Waiting

(An anthology by Dee)

DDjems@aol.com

 

 

 

Alex shifted on the hard couch again, sighing as she sought to get comfortable.  Walker rubbed her upper arm, pulling her toward his shoulder and kissing her head.

 

"You all right Alex?"

 

"Yes." her voice, barely a whisper, as she rubbed her sleepy eyes with the back of her hand and let her head rest against the man she loved.

 

Walker felt a small inner smile.  This strong, sophisticated woman was childlike when she was tired.  The way she would rub her eyes and nuzzle her forehead back and forth when she snuggled against him, as if she were burrowing into his arm or chest.  He watched as she gave in to fatigue, her eyes slowly closing.   Walker looked then to his partner.  Trivette's gaze shifted from Alex to Walker and they traded concerned glances.

 

The friends had been sitting for most of the last three hours in the small, windowless room.  Each rising from time to time to pace or stretch, checking to see if the others needed anything, both Walker and Trivette checking on Alex so much that it had begun to annoy her, and finally sitting again to endure the wait.  There was little small talk, but comfort was found in the togetherness.  Each would sit upright, eyes toward the door at the sound of footsteps approaching in the hall, only to sink back down, on the hard furniture, as the sound passed their tiny room and continue their silent vigil.

 

Trivette felt the ache on his shoulder increasing with each breath.  With a nod to Walker he stood, removed the bottle of  painkillers from the jacket thrown on the chair next to him and walked out into the hall to the bubbler. After tossing two pills in his mouth, and enjoying a long cool drink, Jimmy checked his watch. ..7:13....was displayed on the face .... and as he

continued to stand looking ... 7:14 ... appeared.  Another minute gone he thought, another minute closer to what?  They had spent the whole day waiting.  He and Walker meeting at headquarters before dawn to take their shift on the stakeout.  It was the way it had been all week .... hurrying to meet early each day, to sit and wait in front of the high-rise ... waiting for a glimpse of  Daniel Hosage.  He was the big new player in town  and was rapidly cornering the drug sales in the area.  Handsome, charming  and well educated, he seemed an unlikely candidate to be mixed up in this

kind of business and yet, the Rangers thought that was what had made him so successful.  They had been waiting months, doing detailed research, to catch this man in the act, so they could put him out of business for good.  Now a sting was in place, but Dan Hosage was taking his time joining the game, waiting for what they wondered?  It seemed everyone was waiting these days.

The tension was so thick, that Walker and Trivette had taken on the habit of exchanging wordless glances.  Trivette knew the look that meant,  'give me the cell phone, I want to call Alex', the one that meant, 'don't  say it' after they came to the close of another fruitless day.   Hours passed into days silently, as they waited for a break in the case, waited for their shift to be over and waited to hurry home to begin waiting again.

 

Walker felt the slight movements on his side and wrapped his free hand around Alex's midsection, while tightening his hold and pulling her closer to rest on him.  He was so thankful to have Alex with him.  It had been the hardest struggle of his life ... letting her into his heart and

then having to fight so hard to keep her there.

 

Closing his eyes, Walker allowed his thoughts to wander through events of the previous eleven years.  Their first meeting in the courtroom.  He'd felt the stirrings during that first encounter, even as Alex questioned him on the stand.  His mind meandered to outings at the cabin, their fishing and rafting adventures, dancing with Alex held close, the evenings they'd spent just sitting together, watching the stars.  But too soon, somber images filled his reflections.  Alex being kidnapped, terrorized by LaRue, shot at Phil and Kim's wedding.  His body shuddered, even now, as his mind rambled through the horrors yet again ....

 

The nurses came for him, over and over, during those first few days, warning him that Alex wasn't expected to make it much longer.  Leading Walker, repeatedly, to her side.  How long had he stood, gripping her hand, unable to make any words come to his lips, as he watched her gasping for air?  Fighting to survive this ordeal himself, as he viewed her chest rising and her body stiffening, the respirator forcing her lungs to work as her fragile, damaged body fought to cling to life. It had been days before the doctor had said the word "stable" ...  days before Walker took a deep breath of his own....days before he finally returned to the ranch. Heading into the surrounding fields upon leaving the truck, Walker had run hard into the blackness of the night, finally collapsing on the moist, hard ground in sobs, as the anguish poured from his soul. Walker had rarely felt the need to shed a tear.  He bore his sorrow privately, his tears solely intrinsic. But at almost losing Alex, his heart was thrown open.  The anguish he felt for every labored breath she still struggled to take, every fraction of pain she had yet to endure, exploded forth with such a vengeance that it had nearly consumed him in it's wake.

 

While time and love continued his healing, Walker's nightmares of the event persisted.  He'd awaken agitated during the night, though not as often as in the past, the sight of Alex's blood on his hand as vivid as the day he'd seen it, her trembling voice calling his name still echoing clear.

After almost three years, the sound of a gunshot jolted Walker's heart  beat to a quicker pace.  He battled to control the nagging fear that came with it's resonance, to continue in the job that was his passion.  Walker had successfully hidden his torment from everyone.  Everyone but Alex.  He had tried at first, but she could see through his stoic facade and now, he sought her out when he needed comfort from the memories and  reassurance from the horrors of the past.  Sought out the love of the one he so desperately prayed each day would be spared from another ounce of pain.  Breaking from his reverie, Walker looked tenderly at the woman curled in his arms.  There rested his Alex ... who had fought the long war to regain her life, almost alone, at times, when he had withdrawn.  His Alex, who still had the courage and strength and love to help him fight too.   This beautiful woman, who now lay peacefully sleeping, snuggled in his warm embrace, was his source of strength and her gentle, ever present, love contained the peace that was slowly healing his heart.

 

Returning from the hall, Trivette fell back heavily into the waiting room chair.

 

"You OK, Trivette?"

 

"Yeah.  Fine."  Trivette closed his eyes. 'Just fine Walker, hurts like hell.',  the thought spoke in his mind.  Just another fifteen minutes and the painkiller would be working, he could make it that long.  Walker asks me one more time if I'm OK and I'm gonna belt him.  Trivette admonished

himself immediately.  He's just being your big brother.  Walker was always looking out for him, believing in him even when he didn't believe in himself. Trivette remembered with anguish the time he had thought he'd shot a child.  Walker was relentless in finding the truth, never doubting his partner for a second.  Or the time he'd been accused of stealing drug money.   Walker never  even asked him if he'd done it.  Just defended him to the hills. Or their first meeting.  Walker had saved his life that night in the alley, taking down the seven men who were bent on killing the black police officer. They had never talked about that night and Jimmy wondered if Walker realized it had been him in the alley now that they were partners.  Probably, Jimmy thought.  The man knows everything and tells nothing.  No, not true.  He tells me a lot, teaches me more than anyone I've ever met.  Just not good with emotion.  I should talk.  What am I waiting for?  I'd like to tell him how glad I am that I'm his partner, how much I appreciate him saving my butt that night in the alley and ... today.  God ... these painkillers are making me mushy.

 

Trivette opened his eyes and shook his head to clear it, gazing at the sight before him.  Walker still had Alex snuggled against him on the couch.  His red-haired cowboy brother and adopted sister, Alex.  She had become a real life sister, especially in the last few years.  They could spend endless hours talking. Alex sharing advice on women and even helping him shop for special presents for his sisters and girlfriend.  Walker and C.D. had teased him unmercifully about how he'd rather shop with Alex then go out into the wilderness with them, as soon as they'd found out about one of their trips.  Well, it sure was a lot safer to shop with Alex than have Walker and C.D. gang up on him in the wild.  Trivette smiled broad at the thought, glancing at Walker, who shot back a 'what?' look.  Shaking his head 'nothing', but still smiling, Jimmy thought of what the old gang in Baltimore would think of his adopted sister. Her golden hair, soft voice and pale  complexion.   Walker would have fit in, different as he was, he was tough and commanded

respect, but Alex ... he just didn't know about that one. Baltimore .... so much has changed since then, living with his grandmother and two sisters in the tenements.  Trying to stay clear of trouble on some days and looking for it on others.  Then, the scholarship to play football, being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.  Dreams he never thought he'd see come to pass.  A Ranger.  He sure had changed since those days in Baltimore.  Thank goodness he'd met C.D.  Pulled him from his depression over the loss of his football career and back on a new track in life.  C.D. ... where was C.D. now?  C.D. had changed too.  He was softer than he used to be.  Even Walker had changed in the past few years, Jimmy postulated as he continued his introspection....Walker was still a man of few words that spoke volumes, but he used them just a bit more now.  Jimmy pursued his reflections.  His breakup with Rachel.  They had dated for almost a year, and were becoming serious.  Jimmy had relaxed in the relationship, enjoying the comfort and  companionship.  So it was a shock when she told him she was taking a job in CA.  He withdrew immediately, scolding himself for letting any woman get to him, for letting his guard down.  He'd never liked long term relationships before, always enjoying the company of different women with different tastes.  It kept things interesting and safe.  It was Walker, who, on the day before Rachel left for CA, approached him at the end of the day, put his arm around him, looked him straight in the eyes and said  "Been there.  You're having dinner with Alex and me."  And after the night with them, relaxing, joking and just watching Walker and Alex together, Jimmy felt a new strength.  He knew well they had both been through many heartaches before finding each other, and many trials with each other before becoming a team.  Walker had walked out of the ranch with him that night, placed his hand on his partner's shoulder and told him factually,

"It's worth the hurt and the wait, cause Trivette when it's right ......" and he glanced back toward the house without finishing the sentence.  That was it, but it was enough.  'Walker words.' he and Alex had joked many times, sparse, but penetrating.

 

Jimmy had bought flowers and appeared at the airport in the morning, able to say good-bye to someone who'd touched his life and helped him grow.  Able to see that in the end, the wait would be worth it for him too.   And time had brought some peace as Jimmy had begun to see a new woman regularly. Lynda was smart, attractive and strong.  They enjoyed the same music.  She was a software engineer and one of the first women Jimmy could talk all night with about the latest in technology.  But best of all, Lynda was an avid football fan, who could spout statistics almost as well as Jimmy.  Lynda brought her own interests as well, and Jimmy was becoming

quite the antique expert in the process.  They'd gotten close, even gone away alone together a few times, but history threatened to repeat itself.   Lynda was being sought after by a big technology firm in Minnesota.  The job was a wonderful career move, but the timing for her personal life couldn't have been worse.  She had let Trivette in on the decision making from the beginning, both admitting they weren't ready to be tied down yet, but both not wanting to see the relationship end.  And so, Jimmy's had started a new round of waiting.

 

"Coffee?"  Trivette broke from his trance to see Walker looking right at him.

 

"A... yeah, that'd be good."

 

Walker was almost out the door when Alex reminded him "decaf".

 

"I KNOW Alex!" came his irritated reply and then a flash of regret covered his face so quickly that it made Alex smile.

 

"It's OK Cowboy, we're both on edge."

 

Walker's relief was immediate and he gave her a small smile of gratitude, then glanced at Trivette, tossed his head toward Alex and gave the 'watch after her' look.  Trivette nodded, and glancing toward his charge as Walker made his way down the hall, they both laughed out loud.

 

"OK, Jimmy you better watch me really close this time ...  you just never know when I might dash off!"

 

This caused them both to roar with laughter, breaking the tension in the room, before each fell silent and back to their own contemplations. Alex grinned in return, as Jimmy gave her a smile, before letting his head drop back to rest on the chair, gradually closing his eyes.

 

James Trivette, the only man Walker would ever trust to protect me in his absence, Alex began her musing. Walker had been doing it for years. Alex thought he'd been protective of her from the start and in the beginning, it exasperated her. She could take care of herself! She was strong and had made her own way.  She didn't need a man to help her.  She wouldn't let that happen ... become dependent on a man and then watch him walk out of her life, just like her dad had done to her mom.  But as time went on, she had come to treasure his protectiveness.   Even during periods in their relationship when they had withdrawn from each other, there was never a question about their friendship or that Cordell wouldn't be there for her in a moments notice.

 

Now, he was more protective than ever, but Alex could never be angry with him about it again. They'd both been through so much, but Alex felt Walker had suffered more than she had in the last few years.  He gave her everything he had to help bring her back from the physical and emotional pains of the shooting and she witnessed as he'd almost lost himself in the process.

 

Alex's thoughts drifted back to her days spent in this same hospital.  She remembered how Walker was with her each step of the way during her recovery, waiting patiently when she was determined to do things on her own, encouraging her when she felt like giving up, holding her when she couldn't bear the pain or fear alone.  On days when everything seemed impossible, Walker would sit her in his lap on the mats, holding her shaking body close to his, letting it's warmth and strength transfer to her own, as he did each piece of therapy with her.  Alex smiled reminiscing how Walker blushed when the hospital PT had told him he was the most co-operative non-patient he'd ever had.  It had been physically and emotionally exhausting for them both, but for all it's hardship, this had been a special time for Alex.  A time when she realized that being dependent on Walker didn't make her any less strong, a time when Walker allowed her to see his heart without hesitation.

 

Walker would stay with the woman he loved each night, waiting until she was soundly asleep, holding her hand, and softly calming her fears.  Then, just before she was released from the hospital, he began to fall silent and distant.  Alex had misunderstood the first signs of trouble.  She still remembered seeing the tears hanging in his eyes as he helped her with her therapy, one night, a week before her release.  Alex could still feel the tremble of Walker's touch, as he wiped her tears of pain away.   That evening, he'd been unable to shroud his emotions from her, although he'd scarcely spoken any words.  Alex could feel his overwhelming need to be with her as he joined her on the bed and held her tightly.  Enjoying the intimacy and open expression of Walker's feelings for her, she held him closely in return, planting kisses on his cheek and listening to the steady beat of his heart as she drifted off to sleep.

 

The next morning, Walker had sent Alex flowers and she was ecstatic!  An exquisite bouquet, in a delicate ivory base, and a card, containing, in his carefully formed letters, the message 'All my love'.  She could hardly wait until he arrive that evening, but C.D. and Jimmy had come alone.

Reluctantly, but carefully, they told her that Walker had been placed on department leave the day before.  That he'd been reckless in his apprehension of her assailants, driven at all costs to retaliate for the pain they'd caused her.  He'd beaten and threatened suspects and informants.

The complaints to the department were mounting.  They'd been as worried about him as they were about her, but that they'd tried their best to keep it from her, hoping that Walker would get through this quickly and not wanting to burden her further.  Trivette recounted how after the Captain informed Walker of his forced absence yesterday morning, telling him to give himself a chance to recover from the ordeal, he'd just nodded and walked out the door.  No argument or excuses.  The Captain, and most of the other Rangers, took his reaction to be an understanding.  That Walker knew he needed the break after the long ordeal and understood.  But not Trivette.

 

Trivette saw a man trounced nearing the end of the round, a man sinking alone, without the voice to ask for a lifejacket.  C.D. and Trivette hadn't seen or heard from him all day, although they'd tried to find him. Walker had been one man with her, controlled, loving, shouldering her burdens

with ease, but the fears and rage of his life's journey were taking their toll on his very essence.

 

Alex shifted her weight on the couch, continuing to recall the events that followed.  She had held Walker's card to her heart that night, as she lay alone for the first time since the shooting, waiting for sleep to come. Knowing Walker's actions the night before were a glimpse into his tortured soul ...  a cry of pain.  She wished she had understood them then,  like it seemed he always comprehended without being told.  Alex knew he had been trying to heal himself without letting anyone know there was a wound.  But he hadn't come tonight.  Would all of this be too much for him, she too big a burden?  Would he leave her now?  After all they'd been through?  Now after she'd come so far in her recovery, only because of his determination and support?  After they'd gotten so close, she was sure he was going to propose at the wedding?  Would he walk away from all of it now?   She didn't know if she wanted to make it without him; Alex knew she could, but what would be the point?  Alex wondered where Walker was, wishing she could go to him, just to hold him close, frustrated that she was stuck in this hospital and fearful that even if she could get to him physically, she wouldn't be able to help him emotionally. Her tired mind rambling, Alex sobbed in despair.  Not a tear was shed for herself. Alex cried Walker's tears for

him, crying for all the hurts he'd suffered; all the times he had needed to be consoled, but couldn't let her in; all the scars of life her warrior had to bear.

 

Walker had come to see her late the next day, but she had been unable to reach him.  He was reluctant even in his acceptance of her hugs and Alex's fears for him took on a life of their own.  He stopped in for shorter periods as the week progressed, telling her he had things to do now that she was up and about, refusing to even acknowledge his leave from work and the distance between then widened.

 

Strangely, Walker's turmoil had provided the spark for new strength and courage for Alex.  He'd been there for her, shouldering all the burden for her during the times she didn't think she could or wanted to make it anymore, and now, she was even more determined to recover fully and do

the same for him.  By the time she was released at the weeks end, Alex was a woman on a mission and not even Walker argued when she said she was staying at his ranch for a while, telling him she wanted nothing but fresh air after her long hospital stay.  He wanted Alex there with him too.  He needed to protect her and care for her.  He longed for her companionship, but he just couldn't put his finger on it, he also wanted her far away from him.  The deep stirrings of his angry soul something he couldn't understand much less share.

 

During the first days, life was cordial, with Walker helping Alex physically whenever he could.  Her cowboy was attentive and caring,  anticipating her needs, but emotionally, Walker was a void.  He'd made no attempt to contact work, and cut short calls from Trivette and C.D.   Stoic and restrained, he hadn't smiled, or teased her, not even shown frustration at her attempts to talk with him.  Instead, Walker would nod at her comments, lightly rubbing her cheek, planting a small kiss on her head and on occasion, draw her close to him for a hug.  Alex knew she wasn't reaching him, he was still trying to soothe his hurt alone.

 

The mornings were quiet. Walker was off in the barn doing chores or exercising the horses, going through all the motions of life, but not living it.  Alex wasn't even sure he slept anymore, and while he went to great lengths to make appetizing meals for her, she'd only seen him eat

a few bites of each meal. Preferring to bring their meals to the porch, he would sit with her for a bit, and then mumble something about getting back to work, leaving before they were half way through.

 

Alex recollected how she would watch as, each night, he walked off alone into the darkness, hands tucked into the pockets of his jeans, head lowered, with no purposeful stride.  Nightly, she tried to wait for his return, yearning to help him find peace, but sleep overcame her still healing body.

 

In the morning, she would awaken on the couch covered by an afghan or placed back in the guest room bed, moved from the porch swing where she'd fallen off watching for Walker's return from his wanderings.  She knew he'd come back during the night, reasoned he'd taken care of her yet again, even as he was slipping away himself.  Alex  recognized that the man she loved was sacrificing himself, as she'd witnessed him do time and again, putting those he cherished first, fighting the battles for those who were weaker. Maybe for the first time, Alex saw that while her valorous warrior would prevail in his efforts for her struggle, alone, he wasn't strong enough to

survive his own private war.

 

On the fourth afternoon of her stay, after watching the man who held her heart sit on the porch for hours gazing at the expanse of land before him, Alex had witnessed enough.  With as much courage as she could muster, Alex made her way out on the porch and sat herself on the swing backward, her still weak legs folded to the side, her body facing Walker and leaning toward his.

 

"Whatya need Alex?" came his concerned question, his voice tired and flat, his eyes distant.

 

Alex placed her right hand on top of his, reached her left arm across his body, firmly grasping his strong shoulder, and stared him down.  In a steady and loving voice, she quietly replied, "You.  I need you, Cordell Walker.  And I will find you and bring you back to me if it takes everything I've got... if it takes the rest of my life, I'm going to wait for you cowboy!"

 

Alex watched as Walker lowered his head, looking at her hand resting on his.  She rubbed his hand tenderly as she felt it's slight tremble.  After a long silence, he looked up at her again, wearing the same expression she'd seen the instant she'd been shot ... bewildered, grief-filled and lost. Walker's look scared Alex now as much as it had in the instant before she lost consciousness.  Her stomach tighten at the flash of painful memories.  This mighty warrior was allowing her in.  Without uttering a word, he was letting her see to the depths of his being.  Alex swallowed hard, pushing aside her memories and fears, as he'd had to do to help her recover. 

With renewed strength, his beautiful companion placed one hand around his neck, softly stroking his beard with the other, and gazed into his eyes.   "It's OK cowboy.  We're both going to be OK."  She leaned forward to him, massaging his rigid neck and shoulders as she did so, and gently kissing his lips, letting her love for him, the love he had filled her with during this last month, as she fought to find her own way back, find it's way to his heart once more....

 

"Hey beautiful, whatya thinking about?"

 

Alex snapped from her reflections to find her cowboy, knelt in front of her, talking to her in a concerned voice.  Taking the cup of coffee from Walker, Alex gave him a small smile and she could see it's instantaneous result on him, as his anxiety faded.

 

"You Walker.  I was thinking about you."

 

A smile appeared and his eyes gave that wry twinkle.  "I'm not in trouble again am I?"

 

"Not yet, but I'll keep you posted." giggled Alex, as she placed a kiss on his cheek, while uttering a silent prayer of thanks that they'd fought and survived his war together.

 

Taking a sip of his own hot coffee, Trivette watched as Walker joined Alex again on the couch and took a sip from her cup.  C.D.'s right he mused. For two people who try to keep so much to themselves, they couldn't be any more obvious in their love for each other than the sizzling red Texas sun on a summer day.  C.D. invariably had the silliest analogies, but everyone just started using them after a while.  They just kind of rubbed off on you, like C.D.  C.D. .... please Lord, let him be all right.  Trivette relived of the shock at finding out C.D. was at the hospital too.  He and Walker had just come out of the treatment room, when they saw Alex at the admittance desk. Frenzied, they went right to her, but as she turned at their calls, her reddened eyes and look of apprehension let them know they had jumped to the wrong conclusion.   His partner had gathered the trembling woman tightly in his arms, as she cried into his shoulder, incapable of getting the words out.  Exchanging anxious looks with Walker, Jimmy had pulled the desk nurse aside uncover the problem.

 

Jimmy recalled the nurses story.  C.D. had been brought in to the emergency room by Mabel from the bar, about two hours earlier, after  'not feelin quite right' for most of the day.  By the time he got to the hospital, his pale complexion, shortness of breath and pain in his lower jaw and right side, were the clear signs of a heart problem.  They'd hooked the older man up to the monitors right away, and began to pump the beta-blockers, diuretics and nitro into his system.  But C.D. wasn't getting any better and after finally stabilizing him, he was taken to be prepped for exploratory surgery.  Alex had gotten the call from Mabel, startling her as she laid napping on the couch.  She headed to the hospital as fast as she could, panic sweeping through her and preventing her from remembering to call Walker and Trivette, forgetting to even grab her purse.

Unable to use the pay phone, she had just gone to the admittance to call dispatch, in an attempt to reach C.D.'s two closest friends, when they'd seen her.  Jimmy had felt his own fears rising as the nurse related the days events....Big Dog.  He was like a father to him...to them all.

 

Returning and finding Walker had moved Alex off to the side of the waiting area, Trivette had stood aside for a time, watching his partner soothe the woman he loved so fiercely with softly spoken words and gentle touches.  Jimmy marveled again at the complexity of his partner.  Just

hours before, this same man had used his skills to overpower and outsmart their assailants, killing a man in the process and saving Trivette's life, but now his gentleness was just as relentless.

 

Ultimately filling Walker in on C.D.'s condition, Trivette recollected feeling Walker's pain, as he had felt his own, at the news.  Jimmy placed a hand on each of his friends, his concern for Alex as apparent as his partner's, as he watched her struggle for composure, her body still tucked safely in the arms of her husband.  Still attached to Walker, Alex freed an arm and wrapped it around Trivette as well, with Walker doing the same.  The three friends stood, silently, sharing unspoken support. Jimmy immediately smiled, the last time they'd stood like this had been almost two years ago.  The newlyweds were about to leave the reception of their wedding, and the friends had hugged like this. Each stating a few words of thanks to the others, for the friendship that had gotten them through the difficult year before.  The companionship that had

pulled Alex through her long, agonizing recovery from the shooting, Walker through his tormenting grief and anger, Trivette through the losses of Rachel and his grandmother.  C.D. ...  he had been there in the hug that night too, but now they hugged for him. Jimmy broke from his reverie ... the pain in his shoulder was easing.  Jimmy's thoughts turned again to C.D....C.D. the glue that held them all together.

 

The friends surrogate father lay waiting for the surgery.  He was cold in this foolish hospital gown, and fear was gradually invading his normally resilient spirit.  He hadn't wanted to come to the hospital, hadn't wanted to hear the news he was afraid would come.  So he had tried to wait

it out.  And now he was waiting again.  Waiting for what?  More bad news?  These doctors always find something wrong, that's what they're lookin for ... why they only give them licenses to 'practice' medicine he thought.  He'd believe in doctors when they got a license that said they knew medicine!  C.D. was worried about his kids too.  They were all here somewhere, waiting

and worrying about him, he knew.  A smile formed on his face.  He'd started calling them that more and more lately.

 

The elder man sighed, reflecting on when he and Cordell were partners. Calling the younger man 'son' was a habit at first, but soon Walker had taken that spot in his heart as well.  Then when he met Jimmy, he had become a real life son to him almost immediately.  Then there was Alex. 

She was like a daughter to him, especially now.  They saw eye to eye even less than he and Cordell or Jimmy, what with Alex's strong and optimistic views.  Always looking through those rose colored glasses he'd told her again and again, seeing the best in everyone, not how it is in the big, bad, real world.  Always latching on to those dang fangled, new ideas instead of believing in the tried and true ways that had worked for years!  And yet, that was what C.D. thought he loved about her best.  Not her beauty or strength, which he openly admired.  She brought hope to all their lives, rounded out all their rough edges, just by being Alex.

 

Laying on the gurney, C.D. continued his recollecting ... how they returned from the 'boys only' fishing trip on his last birthday to find Alex planting flowers in his yard.

 

"Happy Birthday!" she had excitedly spouted.  "No wonder you're so grumpy in the morning, C.D." she'd teased and given as a way to explain.   "This place is just too plain ... needed to have some color, these petunias and dayflowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies and look, I put up a birdhouse over there so you can watch them when you have your morning coffee"  she beamed with pride and excitement.

 

"Oh just wonderful darlin!  Not bad enough I have you kids wakin me up in the wee morning hours with your dang fool hospital runs and what not!  Now I'm gonna have a bunch of squawking birds wakin me to boot!" he had grumbled and they all had laughed.  But her excitement for life was contagious, and C.D. had found himself on the very first morning watching the birds noisily gather their seeds as he sipped his coffee.

 

C.D. relaxed involuntarily, as he felt the sedative enter his body, the nurse's needle not even out of the IV yet.  The waiting was over, it was time for the surgery.  'Lord ...' he silently prayed, 'I'm getting to be an old man, but I hope you're not waiting for me ... I ain't ready to come home yet.  I'd like to see heaven someday Lord, I surely would, but if it's the same to you, not yet.  But ifin I haveta ... Lord ... please ... please take care of my kids."

 

When the patient opened his eyes again, he saw Jimmy standing by his bed and felt a squeeze on his hand.

 

"What ya starin at me all mushy like for Son?"

 

Trivette let out a smile.  "Good to have you back with us Big Dog.  Doc says you're gonna be just fine.  Had some plaque blockage, they took care of it.  No more surgeries for now."

 

"Course I'm gonna be fine Jimmy, coulda told ya that!"  C.D. let out hoarsely, letting his heavy eyes close once more.  Relief filled the older man's body and he took note of the ache in his chest.  His head hurt too.  Opening his eyes, he was startled to see Cordell and Alex this time. 

How long had his eyes been closed? He remembered the nurse poking at him, mumbled words, how much time had passed?

 

"Hey." Walker let out.

 

Alex just smiled, gripping C.D.'s hand tightly.  "You take it easy now C.D., you need to get your strength back."

 

C.D. nodded, letting his mind adjust again to his surroundings.

 

"What time is it?" he asked quietly.

 

Walker glanced at his watch, "It's two in the morning."

 

Two in the morning?  He'd left the bar at around two in the afternoon.  Had they gotten everything taken care of for the dinner crowd; had they remembered to lock the back room?

 

"C.D., everything's been takin care of, relax." Walker had read his mind.

 

Nodding, C.D. started,  "Gotta get me outta here soon, 'for Mabel ruins my place .... "

 

Both Walker and Alex just shook their heads.  The nurse came in to make another round of checks, and the friends said their good-byes.

 

The retired Ranger turned toward his old partner, grabbing his arm as he made to leave,  “Cordell, you better take that pretty little wife of yours home, she looks plumb tuckered out.  She needs her rest ya know." He gave, in his best fatherly tone.  Walker nodded his compliance.

 

The warm shower beaded down on Walker's fatigued body, helping to ease away the tension of the last few days.  Most of the waiting was over for the time being, and it felt good to relax.  He returned to the bedroom clad only in gym shorts, to find Alex laying on her side on the bed, knees drawn up, rubbing her back, her face in a scowl.

 

"Here, let me do that" Walker offered, scooting next to her on the bed, sitting cross-legged, be began to carefully massage her lower back. Alex closed her eyes, letting a deep breath escape, as her husband's hand brought her instant relief from the nagging pain.  Her look softened,  and she draped her arm around Walker's legs, opening her eyes and smiling up at him.

 

"I love you bestest." Alex giggled and Walker smiled broadly.  "I'm getting used to this you know Cowboy, don't even think you're going to be able to get out of these back rubs when all this is over."

 

"Wouldn't want to Sweetheart ... course, you're gonna owe me big time - have to give me two rubs a night for the rest of my life to catch up ya know!" he teased, placing a kiss on her lips.   Alex flinched and placed her hand on her stomach.  Walker added his and they both let out big smiles.

 

"Why does this baby always want to play at night?" the expectant mother lamented.

 

Walker was transfixed on the feeling of his baby's strong movement against his hand.  The experience had lost none of it's special, awe inspiring feel, since he'd felt the first fluttering, so many months ago. That night, Alex had awakened him from a deep sleep, placing his hand just

under her pelvic bone on the left side and pressing it down firmly.  He'd felt the tiny movements against his palm and marveled at the blessing of a new life, one of Alex and him. The baby's kicks increased in fervor against it's father's strong hand.

 

Stretching out on his side, so that he faced his wife, Walker propped his head up on his left hand, slowly stroking Alex's expanded belly.  After only a few minutes, the baby calmed it's kicking and Alex could feel herself beginning to drift off, as well.

 

"How do you always do that Honey?" she asked quietly, as he reached to turn off the light.

 

"Do what?" he whispered, pulling the sheet up over them and scooping Alex's head onto his shoulder.

 

"When you rub like that on my stomach, how do you always get the baby to settle down?"  she continued, her eyes looking up at his bearded face.  Walker was silent for a long time and Alex began to wonder if he had fallen asleep.

 

"It's how .... how I tell her that I love her Alex." Walker softly admitted, drawing his wife in closer to his side and kissing her forehead.   Alex smiled and felt tears swell in her eyes.  'Walker words.'  Walker could be so darn deep sometimes and it still always caught her off guard.

 

Alex propped up to look at Walker.  "How do you know it's a her?"

 

"You told me Alex.  You said you thought we were gonna have a girl." Walker explained, wiping away a tear that had snuck through Alex's attempt to mask it's emergence.

 

"Yeah, but what do you and your Cherokee instinct think we're going to have?"

 

"Alex, come on.  Get some rest."

 

"No Walker, what do you really think?"

 

Walker knew better than to let Alex get going like this, especially a pregnant Alex, whose emotions had been as up and down lately as they had in the first weeks of pregnancy.  Not seeing any way out, Walker answered, "C.D. told me a woman can always tell if the baby she is carrying is a boy or girl and you told me you think it's a girl ... and Trivette said his sister told him something about if you're carrying more in the back than front, or vise-versa, then it's a girl and he said you are ... and Janice said you and her did some string test in the office and it moved in a circle, so it's a girl.  I believe you all, our baby is a girl, now go to sleep. OK?"

 

"Walker!  You never believe anything anyone tells you without seeing it for yourself first!  What do YOU think the baby is?"

 

"I believe you when you tell me you love me Alex." Walker teased.

 

"Ohhh ..." Alex let out and then swatted him, her voice becoming aggravated, "Cordell Walker!  Stop it!  This is serious!  What do you think our baby is?"

 

Walker groaned inwardly.  This sure was getting serious, he was exhausted and never going to get any sleep tonight!  "I think our baby is ... beautiful Alex, just like her momma."

 

That said, Walker pulled Alex into a long passionate kiss, caressing her hair and running his other hand up and down his beautiful wife's back with feather-like touches.  When he felt her body relax, he broke off the kiss, pulled her head to his shoulder again and continued the gentle

caresses on her back.  Alex placed her hand on her husband's powerful chest and he covered it with his own, gently squeezing.  When Alex moved her head side to side, to burrow into his shoulder, he smiled and quietly whispered "Night Sweetheart.  I love you."

 

"I love you too." came the softly spoken reply, followed by the faint sounds of rhythmic breathing as they both drifted off to sleep.

 

Trivette was alone in C.D.'s room now, having persuaded the nurse to let him remain through the night.  He rubbed his shoulder as the dull ache began to throb again.  Another second and he could have been in the ICU with C.D., or worse.

 

It had begun shortly after he and Walker took over their shift that morning. 'How many hours ago ... 23?' Jimmy noted.  There had been a lot of activity reported, in the high-rise, during the night and all the officers were on edge.   In a flash, the world accelerated. The signal came to move and the waiting was over.  Trivette remembered how he'd felt amazement at the moment they had seen the signal, that with one small change, the waiting of the past could vanish and today slap you right in the face. Walker and Trivette had wordlessly taken their positions. 

The partners were the first to bust in on Daniel Hosage and his men and a ferocious struggle began.  With well executed punches, and no gunfire exchanged, the team subdued all seven men quickly.  These criminals were smart and educated, realizing they were physically overpowered for this round, they would continue to fight their battle in court with high powered attorneys.  After the group of men had been cuffed, Trivette, Walker and two of the other Rangers began making room sweeps.  As they entered the third room, Trivette saw a flash, turned toward it and yelled "Freeze".   In an instant, he heard two shots, felt himself thrown to the ground, heard

a moan and thud.  A searing pain permeated his shoulder.  Walker was at his side in an instant, checking his wound, helping him to his feet.  The body of the assailant lay in a heap on the ground before him.  Jimmy still felt awe in his partner's instinct.  The flash had been a reflection in the mirror, but in the second it took the younger man to realize this fact, it was too late.  He had his partner to thank for this throbbing pain in his arm, and he was grateful.  Jimmy continued to rub his shoulder, glancing up to see C.D.'s eyes fixed on him.

 

"Those two muleheads finally listen to me and go home?"

 

"Yeah, Big Dog.  They left here bout six hours ago.  How you feeling?"

 

"Like a possum been run over by a brick haulin semi Trivette, how ya think I feel!  Layin here, all hooked up, God knows what goop they got pourin into my veins and that smart ass young doctor telling me I almost had a heart attack and now I gotta change my whole dang life!"

 

Trivette grinned, "Yeah, C.D.  I thought you were looking better already."

 

"Jimmy?" the older man continued in a hushed whisper, "You're gonna have to sneak me in some real food Son, stuff they got here will finish me off for sure!"

 

"OK, Big Dog.  You just get some rest for now, and I'll take care of it later today."

 

Appeased, C.D. settled back, closing his eyes for a while, as Trivette pulled his chair closer to the bed.  Some time passed before the patient began again.

 

"Jimmy, you reckon Alex and Walker have much longer to wait?"

 

"I don't know Big Dog.  Doctor says another three weeks, but Alex sure is getting big."

 

"Big?  I tell ya Son, that little lady looks like a hen who ain't dropped her eggs in a week of Sundays!"

 

Both men chuckled, then the younger asked in a mock tone, "So C.D., what do you want?  A boy or a girl?"

 

As both men recalled the conversation from months earlier, their prior tension was erased by quiet laughter ...

 

"Trivette and C.D. said men really want to have a son first, to teach things to and so that they know their family name will live on, but I think it's a girl." Alex established as the friends sat at the table enjoying their lunch.

 

Jimmy let out his broad smile and C.D. grimaced, looking away.  That conversation had been two weeks ago, just hypothetical, right after the expecting couple had told them they were going to have a baby.  Alex had asked them each if they thought they'd want a boy or girl first, while

waiting for Walker to show at the bar one night.  Opps, they'd gotten Walker in trouble now without even knowing it.

 

"Will you be disappointed if it's not a boy?" Alex continued, munching on her salad.

 

Walker glared at his friends, giving them a look somewhere between a sarcastic 'thanks so much' and 'you two are dead meat'.

 

"Sweetheart, I won't be disappointed one way or the other.  I can teach a girl the same things as I would a boy.  You'd see to that I anyway, I bet." her husband tried to tease the moment away.

 

"But do you WANT a boy or a girl?"  Alex just wouldn't let this go, and all three men saw her face getting redder and her emotions stronger.

 

"I want a girl Alex, AND I want a boy, AND maybe I even want one with Trivette's smile and C.D.'s appetite!"  Walker let out with a shake of his head at how silly this whole conversation was.

 

The trio of men burst out laughing, but Alex's face just grew crimson. In a moment, tears were flowing from her eyes quicker than she could wipe them away.

 

"Don't you make fun of me Cordell John Walker!" she sputtered and smacked his arm.  At this, the men's laughter increased and so did Alex's tears.  "I don't know why I'm crying like this over your stupid, stupid jokes!" she choked out.

 

C.D., wiping tears of laughter from his face now, gave her arm a pat. "It's OK, darlin.  We don't mean nothin by it."

 

"Calm down, Alex.  It's just your hormones being all mixed up.  They talked about it in class, remember?"  Walker consoled.

 

"What would you know about what they talked about Walker?  You fell asleep!"

 

Trivette and C.D, exchanged glances as peels of laughter erupted from both of them again.

 

"Alex, it was only once and only for a little while!  Come on.  You know I'd been up for a day and a half that time and I still went to class with you."  Walker stated his excuse humbly, giving her hand a squeeze.

 

His wife ripped her hand from his hold, her volume increasing.  "Went to class with me!  Oh, so now it's a big favor to me?  This is YOUR baby too Walker!"

 

Simultaneously, Trivette and C.D. threw up their hands in an 'I surrender' gesture, both wrestling to hold back more laughter.

 

If the whole episode wasn't so funny, Walker could have been really annoyed.  He gave Alex a long look.  Her face bore the same determined,  ready for a fight manner he'd seen many times before.  His mind flashed back to the first time he'd seen that expression, New Year's Eve in C.D.'s bar.  He'd just told C.D. how he never wanted to see the new DA again.  She was stubborn and arrogant and muleheaded.  Alex had lit into him right away about his behavior on the witness stand.  When the clock struck midnight, she was still yelling at him, that same look as now on her face, but Walker couldn't hear her words.  With the arrival of the new year, all he saw was a beautiful, strong, feisty woman and he was drawn to her.  He surprised her and himself with a kiss ...

 

Walker grabbed Alex and planted a big kiss on her lips.  Releasing her lips, he gave a stunned Alex his crooked smile and said "Truce Alex, Happy New Year!"

 

"Oh Walker, it's only October, but I love you so much."  She threw her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly, tears of joy flowing this time.

 

Walker rolled his eyes at his two snickering friends and mouthed "Women!".

 

"We thought he had a lot to deal with back then Son.  Cordell surely has his hands full now don't he Jimmy" C.D. persisted, twisting to get comfortable.

 

Trivette signaled his agreement, surprised to see his partner coming into the room.

 

"Hey Pard.  C.D. how ya doin?"

 

"Well Cordell, I tell ya ... hard to get any rest in this place, what with the nurses comin in all the time, wanting to check this and that,  asking me all sorts of personal things.  And now they're gonna send in someone to tell me how I should be fixin my meals - I run a bar for cripes sake ... I know how to cook just fine!"

 

Jimmy interjected,  "Doc says he can be moved to a regular room later this morning, making them too crazy up here."

 

Walker nodded, adding "I just bet.  How's the shoulder Trivette, any problems?"

 

"Fine.  How come you're back here so early?"

 

Walker shrugged.  "Look, since I'm here, why don't you go get a shower and some rest?  I'll meet you back at the office after Alex gets here, around eleven?"

 

"OK"  the younger partner agreed, knowing it was useless to protest. Walker's earlier than expected arrival and reference to his wound was his partner's way of 'big brothering' him again.

 

Trivette gave C.D.'s arm a squeeze.  "Take it easy Big Dog.  I'll check in on you tonight."

 

"Just bring food Jimmy.  Real food.  Ya know all they'll be giving me is little bitty cups of Jell-O and some watery, tasteless, broth....." C.D. hollered as Trivette exited the room.

 

"And I don't need you baby-sitting me either Son.  Don't need any of you hanging around here acting like mother hens. And that little wife of yours ain't gonna use me to practice her mothering skills on, so you can just tell her to stay home and get her rest!"

 

Walker just grinned and pulled the chair closer.  After a pause, the older man continued.

 

"You OK, Cordell?"

 

"Yeah, CD ... I'm fine.  Just .... just a bit concerned about Alex, she's ... umm ... she's fine C.D.  I'm probably just being an expectant father.  Why don't you try to get some rest, it's been a long night for us all."

 

"I'm real sorry Mabel called Alex.  Trivette said it shook her up pretty bad.  Cordell ... ya know, I never woulda let that happen if they hadn't had me in here all wired up like a Christmas tree."  That said, C.D. closed his eyes, feeling sleep draw near.

 

Walker patted C.D.'s arm.   'Christmas tree ... only you would think of that C.D. ... '.  Walker sat back, in the firm chair, recalling his and Alex's second Christmas together.  She had been so picky about the lights on their first Christmas tree being perfect ...

 

The couple hadn't put up a tree their first year as husband and wife. That Christmas had been spent in New York visiting with Gordon.  Still weak and recovering from a kidney operation, Gordon had been thrilled to share the holiday with his daughter, new son-in-law and their two closest friends.  Before heading back to Dallas, the foursome had even stopped in Baltimore for a couple of days to see Trivette's family.  Walker had enjoyed this part of the trip best.  Jimmy's sisters loved to tell stories about his youth, and Walker had been provided with lots of new material for teasing.

 

Gazing at his, now sleeping, old partner, Walker pursued his remembrances of this past Christmas.  Alex was bent on making the perfect Christmas for everyone at the ranch.  She'd been talking about it for months.  Ever since the first leaves started to change colors on the trees, Alex had been showing Walker pictures in magazines of elaborately decorated trees and

lighting displays, describing how she wanting to start family traditions of their own now that were expecting a baby.  It was no surprise when, after returning home from C.D.'s Thanksgiving feast, his wife wanted to go up into the attic and see what Christmas decorations they had between them.

 

"Alex, it's almost 9 o'clock at night!  We'll get to it this weekend, OK?"

 

She'd smiled and compromised, but when Walker brought the cocoa onto the porch, he could tell she was crest-fallen.  They snuggled on the swing, in the chilly fall air, quietly drinking their warm cocoa.  Walker couldn't tolerate the notion that Alex was disappointed.  He knew she'd never complain.  His beautiful bride had been through so much, and never once did she complain.  He had vowed to never let her hurt again, protecting her at all costs from anything that would take the smile off her face.

 

"Ya know Alex, you've sorta got me wondering about what's up in the attic myself.  You too tired to take a peak with me?"

 

Alex looked over and her face brightened.  "No, I'm fine.  Really?  I mean, really, it's OK? Even though it's late?  You wouldn't mind?"

 

"Mind?  I get to take my favorite girl up into the big, dark, scary attic?

'Course I don't mind, gonna get lots of hugs and kisses when I save ya from all the spiders and attic monsters ..."

 

"Oh, you!" Alex gave his arm a pull, "like you have to save me to get those!" and she planted a big kiss on his lips before tightly wrapping herself around his chest.

 

Walker remembered how they hauled down several boxes, some from Alex's apartment, one with the few decorations he had used, and another that had belonged to his parents which had remained unopened for years.  Alex had poked around the attic, inspecting boxes and becoming fascinated in an old sewing machine that had belonged to Walker's mother, and they had brought it down as well.  As Alex cleaned it up, she enumerated how she used to make her own clothes when she was younger, out of necessity when her father abandoned the family.  She hadn't sewn since she'd been able to afford clothes.  It was almost midnight before they finally settled down, but as he watched his lovely wife drifting off to sleep, with a smile on her face, Walker felt it had all been worth it.  He had one more thing to be thankful for as this Thanksgiving day came to

an end.

 

During the two weeks that followed, Walker and Trivette worked long hours, with him returning to the ranch to find Alex asleep most nights.  It was a surprise when he came home early one evening, the first week in December to find she'd spent the afternoon decorating the house.  On the fire place hung five stockings, the first two bearing their names, then one each for C.D. and Jimmy, and a fifth, more elaborate in decoration than the others, but with no name.

 

As a small smile escaped, Walker remembered finding Alex in the kitchen preparing dinner that evening.  He'd peered over her shoulder, "Now that looks good." then, wrapped his arms around her waist and gave her a long hug from behind,  "And that feels good!" he teased.  "And you've done a wonderful job with the house.  You've been busy all day, I see."

 

"Yup." Alex beamed with pride, turning her head to look at him.  "I got out of court today at noon and took the rest of the day off.  'Course, we still have to get a tree and I want to get some pine boughs for the railings.  Do you like the stockings?"

 

"Yeah, looks all homey, never had a stocking before ... and C.D. and Trivette will probably get a kick out of the ones for them too."

 

"You've never had a stocking before?" Alex asked incredulously.

 

"No, just not something my folks did, but I like the idea ... Santa gonna come down the chimney Alex?"  he teased.

 

"Only if you're a good cowboy, Cordell Walker!" the woman in his arms teased back.

 

"Hmmm ... you can count on that, Alex!  It's you we have to worry about!"

They both laughed as Walker planted small kisses on the back of her neck.

 

"Walker?  Do you really like the stockings?"

 

"Alex, I just said I did."  Alex let out a sigh and her husband turned her around, "OK. I give.  Why the sigh?"

 

Looking down, Alex's face flushed, like an embarrassed child.  Walker's mind raced.  It had been almost three weeks since one of her "hormonal emotional moments" and he thought they were past that stage, but he felt as though he'd done something wrong and another one was about to

hit ... she'd ask about the stockings twice ... "Alex, where'd ya get the stockings?  They look real nice."

 

"Really?  Do you really think so?"  she looked up at him, her blue eyes searching for approval.

 

"Umhmm" he nodded, pushing the hair from her face, trying not to say anything much, the less to get in trouble with.

 

"Walker?"  Alex hesitated, then added sheepishly, "I ... I made them." Walker smiled.  Mystery solved.

 

"Well, Miss Homemaker, let's go get a closer look!"  Walker pulled her toward the living room, his arm wrapped tightly around her.

 

Alex excitedly babbled on about how she'd found some little boy clothing in one of the boxes in the attic.  They must have been his when he was little and then she got some baby clothes of her own that were in a box of memory stuff her mom had given her long ago .... and she made the stockings from some of those, cause it was part of their past, but she switched fabrics for the heels, so each contained part of the other ... because now they were part of each other and the stocking with no name was made from both their things, plus a piece of fabric from the ring pillow at their wedding, because the baby was part of them and part of their new life and it

would be for the baby, next year ... and she would add the name then and they really should talk about names soon .... and ..... she'd made the ones for C.D. and Trivette out of fabric she'd bought, and wasn't it neat that she'd been able to get his mom's sewing machine working again ... it had been so long since she had sewn, but she had such a good time and did he really like them?

Alex's excitement was bubbling over and her husband just stood smiling, watching her as this new side of his beautiful wife emerged before his eyes.

 

"I think they're wonderful Alex, and I think you're wonderful too."  He drew her in to a warm embrace, adding quietly "And I think I'm gonna love all my Christmas' with you. You know, tradition is really important to Native Americans, and I think it's wonderful you've started such a special one for our family already ... it means a lot to me and I know my folks and Uncle Ray would have liked it too."

 

Thrilled at his compliment, Alex had wrapped herself tightly around the man she loved and let a few tears of happiness fall.  Walker continued to remember ... the surprise on her beautiful face, that Christmas morning, when they'd come downstairs and she found her stocking filled with roses and the baby's stocking filled with a soft, cuddly teddy bear.  There had been tears of happiness then, too, from Alex.  And later, a few that sat in his own eyes as he discovered her fast asleep on the couch, the bear snuggled tightly in her arms, against her newly emerging belly.

 

"Walker?"  Alex had come into the room, whispering his name, breaking him from his thoughts.

 

Standing, he went to Alex, giving her a kiss and her tummy a rub.  "How you two doing?"

 

"OK. How's C.D.?" Alex's face shown with concern.

 

"Come on, let's step out for a minute.  C.D.'s been snoring away all morning."  When they'd sat in the vacant waiting area, Walker pulled Alex close to him and continued. "OK Alex.  What did the doctor say this morning?" Alex bit her lip, and looked at him with uncertainty.  Walker started to mentally kick himself for not going with her this morning.  He'd made most of the

appointments, but it made sense to both of them this morning for her to sleep in a little after their long night of waiting and meet him in C.D.'s room after her routine checkup.  They both wanted to spend time with their old friend, he'd been there for both of them time and again.

 

"Walker, I've lost a couple of pounds and they want to do some tests."

 

"OK, well, you haven't had much of an appetite lately and they do tests all the time, what kind of test.?"

 

"A non-stress test.  They want to see how the baby and I are holding up for the birth.  The doctor thinks it's getting closer, that maybe it'll happen before the due date.  I'm already 2 cm dilated and fully effaced.  They can do the test at four this afternoon, so I can visit with C.D. and then walk back over."

 

Still confused, as nothing sounded out of the ordinary here to him, her husband encouraged ... "Well, that sounds like a good plan, I should be able to meet you there."  He rubbed Alex's arm and watched as the tears began to build in her eyes.  "What's wrong Alex?"  he softly added.

 

"Walker, I'm just so tired of waiting  ... of being pregnant.  I've wanted this for so long, but now I'm just tired of being fat and out of breath and having swollen ankles and I know that just sounds so terrible.  How can I even feel this way when I want so badly to be a mother?"  she

sobbed.

 

"Hey now, we're almost to the end."

 

Alex was wiping her tears.  "I know, it's just, this morning, one of the women who'd just given birth two weeks ago was in for her checkup and she brought the baby. He was so cute Walker, and she sat there and rocked him when he started to fuss.  It just made me want to be all done with this and just be able to hold our baby."

 

Walker smiled and hugged her tighter.  "We won't have to wait much longer Sweetheart."  The words were meant to console his expectant wife, but in truth, the waiting had been just as hard on Walker as it had Alex. Still, it was the thoughts of not waiting anymore that made Walker blanch.  He wanted very much to hold his baby, but the thought of the woman he cherished having to go through childbirth terrified him.  He'd delivered a couple of babies in his day, even had one named after him.  He knew the event was miraculous and wonderful, yet he also well knew the strains it put on the mother.  More than all the other men in their childbirth class, Walker almost couldn't bear to watch the screen as the "Giving Birth" movie was shown.  Not because of the graphic nature of the film, but because with each labor breath depicted, he thought of  Alex having to go through pain ... again.

 

Alex had been hooked up to the monitor for almost forty minutes.  The nurse peeked at the long strip and smiled.

 

"Looks like some of these contractions are getting stronger.  I'll bet you don't make it to your due date Mrs. Walker."

Alex smiled and squeezed Walker's hand.

 

"We'll let this run for another fifteen minutes and then we'll get you up. I'll page the doctor to come take a look before you go home."

 

Settling her head back into the bed, the hopeful woman sighed ... more waiting she thought.  A few seconds later, Alex moaned lightly, turning to her side and placing her hand on her tightened belly, careful to avoid the monitor strip.

 

Her attentive partner squeezed her hand tighter "They gettin worse Alex?"

 

"Yeah, since yesterday afternoon.  I swear they've been getting stronger all the time, but I tried timing them this morning, and there was no pattern.  Doctor said it's just Braxton-Hicks.  Probably just the sitting at the hospital on that awful couch and lack of sleep last night.  My back's still sore today too, gonna need another rub tonight ..." she giggled.

 

"Oh, I think I can help with that right now."  Walker teased back, perching himself on the edge of the bed, leaning over her form and deftly rubbing her lower back.

 

"Ummm, that feels go..." Alex stopped as a small sigh escaped.  Walker placed his other hand on her belly.  He could feel the baby's movements, but his spouse's belly was rock hard.  He gently rubbed there too.

 

"What would I do without you Cowboy?"  a now smiling Alex asked.

 

"Hmmm, knowing you ... you'd think of something, so I'm just not gonna give you the chance Alex." he teased back.

 

The doctor came in, checking the strip and telling the couple that while it did seem that the mother-to-be was moving along a bit faster than her due date would indicate, there was no reason to worry about her body's 'practice' contractions.  Both mother and child seemed fine and the

baby would be born when it wanted to.

 

As Walker helped Alex from the bed, he couldn't help muttering, "The man went to how many years of medical school for that diagnoses Alex?"

 

Alex just grinned and shook her head.  "I think my husband has spent too much time with C.D. this morning, he was griping about doctors only 'practicing' all afternoon to me."

 

"Well, sometimes he's right, but don't you dare tell him I said that!"

 

"OK, you're secret's safe with me.  Before we go back to his room, I want to stop in the gift shop and get him some balloons or something."

 

Walker rolled his eyes, he hated shopping with Alex.  The wait was eternal as she poked from item to item, inspecting.  'Too bad Trivette isn't here, he's the only man I know who likes to shop'.  His mate recognized that look.

 

"OK you!  How about, I finish getting dressed and go pick something out from both of us and I meet you in C.D.'s room.  That be manly enough for you?"

 

"Yeah, that'd be great.  Thanks Alex."

 

She released his hand, and raised a brow, "It's your reward for giving the best backrubs...  Ummm...."  Alex placed her hand on her belly again, then let out a breath.  "I'm fine." she gave him earnestly, "Guess this will just be life for the next few weeks."  Walker gave her a quick kiss

and headed for C.D.'s room.

 

Walker entered to find C.D. in great spirits, sitting in bed and talking to Trivette.

 

"Hey guys, Trivette what are you doing back so early?"

 

They both gave each other a quick look before Trivette answered "Pard, it's almost six."  Walker checked his watch, flopping in the chair beside Jimmy and letting out a breath.

 

"So much for getting any meaningful work done today."

 

Trivette ventured, "How'd Alex's test go?"

 

The tired man shrugged, "Fine.  Don't think it did any good, just made Alex nervous.  Doc still didn't tell us when the baby's coming."

 

C.D. piped right up.  "Sounds just like my tests Cordell!  Poke at me like I was cattle, hook me up to this and that, send all kind of specialists in here and then tell me it looks like I'm fine and I can get out of this place in a couple of days. Heck, I can tell I'm fine, just needed a few days off.  Yes siree Bob, be back at the bar in a day or two."  Both men shook their heads and laughed, they knew C.D. would, even if he sat in a chair and barked commands.

 

Trivette queried again, "So Walker, you getting nervous yet?"

 

Walker shot Trivette a glare, but C.D. chuckled.  "Course he's getting nervous Jimmy.  Gonna be a daddy real soon.  A lot of responsibility and worry come with that."

 

The expecting father raised his brow at C.D.

 

"I know these things Cordell, have you kids to worry about don't I?  And what a motley crew you are too!"

 

The men had been chatting and teasing for almost an hour, and were now laughing about how Trivette was caught sneaking food into C.D.

"Good thing he's a Ranger now Cordell!. Jimmy would've starved as a convict!  Can't even sneak a lousy meal past a pretty little nurse!"

 

"Hey!"  Jimmy added in his own defense, "She was NOT pretty or little!"

 

C.D. interjected again "And let me tell you, Cordell, this nurse could scare the feathers off a chicken the way she hooped and hollered at Jimmy and me!  Woman likely gave me more heart problems then I came in with .... all her carrying on ... she said Jimmy was gonna need a lawyer

if he tried that stunt again!"

 

"Who needs a lawyer?"

 

The men turned to see Alex entering with a huge bouquet of balloons and a gift bag.

 

"It's after 7, buy the place out Ale....." Walker started to tease, seeing her stop and grab the end of C.D.'s bed.  He was at her side in a flash, as was his partner.

 

"I'm fine!  Just these darn false contractions."  Alex stated with aggravation.

 

"OK, let's have you sit for a bit Alex and then we're going home and you're going straight to bed."

 

C.D. laughed, "Told ya Jimmy.  He's sounding like a daddy already!"

 

Alex rolled over again, checking the clock, trying not to disturb Walker.  Three in the morning.  She'd tossed and dozed, unable to get really comfortable, her legs feeling crampy, her back still aching and her emotions becoming frazzled.  She didn't want to wake her husband another time tonight.  They'd even timed some of the contractions earlier, just to be sure, but they would come in spurts, then cease.  Walker had been sleeping lightly, reaching over to rub her back when he felt her toss and turn. But now, his breathing told Alex he was finally deeply asleep.  He'd been so patient with her, even though he still made her crazy at times and she was sure she was making him crazy lately.  She knew she was the envy of all the other women in their childbirth class.  No one had a more attentive and understanding partner, even if he did refuse to play-act with the baby dolls in the class and didn't participate in decisions much.

 

Another contraction swept her and Alex concentrated on her breathing. If she hadn't just been to the doctor's, this would have made her nervous, but at least she knew it wasn't time yet, although even that thought was gnawing on her.  If she had felt this bad for the last day and a half,  how would she ever make it through the real thing?  She'd always thought of herself as strong, but would she be brave enough when the time came?  Alex lay still, practicing her deep breathing when she felt her stomach tighten.  She would use this as rehearsal so she'd be prepared when the

waiting was over. She wasn't going to crumble like some of the women she'd heard about.

 

Everyone had been sharing their labor stories lately, or that of a relative or friend ... some were comical, but most were scary, depicting long, hard labors and difficult births.  Still breathing deeply, Alex startled and jumped at Walker's hand on her arm.

She looked up to see his face a mirror of concern, his red hair tousled. She was caught off guard by the next contraction, and lost her focus, grabbing Walker's arm.

 

"Alex?"

 

 His wife let out a deep breath, "It's OK, I just lost concentration."

 

"Concentration?  Alex, I don't think you'd need to concentrate that hard if these weren't rea....."  She grabbed him again, taking in a frightened gasp of air, her legs beginning to quiver.  Walker's mind flashed to Alex, gasping for air as she was taken off the respirator three years early,

grabbing him in much the same way as she was now.  He let out a breath to calm himself before adding "It's gonna be fine Alex, but I think we should call the doctor and get you to the hospital, just to be on the safe side.  How long have you been like this - have you tried timing again?"

 

"I started to, but they weren't coming regular and, the doctor sai ..." she buried her head in Walker's chest, letting a distressing moan escape her lips. Walker felt the adrenaline kick in.  That was three contractions in just a few minutes!  "He said today that they weren't the real thing,

that everyone has these, that first babies usually have long labors."  Alex let a disquieted sigh escape and continued  "The last time I looked at the clock it was a little after three and I've had about nine or ten of these. But ... but now ... Walker ... they're really hurting.  What time is it

Honey?"  Alex inquired, her tired blue eyes looking up to him.

 

"Alex ..."  Walker tried to sound unruffled as his heart began beating wildly.  He placed his hands around her face, looking deeply into her eyes. "Alex, it's not quite 3:30 yet ..."  His beautiful companion's eyes widened and Walker saw them fill with tears and panic.

 

"Do you think this is it?  The doctor said ...I didn't think they were real Walker!  I lost track of time, trying to practice my breathing ... I didn't want to wake you up ... Walker ...."  She clutched his hands, breathing deep and fast, the pain registering on her face, as her legs began shaking in earnest.  Her look severed a wound in Walker's soul.  He longed to just hold her, wishing he could take this suffering and fright from the woman he loved with all his heart, but he knew what would have to be done now.  As he reached for the phone,  Alex's hands grabbed his arm with a vise-like clutch, her entire body beginning to tremble.

 

"Walker , my water ... it just brok...." Alex was gripped by a pain so powerful that she cried out in anguish.

 

Tears were streaming from her face and apprehension occupying her entire existence, her baby was coming and she was terrified.   Walker went into emergency mode, pushing aside thoughts that this was his wife, his baby and doing what needed to be done.  He scooted Alex over, moving her to his side of the bed, placing the pillows behind her back so that she was in a

semi-sitting position.   Holding her tightly through the next few contractions, Walker whispered to her again and again that it was all right and she would be able to hold their baby soon.  During the end of a contraction, Alex felt the need to bear down.  Grabbing her robe from the chair, Walker positioned himself at her bottom, rubbing her rigid stomach and trembling legs with one hand, while calmly and commandingly directing her breathing.  Walker consoled the soon-to-be mother's fears, and his own, reminding her, that babies that came so quickly rarely had difficult births, or complications.  He was filled with pride and love as he looked at his wife.  Her face and hair were wet with perspiration, but she was still beautiful.  She had begun, just minutes before, weeping, panicky, afraid, but now, he saw her courage and determination come

through.  Alex was trying to encourage him between contractions as much as he was her.  They would bring their baby into this world together, just as they had started this new life.

 

After only three pushes, the new father held his crying baby in his hands, uttering a quiet, but joy-filled  "She's here Alex."

 

Wrapping the squirming infant in her mother's robe and placing her in his wife's arms,  he went to the top of the bed.  Sliding his arm under Alex's back and around her arm, he easing her onto his chest, while wrapping his other arm around her front.  Gently, Walker dried away the

wetness from their new baby girl, with the end of the robe, and tenderly began to rub his daughter's head.  In just a few seconds, she stopped crying, and Alex giggled, wiping her tears of joy away.

 

"You're something else, Daddy."

 

Alex looked up at her husband, seeing tears had escaped his eyes as well, his biggest smile on his lips.  She knew her husband couldn't get the words out, but she could see them on his face and feel them as he planted  a loving kiss on her lips.  Sitting quietly together, they watched as

their little girl took in her first few minutes of life.  Her eyes were as deep blue as her mother's, her hair strawberry blonde and surprisingly long.  The baby's little rosebud lips began rooting around and when Alex held her to her breast, she latched on immediately.  Alex burrowed into

Walker's chest, hearing his first words since the baby's birth,

 

"She's beautiful Alex, just like you ... I love you both with all my heart."

 

C.D. had been awake since early in the morning, feeling his strength return. He was making the most of his stay, chatting with the nurses, ordering folks around like he was in charge of the floor.  During his talk with the rehab nurse, the aging man hid his fears, putting on a strong front, but listening intently to her direction.  This episode had scared him, thought he'd never tell anyone.  He wasn't about to check out on life just yet.

 

Just before eleven, Trivette appeared in C.D.'s room, pleased with himself beyond measure.  Taking the rolled up newspaper from his hand, he pulled out a sandwich, and from his jacket, a bag of vinegar chips and a line of cookies ... carefully wrapped and taped to the inside of the lining. He's spent part of the night thinking about how to do this and part of the morning making sure the jacket hung properly.

 

C.D. took one look and broke up laughing ... "Jimmy you're something else...been up all night hatching this scheme, putting all your work into it?"

 

"No, it was nothing at all, just came to me Big Dog."  Jimmy tried to explain nonchalantly.  "Walker been by yet C.D.?"

C.D. shook his head in the negative and gave a questioning look.

 

"No big deal, he called this morning and said he'd be a little late, meet me here around ... now."  Trivette explained, looking at his watch.

 

"Well, probably ain't getting much sleep lately, with Alex and the baby and all."   C.D. took one bite of the sandwich, making a huge face and putting the sandwich down.

 

"C.D. What?"

 

"Jimmy!   Dang it!  I hate pastrami!  For cryin out loud!  Can't yo....."

 

"Hey, gonna have to call the riot squad on you two!"  Walker entered the room purposefully.

 

The friends looked up and both noticed the glow surrounding Walker. Always with an opinion, C.D. let out first "Well now Cordell, a night of  sleep did you the world of good!  You were startin to look mighty poorly yourself last night, thought I was gonna have to give ya my bed."

 

"Actually, C.D. ... well ... neither Alex or I got much rest last night. Baby kept us up."  Walker smiled.

 

Trivette slapped his partner on the back, laughing, "Get used to it Pard, when that baby is finally born, you're not gonna sleep for eighteen long years!  At least, that's what my sister always says."

 

Walker's smile got bigger and C.D. joined in the laughter.

 

"Oh ... yeah. ... that reminds me ..." Walker stated, heading for the door.  C.D. and Trivette gave each other a 'what's up' glance and looked back toward the door ....

 

"Oh my Lord! ....." C.D. roared.

 

Jimmy just stood shaking his head, "Walker ... Walker .... I ... I just hate when you do this!"

 

Alex was beaming, holding the white bundle in her arms, as Walker pushed her wheelchair toward C.D.'s bed.

 

Trivette plopped down exhaustedly on the end of the bed, "So you two were here last night?"

 

All three men watched as Alex unwrapped her daughter's outer blanket, revealing her pink sleeper and tiny features, so they could get a peak.

 

"A girl!"  C.D. let out, "I just knew you were gonna have a girl honey!"

 

Eyes rolled all around, before Walker answered, "Actually Trivette, we weren't here."

 

"You weren't here ...." Trivette started in amazement, but C.D. cut in.

"Dang it Cordell, where the tarnation were you two!  Bad enough you come in here like this ... no warnin ... tryin to ruin my heart you are ... now you're tellin me you weren't at the hospital? Where the heck were you when this little cutie born?"  C.D. wiped his eyes as the emotion he'd

felt let it's self be known.

 

Walker and Alex looked at each other and smiled.  "Actually guys, she was born at the ranch, her daddy delivered her."  Alex's pride showed as she handed Walker his daughter.  "I guess I'd just been waiting so long that when the moment came ... I just wasn't sure it was real.  Then, it all just happened so fast, that we didn't have time to make it back here.  We came in this morning and we have to stay till tomorrow so they can do the usual tests."

 

C.D. took Alex's hand, "You OK, darling?"

 

"I'm fine C.D., Walker did a great job."

 

"And so did Alex." Walker added, stroking her hair with one hand while cradling his daughter in the other.

 

Sitting beside Trivette, Walker looked at his daughter, rubbing her head, "Well, Amber Jeanne, time for you to meet Uncle Jimmy."  Walker handed the bundle to Jimmy.

 

"Wow!  Wow!  She's so small ... I can't believe you two ... I mean, congratulations Pard, Alex ... this is wonderful.  Wow."

 

"Actually, Jimmy she's almost seven pounds, which is just perfect for a baby." Alex added.

 

"Name's pretty too honey."  C.D. added.

 

Alex explained, "Well, you two know we've been tossing around names for months.  When we saw her this morning, we both just knew what her name should be.  Amber means 'jewel' and Jeanne means 'God's gracious gift', so she's our jewel from God ... and besides, you know how I wanted our first child to be named after their daddy and Jeanne is the feminine version of John, so this just seemed to work all around."

 

Amber started making small fussing sounds, and the look of panic on Trivette's face was so amusing, that they all laughed.  "What'd I do? How do I make her stop?"  Trivette asked, starting to hand the baby to Walker.

 

Walker rubbed her head adding "Like this, she likes to be rubbed on the head and on her side, here."  The baby settled down and Trivette relaxed, looking at the bundle in his arms, taking over her daddy's rubbing, as he again felt amazement for his partner's abilities.

 

"How'd you know that man?  She's not even a day old yet.  Is this another Cherokee thing?"

 

"He's been playing with her all morning Jimmy!  Don't know how I'm going to get either of them to go to sleep tonight."  Walker took Alex's hand and squeezed it, smiling.  "OK C.D., now it's your turn." Alex continued.

 

"Oh no.  Not me darlin.  I'm too old and ornery to be holding your pretty little daughter." came the protest, C.D.'s arms held up.

 

The new mother moved from her wheelchair to the edge of the bed, sitting beside C.D., wrapping both her arms around his, and looking at him seriously.

 

"C.D., there's just my dad and he lives in New York and doesn't get out much. You're a father to us all.   You're the closest thing  Amber's ever going to have to a grandfather." she pleaded.

 

"Darlin, I just don't know ..." the older man started, but Walker was already easing the baby into his arms, as Alex held her hands under his, adding support.  C.D. smiled, looking at this tiny new member of his family.

 

Trivette let out "Grandpa C.D." and they all laughed.

 

"How old is she Cordell?"

 

Walker looked at his watch, "She was born at 4:08 this morning, so that makes her about seven and a half hours old C.D."

 

C.D. shook his head in amazement,  "Holdin this tiny just born baby, only seven hours old, well ... I've been telling God lately that I wasn't ready to see heaven, but kids, I think I'm looking at it right now."

 

 

Acknowledgments:

Bunches of thanks to those who encouraged (berated is a better word - LOL) me to write again and were willing to edit for me ... Patty - for her "Is it done YET!" nudging, Debbie -  for finding my 'glaring errors'  and constant "kissing up to read", Leigh -  for tenderly helping me see all the

things that needed fixing, while still saying go for it, and  special thanks to Gail, for taking that first draft, suggesting necessity revisions to keep the story alive, encouraging me to let the others proofread  and her 'C.D. is glue' line ... an editing comment that just begged to join the story!

Thanks girlies!

 

Dee's Disclaimer:

As with all the other fanfic writers ... I have no connection or claim to WTR, Top Kick Productions, or it's characters. If CBS or any lawyers are reading this - it's PURE fiction folks ... about fictional characters! They are not real. I know this, so I don't even wish to own any part of them!  Any scenes seeming to portray real life are based only on my life ... and no one would pay for it's story, so there is no need to worry about my profiting from it's sale. I have never been wealthy and do not want to be wealthy - goals keep me humble and focused, wealth would spoil this. This story is for entertainment purposes only, and does not necessarily reflect the views

of WTR, Top Kick, CBS, CN and AN, or anyone else connected with the show.  (Please, like you didn't know this ... there's hardly any butt-kicking!)

 

Dedication:

To all who've encouraged me to write, chatted and mailed me, and made me LOL ... most notably ... The Pod, WWW, and The Steamroom crew! I found you all by accident ... a total mistake ... while researching info on Texas for a friends child's state project. WTR, CBS and CN and AN  owe you all, cuz now I'm a fan. You never know how your life will touch another person's life and I just want you all to know you've all touched mine. (OK ... enough of the 'angel' seriousness here ... I'll also NEVER be able to hear the words "May I?" "thigh" or "briefs" again without thinking of you all! Picture me, fifty years from now...in the old folks home.... LOL when some young male nurse says "MAY I ... take your tray?" Yup ... you guys have touched me! Dee :)