Scared

By PIAFFE417


Let’s get the disclaimers out of the way first. I don’t own any of these characters except for Rebecca (and her I’m not profiting from anyway). The show belongs to TopKick Productions and CBS – I just borrowed some of their stuff to amuse myself and hopefully you.

Crazy how the human mind works. Case in point? Here’s the story behind this story: Thanks to the USA network, I caught the episode "Deadly Situation" the other day and got to wondering if Glen Cooper should have become a regular character on the show (with his connection to Hayes and all). This brought me to the question: what if he married into the Walker family? (I know, I know – Angela’s a bit young and isn’t even conceived yet in that episode. Stay with me.) So then I started wondering what would happen if there was someone else in Walker’s life who had been there for a long time – someone like a daughter or a niece. This person would know him better than he knew himself and could act as a sort of counseling voice to him as well as an expressive voice to let others know what’s going on with him. Thus, Rebecca was born. I don’t think it’s asking too much for you, the reader, to imagine that Walker wasn’t an only child or that he had a much-younger baby brother whom he protected on the night that his parents were murdered. Now let’s say that his baby brother grew up on the reservation with him but ended up taking a different path. Everything else I claim here may be a bit more of a reach, but hang in there. Use a little imagination, very few flames, and read on…

Chapter 1 – The Orphan

She was seven and scared. She couldn’t quite remember how things had gotten this way - the night things changed had been quiet and spent with the thirteen-year-old neighbor girl who was paid $15 for a night of babysitting. Her parents had gone out the way they liked to do now and then, a chance for relaxation away from their working lives. The ending on this particular night was not the same, though. Instead of coming home in incredibly high spirits, her mother laughing hysterically and her father’s voice booming through the house to announce their drunken return, there was a quiet knock on the door. The babysitter opened it to reveal two police officers and a woman in a starchy gray suit who identified herself as being from Child and Family Services. Rebecca was seven and scared because she learned that her parents were never coming home again – they’d crashed into a tree on their way back from the bar and were killed.

Now she sat in a pristine white hallway on a narrow, unforgiving wooden bench waiting for an uncle that she’d never met, an uncle who was now to be her legal guardian. Her father had only ever mentioned a brother in passing – and then only when she had asked about the red-haired man standing beside her father in a set of old photos. They weren’t close, he’d told her. Their ages were too different and they’d followed separate paths. Her father’s path had taken him to work in a warehouse on the outskirts of Dallas where he loaded and unloaded trucks for a living and drank his paycheck whenever he could. Apparently her uncle’s path had made him a Texas Ranger – nearly the total opposite. Rebecca sat and waited for this Ranger, trying to slow her frightened breathing and twisting the corners of her sweater with nervous, sweating fingers.

Ms. Kinley, the social worker, approached her then, a stocky, barrel-chested man at her side. He wore jeans and cowboy boots with a black cowboy hat and pinned to his chest was a shiny silver star. A gun in a holster rested on his hip and he almost looked like something out of an old Western movie. Rebecca knew that he must be her uncle – Cordell, they said his name was. Abruptly, she leapt to her feet and stood awkwardly, her eyes pointed directly at him, sizing him up as best she could and still twisting the corners of her green sweater with her hands.

Ranger Cordell Walker felt his stomach jump into his throat at the sight of the small girl before him. She was the spitting image of his brother’s wife Kate – fine-boned, yet sturdy with big blue eyes and golden brown hair the color of just-turned wheat. The difference between her and Kate, however, was the expression of defiance that met him as he neared her – an expression that he’d seen on the face of his brother Robert so many times he’d lost count. Such a look said one thing clearly, "Don’t push me into a corner because I’ll come out swinging." This little girl had been through a lot, he knew through the research he’d done after his brother’s funeral – Robert and Kate were both raving alcoholics and had a tendency to push Rebecca aside if she got between them and the booze they craved. He hadn’t been sure that he knew enough about kids to take her in when the social worker had called, but once he learned the truth about his brother that he had tried to ignore in their years of estrangement, he knew he had no choice. Plain and simple, this little girl needed him. Uncle Ray said it would be good experience for when he settled down and had a family of his own. But then, Uncle Ray couldn’t see the look in Rebecca’s eyes.

"Are you my uncle?" There it was, point blank, said in a toneless, uncaring fashion, hands nervous while the face belied no emotion.

"Yes I am."

Rebecca was surprised to see that he looked nervous too. She realized instantly, "He doesn’t know anything about kids."

"We’ll schedule some regular visits at first, to see how you’re adjusting," Ms. Kinley said in a helpful tone to both. Neither acknowledged that they’d heard but instead remained stationary, eyes trained on each other more like opponents than family.

"Do you know anything about kids?" The words were out of Rebecca’s mouth before she had time to think about them. She felt rude, but at the same time curious.

"Not really," he told her honestly. "But I’m willing to learn."

"Hmph," was her response.

The ride home was conducted in silence, his eyes focused on the road and hers on the scenery. Yet when they pulled into the driveway of his ranch, he sensed a slight change come over her as she took in the expanse of white fence and the neat ranch house bordered by corrals in which a few horses grazed. He’d seen the rundown shack she had lived in for seven years in one of Dallas’s poorest neighborhoods and knew that this expanse of grass, trees, and sky were brand new to her.

"You live here?" Disbelief.

"Yep," he replied simply.

"Alone?" Suspicion.

"I live with my uncle Ray – your uncle Ray too," he told her, then asked conversationally, "Did your dad ever tell you about him?"

"No," she shook her head.

He shook his head. Robert and Ray had been close until Robert had begun spending time with the undesirable crowd on the reservation, the group of twenty-something men who did nothing more in a day than see how many beers they could down. Ray’s disapproval of such behavior combined with Cordell’s departure for the war in Vietnam that left the two to their own devices had sent Robert into further rebellion. Eventually, he’d left the reservation and severed all ties with both the uncle who had tried so hard to help him and the brother who, in his mind, had abandoned him. It made sense that he hadn’t shared stories of the good times with his own daughter, though Walker wished he had if only to know that his brother remembered the good times.

"You’ll like him," he assured her.

An old Native American walked down the front steps of the house to meet them. His hair was silver and plaited into two long braids that hung over each shoulder and his face was weathered but kind. He wore a red plaid flannel shirt, jeans, and brown cowboy boots, a silver and turquoise necklace encircling his throat. Rebecca felt her throat catch – her own father had looked like a full-blooded Cherokee instead of the half that he was and this older Indian’s appearance reminded her of him so much that she was instantly homesick.

She got out of the pickup and stood rooted to her place in the gravel drive, watching both men silently as they unloaded her few meager possessions and then following them into the house that smelled of Mexican food and of another less pungent scent, one of wood floors and of men.

"Hello, Rebecca," the old Indian had said. "I’m your Uncle Ray."

"Hello," she had mustered feebly, still overwhelmed by the circumstances of her life.

They showed her to her room, the last one at the end of the upstairs hall. It had two windows and a view of the big horse paddock and barn. It had also been carefully decorated with pale pink curtains, a matching area rug on the wood floor, and a soft pink comforter on the bed. At her old home, Rebecca had slept on the pull-out sofa in the den, as the house only had one bedroom. She’d never had space of her own – a tall wooden dresser and a deep closet to keep clothes in, a varnished trunk at the foot of the bed where toys could be kept, or a doll the likes of which rested on her pillow. She felt a large tear roll down her cheek as she stared, soaking it in with big eyes, and instantly brought a hand up to wipe it away.

Walker and Uncle Ray exchanged a look as they watched their young niece, one of pity and of hope for her future. It seemed to seal something between the two of them – a commitment to taking care of her no matter what.

"Welcome home, Rebecca," was all Walker could think to say.

As the words hit her ears, the little girl felt the dam that she’d built up to steady the lump in her throat burst and the tears gush out. Instantly, Walker was on his knees, holding her close and wrapping her into his arms, his hand patting her back soothingly.

"I know, sweetie," he whispered, his eyes seeking approval from Uncle Ray, who nodded and turned to go downstairs, knowing that the moment was theirs alone. Walker repeated it, "I know."

"I’m scared," Rebecca heard herself wail. "I’m scared and I want to go home!"

"I know," he repeated, feeling like a broken record but not knowing what else to say.

"I want to go now!" Her voice was growing angry, insistent. Walker remembered Robert being the same way at her age – impatient with the world and it’s treatment of him.

Walker pulled back a bit and sat down beside her on the floor, his eyes meeting hers. In low tones, he said, "I know you want to go, but you can’t. This is your home now and it’s going to take some getting used to – for both of us. But I’m willing to try if you are…"

He let his voice trail off as her sobs became less wracking, the tears slowing to a gentle streaming. She looked at him as he spoke the words and saw that he was in earnest.

"I guess I can try too," she said, not sounding completely satisfied.

"Look, I know you’re scared," Walker told her, "but so am I and I think that we can handle this. Do you know what Uncle Ray told me after my parents – your grandparents – were killed? I was a little older than you and scared to death about what would happen to me and he told me that if you’re scared of something, you should always tell someone because that way, you aren’t scared and alone. That person you tell may share your fear and be able to help or they may just be able to support you. Either way, you’re not alone when you admit to someone that you’re afraid, when you say the words out loud. It helps take control of the fear. So that’s what I’m going to do right now."

He put both hands on her shoulders and said slowly, "Rebecca, I’m afraid."

She blinked to acknowledge that she’d heard, then stared at the floor for a long moment, as though summoning the words. Finally, she said with great solemnity, "Uncle Cordell, I’m afraid too."

He smiled and hugged her tight. "Now we’re not alone. Together, we can conquer this fear."

Resting in his strong arms, her chin against his shoulder, Rebecca felt at peace and completely safe for the first time in a long time. There was something about this man that made her trust him completely and she felt the fear begin to dissipate, just a little.

 
Chapter 2 –
Wrong Woman, Wrong Time

Okay, fast forward a few years. This chapter finds us in the episode "Right Man, Wrong Time" (thank you to TV Guide Online for their up-to-date episode summaries and the Internet Movie Database, without which, I would have no research). Rebecca is twelve here and thanks to Walker and Uncle Ray (I always liked him – shame he had to go), she’s a fairly well-adjusted pre-teen. Some things will be glossed over for the sake of getting to the point, but my main goal is that each chapter/story can stand alone in addition to building on the previous. (These initial chapters are an attempt to build background more than anything else, though, so bear with me.)

She sat on the top board of the corral, scared that what she had just witnessed was real, that her uncle was falling for Merilee Summers, the beautiful blonde country singer he’d brought to their ranch. He was protecting she and her daughter, Tammy Fay, from an abusive ex-husband, he’d said. There had to be more to it, though, Rebecca knew, but she hadn’t really wanted to find out what that was. She hadn’t meant to catch them in a passionate embrace in the front yard either, but that didn’t change the fact that she had. As soon as what she was seeing had registered in her brain, she’d turned quickly and headed for the corral as fast as her legs could carry her. The picture lingered in her mind, though – her uncle, his arms wrapped around that woman, holding her close. It looked wrong, though she couldn’t quite pinpoint the reason why.

"What is he thinking?" she demanded out loud to no one in particular as she climbed onto the fence, legs straddling the white boards, her cowboy boots dangling casually on either side.

Walker’s palomino and white paint horse, Amigo, ambled over with Rebecca’s spunky bay and white mare Dakota close behind. The mare rested her muzzle on the girl’s denim-clad knee, chocolate eyes searching her owner’s face. Rebecca cupped the brown head in her hands, using lithe fingers to straighten the black forelock where it strayed from her forehead.

"And don’t tell me that it isn’t my business, Dakota," the girl told the paint. "I live here too, you know. What happens in the front yard is my business - but why her? And don’t tell me to be understanding because of her situation. There’s just something about her, something I don’t like. I can’t put my finger on what it is, though, I just can’t stand her."

The mare blinked, her head unmoving.

"You’re not being very helpful," Rebecca chided lightly, springing down from her perch and grabbing her bridle from where it hung on a nearby fence post. "Maybe I should go find someone who will be – and don’t tell me to talk to Uncle Ray because he likes her too. Everyone around here seems to like her but me."

She said all this while slipping the bit into the mare’s mouth and fastening the leather straps about her head. Then with the ease of an Indian brave, she grabbed a handful of black mane and vaulted onto the wide white back, steering Dakota across the pasture with her knees. She pointed her towards the Walkers’ eastern neighbors, the Woods. Amigo whinnied after his herdmate, but stayed where he was, cropping grass.

David Wood, the family’s youngest son, was Rebecca’s best friend. A lanky twelve-year-old boy with dark hair and eyes, they’d met shortly after she’d moved in with her uncles when Mrs. Wood had dragged him along on a neighborly visit. She’d stopped by because, in that roundabout way that news traveled in ranch country, she’d heard that they’d adopted Walker’s niece. She told the men that if they ever needed motherly advice to help rear the girl, she was available. Walker had accepted her kind offer a bit gratefully, glad that there was a woman nearby should Rebecca need someone to talk to about, well, woman things. Meanwhile, the seven-year-old boy and seven-year-old girl had sat two feet apart on the porch steps in complete silence, silence that had only been broken when Dakota, then a young foal, had wandered over to the fence, her mother ambling close behind.

"That’s my horse," Rebecca had pointed proudly at the foal. "Her name’s Dakota."

"Dumb name for a horse," David had snorted in that superior tone characteristic to young boys.

"Is not!" Rebecca argued, leaping up to plant a gentle kiss on the foal’s outstretched muzzle.

"My horse is Rebel," the boy followed her. "He used to be my brother’s and they won a bunch of trophies. We’re entering goat tying at the rodeos this summer."

Rebecca had been impressed by this announcement but hadn’t let on. "Are you any good?"

David’s indignant response had been decisive and, coming from a seven-year-old, sounded out of place and would have been funny to any adults had they been present. He’s told her, "I’m the best."

Somehow a conversation had sprung up between them and, in the past five years, that conversation had led to many others. The Walker ranch’s close proximity to the Woods’ assured that the two saw a lot of each other – they rode the same bus to school, were in the same class, and once Rebecca had learned to ride a horse, competed in the same rodeos. That common ground firmly established, the two had constructed a solid friendship.

Dakota, familiar with the route across the field, made the trip to David’s in record time, slowed only by the gate that separated the two pieces of property, which Rebecca had to open and latch behind them. When they rode up, David and his sixteen-year-old brother Rob were practicing their roping skills in one of the corrals near the barn. A metal dummy that resembled a cow stood in the center and the boys were taking turns tossing their lassos over its plastic horns.

"Hey Becc!" David called, steering his buckskin gelding over to her. "Want to rope a bit?"

He tilted his straw cowboy hat back on his head, gloved hands resting casually on the horn of his saddle.

"I have a problem," she told him flatly, ignoring the invitation.

"Let’s talk," he shrugged and gestured to her to tether Dakota to the corral. To his brother, he called, "I’m knocking off, Rob."

"Okay," the older boy said over his shoulder, tossing his rope again and snagging the dummy cow with ease.

"So what’s up?" David asked her as they seated themselves on straw bales in the barn.

"I saw him kissing her," she jumped right into the middle of the story, having filled David in on their visitors at school that day. "Right there, in our front yard, he was kissing Merilee Summers."

"So?" David wanted to know. "What’s the big deal? People kiss all the time. Besides, you said a while ago that you wanted him to date someone."

"Yeah, but not her," Rebecca stood and began to pace.

"So who?" he asked in that point-blank tone that all twelve-year-old boys seemed to have. He was lounging on the bale, arms resting on the wood slats that made up the wall behind him and his tone was fairly disinterested. It was clear he thought she was overreacting and was not in the mood to go over it with her at the moment.

"I don’t know!" She threw up her hands, exasperated with his attitude. "Anyone but her!"

"Yeah right," his tone was dripping with disbelief. He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. "Let’s look at the facts, shall we? You want your uncle to date someone. Before this country singer came along, the only other woman who could be considered dateable that was in his life was Alex Cahill. So now he’s kissing Merilee and you’re upset but you say you have no idea why – face it, Becca, you want him to date Alex."

She was facing him while he spoke, hands on her hips. When he finished, she said, "You think?"

"Seems pretty simple to me," he shrugged.

She sat back beside him on the bale and rested her head in her hands. After a minute of silent thought, she said, "So what do you think I should do?"

"Call me crazy," David began, speaking in a remedial tone, "but I think you should talk to him. You’ve always told me that you can tell him anything so why should this be any different?’

"I hate you," the words didn’t sting and weren’t meant to.

"I know," he stood up and helped her to her feet. "See you tomorrow?"

"Yeah," she headed off to collect her horse.

At home, she left Dakota in the corral and headed in to the kitchen. Uncle Ray was there, working on what looked like beef stew for dinner. The smell of biscuits baking filled her nostrils and her stomach growled reflexively.

"Did you have a good ride?" the old man asked as she washed her hands at the sink.

"Yeah," she replied. "Been doing some thinking."

"Ah," he nodded but did not press her, turning instead to stir the stew. Uncle Ray never pushed and she knew that this case would be no different.

"Where’s Uncle Cordell?" she wanted to know.

"On the front porch," he told her.

"And what about…" she didn’t get a chance to finish the sentence.

"Merilee and Tammy upstairs," he interjected in a knowing voice. "Dinner will be in twenty minutes."

"Thanks," Rebecca headed to the porch.

Walker was seated in the porch swing, his gaze far away. Hearing the clunk of her cowboy boots on the wooden floor, though, he turned.

"Where have you been?" he wanted to know. "One minute you were here and the next you and Dakota were gone."

"I went over to David’s," she replied, seating herself beside him. "I had to talk to him about something."

"Oh yeah?" her uncle said conversationally. "Did Mr. Garrison fall out of his chair in class again today or something?"

"I wish," she chuckled at the memory. "But no."

She fell silent and Walker’s eyes probed her face curiously. "What’s on your mind, Rebecca?"

She looked down at the porch floor and paused a long moment before answering him. "Uncle Cordell, I’m scared."

She hadn’t meant to express herself in quite that way, but once the words were out she surprised herself by feeling a bit better.

"What are you scared of?" he wanted to know.

She smiled ruefully and the words didn’t come to her lips very easily. "I’m scared that you’re making a mistake with Merilee. I don’t think she’s the right one."

Disbelief washed over his bearded face and it took him a moment to say something. "You saw what happened this afternoon then?"

She nodded and he sighed. "I’m sorry, Rebecca."

"Me too," she said. Earnestly, she added, "I’ve tried to like her, Uncle Cordell – I really have but I just can’t."

"Is it possible that you don’t like her because she’s the first woman I’ve really brought around?" he wanted to know.

"You bring Alex around and I like her," she told him.

"She’s not Alex," he said, half to himself. "You don’t like her because she’s not Alex."

"So I’ve been told," she mumbled.

"What’s that?" he asked.

"David told me the same thing," she shrugged. "He said I was upset because I want you to date Alex."

"And do you want me to date Alex?" he probed.

She shrugged again. "You could do worse."

"But do you want me to date her?" When he asked her the question again, Rebecca looked directly at him, sensing something in his tone that was different. It wasn’t as though he was asking her for her opinion this time, but rather it seemed he was asking her permission.

Rebecca thought carefully before she spoke, expelling her twelve-year-old wisdom. "I don’t think I can tell you who to date, but I like Alex. That’s all I can say."

He leaned back as far as the back of the swing would allow him and said quietly, "Would you believe that I’m scared?"

She looked at him quizzically. Her uncle was the bravest person she knew – she’d seen him in full Texas Ranger mode many times and he never flinched when it came to enforcing the law. She’d also seen him argue with Alex on several occasions and he certainly wasn’t afraid of her then.

To make sure she understood, she asked, "You’re afraid of Alex?"

He pursed his lips and looked at her as though he’d just remembered that she was twelve, that she wasn’t full-grown. Yet Rebecca had always been old for her age, and he seemed to recall this too as he told her, "I’m not afraid of Alex, but I am afraid to date Alex."

"Why?" she wanted to know.

He took a deep breath. "Alex and I are good friends and sometimes when you go from friendship to dating, things change for the worse. I don’t want to lose what we have."

"But couldn’t things change for the better if you gave it a try?" she asked.

"I suppose," he admitted. "But I’m also sort of afraid to be in a relationship in general. You really have to open yourself up to another person to make it work, Rebecca. I don’t know if I can do it."

"This whole thing sounds simple to me," she shrugged.

"It does, does it?" he chuckled. "How’s that?"

"Well," she sounded as though she was formulating the idea as the words came out, "things just make sense now. Merilee isn’t going to stay around here very long – she’s a singer so she’s going to head out on the road. Alex is here all the time. That’s why you can open up to Merilee – she’s leaving."

Walker smiled and put his arm around his niece. "It takes adults years to figure out what you just put together in five minutes."

She blushed and he planted a kiss on the top of her head. "I think we should go in for dinner."

They stood and she said, "Thanks, Uncle Cordell. I feel better now."

"You know what?" he said. "So do I."

 
Chapter 3 –
Don’t Go

First and foremost let me say that if you are still with me as we embark on Chapter 3, thank you. I hope it’s only going to get better. That said, on with the story! We now find ourselves in the episode "’Til Death Do Us Part" where Walker is in a coma and everyone is keeping vigil by his bedside. (Thank you again, TV Guide Online.) Rebecca is 13 here for those of you playing at home and, because Floyd Westerman had left the show at this point, he isn’t written in here. Also, if there are parts of this story that are grossly inaccurate, I apologize, but I haven’t seen the episode in a while so I’m going strictly from memory.

Fear grabbed hold of Rebecca Walker when her name was called over the school’s PA system that afternoon. In a tinny voice, the school secretary Mrs. Williams said, "Mrs. Holcomb, please send Rebecca Walker to the office prepared to leave."

"Prepared to leave" was a phrase reserved for kids who had doctor or dentist appointments or kids whose parents were picking them up for something else. Rebecca didn’t have an appointment that afternoon and her uncle never took her out of school spontaneously. The words "prepared to leave" used here obviously meant something bad had happened and that scared her.

"What’s up?" David Wood whispered to her as she got her things together.

She shrugged in an attempt at nonchalance but didn’t say anything, struggling to keep her breathing even and not bolt for the door in a panic. Her other classmates weren’t paying a whole lot of attention to her – they were used to such announcements and most were disappointed that they weren’t going. Instead, they would spend the rest of the afternoon studying the Louisiana Purchase.

"Hey," David whispered again and grabbed her wrist. Her scared blue eyes met his easygoing brown ones and locked. "I’m sure it’s nothing."

"I hope you’re right," was her quiet reply as she hoisted her backpack onto her shoulders and made a hasty exit.

But David was wrong and she knew it, even before she turned the corner and saw her uncle’s retired partner CD Parker standing in front of the school office, hands thrust nervously in the pockets of his brown pants, his normally jovial expression grim. Even his silver mustache drooped beneath his normally twinkling eyes and his ever-present cowboy hat. For a moment she wanted to stop right where she was and not go any further. Maybe if she stayed rooted firmly where she was in the hallway, she wouldn’t have to hear his news. Then things wouldn’t have to change.

Her memory flipped back automatically to the night her parents were killed. The police officer who’d come to the door had worn the same worried expression that CD had now – one of fear, of pity, and of pain. She’d become an orphan that night – though at seven she hadn’t really known what exactly that meant. She’d gone to live with her uncle and he’d filled the gaps left by her parents’ deaths so well that she hadn’t had time to feel like an orphan. He’d rocked her through nightmares and through bouts of the flu and always made time to spend time with her and talk – about anything. He’d taught her karate and how to ride a horse and even helped her with her math homework. In six years time, she’d never felt orphaned. Rather, she’d felt special – like she’d lived with him forever and that things were the way they were supposed to be.

At thirteen, though, she knew what being an orphan would mean. Cordell Walker was her last living family member (or at least the last family member she had who accepted her) and if CD was about to tell her that he was gone, she didn’t know where she would go or what she would do. On the larger scale, though, she didn’t know if she could handle it. Losing her parents at seven was more surreal than anything else – one minute they’d been there and the next they hadn’t. Six years of growing and of living with someone who cared about her as much as her uncle Cordell had smoothed the memory and worn it away like water in a stream turning jagged pebbles into sleek round circles. If she were to lose her uncle now – the central figure in her life - the hurt would cut much deeper and have the ability to destroy everything she believed in.

"CD?" she asked tentatively, stepping close to the portly older man the way one might approach a rattlesnake.

He blinked several times as though trying to hold back tears. She asked him insistently, "CD – what happened to him?"

"He’s in a coma, darlin’," he put a hand out to steady her and she collapsed against his chest. Softly, he said, "Come on. I’ll take you to the hospital."

Rebecca didn’t remember the drive to the hospital or the walk up to her uncle’s room. What etched itself in her memory, though, was the sight of Alex Cahill sitting forlornly in the white corridor, her neat suit marred by dirt and her expression vacant.

"Alex?" Rebecca said softly as she and CD approached.

"Oh, Rebecca," the blonde woman hurried over and pulled her into a crushing hug. Both had tears streaming down their faces when they broke apart.

"What happened?" Rebecca strained to keep her voice from shaking.

Alex pulled her down onto the bench beside her, gripping the girl’s hands firmly in her own. "It was a hit and run. Walker was trying to help a mother and baby get out of their car before it went over the side of a bridge and another car slammed into it before he could get himself out."

"And the mother and baby?" Rebecca asked reflexively, already knowing that her uncle had saved them and in the process, sacrificed himself.

"They’re shaken up, but they’re all right," came the response.

"Where’s Trivette?" Rebecca surprised herself by being full of questions, then realized that none of them had to do with her uncle’s prognosis. The human mind was certainly full of tricks to protect itself from the truth.

"He’s out searching for the people who hit Walker," Alex told her.

Rebecca nodded, then stared down at the floor in order to avoid the question that now burned within her. Alex seemed to sense it anyway and added, "They say he has a fifty-fifty chance of survival."

Numbed by actually hearing the words out loud, Rebecca could only nod her head, feeling as though it weighed two tons on her shoulders.

CD placed a gentle, knarled hand on the shoulder’s of Alex and Rebecca as they hunched together in misery. "There, there" was all he said.

A doctor in blue hospital scrubs and white Reeboks approached the trio and told them in a soft voice – a voice used to delivering ominous news – that they would be allowed in to see him now but they couldn’t stay long. Rebecca seized Alex’s fine-boned hand as they rose and let the district attorney lead her into the room.

Everything was white, she noticed immediately and the smell of antiseptic and sterility captured her nostrils, causing her stomach to turn. Her uncle lay immobile in his hospital bed, sunlight from the window glinting menacingly on all of the machines they had him hooked up to. For the first time she could remember, Rebecca thought that he looked small and weak. She was used to a man who could still pick her up with one hand even though a recent growth spurt had brought her height up to five-foot five inches – a man whose skin was always rosy with health beneath his beard and who exuded authority. The man before her in the bed looked as though he were made of wax poured paper thin so that if she touched him, he would break.

No one spoke – it was as though they all had forgotten how. Alex took Walker’s pale hand in her own, tears streaming down her cheeks, but Rebecca could only stand at his bedside and stare, her throat closed so tightly that breathing was even difficult. Her eyes began to burn with unshed tears as Alex finally broke the silence.

"Do you remember when Walker and I first met, CD?" she asked softly.

"Seems to me there was a bit of a ruckus in the courtroom," he replied in his thick drawl. "And I seem to recall it leading to a different sort of ruckus later on."

Alex gave a small smile. "He was the most arrogant, pigheaded man I’d ever met – and I told him so that night at your New Year’s Eve party. And I was so busy yelling at him that I forgot how close it was to midnight – until he kissed me, that is."

Rebecca too had to give a small smile at the memory. Only eight years old on that night, she’d been enjoying the revelry from behind the bar with CD, who always let her help him get the glasses and things around for the waitresses. She’d thought Alex Cahill was pretty the first time she’d seen her and had wondered if her uncle thought so too. And just as the thought crossed her mind, he gave her an answer by kissing the blonde district attorney full on the lips right there in front of everyone. Rebecca had known then and there that Alex was the one for him – though convincing him of that was taking more time than she would like. And now he lay before them, comatose, and she tried unsuccessfully to hold back tears when she thought that the two might never admit their true feelings for each other.

But then a stubborn thought replaced the bleak one. Fate could not possibly be so unfair as to take her uncle away from both her and Alex. Wasn’t it enough that she, Rebecca, had already lost her parents and that Alex had been waiting on Walker for several years now to be ready to enter into a relationship with her? If the story were to end now, it would be tragic and the hopeful part of Rebecca hoped that her uncle – wherever he was at that moment – would realize that and find a way back to them. If anyone could do it, she reasoned, Cordell Walker could.

The next several days were enough to try the faith of even the truest believer, though. The lowest point came when Walker began seizing while Alex was visiting with him early one afternoon. Rebecca had been in the hospital cafeteria eating lunch under CD and Alex’s orders at the time and was glad she hadn’t been there when she learned of the incident later. Seeing her uncle lying as though dead was bad enough but to see his own body betray him while his mind was locked away somewhere else would have been worse. Still, that evening when she was able to sit down with him for a few minutes alone while CD and Alex went to retrieve dinner from a local restaurant, she held his hand a little tighter as though that simple gesture alone could keep his soul from flying away.

"Uncle Cordell, we have to talk," she kept her voice as flat as possible, trying to sound as though she were having a rational discussion with him like she did when he was awake. Her voice quivered as she continued, though. "I’m really, really scared right now. You’ve almost died twice this week and, well, that’s not a very nice thing to do to all of us here. We need you, Uncle Cordell. I need you – you’re the only family I have. It’s you and me against the world, remember? You’ve always told me that if I’m scared, I should come to you and tell you and I always have and you’ve always made me not scared anymore. Except now. Now I’m scared and you’re lying there and all I want is for you to open your eyes and tell me that there’s no reason to be afraid because you’ll be alright and things will go back to normal. I already lost my parents – it’s not fair to lose you too! And if that’s not enough of a reason for you to come back, think of Alex. She loves you so much, Uncle Cordell. She hasn’t slept in a week except when her eyes won’t stay open anymore and even then she’s not really resting. She’s strong – but not as strong as you. None of us are as strong as you – we all need you to come back. Can you do that for us – please?"

It was as though her words had fallen on deaf ears and she blinked back a fresh wave of tears just in time for CD, Alex, and her uncle’s partner James Trivette to enter with brown paper bags full of food that none had the stomach to eat. They pushed the food around rather than consuming it and none could even be consoled by the fact that Trivette was within striking distance of the hit and run suspect. Without Walker awake and back in their lives, not even justice mattered.

Rebecca fell into a troubled sleep that night, her head resting on CD’s broad shoulder as they occupied one of the narrow benches outside her uncle’s room. Alex had taken the other bed inside and Trivette had chosen to head home in order to get an early start in the morning. It had become their nightly routine to stay as close to the hospital as possible – just in case something happened during the night. Rebecca hated it if only because it reminded her of how close her uncle was to death, though she would have equally hated not being there at all.

It was with great surprise and a lot of excited chatter that she was awakened the next morning, however. Rubbing the sleep from her eyes and stretching a few kinked muscles, she sat up abruptly to face CD, his eyes dancing in the manner to which she was accustomed.

"He’s awake, darlin’!" the old man exclaimed.

Rebecca’s response was a shriek of unadulterated joy that echoed through the hospital’s pristine corridors. Immediately, she leapt to her feet, her running shoes beating a path through her uncle’s door and her eyes immediately seizing upon his newly animated face.

"You’re back," she whispered, her excitement converting into wonder as she felt him take her hand in his. Beside her, Alex looked on with shining eyes, CD’s hand resting reassuringly on her slim shoulder. Trivette stood at her uncle’s feet, pure relief washing over his face not only at having captured the perpetrators, but at having his partner back.

"Did you miss me?" Walker asked his niece wryly.

"Like crazy," she replied emphatically. She leaned forward to hug him – to confirm he was real – and told him, "I was so scared."

"That makes two of us," came his response.

*** So there you have it, the first three chapters. Apologies for the super-summarization – it’s getting down to finals time for me, plus my memories of these early episodes aren’t that clear. I do have a pretty good idea of where I’m going, though, so I’m hoping that I can get some more of this together over break and post it. PLEASE take a moment to review if you liked it – and even if you didn’t (though be gentle, my ego is very fragile at the moment). Thank you!

 
Chapter 4 –
Blown Apart

Welcome to Chapter 4! We now find ourselves in the episode "Blown Apart," where a mad bomber is attempting to blow up everyone important to Walker. I always liked this episode – I think it was one of their most action-oriented shows ever (which is saying something). Naturally, because this mad bomber is after people important to Walker, Rebecca is going to find herself in a very scary situation. Enjoy – and please review! (PS – I still don’t own these characters.)

There was a bomb in her locker. Rebecca stood rooted in place, her right hand still on the cold metal door, poised in midair as her brain slowly reported to her eyes what they were seeing. As soon as the message was delivered, fear settled into the pit of her stomach and she choked back a scream. Her classmates bustled around her, picking up books for their next classes and chatting in groups, but she heard nothing but a wall of silence behind her, so focused was she on the contents of her locker.

Rebecca’s eyes went into scanning overdrive as she took in the blinking red light on top of what looked like TNT, though she couldn’t be sure. A timer was settled in the middle of the device and showed thirty seconds. Rebecca was only slightly relieved to see that it wasn’t moving and, as she noticed this, her eyes strayed to the back wall of the small space. Affixed with poster putty was a note, where someone had written a message in red ink: Hello, Rebecca. You don’t know me but I know your uncle and I’ve decided to send him a message. Don’t worry – the bomb won’t become armed until you remove your hand from the door and even then I’ve given you a sporting chance. You’ll have thirty full seconds to run for the door – though it’s unfortunate that your locker is on the second floor. I’m sure you won’t feel too much pain... MK

"MK?" Rebecca wondered. "Whose initials are MK?"

Fear and confusion overwhelmed her. She knew that the first thing she needed to do was alert someone to her predicament and get the school evacuated, otherwise not only would she be going up in smoke, but five hundred of her classmates would as well.

Focus on that, Rebecca, she told herself. One thing at a time. The bomb won’t arm unless you move, so stay still and get everyone out of the building.

"Hey, Becca – you coming to class?" David Wood wanted to know, appearing suddenly at her right shoulder.

"David," she began in the steadiest voice she could muster, not daring to turn her head to look at him, "there is a bomb in my locker."

"Hey, I forgot to do my homework too, but I don’t think Mr. McMannis is going to buy that one," he told her.

He reached out to grab her arm and Rebecca cried, "No! David, I’m serious, there’s a bomb in my locker. You have to get everyone out of school – now!"

"Rebecca, I’m ceasing to find this funny," he said impatiently. He peered over her shoulder into her locker and she watched his brown eyes expand to three times their normal size. "Holy crap! You’re serious!"

"Yes," she took a deep breath with the word in an effort to slow her racing heart. She turned her head slightly to look at him then and locked her eyes on his. "Please, go get help."

As he darted down the hall, she thought to add, "And have them call my uncle!"

It seemed to take an eternity for anything to happen. Behind her, the other students of Sam Houston High School made their way to classes as the final bell clanged shrilly, announcing the beginning of fifth period. But as soon as the last echoes died away, Rebecca heard footsteps approaching from behind at a rapid pace. From the corner of her eye, she could see that it was David and the principal, Mr. Wyatt, whose mustache was wrinkling with frustration. Obviously he hadn’t taken David’s claim seriously and had come to investigate for himself.

"Is there a problem here, Miss Walker?" the bristling man asked her sharply.

David shrugged helplessly before Rebecca responded. "There’s a bomb in my locker, Mr. Wyatt."

"Mm-hmm," the principal rolled his eyes. "Let’s have a look, shall we? Do you mind stepping back?"

"Actually, I do," Rebecca’s voice cracked as the fear welled up in her throat. Her mind was working feverishly coming up with possible scenarios, all of which ended badly. At his glare, she added, "Mr. Wyatt, if I move, the bomb will arm itself. Please, can you just look without me moving?"

He let out a disgruntled sigh and went to her left side. Rebecca watched his eyes do the same thing that David’s had and he began to stutter, "It’s real! I had no idea… No idea… We need to evacuate!"

He rushed back down the hall, then halted midstride, turned, and thought to tell her, "Don’t move, Rebecca. I’m calling the bomb squad."

"Call my uncle!" she cried. "Texas Ranger Cordell Walker – call him – please!"

The balding principal nodded and scuttled back to the office as fast as he could. David stood beside Rebecca, looking uncomfortable and helpless, shifting his weight nervously from side to side.

"David, you don’t have to stay," she told him.

"I know," he nodded, but made no move to leave.

"Let me rephrase that," Rebecca tried again. "David, I think you should go."

"I’m not leaving you here alone with the bomb," he protested. "No one should have to wait alone in a situation like this. I’m staying."

She turned her head to meet his gaze again and saw that he was serious. As she looked away, she told him, "Thank you."

"Don’t mention it," he said.

Another eternity seemed to pass before the PA system crackled to life and Mr. Wyatt’s voice came on in his most forceful tone. "All students and teachers, please move out of the building and onto the football field in an orderly but quick fashion. The school is unsafe at this time and must be evacuated. Again, all students and teachers please move to the football field. Thank you."

Doors began to slam open and voices could be heard. There was laughter too, which told Rebecca that her classmates weren’t taking the principal’s warning very seriously at all, but she didn’t care. As long as they moved out of the building, they would be safe. Their footsteps and voices echoed for some time, but soon Rebecca sensed that the entire school was empty, save Mr. Wyatt, who bustled back over to she and David, his tie askew and face red.

"What I don’t understand is why there’s a bomb in your locker, Miss Walker," the principal said, mopping his brow with a handkerchief. "Who would do such a thing?"

"I think it has something to do with one of my uncle’s cases," Rebecca told him.

"But how…" Mr. Wyatt never got to finish his thought because sirens could be heard approaching the school. He turned and ran towards the stairs to meet the bomb squad and David and Rebecca were left alone again.

"You know," David began, "I figured our freshman year of high school would be exciting, but I didn’t know it would be quite like this."

"I’m sorry about all of this," Rebecca told him, ignoring the joke because she was afraid that if she began laughing, she would begin crying uncontrollably.

"It’s not your fault," he assured her. "And it’s not your uncle’s either. This is just a crazy world that we live in."

"I think mine takes the prize as craziest today," she said dryly.

"Definitely," he agreed as thuds on the stairs alerted them to the arrival of help.

Rebecca had to fight the urge to break down in tears one more time as she saw that the source of the noise was her uncle. He hurried down the hall, his mouth pursed tightly beneath his beard and his cowboy hat hiding his eyes.

Matter-of-factly, he greeted them with, "David, you need to get out of the building right now. I’ll take over from here. Rebecca, don’t move."

"See you outside," David clasped Rebecca’s shoulder gently.

"I hope so," her voice faltered a bit.

"You will," David and her uncle said together. With a nod of solidarity, David loped off down the hall.

"Uncle Cordell, what’s going on here?" Rebecca demanded, fighting a cramp as her right elbow protested the position she’d been holding it in for the last half hour.

"Max Kale," he replied simply, giving the bomb a thorough once-over.

"Who is Max Kale?" she pressed him.

Her uncle’s blue eyes met her own. "Max Kale is a man who is out to get me. So far today he’s tried to blow up Trivette and Alex and now you. I had CD on his way to pick you up when I got the call from your principal."

"Are Jimmy and Alex alright?" Rebecca asked.

"Trivette’s in the hospital, but he and Alex will both be just fine," he assured her, going back to checking out the bomb.

Rebecca watched him in silent for a moment, then asked, "So you can just cut a wire or something and disarm it, right?"

He didn’t answer right away. When he did, his voice was unsure. "Well, I could, but this bomb is different than the other ones he’s used so far. The wires are all the same color and I can’t tell which one connects the fuse to the explosives."

"Please tell me you have another plan, though," Rebecca felt a single tear roll down her cheek.

"Yes," he replied with confidence, then looked up and saw her trembling expression and teary eyes. Taking a deep breath he, put his hand on her left shoulder and said, "We’re going to make it out of here, Rebecca. I need you to do exactly as I say and we’ll be just fine. You’ve been very brave up until now and I need you to be brave a few minutes more. Can you do that for me?"

She didn’t trust herself to speak, but nodded emphatically.

"Good," he gave a half-smile. "Now, I have to go outside and tell the bomb squad what I'm going to do. I will be back as soon as possible. Hang in there!"

He planted a gentle kiss on her forehead, then hurried outside. Rebecca counted silently to one hundred in her head, taking deep breaths between each number and willing her arm to stay in place despite the protests of her fingers, which were gripping the locker door tightly in fear and beginning to cramp up like her elbow. The pain was now spreading to her shoulder as well and she was afraid that her arm might fall off before her uncle returned. Yet as she reached one hundred and twenty-seven, she heard footsteps approaching again and saw her uncle’s red shirt out of the corner of her eye.

"So what are we going to do, Uncle Cordell?" she asked as soon as he was within earshot.

"I’ll explain in a minute," he said walking past her and heading towards the second floor windows that stood two hundred feet from Rebecca’s locker. The windows were very tall and narrow and were made up of one solid panel of glass with no devices in the middle to open them. With a few forceful kicks, Walker dispensed with the glass in the two center windows, leaving two gaping holes, and in that instant, Rebecca knew what his plan was.

As he walked back to her locker, she began shaking her head rapidly. "Oh no. No we’re not. Uncle Cordell, I am not jumping out of a second story window. I can’t! We’ll never make it!"

"We’ll make it," he told her. "The bomb squad has an inflatable mat outside for us to land on. On my count, we’re going to run to the window, jump out, and land on the mat."

"Just like that?" Rebecca couldn’t stifle her disbelief at his plan and his calm demeanor. "Just one, two, three, jump?"

"Rebecca," he stood very close to her, his eyes trained on hers, "this is the only way. Thirty seconds isn’t enough time to make it down the stairs and out the door but it is enough time to make it over to that window and out. I’m sorry that this is happening to you – I can’t help but feel that it’s my fault. But you have to trust me and we have to go soon."

She felt a warm sense of calm settle over her at that moment as she saw the fear in her uncle’s eyes that mirrored her own. Sincerely, she told him, "It isn’t your fault. You had no idea that this would happen. And I do trust you. I’m just so scared, Uncle Cordell."

"Me too," he said, taking her left hand in his right. "Just hold my hand and we’ll do this, though. Okay?"

She nodded and he began to count. "On three – one, two, three!"

On the last number, Rebecca released her hold on the locker door and took off down the hall, grasping her uncle’s hand for dear life. The two hundred feet seemed to stretch out in front of them like an expanse of desert and Rebecca felt as though she was running in slow motion. Each of her feet seemed to pause as they hit the tiled floor before thrusting her forward again and she could feel the rubber soles of her tennis shoes gripping the surface firmly. The windows got closer and closer and then they were upon them. Walker hoisted her up and through and Rebecca only had a split second to look down at the gray inflated pillow beneath her before she was airborne, falling so rapidly she had no time to register that she was actually doing so.

With a thump and a bounce, she hit the satiny mat and began to crawl towards the edge. The sound of another impact behind her told her that her uncle was down safely but his call of "Rebecca – run!" reminded her that they were still too close to the bomb blast. She scrambled feebly across the mat, struggling as though she was swimming in rough ocean waters, using her hands as well as her feet to push forward. Finally, her left foot struck pavement and she ran towards the waving bomb squad members who were gesturing at her to get behind their vehicles. She had only gone a few feet, however, when the force of the explosion threw her to the ground. Instinctively, she covered her head with her hands and as soon as she had done so, she felt another body covering her own. The smell of plain Ivory soap and Old Spice told her that it was her uncle and she huddled beneath him, shaking with fear.

"Are you okay?" he asked as Rebecca heard the bomb squad moving around them. The explosion was over and a quick look at the building revealed that the second story was ruined. Sam Houston High School was going to have to have a major overhaul thanks to Max Kale.

Shaky, she forced herself into a sitting position, knees to the side. "I think so."

"Let me look you over," Walker brushed a few bits of debris out of her wavy shoulder length hair and off of her back. His hands came to rest on either side of her face, cupping her jaw and bringing her eyes to meet his. "I think you’ll be okay."

Rebecca’s lip quivered and as she looked at her uncle and saw the relief on his face, the emotions she’d been controlling released and she burst into tears, burying her face in his chest. He wrapped strong arms around her and rocked her silently as he had when she was seven and afraid of her new home, breathing a silent prayer of thanks for her safety.

"I was so scared, Uncle Cordell," she sobbed, twisting her fingers in the red material of his shirt.

"Me too," he whispered into her hair. "But we’re okay now."

When her tears subsided and she sat up straight again, the look of fear had been replaced by one of determination. "You’re going to get this guy, right?"

Her uncle stood, then helped her to her feet and gave her another hug. "You bet I will."

 
Chapter 5 –
First Date

And so we arrive at Chapter 5, continuing our spiral through the Walker universe. Not a whole lot has changed – I still don’t own these characters, nor do I profit from them (what a shame). As far as the story, we now find ourselves in between specific episodes sharing a little uncle/niece moment before Rebecca goes on her first date at the age of 16. And for those of you female readers who remember the nerves that led up to your first date, just imagine having to get ready while your Texas Ranger uncle and his Texas Ranger friends prepare to grill your equally-nervous date. <<inserts maniacal cackle here>> Enjoy!

She was going on her first date and she was scared out of her mind – not for herself, though, but rather for David. While Rebecca was upstairs with Alex choosing the perfect hairstyle to compliment the deep burgundy dress she’d chosen to wear to the Homecoming dance, her uncle Cordell and his friends James Trivette and CD Parker were downstairs, waiting. And she knew with one hundred percent certainty gleaned from many years of interacting with the three men that they were master interrogators and experts at threats – skills that put them in good stead as Texas Rangers and that would probably run David out of the house before she even got her make-up on.

"They’re not going to kill him, Rebecca," Alex soothed the lanky teenager for the sixth time. She placed her hands on the girl’s slim shoulders firmly more in an effort to keep her in the chair they’d positioned in front Rebecca’s full-length mirror than to give comfort. Rebecca had already paced the room enough times to wear a pattern in the beige carpeting with her high heeled sandals and Alex didn’t want her to twist an ankle.

"I wouldn’t put it past them, Alex," Rebecca said in a near whine that betrayed her true fear at what she was embarking upon.

She had known David Wood since they were seven. She’d gone to rodeos with him, sat by him at school every day, and had even gone to dances with him before. But none of those things were dates, none of their previous time spent together had ever been preceded by the question, "How would you like to go out sometime?" Their relationship didn’t work that way – or at least it didn’t used to. Then, last week, out of the blue, David had pulled her aside as they’d walked to the parking lot after school. David had a new pickup truck – a gift for his sixteenth birthday – and had taken to driving Rebecca, who didn’t have a car yet (as she kept reminding her uncle), to school every day. She remembered the uncomfortable way he stood and the nervousness swirling in his brown eyes as he shuffled back and forth as though summing up the courage to say something big.

"What’s wrong with you?" she had asked, confused. "You look really pale – are you feeling okay?"

""Yeah, I’m fine," he’d replied with false bravado. "I just, uh, well, wanted to, um, ask you a question."

"And for that we need to be standing on the school steps away from everyone else?" she had tried to kid him, but saw that he wasn’t in the mood.

"Well," he began, "what I have to ask is kind of important."

"Okay," she didn’t press him, but waited patiently, books wrapped tightly in her arms and held to her chest while she leaned against the brick school building.

"I was hoping that, uh, maybe you would like to, uh, go to the Homecoming dance with me," he finally managed to get the words out.

Rebecca stifled the laugh that rose in her throat. All of that production for a question he’d asked her the last two years in a row, ever since they were freshman! Of course, those years it had been more like, "So are we going to the dance this year?" And it was as she remembered those years and looked at her best friend that Rebecca had realized the gravity of his asking her this particular question in such a way. He wasn’t just making sure that they were going to the dance together, he was asking her to go with him – as in on a date. They wouldn’t just be entering the gym as friends, in that case, but as something more. This knowledge made her answer as shaky as his question.

"Um, yeah – sure I’d like to go with you," she stuttered.

"Great," he looked relieved and tried to act as though her answer was no big deal.

Following his lead, she smiled and moved away from the building. "Ready to go now?"

"You bet," he’d replied and they’d left as though nothing had happened.

Something had happened, though, and both were aware of it. This revelation had not crept into their everyday conversations anytime during the past week in a visible way, but it was ever present on the outskirts of everything they said. And as the date of the Homecoming dance approached, they began to drift apart a bit in their friendship, as though they were making room for whatever was to come after. Certainly they still sat next to each other in class and ate lunch at the same table, but they didn’t connect in the same way they had previously. David had even avoided actually asking her to wear his football practice jersey to the Homecoming game the way he’d asked her to the previous two years. Instead, he’d sent it to her via his friend Ryan, who handed it to her one day after English with an offhanded, "David forgot to get this to you."

Walker had noticed the change in his niece’s behavior as Homecoming approached as well, and had finally mentioned it out loud the night she was so distracted at dinner that she salted her green beans three times.

"Um, Rebecca, is there something that you’d like to talk about?" he’d asked, suppressing a chuckle as she absently placed the salt back in the center of the table.

"Not really," she’d shrugged, then distractedly asked him, "Why do you ask?"

"No reason," he shook his head, "except that those green beans have been salted three times in the last five minutes. If you have a salt deficiency, maybe we should make a doctor’s appointment for you."

Her eyes widened and she glanced quickly between him and the salt shaker several times. "I didn’t salt them three times." A pause, then, "Did I?"

At his nod, she’d sighed and shook her head in disbelief. "I guess maybe there is something that’s been on my mind lately."

"Care to share?" he’d asked, pushing his empty plate away from him and resting his elbows on the table, hands folded.

‘I, uh, sort of got asked to the Homecoming dance next Friday," she delivered the mark as though it was an everyday occurrence.

"That’s great," he responded. At the expression on her face, however, he’d added, "Isn’t it?"

"I suppose," she shrugged and played with the food on her plate.

"Well who asked you?" he prompted.

"Uh, well, David," she told him.

Confused, Walker said, "But you go to the Homecoming dance with David every year."

"I know," she nodded. "But this year is different."

"How?" he was asking questions that sounded canned, but both knew they were essential if she was ever going to get her fears out into the open.

"He asked me this year," she said, emphasizing each word carefully. Without waiting for her uncle to ask, she continued, "He never asks me; we just go. It’s sort of this friendly agreement we’ve always had – if there’s a social event to go to, we go together. That’s our thing. But this year, out of nowhere he pulls me aside and got all nervous and asked me to go to the dance with him." She looked at first as though she was going to let the explanation go at that, but then thought to add, "It’s a date, Uncle Cordell. David asked me out on a date."

"But I thought you liked David," Walker said.

"I do," she responded. "I really do. I’ve known him since we were seven and you’d think I’d be tired of him by now or something – but I’m not. He’s my best friend – and that’s what makes this whole thing so scary."

"Uh-huh," Walker said knowingly.

"What’s that supposed to mean?" He caught the full force of her blue eyes, which at this moment seemed to be giving off sparks.

Walker put his hands out in front of him as though to deflect a blow. "It means that we’ve had this discussion before, Rebecca. Remember Merilee Summers?"

Rebecca thought back. "Yeah, sort of."

"And do you remember how you were upset because you thought I was falling for her and you wanted me to be with Alex?" he continued. "I told you that I couldn’t just be with Alex, that it was complicated because we were good friends and I didn’t want to lose that. I think maybe it’s time we had that talk again because you seem to be in that very same situation right now."

Rebecca bit her bottom lip the way she did whenever she was nervous or thoughtful. "So you’re saying that the reason I’m freaked out is because David’s my best friend and I don’t want to lose him by trying to make our relationship something more?"

"You got it," Walker nodded.

"Uh-huh," she said, more to herself than to him.

"Rebecca," Walker reached out and took her right hand in his, "you and David have always had a special relationship and I don’t blame you for wanting to hold onto that. But things are changing for both of you – you’re not seven anymore."

"Thank you for noticing," she interrupted dryly.

He waved his hand to indicate he wasn’t finished. "I was afraid to date Alex because I thought it would ruin everything for us if we changed things. But I was wrong – our relationship is stronger now than it was before. We didn’t lose our friendship when we started dating, we found something better."

"Are you saying that you’re in love with Alex, Uncle Cordell?" she narrowed her eyes at him.

"I, uh, well…" he stammered, startled at her ability to turn the tables on him.

She laughed and the tension was released. "I see how it is and I’m happy for both of you. But how do I know that David and I will be able to make it work?"

He shrugged. "You don’t. But you have a strong foundation to build on – the rest you have to leave up to a lot of hard work and luck."

"Luck, huh?" she frowned a bit. "That’s reassuring."

"Hey, easy on the sarcasm," he chided her, standing to clear the table. "I’m trying to help you out here."

"I know," she laughed and went to help him. "And thank you. Now the only thing I have to worry about is looking great. I have the dress but I have no idea what to do with my hair."

"For that I recommend calling Alex," her uncle told her, rinsing his plate in the sink.

"Oh come on," she teased. "Don’t you give advice on affairs of the heart and fashion?"

Her uncle’s facial expression had given her all the answer she needed, so three phone calls and several go-rounds with the curling iron later, Rebecca sat in front of her mirror fidgeting while Alex fixed the last bobby pin into place.

"They all know David and he knows them," Alex reminded her. "He can hold his own."

"I hope you’re right," Rebecca sighed, standing to take in the complete picture, head to toe.

"You look wonderful," Alex assured her.

"Thanks, Alex," she said, trusting the blonde woman’s judgement. And she had to admit as she glanced at herself that Alex was a hairstyling master. Her shoulder-length reddish-brown hair was swept up neatly on top of her head with a crown of curled tendrils falling down to frame her heart-shaped face. Her blue eyes stood out thanks to a bit of mascara and eyeliner and the burgundy tones of her lipstick brought out the color of her dress without overshadowing her pale skin. Rebecca also noticed that her after-school job teaching karate at the gym of Walker’s old friend Trent Malloy was paying off – her arms were tapered yet muscular and she curved in places where she was supposed to. It was a complete change from the jeans and bulky gray sweatshirt she’d worn to the football game a few hours ago, an outfit complimented by David’s white number 10 jersey. She’d felt different wearing it this year, almost as though she was more connected to her friend. Now, however, in her dress and high heels, she just felt nervous.

Downstairs, Walker, Trivette, and CD watched David’s black pickup park in the gravel driveway and remained silent as the tuxedo-clad young man strode up the walk, his hair still wet from a post-game shower. The silence continued as Walker went to the door to let him in and ushered him into the living room.

"Hello, David," Walker said in his most sedate voice.

"Ranger Walker," David shook his hand rather formally, as though noticing that things were very different on this night. Usually he stepped through the front door unannounced and ended up in the kitchen, where he and Rebecca worked on homework and he ate enough to feed a small country. Even on previous Homecomings when David had picked Rebecca up they’d never shaken hands.

"Good to see you David," Trivette walked up with a big smile on his face and grabbed David’s shoulder, leading him over to the couch and gesturing at him to sit.

"Hi Ranger Trivette," David kept his voice casual. He also acknowledged CD. "Ranger Parker, how are things?"

"Fine as frog hair," CD boomed. He seated himself on David’s left, Trivette to the young man’s right, and Walker directly in front of him, seated squarely on the coffee table.

Usually the three men were quite conversational, but tonight they were quiet, as though watching him for sudden moves and David felt himself swallow rapidly several times.

"So, um, how are things at work?" David attempted to break the silence.

"Just fine," Trivette replied. "We’re catching lots of bad guys, as usual. Right, Walker?"

"All in a day’s work," the bearded ranger replied, his eyes never leaving David’s face.

"Well that’s good," David nodded and pasted a smile to his face.

"Hey Walker," Trivette sounded as though he had an idea. "Why don’t you tell David about that suspect we interrogated the other day? The one who kept backing away until he ended up in a corner of the room."

"Oh yeah," Walker caught on and was about to add something when the sound of Alex clearing her throat meaningfully interrupted.

Four heads swiveled in unison to face her. She smirked at seeing how the men had seated themselves around David – Rebecca had been right after all. Then, with as much build-up as she could muster, she announced, "I would like to present to you Miss Rebecca Walker."

Alex stepped aside and the four watched Rebecca descend the stairs. She looked wonderful, though nervous, and her eyes widened sharply when she saw her uncle and his friends surrounding David. As though they were controlled by a single puppeteer, all four rose as she entered the room and Trivette stepped aside so that David could approach her.

"You look great," he breathed.

"You look ill," was her response as she shot an evil glare over his shoulder to her uncle, who put on an innocent face and pointed at Trivette and CD as though to shift the blame.

"Ready to go?" David asked.

"Yeah," she replied, taking his hand. And as they walked out the door, her left hand grasped firmly in his right, she knew that her uncle had been right. Though the step they were taking was risky, she and David were very likely to find something beyond their friendship that would make their relationship stronger. The idea still scared her a little, but she was willing to face that fear head-on.

** So there you have it: Rebecca’s first date. I know it’s not an actual episode of the series, but I couldn’t resist – plus I’m building on what’s to come. I hope you enjoyed this little chapter and I promise more good things to come. Next up we enter the episode "The Wedding" (which, as you recall, is not Walker and Alex’s wedding, but rather where he proposes to her). Stay tuned


Chapter 6 – The Engagement

Well, here we are in the episode, "The Wedding." As you probably remember, Alex is shot at the end of part 1 just as Walker is about to propose and then part 2 finds her fighting for her life. Basically, I’ve just placed Rebecca in the story and cut it down to a few key moments. If everything’s not completely accurate, I apologize – I did my best. I hope it’s enjoyable and worthy of a few good reviews – thanks for all your great support so far!

She had been scared when the shooting started – and confused as she and CD had sprinted for the cover afforded by some nearby trees. The elderly Ranger wasn’t as fast as he had been in his prime and Rebecca was attempting to find her track star speed in a pair of high-heeled sandals, but somehow they had managed to fling themselves behind a massive tree and huddle there, unharmed.

"What’s happening, CD?" Rebecca had managed to find words somewhere.

"I don’t know, darlin’," he had shook his head and fought to catch his breath. "I just don’t know."

"Do you think Uncle Cordell and Alex are okay?" she had moved her eyes from right to left but had been too afraid to move her head and look out to see what was happening, though it sounded as though the gunfire had come to a stop.

CD’s answer had been a shrug, yet both had felt confident that their loved ones were alright – until they’d ventured out and seen Walker cradling Alex’s limp body in his arms, blood staining his hands.

Now Rebecca was no longer scared for herself, but rather for Alex and her uncle. She kept her eyes glued to the ambulance in front of her as it careened through traffic on the way to the hospital carrying Alex and her frightened uncle. She was driving the gray Ram and praying that when she reached the hospital Alex would still be alive. It hadn’t looked good when the paramedics had arrived – she’d lost a great deal of blood. And if Alex Cahill were to die, Rebecca didn’t know what her uncle would do. She gunned the gas and prayed she wouldn’t have to find out.

Waiting for Alex’s prognosis took what seemed like an eternity as Rebecca, CD, and Walker’s partner James Trivette paced the hospital corridors. Rebecca was reminded of the waiting game she’d been forced to play when her uncle had been in a coma after a hit and run car accident. One look over to her stricken uncle, sitting motionless in a chair, however, let her know that this was a very different situation indeed. When Walker had been fighting for his life, Alex had been the strong one. Rebecca had been able to cry on her shoulder and the district attorney had made it seem as though everything was going to be okay, as though she’d known something that no one else did. Her presence was calming and Rebecca had clung to that. Yet this time Rebecca realized that she was going to have to be the strong one because, although her uncle was physically strong, his outward appearance masked a fragile heart that could be easily shattered should Alex die. And in that event, Rebecca didn’t know if there was enough strength in the world to keep him from falling to pieces.

"Are you the family of Alex Cahill?" A doctor in green scrubs was looking furtively at the group, as though trying to assess which of them he should speak to.

"Yes we are," CD seemed to be the only one capable of finding his voice and Rebecca grabbed his hand to steady herself, feeling him give her a warm squeeze as they waited for the doctor’s next words. Walker was standing somewhat apart from the group, his tuxedo askew and white shirt spattered with blood – Alex’s blood. Rebecca ached to reach out for him, but she didn’t think he was ready for that just yet. Trivette seemed to read her mind and stepped a bit closer to his partner, eyes still trained on the doctor. No one breathed. They waited.

"Ms. Cahill has suffered severe internal damage from the bullet," the doctor’s voice was steady, matter of fact. He obviously had delivered a lot of bad news. "She’s in a coma and we won’t know anything until she wakes up."

"When will that be?" CD asked him.

"I don’t know," the doctor’s tone never altered. "It could be tomorrow, it could be next week, and it could be never. I’m sorry."

"Doctor," CD seemed to have accepted the role of spokesperson, "can we see her?"

"I can only let one of you go in and you shouldn’t stay long," he replied gravely.

Silently, Rebecca, CD, and Trivette stepped aside to let Walker enter Alex’s room behind the doctor. There had never been a split second’s worth of thought that anyone else would go in. While her uncle was gone, CD turned to Rebecca.

"Honey, you need to get him home," he told her. "He needs food and a shower."

"I know, but do you think he’ll go?" she wanted to know.

"He has to," CD made it sound simple.

"Walker’ll want to get the guys that did this," Trivette added. "He can’t do that and be here at the same time."

"True," Rebecca agreed. As she spoke, she saw her uncle emerge from the room, his face stricken and pale. She shot a nervous glance at CD and Trivette and received nods of support from both. She nodded in acknowledgement, then stepped over to place a gentle hand on Walker’s arm. "Uncle Cordell, I need to get you home."

Defiance rose in his eyes, which CD noticed. He interjected, "Cordell, listen to her. Sitting around here isn’t going to catch the fellas that did this. Go home with Rebecca. I’ll hunker down here for the long haul. If anything happens, I’ll let you know – I promise."

Walker seemed to weigh the words of his old friend in his head for a moment before surrendering to his logic and allowing Rebecca to lead him to the parking lot. Feeling as though she was dealing with an invalid, she helped him into the passenger seat of the Ram, then took her place behind the steering wheel and started the engine. Before pulling out of the parking place, she glanced at her uncle out of the corner of her eye. He was staring blankly ahead and she knew that he wasn’t seeing the line of cars in the hospital parking lot. Swallowing down a few tears that threatened to fall, she put the truck into reverse.

The drive home was silent, as was their walk into the house. The silence was only broken when Walker headed for the stairs and told her blankly, "I think I’ll take a shower."

"Okay," she said softly. She watched him climb the stairs, then turned and went into the kitchen to put together some sandwiches. Once they were assembled, she left them on the counter, then hurried upstairs to exchange her lavendar dress for a pair of blue track pants and oversized gray sweatshirt that David had loaned to her at a recent backyard football game. As she pulled it’s comfortable bulk over her head, she had an urge to call him and tell him what had happened. Then, realizing that telling David would bring all of the emotions to the surface that she was trying to stifle in order to be strong for her uncle, she decided against it. She would tell him, just not right now. Instead of running over to have him hold her in his arms the way he did whenever she was upset, his sweatshirt would have to do.

Rebecca’s thought process was interrupted by the sound of the shower cutting off and the phone ringing. It cut off after two rings so she knew that her uncle had answered. Saying a silent prayer, she headed back downstairs to wrap up the sandwiches, as she had a feeling that Walker wouldn’t be eating them at home.

When he came downstairs, he was still moving in slow motion. Rebecca fought the urge to demand to know who had been on the phone and what was happening, instead saying, "I made you some sandwiches."

"Thanks," he managed.

Rebecca couldn’t help but feel frustrated. She and her uncle usually had a completely open relationship – they could talk about anything, no matter how uncomfortable the topic might be. Yet now it was as though a wall had gone up between them, as though he was feeling something that was beyond her range of comprehension and was keeping it from her on purpose. Perhaps he was trying to protect her, to prevent her from sharing his pain at the possibility of losing someone who was so close to them both. But Rebecca knew that even though he might think that it was her he was protecting, in reality, he was protecting himself. She needed to get that across to him – the only problem was, she didn’t know how. In the past, it had been as easy as going up to him and saying, "Uncle Cordell, I’m scared." She wasn’t sure that would work this time, though – her uncle seemed far too withdrawn not only from her, but from himself. Expressing feelings was difficult for him and in this case would be more difficult, she knew, because he couldn’t even identify what those feelings were. She supposed that until he did sort things out for himself, there was nothing for her to do except be there for him.

Still, she thought maybe she should try to say something – anything. She began, "Uncle Cordell, I…"

He interrupted her to say, "I’m going to the office."

He picked up the sandwiches that she’d wrapped and headed for the door. As an afterthought, he took a step back and planted a kiss on Rebecca’s forehead. His hand lingered on her shoulder for a moment before he moved past her. She watched him go, then went upstairs to her room to try to get her mind on something else – anything else. Yet walking past her uncle’s room, she noticed that he’d left his tuxedo in a heap on the floor, the blood spattered shirt on top.

With a sigh, she went over and picked it up. The shirt appeared to be a lost cause so she wadded it up and prepared to move it into the trash downstairs. In Walker’s closet, she found a pair of hangers for his pants and jacket. They would have to be dry-cleaned and as she shook out the jacket, she noticed a bulge in the right-hand pocket. Perplexed, she reached in and pulled out a black, velvet-covered box. It didn’t take a full investigation for her to figure out what it contained and her stomach sank at the thought. He’d been about to propose to Alex. That was a huge step not only in their relationship, but a huge step for Walker as well. If he’d been prepared to make such a commitment, losing Alex might frighten him away from all future relationships – to say nothing of the current relationships he had with not only Rebecca, but also Jimmy and CD. Cordell Walker wasn’t one to let himself care about very many people – he’d been let down too many times in the past – but when he did allow those special few into his heart, he held them there with a reverence unmatched by anything Rebecca had ever seen.

She closed her fist around the box and said aloud, "Please Lord, don’t take Alex away from him now. He’s been through too much pain already – he lost his parents and his brother and he’s already lost one fiancee – don’t take this one too."

She lifted her eyes to the ceiling briefly, then left the room, still clutching the ring.

*

She was waiting up when Walker got home at 1:00 the next morning, clad in her favorite blue plaid pajamas and curled up under an afghan on the couch. Her hair was pulled up in a messy ponytail and she’d taken out her contact lenses in favor of a pair of glasses with silver frames. The ring box sat on the coffee table in front of her. He didn’t seem to note her presence at first, heading instead for the stairs, but then realized she was there and turned.

"Hey," she said softly.

"You’re up late," was his reply.

"You worked late," she countered. Then, realizing how harsh her words sounded, her tone softened. "Any luck?"

He shook his head despairingly and sank down beside her on the couch. Instinctively, Rebecca moved closer, pulling the afghan with her. "So how long have you had the ring?"

He gave a small, nearly imperceptible grin that could only be interpreted as rueful. "A month."

She nodded. "It’s a big step."

"I had it all planned out," he said quietly.

"She would have said yes," Rebecca didn’t know why she felt the need to affirm what she saw as the obvious, but when her uncle’s gaze met her own, she could tell he appreciated the gesture. When his gaze returned to the ring where it sat on the coffee table, she steeled herself, then asked, "Uncle Cordell? You’re scared, aren’t you?"

He didn’t answer right away. Seconds ticked by, then minutes. Finally, he pulled in a deep breath and answered her. "Yes."

"Me too," she said.

Another long silence followed before he spoke again. "I can’t lose her, Rebecca."

"I know," she put her arm around him and rested her chin on his shoulder. "She’s your other half, the person who makes everything make sense to you. Losing her would be like losing a giant part of yourself and you feel like if that were to happen, there wouldn’t be enough of you left to go on. But Uncle Cordell, you’re forgetting that this is Alex Cahill we’re talking about – she’s way too tough to let go. Besides, she’s been waiting for you to get it together for way too long to die now."

Her last words were said a bit more lightly in a slight effort at humor, but she doubted he would notice. She was surprised, then, when he gave a slight chuckle – though his reaction left her considerably heartened. She added, "She’s going to be okay, Uncle Cordell."

He stared straight ahead and for a moment she didn’t think he would answer. By the time he did, she had closed her eyes and had almost surrendered to the exhaustion brought on by the day’s events.

"I love her, Rebecca," he said. "I’ve never loved anyone the way I love her. She can’t leave me."

"I know," she repeated. "I know."

*

Rebecca was there when Alex emerged from her coma a few days later. She and CD had been keeping a particularly vigilant eye on her since the would-be assassins had made another bid on Alex’s life. The attempt had failed thanks to the quick actions of Walker, Trivette, and CD and when Alex awakened, Walker and Trivette were in the process of apprehending the man who had arranged the assassination, but a hurried phone call brought them both running.

Rebecca had never seen her uncle look the way he did when he stepped into the room and saw Alex sitting up in bed, eyes open and looking tired but strong. It was as though twenty years were lifted from his face and two tons of weight had been removed from his shoulders. Emotion choked him so that he couldn’t speak and Rebecca instantly evacuated her chair by Alex’s bed so that he could have it. She moved to stand with CD and Trivette and when the couple in front of them began to speak in hushed voices, Rebecca was so busy straining to hear that she didn’t hear the men behind her leave the room. It was hard to miss CD’s hand on her shoulder yanking her out the door with them, however.

When Walker emerged from the room several moments later, Rebecca knew that she had been correct when she had told him that Alex would say yes. His face was as light as the July sun and CD and Trivette instantly stepped up to take his hand in a congratulatory handshake. A handshake wouldn’t do for Rebecca, though, and when he turned to her, she quirked her eyebrows at him as though to ask, just to be sure, that he had actually popped the question. Her expression must have been a bit more skeptical than she thought, however, because it was met with a disbelieving frown.

"Yes, Rebeccca, I asked her," he said dourly, though his tone was light.

"Ee! I’m so happy for you!" she let out the shriek that had been building in her throat for some time. She leapt forward to clasp him in a hug and was so wrapped up in her joy that she nearly missed the words he whispered next.

"Thank you for everything," he said.

"You would have done the same for me," was her soft reply.

** On three – one, two three: Aw! How sweet! Good, I’m glad you liked it. Sorry I cut down the scene where they evacuated the hospital, but I wasn’t really sure what to do with Rebecca at that point. I do, however, know what I’m going to do with her next. We’ve got one more light story coming up and then I have some heavy stuff coming up. (I’m sorry to do it to her, but this is a drama we’re dealing with.) Don’t worry, though – she’ll be fine. Please R/R (this story is what’s keeping me sane right now) and stay tuned!

 
Chapter 7 –
Acceptance

Thanks to everyone for their very complimentary reviews! I’m blushing – you’re really too kind. And now, on with the story!!

(Author’s note: Trent and Carlos appear here courtesy of a special request by MaverickGirl. I wasn’t originally planning to write them in, but now that they’re here, I have to say it kind of works. Thanks! Also, I have completely made up the elite police academy program at Texas A&M in order to make it work with where I’m taking the story, so bear with me. Apologies to everyone at Texas A&M.)

It was supposed to be one of the happiest days of her life and she was scared to death. She stood in the kitchen, the letter from Texas A & M clutched in her shaking hands, eyes riveted to the words on the page and yet couldn’t help but feel the edges of her euphoria turn gray with fear. The letter informed her that she, Rebecca Kathleen Walker, had been accepted to the elite police academy at Texas A & M University.

"Well come on! What does it say?" David Wood demanded. He was seated on the opposite side of the kitchen island, a can of Pepsi in his hand and an impatient expression on his handsome face. He’d been pestering her about the contents of the envelope since they’d picked it up at the mailbox on their way home from school.

Rebecca felt a smile split her face. She breathed the words rather than said them: "I’m in!"

"All right!" He leapt to his feet and raced around to sweep her up in a congratulatory hug. It wasn’t until he’d set her down, though, that he noticed her glee had been short-lived. Confused by her quick transition, he said, "Um, I’m sorry but I thought that this was a good thing."

"It is," she insisted, still frowning at the paper.

"Okay, then do you mind my asking why you look like your dog just died?" he asked.

She chuckled. "Part of me just didn’t think I could make it, that’s all."

"Uh-huh," David’s tone was disbelieving.

Rebecca glanced up at him innocently. "What?"

"Rebecca!" He was exasperated. "You’re a straight-A student, a track star and school record holder in the hundred and two-hundred meter dash, and what’s more, you come from a law enforcement family. They’d have to be complete idiots not to let you in! I’m surprised scouts haven’t been beating down your door! And to top it all off, you’re acting as though it doesn’t make you happy at all that you got in or that we’ll be going to the same school next year. What gives?"

She was surprised by David’s outburst, but seeing how upset he was, instantly acquiesced. "Look, it’s not that I’m not thrilled beyond compare about this. I am – really. It’s just that it sort of complicates things for me a bit." She was hedging and she could tell that David knew it. "See, I kind of didn’t tell my uncle that I was applying to this program – he thinks I just applied to Texas A & M, not the police academy – and now that I’m in, I’m going to have to tell him the truth. He won’t like it, David. He’s always been against the idea of me going into law enforcement and this letter is going to send him through the roof."

David sighed and pulled her into his arms. "I don’t think he’s going to go through the roof, Becca. There may be yelling and you may be grounded, but I don’t think he’ll go through the roof."

"Thank you so much," she told him sarcastically, pulling back far enough to look him in the eye.

"You’re welcome," he leaned forward and gave her a quick kiss. "Now, if you want to really look on the bright side, you have at least three hours before you have to face him."

"True," Rebecca rested her cheek on David’s chest – though only until his words clicked in her brain. She exclaimed, "Oh no! What time is it anyway? I’m going to be late for work!"

"You’re not late," he assured her as she became a flurry of motion, picking up her hastily discarded backpack and racing for the stairs so she could change. "It’s only two forty-five and even if you are late, Trent will understand."

"I know," she tossed over her shoulder as she bounded upstairs, taking the steps two at a time. "But Trent’s working a case this week and I hate to add more stress to his schedule."

Rebecca had been teaching a junior karate class at Trent Malloy’s Thunder Karate for a year now, a job she very much enjoyed. Trent was an old friend of her uncle’s and a martial arts expert who worked as a private investigator on the side along with his best friend Carlos. They had become big brother figures to Rebecca in the time that she’d known them and as she exchanged her khaki pants and blue sweater for form-fitting black workout pants and a periwinkle sports top, she decided to ask them about the best way to break her news to her uncle. They’d had experience dealing with him in the past and might very well have some useful advice.

When she entered the dojo, her Adidas workout bag slung over her shoulder and water bottle in hand, her mind was still churning over the letter and she didn’t hear the laughter coming from Trent’s office until she walked past the door and heard her name called.

"Oh, hey guys," she pulled herself together and turned to enter the office. Carlos and Trent were lounging in a pair of chairs, Trent with his feet up on the desk and hands folded behind his blond head. Puzzled by his presence, she asked, "I thought you were working on a case this week?"

"Case is closed," he told her. "Carlos here found my guy with a few phone calls to some people he knows."

"What can I say?" Carlos shrugged and gave her a brown-eyed wink. "When you’re good, you’re good."

She smiled, but the expression on her face must still have been troubled because Trent asked, "So what’s on your mind? You look like someone just shot your dog."

"What is it with the dog analogies today?" she wanted to know, rolling her eyes.

"Sorry," Trent put his hands up in mock defense.

"Seriously, Rebecca, what’s up?" Carlos wanted to know.

"Well, I kind of have a problem," she began, dropping her bag to the floor and leaning her lanky frame against the doorjamb. "I applied to the elite police academy at Texas A & M without telling Uncle Cordell."

Carlos let out a whistle and Trent leaned forward to rest his elbows on the desk, saying, "You didn’t?"

She nodded sheepishly and added, "Yeah, and what’s more, I got my letter today saying I’m in."

She watched Carlos’s jaw drop and he and Trent exchanged a look. Carlos said, "And now you need to figure out how to tell him, don’t you?"

"Pretty much," she agreed.

"He’ll flip," Carlos told her. "He’ll flip and then he’ll lock you in your room until you’re forty."

His olive face was light and his dark eyes danced as he said the words, but behind it all, Rebecca could tell that he understood her problem and felt for her. He knew as well as anyone how protective Walker was of his niece and how frightened he would be when she entered the law enforcement field. He’d been trying to steer her away from it from the first moment she’d mentioned it (which had been in the fifth grade when she’d had to write a paper about what she wanted to do when she grew up). It wasn’t that he didn’t think she could do it or that she wouldn’t be a good police officer. That was never an issue. The problem was that Walker had no fear for himself in his job as a Texas Ranger. Even though he was often in situations where it wasn’t known if he would make it out alive, he continued to do his job and do it well day after day. Rebecca doing that same job, however, would be an entirely different situation for him. If she was on the job, he would worry about her every single day and, though it was touching, Rebecca needed to make him understand that not only was it what she wanted to do with her life, but that she would take every safety precaution imaginable. It was convincing him, though, that was the true difficulty.

Trent had remained silent for a few moments while Carlos and Rebecca bantered back and forth. He now said gravely, "Rebecca, I think your best bet in this situation is just to come right out and tell him. He might be angry at first, but only because you didn’t tell him earlier. Walker’s a reasonable guy and what’s more, he has to know how much you want to do the job. I mean, you and he have talked enough that it can’t possibly have escaped his notice that this is what you want to do with your life."

Rebecca had difficulty looking her friend in the eye. "Well, we haven’t exactly talked about it. Ever. Every time we get close to actually saying anything having to do with the police academy or what I’m going to do after high school in a specific sense, one of us always changes the subject. Usually it’s him, but lately I’ve taken to avoiding the issue just because of this whole Texas A & M thing. Honestly, Trent, I think he’d rather talk about me marrying David tomorrow than me going into the police academy."

Trent looked completely taken by surprise. "But you’re so close!"

"Which is why we don’t discuss it," she shrugged. "He worries – a lot. And I guess by the same token so do I. The last thing I want to do is hurt him. I mean, me becoming a police officer doesn’t automatically mean that I’m going to get killed on the job, but there’s always that possibility and I feel pretty guilty about putting him in a situation where he may have to face that."

"This is something you really want, though," Carlos chimed in. "You can’t feel guilty for going after it."

"I know," Rebecca tried not to whine in her frustration.

"Look, you’ve got a class starting in ten minutes," Trent smoothed things over. "Go do that and when you’re done, we’ll figure something out. You’re meeting Walker and Alex for dinner at CD’s tonight?"

She nodded, the picked up her bag and headed for the locker room. Rebecca’s Wednesday classes were her favorites – she taught a group of six-year-olds the basics at 4:00 and then spent the 5:00 hour doing a Tae Bo workout with a group of a dozen or so women from the Dallas area. The first class was a good warm-up for the second and both always put her in a great mood, as both groups enjoyed their time and always made an effort to do their best. An added advantage on this particular day was the fact that the workouts left her with no time or energy to think about her current problem and it wasn’t until she stepped out of the shower and slipped into a pair of soft Wrangler jeans and a white cotton sweater that she remembered what she had to do.

Trent met her at the door, his wiry frame leaning leisurely against the padded wall. He was wearing his traditional uniform of jeans and combat boots with a black sweater that accentuated his muscular physique. Carlos was nowhere to be seen and Rebecca suspected he had a date that evening and had gone home to change.

"Ready?" Trent asked.

"Depends on what you’re referring to," she replied dryly. "If you want to know if I’m ready to go to CD’s, the answer is yes. If you want to know if I’m ready to talk to my uncle, the answer is no."

"Let’s start by going to CD’s, shall we?" Trent made a grand gesture for her to precede him out the door and she quickly moved past.

In the parking lot, she inquired, "Should we take one car or two?"

"Well, since we can’t very well figure out what you’re going to say if we’re in separate cars, you’d better drive," he told her, walking around to the passenger side of her shiny eggplant colored Chrysler 300M. (Walker had gotten a terrific deal on the car at the police impound lot – a definite advantage to having an uncle in law enforcement.) Trent added, "I’ll get a ride home from Trivette."

"So how should I do this exactly?" she asked him as they drove through the busy streets of Dallas.

"It may be cliched, but honesty is the best policy," he replied. "You’re going to have to tell him not only what you did but why you did it. Be up front about everything and give him a chance to air his concerns. This is just like anything else you’ve ever had to tell him that was hard."

"Only ten times worse," she said.

"It’ll only hurt for a minute," he assured her as she pulled up behind Walker’s gray Ram and cut the engine.

"After that, let’s just hope I’m unconscious," she muttered as they climbed out of the car and walked into the bar.

Walker, Alex, and Trivette were already occupying barstools and chatting with CD as Rebecca and Trent entered. They turned and greeted the pair warmly and CD called, "What can I get you kids?"

"Beer," said Trent.

"Grab me a Pepsi, will you CD?" Rebecca asked. She walked over to her uncle but didn’t seat herself on the empty barstool beside him. Instead, she seized the cold can from the older Ranger and said in a hushed tone to Walker, "Can we talk for a minute? In private?"

"Sure," he stood and followed her to a corner booth.

Rebecca shot a furtive glance over at Trent and the rest as she took a seat and took a deep breath as Trent gave a quick nod of solidarity in her direction. He then began speaking to Trivette, Alex, and CD and Rebecca had a hunch he was spilling the whole story. She didn’t really care at that point, though, as she was so wrapped up in her own thoughts.

"What’s on your mind?" Walker looked concerned and seemed unsure of what to do with his hands. Finally, he seemed to settle on folding them and resting them in front of him on the table.

"I got some really good news today," she smiled and tried not to make the words too awkward coming out of her mouth. "Well, actually I think it’s good news but I don’t think you’ll agree with me when you hear it."

"Only one way to find out," he told her.

"Right," she smiled again and summoned up the words from somewhere deep inside. "Uncle Cordell, when I applied to Texas A & M last month, I didn’t just apply to Texas A & M. I sort of applied to their elite police academy – the two year intensive program where you graduate with a degree in criminal justice and police certification. It’s one of the best in the country – most of its graduates go on the fast track to becoming detectives and working on SWAT teams and in narcotics and even Texas Rangers."

Walker was silent and his mouth had formed a narrow line beneath his beard. Hurriedly, before she lost her nerve, Rebecca continued, "Anyway, I got my letter of acceptance today. It’s where I really want to go, Uncle Cordell."

Silence ensued and Rebecca played with the drops of condensation on her Pepsi can. She couldn’t bring herself to meet her uncle’s eyes and didn’t look up until he said, "Well, I suppose congratulations are in order."

His tone was neutral and she was a bit confused. "You mean you’re not mad?"

"Why would I be mad?" he wanted to know.

She let out a disbelieving chuckle. "For the last six years or so, all I’ve been hearing from you is how you don’t want me to be a cop. I’m basically going against orders here and I wasn’t exactly forthcoming with my plans. That doesn’t upset you in any way?"

He gave her a slight smile. "Well, you should have been more honest, but there isn’t exactly anything I can do about it now, is there?"

Rebecca shook her head, then added, "But won’t you worry?"

"I already worry," he reminded her. "Every time I see you drive down the driveway I worry that you’ll die in a car accident on the way to school. Every time you compete in a rodeo I worry you’ll fall off your horse. It’s my job to worry about you, Rebecca – it comes with the territory of being a parent. And, although I have to say I’m not crazy about you deciding to make law enforcement your career, I think I would worry more about you if you went into a field that you hated but was safe just to please me. You have all the skills to make an excellent police officer and I have no doubt that you will."

Rebecca didn’t know how much his words meant to her until she felt a solitary tear trace its way down her cheek. "You really mean that?"

"Of course I do," he insisted.

"Uncle Cordell, I am so sorry that I didn’t tell you earlier," she stood and went around to give him a big hug. "Forgive me?"

"Always," he returned her hug and planted a kiss on her cheek. Then with a sideways glance, he added, "There isn’t anything else you haven’t told me is there?"

"Not that I can think of," she replied with a smile.

They walked back over to the bar, Walker’s arm around his niece, and were greeted by a chorus of "Well?" from their friends.

"I’m going to the elite police academy at Texas A & M in the fall," Rebecca announced. A series of congratulatory hugs and pats on the back followed.

"This calls for a celebration meal!" CD bellowed, scuttling back into the kitchen, his bar towel thrown jauntily over his shoulder.

Rebecca was grinning ear to ear as she settled onto a barstool beside Trent. He gave her a warm smile and said, "See? It wasn’t that hard, now was it?"

"Piece of cake," she agreed, earning a roll of the eyes from him. In mock offense to his behavior, she said, "What? You can’t go wrong with honesty – it is the best policy, you know."

"Oh that does it!" he stood up and hoisted her into the air, throwing her over his right shoulder.

As he carried her to the door, Walker leaned over to Alex and said, "And to think she was afraid of me when all along she should have been worried about Trent."

** There you have it! I don’t think this is the best chapter of the story, but it goes to background (as you’ll see later). Please let me know what you thought – and just as a sneak preview, let me warn you that there will be major angst in the next chapter, so be prepared.


 Chapter 8 – Goodbye

Well, things are going pretty well for Rebecca, I’d say. It’s a shame things can’t stay that way, but if they did that would defeat the purpose of the story. Thus, you’re about to enter a chapter with some major angst and a character death. (I’m sorry to do it, but I feel that it’s necessary at this point. Please don’t hate me!) The episode we’re centering on is "Black Dragons" from Season 8 (thanks not only to TV Guide Online but also to Swoopes for a great website). This is the episode where the cultural diplomat’s son is dealing heroin and getting away with it because he’s got diplomatic immunity and the girls are planning for the wedding. I don’t remember this episode too well, but I don’t think it will matter. But anyway, enough chitchat – on with the story!

She was scared to open her eyes. She lay in bed, the covers pulled tightly over her head, body curled into the fetal position, and tried unsuccessfully to keep her body from waking up. Under the covers it was dark and cozy and in her half-sleep state she didn’t have to face the truth. Yet the moment of not remembering the events of the past day was fleeting and though she tried to grasp it, it was like fog and slipped through her fingers. Replacing the gentle numbness was something far more stark and painful – the memory of where she’d been the previous day and what had happened to bring it about. In that sharp, waking moment, she remembered the thing she most wanted to forget – David was dead.

The week had certainly begun with nothing to indicate how it would end. Spring break was behind them and the time for spring finals was fast-approaching and both David and Rebecca were busy. Her police academy training kept her at the opposite end of the campus from his pre-med classes, but they had a standing lunch date every day at 12:30 at one of the more centrally-located dining halls. College had brought many changes to their lives and their relationship, but the one constant was their genuine love for one another. Both were committed to making things work despite crazy schedules and new groups of friends. And on their last day together, the two had made plans for their upcoming summer break. As usual, they would be competing in as many rodeos as their time would allow.

"We have to hit Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming," David had insisted. "Rob’s company is supplying the bucking stock and we can stay with him for cheap."

David’s older brother Rob had taken work as a wrangler for a company that contracted cattle and horses to rodeos across the country and Rebecca had a feeling that if David hadn’t had such a desire to help people as a doctor, he would be on the road along with him. Both boys were cowboys in their hearts and the summer ahead promised to be a big one for David, who had a new roping horse and was looking to win some money.

Never one to let him sway her so easily with his quick smile and enthusiasm, however, Rebecca gave him a skeptical look. "And you think your parents and my uncle are just going to let us haul all the way to Wyoming for a rodeo?"

"So we’ll take them along," he shrugged easily. The couple had just emerged from the dining hall and were walking hand-in-hand to the parking lot. The warm spring sun shone down and Rebecca had traded her worn leather jacket for a light hooded sweatshirt in a pale blue that brought out her eyes. David was dressed in what Rebecca always liked to call his "pretty boy casual" outfit – khaki pants and hiking boots with a long-sleeved t-shirt under a tattered red flannel shirt. His dark hair was tousled despite his best efforts to tame it with gel and the area under his eyes was slightly darker than usual, thanks to a few late-night study sessions.

If Rebecca had known that she was in the last few moments they would ever spend together, she would have pulled him close and clung to him for dear life, attempting to memorize exactly how his angular face and dark eyes looked when he smiled. But she had no way of knowing and instead waited until they reached their respective vehicles to say, "Can we talk about this later?"

"Yeah, I guess we have time," he nodded. He pulled her in for a gentle kiss, his muscular six foot, two inch frame not quite towering above her five foot seven inches.

"Got plans for dinner tonight?" she asked, linking her fingers behind his head in a familiar, comfortable gesture.

"Not that I…" his voice drifted away as he thought. "Wait a minute! I completely forgot, Rebecca – I told Mom I’d drive home tonight. She’s getting that volunteer of the year award from the children’s center and she wants everyone to be there. Rob’s even flying in tonight."

"How could you forget something like that?" she asked in a teasing yet dubious tone. "Your own mother!"

"I had a biology exam this week – everything took backseat to it," he tried to explain.

"Everything?" Rebecca feigned anger.

"Well, not everything," he assured her with another quick kiss.

"You’d better go," she told him when they’d parted. As he stepped over to the driver’s side of his red Jeep, she added, "Call me?"

"You bet," he nodded. "Any messages for your family?"

"Nah," she shook her head. "I’m going home this weekend to help with the wedding plans anyway – something tells me that the guys have yet to order their tuxes despite Alex and Sydney’s best efforts."

"Okay," he said. Before climbing behind the wheel, he added, "I love you."

"I love you too," she waved as the Jeep pulled out of the lot, then climbed into her own car.

So when the phone rang in Rebecca’s room that night, she automatically assumed that it was David. Had she known what her uncle would say when she picked up, she probably would have let it ring forever. At first he’d only said that he was on his way to pick her up and bring her home – he’d be there in an hour as he was already on the highway - but something behind his words had sent the first fingers of fear trickling down her spine.

"What’s wrong, Uncle Cordell?" she demanded, voice quivering.

A long silence followed and she heard him summoning up the breath to speak. The words were leaden when they finally came. "Rebecca, David was killed this afternoon."

"What?" the word was a yelp. Rebecca’s roommate Amy hurried over to put her arm around the shaking girl, who demanded, "How? When?"

"He was broadsided at an intersection at high speed and his Jeep was pushed into another vehicle," Walker’s voice cracked. "He was killed instantly." He paused as though weighing the words he wanted to add before he spoke them. "It was a hit and run – we’re looking for the driver of the other car."

She felt her knees go out from under her and collapsed to the floor, shaking. She was huddled on the floor near her bed, a worried Amy holding her, when Walker arrived. Everything that followed became a hazy blur for Rebecca – the drive home, visiting with David’s stricken parents and brother the next morning, and even the funeral when she stood in the rain clutching Walker’s hand in her left and Alex’s in her right for what seemed like an eternity. She was wearing her only black dress – the velvet one she wore on the holidays when David said she looked like one of Santa’s elves gone gothic – and a sweeping black hat she’d borrowed from Alex that hid her red eyes. Around her neck hung David’s class ring on a chain, its familiar weight not as comfortable as usual as it reminded her of what she missed.

The minister spoke and David’s brother Rob added a few words as well. None of them captured David, Rebecca thought. Rather, it was like they were all talking about someone else, some character in a movie. And when it was over there was that awful, awkward moment when Mrs. Wood pulled Rebecca into a tight hug and told her not to be a stranger. Rebecca had promised that she would visit, but hadn’t really meant it. She felt disconnected from everything and everyone around her and the last thing she wanted to do was commit to any future plans. Without David, what good was it?

After the funeral, she’d allowed Walker and Alex to take her home and she’d crawled into bed. Now as she lay there in a tangle of blankets, hiding from the world and the truth, she couldn’t think of a single reason to get up. She hadn’t been up in two days – or was it three? Time had ceased to matter.

She rolled over and felt something hard pinch her back. Investigating with her left hand, she discovered the framed photo she’d gone to bed with. It was her favorite picture of she and David – not one of the formal ones that had been taken after they’d been declared Homecoming King and Queen and not one of the many posed ones that Walker and the Woods had snapped on the day of their high school graduation. This photo had been taken the previous spring break during a football game at the beach with friends. David, suntanned and flushed from exertion, had hoisted Rebecca up to carry her piggyback across the sand. Her tanned feet were bare, her hair was loose, and she was resting her cheek on the side of his head, her arms hugging him close. The expressions on both of their faces exuded true joy and love for one another. Rebecca hadn’t wanted the day to end back then and now more than anything she yearned to go back.

A soft knock on the door snapped her to attention and she groaned, "Go away."

Walker ignored her request and entered the darkened room, though a bit tentatively. "Rebecca?"

"I said go away," she turned to face the wall, the picture clutched to her chest.

"I can’t," he told her in a more firm voice. "You need to get up and eat something."

She rolled back over and met his eyes, defiant. "Why?"

Walker pulled out her desk chair and brought it right up to the bed. "I know you’re hurting and I know you’re scared, but you have to get up. David would hate the idea of you doing this to yourself."

"Well he’s not here, is he?" her voice cracked as she expelled the words.

"I know he isn’t," Walker put a hand on her shoulder.

Silently, she surrendered and let him ease her out from the tangle of sheets and comforter. As though incapable of controlling her limbs, she dumbly allowed him to take the picture from her and place it back on the nightstand. Silently, he picked up a ponytail holder and extended it to her. Rebecca accepted it and finger-combed her tangled shoulder length hair into a messy ponytail. She was wearing her favorite blue striped pajama bottoms and David’s Texas A & M sweatshirt and she knew by expression on her uncle’s face that she probably looked like a scarecrow but she didn’t care.

Downstairs, she picked at the scrambled eggs Walker placed in front of her, but managed to eat half of her bacon and toast. Alex walked in as she was finishing, briefcase in hand. Walker had been doing a lot of work at home since David’s death and Alex had been making daily visits to keep him updated on the Rangers’ latest case, a heroin dealer who just happened to be the son of a Chinese diplomat. Gage had already had one encounter with the young man and the Rangers were all hard at work trying to figure out how to get his father to wave the diplomatic immunity that kept them from bringing him in.

"Hi sweetie," Alex gave Rebecca a gentle hug.

"Hey, Alex," was the monotone reply.

"I’m glad to see you’re eating," Alex offered.

Rebecca stood and took her plate to the sink. "Yeah, well, I think I’ll head out on the porch for a while and let you two work."

Neither Walker nor Alex made any comment as Rebecca exited. She snatched a Navajo blanket off the couch in the living room and padded onto the front porch. She had just curled herself into a corner of the porch swing when a tan sedan pulled into the drive and Company B’s two newest Rangers, Sydney Cooke and Francis Gage, got out.

"Hey, Rebecca," both said the greeting in a tentative manner, their eyes watching her carefully, ready to monitor her response.

"Alex and Uncle Cordell are inside," came her reply. The words sounded a bit sharp even though she didn’t mean to sound rude, but she wasn’t really in a mood to chat with them.

"Thanks," Sydney gave a sympathetic nod and moved past quickly, dropping a gentle pat on Rebecca’s shoulder. Gage made a move to follow her, then stopped, turned, and seated himself beside her on the swing. His face began to turn pink, the way it did whenever he was nervous.

"Rebecca, there’s something you should know," he looked at his hands as he spoke.

"Look, Gage, I’m sure you have some really good advice about dealing with grief or something like that, but I’m not really in the mood right now," she retreated farther into her corner.

He sighed and ran his fingers nervously through his spiky hair. Rebecca glanced at him sideways from the corner of her eye but remained silent. She and the burly Ranger hadn’t hit it off at first – on the surface, he’d seemed a bit boastful and pompous to Rebecca when she’d met him at CD’s. (She’d told David that he was all brawn and no brains after her initial encounter with him when he’d told stories of some of his cases in Port Arthur.) Yet in the last several months, she’d come to see him in a completely different light. Gage’s athletic physique and outgoing sense of humor masked a very sensitive soul and the more she learned about him, the more she liked him. They’d formed a unique bond on the day that she’d learned that he, like her, had lost his parents at a young age. Their bond cemented firmly, the pair had formed a big brother and little sister relationship and normally she loved talking with him. On this day, however, she just wanted him to go inside.

"It’s not anything like that," he told her gravely. "Just hear me out. Look, I know that Walker told you David’s accident was a hit and run and that we were looking for the driver. The reason Syd and I are here right now is because we’ve found him and I think you deserve to know what’s going on."

"So did you arrest him?" Rebecca asked apathetically.

"No," Gage hesitated before answering. He then asked, "Do you know anything about the heroin case we’re working on right now?"

She nodded, confused, "A little."

He continued, "Well, it turns out the guy who hit David is the guy we’re chasing in connection with the heroin ring. He’s the son of a Chinese diplomat and his father won’t revoke his diplomatic immunity so we can bring him in."

"So he’s not going to be punished?" Rebecca spat, leaping to her feet.

"We’re going to get him," Gage stood too and put his hands up defensively. "We are, Rebecca – I promise you that. It just may take a while."

"I don’t believe this!" she cried. She gave a short, bitter laugh and launched into a tirade of words. "You’re telling me that you know who killed my boyfriend and you know where to find him. And yet even so, your hands are tied so you can’t punish him? He’s getting away with murder? Just because his father is somebody important, he can deal drugs and kill people and you’re going to let him? That’s the biggest load of crap I’ve ever heard!" She was sobbing now as she screamed at him, ignoring the compassion in his eyes. "Do something, Gage - I don’t care what! Do whatever you have to do, just go to where he is and make him pay! You have to!"

Gage stepped forward and crushed her into a hug, cutting off her words to let her cry on his broad shoulder. She didn’t know how long they’d stood like that, but she heard footsteps and then felt herself handed over to her uncle, who wrapped his arms around her and let her cry until she was drained. Then he led her back over to the porch swing and they sat in silence, watching the sun move across the sky because there was nothing Walker could say to make her feel better. It was the first time in Rebecca’s life that it had been so and that realization scared her more than Gage’s news.

That night, Rebecca had a dream. In it, White Eagle, one of the Cherokee elders, came to her. David was by his side. No one spoke, though she heard the rhythmic sound of drums in the background. For what seemed like hours, she stared at them both, unable to reach out to touch David the way she wanted to because her arms and legs seemed paralyzed. Then, as though deciding that the time was right, White Eagle nodded and David stepped forward, stretching out his right hand to lay it over her heart. Their eyes locked and then Rebecca saw only blackness for a second before she saw a silver Ranger star appear. Then it too vanished and she slept. When she awoke the next morning, though, she felt lighter somehow, though she didn’t remember the dream at first and when she did, she was surprised that she didn’t begin to cry. Instead, she felt a sort of peace take hold and she rolled over to look at her bedside clock: 7:30. She gave a half-smile – 7:30 was the time she usually woke up to run before going to class. Deciding it was a good sign and feeling energized for the first time in days, she rose and put on her running clothes.

By the time Walker rose, she was back and had coffee on. He seemed surprised to see her, though pleased.

"Good morning," he stepped over to plant a kiss on her cheek.

"Good morning," she replied.

"You’re up early," he seemed to be choosing his words very carefully, gauging her responses carefully.

"I know," she nodded. "I’m kind of surprised about it myself. But I can’t help but have this feeling that things will be okay somehow." She gave a rueful smile and continued, "I had a weird dream last night, Uncle Cordell. White Eagle was there and so was David. He put his hand on my heart and then I saw a Ranger star and that was it. I’m not sure what it means exactly, but I woke up this morning feeling calm."

Walker took in her words with great understanding, but all he said was, "That’s a good sign."

"I think so too," she agreed.

The phone rang and Walker stepped over to answer it. His responses to the person on the other end were monosyllabic. "Uh-huh. All right. I’ll be there."

He turned after hanging up and told Rebecca, "I have to go to work now. Will you be all right here?"

"Yeah," she nodded, a bit surprised that the answer came so readily.

"I’ll call you this afternoon," he kissed her cheek, grabbed his cowboy hat, and was gone.

Rebecca showered and dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, pulling David’s sweatshirt over her head as an afterthought. She still felt his loss deeply despite the dream and, though she was feeling better, she didn’t dare think beyond the day for fear that she would spiral back into despair.

She was just clipping a section of hair back into a barrette when the phone rang. Walker’s voice on the other end instantly snapped her back to the last time she’d spoken with him on the phone and she swallowed a tear back.

"Can you come down to headquarters?" he asked.

"Sure," she replied. "What for?"

"I’ll tell you when you get here," he told her, then hung up.

Rebecca made the drive in record time and hurried to the Company B office. Inside, she found Gage, Sydney, and Trivette gathered around Walker’s desk.

"So what’s going on?" she asked by way of greeting.

"We’re just waiting for Alex," Walker told her.

"Here she is," Sydney pointed.

Alex strode over and draped an arm around Rebecca’s shoulders. To everyone, she announced, "Edward Song has agreed to give up immunity on his son. PL is going to stand trial in Dallas for dealing heroin and for vehicular manslaughter."

"That’s terrific," the group chorused.

Rebecca turned to give Alex a hug. "Thank you so much!"

"You’re welcome," came the reply.

"Have you told the Woods?" Rebecca asked her.

"I thought maybe you would like to pass the news on," Alex said.

"I’ll do that," Rebecca nodded solemnly.

Walker stood and walked around to give Rebecca a hug as well. As he did so, conversation turned to wedding plans and Sydney and Alex were shocked to learn that the men still did not have their tuxedoes.

"Men!" Alex threw up her hands in despair.

Gage apparently didn’t understand what the big deal was and it took Walker and Trivette a moment to tell him, "Men are from Mars, women are from Venus."

The younger Ranger still looked a bit confused and Rebecca chuckled. "Look, why don’t you guys all get a time picked out this week when we can go over and get you fitted?"

"We?" Walker inquired.

"Yeah," she told him. "I’m still going to wait a few days before I go back to school, but there’s no reason I can’t help with the wedding plans while I’m here."

"You sure you’re up to it?" he asked softly. Around them, the others had continued on with a separate conversation.

She thought a moment before answering. When she did, her words were very deliberate. "Yeah, I think I am. It’s funny, I feel like I can breathe again. I mean, I miss David so much that there aren’t any words to express what I feel, but at the same time, I feel like he’s still with me and that makes me okay. I think that’s what my dream meant – that he’ll always be with me. I can’t explain it any better than that."

"I think you did just fine," Walker gave her shoulders a squeeze and repeated, "I think you did just fine."

** So there you have it, I killed David. I’m sorry to do it, but as I’ve said before, I have plans for her. Be ready for happy stuff in our next chapter – we’re doing "Wedding Bells." Please R/R (but easy on the flames!).
Chapter 9 - Wedding Bells

We’ve arrived in Chapter 9 and are still going strong! And as I promised at the end of Chapter 8, this one’s going to be happy – it has to be, it takes place during the episode "Wedding Bells!" That’s all I’m going to say here (other than thanking Swoopes yet again for a most helpful website). Enjoy!

She was scared that she was going to trip and fall flat on her face. Rebecca Walker hurried along the hallway towards the bridal suite where Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cahill was preparing to become her aunt and tried not to trip over her dress while still maintaining her balance in her high-heeled sandals. Her golden brown hair was swept away from her face into an elegant French twist with a few curls cascading down her cheeks and her heather pink bridesmaid dress accentuated her strong shoulders and slim figure. Yet the expression on her face didn’t mirror the joy she felt – rather, it was grim and worried.

Alex noticed this the moment she entered the room. "What’s wrong?"

"The singer had to cancel at the last minute," Rebecca reported. "Any ideas for someone to fill in right now?"

Alex pursed her lips in thought. She asked her soon-to-be niece, "What about you? I heard you and Sydney singing at CD’s the other day – it sounded pretty good to me."

Rebecca gave a disbelieving laugh. "First of all, that was Syd who sounded so good, not me. And second of all, I can’t do it right now because I’m going to check on the groom. He looked pale earlier, I think he may need a pep talk to get him down the aisle – a sort of push-start."

Alex laughed knowingly. "You’re probably right." She turned to another one of her bridesmaids. "Don’t you have a daughter who sings?"

"Like an angel," came the reply.

"Problem solved," Alex told Rebecca.

"Fantastic," Rebecca looked relieved. She turned to go and said, "I’ll see you all in a bit."

In the hall, she hiked her dress up above her ankles to speed her walking pace and hurried to the room that Walker and the groomsmen were sharing. Inside, he was talking with his partner, James Trivette, and Sydney’s partner, Francis Gage. He didn’t appear nervous to the untrained eye, but Rebecca had known him far too long to be fooled by his calm façade. Underneath, she knew, he was scared to death.

"Hey guys," she greeted them all.

Gage let out a whistle as he noticed her dress. "You look good, Becca."

"Thanks," she smiled. "You clean up pretty well yourself, Francis."

"And I suppose I’m chopped liver?" Trivette whined.

"Not at all," she went over to give his arm a friendly squeeze. "You look very handsome as well."

"Thank you," he straightened his lapels briskly and looked appeased.

Rebecca chuckled at his antics and asked, "So do you guys think I can get a minute alone with the groom before we do this thing?"

"Sure," they agreed. As the pair made their way to the door, Trivette suddenly remembered something and turned. "Oh, and Rebecca? Even though we didn’t practice it this way at the rehearsal, you’re walking down the aisle with Gage now."

"Why’s that?" she wanted to know.

Trivette shrugged. "Alex told me this morning – something about proportions and height and a neater picture. She wasn’t making too much sense – too many last-minute details on her mind, I guess. Anyway, I figured it was easier just to agree with her."

"Okay," Rebecca nodded. To Gage, she said, "Just do me a favor? Take better care of me than you did of the tuxes, okay?"

Gage turned red. Upon retrieving the tuxes, he and Trivette had foiled some thieves and the ensuing scuffle had resulted in an explosion that took out not only the tuxes, but Trivette’s car. The men were now wearing replacements, but no one was going to let Gage forget what had happened anytime soon.

When they had gone, she turned to her uncle. "So, are you ready?"

He raised his eyebrows. "Do you mean ready in the dressed up sense or on a larger scale?"

She smiled. "Both."

He nodded. "I think so."

The room they were in was a sort of study with a desk in the center that Walker was leaning on. Rebecca sidled up beside him and crossed one ankle neatly over the other, making herself comfortable for what might be a lengthy conversation. "You’re scared out of your mind, aren’t you?"

"Maybe a little," he admitted.

"I can imagine," she said. "Agreeing to love someone for the rest of your life is a pretty big deal. Although I’m willing to bet that loving Alex ‘til death do you part is not the part of this whole thing that scares you."

"Oh yeah?" he crossed his arms in a challenging manner.

"Yeah," she told him. "You’re freaked out because you don’t want to mess things up. You have a dangerous job and you’re not the most comfortable with expressing your feelings so you’re worried that those are two strikes against this marriage."

He shot her a look of disbelief. "Where do you come up with these things?"

"Am I right?" she countered.

"Yes," he seemed as though he didn’t want to admit it.

"Look, Uncle Cordell," she began, "I’ve known you for eleven years now and I’ve seen your relationship with Alex develop over the last seven. That’s a lot of history. I also know how much courage it took for you to propose to her and I want you to know that I admire you for it. You’ve made the right choice and I fully believe that you and Alex are going to be together for a very long time."

"I don’t know what to say to that," he told her.

"You don’t have to say anything," she shrugged. "I’ve given love a lot of thought since David died – what it is, where it comes from, and mostly what it means to give your heart to someone."

"Have you reached any conclusions?" he asked.

"Just that you have to seize it when it’s right in front of you," she said emphatically. "I hate it when people say that it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, but they’re right. I miss David every day and I’m still angry that he was taken from me before I could see how our story was going to end. But maybe that’s just it – maybe our story ended the way it was written to. I learned a lot from him about friendship and love and the kind of person I am and even though he’s gone, I’ll always have that. So I guess what it boils down to for you and Alex is that you’re seizing love. You’re taking the opportunity afforded to you by your feelings for each other and you’re not wasting time worrying about stuff that doesn’t really matter in the end. And no matter what happens, you’ll always have that."

Walker gave his niece a long look. "How did you grow up without my noticing?"

She smiled. "What can I say? These things happen."

"It’s all going to be different after today," he rose from the desk.

"Yeah," she agreed, "but it’s going to be better. Ready?"

He nodded and offered her his arm. Together, they walked down the hall until they came to the end. With a quick parting kiss for her uncle, Rebecca hurried over to join the rest of the bridesmaids who were already lining up in front of Alex, who had never been more radiant. The blonde woman gave Rebecca a quick, questioning look as though to make sure that things had gone well and Rebecca responded with a thumbs up before taking her bouquet from Sydney and getting into line.

The ceremony was beautiful and Rebecca had to wipe away a few tears at the end when the minister told Walker to kiss his bride. Walking down the aisle with Gage afterward, she said, "That was the best thing I’ve ever seen."

"Huh?" Gage shook his head as though to clear it and Rebecca noticed that his attention had been riveted on Sydney who was walking with Trivette in front of them. She had observed him watching her during the ceremony too and had seen the look in his eyes – Gage was definitely smitten with his partner.

Instead of verbalizing her thoughts, though, she simply said, "Never mind."

Walker had called in some favors and gotten Tracy Lawrence to sing at the reception. Dancing and laughter ensued and Rebecca felt dizzy as first she danced with Trivette, then her uncle, and finally Gage (who kept his eyes on Sydney the whole time). And before she knew it, the party was over and Walker and Alex were preparing to leave for their honeymoon. Before the couple climbed into the car to head to the airport, Walker pulled his niece aside.

"Behave," he told her in a tone that was mockingly stern.

"I always do," she said innocently.

"Mm-hmm," he acted as though he didn’t quite believe her. "You have all of our numbers in Paris?"

"Yeah – all twelve of them," she said. "Go! Have fun, be in love, see the sights! And whatever you do, don’t worry about me – I’ll be just fine. If I need anything, Jimmy, or Sydney, or Gage are a phone call away."

"You’re sure?" he didn’t seem convinced.

Exasperated, she told him, "I’m nineteen years old and I live on my own. What’s more, I’m a black belt and last semester I got the highest scores of my class at the shooting range. I think it’s a safe bet that I can take care of myself for two weeks without parental supervision. Now will you please go on your honeymoon?"

"If you insist," he feigned hurt, then gave her a hug and whispered, "Thank you for everything."

"Anytime," she said. "I love you."

"I love you too," he told her before going over to shake Trivette’s hand.

Alex stepped over to give Rebecca a hug then, adding, "Take care."

"No problem, Aunt Alex," she said, using the term for the first time and deciding that she liked it. It felt right.

Alex smiled. A shout went up then and Rebecca found herself in amongst the other single women at the wedding, waiting to catch the bouquet. She was standing next to Sydney and as the flowers sailed into the air, Rebecca knew just who was going to catch them. As though Alex had aimed, the bouquet sailed directly into Sydney’s arms – and the petite Ranger looked as though she’d swallowed frog as soon as she realized what had happened. Rebecca laughed and clapped her on the shoulder as the newlyweds drove away, leaving the wedding guests to have another piece of cake before going their separate ways.

"So are we heading to CD’s?" Jimmy wanted to know.

"Works for me," Rebecca said. Sydney and Gage both nodded in affirmative and the group headed to their cars. In no time, they were at the bar and grill, which wasn’t open for business but would be a nice place for the four to spend time and rehash the day’s events.

Sydney went directly for the dart board upon their arrival and began taking some aggression out, throwing the darts so sharply that Rebecca worried they would go through the wall. Figuring it had to have something to do with catching the bouquet, Rebecca decided to leave her alone for the time being, opting instead to head to the bathroom to exchange her dress for navy blue track pants, running shoes, and a white t-shirt that said POLICE in bold letters. When she emerged, Sydney was still at the dartboard and Trivette was explaining his theories about women to Gage.

"So that’s why they don’t like to catch the bouquet," the wiry Ranger finished as she sat down at the table between them and opened a can of Pepsi.

Rebecca interjected, "Whatever he just said, you should probably believe the opposite."

"Hey!" Trivette protested.

"Sorry, Jimmy," she said, "but you have a few ideas that aren’t quite accurate and I would hate to see you lead poor Gage down the wrong path."

"I resent that," Trivette said, miffed.

"Okay Rebecca, then I want your opinion," Gage turned to her. "Why is Syd so upset that she caught the bouquet? I asked her and all she told me was that she doesn’t have time to date and that guys aren’t all that interested in her anyway. What’s that about?"

"Before I answer that, can I ask what you said when she told you that?" Rebecca tried to keep her face neutral.

"The truth," he shrugged. "I said she’s great – she can kick butt with the best of them and that any guy who’s intimidated by that doesn’t deserve her anyway."

"You actually told her that she can kick butt with the best of them?" Rebecca’s voice was pained.

"Yeah, what’s wrong with that?" he wanted to know.

"Technically nothing," Rebecca replied. "But a good rule of thumb to remember for the future is that women like to be complimented in a more feminine way. You know, stuff like you’re gorgeous and smart and kind. Kicking butt isn’t exactly, well, feminine."

"You think I should go talk to her again?" Gage asked.

"I wouldn’t," Rebecca said quickly. Then realizing how sharp that sounded, she added, "Just let her blow off some steam and I’m sure she’ll be fine."

Sydney had joined them at the table and the foursome was watching the news when the bulletin came on saying that a plane bound for Paris had been highjacked. Instantly, they moved to the bar and turned up the volume, each one knowing without a doubt that the plane in question was the one carrying Walker and Alex. When the news anchor verified their fears, Rebecca gasped and grabbed Jimmy’s hand.

"They’ll be okay," he murmured, giving her hand a gentle squeeze. "We have to believe that."

Seconds dragged by like hours as the group waited for word that the plane had been secured and everyone was all right. And when the news was finally delivered, a shout went up and Rebecca flew into Jimmy's arms to give him an enthusiastic hug. His back was to Sydney and Gage so he couldn’t see their reactions – but Rebecca could. Caught up in the moment, Sydney placed her hands on either side of Gage’s face and pulled him in for a kiss. His arms went around her back and they lingered for just a moment until both seemed to realize what they were doing and let go as though burned. By the time Rebecca had extricated herself from Jimmy’s embrace and they had moved over to the bar, the junior Rangers were acting as though nothing had happened, so Rebecca thought it best to play along and not spoil the moment.

They watched the news for a few more minutes, then decided to head for home. As Rebecca was fastening her seatbelt and preparing to start her car, her cellular phone rang, its tune the theme to "The Magnificent Seven."

"Hello?" she picked up on the second ring.

"Did we scare you?" asked her uncle’s voice on the other end.

"Just a little," she said sarcastically. "Are you guys okay?"

"We’re fine," he assured her. "I just wanted you to know."

"Thanks," she told him. "And do me a favor will you?"

"What’s that?"

"Don’t let that happen on the way home."

"Deal."

Ah, love! This episode was a particular favorite of mine so it was fun to play with it here. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. And check back soon for the next chapter, where we’ll enter the episode "Deadly Situation."


Chapter 10 – Confusing Situation

Thank you so much for your awesome, supportive reviews! I’ve really enjoyed writing this story so far and it means a lot to me that so many of you like it. I’ll try not to let you down as we approach the end.

Now, let’s get down to the logistics of this chapter: We center here on the episode "Deadly Situation" where the Rangers have gone to Sage City to play a baseball game against the local police force. While they’re there, a young cop named Cooper ends up taking Alex and some others hostage because he’s been framed for being part of a drug ring. Chaos ensues (as always) until Walker saves the day (as always). My traditional thank you still goes out to the Internet Movie Database and Swoopes. Enjoy!

She was scared for her life. Lying face down on the floor of the Sage City courthouse, broken glass scattered around her and gunshots flying overhead, Rebecca prayed that she and her aunt, Alex Cahill-Walker, would come out of the situation alive. Until the gunfire stopped, however, they were at the mercy of the shooters.

Rebecca’s hands were covering her head in an attempt to protect herself, but she managed to lift them just enough to survey the situation, peeking out from beneath her elbow. She couldn’t see Alex, who’d been behind her when the shooting began, but instead saw a pair of black-clad legs to her right – the legs of Sage City police officer Glen Cooper, one of the sources of the gunfire. He was shooting at about four other people in Rebecca’s best estimate and they were returning fire.

The entire situation confused her – she’d met Cooper just the day before at the Ranger charity baseball game where her uncle’s Company B Texas Rangers had played Sage City’s police force. Actually, she reminded herself, she hadn’t met him in the "Hi, my name is Rebecca. It’s nice to meet you" sense. Rather, she’d watched him play from her station near the Ranger dugout. (Walker had asked her to act as the Rangers’ third base coach and water girl. She had initially refused, but he had guilted her into saying yes by reminding her that it was their last weekend to spend time together before she returned to Texas A & M to finish up her police academy training.)

After the game, she’d joined in the line of players exchanging high-fives and congratulatory calls of "Good game." Cooper had been towards the end of the line and when he and Rebecca had exchanged high-fives, his eyes had locked on hers briefly. At first she’d met his gaze, but then had looked down, embarrassed. But there was something about Glen Cooper that stuck with her even as the teams had gone to a local bar to relax.

Seated between Gage and her uncle at the table, she’d noticed him sitting at the bar sipping a beer. He was certainly good looking – she had to give him that. Dark hair and eyes and a nice smile - she was sure he had probably been turning girls’ heads for a long time. And then, surprised by the path her thinking had leapt onto without her noticing, she’d shaken her head to clear it and had refocused on the conversation taking place at her own table. After all, David had only been gone six months and her heart still ached for him – they had dated for three years and had been best friends since they were in elementary school. Their mutual history was so intricately linked that she still found herself having trouble separating her new memories from the brief time without him from the old where he was ever present. And until she felt more secure standing on her own, she had no business thinking about dating someone else.

It doesn’t cost anything to look, though, the voice in her head chided.

Rebecca chose to ignore the words and caught the end of Gage’s sentence.

"Anyway, the Sage City cops said we could get a workout in tomorrow morning at their gym," he was saying. "You up to it, Shorty?"

"Shorty" was Sydney. It was a nickname Gage had bestowed upon her not long after they’d begun working together and, though Syd would be the last one to admit it, the nickname was an apt description of her diminutive stature. Still, Gage was the only one allowed to call her that.

"I’m in," Sydney told him.

"What about you, Becca?" Gage asked.

"Sorry, Gage – I can’t," she replied apologetically. "I’m writing a paper about the differences between the justice systems of small towns and large cities and Alex and Kristy promised to help me on it tomorrow."

"Your loss," he shrugged.

Walker and Alex rose to leave and when everyone protested their early departure, Trivette defended his friends, albeit mockingly. "Old people need their rest."

"I didn’t say anything about being tired," Alex raised an eyebrow.

"Me neither," Walker added with a wink.

Gage and Sydney began to laugh and Rebecca reflexively covered her eyes, pained and embarrassed. "Way more than I ever wanted to know, you guys – way more."

Gage clapped her on the shoulder in an understanding manner and the entire group laughed. When Rebecca looked up, she happened to catch another glimpse of Glen Cooper. He was smiling as he watched the antics at their table and when he noticed that she had seen him, he averted his gaze again. Rebecca couldn’t help but smile slightly. She was flattered by his attention, certainly, even though she wasn’t quite sure that she liked it. In the time since David had died, she had had offers to date other guys – she had even had dinner with an old friend from high school who had wanted to call her and take her out again. She’d declined his offer, though. She simply wasn’t ready. One day she would be, just not anytime soon. And perhaps that was what confused her about Glen Cooper – it almost seemed as though part of her was going against that internal promise she’d made to herself and to David. Rebecca left the bar that night feeling very conflicted about the entire situation. Yet as Cooper continued firing rounds over her head the next morning, she found herself able to perfectly articulate how she felt about him at that particular moment – and it wasn’t good.

Suddenly, she heard her uncle’s voice call out for the firing to stop and then he yelled, "Cooper! You have my wife and my niece in there! Let them go!"

Cooper had ducked behind the counter he had been using as a firing shield when the shooting stopped and Rebecca peeked up at him, hands still covering her head, to see what his reaction would be. Indecisiveness washed over his handsome features and she could see he was struggling internally. Police officers were supposed to protect citizens from these types of situations – not put them into harm’s way. And to make matters worse, Rebecca could see Alex huddling over a slumped figure – her friend Kristy Clark who was Sage City’s district attorney. Cooper seemed to notice the pair then too.

"There’s a woman in here who’s shot," he cried and thought to add, "I didn’t do it."

"We’ll need to get her medical attention," Walker told him. "You’ll have to let us come in."

"No!" Cooper protested.

"You can’t let her die," Walker pressed him.

Rebecca watched Cooper as he made his decision. The thought process was short-lived and all at once Cooper was in motion, roughly grabbing Alex’s arm and then Rebecca’s and dragging them into a nearby office, keeping his head down the entire time.

"Cooper!" Walker called. "Let them go!"

"I’m sorry, Ranger Walker," he called out. "But I can’t!"

Rebecca’s first instinct was to fight his hold, but then she realized it was futile. Even if she could get free, he still had a gun and, though she didn’t think he would kill an innocent person, his behavior was certainly erratic and she didn’t want to chance it. Besides, there were other people to think of – at least five courthouse workers had leapt to safety in the very office Cooper had just brought she and Alex into and it wasn’t worth putting them at risk either. One blonde woman looked a wreck – she was sitting in a chair in a corner, hugging herself and shaking.

Cooper slammed the door behind them and Rebecca moved over to sit on the edge of the desk that occupied the center of the room. Cooper then hurried to close all of the blinds and began pacing. He ran a nervous hand through his dark hair and even in his torn state, he never let go of the gun. Alex attempted to reason with him, as did a few others, but he silenced them all. Rebecca said nothing, just crossed her arms defiantly across her chest and fixed Glen Cooper with a glare that could have melted polar ice caps. And to think she’d actually been conflicted by her feelings for him! He didn’t seem to notice her stare at first, so intent was he on his pacing and pondering what he was going to do next, but when he did, Rebecca felt a stab of fear because he immediately strode over to her. She was surprised, however, when instead of threatening her, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a red bandana handkerchief. He thrust it at her wordlessly.

"What’s that for?" she asked, confused.

"You’re bleeding," he nodded at her arm, his voice soft.

Rebecca looked down and noticed for the first time that there was a three-inch gash on her right forearm. Undoubtedly caused by the flying glass, the wound was oozing blood but seemed under control, though upon further inspection, Rebecca thought she saw a few shards of glass poking out.

Reflexively, she took the handkerchief and muttered, "Thanks."

He nodded curtly and returned to his back and forth pacing. Apparently, the waiting and Cooper’s pacing were too much for the blonde woman in the corner. She panicked and ran over to one of the windows, banging her hands on the glass and screaming for help. Rebecca wanted to cry out and let her know that she was endangering herself – she knew for certain that the police outside would have brought in a sharpshooter who would be looking for a chance to take out Cooper for holding them hostage. He seemed to realize this too and ran over to pull her from the window. As he did so, a shot rang out and Cooper hit the floor, bleeding from his shoulder. Alex and Rebecca rushed over to help him up.

"Oh my God!" the blonde woman clapped a hand over her mouth. "I didn’t know… I’m sorry!"

As Rebecca stepped away from the now standing police officer, she thought she saw him seek out her eyes, as though wondering what she now thought. In response, she blinked and looked away, still confused. He’d saved the woman, yes, but he was still holding them against their will at gunpoint. That, when combined with the events of yesterday, didn’t add up in her head.

Cooper clamped a hand over the wound to staunch the bleeding and it seemed like hours passed before Rebecca heard the welcome sound of her uncle’s voice. From the hall, he called, "Cooper! I’m unarmed and I’m coming in."

Cautiously, the door opened and Walker stepped through, his hands clearly visible. His eyes instantly sized up the situation in the room as Alex rushed over to hug him. Rebecca had returned to her post on the corner of the desk, still holding the handkerchief over her arm, and Walker looked concerned. With a shake of her head, she indicated to him that she would be fine and watched his face become all business again. He, Alex, and Cooper began speaking rapidly in hushed tones. From where she sat, Rebecca couldn’t make out everything the three were saying, but she began to understand that Cooper had some photos of Sage City police officers smuggling drugs and was set to blow the roof on the whole operation when he was framed for the crime. Officers had gone to his house to arrest him and he’d fled, causing a chase and the shoot-out that had occurred earlier. Hearing this, Rebecca began to feel some sympathy for the young police officer, though she still could not squelch her anger over the methods he’d chosen to prove his innocence.

"All right," Walker finally said to everyone else in the room. "We’re going to get you out of here."

He picked up the phone behind Rebecca, resting his left hand on her shoulder as he did so. She heard him tell the officers outside that the hostages were being released and when he hung up, he told everyone they could go. Alex and Rebecca were the only two people who didn’t immediately flee to the door, agreeing silently to stay with Walker until the situation was resolved. Yet for Rebecca, it wasn’t to be.

"You too, Rebecca," Walker turned to her.

"But I can stay and help," she protested.

"Your arm needs to be looked at," he told her, reaching over to lift the handkerchief and inspect her wound. "You may need stitches."

She saw that he wasn’t going to back down and decided it was easiest just to give in. "Fine. Just be careful, okay?"

"I will," he assured her, sending her out the door.

As she emerged from the courthouse, Trivette rushed over to put an arm around her. "Are you okay? What happened to your arm?"

"I got hit by some flying glass," she told him. "It’s not too deep."

"Let’s get it looked at," he escorted her over to a waiting ambulance, where paramedics sat her down and began gathering supplies to treat the cut. Seeing she was in good hands, Trivette moved to leave. "Are you going to be okay here?"

"I’ll be fine," she told him. "Go help Uncle Cordell."

He nodded briskly and hurried off. The paramedics flushed the glass shards from her wound and decided that it wasn’t deep enough to warrant stitches, though they secured it with butterfly bandages before wrapping her entire forearm in gauze. As they were finishing, Rebecca looked up to see her uncle approaching, Glen Cooper by his side. The young police officer’s right shoulder was stained dark red with blood and he looked tired, but triumphant. Rebecca knew that her uncle must have come through and sorted the entire mess out in that way that he had and the thought made her smile.

"How’s the arm?" Walker asked her as the paramedics shifted their attentions to Cooper.

"I didn’t need stitches," she reported. "They just flushed out the glass and bandaged me up."

"Good," he nodded. His eyes narrowed a bit as he asked, "And how are you?"

"A little shaky," she admitted. "I have, after all, had better mornings. But I’ll survive."
"Good," he repeated, then pulled her into a hug. When they parted, he said, "I have a few other things to clear up before we leave. Will you be okay here?"

She only hesitated briefly before replying, "Yes."

He kissed her cheek quickly before heading off to meet Trivette. Rebecca watched him go then heard Glen Cooper’s voice behind her.

"For what it’s worth, I’m sorry about this whole mess," he said.

She turned. She didn’t quite know what to say, but settled on, "Yeah, well, there was no harm done in the end I guess."

He winced as the paramedic hit a sore spot while cleaning his shoulder. "It’s no excuse. I put a lot of innocent people at risk today."

She wasn’t sure why she felt the need to defend him all of a sudden and surprised herself by saying, "You were up against a wall – it was self-preservation. A lot of other people would have done the same thing."

He shook his head disbelievingly and gave her a wry smile. "Will you tell that to the jury for me?"

She gave a smile in return and after a moment he added, "I’m Glen, by the way – Glen Cooper. I don’t think we’ve formally met."

"Rebecca Walker," she told him. "I’d shake your hand, but…"

"No problem," he interjected.

Alex and Walker approached then and reported to Glen that no one would not be pressing charges against him. The real corrupt cops had been discovered and were being taken in – his innocence was secured.

"I think Hayes Cooper would be proud of you," Walker told the young man before leaving again to finalize the day’s details. "You’ll make a fine Ranger one day."

"How did he know about Hayes Cooper?" Glen asked Alex.

She smiled. "Let’s just say that we all have our heroes and Hayes Cooper happens to be Walker’s."

He smiled as though he sensed there was more to the story but was too polite to ask. Alex turned to Rebecca and inquired, "Ready to go home?"

"Yeah," Rebecca nodded. Yet as she and Alex turned to go, she heard Cooper call her name again.

Alex kept walking, but Rebecca turned. He looked nervous before asking, "This may be totally out of line, but can I call you sometime?"

Rebecca was struck by two immediate reactions – the first of which was to laugh out loud, which she suppressed with some effort. The man who had just held a large group of people hostage for the better part of the morning and was now receiving treatment for a wounded shoulder had just essentially asked her out. It was preposterous! Yet her second reaction made her take pause. Despite everything that had happened, Glen Cooper had proved to be a good person. Granted, his methods of proving this were questionable, but that didn’t change the results. And before everything had happened, she had undeniably been interested in him – she recognized that now. He wasn’t David, that was for certain. But maybe she was ready to try dating someone else – and maybe the reason she hadn’t been interested in dating any of the other guys who had asked her out was that they weren’t right. She was shocked to realize that maybe Glen Cooper was.

Her voice very even, she said in a voice that was a bit shy, "Yeah. I’d like that."

His face relaxed and she looked away quickly as though surprised at her own answer. Yet before turning to follow Alex, she looked at him one more time and they exchanged another smile.

Maybe nothing will come of it, she thought as she went over to meet the group. But in her heart, she sensed that something might and, though it scared her, she felt ready to deal with it. It was, after all, somewhat less nerve-wracking than ducking gunfire.

Another chapter complete! So what do you think – am I way off base with this relationship? Let me know…


Chapter 11 – A Fallen Star

Sorry for the delay between chapters but I’m smack in the middle of finals right now and my writing is suffering. Thus, this will be a really short little vignette focused on the episode "The Avenging Angel" (or rather the end of said episode – it’s the one where we learn that CD has died). Glen won’t be here – though he’ll definitely show up next time. We’re simply focusing on CD’s passing and the effect that it has on everyone (specifically Rebecca because it’s her story). Anyway, I promise more next time, but for now, read on…

She was scared to walk out the door. Seated backwards on a chair, resting her chin on her arms, which were folded over the back, she stared at the framed photograph situated on the easel in front of her. CD Parker’s weathered face beamed back at her, his eyes merry behind his glasses and white cowboy hat placed at a jaunty angle on his head. It was a poor substitute for the real thing, she decided. The real CD would ask her what she wanted to drink in his booming Texas drawl and then tell her that her leg wasn’t broken and she could get it herself. And as she reached into the refrigerator for a Pepsi, he’d probably follow his words up with a bit of advice too, just for good measure. He’d say something like, "You know, too much caffeine will actually slow you down. I knew a fella once who drank so much coffee that after a month, he couldn’t run a hundred yard dash in less than thirty seconds." (Because it came from CD, the advice never had to make sense and rarely did.) And Rebecca would smile at him, pop open the can, and say, "Is that so?"

If the real CD were there, he wouldn’t let her cry either, the way she was right now. He’d make a "tut tut" sound under his breath and pull her into a gentle bear hug, vowing to make all the hurt in the world go away. And the funny thing was, he could do it too. But the real CD wasn’t there and never would be again and that was the reason for Rebecca’s tears.

She’d never forget that moment at Ranger Headquarters when they’d heard the news. Rebecca had just stopped by to ask the Rangers if they planned to help her with CD’s surprise welcome home party at the bar and grill that night – he’d been gone for six months on a cruise around the world and upon his return had decided to take another weekend to go fishing, much to Rebecca’s chagrin. But he was coming home that afternoon – he’d called her just that morning to say so – and she had everything planned out. There was a giant banner stretched across the dance floor that read "Welcome Back, Big Dog" (courtesy of Trivette) and a menu of all of CD’s favorite foods, including Rebecca’s famous Texas sheet cake. (CD had told her once, "Honey, in Texas, it’s just called sheet cake. The Texas is implied.") Things were going to be perfect – until Walker’s phone rang and things changed forever.

Rebecca knew instinctively that the news would not be good as soon as she heard the first ring. Her heart skipped a beat, then fell like a boulder into the pit of her stomach, and her eyes locked on her uncle’s face. Beside her, Gage was talking animatedly to Sydney, but then seemed to sense the change that came over her and gave her a concerned glance. Across the room, Trivette seemed to be feeling the same thing that Rebecca was, because he stood frozen at his desk, holding his breath. And when Walker put the phone down gently on its hook, time seemed to cease for a moment.

He looked at each of their concerned faces in turn, then spoke the words none were ready to hear. "CD passed away this afternoon."

Horror struck the faces of everyone at the same moment and Rebecca felt her knees give way. Gage reached out to steady her and once she was back on her feet, she covered her face with her hands, pressing her palms into her eyes as though to block everything out. When she looked up a few moments later, she could see that her uncle and Trivette were equally stricken. Alex had her arms wrapped around Walker and was crying into his shoulder but his eyes were focused far away and Rebecca could tell he wasn’t paying attention. Trivette had slumped backward onto the corner of his desk and crossed his arms over his chest, almost in defiance of the news. Sydney and Gage looked saddened, though Rebecca sensed that most of their reaction stemmed from watching those around them. They had barely gotten the chance to know CD, though Rebecca knew that he must have made an impression on them in the short time they did know him – he always did.

Rebecca remembered every part of the funeral with pristine clarity. It surprised her considering when she thought back to David’s funeral, she only remembered bits and pieces and they appeared in her memory like photographs with tattered edges. Yet CD’s was more like a movie reel – there was the casket draped in the American flag, his white cowboy hat sitting forlornly in the center. And there were Rangers everywhere, young and old, all wearing white gloves as they saluted their fallen comrade. Rebecca was wearing her navy blue police academy uniform for the ceremony and felt a bit awkward, though she knew that her choice of outfits would make CD smile. Her choice to become a police officer had been the topic of one of their last conversations before he’d left on his cruise.

"Are you sure it’s what you want to do with the rest of your life, darlin’?" he’d wanted to know. He was wiping down the bar and she was studying for an exam, head bent over her textbook.

"Yeah," she’d replied. "Why? Do you think it’s a bad idea?"

"I didn’t say that," he lifted a hand to silence her. "I just think you’re so smart and good at other things that maybe you haven’t considered all your options."

"Like being a full-time waitress at CD’s Bar and Grill?" she’d responded wryly. "Don’t get me wrong, the tips are great and all…"

"That’s not what I meant," he interrupted, a bit offended.

"Sorry," she said.

He nodded in acceptance, then continued, "What I mean is, law enforcement is one of the toughest careers out there. You should know that firsthand – look at everything that’s happened to Cordell and to Alex because of their jobs. It isn’t a life for everyone."

"I know that," she replied earnestly. "But I also know that it’s because of what I’ve seen them do – what I’ve seen them accomplish - that I want to do the job. Yeah, there’s bad stuff that goes with it – really bad stuff sometimes. But CD, you of all people should know the good that comes from it too. And I’m not just talking about what it must feel like to save someone’s life or make the world a little safer. I’m also talking about the people you meet and the people you work with." She’d closed the book by now and her eyes locked on his as she continued, "CD, when I moved in with Uncle Cordell, I was an orphan who didn’t have anybody looking out for me. Thanks to him, I discovered I had an uncle that loved me. And thanks to his job, I got a lot more family members than I ever thought I’d have – I got you, and Jimmy, and Alex, and now Sydney and Gage. You guys are my family and you’ve all played a part in raising me. And when you get right down to it, it’s because of all of you and what you’ve done for me that I chose law enforcement – so that I can help extend the family a little farther."
CD remained silent as she finished and when she did, she looked at him, almost dreading his response. But he surprised her by saying in a soft voice, "Well, if that’s the way you see things, I know you’re going to make me very proud."

She’d blushed then and climbed up on her barstool to give him a hug and whisper, "Thanks, CD."

The sharp cracks of seven rifles firing into the air had signaled an end to the funeral. While the strains of "Amazing Grace" filled the air, the flag from the coffin had been neatly folded and all of the Rangers had lifted white-gloved hands to their foreheads in solemn salute to their friend. Rebecca had lifted her own hand, careful to keep her fingers rigid in her glove and arm straight, as she joined them, though she was unable to keep her lower lip from quivering, nor the tears from streaming down her cheeks. To her right, Alex was sobbing openly but Trivette, Walker, Sydney, and Gage were frozen in their poses. With the last crack of the twenty-one gun salute, all of the Rangers and Rebecca snapped their arms down and bid a fond farewell to Ranger CD Parker.

Afterwards, the group had gone to the bar and grill for one last walk down memory lane. It had seemed odd to walk in the door and not hear CD’s voice greeting them, though no one mentioned the change out loud. Instead, they helped themselves to drinks and sat around the table, reminiscing about their friend. Most of the stories were funny – as they usually were when they featured CD – but a few, like Rebecca’s last conversation with him (which she related) were poignant and revealed the true soul of the old man who could turn any story into a tall tale and who loved his friends above himself. And slowly people had begun to trickle away, each with a last look at the portrait that Alex had set up near the bar where CD always stood. And now Rebecca sat there alone, trying to find the words that she wanted to say. The others were in the back room, examining a few artifacts from CD’s career, and she’d slipped away, wanting a moment alone with her old friend.

Finally, the words had come, slowly at first and then with more confidence. They were all spoken through a haze of tears. "So I guess what I really want to say to you right now is that I am so mad at you for this. You think you’re smart, don’t you? I go to all the trouble of planning the surprise party to end all surprise parties and of course, you have to find a way to outsmart me one more time. Heaven forbid I should actually be able to pull one over on you! And you can’t stop there – oh no. You have to one-up me by leaving me your world-famous, top secret chili recipe – the one that came over with your family on the Mayflower." She paused to blow her nose and when she continued, her face had softened a bit, as had her words. "You think a chili recipe can make up for losing you? CD Parker, I would give this chili recipe and my right arm to have you back right now. You had a heart as big as Texas and the wisdom of Solomon and I miss you so much…"

Her words trailed away and she felt a hand on her shoulder. Turning, she saw that it belonged to Jimmy and she stood to give him a hug. The friendship of James Trivette and CD Parker had been fiercely competitive and fiercely loyal and she knew that he missed "Big Dog" with all his heart. CD had been his antagonist, his verbal sparring partner, and his mentor and Jimmy wouldn’t recover from the loss quickly.

"Why don’t you take a minute alone with him?" she asked, gesturing to the chair she’d just vacated.

"Are you through?" he hesitated.

"Yeah," she nodded. "I’m actually headed outside to get some air and clear my head."

"Thanks," he told her.

She went out and stood on the sidewalk, taking in the sounds of the stockyard next door and the traffic rumbling in the distance. The street before her was empty and still, as though it too was in mourning for CD. Above her, stars lit the heavens and she was so mesmerized by them that she didn’t hear Trivette come up beside her until he said, "It’s not the same without him."

"It never will be," she agreed without looking down.

"But he’ll always be with us," Walker added as he and Alex joined Rebecca and Jimmy in their stargazing.

All four continued to watch for a few more moments before descending to the earth and preparing to head home.

"Will you be okay?" Rebecca asked her uncle as she hugged him good-bye.

"In time," was his reply. "You?"

"The same," she agreed.

The three had parked along the street in front of the bar and grill, its windows now dark and empty. Rebecca was the last to climb into her car, choosing to send one more glance upward. Behind her, she heard Jimmy start the engine of his Mustang and drive into the night and in front of her, Walker and Alex pulled away in the Ram. Yet Rebecca paid no notice – she was too mesmerized by one star that seemed larger than the others and seemed to burn a bit brighter. As she opened the door to the 300M, she could have sworn she saw it wink at her and she felt a smile wash over her face.

"Show-off," she muttered before climbing in and heading for home.

Hmm… This ended up being longer than I thought it would be. Funny how that works. Anyway, let me know how you liked it and after my exams, I’ll get to work on Rebecca and Glen’s first date. (I know, the suspense must be killing you - <<insert evil laugh here>>.)


Chapter 12 – A New Hope

And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for! That’s right – our little Rebecca is about to go on her first date with Glen Cooper. I’m placing them in the episode "Child of Hope" where Walker and Alex are caring for the abandoned baby. (After all, a little more chaos never hurt anyone in the world of Walker.) Thanks again to Swoopes for her awesome website, thanks to you, my supportive readers, and thank you to Top Kick Productions for not suing me for borrowing their characters.

She was scared the moment she hung up the phone. What have you done? the voice in her head demanded and she was forced to answer it with, I have no idea. Stuck on this particular thought, she sank into a nearby dining room chair and thrust her chin onto her hands, elbows resting on the table. She’d just agreed to meet Glen Cooper for a date the next evening and the idea frightened her to death.

It wasn’t that she didn’t like Glen. On the contrary, she had decided over the course of a few weeks of phone conversations and e-mails that she liked him very much. Meeting him in person – on a date, no less – was different, though. After all, talking on the phone was something friends did and, in the time that they’d been talking, Rebecca had come to regard the young police officer as a friend. Yet an actual date suggested something more – a step forward into something she wasn’t sure that she was quite ready to do. Still, the word "yes" had come from somewhere and now that she’d spoken it, she wasn’t about to back down.

So lost in thought was she that she didn’t realize that her uncle and aunt were home until Walker’s bearded face appeared before her, bearing a load of three grocery bags, each one filled to the brim. He staggered into the kitchen with the load and heaved them onto the counter.

Rebecca stood and wandered over to inspect, craning her neck over to peer at the bags from the opposite side of the kitchen island. "I thought Alex only had to pick up a few things from the store?"

"Yeah, so did I," he told her grimly. "But the baby needed a few more things."

Rebecca’s eyes widened at the word baby and she looked furtively right and left before lowering her voice to a whisper. "Uncle Cordell? We – and by we, I mean you and Aunt Alex – don’t have a baby. Unless, of course, there’s something you forgot to tell me before I came home for fall break…"

Her voice trailed off as he shook his head and said pointedly, "Alex and I don’t have a baby of our own, Rebecca. However, we do have one for the night – a young woman left this baby with Alex at the grocery store tonight and vanished so Child and Family Services has temporarily placed him with us. His name is Max."

As Walker spoke, he pointed over Rebecca’s shoulder and she turned to see her aunt enter carrying a sweet, blue-eyed cherub, cooing as she walked.

"Oh my!" Rebecca exclaimed, realizing that despite her earlier joke, her uncle was quite serious.

"Rebecca, meet Max," Alex stepped over and extended Max’s chubby right hand for Rebecca to shake with her fingertips.

"Nice to meet you," Rebecca’s voice was still tinged with confusion.

"We’re going to get him all cleaned up, aren’t we?" Alex was speaking to the baby directly as she carried him into the kitchen, though the words were clearly also pointed at her husband.

Walker shot his niece a "Help me!" look and she replied with an evil grin and a negative shake of the head. To them both, she said, "Well, I can see you have your hands full but, much as I’d like to help, I’m exhausted and I think I’ll get to bed."

"You’re sure you don’t want to help with the baby?" Walker’s voice heavily implied that she should.

"Oh, I’m sure," she gave him another evil smile, then leaned in close and whispered, "See, there’s a problem with the baby."

"There is?" his expression was puzzled.

"Yeah," she nodded in mock solemnity. "It’s your problem." In a louder, cheerful voice, she added, "Good night all!"

If looks could have killed, Walker would probably have dropped Rebecca in her tracks right then and there, but she didn’t bother to turn around to look. Instead, she climbed the stairs to her room, her thoughts instead returning to Glen Cooper and her impending date with him. She’d never been nervous about going on a date before – granted, nearly all of them had been with David, whom she’d known since she was seven – but she was still racking her brain trying to figure out what was so different about this one. Several months after David’s death she’d gone to the movies with Ryan, one of their mutual friends from high school and there had been no nerves attached to that one. (There had been no attraction either, which was why dating Ryan had begun and ended on the same night.) And even though Glen had held Rebecca, Alex, and several other people hostage at gunpoint while trying to clear his name in Sage City, she wasn’t afraid that he would harm her. She knew enough about him by now to know that he was a gentle person. In fact, they shared quite a bit in common – famous relatives who were in law enforcement, loss of a parent at an early age (Glen’s father, also a Texas Ranger, had been killed in the line of duty when he was quite young), and a drive to always stand up for those in need.

In fact, when Glen had called her for the first time, she’d been thrilled, as she had been eager to learn more about him after the Sage City incident. She still remembered how mad she had been at him for putting innocent people in danger and how gentle his eyes had been when he’d handed her his handkerchief to cover the cut on her forearm. He intrigued her initially, and as they’d talked, she came to admire him. He’d recently moved to Dallas and joined the state troopers, a definite step closer to his dream of becoming a Texas Ranger, and as he spoke of his work, she could tell that it was his passion. So why was she so nervous about going out on a date with such a person?

"I guess it’ll have to wait until morning," she finally told herself as she slid into bed and turned off her bedside light. "Who knows? Maybe things will make more sense then."

*

Things didn’t make any more sense at 2:00 in the morning than they had earlier however. Rebecca was awakened at that hour when Max awakened the entire house with his crying – and things were not any clearer when he did the same thing again at 4:00. Rebecca’s 7:00 jog didn’t help matters either and she was rather tired to begin with, so her mood was rather foul as she showered and had breakfast with her aunt, uncle, and the baby. The icing on the cake of her morning, however, was Walker asking if she had plans for the evening. She hadn’t told him about her date with Glen – the news had slipped away from her mind upon Max’s entrance the previous night – and the more she thought about it, the more she decided against revealing the truth until things were said and done. It wasn’t that she was embarrassed to tell him or that she feared he’d forbid her to go; rather, until she sorted her feelings concerning Glen Cooper out, she didn’t really feel up to talking to anyone about him.

So instead of telling the whole truth, she settled for a half (and felt an immediate and painful twinge of guilt go down with her hasty gulp of orange juice). "I, uh, guess I’m going to Gino’s with Amy and Kim."

Walker nodded, not seeming to notice her faint hesitation before answering. "What time are you meeting them?"

It still amused her that even though she would soon be a full-fledged police officer and technically "all grown up" that he still treated her as though she were twelve. And though she’d never admit it out loud, she actually kind of liked it. She told him, "Six-thirty."

"What time do you think you’ll be home?" he was asking the questions from reflex, she could tell.

"We’ll probably see a movie after, so probably twelve or twelve-thirty," she said, adding, "Don’t wait up – although I have a feeling we may cross paths."

She looked at Max, whose face was purely innocent, as she spoke her final words. He blinked rapidly at her as though in response.

"Well, have fun," Walker stood up and planted a kiss on the top of her head as he took his empty plate and glass to the sink.

"Yeah," she muttered.

And it was those words – "have fun" – that she kept repeating to herself over and over again that evening as she checked her reflection in the mirror for the hundredth time. She had decided to wear her favorite jeans – the indigo ones that were twenty-five percent spandex and moved with her when she walked – and a plain white blouse with front pleats and long cuffs. Paired with her brown high-heeled boots and a belt, she thought she looked conservative and comfortable. (Okay, so maybe comfortable was an exaggeration, but she at least looked nice, she chided her reflection with a quirk of her eyebrows.) She’d recently had her shoulder-length golden brown hair chopped off at chin-length in a blunt, flattering bob and she adjusted her part just so, making sure that the strands of hair framed her face. A few touches of make-up – a little mascara, some eye pencil and shadow, and a light lip-gloss – and she figured she was as ready as she was going to get. Still, she heaved a sigh as she grabbed her brown leather jacked and headed out to her car, praying that all of her inner turmoil wasn’t visible to outward observers.

Glen’s gunmetal gray Silverado pulled into the parking lot of Gino’s directly in front of her so Rebecca followed him and parked her 300M in an adjacent parking space. She was glad to see that he, too, looked a bit nervous as he came around the truck to greet her.

"Hey, Rebecca," his smile was as white and kind as she remembered from Sage City and he was wearing a black button-down shirt that brought out his dark eyes. His black hair was still damp from a recent shower. "How are you?"

She was relieved when a smile came readily to her face with no forcing and she replied, "Great. Yourself?"

"Good," he nodded and they crossed the parking lot side by side in a companionable silence.

Rebecca couldn’t remember later what exactly they talked about at dinner or even what she’d eaten. What she did remember, however, was how she felt as soon as they sat down on opposite sides of a corner booth: it was unmistakably relaxation. Whether it was getting the initial greeting out of the way that did it or the sparkle in the handsome police officer’s eyes, she didn’t know and didn’t care. All that mattered to her was that her shoulders felt two tons lighter, as though the weights that had been there for days had suddenly been transformed into feathers. Their conversation was easy and light and Rebecca felt herself having a genuinely good time. Naturally, the niggling voice in her head told her that it was too good to last – and then had the audacity to be right when Rebecca noticed Gage enter the restaurant the moment Glen had slipped off to use the restroom. Not having told her uncle about her date with Glen, it wouldn’t do to have him hear the report of it the next day from Gage. She’d be in much hotter water then.

She was deciding whether or not to hide behind a menu when the burly Ranger spotted her and made his way over.

"Hey Rebecca," he greeted her easily, though she was surprised to see that his ears were turning bright pink the way they did whenever he was nervous. But what did he have to be nervous about? She was the one on a date with a man who’d once held her hostage, for goodness sakes!

"Hey Gage, what’s up?" she tried to act casual.

"Not a whole lot," he told her. "Are you here alone?"

"Well, not exactly," she put on a smile. "I’m sort of on a date."

He gave her an encouraging grin. "That’s great. Who with?"

She narrowed her eyes and leaned close to him. "If I tell you, you have to promise to keep your mouth shut."

Startled, he wanted to know, "Why?"

"Just promise," she hissed.

"What? Are you dating a known felon?" his manner suggested he was only half kidding.

"No," she snapped more sharply than she meant to. Then, deciding just to go for it, her face relaxed and she said, "I’m out with Glen Cooper."

"Glen Cooper…" The name didn’t seem to register on Gage’s handsome face at first, but when it did, his expression instantly went into protective older brother overdrive. "Are you insane?"

His voice was a hiss now but Rebecca pretended not to notice. "No, I’m not, thank you very much. I happen to like Glen a lot and we’re having a great time."

"He held you hostage," Gage tried to reason with her in a tone steeped in logic. "Doesn’t that bother you?"

"See, I knew you would do this," she crossed her arms resolutely across her chest.

"Do what?" he protested.

"Freak out," she said simply. Her voice softened as she told him, "Look, Gage, this is the second date I’ve been on since David died. It’s kind of a big step for me. And regardless of how I met Glen, we have a lot in common and I’ve enjoyed spending time with him tonight. I don’t know where this is going or even if it’s going anywhere so I’d just as soon not jump to any crazy conclusions, okay?"

"Fine," Gage held his hands up in defeat. "But judging from your behavior, I’m assuming that you haven’t told your uncle you’re seeing Glen."

She hesitated, then said defensively, "I will. Soon."

"Rebecca, what happened to you two having an honest relationship?" he asked meaningfully.

Before she could answer, their conversation was interrupted by a call from the register of "Order up!" The cashier was holding a large white paper bag and waving at Gage.

"Be right there!" he called before returning his attention to Rebecca.

"Got an appetite tonight?" she asked, noticing the size of the bag.

"Don’t change the subject," his ears were turning pink again.

Rebecca cocked her head to the side, sizing up the events that had just taken place. "Why not, Gage? What do you have to hide? I mean, unless you’re…" Her voice trailed off and then she clapped a hand over her mouth when the realization hit. "You’re not eating alone! You’re picking up food for two people – and I’m guessing that the other person is Sydney."

"I think you’re missing the point of our conversation…" he tried to steer her away from what she knew was the truth. His entire face was red now and matched his shirt.

She chuckled, then pressed on. "Let me guess: you’ve told her that you cook up and amazing chicken marsala – probably your dear departed grandmother’s recipe –and that she’ll love it. Am I getting warm?"

"It’s eggplant parmesan," he retorted huffily, attempting to recover some dignity.

"Gage," she put on her sternest face, "what happened to you two having an honest relationship?"

"I really think we’re talking about two different things here," he argued.

"Oh we are," she agreed. "But the difference is, I intend to tell my uncle about Glen as soon as I figure out where things stand. You, on the other hand, undoubtedly have no intention of ever telling Syd that you can’t cook to save your life – although I’ll be surprised if she falls for this."

"What are you getting at?" he asked impatiently.

"A simple agreement," she shrugged. "You don’t spill the beans to my uncle and let me tell him in my time and my way and I don’t tell Syd the real secret of your secret family recipe."

"You’re going to make a fine interrogator one day," he observed. "It’s a deal."

They shook hands as Glen returned and Gage greeted him with a smile and a warm handshake. The trio chatted for only a few more minutes before Gage picked up his order and left and Rebecca and Glen headed off for the movies. They went in the Silverado, leaving her car in the parking lot of Gino’s, which was deserted when they returned a few hours later. A gentleman, Glen walked to the driver’s door and opened it for her. They spoke with the door between them, her hands resting lightly on the window.

"I had a really good time tonight," he said sincerely.

"So did I," she smiled. "Thank you."

"No, thank you," he told her. "We didn’t exactly get off on the right foot and I was afraid things might be weird. But they aren’t and I think you deserve the credit for it."

"I think we both deserve the credit," she disagreed lightly. "After all, there were two of us on this date tonight."

"Fair enough," he nodded. "So can I see you again?"

"Definitely," she replied.

And at that moment, she realized he was going to kiss her and the fear instantly flamed up again from where it had lain dormant. Her stomach was taut and she gripped the window tightly as he leaned forward as though in slow motion and, in reflex, she turned her head at the last minute, feeling his lips brush her cheek.

When he straightened, a bit confused, she gave him a nervous smile and said, "Well, good night" with as much cheerfulness as she could muster before climbing into her car.

All the way home, she berated herself for her reaction – after all, it was just a kiss. But somehow it hadn’t felt right to her at that moment and she wasn’t sure why. She was still mulling it over as she parked behind the Ram and headed into the house, noticing a light on downstairs. Once she stepped through the door, she saw that her uncle was sitting up with baby Max, giving the sleepy-eyed little boy a late bottle. The scene was one that she never thought she’d witness and was so adorable, she hated to walk in and disturb it. Still, she felt another twinge of guilt about her date with Glen and decided that now was as good a time as any to tell the truth.

"You look like an old pro," she whispered, hanging up her coat and creeping into the living room to seat herself on the coffee table, facing her uncle and the baby.

"I don’t feel like one," he confided, shifting the bottle a bit.

"Eh, it’s good for you," she observed. "Pretty soon you’ll have one of your own, I’m sure."

He smiled nervously. "And I thought I knew a lot about parenting after raising you."

"You do," she assured him. "But you also had an advantage because I came potty trained. However, it is worth noting that since you survived my teenage years so well, a baby should be a piece of cake."

He chuckled and nodded knowingly. "So how was dinner?"

"Dinner was great," she told him sincerely, then sucked in a deep breath to continue. Walker noticed this and raised an eyebrow. She let the words come: "Dinner was not, however, quite the way I told you it would be at breakfast this morning. See, I kind of didn’t eat with Kim and Amy."

"Oh?" His other eyebrow went up.

"Yeah," she stammered. "Instead, I kind of had a date with a guy that I really like and who I would like to see again soon. I didn’t tell you about the date because I was nervous about the whole thing and then I didn’t know what you would say about him and it was this whole confusing thing…"
"Rebecca – who was it?" Walker interjected.

She fought not to let the answer come out as a squeak. "Glen Cooper."

If Walker was stunned by this, it didn’t show. Rather, he took the news in with a nod of the head and said, "Glen Cooper, huh? I heard he’d moved to Dallas – he’s already building a fine reputation with the troopers."

She smiled and felt some of her nerves dissipate. "Yeah, he’s good at what he does."

"And you really like him?" Walker pressed her.

She nodded. "Yeah I do." She paused to find the right words before continuing, "It’s weird because I didn’t think I was quite ready to date someone again after that disastrous date thing with Ryan last month. But somehow Glen’s different – we started talking after our rather interesting meeting in Sage City and, I don’t know, I just feel comfortable with him. It’s like we’ve known each other for years."

"Well, I’m happy for you," Walker said sincerely. "I think Glen Cooper’s a good man and I think you could do a lot worse."

"So you’re not mad that I didn’t tell you the truth this morning?" she asked hesitantly.

"Don’t let it happen again and go put together another bottle for Max and we’ll call it even," he told her.

"Done," she kissed his cheek and headed for the kitchen. As an afterthought, she turned back. "And for what it’s worth, I know you’ll be a great father when you and Alex have kids – you already are."

*

Glen Cooper ran into Gage and Sydney the next day coming out of the courthouse. The young trooper had been testifying in court that morning and the Rangers were on their way in to meet with a judge. All three greeted each other cheerfully, then Gage sent Sydney on ahead before Cooper could mention running into him the previous night at Gino’s and give away his secret.

Attempting to be casual, Gage said, "So did you and Rebecca have a good time last night?"

"Yeah," Cooper nodded, though his expression was a bit puzzled. After a moment’s pause, he asked the burly Ranger, "Hey, did she say anything to you about me?"

Gage shrugged. "Only that she was having a really good time and that she likes you."

"Nothing about things being weird between us?" Cooper seemed to be fishing for something.

"No," Gage shook his head. "Why? Something happen?"

Cooper told him, "No, I just wondered. I had a great time last night. Rebecca’s the most amazing girl I’ve ever met – she’s beautiful, she’s smart, and she’s fun to be with."

"But…?" Gage wanted to know.

Cooper looked right and left at the people around them and grabbed Gage’s shoulder, pulling the Ranger over to the wall and out of the center of the courthouse traffic pattern. "It’s like this: I went to kiss her last night and suddenly it was like she was suddenly scared of me. I seriously expected her to run off."

Enlightenment shown on Gage’s face and he hurried to reassure the young man. "Cooper, don’t be put off by that. See, Rebecca’s carrying a bit of baggage with her. You’re only her second date since the end of her last relationship."

"And it was a really bad one?" Cooper asked.

"Oh no," Gage assured him, "it was terrific – which is bad for you because it’s always harder to follow a good relationship than it is to follow a bad one. Trust me, though -–Rebecca really likes you. Don’t give up on her after just one date."

Sydney popped her head around the corner and furiously gestured to her partner to hurry things up.

"Why aren’t they together anymore?" Cooper asked as Gage fled the scene.

"That’s for her to tell you!" the Ranger cried, rushing to catch up with Sydney.

*

Rebecca sat on the end of her bed staring at the framed photo in her hand. It was the one she’d clung to after David’s death, the one she’d slept with and that hadn’t been out of her sight since. She’d been looking at it for an hour, straining to remember what David’s voice sounded like, how he laughed, and she was coming up empty. Most unsettling of all, every time she closed her eyes to picture him, his face was replaced with that of Glen Cooper. And as she sat motionless, she realized that her brain was trying to tell her heart something – it was time to move on.

A few slow tears began to slide down her cheeks as she voiced her decision aloud. "Well, David, it’s happened. I’m giving up on us. I know, I know – you’ve been dead almost a year now so logic says I should have done that a while ago. But I couldn’t and what’s more, I didn’t really have a reason to. Now I do, though. I met somebody – somebody great." She gave a small laugh, "The crazy thing is, you’d probably like him. Oh I know, not the stealing your girlfriend part, but as a person, I think you’d get along famously. He’s really great and he treats me very well and we have this connection that I can’t quite explain. Maybe it’s because we have so much in common or maybe it’s all in my mind, but I can’t help but feel there’s something there. And I have to be honest, I wanted to kiss him the other night and I now realize that the only reason I didn’t is because you were there. Not physically, no, but in spirit. And if I’m going to try to have a relationship with Glen, that can’t happen again. So I’m sorry, but I have to let you go. You were my best friend and my first love and we will always have that because I can never love anybody the way that I loved you again. But I think there’s room in my heart for Glen and in order for me to let him in, I need to move you over a bit. So this isn’t good-bye, really, but rather, see you later. So… yeah, I’ll see you later."

Rebecca held the picture to her chest a moment, then crouched down beside her bed and reached underneath. She pulled out a large, empty shoebox and began filling it with all of the memorabilia that was part of her relationship with David – all of the pictures, the ticket stubs, and letters he’d written her. The box was then hoisted onto the top shelf of her closet. On top, she placed his gray Texas A & M sweatshirt, neatly folded. Then she closed the door and walked out of her room. It was nearly time for Glen’s shift to be over and she wanted to meet him and explain her odd behavior.

Downstairs, though, she was startled to see her Aunt Alex talking to a young woman who was holding Max on her lap. Rebecca had thought that Alex and Max were alone and was about to say something when movement outside caught her eye. She hurried to the front door and saw two armed men attacking the state troopers who had been assigned to protect the house.

"Aunt Alex – the troopers are down!" she cried, rushing to the living room.

Alex leapt to her feet and ran to the window. She scanned the scene, then told Rebecca and the young woman to run.

"Out the back!" she told them.

Rebecca dropped to the rear as they rushed to the stable behind the house, checking to make sure that the men weren’t too close behind. There was no sign of them as the three women entered the barn and closed the door behind them.

"I’m going into the hayloft to keep watch," Rebecca hissed as Alex and the woman crouched in a far corner, clutching Max.

She hurriedly ascended the ladder and straddled one of the roof beams, peering out an upper window just in time to see the men run to the barn. They split up and began walking around the outside and Rebecca knew it was only a matter of time before they entered through the same door the women had used. From her perch, she steeled herself for that moment and watched Alex creep over and pick up a shovel.

The first thug was enormous and bulky and let out a booming, "Well, well, well" upon noticing the young woman and Max still crouching in the corner. He didn’t have time to say much else because Alex hit him upside the head with the shovel. He was only stunned, though, and Rebecca was prepared to help her aunt deliver a second blow when she saw his partner enter. Diverting her attention, the girl swung her leg over the beam and used it as a leverage point from which to propel her feet squarely into his chest, knocking him to the floor. Unfortunately, her momentum carried her to the floor as well and the first thug had backhanded Alex in the melee. Rebecca was trying to figure out what to do next when her uncle hurtled through a nearby window and made quick work of both men.

"Are you okay?" he asked all three women at once when he’d finished.

They nodded in unison and Rebecca stepped outside to catch her breath. As she did so, she noticed three police cars pull up – undoubtedly called by Walker on his way – and one khaki-clad figure sprint toward her directly. It was Glen and the moment he reached Rebecca, he swept her up into a hug.

"I heard the call over the radio and I was worried about you," he told her as he held her close.

Surprised but glad for his concern, she hugged him back and said, "We had it under control."

He seemed to regain his sensibilities then and let her go, though he remained close. "What happened anyway?"

"Typical day in the Walker house," she shrugged wryly. At his pained expression, she smiled, "Okay, so maybe this was atypical." She paused before adding, "I’m glad you’re here, though."

"Me too," he smiled.

"I was actually coming to see you," she began walking towards the house and gestured for him to join her. "I need to apologize for my weird behavior at the end of our date the other night. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again. I had a few issues of my own to deal with and I think it’s safe to say they’re taken care of."

"I talked to Gage about you today," he told her. "He said something very similar."
"Oh yeah?" she raised her eyebrows in question.

"Yeah," he nodded. "He also mentioned that you’d had another relationship and that our date the other night was only your second one since it ended."

She gave a soft smile. "Thanks to Gage, I know what it’s like to have a big brother who keeps his nose in my business all the time. However, he’s right. I dated David from the time I was sixteen until he died almost a year ago. We knew each other from the time we were seven, though. He was my best friend and my first love and someone like that takes quite a bit of getting over. And, to put it in perspective for the other night, he’s also the only guy I’ve ever kissed. I panicked. I’m sorry."

Glen’s expression was warm as he listened to her and, when she finished, he reached out to take her hand in his. "It’s okay, Rebecca. I’m just glad that the real reason wasn’t you being afraid to kiss a man who once held you at gunpoint."

She grinned. "Nope. Nothing like that." She grew serious. "I really do like you, Glen Cooper, and I feel like this thing – whatever it is – has some potential. The idea scares me to death, but I’m willing to go with it."

"I think we have something too," he said. He chuckled then and added, "Do you know the exact moment I decided that I needed to take you out?"

She shook her head. He told her, "It was in the Sage City courthouse – you were glaring at me so hard I had chills and I vowed at that moment that if things ever worked out in there, I was going to make sure that you never had cause to be that angry or afraid ever again. You’re truly amazing, Rebecca Walker."

His words stunned and flattered her and she felt herself turn a bit red with embarrassment. Finally, she was able to say, "That is by far the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard. Thank you."

"It’s the truth and you’re welcome," he replied.

And in that moment, Rebecca decided to make up for her behavior on their date. Gripping his hand firmly in her own, she stepped forward, cupped her free hand behind his head, and kissed him soundly on the lips. His response was to kiss her back and, as they released their clasped hands and held each other tight, Rebecca noted with only the slightest twinge of sadness that nothing could come between them because there was no room.

There you have it! This is my longest chapter to date, but it has to be to tide you over until after the holidays. I hope you enjoy Rebecca and Glen as a couple because I have a few other ideas for them floating around in my head. Still, I’m open to suggestions and always welcome feedback.


Chapter 13 – Parenting 101

For this chapter, I’d like to try something a bit different. I’m placing our characters at the end of the episode "Legends" (where they all go to the championship kickboxing match with all of the former champions). Naturally, Rebecca and Glen will go along with the group. To stir things up a bit, though, I’d like to write this chapter from Walker’s point of view instead of Rebecca’s and start things before they even get to the fight. All standard disclaimers apply. Enjoy!

His wife was going to have a baby and he was scared. Walker sat at the kitchen table, the day’s newspaper spread out in front of him, and thought about the changes that were about to occur in his life. The words on the page didn’t even register as his eyes skimmed over them – rather, he was focused on what Alex’s pregnancy meant for him exactly. The idea of raising a child shouldn’t frighten him, the voice in his head tried to say – after all, he’d already been through much of the process with Rebecca and as far as he could tell, he’d done a good job. She’d turned into a confident, beautiful twenty year-old woman and would soon be graduating from the elite police academy at Texas A & M at the top of her class. Yet he had a feeling that most of her talent and drive seemed to come purely from within – she simply glowed with an inner light that he believed could only be inherent and could not possibly be a result of his influence. Granted, he and Alex might just have the good fortune to have a child of their own like her – but what if they weren’t so lucky? What if this new baby required more parenting skills than he possessed?

The expression on his face must have been transparent because it stopped Rebecca in her tracks as she made her way into the kitchen for an afternoon snack. She was home for the weekend in order to attend the world kickboxing championships in Dallas – an event that she and Walker always watched together on television and had been looking forward to ever since they’d discovered it was going to be held in their hometown. He’d managed to get ringside seats for them as well as Alex and the members of their extended family – Trivette, Sydney, Gage, and even Glen Cooper, whom Rebecca had been seeing quite a bit of lately. The fights would be that night and she was planning to meet up with Glen for dinner beforehand, though at the moment she was taking a break from a reading assignment that had trapped her in her room all afternoon. Her study attire consisted of loose-fitting gray pajama bottoms and a navy blue t-shirt emblazoned with POLICE in bold white letters. Her chin-length hair was held away from her face with a series of clips and was rather disheveled. She’d looked a bit dazed when she’d first approached the table but, seeing his face, her expression had immediately shifted to concern.

"Did somebody die?" she stopped before him, concerned.

"No," he responded quickly, startled. "Why?"

Relieved, she continued past on her way to the refrigerator. "Because you look like it."

Sheepishly, he shook his head and laid the newspaper down. "Do I? Sorry. I’ve just been doing some thinking."

"Must be some serious thinking to make you look like that," she grabbed a container of yogurt out of the fridge, a spoon from a drawer, and sauntered over to the table. Pulling out a chair next to him, she seated herself leisurely upon it, one knee pulled up to her chest and her opposite leg curled beneath her body. "Mind if I ask what the topic is?"

"It’s nothing," he tried to reassure her.

The spoon stopped halfway to her mouth and her eyebrows quirked in blatant disbelief. "Uh-huh. Want to try again – only this time with the truth?"

He stared at her for a moment, then seemed to realize that she wasn’t backing down. It was almost like looking into a mirror. He told her, "I’ve just been thinking about Alex and the baby."

"Ah," she nodded knowingly and spooned up some more yogurt. "Freaked out, are you?"

"I wouldn’t say that," he said dryly.

She chuckled in a way that showed she clearly disagreed. "Okay. What would you say then?"

He hesitated. "I’m just thinking about what kind of changes this is going to bring about and what will need to be done. That’s all."

"In short, freaked out," she finished for him, her tone casual.

"Rebecca," Walker tried to force his voice to be stern, "I am not freaked out."

"Uncle Cordell," she attempted to replicate his tone but wound up laughing, "it’s not a big deal to be scared about this whole thing, you know. I mean, parenthood is a big deal – or so I’ve been told. I mean, you’re being entrusted with this young life and it’s your responsibility to care for him or her and make sure that you raise a strong, self-sufficient individual who leads a good life. Heck, I’m freaked out just talking about it and I’m nowhere near having kids yet – I’m not even married."

His gaze was level and his tone only half-joking. "Thank you, Rebecca. Putting it that way has really helped to calm me down."

She smiled as she realized how dramatic her speech had been. "Sorry. I was just trying to let you know that I see where you’re coming from."
"I know," he told her. He paused a moment before continuing, "I just can’t help but think that I shouldn’t be this nervous. After all, I’ve raised you practically by myself all these years so it’s not like I don’t have practice."

"True," she agreed. "But you have to remember, I’m not really your kid." As though realizing how sharply the words could be interpreted, she hurried to smooth things by saying, "I mean, for all intents and purposes, you’ve been my mother, father, uncle, mentor – you’ve been everything and I love you for it. The way you rearranged your life for me thirteen years ago was amazing and I can’t even imagine how scary that must have been for you. You weren’t married, we’d never even met, and here you were asked to take over as my guardian simply because we’re blood relatives. Talk about pressure! But when you get right down to it, we had quite a few things in our favor – namely the fact that we could talk to each other and discuss problems. Babies are a whole different ballgame because you have to intuit what they need instead of them telling you."

"That’s for sure," he agreed emphatically.

"The way I see it," she had scooped up another spoonful of yogurt and was using the spoon to gesture as she spoke, "you have every right to be scared - you’re starting at square one this time. No more practice swings, this is the real deal. I was kind of the guinea pig for your parenting skills, but this time, there will be a whole new set of expectations – yours because you’ve been through some of it before and Alex’s because she’s got that whole maternal instinct thing going."

He remained silent, taking in her words, but he must have still appeared fearful because she laid the spoon on the table to reach out and cover his folded hands with her own. Her blue eyes sought his out and then locked the way they always did when she was talking with him. Whenever their eyes connected that way, it was as though an invisible thread ran between them and held them there in the moment. Walker had never felt that way with anyone else, not even Alex. His connection with her was no less strong, just different from the one he shared with his niece. Perhaps it was because he and Rebecca had shared so much over the last thirteen years or because they were so similar that they existed on the same wavelength. He wasn’t sure. All he knew was that Rebecca held a key to a part of his heart that he had never known existed until he met her and that no one else could ever reach.

Her gaze never wavered. "You are a terrific father. Granted, I don’t remember that much about my dad, but what I do remember is that he was pretty lousy at this stuff compared to you. You may not be the best at showing it, but you have a heart bigger than Texas and you’re kind and gentle and a great listener. In short, if anyone ever made a list of prerequisites for being a father, you’d meet every one. I can’t imagine my life if I’d never come to live with you and I’m glad I don’t have to." Her eyes were shining brightly now with tears that she was trying to hold back and Walker felt a lump grow in his throat as she continued. "When I was seven and scared of monsters in the dark, you scared them away. When I was ten and scared to stand up in front of everyone at the school spelling bee, you helped me get up there and win. When there was a bomb in my locker, you saved my life and never for one second let me think that things could have gone the other way. When David died, you helped me heal and when I was scared of a relationship with Glen, you helped me see that it was a good thing. You’ve made me into the person I am today, Uncle Cordell. What more is there to parenting than that?"

It took Walker several moments to swallow the lump down to a manageable size that he could talk around. Finally, he said, "It certainly helps when you have a good kid."

She blushed, then seemed to collect herself and stood, empty yogurt container in hand. "Yeah, I guess I do make you look pretty good."

He laughed and grabbed her right wrist as she headed back to the kitchen. Pulling her to a stop in front of him, he told her, "Thank you, Rebecca."

"For the pep talk or just because?" she wanted to know.

"Both," he said.

"Don’t mention it," she gave him a tight hug from behind and rested her smooth cheek against his bearded one for a moment, their silence companionable. Before she stood to leave, she whispered, "I love you."

"I love you too," he replied.

Alex entered the room at that moment, her normally slender figure significantly rounder now as she entered the end of her second trimester. If she noticed the tender moment between uncle and niece, she didn’t mention it, but instead asked, "What time to we need to be at the fight tonight?"

"Seven," Walker told her.

Rebecca padded to the kitchen sink to deposit her spoon, then emerged and told the couple, "Glen and I will meet you there – we’re eating out before."

"I remember," Walker nodded. "Your tickets are on the front table."

"Thanks," she smiled. "Should be a good one – are we really going to get to meet the legends of the sport tonight or were you pulling my leg earlier?"

"They’ll be there," he assured her, adding, "But if you want to talk to them, you’ll have to get around Gage first – he’s been talking about nothing else all week."

"I think I can manage that," she grinned wryly on her way out the door. Over her shoulder, she called, "I’m going to get changed and then I’m going to meet Glen."

"Drive safely," both Walker and Alex called after her reflexively.

"Yes Mom – and Dad," she called back.

Alex chuckled at Rebecca’s response, as did Walker, but he also felt the warmth of her words and they heartened him.

*

The fights were everything the group had hoped they would be and they all began talking excitedly over each other at the conclusion, comparing notes on kicks and jumps. As Walker had promised, everyone also got to meet the legends of the sport and he even felt himself swept up in the revelry. It must have been apparent to Alex too, because as the crowd began to disperse around them, she told him that he was welcome to stay and spend more time with the champions if he liked.

"I’ll get a ride home from Rebecca and Glen," she said.

Walker glanced over her shoulder at his niece and her boyfriend who were beginning to inch toward the door. Glen was standing behind Rebecca, both arms wrapped around her and head bent low as he spoke quietly in her ear. Her face was tilted up towards his, engaged in conversation, and her hands were resting lightly on his arms. Their forward progress was slow, their feet shuffling rather than stepping, and they were entirely wrapped up in each other.

"I don’t know if that’s going to be possible," Walker told his wife, pointing at the pair.

She followed his gaze and he saw her smile. At that moment, however, Rebecca seemed to realize that she was being talked about and she looked sheepishly at her aunt and uncle.

"I didn’t do it?" she asked feebly.

"You’re not in trouble," Walker told her.

"No," Alex agreed. "I was just wondering if I could get a ride home with you so Walker can stay here for a while."

Rebecca’s expression became apologetic. "Sorry, Alex, but we’re not going home yet – there’s a late showing of the new Jet Li movie over at the Cineplex."

Ahead of her and halfway up the stairs, Gage caught her words and turned. "Are you kidding, Rebecca?"

"No," she told him. "Do you and Sydney want to come?"

Standing side by side, the two Rangers nodded emphatically and Rebecca told them, "We’ll meet you in the parking lot then."

Turning back to her aunt, she offered, "We could drop you at home first if you like…"

"Don’t worry about it," the blonde woman shook her head. "I don’t want to ruin your night. Go and have a good time."

"I’ll drive you, Alex," Trivette called from the stairs above where he’d caught the entire conversation.

"See? Problem solved," Alex smiled and collected her purse, dropping a kiss on Walker’s cheek as she departed.

Rebecca smiled too, obviously relieved, and Walker watched her hurry up the stairs with the rest of the group, her fingers linked tightly with Glen’s. That inner glow he so loved about her was so bright at that moment he thought she could have lit the whole arena on her own. Just before she passed through the doorway, she turned to look back at him briefly, her shining eyes locking on his. And in that moment, she smiled and he felt confidence settle into the pit of his stomach for the first time since the news of Alex’s pregnancy, replacing the fear with a warm glow. He’d raised an incredible young woman through sheer luck and the grace of God; that was for certain. And if his child with Alex was even half as special as Rebecca, he knew that he or she would grow up to be a wonderful person as well. That knowledge firmly in hand, he watched his niece go, a smile on his face and warmth in his heart.

Okay, maybe this was a bit Hallmark-ish, but I think there were some things that needed to be said between Rebecca and Walker and I hope I hit many if not all of them. I’m going back to Rebecca’s point of view for the next one, though, because I have big plans for her and Glen (insert maniacal laughter here). Stay tuned


Chapter 14 – Safely Speeding

This chapter focuses on the episode "Unsafe Speed." (Sydney and Gage are undercover as members of a meth dealing motorcycle gang). I’ve taken a few liberties with the storyline – you’ll notice Syd and Gage don’t show up right away, I’ve added a musical interlude, and I’ve extended the ending because the episode didn’t really have a strong one to begin with. The song is "It’s Not Just Me" by Rascal Flatts (who I don’t own but would love a long-term lease on). But enough talk…

She was scared that things were over with Glen. Sitting behind the wheel of her car in the driveway of the Walker ranch, Rebecca stared frozenly ahead, unable to do anything except cut the ignition. A replay of the evening’s events scrolled through her brain and she struggled to make sense of it all with a futile effort.

The week itself had not exactly been great and her argument with Glen was the last in a series of disappointments that had begun with her first job interview on Monday morning. She would be graduating from the academy in four short weeks and was looking forward to putting all of her hard work and training to use in the field. Several of the most prominent law enforcement agencies in the state of Texas and in the greater Dallas area had expressed an interest in taking her on, which seemed logical considering she was one of the top-ranked students in her class. The slew of interviews she had been able to line up had been wide-ranging – one with the state troopers, another with the Dallas PD, and several with SWAT teams from across the state. And those were just her in-state offers – there had also been several from outside of Texas, including Kansas, Oklahoma, Illinois, and even Florida.

The first inkling of something unusual afoot had come after the first round of questioning during her interview with the state troopers, however. Captain Griggs had opened the interview with standard, everyday questions concerning her training and capabilities and Rebecca felt quite comfortable with the entire process – until he mentioned her uncle’s name.

"So you’re Cordell Walker’s niece, eh?" he had peered at her over the tops of his glasses, his bushy gray eyebrows knitting together with curiosity.

"Yes, sir," she nodded, a bit confused as to how her uncle had suddenly become part of the interview.

"Yep, Walker and I go way back…" he’d drifted off into a story about his younger days, leaving Rebecca still puzzled.

The incident could have been innocently written off as an old man rambling a bit had Walker’s exploits not come up in each of her next four interviews. By that point, she had not only become incredibly frustrated, but she had also begun to fear that her academy accolades were not the sole reason for her many interviews – rather, she was being interviewed based on her last name. The knowledge was maddening – it was as though none of her efforts mattered. She felt as though she was being patted on the head and told that so long as her last name was Walker, she was guaranteed a job of her choosing. And in her moment of clarity, she saw just how big the shadow of Cordell Walker was and could not begin to fathom how she could step outside of it.

Her one hope was that Glen would understand. Himself the son of a decorated Texas Ranger who’d been killed in the line of duty and also a descendant of the greatest legend the Rangers had ever known, Glen could empathize with her predicament better than anyone. After all, he too was enduring a similar struggle on his path to becoming a Ranger – mention of his last name had gotten more than one raised eyebrow of recognition from fellow officers. Glen laughed it off, but Rebecca knew that deep down, it bothered him because, like her, he wanted to achieve his goals based on his own merits rather than his heritage.

Her eagerness to talk with him was short-lived, however, because the look on his face when he’d entered the restaurant was far too distressing. His dark hair was tousled as though he’d been running his fingers through it and his eyes were troubled. Seeing his condition, all thoughts of her own problems left Rebecca’s mind.

"What’s wrong?" she asked before he’d even had a chance to sit down across from her at their window table.

"Wrong?" Glen repeated as though confused by her question.

"To steal one of CD’s favorite phrases, you look like ten miles of bad road," she told him.

He smiled at her description and she felt herself relax a bit. "So what’s up?"

He shook his head as though to clear it before saying, "I, uh, just got off the phone with a guy from the ATF – that’s why I’m late and I apologize."

"You’re not that late," she shrugged. "What does the ATF want with you?"

He gave a bemused grin, "They want to hire me."

"What?" she cried, feeling a grin of her own light her face.

He laughed at her reaction. "I sent in an application to them when I was looking to transfer from Sage City and they’ve just now gotten a chance to give me the once-over. They like what they see and they’re offering me a job on one of their narcotics teams."

"That’s fantastic news!" Rebecca told him excitedly. "The ATF will put you on the fast-track to being a Ranger – you could make it in as little as two or three years as long as there’s a spot open."

She grabbed his hands across the table and squeezed them joyfully, glad that at least one of them was getting an opportunity to move out of their family shadow. Glen’s new position meant that there was hope for her after all.

Yet despite his obvious excitement at the prospect of his new job, Rebecca watched Glen’s face fall suddenly. Suspicion and fear began to tingle in her stomach and she asked, "What aren’t you telling me?"

Her tone was firm and even, though when his eyes met hers, she knew she was about to be fed an uncomfortable truth.

He took a deep breath and said, "The job isn’t in Texas, Rebecca. It’s in Kansas."

"Kansas," she repeated blankly.

"Yeah," he nodded. "There weren’t any ATF openings in Texas back when I applied and I wasn’t committed to staying in Texas at that point, so I sent my application off to Fort Leavenworth." He paused, sensed what her next question would be, then added, "And there aren’t any openings in Texas now either – I checked."

Rebecca’s voice was detached when she asked, "When do you start?"

"Two weeks," Glen replied.

She nodded silently, feeling her facial expression turn stony. "That’s not very long at all."

"No," he agreed, his tone equally flat.

A silence drifted between them like thick fog and not until it became nearly stifling did Rebecca say, "So where does that leave things for us?"

He shrugged, seemingly at a loss. "I don’t really know. I’ve had a long-distance relationship before and it didn’t work out very well."

"I see," Rebecca said coldly.

Glen’s eyes were soft as he looked up at her but she gave him nothing in return. He added, "Look, we haven’t been together very long and…"

Rebecca saw red and leapt to her feet before he could finish. The week’s events piled up in her mind and exploded as angry words fell from her mouth. "Oh I see how it is. ‘Thanks, Rebecca – it’s been a great couple of months and you’re a great girl, but I have this new job in a new state and since long-distance relationships don’t work out, let’s just give up. Oh, but I’d like to be your friend because I respect you and all that. I’ll write and call and it will be great – just great.’" He put up his hands as though to stop her, but she barged ahead, "Well you know what, Glen? Let me save you some time and energy and just end it for you right now. How’s that for tying up loose ends before you go to Kansas? I can just see your To Do list now: sublet apartment, check, give troopers two weeks notice, check, break up with girlfriend, check."

She picked up her purse and turned to go, fury emanating from her in waves. In a steely voice that gave off no emotion, she added, "Best of luck in your new job. I’m sure you’ll be very happy."

She’d successfully fought the urge to look back over her shoulder as she’d stormed out of the restaurant and the full effect of her actions hadn’t hit her until she’d pulled up behind Walker’s Ram in the driveway where she now sat. The primary emotion she felt at that moment was pure shock at what she’d done and what had resulted from it – she’d broken up with Glen. And close behind the shock came the pain, a wave of it so sharp that she felt as though she was bleeding from a dozen wounds. Swallowing twice, she finally mustered the strength to climb out of the car and enter the house.

Walker and Alex were sitting side by side on the couch, sharing the evening newspaper and they looked up when Rebecca entered.

"You’re early," Walker commented cheerfully before noticing her expression and switching to a concerned tone. "What happened?"

Rebecca paused in the doorway, gathered her breath and said with great care, "As of tonight, Glen and I are no longer seeing each other. And no, I don’t want to talk about it. Good night."

It took everything she had not to break down as she spoke the words and once she had climbed the stairs to her bedroom, emotion overcame her and she collapsed onto her bed, sobs racking her body. Flashes of memory came to her then as she remembered doing the same thing upon learning of David’s death. Yet somehow what she was feeling at this moment was different – and far more acute. She had felt as though her heart had been ripped out when David had been killed and thought that nothing else would ever hurt so badly, yet as she cried for Glen, she could not help but realize that the pain was worse. Perhaps it was because David’s death had been so final – it was out of her hands and she knew that she would never see him again. Glen, on the other hand, would still be out there somewhere even though they weren’t together. He would be living and laughing and undoubtedly falling in love with someone else – and that was very possibly what hurt worst of all. In one giant wave of words, she had removed Glen from her life – why? Was it because she didn’t think they could make things work at such a distance or was there something else?

Miserable and confused, she changed into her pajamas and put a CD on before curling up in bed. And as she tried to make sense of things, the words of one of the songs caught her attention:

Tell me you’ve had trouble sleeping,

That you toss and turn from side to side,

That it’s my face you’ve been seeing in your dreams at night.

Tell me that you wake up crying

And you’re not sure exactly why.

Tell me that something is missing in your life – in your life, baby.

Tell me that you live for love,

That forever is never enough,

That you’ve waited all your life to see,

That you want so badly to believe -

Tell me that it’s not just me.

I could of sworn I saw you smile at me

Standing in the pouring rain (in the pouring rain).

At loss for words and running out of time

I said this crazy thing – crazy thing I said:

Tell me that you live for love,

That forever is never enough,

That you’ve waited all your life to see,

That you want so badly to believe -

Tell me that it’s not just me.

Hold me now and tell me

That you do believe in a soul – a soulmate.

Tell me! Tell me! Tell me!

Tell me that you live for love,

That forever is never enough,

That you’ve waited all your life to see,

That you want so badly to believe -

Tell me that it’s not just me.

And as the last notes faded, she realized the truth: it wasn’t that she was afraid of the strain of a long-distance relationship, but rather that she couldn’t imagine her life without Glen right there in tangible form every day. They’d known each other for such a short time, and yet in that time he had become such a reliable presence that she couldn’t picture things without him there all the time – and what’s more, she didn’t want to.

"I’m in love with him," she said aloud, as though to confirm it. And then, as though to reason with herself, she sat up and said, "And if I’m in love with him, I should be willing to do whatever it takes to keep us together, even if that means putting up with a long-distance relationship."

Standing, she grabbed a sweatshirt off her nearby desk chair and threw open her bedroom door. It was late, but she knew Glen would probably still be up and she didn’t want to call. The things she needed to say deserved to be delivered in person.

She was startled, then, to see him in the living room talking with her aunt and uncle as she stepped off the bottom stair. He stood as soon as he caught sight of her and looked a bit nervous – though she couldn’t blame him after her earlier behavior.

"I was just coming to see you," she said by way of greeting.

Walker and Alex made a move to leave and the Ranger paused by his niece as they exited to say, "He’s a good man, Rebecca, and he has something to say to you."

The couple started up the stairs and Rebecca turned to Glen. "So why are you here? I mean, besides to chastise me for my total lack of good behavior at dinner."

"I came to finish what I was saying earlier," he told her with a wry smile.

"I am so sorry," she told him solemnly. "I had a bad day that capped off a bad week and your news was the icing on the cake. I’ll try not to let it happen again."

"Apology accepted," he took her hands and they moved to sit on the sofa facing each other. "What I wanted to say earlier, was that even though we’ve only been together for a few short months, I feel like I’ve known you forever. I don’t know what it is, but I just feel connected to you in a way that I’ve never been connected to another person before. Do you know what I’m talking about?"

"Yeah," she nodded. "I feel the same way."

"I’m glad," he smiled nervously, "because that way maybe what I’m about to say won’t seem like it’s coming out of left field. I’ve already spoken with your aunt and uncle and they didn’t seem to think it was out of line."

"Didn’t think what was out of line?" she wanted to know.

"I love you, Rebecca Walker," Glen told her. "I love you and I knew I couldn’t just go to Kansas and leave you here in Texas."

"I love you too, but are you saying you want me to move to Kansas?" Rebecca was perplexed.

"Actually yes," he replied. "I want you to move to Kansas because I want you to marry me."

"You what?" the words were a shriek.

Glen sank onto one knee in front of her and pulled a ring box seemingly out of nowhere. "Rebecca Walker, will you marry me?"

Rebecca was speechless. The ring he held before her was a simple square cut diamond on a platinum band but she glanced over it quickly, her eyes instead coming to rest on his. There, she saw everything she was looking for – love, respect, trust, and hope. And in the eyes of Glen Cooper, she also saw her future.

"I would love to marry you," she told him, leaning forward to give him a kiss.

And as his arms went around her, she felt that all was right with the world.

*

The next week was a whirlwind for Rebecca and Glen, as well as the members of their immediate families. It was decided that the couple would be married in a week’s time, leaving a few short days for a honeymoon before Glen was to report to Fort Leavenworth for his first day of work. Rebecca would stay in Texas to graduate with her class. She had also been in contact with the Fort Leavenworth Police Department and had interviewed with them over the phone for an open spot in their canine unit – a job which she was thrilled to receive from them two days later. She would begin her training as soon as she returned from her honeymoon – and ironically, that training would be in Dallas. She would head to the canine training center and stay there for six weeks while learning to work with her dog. It would keep her away from Glen for a while longer, but it was a good job and one that she looked forward to doing. That loose end tied up, she was able to dedicate her full concentration to planning her wedding – a simple ceremony in the Walkers’ backyard with only a few close friends and family members present.

Walker had the unfortunate task of throwing a slight wrench into the works later in the week, however. He was forced to send Sydney and Gage out on an undercover assignment as members of a motorcycle gang who were being investigated for dealing crystal meth. The pair hoped to be back in time for the wedding, but as with all such assignments, the timing was never certain. It would take a few days for them to fully infiltrate the gang and gain the members’ trust and then additional time to get enough evidence to conduct a bust. Yet in the end, it was Glen and his partner who helped the Rangers gain the access they needed – though it wasn’t planned at the time.

Rebecca was in the Company B office going over a few last-minute details with her uncle when Gage’s call came in. She heard her uncle promise the young Ranger that something would be taken care of and that he shouldn’t worry and when Walker hung up the phone, she looked at him with concern.

"What’s going on?" Rebecca asked.

"Gage and Sydney are going to be initiated into the gang today," he told her grimly.

"Uh-oh," she said. "What do they have to do?"

"Commit murder," he shook his head, the internal wheels straining to crank out an idea that would accomplish the task and yet bring harm to no one. Suddenly, something seemed to come to him and he looked directly at his niece. "Where are Glen and his partner today?"

"Way out in the boonies," she shrugged. "Although he’s supposed to be on his way back to help me pick out our wedding cake in an hour. Why?"

"Perfect," Walker picked up the phone and began dialing.

"Wait a minute," Rebecca watched him listen to the rings on the other end. "Are you going to let Gage kill my fiance three days before my wedding?"

Walker ignored her protest – though the look he shot Rebecca clearly said "Do you have a better idea?" Glen was apparently quick to answer his phone because the Ranger began speaking rapidly, giving directions and telling the young trooper about the undercover operation. He concluded the conversation with, "And be careful."

"There are few things I would have liked to add," she told him as he cradled the phone.

"I know," he told her reassuringly. "But don’t worry – Gage and Sydney will make sure that he only looks dead. They’ll aim for his vest."

"Well, I guess a bruised fiance is better than no fiance at all," she said wryly.

"I wouldn’t stitch that one on a sampler," Trivette came up behind her and dropped some papers on Walker’s desk.

"I wasn’t planning on it," she chuckled, then added soberly, "Of course, I wasn’t planning on picking out a cake by myself either, but it looks like I’ll have to now."

"You getting nervous?" Trivette wanted to know.

"Who has time to be nervous?" she countered. "The planning leaves me absolutely no time for anything but making lists and scratching things off of them. Glen’s in charge of everything on the Kansas end and I’m in charge of everything here and if we’re lucky, we’ll get to see each other on Saturday."

"But Saturday’s your wedding," Trivette said.

"I know," she told him pointedly. Then with a glance at her watch, she blanched. "And speaking of schedules and lists and things, I have to get back out there and talk to a man about a cake. You’ll have to excuse me."

She bolted for the door and didn’t hear Trivette comment to Walker, "They grow up fast." She also didn’t hear her uncle’s reply of, "They certainly do."

*

Nervousness didn’t plague Rebecca until the morning of her wedding and then it wasn’t so much nerves as it was blatant fear. So much would change when she said the words "I do" and even though she knew in her heart that she and Glen would be fine, it didn’t stop the horde of butterflies from disturbing her concentration. A lunchtime phone call from her uncle didn’t help matters either when he informed Alex and Rebecca that the drug bust concerning Gage and Sydney’s undercover assignment was happening that afternoon and that he and Trivette had to be there.

"Are you saying that I need to postpone the wedding?" she asked him as calmly as she could manage.

"I hope not," he was attempting to sound reassuring but Rebecca could tell that he was speeding towards the scene and his attention was not fully on her.

"Me too," she finally said. "Be careful."

"I will," he clicked his cell phone off.

Rebecca turned quickly to her aunt and failed to keep her voice from shaking. In a television sitcom, the moment might even have been funny, but to Rebecca, it was of the gravest seriousness. "They’re going on a drug bust. I’m getting married today and they’re arresting a motorcycle gang before the ceremony." She gave a short, high laugh. "I should have known that I couldn’t pull this off without something like this happening. What is it with this family and criminals invading wedding ceremonies? All I want is to walk down the aisle and marry Glen – and have my uncle escort me there. Is that too much to ask?"

"It’ll be okay, sweetie," Alex pulled her into a hug, her pregnant belly making the embrace a bit awkward, but no less heartfelt.

"I hope you’re right," Rebecca sighed.

True to form, however, Walker made it just in time – although he cut it rather close for Rebecca’s sake. Her nerves were already on edge and she was on the verge of changing out of her simple white pantsuit in favor of track pants and a sweatshirt when he finally sped up the driveway and rushed upstairs to change into a suit and tie. And when he appeared in the doorway of Rebecca’s bedroom looking fearful of reproach, she instantly forgave him.

"I’ll see you two outside," Alex said, giving Rebecca one last hug and planting a kiss on her husband’s cheek.

"You’re late," Rebecca told him dryly, picking up her bouquet and walking over.

"You’re radiant," was his reply and she blushed.

"It’s not a wedding dress," she shrugged with no embarrassment, "but it was the best Alex and I could do on short notice – especially since I’m to tall for her wedding dress."

"You couldn’t look better," he stepped over to kiss her cheek.

"I’ll level with you, though," she looked him in the eye, "I’m scared to death, Uncle Cordell. Remember when I came and gave you that pep talk before you married Aunt Alex and I said all of that really inspirational stuff?"

He nodded and she continued, "Well, if you remember any of what I said, now would be a really good time to serve it back up. Please?"

Walker chuckled slightly and pulled his niece into a hug. Then he pulled her over to sit on the bed and grabbed her desk chair so that he could sit facing her. Holding her hands in his own, he told her, "The most important thing you told me that day was that I was doing the right thing because I was seizing love when it was right in front of me. And that’s what you’re doing now – you’re seizing love. When Glen came and asked my permission to marry you, I’ll be honest, my initial reaction was to say no because you’re both so young. On top of that, you’re both entering a terribly dangerous line of work and it’s not out of line to assume that one of you may one day be killed in the line of duty. Yet after I gave it a moment’s thought, your words came back to me and that’s when I saw that this was the right decision for the two of you. You love each other a great deal and to make you wait until you’re ‘older and wiser’ to get married could take away precious time that you could be spending together. So seize love, Rebecca, and marry Glen today."

"Wow," Rebecca breathed. "I’m good at pep talks, aren’t I?"

"The best," he smiled. His face grew somber, though, as he added, "I’m going to miss you when you’re in Kansas."

"It doesn’t even seem real that I’m moving yet," she shook her head. "I’m going to miss you like crazy. I mean, it’s not all that far, but I just never pictured myself moving away from you."

"You weren’t all that thrilled when you moved in here, though," he reminded her.

"I was seven and scared out of my mind," she said. "Now I know better and we’re so much closer." She paused to wipe away a few tears that had gathered at the corners of her eyes. "Of course, it’s not like you’ll have time to miss me once that new baby comes…"

"Oh yes I will," he insisted. Then he stood and held out his arm for her to take. As they walked out the door and down the stairs, he told her, "On the bright side, as long as you’re working in Kansas and your last name is Cooper, you won’t have to put up with people making assumptions about your abilities based on your relationship to me."

"You knew?" she looked at him in surprise.

He shrugged. "I had a suspicion that something like that might happen to you. But you and Glen have solved that problem all by yourselves." They had stepped onto the back porch and were in sight of the group gathered near one of the large trees, under which Glen and the justice of the peace stood, waiting. Walker stopped and said, "You’re all grown up now and you don’t need me anymore. You can take care of your own problems."

"I’ll always need you," she told him emphatically with a warm squeeze of her hand on his arm.

He smiled at this, heartened, and asked, "Are you ready?"

Rebecca was about to reply when Sydney and Gage came running around the corner of the house, clad from head to toe in black leather. Gage was still sporting a black do rag on his head and Sydney’s ponytail was bound in black leather, her eyes shielded with sunglasses. The pair caught sight of Walker and Rebecca at the foot of the porch steps and mouthed apologies as they skittered into their spots near Trivette and Alex. They stood, chests heaving, and Rebecca exchanged a look and a laugh with Glen, who shrugged, before turning back to her uncle.

"I’m sorry, did you just ask me something?" she asked casually, smoothing a stray tendril of hair away from her face.

"Nevermind," Walker smiled and led her forward.

The ceremony was brief but incredibly tender as Rebecca Walker and Glen Cooper pledged to love and honor each other until parted by death. And as the justice of the peace announced them to be husband and wife, a cheer went up, its timing coinciding with their kiss.

Later, as music played in the background and the guests ate cake and chatted, Rebecca and Glen were finally able to inquire about the circumstances surrounding Sydney and Gage’s auspicious entrance.

"We are so sorry," Sydney told them sincerely.

Glen held up a hand. "The only reason you would have to apologize would be if you’d missed it."

"Syd came real close to completely missing a lot more," Gage chimed in. "The gang leader tried to blow her up and I had to go in and get her. That’s why we were late, actually – she had to get checked out at the hospital."

"Oh my gosh, Sydney!" Rebecca gasped. "Are you okay?"

"I’m fine," the Ranger replied. "I have a huge bump on the back of my head from being knocked out and some scratches from where Gage dropped me in the weeds after he got me out, but I’ll heal quickly."

"Hey, I’m sorry about the scratches, but I did save your life," Gage said, miffed.

"I didn’t say I wasn’t grateful," Sydney argued with her partner. "However, you could have set me down a bit more gently after we got out."

"If that’s your idea of gratitude, you can keep it, Shorty," Gage retorted, inciting a verbal sparring match with his partner.

Rebecca took her new husband’s hand and pulled him away, both chuckling at the antics of the pair.

"They’re something else," he shook his head.

"They can’t help it," she said. "They’re in love."

"You think?" he looked at her disbelievingly.

"I know," she nodded. "They’re just too afraid to admit it to each other. They don’t know what you and I know."

"Oh yeah?" he pulled her into his arms. "What’s that?"

She grew sober. "That you have to seize love when it’s in front of you because it can be taken away so quickly."

"You won’t lose me," he told her. "I promise you."

"And I intend to hold you to it," she smiled briefly before growing solemn again and adding, "But it’s a crazy world we live in, Glen. I mean, one day you’re in a relationship with someone and the next they’re killed in a car crash. Or you’re a terrific cop and all of a sudden you’re framed for a crime you didn’t commit and holding a group of innocent people hostage." His eyebrow raised at that, but she plunged ahead. "Or, you meet someone and fall in love only to learn that they’re taking a new job in a different state. Life changes so fast and you have to grab the


Chapter 15 – Reel Love

Thank you so much for all of your support! I’m misty! <<wipes tear from corner of her eye>> <<shakes it off>> Okay! This chapter centers on the episode "Reel Rangers" with a flashback to "Without a Sound." As promised, Rebecca’s going to attempt to counsel Sydney and Gage (‘cause goodness knows they need help!) Read on…

She was scared that they were in over their heads. What had begun as a trip to a charity motorcycle ride had somehow become police supervision for a very low budget movie about vampire bank robbers. Rebecca glanced at herself in the postage stamp of a mirror inside the closet of a motel bathroom as she brushed her teeth and saw that one eyebrow was quirked the way it always did whenever she didn’t believe something. In this case, what she didn’t believe was how they’d gotten themselves into this situation in the first place.

That morning, she, Glen, Gage, Sydney, and Trivette had been quietly riding along on their bikes on their way to the event when they’d come upon what looked like a real bank robbery in a small town. Granted, the robbers were clad in black and sporting fangs, but robbery was robbery no matter how dumb the crooks looked so the Rangers and Rebecca and Glen had intervened. Gage, Sydney, and Trivette had each split up in order to chase individual robbers and Rebecca and Glen (who were sharing a motorcycle) had sped off towards a public park after the straggler of the group. Together, the five had made quick work of the crooks – especially when they’d found out that they were, in fact, actors and not actual criminals. Yet instead of being able to remount their bikes and leave in an embarrassed cloud of exhaust, they’d been roped into staying by the movie’s director – who wanted them to re-enact everything they’d just done so he could preserve it on film. Later, they discovered he didn’t have real police guarding the set and that the lead actress was being stalked, raising some suspicions and prompting them to stay and investigate further.

Rebecca and Sydney had been hard to convince to stay. They’d been eager to go as soon as they’d seen the looks the lead actress began shooting at their respective husband and partner – though Rebecca’s problem was shorter-lived once Glen’s wedding band had winked cheerfully in the sunlight. Still, even the two women had to admit that something else was amiss with the film and eventually agreed with Trivette, Gage, and Glen that they should stick around and get to the bottom of it – even if that meant following the cast and crew to Mexico the next day. Thus, Rebecca now found herself sharing the world’s smallest motel room with Sydney and feeling sorry for the men, who would be splitting a room of similar size between the three of them.

Sydney was shuffling through her motorcycle saddlebags for her own toiletries when Rebecca emerged from the bathroom, pajama-clad.

"Don’t try to turn around in there," she told Sydney cynically as she went over to investigate her lumpy mattress.

"And I thought roughing it for us this weekend was supposed to mean sleeping bags on the ground," the wiry Ranger responded as she tentatively entered the space.

"I’d kill for sleeping bags on the ground right now," Rebecca winced as she seated herself on the bed. "At least I’d have Glen to cushion mine."

Syd poked her head out. "I’m sorry about this Rebecca – I know you and Glen were looking forward to having a nice weekend together since you haven’t seen each other in two weeks."

Rebecca shrugged and gave her an appeasing smile. "It’s okay. I’m kind of used to not seeing him all the time since his job started."

"How did he manage to get a weekend off so soon?" Sydney asked around a mouthful of toothpaste.

Rebecca grinned. "He’s not actually off-duty. His captain wants him to pick up a federal prisoner on Monday and escort him back to Fort Leavenworth on Tuesday – although he specifically gave Glen the assignment on account of me. I think he has a soft spot for us since our wedding and honeymoon all happened so fast and now we’re living apart until I finish my canine training."

"That’s sweet," Sydney gargled and spit, then emerged from the bathroom, snapping the light off behind her.

"I think so," Rebecca blushed.

Sydney seated herself on the opposite bed and smiled warmly at the younger woman. "You’re a lucky girl, Rebecca."

"I pinch myself every day," she replied sincerely. Then, feeling the imminent approach of an awkward silence, she changed subjects. "So do you think we should go see how the guys are managing or leave them to their own devices?"

Sydney shook her head indecisively. "I’m sure Trivette and Glen are fine and Gage is probably off protecting that actress from monsters in her closet."

The last few words were spat rather than spoken and Rebecca was briefly taken back. Her eyes wide, she said, "Easy there, Syd – I think you’re eyes are turning green."

"Green?" Sydney looked up, confused. Then she realized Rebecca’s meaning and gave a derisive snort. "Hardly. I just wish he’d learn to think with his brain, that’s all. It’s embarrassing."

Rebecca chuckled. "You do give him a hard time, don’t you?"

Sydney looked a bit uncomfortable and finally said, "It’s not that I don’t care about him…"

"I know that," Rebecca interrupted her. "I do. I just don’t think you give him enough credit sometimes."

"Easy for you to say," Sydney said knowingly. "You and Gage have a very comfortable relationship."

"Comfortable, huh?" Rebecca quirked an eyebrow in her direction.

"Yeah," Sydney affirmed. "You relate to each other really well – there’s no pretension, no visible working at it; you just coexist."

Rebecca shrugged, the expression on her face revealing that she’d never thought about it that way before. "I guess we do have quite a bit in common. Losing your parents at a young age tends to bond people pretty quick."

"There’s more than that," Sydney told her firmly. "I mean, when he lost his hearing you were the one who got through to him when he was ready to tear me to shreds. Remember – that night at dinner?"

Rebecca did remember – she’d stopped by with a gift for Gage, who’d been rendered deaf by an explosion, and had walked in on the pair ready to embroil themselves in a full-scale verbal battle. What had started it, she wasn’t sure, but she had quickly pulled Gage over to the sofa as Sydney announced while flinging her hands to the sky in exasperation, "I’m going out for some fresh air."

"Did you have to be so rough on her?" Rebecca had asked the burly Ranger through his handheld speech-reading device.

There was a pause while he read the words on the screen, then he looked back at her. "Me? Rough on her? She’s acting like I’m an invalid, Rebecca!"

"Why are you yelling at me?" Rebecca demanded, not afraid to get in his face. "I’m just the one who walked into the middle of your little discussion – don’t shoot the messenger."

He calmed. "I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to take it out on you."

"Just like you didn’t mean to take it out on her?" she looked at him knowingly.

He snorted and she knew she’d hit upon the truth. Her tone softened, "I know you’re frustrated by this whole thing, but she’s just trying to help you. She’s your partner, Gage – she’s supposed to have your back in every situation and this one isn’t any different. I mean, look at this – she cooked you dinner." Rebecca gestured with her arm to the spaghetti dinner on the table.

"How do you know that I didn’t cook that?" he asked, offended.

Rebecca rolled her eyes and gave him a look that said, "Let’s be serious, shall we?"

Gage backed down. "Okay, so she cooked me dinner." As an afterthought and as though to make up for his lack of cooking skills, he added, "But I cleaned my apartment."

Rebecca smiled. "Duly noted. But if I may get us back on track, will you please go easy on Sydney? She cares about you – a lot. You should have seen her at the hospital, Gage – she was really scared for you."

"She was, huh?" he said, half to himself.

"Yeah," Rebecca nodded. "So maybe – and don’t be mad at me for saying this – you should haul yourself up out of the pity pool that you’re wallowing in and let her help you. I have a feeling it’ll make you both feel better."

"Pity pool?" Gage repeated. Rebecca stared at him hard and he relented. "I just didn’t want Syd feeling sorry for me."

"Well, if it’s any consolation," Rebecca’s tone brightened, "I don’t feel sorry for you at all."

"Oh yeah?" he countered.

"Not a bit," she told him. "What I wouldn’t give for a moment of silence these days."

Gage laughed, then gestured to the bright red bag she’d brought with her. "So what’s in the bag?"

"Oh that," Rebecca suddenly remembered that she had it with her. She held it out to him and he pulled out a gray teddy bear wearing a felt cowboy hat and a vest bearing a Texas Ranger star.

"A teddy bear?" Gage was confused.

"It’s my Ranger Bear," she gave him a small smile. "Uncle Cordell gave it to me when I was seven and I used to get scared sometimes. He said Ranger Bear would take care of me and if I was ever feeling scared, I should just hold onto him." She looked a bit embarrassed as she continued, "I figured maybe you’d like to borrow him for a while – I mean, we all get scared sometimes and it’s nice to have something to hold onto."

Gage grasped her meaning, she could tell, and had hugged her tightly in thanks. And by the time Sydney had walked back in, calm once again, Rebecca was sure that Gage’s spirits were lifted because he’d gone right over to give his partner a hug and tell her thank you for the dinner. Sydney had looked at Rebecca as though she was some sort of miracle worker – the same look that Rebecca was getting from the dark-haired Ranger right now.

Stumbling for an explanation for her success at reaching Gage and deciding to leave out the part about the teddy bear, Rebecca finally settled on, "That was just me being in the right place at the right time – I was purely a referee in that situation. Any unbiased third party negotiator could have done the same thing."

Her words sounded weak even to her own ears and she could tell that Sydney thought the same thing. Hastily, she plunged ahead, "Look, Syd, I think you underestimate your own connection with Gage. I mean, you guys talk without words half the time – you just follow each other’s lead. That’s pretty connected, wouldn’t you say? And I don’t think you’d be so worried your feelings weren’t so complicated…"

She trailed off, shocked that she’d actually said those words out loud and she watched Sydney’s eyebrows arch in surprise.

"How are my feelings complicated?" Sydney demanded.

"Well, when I say complicated," Rebecca hedged, "I don’t mean in any…"

"Rebecca!" Sydney’s voice was sharp.

Rebecca gulped. She’d seen Sydney interrogate prisoners before and the lithe Ranger’s face had just taken on the expression she wore on such occasions. Weakly, she decided to just lay her cards on the table.

"I saw you kiss him after Uncle Cordell and Aunt Alex’s plane landed safely," she admitted, watching Sydney’s face turn red at the memory. "And I’ve noticed things since then – like the look on your face when that Laura woman kissed him and the way you reacted when Buzz the computer hacker called him Handsome. Then there was the popcorn fight at the H.O.P.E. Center fundraiser and the way he was checking you out in your leathers when you were undercover with that motorcycle gang. Plus you were pretty nervous and excited about going to his high school reunion with him."

"I’m sure there’s a point in there somewhere," Sydney said in a leading tone.

"I just think that maybe things are complicated between you because you’re not being entirely truthful about your feelings," Rebecca concluded in the most innocent tone she could muster.

"You’re saying that I’m in love with Gage," Sydney’s tone dripped disbelief.

"If it helps, I’m pretty sure he’s in love with you too," Rebecca offered a tentative smile.

Sydney fell back dramatically on the bed, her knees up and arms shielding her face. After a few moments, she spoke, her voice more insecure than Rebecca had ever heard it. "I wish you could understand how scary it is, Rebecca."

Rebecca snorted. "Oh, but I think I do."

Sydney glanced at her sideways. "Excuse me? Who just married the man of her dreams and has it all together?"

"Hey, that doesn’t mean the idea didn’t scare me to death," Rebecca protested. "I had to have Uncle Cordell give me a pep talk just to get me out the door so I could walk down the aisle! Heck, I’m still scared – Glen and I have vowed to be together until death do us part and so much could happen before we get there."

"So why did you do it?" Sydney wanted to know.

Rebecca’s tone was thoughtful. "I guess because I was more afraid of what would happen if I didn’t go ahead with it." She paused and gave a rueful smile. "If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my two decades on this earth, it’s that you can’t always trust that the people you love will be around forever. You can’t even always put faith in them being there tomorrow. First I lost my parents, then David, then CD, and I can’t even count the number of times I’ve come close to losing my uncle – I wasn’t going to lose Glen and not have seized every possible moment with him possible." She chuckled, then added, "Granted, we’re not exactly spending a lot of moments together since we got married, but just making the promise to stay together out loud and having it legally bound helps until we can actually live in the same state."

"You don’t have to work alongside him, though," Sydney pointed out.

"True," Rebecca agreed. "That has to be hard."

Sydney made a noise that Rebecca interpreted as affirmative, then said, "What we have right now is so good that I can’t help but feel that it would be crazy to ask for more. Besides, I’d be afraid to lose this if things didn’t work out."

"I don’t blame you," Rebecca said. She hesitated briefly, then asked, "But is that the real reason you don’t tell Gage how you feel or is there something else?"

"Like what?" Sydney sat up.

Rebecca shrugged. "Well, in the academy they used to tell all of the female cadets about how hard it is to be a woman in what is, essentially, a male-dominated field and about how to be well-respected, you basically have to not show your soft side. Granted, they didn’t put it exactly like that, but that was the gist of it. To apply it to this situation, Gage thinks you’re tough and you’re afraid that if you show him any emotion he might think less of you."

Sydney’s expression showed that Rebecca had hit home and she took a moment to internalize the words before she spoke. Even then, however, she gave nothing away, her tone ambiguous. "Could be."

"I’ve said too much tonight anyway," Rebecca said, her words ringing with finality. She pulled her feet under the covers and prepared to turn out the light.

"Oh, come on Rebecca," Sydney’s tone became light and teasing, "you haven’t revealed everything you know – like the secret to Gage’s recipe for eggplant parmesan."

Rebecca felt her face blanche. "What about it?"

"I don’t know," Sydney shrugged and pulled her own feet under the covers. "Maybe you should mention that it actually comes from Gino’s."

"You knew, huh?" Rebecca smiled.

"Oh yeah," Sydney grinned.

Rebecca snapped off the light and laid her head onto her pillow – which was even lumpier than the mattress if that was possible. "Good night, Syd."

"Good night, Rebecca," came the reply. "And thanks – you’ve given me a lot to think about."

"Well don’t think too long," Rebecca said wryly. "We have a big day tomorrow in Vampire Village."
"Oh don’t remind me!" Sydney’s protest was muffled by her pillow.

*

Rebecca too wished that she could forget about Vampire Village the next morning as she climbed onto the motorcycle behind her husband for the trek down. Thankfully, Sydney and Gage provided an amusing distraction from the chaos that ensued on the movie set, as Rebecca watched how they related to each other and filled Glen in on her conversation with Sydney the previous night. Glen then took the opportunity to fill her in on some information about Gage, also from the night before.

"She kissed him!" Rebecca tried to keep her voice down as she sat beneath a large tree watching the film crew do close-up shots of the movie’s leads. Gage would be filling in as the stunt double for the male lead and his shot was coming up soon.

"Yep," Glen nodded, having just revealed that the lead actress had met Sydney’s suspicions and come onto the handsome Ranger.

"What did he do?" Rebecca demanded.

"He left," Glen sounded a bit surprised.

Rebecca instantly calmed. "Uh-huh. I was right."

"Is this about them being in love again?" he asked her.

"Maybe," she hedged.

"Rebecca," his voice was only half stern, "are you sure that you’re not meddling where you shouldn’t be?"

"We’re not even married a month and you’re already turning into Desi Ricardo on me," she frowned. In her best Cuban accent, she added, "Lucy, you got some ‘splainin’ to do!"

Glen chuckled. "Point taken."

Rebecca gave him a quick kiss. "I’m sorry. I just wish those two would see what’s right in front of their faces and do something about it. I can’t help it – I want them to be as happy as we are."

"No one is that happy," he gave her a knowing smile and leaned in for a longer kiss.

"I’ll have to agree with you there," she said when they parted. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Gage mount the motorcycle and pointed for Glen’s benefit. "Look!"

"No," he corrected her and pointed in a different direction. "Look!"

Rebecca turned and saw Sydney approaching Gage – obviously dressed to be a stunt double as well. She would be riding behind Gage on the bike and if looks could kill, Rebecca had a feeling that the entire movie crew would be lying dead on the ground. Her appearance was too much for Rebecca, however, who burst into peals of laughter at the sight. Glen joined in and they barely stopped in time to watch the scene through eyes streaming with hysterical tears.

The stunt was an easy one for two experienced bikers of Sydney and Gage’s caliber and Rebecca and Glen quickly moved over to meet them when they finished. The four planned to join up with Trivette and spend the rest of the day getting to the bottom of whatever was going on behind the scenes so that they could return to Texas and salvage the rest of their weekend.

As Gage cut the engine on the bike and Sydney prepared to dismount, Rebecca heard him tell her in a tone that was half-joking and half companionable, "You know, Syd, I kind of like having you on the back of my bike."

Rebecca’s eyes quickly shot to Sydney’s face, waiting for her reaction. It was moments like these when the two resorted to verbal sparring and it would only take one careless word from the petite Ranger to set things in motion. Yet as Rebecca watched, Sydney seemed to hesitate and think before she responded. And when she did, her response was rather surprising.

Swinging her leg over the bike, she rested her hand on Gage’s shoulder a bit longer than she needed to and said in a voice that was softer than normal – even warm: "Yeah, well don’t get used to it – I’ve got my own bike."

If Gage was surprised that she didn’t get upset, he didn’t show it. Instead, he gave a smile and a small nod, accepting her show of emotion, no matter how imperceptible it was.

Glen noticed the change too and whispered to his wife, "You’re good."

"I know," she told him. "Now let’s just hope that Gage doesn’t go and mess things up."

Rebecca’s words unfortunately turned out to be prophetic as the five prepared to leave Mexico later on. Thanks to a little help from Walker – who’d been pulled off of baby room painting duty – the film’s producer was arrested for dealing drugs and everyone was able to go home. Yet the movie’s star requested one last private word with Gage, causing Rebecca’s stomach to churn nervously. She’d seen similar things happen before with women that Gage had helped and she had a feeling it was about to happen again, though she willed it not to. Still, she wasn’t very surprised at all to see the two lock lips a few seconds later.

"Oh boy," she groaned, eyes rolling skyward as she watched the two. Glen’s arm went around her in consolation and she glanced at their other two companions. Jimmy was laughing his head off and Sydney had a look of unadulterated shock on her face, brown eyes wide open.

"Looks like you’ve got a bit more work ahead of you," Glen said as he put on his helmet and climbed aboard their bike.

"Oh yeah," Rebecca agreed.

She was heartened, however, by what happened next. As Gage prepared to get on his bike, Sydney commented to him, "That was some kiss."

Rebecca could have kissed Gage herself for what he said in reply: "I’ve had better."

There was hope for them yet and Rebecca noted that Sydney, though she tried not to show it, looked quite pleased with his words as well.

With a small smile, she pulled on her helmet and swung up behind Glen. Wrapping her arms comfortably around him, she reveled in how right it felt to her and prayed that her two friends would come to see that they had something very similar directly in front of them. Still, Rome wasn’t built in a day – and if they took after her aunt and uncle, it would be a wait of approximately seven years. But they’d get there one way or another – and if they didn’t, Rebecca would be standing by to give them another push.

Whew! "Reel Rangers" was an exhausting episode for me to watch and even more exhausting to write about. I’m glad I did, though – the line about "Don’t get used to it, I’ve got my own bike" was one of my favorites and I wondered why Sydney was so nice about it to Gage when usually she’d use it to start sparring. Thanks to this story, I got to provide the reason why – yippee!

Anyway, if you’re keeping track of our episodes, you know that "The Final Show/Down" is next, meaning we’re nearly to the end. It’s been a great ride, though, and I couldn’t have done it (or is that, wouldn’t have done it?) without all of your wonderful reviews. Thank you and stay tuned!


Chapter 16 – Moving On

Well, it’s finally happened: we’ve come to the end of our tale. I have to say, I’m kind of sad to let go of Rebecca – she’s been completely fun to write about. Still, it’s time to move on (which Rebecca realizes better than anyone – as you’ll soon see). So thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to my kind and supportive reviewers for everything – you made this all possible. And with that, I’ll leave you to say your good-byes to Rebecca as we enter the episode "The Final Show/Down."

She was scared to leave. She wasn’t sure why – it wasn’t as though she had never moved away from home or that she was never coming back. Still, there was a distinct finality to the sound of ripping tape as she secured the last cardboard box containing mementos of her childhood. And when the last edge was sealed, she sat Indian-style on the floor of her bedroom at the Walker ranch, listening to the quiet and giving the walls one last glance. Glen would be there soon to pick her up – he’d gone over to visit his mother while she packed, giving her some space to think – and Walker and Alex were expected anytime with their new baby daughter. The late afternoon sun was stretching its orange rays across the sky as it slid towards evening and Rebecca reflected on what had been a whirlwind week that had resulted in enormous changes for everyone.

Jimmy had created the first stir at the Alex’s baby shower at the Walker ranch the previous Sunday. Erika, an old girlfriend who had recently moved back to Dallas, had been his date for the occasion and sometime between the time when they’d slipped off alone to talk and when they came running over to share the news, he had asked her to marry him. The rest of the group had been seated in lawn chairs and were busy discussing the latest evidence of Gage having a hollow leg that filled with food at every meal: the triple decker burger he’d constructed for lunch.

Sydney was teasing her partner about it and receiving a quick-witted series of comebacks when Jimmy and Erika breathlessly announced their plans.

"Congratulations!" everyone shouted at once, hugs and handshakes going around.

With only mild cynicism, Rebecca had wanted to know, "Is there something in the water around here that makes people spontaneously decide to get married?"

"I wish," Gage had muttered to her as he passed by to shake Jimmy’s hand.

Glen caught the Ranger’s words and shot Rebecca a look that clearly said, "Yikes!" to which she responded with a smile and a shrug before leaning over to give Erika a hug.

Yet the engagement nearly ended a few days later when Jimmy was wounded in the line of duty. The Rangers were searching for a man who had a vendetta against Company B and whom Walker had believed to be dead, Lavocat. Yet he’d revealed himself to be very much alive when he’d made an attempt on Trivette’s life – and when he’d suggested to Walker that perhaps CD’s death had not been a heart attack after all. Rebecca had not taken that news well – losing CD had been bad enough without now learning that he may have been murdered. And so, in an attempt to make peace with her feelings, she had accompanied her uncle and his partner to the cemetery, watching as her friend’s coffin was lifted from the ground and remembering with Walker and Trivette the things that had made CD so dear in the first place. It had been while returning to the office that Jimmy had been attacked.

Rebecca remembered vividly the flushed, worried faces of her friends and family as they all waited for word that he would be all right. Worst of all was Erika, who was not only newly engaged to him, but who had never undergone such an ordeal before. The rest of the group had become sadly familiar with the routine over time and kept their vigil with fortitude and faith in Jimmy’s recovery.

Glen, in town to help Rebecca transport the last of her things to their new home in Kansas, was also somewhat new to the process. He had held Rebecca’s hand and tried to assure her that things would be fine in his calming way and, for the first time, she realized how much she had come to rely on him in the short period that they had been married. Upon hearing of Jimmy’s condition, her first thoughts had been of wanting him by her side for support. Yet in the back of her mind, she couldn’t help but wonder how she could possibly leave at such a time – a question brought more squarely into the forefront when, while they waited, Alex went suddenly into labor. As the doctors rushed her in for an emergency c-section, Rebecca watched her uncle’s face contort with fear and hurried to his side.

In a quiet corridor adjacent to Jimmy’s room, she sat beside him on a bench, gripping his hand in her own the way Glen had taken hers earlier.

"She’s going to be okay, Uncle Cordell," she said as emphatically as she could. "Alex is tough and this baby is bound to take after both of her parents and be the same way."

He shook his head in disbelief at his situation and told her, "Everything’s falling apart, Rebecca – first CD was murdered, then Trivette was attacked, and now I might lose Alex and the baby too."

Silently, Rebecca added, "And I’m moving away." Guilt for abandoning her uncle overwhelmed her and she said, "You’re not losing anyone. I promise."

And as they sat in silence, she asked herself if she must hold herself to that promise and not follow Glen to Kansas. He was her husband, yes, and he needed her. She’d vowed to be by his side for the rest of their lives – still, she couldn’t help but feel that she owed her uncle a far greater loyalty. It was Cordell Walker, after all, who had adopted her after her parents had died and it was he who had always been there for her, no matter how dire the situation. It seemed callous to even consider leaving him now, though she and Glen were scheduled to leave in a few days time. Walker had never left her side when she needed him but that was exactly what she was preparing to do now. It wasn’t right.

The guilt plagued her through the afternoon and into the evening while the group waited for news, any news. When it came, they learned that Jimmy’s condition was stable and Alex and the baby had both survived the surgery, yet no one was allowed to see any of them. Sydney and Gage finally left for the office to get some work done on the Lavocat case and Glen had gone with them to see if he could wrangle any additional help out of the Dallas ATF officers. Rebecca remained by her uncle’s side, as frozen in her guilt as he was in his fear.

Finally he turned to her and said, "You have to go to Kansas, you know."

Rebecca was confused at first, thinking that he had just remembered that she and Glen were leaving soon and had said it out loud. Yet then she grasped his meaning – the words were a command rather than an observation.

"I can’t go now," she protested in a mild, yet firm tone. "You need me here."

He shook his head wearily. "You can’t help me, Rebecca. Unless you have the power to bring Alex and the baby into perfect health, it won’t matter whether you’re here or in Kansas." As though sensing the pain his words could cause, he quickly added, "It’s not that I don’t want you here, though. I do – believe me. After all, it was you and me against the world for a long time. But you’re a grown-up now and you have responsibilities of your own to deal with – responsibilities that are in Kansas with Glen."

"But you always take care of me," she reminded him. "Why won’t you let me do that for you now?"

"Because you’re not a parent," he told her. "Parents are supposed to make sacrifices for their kids, not the other way around. You’ll understand what I mean one day and then maybe you’ll understand why I want you – no, I need you – to go to Kansas with Glen."

Rebecca felt a drizzle of tears on her cheeks. "It doesn’t seem fair."

"That’s because it isn’t," he sighed, draping an arm over her shoulders and pulling her closer. He planted a kiss on her forehead and repeated the words, almost to himself: "That’s because it isn’t."

As though to drive Walker’s point home, Rebecca’s cell phone rang a few moments later. Glen was on the other end of the line, requesting that she come pick him up from Company B office and asking after Alex and the baby.

"No change," she told him, adding, "I’ll be right there."

Walker gave her a nod of approval as she stood to leave. With a shake of her head, she told him, "I don’t agree with you, but I don’t think either of us are in a mood to argue tonight."

"Go with Glen," he said simply, Rebecca catching the double meaning with crystal clarity.

"Call me if you need anything," she said over her shoulder as she walked away.

Walker’s words stayed with her, though, as she rode up to the Company B office in the elevator and walked down the dim hall to the door. Inside, there was no sign of Glen and Sydney and Gage were staring at each other across their desks in an unusual manner. Momentarily confused, Rebecca took a reflexive step back.

"Is everything all right?" she asked nervously.

"Um, yeah," Gage was the first to recover from whatever had just occurred.

"Okay," she nodded dubiously. "Where’s Glen?"

"He ran down to the records room to look up one more thing," Sydney offered.

"I’ll head down and meet him there," Rebecca nodded.

As she entered the hall, she heard Gage follow her and turned. She asked, "What’s going on with you tonight?"

He looked a bit uncomfortable and, added to the tired lines on his face from the strain of the last few days; the expression made him look old. Rebecca was used to seeing him as a perpetual twelve-year-old, so the change was striking and she stepped instantly closer, concerned.

"There’s just a lot going on," he told her simply. "It’s pretty overwhelming."

"You can say that again," she agreed emphatically. "You’re not planning to move away in a few days."

"That’s right," realization crossed his face. "So you’re still going?"

Rebecca let out a disgusted sigh. "Let’s just say I have my marching orders."

He quirked a confused eyebrow in her direction and she continued, "Uncle Cordell doesn’t want me to stay on account of him and Alex and the baby. He says my responsibility is to Glen now."

Gage nodded sympathetically. "Doesn’t help the guilt, though, does it?"

"Not at all," she agreed. She sighed before adding, "I mean, I know where he’s coming from and it’s not that I don’t want to go with Glen – I really do, Gage. He’s my husband and I love him like crazy and I hate it when we’re not together because nothing feels right. But at the same time, in order to be with him, I have to abandon the man who rearranged his life to raise me at a time when he really needs support. Either way I go, someone is going to get let down – if I go with Glen, it’s Uncle Cordell and if I stay here, then Glen gets cheated out of having a wife, which has already been the case for the last month and a half."

"I’ll take you any way I can get you," Glen’s voice interrupted her from behind.

She turned. "You heard, huh?"

He nodded. "And I want you to know that whatever decision you make I’ll support."

She felt her knees go weak with admiration and love for him and gave a small smile. "I don’t deserve you."

He stepped closer and gave a devilish grin. "No, you don’t."

Rebecca leaned in to give him a kiss and realized at that moment that she had to go to Kansas. Walker had been right – she was an adult now and had adult responsibilities that she’d been putting off for long enough. First it was school, then her canine training, and if she were to stay to help her aunt and uncle she would only find yet another thing to hold her there unless she broke free now. Much as it hurt to leave, it was what she had to do.

Uncomfortable during their moment, Gage had begun to sneak away when Rebecca stopped him. "Gage!"

He turned. Rebecca handed her car keys to Glen and said, "I’ll be right there if you want to head out. I just have one thing to say to Gage."

He nodded and squeezed her hand affectionately before departing and Rebecca turned to her friend. She wasn’t sure what she was going to say until the words came out: "Look, I couldn’t help but notice that I kind of walked into the middle of something between you and Syd a minute ago…"

"It was nothing," he interrupted. "We were just talking about how hard it is when you think you might lose someone close to you. We were depressed – that’s all."

"Sure," Rebecca said in a disbelieving tone.

"We were!" he protested.

"Oh I believe that part," she insisted quickly. "I just think that there’s more to it than either of you will admit." She paused to gather her thoughts and had to take a deep breath before she spoke again. "Francis Gage, you are an incredible human being. I know we didn’t hit it off at first, but in the time that I’ve known you I’ve come to respect you as a Ranger and as a friend – which is why I feel comfortable saying this. Listen carefully because I don’t want to have to repeat it long-distance over the phone from Kansas, okay? Tell Sydney how you feel about her."

Gage opened his mouth to say something and she held up a hand to stop him. "I don’t care if you tell her that she’s the best friend you’ve ever had or if you say that she annoys you to no end with her stubbornness. It’s not about what you say; it’s just about saying what you feel. If there’s anything I’ve learned in my lifetime, short as it’s been so far, it’s that you can’t wait on these things. People come into your life and you take them for granted until you lose them and then there’s no way to tell them how much they meant to you. David knew – I used to tell him all the time – but I never got a chance to tell CD. And now Jimmy and Alex are both sick and there’s a lot I’d like to say to them. So don’t waste this opportunity, Francis – tell Sydney what you feel."

Gage was silent a moment, then said, "Why do I get the feeling that you just said your good-bye to me right here?"

She shrugged. "Maybe I did. I’ve always been pretty bad at them – mostly because I hate the finality of that word: ‘good-bye.’ But that’s not important here and you know it."

He smiled. "Point taken."

"Good," she returned his smile and leaned over to give him a hug. "I’ll see you at the hospital tomorrow."

"Good night, Rebecca," he said before turning to re-enter the Company B office.

What exactly Gage had finally said to Sydney – or if he’d even said anything at all – remained a mystery, though Rebecca assumed she’d find out soon enough. Smiling, she stood and picked up the box. Taking one last glance around her room, she stepped outside and closed the door behind her. Walker and Alex had created a nursery out of another bedroom in the ranch house, so Rebecca’s room was going to become a guest bedroom after her move. Alex had promised not to change too much around, but Rebecca knew that no matter how much it looked like her old bedroom, it would never quite be hers again.

She descended the stairs quickly and sat the box on the floor, going into the kitchen to grab her car keys off the table where she’d left them. On her way back to the foyer, she passed Walker’s portrait of Hayes Cooper hanging on the wall. Smiling, she thought back once again to the day of the barbecue when Gage had pointed it out and asked Walker if it was a picture of Cooper, whom he’d never seen before.

Walker had said yes and Rebecca, passing through with Glen on the way to get some more condiments from the kitchen, added, "I tell you, those Coopers are handsome men."

Yes, Glen was good-looking, she thought. But he was also smart and kind and the man of her dreams and he would be there any minute to take her to her new life – to their new life. It was a big step for both of them, their marriage and their careers, but somehow Rebecca knew they’d manage. And as she stepped onto the porch, she met her husband walking up the stairs.

"This it?" he asked, taking the box out of her hands.

"That’s it," she nodded. "The rest are already in my car."

She walked with him over to the 300M and held the door while he situated the box in the backseat with the others. As he righted himself, she looked over his shoulder to see Jimmy’s Mustang and Gage’s beat-up clunker pull into the drive.

"Looks like the gang’s all here," Glen observed.

"Almost," she corrected him as Walker’s Ram came down the road.

The group moved to congregate on the front porch, awaiting the Walkers’ entrance. Jimmy looked a bit worse for wear from his experience, but he was leaning on Erika and Rebecca noticed that he looked quite content. Gage and Sydney were standing a bit closer than usual, which she took as a good sign. Yet thoughts of everyone else fled her mind as she watched her aunt and uncle came up the walk with their tiny bundle.

"Everyone," Walker began as they cooed over the sweet cherub in his arms, "I’d like you to meet Angela Walker – my little angel."

Rebecca looked to her uncle’s face and felt her eyes lock on his for just a moment before he looked back down at his newborn daughter. But in that moment, she felt a peace wash over her. Everything had changed in the last week, that was for certain. Everything that Rebecca had known – her life with her uncle, her relationship with the people who made up her family – was different now and would never return to the way it was. She was no longer Walker’s child, the only one in his life and yet it somehow made her leaving okay. Certainly he would miss her, as she would miss him. But Angela would keep the void from being so large and all encompassing. She would assume a place in Walker’s heart that had previously only been occupied by Rebecca and, looking down into the sweet face, she knew that the little girl was more than up to the task of watching over her father as Rebecca had done for so long. Rebecca was moving on but Angela was there to pick up where she left off. The timing for Rebecca’s move to Kansas seemed perfect.

She felt Glen grasp her hand and leaned back against his comfortable bulk. He asked her softly, "Are you ready to go?"

"Oh yes," she replied with confidence. "I’m ready."

I couldn’t leave it at that, though. There’s a bit more…


Epilogue

Rebecca and Glen lived and worked in Kansas for six years. During that time, Glen became a well-respected ATF agent with outstanding credentials, more than living up to his family traditions. Rebecca, in turn, became known as one of the best canine handlers in the nation. She and her four-legged partner, a German Shepard named Houston, had a flawless arrest record and were said to work so closely together that they shared a sort of ESP. (When he heard of this, Trivette was said to have commented, "Sounds like that old Walker Cherokee to me.")

After their six years in Kansas, Glen was able to gain a position with the Texas Rangers in Dallas, taking up a space vacated in Company B when Walker was promoted to captain. He was quickly partnered with Gage, while Sydney was paired with Trivette. Rebecca seized this opportunity to finally convince Gage and Sydney to stop making excuses and get married the way they’d been promising to do for quite a while, since fraternization could no longer be an issue. (Due to what he referred to as her "meddling," Gage told Rebecca that she would be his first pick for best man, were she not female. Sydney resolved the situation by asking her to be matron of honor.)

Rebecca switched careers slightly upon her return to Dallas. As Houston had reached retirement age, she chose not to partner with a new dog and work for the Dallas PD, but rather to take a job as a canine instructor at the training school that she had graduated from. Her primary reason for doing so was to take the danger and crazy schedule out of her job so that she and Glen could start a family - which they did one year later when their son was born. They named him after important men in their lives – Cordell for Rebecca’s uncle and Daniel for Glen’s father. Yet in tribute to one more important figure for Rebecca, he was always called CD. A second son, Hayes Robert, followed a few years later.

Not surprisingly, Rebecca remained close to her uncle, sharing a connection and an understanding with him that outsiders could only marvel at. It was not unusual to see them on the front porch of the Walker ranch after Sunday dinner, watching the kids play in the yard and sitting on the porch swing in such a comfortable silence that it almost made one wonder if they were having silent conversation, speaking not with their mouths, but with their hearts.

FIN