. As her heart rate began to return to normal, she brushed the damp hair back off of her face and wiping at her tears.

At first she couldn’t remember what exactly had awakened her. She began to search her mind, when she suddenly realized that she had been dreaming about Walker. But it wasn’t a pleasant dream. It had been a nightmare; one that had been filled with the death of people he had loved and lost in his life time. His parents. Ellen. Lucas. There had even been the times that she and C.D. had almost lost their fights for life.

She had seen all of the events as they had happened; every terrifying moment of them. They had been replayed over and over again as if she were reliving them through Walker himself. She had been able to feel the turmoil of Walker’s emotions, just as if his emotions had become her own. The anguish. The sorrow. The tears.

She remembered that C.D. had told her that Walker was going to begin the sweat lodge before first light today. Glancing out the window, Alex could see that the sun was just now peeking it’s head over the horizon.

Was that why she had been having this particular dream? Where she and Walker so spiritually in tune that she had some how been experiencing the same visions that Walker was experiencing in the sweat lodge ceremony? The visions about Lucas, C.D. and herself she could explain away. She had been there and had also lived through them to some extent. But the others...no...they had to be coming from Walker’s memories. That was the only answer. How else would she be able to describe in detail exactly what Walker’s parents looked like? Walker had shown her pictures of his parents of course, but these memories had been too real...too vivid to come from just seeing a few faded, old black and white pictures. And what about Ellen? She had never even seen a picture of Ellen. But she knew, if she had to, that she could describe her physical appearance perfectly.

Reaching for the picture of she and Walker that lay beside her on the bed, Alex stared into the gray-blue eyes of the man she loved. She must have done this same thing a thousand times since the picture had been taken. They had both been so happy that day. The love that they felt for each other shone brightly; even in the picture, for all the world to see.

But now; for the very first time, she noticed something that she had never seen before. Wanting to make sure that her eyes weren’t playing tricks on her, she closed them for several moments before opening them slowly. She began to once again study the picture in her hands.

Alex placed her hand over her mouth as the tears of acknowledgment began to flow freely down her cheeks. ‘Oh my God, it is there,’ she murmured beneath her hand. There was no denying it. It was so clear to her now, that she couldn’t imagine how she had ever missed it before.

Alex pulled the picture close to her heart; hugging it tightly as she cried.

How could she have ever misunderstood Walker so badly? How could she have ever doubted his love for her?

********

Walker awakened to a feeling of total security. Slowly sitting up he realized that someone was sitting beside him. In his state of disorientation, it took him several moments before he realized who it was.

“Mother?”

“Yes son...it’s me.”

“Why...What are you doing here?”

“You expected to see your father or Uncle Ray didn’t you?”

Walker nodded as his mother pulled him into the safety of her loving arms; just like she used to do when he was a little boy and he would awakened from a bad dream. It felt so good. Being held in her arms and feeling the soothing touch of her hands. Softly he whispered, “I miss you Mama.”

“I miss you too Cordell. Your Father and Uncle Ray said to tell you, that they miss you also.”

“Why didn’t they come with you?” he asked.

“Because they both agreed that if anyone was going to help you with this problem it would have to be me.”

“I don’t even know what my problem is.” he replied sadly.

“I know you don’t. But I do and so does Alex.” she said with a smile.

“You know about Alex?” he asked puzzled.

“Of course we do. Even though we are not with you in a physical sense...we are with you in spirit every day. Now on to Alex...tell me about her...in your own words.”

Walker smiled as he pictured Alex in his mind. The words began to rapidly flow from him. He told her of Alex’s strength...how loving and compassionate she is...and about how much he loved her.

His Mother listened proudly as he spoke about the woman who had captured his heart so completely. When she saw the tears begin to glisten in his eyes she asked, “What happened between you two?”

“We had a fight. She gave me her engagement ring back and left town.”

“What was the fight about son?”

“About the way I have been acting and treating her lately. How I keep putting her off about even talking about setting a date for the wedding.”

“Why do you think you have been doing that?”

“I honestly don’t know. I love her. I want to be with her. But...It’s almost as if...as if I become someone else. I know I am teasing her when I should be serious, but I can’t seem to stop myself. The night we had the fight I noticed she didn’t have her engagement ring on. That’s what started the ball rolling. She had been doing some painting at the HOPE house that day and I knew that was the reason she had taken it off. But I started teasing her about it. Saying that she didn’t have it on cause she didn’t really want to be engaged...she didn’t really want to marry me. That’s when she got so mad and started telling me about the times I had teased her and it had hurt her feelings. Like when I promised we would sit down and have a serious discussion about our future. When it came time for the discussion I teased her instead of keeping my word. Every time she would even mention discussing the future lately I would say or do something stupid. Why?” He looked into her eyes; pleading for an answer.

Elizabeth Walker caressed her son’s cheek with compassion as she replied, “Cordell...you are acting that way because of all the tragedy you have had in your life time. Some where along the line you have grown to think of love and betrayal as being the same thing, but it’s not.”

Walker frowned with confusion as his Mother continued, “Every time in the past that you have totally given your heart to someone they have been taken away from you. The love you gave to your father and I; as our son, betrayed you when we were killed. The day you began to love Lucas as your son; you were betrayed once again because he died. Same with Ellen. That’s why it took you so long to even declare your love for Alex. Deep down you feel that if you give your heart to her totally; by taking that final step of marriage and consummating your love for her, she will also betray you.”

“But I’m a grown man Mother. I know that’s not what love is about.”

“Yes; you are a grown man...and a fine one of which I am very proud. But...can you honestly sit here and tell me you didn’t think that your Father and I betrayed you when we died?”

Walker lowered his eyes in shame as he replied, “I guess I did feel like you betrayed me.”

“Oh Cordell...You were only a child and you saw your Mother and Father killed before your eyes. Of course you felt we had betrayed you by dying. That is perfectly natural. But from that day on you have learned to think that every time you truly love someone they are going to betray you by leaving you.”

“But it always happens. You...Father...Ellen...Lucas. Now even Alex has left me. To love someone is to be betrayed.”

“Cordell John Firewalker...now you listen to me.” she scolded, as she placed her hands on his face; making him look into her eyes. “Your Father and I didn’t have a choice in leaving you. That choice was taken away from us by men who couldn’t see past their own prejudice. Ellen and Uncle Ray didn’t have a choice in leaving you. Sweet little Lucas didn’t have a choice; he was happier in his short time of being with you than he ever had been in his entire life. None of us would have ever left you if OUR choice of loving and being with you hadn’t been taken away from us. Don’t you understand that? Sweetheart...in every case, our choice of loving you and staying with you was taken away. Your Father’s and I by a knife of prejudice...Ellen’s by someone’s bullet...Uncle Ray’s by old age...Lucas’s because of aids. But none of us would EVER give up what time we did have with you for anything in the world. That is what LOVE is all about. It’s not the amount of time you have to love someone...it is the quality of the time that you have with that person. That is what’s really important. We can’t always change what happens in our life. And we certainly can’t always prevent bad things from happening to the ones we love,” Elizabeth could see the spark of understanding begin to grow rapidly in her sons gray eyes as she continued, “But we can accept what precious amount of time we have with someone and make it a point to make the best of that time. That is what loving someone really means.”

Walker suddenly felt as if the weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders. Everything became so clear and for the very first time, it all made sense. The wall of his long lived misconception between love and betrayal shattered instantly; leaving him with a magnificent feeling of total euphoria. Hugging his Mother tightly he said, “I understand Mama...I finally understand. Thank you.”

“You are very welcome son. Now...you need to rest for awhile and regain your strength, so you can go and use your new found knowledge in getting the woman you love to come home to you.”

“What if it’s too late? What if I have done too much damage?”

“I’m sorry Cordell...those are ‘what if’ question’s that only Alex can answer. I do know one thing for certain...this Alex of yours has to be someone very special for you to love her as deeply as you do. That tells me, that she also loves you very deeply. Let your love for each other lead you back to where you both belong...Together.”

Walker nodded. He could feel the spirit of his Mother slipping, slowly away from him. Reaching out to her he pleaded, “Please Mother...don’t leave...not yet...there is so much more I want to tell you.”

“I’m sorry. I have to go now. Just remember that we love you...and we are with you in spirit every second of every day.”

“I will Mama...I’ll remember. I love you.” Walker whispered as exhaustion over came him and he drifted into unconsciousness.

********

The sun was slowly setting on the horizon as C.D. sat down in the rocker on the front porch of the ranch. Taking a sip of iced tea, he watched as it painted the sky with it’s beautiful pastel colors. With a smile he said to out loud, “Maybe this is a sign of better days ahead for Cordell and Alex.”

“I hope you’re right C.D.” Walker said as he came around the corner of the house.

“Damn Cordell...you ‘bout gave me a heart attack. You shouldn’t sneak up on a body like that.”

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“Well now, that’s all right. You sure look a heap better than you did when you left Cordell. How do you feel?”

“I’ll feel better when Alex is back where she belongs. Will you call her and tell her to come home C.D.?”

“I sure ‘nough will. It would be my pleasure.” C.D. said with a smile as big as the state of Texas, as he rose from the rocker and started towards the door.

“C.D....” Walker said as he placed his hand on his shoulder to stop him. “I just wanted to thank you...well you know...for staying out here and taking care of me the past week. I know I was pretty messed up and did some things that I normally wouldn’t do and...” Walker lowered his eyes in shame as he remembered the things he had done earlier in the week.

“Cordell...now don’t you fret on it son. Your my family, and family’s stick together; even in the toughest of times, and this past week was some pretty tough times. But you have learned from them and set yourself on a course to set things right again and that’s all that matters.”

C.D. moved to hug his former partner, when he suddenly stopped and sniffed. With a shake of his head he extended his hand instead as he said, “Cordell...no offense, but you smell pretty gamy. Why don’t you head on up and hit the shower while I make that phone call to Alex.”

Walker chuckled as he shook hands with his dear friend. “Yeah a ‘sweat’ does tend to do that to a person.”

When they released hands Walker turned and headed inside. C.D. paused briefly to take one last look at the sunset. With a satisfied smile he murmured, “Yes sir...better days are definitely on the way.”

********

Alex hesitated, as she raised her hand to knock on the door. Taking several deep breaths, she tried to still the shaking of her hands. C.D. had called the night before; not offering any information, other than it was time for her to come home. She had decided to wait until early this morning to drive the three hours back to Dallas. In her haste to see Walker, she had headed straight to his ranch instead of going to her own apartment first. Now she didn’t know if that had been such a good idea. The uneasiness of seeing Walker again and not knowing what his reaction to her would be after all that had happened between them, ran wild in her thoughts.

The past week had been very traumatic on her; not only emotionally but physically as well and it showed in her haggard appearance. The black circles and puffiness around her eyes told of her endless crying and sleepless nights. Maybe she should have gone home first to freshen up and put on something other than faded blue jeans and a t-shirt. Deciding to leave, she had only taken two steps when she heard her name called out softly behind her.

“Alex? Are you leaving without even saying hello?”

Slowly, she turned as her heart rate accelerated ten fold at the mere sound of his husky voice. The sight of him took her breath away instantly. He stood against the door way wearing a pair of jeans; bare foot and shirtless, with a cup of coffee in his hand.

Silence filled the morning air as they just stood looking at each other; neither knowing quite how or where to begin their apologies. After what seemed like an eternity, Walker broke the silence as he asked, “Would you like a cup of coffee?”

Alex hesitated momentarily before she replied, “Yes...I’d like that.”

Walker moved aside; letting her enter the house ahead of him. As she brushed past him, the scent of her perfume filled his senses. It took every ounce of his strength not to just grab her and kiss her soundly. But instead he excused himself to the kitchen to get coffee for them both.

Alex looked curiously around the hallway and living room. She could see the fresh spots of plaster where there had been holes punched and kicked in the walls. Several small tables and a chair were absent from where they normally sat. The small window in the living room was still boarded up with plywood; the glass not having been replaced yet. C.D. had told her that Walker had gone on a drunken rampage but she couldn’t believe the damage that he had done. She still couldn’t help but feel that it was all her fault.

Walker stood in the doorway, as he silently watched her. He could tell by the sad expression on her face that she thought she was the cause of the damage he had done. When she noticed him standing there, he walked over to her; handing her one of the coffee mugs he held.

As their finger tips touched, their eyes locked; each trying to read the others thoughts. Alex was the first to break the spell as she turned and walked to the fireplace; needing to put some distance between them until she could get her thoughts in order. 

“Alex...would you have left earlier if I wouldn’t have called out your name?”

Alex whispered, “Yes. I should have called you before I just showed up here...you know...to see if you even wanted to see me again after what I did.”

Walker placed his mug of coffee on the table beside him and moved to her side. He could see the tears glistening in her eyes. He took her mug of coffee and placed it on the mantle. Touching her cheek softly he said, “Of course I’d want to see you...I missed you so much. I want to be with you for the rest of my life Alex...I love you with all my heart and soul.”

“I love you too,” Alex said as she flung herself into his waiting arms; cleaving herself to him tightly. “I’m so sorry. I should have been more patient and understanding with you. I knew something was bothering you but I just got so angry at you that night...” She couldn’t continue as wails of despair wracked her body and tore at his heart.

“Shh...please don’t cry Alex.” he said as he swept her up into his arms; cradling her against his chest tightly. Walking over to the chair, Walker sat down; positioning her on his lap as he continued to hold and comfort her.

“Oh Walker...I didn’t mean anything I said that night. Please forgive me.” she cried.

“Alex...there is nothing to forgive.” He tilted her head up as he brushed the tears from her face. Looking deeply into her blue eyes, he smiled; really smiled for the first time in over a week, as he continued, “If you would not have gotten so angry at me that night, I may have never understood why I was acting the way I was towards you. I should be thanking you sweetheart. You gave me the ‘swift kick in the pants’ that I needed.”

“Did you figure out why you were acting that way?” Alex sniffed.

“Yes I did.” Walker caressed her face as replied. “I was afraid you were going to betray me because I loved you so much.”

“Betray you? Walker I would never betray you.”

“I know that. But when my Mother and Father passed on; I felt really betrayed by them. They had always told me how much they loved me; that they would never leave me. But when they were killed, I was left behind. I guess it was then that I began to think of love and betrayal as being the same thing; that if I loved someone they would ultimately betray me by leaving me. And every time I did give my love to someone, that’s exactly what happened. The perplexity between love and betrayal that had started when I was a boy, continued to grow and be reinforced every time I lost someone that I loved. It became so deeply buried within me, that over the years I didn’t know it was there anymore. I guess it was my defense mechanism against being hurt again. It didn’t kick back into gear until I fell in love with you and proposed. That’s when I started putting you off about setting a wedding date. Subconsciously I feared that if we took that final step of marriage, you would leave me just like everyone else always has.”

“You can’t get rid of me that easy Cowboy.” She said jokingly. When she saw the uncertainty that still lingered in his eyes she became serious once again as she continued, “I would never leave you Walker. Nothing...no one could ever take me away from you, not willingly anyway. You are stuck with me...for eternity. Don’t you know that by now?” Alex asked as she caressed his beard lovingly; molding her body to his. Slowly, she traced his full lips with her finger tip, before she finally lowered her lips to brush against his lightly; making sure to never quite make total contact.

Walker’s arms tightened around her, as he tried to capture her teasing lips. It had been too long since he had felt her lips pressed hard against his and the need to feel those sensations once again was growing to fevered proportion deep within him. As Alex continued to playfully avoid fulfilling that need, Walker growled deep in his throat as he said, “You are messing with a starving man lady.”

“I am? Do you want me to fix you something to eat?” Alex giggled; starting to rise from his lap.

“Oh no you don’t....Get back here.” Walker chuckled as he caught her arm, pulling her back down. Placing his hands on her face, he locked his eyes with hers as he murmured, “I have all that I’ll ever need right here. I’ve missed you Alex.”

“I’ve missed you too. I’m so sorry Wal.....”

Walker cut off her apology as he placed his lips against hers. Ever so gently at first; tempting her like she had tempted him. Her soft moan of desire was his undoing though as he gave in and captured her lips with enthusiasm.  A passion that burned like fire, engulfed them instantaneously; carrying them higher and higher as their kiss deepened. Their hands began to roam; touching and  caressing the other. All the tears, fears and worries of the past week were forgotten as their mutual love and adoration for each other took over; speaking louder than any words of apology ever could.

Reluctantly, Walker pulls back, breaking off the kiss before they could get any more carried away with their collective desires. Alex tangles her fingers in his hair, trying to persuade him to continue. With a sly smile Walker gently places her on her feet before him, as he rises to his. “Don’t stop now Cowboy. The best part of having a disagreement is making up. We have ALOT more making up to do.” Alex said softly. Looking into his eyes, she moved back into his arms; pressing her body against his suggestively.

Walker delicately urged her away from him. “Yes, we do have a lot of making up to do, but I have something much more important that needs taken care of right now.”

Alex looked at him with puzzlement in her eyes, as she ran her finger tips sensually around his muscular chest. “Walker...Now what could be more important than us making up?”

“This.” Walker replied as he put his hand in his pocket, pulling out her engagement ring as he reached for her left hand and knelt down on one knee.

Tears immediately came to Alex’s eyes, as she gasped; placing her hand over her mouth. She had always fantasized about Walker proposing to her this way; on bended knee and her fantasy was about to become a reality.

Walker smiled up at her as he held her shaking hand. “I know I already proposed to you, but after all that we have both been through lately, I think I really need to do it again.” Clearing his throat he continued, “Alex...I love you with all my heart and soul. I have never loved anyone like I love you. You make me complete. You give my life meaning. This past week without you enforced what I already knew in my heart. I don’t ever want to be with out you again. I want you beside me for the rest of our lives.” Walker slowly slipped the ring on her finger; kissing her hand once it was in place. Looking back up to her sky blue eyes he asked in his throaty voice, “Alexandra Cahill...I love you and I want you to be my wife. Will you marry me?”

With tears of happiness streaming down her face, Alex nodded her head as she replied, “Yes...yes...yes...YES!”

Coming to his feet, Walker placed his hands on her face; brushing at the tears with his thumbs. “I love you.” he whispered as he lowered his lips to hers; kissing her passionately. It was a kiss like no other. It sealed their destiny’s together for all eternity.

When Walker ultimately released her lips, he chuckled as he said, “You did say yes, didn’t you Alex?”

Alex threw her head back as she wrapped her arms around his neck and giggled, “Yes Walker...I said yes.”

“It’s a good thing.” Walker said, as he picked her up; swinging her around the room playfully. Their joyous laughter filled the room.

When they were both dizzy from spinning and could barely breath because of laughing so hard, Walker flopped onto his back on the couch, carrying Alex with him; placing her on top of him. Walker held her securely against his body, as she placed her head on his bare chest. They were both content; enjoying the sensation’s of being in each others arms again. When their breathing had returned to normal, Alex began to place butterfly kisses on his chest, working her way up to his waiting lips. Placing several small kisses there she sighed happily, “I love you so much.”

Walker squeezed her tightly as he murmured, “Enough to marry me next weekend?”

Alex was shocked. Drawing her head back to look deeply into his eyes she asked, “Next weekend?”

Walker nodded.

“Did you say just say get married and next weekend in the same sentence?”

“Yes Alex, I did.” Walker chuckled.

“Ok...who are you and where is the real Cordell Walker?” she asked as she began to tickle his very sensitive sides.

Walker jumped at her unexpected attack; bumping his head hard on the wooden arm of the sofa as he tried to fend off her loving torture. 

“Oh Walker...I’m so sorry...are you alright?” Alex asked with concern.

Walker rubbed his head as he replied, “Yeah. I’m fine. Good thing I have a hard head though. Alex...when we get married let’s use your sofa and get rid of this one...especially if you are going to insist on torturing me on it.”

“Torturing you? I’ll torture you.” Alex moved to tickle his sides again, but he was ready for her this time, as he quickly caught her hands; bringing them to rest safely on the middle of his chest.

Walker was instantly serious as he said, “Alex...I don’t want to waste any more precious time by not being with you. I want you to be my wife...NOW. What do you say? Do you think WE can put together our wedding in a week’s time?”

Alex smiled brightly. “Yes darling. I have no doubt in my mind that...TOGETHER...We can do anything!”

“Neither do I Alex...neither do I. Come on. Let’s start planning our wedding, and our future together.” Walker sat up enthusiastically; swinging his feet to the floor, with Alex’s legs wrapped around his waist.

“Walker?” Alex whispered as she snuggled close; wrapping her arms around him.

“Yeah?”

Seductively, she began to nuzzle and kiss his neck as she purred, “Do you think we can wait on that just a little longer and make up some more first?”

“Oh...I think that can definitely be arranged.” Walker moaned as their passion turned into a roaring fire; built with love and the promise of many wonderful times to come.

The End...