Acknowledgement

I’m sure I speak for many when I say – Connie, thank you so much for creating this website.

You keep Walker alive!

I’m sure this must be a huge amount of work for you, but it’s appreciated probably a lot more than you’ll ever know.

Now I have a cell phone with access to the web and unlimited minutes, waiting in line is now pleasurable.  I just log on to your site and I’m happy reading away the time.

Thank you so much, and may the good Lord bless you!

Preface

It’s impossible to gauge just how much we directly and indirectly impact each other.

I’m very happily married to a really great guy, Steve, and we have just celebrated our thirty-third wedding anniversary. Shortly after we were granted Green Cards, we formed a video production company. We produce mostly corporate promos, Public Service Announcements and documentaries. I write most of the scripts.

The reason I have the confidence to write scripts, is because years ago, when W,TR was in it’s hey day and I was trying to have a storyline accepted for the show, it was W,TR fans, that kept me going and encouraged me.

I got closer than most to having a storyline accepted, and not as close as some, but I never gave up. What kept me going was all the wonderful mail I received after I submitted a short story and it was posted online. Your kindness and requests for more stories really lifted me, in what were then, the best of times and the worst of times, with regard to that portion of my goals. Many of you became close friends and still are today, many were strangers, but you all kept me writing!

Even now, I still can’t give up on my dream of writing a script for Walker, Texas Ranger. I had plenty of storylines for the show back then, and without fail, every week or so, another idea pops into my head! I have more stories than time. The powers that be haven’t said there’s not going to be another Walker Movie of The Week, and after that awful ending in the first one, if Sheree J.Wilson is still on contract, I desperately want to make Alex whole!

Is writing a corporate script as pleasurable as writing a Walker story?

No, LOL. However some rave reviews on a script I developed for a paint company last year did hold a certain amount of satisfaction LOL. It’s probably the one time I did enjoy watching paint dry LOL – but, hey, it’s a living, right?

We impact each other so much.

I was blessed to be on the set of Walker many times, and I watched how they all worked and how they interacted. The way in which the various creative departments came together, and pulled together, was fascinating. It developed my understanding of running a set. Everyone was really kind, too, and went out of their way to answer my many questions. They were terrific.

The first big shoot after we formed our production company was a promotion for a non-profit company, with forty-five crew, seventeen extras and one talent. One guy came up to me afterwards and commented that this was the best set he had worked on. I truthfully told him, “Everything I know, I learned from Walker, Texas Ranger!” LOL

 The time frame for this story is somewhere after Redemption, and before Swansong. It highlights the direct and indirect effect our actions have on each other.

Significant Exchanges

By Pam

PG1701@aol.com

The engines powered down as the 747 taxied and stopped.  Finally the thick outer doors of the aircraft opened and the passengers disembarked.

            “Wow, man! The Big Apple!  This is great!”

            C.D. patted James Trivette on the back. “I’ll bet there’ll be parts that remind you of Baltimore!”

It had been many years since Walker, C.D. and Trivette had visited New York. Alex, having been here often, didn’t need to look for the signs, though, and had naturally and wordlessly taken the lead, threading them through the throng towards the baggage reclaim at JFK Airport.

Walker carried his and C.D.’s suit bags over his shoulder. Trivette carried his own larger, more expensive version.

            The airport was packed.

Trivette blew through his lips. “This is wild!”

            C.D. agreed, “This kind of wild I can do without. Not that I’d miss Alex’s speech for the world of course,” he added hastily, smiling in her direction.

            “I’m glad about that C.D.  Just don’t remind me about it! I’m liable to get all churned up again.” Alex pulled a face and gripped Walker’s arm tightly.

            Walker pretended to grimace, “Please, C.D.! Don’t remind her! Alex, you’re going to do just fine.” He gave a small smile as if to reinforce his sincerity.

            Trivette patted Alex’s shoulders. “A Cahill replacing a Cahill! It’s actually a shame your Dad won’t be able to see you give the speech instead of you stepping in to replace him, Alex.”

            “Oh my gosh!  I think I’d be a complete nervous wreck if he were there, Jimmy. Besides, he has so many cronies at the Justice Society Dinner, I’m sure he’ll get a blow by blow account anyway.”

            Walker pointed down the carousel. A smile came to his face and he shot a deliberate glance in Alex’s direction. “Looks like Alex’s bag made it.”

            It earned him a swat on the arm. “I don’t want one more quip about my checked luggage!” The beautiful blond felt goaded into justification. “Women need more stuff.”

“You got that right.” It was muttered with enough volume for Alex to overhear. C.D. and Trivette laughed.

Walker was swatted again, and this time he chuckled heartily. He grabbed her and placed a kiss on her cheek to confirm his lack of seriousness and squeezed her hand.

As they made their way out of the terminal towards the rank of taxis, Alex matched their smiles.

                                                            ~

An hour or so later, checked in to their hotel, Walker and C.D. came out of their respective rooms at the same time.

            “Nice rooms.” Walker commented.

            “So they darn well should be Cordell. You seen these prices?” His voice reduced to a whisper as they approached Alex’s room, “Glad we’re not paying.”

            Walker lightly elbowed the old man in the ribs. “C.D.!” and after another warning glower towards his former partner, Walker tapped on her door.

            “Just coming…” came the upbeat female voice from inside.

It caused Walker to grin.

The door clicked and opened.

            “What are you smiling at cowboy?” She approached him, running her arms around his waist and burying her head into his neck as she tightened the embrace. Giving her a loving squeeze, after they were inside the room Walker bent forward, finding her lips to gently kiss her.

            “Where’s my kiss, then!” pained C.D.

            Walker smiled, “You’re not my type, C.D.!”

            “Smart Alec!” The old man came back.

            Giggling, Alex released Walker. “You boys!  Come here C.D.”  She gave her old friend and mentor a peck on the cheek and a squeeze, and was rewarded with a warm smile.

            “That’ll do nicely.  Keep a man goin’ for a while, a kiss from a lovely lady!”  He sat in one of the easy chairs looking at the object of Walker’s stare.  Without subtly C.D. inquired, “Who sent the bunch of flowers Alex?”

            Alex was about to defend the magnificent arrangement of fresh palm fronds and orange birds of paradise that graced the side table, but instead shot a wicked glance at Walker. She grinned, “I could say a secret admirer!”

            “And I would say your Dad.” retorted Walker, adopting a retaliatory smirk.

            Her smile kept their banter going. “And how did you know that?”

            “Just call me Sherlock Holmes, counselor!”

            Trivette’s knock on the door called a congenial halt to the exchange.

            “It’s open!” All three chimed together.  They looked at each other, laughing as Trivette entered.

            “Hey!  Great hotel, huh?”

            Walker was deadpan as he replied, “We guessed you’d like it, Trivette.”

            “Will you guys back off!  Just because I’m enjoying myself!”

            Alex sided with Walker’s partner. “Quite right too!  Never mind these two Jimmy, you just do your own thing! I think it’s great we’ve all come on a trip together!  Well, what’ll we do now?” she asked.

            Trivette looked at his watch. “12.30. I’m hungry for lunch.”

            They all agreed with a nod.

“Okay,” Walker took charge, “ Tonight’s dinner is in the hotel, and we need to be seated by 6.30pm.  That means we need to escort our speaker here,” he bowed his head in her direction, which Alex acknowledged, “down about, say 6.10 pm?” He acknowledged their affirmative agreement. “How about we have lunch now, be finished by about 2.00. If we’re back by 5.45 pm to wash and change that gives us… what… nearly four hours to look round?”

            There was a general nodding of heads.

            “Guys? If you don’t mind, I think I’ll pass on looking around.  I’ll take a short nap; maybe go through my speech again.  I want to make sure I’m relaxed for the evening.”

            C.D. nodded his approval in Alex’s direction. “Sure, honey. Whatever makes you more comfortable. Nap sounds pretty good to me, too.”

            Walker looked at his partner. “What about you Trivette?”

            “Are you kiddin’ me?  I’m off to the art galleries. There’re some excellent exhibitions on right now.  Works of art we’re not likely to see in Dallas, that’s for sure!  You wanna come Walker?”

            “Not likely! Thanks anyway” Walker added as an after thought.

Alex and C.D. laughed.

            Alex was suddenly concerned, “Walker, if you’re going to be at a loose end…”

            He interrupted her. “You rest, Alex.  I’ll be fine.  There’s a couple of martial arts dojo’s run by some of my old Army Ranger buddies.  I’ll go see if I can find them.”

            “You sure?”

            Wrapping his arms around her waist, Walker kissed her reassuringly. “Absolutely.”

            “Army buddies…” Alex reiterated warily. 

Walker looked at her, raising his eyebrows questioningly.

            She pulled a small face. “You… won’t be late will you? Y’know, … reunion… lose track of time?”

            “Alex! I wouldn’t dream of it! Geez!” He grabbed her hand pulling her towards the door.   “C’mon, let’s eat.”

                                                                 ~

            “Where the hell is he, C.D.?”  Trivette stomped outside Walker’s room and knocked loudly for the fifth time. “Alex is having a fit!  We’ll have to escort her to the dinner now or she’ll be late!”

            “It’s not like Cordell to do this.  He knows how much this speech means to her.” C.D. was worried, but unable to come up with an answer.

They looked round as Alex’s door flew open and she headed straight for them. She was beautifully dressed in a simple, long black gown, with a cluster of silver sequins on the left shoulder. Black georgette strands delicately attached to the waist at the back of her gown billowed wildly in her wake.

            “Any sign of him?”

            They shook their heads.

            Alex tried to make a brave face of it, “Oh well… let’s get on with it.  We’ll still have a great time.” she lied.

            Trivette tried to mediate. “Alex.  If he’s late it’ll be for a good reason.  He’s not gonna miss the dinner on a whim, is he? He’ll come running in any minute now, you’ll see.”

            “After a reunion?  With his old Army buddies?” Alex raised her eyebrows. “But, …I still can’t believe he would miss this. He could have at least called. Oh, I don’t know!  Who knows what they get up to when they get together!”

            C.D. looked at his watch again.  “We’d better go, honey.”  As he gestured for Alex to go ahead, he looked pointedly at Trivette and pulled a face.  The evening was turning sour faster than milk in the sun. 

Trivette sighed deeply, wondering what on earth would get his partner out of this particular jam.

                                                            ~

            The dinner wound down, with just a few remaining scattered parties heading slowly towards the door. Acquaintances hailed their verdict of Alex’s speech as they left.

            “Alex!  You were wonderful. Give my regards to your father next time you see him.”

            “Thanks, Tom.  I will.” 

“Alex,” gushed an older lady, “I think your father has lost his place as speaker – we’re calling on you next year!”

The beautiful ADA rose as the woman came over and they both hugged.

“Thank you; you’re too kind.” joining her light chuckle, Alex responded, “but you can tell him – if you dare!” They both laughed again.

Alex bid farewell to the last of the well-wishers with a wave of her hand, as, at her table, hotel staff continued to clean up around them.  Sitting again, she looked disconsolately at her two friends.

            “You were marvelous, honey. I was so impressed.  You look lovely too.” C.D. added sincerely.

            “Not only that C.D.” ventured Trivette “but I wouldn’t be surprised if Alex got a few job offers after this!”

            Trying to stifle a tear, Alex rose from the table, causing the men to rise out of courtesy. “And I’d be sorely tempted to accept right now, Jimmy.”

            They knew she referred to Walker’s untimely absence.  Unsure of what to say they said nothing, and instead picked up the giveaway items from the table to follow her to the elevators.

Awkwardly they waited in silence. No point in even attempting to sooth troubled waters. They felt for Alex, and without doubt it was bad form of Walker to miss the occasion. 

If Walker were going anywhere else, C.D. knew he’d have a darned good reason why he wouldn’t have made it back. But old Army buddies?  How many times have the reunions he attended gotten completely out of hand?

            They said their goodnights outside Alex’s room, as Trivette unlocked the door for her. 

            “Goodnight Alex.  Well done.  And look …wait and see what he says in the morning, huh?”  Alex could hardly contain her emotions but nodded, mumbling a goodnight as Trivette kissed her on the cheek.

            “’Night honey. He’ll be sorry he missed it, you’ll see.” Alex accepted C.D.’s embrace, held on to him tightly for a few seconds, and entered the room, closing the door behind her.  They heard the lock being engaged, the sound somehow adding to their feelings of immense disappointment for her.

            C.D. shook his head and blew through his lips.  He didn’t say anything to Trivette, just squeezed his arm and took his leave.

Trivette tried Walker’s room again to no avail; decided he wouldn’t have clue where to start looking for him, and reluctantly retired as well.

                                                            ~

            Alex threw her shoes into her case and checked her appearance in the mirror. She actually didn’t care what she was wearing today. The short coffee colored jumper and jeans with brown cowboy boots didn’t look altogether too bad though.  Returning to the bathroom she grabbed her make-up bag; checked she hadn’t left anything else behind, and returned to the bedroom. 

There was a quiet knock on the door.  Unbolting the lock Alex stopped, took a deep breath, and held her head up as she opened it.

            Trivette forced a smile. “Morning.  Not too early for you?”

            She shook her head gesturing for him to come in.  “No. Just finishing the packing.”

            Jimmy Trivette followed her in. “You had breakfast?”

            “No. I guessed you would let me know when you were going down. Is C.D. ready?”

            “He’s just coming.”

Neither liked to bring up the subject of Walker. 

Trivette sat down on the ample sofa as Alex threw more items of clothing in the tapestry-embroidered suitcase. Looking for something to occupy himself, the younger Ranger flicked on the television just as C.D. arrived.

            Alex opened the door, disappointedly looking past him to see he was alone. 

C.D. frowned. “You still not heard from him?” Inexplicably their mentor suddenly felt anxiety replacing his annoyance. “That’s not right.  Somethin’s not right here.” He sat opposite Trivette. “You tried his room again, Jimmy?” 

Trivette nodded and continued to scan through the channels, looking up as he

sensed the old man’s genuine worry for Walker.

C.D. headed towards the phone by the bed. “I’m gonna call reception, see if there’s any messages been left.”

            “Oh my God!”

            As one, Alex and C.D. looked in Trivette’s direction, watching to see him fumble wildly with the remote control and turning up the sound, then directing their eyes towards the television.

            “…and this morning hospital staff will only repeat that the officer’s condition is critical and he remains in intensive care.  Official’s at the police department have issued a statement commending the Texas Ranger’s actions as those…” Jennifer Shakib looked at her notes, “of a true hero.  This man’s intervention saved the lives of many tourists and sightseers in Times Square.”  She looked to the camera again. “We’ll show you the incredible footage of the video taken by a tourist at 5pm yesterday, as a man went on a shooting rampage.”

            Hardly able to breathe, the three friends stared intently at the screen.

The video image showed the usual footage of Times Square. In a relaxed manner

the sightseer panned around the densely populated attraction, when suddenly deafening sounds of nearby gunshots scared camera operator and the picture jumped wildly.

Ambient sounds of screams and chaos ensued.

The image became a jerky blur as the sightseer ran for cover and jumped over small wall amidst a group of panicked people. 

For a second it was hard to make out anything in the picture, until the camera was directed over the parapet of the wall, and stabilized looking towards the middle of the famous landmark.

Quickly the camera was swung to the right and re-focused, and the frightening sight of a large, white, pistol-toting male came into the frame. 

The Caucasian calmly and randomly shot at the nearest tourists. 

New screams hit the air.

To the right a man went down hit, and the screams of terror became louder, with people unsure which way to go. Some folk clearly didn’t even know where the shots came from. 

Yet another gunshot rang out. The camera’s mike picked up the unified gasp of horror from the group behind the wall.

This time a woman with a small female child fell to the ground. Confused, the child stood by the side of her fallen parent, only to forlornly look around and begin crying. 

The shooter aimed at the child, changed his mind and ran forward to pick her up. He laughed as the youngster wriggled in his arms. 

With people still in range, bodies darted by in chaos trying to get out of his way - a few tripping up in their vain efforts to flee. 

A voice behind the wall was puzzled. “What’s that guy doing?”

The picture lurched even further to the right.

Walker was leaning over the body of a young New York cop. The policeman must have been one of the first to fall, as his weapon was still in the holster.

The Texas Ranger flipped away the thumb break securing the weapon and withdrew the gun from it’s leather housing.

The gun held in both hands, Walker’s familiar voice rang out clearly and calmly. 

“Freeze!”

Walker moved forward slowly, bringing up his right back leg to meet his left leg as way of progression. When Walker decided it was safe to take another step closer he repeated the process. The experienced Ranger knew the number one rule in hostage situations was to try and mediate.

“Take it easy. Let the child go and we’ll talk.  My name is Cordell, what’s your name?”

The Caucasian shooter angrily looked away from Walker and shot a Japanese man in the back that had approached in ignorance, realized his mistake, and was running away.  The small Oriental fell like a stone, and even before the body hit the sidewalk their attacker took aim at another victim.

Walker tried to get in a shot, but the child squirmed in the kidnapper’s arms masking the target.

With the shooter’s attention turned away, and yet too far to make a run for him, Walker ran to the right trying to pick off a shot whiling avoiding the child.  This caught the man’s attention and he turned back to take aim at the Ranger.

Walker tried yet again to get in a clean shot, and finally in desperation, deliberately aimed low as he fired, hitting the man in the right leg. 

Still grasping the child, the shooter fell to his knees but returned fire, pumping off several rounds, one shot finding Walker’s left shoulder.

The Texas Ranger stumbled backwards and fell. 

Alex gasped in shock. 

Her hands covered her mouth, as, now panic-stricken, she watched the video play out the tragedy.

Again, screams from the terrified tourists filled the air and the child struggled wildly, crying loudly as yet again the kidnapper rose to his feet and limped a few steps forward, this time pointing the 9mm, 15 shot Beretta at a young man. 

Walker struggled to his feet and started to run towards the maniac, shouting in the hope of distracting him. It worked and he missed his target – the young man hurling himself into a nearby store.

The images seemed to move in slow motion as the three friends watched the shooter turn again in Walker’s direction and fire. 

Walker’s body jolted but he continued to run towards the perpetrator. 

Alex gasped once more as yet another shot rang out, hitting Walker again at close range. The Ranger half fell on the attacker, and in one movement, wrenched the gun away from the lethal hand. 

Walker somehow rolled the small girl between them to the side, and the two men wrestled together.

Mercifully, as the gunman looked to gain control, two uniformed cops running to the scene apprehended the suspect, pulling them apart. 

With Walker now still and unmoving, arriving officers attended to him. There were multiple calls for ambulances.

Fully realizing and understanding Walker’s sacrifice, the officers on scene treated him with care; one of the uniformed police quickly removing his jacket and placing it under Walker’s head to afford him as much comfort the situation would allow.

The picture became a mass of police, people and confusion, and then the images faded away, and replaced by the same reporter.

“Those were the terrifying scenes in Times Square yesterday as a visiting Texas Ranger saved countless lives ~ perhaps at the cost of his own.  The identities of both men have yet to be released as authorities try to locate their next of kin. We’ll give updates on the Ranger’s condition throughout the course of the day.  Reporting from St. Mary’s Hospital, this is Jennifer Shakib. Now, back to the studio.”

Numbed, her head reeling, Alex ran for her purse and followed C.D. and Trivette as they bolted for the door.

Alex’s voice was strangled, “How COULD I have doubted him!”

                                                            ~

It seemed an eternity before the elevator reached the lobby, the concierge found them a cab, and they apprehensively willed it to quickly reach the hospital.

They had just witnessed Walker shot three times!

There was a sickening silence inside the taxi as the vehicle raced through the New York streets.

After what seemed hours, they arrived, but it was pandemonium. TV vans, crews, photographers, police! The driver cussed and swore and weaved his way through, finally pulling up. Trivette quickly paid him and ran to catch up Alex and C.D. as they stormed the desk.

Alex was breathless, “Please! The man brought in from the Times Square shooting.  The one who tried to stop the massacre, Ranger Walker! We’re his family!  Where is he?  Can we see him?  Is he okay?”

“Wait, wait, ma’am!” Horrified, the nurse held up her hands to keep them quiet, but she was too late. The throng of press and media behind them galvanized to action – running towards the desk, microphones and tape recorders preceding them.

Suddenly they were the main focus, camera lights, questions and bodies hitting them from all directions.

“We thought it was Ranger Walker can you definitely confirm that?”

“Which of you is his family?”

“We heard he’s a half breed is it true?”

“Are you Alex Cahill? Are you and Ranger Walker having a sexual relationship?”

“What can you …”

Although used to years of dealing with the media, the three reeled from shock at the onslaught.

Alex felt a tug on her arm.

“MISS!” the nurse raised her voice to be heard, “This way!”

Bewildered and backing away a few steps, Trivette pulled Alex and C.D. behind him to allow them to get away and disappear behind the opened door. It was slammed shut just in time to stop the onslaught of journalists.

They all took a deep breath, subconsciously reaching out a hand to each other for support.

The staff nurse appealed to them. “Sorry about that. It’s a media circus. Security’s called for back up and we should get this organized and them outside again. Let me see if I can reach the surgeon in charge.” 

Reaching for the phone she quickly punched in the numbers and waited for a response.

Finally her call was answered. “Dr Hammond, please.  Tell him the family of his patient are at the reception in E wing.”  She waited again, and replacing the receiver, looked up. “Follow me.”

She showed them through another door and down the corridor, and to the elevator. She waited until the doors opened, reached inside and pressed one of the ascent buttons for them. “Ask at the nurse’s desk in intensive care.  They’re waiting for you.”

Forgetting to thank her, the three hurried inside.

Trivette’s shoulders dropped momentarily, he voice cutting. “Bunch of piranhas!”

Alex held her hands against her face. Her voice was a whisper. “The unkind things I thought about him last night.  Dear God! Selfishly thinking about my speech….  all the time …he was fighting for his life…”

“We weren’t to know Alex.”  C.D. shook his head.  “We weren’t to know.” He looked up as the elevator stopped and the doors opened to reveal a nurse before them.

  She gestured for them to come forward.

In stark contrast from what they had come from, the floor of the intensive care unit was the personification of quiet efficiency – yet at the same time, harboring an undercurrent of somber anticipation.

“You’re the family of Ranger Walker?” an older, brunette nurse asked, taking a second look in Trivette’s direction.

“Yes.” was the united reply.

After the barest puzzlement, “This way.  The Chief of Surgical Staff, Dr. Hammond, is with him.” 

The friends followed blindly down the corridor where they made a left turn, and stopped behind her as she slowed by the third door on the right.  She tapped lightly and entered. “Dr. Hammond?”

Apprehensively, they entered and took stock of the room. Alex gave an involuntary gasp as she took in the sight of Walker’s ill form and Dr. Hammond. 

Strangely, the elderly doctor was sitting on the edge of the bed holding Walker’s hand.

Without embarrassment, and without hurrying, Hammond gently replaced Walker’s hand back on the covers, rose, and rounded from the far side of the bed to greet them. 

Alex was hardly able to take her eyes off Walker. He lay slightly propped up on pillows, his chest, stomach and shoulder heavy with dressings, on oxygen and monitors, with blood slowly dripping life back into him from an IV.  Tears rolling down her face, she glanced only for a second at Hammond.

“May I go to him?” came her tiny voice.

Hammond nodded. 

Sitting on the edge of the bed and careful to avoid the tubes, Alex held Walker’s head in her hands.  Bringing her brow down to touch his, she pressed close; her trembling hands smoothed back his hair. “Oh dear God.  Please… help him.”

Despite her eyes being tightly closed, tears fell.  She remained quiet.  Holding him.  Willing him to know she was there.  “I doubted you” she whispered in his ear, “I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you needed me, but we’re all here now. Forgive me, darling.”

Finally drawing his eyes away from the exchange, Hammond turned to C.D. and Trivette, observing their shocked faces.  Hammond held out his hand to C.D. “I’m Dr. Hammond.  Chief of Surgical Staff.”

Accepting Dr. Hammond’s greeting, C.D. cleared his throat before his reply was audible. “C.D. Parker, retired Texas Ranger.  I’m Cordell’s oldest friend, and…” C.D. turned to Trivette, “this is his partner, Ranger James Trivette.”

“Ranger Trivette.”

“Jimmy.  Call me Jimmy.” Trivette searched Hammond’s face. “How’s he doin’ doctor?”

Alex turned away from Walker to fully concentrate on the surgeon. 

He was of medium build, in his mid to late sixties, with gray, thinning hair. Somehow he inspired confidence.

Hammond returned her look. “Ranger Walker’s wife?”

Alex briefly blushed. “Nno… er...”

Filling in the blanks for Hammond, C.D. walked to the other side of the bed and ran his hand slowly over Walker’s brow, studying his condition with concern. C.D. nodded in Alex’s direction. “This is Alex Cahill. They’re sweet on each other, doc.”

The doctor smiled kindly and nodded. “He had a real fight on his hands, but I’m hoping we’re over the worst. We got him off the respirator at about two this morning. We had to repair a small part of the liver, remove his spleen, and splinters from some ribs. It went better than I could have hoped, but…”

Trivette changed weight on his legs, “but what?”

“He’d lost a lot of blood. It was a tough night for him.”

Alex looked intently at Hammond, noticing for the first time his red-rimmed eyes, and the disheveled hair. “You stayed with him throughout the night?” she asked incredulously. 

Hammond gave a small smile and nodded.  He looked up to the nurse. “Lucy? Could you please get some coffees and have Paul bring in another chair?”

She was gone in a trice and it was only a short time later they were all seated.

Trivette tried to explain. “We came up from Dallas.” Walker’s partner looked to Alex; “Alex had to give a speech. Walker went to see some Army buddies and when he didn’t return - we thought it was out of character, but...” he shrugged, “how many times do you see your old buddies?  We really began to worry when he still wasn’t back this morning and by chance turned on the TV. We …we saw the news report.”

“I see.” Hammond replied, nodding his head.  He looked to Alex, smiling as he observed her holding on tightly to Walker’s hand. There was something inquisitive as Hammond turned to observe C.D. and Trivette, taking stock of their anxious faces. “You obviously think a lot of your friend. Tell me, what kind of man has he become?”

Puzzled at his question, the three friends were initially silent then answered.

“Oh doctor, he’s a good man.” Alex rushed to get the words out. “A gentle - man, kind and compassionate.” She stopped, “but then again he can be the most obstinate and mule headed as well.” 

They joined her small laugh, breaking the tension in the room.

Trivette chipped in. “He’s an expert in fighting.  Hand to hand, martial arts, self-defense.  Few can touch him; he’s the best.  One of the finest Texas Rangers,” Trivette turned to C.D. “present company excepted.”

C.D. nodded his thanks with a smile and offered his own opinion. “He’s a man who frequently risks his life to save others doc.  They don’t come any better and he means the world to us.  Does that answer your question?”

Hammond nodded.

“Forgive me, Dr. Hammond,” C.D. continued, “you’re Chief of Surgical Staff? I’m confused….you spend many nights with your patients?”

Hammond raised his eyebrows and grinned at the thought, “Oh true, as much as I’d like to devote more time, I wouldn’t be much good working day and night! Most of my work now is teaching and training, but I still have a hands on policy and operate on the more complicated cases that come through.”

“Was Walker’s that bad then?” Asked Trivette.

“No. As bad as his injuries were, surgically they weren’t complicated in that sense.”

C.D. was still confused, “Then…why the interest?  You said - what kind of man has he become. Do you know Cordell?”

Hammond shuffled in his chair and took a deep breath. “I’m not normally called in for routine procedures, but on a high profile cases, such as this with the media interest - the case notes are always brought to me for checking through.  When I saw the name… and where he was from… I wondered, so I checked further… then I was sure.”  Hammond stopped, wistfully looking in Walker’s direction.

“Sure of what, doctor?” Came Alex’s quiet voice.

Hammond was slow to reply. “Has …Cordell ever mentioned his parent’s to you?”

Trivette nodded and looked at the others as he replied. “Yeah. We know all about them.  They were murdered at a carnival. When he was about twelve.”

C.D. nodded. “It was covered by the local paper at the time, and the report’s in his

file. A few years back, Cordell had an opportunity to get the last guy involved, so yeah, we’re fully aware of all the circumstances.” C.D. frowned. “Why?” His curiosity piqued, he almost forgot he was about to take a sip of coffee.

Hammond crossed his legs before he spoke. “Many years ago ….my residency

was in Memorial Hospital in Dallas.” Hammond shook his head at the thought, “Oh my, I was such a brash, arrogant young man!” He smiled, ruefully, “Back then I thought I knew everything there was to know about medicine and surgery.”

He looked individually at the three friends as they sat in silence, each wondering what Hammond could be about to tell them.  “But I was good!  In fact I was the best.  Straight A’s throughout - first, always first - in med. school.  Breezed my way through internship, and I was a few weeks away from leaving the hospital for a posting at my first choice of hospital - Johns Hopkins no less!”

Hammond paused briefly to professionally glance at the dials and his patient. He turned back to them, interlocking his fingers before continuing in his quiet, reassuring tone. “The Chief of Surgery at Memorial at the time was an extremely gifted doctor, called Matthew J. Franks.”

They could tell by Hammond’s reverent intonation he held Matthew J. Franks in high esteem.

 “He would have been about my age now, I guess. In my self absorbed state I was like a… locust….” he struggled to explain, “I knew Franks was one of the top surgeons in the country. He taught me everything I knew, but, eventually, I thought I’d gleaned all I could from him, and had concluded that he could no longer help me. So, I had decided it was time to move on.  Shamefully, back then, I judged most people by what I could get out of them in order to further my knowledge and standing within the surgical community. I saw patients not as people with needs, but as medical problems which needed solving. As if …it were almost a personal challenge.  I had to cure them, heal them - I did everything to get them well,” he smiled, knowingly, and leant forward in his chair, “but for all the wrong reasons.” Hammond’s eyes twinkled momentarily, and he then he assumed his pose and sat back.

The only sound in the room was the very quiet beep monitoring Walker’s heart.

The hospital’s Chief of Staff explained further. “For some reason, Franks kept us late that balmy summer evening of July 18.  We were finally about to leave when we were put on standby to receive three persons - two with multiple stab wounds.  I waited with the others, but I scarcely gave it a second thought.”

He sighed, took another breath and carried on. “We’d heard a family had

been attacked at a carnival.  The father was DOA, a young boy badly beaten up, and the mother presently being stabilized ready for surgery.  We scrubbed and prepped, and the mother was brought in. We operated but she was in a bad way.  There was a lot of internal damage. We managed to keep her going, although we knew the prognosis wasn’t good.”

Hammond could see a look of change regarding his connection to Walker reflected in the eyes of his audience. “When we had finished, I was about to change and leave when Franks approached me.  Hammond he said, handing me the three case notes. I want you to oversee this family. Scornfully, I flipped through the notes and in my arrogance dismissed them. The father’s dead, I told Franks, so there’s nothing to be done there; mother’s not likely to survive and the boy should be fine. What is it you want me to oversee I questioned?  He replied – and I quote – ‘Someone needs to let the boy know where he stands, John.’” Hammond parted his hands as way of emphasizing the significance; “He’d never called me by my first name before.” 

Hammond blew threw his lips. “I had a young intern under me, called Brooks. He normally did this type of thing so I told Franks I’d get Brooks to do it, but Franks shook his head.  ‘No, John, not this time.’  He looked me directly in the eyes. You’ll inform the boy and see to his and the mother’s welfare until they all leave the hospital -one way or another.  You’ll do it. Do you understand?  Well I did,” The Chief of Surgical Staff again gestured with his hands, “but I couldn’t understand why.  I considered this not the best use of my time.”

There was a pause as he recalled his memories. “ I read the admission notes as I approached the door and expected to see a 12 year old male Caucasian/Native Indian with multiple contusions, abrasions and two fractured ribs. But… er…what I found when I went in…” Hammond became silent for a few seconds, as spell bound Alex, Trivette and C.D. waited for him to pull himself together. “but ….what I found…  was a beaten, frightened, young boy, just a few weeks past his twelfth birthday.”

Hammond cleared his throat.  “For once my stats and charts were no use to me, and I remember dropping them on the table as I approached his bed, and wondered what I was going to say.  I’d never ever been at such a loss before. That young kid’s eyes were wide as saucers and he must have guessed I was bringing him bad news because he started to tremble. I took his small hand in mine. Do you know…” Hammond gave a small, nervous laugh,  “it was the first time I had ever taken a hand to comfort instead of analyze.  I could hardly get the words out when I told him his father had died.  The thing that really got to me,” Hammond swallowed hard, “was that he tried to be so darn brave about it.”

Alex brushed away a tear from the corner of her eye and kissed Walker’s hand as she held it tightly in both of hers, as if, somehow, she could help him ease the pain of the past.

Looking at them again, Hammond explained further. “Cordell asked to see his father’s body. I told him I would arrange it and I left to make sure that the cadaver was acceptable for the boy to view.  I’d never even given this side of it a second thought before.  Suddenly his father was no longer a statistic, but a deceased person I had to do everything in my power to present to his son as he was. He looked to be a fine, decent, proud human being.  Well, …the boy was too weak to walk, so I got a wheelchair and took him down to the morgue viewing room.  I waited as he said a prayer …and his good byes. Then I brought him back to his room.  I was so profoundly moved …I could hardly function.” 

Rising awkwardly from the chair, Hammond moved to one side of the room and rested his back against the wall, crossing his arms to occasionally stroke his chin as the story unfolded.

“He asked about his mother, and I said we would go and see her. As we sat with her I asked about his family.  Apparently they had only been in Texas a few months. His father must have left the reservation when he married his mother, a white woman. After moving several times in Oklahoma, they came to Texas and the prospect of better jobs.  The mother’s origins were in Ireland, and the only other relative he knew about was his father’s brother.  I contacted the authorities and we tried to locate him.” Hammond’s demeanor became even more still.

“Despite his physical injuries, that young boy sat with his mother most of the time for three days - during which time I performed another two surgeries on her.” John Hammond’s voice was sincere. “I tried everything to keep her alive, but …she died of complications. There was I, so sure of myself and so full of my own abilities – yet the one person I most wanted to heal, I couldn’t! I wondered whether he would blame me, but you know what he did instead? He thanked me for all my help!” Hammond looked up at them and then away, his voice breaking down slightly as he went on, “That time we both cried.  I held him for ages until finally, completely exhausted, he fell asleep.”

Trivette sighed, hardly able to breathe. He avoided looking at the others in an effort to keep his emotions together, while trying not to be affected by Alex’s quiet sobs.

“Technically he should have left the hospital two days later, he was well enough. But they hadn’t found his uncle, so I found excuses to keep him in. The funerals were held with just the two of us there, and he held my hand tightly throughout and never cried once. Then the time eventually came, when I had no choice but to release him.  He’d be taken to a local orphanage until the uncle was found.”

“Well, they came for him. We hugged and said goodbye.”

Hammond’s next sentence was uttered with a slow, resigned, delivery. “I watched him walk out of that hospital with complete strangers - and I sobbed my heart out!”

He took a beat and his paced resumed. “I found Franks. I told him that I couldn’t get the boy out of my mind. How could I deal with cases if I became this emotionally involved?  I even began to wonder whether I should stay in medicine! Y’know what he did?” He raised his eyebrows as he asked the question and they shook their heads. “He took me to church!  That night I gave my heart to the Lord, and I it was the best thing I ever did in my life. I prayed hard for young Cordell Firewalker - every single day - until I received word his uncle had been found and would take him in. Then I placed him in God’s care.”

Hammond smiled as he sat back in his chair again. “Now I pray for all my patients before I perform surgery on them, and, ever since that most significant of exchanges, I’ve treated everyone, with compassion and dignity. He glanced with a small smile of affection in Walker’s direction and back again. “All because of a young boy.”

He took a beat and continued. “In young doctors today, I recognize so many of the signs I displayed back then. I can’t blame them; it’s so easy to become grounded in procedure and high tech equipment that many times the patient’s almost a hindrance!  Much of my job here - is to give them the same insight Matthew J. Franks gave me.” 

Now smiling broadly, Hammond got up, approached Walker’s bed and patted his hand. “So you see, you’ll forgive me if I think of him as a very special person in my life too.”

They nodded, smiled, and each hugged Hammond - as if to welcome him to their ranks.

It was more a statement of hope from Alex, than a question. “So… you think he’ll make it.”

Hammond pointed upwards, “Either way Miss Cahill, he’s in excellent hands, but, yes, I do think he’ll pull through. Let’s see what the next twelve hours bring – these are the telling ones.  It’ll make a difference your being here though, I’m sure of that. And now that you are all here, I think I’ll go and get some rest myself.”

He pointed to the far corner behind a curtain, “There’s a small cot you can use to rest. Just ask any of the staff if you need anything.  I’m going to get some sleep, but I’ll just be down the hall.”

Alex got up and to Hammond’s surprise, gave him another hug. “Thank you. Thank you, for being there for him.”

Hammond nodded, knowingly, and left.

The party was silent with their own thoughts for quite a few minutes.

Trivette finally broke the stillness. “Kinda makes you understand his character a lot more when you’ve heard all that doesn’t it?” It was rhetorical, but C.D. answered anyway.

“Yeah. Answers quite a bit. When we wus partnered together, especially in the beginning – I mean I thought I was diligent at my job – but him! The number of times I thought he was too single minded about apprehending criminals. He would be so darned focused and I used to get so mad with him. Then his helping waifs and strays all the time. After hearing all that, it really puts it in perspective. It makes him a lot easier to understand.”

Trivette and Alex nodded, but before they could decide what to do next they were interrupted by Hammond’s return.

“Sorry, folks.”

He was followed by two men; the three friends rightly guessing they were detectives from the New York Police Department.

“Sorry,” Hammond repeated. He gestured to the first tall, thickset male then one behind him; “This is Lieutenant Carter and Sergeant Jefferies, NYPD. They need to ask you some questions.”

Trivette nodded his complete understanding and took control. “I’ll deal with it. Let’s go outside.” The four men left.

C.D. called out, “I’ll be there in a minute, Jimmy.”  The old man scrutinized Alex and the situation before being making a suggestion. “Well, we need to get something to eat. Need to keep our own strength up. You want to go first, Alex? I’ll stay with him.”

Alex stood. “I’m fine C.D. You guys go and have breakfast. I’ll take my turn when you get back.”

Feeling the need for physical contact and reassurance, Alex and C.D. hugged each other. Then Alex was alone.

She went back to Walker and ran her hand across his brow. “Well, cowboy!  Too many people rooting for you now! You have no choice. You have to get better!” Alex lightly kissed him on the forehead and cheek. “I know you’ll pull through,” she continued whispering in his ear, “I’ve never actually said this before, but …I love you so much.”

            C.D. Parker quietly closed the door behind him and joined the muted deliberations as Trivette was obviously filling in the gaps.”

            “…and this is semi-retired Captain, Ranger C.D. Parker. C.D. used to be Walker’s partner a while back.”

            The two detectives immediately held out their hands, both eager to offer the full and proper courtesy to law enforcers such as themselves.

            The Lieutenant gestured to himself and his officer, “We’re Steve and Al, Captain Parker.”

            The ritual was reciprocated, “We’re C.D. and Jimmy.”

            Steve Carter reiterated what was said earlier to Trivette. “That was some action by Ranger Walker. There’s one dead on the scene, nine more injured, but there must have been a couple of hundred in and around the area at the time. The shooter was packing ten, fifteen round clips and a couple of grenades. It’s a miracle there wasn’t a massacre. If your partner hadn’t been there …” The thought went unspoken. “Anyway, sorry, we need to go through the routine for the paperwork, but you know how it is.”

            C.D. and Trivette knew exactly how it was, and within minutes they were all seated as they went through the formalities.

When as much as possible had been covered, “Who was the whacko?” Trivette inquired with venom.

            Al Jefferies shook his head. “We don’t know yet. There was no ID on him. We’re running his prints through now and checking with the FBI.” He gestured down the hallway. “The scumbag will recover okay, and later today they’ll move him to a prison hospital. We’ll let you know the details when they become available.”

            C.D. and Trivette nodded.

            “We’ll need to keep the media happy,” Carter sighed. He hated this part of the job. “We might as well give them the news from us …we can’t keep it under wraps much longer anyway. They already know from their Dallas affiliates who Walker is. He er… seems to have quite a record!” The older man smiled, knowing the answer before he asked. “You want to join us and give them an interview?”

            Trivette shook his head while smiling his response to Carter, “Hell no we don’t want to give them an interview! Just try keep them off our backs, will you?”

            The two NYPD officers nodded. “Well, you know what the press are like. There’s a uniform on his way up here and we’ll give you round the clock security until this settles down.”

            “Good idea,” C.D. concurred and added, “Appreciated.”

            Their business cards were offered. “Call us if there’s anything we can do. We’ll be kept informed by the hospital.” Handshakes were exchanged.

            Jefferies was tentative, “Um …just to let you know, we’re um …all praying he recovers,” he looked away awkwardly.

            “It’ll help. Thanks. Thanks, fellahs.” C.D. retorted back at them.

                                                                        ~

            Out in the hospital lot, two men sat in a beat up Toyota Camry.

            Journalist, Skip Zacs, was mid fifties and never married. His rumpled, grubby looking clothes reflecting the lack of a woman’s touch.  He touched the burger and fries on his lap and without wiping his hands, ran his fingers through his hair while continuing berating his assistant on the phone. “For shit’s sake I know, baby! I bin in this business more years than you’ve dumped! Well…”, he stuffed another mouthful of Carl’s Juniors biggest and best hamburger into his mouth, set it back in the box and talked as he wiped off ketchup from his dark brown pants. “The trouble with you, Diane, is you’re Miss Perfect pants! You probably crap in polythene!”

He laughed at his own joke and elbowed his partner. The phone was held away from his ear and both men laughed at the verbose reaction from the other end.

Zacs shook his head at her whole tirade, undeterred at the handful of greasy fries about to enter his mouth as he listened further.

Diane’s telephone voice intoned, “We need one good pic. Weeping friends …bedside vigil …”

Zacs interrupted. He completely disagreed. “NO! Shit …every hack’s going to vomit up that line.” He feigned a broadcasting voice, “Texas Ranger hero…the man gave his life …ra ra ra. The freakin’ rockets red glare.”

He champed on the burger again and resumed his nasal tone. “Naw. We’ll go the other way. There has to be some dirt on the boy scout – there always is! We got the half-breed angle already, but my money’s on the broad. Dallas ADA, works in the same Texas Ranger office, boyfriend girlfriend, hey? See? Romps in the office, drift…get it?” Pleased at the angle, Skip elbowed his partner again for positive confirmation on his genius. “Did you see her face when I asked if they were lovers?”

Thirty six year old Mexican, Cary Hernandes, had the Styrofoam coffee cup almost to his lips when Zacs elbow collided with his. The steaming liquid skidded out the white container on to his beige jacket.

“You ass hole! Aw, man!” He gave a condescending look, but just shook his head as Zacs laughed loudly at his predicament. He knew he’d never win with Skip Zacs. The guy was impervious to criticism! He especially couldn’t win with a useless name like Cary! Trust his dumb mother to have the hots for Cary Grant! Cary Hernandes! There was never a day went by he didn’t curse his own luck! He waited for the jibe.

Zac’s bad British accent and parody of the famous film star was unrelenting, “Jewdy, Jewdy, Jewdy.” And Zacs laughed again until he remembered the phone conversation with his office.

He got back to business. “Oh, yeah, darlin’. We got days before the deadline! We’ll check in to the hotel, download the copy – it’s the usual 1500 – then somehow we’ll get your pics, okay?” He waited and answered the next question. “No. Cary’ll use the Sony.” He didn’t wait a reply or to finish the call, but disengaged the phone and ate more fries.

“Well?” Cary queried. “How are we going to get in the hospital this time? How about using Maria again?”

“Exactly!” Zacs confirmed. “It’s been nearly six months since we used her. She could use five of twenty greens. But tell her we want scrubs and a tray this time. And we’ll use the laundry entrance as usual....”

                                                            ~

It was the start of the next day and Walker’s three friends had just welcomed Hammond to the room when Walker showed signs of consciousness. His head slowly shifted from one side to the other, and his arm tried unsuccessfully lifting from the bed.  There was a wearisome groan, and his breathing became rapid and shallow, indicating pain. 

Alex sat on the edge of the bed and clasped his hand, watching as his fingers weakly wrapped around looking for comfort. Lightly running her free hand up and down his arm and occasionally kissing his knuckles, Alex softly spoke to him.

“Everything’s okay …just relax …take your time …don’t rush.” Alex kissed his hand again, “Relax, darling.”

Walker tried several times to keep his eyes open and failed each time. Alex bent over, caressing his brow slowly. “It’s Alex, Walker …can you hear me?”

After a short delay she thought she detected a tiny nod.

“You’re in hospital …you got shot, but you’re going to be just fine. You need rest, that’s all. But you’re safe,  …quite safe.  We’re all here with you, …so just sleep …sleep my darling.”

As they watched he visibly relaxed.  His shoulders dropped, muscles relaxed,

and his head slowly turned to one side, his breathing becoming calm and regular.

Hammond nodded, smiling his approval. “That’s great. Well done, Alex.”  He patted Alex on the shoulder and left, his comments considerably lifting the burden in the room.

Trivette and C.D. came round the other side of the bed and they discussed their plans in hushed tones.

“Alex?” C.D. inquired, “How long an absence did the office give you?”

“I spoke to them this morning and I told them I wouldn’t come back until he was okay.  I’m giving them a daily update.”

“Okay. What about you, Jimmy?”

“I’m okay for another week.”

“Perhaps Doctor Hammond could estimate when he’s gonna be well enough to travel back?” suggested C.D. 

Trivette went off to ask, and if he continued to do well, two to three weeks to get out of hospital, probably four weeks before he could fly back to Texas was the answer.  Finally it was decided they would all stay a few more days, by which time Walker should be stronger. Then C.D. would head back to Texas and the bar and grill.

Some hours later, C.D. was with Walker when he woke again. C.D. was sitting in the chair next to his bed reading a book, when he looked up to see his ex-partner watching him.

C.D. smiled, putting the book to one side.  “Hey, buddy.”

With some difficulty Walker swallowed, but did not attempt to speak.

“You tell them you caught me readin’ on the job and I’m done for!” C.D. joked, winking at him.

Again C.D.’s ex-partner simply looked at him, but the elder man knew Walker recognized him and he knew Walker had relief knowing he was there. C.D. sat on the side of the bed carefully. “Anything I can get you?” There was a tiny shake of the head to indicate no.

“Water?”

Walker barely repeated the gesture, and tried clearing his voice several times. His eyes closed, his face registered some distress. C.D. rose from the chair to hold his hand, covering Walker’s hot brow with the other.

“You feel sick, Cordell?” This time there was an affirmative nod. “Okay buddy. Maybe I’d better tell someone.  I’ll be back in a second.” He gave Walker’s hand a squeeze and headed out the door, returning a few seconds later with a nurse.

Thirty three year old, brunette, Nurse Maysfield, smiled down. “Mr. Walker?”

Walker closed his eyes. Sick, confused, in pain and he was as weak as a kitten.

“Let me get my colleague and we’ll see what we can do about giving you a freshen up in general. I’ll call Dr. Hammond. Sir?” She looked at C.D. as she reached up, swishing the curtains. “Can I ask you to step outside please?”

“Oh, sure.  Right! Hang in there, Cordell.” C.D. beat a hasty retreat outside. He waited and watched, nodded to Hammond as he went in, and observed as several nurses going in and out. 

“What’s wrong?” From the opposite direction Alex grabbed at C.D.’s arm.  He jumped. “Oh, sorry C.D. What’s happening?” Her voice was anxious.

C.D. stood up, “It’s okay. I don’t think there’s anything wrong as such. He’s feeling a bit sick, is all. I think that’s all it is. And they’re giving him a freshen up as well.”

There was relief in her voice at first, which then changed as she thought about it. “Oh poor Walker.” 

Trivette gave her a hug. “Relax yourself Alex, or you’ll wind up in the next room!”

She smiled and embraced him back. “What would I do without you two? You’re right, though, I’ve got to stop thinking the worst!”

It was another fifteen minutes later before Dr Hammond appeared. “He’s okay,” he assured them, “we couldn’t stop one bout of sickness, but I’ve given him something to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I don’t want him popping any internal stitches. I’ve also removed the chest drains. You’ll be able go in after the nurses are finished.” He smiled reassuringly.

“Doctor?” Wondered Trivette, his voice raising an octave, “Did he… recognize you?”

Hammond shook his head. “I don’t even think he knew I was there frankly. Too much going on! Anyway, it was a long, long time ago.  I can’t imagine he would recognize me, and… I’m not going to remind him. It may be memories he’d prefer not to rekindle.  Besides, I don’t look the same as when he last saw me!”  Hammond smiled and winked in Alex’s direction, “I’m told by the ladies I was quite handsome you know!”

Alex returned his good humor with a quick flick of her eyebrows, “You’re very distinguished now, doctor.  Don’t do your self down!”

Laughing, Hammond glanced down the corridor spotting a colleague. “Ben!”  He waved him over and waited until he got near and turned to the others. “Now Cordell’s come round I’m more relaxed about leaving him. I’ll be away giving a seminar for a few days, but this man here…” smiling, he grabbed Ben Rogers’ arm and looked up at a tall, Afro-American doctor, “is the man I’ve entrusted with his care.  Ben’s a fine doctor.  Ben, this is Ranger Walker’s ‘family’.”

He gestured to each of them as he introduced them and they exchanged greetings, “Alex Cahill, C.D. Parker, and Jimmy Trivette.” Hammond continued, “Ben, we won’t keep you I know you’ve surgery shortly.”

The huge man had an equally large white grin. “Nice to meet you folks. Excuse me if I have to run now, but I’ll see you later. And, don’t worry, I’ll take good care of him.”

Rogers left and Hammond took his leave also. It was goodbye to C.D.; but he would see the others next week.

They waited nearly another ten minutes before the nurses left the room, and they filed in.  Walker looked grave and ill. The gray eyes were haunted and beseeching and the sockets heavy and dark with trauma.

Alex kissed his cheek, rested her forehead against his for a few seconds then took his hand and held it to her lips. “This is the worst time now, Walker. It’ll get easier every day from now on. Hang in there, okay?”

Walker tried several times to speak, but his voice not clearing, gave up, closing his eyes in defeat.

Alex suddenly turned on her heel. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

C.D. and Trivette looked in her direction as she disappeared and then at each other.

C.D. shrugged and checked on his ex-partner again to see him still with his eyes closed, although he knew Walker wasn’t a sleep. It hurt C.D. to the core to see him like this. The nurses had bathed him and Walker was now wearing a pale blue hospital gown. The outline of the bandages and padding could be seen easily, and Walker’s left arm placed in a navy colored sling to keep it temporarily immobile.

The old man looked up at Alex’s return.

“I’ve checked with the doctor,” she announced, holding a small container of vanilla ice cream and a plastic spoon. Moving to the far side of the bed, Alex handed C.D. the container to hold.

“Walker,” she started, gently smoothing back his lank light reddish hair, “Try this. It'll ease your throat and at least put some taste in your mouth. Here …” Alex eased her hand behind until Walker’s head was gently resting in the crook of her arm. She looked at C.D., now licking his lips. “C.D.!” came the quiet jovial admonishment.

“Cordell’s official taster! You’re gonna like this, son. This was a good idea, Alex.”

The old man held the small carton so Alex could spoon out a small amount, and she placed it in Walker’s mouth. They watched as he savored the sweet, cooling substance and swallowed.

Walker’s eyes closed in appreciation. From raw dryness and the presence of anesthetic, the ice cream was sheer bliss. Natural vanilla burst over his taste buds – the coldness sliding down his throat soothing the inflamed flesh within its path.

Alex watched his eyes brighten, and offered more, which he took readily. Alex reviled in his response.

“Thank you.” Came a hoarse whisper.

They all smiled.

“Take a minute and I’ll give you one more.” As Alex held the spoon in readiness, the door quietly opened revealing the back of two scrubbed orderlies pulling a cart, over which instruments were covered under sterile cloth.

From his chair on the far side of Walker, Trivette frowned.

“What’s all this?” he inquired.

Having fully entered the room one man lifted back the green cover as the other went for the ‘equipment’. The camera flashed several times before Trivette sped to his feet, but the pressmen were anticipating his move and the cart slammed into the approaching Ranger. They raced to get away.

Furious with rage, Trivette untangled himself, kicking away the metal frame while trying to keep down the noise.

Where was the police guard outside the room? Frantically recovering his balance Trivette gave chase.

He burst through into the corridor only to see two bodies disappearing down the stairwell. The agile Ranger gave pursuit; totally ignoring the surprised and anxious looks of patients and staff.

Trivette wrenched open the door and looked down over the railings. The slimeballs had a good head start. The chase continued down several flights, but the maze of rooms off the main concourse made the pursuit impossible.

Dejectedly, Trivette made his way back.

The light from the camera flash made both Walker and Alex start with surprise. Walker groaned, the sudden jerking of his body causing spasms of pain.

“What the …” Alex dropped the spoon of ice cream and held on. Walker was obviously in agony. His head bent forward.

“I’ve got you Walker. Relax. Take a breath. Easy …easy …slowly.” Another pained gasp of air escaped from his lips and Alex held on tighter until the spasm died down. The Ranger’s breaths were rapid as Alex gently laid back his head and removed her arm from behind his neck.

“Slowly. Sshh,” she encouraged, until Walker swallowed heavily and closed his eyes. His breathing was easing.

C.D. stormed outside. He barked at the young uniformed officer returning to his post. “Where the hell have you been, son?”

The rookie frowned, “I …I’ve just been to the john. Why? What’s happened,” he asked anxiously.

C.D. shook his head. “Never mind what’s happened. Look, son, if you need to leave your post – you come in and tell one of us. You understand?”

Wide eyed, the rookie nodded.

Trivette didn’t need to hear the conversation his mentor had with the officer, he guessed as soon as he looked at him. Greenhorn! Left his post to answer a call of nature and didn’t tell anyone! Wonderful! The Ranger tried to suppress his anger, casting him his most scathing look instead.

“Is he all right?” Trivette asked after Walker.

“No thanks to those scumbags.”

Why couldn’t he find his strength? The shooter! He could still feel the red, hot bullet ripping through his shoulder; skin, muscles and tendons shredding like tissue paper. The intense force knocking his body to the ground! The kid. Have to save the kid. Get out of the way! Can’t get a shot in. Oh my God. Another one hit. Have to do something. Uhhhhh…Get the gun! The gun! No strength …getting blacker, colder …fight …got to …keep fighting!

“Honey! Sshh …it’s just a dream. A bad dream.” Alex wiped away the excess perspiration from Walker’s brow. He woke with a start and looked round the room.

“Where am I?” He whispered for the third time in as many hours.

The three shot a look at each other, and with patience Alex explained again.

“You’re in hospital. In New York.”

Each time Walker failed to grasp the information. You could see it made no sense to him at all.

Sitting on the edge of the bed C.D. tried again. “We came to New York on a trip. All of us. You, me, Jimmy and Alex. Alex was giving a speech. Remember now, son?”

Finally, a vague memory stirred – you could see the look of relief on the Ranger’s face as things started to fall in place, and the deep frown eased.

“New York,” this time the whisper held confidence and understanding.

“That’s right, buddy.” C.D. patted Walker’s good arm.

“We …came to New York.”

His former partner nodded enthusiastically. “You got it! You remember what happened?”

But exhausted, the injured Texas Ranger was sleep again.

                                                                        ~

            If there was one thing he hated it was waiting in hospitals. Trivette knew it couldn’t be helped and the last place on earth Walker would want them to be. It was just one of those chapters in the challenge of life.

He strolled outside, nodding to the new, more experienced uniformed officer outside their room. There had been another two attempts to gain access to Walker’s room since the first incident. The Times Square shooting was big news in New York, and everyone wanted to know how Walker was fairing. That was nice, but the press always pushed it too far. Some of them were very creative, like the one yesterday that gave the impression he was from the insurance company, but whose questions became suspect. He hadn’t reckoned with C.D. though. He was firmly expelled by the old man’s boot. Proclaiming lawsuits to the uniformed presence, the would-be interviewer was disappointed when the officer advised he had been looking the other way and had not seen the incident.

The time had now come for Trivette to take C.D. to the airport. The elder man was needed at the Bar and Grill, and he had finally been persuaded that Walker would be fine and it was okay for him to return to Dallas.

Alex said her goodbye to C.D., and returned to Walker’s room.

Walker was sitting upright, he was in a lot of pain and distressed. Trying vainly not to cough, one hand was wrapped round his torso, the other hanging on to the edge of the bed. 

Alex rushed to his side, sat on the bed, and slipped her arm around the far side of his body.  With his head over her shoulder she helped take the weight of his body on hers and gently rubbed his back trying to ease the spasm. After thirty seconds or so it began to abate and his breathing eased, but his body trembled. Still rubbing his back Alex whispered in his ear.

“This one’s not easy for you is it? You’re still in a lot of pain.”

When Walker didn’t reply, Alex knew she’d hit the nail on the head.  C.D. commented at breakfast that Walker hadn’t seemed as mobile as on previous occasions when he’d been shot. Normally it was a full time job to keep him in bed.  This time he seemed reluctant to push the boat out.

Sighing, Alex kissed his neck. Walker didn’t move away so she continued the embrace, her hand fondling his hair.  Finally he made to sit back, and she helped him to ease on to the pillows, fluffing them up before he sat back.  A determined look crossed his face. “I’ll be fine.”

It was early evening as Dr Rogers came in for his final rounds and to say good night.  Walker was now out of intensive care, off the monitors, oxygen, and IV’s. Walker thanked him for his help.

Rogers only looked up briefly as he checked details on the chart, and pulled out his stethoscope. “No problem. Ranger Walker.” Deftly snapping them to his ears, Rogers placed the scope on Walker’s chest and listened; occasionally moving it’s location. “Good.” He put the stethoscope away, “Are you in any pain?”

Walker cast an awkward, sideways glance in Alex’s direction. “I’m fine.”

“Sure?” checked Rogers.

Walker nodded.

“He is in pain, doctor.” Alex looked firmly at the patient.

“Alex!” Walker glowered at them both, “I’m fine,” he said again.

Rogers patted him lightly on the shoulder. “Okay, but if you need a painkiller during the night call a nurse.  I’ll have one on standby just in case. I’ve taken you off all the IV’s now.  The next thing is to get your arm and shoulder moving, so tomorrow we’ll start physio for that shoulder and get you on your feet.

Ben Rogers wrote another few words on the chart and looked up, glancing first at Walker then Alex. “When dinner comes round, try and have something to eat this time, even if it’s just a few mouthfuls.  I ordered you a vegetable consume soup and chicken in a light sauce.  You like all that?”

Walker nodded.

“Good. Just relax.  You’re doing well. Good night folks.”

“Night.”

“Goodnight doctor, thank you.” Alex followed him a small way to the door and turned back. They sat in silence.

“Dad sends his best wishes.” Alex informed him. “His trial should be finished anytime now, and he’ll come by and see you the moment he gets into town.”

Walker nodded.

“Mind if I put the TV on?” Alex said after a while.

“No.”  Walker tried to cheer up. “What shall we watch?”

Alex smiled immediately. “Well let’s see what’s on.”  They ran through the many channels, picked one on animals, and watched for half an hour until there was a small knock on the door.  Alex went to see.

“Oh, come in.”

The smell of food permeated throughout as the evening meal was laid out and the table moved as near to Walker as possible. As Alex saw the attendant out, Walker tried to alter his position and sit up further.  This caused another spasm of stabbing pains as his body rebelled against stitches, stiffness and bruising. He kept his face straight but was given away by the beads of sweat on his brow.

“Here, let me help you.”

“Just give me a minute, Alex.” 

She watched as he insisted on sitting back by himself and rearranging the bed covers.  Finally he looked at the food knowing he’d have to try something. Walker thought the soup looked the lesser of two evils. He slowly picked up the spoon and made to take some when he stopped.  His hand was trembling. He was unable to use the left hand as the hit in the shoulder stopped the upward movement of his arm, and besides it was still in a sling. Annoyed, he grasped the spoon tighter, knowing it wasn’t going to work too well. “Do you have to watch me all the time?” he snapped at her.

“Hey!” Alex softly and kindly replied, “It’s me! C’mon, let me help you.  It’s doesn’t matter if I feed you.”

“I don’t want that, Alex!” Walker rapped the spoon back on the counter, realized he’d been out of line and took a deep breath. He wiped the sweat from his forehead. “Look,” he said quietly, “why don’t you get something to eat?  You must be hungry as well.”

There was a brief pause. Alex nodded awkwardly and wondered on how to respond. “Okay, if you’re sure. I’ll er…see you in a while.” Grabbing her purse she gave only a quick glance in his general direction and headed out the door. Walker sat back and after a short pause tried again.

Alex returned to the room, and took a deep breath before entering.  Breezing through the door, it took only a few seconds to assess the situation. “Right!” She exclaimed.

Walker scowled in her direction, but she ignored it, snatching up a paper towel from the bathroom.  She mopped up the spillage on the tray, table and bedcovers, crushed the towel in her hand, and with a deft throw found the trashcan.  Swiping the cloth napkin from the tray, Alex held it in front of her as she looked determinedly at Walker, narrowing her eyes.

“Resistance is futile!” She joked, trying to lighten the atmosphere. Gently, but firmly, Alex grasped the back of his head and with the napkin removed two bits of food from his beard.

“Oh.” Was his only comment.

“You need food in your stomach, Walker.” To Walker’s amazement Alex stuck her finger in his soup.  It was just warm enough. Grasping the bowl Alex took it to the bathroom, picked a glass from the shelf and transferred the broth into it.  She threw the balance down the sink and headed back.  Wiping the glass with another paper towel, Alex sat in front of him. “Try that,” was the order.

Without waiting a reply Alex picked up the chicken dish and waltzed out the door to the nurse’s station. “Excuse me, we’ve taken our time eating our dinner tonight!  Do you have a microwave I can reheat this with?”

Getting the distinct impression a battle was being waged, the nurses smiled, One showed her to their rec. room and pointed to the corner. Two minutes later Alex headed back.  She looked at the glass of soup, now only a quarter full.

“Good! How was it?”

There was an irritated pause “It…was good.”

“Good? Good!  You feel a bit better then?”

Walker still looked surly as he nodded curtly.

“Okay,” Alex said with patience, and moved a few items so the plate was closer to him. She handed Walker the spoon, “Try again, then.” He did, but despite his best efforts, his hand was too weak.

Gently, Alex sat on the bed, hoisting one leg beneath her.  Her hand stayed on his for a short time, before running down his fingers and taking the spoon from him. She shot him a look as she dipped the spoon in the chicken dish, heaped some potatoes on top, and cleaned the bottom of the spoon on the rim of the plate. “This doesn’t have to be a big deal, does it?”

Walker didn’t reply.

“Would you like the nurses to do it instead of me?”

“I don’t want anyone to do it!”

Alex ignored him and poised the offering in front of his mouth. “Open.” She commanded.

He stayed still.

“Why are you so stubborn?” she asked.

Walker went to answer and Alex saw her opening. The spoon was in and out before he knew what hit him.

“You...” Walker chewed, swallowed and tried to talk at the same time, “You!”

Alex raised her eyebrows. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?” She heaped in another small mouthful when he was ready, and a third, and now an even more pained silence filled the room.

A shake of the head indicated he’d had enough, and Alex felt for him.  The look in his eyes alternated between dire embarrassment and pure fury.  It couldn’t be nice to be in that position after all.

Alex tenderly rubbed his nearest shoulder. “Now you’re off the IV you had to have something solid to eat, and I want you well. It’s a temporary trauma with your hand.  The physio will help tomorrow, you’ll see!”

Alex waited in vain for a reply.

She looked back at the tray. “Hmm, they have Jello for dessert.”

 Walker’s eyes widened in horror. 

Unable to help herself, Alex laughed. “Calm down! I won’t come anywhere near you!” She tried some, “Lime green jello!” Her expression was one of surprise. “Actually, it’s quite good.” She took another mouthful. “Really, it’s not bad….” She smiled in his direction again, and noticed as his mood changed slightly. She held the next mouthful towards him, and sighing, Walker took it.

Hmmm, Walker thought, sweet but tangy.  It was good, made your taste buds come to life. Walker looked for another.

“Oh no, mister, you can’t change your mind now.” Alex ran her tongue around her full lips, made a smacking noise, and savored the taste for effect as she took another helping from the diminishing amount in the bowl.

“One more.” Walker leant forward as much as he could without hurting.

“One more?” she teased.

“C’mon Alex.” The spoon found his lips again. Dividing the remnants into two Alex fed him first and devoured the last herself.

Alex put down the crockery, heaped the remnants of the meal tidily on the tray and went to the bathroom to wash her hands. When she came back he had a peculiar look about him, as if the very thought of what had occurred had become too much.  Once again his brow furrowed and there was a small, incredulous shake of his head in disbelief. He looked away from her.

Going to his side Alex tried to imagine how he must feel. “Walker… this is only temporary. Don’t make an issue out of it. It doesn’t change how I feel about you, or anything like that.” She laid a kindly hand on his wrist, only to have her warm feelings towards him turn to dismay as he flinched at her touch.

Alex immediately withdrew her hand, her mouth opening in astonishment. Suddenly self-conscious, she blushed, backing away. “Sorry...” came her hushed tone.

  Alex headed for the chair and picked up her purse, “You’d better get some rest now. This’ll be the last time I’ll sleep on the cot.  I’ll get a hotel room in the morning.”

“Alex.”

“Look, I know this is difficult for you. I’ll get out your hair. I’ll see you later.” Fighting back the tears, Alex left the room.

“Alex!”

She’d literally run into Trivette. “Jimmy? What…?”

“Hey! Al? Hey, what’s up?”

Trivette held her firm while assessing the look in her eyes. “Oh! He’s being cranky, isn’t he?” Trivette hugged her and kissed the side of her neck. “Oh, Alex. We could’ve put money on it!” When his friend couldn’t speak, he hugged her again then pulled her towards the door in the corridor. “Come on, let’s have a coffee.”

Avoiding his kind gaze, Alex mumbled apologies. “Sorry, Jimmy, not right now. Thanks, but… I’ll talk to you later. “Cuse me.” She walked quickly away.

Looking after her disappearing form Trivette debated whether to go after the blond DA, but decided against it. He decided to see what happened from the other side of the fence and pushed open the door to Walker’s room. “Hey, pard.”

There was silence, then a subdued, “Hey.”

Trivette made a point of catching his avoiding eyes.

“What?” Walker grouched.

His partner gave a small smile and waved a finger at him. “Don’t you start on me, man. I’m in a position to win if I take you on now!” he joked.

Walker gave a small shake of his head and looked at Trivette properly for the first time. “Sorry, Trivette.”

“I should think so. You ruin all our plans and force me to wander aimlessly round a hospital.”

“No one is forcing you! I’ve told you all to go back.” The fire returned in Walker’s eyes.

The younger man studied him. “We both know I was joking. Gees.” Trivette came closer and stared the older Ranger down, his retort delivered quietly and with empathy. “Pard, hang there …okay?”

It took a beat before Jimmy Trivette received a resigned, small nodding of Walker’s head.

                                                                        ~

“Alex? It’s me, Dad, again. How is he now? How are you?”

Alex’s spirits soared. “Dad?” Cell phones were allowed in the coffee shop, and Alex had just turned hers on. It was as if her father must have known she needed to hear him. She asked him about the case before he could talk again, and Gordon Cahill informed her of the intricacies. “ …but enough of all that mindless stuff. How’s Walker? How’s he doing now?” he repeated.

 “He’s getting better. He’s… well, finding it tough at the moment. It’s as though…” Alex’s voice trailed off.

“It’s a though what?”

Alex struggled for an answer. “I don’t know…” She sighed deeply, “maybe I’m not reading the situation correctly.”

Her father read between the lines. “Don’t forget something.”

“What?”

“You just remember that this is as stressful for you as it is for Walker. You’re both bound to be anxious and your emotions are gonna be up and down like yo-yo’s.  Try and relax.  I’ll be back soon to help you out, okay?”

            Even though he couldn’t see her, Alex nodded. Suddenly she felt completely exhausted, and somehow Gordon Cahill’s words gave her strength to go back.

The room was dark but for a small side light in the far corner. 

Alex tiptoed in, carefully setting her bag on the chair by the cot.  She looked around.  The room had been cleared, Walker was wearing a different hospital gown now, so his needs must have been seen to, and he looked peaceful as he slept.

Alex undressed, slipped on her nightdress, and got into bed. Unable to sleep she lay awake for some hours before finally dropping off, only to be roused after what seemed like only a few minutes by noises from the rest of the hospital as yet again it sprang into it’s daily morning routine.

Then Alex heard another noise. A strained breathing that was much closer.

Alarmed, she carefully peeked out from behind the curtains and watched in silence.

Walker was trying to exercise by raising his left arm. It stuck at about a forty-five degree angle from his body.  Despite the pain, Walker tried to push past it, his face glowing with sweat, and his eyes narrowed with sheer determination. Over and over he tried, until finally he lay back on the pillows fatigued. Careful not to let him see she’d been watching, Alex slowly put the curtain back and lay on the cot dozing for another few minutes before getting up. Finally, she forced herself to move and deliberately made a noise to alert him she was up. She rounded the curtain in Walker’s direction as she headed for the bathroom. “Morning.”

“Morning. Er, Alex, look, about last night…”

She interrupted him.  “It’s okay.  I understand.”

“You don’t understand.  Well, I don’t exactly understand myself… but yeah...you….were right. I did feel much better after I’d eaten something.”

“Oh.” She nodded sagely, not entirely convinced, and shut herself into the bathroom. 

The truce continued with cordial behavior over breakfast of coffee and toast, which Walker managed himself.  Shortly afterwards the nurses came to help Walker with his ablutions.

He wanted to get dressed. 

His irritation flared yet again as Alex looked out his clean boxer briefs, his baggy training pants and a sweatshirt. After his pointed look in her direction, embarrassed, she excused herself and left the room while the nurses changed Walker’s dressings, washed him and helped him with his clothes. When she returned he lay on the bed looking completely exhausted. Her heart went out to him.

“Are you alright?” She asked, laying a comforting hand on his arm.

Walker blinked a couple of times before nodding, but they both knew he was lying. He made no attempt to respond to her kindness, so she backed off and sat in the chair, watching as his eyes closed.

It was around 9.30am a good-looking brunette appeared and introduced herself. “Hi. Ranger Walker? I’m Susie MacIntyre, the physiotherapist.” Susie

smiled fetchingly. 

Walker returned the smile. “Call me Walker.”

“Thank you.”

Alex coughed.

“Oh, this is Alex Cahill.” Walker did the introductions.

No ‘girlfriend’ Alex Cahill, or ‘good friend’, Alex Cahill.  She tried to rise above it, shook hands and forced a smile. 

“Okay,” Susie took control and looked to her patient, “Have you been on your feet since the operation?”

After hearing his progress to date, at her bidding Walker swung his legs off the side of the bed.  She and Alex each took one side of him and tentatively, Walker took a few steps. Lightheaded and unsteady he insisted on trying until he managed a few steps more or less on his own, whereupon Susie ordered him back into bed. She removed his sweatshirt and inspected the position and angle of the bullet wound to his shoulder. 

“We’ll soon get this going, Walker. It’ll be a bit painful to start with though.”

“Yeah, I know it.”

Susie fingered a couple of old bullet wound scars and frowned. “Occupational hazard?” She inquired.

Walker glanced down, “Something like that.”

Alex winced as Susie started the manipulation to get Walker’s arm mobile.  It was only a few minutes before sweat broke on his brow and he tried desperately not to show how much pain he was in. 

“It’s fortunate you’re in great shape Walker. You’re obviously an athlete. Which sport?”

Walker gave a breathy reply, “Martial Arts.”

“Yeah? Me too. Which form?”

Walker panted with her manipulation, “Bit of everything.”

She smiled congenially, “Ah, all rounder huh?  Black belt? Degrees?”

Walker nodded.

“How many?” She probed, genuinely interested.

“Eight.”

Her eyebrows shot up and she immediately stopped the rehab. Admiringly, she looked at him. “Eight degree black belt! Wow! Makes my white belt look a bit insignificant.”

“Not really.” Walker quietly responded.

Susie took a beat. “How so?” she wondered.

“It’s the hardest belt of all.”

She was even more puzzled. “Why?”

“Starting anything… is the hardest step to take. Especially something like the martial arts. Many people want to, but don’t get round to it, so, already you’ve set yourself apart from the majority.”

“Hmm.” She looked at Alex. “So, you must practice the martial arts then, Alex?”

Alex looked decidedly awkward. “Er, no. Walker’s taught me a few moves.” She replied with as much confidence as she could muster. It seemed very lame after Walker’s observation. He told her to take a class, but she always seemed to lack time. Now she felt defensive for some reason, and that only served to annoy her.

Walker frowned and looked at her.  He went to say something but Susie gently lowered his arm.

“That’s better than it was, Walker. We’ll call a halt now. You’ve done enough.  I want you to rest completely and maybe later this evening, if you feel up to it, just go over these exercises lightly.” She looked him in the face, “Lightly!” She emphasized.

Walker held out his trembling right hand. “It’s not nearly as bad as yesterday, but what do you put the shakes down to?”

Placing one hand round his body and positioning her fingers at the base of his neck at the front, Susie eased him upright, the fingers of her other hand deftly ascended the vertebrae of his spine. The fingers probed and stopped three quarters of the way up, checking and rechecking. “When you took the hit in the shoulder the kickback or the fall was enough to slightly inflame a disc.  It’ll come back to normal probably by tomorrow or the day after. Because of your other injuries I can’t manipulate your spine right now, but I’ll make a note and do that before you leave.  I promise you it’s nothing to cause you concern and you’ve done really well, Walker.  We’ll have another session tomorrow. You’ll notice a big difference then, I promise you.” She smiled sweetly at them both, bid them goodbye and was gone. 

Despite his discomfort Walker gave her a winning smile back. He looked round once more. “What?” He asked Alex.

She shrugged, “Nothing.” Alex looked about her, she, too, forcing a smile, “Anything I can get you?”

“No, thanks.” He lay back on the pillow, closed his eyes and almost immediately fell asleep.

Alex tried to analyze the hollow feeling that dogged her and why this wasn’t working out; recalling how happy they’d been before all this happened, and how close they had felt with each other.  They held hands, shared coffee from the same mug and wouldn’t miss a New Year together. Then after the whitewater-rafting trip she had taken him on and their fun lying under the stars, despite the trip taking an unexpected turn they had really gotten on well. Alex sighed. She had made a stupid move with old flame, Dalton Reed, and been confused regarding her feelings for a time, but after their close call with La Rue coming back, there was never a doubt since then that he was the one. Besides, Alex mused, Walker had even seen her in her facemask and hadn’t been the least bit phased!

A trauma like this always changes everything, but it would be temporary, she surmised.

Alex read her book off and on, and Walker woke shortly before lunch. There was a light knock on the door and it opened.

Walker was awake.

Alex’s eyes widened, “Dad!”

“Alex!” 

With huge smiles they embraced tightly and looked at each other.

“Dad!  It’s so good to see you.  What are you doing back so soon?”

“The trial didn’t go the course, Alex. We accepted a very nice settlement offer instead. But later on that.” Gordon Cahill turned to Walker “I came as soon as I could. Hope this isn’t going to put you off New York forever?”  They shook hands warmly. “I wanted to have been here sooner. I’m sorry.”

“That’s okay.”

“So,” Sensing discord, Gordon looked from one to the other, “What’s the damage?” he asked, nodding to Walker’s body.

“Oh,” Walker dismissed it, “nothing that won’t sort itself out. I think I’m lucky you’ve some fine doctors here.”

They all looked towards the door as the meal was brought in.

Puzzled, Gordon watched as Walker and Alex looked at it as though it was one of the horsemen from the Apocalypse.

“Gordon?” Walker piped in quickly, “why don’t you take this woman for a nice lunch somewhere special?”

“What about your lunch?” Alex asked.

“I’m much better now,” he glared, “ I’ll manage.  Go. Get some different company.”

Alex nodded. Obviously he didn’t want her there.  She turned back for her purse.

Walker had a thought. “Gordon, do you live near here?”

“Ten minutes by car.”

“Great, why don’t you stay at your Dad’s from now on? That cot can’t be very comfortable.”  he added hastily.

“Sure,” her father retorted, “Where’s your bags?” Gordon Cahill spotted them and rushed to pick them up.  “Great idea.”

“But…” Alex looked at Walker.

Walker frowned at her, “Before you ask, I’ll be fine! Don’t come back till tomorrow. Have a break! I’ll let Trivette know.”

Gordon was adamant, “Tell Jimmy he can stay, too! And tell him I won’t take no for an answer!”

Assuring him he would pass on the message, Walker gently tugged on Alex’s arm and pulled her toward him, pecking her on the cheek. 

Somewhat dismayed, Alex mumbled a good bye.

Gordon offered Walker his hand again.  “Walker, I’m awful glad you’re going to be okay!” Walker nodded and Gordon continued, “ I’ll bring her back tomorrow.”

                                                            ~

Now on his own, Walker somehow felt hollow and discontented. He slowly blew through his lips.

Thankfully, they had been gone only a few minutes when Dr. Hammond entered the room and picked up Walker’s chart.

“Ranger Walker? You weren’t in any fit state to notice before - I’m Dr. Hammond. I was the surgeon overseeing your case the night you were brought in.” Hammond extended his hand, which Walker took, looked briefly in Hammond’s eyes, and gave him a solid stare.

“Hammond?” Walker repeated evenly.

Hammond nodded nonchalantly “Yes.  I’ve been on a seminar and Ben Rogers took over your case while I was away. I hope he looked after you well?”

“Yes, he did. He’s a good doctor.”  Walker peered at Hammond’s face again and stared intently.

                                                                        ~

Gordon Cahill poured out two coffees, set them on the tray with the cream and sugar and brought them into the spacious living room. He looked in the direction of his daughter. Alex was standing by the window observing the New York skyline. “It’s a spectacular view at night isn’t it? He stood behind her.

“Yes it is.”

“I heard you gave a pretty good speech! I knew my daughter would impress them!” 

“Thank you.”

“Hey.”

Alex turned.

“Want to tell me about it?”

Alex was silent.

“We finally get time to ourselves and you barely say anything.” Gordon reached for her hand and drew her close. “You’re eaten up with something and I want to help. It’s Walker, isn’t it?”

Still Alex was unable to speak. A tear slid down her cheek.

“Sweetheart. I can’t bear to see you like this.” Gordon drew her in tighter and kissed her cheek.

“Oh, Dad.” Her tears flowed in earnest. Gordon guided his daughter to the sofa and went off for a box of tissues, returning with them to sit on the sofa next to her.  She blew her nose several times.

He tried to get her to talk. “To see Walker shot like that is just as much a trauma for you.  Is it just hitting home what a narrow call it was this time?”

Alex shook her head, “No. Well, yes, but no.” was the breathless answer. Alex summoned up all her courage to say it, “I think it’s over between us.”  Gordon wrapped his arms around her.

“Oh, darling. I’m so sorry. Has he said it’s over?”

Alex to regained some composure. “No, but I get on his nerves.  I can tell.” She sniffed, “He couldn’t wait to suggest getting rid of me now.”

“Was it like this before the shooting?”

Alex was empathetic. “No!” Then sighed. “We were very close before. This has changed everything.”

“You know, Alex. You’ve both been through a terrible emotional experience. You can’t expect not to be effected by it.”

Alex looked at him. “I’ve tried to take that into account.  It’s not as if this is the first time he’s been hurt, but….if you really love someone you don’t push them away. Maybe….” She paused, looking away, “I think I stifle him too much.” She looked at her father, “Can you love someone too much?”

Gordon smiled, “No. I don’t think it’s possible to love someone too much. Look, if you were great before the shooting, tell me what’s happened to change things.”

Alex recounted his irritability, her attempts to help him, the dinner incident and now his insistence for her to go.

Gordon rose and stood by the fire. “He’s such a proud man, Alex.  You have to see it from his point of view. He’s used to being the protector, the provider. He’s so highly trained; he’s used to being in such command of his body. It can’t be easy for him to struggle with a simple thing as feeding himself.  Besides which, I bet he hasn’t even come to terms with what’s happened to him yet.”

“I know… I’ve tried to make allowances for that, but…”Alex paused while she marshaled her thoughts, “before when he was hurt he got irritable. We all know he’s the world’s worst patient, but he’s never pushed me away before. It’s…just different this time, and I don’t know why.”

“What’s the worst time he’s been hurt before?”

“Well, there’s been a few times.” She immediately thought of the times he had scorpion stings, one time a rattler bite, and then was pretty banged up after his exchange with Hooks. “But, when he was in a coma, I guess was the worst.” She nodded and shuddered, her nod of the head affirming her thoughts.

“And how soon did he recover once he came out of it?”

“He was a weak, but once he came round he was on his feet the next day and wanting to go home. In fact even when he’s been shot or knifed before, he’s always made a remarkable recovery.  The doctors tear their hair out; they can’t keep him in for any length of time! He’s always discharging himself out of hospital.”

Despite the gravity of the situation, Gordon laughed.

Finally Alex laughed too. “He’s hopeless like that,” she admitted, making them smile further. “But I love him so much. The thing is…”Alex became serious again, “maybe …” Alex could hardly voice her thoughts, “maybe … it’s time for me to accept that after all these years, if he hasn’t asked me to marry him… he’s not likely to now. And,” she continued with her train of thought, “I guess I could accept it being like that if we were close, but when he can’t even bear me to touch him…” She looked at Gordon, “maybe the time’s come for me to face up to the situation.” It was a statement to herself, not directed as a question.

Gordon stared back at her for a few seconds and returned to sit of the sofa next to her. He settled back in the firm cushions, and placed his hands behind his head thinking through everything Alex had said. Eventually, as Alex sipped her coffee, he voiced his opinion. “Y’know you said that before when he was hurt, besides being the worlds worst patient, he was sure to do two things. One, heal fairly quickly, and two get out of hospital as soon as he could, right?”

“Yeah.” Alex nodded.

“But even he would have to admit this time is a lot worse than before, right?”

“Right.”

“He’s been irritable but you’ve still been okay with each other before?”

“Yeaahh…he’d be testy but I’d never give in to it. I could always win him round. I nearly won him round about feeding him dinner, but then he just seemed to…I don’t know…it got too much for him somehow…” she trailed off.

“Know what I think?” Gordon sat forward as he looked at Alex squarely.

“What?”

“I think our Cordell Walker’s been hurt in a way he’s never hurt before.  He’s frustrated because he just can’t get up and out like he’s done in the past….and…” Gordon thought for a moment, “I think I know just the way to bring him round.”

“Dad!” Alex was alarmed. “Please, don’t go scheming! He’ll get mad and he won’t appreciate it.  It won’t work with a guy like Walker, Dad? Please, leave it.  I’ve decided I’m going back to Dallas. I’ll see Jimmy tomorrow and let him know. I think that’ll be best all round. I don’t want to be the one to stand in the way of his recovery.  I love him too much for that.  If I give him space now, he might miss me and things will sort themselves out, if not… even if he doesn’t love me anymore, I want him well and back on his feet.” Alex looked at him, “I know you mean well…let’s just leave it at that.”

                                                            ~

For what seemed like the hundredth time Walker looked at the chair where Alex would normally be sitting.  Swinging his legs over the bed, Walker slid gently to the floor, grimacing as his feet landed; the smallest jolt sending shock waves of pain throughout his stomach and chest.

Tentatively reaching for the nightstand, he took the weight on his right hand and pausing, took a step forward, transferring his weight to bring his left leg level.

“Argh.” Still with his left shoulder immobilized with the sling, Walker tried to hold on to his abdomen and ribs with his left hand, and tried another step with the same result.  Walker took another step, and another, until he stopped at the wall. 

Swaying slightly, sweat poured down his face as he turned to look at the journey that faced him to get back to the bed. He’d need to use his bad left shoulder to prop himself up on the wall and take the weight now.  Walker gritted his teeth managing two steps before he doubled over, but trying to surpass the pain, he stumbled on until he made it back.

Turning once more, Walker began to repeat the process, forcing his mind to believe the effort was becoming easier not harder. He had made it to the wall and turned as the now familiar lightheadedness returned. Walker took a deep breath in an effort to combat the condition, shaking his head in the hope of clearing it. Obstinately he looked at the bed.

The door opened. “Ranger Walker!” Dr Rogers increased his pace into the room. “Let me help you.”

“I’ll manage!”

“Too much on your own!” Roger’s hands went round his patient’s body and he took some of Walker’s weight, directing him back to the bed. “When I need police protection, I’ll do exactly what you tell me to do, but since you’re in my world….I expect the same from you.”

He guided Walker, helping to turn and sit him on the bed and lifted up his legs. Almost without looking Rogers pressed the call button.

Walker’s sweatshirt was saturated. He lay panting, his face grim with the aftermath of his exertions, yet still automatically looking towards the empty chair next to the bed.

Nurses came within seconds and sprung into action at Roger’s direction. Carefully taking off Walker’s sweatshirt, the surgeon examined his wounds, checking the surrounding area for possible damage. The rest of his outer clothing removed, he was sponged down, dried, dressed in a clean hospital gown and made comfortable with the bedcovers snuggly over him.

Rogers handed Walker a small cup of water and two tablets.

“Painkillers. It’s to make sure you have a good nights sleep.”

Walker refrained from taking the medication, holding on to it in his hand.

Rogers sat on the bed. “The shots you took at close range. They didn’t go straight.” Rogers wiggled his finger in front of him, “they zigzagged through your body. That’s the reason you feel perhaps you’re taking longer than normal to get over this.” He smiled at Walker, “I’ve seen your previous notes…I know you’ve been in the habit of disappearing from hospitals.  I promise you, we’ll get you out as soon as possible. You will make a full recovery.”

In reply, Walker swallowed the medication.  Rogers followed Walker’s gaze back to the chair and then to his patient again. He cocked his head slightly to one side. “Where’s Alex tonight.”

Walker looked up. “Staying with her father.”

“If you want anything, anything at all, just call.” Rogers moved the call button nearer to Walker reach.

Walker nodded. “Thank you.”

Smiling, Rogers turned and left the room. Settling back on the pillows, Walker head turned once more to the chair, his look pensive.

                                                                        ~

“Dad?” Alex Cahill stretched tiredly, ran a hand over her tousled hair and checked to see the shirt-styled nightgown covered her decently. “You’re up and about with the larks this morning.”

“Morning, Alex.” Gordon looked up from his notes and rose, kissed his daughter on the cheek and pointed to the kitchen.  “Coffee’s brewed; help your self. Listen, I’ve got some things to attend to. What are your plans today?”

Alex looked serious and bowed her head before looking up to speak. “I want to be with him so much Dad, but I have to put my feelings aside and do what I think’s going to get him well. I’ve called Jimmy. I’m meeting him at the hospital to tell him what’s going on. I’ll bring him back here and show him around, then I’ll go back to Dallas first thing tomorrow.”

“You’ll see Walker and tell him your plans, won’t you?”

There was an ominous pause. “No.  I’ll call him later and check everything’s okay, then I’ll tell him.” She forced a brave smile, “So, you want to meet for lunch or will you be busy?”

“Lunch is definitely on! See you when I get back.”

                                                                        ~

Deep in thought, Jimmy Trivette replaced the receiver of the payphone and walked back into the hospital grounds to meet Alex.

It had been an odd time. Trivette’s days had actually been busy from the day they had found out what happened to his partner.

He had returned to their original hotel to pack up all their belongings and check out. After a few inquiries he had found a closer hotel to the hospital and checked in with he and C.D. sharing a room.

The younger man didn’t mind sharing with C.D., and it made sense when at that point it was hard to estimate how long they would be there. Then yet again he had helped their old friend pack up and accompanied him to JFK when the time had come for C.D. to travel back to Texas and the bar and grill.

Trivette was actually feeling optimistic about things in general, until he stopped in a supermarket on his way to St. Marys. He had paid for a packet of teeth-whitening gum and was pocketing his change when a glance to the adjacent product stands made him gasp.

“Oh my…” Trivette fumbled in his pocket to retrieve the change he had just been given while reaching over to grasp one of the tabloid newspapers. “Yeah, er, and this please.”

The hustle and bustle of the supermarket became a blur of sounds as he read the article that had caught his attention. “Damn them!” With that, Trivette sharply folded the paper under his arm and quickly walked out.

Popping into see Walker first, Trivette immediately sensed his partner’s discord and he knew it was about Alex as much as anything else, but as usual his partner wasn’t opening up. A few leading questions had ensured Walker didn’t know about the newspaper, and Trivette left in case Walker’s Cherokee kicked in and he suspected something amiss.

 Walker’s partner headed down to the hospital restaurant to have breakfast and meet with Alex. His optimistic mood had been replaced with a sense of dread.

He held open a swing door for an elderly woman and waited until she had cleared the entrance.

“Jimmy!”

Trivette turned. “Hey!”

Black, six feet two inch, Lieutenant Carter from the NYPD shook his hand.

Carter pointed up the corridor. “I’m here on another job. I was going to stop in and see you. How’s Ranger Walker?”

Trivette gave a wry smile and parried the question,  “Well, you know how us alpha types like laying around in bed.” He finished with a small laugh.

Carter joined with a chuckle of his own. “I hear you, brother. Thank God he’s going to recover, though.”

“Oh, yeah.” Walker’s partner was emphatic, his hands going wide, “I’ll take this any day!”

“When are you fixin’ to go back home, Jimmy?”

Well,” Trivette sighed, “I’m not sure right now.”

Steve nodded. “Did I tell you I have family in Dallas? My brother and his family live near Farmer’s Branch.”

“No way! We’re through that area ten times a day!”

“Yeah. In fact, she not sure quite what, but my niece is thinking about a law career. It won’t be for a few years, but she’s sure thinking about it.”

Trivette fished out a card from his wallet. “I’ll be teaching a police science class starting next year for the foreseeable future. Tell her look me up if she needs any advice.”

“Well I’ll just do that. Thank you. That’s right nice of you.”

Steve Carter made to go. “ I’m sure I’ll see you before you leave, Jimmy.’

“Okay.” Trivette turned but pivoted on the ball of his foot to look back.

“By the Way, what’s your niece’s name?”

“Erika.”

Trivette waved his goodbye and swung through the door once more. This time a voice to the right caught his attention.

“Jimmy!”

Trivette’s mood sank. “Hey, Al.”

Observing her friend’s expression, Alex stopped abruptly. “Is there something wrong? Oh my gosh – is it Walker?” She made to go.

Trivette caught her arm. “No – yes - no.” He led her through to the restaurant. “Al, sit down.”

Now Alex was alarmed. “Please tell me.”

Walker’s partner held her hand. “Have you been to the supermarket today?”

The frown on Alex’s face said it all. “The supermarket?” She shook her head slightly. “No. Why would I go to a supermarket?”

Trivette knew he was going to hate telling her. “I went to the supermarket across from the hotel.” He paused, then wordlessly offered her the rolled up tabloid newspaper.

Taking it from him, now wary, the blond unfolded the same and flipped open to the front page.

Blazoned across The Nation Inquiry’s front page was the picture taken in Walker’s room as she was feeding him ice cream. Walker’s right hand was slightly away from the bed, with the perspective of looking like he was groping her breast. The heading shouted, ‘Texas Ranger romps with ADA’, while the Byline informed, ‘Sexual encounters at Ranger HQ makes hero not such a boy scout!’

Oh – my ---! Alex’s mouth fell open, which she promptly covered with her hand.

“I’m so sorry, Al.”

This - is in the supermarket?”

Trivette nodded.

“This means – oh no! This means that everyone in Dallas that goes to a supermarket will see this!” She looked at her friend in complete dismay. “What are we going to do?” She scanned down the page, mumbling the contents without pause or punctuation. “Story by Skip Zacs sources close to the Texas Rangers in Dallas company B have informed that Cordell Walker the Times Square hero isn’t such a boy scout as sexual exploits with Assistant District Attorney blond bombshell Alex Cahill within the Rangers own headquarters have been going on for some time.” Alex ran out of both breath and incredulity at the same time.

Alex couldn’t bring herself to read on, instead she threw the paper on the table in sheer disgust.

She had been at professional odds with the media before, but this was something else. Then the thought struck her like a lightening bolt. Right at the very beginning when her and Walker’s feelings were becoming hard for the two of them to ignore, Walker had harbored a concern that professionally a relationship might muddy the waters for them. Now it seemed he was right. “If it wasn’t quite over before, it sure is now.” Alex quietly verbalized.

“What’s over now?” Trivette hardly knew what to say.

“Jimmy, I want to go back to Dallas tomorrow. Do you mind? Are you okay staying here?”

Jimmy Trivette nodded. “Alex, no one is going to give a rat’s ass about this garbage. I’ve called the Captain, and he and your boss have already discussed it and it won’t affect your work or Walker’s. There’ll be no official comment by either of them.”

This caused Alex to issue a sigh of consolation. “Walker – does Walker know?”

Trivette shook his head, no. “The Nation Inquiry is the lowest of the low, Alex. Everyone knows that. There’s no hint that the broadcast media is taking it seriously – it’s never been mentioned in the breakfast shows this morning. Just ride it out, okay?”

Alex’s fair head nodded sagely. “Let me tell him, Jimmy. When I think the time’s right.”

Trivette reached for her hand and gave a squeeze. “Okay. I won’t mention it unless Walker brings it up. Are you going to talk to him?” When she nodded in the affirmative Trivette continued. “Are you sure your Dad is okay with me staying with him? When Alex nodded yet again, he said, “Tell Walker I’ll check out and see him later.”

                                                            ~

Walker picked up the phone. “Hello.”

“Walker? It’s Alex. How are you today?”

“Alex! I’m fine.” There was a pause. “Erh ..how’s things with your Dad?”

“Good. It’s been nice to spend some time with him.”

“I’m… glad you rang.”

“I just wanted to tell you – I need to make sure I have a job when all this is over, so, I’m going back to Dallas tomorrow.”  There was another pause in which Alex interjected, “I’m sure you’ll appreciate why I have to go back.”

“Oh, er, yeah. Will I  erh… see you before you go?”

“Well I’ll phone of course, to make sure you’re okay.  I need to make some calls to see if I can get a flight back.  You know how it is.

 “Yeah.”

“I’d better go Walker. Jimmy said to tell you he is checking out of the hotel and staying with Dad. He’ll see you later.” Alex rattled on, not letting Walker get a chance to respond. “I’m so pleased you’re okay. I’ll ring before I leave.”

            “Er…”

            “I’d better go. Bye, Walker.” Miserably, Alex slowly replaced the receiver.

                                                                        ~

Walker held the phone in his hand for a few seconds before replacing it, feeling as unhappy and empty as he could remember. He could hardly blame Alex for not wanting to be with him.”  He looked up on hearing a light tap and the door opening.  Susie McIntyre looked radiant!

“C’mon Walker, on your feet! I heard about your unscheduled walkathon.  We’ll do it our way now huh?”

Steered and guided by her professionalism, Walker made better progress and Susie called for him to stop. “You watching my lips, Walker? That’s it for today.  Rest! The only thing I want you to do early evening is those shoulder stretching exercises, but gently.” Susie paused. “Everything okay? You seem subdued. You feel alright?”

Walker nodded, “I’m fine. Thanks.”

“Let me help you back into bed so you can rest properly for a few hours, then you can sit in the chair again.”

Walker closed his eyes only to open them again, unable to stop himself glancing at the empty chairs opposite. Looking to the right, he determinedly picked up the phone and punched in a number, smiling as he anticipated the response.

He dialed quickly, but his anticipation was dampened by the sound of the engaged tone. He tried twice more, then pensively, Walker replaced the receiver again. With a sigh he shut his eyes.

It was half an hour later that he heard someone enter his room. It wasn’t Alex as he hoped, but Dr. Hammond.

 “Susie has given you a good report Ranger Walker. I’ll just examine you.” 

Walker allowed Hammond to check out his wounds.  Hammond grunted his approval as he moved the stethoscope from one area to another, and listened to his chest and lungs. “Okay, let me help you put your shirt on again.  You’re doing well.”

“When will I start to regain my strength, Doctor?”

“Well, let’s see. You can get out of bed, and you’re mostly sitting on the chair after rounds, and you’re two days into physio on that shoulder and arm. Right?”

Walker nodded.

Hammond continued, “Tomorrow you’re scheduled to have a short, supported walk out the room.” He smiled. “Let’s see how you get on shall we?”

There wasn’t a lot he could say to change things. Walker hated all this. He slowly nodded again.

The elder doctor had detected a change in attitude. Hammond sat on the edge of the bed. “Everything alright?”

“Yeah.”

“Sure?”

Walker brought his head up to look into Hammond’s kindly gray eyes.

Hammond continued, “It’s just you seem…down?”

“I’m fine, thanks.”

Hammond rose, patted him lightly on the shoulder and made to leave, “Okay, but if you want to talk, I’m not a million miles away.”

Walker froze. “Wait!” He blurted out.

Hammond turned to see Walker’s astounded look. 

Walker could hardly get the words out. “It can’t be? Dr. John?” He questioned.

 The elderly doctor smiled a small smile, and slowly nodded his head, sitting back down on the side of the bed. Walker reached for him, and bringing him forward hugged him, the bond between the two returning instantly.

“I … can’t believe it.” Walker finally let go to look at him. The tough Texas Ranger was hit with a flood of emotion. Walker’s voice was quiet. “You knew.  Why…why didn’t you say?”

Hammond raised his eyebrows “Ranger Walker…”

“You called me Cordell,” Walker interrupted.

Hammond grinned,  “Cordell, I didn’t think you’d remember.” His face became more circumspect. “It was so long ago. And even if you did, you might not wish to remember those dark times.”

Hammond carefully observed the effect the revelation was having on his patient.

“I can’t believe it’s you.” Walker looked directly into Hammond’s eyes, “I’ve never forgotten what you did for me… and my family.  I never will.” Walker looked away for a second then continued. “I’ve replayed those times so much in mind … the only comfort, is when I thought of you. It’s a privilege for me get the opportunity to thank you properly for everything you did.”  Walker extended his hand.

“As it turned out, God gave us both a helping hand.  Maybe,” John Hammond

slightly shook his head, “aw… I don’t know, maybe… it was meant to be.” Hammond stated. 

Walker nodded sagely, “Maybe.”

“I was worried. In case this opened old wounds.”

“It never leaves you doctor, but you learn to live with it.”

Hammond rose again, I’ll have to finish my rounds, but I’d like very much to talk

later. If that’s okay?”

Walker nodded, his incredulity still showing through his smile, “I’d like that too.”

Hammond nodded, went to leave and turned back, “What was it… that made you

remember me?” He questioned.

“Your eyes.  I thought I recognized something familiar earlier.” Walker smiled,

“And you always left me back then, telling me you weren’t a million miles away and I was to call you if I wanted to talk.”

“Ah!”  Hammond smiled…. “I obviously need to get a new script.”

“Don’t change a thing doctor, not one thing.” Walker smiled in return.

“By the way, Hammond looked round, “where’s Miss Cahill?”

The deep ache in the pit of Walker’s stomach returned as he thought about the

situation with Alex. “She’s at her father’s.”

“I was here when your friends finally found out what had happened to you. They

obviously deeply care for you, and Miss Cahill’s very much in love with you.  I’m so pleased you’ve found such wonderful friends.”

Silence descended on the room as it hit home to Walker exactly how much they

did mean to him, and how disgusted he was at his own lack of appreciation. He looked away.

Hammond observed him closely. “Cordell?” Hammond looked towards the

door  “There’s someone else to see you.” Walking across the room, he opened the door and beckoned.

To Walker’s surprise, Gordon Cahill strode in purposefully.

            “Walker? You supported me when I entered the clinic to dry out. You asked me to keep it a secret from Alex, remember?”

            Walker did. He nodded.

“Now I’m asking you to keep this secret from Alex for me.” Cahill extended his hand waiting for Walker to return the handshake and seal the pact.

Now apprehensive, Walker hadn’t much option but to shake his hand.

Alex’s Dad took a deep breath. “I know you and Alex have been having a hard time lately, so I wanted to remind you of something.”

Walker’s looked changed from one of curiosity to one of suspicion as he looked at another person entering his room. It was a man and a young child.  The man entered apprehensively, almost reverently, and approached Walker’s bed.

            “Er, Ranger Walker? I’m er, Tony Davis and this” he looked at the child, “is my daughter, Jackie.”

            Walker looked from Gordon to Tony, “Pleased to meet you.”  He said guardedly.

            “Ranger Walker” Tony started again, “My wife was the lady shot in the Times Square shooting. It was my daughter that was taken hostage by that mad man.  If it hadn’t been for you, I may not have Jackie now.  I don’t know how to thank you for your bravery, but…” Tony extended his free hand “I can only say that I have my wife and child because of you.”

            Walker swallowed hard, shook his hand and released it, “Your wife, is she okay?”

            “She’s doing well.  She’ll probably get home tomorrow.”

            Walker nodded “I’m glad.”

            Tony made a move for the door, but turned before leaving “Thanks once again. We’ll never, ever forget you.”

            Almost immediately, before Walker could question either Gordon Cahill or John Hammond, an Oriental couple entered. The man was in a wheelchair, being pushed by his tiny wife.  They made a beeline for Walker, the man holding out his hand and bowing from the waist well before they got in range. Walker took it, nodding his head as much as he could in return.

            The Japanese wife spoke, “Raner Walker, my husband no spek Engish so good, but er he er..” she stumbled over the words, “he want than you for helping. We hav many family there in square, many peoples killed if not for you.  He than’ you very much.”

            Walker’s mouth opened slightly as he looked at them, and with humility looked at Gordon and Hammond. His hand being shaken vigorously again, the Ranger was stuck for words.

            As they left a man in his mid thirties approached confidently, and he too held out his hand to the now dumbstruck patient. “My name is Andy Grant, Ranger Walker.  I was the man that lunatic shot at and missed because you distracted him.  I owe you my life.  Thank you.” Squeezing Walker’s hand one more time, Grant turned on his heel, nodded to Gordon and left, closing the door behind him.

            Gordon turned to Walker, and sat on the edge of the bed.

            Hammond went to take his leave. He looked at Walker with admiration and affection, “Well done, Cordell. I’ll see you later.” He glanced at Alex’s father. “I’ll leave you to it, Mr. Cahill.”

            Gordon nodded and looked at Walker, whose stare had transferred from Hammond to him.

Authoritatively, Gordon started to explain, “I thought that you’d forgotten why you were in so much pain and having such a hard time adjusting. You made a conscious decision to save lives at the near cost of your own, and perhaps you’ve lost sight of the reason why. I thought that if you had tangible knowledge of the positive difference you’d made in so many people’s lives, it might make the ordeal you’re going through easier to bear. You actually saved lot more lives. If you hadn’t stopped him, lord knows how many more would’ve been gunned down?”

            Gordon was silent, allowing Walker to digest what had occurred.

            “I don’t know what to say,” Walker ventured finally.

            “Walker,” Gordon blew through his lips. This wasn’t easy. “You helped me not so long ago. I’d never have gotten over my drinking problem if it weren’t for your secret visits to the rehab center. I hated you for it at first. I thought you were meddling – as you probably think I am now. Alex will have my hide if she ever hears about this, but I’m her father. I love her. I…know she’s desperately unhappy.” Walker looked down. “I know you did have feelings for her, but she should have closure if you don’t love her anymore.”

            Walker looked up sharply, “Where did you get that idea from?”

            Gordon shrugged, “She’s going back because she thinks you don’t want her anymore.”

            “I thought she was going back because I’ve been unbearable and rude.  I’ve not only been unbearable, I’ve been stupid, too.”  Walker grabbed Gordon’s arm, “You’ve got to get her to come in and see me.”  Walker grabbed the phone again and hit the redial button, again getting the engaged tone. “The dang phone’s busy all the time.” He looked intently at Alex’s father.

            Gordon stared at him as equally as intently, “You sure about this?” he asked, rising from the bed.

            “Hell yes!  There’s no one for me but Alex.  I’ve been so wrapped up in myself I can’t believe I’ve allowed this to happen.  Gordon, please, get her to come and see me. I’ll take it from there.”

            Gordon started out the door when Walker called out.

            “Oh,” Walker smiled knowingly “if she gives you any trouble, tell her I said that if she doesn’t come here…I’ll discharge myself, and find her. And Gordon …” Walker gave him a wry grin. “Thanks.”

Gordon Cahill smiled broadly and was gone.

            The wait seemed endless, as three hours passed uneventfully. Walker sat in the easy chair by the window at the far end of his room. He wore hospital pants and a slightly oversized T-shirt Trivette had purchased for him. His partner had threatened to buy a pink color, but thankfully Trivette had spared him and returned with burgundy.

There had also been some success with his recovery. His left arm was now free of the sling. There was a little discomfort, and Walker had to make a conscious effort to try and relax his shoulder, but it wasn’t too bad, and Walker had been through this before, so he knew it was progressing.

            The Ranger had also been determined to go to the bathroom unaided, and - thank God - he had managed, although after he crossed the room and back into his chair he was pretty exhausted.

            Walker thought about Hammond and the amazing coincidence of meeting him again after so many years, then the thanks he received from the victims of the shooting. The ranger was humbled. He smiled at the thought Gordon Cahill’s pleadings. The man sure had courage.

If he could just have his relationship with Alex back the way it was. He knew, deep down, Alex was going to be the one. Walker didn’t want any relationship – they were too hard to bear, but Alex – she just meant too much to him now. She had become the first thing he thought about when he woke in the morning, and had caused him quite a few sleepless nights.

The Ranger thought back over recent events and reproached himself over his behavior. Even given the fact his circumstances had a lot to do with it, he had been way out of line, but, it wasn’t the first time he had had to apologize to Alex, and he guessed it wouldn’t be the last.

Repeatedly, Walker looked from the door to the phone, but he refrained from calling.  He had to see her in person – if he spoke to her over the phone he would have less impact.

Finally, well before he saw her, as the door softly and slowly opened, Walker knew it was she.

            “I don’t appreciate being summoned and I don’t know quite what happened, but Dad should never have meddled!” Alex stood by the door, her arms folded.

Walker gazed at her. She was wearing teal pants with a matching knitted top. It accentuated her small waist and well-proportioned breasts. Alex’s blond hair fell in bouncy curls around her face and she looked as beautiful as ever.

            The Texas Ranger was relieved beyond words. After a beat he found his voice. “I’m grateful. Brought me to my senses is what he did.” Walker put an arm around his stomach and slowly stood up from the chair.

            Concerned, Alex walked a few more paces in the room. “You don’t have to get up.”

            Walker smiled, “Where am I going to get someone who cares about me as much as you?” He queried.

            Alex became flustered “Look Walker.  Dad should never have interfered and I’m furious with him. We need to get some distance between us.”

            “Is …that what you want?”

            Alex was silent, not sure of what to say.

            “Alex,” Walker took a step forward and looked at her. “I’m sorry.” He shook his head, “I’ve been shot before and sure, it’s painful, but, this time…” his voice trailed off only come back, “Your Dad?  Don’t be too hard on him. He was right. I needed reminding why some things…” He thought about his exchange with Hammond, “…are meant to be.” Walker shrugged and sighed,  “I know I get irritable, but, this time I really took it out on you.”

            “Usually get irritable? You always get irritable! I can cope with that. What I can’t bear is to have someone put up with me.  To be somewhere I’m not wanted.” Alex shook her head, and intoned, “The most important thing of all is for you to get well. I’m not going to stand in the way of that.”

            Walker’s look was serious. “That’s not how it is.”

            Alex looked at him. His hair was ruffled, and he certainly didn’t look his best wearing hospital pants and white socks. Her heart went out to him. She couldn’t question his sincerity…passion…and even love? He had the same expression about him now as he had for her after their protection of Dalton. This was the same softness about his eyes, Alex was sure. Her feelings for him kicked into overdrive. She tried to squash them and be rational. She walked nearer to him. “We have to be honest with each other, Walker.”

            “Oh? And you’ve known me to be anything different?”

            Alex nodded. “That’s true.”

            “You bet it is.”

            Alex took another few steps closer. She was within touching distance and Walker ached to put his arms around her.

His breathing grew deeper. “How can I convince you?”

 In the absence of a reply, Walker held out his right hand, willing her to take it.

            Alex looked at his outstretched hand and the concern etched on his face. Maybe they had both been affected by events this time.  Maybe it had even made a difference being out of state?  Who knows?

Tentatively, she reached up for his hand, and finally they connected.

Walker briefly closed his eyes.

 He pulled her in closer, guiding her head to nestle in his neck and good shoulder while he wrapped his arm around her. It was electric as they touched and caressed, the old feelings between them returning in full. 

Alex savored the softness of his beard against her face, the bliss of physical touch and warmth.

Walker fondled her hair pulling her head back gently, his lips gliding down her forehead and nose, only to slowly find her lips. Gently, gently he pressed them together. His warmth, softness, passion and caring, equaled by Alex’s response.

            He whispered. “I never meant for you to feel I didn’t want you. That’ll never happen. I’m glad you came back.”

            “Well, …you would have tried come over to Dad’s if I hadn’t, wouldn’t you?” She felt Walker laugh inwardly.

Alex was about to smile for the first time in ages; then remembered the paper.

Her body froze and she pulled back.

Walker detected the changed immediately. “What?”

Alex’s hand covered her mouth. There was no question this was going to change everything.

Walker wondered how he could go from elation to intrepidation in such a short time.

“Walker, sit down.” Alex’s eyes widened. She gave a deep sigh while trying to quell the butterflies that had invaded her stomach. “There’s something I have to tell you.”

He did feel suddenly weak. Walker slid into his seat and watched as his ADA reached for the other chair and pulled it up next to his. Her hand removed her shoulder bag and it was set on the floor beside them and the tabloid retrieved.

Alex blew through her lips. “It’s not going to work, Walker.”

Walker felt stunned.

She unfolded the newspaper and held the front page where he could see it.

Walker’s eyes scanned through the print.

There was no immediate reaction for what seemed an age, but suddenly Walker’s face broke out into a huge smile, and then he laughed out loud.

A look of astonishment appeared on Alex’s face.

Walker took the paper from her, read more, and laughed loudly again.

The assistant district attorney’s mouth fell open. “Walker!” Had he lost his mind? “This is no laughing matter.”

The paper was dropped to the floor and Walker grasped one of her hands in both of his. He gave her the most winning smile she had ever seen. “This isn’t going to change anything.”

Alex was incredulous. “Walker! How can it not? Our reputations! How we work to-together…”she stuttered.

“Alex,” It was so clear Walker didn’t know how she couldn’t see it. He reasoned in his quiet, sure, breathy voice, “Our friends; our colleagues – they know this isn’t true. And those that chose to believe it – aren’t our friends.”

There was silence between them.

“It can’t be that simple.”

“Why not?”

Alex couldn’t immediately answer.

“Has Trivette seen it?”

“Yeah, he’s the one that showed me.”

“Does he believe it?”

“No, of course not.”

Walker didn’t say ‘you see’, but did so with a gesture of his hand. “Did he talk to the Captain?”

“Yeah.”

“And?”

“The Captain and the DA said it wouldn’t affect what we do and they were not about to comment officially.”

Now Walker confirmed both verbally and with a hand gesture, “See?”

Perplexed, Alex sat back in the chair. She thought for a few moments. “You said one time, that you thought the fact that we work so closely together might be a problem. Which is why we took so long to…actually get to the boyfriend girlfriend stage.”

            She watched as he slowly nodded.

            Walker replied firmly, “And that’s why, we’ve both grown into the habit of subconsciously re-evaluating our actions in every case, to make sure each procedure is done by the book.  Right?”

            Alex nodded. It had become almost second nature to double cross the ‘t’s and dot the ‘i’s. They had to make sure there were no operational impediments or professional consequences due to their growing friendship. They had done it automatically. She looked into Walker’s eyes.

            They sparkled as he broke out into another grin.

            Alex finally couldn’t resist, and smiled with him, and as he broke out into another chuckle, so did she. “Oh, Walker,” It was a positive giggle now, “we are so going to get ribbed for this!”

            He laughed again. “I know it.” Still grinning he gave a small shake of his head. “Awhhh.”

            The blond reached up to the side of his face and gently pulled him into her lips.

            “Hey! What’s going on here?” Trivette kidded and smiled as he strolled through the door.

            The couple broke away to grin in his direction.

            Walker joked, pointing to his partner, “And if you say one thing about romps in the hospital, you’re dead meat, Trivette!”

            The resounding laughter from his partner and Alex filled Walker with joy.

Alex carefully placed her arms around the man she loved and kissed him on the cheek.

With Trivette grabbing another chair to join them, jokingly, Alex warned him, “Jimmy, you know his new found attitude won’t last, don’t you?”

            As Walker laughed again his partner didn’t miss a single beat. “It hasn’t got a hope Alex!”

 

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