Jumping the Gun.

By Pam G

PG1701@aol.com

Ding, ding!

Happily striding toward the front door Alex smiled with anticipation and through force of habit peered through the peephole to see who was there. The smile broadened further as she watched Walker hitch the collar of his dark tuxedo. As an afterthought he raised one foot at a time and quickly polished the front of his shoes on the back of each opposite leg. Alex giggled, but then her brow furrowed as she thought.

Dark tuxedo? "Oh, no!" Alex looked away and grimaced, thought again for a few seconds, and talking deep breath blew out through her lips. She opened the door with a winning smile. "Hi!"

Walker's face lit up. "Wow. You look, gorgeous. Come here." He kissed her quickly on the lips and stepped inside Alex's classy apartment. Once the door was closed he pulled her into his arms. "Hmmm. You do look good."

"I could say the same about you; you are mighty handsome." She expectantly glanced down at the box in his hands.

Walker laughed. "You're like a K9, Alex. You can sniff out anything." He was swatted on the arm and he chuckled again, offering her the package. "For you." His eyes smiled as he watched her peel back the lid revealing a white orchid surrounded by white freesias.

"Oh! That's beautiful. Walker!" Alex sniffed the freesias. "Hmmm, wonderful, " she slipped the arrangement over her hand and admired it further. "Well, that's a surprise." She beamed at him, shaking her head slightly. "Y'know, ever since we got engaged you keep doing the unexpected. You're making me wonder what you're going to do next."

Walker frowned, puzzled. Women still easily confused him. "You don't want me to do that?" He queried.

"No it's not that!" Alex gave a small smile. "Before we were engaged" her eyebrows raised and her expression was knowing, "how many times did you buy me flowers?"

"Ah." Walker now understood.

"So?" She pressed.

"So?" He reiterated.

Alex raised her eyebrows. "Yeah, so. So what's different?"

Walker sort of shrugged, after all, what did it matter? "Well, that was then. This is now, I guess."

To add to his confusion he was rewarded with a big kiss on the lips. He couldn't imagine what for but he'd obviously given the right answer.

"Cordell Walker. You're priceless, you know that?" Walker gave a lopsided smile and Alex continued "you want a drink before we go?"

"He shook his head. "That's okay. You packed a bag?"

Alex nodded and gestured behind him. "Great idea to go back to the ranch after the charity dinner; I'm looking forward to it. How come you decided not to work this weekend?"

Walker shrugged. "Well, you know what they say, all work…" He didn't finish the sentence, but ended in a small laugh. "Ready?" On Alex's nod Walker turned, picked up the overnight bag and gestured for her to go first.

"Mary! Josh! Long time no see…"

"Lois! Good to see you too."

"Champagne, ma'am? Sir? "

They were hit by an onslaught of voices as entering the Philadelphia Suite in the Ritz Carlton Hotel, Alex excitedly looked around at the hundred and fifty chosen few invited to attend the Commissioner's Charity fund-raiser for under-privileged children.

From her peripheral vision Alex sensed the horror her partner was experiencing, and although to the outside world Cordell Walker remained cool and stoic, Alex knew him too well. The sudden freeze at the doorway, the slight pressure on her arm, and the telltale involuntary twitch of a muscle in his neck, caused her a small smile.

"It doesn't matter." She whispered.

Walker lent forward slightly. "It said black tie. They're all wearing white dinner jackets. I look like one of the waiters." He retorted, obviously pained.

Alex stifled a chuckle. "Walker. It doesn't matter. Relax."

Not at all pacified, Walker led her into the elegant room. Already she was nodding to friends and acquaintances and he couldn't help but admire her ability to mix and socialize so easily. Squeezing by bodies she swapped roles and steered him towards a group waving to her. Walker didn't know any of them and he wondered how that could be when they were together so often both in and out of work, but then many things about Alex never ceased to amaze him.

Her slim body encased in a long, dark blue, tight fitting off the shoulder gown caused heads to turn as she moved serenely through the throng. Seemingly oblivious to the attention she was creating Alex greeted four people smiling in their direction.

"Jack, Sue. Hi!" Alex shook hands with them and acknowledged the other couple. "Bill, how are you now? Jenny! So nice to see you again." Throughout all this she had somehow kept one hand on Walker as if to beg patience from him while she acted out this social ritual, and finally she was able to turn towards him and back again. "Jack and Sue, I don't believe you've had the chance to meet my fiancée Cordell Walker? Walker? Jack and Sue Crowley. Jack's with Senator Bailey's office."

"Walker." Walker extended his hand and smiled cordially.

"And this" Alex continued, "is Bill Pierce and Jenny May Pierce. Both Bill and Jenny are from Bryant, May, Pierce and Waterman Attorneys.

"Walker. Pleased to meet you." Walker lied.

"Oh the pleasure's all ours." Jenny gushed, "we've heard so much about you!

"Not to mention seeing your exploits in the media, Ranger Walker," Jack Crowley added.

Walker gave a small smile only to feel the telling heat creep up his face as his cheeks began to redden. He sighed inwardly.

Bill caught Alex on the arm. "You heard about Jenny's double murder acquittal, Alex?"

Alex nodded and Jenny began the detailed updating.

Giving a small tug at his top shirt button Walker looked awkwardly at Jack and Sue.. "So …erh ….what role do you play in Senator Bailey's office, Jack?" He offered.

"I head her media liaison."

Walker nodded. "I guess that gets complicated at times."

"Oh my gosh you wouldn't believe the half of it would he, Sue?" He brought his wife into the conversation. "Sue deals with all the stress I suffer from. Poor dear never knows what kind of state I'm coming home in, do you darling? It's go, go, go, from nine to five, five days a week. Just exhausting."

Walker did his best to sympathize. "Yeah."

Talking stopped abruptly and the sea of bodies around them parted to reveal a tall, meticulous-looking man condescendingly peering down at them. Walker turned to see what had caused the lull in the conversation.

Gray Caulder was six feet two inches, perfectly proportion and manicured, and fabulously supporting a Gucci white jacket tuxedo.  His blond haired lady companion was suitably beautiful and draped over his arm. Both sipped champagne before speaking.

"Why, Alex!" Gray directed his comments to her totally discounting the other persons present. "Always a …memorable experience to see you." It was almost a question.

"Gray." Alex said pleasantly enough. "Congratulations. I hear your appointment to the bench is almost through."

"Oh yes. Just the formalities. Can't wait to judge the first case with you prosecuting, though."

Alex glossed over the veiled challenge. "You know everyone here, I think." It was a statement rather than a question, and it obligated him to acknowledge her party which he did with a general nod of his head. Alex continued, "and I'd like to introduce my fiancée, Cordell Walker."

Scathingly running his eyes up and down in Walker's direction Gray ignored the outstretched hand. "How could you, Alex?" He said looking back at her, "you're beautiful, intelligent, sophisticated …and you end up with a half-breed cop." Ignoring the gasps from the immediate party as well as those eaves dropping he turned to go and added one last barb, "you could have had anyone you wanted."

From the corner of her eye Alex saw Walker's lower jaw drop a fraction and his quick blink immediately mask the pain that flashed through his eyes. She caught Gray's arm. "I'm with the man I want!"

"Poor Alex." Came his retort, and with that they were gone.

The pained silence that followed was interspersed with awkward glances and a couple of nervous coughs.

Distraught, Alex turned and tightly gripped her partner's arms. "Walker, I'm so…"

Walker interrupted. "It's all right."

Alex shook her head, "I …maybe we'd better go."

He shook his head. "It's not necessary." He could see she was visibly upset. "Look," he continued quietly, "why let the under privileged kids dip out because of his bad manners. We should stay."

Alex frowned. "Are you sure?" There was anxiety in her voice and he felt his arms being grasped harder. He nodded and taking a quick breath turned to the others. "If you'll excuse us, we'll find our table. It was nice to meet you."

"No!" Bill Pierce quickly glanced at his party. "Don't judge all of us by him, Walker. Let's find a table and we'll sit together. Please?" He added sincerely.

There was a seconds pause and Walker nodded, and allowing him self to be guided across the room they were seated at the circular table within minutes.

Jenny ignored Alex and Sue. "Walker? Some bread?"

Walker seemed somewhat surprised "erh, thank you." Taking a sourdough roll he handed the basket back.

"Red or white wine Walker?" Bill queried.

"Well, I'm driving. I'll just stick with water. Thanks."

Sue leaped to her feet, "I'll just top your glass up then."

Walker smiled and looked around the table. He raised his eyebrows slightly. "Look. I appreciate what you're doing. I'm okay though."

Alex hugged him. "Oh Walker! You sure?" She worried.

He knew they meant well but all this attention was the last thing he wanted. "Yeah, I'm sure. Everyone relax, okay?"

There was a general agreement and Walker was relieved when some semblance of normality returned. Alex, her emotion's heightened, still clung to him like a limpet.

He tried to cut his steak with a fork. "Alex." Walker whispered. "It's hard to eat dinner with one hand." She released her grip. He had been touched by her tactile gestures realizing she was upset for him. He smiled trying to reassure her only to feel her hand wrap around his knee and he shook his head in submission. Taking her by the shoulders he tried again, his voice quiet but firm. "I'm okay. Will you let it go."

Hugging him for all she was worth Alex whispered in his ear. "I don't think it's possible for me to love you more than I do right now."

This was getting too much. "I appreciate what you're trying to do, Alex, and if you really want to, we'll talk about it when we get home, but, leave it for now."

**

The pot clanked when Alex placed it on the stove. They had come back, she had offered to make coffee and Walker had removed his jacket and tie and was slowly drawn outside where he had stayed. She looked anxiously through the rooms to see him still sitting on the sturdy low table on the porch, pensively looking into the warm night. The ride back had been in silence and she thought Walker looked more troubled now than when the incident first happened. Mentally she cursed Gray Caulder.

Leaving the mix to brew, Alex put her head round the door. "Disturb you if I join you?" She checked politely.

"No." Was the hurried response, but he made no attempt at eye contact.

Alex ran a hand over his shoulders as she approached, stood behind him and bending down cuddled him, kissing his neck and cheek. Walker felt for her arms, turned towards her and returned the gesture. More a peck than a kiss. Feeling awkwardness she drew away and sat down on the coffee table the opposite way to face him.

"I am so sorry about what happened."

"It's okay."

"No, Walker. It's not okay! It's anything but okay." Alex flung her arms round his neck "I wish I could turn back time and have it not happen." Walker kissed her again as they released, and for the first time looked at her directly, then off to one side.

"Alex? He's made a pass at you sometime, hasn't he?"

There was a small pause before Alex nodded.

"Is it a problem?"

"No." Alex shook her head, "but because I rejected him he took it out on you and I am so upset you were insulted like that."

Walker gave a deep sigh. "He was right about much of it." Walker turned to her again, "you are beautiful, intelligent and sophisticated, and, …you could have any man there you wanted."

"Oh, Walker. I was with the man I wanted!" Her voice trembled slightly.

"Alex, tonight, …brought home so many differences between us." Walker was hesitant before continuing, "you like socializing, I don't. You like dressing up, I don't. You like the theatre, I don't! You're …" he searched for the word, "refined! I'm a cowboy. I'm not apologizing for it, but, that's how it is. I think, …"

Alex looked away, her reply interrupting him coming out as a husky whisper. "It's okay. I understand." She stood up. "I'll get my things and go."

"What?"

"I'm fine with it," she lied, brushing away the cascade of tears that had built up through the course of the evening. "It's fine." She reached for the door before she felt a hand stopping her.

"What are you doing?"

There were some sniffs. "You think there's too many differences between us to get married, and …" she gasped, "it's okay. I wouldn't want you to do anything you didn't want to." Although numb, Alex firmly opened the door and hurried through looking either side for her belongings.

"Alex?" He followed her. "Alex!" She almost ran from him.

"Oohh!" Suddenly she was swept off the floor and in his arms.

Walker held her firmly, securely, easily. "What'd you think you're doing?" He raised his eyebrows and didn't wait a reply. "Did I say I didn't want to get married? I said, lady, we had a lot of differences. If you'd have waited for me to finish instead of jumping the gun, I was about to say, " his voice dropped, "that it's nothing we haven't known about for years. I didn't think it wouldn't make any difference now."

Alex had gasped several times, and gasped once more. "So …you … you still want to go ahead?"

"Yeah. If you still want me."

Alex could hardly believe her ears, "if I still want you? Of course I do. Are …are you absolutely certain?"

"Yeah. What do you think I am, crazy? Gray smart-suit can call me what he wants, I'm the one that won your heart." There was a mere second pause and his voice was soft, "haven't I?"

Alex could hardly draw herself away from his deep gaze to reply. It was a whisper of deep reverie and love. "Yes." She buried her head in his neck, "Oh Walker! I love you so much." Happy beyond words Alex pulled away from him and smiled.

He scrutinized her. "Feisty little thing, aren't you?" He grinned giving a phony rebuke, "I'm gonna have my work cut out with you!"

Joining in her laughter he carried her back to the porch, kicking open the outer door with gusto as he did so and sat her on his lap. He pretended to be serious. "There is just one thing."

"What?" The anxiety in her voice returned.

"From now on it's your job to figure out which jacket I should wear to these shindigs! Agreed?"

Alex laughed. 'I'll keep you right!" The laughter died away and she was serious again before kissing him with renewed passion and then explained. "I can't bear anyone hurting you. I just can't bear it. Words or bullets, if it hurts you, it hurts me even more."

Walker drew her in and rested her head on his shoulder while he stroked her hair.  He had been so set against getting too close. Despite his previous denial he knew she brightened his existence, and even his mule headed attempt to pretend he didn't need her finally caved in to the magnetism between them. Not that she put him under pressure, but his fear of trying for happiness was slowly eroded by her steadfast love and ability to accept him for what he was.

Walker analyzed her last statement. 'Words or bullets, if it hurts you it hurts me even more', and he marveled at his good fortune. To be in the company of someone who thinks that much about you! He could trust her implicitly and he knew he was completely in love with her, but love and trust brought painful memories.

Walker's mind ran through the list while his emotions registered a deep physical pain at each name called. His parents, taken from him at the early age of twelve. His first fiancée who couldn't take the stress of his job and asked him to choose the badge or her. She knew he had vowed on his parent's grave to spend his life defending the innocent and helpless and the job was his calling, so why had she even asked him to give it up? Completely shaken by her demand, he had looked her firmly in the eyes, apologized, and turned and left, never to see her again. The barriers went up big time after that, until Ellen. Even now his heart softened as he thought about Ellen only to feel the agony of her loss at the hands of a revengeful felon. He had vowed never to let that happen again, to get too close to someone else. It was too hard; it just dang well hurt too much.

But, then came Alex. Just as he allowed himself to get closer came the reminders. Logan Reno! Aunt Ruthie. Beloved Uncle Ray; God that was so hard to bear!

How much loss is one person supposed to take in a lifetime, Walker puzzled? Even Lucas conspired to have him withdraw again.  So how Alex had put up with his off and on treatment of her amazed him.

Now here they were. After her shooting and subsequent fight for life he realized what a fool he'd been, and married or not, her loss would have been the deepest cut of all. Gray Caulder was right. She could have anyone she wanted; thank God she had the patience to wait.

He should say this more often, and, perhaps in time he wouldn't find it so dang difficult. "Alex" he said softly. "I love you."

The effect on her was amazing. She relaxed so much she completely melted into his body.

"I just want to make you happy," was her heartfelt reply.

Feeling privileged to be locked in her loving embrace Walker smiled. There were no doubts; he was going to be very happy.  

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