By Pam Gooderham
"Hey. HEY! C'mon, man. He's a loser but he's not Al Capone. C'mon. Ease off, OK?" No one seemed to move for a short while, and Walker released his grip on Davis Cauthern, only a slight twitch under his left eye betraying his pent up frustration. Trivette watched his partner walk a few paces away and look down to the floor. Turning his attentions back to Cauthern, Trivette turned him around to cuff him.
"Thanks man, he woulda killed me."
"Shut up! Shut up! Just keep quiet. Know when you're well off!" Trivette walked Cauthern round to the back of Walker's truck and helped him up, the tailgate already having been dropped down earlier on. Trivette pointed to him as he slammed it shut. "Stay put! Understand." Contritely their prisoner sullenly nodded his agreement to the pact and Trivette walked over to stand next to his partner.
"Don't say it."
"Walker, this is me, your partner! Don't shut me out."
As Walker made to leave, the younger man grabbed his arm, ignoring Walker's glower. "You have to deal with this Walker, it's starting to affect what we do. You know this. If you won't talk to me talk to C.D." he paused awkwardly, "Alex, or who ever, but the time's come for you to do something about your marriage." Walker was silent and Trivette knew he had finally gotten through to him. The absence of denial from Walker was a major break through, Walker being a man of few words anyway. Trivette could only hope for an ending in sight to the weeks of misery Walker had endured and to hope and pray it would be resolved quickly.
Walker sat alone on the porch seat that evening considering his options. It had seemed so right to marry Alex. Their wedding had been great, he hadn't even been as nervous as he had expected he would, and the honeymoon beyond his wildest dreams.
Even now just the thought of it brought a smile to his lips. It was one of his happiest times ever and Alex had been all any man could be lucky enough to wish for. Loving, attentive, and, as always, stunningly beautiful. Walker guiltily remembered how proud he had felt to have her take his arm and the admiration she had received from the other male holidaymakers. But… she was his! Chauvinistic? Maybe. Well, probably, but her presence literally lit up a room. There were so many good moments, not to mention the first time they had made love. It may have seemed an old fashioned notion for him not to bed her before they were married, but oh boy, it certainly made love making special. To give yourself freely to the person you love in the sanctity of marriage, without the constraints of guilt and bothering with reproductive protection, had the result of transporting this special act of union to the highest sexual experience possible. Even now Walker's body tingled at the very thought of them together and the wonderful way they had felt about each other.
They hadn't left the hotel room for the whole of that day or night. They made love between talking, ordering room service, laughing, and watching TV wrapped in each other's arms, only to repeat the whole process over and over.
Walker smiled inside as he recalled the events, only to assume his face of stone again. Where had they gone wrong? She didn't even seem to know he was unhappy now. Mind you, he had gone to great lengths to hide it. He didn't want her to feel she had to do what he said and besides, she wouldn't wear it. Alex was a completely independent sort, he knew that well enough. It was if she didn't want to spend much time with him preferring instead to spend much of the week at her apartment in town and coming back to the ranch each Friday for the weekend. Although she seemed delighted in seeing him they would spend much of the time getting to know each other again, and just when it was good, before you could turn around, Monday would be upon them. Once again she would announce she had better spend the next night in town due to her caseload. If I didn't know better, thought Walker, I'd believe she was having an affair, but he just couldn't imagine Alex would do that to him. Surely not? He decided to see what tomorrow would bring.
Peering over his glasses Judge Clayman called to the prosecution. "Call your next witness Ms. Cahill."
"People call Ranger Cordell Walker."
There was a lull in the proceedings as Walker was directed to the witness box and he sat, adjusted the microphone and waited to give his testimony. This was probably the hardest task for them to do, but they were such the professionals they hadn't even entertained a notion that as man and wife it would affect this important part of their work. As Walker looked at Alex about to question him, his stomach flipped at his admission to himself that their marriage was in trouble already. I'm not going to lose you Alex. Somehow I have to think of some way to overcome our difficulties. "State your full name and company for the court please." Alex finally turned to look at him directly in the eyes, in full official mode. Walker knew he loved her even more now than before they had got married, regardless of the trouble they appeared to be in.
"Er," Alex coughed loudly, "Your name and company for the court please?"
"Oh, sorry. Ranger Cordell Walker, Company B." He got through without a hitch after that and approached Alex after the hearing. "Hi." He forced a smile.
Her face lit up. "Hi! Hey where was your mind earlier on?"
Walker looked down, "Yeah, well." His breathing quickened as her hand slipped round his waist.
"How about my star witness treating me to lunch?"
"Sure. You ready to go?"
"Absolutely." Alex lifted her briefcase. This briefcase was a complete mystery to Walker and Trivette. It always weighed a ton! Alex would seemingly walk along carrying it without a moan or a murmur, her thin arms never showing much of a strain. Whenever they saw her, however, one or other would invariably, out of courtesy, end up carrying it. Before five feet had passed they would be forced to change hands, struggling and cursing under their breath. It was such an awkward item to look macho with. It had become a joke between the two of them, but, as Trivette wasn't here to joke with, Walker just cussed mildly under his breath, to as nonchalantly as possible, change hands already as they walked out of the court house to the little café-bar round the corner.
Alex smiled as they waited for their orders. "I'm sorry we didn't have time to go to C.D.'s. I have a deposition starting in forty minutes. How is he? It seems ages since I saw him." "As ever. He's started to get on your case about your lack of visits. I think I managed to plead your corner for you though. You do need to do something about it. I think your days with him are numbered!"
Alex grabbed his arm. "Thanks. I'll make a point of seeing him shortly."
Walker put his hand over hers and squeezed. "I sure missed you last night Alex."
Alex withdrew her eyes from his gaze, "I missed you too. Very much. What did you get up to?" "Went to C.D.'s for dinner, then home. Did some extra training, then sat out for a while on the porch. You would have loved it. It was a beautiful evening." He paused awkwardly, feeling his stomach tighten as he asked, "you comin' home tonight?"
Avoiding his eyes, Alex gave his hand an extra squeeze. "Oh Walker, I'd love too, but I've such a case load at the moment. I'll work over in the office tonight and head back to the apartment. It'll give me an early start tomorrow. You know how it is."
Disappointed beyond words Walker withdrew his hand. They looked up, disturbed by the server bringing their food and finished the rest of the meal with small talk. They said their good-byes at the top of the courthouse steps. Alex kissed him lovingly and quite oblivious to any looks they may have received which made Walker completely confused with so many mixed signals.
Why was she always so darned pleased to see him then to choose not to spend time with him? Once more he felt the well of disappointment rise inside. He had never felt like this before in his life. When they had announced their intention to marry most had been utterly delighted for them. A few however, had taken him to one side urging him to caution and perhaps they were right after all. Sighing, Walker recalled Trivette's words to get a grip. His partner was right. If he didn't it could cost him his life, or worse, Trivette's. Perhaps it was time to run it by someone, and whom else would he choose but C.D. Parker? He'd go after work this afternoon.
Signing off for the day Alex came down to have her usual chat before they went their separate ways. She was openly affectionate, radiant, full of events of her day and asking after his. She joked with Trivette as Walker watched her, the ache returning as he waited for her normal words before they parted.
"Oh, well. I guess I'd better go and get some work done."
There they were thought Walker. Yet, was there a little disappointment in her eyes after all?
"I'll walk you to your car."
"I'm coming too," Trivette chipped in. He turned to Walker, "you comin' to C.D.'s?" Walker considered it. His body still hurt from a fight they had been involved in earlier so he decided to go home first, take a really long hot shower to ease his pains and see how he felt from there. "I'm gonna head straight back. I may go later on though." He looked to Trivette with a slight smile.
"Dang it Walker I knew you were gonna do that!" Bending down Trivette gritted his teeth as he picked up Alex's briefcase and they made for the elevator. "Thank you Jimmy." Alex was sincere. She had no idea of the battle they waged with it. After having said her goodbye to Trivette she turned to Walker, putting her arms around him.
"I'm going to miss you so much."
"Come home, Alex."
"It makes more sense for me to stay here, you know that. You go and do your own thing.
How about breakfast at C.D.'s in the morning though?"
"I thought you had to get an early start?"
"Oh." Alex paused awkwardly, "yeah, I should. See you during the day huh?"
Putting his arms around her, Walker's whole being ached with frustration, but stoically he quickly kissed her on the lips before leaving without looking back.
"How ya doin' Cordell?" C.D. Parker looked determinedly at him. Walker stared back to meet the elder man's eyes. "Ah!" C.D. continued, "I see it's time."
Walker went to say something and changed his mind, his mouth shutting abruptly. He finally found his voice. "Just give me a coffee will ya?" C.D. smiled as he turned his back on him to reach for the coffee percolator. "And don't think I didn't see that C.D.!" Walker felt himself becoming irritable.
"Cordell. Settle down apiece will ya? I've known you've bin stewing, and I knew you'd talk when you were ready. Its not that I'm belittlin' your situation, it's just the way you put yourself through misery before you come out with it." He plonked the coffee in front of him.
"Go get that table over there. I'll be with ya in a minute."
Walker complied non-too happily and set himself down. He looked around to see Trivette enter with a stunning woman on his arm. His partner waved in his direction as they took two of the barstools.
Walker went over. "Hi Pard. Can I get you guys a drink?"
"Hey. Walker! Lemme introduce you. Jessica Roma, my partner, Cordell Walker."
Walker smiled, "pleased to meet you."
"Ah," Jessica gave him a winning smile "I've heard so much about you." C.D. came over to serve them. "Have you met C.D., Jessica?" Walker inquired.
"Oh yes." Lots of times.
Lots of times? Thought Walker. How can that be? Trivette was placing the orders. "Er, how long you and Trivette bin goin' out now?" He hedged.
Jessica smiled with obvious pleasure, "Nearly two and a half weeks."
"Oh, yeah. I suppose it must be." Walker forced a smile back. Over two weeks and this is the first time he knew about her? It suddenly brought home with a vengeance how selfish he had been and how wrapped up he'd been in his own problems he hadn't guessed Trivette had a new girl friend.
"'Cuse us, you guys," C.D. had come round the bar to grab Walker's arm, "we have a pow-wow going on." Giving a small nod, Trivette tried to look in Walker's direction to catch his eyes, but Walker managed to field off the glance, the irritation beginning to rise again in the pit of his stomach. He sat down heavily opposite C.D.
"Cordell, I got good news for you." Walker looked at him and C.D. continued, "I've known alotta folks over my time who have gotten wed an' I've known fair few of them got deevorced too."
He leaned forward, "know what the difference is 'tween them that stay wed and them that didn't?"
Walker shook his head slowly. "Thems that stayed wed, "he paused for effect, "keep workin' at it! They don't throw in the towel the first signs of rainy weather! You'n'Alex? You're no quitters!
"That might be C.D. But I sure didn't expect us to have problems after only three months."
"Three months, thirty years, it's still the same! An' ya know what the best news is?"
Walker couldn't imagine. "What?"
"After you've worked on it, and when the love flourishes again, it always gets stronger than it was before! Yessiree Bob! Now git over her apartment and talk to her! She's as miserable as you any how!"
Walker sighed, "OK. Wait a minute. How'd you know she was miserable?"
"You missed her by 'bout half hour! You'd a come your usual time you would have seen her!"
"See this is it C.D.! She's supposed to have too much work yet she can come here!"
His mentor showed some exasperation. "Go an' talk to her." C.D. stared him down until Walker rose and grabbed his hat. Walker stopped turning to thank C.D. but was waved on. "I know, I know. Just git goin'!" Walker rewarded him with a small smile instead and strode purposefully out the door, waving as he left to Trivette and Jessica.
Lounging on the floor half draped over a huge cushion in front of the fire Alex discontentedly channel surfed the television. She threw down the remote control to instead consider the box of chocolates lying on the furry cream rug, finally picking out one to pop it in her mouth.
As the taste lingered she turned to lay back on the cushion with a sigh.
There was thump and loud click. Startled, Alex shot bolt upright. Someone was trying her front door. Her adrenaline sky high she froze as the door opened and Walker entered.
He stopped, removed his key from the lock and shut the door behind him, locking it again securely.
"Oh my gosh Walker, you scared me to death!" Alex's hand patted the area of her heart.
She watched him step a few paces in to the room and stop awkwardly. It was impossible to miss the tightness of his lips or the frosty glare. Alex could feel the apprehension building up "What's wrong?"
Walker changed the weight on his legs and let his hand fall to his side dejectedly, his voice quiet and firm "I'd like to know why my wife doesn't want to spend much time with me." Alex was shocked! Her eyes widening she replied, "I..I don't understand what you mean." Walker took another few steps forward stopping short of the settee, "the reason you were staying here was to stay ahead of your case load. I know you've been to C.D.'s tonight and you're not exactly working now..." he struggled to go on, "so..., why wouldn't you want to come back to the ranch?"
She could see his eyes were full of hurt and his body language was defensive. Alex felt complete dismay. "Walker..." "Is it because you don't feel at home at the ranch? You don't feel you belong?" He interrupted her.
"No!" Alex rose to her feet. "I love being at the ranch, of course I feel I belong!"
"Then.." Walker gulped heavily, "is it me?" It was if a knife had entered his stomach as he dreaded her answer.
"Walker!" Alex quickly crossed to confront him, frantically searching his eyes with hers.
She grabbed his hand leading him to the settee and sat down with him. "Don't you ever think that." She was confused, a little scared and now getting just a bit annoyed herself.
"I don't understand what you're saying. Are you telling me you'd prefer me at the ranch all the time?"
Walker frowned at her. "Yes I'm telling you that. Why would you think anything else?"
Alex sighed deeply leaving the settee to sit crossed legged on the floor in front of him.
She thought through what had been her strategy to date and how it could have gone so wrong.
"Alex?" Walker prompted.
She swung around to face him. "Walker. Remember when you proposed to me and I asked you why after all these years?"
"You gave me the impression you were worried about not being able to have your solitude. Heck, you need to go to the badlands to get away from it all twice a year and that was when you were single!"
Walker stared at her trying to comprehend. "What? I don't understand." He shook his head puzzled.
"I want to be with you so much Walker, but I was worried incase I invaded your space and you wouldn't like being married. I thought if I stayed up here during the week you could still do your own thing and have your solitude and then you'd be happy to see me at the weekends...." her voice trailed off to resume quietly, "I've really hurt you haven't I?"
Her eyes began to mist.
Unable to take his eyes off her Walker slowly digested everything she'd said until he shook his head, " so you've been up here all the time because you thought I'd prefer to be by myself?"
Alex nodded contritely. Walker looked away and blew through his lips. Alex put a hand on his knee, "I didn't mean to hurt you for the world."
Walker quickly turned back grabbing her arm to pull her up and kissed her fully on the lips.
Still engaged in the kiss, he opened his legs and pulled her in to wrap his arms around her, hugging her tightly. Finishing the kiss he whispered in her ear, "What am I going to do with you?"
"Oh Walker," Alex responded. Breathing rapidly she embraced him as tightly as she could until finally they released each other and Walker joined her on the floor, relocating the box of chocolates as he did so. He took her hand and squeezed it, started to speak, stopped and tried again.
"Alex." His eyes closed briefly, a small smile appearing and his eyes opened again,
"y'know..when I asked you to marry me.." he thought again for a second, "I knew what I'd be sacrificing, but... I knew what I was doing, because," he looked her in the eyes, "I knew what I'd be gaining as well." He stopped as Alex looked to the floor. "You're right, there will be times I'll need to go off by myself, or fishin' with Trivette and C.D., but not so much I'd want to exile you to the apartment during the week."
"It's one thing to get married Walker, it's another to live it day in and day out. I didn't want you to have any regrets."
Walker smiled at her, "and I don't have any, Alex Cahill, so don't try and second guess me from now on, OK?"
Alex could only briefly glance at him, still upset her good intentions had turned out so badly. "OK." She whispered.
"Anyway. After all that, we're still gonna have to get divorced."
Sharply turning her head to look at him, Alex took an audible intake of air, her voice quaking "Oh Walker. No. Why?"
"You've eaten all the chocolates with the crème centers. I can't have that," he smiled.
"Oh! ..You...don't even joke like that." Alex slapped him on the arm as he laughed.
"Come here you."
Accepting his embrace Alex buried her head in his shoulder, "I've been so lonely here without you."
Walker smiled contentedly, "well, I'm real glad about that." He recalled C.D.'s words, "when love flourishes again it gets even stronger!" Yeah C.D., Walker thought to himself as he repositioned his arms tightly around Alex's body, you're sure right about that!
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