Authors note: I have tried to keep time period and all other elements as accurate as possible. Criticism/comments welcome

A Ranger Christmas

Author: Lynda D. Mayfield

E-mail: rangerbaldwin@yahoo.com

.Disclaimer: None of the Walker characters belongs to me, and I have in no way harmed them during this writing.


James Trivette entered the office of Company B with a spring in his step and headed straight for the desks of Gage and Sydney. Walker was nowhere around...Jimmy guessed his partner had a hankering for more of that Starbucks coffee.

In the almost seven months since Angela's birth, Walker had become a minor addict of the coffee. The head Ranger liked his coffee tall, dark and with one of those little tubs of cream mixed in. But this was not the reason for Jimmy's happiness.

"What's with the grin?" Sydney asked, smiling back.

"Look at these..." Jimmy said, holding up a pair of tickets for inspection.

"What are those?" Gage asked. He didn't feel like playing games. He still hadn't fully recovered from losing Julie and was a bit more serious than in days past.

"They're cruise tickets. For the Christmas Cruise from Corpus Christi to Jamaica and back," Jimmy explained, "I entered Erica and myself and we WON."

"Congratulations Jimmy, I think that's great!" Sydney said, excited for the couple.

"That's great Jimmy," Gage admitted, sorry that he had been in a bit of a bad mood before.

"Do you guys want to go? It's half price if I sign you up. Or how about this...Erica and I'll pay for half, you two pay for the other half?" Jimmy suggested.

"We do need the time together," Gage admitted hesitantly, "And there hasn't been much work..."

"But, are you sure you want to pay for your part?" Sydney cut in, "You did win your own tickets."

"It'd be worth it to know at least one couple already," Jimmy said seriously.

"I don't have a real problem except that we are hours from Corpus Christi. I don't really want to drive," Gage pointed out.

"That's all taken care of. They are picking us up at the bank that sponsored the drawing, at the headquarters in Dallas. We'll go by Foxhound Buses," Jimmy said, "The info sheet they sent me says there's room for another couple...there were five winning couples. So I'm sure there's room...otherwise, why would they encourage us to invite others with this half off deal?"

Jimmy had been rambling like a freight train and didn't notice Walker come up behind him with a coffee cup in one hand, "What are you doing Trivette?"

"Walker, please! Don't do that to me!" Jimmy turned to look at the subject of his ire.

"Okay, sorry, why are you so uptight?" Walker asked as he feigned putting his hands up.

Sydney and Gage said nothing, leaving Jimmy to explain his excitement.

"I entered a contest for the one-week Christmas Cruise at the bank...Erica and I won. And it looks like Sydney and Gage might go with us," Jimmy said, his face still full of happiness.

"Way to go. Work has slowed down here a bit. I guess the bad guys are all in the Christmas Spirit or something," Walker said, sitting at his desk.

"So, it's okay if we go too?" Gage asked.

Walker nodded.

"Thanks," Sydney said.

"Oh, and there are two nights of formal dancing...The first is the night we get there and the second is the last night on the ship. You might want to bring something nice if you want to participate in those," Jimmy added.

"Thanks for letting us know," Syd said back.

Walker was looking at the reports from his In Box. He put his feet up on the desk, making sure not to upset the balance of Angela's baby pictures, or the one of him and Alex together.

*************************************

December 23, 2001...

Jimmy and Erica were situated on the starboard side of the ship, and Syd and Gage ended up on the port side, far away from their friends. Neither couple really minded. If they were next door to each other, they might not have had any privacy. It was two in the afternoon as the ship pulled out from the dock.

Fifty couples had bustled their way onboard. The luggage had been loaded faster and awaited all in their cabins. The crew was also already aboard, aside from those helping the passengers find their way on the ship.

In room 211 Gage and Sydney were getting settled in. Their cabin was spacious enough, including two separate beds, if the occupants so desired. Each bed had two suitcases on it. They also had Christmas mints on their pillows and matching green and red bedding.

"This really is cute," Sydney said, setting her purse down with her luggage.

"Sure is," Gage agreed as he put his small carry on bag next to his nightstand.

"I guess we should get unpacked, and then maybe I can sneak in a nap before that formal dinner," Syd suggested.

"Sounds good, but about that dinner..." Gage dropped off. He unfolded the luggage bag for his suits and pulled out a white dress, handing it to Sydney.

She held it, shocked for a moment, "Gage? How? Why?"

"You wanted it. I had to get my tux fitted, remember? When I came to pick you up from the formals store, I saw you put it back. Went later and bought it for you," Gage said simply.

"Oh, Gage, I was just window shopping. I'd never spend that much on a dress for myself. And I would never ask you to," Sydney said eyeing the dress up and down again. There was a glimmer to the white coloring of the fabric, making it sparkle even in the light of the cabin.

"Merry Christmas," Gage said quietly, smiling.

"Thank you Gage," Sydney leaned toward him and gave him a peck on the cheek. He had been a little less enthusiastic with their relationship since Julie passed away, and she didn't want to push him.

"You're welcome. I really think you look great in it," Gage said.

"Now I'm glad I brought along this," Sydney said, handing him a rectangular, wrapped box.

"What's in it?" Gage asked.

"Open it up," Syd said.

Gage opened the package and the box, finding twin picture frames, one of Julie and one of him and Julie together. He had matching pictures in his wallet from five years ago.

"I hope you don't mind, I borrowed the pictures from your wallet at lunch the other day. She was so beautiful and happy then," Sydney said quietly, not wanting to upset Gage.

Gage smiled, "It's beautiful, Syd, thank you. I know right where I'm going to keep it at work."

"The frame was the hardest part, but I thought gold would be best for a woman like her," Sydney said.

"It's perfect. Now what do you say we unpack and grab that nap," Gage said, trying to hold back on the tears he felt. He silently put the gift in his carry-on bag, where he was sure he wouldn't lose it. Syd went about unpacking quietly, and when they both were settled in, each picked a bed and went to sleep.

************************************

In room 508 Jimmy and Erica had just arrived. Their cabin was spacious, with two separate beds and two suitcases on each. They also had the same sort of Christmas mints on their pillows and the matching green and red bedding.

"This is going to be great," Jimmy said, locking the door behind him.

"What are you trying to do right now?" Erica asked him point blank.

"Just securing our privacy...Ranger habit, can't help it, I always lock the door right after I get 'home'. Do you want it unlocked?" Jimmy asked.

"No, it's fine. I am just too tired for any 'extra' playing right now," Erica smiled as she reflected on her fiancé's admitted habit.

"Ready to unpack?" Jimmy asked.

"Yeah, good idea," Erica said, "But I want you to open this first."

"A gift for me?" Jimmy asked, "I thought we were opening gifts when we got home."

"We are. It's just something little, for tonight," Erica said as Jimmy took the proffered small gift.

"Thank you, honey," Trivette said when he saw the shiny gold cufflinks in their soft velvet box.

"They'll look great on you," Erica said.

"I know you too well," Jimmy said as he pulled out a package of his own, "This will look great on you."

"Jimmy, what's this? I already have my engagement ring," Erica asked, taking the gift and ripping it open, "Oh how gorgeous!"

Jimmy smiled at his squealing fiancée. He thought she would like the gold chain with the single perfect pearl. He was glad it made her smile. Sometimes she accused him of being too extravagant, but nothing was too good for the love of his life.

Both fell asleep looking forward to the night ahead.

************************************

Cordell Walker headed straight to the kitchen after he and his family returned from their church outing. It was a chilly day in Texas, forty-five degrees and cloudy. Dark gray clouds that made Walker's Native American half frown.

Angela was on the verge of sleep, so Alex took her to the nursery and put her in her crib. She pulled a blanket over her daughter, "Go to sleep now sweetheart. We'll be here when you wake up."

Alex kept up her soothing speech until Angela fell asleep without complaint. The Assistant D.A. found her husband still in the kitchen, worrying over lunch, when she walked in.

"You seem preoccupied. Is everything okay?" Alex asked, placing her left hand on her husband's shoulder.

"Everything's okay, Alex," Walker said, putting his gray thoughts in the back of his mind, "I have to wrap your gifts today though, I've put it off too long."

"I thought that tree was looking a little barren," Alex said with a smile. She had wrapped Walker's and most of Angela's weeks ago, placing them with care around the tree.

"I'm sorry, but things decided to get busy last week... just before Trivette, Gage and Sydney left on vacation. I had to tie up the loose ends on Friday and yesterday too. But I promise, today I'll get the job done...as long as you don't peek," Walker explained.

"I won't peek," Alex agreed, "I have to go to H.O.P.E. House and make sure everything is under way for the Christmas dinner and see if there's anything our residents or volunteers need. I hope you won't mind watching Angela."

"She's our daughter, and looking more and more like you. Why would I mind?" Walker asked seriously, "Go. Have a good time. I'll cook dinner for when you get back, okay?"

That was an enticing proposal. "I love you," Alex whispered, kissing Walker passionately.

"I love you too, Alex," Walker said, kissing her again.

"I have to go," Alex said in a low voice when their second kiss ended. Walker hugged her tight one more time and then watched her go.

************************************

Aboard the ship, dinner had ended and most of the couples stayed for the dancing. Mostly it was slow songs. A few of the older couples sat out for songs that were too jazzy and fast.

Gage and Jimmy both wore tuxes for the occasion. Sydney wore her new gown and Erica had a sequined blue dress on along with her new jewelry.

"You look so great in that tux," Sydney said as she laid her head on Gage's chest.

"You look wonderful too," Gage said, "I'm glad we came on the cruise. I feel much more closer to you than ever."

"I'm glad too. Glad to get away from the madness of Texas for a while and be ourselves," Sydney agreed.

Nearby...

"You look gorgeous. I knew you would," Trivette complimented Erica.

"Thank you Jimmy. I saw you and Gage talking about your new cufflinks," Erica said as Jimmy moved them expertly about the ballroom floor.

"He told me that Syd gave him a gift too...a hinged set of picture frames with pictures of Julie and Gage," Jimmy said.

"How thoughtful of Sydney. You think they could end up like us?" Erica asked, looking across the room at the pair.

"You never know," Jimmy said, planting a gentle kiss on Erica's lips. Gage and Sydney sashayed their way over to the couple.

"How's it going?" Sydney asked Erica.

"I could do this all night," Erica said, resting her head on Jimmy's shoulder.

Sydney sighed her agreement, doing the same.

"Hey," Jimmy said, grabbing Gage's attention and causing Erica to look up at him, "You see those guys by the punch bowl?"

Gage nodded.

"Look a little strange to you?"

"Maybe they're just having a good time, maybe too much to drink, casual as they're looking, but I don't see a problem," Gage said, shrugging. Jimmy shrugged back.

When Gage turned, Sydney had a good look at the two men Jimmy was talking about. They both had short dark hair and were wearing tuxes, minus cummerbund. Their ties were hanging loosely around their necks. One had a goatee and he poured a serving into the glass of the other man. They appeared to be in their late twenties or early thirties. They laughed and joked, and then made their way to sit at one of the few tables in the room.

"You tired yet?" Gage asked.

"No, you?" Sydney replied. Gage shook his head in the negative. The four would be the last leaving the dance that night.

************************************

December 24, 2001...

Alex awoke to find herself encircled in her husband's arms. Wistfully, she ran her hand along his furry chest. Even in fifty-degree weather, he only slept in sweatpants. Her movements did not wake Walker, so she dozed next to him a while.

On arriving home the night before, Walker had dinner ready, as promised. Alex had also noticed, with a jump of glee, that there were more gifts under the tree. She was curious to open them, but there was only a day to go before Christmas. She could wait.

The H.O.P.E. House had been full and bustling when she got there. Everyone wanted her attention at once. There had been only one way to solve the problem. She lined everyone up by height and took one question at a time in the small room that served as her office.

Most of the questions were easily solved; she merely needed to give her authorization on things like buying extra diapers and formula (she knew how these people felt now) or making sure the gifts for the children were wrapped. That meant she ended up doing some of the wrapping and making a last minute run for gift wrap.

The Christmas dinner was set up nicely and preparations were going fine. She was relieved at that. They were going to be serving anyone needing a meal. The charity had raised enough money to rent out the local elementary school cafeteria. Paper plates, plastic ware and plastic cups were all ordered and in, waiting at the school.

They still needed some volunteers to help as servers, but Alex thought with her and Walker there, some of the Rangers who had been hesitant would show up to help. Or, her husband could make one well-placed call.

Once all the questions had had their answers, and the gifts were wrapped and labeled, Alex had been allowed to go home. And she was looking forward to the dinner Walker was making.

Walker's stretching brought Alex out of her doze. She looked at her watch and another hour had passed since she started recalling yesterday's events.

"Good morning," Walker said quietly.

"Morning," Alex said back, "Happy Christmas Eve."

"You too," Walker said, smiling and kissing her cheek.

"Angela not up yet?" Walker asked.

"It's six-thirty...guess we wore her out last night," Alex smiled.

"Want me to start breakfast?" Walker offered.

"I will. Just let me brush my teeth first," Alex said, rolling out of the bed and wandering into the bathroom.

"Okay," Walker said, mostly to himself.

A few minutes later, Walker had showered and shaved and was generally presentable. He helped Alex with breakfast, making and buttering toast, setting the table for two, and getting the orange juice out.

"Do you have to work today? I'll be doing paperwork at my desk in our den," Alex asked as they ate. Angela was still sleeping, so the couple was taking advantage of their time.

"No, no need to go in. It's just paperwork mostly. I'll probably be at my desk with you in the den," Walker said taking a big bite from his toast.

"Maybe I should work in the living room. We might not get much done, in the same room, next to each other," Alex grinned, "Where are you going?"

"Well, I wanted you to open this one right now," Walker said, handing his wife a gift the size of a shoebox.

"Really, I should wait till later," Alex said.

"Well, it has to do with our staying home all day today discussion," Walker said, trying to persuade her.

"Oh, my...goodness," Alex gasped as she pulled a svelte teddy from the box. It was dark red, laced with bright green.

Walker grinned.

"I supposed it also applies to the ongoing discussion of providing Angela with a sibling," Alex said slyly.

"That would be wonderful," Walker agreed quietly, kissing Alex.

"I am going to put this away till later, and finish my breakfast. You behave yourself," Alex warned, standing.

"What?" Walker asked innocently, feigning hurt as his wife walked to their bedroom.

************************************

Erica, Gage, Jimmy, and Sydney were walking along the deck, reminiscing what a good time they were having already, even though it had been only two days. It was six o'clock on Christmas Eve, and the day had passed in a relaxing fashion.

After dinner, all four had changed into jeans. Sydney chose a dark blue tube top and short black boots to finish out her attire. Jimmy was wearing a light green t-shirt with a black sports coat, and black boots. Gage had on a purple T-shirt and brown sports coat, and black cowboy boots with steel trim on the sides and tops. Erica was wearing a short-sleeved brown oxford shirt and tennis shoes.

"Jimmy, this was a great idea," Gage said, swirling his lemonade as they walked.

"Here here!" Sydney agreed, raising her glass. The foursome toasted and drank up.

"It was exciting to hear we'd won," Erica said, "I didn't even know he'd entered us."

"That's what surprises are all about," Jimmy said, sliding his arm around Erica's waist.

Just then, there was an announcement about a fire, and for the passengers not to worry about it. This set off the instincts of the three Rangers, and even Erica could sense something more was wrong.

"I'm going back to our cabin, I don't like this," Gage said. Syd nodded her agreement that she'd go with him.

"Us too," Jimmy said.

"We're on the port side of the ship now, so why don't Syd and I meet you at your cabin. I'm just going to grab my carry on bag," Gage suggested.

"Good idea. We should stick together," Jimmy nodded.

Half an hour later, the captain was calling for the passengers to put on life vests, but not to worry and to wait for further instructions. Gage and Sydney found themselves pushing through a panicking mob on their way to meet Jimmy and Erica. They had their life jackets in hand.

The sun had been setting for a while, and now twilight was upon them, making it difficult to see at times. The ship's lights finally activated.

"This is insane," Jimmy remarked, "Why us?"

"I'm not sure. Do you think if we told the captain you're Texas Rangers he'd give us the real story?" Erica asked.

Gage and Jimmy shrugged.

"Well," Sydney began, "These boats are registered outside of the U.S., so that information might not mean much to the captain. I say we sit tight and wait to see what we might be able to do."

The three others agreed not sure what to do.

************************************

The Walkers were at a night before celebration at H.O.P.E., something special just for the residents and volunteers. They'd done a gift exchange the hour before and now they were all just finishing dessert.

"Alex, we have to go home," Walker whispered to Alex. She was sitting with a group of mothers, chatting, Angela playing in her lap.

"Walker, not now," Alex said, giving him a look. Sometimes he was too much to resist, but she was enjoying herself.

"That's not why, Alex, please," Walker said, giving her a puppy dog look. He loved her, but sneaking home for that purpose was not his intent.

"Okay, let me get Angela packed up, and say goodnight," Alex said. This was serious.

"What's wrong?" Alex asked as Walker drove them home.

"Not sure, but it's something big. I have to get to Corpus Christi. I think this has to do with that cruise the others are on," Walker said vaguely.

"Surely not," Alex said, questioning, "Maybe you are just jealous."

At this, Walker pulled the truck over to the side of the road.

"Alex. I am not jealous. Spending Christmas with my family, and helping with the dinners and planning has been the highlight of the year, except when Angela was born. And I'd rather have Christmas here in Texas than anywhere else," Walker said plainly, "Trust me?"

Alex doubted no more, "Yes, I do."

"I'm worried. I hope they're okay," Walker said as he continued to drive. He planned to take the helicopter to Corpus Christi, where the Rangers had a base, or get as close as he could on Christmas Eve.

************************************

Things were not okay in the Caribbean. Gage, Sydney, Trivette and Erica had evacuated in a lifeboat over an hour ago. It was now nine. The cruise liner had sunk half an hour before, with an explosion preceding the rapid sinking. Only a little of the debris fell on the side where the Rangers and Erica were. They had evacuated on the starboard side, so Gage had reasoned that the explosion had probably been on the port side, or that the explosion was smaller than it seemed.

Desperate people had jumped overboard at the sound of the explosion. Sheer panic was now out of control.

The Rangers had been helping as many people as possible aboard their lifeboat. Sydney had guessed the water to be relatively cold. She had felt it splashing on her and guessed it to be near fifty-five degrees.

She had been in the water with Erica, Jimmy and Gage, right from the start. They were grabbing people who had jumped and guiding them into their lifeboat as fast as they could. So far, they had six people on board.

The rest of their boat mates didn't object as new, wet passengers came aboard. A couple of men had gotten everyone else organized so there was room for the scared passengers.

None of the four knew how long it took or how many lives they had put into that lifeboat, which now seemed too small to hold those aboard. Jimmy, Erica and Sydney gratefully allowed themselves to be helped aboard when it seemed they had helped as many as possible.

"I'll be right there," Gage said as he noticed two more people near him. He swam over; grabbing each by the arm, "Don't struggle!"

Moments later, all three were hoisted aboard. Jimmy and Erica were huddled under his sports coat, simply collapsed. Sydney had helped Gage aboard and they, too, huddled under his sports coat.

Gage wanted to just sleep. He could no longer handle the coldness of the water, and the swimming had tired him out. Sydney was leaning against the boat for support, sitting upright, but trying to sleep. Gage laid his head on her shoulder and tried not to think about anything but sleep. Subconsciously, his body curled into as much of a fetal position as it could manage.

"Gage?" Sydney whispered. No answer came, he was firmly asleep.

"Is he going to be all right?" a rescued woman asked.

"Sure, he's just tired," Sydney said automatically. She closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep, as she assumed Erica and Jimmy had.

When dawn came, Sydney awoke blinkingly into the light of the day. The night before, she had situated the jacket over Gage's eyes, so he could sleep as much as he wanted to. It didn't matter. She shifted a little and he lifted his head, wide awake.

As Sydney looked around, she could see other lifeboats on the water. Not close enough to call out to, but enough to suggest that most of the passengers and crew made it off the ship.

"You okay?" she asked Gage.

"I was going to ask you..." Gage said.

"What about you two?" Sydney called over to Trivette and Erica.

They were awake and nodded that they felt all right.

"Good," Sydney said.

Looking around the little boat, most of the passengers were awake; including the two whom Gage had pulled from the water last minute. Their faces were soot covered, almost black, despite their dunking the night before.

"What happened to you two?" Gage asked.

"We were on board when the thing blew. We didn't think it would," one of the men said.

"What are your names?" Sydney asked.

"Elias." "Adrian."

That was when Gage recognized them as the playboys from the dance two nights prior.

"Did you do this?" Gage asked.

"Look, man, we were just having some fun," Elias started.

"We were a little drunk," Adrian admitted, rubbing his head and ears.

"What did you do," Gage said, a little angry.

"Well, did you know there's a little room on board for spare parts? Piping and stuff?" Elias started to explain, "We got some of that, and we had some stuff on board, little firecrackers. We got candles too, to jam it with. Found those at the dinner tables. Thought it would be cute."

"My God, where did you put that thing?" Gage asked.

"I don't really remember now," Elias said, "But there was more than one. Had candles burning at both ends. Funny huh?"

"Real funny," Erica remarked from where she sat.

Gage was fooling with the carry on bag he'd taken along, searching for something. Meanwhile, the other passengers where wanting to throw the two saboteurs overboard.

"Wait, wait, now," Jimmy was saying, "We're Texas Rangers, the three of us. As soon as we get rescued, we'll arrest these two, okay? Don't waste all that hard work Gage went through to arrest them."

There were discontented grumbles all around, but no one made a move toward the two bombers. Gage had fished two sets of handcuffs from his bag and placed them on Elias and Adrian. They weren't going anywhere, but he thought maybe it would appease the now angry mob of co-passengers.

"You brought handcuffs along?" Erica asked.

"I always come prepared," Gage explained with a shrug.

"Okay, let's just sit tight," Jimmy said, holding Erica close to him once more.

************************************

Christmas Day...

Corpus Christi General Hospital

Walker had arrived by helicopter to Corpus Christi General Hospital minutes after they put in the call to his cell phone. He was anxious to find out the condition of Gage, Trivette, Sydney, and Erica.

He had gotten to Ranger HQ there the night before, and had been told there was nothing he could do. The ship had gone down, but they were pretty sure most everyone was okay. That did not sit well with Walker, but he was glad he would be notified as soon as his people were rescued.

"Doctor, I'm Cordell Walker, from the Texas Rangers," he said, offering her his hand.

"Mr. Walker, you'll be pleased to know that all your people are fine. They were a little hungry this morning and a tad hypothermic, but they can be released into your custody," the doctor informed him.

"Thank you. Can I see them now?"

The doctor nodded and lead the way to the room all four were sharing.

"Walker! Can I get dressed now?" Gage said, hoping the answer would be yes. Though their clothes might still be damp, all four wanted out of their hospital gowns.

"I don't see why not. Unless you're comfortable. The doctor says you can come home with me," Walker grinned.

"Thank goodness," Sydney breathed, relieved. She took her clothes into the little bathroom and closed the door.

"Hey!" Gage shouted.

"Ladies first!" Sydney hollered back.

"That means I'm next," Erica stood, getting in line outside the door.

Walker and Trivette laughed.

"So, what happened?" Walker asked.

"Long story. We caught the guys who did it though," Gage said.

"Couple of drunk kids," Trivette nodded.

"I can't wait to hear," Walker said.

************************************

Christmas Day, 2 PM

"I'm glad you are all home safe," Alex said, handing out alcohol-free egg nog. Erica was taking a turn with Angela, balancing baby and drink as she sat.

"Thank you," Gage said, "It was a bit exciting. I don't want to go on another cruise for a long time though."

"Me either," Sydney agreed, laughing.

"Well, it wasn't all bad. We had a good time for a couple of nights," Jimmy said.

"But my dress...it's gone," Sydney said, looking down.

"And my necklace!" Erica said, "Not that it's about possessions, it isn't, and I'm grateful we're all here..."

"Amen!" Alex said.

"But all the thought that was put into those gifts, it's too bad," Sydney continued.

"I have good news," Gage said, "I called my credit card company and they said everything was insured. They'll replace the dress at no cost. I bet they'll do it for you and Erica too, Jimmy."

"Yeah? Excellent," Jimmy said.

"And I inadvertently saved my pictures because they were in that carry on bag I'd kept with me," Gage mentioned.

"So, does this mean that you four will help out tonight at the dinner? We needed more servers for tonight," Alex said, giving them a pleading smile.

Gage looked to the other three, who nodded, "Sure thing."

"Thank you," Alex said, hugging each in turn.

"I only have one more thing to say," Walker said as the others looked at him expectantly, "Merry Christmas!"

"Merry Christmas!" They said right back to him, and Angela cooed.

THE END