THE DECISION

By Murph

 

“Allright, you sure you don’t want me to ride along?” Trivette looked at his totally worn out partner sitting behind the wheel of the silver Ram pick-up. It had been a long two weeks filled with overnight stakeouts and enough coffee to drown Juan Valdez’s donkey. But, they had finally nailed the Bradleys, and escorted them to Dix County for trial.

Walker had driven the whole way there and back which had taken almost 24 hours, while Trivette had dozed in the passenger seat. Now that they were back in Dallas, he was a little worried about his Cherokee partner. Normally, he didn’t show any physical limitations, but tonight Walker looked exhausted.

“No, I’m okay.” Walker said. Trivette rolled his eyes. How many times had he heard that? But, there was no point arguing so he turned to his black Mustang sitting in a corner of the parking lot. One last thought made him turn around and say,

“Hey, at least come in late tomorrow. Catch up on a little sleep?”

Walker smiled tiredly. “Okay, Trivette. I’ll sleep late tomorrow, if that will make you happy!” With that, he put the truck in gear and headed out. Trivette watched him make the turn onto the main street, and then climbed into his own car to head home. He was damn glad this case was over, and also that he had such a short drive home. He envied Walker and Alex’s ranch life, but was grateful that his own bed was only a few minutes away tonight.

The road seemed darker than usual to Walker as he headed the Ram onto the lonely stretch that wound several miles down the valley toward home. He sighed and tried turning the radio up, but that only made his annoying headache worse. He shook his head to clear the cobwebs and rolled the window down. It was a warm night, but he hoped the rush of air would stimulate his senses. A few miles down the road his eyes slowly closed. His exhaustion caught up with him at once, and he slumped toward the wheel, sound asleep.

Like a faithful steed, the Ram stayed its course for almost a half mile before the front wheels veered toward the shoulder. The truck headed up an embankment, and flipped over into a small gully below. Flipping over, it came to rest on the driver’s side, pinning Walker’s leg between the steering wheel and the torn body of the truck. Blood dripped from a deep gash in the leg as the semi-conscious Texas Ranger moaned in pain. The embankment effectively hid the Ram from the road, and while he lay there bleeding and in pain, it occurred to his injured mind that no one would find him there for a long time.

Riiiiiiing! Riiiiiiiiiiiiing! The sound finally broke through Trivette’s sleep- filled head. He rolled over and picked up the phone, clumsily dropping it to the floor. As he was trying to pull it back to his ear he could hear Alex’s voice.

“Jimmy? Jimmy, are you there?” She sounded upset.

“Alex?” Jimmy responded. “What….where….?” He looked at his watch. It was only four a.m. Why was she calling him at this hour?

“Jimmy,” He could hear the strain in her voice. “Walker hasn’t come home yet. It’s not like him to be so late and not call. When did you last see him?”

Shit! Trivette was instantly worried. He’d left Walker hours before. The man should be home and asleep for hours by now. Something was definitely wrong.

Careful not to let his concern show in his voice, he replied. “It was a while ago Alex. He said he was going home. He should have been home by now.”

“Oh, God, Jimmy. What now?”

“Alex, maybe he broke down. We’ve put a lot of miles on the truck lately. Maybe it had a flat or something?”

“Walker babies that truck Jimmy. Mr. Goodwrench doesn’t keep his vehicle in as good of shape. No, something is wrong.”

Trivette was already getting dressed. “Alex, let me get some of the guys on this. We’ll cover the road Walker would take to get home. You stay there in case he shows up.” Wanting to comfort her, he added, “And when he does show up, tell him he owes me bigtime for his wife waking me up at four a.m.!”

Somewhat comforted, Alex thanked him and hung up. She swallowed hard, trying to get rid of the awful metallic taste in her mouth. Her stomach twisted almost painfully, and she couldn’t rid herself of the feeling that something very bad had happened to her husband. She began to turn on every light in the house, subconsciously creating a beacon of light to show him the way home.

Laying helplessly pinned in the truck, Walker drifted in and out of consciousness. He vaguely thought about trying to push on the horn or flash the lights, but each time he tried to move the pain was excruciating. The leg was bleeding, and the loss of blood made him even more lightheaded. Just before dawn, he sighed heavily and succumbed to the blessed darkness his body craved. Cars began to pass the scene of the accident, but nothing there indicated that Walker or his truck was there. The embankment concealed them perfectly. The heat of the day began to raise the temperature. With no water, Walker fast became dehydrated. His leg stopped bleeding, but the hot, humid air became a breeding ground for bacteria in the open wound. He needed to be found, and soon.

Alex was fast becoming frantic. She told herself that she could handle any situation. That she was a secure, professional woman, not given to panicking in a crisis. But, when push came to shove, she knew she leaned on Walker a lot. And the thought of losing him made her shiver with dread and sorrow. Trivette and a myriad of other Rangers had scoured the road from where Jimmy had last seen Walker to the ranch. Alex was almost in tears when she recalled how each Ranger had tried to comfort her, and how hard all of them were working to find her husband - their colleague and friend.

It was 1 a.m. The group had searched all day, and into the night, and not found a trace of Walker or the Ram. “Alex, you have to get some sleep.” Trivette lead her to the couch. “I promise to wake you up if we hear anything.” Alex wanted to complain, but she knew it didn’t matter. Right now a little relief from the gut-wrenching worry that had gripped her very soul would be welcome. She lay down on the couch and promptly fell asleep.

Walker woke fitfully the second night. He moaned and tried to find something to cover his freezing body. A high fever from the infected leg raced through his system, and he couldn’t think straight. Finally, his protesting body gave in to sleep. He muttered Alex’s name in his tormented dreams.

The sun was just rising above the horizon when Alex woke with a start. In her dream she had heard Walker’s voice, calling her name. She flinched inwardly as she recalled how much pain and desperation she had heard in his tone. Jimmy had noticed her sitting up, and he came in to the living room extending a hand with a cup of steaming coffee in it. He hadn’t slept at all, and it showed on his worried face.

Alex took the cup and gratefully sipped it, careful not to burn her lips.

“Nothing yet?” Her voice clearly a statement rather than a question. She had known Jimmy long enough to recognize his body language. The way his shoulders slumped told her that there was no news of her husband.

“No, we’ve been over that road dozens of times. I’m beginning to think that someone might have kidnapped him, Alex.”

Alex shook her head. “He’s out there, Jimmy. Don’t ask me why, but I know it. He’s out there, and he needs help.” She looked distractedly at the muddy coffee swirling in her cup. Then down at her feet, which were missing shoes.

“Where are my shoes?”

Jimmy smiled in embarrassment. “I took them off last night. I…uh…wanted to make you more comfortable. They should be on the floor somewhere….”

Alex smiled back at her friend, acknowledging his thoughtfulness, and reminded once again of how lucky she was to have friends like him. They looked on the floor, but didn’t see the shoes. Finally, Jimmy moved a pillow that had fallen off the couch. There sat the shoes.

“In plain sight, except for that pillow.” Alex joked. Then a look of understanding dawned across her face.

“What?” Jimmy asked.

“In plain sight!” Alex nearly shouted. “Jimmy, is there a place along the road that Walker’s truck may be hidden behind? Maybe he’s been right there all this time, but we just couldn’t see him!”

Trivette was on his feet in an instant. He reached for the phone and called one of the other Rangers that was helping with the search. “Ted, this is Jimmy. I want you to get everyone available back out on the road. This time I want you to cover it on foot. Look for any spots where Walker’s truck could have run off the road, and be hidden by something. You’re looking for ravines, embankments, heavy brush, and so on. Got it?” He listened for a second, and then hung up. Alex had come over to stand next to him.

“Jimmy, I need to be in on this too.”

“Get changed if you want, I’ll just clear up down here.” He took her by the shoulders and gazed into her troubled face. “We’re gonna find him, Alex.” His brown eyes searched hers for that little trace of hope that would tell him she was okay.

“Give me five minutes!” Alex started to go upstairs, but stopped and turned back around. “Jimmy,” She smiled uncertainly. “I can’t tell you how much your being here….”

“Move it Counselor!” Jimmy barked at her with a smile. As he watched her climb the stairs two at a time, he sighed and said a little prayer for his partner. “Hang in there, Walker. We’re coming.”

The air hung thick and hot over the dusty Ram. The sun’s rays beat down on the truck making the cramped space inside unbearably hot. Walker was breathing in short gasps, his trembling body alternating between shivering and profuse sweating. The leg felt almost numb now. He knew he couldn’t last much longer. A small tear edged its way into the corner of his eye as he thought of Alex. He longed to see her, feel her gentle touch against his aching head at least one more time. He felt in his heart that he would die trapped in this place, never to see her again. Sobs racked his body for a few minutes until he once again drifted into oblivion.

Alex and Trivette were going down the nearly empty highway very slowly, flashers on, their eyes glued to the side of the road, looking for some clue to indicate the Ram may have run off the road. Suddenly Alex sat up. Her body stiffened, and her hand automatically reached for Jimmy’s arm.

“Stop the car!” Trivette pulled the car off the road and stopped. Alex jumped from the passenger seat, and began running back the way they had come. He had to move it to catch up to her. Abruptly, she stopped and pointed to the top of an embankment. Following her gaze, Jimmy could see what looked like a small tree, bent and broken. The light- colored cast to the inside of the broken branch told him it had been broken recently. How Alex had seen this from the road mystified him, but he lost no time as he began to climb the embankment, Alex following him closely. They cleared the top together and stood peering into the shallow ravine below. A small cry escaped Alex when they saw the battered Ram lying on its side. She began running down the slope as fast as she could.

“Be careful!” Trivette called after her. He quickly flipped out his cell phone and called for ambulance and emergency services. Something told him that if Walker was still alive, he must be trapped in that wreckage. Then, not wanting Alex to be alone when she looked in that truck, he began hurriedly descending the slope.

They both arrived next to the wreck together. Trivette could see Walker lying against the driver side, motionless. Alex climbing into the cab from the bed of the truck. She reached over the seat and instinctively felt at her husband’s neck for a pulse. She sobbed aloud when she felt the weak, but noticeable movement.

“He’s alive!” She called back to Trivette.

“How bad is it?”

“Bad.” The one word was enough to make his blood run cold. Jimmy got close and peered in at his partner.

“Can we get him out of here?” Alex asked.

“No, it’s best not to move him.” Jimmy replied. “The rescue equipment should be here in a few minutes.”

Alex climbed further into the cab and gently slid in next to Walker. She carefully began to look him over, trying to determine the extent of his injuries. He moaned slightly, and his eyes fluttered open.

“It’s me, Cowboy.” She smoothed the matted hair from his forehead. Walker eyes remained open, but not focused. He shifted his body slightly and grimaced as pain shot through his injured leg. Alex’s eyes were drawn to the leg, and she gasped when she saw the open, obviously infected wound.

“Jimmy, it’s his leg.” She called back to the other Ranger. “He’s got it trapped, and it looks really bad.”

Trivette nodded. “I’m gonna get back up top, Alex. I want to catch the emergency crew as soon as they arrive. Will you be all right?”

“Fine.” Alex replied. While she waited, she said a silent prayer for her husband. Her hands automatically smoothing his hair and touching his hot forehead. Walker’s eyes closed, and his soft sigh gave her cause to believe that he at least knew she was there.

The emergency crews arrived shortly. They used the Jaws of Life to extricate Walker’s trapped leg, and put him on a stretcher. Alex watched from a distance, not wanting to get in their way. As they were loading him on the Medi-Vac chopper, she caught the paramedic by the arm. He knew her question before she even asked.

“He’s got a good chance, Ma’am.” Then he helped her into the extra seat and they lifted off. Trivette watched from the ground until they were airborne. Then he climbed into the Mustang. Turning onto the road, he reached for and turned on the siren and blue light. If this wasn’t an emergency, he didn’t know what was.

His mind went to the accident as he drove. There were no skid marks where the truck had left the road. The brakes had not been applied, leading him to the conclusion that Walker had probably fallen asleep at the wheel. He silently cursed himself for not riding home with him, for not stopping his friend when he knew he was so tired. This was his responsibility. His fault. He didn’t know how he could ever face his partner again.

Alex was pacing the hospital hallway when Jimmy got there. She looked tense and about ready to cry. Sitting on a nearby bench was their old friend C.D. Trivette didn’t know C.D. was in town, and was grateful to see him.

“C.D.! Glad you’re here.”
“Alex took a chance and called. I happened to have just got in from Australia.” The former Ranger shook his head. “I had a feeling, you know?” He said. “I just needed to come home.” He rose and gathered the unprotesting Alex into his bear arms. She was the daughter he’d never had, and he loved her just as much. Seeing her in such pain tore at his own heart. Alex laid her head on his shoulder, and the three friends took a silent moment to just be together, pooling their strength for whatever would come next.

Next came too soon. A doctor came out of Walker’s treatment room and strode toward them. “Mrs. Walker?”

Alex nodded.

“I need to discuss your husband’s condition. Would you like to speak with me alone?” He asked glancing at the other two men.

“We’re all his family, doctor.” Alex said. “Whatever you have to say, you can say to all of us.” The doctor nodded and they sat down in a nearby lounge.

“Your husband’s leg, between the knee and ankle was crushed in the accident. The open wound became extremely infected, and that is what we are dealing with. He has a high fever, and is suffering from dehydration, but the leg is the main problem.” He paused, looked directly at Alex, and continued.

“We have two choices on how to proceed at this point. The first one is what I would recommend, and that is to amputate the leg just below the knee. That will remove the major site of the infection, and help him to recover much more easily. It is his best chance.”

“You want to cut off his leg?” C.D. demanded angrily. The doctor kept his eyes on Alex as he responded.

“The leg is infected, and one of the major bones is crushed. We can try to replace the bone, and maybe he will regain use of the leg, and maybe not. Either way, the infection is our main problem right now.” He looked at the three of them. “Severe infection causes a huge strain on the entire body, especially the heart. I know my patient is in excellent physical condition, but he is not a young man. It could be too much for him. I strongly recommend the amputation.”

Alex was dazed and in shock. Amputation of Walker’s leg meant so much more than just him having to learn how to walk with prosthesis. It meant the end of his career as a Texas Ranger! How could she make that choice for him?

“Can I talk to him doctor?” She asked. Shaking his head, the doctor indicated that Walker was heavily sedated. He looked very uncomfortable for a moment, and then cleared his throat.

“Mrs. Walker, I hate to rush an important decision like this. I….know it must be very difficult for you. But, the fact is, we have to know very soon. It is important that we move quickly to either repair the leg, or amputate. His life depends on it.”

Alex caught the doctor’s attention with a determined shake of her head. “What are his chances if you try to repair the leg?”

“Honey….” C.D. began, but Alex held her hand up to quiet him.

“I need to know, C.D.” She said firmly.

The doctor shrugged, obviously not happy that she wanted to pursue this line. “Not nearly as good. The infection may be into the bone in which case he’ll lose his leg anyway. Or, like I said, his heart could not be strong enough to pull through the massive infection.” He looked at her and stood up. “I’ll give you some time. Please let the nurse know as soon as possible.”

“I want to see him.” Alex said immediately.

“Of course,” He pointed to a nearby nurses station. “Just ask them when you are ready. Please remember that his life is in your hands now.” With that parting shot, he rose and walked stiffly down the hall, obviously upset that she hadn’t immediately gone along with his recommendation.

Jimmy turned and peered curiously at Alex. He was confused also as to what her reluctance to give permission for the operation was. Walker’s life was more important than his leg, or his career if that was what she was worried about.

“Hey, Alex, why wait on this?” He asked gently. “Walker could die if the docs don’t get that infection under control. I think the amputation is his best choice.”

Alex looked at her concerned friends. She knew Jimmy was right, yet something was holding her back. Some feeling, like a nagging pain was creeping into her heart. Why not just say go ahead? Wouldn’t that ensure that her beloved husband would recover? What was wrong with that? She found herself getting angry with her friends for some reason.

“His choice?” She asked. “It seems that it’s my choice now, Jimmy.”

“So make it, Alex.” Jimmy shook his head. “We’ll be here for you. For both of you.”

“It is his best chance, honey. The doctor said he could lose his leg anyway if they don’t stop the infection.” C.D. commented softly, draping his arm around her shoulders.

Alex suddenly pulled away from him. She took a few steps and wheeled on them, her cheeks red with anger.

“That would be the easy choice, wouldn’t it?” She demanded. “I love him more than life itself – you know that. But, I have to make this decision based on what is best for him. Not on my selfish need to have him with me, and not on guilt over his accident.” She looked at Jimmy, instantly sorry that her words had cut him to the quick. Tears began to stream down her face, and her lips trembled.

“I have to do what’s best for him….” She almost pleaded at her two friends before turning and walking to the nurse’s station. The nurse immediately came around the counter and took her arm, leading her into her husband’s room. Jimmy and C.D. stood in shocked silence for several minutes before finally returning to their chairs. Each was lost in their own thoughts, questioning them, wondering at their own motives.

Even though she knew he was asleep, Alex still tiptoed into the hospital room. Walker lay on his back, tubes entering his arm, and she could tell his leg was heavily bandaged. A nurse was in the background checking monitor screens. Alex moved close to the bed. She reached out and gently stroked her husband’s bearded cheek, noticing how hot he still felt, and how pale he was.

“Oh, Walker!” she choked back a sob. “What am I gonna do?” All of what he did, all of what he was seemed to drop heavily down upon her shoulders. She took his hand and held it against her face, wishing that somehow he could communicate his wishes to her. For the first time in their young marriage, she knew that the responsibility rested solely on her. As she looked into his sleeping face, she flashed back to another time, another place.

Walker had climbed into a car to save a little girl. He had managed to get the child out. Then, as Alex watched in horror, the car had pitched backward off the bridge and plunged to the embankment below. The firefighters were afraid that the car was going to explode, but Alex would not let them leave until they had pulled Walker from the car. She made sure that he received the best medical care, and eventually he recovered. They had talked about the incident afterwards. Walker had told her how much his trust in her was. How much he knew she would do what was best for him, no matter what.

Her husband stirred on the bed. She bent down to kiss him softly. “Hang on Baby.” She whispered into his ear. She wasn’t certain, but it felt like he squeezed her hand. She remembered the time she had made him take her with him to find the wreck of an old plane up in Utah. They found a lot more than the plane on that trip. A huge grizzly had attacked Walker, and left him wounded. Alex had bandaged his wounds and kept him warm overnight. Together they had made it down off that mountain.

She glanced down at his face. Her fingertips brushed over a tiny scar on the side of his mouth. She recalled those terrible few days the Trammel brothers had held her captive. Walker had tracked them relentlessly. When he had finally cornered the biggest, meanest brother, Walker had fought him man to man and won. The ordeal was etched in her mind especially because of the connection she had felt to Walker. It was the sure knowledge that he somehow knew when she was in trouble and hurting. And, she discovered the same ability within herself. That’s what she needed now, she suddenly realized. He was hurt, and he needed her to help him. But, what choice would he make for himself?

One final memory rose up clearly in her mind. Walker preparing to confront a stalker, alone as usual. She had tried to stop him. Told him his pride was not worth dying over. But, Walker had stopped her. He told her it wasn’t pride, it was commitment. How could he hold his head up, if he ran away from everything his life had stood for? His calm courage had both frightened her and filled her with profound respect. He did what was right, not what was easy. He never gave up.

A movement caught her eye. Walker was moving restlessly in his sleep. Amazingly, he raised the injured leg and moved it back and forth. Alex held her breath for moment as she watched the movement.

She smiled, and stood up, holding his hand tightly. “Okay, Cowboy.” She said. “I get the message. You want to fight!” She kissed him and left the room to find a doctor.

Out in the hall Alex hurried to tell the doctor of her decision. The doctor frowned, but said he respected her wishes, and they would get the best orthopedic surgeon on the case. He immediately began procedures for the surgery, and had Alex sign several forms. She was just finishing up when she spotted her two best friends sheepishly peering at her from the lounge.

Striding quickly down the hall, she took a deep breath, and then spoke.

“Jimmy, C.D., sit down. We need to talk.” Alex let everyone get comfortable before she continued. “I know that you want Walker alive and well at all costs, but the fact is, that’s not what he would want. My husband is a courageous fighter, you all know that. He loves life, but it has to be on his own terms. If there were no chance to save his leg, it would be different. But, as long as there is, I have to give him the chance to fight for it.” She looked at their downturned faces, and added, “I hope you can support me in this, but if you can’t……I…….I’ll understand.”

She gently touched Jimmy’s hand. “I’m sorry, Jimmy. I never meant to say something so hurtful….it just came out.”

Trivette raised his deep brown eyes and looked at the woman he treasured like a sister. His eyes misted a little as he patted her hand.

“I’m sorry, too, Alex.” He said. “I think maybe I was being selfish. I hold myself responsible for not stopping him from driving home when he was so tired.”

“That wasn’t your fault.” Alex replied. “Walker knew the risk, and sometimes he thinks he’s superman. We all know that’s probably his own worst fault.”

C.D. finally piped up. “He ought to be dressed in tights with a big silver star on the chest. Can’t you just picture that?” The three friends laughed out loud at the thought of the macho Texas Ranger in tights.

Their lighter mood was shattered when a nurse appeared. She smiled and asked them if they would like to see Walker before his surgery. They exchanged sober looks and followed her.

Since the nurse made them go one at a time, Alex motioned for C.D. to go into the room first. He slowly moved over to the bed and picked up Walker’s hand. He grinned when he thought about how he was probably the only man that Walker would allow this simple act with. And, definitely not in public!

His eyes wandered over the still form of his former partner. Lying under the white sheets, he looked much smaller, and vulnerable. C.D. swallowed the lump in his throat. “You fight ‘em, Cordell. There’s never been a time that you went down without swinging. So, this is your chance.” He glanced into the hallway and saw Alex and Jimmy. “I gotta go now, son. Jimmy wants to see you. You save your strength, and I’ll be filling that empty belly of yours up with some home-made chili in no time!”

Jimmy looked up as C.D. walked out of the room. The tears in his eyes did not go unnoticed, and Jimmy laid a comforting hand on his shoulder as the two men passed.

Trivette wasn’t ready for the rush of guilt he felt when he walked in the room and saw his helpless partner. “Oh, God, Walker. If I could take back that night…” He started to say, but quickly realized that spending time on regrets was not a part of Walker’s life. Somehow, just standing here, Jimmy felt that this man would no longer blame him for the accident, than he would blame himself. It had happened, time to move on. Trivette smiled, “Okay then, Superman, what say we get this operation on a roll. I expect you to take at least six weeks off afterwards too!” He patted his friend’s chest, and walked out, eager to be supportive of his friend’s wife. A role he knew Walker would expect of him.

Alex moved over to the bed as the technicians were unhooking things to move him down to surgery. She placed her hands gently alongside his face, and bent to softly kiss his lips. Surprisingly, his eyes opened and for a moment he recognized her. “Alex…” Her name sounded strange coming from his hoarse throat.

“Shhh, Cowboy.” She was so happy that he recognized her, even for a moment. He tried a little grin, failed, and coughed a few times. The nurse came over and smiled at Alex.

“It’s time.” She said simply. Alex bent to kiss her husband once more, and whispered “I love you!” Then she went into the hall. Her shoulders slumped when she saw her friends and she gratefully accepted a hug from Jimmy, hiding her head on his shoulder while the nurses wheeled her husband past them to surgery.

“Honey, you look beat.” C.D. commented. “Why don’t you go home and change and get a bite to eat? This surgery is bound to last awhile. Jimmy and I’ll be here.”

Jimmy was quick to correct him. “No, Big Dog, I want to be here. I promised Walker I’d take care of his woman. Where Alex goes, I go!” He grinned widely at them both.

Alex looked at Jimmy, bemused. “I do need to go change real quick.” She agreed. “But, I tell you what, Jimmy. If Walker is going around calling me “his woman”, he may just want to stay in surgery!” She grabbed her purse and the two of them left, leaving Big Dog to keep watch over their friend.

Twenty minutes later the three friends were back together in the waiting room. They made small talk, dozed, and listened to C.D.’s stories for what seemed like forever. Several hours later, a tired-looking surgeon came in.

“Mrs. Walker?” When Alex nodded, he smiled broadly. “I’ve got some really great news. Your husband’s leg was not quite as bad as we thought. I have repaired the damage, and barring complications, it should be as strong, if not stronger than ever.”

Alex felt her knees go a little weak, but she smiled and thanked the doctor. “What about the infection?” she added.

“The infection is bad, but it wasn’t into the bone. He’s going to have a rough couple of days, and I will warn you that he is not completely out of the woods yet. But, he is in excellent condition, and I think we can pull him through.”

“Can I see him now?”

“Sure, follow me.”

They followed the doctor to Walker’s room, and after assuring him that they wouldn’t stay long, they slipped quietly in. Walker lay still under the white sheets. Alex gripped C.D.’s arm hard when she saw that his face was almost as white as the sheets. They got near the bed, and Jimmy carefully placed a chair near the head of the bed for Alex to sit on. She gratefully sank into it. Gently brushing her husband’s hair from his forehead, she was happy to see him open his eyes.

At first Walker panicked, not knowing where he was. His arms came up, and he tried to sit up. C.D. and Jimmy quickly moved to hold him firmly, while Alex quietly spoke to him, telling him where he was, and why. He swallowed, and in a raspy voice asked for some water. Checking with the nurse, who nodded approval, C.D. filled a cup and put a straw into it. Alex carefully held the cup for Walker, who drank it down immediately. Jimmy winced a little when he thought of how long his partner had lain trapped in the Ram with nothing to drink.

“That’s a real good sign.” The nurse said as she patted Alex on the back. “You give him as much as he wants to drink.”

Alex smiled. “He will love getting waited on like this.” Walker grinned slightly. His friends all smiled broadly when they realized their favorite Ranger still had his sense of humor. Things were right in the world again, at least until the next crisis!

 

EPILOGUE:

Walker and Alex cuddled on the porch swing, his leg still encased in plaster from the accident. She watched as he stared off into the evening sky, not really seeming to focus on anything. Her hand closed over his.

“Whatcha thinking about?” She asked. His gray eyes swung around to capture hers.

“I get this cast off tomorrow.”

“Good! You’ll be able to itch it yourself – that coat hanger routine is getting old!” Alex giggled.

“Alex,” Walker said somberly. “Do you think I’ll still be able to….you know?”

Alex’s eyebrows went up. “I thought we answered that question last night?”

Walker grinned and dipped his head in that little boy shrug that had long ago captured Alex’s heart. “I meant,” he said trying to look firm, “do you think I’ll be able to practice my martial arts….to still be a ….Ranger…” The last word was almost whispered.

Alex reached over and turned his head toward hers. She looked deep into his eyes, and answered his question without hesitation.

“You are, and will always be a Ranger. In every sense of the meaning of that word. No one, no act of fate, no accident, will ever take that away from you. And whatever happens when they take that cast off, I will be there to remind you of that.” She leaned forward and kissed him firmly.

“You know me pretty well.” Walker smiled at her. He reached over and pulled her into his arms. And as the sun set on another warm Texas night, there were two becoming one. In heart, in soul, in body.