Tracing  Scars

by Gail R. (


            Alex was too excited to sit down.  She paced the hallway between her office and Walker's, waiting for him and Jimmy to return from the call they were on.  She glanced at her watch -- 6 p.m.  The play began in three hours and she could hardly wait.  This was a birthday she'd never forget -- dinner and a musical.  She'd hinted about it for weeks now, and when Walker showed her the tickets, she was ecstatic.  He seemed very pleased to have made her so happy, but she knew this would be no picnic for him.  This was an off-Broadway show -- no karate, no action, not even a cuss word.   Just singing and dancing.  With a chuckle, she hoped there wouldn't be men in tights.  She could imagine Walker groaning in the middle of the production.  With a smile she recalled the time she'd dragged him to the opera, but he'd gotten the call about the Swan Song just as the curtain was rising.  She'd never seen a man come out of a seat so fast in all her life.

            Worried about the time, Alex wondered if Walker had gone straight to Jimmy's from their call.  He'd left his suit there so he wouldn't have to go all the way out to the ranch after work.  But no, she was sure he said he'd come back to the office to finish up a report. 

            Walking into the Ranger office, she waved at Mark Sheridan, the only person still present, then went to Walker's desk.  The tickets were there.  He'd have to come back here.  She checked the time again -- 6:20.  The plan was to pick her up at 7:00.  He was cutting it mighty close.  Maybe I'd better head home and get ready.

            Picking up the tickets, she heard the elevator, then the sound of Jimmy's voice in the quiet hallway.  Finally.  A moment later they came into the office and she gasped.  Trivette had a supportive arm around Walker, whose left pant leg had been cut off mid-thigh.  His knee was bandaged and from the looks of it he couldn't put any weight on the leg.  Trivette was struggling to get his partner to a chair as Walker clenched his teeth.

            "Oh my God,"  Alex said.  "What happened?"

            Trivette eased Walker into the chair at his desk.

            "I'm okay, Alex,"  Walker said, sounding tired.  "It's just a cut."

            "Ha!"  Trivette exclaimed, shaking his head, but he didn't elaborate as he caught Walker's threatening glance.

            "Walker, tell me what happened."

            "Don't worry about it,"  he snapped.  "I'll tell you later.  I just came back here for the tickets."

            "Oh Walker, how are you going to go out like this?"

            "The way I'd go out anytime,"  he answered, appearing irritated.  "I'm going to Trivette's to shower and change, then we'll go."

            Feeling the air heating up, Trivette went to his desk and busied himself with his computer.

            Alex shook her head.  "We don't have to go.  It looks like it hurts."

            "We're going, Alex,"  Walker replied tightly.

            "Maybe we can exchange the tickets for another night?"

            "No, today's your birthday, we're going to the damn show."

            A flash of anger went through Alex.  "You don't have to feel obligated."

            "You want to see this show, we'll see the show."

            "I don't want to force you," she said with sarcasm.

            He blew out a frustrated breath.  "Just give me the tickets."

            "I should have never suggested this.  You're going to pout all evening."

            "Pout?  How can I pout when people are on a stage singing about their problems, then they do some goofy dance like it's going to solve everything.  That's real life all right."

            "Goofy?  Just because no one does a spin kick, or there's no car chases or no blood and guts, it's goofy?"


            "Well, no one's holding a gun to your head to go.  Certainly not me."

            Trivette typed furiously on his keyboard, cringing as the argument got louder.  He noticed that Mark had made himself scarce.

            Walker rose from the chair, stumbling, and reached for the tickets.  "Just give me the damn tickets."

            Alex almost bared her teeth.  "You want them?  Fine.  Here."  She tore the tickets into pieces, threw them at him and stormed out of the room.

            "Alex!"  Walker started after her, getting tangled in the chair as his knee gave out and he crashed to the floor.

            Trivette hurried to him, helping him back into the chair.  Despite his anger, Walker's face was pale, his skin clammy.  Trivette knew he was hurting.

            "Guess this means you won't have to wear a suit tonight,"  he chuckled, trying to dispel the tension.

            Walker's glower put an end to the attempt at humor.  Trivette sighed.

            "Come on, partner.  I'll take you home."




            Alex had fumed all the way home, a few tears of anger and self-pity filling her eyes.  Her birthday was ruined, thanks to one muleheaded cowboy.  By the time she'd put on her nightgown, her emotions had evened out, but as she dug into a pint of Ben and Jerry's, guilt crept in --- and not about the calories she was consuming.

            She'd given him an out as soon as she saw he was injured, but that pride and stubbornness of his wouldn't let him relent.  I should have handled it differently, should have just stated we'd go another time, no discussion.

            She thought about how pale he looked, how Jimmy was helping him walk, how what she took to be irritation was really physical pain.  She dropped the spoon into the ice cream and picked up the phone.  Would he be in the mood to accept an apology?  She punched in six of the seven numbers, then stopped.  This wasn't something to handle over the phone.  She'd acted childish, spoiled --- the least she could do was to be mature and say she was sorry in person.

            Quickly dressing, she drove out to the ranch.  Trivette was stepping down the porch steps as she approached.

            "Alex," he said, surprised.

            "Hi Jimmy.  Think he'll talk to me?"  she asked humbly.

            "Not now.  He's sacked out finally."

            "Is he all right?"

            "He was sick on his stomach a little while ago.  C.D. told me to get some crackers and ginger ale into him, then I gave him a pain pill.  The doc said they were heavy duty.  I got a fire going for him, then he crashed on the floor in front of it.  I just let him stay there.  I have to be at a stakeout at 11, but C.D. said he'd come over and look after him when the bar closes."

            Alex sighed.  "Do me a favor. Call C.D. back and tell him never mind.  I'll stay with him."


            Alex hesitated, her eyes full of regret.  "Did he say anything?"

            Trivette chuckled.  "Mr. Clam Lips?  Are you kidding?  He didn't utter one word on the drive out here.  He only grunted a time or two after that.  But I think the pain was pretty intense."

            "How did it happen?"

            "We were chasing two suspects through a junkyard.  One of 'em got the jump on me.  Walker turned his back on the other one to give me a hand, and the second one lunged at him.......both of them fell into a scrap heap.  A piece of metal sliced him from the outside of his knee to just above the kneecap."   Trivette showed her with his finger on his own knee, then continued.  "Cut it to the bone.  They had to sew layers.....muscles were cut.  They wanted him to stay overnight because there might be some tendon damage..... wanted a specialist to take a look, but he wouldn't stay."

            "Because of our date,"  she said dolefully.

            Trivette nodded.  "Alex, you and I both know that it's not his cup of tea, but he was talking about it all day just because it meant so much to you."

            "My guilt runneth over."

            "Mine too.  If I could have handled my suspect, this wouldn't have happened."

            She gave his arm a pat.  "You know he won't see it like that.  At least you know better than to argue with him."

            Trivette smiled wryly and turned to go.  "Oh, the pain pills are on the kitchen table.  If he wakes up, shove one down him."

            Alex nodded and went inside.  Walker had pulled pillows off the couch and was sprawled out, lying on his side in front of the fire.  Trivette was right --- he looked dead to the world.  A cushion from the couch was under his knee.  She could see the swelling spreading out around the bandage, bruising already setting in.  A new scar for his collection, she sighed.  Barefooted and shirtless, he was wearing only cut off sweat pants.

            Alex grabbed the afghan off the couch to cover him.  She draped it over his legs, but as she was pulling it over his body, a white circular scar caught her eye.  She sat down beside him and gazed at the scar on his back, high on the left shoulder.  She lightly touched it.  Walker didn't stir.  She traced the edge of the circle and the slightly raised suture lines.  She thought back to the injury --- two years ago--- shot in the back by Rod Barkley.  But the pain of the wound had been nothing compared to the earlier emotional pain of the circumstances.  She recalled his face, the look of total horror and helplessness when he'd been told that Jimmy had been shot and was fighting for his life.  Alex knew at the time that Walker blamed himself partially.  Jimmy had gone alone to check out a lead on the cop killer, but Rod Barkley had beaten him there, was waiting.  Walker had later let the truth slip to her in an unguarded moment, an anguished  "if only I'd been with him".

            Alex had tried to use logic on him. No one could know the outcome had they been together.  Maybe both of them would have been fighting for their lives.

            Then Walker's own encounter with Barkley had occurred, and Carlos and Trent had rushed him to the hospital.  He wouldn't let them call Alex or C.D., knowing they were with Trivette.  As the ER doctors prepped him for surgery, he'd suddenly slipped out, talking Trent into giving him his shirt, and he appeared in Trivette's room.  With Alex and C.D. asleep nearby, he'd taken Trivette's hand and simply said "welcome back, partner."  Alex had awakened then,  smiled as he winked at her, but she'd noticed the colorless face, the furrowed brow, and then he was gone, back to the ER as the staff frantically hunted for him, Trent grabbing him just as he passed out.

            His face was just as colorless now, the brow again furrowed.  Her finger left the scar and ran lightly down his arm.  She loved the hair on his arms.  Red-gold, feathery.  Strange what could stir the passion.

            Walker shifted, rolling onto his back, wincing as his knee turned with him.  His eyes never opened.  Alex pulled the afghan around him again, stopping once more as she viewed the parallel streaks across his chest.  The bear claw had nearly torn him to shreds.  She put her hand on his chest, her fingers following each pale white scar, remembering the night she'd used her own shirt for bandages and had held him through the rain and snow, not knowing if he was going to live or die.  Her scars from that night were invisible, but just as deep.  But as terrible as those few days had been, they'd grown closer, realized what they meant to each other.  He'd even told her she was beautiful.  Maybe those scars had been worth it.

            Just below the left collarbone was an ugly, jagged scar.  Alex moved her hand to it, two fingers barely touching the ivory trail of stitching.  Caleb Hooks.  Trivette had called ahead and she'd met them at the ER, seen the horrid knife wound and other cuts on his battered and exhausted body, seen the blank look in Walker's eyes.  In a few weeks the physical wounds of that encounter had healed, but the mental scars lasted much longer.  Caged for three days, no food --- only a few bottles of juice, and forced to fight numerous men to the death.  As Alex softly traced the smooth mound of scar tissue, she remembered her fear that he'd never get over it.  Nightmares for weeks afterwards.  He wouldn't talk about it, but she'd done the unthinkable --- had used her status and read his official statement.  The account had sent chills through her body.  Then, late one night, it spilled out, his defenses brought down by a few beers, and he'd told them  --- she, C.D. and Trivette --- about snapping a man's neck, throwing another into a spike pit, the electrocution of another.  The anguish came pouring out --- regret that there'd been no other way..........  The scars ran deep, cut to his heart.

            Alex felt her own heart aching with that memory.  If only emotional scars could be soothed with just a touch.

            There were other scars, overlapping the bear slash.  The knife wound which had led to their white water adventure,  bullet wounds while trying to help others -- Billy Gray Wolf, and Dwayne, the confused kid with a lowlife for a father.

            Alex stroked the scars he'd gotten before they'd met, the ones he never talked about --- Nam and Ellen.  Touching them now, she felt less of a need to know their origins.  The tactile act of her tracings was enough to satisfy her soul.

            She spread her hand over his heart, feeling its strong beat, her fingers caressing the wispy copper hairs. If she could trace the scars on his heart, the scars embedded in his soul, would she understand him better? Would she understand why he had such a difficult time expressing his thoughts to her, when she knew that deep inside his feelings were exploding?

            She looked at his face.  His brow wasn't furrowed anymore.  Sleep had brought calm to his scarred soul.  Or maybe her tracings had instilled the peace she wished for him, had conveyed the yearning of her heart to his.  Sighing, she covered him with the afghan and lay beside him, listening to the quiet crackling of the fire, the quiet sounds of his breaths.  Many people bore scars, but Walker had more than his share.  In his life, his chosen path of helping others, of righting wrongs, injury and turmoil were inevitable.  It was not in his nature to sit back, protect himself while others were at risk.  Alex put her head on his arm, the biceps flexing involuntarily at her touch.  Why had she made such a scene tonight?  He had earned yet another scar and she was complaining about a silly show.  She placed her hand on his chest once more to feel his heart beat against her palm..  Oh Walker, maybe it's not in the stars for us...........


            Walker awoke a little bit at a time, his mind fuzzy, but keenly aware that his arm was wrapped around Alex.  Surprised, he eased her head from the bend of his elbow and slowly sat up, grabbing at his knee to keep it still as he moved.  He leaned back against the couch as Alex's eyes popped open.  He gazed at her groggily, as if trying to remember if she'd been there when he went to sleep.  She sat up and rubbed her eyes.

            "I didn't mean to fall asleep."

            "What time is it?"  he asked, his voice still raspy with sleep, his mind still heavy from the pain medication.

            "A little after four,"  she answered, glancing at her watch.

            The fire had burned down to orange coals, sizzling quietly.  Alex put her hands together, wondering how to begin.

            "How do you feel?"

            He shrugged off the question, still trying to get his brain to function.  "When did you get here?"

            "About nine.  Jimmy had to leave."  She cleared her throat uncomfortably, then sighed out loud.  "Walker, I'm so sorry.  I feel awful about tonight."

            Expecting an angry retort, she was totally stunned when he smiled and held his arm out to her.  She scurried to him in a flash and snuggled against him.

            "I'm sorry too,"  he began, "about messing up your birthday. But I can't say I'm sorry I missed the........"  He stopped, not wanting to start it all over again.

            "You can say it," she giggled.  "......the goofy dancers?"

            He chuckled and nuzzled her hair with his face.  They were quiet for a few moments and she felt his body relax, falling asleep again. But then he jerked his head up.

            "I need some fresh air."  He got up, favoring the leg.

            "Maybe you'd better stay off your feet,"  Alex said, rising with him.

            "I'm just going out on the porch for a few minutes.  Want to come?"

            She nodded, then picked up the afghan and tossed it over his shoulders.  "It's cold out there." 

            Putting an arm around him, they slowly limped to the porch.  The autumn sky was ablaze with stars.  Alex always marveled at the difference in the sky between her city apartment and his country ranch.  At one time she had forgotten there were so many stars, but Walker had reacquainted her with them, naming them off like they were old friends.

            He leaned against the rail post to take the weight off his leg, then wrapped the afghan around them both, pulling her close to him.

            "I had a dream,"  he began softly, hesitantly.  "You were counting stars, and you brought them to me and sprinkled them all around, and I felt them go into my heart."   He took her hand and put it against his chest.  "Then you put your hand right here and told me that stardust healed the pain of a wounded soul.  But when you moved your hand away, I realized it was you that healed the pain."

            He gazed at her, suddenly embarrassed by the depth of emotion he'd just revealed, but she took his hand in hers and again put it against his chest.

            "This is where I want to be, in your heart,"  she whispered.

            "You've always been there, Alex."

            He met her lips, pulling her into a lingering, passionate kiss.  They missed the shooting star streak across the sky, splintering into pieces that each shimmered like  fireworks, raining stardust all around. 

            Alex smiled at Walker.  Whether tracing scars or counting stars, she would always be there for him, healing his soul with just a touch.



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