"Snuggling and Smuggling"

by: Denise drkenned@yahoo.com

**********

"Not there; up. Now, a little to the left...now down, down, down. Oooh!! That's PERFECT!" Alex Cahill-Walker practically squealed with delight at home one evening in late June.

"Finally!" an exasperated Cordell Walker said, making a mark with his pencil, and heaving a sigh of relief. "Trivette, hand me that nail and hammer, please."

"Sure thing, Big Guy", replied Jimmy Trivette, Walker's partner in the Texas Rangers.

After Cordell hammered the nail into the wall, he hung his and Alex's wedding portrait on it. He adjusted the portrait--which Jimmy had held in place, while the nail was being hammered--and then stepped back, next to his partner, to view it from a distance. Predictably, Alex stepped forward to adjust the picture. "There...now it's straight!"

"No, it was straight BEFORE!" Cordell stepped forward, and re-adjusted the picture.

"No, no, no, no!" Alex corrected what she perceived as her husband's mistake. Jimmy was starting to laugh. "NOW it's straight!"

Trivette was enjoying seeing someone else give his partner a hard time...especially since Alex appeared to be winning. "OK", he called a halt to the light bickering. "How about I get the level, and we'll see who's right?" The Walkers both stepped back, and allowed him to use the tool. Alex's shoulders began to shake with laughter the instant Jimmy's did. "I'm sorry, Walker, but she's right; it's straight right now", Trivette barely got out; he then turned to his partner--who had stepped up beside him--and laughed in his face.

"Told you so!" Alex crowed, triumphantly. She was behind Cordell, and didn't see his lips purse, or his eyebrows knit. Jimmy did, however, and he knew immediately that fur was about to fly...and he didn't want to be around when it started.

"Uh, I've gotta pick up Josie in an hour; see you guys tomorrow", he said, making his way to the door. Alex now realized she was in trouble for making fun of her husband, and headed for the stairs. Cordell would have grabbed her, too--she was only a couple of steps ahead of him--but, in true team spirit, the former football player decided to "run interference" for Alex. "Here's your level, Partner", Jimmy said, stepping in between the newlyweds, shoving the tool in his partner's face...and giving Alex a head start. "The picture looks nice!" His last words followed his friends up the stairs, as Cordell stepped around him--knocking the level aside--and took chase after his wife.

The slight lead Alex had was quickly lost, as Cordell caught up to her, and then playfully grabbed his wife around the torso, tickling her ribs. Alex yelped, then collapsed in laughter, as they fell to the floor of the upstairs hallway. "Make fun of ME, will you? I'll teach you!!" Cordell playfully growled, as he aimed his beard for her neck. Alex was ready for this, however, and threw her head back, making contact with her husband's nose. "Ow!" It was Cordell's turn to yelp. "My nose!" he said, jerking backwards.

Alex wasn't fooled by his act; she used the brief opening to roll over, and plunge her hands into Cordell's ribs. He immediately collapsed to the floor, laughing. The tussling continued for another couple of minutes--each one finding brief chinks in the other's armor--before Alex ended up on top...and ended the wrestling match with a deep, passionate kiss. "Mmmph." Cordell's final laugh melted, as he melted into the floor.

When Alex came up for air, she whispered, "Why don't we move somewhere more comfortable?" and then planted several quick kisses on her husband's lips and ears, before standing up, and heading quickly for their bedroom, with Cordell again hot on her heels--this time, with something else on his mind...

**********

The alarm woke the Walkers, who stretched in their bed, before Cordell rolled over, to turn it off. "We should find pictures to hang in every room in the house...and then, in the barn", Alex said dreamily. Her whole body tingled, inside and out.

"You couldn't handle me that much!" Cordell boasted, returning to his favorite prone position.

"Oh, yeah?" Alex retorted. "You couldn't go two days without some of me!" She then yanked the covers back, and plopped her nude body on top of his, in a way that chased the last of the sleep from their bodies. Several minutes later, they separated; Alex said, "I'll take the shower in the guest bath today. Race you!" She then bolted from the room, throwing on her robe, on her way into the air-conditioned hallway.

Cordell got up slowly, thinking of his wife's words. He'd realized long ago that his life was incomplete, but it wasn't until he and Alex had gotten married that he realized just HOW incomplete he'd been. <<She's right>>, he admitted to himself. <<I don't know what I'd do, if I couldn't feel her against me at least once a day.>> As Cordell turned on the water in the master bathroom, he smiled as he heard his wife's scream of surprise at the change in the temperature of HER shower...

When the Walkers arrived at work--Alex at her Assistant D.A.'s office, and Cordell at Company B Ranger Headquarters--they both found new work awaiting them. "Well, it looks like I'm going to be busy, getting ready for the Stewart double homicide," Alex said, perusing her memo. "It seems Ms. Stewart's case just got moved up."

"Well, I guess I'd better get out of your way, and go see what's waiting for me. Bye, Honey", Cordell said, kissing her. He then glanced around, and--noting everyone's apparent busy posture--kissed his wife even more deeply.

As Cordell left the office, Alex's secretary was heard to mutter, "Must have been some honeymoon!" At this remark, the red-faced Ranger could do little...save look straight ahead, and walk out the door.

**********

Fortunately, Walker didn't have the same problem when he walked into Ranger HQ; in fact, he was ready to grill Trivette about HIS date the night before. As if on cue, however, Cordell's phone rang the moment he sat down. "Walker" he said crisply. "Doug! How's it going?" At the latter remark, Jimmy's head snapped up: F. B. I. Agent Doug Foster NEVER called to merely discuss the weather. Trivette's spirits sank, as he heard his partner say, "That's not good....Well, I guess we'll just have to go down there, and take care of it....OK, we'll get on it. Thanks, Doug. Goodbye."

Cordell sighed as he hung up. Jimmy knew immediately that his love life was about to take a serious hit...again. "OK, let's have the bad news", he said, resigning himself to...what?

"You're gonna love this one", Walker said. No one missed the sarcasm in his voice. "Agent Foster needs us to go to Houston, and help break up a massive smuggling ring that appears to be developing. It seems there's a gang bringing in drugs from South America, through Houston. Not only that, but they're connected with a gang of poachers...and THEY'RE bringing in anything they can get their hands on!"

"Like endangered species?" asked Ranger Francis Gage. The only answer to his question was a nod: the animal lover in Walker was outraged at this development, and he didn't trust his voice.

The thought of innocent animals being wantonly taken from their native lands, for nefarious purposes, also angered Ranger Sydney Cooke; she stood with her fists clenched, ready to take on these low-lifes. "What do you want us to do?" she asked, fire in her eyes.

Walker spoke. "Like I said, this is MASSIVE. I need for you two to contact the F. B. I. offices in Miami and New Orleans--these guys were nearly caught in both cities, before they headed this way--and see what else you can find out." Walker handed Cooke a copy of the notes he'd made while talking to Agent Foster. "With any luck, we'll stop these guys, before they get too much of a foothold in Houston." Gage leaned over his partner's shoulder, and made his own notes, as Walker turned to HIS partner.

"How long until we leave?" Trivette was all business.

"Well, the sooner the better..." Walker said, accompanying his partner to the door. Once they were in the empty hallway, though, he quietly added, "...but we DO have time for a couple of quick 'Goodbyes'. Let's go get some clothes packed, and I'll pick you up at your place in an hour", he said, as they separated.

**********

"How'd Alex take the news?" Trivette asked Walker, as he put his luggage into the bearded Ranger's silver RAM a little later.

"Better than I expected...I guess the poachers got to her, too." He couldn't resist the urge to pry a little. "What about Josie?"

Trivette grinned a little. "Well...I guess more like Alex USED to react, before she snagged you", he teased back.

As Walker headed toward Houston, he reflected on the brief, but poignant, farewell he and Alex had shared...along with the customary requests for, and promises of, caution.

Later that afternoon, while Company B's best were being debriefed at Company A Headquarters, they put in a conference call. Ranger Cooke reported, "All we've found out--and this is from an unpaid traffic fine--is that Troy Adams, the ringleader, is from Spring, and that he owns several warehouses there. I'm sending you a FAX now."

"Sorry we couldn't find out anything more", added Ranger Gage.

"Don't worry about it, Rangers. Apparently you've already got something we didn't have before; we weren't sure WHICH rock this snake crawled out from under." Agent Foster replied.

Trivette spoke up. "For our out-of-state people, Spring is just a few minutes north of here, so we're talking about a local guy." The Company A Rangers, and HPD officers present nodded in agreement and understanding.

"That explains why they ended up here", interjected a Miami agent.

"It also makes it look like Miami and New Orleans were just stepping-stones", added an agent from the latter city.

"You're probably right", said Walker, contemplatively. "It could also mean that they may be set up better here--with better connections--than we first expected." Again, the local officers nodded in agreement. Their task now seemed much bigger.

"Good point, Walker", said Foster, retrieving the FAX from Company B. "OK, we'll split up into teams first thing tomorrow, and start hitting Adams's warehouses. Let's go." As Walker and Trivette stood up, Foster gave them directions to the hotel the other out-of towners were using.

**********

The next morning, Foster, Walker, and Trivette--along with the assorted State and Federal law enforcement officers--began their stakeout of a warehouse near Houston's Intercontinental Airport. Nothing that would lead them to Adams's operation happened that first day; the other stakeout teams had the same bad luck. One day became two, then three...then a week....

Finally, on the 10th day of the stakeout, a call came through, from one of the other teams. Soon afterwards, a convoy of tractor-trailers approached the warehouse. "OK, everybody, stay sharp", Foster said. "It looks like we're about to hit pay dirt. Remember, try not to shoot any animals, if you can help it. We're going to be sending them home as quickly as possible."

"What gets me, is why they're bringing the stuff HERE, when they landed at Hobby Airport", one Company A Ranger said. The two airports were miles apart.

"We've got you beat", Trivette replied. "Walker and I once nabbed a guy near DFW, when he'd actually flown in to Love Field, to cover his tracks."

"Shh!!" Foster admonished. Even though the convoy was just pulling in--and the officers were well-hidden--the F. B. I. Agent wanted things quiet. As the trucks were unloaded, the officers noticed several cages...each one with a snarling jaguar. They also noted numerous crates and large bags--some of which undoubtedly contained the drugs--being unloaded.

All of a sudden, there were shouts of: "DEA!" "FBI!" "Police!" "Texas Rangers!" The smugglers and poachers tried to make a break for it, but a second wave of officers--the stakeout team that had followed them from Hobby Airport--washed over the outlaws, subduing most of them, saving the elusive Adams, within a couple of minutes.

As Agent Foster had hoped, the poachers hadn't risked killing their with bullets--undoubtedly, the animals were going to be "steals" for numerous zoos--and with the hand-to-hand expertise of Walker and the other arresting officers, no shots had been fired.

Just when it looked like things were about to be wrapped up, though, Cordell heard Jimmy scream, "Walker! SNAKE!!" Inexplicably, Walker's mind flashed back to his bachelor days.

He and Alex had gone whitewater rafting; the Ranger was on medical leave at the time, after being stabbed. The first night of the trip, he had teased Alex, by making some rustling sounds, and calling out, "Snake!" It had been funny then...but there was NOTHING funny about the 20-foot anaconda that Adams--who'd slipped atop one of the trucks--released from its bag, right onto Cordell.

"AAHH!" Walker screamed in surprise and pain, as the reptile sank its fangs into his left arm, and began coiling around the Ranger. Walker couldn't reach his gun...and none of his martial arts skills could help him now.

A single, killing, shot rang out, as Trivette pegged Adams, who fell from the truck. "Foster!!" Jimmy yelled. "Grab a bag!! HURRY!!"

"Everyone who's free...GET OVER HERE!!" Foster called out, as he realized what was happening. As some of the officers re-aligned themselves, to cover multiple smugglers, others raced to rescue Cordell. "Someone get its head, and pry its mouth open. Everybody else, grab what you can...someone get the tail! OK, hold the bag open. Ready? One...two...THREE!!" At the count of "Three", everyone struggled to unravel the reptile from its would-be victim, and quickly began maneuvering the snake into the bag, head first.

As soon as the bag was knotted, Jimmy rushed to his fallen partner, who was trembling, gasping for breath, and holding his snake-bitten arm firmly against his side. "Easy, Partner; someone's calling an ambulance now." Trivette tried to get Walker to lie down, but Cordell's suddenly raspy breathing told Jimmy that something more serious was wrong. "Tell those paramedics we need oxygen!" he called out. As the sirens neared, Cordell Walker slipped into unconsciousness....

**********

“Snuggling and Smuggling", Part 3
by: Denise drkenned@yahoo.com

**********

"Will he be OK?" a worried Alex asked, for the umpteenth time in two days. She'd caught a flight to Houston, after learning of her husband's injury. Stewart's attorney had surprisingly asked for--and had been granted--a month's delay. Alex suspected she was going to be busy in the interim.

"It's too soon to tell, Mrs. Walker", Dr. Collins replied...for the umpteenth time in two days. "Your husband's two broken ribs, and five severely broken ribs, are bad enough...but we've got to get that left lung stabilized before we can even THINK of sending him back to Dallas." One of Walker's ribs had punctured the lung, and Cordell was still in I. C. U. Alex was allowed only brief, infrequent, visits, and Cordell had been sedated--for his own good--until just a few minutes ago.

Alex tried to maintain a brave front, but exhaustion and worry threatened to overtake her. Just then, a beeper sounded. Noting the LCD display, the doctor said, "He's awake; come with me, please."

As the pair entered I. C. U., they saw Cordell thrashing in bed, struggling against the restraints that were supposed to keep his body still, preferably until he was well enough to travel, but at least until he was lucid enough to cooperate with the hospital staff. "Try to calm him...but watch that left side!" Dr. Collins cautioned Alex and the on-duty nurse.

Alex placed one hand on each side of her husband's face--patting it gently--and tried to bring him back to a sense of awareness, but Cordell continued to struggle, and cried out, "SNAKE! GET IT OFF!!"

"Easy, Cowboy...shh!" Alex spoke softly, and continued stroking Cordell's face. Suddenly, his eyes flew open, and--after a strangled gasp--his breathing slowed. As he attempted a deep breath, his body betrayed him, and the breath became a gasp of pain. "Breathe slowly...not too deeply...that's good", Alex said. It was obvious that Cordell was beginning to realize that he was in a hospital. He settled back onto the bed, and began looking around, stopping at the sight of his wife's face. Tears of pain and relief filled his eyes.

"Gone?" he whispered, obviously not quite rid of the nightmarish memory. Alex nodded, tears shining in her eyes, as she wiped his away.

"Doctor?" she asked, indicating the wrist and ankle restraints.

"In a minute...I need to check him first. Hold his hand, please." As Dr. Collins pulled the sheets back, and lifted the hospital gown, Alex got her first real look at the horrible, multi-colored bruises covering Cordell's torso...and her first realization of what MIGHT have been. Only her need to be supportive, during the painful examination that was coming, kept her silent. Alex took Cordell's left hand in both of hers, and felt its power, as the doctor listened to his lungs, and then probed the tender areas as briefly and gently as possible.

After it was over, the doctor said, "I'm sorry Ranger Walker, but it was necessary." Walker's indicated his understanding with a nod: he wasn't ready to attempt any more speech--and the varying degrees of breathing that accompanied it--just yet. Both Walkers perked up at the doctor's next statement. "It sounds like you're coming along just fine, but I'm going to get some X-Rays, to be sure. Five minutes", he told them, unfastening the restraints, and leaving the unit, ordering the portable X-Ray on his way out.

In the time allotted, Alex massaged Cordell's wrists and ankles, and passed along "Get well soon" messages from everyone, and then told him about Adams's death...noting with amusement the look in her husband's eyes. It was his, "He should have been MINE" look. She concluded with, "...the others are talking, though, so this ring is officially being considered broken." Just then, the X-Ray machine was brought in, so Alex had to leave. "See you later, Sweetheart", she said, as she leaned over and gently kissed his lips.

"I love you", Cordell mouthed. He tried to arise, but--again--his injuries stopped him. Longing filled his eyes, as he watched his wife leave. He missed her already...

**********

Snuggling and Smuggling", Part 4
by: Denise drkenned@yahoo.com

**********

Thus began a slow, painful recovery for Cordell Walker...not only physically, but also emotionally. In earlier years, his excellent physical condition would have shortened his hospital stay, but now, his age counteracted that. Much to Walker's chagrin, even when he left I. C. U., he was still restricted to bed, as his wounds continued to heal, and his stamina was strengthened.

The day he was transferred to a private room, and the day he was able--and allowed--to walk to the bathroom represented moral victories for the proud Ranger. Being hovered over constantly by the I. C. U. staff was bad enough...but the bedpan was the ultimate degradation. Even after he was transferred, he wasn't allowed to have a phone in his room...but, somehow, the hospital staff had to chase out-of-towners from his room several times.

Finally, the day came when he was to be transferred, by Med-Evac, to Methodist Hospital in Dallas, for what was to be his final few days of hospitalization; the plan was to change choppers in Waco, where Walker's condition would be checked. The doctor didn't foresee a long stopover there, however. Afterwards, he would face a period of convalescence at home...or "house arrest", as he called it. He could only hope for a sympathetic doctor in Dallas...one who would let him get back to his job, his martial arts, his horses--and, most importantly, his WIFE--as soon as possible.

"When you get back from P. T., the doctor who's flying with you will be here, and we'll get you on your way", Dr. Collins told the Walkers--a joyous pair, indeed--one morning. Cordell had been spending time in the Physical Therapy whirlpool, which eased his pain without drugs.

He'd also been increasing his stamina, by spending increasing time just walking, and sitting in a chair. By doing the latter in P. T., the staff there could monitor him on a more constant basis; they would been at his side immediately, had the need arisen. Fortunately, Cordell had had only a couple of mild setbacks on the road to recovery.

As fate would have it, though, Cordell came back from P. T. that morning covered in sweat, and holding his left side. He wasn't exactly gasping for breath...but there was every indication that he had been doing so very recently. "What happened?" Dr. Collins demanded, glad that Alex wasn't in the room at the time.

"We'd just gotten him out of the whirlpool--and dressed--and we were helping him into his wheelchair", began one of the therapists who'd brought Cordell back to his room. "Our phone rang, and that distracted him. He slipped, and his side hit the chair's armrest." Before the doctor could ask, the therapist continued, "Here are the X-Rays; we stopped at Radiology, on the way back here."

After looking at the pictures, Dr. Collins indicated that Cordell was to get into bed. Even with the brief respite, this action resulted in an increase in Walker's panting and sweating. Dr. Collins then dismissed the therapists, asking them to send in the doctor from Dallas...but not Alex--not just yet. This gave Cordell time to control his breathing...although he suspected that another pain-filled exam was just around the corner.

The exam wasn't quite as bad as he'd thought it would be, given the pain he'd been in just minutes ago. Dr. Collins said, "You're lucky; it looks like you're going to get away with just another bruise--and I'm willing to set you free--but I'm going to get a second opinion." At the knock on the door, Dr. Collins called, "Come in!"

Cordell had closed his eyes, and sighed in relief, so he didn't see the doctor from Dallas enter. However, the moment the new doctor said, "Well, well...it looks like 'Superman' found his 'Lois Lane'", the Ranger's eyes flew open...and he groaned in recognition and despair.

**********

"Snuggling and Smuggling", Part 5

by: Denise (drkenned@yahoo.com)

**********

Cordell opened his eyes. There, standing before him was one "Doc" Mitchell. "Not you again", he groaned. He realized his chances of an early return to work--and other things--had just gone down the drain.

"I take it you two know each other?" Dr. Collins queried.

"Oh, yeah...we've butted heads before." Dr. Mitchell's wry look was not wasted: Cordell grinned slightly, in spite of his misery. Dr. Mitchell went on to tell Dr. Collins of the time Cordell had fallen--along with a suspect--from a helicopter. Fortunately, the chopper had barely lifted off, so the men's lives were spared. Walker, however, had suffered a concussion, which resulted in flashbacks to 'Nam.

Cordell had seen one doctor, but had ignored the doctor's advice to rest. It took a call to Ranger HQ to force Walker to see Dr. Mitchell...who, in turn, ordered the Ranger to take a medical leave. Dr. Mitchell had--at that time--remarked that he had more trouble with tough guys than with hypochondriacs...hence, his "Superman" remark.

Dr. Mitchell told his story while perusing Walker's chart and latest X-Rays. Finishing, he said, "Well, let's see what you've done to yourself THIS time."

"It wasn't all my...DOING...this time", Walker said, flinching, as Dr. Mitchell touched one of the broken ribs. Ordinarily, he would have gritted his teeth--and lied through them--to get an early release, but he knew his efforts would be wasted this time: Dr. Mitchell would just keep him on a short leash that much longer.

"Sorry", the doctor murmured, continuing his examination more gently, thus rewarding Cordell's honesty. When he was finished, he asked for Alex to be sent in.

"Well, Doctor, what's the verdict?" Alex said, upon her entrance. All the others groaned at her remark.

"We'll leave as scheduled", Dr. Mitchell responded. "It looks like--when we reach Waco--we can just change choppers; I don't think we'll need to make a long stop there. However, I would like to keep him overnight in Dallas. We can discuss the rest of his convalescence in the morning."

As Dr. Mitchell had hoped, the trip back was uneventful, with Cordell holding up much better than expected. When Walker was settled in his room, Dr. Mitchell gave him another once-over. "Last time today", he promised. When he was finished, he told the Walkers, "I understand there are some people waiting to see you. Keep it brief...OR ELSE!" he admonished. "Mrs. Walker, I need to ask you some questions about your house", he finished, taking her from the room.

As soon as they'd left, Walker's fellow Rangers entered.

"Hey, Partner!" Ranger Trivette said, shaking Walker's hand. "How ya doin'?"

"Better, since I'm almost home now." Answering the unasked question, Walker continued, "It looks like I may get to go home tomorrow."

"Great!!" the others chimed in.

"Sorry we couldn't get down to Houston more", Ranger Cooke apologized.

"Yeah", added Ranger Gage. "That's the bad thing about being on the bottom rung: SOME people get to take vacation ANY TIME they want!" he said, glaring at Trivette, who gave a "Who? ME?" look that cracked up everyone.

Amid his laughter, Cordell grabbed his tender left side. "Oops; sorry", Jimmy said...with just enough irony that Walker knew he was only half-serious. Walker knew it was his partner's form of "payback".

"How long 'til you get back to work?" Gage asked.

"I'll find out tomorrow", Walker replied. At that, a knocking was heard at the door. "Come in", Walker called. The door opened to admit Senior Ranger Captain Harland Briscoe...and his predecessor, Captain Tom Price, who was now retired.

"Walker, what's this I hear about you trying to be a snake charmer?" Price joked, after he'd been introduced to the younger Rangers.

"Yeah...well...the job just kinda fell on me", Cordell wryly replied.

Amid everyone's groans, Alex re-entered. "Captain Briscoe", she acknowledged, then: "Captain Price!" as she realized Cordell's former C. O. was among the visitors.

"Good catch, Alex", Price said, holding up her left hand, and examining her rings.

"Thanks", Alex replied. Then mysteriously, she added, "...and thanks for everything ELSE, too!"

"Whoa, there! What's going on?" a suddenly suspicious Cordell asked.

"You'll find out...tomorrow!" his wife replied, kissing him deeply, mindless of the audience. The laughter and catcalls around him just caused Cordell's face to turn that much redder.

Finally releasing him, Alex teased, "That'll teach you what 'OR ELSE!!' means!" At that, Alex turned to the others. "Sorry, but Dr. Mitchell DID say it was time for my husband to get some rest."

As the others made to leave, the Walkers thanked them again, for coming. After they'd left, Cordell warned his wife, "You know you're gonna get it!" He pulled her onto the hospital bed, and across his hips. Just as Alex realized what her husband had in mind, her pager beeped.

Heaving a sigh of relief, Alex checked the message. "Oops; almost forgot: I've got a 4:30 meeting with the D. A."

"Will you be back later?" Cordell asked, hopefully.

"I doubt it; I've got to get back home, too, to feed the horses."

Mentally scolding himself for not remembering his other "family members", Cordell asked, "How are they? I'll bet they'll be really frisky, after being cooped up this long?"

As she gathered her things before leaving, Alex said, "Not too bad. I've ridden Lady a lot, and the neighbors have been really good to keep the stable cleaned out. Several of them have taken turns riding Ranger."

"So...I'll see you in the morning?"

"You got it, Cowboy!!" Alex promised, kissing him even more deeply than before, before leaving for the night.

"Snuggling and Smuggling", Part 6
by: Denise (drkenned@yahoo.com)

**********

Cordell slept better that night than he had in several weeks. In fact, it wasn't until the nurse brought in his breakfast tray, that he even stirred. "What time will Doc Mitchell be in?" he asked the nurse.

"In about an hour...and your wife has already called, to say she's on her way." Cordell, cheered by the news, wasted no time in eating and cleaning up.

He had just emerged from the bathroom, wearing his robe, when a knock came at the door. "Come in", he said, embracing Alex and kissing her as deeply as she'd kissed him the day before. Automatically, Alex's arms went around her husband's waist. Cordell broke off the kiss, as his wife's arms encircled his ribcage.

"Oops...sorry; I forgot. Did I hurt you?" Alex asked, concerned.

"No, not really. It's just that...." Cordell hesitated, reluctant to say he'd had a flashback to his LAST embrace: the near-fatal embrace of the snake.

"It's OK", Alex said, understandingly. "Hey, I brought you some clean clothes", she told him, handing him a bag.

"Thanks, honey", Cordell said, taking the bag, and returning to the bathroom. This time, when he emerged, he was fully dressed...except that his shirt was unbuttoned. "I figured Doc Mitchell would want to check me out, one final time", was his lame explanation.

"Yeah, right!" Alex responded, as she kissed him again, sliding her hands along his chest.

Again, a knock on the door came, separating the two. "Come in!" Walker called, heading automatically for his bed when Dr. Mitchell entered.

"You read my mind", the doctor said. "No...it's all right; you can stay", he said, as Alex started to excuse herself. "Hmm...chart says you had a good night; let's take a look here..." He then gave Cordell a quick check, then began his instructions.

"OK you can go home, but no driving, climbing stairs, heavy lifting, or strenuous exercise for another two weeks."

"So...how do I keep clean?" Cordell asked.

"Let's see...", he said, referring to his notes, "your wife told me your ranch has an extra half-bath in the barn?"

"That's right", Walker said. He'd had it installed several years earlier. There had been times that he'd had "accidents" with his horses in the barn, necessitating clean-ups BEFORE he returned to the house...and, of course, he didn't always have time to run in to answer's "nature's call". However, the hot water heater in the barn had recently conked out; Walker cringed at the idea of cold showers.

"OK, then...that takes care of that. I also understand you have a guest bedroom downstairs?"

"Yeah", Walker grumbled, adding to himself, "With a danged TWIN-SIZED bed!" That was more of an insult than the prospect of cold showers.

"When can he go back to work?" Alex interjected.

"Well, I'll drop by your ranch, and check him in a day or so. If everything's OK, he can go back to DESK DUTY on Monday." Noting with amusement Cordell's grimace, he continued. "Go ahead and let him work A LITTLE BIT on the stairs--just a few at a time, twice a day--and if he's doing OK on that end, I'll let you two get back to being newlyweds!! Get 'Superman' out of here, 'Lois'!" he concluded. The doctor then slapped Cordell with his chart, as the Ranger buttoned up his shirt--trying to conceal his red face--and his wife cackled out loud.

Snuggling and Smuggling", Part 7
by: Denise (drkenned@yahoo.com)

**********

On the drive back home, Cordell tried in vain to divulge the secret he'd spent nearly 24 hours trying to figure out. "No, Cordell", Alex admonished. "I'm NOT going to tell you anything else!"

"All you've told me is that I'll 'like it'", he grumbled. Alex just giggled at his consternation. She knew--once they got home--she'd have to spill the beans...but, right now, she was enjoying this game.

Finally, Alex pulled her car into the drive leading to their ranch. Instead of pulling up to the house, however, she headed toward the barn. "Alex Cahill-Walker, WHAT are you up...?" Walker began...then stopped, as he saw that the barn was unquestionably bigger. "Alex, what is this?" Cordell asked, as incredulous as a child seeing a most desirable Christmas present.

"The tour begins here", Alex stated, getting out, and opening her husband's car door: the Ranger was so stunned, he hadn't moved. Alex led him into the barn, where frantic, happy whinnying met their ears.

"Hey, Boy", Cordell said, stroking the muzzle of his trusty steed, Ranger. The two-legged Ranger felt something cold slip into his hand. He noticed that Alex had a bucket of ice handy, with several carrots for the horses. Cordell spent several minutes with Ranger, then realized that Lady, Alex's mare, was clamoring for attention. "OK, Girl; I'm comin'!!", he assured her.

After giving the mare the attention--and the carrots--she craved, Cordell felt his wife, tugging on his sleeve. "My turn", she said, seductively. The red-bearded Ranger then noticed she'd slipped into "something more comfortable": a bath towel and matching terry cloth flip-flops.

"Alex, the bathroom's upstairs; how can...?"

"Wanna bet?" Alex teased, huskily. "This way, please", she said, wagging her finger at him, and leading her husband to a door he hadn't noticed.

As they neared the door, they passed an empty stall: that of Amigo, the horse that had given his life in saving his master's. Cordell's eyes misted over, as he ran his hand along the stall door. Shaking off the feeling of melancholy, he turned back to Alex. "NOW do I get to find out what you've been up to?"

The door opened to reveal the half-bath Cordell expected...with a couple of surprises he HADN'T expected. He first noticed the new hot water heater, with a card and ribbon attached. "Welcome home, Honey", the card read. Next, he realized the shower had been re-tiled.

While Cordell was taking all this in, Alex had busied herself. "Ready to get some of that dust off of you?" she asked. Cordell then realized he had no shirt on, and his pants were down around his ankles. Taking a seat on the new bench along the wall, he finished this task himself...but only AFTER he saw another outfit hanging from a hook on the wall opposite.

By the time he'd stripped, Alex had the shower running. She'd shed her towel, and was awaiting him, under the steamy spray. Her husband didn't have to be summoned any other way. Joining her, he embraced and kissed Alex deeply...beginning with French kisses, then moving down her body for some "Kisses of Ecstasy", and finally, kneeling to give her "Kisses of Extreme Ecstasy." Alex moaned with pleasure, and ran her hands in Cordell's wet hair, as his hands caressed her bikini area.

All this time, Cordell was trying to figure out a way around Dr. Mitchell's "no strenuous exercise" order. He should have known that Alex would have the answer. "My turn", she finally said, pulling him to his feet. "Time for another surprise!" Cordell's eyes followed her hand, as Alex unhooked the new hand-held shower head. Taking a bottle of liquid soap in her other hand, Alex went to work, as Cordell first gulped, then moaned in anticipation.

Mrs. Walker then began lathering her husband's body with the soap and her hands, but using a sponge over his tender ribcage. She gently squeezed the fleshier parts of his body, before rinsing him for the first time. She then returned the kisses he'd given her--all of them--before she used the shower on his loins again. "Hey! That tickles!" Cordell laughed.

"You'll get used to it; I have", Alex said, turning the device on herself as proof. Watching her use the shower head just made Cordell want her that much more.

Finally, Alex turned the water off, and got their towels from the rack. "Ready for the next part?" she said, enticingly.

"Now, how can I say 'No'?" Cordell grinned. He then followed her through yet ANOTHER door. This part of the barn, he realized, was a new wing...and, there, in the middle of the room, was a large Jacuzzi, set into the floor. "So THIS is what you were talking about yesterday!" he exclaimed.

"You got it, Cowboy!" Alex said, triumphantly. "This is our wedding present from Company B!"

"But why did it take so long?" Cordell wondered.

"Because you wouldn't let us leave the house for the length of time needed to get all this built", Alex chided. "Actually, the finishing touches were just added last week."

"Well, I guess we'd better try it out", Cordell said, stepping into the frothing water...

TO BE CONTINUED...


Denise