(A short glimpse. By Dee)
He motioned his head to the door and gave Janice the look, his brows raised. She smiled and nodded yes.
The door was cracked open and he silently stepped into the office. She sat motionless, her elbows resting on her desk, with her head in her hands. He smiled. His first thought was to surprise her. He knew she would startle, but then she'd smile at him and let out that giggle that warmed his heart even on the worst of days, and today had been one of those days. He couldn't ever remember a time when she had not seemed happy to see him...a time when just her look hadn't made him feel wanted.
But his instincts now stopped him. He had stood quietly, studying her for over two minutes and still she'd made no movement, no notice that he had entered the office. Concern rose up from inside him, then guilt followed. Something was wrong. Maybe it was something little, maybe it was important, but he could see that she needed him. Maybe she needed someone to talk to, someone to hug her, someone to sit quietly with her. Maybe she needed someone to coax it out of her, someone to make her smile. She needed someone ... and he was leaving. She was the most important thing in his life, the one thing he treasured above all else ... and still, he was leaving.
Walker stepped to her desk, slowly squatting so that he was eye level with Alex. He placed his hand on her lower back and gently rubbed, with a tender up and down motion. She moved one hand away from her face and placed it carefully over his free hand. Then she slowly turned toward him, her head still resting on the other hand. She let out a tight, small smile, but not one of joy, and looked deeply into his eyes. She was glad to see him, he could tell, but there was something else ...
Guilt swept through him, now mixed with confusion. This wasn't at all like her. She hadn't jumped at the surprise of his appearance, or arched her back the she always did when he began to rub, or given him that special smile or even change her breathing. It was as though he were watching a movie in slow motion, with the sound off. Alex had shown no real emotion and Walker found himself at a complete loss as to what he should do or say next. At this moment, even with all his training and experience in assessing people, even with his Cherokee senses, Walker couldn't read Alex.
"There you are! Come on man, let's go! We're going to miss him..." Jimmy stated loudly and impatiently as he burst through the door. Walker flinched at both the volume and suddenness of Trivette's appearance. And the timing! He hadn't even started to tell Alex that he was going to break their date for tonight ... again. This was the third night in a row he'd tried to have dinner with her. And this original date had started as a way to make up to her his being so busy at work lately. He'd barely had time to get in two, non-work related, sentences to her in over a week!
Alex just nodded, closing her eyes for a moment and tightening her mouth. He saw the quick breath, as if she were holding herself in check. She leaned to him, kissing his cheek softly and saying quietly, "Be careful."
Walker returned the nod, giving her a half smile, trying to coax one from her in return. Alex just looked at him, wide-eyed and intense. As he rose, he placed a gentle kiss on her forehead, his eyes meeting hers and conveying his concern. "I'll call you as soon as we're done." Walker said in a soft, promising tone. He turned to join Trivette, looking back at Alex before they reached the outer office. She was frozen, just watching him go.
The men quickly made their way down the corridor, with Trivette spouting the latest information his computer had provided him. Walker was listening intently, nodding, but Jimmy sensed a hesitancy to his gait.
"Everything OK?" Jimmy voiced as they hurried for the elevator.
Walker said nothing at first, but as the elevator doors shut, he looked right at Trivette and shook his head no.
"Is it Alex? You two looked pretty intense. I didn't mean to interrupt. You said you were just gonna let her know you'd be gone tonight and it seemed to be taking you forever....I just didn't want us to miss this chance after all the work." Trivette's voice took on some concern as he stated his apology.
Walker shrugged. Stepping out of the elevator, they quickly headed for the doors and the truck. They were on the road in just a few seconds. Trivette grabbed for the radio to turn in their intended location. As he made the call in, he saw it. Walker glancing up toward Alex's office as they rounded the building, with a look of longing, uncertainty on his face. 'Yup, it's Alex all right.' Trivette thought.
Ten minutes had passed in complete silence, as Walker tightly gripped the wheel of the Ram, intent on their destination. Trivette looked over at the sports car they were passing. It was crowded with teens, laughing and grabbing for the wheel. "Now, there's an accident waiting to happen." he stated.
Walker looked over, just in time for both he and Trivette to see the driver flip them off. Trivette flicked on the siren and lights, and Walker motioned for them to pull over in the breakdown lane of the bridge. They could see the laughter had been replaced by arguing. "What you want to bet they're not so tough now?" Jimmy let out with a smile.
Walker and Trivette made their way to the car, hands on their guns. The driver rolled down the window and said, in a sarcastic tone, "What? Is there some law now against sign language!" Laughter broke out from the back seat.
"Get out...all of you." Walker stated sternly. Trivette opened the passenger door, motioning for the back seat to empty.
The five teenagers now stood quiet, but smug against the railing of the bridge. "You got no right to search the car." one of the boys threw out.
Trivette nodded, then smiled at Walker, as he took the keys from the ignition. They'd done this once before. Taught a group a lesson, without letting the law get involved. This time, Jimmy wouldn't be surprised...he knew the ending.
"Let me see your driver's license, son." Walker told the driver in a commanding voice, then added "And the rest of you too, let me see yours." The boys complied with smirks.
"You guys gonna write us up or what!" the driver stated impatiently. "We got rights ya know!"
"Well, Partner..." Jimmy started, "they're right about that. No law against expressing yourself to another driver, and we didn't see them do anything illegal. Guess it's just a good thing it was us they were 'talking' to us instead of some wacko with a gun."
"Well, ... I reckon you're right." Walker said, a smile forming. "You boys best be careful who use that sign language with ... not everyone is as nice as us."
The boys were getting cocky now ... smiling, hitting each other in the arm. Walker approached the driver, keys and licenses in hand. As he reached to return them, Walker stumbled and the keys and licenses dropped into the rushing water below. Bedlam broke out among the boys now, cursing, panic.
"Oh no..." Walker was just a little smug now, "Tough break...make sure you tell your folks what happened when you call them for a ride. I'll be happy to talk to any of them. Life's full of choices boys. Next time, make the right one."
Trivette and Walker got back in the Ram, Trivette tipping his hat at the shocked faces of the boys as they drove away.
"Man, that has got to be one of your best. Like who's gonna tell their folks they were stopped for flippin off a Ranger ... and who'd believe you'd throw their keys and licenses into the river....bet they'll all think twice before using that sign again!" Trivette was laughing.
Walker smiled too. Sometimes you just had to take things into your own hands to stop a problem before it got started. The incident had helped relieve some of the stress that had built up in the last half hour.
Back on the road, Trivette checked his watch. Only a few minutes had passed. Shouldn't be a problem in catching their man. Walker was more relaxed now. 'He'd let me know everything wasn't ok in the elevator'...for Walker that was opening up. Still a half hour before they reached their destination, 'Ride in silence or try again?' Trivette thought. 'Ride in silence now or ride in silence after he doesn't answer your question?' Trivette smiled. 'Try again.'
Walker beat Jimmy to it. "It's Alex." he stated suddenly, then paused. "I don't know what. I don't think she's mad at me. Her work load has been almost has tough as ours lately. It's something..." Walker paused again, his face in deep concentration. "It just killed me to leave her again, disappoint her again. Why does Alex always get the short end of the rope?" Walker questioned harshly as he gave the steering wheel a hard slam.
Trivette sat silently. 'Whoa. ... and what did I think I'd do if he did tell me what was wrong!' Jimmy suddenly wondered. A long silence ensued.
"I'm sorry, Partner...I don't know what to tell ya." Trivette admitted.
Walker smiled. "It's ok Trivette ... I wasn't really asking, just venting out loud. It's not like I think you're some relationship expert." he laughed.
"Hey! Watch it! I'm better than you!" Trivette added in his own defense.
"Right!" Walker smirked. "That's why we're working and gonna eat fast food together tonight in my truck, instead of going out to dinner with beautiful women."
They looked at each other and broke up laughing. It wasn't really all that funny, but with the tension they'd both been feeling with the work load lately and the seriousness of the conversation, it just seemed hysterical.
Dusk had fallen as they pulled up to their destination. The windows of the old warehouse were lit, three cars were parked in the back. The partners new that meant upwards of twelve men could be inside. Trivette radioed for local backup and they watched carefully from the Ram.
"Man, I hate warehouses." Jimmy complained. "Big, dirty, dark ... you just can't be sure you've gotten them all. Then there's all the checking of goods, looking for evidence ... the paperwork. We'll be here forever."
"Trivette ... give it a break. We haven't even started yet and you're complaining about wrapping it up." Walker sighed in defeat, then added "Let me have your cell phone."
Walker took the phone and punched up Alex's number. The machine came on. He blew a breath out, noting it was already 6:35pm. Walker closed his eyes, leaning his head back against the seat. 'Here I go again.' he thought, 'Just add one more disappointment to your list Alex.' "Alex, it's me. It's gonna be a late one, we're waiting for backup. Umm ... I don't want you to wait up for a call ... don't worry ... I'm sorry ..." Walker hesitated, aware of Trivette trying not to listen. He picked up his head, looked out the driver's window and said quietly, "Alex ... I miss you." He clicked off the phone, handed it back to Trivette and stared ahead at the warehouse.
Alex opened the door to her apartment, glad to feel the warmth after her walk on this chilly fall night. The air was crisp, the season beginning to show it's change. If Walker had been with her, 'If ...' Alex pondered, 'If he was, we'd still be walking. We'd keep each other warm ... and look at the stars ... and just be! If only he were here.' She took off her jacket, placing it on the chair's back and looked at the answering machine, seeing it's blinking light. 'Oh shoot! Let it be anyone but Walker. I hope I didn't miss him ...' Alex played the message and her face fell. She slumped down on the couch, her mind rambling.
"Walker ... I miss you too." Alex said to no one. A small smile formed. He must have said that in front of Jimmy. Poor Walker ... he sounded as bad as she felt. 'Why ... why can't it work for us? Why do we both have to try so hard? Why can't we both have normal jobs ...' a vision of Walker in a suit, teaching in a school came to mind. Alex smiled. 'No,' she thought , 'it still wouldn't be any better. He'd be coaching all the teams, working till late in the night with some troubled kid, trying to put some family back together. If the man flipped burgers for a living, he'd be hauling leftovers to the Dallas homeless until the wee hours of the morning!' Alex chuckled to herself, feeling some of the day's tension melt away. 'I'm not much better. My work, my groups ... how many times have I cut him off so I could finish up a case, get to work early the next morning, meet with one of the women in the group? He never even acts like it's a big deal ... just accepts whatever I tell him.'
Still, today had been so bad. Alex felt so alone right now, angry, scared. She longed for one of his warm, safe, hugs. His quiet voice whispering that it would all work out. His wisdom ... the way he could see a situation at a different angle and make her see it too. Alex thought about that. Her job had her mingling with some of the most educated, influential, well-versed men in the country, yet none of them had the wisdom of her rugged, simple Cowboy.
Alex felt her throat tighten, the knot in her stomach getting tighter and her eyes misting. 'Her Cowboy', oh how she wished he was here! She pulled the quilt from the back of the couch around her tightly, curled up in a ball and let the tears flow freely.
Walker looked to Trivette. They both nodded, faces stern, guns poised. With a strong, swift motion, Jimmy threw open the door of the warehouse and shouted in a commanding voice, "Police! Freeze!"
Walker entered first, gun drawn, flanked by Trivette and behind them, local law enforcement. It took only seconds for the explosions to ring out. Trivette's mind flash and he dashed for cover. 'They never freeze...why do we even bother?' his mind asked rhetorically.
Trivette peeked up and nailed an assailant on the first try. 'Nice one man.' he thought to himself. The noise was deafening. Yells, gunfire. He saw a movement off to his left, but was able to grab the man before he drew his gun. The struggle was fierce, but Trivette put the man down with a hard blow to the jaw and kick to his side.
One officer was down, nine men had been apprehended. They heard running at the back of the warehouse and Walker bolted, Trivette right behind him. Cautiously, they rounded the building, eyes alert, guns ready. Walker saw a flicker of blue dash behind an outside crate and he rushed in that direction, calling out to Trivette "Got this one." The shot was instant and from the side yard. Walker let out a gasp and hit the ground hard, grabbing his side and rolling for cover. Trivette fired hitting his mark on the second bullet. He yelled to Walker, "OK Partner?" Walker's voice was filled with pain, but strong. "Yeah ... behind the crate, I'll head around." He pulled himself up and circled around the pile of crates. Trivette headed in the opposite direction, the gunfire helping him to keep his assailant located. Reaching the crate, Walker sprung on the man's back. and knocked the gun from his hand. They both jumped up, eyeing each other, surmising the other's moves. A hard kick from Walker's booted foot, sent the man down. Trivette was there in an instant, his knee on the assailant's back, as he slapped the handcuffs on.
Walker lowered himself to the ground, resting his back against the crate and holding his side. Trivette moved Walker's hand and check his injury. "It's a graze man, but it looks pretty bad." Trivette stated as he applied pressure to stop the bleeding. "We're gonna have to cut our 'diner date in the Ram' short and visit the ER!" he joked. Walker grimaced. "Some days are just not worth getting out of bed for." he complained.
Walker sat on the hospital exam table. He rubbed his aching neck, felt the throbbing of his side, where the large bandage was now secured. He was relieved this case was closed, but physically drained. All he wanted right now, was a shower and a bed ... and a smile from Alex. Why hadn't he been able to reach her this morning? He'd called early, before she usually left for the office, but gotten her machine again. No one picked up at the office, and she wasn't at C.D.'s. He wasn't worried yet really, just concerned ... he needed to find out why she was quiet yesterday afternoon ... make sure she was OK ... he knew she needed someone and he wanted to be that person for her ... he just didn't know if he had the energy to deal with it right now.
Trivette walked into the exam room with a cautious look on his face. "Walker? Alex is here."
"Trivette! What the heck did ya call her for! I told you I'm fine ... she doesn't need to be dealing with this right now ... I told you something was up with her ..." Walker started in annoyance, but was getting angry.
"Walker. Just listen a minute Partner." Trivette began, "I said Alex was here ... but I didn't call her. In fact, she didn't even see me and doesn't know you're here."
Walker looked puzzled as Trivette continued, "When I was turning your papers back into the admittance desk, I saw her. She's sitting in the outpatient area. Walker ... Alex ... she looks ... I don't know ... scared or upset or something."
Walker hopped off the table and grabbed his shirt, just as the doctor came back in. He half listened to the doctor's orders, couple of days off, take pain medicine every six hours, no heavy lifting, call if you have questions, as he buttoned and tucked the shirt. His adrenaline was pumping hard. 'Why was Alex at the hospital?'
As he headed for the door, Trivette grabbed his arm. "You want me to come with you, Walker?" He could see the concern in Trivette's eyes and hear it in his voice.
"Trivette ... no ... I ... I'll take care of Alex. You take my truck and go get some rest. Alex must have driven here, so I'll go with her. I'll let you know if I ... if we ... need you. OK?" Walker asked openly, handing the Ram's keys to Trivette.
Trivette nodded, taking the keys, and gripping Walker's arm. He wanted to tell him he'd be there for them both. Do anything they needed. He wanted to tell Walker that it scared him to see Alex sitting alone with that look on her face ... that something must be wrong. But all he said was "OK, just let me know Partner." Walker grabbed Trivette's arm in return, nodding. Jimmy could tell from the look in Walker's eyes that he knew what he'd been thinking and appreciated it.
Walker hurried to the outpatient waiting area. He spotted Alex right away. Sitting rigidly by herself, in a corner, with the same distant look he'd seen on her face yesterday. With a wish that he wasn't so tired and sore, Walker approached Alex slowly, trying again to read her. He knelt in front of her, putting one hand over her tightly clasped hands and rubbing her arm lightly with the other. He smiled at her, meeting her eyes, trying to lighten the mood, "You come her often, Beautiful?" he winked.
Walker saw a dozen emotions run through her tired face. Surprise, confusion, concern ... happiness ... fear. She hugged him tightly around his neck. He felt her let out a breath and he heard her stifle a small cry. "Walker." she whispered with relief, as her grip increased. He began rubbing her back and she arched toward him. 'Good.' he though, 'that's Alex.' Walker felt Alex melt into his embrace, her body relaxing. The nurse at the desk called her name "Alexandra Cahill." Alex stiffened and Walker felt her tremble, then she released her hold on him. She looked down, taking in a deep, calming breath.
Walker stood up, taking each of her hands in his own and gently pulling Alex to a standing position. Placing his arm around her shoulders, he steered her toward the nurse. Alex had her arms folded in front of her, holding her own arms like she was trying to keep herself together. She took a another deep breath and looked straight at the nurse with the same confident look she used in court, but Walker saw the fear in her eyes.
"Mr. Cahill," the nurse began, "the procedure will take about forty minutes. You can wait here and there is a coffee shop on the second floor. We'll take good care of her. I'll let you know as soon as your wife is in recovery and you can sit with her."
Alex looked down, closing her eyes, her lips tightening and then a smile forming on her face. Walker pulled her close and gave her a squeeze, smiling himself. He nodded to the nurse, then whispered in Alex's ear, "Mr. Cahill will be right here waiting for you, everything will be fine Alex." Alex looked up and saw the twinkle in Walker's eyes and gave him that smile that made his heart warm. "We have a lot to talk about." she told him softly, her face flushing and then turning to concern as she noticed the top of his bandage peeking through his shirt. He saw what she was looking at, smiled that half smile and said "We will. Now, go get yourself taken care of so we can spend some time together."
It had been nearly fifty minutes and Walker was getting antsy. He'd watched the people go in and out of the hospital, gotten coffee, paced. He had no idea what "procedure" Alex was having, and it un-nerved him. He thought about checking with the nurse, he even tried glancing at the stack of admittance forms ... there was just no good way to do this. This was Alex's business and he didn't want to pry. But, he rationalized, she would have told me if I hadn't gone last night ... still, Walker couldn't come up with a way to get the information he wanted. The nurse was under the impression that he and Alex were married and he couldn't think of a way to get out of the predicament gracefully. Was this really so hard to figure out or was he just more tired that he thought? Walker decided to concentrated on what he knew. She didn't look sick and he couldn't remember the last time she had even had a cold. But her fear had been real ... he'd seen it and felt it. He knew now that this must have been what she was so distant about the previous afternoon and the guilt increased. She really did need someone to talk to and be with ... he hadn't even been able to stay with her for a few minutes to find out what was wrong ... thank God he had been hurt and was at the hospital. Thank God Trivette saw her. The thought chilled him. 'I have to find a way to change all this ... be the someone that Alex needs, deserves, wants ... the someone she is to me.' He rubbed his side, feeling the stiffness setting in to his tired body.
He felt a tap on the arm, and jumped. "Mr. Cahill? I'm sorry to disturb you ...you didn't respond ... your wife is in recovery, come with me."
Walker stepped into the small room and saw Alex lying on the exam table. A sheet covered her, but her shoulders were bare and he could see gauze and strapping around her right side. He saw the tear stains streaking her face. She was biting her lower lip in deep thought, her steady gaze focused on the ceiling. The nurse moved to write on the clipboard and Walker went to Alex, kissing her forehead, caressing her hair and taking her hand. He rubbed her hand with a slow, gentle motion, as their eyes met and she gave him a small smile. He winked his reply and smiled back. She was uncomfortable, probably in pain, he surmised, but he wasn't detecting the fear he'd seen before ... now, Alex exuded more of a quiet acceptance. They held their gaze for a long while. Then Walker bent closer, planting a small kiss on her lips, brushing the remaining wetness off her cheeks and quietly consoling her, "We'll get through this together Alex. Just take it easy." His look was so tender, so loving that Alex felt tears forming again. Walker placed his lips on her forehead, quietly shushing her. Her right side was paralyzed by pain, but Alex lifted her left arm and placed it around Walker's neck, allowing herself to take in the strength and love he was giving her.
The doctor came in, went straight to Walker and shook his hand. "Nice you could be here, Mr. Cahill. It makes this much easier." Walker felt the color rise in his cheeks and he quickly glanced away. The misunderstanding had spread too far, but he'd have to play along with it now. The doctor continued, looking at Alex, "We'll have the biopsy results in forty-eight hours and the office will call you. As far as I can tell, it looks good. I saw no sign of malignancy when I removed the lump, but we need to be sure." the doctor explained, looking from Alex to Walker. "She'll be groggy for the next couple of hours, and you need to get this pain killer filled." he handed the prescription to a Walker, who had just released his breath. He felt relieved by the doctors words, but also alarmed as he finally understood what the procedure had been and what Alex had to face alone. Walker felt the pit of his stomach contract and his muscles tense. "Mrs. Cahill, you'll feel some discomfort for the next day or so, just keep the packing tight and call if you have any questions." the doctor finished. He shook Walker's hand again and left.
The nurse checked Alex's pulse and temperature, recording the details and informing them that Alex would be able to leave in about fifteen minutes. She then went to get the remaining paperwork and left the two alone.
Walker again grasped Alex's hand and held it tightly. He had so much to say to her, so many apologies to make, so many reassurances to state, so much to make up for... Walker realized in an instant he could lose Alex ... but not the way he'd always feared ... not to another man, not to her giving up on him and his all consuming job, not to danger they'd faced time and again. He could lose his Alex to a hidden enemy that he was powerless to fight. The very thought riveted his exhausted, aching body. He couldn't think of the right words, it just wasn't the right time. There was a long pause as they both searched within themselves for what to say next.
Suddenly, Walker couldn't help but smile a huge grin at Alex, "Mr. Cahill! Alex ... what have you been up to since I left last night?" Alex giggled, feeling the tension release. Walker could always do that for her. Catch her off guard and make her smile when all she felt like doing was crying. She smiled her hugest grin at him. "Seems you've been up to a lot yourself Cowboy!" she retorted, glancing at his bandage and raising her brows. Alex sighed and reached for him again, bringing his head down to hers, "I'm so glad you're here, Walker." she kissed him warmly. "Me too, Alex. Me too." he replied with a kiss of his own.
Walker got back in Alex's car, handing the two prescription bags of pain killers to her, one for her and one for him. He smiled at her, "What a team!" he joked. She smiled, shook her head and let it sink back on the seat. He took her hand, "How bout we get your stuff and you come out to the ranch for the next couple of days? I still owe you a dinner and I sure could use someone holding my hand..."
"Walker ... I sure could use someone too." Alex smiled, relieved. "As long as that someone is you!" she giggled. He smiled back and they kissed tenderly.
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