“Life's Biggest Challenge
By Pam Gooderham


"Amazing grace, how sweet the sounds. That saved a wretch like me….."
The clear, haunting strains of bagpipes resounded throughout the cemetery stirring the heart of every mourner gathered. Striding slowly past the flag draped coffin the piper echoed the lament to unify all those in grief.
Alex had been numb since C.D. had gently and carefully informed her of Walker's death, but somehow she felt even more paralyzed today. She knew she had placed a single red rose on his coffin. She had heard the honor guard fire the salute of respect, and now she knew she was watching the flag being folded carefully before it's presentation to her….yet, at the same time, Alex Cahill felt as though she was not really in her own body.
She had shed many tears during the last few days. Now, unable to cry more, her head spun and pounded relentlessly. Alex took another deep breath, inhaling the fresh air of the sunny, brisk day. She recognized the scent of sage and smiled inwardly, looking at the burial plots next to Walker's. He had planted sage on his parent's grave many years ago, saying the smell was a comfort to the spirits and would sooth the soul of those who passed by. Walker would always think of others regardless of the situation. I wonder whether he realized that same sage would now need to comfort his friends who were heartbroken at his passing, Alex mused?
Before she had a chance to glance at the chairs either side of her she felt for the umpteenth time a squeeze on each hand. Alex knew C.D. and Trivette were trying to comfort themselves as much her and this had become the norm now, each of them hugging, talking, and laughing, only to cry yet again.
The flag was before her….what was he saying….something about a grateful nation? Alex knew the rhetoric very well, God knows, she had heard it enough times before, but now at this most important of all funerals, why was it now she had missed his statement at the beginning and now couldn't remember the first part? She made a mental note to remember later.
Alex looked around trying not to forget a single detail. The formation of the Rangers and police honor guard. The Marine contingent, the hundreds of colleagues and friends who had come to pay their last respects, even the sea of cars. She suspected Walker would have been embarrassed had he known he had brought Dallas to a standstill. It had been one of the biggest funerals in the history of the Texas Rangers simply because Walker had touched so many lives over the course of his career.
She had been most impressed with the huge framed collection of Walker's medals. It had been tremendous comfort for C.D. and Trivette to work on this project. They had been in touch with the Pentagon and they had furnished them with the long list of medals, citations and commendations Walker had been presented with during his time served in the Marine's. He'd been with the 3rd Force Recon. Battalion which had covered those tragic years with the war in Vietnam. Looking through the ranch Trivette and C.D. eventually found them in the attic. They were all in their boxes, wrapped carefully and stored. You could even read Walker's personality there. Proud to be honored by his country, and yet not wanting to brag about his achievements! There were so many too, including a Bronze Star, Silver Star and Congressional Medal of Honor, plus those won during his years with the Texas Rangers. C.D. and Trivette had carefully polished each one, had them mounted in a special large frame, and this stood proudly near the graveside on an easel next to the one bearing his photograph.
She stared intently at the face she would never see again. He was handsome in a gentle, yet rugged way. Alex felt part of his charm and attraction had been his quiet vulnerability; it had belied his power as an awesome fighter and Master of the martial arts. He had been in a class of his own and she had nicknamed him 'The Warrior'. Alex looked over at the representatives of his martial arts classes and how stunning they looked in their Gi's. Walker had been so proud of those kids and their achievements.
And then there were those eyes. Sad, determined, kind, but they hid so much pain from his past. Alex remembered the last time she had seen Walker, glad his eyes had then been full of laughter and love. The four had spent the evening together where jokes, camaraderie and friendship abounded; relaxed and happy in each other's company. Thank God. She remembered the safety of his strong arms around her as he said his good-byes. The sensuous feel of his lips tenderly pressing against hers. His promise to see her soon. Recognizing the return of the deep ache in the pit of her stomach Alex forced herself to let go of those particular memories and save them for the time she would be alone. Plenty of that from now on she acknowledged.
Perhaps one of the most poignant moments had been Walker's Cherokee Tribe performing their ceremonial dance respecting the dead. Alex had arranged this with Billy Gray Wolf and Sam Coyote. She felt it would not only greatly please Walker, but at the same time, with such a high profile funeral, would serve to show that Indians could be highly honored citizens too. Perhaps even serve as a testimony to some teenage Indian out there who struggled with the idea that he or she could be successful when bigotry still existed towards most of the tribes. Alex fervently hoped so.
She found herself shaking hands, many hands. What they said or she said she had no idea, but finally she found herself being directed back to a waiting car and the sanctuary of the ranch.
They had invited back some close colleagues and friends and C.D. had been relieved to keep his mind occupied by organizing the catering. Strangely all three had used Walker's ranch as a base, even to sleep over. It was if by being there they felt closer to him. Now the funeral was over, the dread of making closure loomed closer.
With the last friend having left, in the quietness of the surroundings, the three friends relaxed, exhausted. Trivette had already taken off his hat and jacket and was sprawled full length in a chair by the fire. C.D. wrestled off his boots, flung his jacket over a nearby chair and propped his feet on the coffee table as he lounged back into the depths of the couch.
"D'ya think Cordell would mind?" he asked as an after thought. The other two smiled and thought for a while.
"Naw. I don't think so C.D. He'd let you off on an occasion like this." Trivette replied with some assurance.
"My, God. I can still hardly believe it even now." Alex and Trivette silently agreed with C.D.'s statement. There followed an awkward pause until Trivette broke the stillness.
"Quite a send off, huh?" Alex and C.D. somberly nodded as Trivette continued. "But, y'know what he always said. It's not how you die. It's how you've lived that counts. Well, he sure was a quite a guy. Quite a guy."
"I just wish.." Alex tried hard not to be emotional, "I just wish…he'd had a happier life." Tears welled in her eyes.
C.D. sat up right. "Oh. C'mon now Alex. These last ten years or so were happy enough for him."
"But, …..he'd never let on, you know how he was, but it took him ages to get over Uncle Ray's death. Then he just seemed to get back to normal and had to get over Lucas. That broke his heart again. There's always been something knocking him back. I felt so sorry for him on occasions."
"He would have hated that!" Remarked Trivette.
Alex swung round on him "I know that! I would never have told him either. It's what I felt though."
"You made him happy honey. We all did. He thought the world of all of us. Despite the set backs, he never lost sight of that, and these last few months after you two got engaged, he was as happy as I've ever seen him!" C.D. paused for effect, " and I knew him longer than anyone!"
"I hope so, C.D. I really hope so."
They stayed quiet, each with their own thoughts for a long time. Finally Trivette rose to the kitchen. "I'm putting the kettle on for some tea. You guys want any?" They did.
"Well," Trivette said finally as they supped, "I guess its back to normal now."
"Y'know I think that's what frightens me the most."
C.D. had worried incessantly about Alex during these dark days. She had cried often, but not really talked as such. Now he welcomed her inputs hoping it would kindle the healing. "In what way, Alex?" he prompted.
Alex hesitated, afraid of breaking down again. She took another sip of the hot black tea. "Back to normal you said, Jimmy. We've all got to go back to our jobs and homes," her voice quivered slightly, "get on with our lives. Then…." She swallowed hard, "it'll be like he was never here." She had ended in a whisper and buried her head in her hands, unable to stop the flood of tears as they cascaded down her cheeks, dropping to the floor. Distraught, they looked at each other. "I'm sorry." Alex added.
"You just keep letting it out Alex." C.D. patted her knee, "but you're gonna have to start pulling yourself together now y'know," he said kindly.
"I know," she agreed quickly, accepting the box of tissues Trivette had offered her. Walker's partner brushed away a tear at the corner of his eye and hoped he could stop the rest.
"We have to look forward. When are you going back to work?" C.D. asked her.
A squeaky voice replied. "Day after tomorrow." Alex blew her nose loudly. " As Walker and I were only engaged I'm not really entitled to anything. It was good of the department letting me have off as much time as this."
Trivette laughed. "I think, Alex, there would have been a mass walk out if they hadn't." They all smiled.
"Jimmy? What about you?"
"I'm goin' back tomorrow. This laying around gets too much for me, besides," he raised his eyebrows, "I ride the river with tomorrow."
"Your new partner?" Alex asked tentatively.
Trivette nodded.
"The O'Grady youngster?" C.D. was always curious about matters concerning the Rangers and although semi-retired, probably knew more than they did about most matters.
"Yeah. He's a young cop. Great grades, very good marksman and…."
"…and what," Alex probed; now recovered once more.
"He just got his black belt in martial arts!" They smiled at the look on Trivette's face. "I'm going to have to try and not compare him with Walker. It just won't be fair. Captain Brady told me the kid was in awe because he was being partnered with me, and I had been the partner of the great Cordell Walker! Said he never stopped asking questions about what he was like and how Walker was a legend within the martial arts community. I guess I'm gonna get plenty of chances to talk it out of my system."
"Well guys. Let's be determined to think positive and get some action going. Y'know, Cordell would have our hides if we stayed around moping!"

"Heya..ahh, hey ahh. Ho ahh."
Puzzled, Billy Gray Wolf looked in the distance towards the camp of Chief White Eagle. "Sam? Why do you think he's doing this? Since Washo crossed the river he's done the same thing each night. He's never done this before has he?"
The night was crisp and dark. The stars gleamed in the blackness, millions of them in every part of the sky. Sam tore his eyes away from their beauty to look in White Eagle's direction. He could see the glow of the campfire and the flash of brilliant white as tiny particles of powder were thrown in to it's midst. "I don't know. White Eagle is an old, old man. Many of his ways are unfamiliar lately. Perhaps we should speak with him in the morning. We can take him some supplies as well."

"Thank you, Coyote. Your gift to me is welcome." White Eagle's tent was partially open and he gestured for them to come inside and sit. His teepee was spacious, but hot. The old man did not like the cold these days.
"Why don't you let me buy you some new trainers next time I'm in town Chief?" Billy looked at the torn, dirty, black and white trainers White Eagle had found many moons ago when he had visited Los Angeles.
White Eagle's face was a mass of wrinkles. They doubled over as he smiled a toothless smile. "I will not have need of them." His reply was as if he were talking to two children who were unable to understand. The tone was not lost on Sam.
"White Eagle" Sam said patiently and with some concern, "what is it you mean by that?"
"It will be my turn soon to cross the river. I am looking forward to it so much. I miss my old friends and long to meet them at the camp fire in the sky."
"Is that why you conduct a ceremony each night, old one?"
"It is."
Billy took the old man's hand. "Would you like us to be with you from now on? Can we help you prepare?"
"You cannot. But you will know when it is time to call Judge Fivekills. He will take my place as medicine man, keeping the spirit of our tribe alive while balancing the ways of the white man. He prepares each night as do I, and will come when you call him. Do not worry so. It is as it should be."
Sam smiled. "As you wish White Eagle." Sam nodded to Billy to take their leave. As they left the teepee, Sam looked back. "We were concerned in case you grieved much for Washo."
White Eagle laughed loudly, "I do not grieve one who is not dead."


Whaump, whaump, whaump. The helicopter beat the air near the Mexican Border as the two men and the pilot scanned the ground beneath them. The hostile terrain gave off a haze of heat and looked as uninviting as you could get.
"See anything yet?"
Morton pulled a face. "I'd say so wouldn't I?" Asshole! He thought to himself. They looked further.
Peterson tried again. "Moore said don't come back without him, we HAVE to find him. He's gotta go directly to Moore's safe house."
"I think I see him!" The pilot gestured off to the right and turned the chopper in the general direction.
"Yeah. Gotta be him. This is way too far out for your average illegal Mex. The guy must be superman to make it all the way out here on foot. He's a million miles from nowhere!"
"Take her down."


Walker ran toward the chopper and climbed inside. Dusty, dirty and thirsty he gratefully accepted the water from Peterson. "Thanks guys. Next stop Dallas."
"I'm afraid not. Our orders are to take you to Moore's safe house."
"Moore?" Queried Walker. "Taylor Moore?"
Morton chipped in. "The very same. I don't know who you are mister, but you sure know how to attract the F.B.I. big boys. Guess who else is waiting for you?"
Walker shook his head as he hungrily devoured the rest of the water.
"Ed Masterton."
Walker stopped in mid gulp, frowning. This was unusual. He have to wait and see what they wanted.

"You've done WHAT?"
Moore tried to keep the situation calm. "Walker," he said quietly, "I can't begin to tell you how bad everyone feels about this. We understand the enormity of the situation, and can't begin to express our apologies for the distress caused.
Walker stared at him intently, and repeated Moore's statement back to him as if he couldn't believe it the first time. "You've staged my death?"
Masterton spoke for the first time. "Let me explain what happened Walker. I'm not even going to try and justify it. It can't be done. We've severely reprimanded those concerned, but let me take you through the events so you can realize where we are now."
He took a deep breath. "When the group at Langley made contact and you said you'd help us with this case, we thought it would be for a few days. As you know, we agreed that family and friends would be told you were taking special group training at an elite Marine base. When you infiltrated the cartel so quickly we weren't sure how long you'd be there. So Moore requested one of the Washington departments to amend your cover story, but er, unfortunately, this was passed to the wrong section and they went ahead with a permanent one. It usually means staging the death of the operative to ensure his cover will never be blown." Masterton sighed, "this is ….what happened to you."
Walker sat in stunned silence.
"As no one in the Dallas Bureau knew you had gone on a mission for us, when your death was first announced they had no reason to suspect it was anything other than genuine." Moore shook his head. "so the first I knew was when I ran your name up on the computer and it flash backed, deceased. I pieced together what happened from there.
"How long?"
"How long?" Queried Moore
"Since the funeral."
"Well. Your funeral was a week ago. They were informed a week before that, so we're looking at two weeks."
Masterton spoke again. "We're here basically, to do anything you want us to do. What ever you decide to make it right, any amount of money. Well, within reason, of course. The Director has always been appreciative of your help in the past, you know that. He's sent you a letter." He shoved the letter across the large table.
Walker read it, rose, and somewhat contemptuously threw it back down. He walked over to the window near Morton. They were silent as he looked out for a few minutes and turned back, still unsure what to say.
"You should see the video, you had a great send off!"
Walker's right fist bowled Morton across the table within the blink of an eye. Next to fall was Peterson who came to his assistance. They groaned and slowly came to their feet.
"Get out you two and bring some coffee." Masterton commanded.
"Get me a phone, I'm going to call them."
Moore came to his side and gently laid a hand on his arm. "Walker. We'll do anything you want us to do, you call the shots, but…" he implored him with genuine concern, "just think carefully for a while. Your friends were informed that you died tragically in an accident. They buried you. Can you imagine how they'd react if you rang them up out of the blue?" Moore caught his eyes; "you have some tough decisions to make now, Walker. The section's done its job so well you have to consider that maybe… maybe it's kinder for your friends…. if you didn't return."
Walker sat down heavily. "He said video?"
He watched the local Dallas news bulletin. The flag-draped coffin followed by practically every Texas Ranger and policeman. A brief summary of his career. Then as the report went on, a shot of the graveside panned in closer. Walker moved nearer the television screen. He saw Alex flanked by C.D. and Trivette. Their distraught faces. Walker fingered their imagines on the monitor and sunk to one knee.
"What have you done to them?" He whispered. "What have you done?"

Walker paced throughout the night. The images on the video played over in his mind as the full horror and complexity of the situation left him astounded. Moore's words haunted him, 'maybe it's kinder for your friends if you didn't return….' What would happen if he just walked into the bar or tried to call them. 'May be it's kinder for your friends if you didn't return…'. Maybe it would. With dismay Walker recognized this feeling of misery the same as he had felt before, many years ago, when his parents had died. Sitting down heavily on the chair in his room, Walker covered his face with his hands.
Unable to touch breakfast, he waited for Masterton and Moore to come down. They came in together and helped themselves to two large platefuls of the newly served buffet the chef had prepared.
"I.. I.. don't know what to do." Walker stated after a while. "I just can't decide what's best. Maybe it would be better for them if I never came back." As the words left his lips Walker's stomach knotted together, the idea of never seeing his friends now becoming tangible. Leaving the room Walker quickly strode out of the hallway, through the double doors and ran round the large grounds of the isolated mansion. Struggling with his emotions, he ran and ran for nearly three hours before sinking to his knees. The answer came to him at that moment. If their pain were like this he would give anything to see them for just one more time, let alone for always. He would get in touch with them. How? Well, that would need very careful planning.

C.D. sat drumming his fingers impatiently along the edge of the ebony dining table as he looked around the suite in the austere hotel room. Fancy son of a gun who ever wanted to meet him here, Parker thought to himself. "Look son, I don't have all day to waste y'know."
Peterson nodded. "Yes sir. I understand. Mr. Moore will only be a few minutes."
I hate Bureau people. Deceitful, never know where you are with them, ran C.D.'s train of thought when the door opened.
"Captain Parker?" Moore held out his hand, "I'm Taylor Moore." C.D. took it unimpressed, although he vaguely knew the name.
C.D. refused to beat around the bush. "Whaddya want with me?"
"Coffee?" Asked Moore.
"No."
"As if he hadn't heard, Moore turned to Peterson. "Coffee and brandy. Make it a good one."
C.D. quizzically glanced at him.
Moore blew through his lips and looked at the old man.
It gave C.D. a decidedly uneasy feeling. "Why is it I get the impression I'm not going to like this much?" He inquired.
"I," Moore gave a small nervous laugh, "don't know an easy way of doing this Captain Parker. I'd like you to prepare yourself. I have some…disturbing news that'll come as a big shock."
C.D. patted his arm patronizingly "you can't give me any worse news than I've had recently. It's okay, you go right ahead." He waited expectantly.
"C.D.?" Came a familiar voice to the side.
C.D.'s head turned sharply. He stared intently without moving or breathing for what felt an eternity.
Walker slowly moved into the room, his face one of concern for the well being of his oldest friend. "It's me, Walker." As he moved closer C.D. rose shakily to his feet. "You gonna be okay, C.D.?" Walker held out his hand in an offer of support. Slowly C.D.'s hand came up to meet his. Walker grabbed his ex-partners arm firmly, supporting him, checking all the time with his eyes for any signs of undue stress. "It's okay, C.D. I know this is a huge shock for you. It's okay." In silence C.D. pulled Walker to him and embraced him tightly. They held on to each other until finally C.D. pulled back, still hanging on to Walker's arms as much for support as anything else. C.D. gave them another squeeze. A tear rolled down his cheek.
"It's really you, son?"
"Yeah. It is. Sit down here, C.D." Walker moved him backwards a few paces and lowered him to the chair. C.D. reached for his handkerchief, lifted his glasses and wiped his eyes as Walker looked on anxiously, grabbing a nearby chair and pulling it close to C.D.'s. Moore put a large measure of brandy in the coffee and slid it nearer to him. C.D. nodded and with trembling hands took a large sip, savoring the taste before swallowing. His eyes had never left Walker and now he continued to stare in bewilderment.
"I can't believe it."
"C.D.," Walker started, "There's so much to tell you, but first I have make you understand that none of this was my doing. I didn't know anything at all until I managed to find a safe time to leave my cover." Walker grabbed C.D.'s arm firmly. "I didn't know."
The elder Ranger began to nod as Moore explained yet again what had happened, and confirmed Walker's lack of knowledge of the whole affair until yesterday.
"You people…" C.D.'s unfinished sentence said it all. Moore was silent.
"In fairness, Moore's okay, it wasn't his doing. At least he was trying to watch my back. But C.D.," Walker struggled to find the right words, "what shall I do? Is it better to leave things as they are or tell everyone I'm alive? I thought you'd be able to take knowing I was okay, and you'd help me decide what you think's best for their sake."
C.D. took another sip of coffee and rose to the window. Walker followed. His mentor and friend was quiet for several minutes as he considered all the options carefully. "We're really talking Alex, aren't we? Trivette would be shell shocked for a while, but he'd get over it fast enough." C.D. smiled at Walker, "he sure would love to have you back. His new partner isn't working out at the moment." It hadn't occurred to Walker that Trivette would have a new partner so soon. Inexplicably he felt a pang of jealousy. Another emotion to add to the many which had built up since yesterday. He thought of his Alex.
"Could she take it C.D.?"
"She's a tough cookie sure enough, but she's not handling this too well."
"Y'know what worries me more than anything? What happens if I tell her I'm alive and next week I get my brains blown out? There's no guarantees, you know that as well as I do!" Before C.D. could answer, Walker went on, "and I have to confess something to you. There's selfishness on my part. You were coping with the loss of me. I'd have to cope with the loss of all of you. I .. er… don't think I could do it too well, actually."
C.D. knew Walker had tried hard to stop his voice breaking, but undeniably there was a catch in it and Walker had looked the other way. They were all the family he had in the world. He imagined what it would be like for him to walk away, assume another identity and be totally alone. Reassuringly he squeezed Walker's arm. "We'll think of something."
C.D. mulled over the situation for a while longer then finally voiced his thoughts. "It's clear Cordell, when you talk it through like this and beat it around for a while. The answer is that, well, dang it, we're all miserable right now, and if you came back, heck! Once over the initial shock, they'll be as darn pleased as I am!" Happily, C.D. embraced Walker again, a big smile on his face. "My gosh, Cordell. You mean so much to me."
Walker grinned back at him acknowledging the hug and whispered in his ear, 'Don't go overboard now C.D. Remember the Feds are here! We'll need to wait till they're gone," he kidded.
"Oh! Oh..right right!" C.D. came back to business with a wink in his direction. They came back to the table, the lightened atmosphere replaced with the serious business of how and where they would tell Trivette.

"Right now?"
"Yessir. If you please. Right now, Jimmy."
Trivette felt a little stressed and could really have done without this. He couldn't very well say no though and actually didn't want to, but if the request could just have come at a different time! Guiltily he imagined what Walker would have done if he were here, and he gave the same response he knew Walker would have given. "Okay, C.D. You got it. Be with you in about twenty minutes. That do it for you?"
"It will. See you soon, my place not the bar okay?"
Walker twitched the drapes as he watched Trivette's car pull in the drive. He nervously blew through his lips. "He's here."
C.D. came through. They had dismissed the Feds for now. They would deal with all that later. He opened the door as Trivette approached.
"Okay C.D. What's the panic?"
"Well. Not a panic as such, Jimmy, but mighty important." They walked through to the living room. "Sit down."
"No, it's okay."
"Sit down."
Trivette stared at C.D. for a few seconds before reluctantly grabbing a chair by the dining table and sitting down. He looked at C.D. His friend went to say something then changed his mind, drawing up the chair next to him. C.D. tried again to get the words in a right kind of order. He hadn't looked at Trivette while sitting down, causing Trivette to get the feeling some major was about to happen. Automatically his adrenaline began to kick in.
"Jimmy." Although C.D. had mentally rehearsed this for the past two hours, he wasn't finding it easy to come out with. "Er, y'know we've all bin through a real tough time, lately?" Trivette nodded. "Well. Er, what would you say if I said it'd all bin a big mistake?"
Trivette's head moved forward slightly and his eyes widened as he tried to understand what C.D. had just said. "I was listening C.D., but .. I'm not quite sure I know what you're saying, man. What mistake? Whaddya mean exactly, mistake?"
"What if I told you I'd found out that Cordell's death had been a mistake?" C.D. shuffled uneasily in his chair.
There was a short pause. "You mean he'd been murdered, not died as a result of an accident?" Trivette reiterated quietly.
"No. I mean, that he wasn't dead as we thought."
Trivette felt his heart pound through his ears. He sat back in the chair. "Don't do this C.D." His voice rasped, "this is not a healthy way to go y'know?" C.D. remained quiet and continued to steadfastly stare at the younger black man, unfazed by his statement. "You mean this?" Queried Trivette forcefully.
C.D. nodded.
"Not dead?"
C.D. shook his head this time. He laid a hand on top of Trivette's to reassure him as he spoke. "Cordell was undercover for the Feds. They had a big screw up and gave him permanent cover by mistake. It should never have happened. Cordell never knew anything about it till he came back yesterday."
Trivette was breathing deeply. "He's… here? In this house?"
"Yeah. You okay if I call him?"
This time it was Trivette's turn to nod.
Going to the kitchen door, C.D. opened it. Slowly Walker rounded the door and entered. Observing him in amazement Trivette gradually stood up to change weight awkwardly on his legs. Overcome, the young Ranger looked down and covered his face with his hand. Walker strode over and placed his arms around him.
"I'm sorry Trivette. You okay?"
Trivette felt himself experience a range of emotions, quite unsure which one he should end up with. He looked at Walker again, unable to take his eyes off him. "I don't believe this, man. I don't believe it." Unable to help himself he started to smile, "it IS you isn't it? He glanced at C.D. for confirmation, "I mean, you're not gonna tell me it's a clone or something?"
Walker laughed, "trust you, Trivette. There'd only be you that would come out with something like that!"
Still smiling, Trivette went to punch Walker in the arm, but Walker blocked it. "It IS you. Oh..man, I can't believe it." Trivette wiped away a tear that threatened to break the cover of his left eye and masked it with another nervous laugh. "Oh, man. Walker. Jeez."
"Sit down, pard. I know how much of a shock this must be." As Trivette sat Walker patted his partner's shoulders before joining them at the table. They all observed each other, no one knowing exactly what to say when finally C.D. broke the silence.
"Even the second time around it's a shock. It's so difficult to come to terms with it, y'know." He told Walker.
"I hardly know what to say I feel so badly about what you've all been through on my account." Walker paused, looking to Trivette. "Are you okay, Trivette?"
"Yeah, I reckon, but, phew, man. Wow!" Trivette roughly rubbed the back of his neck. "What exactly happened here?"

…so, I had to make the decision whether to stay dead or, …get in touch with you. Frankly, I'm not too sure if I've done the right thing even now."
"Walker. Although I'm still numb, man, I'm pleased to see you. I …just need a bit of time to come to terms with that's all. I'm real pleased to see you."
"Have I done the right thing?" He asked them both again.
"Quit worrying, Cordell. You've done the right thing." C.D. turned to Trivette. "Jimmy, how'd you think Alex'll handle this?"
"Phew, that's a difficult one."
"Well, we have to tell her, don't we?" C.D. had asked the question fairly pointedly.
"At the end of the day," Walker sighed, "I'll go by what you feel would be best for her. If you don't think it's going to do good in the long run, … well,… I can still take off. She'd be none the wiser."
They thought without speaking for a while as each tried to run through the different scenarios in their mind. "I don't see, now that we know," Trivette ventured, "we can keep it from her. I mean, she's completely heartbroken. I don't know how I could look her in the eyes when I know the truth."
Walker hoped they would agree that telling Alex was best for her. The truth was Walker didn't know whether he could live a life knowing she was there, but never being able to contact her. Fair play ingrained in him however, he remained silent while C.D. and Trivette recounted the options and their effects.
"It would be dang hard knownin' he's alive and not telling her, wouldn't it? If we could get her over the initial shock, after that, why heck, it's gonna be a great time for us all." C.D. Parker had made up his mind.
After a while Trivette nodded. "We have to tell her."
"Sure?" Checked Walker.
They nodded together.
C.D. headed for the phone, "I'll think of a reason to get her round."
"Clone!" Walker said with a big smile. "Trivette, that's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard!"
Chagrined, Trivette gestured to C.D. "We bury him last week and here he is, and he calls ME ridiculous!" Trivette gave him a huge grin," shaking his head for the umpteenth time, " Aw Walker." Both men rose. Smiling, they warmly hugged each other.

"Excuse me ma'am?" The assistant had repeated herself twice and it was reflected in her tone.
"Oh, I'm sorry…"
"Nine dollars, fifty two cents?"
Tearing her eyes away from her purse Alex glanced over her shoulder at the small line that had built up behind her. Her hands fumbled for the money. 'Sorry." The coins cascaded over the counter. "Sorry she said again," her face reddening with embarrassment. Impatiently the assistant retrieved the coins and helped Alex count out the right ones. "Thank you." Alex almost ran to get out.
"MISS!"
Alex turned back.
"Your groceries."
Grabbing the bag Alex fled out the door to the sanctity of her car. Closing her eyes until her trembling had stopped Alex searched for her purse on the passenger seat and opening it, looked at the picture that had unsettled her. "Oh, Walker.." she sobbed. "Why?" Rubbing her eyes with a tissue Alex grew annoyed with herself. "Get a damn grip, Alex. For goodness sakes." Taking a deep breath Alex switched on the engine as her cell phone rang. She fumbled for that too, her head aching as she searched the depths of her coat pockets while wrestling with the seat belt. Finally she flicked the talk button and paused before speaking. "Alex Cahill."
"Honey?"
"C.D.?"
"How you doin, honey? Have I caught you at a good time?"
Alex pressed her lips together tightly and wiped away another tear. "Yes. How are you C.D.?" She had to buy a few minutes of time, and then she'd be okay.
"We're good, Alex. In fact, we're real good."
Alex felt annoyed with him.
C.D. carried on, "would you do me a favor and come round please, Alex?" C.D. held his hand over the phone and whispered to the others, "I think she's bin crying again." Crossing to sit next to C.D. Walker's shoulders dropped, his face registering a pained, downcast expression.
"Look, maybe another time," Alex said tiredly.
"Where are you Alex?"
"The stores, a block away from my place. Why?"
"You go home, freshen up a mite, and Jimmy'll come round and pick you up, okay?"
Her patience was nearly exhausted and Alex fought to keep her temper. "It's really not a good time right now C.D., maybe tomorrow?"
"Alex. Please?" C.D. pleaded.
Alex looked at the phone in her hand. Strange tone for C.D. she thought. "Oh! Okay." She knew hadn't replied very kindly and had cut him off before giving him a chance to say goodbye, but as guilty as she felt Alex was also irritated. She threw down the phone on the seat next to her and sat for a few minutes. Nothing made sense anymore.
Alex was getting worried about herself. Why is it, she thought, I have no interest in anything. My job, my friends, my support groups, even shopping. Why waste money to buy groceries, cook them, only to toy with the food on the plate and put it through the garbage disposal?
Her mind went off at a tangent. I wish I hadn't been rude to C.D. He and Trivette and my faith are the only things holding me together right now, and even if I get too emotional to sing in church it's a relief to be there. I'll apologize to C.D. when I see him. Alex took a deep breath and tried to control her jumbled thoughts as she looked once more at Walker's photograph.
It's normal. She heard the bereavement counselor's words in her mind. It's normal. Give it time. I could take a whole lifetime and not get over losing you Cordell Walker. Maybe, maybe I don't want to get over it? Just when we'd got engaged. She shook her head at the unfairness of it. After all those years of attraction, the ups and downs of the relationship as one or other of them had gone with a different partner, only to get back together again. Finally when they really clicked, and had developed that relaxed kind of relationship which was fun, physical attraction, respect and a lot of love, it had been so good.
When he had proposed at New Years Eve! Alex smiled at her thoughts. I had absolutely no idea you were going to do that. They'd never missed a New Year together since they first met. They'd come pretty close on a few occasions, but even when Walker was undercover, somehow, by the skin of his teeth he'd always got there.
This last New Year had been so special and Walker had seemed extra attentive, extra loving and it still never occurred to her that he would pop the question. As the shouts of 'Happy New Year' resounded through C.D.'s bar, through the balloons, streamers and revelers they had kissed passionately oblivious to anyone else in the room.
Finally, Walker had swept her up in his arms, carried her off to one side and gently set her down. His hand was reaching inside his pocket as he went down on one knee, and from it he pulled out a boxed ring. "Will you marry me Alex?"
She could never forget his face at that moment. A huge grin, warmth, love and a twinkle in his eyes, he looked so incredibly handsome in his dark tuxedo! She had gasped in surprise at his decision to ask her in front of all their friends. He was usually so shy with personal matters. The bar had whooped with joy when they realized what was going on, only to become hushed with expectation while everyone waited for her answer. Mischievously she had glanced round the room, looked back down at Walker, still on one knee, and put a finger to her lips seemingly in thought. "Well…." She looked back at him unable to keep the huge smile from her lips, "yes!" Walker shook his head at her in mock admonishment, giving her a 'you' look, only to sweep her off her feet, spinning her around the room and kissing her as the room erupted into complete bedlam! What a night that had been!
Alex shivered, the cold bringing her back to stark reality. Slowly she put the car in gear and carefully began the drive back to her apartment.

"This is it, Cordell. They're here."
"I've never been able to understand why people could be so indecisive till now. Why is it I still don't know if we're doing the right thing?"
"It's because you're scared of hurting her anymore than she's been hurt, that's as all." C.D. patted his friend's arm. "C'mon, buck up. She'll have a rocky start and then she'll be the happiest woman on the planet! You'll see."
"We're doing the right thing?"
C.D. bustled him out to the kitchen, "Cordell! Keep calm! You're gettin' me jumpy now." He had barely closed the door when Alex came in, followed by a worried looking Trivette. He could see why. Oh my gosh, C.D. thought, she looks shaky before we start! He approached her giving her a warm hug. As she went to break away, C.D. held her firmly. "Now you look here, Alex Cahill!" He smoothed her hair with the palm of his hand and looked her sternly in the eyes as he carried on, "I want you to be strong, and get yourself together. I promise you everything's gonna be just fine in ways you can't possibly imagine, lady! Have you eaten something today?" In response to her negative reply he led her to a comfy chair and sat her down. "Jimmy Trivette!" C.D. commanded, "keep this woman here and don't let her move till I bring some soup back!"
"Yes, Sir!"
Frowning, Alex looked from one to the other although she never said anything. C.D. headed for the kitchen.
"What?"
"Sshh Walker! I'm gonna give her some soup first. Make sure she's got something in her stomach. Make yourself useful and hand me that ladle!"
It wasn't many minutes later she was tucking into a bowl of chicken and sweet corn soup. It tasted wonderful. Finally Alex put the bowl down, aware of them watching her intently. "C.D. that was delicious."
"How you feelin' now Alex?" Trivette inquired.
"Much, much better! Thank you."
She's got a lot more color now, C.D. thought to himself, pleased. He watched as Alex crossed to the dining table.
"You guys been having a party?" She gave them a small smile pointing to the three coffee mugs on the table and the small bottle of brandy with three slugs missing from it.
Trivette and C.D. froze. Neither of them had thought to clear them away.
"Alex honey. Sit down now you're up there. Jimmy and me have something very important to tell you." They joined her at the table, each of them protectively taking one of her hands.
"What's wrong with you guys?" She asked, pulling her hands away from them.
C.D. became more serious. "Alex. I need for you to toughen up right now, and to keep calm, and cool. Will you be able to do that for me?"
Alex sat upright in the chair, becoming apprehensive. "Yes. I'm okay. Why, what's wrong?"
"Nothings wrong, Alex, but we have some good news for you that will be difficult for you to accept at first." C.D. went straight for it. "It seems that when Cordell left here, he hadn't gone to a training camp, he'd gone undercover for the F.B.I. Infiltrating one of those large cartels that had just sprung up in Mexico." He took a deep breath. "The job was only supposed to be for a few days, but it became a few weeks instead as he couldn't get out safely. In the meantime, the Bureau made a mistake. Instead of letting us know he'd be delayed for a bit, the wrong department was notified and they gave him permanent cover instead…by staging his death."
It seemed as if the three of them could barely breathe. C.D. let that sink in as he watched her carefully. "Do you know what I'm telling you?"
Alex didn't move.
C.D. pressed on, his voice becoming quiet, "he's not dead, Alex." C.D. knew the message had hit home as he saw her bottom lip quiver. She shook her head slowly. "It's okay, honey. We've all had the same reaction as you, don't worry none. It's gonna be fine."
Alex looked at the mugs and asked in tiny voice, "he's here?" As she watched them nod, her hands flew to her mouth, "oh.." she panted.
"You want me to bring him in?"
They waited until eventually Alex answered them with a small nod of her head. She carefully watched C.D. following his every movement as he rose, rounded the table and opened the kitchen door. Trembling, Alex got up and tentatively stepped a few paces nearer, her face a picture of incredulity and disbelief.
C.D. peered round the door at Walker who raised his eyebrows.
"Its okay, come on Cordell."
Walker took a deep breath and stepped slowly through the doorway. They gazed at each other, Alex's bewildered expression frozen on her face. He watched as her tears fell. One of her hands went to her mouth, and the other started to reach for him, but before he could react, all the color drained from her face and slowly her legs folded beneath her.
Walker rushed to grab her as C.D. and Trivette leaped forward. "It's okay, I got her. I got her." Walker held her tightly. "It's okay. We're fine. Sshhh. We're just going to sit on the floor like this here, see." Slowly he lowered them both on the floor, sliding his legs out in front him, and rocked her gently in his arms. "Sshh, it's okay. I got you." She was like a rag doll. Walker looked to C.D., "Maybe some water?" Trivette went to get it as C.D. sat down again. He was tired.
"Alex, come on. Just take a drink of this." He helped her as she sipped the cold liquid then took the glass from her and set it on the floor. She gripped him tightly. Feeling her brow he looked again to Trivette. Trivette disappeared, coming back with a towel he'd dipped in cold water. Walker pressed it gently against Alex's forehead. "I can't imagine what a shock this must be for you, Alex. I'm so deeply sorry you guys were put through this." He rocked her again. Finally Alex drew back to look at him.
"I'm not dreaming, am I?"
He smiled at her, "no sweetheart, you're not dreaming. Everything will work out. It'll just take time to get things back to normal. I'm so very sorry."
Alex fingered his beard and shook her head again. "This can't be real. It just can't!"
"It IS real, Alex, and you've got to start accepting it. Walker was stern, "It was a F.B.I. mistake! It should never have happened!" Walker pulled her close, burying her head in his neck. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I…get ..so mad when I think about what they've put you through." He rocked her again. "Forgive me, I'm not mad at you." He kissed her forehead, cheek and found her lips. "Just get over the shock quickly, Alex. I want us back the way we were."
Alex's brow furrowed. Wrestling herself from his grasp, the men anxiously studied her as she took a few deep breaths. She attempted to stand but as Walker went help her Alex brushed him away. They got to their feet when with amazing speed, Alex swung round and the full palm of her hand caught Walker cleanly on the top of his cheek with a resounding slap.
Alex's eyes blazed. "Don't you EVER tell me you're going some place and not go from now on!" It was poorly put but they all understood what she meant. Her fingers stabbed in his chest, "going on a STUPID mission for the STUPID Feds. How could you?"
Wisely Walker thought it better to say nothing.
"You listen up buster! You even think about doing that again and.. and.." Alex struggled, "you can have your damn ring back!"
C.D. smiled, covering his mouth behind his hand while catching Trivette's eye. Alex was mad. This was a good sign.
Walker tried not to look at them, although he was acutely aware of their reaction. "That won't be necessary," he said, as contritely as possible.
It seemed to appease Alex. She stopped shouting and her mood changed equally as suddenly. "Oh Walker," she said quietly. "I love you so much." Grabbing the lapels of his shirt Alex forcibly kissed him for all she was worth.
Walker shot a look over her shoulder winking to C.D. and Trivette before responding in kind and drawing back to look at her.
Alex touched her brow with her hand, the light headedness felt earlier returning. "I don't know what's wrong with me." Her eyes fluttered. "You come back from the dead and now… I .. can hardly… keep awake!"
Walker gave her a small laugh and another kiss "it's just the emotion. Come over to the couch." He laid her down full length, leaning her against his chest, his arms still tightly around her. She was practically asleep already.
Her head felt so heavy. "This is ridiculous.. I'm sorry…"she murmured.
"That's okay. It's just your body's safety mechanism. Close your eyes, I'll still be here when you wake up." Walker kissed the top of her head while giving her a loving squeeze and looked at the others with a raise of his eyes.
C.D. moved to a more comfortable chair near the fire, as did Trivette. They settled themselves and he whispered to Walker "she'll be fine, Cordell. It's good she's getting some rest, she's hardly slept through a night since…well, y'know. Look, if you don't mind I'm gonna have a bit of that myself. I'm real tuckered out! You guys just get anythin' you want, now."
Drained by emotion, they slept, not waking until after dark. Walker stirred, allowing his eyes to become accustomed to the darkness. He looked thankfully at the three people dearest to him. Alex opened her eyes slowly and alarmed in case she hadn't realized what had happened Walker spoke softly in her ear.
"Sshh. Just take it easy, Alex. It's okay. You're going to be fine. Do you remember what happened?" She turned to face him. "It really IS you isn't it?" She wiped away a few tears as they fell again and made to hold him. Walker held her tightly. "Sssh, don't wake the two sleeping beauties!" He tried to joke away the enormity of the situation. "C'mon, can you walk to the porch?" She nodded. Helping her to her feet she found her legs again, but clung to Walker's arm. Quietly he led her outside, leaving C.D. and Trivette to their rest.
Alex turned to him and they kissed. She met his eyes. "Walker, I can't believe I'm in your arms. I thought this would never happen again. Suddenly I feel so guilty I have you back when for many woman it really is the end."
"You don't have to feel guilty Alex, because I never left you. Not like that anyway." He paused, "when I found out what they'd done, how much they hurt you…"
She gave him a huge smile, "it doesn't matter now, though, does it?"
Walker smiled back. "I'll make it up to you all, some how."
"You already have, Walker. Just by being here you've made us the luckiest people in the world." She smiled at him again, "I really, really have you back?"
"Yes you do." He smiled, fingering his cheek where she had hit him.
"Oh, Walker, forgive me. I can't believe I did something that terrible!"
"Well, I guess it was rather extenuating circumstances. I can't believe I LET you do it! I need more training!"
Alex laughed, "By the way, did you call me sweetheart?"
Walker blushed and laughed nervously, "well, y'know..stress of the moment an' all!"
"I loved it!" Alex chuckled. "And I love you very much."
He held her head in his hands, slowly reaching down his lips gently found hers and the kiss grew more intense. Finally they broke away as a light went on from inside the house. "Looks like they're stirring in there. We'd better go back in. I'm starving. I dang nearly stole your soup!"
Alex laughed, feeling relaxed for the first time in weeks.
The four of them raided the kitchen finding bits and pieces to eat. Salad, ham and a French loaf. They tucked in, enjoying the food, catching up on the news from each side, and the togetherness. Walker looked up between mouthfuls.
"Y'know you all keep staring at me, don't you?" Walker stated finally, becoming unnerved at the constant eyes on him.
The three glanced awkwardly at each other.
"Oh."
"Sorry Cordell."
"I can't seem to help myself."
They looked away. Walker smiled as he looked up once more to yet again see three pairs of eyes on him. He raised his eyebrows at them. Alex started to giggle, setting off Trivette. Before long they were all laughing hysterically, aware that it really wasn't that funny. Inexplicably it made the situation even funnier. They wiped away tears of joy this time. Walker held Alex's hand as they calmed down, "I guess I'm going to have to get used to this for a while."
"You sure are pard. Call it penance for working with the Feds!"
"No!" Walker held both hands up, "never again. If I ever look like I'm going to do that again you can…" he searched for an appropriate punishment.
"I'll finish you off myself!" C.D. glowered at him.
They laughed again.
"Walker?" Trivette asked with a sly smile, "be a sweetheart and pass the salad."
"Trivette! Don't even start on me and don't you dare say a word in the office."
"What's the matter, big guy?" Trivette pushed his luck, "you worried 'cos I got Alex to protect me?"
"Right!" Walker leapt from the table about the same time Trivette made a dash towards the door. Above the ensuing bedlam Alex shouted to C.D.
"Well C.D., we wanted normality! I think we've got it!"
C.D. grinned from ear to ear, "Yeah, and ain't it GREAT!


The End

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