With a little help….
Walker’s consciousness struggled to the surface again. It took every ounce of strength he had to force his mind to work, but his basic instincts told him to try, even if the thoughts took their time to develop. This …is …different. He waited for the smell of danger to overtake his senses, but it didn’t come so readily.
Seconds passed while he looked the answer. Think! Why …no …alarm bells ..this time? Am I …too fatigued?
He tried moving. Dear God …that hurt. He allowed a small grunt of pain to escape his lips.
Why don’t I feel …threatened? What’s wrong with me, …why can’t I …react?
How did he feel? Walker tried to make sense of it. I feel warm, safe, but how? …Does it matter? I’ve always relied on my instincts, always. …They’ve rarely let me down. I …have to trust them, one more time; I just need to sleep. Just a few minutes more.….. He edged nearer the warmth.
“No fighting this time?” Came the whisper.
The reply was also delivered in a whisper. “No. Nothing like it. Just anxious for a brief few seconds then he relaxed, snuggled in closer, went right back to sleep.”
Thankful, C.D. smiled and looked at Alex.
Unable to bear it any longer she had lain on the bed, taken Walker in her arms, and now had him turned slightly to his right where he had fallen asleep nestled into her side. The doctors had taken a dim view, but even they had to admit it had produced better results!
C.D. looked at his watch. “I reckon another eight or nine hours don’t you? They say it should have cleared his system by then.”
Alex raised her eyebrows, nodded, and blew through her lips before giving her hushed reply. “Hopefully.”
“I’m gonna sit down again.” C.D. gratefully set himself back in the chair and grabbed the small footstool before laying back and putting his feet up. Looking over to her, his comments produced a curse. “You can hardly believe the likes of Caleb Hooks, can you Alex?” There was no intention of waiting a reply. “That son of a bitch! He couldn’t even defeat Cordell in a rigged fight, let alone a fair one.” Riled, C.D. paused, remembering Jimmy’s account from when they had found Walker.
“I helped him in my car.” Trivette explained when he and Alex arrived at the hospital. “He had a lot of injuries and he was hurting bad, but he was okay if you know what I mean. He was controlling his breathing, trying to combat the pain, then all of a sudden, a few minutes away from Memorial he slumped to one side. I pulled the car over, checked his pulse, it was okay. Then suddenly” Trivette struggled to describe it, “he came sorta semi-conscious, but he thinks I’m Hooks! He tried to fight me but his eyes are all glazed, and I couldn’t get him to see sense when, wham! He’s out cold again.”
C.D. shook his head in disbelief and continued sounding off to Alex, getting more and more agitated as he went into the details. “He was gonna kill Cordell all along, but that lowlife still hedged his bets! The drug he’d given him keeps coming back, so that rattlesnake knew it was only a matter of time, Alex! If he didn’t have the skill to beat him, he only had to wait a while and Cordell wouldn’t be able to defend himself anyhow!”
Every time she thought about it Alex was incensed; she knew exactly how C.D. felt.
C.D. allowed a small smile and aware his voice had got louder, whispered again. “Well, he sure didn’t bargain on Cordell finishing him off first though!” It was a satisfying thought to end on. All that said, finally, the strain of the evening broke through, and they rested.
“What?” The old man blinked rapidly as he got to his feet. Alex was off the bed.
“Get the nurse.”
Trivette’s voice came from the side. “I’ll do it.”
C.D. wondered how long Jimmy had been back.
“It’s okay, Alex” C.D. reassured her. “I’ve got him. The more he gets rid of it the better it’ll be.”
“I know, but he doesn’t have anything left in his stomach.” She held the container over Walker’s mouth.
His sweat covered torso heaved, relieving his body of bile and acidity.
In order to allow the deep knife wound to heal, doctor’s had bandaged Walker’s left arm over his stomach to immobilize his shoulder. C.D. altered his hold to make sure he didn’t hurt him as he supported his weight, the Ranger was half-unconscious and uncomprehending.
“That’s the way, son, get it out your system. There you go.” The old man turned to the others. “Funny thing ‘bout Cordell, he can take pain like no other man I’ve ever come across, but any kinda poison in his system and he has a job with it. Must be because he’s part Indian. Remember that rattlesnake bite and the scorpions? Docs said would be bad for anyone, but he really had a tough time with it. “But with this docs said they found two tranquilizer marks on his body and they didn’t think he’d gotten over the first!” There was a slight pause. “Never even known him take aspirin now I come to think on it,” he mused to himself as an after thought.
The door swung open to reveal an attractive brunette. “How we doing in here? Oh, I see.” Nancy Wilson walked briskly to her patient’s side. “Thank you Ranger Parker, I’ve got him.” She competently looked over to Alex and smiled reassuringly. “You managing there, Alex?” After witnessing her brief nod, she turned her attention to the patient. “It’s okay, Ranger Walker. This is just what we want.” Nancy waited for a lull in the convulsions while at the same time reaching for the wash cloth and wiping Walker’s mouth.
Trivette took the container into the bathroom and returned to see his partner slumped forward over the arms of the two women.
“Alex,” Nancy instructed, “just take some of his weight to ease him upright. Lift under his good arm. Can you manage that?“
Alex nodded, struggled with his dead weight and allowed Trivette to take over. Walker’s partner eased him back.
With one hand across his chest, Nancy raised Walker’s head with the other. “Ranger Walker. Take a deep breath now. Inhale,” she waited and even though Walker’s eyes were closed, she saw her patient try to respond, “and exhale. Good. Good. And again.” she said more quietly. “Good.” Nancy slowly lowered the Ranger’s head and gently patted and rubbed his back. “You’ll feel a lot better now. Just take a minute.” Looking up she sought to reassure them. “It’s okay. He needs a bit more time. He’ll be fine don’t worry.” Nancy winked at Alex trying to change the concerned look which had swept over her face.
Alex gave a small smile in return.
Nancy continued to give small rubs over Walker’s back, but for all intents and proposes it looked like he was asleep again.
“Nancy?” Asked Trivette. “How’s it with the auto pile-up?”
Grimacing she shook her head. “Not good. They’re still bringing patients. We must have taken in nearly thirty and County the same. Damn the fog and the LBJ freeway!”
Trivette looked first at C.D. and back to her, “you go then, we’ll sort this out. I mean he’s not in any danger is he?”
“Oh no.” She agreed, and hesitated for a second. “Sure?”
Their nod in unison brought an expression of gratitude.
“Thanks. We appreciate you being so understanding. We are pretty stretched and it’s going to be a long night. She looked back at Walker. “He’s pretty sick now, but that will change in a few hours.” Nancy gestured to a cupboard with her head, “You’ll need to change his gown, it’s saturated with sweat. Sponge him down first; freshen up his face. Make sure you encourage him to drink something or we’ll have to put in another IV, and besides, it’ll take away some of the horrid taste for him. He’ll be a different person shortly, I promise you.”
Alex nodded. “We can manage that. You go.”
That feels so good. Is ..is someone trying to tell me something?
The wash cloth was again dipped in the cold water, wrung out and applied over Walker’s forehead and battered face. Alex watched his glassy eyes close in appreciation only to be forced back open again.
“Walker? You can sleep peacefully. It’s all over. The ordeal. It’s all over, honey.
The images and words suddenly came together. Alex?
“Alex?” Walker blinked several times. “Where am I?”
Although his eyes closed almost immediately, hearing his first coherent words brought a round of smiles and the three friends silently congratulated each other.
Can’t rest …can’t let my guard down …if only my partner …
“Trivette?” It came out as a mixture of hope and desperation together.
Trivette laid a hand on his partner’s arm. “It’s okay, I’m here, pard. You’re in Memorial Hospital. You had a fight with Hooks, remember? You’re going to be fine though.”
Hooks? HOOKS! Walker’s adrenaline skyrocketed. He made to sit up.
“Hooks! I …have to…” then the words wouldn’t come together.
“No, no! Walker! Hey partner. Trust us. Come on now, settle back down.” Trivette’s strong hands easily held back Walker’s weary body. “I’m here to watch your back. You can rest easy.”
The adrenaline brought a few seconds of lucidity and as his vision cleared Walker stared at Trivette, and, with a look of abject relief, gave a slight nod just before his eyes closed once more.
I’m okay. My partner’s here.
The three friends smiled at each other and C.D. clapped Trivette on the back.
“See how much store he puts in you Jimmy? He’s sleeping like a babe now.” C.D. beamed at everyone.
Alex looked back at the man she loved. ‘I just wish he didn’t have to go through all this.”
“It’s tough, but he wouldn’t want another job would he?” Trivette pointed out kindly, and winked at her.
“I know!” Alex grimaced and added almost rebelliously, “doesn’t mean I have to like it though!”
Trivette leaned over to kiss her, smiling at the same time, “you do real good with it Alex, you really do.”
“Well,” C.D. rubbed his hands together, ‘homeward straight now I reckon.”
Waking for longer periods each time, it was only four hours later before things had some semblance of normality.
Looking at Alex Walker was adamant. “They need the beds.”
“You’re so stubborn!”
Trivette held up his hands. “I think he’s better.”
“Knew it couldn’t last.” C.D. quipped.
“What’s wrong with giving yourself a bit more time? Just another day to be on the safe side.” Alex’s hands found their way to her hips.
“I’m going home. I feel fine now.”
Her temper flared. “Well go home too early! You should have stayed unconscious you’re easier to deal with!”
There was silence.
Alex wished she could take the slip back. “Oh I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that. I..”
“It’s okay.” Walker interrupted.
“No, really, I didn’t mean …, I’m sorry.” Tiredly she ran a hand over her face.
“Guys. Look.” Walker felt a rush of affection for them. He wanted to say so much but could never seem to find adequate words. “I …I appreciate everything you’ve done. Thank you,” he said sincerely, and there was a grin, ”well, what if you stay over at the ranch then, Alex?”
“Oh he’s better!” Trivette laughed loudly. “He’s schemin’.”
“You’re unbelievable Cordell.” C.D. admonished him. “You’ve got a dirty great hole in your shoulder, who knows how many cuts everywhere else and a huge gash in your leg!
“I’m fine, C.D.”
Trivette went to the closet “Alex get out while we get him dressed. We’re not going to win so we might as well go along with it!”
Walker perked up. “You’re a good partner, Trivette.”
“Stow the compliments. I think you’re nuts.”
C.D. turned incredulous, throwing his hand against his sides. “Tarnation! How is it he always gets his own danged way?”
Alex washed the dishes as Trivette wiped, and although she tried to keep her mind on the task, for the third time she looked towards the porch to see Walker still and quiet.
“I’ll check on him.” C.D. stowed away the crockery, turned to put away the salt and pepper and patted Alex’s back.
Trivette stopped him. “Let me, huh?” Trivette walked through Walker’s tastefully decorated living room and opened up the fly screen door to the porch. It was a balmy, pleasant evening.
“Hey.” Walker gave a knowing look. “They sent you to check on me?”
“That they did. What shall I tell them? And if you say fine,“ Trivette added hastily, “you can tell them yourself.”
Both men smiled and there was a brief silence.
Walker sighed. “I’ll be okay, you know that.”
There was a pause again, but Trivette’s years of working with Walker told him to let it ride. Wisely he waited till his friend was ready.
“I hate being drugged. Not being in control.”
Inwardly Trivette was amazed; Walker would never normally open up like this. His reply came naturally. “I musta had four, maybe five surgeries on my shoulder. I hated being anesthetized, too. There’s this feeling of utter helplessness.
“That’s right. That’s exactly what it is.” Walker peered at his black friend in appreciation and listened when Trivette carried on.
“And that was supposed to be for my own good. What it must be like to have someone do it and get mean on you, I can’t imagine, man.”
“I get so dang mad, y’know.”
Trivette shifted his weight from the railing. “That’s what saved you I reckon.”
Walker looked puzzled.
“You got so mad you pinned Hooks before the drug kicked in. He would have nailed you once that happened.”
The older Ranger slowly nodded his head. “Yeah. I guess that’s right.”
When Walker lapsed into silence Trivette guessed he wouldn’t open up again, but just the fact he’d said that much he viewed as a compliment. Damn difficult to find something good from a bad situation, but it’ll be there if you look hard enough. “Well, I’m going to take C.D. back.” Trivette shot him a huge grin, “try not to rile your nurse again.”
The grin was returned. “Get outta here.” Walker stopped the younger man before he went through the door. “Trivette?” Walker looked in his partner’s eyes. “Thank you.”
Propped up comfortably on the pillows Walker waited until Alex was well into her ‘tucking up the patient’ routine, and asked as she got nearer, “was that my imagination, or were we in the same bed together today?” He gleefully witnessed her face turning several shades of beetroot. Her subsequent stammer further served to please him.
Alex avoided his look. “Well …actually …I ..I …umm.”
His eyebrows raised in her direction he tried desperately to suppress his grin and pretended he hadn’t heard. “’Cuse me?”
“Well ..er …what it was…” she stole a glance at him and saw through the pretence. “Oh you!” Her laughter resounded with his.
He turned more serious. “It was ….nice.”
Alex smiled coyly and ignored his statement. “You want your bedside light on?”
“No thanks.” His face registered a softening expression and he reached across his body with his right hand to grasp her. “Night, Alex.”
Moving nearer they kissed. It lasted perhaps for a few seconds longer than it should have. She hastily withdrew.
“Night, Walker,” and she headed for the door, but stopped hesitantly before turning round. She looked awkward. “Walker…”
He frowned, wondering what she was going to say. “Yeah,” he finally prompted.
“What I said earlier, at the hospital. About you being unconscious. I …I didn’t mean it.”
The Ranger smiled. “I know it.” There was a chuckle, “doesn’t actually mean you were wrong though. I, don’t mean to make so many problems for you guys.”
“You don’t make problems, Walker. It takes a special type of person to face the dangers you do.” Alex looked towards the door again. “I’ll er, leave the door open. If you need me, just call, okay?”
Walker nodded, but he didn’t want her to go. He didn’t want to fall in love with Alex, but it was becoming more and more difficult to resist. His voice was soft when he spoke. “Thank you for being here.”
The atmosphere between them electrified and Alex longed to stay with him. She left the room with a small smile, replying, “but that’s what friends are for Walker.”
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