To Love Again

 

by leigh (and Gail)

 

             The other car came out of nowhere. There was no time to think, no time to react. A screech of tires, a sickening crunching of metal and a terrible, blinding jolt of pain as her head slammed first forward, stopped by the air bag, and then sideways, to shatter the glass on the drivers side door. It was over in an instant, and the car sat, a tangled mess of metal in the middle of the intersection. It's driver unconscious and trapped inside as the smell of spilled gasoline and smoke began to fill the air.

             People rushed up around the wreck, "Hurry! There's a woman in there, and I smell smoke! We've got to get her out!" someone yelled.

             Several men, pushing aside their own fears, managed to wrench open the passenger side door. Fire could be seen under the hood of the car, but one man dove inside anyway. He struggled desperately with the seat belt as smoke began to fill the car and the heat from the fire came closer and closer, finally the clasp came free in his hands. He heard someone outside screaming that the car was going to explode, heard the others begin to back away. With no time for care or gentleness, no time to worry about what injuries the woman in his arms might have suffered in the accident, he grabbed her around her waist and pulled with all his might, succeeding in freeing her from the twisted metal around her. He fell backwards out of the car with the woman on top of him. Faint sirens could be heard approaching.

             "Help me! Somebody, help me get her away from here before it blows!" he shouted.

Hands reached them through the smoke and pulled them clear at last. Lifting the woman into his arms as he rose to his feet, he ran, diving into the shelter behind a parked car only a second before what had been the woman's car exploded in a ball of flame and smoke. Only then did he set her gently on the ground, still holding onto her head and shoulders. Blood covered one side of her face, but she still breathed.

The sirens that had been heard finally arrived, police began clearing the scene. A fire truck arrived to deal with the burning car and someone indicated where the man sat, still holding the unconscious woman in his arms, waiting for help, not daring to move her again. The med-techs from the ambulance that had just arrived rushed over.     

                "What's her name?" One of them queried the man.

                "I don't know, she was unconscious in the car, we just barely got her out." he gasped, with the adrenaline rush that had helped him get her out subsiding, he was beginning to feel the delayed reaction to what had just happened. "Is she gonna be okay? There wasn't time to be careful. I hope she isn't hurt any worse."

"She's alive, Mister, that's more than she would have been if you hadn't got her out of that car."

As the med-techs carefully moved the woman to level ground and began evaluating her condition, a police officer approached the small group to gather information about the accident for his report. As his gaze fell on the injured woman in their midst he stopped short.

"Holy shit! Do you know who you've got there?" he breathed, "That's ADA Cahill! How bad is she?"

"Don't know yet," one of the med-techs responded briskly as he continued working, "she's got a pretty nasty head injury here, hard telling what else, we have to get her off to the hospital, pronto. If you know who she is, you'd better find out who needs to be told about this."

But the man was already heading for his vehicle and his radio. If there was one thing practically every officer in the Dallas Metroplex knew, it was that where ADA Cahill was concerned the one to call was Ranger Walker.

 

Walker took the call at his desk, standing sharply as he listened to the voice on the other end of the line. Trivette, startled to see the reaction in his partner, rose from his own desk and took a place at Walker's side.

"What happened?" Walker queried. "Yeah, I understand that you don't have much to tell me yet. Thanks. I appreciate the call; I'll take care of the others."

"What's going on, Pard?" Trivette asked, concerned by the strange look on Walker's face as his partner dropped the handset into its cradle.

"It's Alex. She's been in a bad accident and they're taking her to County. We have to get over there. Better call C.D. and tell him to meet us . . . ahh . . . I'll call Gordon and then let them know in her office what's happened." Walker's flat and emotionless tone was matched by the almost nonexistent expression on his face.

Trivette dropped his hand onto his partner's arm, "She'll be fine, probably just some bumps and bruises," he said quietly.

Walker snapped out of his daze at the touch, "Yeah . . . yeah. . ." he shook his head slightly, "Just call C.D., okay?" Then Walker reached for his own phone and dialed the number that would put him in touch with Alex's father. The officer who had phoned had only been able to say head injuries, that could be bad, or be nothing. Either way, he had to let Gordon know.

Perhaps fifteen minutes later, phone calls made, Walker and Trivette arrived at the hospital to be met by C.D.

"Hey, C.D.," Trivette greeted him, "what's the word?"

"No word, Jimmy, not yet. But it don't look rushed or hurried the way they're moving around in there, so I'd say things must be going okay so far, leastways I hope so..." C.D. replied with a sideways glance at Walker, wondering what his friend must be thinking now, and hoping his words would bring some degree of comfort. "C'mon this way, a nurse said we could wait in here," he indicated a vacant conference room, "and that as soon as the doc could get away, he'd come and let us know what was going on."

The three friends filed into the room, unable to do anything but wait for now. A short time later Pete Jackson, one of the DPD officers who had responded to the scene, stuck his head through the door.

"Ranger Walker?"

Walker stood. He recognized Jackson, although they had only actually worked on the same incidents once or twice and had never been introduced.

"What can I do for you, Officer Jackson?" he answered quietly.

Jackson was more than a little surprised that Walker knew his name, but he knew now was not the time to pursue the matter, "I was wondering how Miss Cahill was doing? I was out at the site earlier."

"We don't know yet, Jackson, we're waiting to hear from the doctor. Did you ride in with Alex?"

"Oh, no, I came in just now to get a statement from a man who'd also been slightly injured, a Mark Collins. He had some minor smoke inhalation and some blistering on his hands that the med-techs wanted to have looked at, just to be safe."

C.D. interrupted, "Was this Mark Collins in the other car, Jackson?"

"No, the other driver was a drunk, he got out without a scratch. No, Collins was a bystander, but he was the one who got Miss Cahill out of her car. Just in time, too, from the reports of the other witnesses. They said her car was burning and Collins got her out just before it blew. I guess he was still in some kind of shock from the whole thing at the scene, all he could do was apologize, kept hoping he hadn't hurt her any worse getting her out of the wreck."

"Is he still here?" Walker inquired next.

"No, he just left, he's gonna be fine and he called his sister to come pick him up so he could get on home."

"Think you could give me his address? I'd like to meet him."

"Sure Ranger Walker, no problem." Jackson took out his note pad and flipped a few pages, stopping to study one he then turned to a clean page and wrote on it quickly, "Here you go, he'd probably be glad to see you. In here he kept asking if Miss Cahill was going to be okay too. Most likely he'd be happy if someone stopped by and could tell him how everything works out."

Walker took the slip of paper, "Thanks, Jackson, I appreciate it."

"Like I said, no problem. I have to get back on duty, but when you get to see Miss Cahill, you tell her everyone down at the Twenty-third is thinking of her and we hope she's up and around real soon. Bye, now."

Walker took his seat again as Jackson left the room, only to rise again almost immediately along with Trivette and C.D. as a tall, robust man of perhaps sixty with salt and pepper hair entered. Doctor Blake was no stranger to the group and all three were relieved that the head of emergency services was taking a personal interest in Alex's care.

"Walker. I thought I told you and Alex to stay out of the ER on my watch from now on!" he chided gently, stretching his arm out and shaking Walker's hand firmly.

"Sorry, Doc, sure wasn't my idea." Walker found himself relaxing slightly. Doctor Blake was smiling, and he took that as a good sign.

Trivette broke in, "How's Alex, Doc? She gonna be okay?"

Doctor Blake nodded, "She's in remarkably good shape for a woman who's been involved in that kind of accident. Her seat belt and the air bag saved her from some really serious internal injuries, she just has some slight bruising across her chest and shoulder. She also has some minor blistering on her arms and legs from the heat of the fire in the car and she swallowed some smoke. Oh, and she did take a pretty good blow to her head, and was still unconscious when they brought her in. But there's no evidence of any physical damage thus far. She's alert and talking now."

"Thank the Lord that little gal is gonna be okay." C.D. commented quietly, patting Walker's arm reassuringly

"When can we see her, Doc?" Walker queried.

"We're moving her upstairs to an observation room shortly, and you can visit with her as soon as they have her settled. But, there is something more that you need to know." Doctor Blake began, with a strange look at Walker, a look that made Walker's stomach tighten once more. "As I was saying, there's no evidence of physical damage from the head trauma, but there is an aftereffect, and we're not sure how long it will persist. It could clear up in a few hours, or it could be permanent. There's simply no way to predict these things, we just don't know enough about how the human brain works."

"Doc," C.D. interrupted him, "what are you dancing around here? Is Alex gonna be okay, or not?"

"Alex is going to be fine, but you have to be prepared, she's suffering from amnesia."

"She doesn't remember who she is?" Trivette asked slowly.

"She knows who she is. Amnesia can take many forms, Trivette. This particular type is called Retrograde Amnesia, basically what that means is that she has lost her memories for a period of time up to the incident that caused the trauma, and that period of time varies from patient to patient. Some lose their entire jives, some only a day or two. In Alex's case, it's somewhere in the middle, as nearly as we have been able to ascertain, her memories stop approximately eight years ago."

"Eight years!" C.D. cried. "Doc, how can a person just lose eight years?"

Doctor Blake shook his head, "We don't know, C.D. We just don't know enough about the human brain."

Walker had been standing silently, but now he spoke at last, "Doc? Will Alex's memory come back? Will she remember us, if she sees us?"

"It's possible, Walker. Sometimes the memory can be restored with familiar sights and sounds and faces. But it's equally possible that won't happen. And it could happen very slowly over a period of time, come rushing back all at once, or never return at all."

"So, what do we do? How can we help her?"

"I'd definitely like for you to see her, but I'm going to have to ask you to play it very carefully. If she doesn't remember, you shouldn't push it, let things progress at their own pace and see where it leads." Doctor Blake responded, "It's going to be hard, especially for you, Walker, if she doesn't know you. But I can't stress enough how important it is not to force her to remember. If she struggles with it instead of letting things go naturally, it could do more harm than good."

Walker nodded slowly, a tight look on his face, "We'll be careful, Doc. If Alex doesn't remember, is it okay if we tell her that we're friends? That we work with her?"

"Yes, of course, she'll know that you are friends of some sort anyway."

"Doc," Trivette added, "eight years is a long time. How much can we tell her when she starts asking questions about things, about her job and about her life?"

"Answer her honestly, but only what she asks, don't volunteer any extra information at this point. Questions about her personal life will be more difficult and you'll simply have to play it by ear. I'm sorry, I wish I could give you better answers, but we simply don't have any." Doctor Blake put his hand on Walker's arm with a kind look. "I wish I could make this easier. I'll have someone let you know as soon as she's ready to receive visitors."

Walker looked at him gratefully, "Thanks, Doc, we appreciate everything you're doing, and the honest answers too."

After the doctor left the room once more, Walker sank slowly into the chair he had risen from such a short time before and blew out a long breath. "Eight years. Before we even met." He looked at C.D. with troubled eyes, "She won't even know who we are."

"She'll remember, Cordell, don't you worry. Might take a little time, but she'll come around and remember everything, you'll see." C.D. tried to comfort his friend.

A little over an hour later a nurse arrived to show them which room Alex had been admitted to, and the three friends stood outside her door for a moment before going in.

"Listen," Trivette began, "Walker, why don't you go on in first? Take a little time alone before C.D. and I come in?"

Walker shook his head, "No, Trivette, unless Alex remembers, all she's going to know is that we're her friends and that we work together. If I go in alone, she may think there's something more."

C.D. put his hand on Walker's shoulder, "And would that be such a terrible thing?

knows that the two of you are more than friends? C'mon Cordell, think about  this."

"I am thinking about it, C.D.. The woman in that room right now is Alex, but she's not my Alex, and I'm not gonna force her to be something she's not. Come on, let's go see how she's doing."

C.D. looked doubtful, but at Walker's urging he tapped lightly on the door and the three went inside. Alex was sitting up in the hospital bed, a bandage covering a portion of her forehead and her left eye was blackened. When Trivette, C.D. and Walker came in she looked up expectantly.

"Hello. .

CD approached her first, moving to the side of her bed he reached down and patted her hand, "How ya doin' Alex, darlin'? I sure am glad to see you sitting up."

Alex smiled at him, "I guess I'm okay for someone who's been in a car accident. That's what they told me happened anyway." She paused for a moment then finally added, "Do I know you very well?"

C.D. thought his heart might break at the question, but looked at her gently, "Yeah, honey, we've been friends for a fair number of years now. I'm C.D... C.D. Parker. I'm sure it'll come back to you soon enough, don't you worry. How about these boys here, either one of them look familiar to you at all?" gesturing toward the two at the other side of the bed.

Alex studied both of them quizzically, staring longest at Walker, but then said slowly, "No. I’m sorry.

"Well, that's okay too. This here's Cordell Walker," C.D. said as he indicated Walker first, "and over there next to him is his partner, Jimmy Trivette."

The two men gave her reassuring smiles as Alex studied them again, "You're Rangers, right?" she said, indicating their badges and guns. "So do we work together? Or am I not working in the District Attorney's office anymore?"

"That's right, Alex," Walker finally spoke, "You're still an ADA. We work together quite a lot, actually, and we've become good friends. Trivette and I sure were worried when we heard you'd been in an accident, so we came right over to make sure you were going to be alright."

She sighed deeply, "I wish I could remember. It's so frustrating! There hasn't been anyone that I recognize at all. Has my life changed that much?" For a moment, Alex's eyes began to fill, then she pulled herself back together, almost whispering, "Eight years. It's such a long time. What will I do? If I don't remember I won't even be able to work, eight years of case law is too much to lose! I'll never catch up!"

Trivette took her hand, squeezing it comfortingly, "You'll catch up again, Counselor, don't worry. You're one of the best. Even if you don't ever remember the last few years, nothing will keep you out of that courtroom for too long!"

Alex looked at him gratefully, "Thanks for the vote of confidence, I wish I could be that sure. But I guess right now, you know me better than I do, don't you, Jimmy?" Then her brow furrowed again, "Or do I call you Trivette, like Cordell here?"

Walker and Trivette both started a little at Alex using Walker's given name, but recovered quickly.

"Well, you usually call me Jimmy," Trivette responded, "but whatever feels comfortable now is okay with me!"

"Okay," she smiled, "Jimmy it is then." Unexpectedly, she tried to stifle a yawn, "Oh, I'm sorry"

Walker grinned, "That's alright, Alex, the Doc told us you needed more rest. We've really stayed longer than we were supposed to. If it's okay, we'll stop by and see you again later?"

"I'd like that, Cordell, maybe it will help me remember something. I want my life back."

"You've got your life, Alex, and we're mighty grateful. You just rest and everything will work out. So hang in there, okay?"

The three had started to leave the room when Walker had a thought and turned back for a moment, "Alex, I called your father, he's on his way."

She looked at him strangely, "My father? We hardly see each other. He doesn't have to come anywhere, you didn't need to bother to call him."

Walker went back to her side as C.D. and Trivette left the room, "Things have changed in the last couple of years with you and Gordon." He took a deep breath, trying to figure how much he should tell her, and finally decided on this she had to know everything. "Your father quit drinking a couple of years ago, Alex. You helped him do it, gave him the strength to really want to for the first time in a long time. And the two of you have been building a new relationship, a better one than what you remember. I know it's a big change, but you and your father are different now. Give him a chance, okay?"

"You seem to know an awful lot about me and my life." Alex commented, giving him a questioning look as she studied his face once more.

"Like I said, we work together quite a bit, and we've become good friends, the four of us. When you start remembering things, you'll discover you know an awful lot about all of us, too!" Walker grinned easily, "We'll come back and see you soon. Now, you get some rest!"

She yawned again, "Okay, okay. Bye, Cordell."

"See you later, Alex."

C.D. and Trivette were waiting for him outside.

"Cordell? Everything okay?"

"It's okay, C.D. I just had to explain to her about Gordon. He'll be here soon and I didn't want her not knowing that things had changed there," Walker explained.

"Dang it, Cordell! How come it's alright to tell her about her Daddy, but not about how you two been feelin' about one another?"

Walker sighed, "Because that's her father, C.D. She has to know. But Alex and I... we don't have anything official, and if she doesn't feel that way about me now, I'm not going to make her feel like she should. Just let it go, okay?"

"Well, I don't like it. . ." C.D. muttered.

"I know, C.D., I know." Walker turned to Trivette, "Do you mind if C.D. gives you a ride back to the office?"

"Sure, pard, but where are you heading?" Trivette responded.

"I'm going to go over and see Mark Collins."

"Wouldn't you rather I came along?"

"No, it's not necessary. I'm only going to talk to him for a minute, then I'll meet you back at work." Walker turned and headed down the corridor toward the elevators.

C.D. watched him go with no small amount of concern, "I don't like this, Jimmy, I don't like it at all. Took Cordell a long time to come 'round and admit to himself how he'd been feelin' about Alex. I don't think it's gonna be all that easy for him to shut that down and act like it didn't happen."

Trivette put a hand on C.D.'s shoulder, "I don't like it either, Big Dog, but it's Walker's decision, and I guess we're going to have to go along with it. Better pass the word about what's happened though, and what Walker's decided to do."

C.D. was still shaking his head as the two of them followed the same direction Walker had taken a moment before.

 

Alex sighed deeply as she leaned back into her pillows. She was tired, and her head was splitting, but she found she couldn't close her eyes. Too many thoughts were racing through her mind. Worries about eight lost years and what she might have lost with them. So far she knew very little. Several of the doctors and nurses had appeared to know her quite well, although she didn't know why they would, she'd never been one to spend much time in hospitals, unless it was to question a witness, and she couldn't imagine what could have changed that.

Her mind wandered, sifting through the bits and pieces she had. Her friends seemed very nice, and very concerned about her. She had a definite feeling that C.D. took a very fatherly interest in her, as he probably did the two men who had accompanied him. Jimmy was sweet, had called her 'counselor', obviously a familiar nickname for her in his eyes, not the courtroom greeting. Cordell. . . He was somewhat of a mystery

Physically, he was the smaller of the two Rangers, but something in his eyes told her that he was the more powerful of the two, and it was more than just maturity. He was handsome, in a rugged outdoorsy way that she liked, and when she had looked at him she had felt her pulse jump at a spark of attraction. But it must have been only her imagination, because she'd seen no similar spark from him. Alex wondered if she'd felt this attraction to him before the accident, or if it was only seeing him with 'fresh eyes' that had made it jump out at her so.

Either way, it really didn't matter, it seemed that they were friends, and with so few familiar faces to choose from, she had no intention of embarrassing him by looking for anything more. They worked together, and they were friends, he'd repeated it more than once.

 

It only took Walker about ten minutes to get to the address that Jackson had given him for Mark Collins. When he knocked on the door it was answered by a pretty young woman of about twenty-six.

"Hello," he greeted her as he removed his Stetson, "I'm Ranger Walker and I was wondering if I could talk to Mark Collins for a few minutes?"

"Okay," she answered him, opening the door wider and gesturing Walker inside. "I'm Peggy Black. Mark's my brother, he's been staying with my husband and I for a while. He's resting up in his room, there was an accident downtown and--"

"Yes, Ma'am, I know all about that. That's what I wanted to talk to him about."

"Oh, okay. Well, let me go get him. You can wait in here." she indicated a cozy living room and Walker smiled his thanks before she turned to go up the stairs.

Walker had wandered over to the far wall and was studying the family pictures hung there when he heard someone enter the room. He turned to see a rugged man of somewhere between thirty and thirty-five, with sandy blonde hair and clear blue eyes. His hands were lightly bandaged, but he didn't indicate any discomfort as he reached out to shake Walker's hand and introduced himself.

"I'm Mark Collins, Ranger. You wanted to talk to me? About that accident this morning? I told Officer Jackson at the hospital everything I saw--"

"I know. I heard what you'd done, and I wanted to come thank you. Alex Cahill is a good friend of mine, and I'm grateful you were there to get her out of that car. A lot of people wouldn't have done it," Walker explained.

"She's your friend? Is she going to be okay, then? They couldn't tell me anything when I was still at the hospital, and there wasn't time to be very careful. I was afraid I hurt her worse trying to get her out."

Walker smiled. "No, you didn't hurt her any worse. In fact, between you, the seat belt she was wearing, and the air bag she's in pretty good shape. She took a bad knock on the head and right now she's having some trouble with her memory, but we’re hopeful that will pass and then she'll be one hundred percent."

"Trouble with her memory?" Mark questioned.

"The Doc called it retrograde amnesia," Walker elaborated. "She doesn't remember the last few years at all right now, but they don't know if it will be permanent or not. We just have to wait and see. Meantime, she's alive and on the mend and that's all we're asking." Walker stretched his arm out again, shaking Collin's hand warmly once more, "Like I said, I just wanted to come and thank you personally. Alex is a special lady who does a lot of good things and we would have hated to lose her."

"Thank you, Ranger Walker, I'm glad Miss Cahill is going to be alright." Mark told him as the two of them went to the front door once more.

"Ranger?" he called as Walker headed toward his truck.

"Yes?" Walker turned back to the open door.

"Do you think it would be okay if I stopped in and said hello to Miss Cahill? Saw for myself that she's okay? I kind of feel responsible for her now.

Walker grinned and nodded, "I know exactly how you feel. I'm sure that would be okay. In fact, if I know Alex at all, if you don't stop by, she'll come looking for you when they let her out. But I'll ask her about it just to be sure and leave you word at the main desk in the hospital, okay?"

"Thanks, Ranger. Have a good day."

 

Trivette and Walker stopped by to see Alex again that evening, but were stopped before knocking on her door by a nurse just leaving the room.

"I'm sorry, but Miss Cahill is sleeping now, and the doctor doesn't want her disturbed," she told them, but then was gone before they could ask any further questions.

Walker checked his watch, "We are running late. Visiting hours are about over. I guess it would be better if we came by again in the morning. How about if we meet at C.D.'s for breakfast then drive over together before we head in to work?"

"Sounds like a plan, pard," Trivette agreed easily. "Around seven?"

"Works for me. I hate to have Alex thinking we didn't come back tonight though; we did say we would. I wonder who the duty nurse is? Maybe we could leave a message."

Trivette's eyes lit up, "Sara's working this floor tonight."

Walker smiled at his partner's sudden animation, 'Sara' was Sara Hastings.. .a pretty hazel-eyed black woman with long, dark hair that she normally wore up in an attractive french braid. Walker had encountered her more than once on his own all too frequent visits to the hospital, and not too long ago Sara had finally consented to a date with Trivette. A date that Trivette seemed to have enjoyed very much, since he'd called her three more times since then that Walker was sure of.

They stopped by the nurses station on the way out, spotting Sara at the medication cabinet preparing various prescriptions to be delivered to patients.

"Hey, Sara," Trivette spoke. "Got a minute?"

Her eyes took on a special glow as she caught sight of Trivette. "Hi, Jimmy," she responded softly as their gazes locked.

When neither of them spoke again, Walker realized he was going to have to break in for a moment. "Hi, Sara. How's it going today?"

She shifted her attention, noticing him and smiling broadly, "Walker! You're taller than I thought! It sure is funny seeing you on the upright in here!" she teased.

Walker chuckled, "Very funny! We stopped by to see Alex, but made it too late for a visit. How has she been this afternoon? Any change?"

"No, I'm sorry Walker, she hasn't remembered anything at all that I've heard about," Sara answered, her eyes softening. "This must be really hard on you."

"I'll be okay," he said, "Will you do me a favor though?"

"Sure, anything I can."

"Tell Alex we stopped by, but didn't want to wake her? Oh, and if she needs anything, would you give me a call?"

"Of course. Oh, you know her father arrived a couple of hours ago? Actually he just left with C.D., to get something to eat, I think."

"How did that go?" Walker wondered.

"She seemed a little surprised to see him, and was a little stiff at first, but they got along okay. Were you expecting something to go wrong?"

"Not wrong, exactly, but the last memories she has of him now are a little different than what he remembers. I told her about the changes and was hoping they'd be okay."

"Well, whatever you said must have been enough, she seemed relaxed enough by the time he left."

"Good. Tell Alex we'll be by to see her in the morning, okay?"

"You got it Walker, have a good night now."

            "You too, Sara." Walker then added, "Coming, Trivette?" a twinkle forming in his eye as he saw the look his partner was still giving the nurse.

              "Hmmm? What? Oh . . . yeah . . . I'll be along in a minute, pard," Trivette responded absently.

              Grinning, Walker decided to give his friend a few moments. "I'm going to go grab a cup of coffee, I'll meet you outside in about five, is that okay with you?"

"Yeah, that sounds fine," Trivette replied, still distractedly but now watching his partner. "I'll be right behind you."

The pair watched in silence as Walker turned and headed for the elevators, and when Sara looked at Trivette she could read the concern in his eyes.

"Jimmy, is he really okay? I can't imagine what something like this must feel like, and practically everyone here knows how much Alex means to Walker."

"I hope so, Sara, but he's dead set on not telling Alex any of that. And when Walker makes up his mind on something. . ." Trivette shook his head slowly as he saw his partner step into the elevator. Turning now to face Sara, Trivette smiled slowly and changed the subject, "I wanted to tell you again what a great time I had on Saturday. I'm really glad you could make it to the concert with me."

Sara's sudden smile set her face glowing, "I had fun too, Jimmy. I'm so glad you asked me."

"I was wondering," Trivette began, "if maybe we could get together again this weekend? I have the whole weekend free, and I thought maybe if you had some time we could have dinner? Or take in a show?"

"I'd like that, Jimmy, very much. It's my weekend off too, so anything could work. Why don't you call me tomorrow and we'll figure it out?"

When Trivette arrived at the Ram a few moments later, his delighted smile told Walker all he needed to know.

The next morning the team met at C.D.'s, where they had a quick breakfast before all three headed back to the hospital to visit with Alex. Doctor Blake was making rounds, and stopped to fill them in on her condition.

Alex was doing fine, she was just missing eight years of her life.

Walker talked with Gordon briefly, who told him that he would be staying in Dallas indefinitely. Helping Alex until she was ready to be on her own or agreed to come back to New York with him.

Seeing the look on his friend's face at that possibility, Gordon added quickly,  "But I don't think that's going to happen, Walker, she's already asking me to bring her in books and files. She says she has a lot to catch up on if she's going to get back to work!"

 

C.D., Trivette and Walker visited with Alex for a while, chatting about general things until Walker looked at his watch and stood. "Trivette and I have to go, Alex, time to get down to business for us. Okay if we stop by and see you later, though?"

        Alex smiled, "I'd like that, Cordell. Please do, both of you."

 

Walker and Trivette both nodded, then Walker added, "Oh, Alex, I almost forgot. The man who rescued you, his name is Mark Collins. He asked if he could stop by and see how you were doing. I told him you'd probably be fine with that idea, but I wanted to check it with you. Leave a message with the nurses if you're not feeling up to seeing strangers yet."

"Cordell, right now practically everyone is a stranger!" she giggled softly. "Of course I want to see him, I want to thank him for saving my life. From what they've told me, he risked his own to do it."

"Okay, then, I'll leave word that it's okay with you if he visits." Walker reached over and squeezed her hand, "Have a good day, Alex. We'll see you this evening."

 

When they returned that evening, Trivette stopped at the nurse's station to talk with Sara again, so Walker tapped lightly on Alex's door and entered the room alone. To his surprise he found Alex not in bed, but sitting in a chair near the window. Seated in the chair opposite her was Mark Collins. They had apparently been enjoying their conversation, Alex turned to greet him, a bright smile still lighting her features. Walker felt his heart lurch, but managed to keep his expression steady.

"Cordell," Alex said, "I'm so glad you came again this evening." She reached out to take his hand for a moment, then released it and turned back to Collins. "Mark has just been telling me how you went out to thank him personally for saving my life. That was a wonderful gesture."

Walker managed an easy smile for her. "Yeah, well I meant every word. We're all grateful that he was there."

Trivette, having had a few moments with Sara, entered the room and strode over to Alex's side, giving her a quick peck on the cheek. "Hi ya, Counselor. Looks like you're going to be out of here before we know it."

"Mark Collins, this is Ranger Jimmy Trivette, another one of my friends." Alex introduced the new arrival, then answered Trivette, "Tomorrow, I think, Jimmy. My father is going to stay with me a while, till get things back together." Alex turned to Walker once more, "Thank you for that, too, Cordell. If you hadn't told me, I'm afraid I might have hurt him badly with my reaction when he came. It's a little difficult getting used to the change, but I like my new father, a lot."

"He's a good man, Alex, he's just made some mistakes, that's all. I'm glad it's going well."

"It is. Very well. I have a lot of studying to do, and he's going to help me with that too. And of course I'll be working on trying to get my memories back."

Collins reached out and touched her arm. "Well, don't work on it too hard, Alex, the Doctor told me it's better if you let things go at their own pace."

"I know, Mark," she said with a warm smile in his direction. "But he did say it was okay for me to look at photo albums and go to familiar places to see if it stirred anything. And that's just what I'm going to do as soon as I can."

Collins stood, "I should be going now, Alex. I'm really glad you're going to be alright. Thanks for letting me stop by."

"I'm glad you did, Mark," Alex reached and took his hand, "Don't forget, you said you'd call me."

"I won't forget. Bye Ranger Walker, Ranger Trivette."

After Collins left, Trivette and Walker sat to visit with Alex for a while. Trivette noticed that his partner avoided sitting in the chair the man had occupied, choosing the edge of the bed instead. Walker looked okay, but Trivette could tell he was tense, and Trivette wasn't surprised. Alex had always reserved her brightest smiles for but this evening Collins had received more than a few.

                Alex however, seemed to notice nothing unusual, bubbling on about her visit with Collins and the plans she and Gordon Cahill had been making for her release from the hospital. The two Rangers, for their part, relayed greetings and good wishes that were coming in from all over as people who knew Alex learned about her accident.

            Trivette decided to try giving the pair a little time alone, whether Walker liked it or not. "Alex, will you excuse me for just a few minutes? I need to go talk to a friend who works on the next floor."

            Sure, Jimmy," she responded with a smile. "Don't forget to say goodbye before leave, though, okay?"

            You got it. I'll be back in a bit, Partner," he said to Walker, rising quickly and hustling out the door before Walker had a chance to find an excuse to go with him.

            Alex grinned at Walker wickedly. "Ah! Alone at last!" she giggled, but when he didn’t respond with a similar smile, she decided to back off. Noticing that he was gripping tightly to a book he had carried in with him, she changed the subject. "What have you got there? Something for work?"

            Walker looked down at the book; he'd forgotten he was carrying it. "Oh! No, Alex it’s for you actually. I thought you might like to have something to read, so I brought you this." He passed her the book.

            She took it with a smile. "John Grisham? Is he good?"

            Walker chuckled. "Well, actually, I've never read his novels, but you have. He writes lawyer stories. In fact, this is one of your favorites, you've read it at least twice. I wasn’t sure what kind of book to bring you, so I figured this was a sure bet!"

            Sounds a little like cheating to me," she replied. "You had inside information!"

            Well, you just said you were going to spend time studying familiar things!" he defended himself with a grin.

            Alex felt that spark again; when he smiled, his whole face lit up.

            Walker stood suddenly, "It's getting late, Alex, I should be heading home to look after  the horses."

            “You have horses?" she questioned eagerly, wanting him to stay a little longer.

            “Yeah, several. Matter of fact, you come out to my ranch and ride quite a bit on one named Cookie. How about after you get out of here we make plans for you to come over and take her out for some exercise? She'd love it. We could invite C.D. Trivette and your father too,  and make a day of it. Picnic, fishing, whatever you feel like.

Alex's eyes sparkled at the prospect, and Walker found himself resisting the urge to sweep her into his arms and kiss her. God, he wanted her back!

"That sounds wonderful! We'll do it as soon as we can, I do remember that I've always loved to ride!"

"Yeah, you do!" he agreed. "Good then, we'll make plans for it as soon as you feel up to it."

Just then, Trivette popped back in the door. "Hey, you two! Miss me?" he questioned with a broad smile.

"Of course we did, Jimmy," Alex responded. "We didn't know what to do without you!"

When they left Alex's room a short time later, Trivette decided to make one last effort with Walker about his decision. Waiting until they were well down the corridor, he pulled his partner to a halt. "Walker, this isn't right. You should tell Alex that you and she are more than friends."

Walker shook his head adamantly. "Absolutely not, Trivette. I'll take care of this my own way. The subject's closed."

"Walker...

"I said don't, Trivette. Stay out of it."

Trivette watched helplessly as his best friend strode away, finding himself sorely tempted to go back to Alex's room and have a long talk with her.

 

Weeks later, Alex's condition had not changed. In the company of her father, or C.D. or Walker and Trivette, she had visited many of her favorite places and been reintroduced to dozens of friends and co-workers, but nothing seemed to loosen the block on her memories. She began rebuilding her life without them, reconstructing the time from descriptions of what she had done. Walker saw to it that some of the stories related to her didn't carry the full weight of the painful situations she had been put in, and always minimized his own position in them.

"Dammit, Cordell," C.D. berated him one day after listening to Walker tell Alex about her first encounter with Victor Larue. "You made that sound like you weren't even there! Just because you don't want her to know that the two of you used to be close, doesn't mean you have to wipe yourself out of her life altogether!"

"I don't want her thinking there are any special ties, C.D., I told you that. If Alex and I are really meant to be she'll find her way back to me. Besides, I've been thinking... it might be better for Alex if she never did remember all those things she's been hearing about."

C.D. looked disgusted. "Oh, what the Sam Hill do you mean by that? How could it possibly be better if she never remembered eight years of her own life?"

"C.D.," Walker sighed, "it's one thing to be told something happened to you. It's another to remember living it. Some of the things that have happened to Alex were really hard on her. If she never remembers those incidents, I won't say I don't think that could be a good thing."

Shaking his head, C.D. gave Walker an exasperated glare. "You're a blame fool,       Cordell. You'll let that little lady slip out of your life cause you won't even give her the choice of staying in it!"

 

Walker didn't fail to notice that Alex seemed to be spending a great deal of time with Collins. Watching her smile and laugh in the company of another man tore him to the quick. The ongoing presence of the other man did what all the words from his friends could not: Walker realized that he would have to make some attempt to win her back. He still refused to tell her about their past history, and carefully shielded her from seeing any special longing in his eyes. He was determined not to pressure her to return to him. Walker wanted Alex to come to him because she wanted to be there not because she felt she should be. But friends spent time together, and he believed time was what he and Alex needed most.

The picnic at the ranch had gone well and Alex had enjoyed herself immensely. Walker made sure to invite her often, and to encourage her to go out to ride on her own if she wanted.

"Alex, Cookie is your horse. Anytime you want to ride I want you to go. You don't have to wait for an invitation or ask my permission," he told her one day when she called for just such a purpose. "The ranch has always been a place you loved, and you used to go all the time even when I wasn't around. In fact, if you check your key chain, you'll find one to the house on there. I gave it to you so you could get inside and clean up or change if you needed to. Please, I want you to feel that way again. You're always welcome there."

For her part, Alex loved the time she spent with Cordell. Mark was a gentle and kind companion, he made her laugh and was obviously interested in advancing their relationship. But Cordell was . . . different. A puzzle she just couldn't seem to resist working on. She wondered how could she have been content to remain just friends with this fascinating man.

He completely mystified her. He had such sad eyes sometimes; she felt he had the soul of a truly gentle man. She also thought she'd never met any one as caring and compassionate. But at the same time, she had also never met anyone with such a strong code of right and wrong, and who was always prepared to back up that code with actions if necessary

She had been riding in his truck to lunch at C.D.'s one day when they had happened to spot a group of ten or twelve street toughs beating up on a homeless couple in an alley. Glancing over at Cordell, she had been surprised at the look of pure anger on his face as he realized what was going on. He brought his truck to a halt, and began to climb out quickly.

"Stay in the truck, Alex. Lock the doors." "Do you want me to use your radio to get you backup, Cordell?"

He gave her a quick reassuring grin. "That won't be necessary, just stay in the truck."

She nodded her agreement and then watched in amazement as he strode into the fray. Her jaw dropped as she watched him single handedly take on the whole group without even bothering to draw his weapon. Feet and fists flying, lightening fast, he'd had half the gang on the ground around him by the time the rest of the group decided to retreat and had run off down the alleyway. In less than a moment, his defensive posture fell away and he went over to see if the couple that had been victimized by the thugs were alright.

"Alex! There's a first aid kit in the back seat. Would you bring it to me, please?" he called to her.

She brought it to him and silently watched him clean a knife wound on the arm of one of the victims, then wrap it carefully in gauze and tape.

"You should go over to County and have them look at this to be sure," he advised the woman. "They'll take good care of you. Tell them that Ranger Walker sent you, and that I'll take care of any charges, okay?" The woman nodded as he gave her one of his cards to give to the people at the hospital. "Make sure you go," he reiterated. "That's a nasty cut, and you don't want an infection."

While he'd been taking care of the couple, the men he had knocked to the ground had risen one by one and skulked away. Although he didn't seem to notice, Alex was sure Cordell was aware of their every move, prepared to defend if necessary, but willing to let them leave if they chose to.

"Why didn't you arrest them?" she asked him quietly after they had bid farewell to the couple.

"Wouldn't do any good. The two folks they were picking on wouldn't dare to press charges and would move on long before they could be brought in to testify, afraid what might happen if they stayed around here. And that type wouldn't learn anything from it. They'd just be back on the streets in a few hours with an ugly attitude. This way they'll just take off to lick their wounds and know they got beat this time." He smiled at her suddenly. "Sometimes a blow to the ego is the worst blow you can deliver that kind of person, Alex."

As they had walked back to his truck, Alex decided to ask him the other question that she'd been wondering about, "Cordell, why do you keep such a well-stocked first aid kit in your truck, anyway?"

He chuckled. "It's been known to come in handy!" was all he'd say on the subject. Later when she'd asked Jimmy and C.D., their response had been much the same.

Another morning he had called, asking if she'd like to go with him and the others to a picnic at the Children's Home, and another small piece of him had fallen into place for her.

"You've done a lot of volunteer work at the home, Alex," Walker told her as the four of them drove out that morning. "So a good many of the kids know you. But the teachers have explained that you won't remember their names just yet, so you don't have to worry about that. Just relax and have a good time."

She had enjoyed herself too, and been fascinated to watch Cordell interacting with the children. He lit up around them, and spent the entire day entertaining them with lessons in the martial arts and stories. Some about old time Rangers, but most were old Indian legends. She couldn't believe how many Indian stories he knew, and he told them as if they were his own.

She commented on it to C.D.

"Well, Darlin', I guess that's 'cause they are. We keep forgettin' that you don't remember all the things we just take for granted. Cordell's daddy was Cherokee, and after his momma and daddy got killed, he lived on the reservation with his Uncle Ray til he was finished growin'. It took him a while to get used to bein' there and to find his place, but once he did, why he settled right in and he's got a good healthy respect and honor for that side of his heritage."

"What happened to his mother and father?" Alex asked curiously.

C.D.’s eyes turned stormy. "They was murdered. When he wasn't much more than twelve years old, by a dadgum racist ignoramus! Cordell was right there with them at the time. I reckon that took him a long time to get past. That's a hard one for any child, and he had the added handicap of not being completely accepted in either of his worlds, white or Indian. He's done it though, and got past a few other hard knocks as well. He's a strong man and I ain't seen the blow yet that's been able to drop him and keep him down. Sometimes they'll lay him low, and we have to help him up a bit, but he's a fighter and he fights his way past it and gets up and goes on."

Alex sat silently, watching Walker from a distance. She thought she understood some of the sadness in his eyes now. Then she turned to C.D. again. "He's wonderful with children, he should have a some of his own."

"Well, y'know honey, I think that same thing myself. But Cordell, he's a little like a wild mustang, and I reckon his nature might have put a lady or two off in his day. I guess, God willing, one of these days there'll come one who can break him to the bit."

"Oh, I wouldn't want to see him broken, just tamed--" Alex started, suddenly cutting herself short and blushing furiously

C.D. chuckled and patted her hand, "Well, I guess that's possible, too!"

Alex found herself incredibly drawn to Cordell, and he seemed happy enough to be with her, but he never made a move or said a word that told if he might have the same feelings for her. She was afraid if she said something to him about it, he'd be uncomfortable and she didn't want to drive him away. Unwilling to lose his company, she fought to keep him from seeing her growing attraction.

Trivette and C.D. were pleased to see Alex and Walker spending more and more time together, both appearing relaxed and comfortable. They noticed that Walker frequently found opportunities to take Alex to lunch, or riding, or some other informal get together. Although he had yet to ask her on what C.D. would call, 'that four letter word that scares the tar outta Cordell . . . d-a-t-e!'

"For a while there, Big Dog, I thought he was going to drop out of the picture altogether. I guess seeing her with Collins gave him a little kick in the right direction," Trivette said with a grin.

"Well," C.D. responded, "it ain't courtin' in the strictest sense of the word, but it's a whole lot more than what he was willin' to do when those two first got together. Y'know, Jimmy, that I think maybe it's time I had one more little chat with Cordell about what's been going on around here."

"He's not going to like that. You know he's told us both to stay out of it."

"Yeah, I know it, but Collins gave him a little kick, now it's time to finish the job. Don't you worry, I can handle Cordell!" C.D. replied with a smile.

 

C.D. nailed Walker down that night when he stopped in for supper. "Cordell, I need to talk to you." he began, sliding into the booth beside his a sure way of making sure that Walker wouldn't be able to simply stand and leave.

Walker raised a questioning eyebrow and waited.

"Son, I know you told Jimmy and me to stay out of this thing with you and Alex, but--"

"Hold it right there, C.D.," Walker interrupted him. "You're right. I said stay out of it, and I meant--"

C.D. ignored his protest. "Cordell, dangit! You listen to me for a change! Didn't your momma never teach you not to disrespect your elders?"

Walker glowered, but was trapped in the booth and he knew it. "Alright, C.D., say your piece."

Appeased, C.D. continued, "That's better. Now, Cordell, I know you're determined not to push Alex into something. But son, you're awful close to this one and I think there's things you're not seeing here. You and Alex have been spending a lot of time together, and the two of you have been having a good time, being friends, right?"

Walker nodded, still angry but listening.

"Well, I think it's time you let her know that you'd like to see her as more than a friend."

When Walker looked like he was about to protest, C.D. held up his hand quickly and pressed forward, "Cordell, I'm not saying you have to tell her how you were. Right now, all Alex knows is that you're her friend, and she's got precious few of those that she's sure of. Have you considered that maybe, just maybe, she's doing the same thing you are? That she's not letting you see what she's feeling because she doesn't want to scare you off? Cause I tell you, I've seen her watchin' you when she thinks no one's lookin' and son . . . there's more there than she's lettin' on!"

Walker's look turned thoughtful.

C.D. was relieved to see that Walker at least appeared to be considering his words, rather than simply ignoring them altogether. "Cordell, we've been friends a long time now. I'll admit that when this whole thing started I thought you were plumb wrong. Well, I'm big enough to say that it looks like you made a good choice, letting Alex make up her own mind, but don't toss that out by not giving her any options! It's time you told her what you're feeling. It's time to let her choose, Son!" He patted Walker's arm as he stood and prepared to leave, "Think on it, Cordell."

Walker nodded again as he looked steadily at the older man. "Okay, C.D., I'll think about it."

 

He did think about it. All the next day as a matter of fact. Long and hard.

Maybe C.D. was right, how much choice was he giving Alex right now? He remembered when he and Alex had first met. He'd felt a spark, but hadn't pursued it, worried that she wouldn't feel the same and that it would make things uncomfortable. She had later told him that she had felt the same way, and for the first several years they had teetered back and forth, attracted but not following through, each afraid that the other didn't feel the same. Was he willing to do that again? Wait and see? Especially when a few simple words and gestures might have been enough to bring them together so much sooner? Could he have her back now, just by letting her know how he really felt?

Suddenly Walker was very grateful that he had a friend like C.D. Someone willing to risk his own sometimes formidable temper in an attempt to make him see the light. It was time to talk to Alex, time to take things to the next level if he could.

 

He called Alex, asking if she would come to C.D.'s that evening.

"Well, sure, I could do that Cordell," she'd responded, and they made plans to meet there around eight.

Walker arrived early and waited anxiously, second thoughts making him nervous that this might not be the best decision he'd ever made, but, the die was cast and it was time to see how it landed.

From the booth he had claimed at the back, Walker watched as Trivette arrived shortly after he did, accompanied by Sara. Although he was dealing with his own issues concerning Alex, Walker hadn't failed to notice that the pair seemed to be spending a great deal of time together. And that when they weren't together, Trivette still usually wore a happy smile on his face.

Over the past few weeks Walker had been watching the effect Sara had on his partner with mixed emotions. He was genuinely happy for Trivette and enjoyed watching his friend's enthusiasm. Still, he couldn't quite stop some protective instincts kicking in. Trivette had admitted himself that the word 'commitment' wasn't one that he'd ever taken to, and this relationship was progressing very quickly.

Walker hoped that Trivette wasn't getting in deeper than he was ready for. The younger Ranger had only recently begun to bounce back from the emotional upheaval that the sudden reappearance of Angel had brought upon him. Walker wasn't sure how well his partner would handle a broken relationship at this point.

But as Walker shifted his gaze from Trivette to the young woman, he wondered if perhaps these doubts weren't the result of his own strained emotions lately. Sara certainly did seem to share Trivette's feelings, and Walker was sure that she had no illusions about the situation she was entering. As a nurse at County, Sara had certainly seen her share of cops injured in the line of duty, Walker among them, and she knew all too well the risks of forming a bond with a lawman.

Maybe it was just the bittersweet idea of Trivette finally finding someone special, just as Walker feared he was losing Alex? He recognized a small selfish part of himself that said he wished the timing had been a little different. Truth be told, trying to keep Alex from seeing how he felt had been harder than Walker had anticipated. He found he missed Trivette's constant attempts at getting him to talk.

His own thoughts over the last several weeks had circled constantly around Alex and the way they had been together just before the accident. Missing the presence she had become in his life was now a familiar backdrop to anything he found himself doing. Strange that it took losing the Alex he knew to make him recognize what an enormous part of each day she had become for him. He wanted her back, more than he would have believed possible.

The nagging doubts and unsettled feelings returned with a vengeance. What if he was doing the wrong thing? What if he was rushing things? What if C.D. was wrong about Alex? What if she turned away from him, uncomfortable with the things he planned to say tonight?

Walker tore his gaze from Trivette and Sara, and shook his head determinedly. C.D. would never steer him wrong. If his former partner believed that Alex was ready, then Walker knew it was so.

The Ranger sensed Alex's arrival before he saw her standing at the door. Walker felt his pulse jump as it always did when he looked at her. She was dressed for an evening out, and her eyes were sparkling, she looked stunning. He rose quickly from his seat and went to greet her.

"Hi, Alex," he said, taking her hand. "You look terrific tonight!"

Alex laughed and blushed. "You look pretty slicked up yourself, Cordell! What's the occasion?"

"No occasion, just meeting a pretty lady lawyer, thought I ought to look good!" he grinned.

Alex gave him a smile and a long considering look. If she didn't know better, she'd swear Cordell was flirting with her!

Keeping his hold on her hand, Walker guided her through the crowd. "I have a booth over here, Alex," he explained. "I thought maybe we could talk...

They took their seats, ordered drinks, and sat quietly for a while, enjoying the music.

"Alex?" Walker finally broke the ice, "Would you like to dance?"

She smiled broadly. "I'd love to, Cordell!"

He was just standing when C.D. approached them. "Cordell," he said with no small trace of regret, he had guessed the reason for this evening and hated to interrupt it. "I'm sorry, but you've got a phone call from Ranger HQ."

Walker looked at Alex. "I'll be right back, okay?"

"Sure, I'll be right here," she said easily.

A few moments later he returned, a less than happy expression on his face.  “Alex, I have to go down to headquarters for a little while. They've brought in a suspect that's connected to an investigation I've been working on, and he insists on talking to me right away.

"Oh, Cordell! Don't they ever give you a break?" Alex commiserated with him.

He smiled at the twist on a very familiar comment. "This will only take a little while, I promise, and I really did want to talk to you. Will you wait?"

"Okay," she agreed. "I'll visit with C.D. and listen to the music."

"Great! I'll be back before you know it." Then he grabbed his hat and hurried the door, anxious to get the meeting over with.

A few moments after Walker left, Mark Collins came into C.D.'s. He stood near door, searching the crowded room until he spotted Alex at the booth near the back I made his way to her. This was only the second time he'd been to the bar, the time he had brought Alex at her suggestion, and he had gotten the feeling that the owner was less than approving of him being with Alex. After that, when Collins had taken her anywhere, he had avoided bringing her here. But he found himself increasingly attracted to her and hoped that she might begin to feel that way about

So when he had called and her father had told him she was at C.D.'s for the evening, Collins had decided to come anyway. He wanted to see her.

"Hi, Alex."

"Mark! What are you doing here?"

"Oh, I just thought I'd stop by," he hedged a little, then changed the subject.  “Are you here alone?"

"Well, for the moment, anyway, Cordell got called away for a little while." She motioned him to sit down.

The song on the jukebox changed and the voice of Trisha Yearwood filled the bar.

"Actually," Mark said, "I thought maybe you'd like to dance."

Alex smiled and took his hand as she rose and went with him to the dance

Alex was leaning into Mark's arms, slowly swaying to the music when she suddenly had an overwhelming feeling. 'Wrong', it told her, 'wrong'. She stopped suddenly, pulling herself away from him, startled.

Collins looked at her quizzically. "Alex? Are you okay? What's the problem?

You’re as white as a sheet."

        She found herself trembling without knowing why. The music still played, the people around them laughing and happy and still all she could think was 'wrong .wrong . . . wrong. . 'It echoed in her head, over and over. She looked at Mark.  In an instant she knew: it was him. Mark was wrong, the wrong man. She at him, finally whispering, "We have to talk."

Collins looked confused, but agreed, leading her back to the table.

Once they had seated themselves, Alex stared at his face again trying to figure out how to say what she knew she had to tell him. Taking a deep breath, she tried to him understand. "Mark . . . I'm . . . I'm sorry. This isn't right."

"What isn't right, Alex?" he tried to take her hand, but she pulled away.

"Me . . . you. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry . . . but I know that this isn't right. You have to go, please." She was trying hard to explain, but how do you explain what you don't understand? All she knew was that Mark needed to go.

"Alex, please don't send me away," he begged her. "I really want to be with you. I think we could make something together."

"I'm sorry, Mark. Really, I am . . . but we can t make anything together. Don't ask me to tell you how I know, because I can't."

"Alex, please! You're not making any sense!"

"I know," she said softly

He could see the resolve in her eyes, and though he didn't know how it had happened or why, he knew he had lost his chance with her. Slowly he rose to his feet, then he bent down and kissed her on her forehead. "Okay, Alex, if that's what you want."

"Thank you, Mark. Thank you for everything, you did so much for me. I'm sorry if I've misled you."

He nodded slowly and then turned and walked away.

She sat alone in the booth, watching him leave and trying to figure out what she was going to do next. She felt so utterly alone, and still didn't know who to turn to.

The waitress brought her over a fresh drink, and Alex sipped it slowly, her eyes drifting across the room while her mind replayed the moment that she had gotten the feeling. Trying to figure out what had told her that the wrong arms were around her as she danced. Her gaze lingered on C.D. for a moment. He was her friend, why hadn't he told her anything to explain what she had experienced? She looked around again, catching a glimpse of Jimmy. He was on the dance floor with Sara, a nurse Alex remembered from her stay in the hospital. He seemed quite smitten with her, and from the way Sara had melted into his embrace it appeared the feeling was quite mutual. Alex smiled softly, watching them, then she wondered how she'd find the one whose arms she belonged in like that.

As Trivette and Sara moved together slowly, Alex saw Sara's hand move slowly up Jimmy's arm, reaching toward his shoulder. She stopped for a moment and lightly touched the star on his shirt, smiling into his eyes before laying her head on his shoulder once more.

Suddenly, Alex began to tremble. Her vision seemed to zoom until all she could see was the star. The star on his shirt . . . the star . . . the star.

Alex had a flash of another evening here at C.D.'s. Of a pair of strong arms holding her tightly. Of her cheek resting on a denim-clad shoulder. Of her own hand reaching up and fingering a similar star. Of gazing up at the face of the man she loved. A man with gentle eyes and a red-gold beard and a smile that set her heart racing.

The room spun and she felt the blood draining from her face as the memories came rushing back. She saw his smile, his face, his hands . . . could feel him holding her, hear him speaking to her, laughing with her.

Tears streamed down Alex's face, though she wasn't aware of them falling. Her breath came in short quick gasps and she shook violently from head to toe.

C.D. happened to glance over through the crowd to see Alex sitting alone in the booth. He'd seen Collins enter the bar, seen the man go to Alex and a moment later escort her to the dance floor. And he hadn't failed to notice that they'd only danced a short time before returning to the table once more and then the young man had left. C.D. had been more than a little relieved, wanting Cordell to get his chance to talk to Alex and sure that he wouldn't do it if he had returned and found Collins there. But then suddenly the older Ranger realized that Alex wasn't just waiting alone for Walker to return, she was in some serious distress! Quickly calling for the other bartender to take over, he rushed toward the booth, calling to Trivette on the way.

"Jimmy! You'd better come with me, something's going on with Alex," C.D. told him worriedly.

"I'll come, too, if that's okay?" Sara told them.

Trivette took her hand and the three of them hurriedly made their way to the back where Alex was sitting. When they arrived, she was still trembling violently and crying deep silent sobs. C.D. quickly reached out and wrapped his arms around her.

"Alex, honey. What's wrong? Did that Mark feller do something to hurt you?"

"No . . . no. . ." she managed to gasp out. "I sent him home. Oh, C.D..."

Trivette took her face in his hands, tilting it upwards gently so she looked at him. "Alex, what is it? What's going on?"

"Jimmy . . . I . . I. . .”  Alex couldn't get the words out, couldn't explain what was happening, and could barely catch her breath.

Sara moved in close, doing a quick medical evaluation. "You should get her out of here. Do you have someplace quiet where we can sit? She needs to calm down and this isn't the place."

"Should we take her to the hospital, Sara?" C.D. asked, very concerned and terribly confused by what was happening.

"No, I don't think that's necessary. She just needs someplace quiet and some time."

"Well, we can take her into the back room. The crew uses it for a break area sometimes so there's some chairs and such. It's far enough back so you can't hardly hear anything of the bar in there. Would that do for now?"

"I think that would be perfect, C.D.," Sara replied. "Jimmy, help me get her back there will you?"

C.D. stopped by the bar before following them to the back, "Pete, call Cordell down at Ranger Headquarters. Tell him to hightail it back here as fast as he can."

 

Once in the quieter area, Alex seemed to calm some, but for the longest time, all they could get from her was tears and trembling.

Gradually she calmed enough to begin to be able to answer their questions. Though at first her responses didn't make much sense to them, finally she came out with something that put the whole thing together.

"Oh, C.D.! Don't you see? I remember. . I remember!"

Realization dawned, Alex had regained her memories.

C.D. decided that the best thing would be to simply take the bull by the horns.  He gripped her strongly by the shoulders. "Alex, calm yourself down, right now! All this isn't solvin' anything, it's just makin' it more difficult! Now, I want you to set yourself back, and take some good deep breaths. C'mon, do it now

Alex complied, finally regaining some control. Looking gratefully at C.D., she said, "Thank you."

"Don't thank us, honey. We just want to see this whole thing straightened out. Now, calmly now. You remember everything? Or just bits and pieces?"

"Everything. It started with just a couple little things, and then there were so many things rushing at me. I guess that's why I got so upset. I'm really sorry.

Trivette reached over and took her hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze. "Don't be sorry for anything, Alex. We're here cause we care about you. You told us you sent Mark away. Why?"

"I wasn't sure at first. I was dancing and all of a sudden I just knew I wasn't supposed to be dancing with him, so I asked him to leave. I'm afraid I may have hurt him too."

"He'll be fine, Alex. I'll talk to him later if you want," Jimmy reassured. "Go on, then what happened?"

"I was trying to figure out what I was going to do. How I was going to figure out why I had this awful feeling of something being wrong when I was dancing with Mark. Then 1 saw you and Sara dancing, and she touched your badge. I don't know why, but that just seemed to set it all off. At first all I saw was memories of me and Walker. That was hard enough. But then everything else came crowding in and I just couldn't handle it, there was just so much and it came so fast." Tears were beginning to slip down Alex's face again. "I'm sorry."

C.D. leaned over and caught her up in a warm, enveloping hug, "Darlin' you have just no idea how good it is to have you here with us, laughin' or cryin'! Things just haven't been the same these last few weeks! And don't you go apologizing for gettin' overwhelmed by something you had no control over what-so-ever! I can't imagine what all of that must've felt like to you, and there you were, sittin' all alone with no one to help you through it. Why I don't know as I could have stood up to it as well as you have."

Alex was drying her tears away once more, "Thanks, C.D. You guys are just the best." Then she turned to Sara. "Thank you, too, Sara, for being here."

The other woman leaned over, giving Alex a tight hug, too. "No problem," she said. "I have a feeling we're going to wind up being really good friends, Alex."

"Hey!" Trivette piped up at last. "I want some of that too!"

"Oh Jimmy!" Alex giggled, standing and giving him a strong squeeze.

"There now," C.D. smiled, though his eyes were a little misty from all the emotion in the room. "If you all feel half as good as I do right now, I'd say we're well on our way to a 'Welcome Back, Alex' party!"

At just about that moment, Walker came charging through the front door of C.D.'s.  Hurrying over to the bar, he called, "Pete! What's going on? Where's C.D.? What's wrong?"

"I'm not sure, Walker," the bartender responded. "Something was happening at the booth in the back, and then C.D. said to call you and get you back here."

Walker looked around. It had something to do with Alex, then, she had been waiting at that booth. Trivette and Sara weren't on the dance floor anymore either, but he'd seen his partner's car still outside. "Where are they now?"

"They all went into the back stockroom.

Walker was halfway across the floor before the man could finish the sentence.

 

Alex, C.D., Trivette and Sara started violently as Walker threw the door open suddenly. "C.D.! What's wrong?"

"Dang it, Cordell! You near scared ten years out of me!"

Walker's eyes swept the room. Trivette and Sara were both smiling. C.D. was glaring at him but looked pleased himself. But Alex . . . Alex was just staring at him with a look that reminded him of a deer caught in the headlights at night.

The attorney took a deep breath, trying to figure out what to do next. Her heart hammered in her chest. She'd thought she'd have a little more time to figure things out. Slowly she walked forward until she stood directly in front of him. Not knowing what to say, she finally whispered, "Walker.

He waited. Waited to hear her finish what she had begun to say . . . what she had begun to say . . . begun to say. . . Comprehension hit him like a blow. His breath froze in his lungs, his heart leapt. 'Walker' she had said, not 'Cordell' but 'Walker'. Hesitantly, he reached his hand out as if to touch her face, not quite completing the gesture, searching her eyes with his own. "Alex?" he questioned softly.

She nodded, her eyes filling with tears once more.

Still smiling at each other, Trivette, Sara and C.D. slipped unnoticed out of the room, closing the door behind them.

"Alex," Walker said again, a statement this time. Then he reached out and pulled her to him, wrapping his arms around her as he finally let go of a long breath. "Alex . . . Alex . . . Alex.

She found herself returning his embrace, clinging to him as desperately as he clung to her. No words were needed. She knew that now.

Slowly, almost unwillingly, Walker finally released her, but he couldn't take his eyes off her. He couldn't keep himself from reaching out to touch her face and hair. It was Alex, his Alex. She was back.

Alex stepped back into his arms, not ready to be separated from him again, and pulled his arms back around her. Burying her face in his chest she whispered again, "Oh, Walker, I'm sorry."

Walker reached with one hand and caught her under the chin, tipping her face upward to his. "You didn't do anything wrong, Alex."

"I didn't remember."

"You couldn't remember," he countered.

Alex sighed as he held her. "Walker, why didn't you tell me? Why did you let me think we were still just friends? Is that . . . is that what you really want?"

Walker put his hands on her shoulders, pushing her just far enough away from him to look her straight in the eye as he responded sternly, "No! Absolutely not! Alex, I can't tell you how much I've wanted you back! But we didn't know if you'd ever remember, and I wanted you to want to be with me. Not feel like you had to. Do you understand?"

She nodded, studying his face intently. "Yes. I think I do. It was working, too, but I was afraid to tell you that. I didn't know if you were feeling the same things I was and I didn't dare to ask you."

"I know. C.D. sort of set me straight on that." He grinned at her. "Actually, that was why I asked you here tonight."

Alex's eyes widened. "You were flirting with me!"

"Well, I was trying, anyway!" Walker chuckled.

She reached up, wrapping her arms around his neck, smiling into his eyes. "Still feel like flirting, Cowboy?"

"Nope, I have something else in mind," he murmured as he wrapped his arms around her once more and bent to kiss her at last.