Kathleen Klatte
kawklatte@aol.com
kath725@excite.com

"The Yellow Rose of Red Rock Mesa"

JAG/Walker, Texas Ranger Crossover
Disclaimers:
JAG and Walker, Texas Ranger are the property of CBS, Donald Bellisario, Top Kick Productions, et al. This is a recreational endeavor, no profit is being made and no copyright infringement is intended.
Spoilers: (For JAG) "We the People;" "Full Engagement" (For Walker) "The 99th Ranger;" "White Water;" "Swan Song;" heck, any ep where Walker & Alex have tried to take a vacation!
Notes: For anyone not familiar with Walker, Texas Ranger, it is a contemporary action/crime drama airing on CBS. Cordell Walker is a Texas Ranger and former Marine. He is engaged to Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cahill. Absolutely any time they try to take a vacation, some type of trouble seems to find them. That should be enough to get you started!

Thanks to Jenni for her feedback & support in helping me get started, and the rest of you for encouraging me to finish it, especially the folks who helped with episode details.

******************************************

RED ROCK MESA, ARIZONA

The gas station attendant cocked his head, staring quizzically at the couple in the dark red off-road vehicle. "Haven’t I seen you two before?" he asked.

"Once," Harmon Rabb, Junior replied with a wide grin. "A couple years back."

"Hey, that’s right - you’re the ones rented my old truck. And then them fellas in the suits come lookin’ for ya. Uh…they aren’t following you this time, are they?"

"No," Mac laughed. "We’re on vacation."

"Well, then, I hope you enjoy yourselves. Can’t see much reason to vacation out here myself, but you’re the second couple through here today."

"You mean the second couple to fall for that sign of yours?" Harm asked slyly.

The grease monkey shrugged modestly. "Gets ‘em every time. You folks take care."

"You do the same." Harm replied good naturedly. "There goes our secluded retreat," he muttered as he pulled back onto the road.

"Harm, look around you! Mac gestured expansively at the dessert surrounding them. "There could be a hundred other people out here and we’d never know it."

He raised a skeptical eyebrow. "A hundred?"

She laughed again. "OK, would you believe fifty?"

Harm just shook his head, grinning fondly. This trip was a definite improvement over the last one. He couldn’t help watching his partner out of the corner of his eye, loving the way her smile came so easily today, remembering how he’d tried to coax her to smile (and failed dismally) on their last visit to this place.

******************************************

Cordell Walker watched in amusement as his fiancé excitedly snapped pictures from her perch high atop an outcropping of rock. "Alex, will you get down from there?"

"Just a few more shots!"

He couldn’t help but grin as he admired the lovely picture she made, her blue eyes alight with laughter and her golden hair blowing in the wind. Walker forced his voice to tones of mock sternness. "Alex, we’re never going to make it to the mesa before nightfall," he warned.

"Spoilsport!" she pouted as she clambered into his waiting arms.

"You’ll thank me when we have our campsite set up in time for dinner."

"Oh, Walker, it’s so beautiful!" Alex sighed, resting her head on his shoulder.

"You’re beautiful," he replied, kissing her. "That’s a pile of rocks."

"This is going to be the perfect vacation."

"Uh-oh."

Alex punched his arm lightly. "No, really. It will be perfect. I checked out all the angles. There are no recent felonies in the area. You have no old, unsolved cases here. There are no millionaires for anyone to hold hostage. There are no legends of Bigfoot monsters in this region, and I even called the local sheriff’s office to make sure there were no local bullies." She smiled triumphantly as she concluded her list.

Walker kissed her again. "I guess you did your homework. Now, can we get moving?"

******************************************

Harm rolled their car to a stop in a clearing. "I think this is as far as we’re gonna get on wheels."

"Looks about right," Mac agreed. "We’ll camp here tonight and start climbing in the morning."

"Great, a working vacation," Harm quipped.

"Sorry, no chopper rides this time."

"That’s OK, once was enough for me! Oof!" Harm staggered slightly as Mac straightened up from the back of the car, shoving a large cooler into his arms.

Mac pulled out their sleeping bags and looked around for suitable place to set them down. She was wearing cut-offs and a tank top, and Harm eyed her with open admiration.

"Say, Mac," he began speculatively, "How cold does it get at night around here?"

"Not very," she laughed, turning back to the car. "Nice try, flyboy!" she tossed back over her shoulder.

******************************************

Alex Cahill sat staring into the flickering campfire, savoring the peace of her surroundings. It was so quiet here! No traffic, no distant sirens…and the night sky was so clear! She didn’t think she’d ever seen quite so many stars. Alex glanced over at her fiancé and smiled. It was good to see him so relaxed.

"What are you thinking?" Walker whispered softly.

A grin crinkled up Alex’s face. "I was just thinking how, right about now, you’d be teasing Jimmy or Carlos about something. Are you sorry the guys didn’t come along this time?"

Walker moved over beside his betrothed and wrapped his arm around her shoulders, pulling her in tight against his chest. "Nope. This is one time I most definitely do not miss the guys."

"Good," Alex laughed, snuggling closer, "Because this time, I want you all to myself!"

******************************************

"So," Harm was asking his partner, "How many trips do you think it will take us to get all our stuff up to the cave?"

"Two at least," Mac replied, mentally surveying their gear and provisions. "Shouldn’t take too long. Then we’ll have the afternoon to go exploring."

"Exploring for dinosaur fossils?"

"Maybe."

"Well, what else is there out here?"

"That’s for me to know and you to find out, sailor!"

******************************************

Cordell Walker surveyed their camp site once more to be sure everything was secure, then picked up his back pack. "OK, Alex, which way are we heading?"

Alex smiled delightedly. "You’re asking me?"

"Yup. This is your trip. Where do you want to go?"

Alex looked around them, there were what looked like caves, way up near the top of the mesa, and some pretty cactus…finally, she spied a vista of beautifully colored sandstone. She pointed in that direction. "Let’s go see that!"

They started walking in companionable silence, enjoying the beauty of the day and the comfort of each other’s presence. Suddenly, Alex stopped and grabbed her fiancé’s arm. "Oh, Walker, look!"

He followed her gesture and spotted an eagle soaring high over head. Cordell Walker smiled; an eagle was a good omen to his people. Perhaps this trip really would be different from all the others. He smiled at Alex as they continued walking.

******************************************

Several times during their second trek up the mesa with supplies, Harm thought of asking why they couldn’t just have their base camp down below. Each time, however, he managed to keep his mouth shut. After all, this was Mac’s trip, and if it made her happy to haul all their stuff up to the caves and camp there, then that’s what they’d do.

And she was happy. His partner had radiated joy ever since they’d left Washington, with all its cares and troubles behind them. He knew this place was very special to her, and that she looked forward to sharing it with him. Harm was slightly out of breath by the time they reached the cave where they were setting up their camp, but Mac was still radiant. She set down her share of the supplies and looked around, obviously lost in her memories. Harm knew that this was where her Uncle Matt had brought her to begin her recovery from alcoholism all those years ago. He knew it as the place where they’d come searching for the Declaration of Independence, their very first mission together.

"So," he began curiously, "tell me about this place."

"When Uncle Mat brought me here, after I’d started to get better, we’d go exploring. There are fossil beds here, and ancient cave paintings…I don’t even know where to start!"

Harm laughed as he put his arm around her. "That’s OK, we have a whole week!"

Mac sighed contentedly as she wrapped both arms around his waist. "A whole week, with no cases, no commanding officers, and no CIA agents. What could be more perfect?"

"I’m sure we’ll come up with something!" Harm laughed.

******************************************

Cordell Walker stretched his legs out in front of him, appreciating the warmth of the campfire. Alex was curled up by his side, and he felt her shiver slightly. "Cold?" he asked solicitously, as he cuddled her a little closer to his side.

"A little," she admitted. "The breeze is really picking up. I didn’t think it would get so chilly."

"Neither did I," Walker murmured uneasily.

******************************************

Mac was just dropping off to sleep when she heard Harm call her name.

"Mac?"

"Hmm?"

"Is that thunder?"

"Could be. You get that sometimes out here. It’ll pass."

******************************************

"Alex! Alex, wake up!"

"What?" Alex muttered drowsily, then she squealed as cold water began to seep through the end of her sleeping bag.

"Come on, there’s a bad storm and I’m afraid of flash floods."

She struggled to her feet and helped him toss all their belongings in the back of the car. Alex became thoroughly chilled by the pelting downpour and the water pooling around her ankles.

"I don’t think it’s safe to stay down here," Walker yelled over the noise of the storm, as he hefted his backpack. "I want to head for those caves we saw this morning." He held out his hand to Alex and she took it instantly.

******************************************

"Mac? Mac!"

"Whasa matter?" she grumbled sleepily.

"It sounds like it’s raining."

"Harm, we’re in the dessert." She tried to roll over and go back to sleep.

"It still sounds like rain," Harm insisted.

"All right, I’ll go take a look." Anything to shut him up so she could get back to sleep. Mac padded over to the entrance of the cave and lifted the lantern so she could see out. "My God," she breathed. She’d never seen a downpour like this, especially not here.

Harm gave a low whistle as he tried to see out into the darkness. "I didn’t think we’d see weather like this out here."

"Neither did I," Mac conceded.

"I take back everything I was thinking this morning."

"Shh!" Mac hissed sharply.

"Hey, look, at least I didn’t say it out loud."

"Quiet!" Mac reiterated. "There’s someone out there!"

Harm listened intently. At first it was hard to make out anything over the roar of the storm. Then, faintly, he heard a woman’s high-pitched frantic cry.

"Get me some rope," Mac ordered crisply, slinging the strap from one of the flashlights across her chest.

Harm fetched the coil of rope for her. "Mac, I should go with you."

She laid her hand flat against his chest. "No, Harm. You can’t see well enough under these conditions. The best thing you can do is stay here with the lantern so I can find my way back."

His face was troubled, but he understood the logic of her words. Wordlessly, he squeezed her hand as it rested over his heart.

She smiled at the gesture. "I’ll be careful. I promise."

"You do that, Marine." He held up the lantern as she stepped out into the darkness.

Mac strained her senses for some sign of the woman whose voice she’d heard. "I’m coming to help you!" she hollered. "Keep talking so I can find you!"

"We’re over here!" the woman’s voice responded.

"Keep talking, I’m on my way!" Mac set each foot carefully on the slippery rock path, mindful of the steep drop below.

"This way!" a man’s voice called out.

Mac searched for the source of the sound, playing the beam of her flashlight over the path in front of her.

"Down here!" the man’s voice called again.

Mac leaned carefully over the edge of the walkway. A tall man with dark hair and a beard was sprawled on the ledge below with a blond-haired woman. Both were completely soaked. "Are you hurt?" she yelled down.

"We’re all right," the man called back. "We took a bit of a tumble, and we lost our light."

"I’ve got rope. Do you think you can climb up?" She saw the man whisper encouragingly to his companion and squeeze her shoulder warmly.

"I’m gonna send Alex up first."

"OK, here comes the rope. By the way, my name’s Mac."

"Walker. OK, Alex, up you go!"

Mac braced herself and held tight to the line as Alex climbed up. She freed a hand to help the other woman clamber onto the path beside her. "You OK?" she asked.

Alex nodded tightly. "I just had the wind knocked out of me."

"All right then, let’s get your friend out of there." It took both women to hold the line steady under Walker’s greater weight. After they pulled him up, Mac stood and looked around to get her bearings. She smiled with relief as she spotted the lantern. "Come on, let’s get out of this weather. We’re camped out in the caves. You’re welcome to join us."

"Thank you, ma’am," Walker replied, taking Alex’s arm in a firm grip as he followed their new friend.

Harm met them at the entrance to the cave, inquiring if everyone was all right.

"I think so," Mac replied. Turning to Walker and Alex, she extended her hand with a warm smile. "Major Sarah MacKenzie, United States Marine Corps."

"Cordell Walker, Texas Rangers, Company B."

Alex smiled brilliantly. "Alex Cahill, Tarrant County D.A.’s office."

Mac shook hands with them both, then turned to introduce her partner. "This is Lieutenant Commander Harmon Rabb, Junior, Navy JAG."

"Call me Harm," he added. "You folks OK?"

Walker nodded. "We took a fall off the path. Your friend Mac helped us back up." Funny, he didn’t look the type to let a woman go out into a storm like that alone.

Harm sensed the other man’s train of thought. "I would have gone out after you myself, but my night vision’s shot. Mac would have had to rescue me too!"

Walker smiled then, mentally upgrading his opinion of the Commander. It took guts to admit that he knew his partner was better equipped to deal with the situation than he was.

Harm met his eyes, gauging Walker’s thoughts and sensing his acceptance. "Hey, you guys are soaked! Come in by the fire."

Walker gratefully set down his pack and stretched out his hands to the heat of the fire. "You know Alex, when you were checking out my case history, and checking with the local sheriff, and checking every thing else you checked, didn’t it occur to you to check the weather forecast?"

"I don’t think it would have made any difference," Mac laughed. "I’ve never seen weather like this around here before."

"Must be one of those weird El Nino things," Harm said with a shrug.

"La Nina," Mac corrected.

"Huh?"

"El Nino was last year. This year it’s La Nina."

"Whatever. Walker, you have any dry clothes in there?"

"Well, I used to," Walker replied wryly, pulling out a sodden mess from his bag.

"Come on, I’ll find you some stuff," Harm offered.

******

Harm built up the fire and made a fresh pot of coffee while the others changed into dry clothes. "When did you arrive?" he asked.

"Just yesterday," Alex answered, warming her hands on the coffee mug.

"You must be the other couple the gas station attendant mentioned seeing," Mac said merrily.

"Well, the idea was to find someplace where we could spend a little time together without being interrupted by escaped felons or crazed mountain men!" Alex laughed.

"Did you happen to check to see if there were any poachers in the area?" Harm wanted to know.

Mac groaned and pelted him with a wet sock.

Walker laughed heartily. "Sounds like you folks have the same luck with vacations as we do. What made you pick this spot?"

Mac smiled nostalgically as she answered. "My Uncle Matt came here when he got home from his last tour in Vietnam. He needed a place to make peace with himself after everything he experienced over there. Then, when I had some…problems with my life, and needed some guidance, he brought me here, to his special place."

"Was your uncle a Marine, too?" Walker asked.

Mac smiled radiantly as she nodded.

"What’s his name?"

"Colonel Matthew O’Hara."

"Not the Matt O’Hara who won the Congressional Medal of Honor?"

"How did you know that?" Mac asked in surprise.

"Because I’m one of the Marines who would have died that day if not for your uncle. He’s a fine soldier…and fine man."

"Yes, he is," Mac replied softly. "How did you happen to pick this place?" she asked inquisitively.

"Well, my first priority was to find a place where Walker had no unsolved cases," Alex explained. "Next on the list was to be sure that there were no relatives of anyone he’d put in jail. Then I started checking for local folklore - you know, tales of mountain men or strange creatures lurking in the first…that sort of thing!"

"Alex, I think they get the idea," Walker laughed, wrapping his arm around his fiancé’s shoulders. "I was kinda curious about this place. There’s a legend that Hayes Cooper once rode all the way across what’s now New Mexico in pursuit of some jewel thieves, and ended up here."

"Walker, please tell me there’s no cache of stolen jewels around here!" Alex pleaded.

"I don’t know, Alex. Like I said, it’s only a legend, from the days when he was a bounty hunter."

"Who’s Hayes Cooper?" Harm asked.

"Hayes Cooper was one of the men who made the Texas Rangers legendary. He’s in the Ranger Hall of Fame," Walker explained.

"And he’s one of Walker’s heroes," Alex added. She stifled a yawn and nestled closer to his side.

"Maybe you could tell us the story tomorrow," Mac suggested. "I don’t think any of us will be going anywhere for a while," she added, listening to the downpour which continued unabated.

******************************************

It was still raining when Mac awakened the next morning. The fire had died down and it was chilly in the cave. She briefly entertained the thought of starting breakfast, but decided to let Alex and Harm sleep a while longer. Some exercise would warm her up just as well as a cup of coffee, she decided. Mac noticed that Walker was missing as she picked up her sneakers and headed for an adjacent chamber.

Walker was there meticulously practicing a series of martial arts exercises. She couldn’t quite place which discipline he was working in, but she could tell that he was very, very good. Not wanting to disturb him, she headed for the far corner and sat down to stretch, surreptitiously watching him out of the corner of her eye.

"Good morning," Walker said pleasantly as he concluded an exercise.

"Wet morning," Mac replied cheerfully. "If I’m in the way-"

"Not at all."

"What was that?" Mac asked curiously.

"Mashada Jujitsu."

"I’ve never heard of that," Mac admitted as she began to stretch.

"Most people haven’t," Walker said, returning to his exercises.

Mac switched to sit ups, pausing now and again to admire Walker’s skill. "You look so centered and calm," she observed half-enviously.

"The order and discipline do help me to think more clearly. I really love teaching kids the martial arts. There is no greater reward then seeing a child who was drifting in the wrong direction find a new purpose in life." He went on to tell her about the Kick Drugs Out of America program, and about his friend Trent, who ran his own karate school.

"I wish there had been something like that when I was growing up," she remarked.

Walker stopped what he was doing and looked her straight in the eye as he spoke his next words. "Mac, I give my kids guidance, and try to show them the right path, but ultimately, everyone has to find the strength to follow that path within themselves. Maybe you followed a bumpier road to get to where you are now, but you do have that strength. Never doubt that."

******

"Mac! Hey, Mac, breakfast!" Harm called.

"In here!" she yelled back.

He rounded the corner and stopped dead in his tracks. Walker was talking Mac through some of his exercises. Harm crossed his arms and leaned against the wall, chuckling softly.

"Hey, sailor," Mac said brightly.

"You’re not dangerous enough already?" Harm teased. "’Morning, Walker," he added affably.

"Good morning, Harm," the ranger replied.

"I’m only dangerous before my first cup of coffee!" Mac told her partner as she passed him.

"Yeah, I’ve noticed," Harm muttered, earning himself a smack in the arm.

******

Walker refilled his coffee cup then sat back again. "So, what do you ladies want to do today, since we obviously aren’t going outside any time soon?"

"Well, there’s cave paintings in some of these tunnels," Mac offered, "and some really interesting mineral deposits."

"Sounds like a plan," Harm replied.

"Walker," Alex asked, grabbing his arm impulsively, "when you were grabbing our stuff, did you think to take my camera?"

Grinning, he reached into his pocket and held up the requested item. "Yes, Alex, I grabbed your camera." He laughed as she flung her arms around his neck.

On the other side of the fire, Mac unconsciously leaned a little closer to her partner. She wondered, half-enviously, what it would be like to be so much in love that the very air was incandescent with the emotion.

Beside her, Harm’s thoughts followed a similar path - he wondered how it would feel to hold Mac the way that Walker was holding Alex. He studied Sarah MacKenzie out of the corner of his eye and wondered if he’d ever know.

******

Alex wandered along, camera in hand, admiring the colorful layer of sediment that composed the mesa. Mac was on the alert for small fossils and so didn’t notice when Alex rounded a corner just ahead of her. Alex’s sudden terrified scream brought Harm and Walker at a dead run.

Mac was trying to calm her new friend. After assuring himself that Alex was unhurt, Walker joined Harm at the far side of the chamber. He knelt carefully beside the prone body, careful not to step in the pools of sticky, half-congealed blood.

"Dead?" Walker asked, rather unnecessarily.

"Yeah," Harm grunted, "And it’s not an accident, either." He indicated two bullet wounds in the man’s chest.

Walker continued his expert examination of the body. "He hasn’t been dead long, so whoever did this can’t be very far away," he said in a low tone. "Do you have any weapons?"

Harm shook his head negatively. "I didn’t think we’d need any."

"I think we’d better get back there."

Walker went over to Mac and Alex. He touched his fiancé’s hair gently, drawing her out of Mac’s arms and into his own.

"I’m sorry," Alex sniffled.

Mac patted her arm reassuringly. "It’s OK, Alex. That would have spooked me, too."

"Thanks," Walker mouthed over Alex’s head.

Harm looked up as his partner joined him. "She OK?"

Mac nodded. "She was just startled." Her quick eyes took in the bullet holes. "Murder?"

"Looks that way," Harm agreed grimly. "He doesn’t have any ID."

"I think our main camp is the most defensible spot," Mac stated.

"So does Walker. I think we’d better get moving." Harm offered Mac a hand to pull her to her feet, holding on just a little longer than was absolutely necessary.

Mac noticed the gesture and smiled her appreciation, squeezing his fingers in return. "So much for a peaceful vacation," she quipped.

"Now I wish the guys were here," Walker was murmuring softly to Alex.

"I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind a SEAL team or two myself," Harm remarked.

"Or a Marine Expeditionary Unit," Mac added.

"You gonna be all right, Alex?" Harm asked gently.

She nodded and favored him with a soggy little smile.

"Let’s get out of here," Walker said firmly. Alex dropped back to walk with Mac as Walker took point. Harm brought up the rear.

******************************************

C.D.’S
DALLAS, TEXAS

Trent Malloy nudged Jimmy Trivette as a news story caught his attention. "Red Rock Mesa, Arizona…isn’t that where Walker and Alex went?"

"Yeah, why?"

Trent gestured to the television set on the bar.

"…violent storms continue to buffet the area, causing dangerous flash floods. Residents are being advised to remain inside their homes."

Carlos smacked Trent on the shoulder. "Pay up!" he crowed.

C.D. Parker crossed his arms and looked witheringly at the younger man. "Do you mean to tell me that you’ve been betting that those two couldn’t get through this trip without getting into trouble? Shame on you!"

"Oh, come on, C.D.!" Jimmy replied. "You’ve been on trips with them - you know what always happens!"

"That don’t make it right to lay wagers about it! Walker and Alex are your friends," he said, looking sternly at each of the other men in turn. "Your best friends. You should be hoping and praying for them to have a good time for once, not betting about how soon they’ll get into trouble. Shame on you!" he reiterated, storming off to the kitchen and muttering under his breath.

Trent and Jimmy looked at one another shamefacedly, but Carlos just grinned broadly.

"Pay up!"

******************************************

RED ROCK MESA, ARIZONA

Mac stood at the entrance of the cave, looking down at the swirl of floodwaters. The cloud cover hung low and dark in the sky, offering no hope of respite. She heard footfalls behind her and turned to see her partner with a cup of coffee in each hand. He offered one and she accepted gratefully.

"It’s pretty bad, isn’t it?" Harm asked quietly, gesturing to the storm that raged outside their shelter.

Mac nodded. "Even without the dead body, we’d still be in a lot of trouble."

"Bud and Harriet know where we are, but they won’t think to look for us unless we’re overdue."

"And the cell phones can’t get through all this rock," Mac fretted.

Walker joined them.

"How’s Alex?" Mac inquired solicitously.

"She’ll be fine, she’s just a bit shaken. She was hoping to break our run of bad luck with trips this time," Walker answered, smiling slightly.

"So were we," Harm responded, laughing sardonically.

"There’s no way out of here until the storm breaks, is there?" Walker asked.

"I don’t think so," Mac replied.

Walker surveyed the scene outside thoughtfully. "I think our best bet is to hole up here until the weather clears and then head for the highway. Our friend at the gas station must have a phone we can use to get the state police out here."

Harm nodded his agreement. "It’d help if we had some idea of what we’re up against."

"Well, we know there’s at least one of them, with at least one gun," Mac offered.

"And four of us and no guns," Harm concluded.

"We’re not exactly helpless," Mac reminded him.

"No, but we have to draw them in close to do any damage," Walker said.

"What about Alex?" Mac asked.

"She can hold her own," Walker told them with a touch of pride. "I’d rather it didn’t come to that, but…" He glanced back at the golden-haired woman who held his heart, concern evident on his face.

"She’ll be fine," Mac said reassuringly.

"We all will," Harm added.

******************************************

C.D.’S
DALLAS, TEXAS

"Will you boys shut yer yaps?!" C.D. demanded, trying to hear the newscast.

"…Arizona State Police efforts to recapture the inmates are being hampered by the severe weather. It is believed that the fugitives have sought refuge in the desert near Red Rock Mesa. Our prayers go out to the families of the prison guards murdered in the escape."

C.D. stared at the set in disbelief. "Lordy! Those two are in a mess o’trouble this time!" he exclaimed.

Jimmy looked from Trent to Carlos. "How’re your caseloads this weekend?" he asked.

"I’m clear till Monday," Carlos replied.

"Let’s go!" Trent said, standing and grabbing his jacket.

"You boys bring ‘em back safe, you hear? And be careful!" C.D. called worriedly after their retreating forms.

******************************************

RED ROCK MESA, ARIZONA

"…and so, Hayes Cooper got his man, but he never did learn what happened to the jewels," Walker finished his tale and took a sip of his coffee.

"Big Jack Taylor didn’t even try to bargain for clemency?" Mac asked, her eyes glowing with delight at the story.

"Nope. He never got the chance. He had a close encounter with a rattler a couple of days outside the nearest town. The best Ranger Cooper could do was return with the body."

"And they never found the jewels?" Alex asked, enraptured by the tale. She loved it when Walker told stories about his hero, especially when she occupied her favorite vantage point - next to him, her head resting on his shoulder and his arms wrapped tight around her.

His eyes, which had been scanning the darkness of the tunnel for movement the entire time he was telling the story, drifted down to focus on his fiancé for a moment. Walker leaned down and kissed the top of her head before continuing. "Ranger Cooper led a search party himself, but the jewels were never recovered. Over the years, many other people have tried, but with no success."

"Do you think that’s what we’ve stumbled onto here?" Mac asked. "Would-be jewel hunters?"

"I don’t know," Walker replied thoughtfully.

"Let’s just hope we don’t find out," Harm added.

******

Harm checked the time, then went over to wake Walker to take the next watch. He shook the other man’s shoulder, careful not to waken Alex, who slept close by Walker’s side.

Walker’s eyes snapped open instantly, his body tensed to fight. He relaxed when he saw Harm. "Time for me to take over?" he asked quietly.

Harm nodded.

Walker’s gaze came to rest Alex for a moment. After reassuring himself that she was sleeping peacefully, he climbed quietly to his feet.

Harm caught the gesture and smiled. "You’re a very lucky man," he said simply.

"No more than you," Walker replied, glancing meaningfully at Harm’s dark-haired partner.

"It’s not what you’re thinking."

"Isn’t it?" Walker said, staring him right in the eye. "Don’t kid yourself, Harm. People spend their entire lives searching for that one special person, but sometimes, that person is right in front of them. Just think about it, OK?"

"OK," Harm replied thoughtfully. He stretched out in his sleeping bag, near Mac, and folded his arms behind his head. He studied his partner’s somnolent form, mulling over Walker’s words. Was she the one? She was his friend, certainly - his best friend. She’d defended him from a murder charge, followed him halfway around the world in search of his father…in short, she’d believed in him when no one else would.

As if sensing his thoughts, Mac turned in her sleep. Her face tilted towards him and she sighed softly.

"Shhh," he whispered, "everything’s all right."

At the sound of his voice, Mac seemed to smile slightly.

Watching her, Harm smiled. She was so beautiful. He remembered what it felt like to hold her in his arms…to kiss her. Maybe when this was all over, they could sit down and have a very long talk about a lot of things. He was still smiling as he drifted off to sleep.

Walker nodded in satisfaction as he watched the emotions play over the other man’s face. He truly wished them the best, and only hoped it wouldn’t take a situation as dire as the one that had befallen he and Alex to make them realize the extent of their feelings.

******************************************

JAG HEADQUARTERS
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA

"So Bud," Commander Mattoni asked casually as he stirred his coffee, "have you gotten any calls from Harm and Mac yet?"

"Uh, no, sir. Should I have?" Bud asked in confusion.

"Come on, Bud," Carolyn Imes laughed, "They’ve been gone for four days. No calls for help yet?"

"No emergency messages from the Arizona State Police?" Mattoni asked.

"Or the local hospital?" Ensign Nestor added.

Harriet planted her hands on her hips and glared at the occupants of the over-crowded kitchenette. "I can’t believe you’re all talking like this! The Commander and the Major are our friends. How can you stand around making bad jokes about them getting hurt on their trip?"

"Come on, Harriet," Carolyn cajoled, "You know their track record!"

The group swallowed their laughter and scattered as the Admiral’s voice boomed across the bullpen.

"Lieutenant Roberts!" A.J. Chegwidden bellowed.

Harriet caught her husband’s coffee mug as he dashed out the door.

Bud skidded to a stop in front of the Admiral and came to attention.

"Lieutenant, do you know the whereabouts of Commander Rabb and Major MacKenzie?"

"Yes, sir."

The Admiral tapped his foot impatiently. "Would you be so good as to share that information?"

"They’re in Red Rock Mesa, Arizona, sir."

"I might have known."

"Sir?" Bud asked in confusion.

"Haven’t read the paper yet, have you, Lieutenant?"

"Uh, no, sir."

The Admiral extended the morning paper, folded open to the national section. Bud’s eyes widened as he read about the flash floods and escaped prisoners.

"I think you’d better try to get in touch with them," the Admiral said as he turned and headed for his office.

"Aye, sir," Bud responded.

******************************************

RED ROCK MESA, ARIZONA

Walker sat perfectly still, feigning sleep. The shuffle of heavy boots against rock was the first portent he had that trouble was approaching.

The chink of a falling rock echoed through the chamber and startled Mac into wakefulness. Walker laid a finger over his lips in a gesture for silence. She nodded and reached over to shake Harm’s shoulder, clapping her hand over his mouth when he moved as if to speak.

Harm and Mac silently disentangled themselves from their sleeping bags, then quickly settled back in attitudes of repose as the sound of footsteps came closer. Walker, who was closer to the tunnel, listened intently, then raised three fingers.

"See, I told ya," they heard a rough, masculine voice saying, "it’s just some campers. Nothin’ to worry about."

"They got supplies?" another voice asked.

"Better," a third voice replied, snickering unpleasantly, "They got women!"

"Shut up ‘til I take care of these two!" the first voice growled.

Mac heard the click of a gun being cocked to fire, then a howl of pain as Walker’s boot shot out and broke the gunman’s wrist. She rolled smoothly to her feet and let fly with a small rock she’d held concealed in her palm. It impacted with the shoulder of the second assailant, who was setting up to take a swing at Walker. Walker turned and kicked him in the stomach.

Meanwhile, Harm had moved to cover Alex. He tackled the third man, who thought the petite woman would make an easy target, and had him pinned. "Alex! Rope!" he yelled.

Harm turned his head slightly and the prisoner used the slight distraction to free one arm. He flung a handful of grit into Harm’s eyes then punched him in the face. Scrambling to his feet, he kicked Harm in the ribs as the Naval officer tried to clear his vision.

Alex dropped the rope and grabbed a piece of firewood, clubbing Harm’s attacker across the back of his skull.

The would-be gunman clutched his broken wrist as he groped for the weapon.

"Looking for this?" Mac asked.

With a snarl, the burly man made a lunge for Mac. She kicked his feet out from under him then hit the back of his neck as he went down.

Alex finished securing the man she and Harm had brought down and hurried over with the rope.

"Everyone all right?" Walker asked, wiping the sweat from his face. The man who’d chosen to tangle with him lay in a groaning heap at his feet. There were nods and murmurs of assent from the group as they herded the three prisoners together.

Suddenly, Mac held up her hand for silence. "Hey! Listen to that!" she exclaimed.

"What?" Harm asked.

Walker smiled. "No rain."

Alex sighed in relief, leaning her head against her fiancé’s shoulder.

Mac turned to her partner, smiling brilliantly. Her happy expression faded when she saw his battered face. His eyes were red and puffy and streamed tears. "What happened?" she asked as she led him over to sit beside the fire.

"He threw some dirt in my face," Harm mumbled, trying to rub his eyes.

"No, don’t touch!" Mac exclaimed, firmly restraining his hands. "I need some clean water!"

Walker brought her a water bottle while Alex fetched the first aid kit. Mac hurriedly wet a large gauze pad and gently began to clean the grime away from his eyes. Hands that had so effectively dispatched a thug mere moments before were incredibly soft and gentle against Harm’s face.

"Mac, there’s a bottle of sterile eyewash in here," Alex said.

"Great. Can you open it for me?" Deftly, she tipped her partner’s head back, then held out her hand for the bottle.

Harm’s face relaxed as the soothing fluid washed the last of the grit out of his eyes. He blinked and his partner’s concerned countenance swam into focus. Then Mac smiled, and he thought that was the single most beautiful sight he’d ever seen. He became acutely aware that she was holding his head steady with one small hand and continuing to clean his face with the other.

Finally, Mac sat back on her heels, satisfied with her ministrations. "Feeling better now, flyboy?" she asked softly.

"Much," he agreed, grinning roguishly. He caught her hand in his own, wincing in sympathy at the scrapes on her knuckles. Harm gently poured water over her hand, washing away dirt and blood, then carefully patted it dry with a clean gauze pad. "Let’s see the other one," he instructed.

"Aw, ain’t that sweet," one of the prisoners jeered.

Walker whirled on him. "You have the right to remain silent. If you choose to give up that right, I’ll break your jaw."

******

"What’s it look like out there?" Harm asked his partner as she and Walker returned to camp.

Mac wrinkled up her face. "It’s a mess. Everything’s flooded. I don’t think we’ll be able to drive out of here for a couple of days."

"I don’t much relish spending the next couple of days in here with them," Harm said under his breath, indicating their prisoners.

"Or that body," Alex said with a shudder.

Walker patted her shoulder reassuringly. "Well, we set out some flares. There should be park rangers on the look-out for stranded campers - shouldn’t take too long for someone to find us."

"Let’s just hope it’s the right someone," Mac murmured. "Any idea where these three came from?"

"I can’t get a straight answer out of any of them, but I’m guessing they escaped from prison," Walker replied.

"Do you hear that?" Alex asked suddenly.

"That’s a chopper!" Walker exclaimed. He ran out to the mouth of the cave. A large Marine Corps helo came into view. Walker grabbed a flare and waved it, trying to attract the crew’s attention. To his immense relief, he saw Jimmy Trivette lean out the side of the chopper.

"Walker!" he bellowed through a bullhorn.

Inside the cave, Alex heard his voice and clutched at Harm’s arm. "That’s Jimmy! Walker’s partner!"

They heard a rumbling noise s the helicopter set down on the top of the mesa.

"Sounds like the cavalry’s here," Harm quipped.

"More like the Corps," Walker told him.

An armed Marine followed Walker. "Major MacKenzie and Commander Rabb?" he inquired.

"Right here," Harm replied, gesturing to his partner.

The younger man saluted. "Sir, ma’am, are you all right?"

"We’re fine, Sergeant," Mac answered. "But how did you-?"

The Sergeant’s stoic mask slipped, revealing a surprisingly boyish grin. "Well, ma’am, seems your C.O. called my C.O., and the next thing I knew my team and I were flying flood patrol. Ran into these gentlemen at the command center," he nodded towards Walker’s friends. "What about those three?" he asked, as his men hauled the three bound men to their feet.

"We’re not sure," Mac told him. "We found a body in one of the lower caves; then last night, they tried to attack us."

"Four total, ma’am? I think these are the prisoners that escaped from the penitentiary. Do you think you could take us to the body?"

"Yes," Mac replied.

Harm glanced over at Walker and Alex, standing amidst their cluster of friends and frowned slightly. He gestured for Walker to join them.

"Looks like we got our wish," Walker remarked cheerfully, "Everything but the SEALs."

Harm and Mac burst out laughing. "Well," Harm finally managed, "our C.O. is a former SEAL and he’s the one who called in the reserves for us!" He sobered, then continued, "We need to show them the body we found. I don’t think Alex needs to see that again."

"You’re right," Walker agreed. He looked around for his partner, who was giving an animated account of their adventures to Alex. "Jimmy!"

Jimmy stepped over and Walker quickly made introductions. "We need to take these men to the body we found. I don’t want Alex to see that again. Will you stay with her?"

"Sure, no problem."

Mac had been staring at Jimmy with a quizzical expression on her face. "Say, didn’t you play for the Cowboys?" she asked suddenly.

"Yes, I did," Jimmy began, smiling at her in his most charming manner.

"Don’t get him started!" Walker warned, chuckling at the hurt expression Jimmy suddenly affected.

******

Harm, Mac and Walker led the detachment down to where they’d found the body. The Corpsmen awkwardly began to load the corpse into a body bag. As they lifted the body, a shining object tumbled from the rigored hand.

The Sergeant stooped to pick it up, giving a low whistle of surprise.

"What is it?" Mac asked.

"I’m no expert, ma’am, but I think it’s…a diamond," he replied in astonishment.

"A diamond?" Harm repeated incredulously.

Mac looked at Walker. "Those lost jewels that Hayes Cooper was searching for?"

He shrugged. "Could be. I don’t know how else something like that could have gotten down here."

He walked over to the spot where the body had lain. There was a narrow crack in the rock wall, close to the floor of the cave. It had been hidden by the fallen man’s body. Walker shone his light down into the crack and was rewarded by sparkles of refracted light.

"Mac, come here," he beckoned. "Can you get your hand in there?"

"I think so." Mac carefully inserted her hand into the crack and came up with a handful of bright gems, loosely encased in a crumbling leather pouch. She passed it to Harm then stuck her hand back in, coming up with a few more stones.

The dust of a century couldn’t dim the luster of the precious stones. They winked and glittered in the beam of the flashlight.

"Walker! You guys all right?"

"In here, Trent!" he responded.

Trent and Carlos entered the cave as the Corpsmen were removing the body.

"What ya got there?" Carlos asked curiously as he crouched down next to his friend.

"You remember the story I told my Kick Drugs Out of America kids at the Halloween party?" Walker asked.

Carlos looked blank for a minute. "About Hayes Cooper, wasn’t it?" he responded, trying to remember.

Trent suddenly thought he recalled the story. "He was chasing jewel thieves! He tracked them all the way across New Mexico to…here?"

"I think so," Walker said softly.

******************************************

C.D.’S
DALLAS, TEXAS

Alex smiled across the table at Harm and Mac. She noticed with approval that Harm was sitting very close to Mac’s and had draped his arm across the back of her chair. "I’m so glad you decided to spend your last day of vacation with us."

"Thanks for inviting us!" Mac replied.

"I never dreamed a crowded city could be so peaceful and relaxing," Harm cracked.

"You know," Jimmy said, "it’s incredible. You guys go on vacation and not only do you not rest and relax, you catch a bunch of escaped felons and solve a hundred-year-old mystery." He shook his head. "Incredible."

"The really incredible part is that Walker and Alex managed to find two other people just like themselves!" Carlos interjected.

Trent shot him a look, then added, "He means that in a positive way…I think."

Harm winked at his partner. "It’s OK…I think."

CD bustled over with a tray full of food, followed by one of his waitresses. "OK, folks, here we go!" he boomed out cheerfully as he began setting meals on the table. "Major MacKenzie, one C.D. Special Texas Chili Burger," he announced, setting her plate before her with a flourish.

"This looks wonderful, Mister Parker!" Mac enthused.

"Major, any friend of Cordell and Alex who eats in my place has to call me C.D."

"Only if you call me Mac," she responded with an impish grin.

A frown crossed C.D.’s kindly face. "If you don’t mind my askin’, how in tarnation does a pretty girl like yourself end up with a name like ‘Mac’? It just don’t suit you," he said, shaking his head emphatically.

Mac smiled gently at the old man. "My given name is Sarah," she offered.

"Sarah - now that’s real pretty. Means ‘princess’ - doesn’t it? Yup, I’m gonna call you Sarah," he informed them, beaming.

"Uh, C.D., have you got my dinner there, too?" Jimmy asked.

"Have you ladies noticed," C.D. said, addressing Alex and Mac, "how some people at this table have absolutely no manners?" He then proceeded, rather pointedly, to serve everyone except Jimmy.

"Commander Rabb, one C.D. Super Special Garden Salad," he said as he presented Harm with what looked like an entire garden’s worth of fresh veggies. "How’s a big fella like you survive eatin’ stuff like this?" he inquired.

"I get by," Harm chuckled, "And please, call me Harm."

"All right, Harm," C.D. replied genially. "But are you sure I can’t get you a nice burger? Some chili, maybe?"

"Thank you, Mister Parker, but I’m fine," Harm assured their host.

C.D. shook his finger at the younger man. "Now, like I just told Sarah, you got to call me C.D., hear?"

"C.D.," Harm repeated obediently. "I’m fine, really. This is the most delicious-looking salad I’ve ever laid eyes on."

"Well, you just wait til you taste it! Now, is there anything else I can get for you folks?"

"C.D.!" Jimmy complained, "My dinner?"

C.D. shook his head, rubbing his ear absently. "You know, I think maybe I need to get my hearing checked. I’m thinkin’ I might need a hearing aid."

"C.D.!" Jimmy repeated more emphatically.

"You folks enjoy your meal now," he said as he turned to go back to the kitchen.

"C.D.!"

Harm and Mac were slightly startled by this performance, then they glanced around the table and realized that they were witnessing a very old and familiar exchange. Alex had a hand over her mouth, trying with very little success to control her giggles. The men were having a similar lack of success in withholding their mirth.

"C.D.!" Jimmy bounded to his feet, following the retired Ranger back to the kitchen in pursuit of his meal.

Alex lost it then, tears rolling down her cheeks as she leaned her head against Walker’s shoulder.

"Is it always like this around here?" Harm asked Trent.

"More or less."

Harm looked at his partner and she smiled back at him, her brown eyes shining with warmth and laughter.

"If we ever find ourselves around here again, would you mind if we dropped by?" Harm asked.

Walker looked around at his friends, then smiled and answered for all of them. "You’re welcome here any time."

Finis

Midi by: Laura's Midi Heaven

Copyright © 1999 Kathleen Klatte
All Rights Reserved