Author's Note: I happen to believe that there was a point in each and every episode of Season 8 and 9 that it would have been incredibly easy to get Sydney and Gage together. At some point many years ago, I decided to try to write a fic for each episode. Although I didn't even come close to writing all of them out, I did finish 7 or 8 of them. I finally decided to post them, simply because having them sitting on my computer without anyone ever reading them makes them seem like a waste of my time.

Some of them need a little editing before I post them (I was 16 when I wrote them, and now am 23...) but they will all be posted before long.

They are based on the episodes from the season, but most of them only loosely so. For two or three, however, a good chunk of the dialogue and action is transcripted by me and written with my own spin, before diverting entirely into my own storyline. So if a line sounds familiar, it's probably from the episode, and I make no claim to it.

This one is from The Bachelor Party.

Comments and constructive criticism welcomed.

The Bachelor Party

Gage stood looking out the window at the city below him, pretending to be deep in thought.

"All right, pal. You got the money?" the man behind him asked.

"I don't know. You got the stuff?" Gage questioned, still not turning from the window.

"The stuff's on it's way."

Gage turned to face the man. "Okay. Then the money's on it's way."

"You know, Mr. Montana, we've been checking up on you. Seems you've got a habit of backing out on deals at the last minute," the man said to Gage, stalking threateningly towards him.

"Okay, you don't wanna do business with me, suit yourself," Gage spoke, confident that he wasn't pushing the man too far.

In a room across the hall, Syd and Trivette sat listening to every word being exchanged in the other room.

"Suit yourself. Hmm. Way to go, Gage. Don't let him push you around," Syd commented, never once doubting that her partner knew what he was doing. He was good enough at reading people to know when to give in and when to push harder. If he thought that Slocum could be pushed, the probability was that Slocum could be pushed.

Meanwhile Gage, continuing his bluff, grabbed his briefcase and started to walk towards the door, stopping immediately as the man behind him spoke once again. "Hold it." Gage smirked slightly, knowing that he hadn't misjudged the man he was dealing with, before he turned back to face him.

"You'd really walk outta here?" the man asked him in disbelief.

"Absolutely," Gage responded without hesitation.

"Do you even know who I am?"

"You're Bart Slocum, the number one money launderer in Dallas, but you're also somebody that stands to make one hundred thousand dollars on this deal. If you've got what it takes to back it up." Gage stressed the 'if' clearly implying that he didn't believe that Slocum did.

"Oh, I've got what it takes," Slocum said defensively.

"Not that I've seen," Gage challenged. Not willing to back down, Slocum walked over to the table, opening a briefcase to reveal its contents to Gage.

"That's a million dollars in class-a negotiable bearer bonds, you satisfied?" Gage peered around the other man to get a glimpse of the bonds, making sure that it was what he said it was. "Now, you show me the money."

"Come on, you don't trust me?" Gage taunted, trying to buy a little time for Sydney and Trivette to show up.

"No, and I don't like surprises. Now open it." Slocum gestured to the briefcase Gage was still carrying. Gage looked down at the briefcase, starting to open it before slamming it into Slocum's face.

"Surprise!" he yelled, unable to resist the taunt as he turned to face a very irate Slocum.

"Texas Rangers!" Trivette yelled as he and Sydney ran into the room. Syd immediately sent a kick into the one man's side, forcing him back against the wall. The man grabbed onto her, intending to shove her into the hard wooden door, but she simply used his grip to walk up the door, flipping her feet over her head and landing on her feet behind him. After he turned to face her once again, she grabbed onto his shoulders, pushing herself up and running along the wall, using her momentum to slam him into the door.

Meanwhile, Gage was still fighting Slocum. He sent a powerful kick into the other man's gut, sending him flying across the room to land on the floor. He was up a moment later and Gage ran towards him, jumping up and over the armchair that was in his way and kicking Slocum in the chest once again. This time, Slocum fell backwards, breaking the small coffee table as he landed on it, while Gage simply fell into the chair he had jumped over. He settled himself back into a more comfortable position and turned to watch his partner fight.

As the man she was fighting charged her once again, Syd grabbed him around the waist and fell backwards, pulling him up and over her to land on his back behind her with her straddling his chest. She grabbed her gun and pointed it at him, preventing him from renewing his attack. "Gotcha," she said in satisfaction. She turned to face Gage who was sitting calmly in the chair, waiting and watching while she fought the man. When he noticed her looking at him he gestured to his watch, clearly implying that she had taken too long to subdue her attacker. She glared over her shoulder at him before turning her attention back to her arrest.

Gage picked Slocum up from the ground and handcuffed him before bringing him over to where Trivette was waiting, having long since completed his arrest. "That was some good work," Trivette said, in the general direction of where Sydney and Gage were standing.

"Thanks," they both said at the same time, turning to glare at each other as they realized what had just happened. Gage looked at his partner in disbelief. "What? I-" Gage's indignant comment was cut off by Slocum's quiet question.

"You're a Ranger?"

"Yea, I'm just full of surprises, huh? Let's go," Gage said, shoving Slocum forward out of the room.

"You should have seen the look on Slocum's face," Syd said as she set a file on Walker's desk, walking over to stand next to her partner at his desk.

"Well, I'm sure he hates going from multimillionaire to prisoner-to-be," Alex replied as she looked at the report over Walker's shoulder.

"True, true. Now he's all yours counselor," Trivette said.

"And just in time, too, huh guys?" Gage asked, feeling the questioning glance of his partner from next to him.

"What does that mean?" Alex asked in curious suspicion.

"Well you know this weekend, is Walker's bachelor party," Gage said, noticing too late the warning looks on Walker and Trivette's faces.

"Bachelor party? You didn't tell me you were going to have a bachelor party," Alex said, turning angrily to her husband-to-be. At the same time, Syd took a step back from Gage. She hadn't known either that they were throwing Walker a bachelor party, and the idea of what that might mean that her partner would be doing that weekend caused a deep disappointment to settle in the pit of her stomach.

"Alex, when a guy gets married, he has a bachelor's party," Walker stated calmly.

"Sure. What kind of party?" Alex asked, desperately needing to know what he was going to be doing.

"A bachelor kind of bachelor party," Trivette said teasingly from his desk, enjoying this conversation immensely.

"What does that mean?" Alex was getting incredibly frustrated with the three men she was talking to, looking to Sydney for sympathy.

"Oh it's gonna to be a par-tee." At the dual glares he received from Alex and Syd, Gage rethought his response. "Kind of normal bachelor party." Syd looked at her partner curiously, seeing something in his expression that made her wonder just exactly what would be happening at this bachelor party. She knew him well enough to know that there was something going on here, but she couldn't figure out just what it was.

"That doesn't answer my question," Alex said in frustration.

"Ugh. Well if you must know, we're gonna take him over to the men's club and we're gonna have eight beautiful women strip dance for him. See you guys," Trivette said as he turned and left the room.

"Great, I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time," Alex muttered as she started to stalk away.

"Alex," Walker said finally, glad to see his irate fiancé stop her hasty exit. "Trivette and Gage are taking me to Lake Ebby for a week of fishing, that's my bachelor party."

When Syd heard what Walker said, she looked over to see her partner smirking back at her. She slapped him hard across the arm as she realized that he'd been playing with her and Alex. Alex looked to Gage for confirmation, and he leaned back in his chair, pretending to be reeling in a fish. "Really?" she asked, hardly daring to hope that what he said was the truth.

"Really," Walker reassured her.

At the same time, Alex and Sydney sighed in relief. Soon, however, Alex's previous frustration channeled itself into anger focused at one particular source.

"Jimmy, I'm gonna kill you!" She ran out of the room after him.

Two days later, Walker, Trivette and Gage finally were at Lake Ebby for their fishing trip. They had bought Gage a new tent, since his old one was currently functioning as his shower curtain, and now they were ready to relax, as long as the bear left them alone. On their hike to the lake, Walker had noticed bear tracks, and now they were on the lookout for a grizzly. They had just arrived at their campsite, when Gage realized that they would need wood for the fire.

"Hey Trivette. Why don't we go get some wood?" Gage suggested to his friend.

"Alright, you go that way, I'll go this way." Trivette nodded, starting to walk off in the one direction.

"Okay, we'll be back in a minute," Gage said to Walker, heading in the opposite direction from his friend.

"Hey, Gage, watch out for the bear," Trivette teased as he walked away.

"Ha ha, that's real funny, Trivette," Gage said, not really all that amused at all. The idea that there was a grizzly bear nearby was not a comforting thought, and Trivette's teasing wasn't helping him relax.

It was funny that his first thought when he had seen the bear was of Sydney. He was glad that she wasn't with them. Instead of reflecting on that odd occurrence, however, Gage focused all of his attention on getting away from the angry animal.

"Bear! Bear!" he yelled as he ran, hoping that Walker or Trivette would hear him. He paused for a moment and looked around, seeing no sign of the bear. He was about to relax, when suddenly he turned, having sensed a presence just behind him. He didn't have time to back away before the animal attacked, knocking him to the ground and holding him down. He tried to fight off the ferocious beast, but was unable to, screaming in pain as the large paw tore at his chest, shredding his shirt and his chest beneath it. He rolled over, clutching desperately at the ground as he tried to pull himself away.

"Hey. Get off of him! Get off of him!" Trivette yelled as he ran forward, relieved to see the bear turn his attention away from Gage, and focus instead on him. A large paw swiped out at him, knocking him to the ground. Moments later Walker showed up, waving a flaming branch in the animal's face.

"Get Gage!" Walker yelled to Trivette as he saw him approaching them. Trivette pulled Gage up to his feet, supporting him as he watched the bear run away. Walker then came and grabbed Gage's other arm, and between the two of them they were able to help Gage walk back to the campsite. They grabbed their packs and started the trip to a nearby cabin.

"Do you think the bear's still following us?" Trivette asked as they ran. There was no need for Walker to answer as the bear let out a bellowing roar. "I guess that answers my question."

Gage was finding it increasingly difficult to stay on his feet, even with Trivette and Walker's help. "Come on Gage, we're almost there," Walker encouraged him. Walker and Trivette practically carried Gage the rest of the way to the cabin, shoving him through the door and barricading the doors and windows.

Gage fell to the floor, moaning in pain. As soon as they were sure that the bear was not able to get into the cabin, the two other men turned their attention back to their wounded friend. Walker pulled what remained of Gage's tattered shirt from his chest in order to get a good look at the bloody slash marks.

"We've got to clean the wounds." Walker said, shoving his pack at Trivette for him to get out the bandages.

The pain was making it increasingly difficult for Gage to stay conscious. As he coughed an excruciating throbbing made its way through every inch of his body. When Walker and Trivette started to clean and bandage the wounds, he couldn't take it anymore and gave in to the pull of unconsciousness. His last thought before the blackness overcame him was of his partner.

"I have tried everything. Phone, pager, I even called the Lake Ebby forest station. I can't reach them," Alex said in frustration as she walked through the halls towards her office.

"You gotta find 'em Alex," Sydney said, knowing just how important it was for Trivette and Gage to testify in the case against Slocum.

"I know, if I don't, we don't have a case."

"What are you going to do?" Syd asked.

Alex paused to think for a minute. "I'm gonna requisition a helicopter, care to join me?"

A couple hours later, Alex and Sydney were sitting in the back of the helicopter, scanning the ground below for any signs of Walker, Trivette, or Gage.

"Ranger Walker. Ranger Trivette. Ranger Gage." Alex spoke into the speaker which carried her voice down to the ground below them.

"I got something," Sydney said, tapping Alex's shoulder to get her attention.

"Where?" Alex asked, scanning the ground below them for what Sydney had seen.

"Down there." Syd pointed out what she had seen.

"Three tents, it could be their camp."

"Chris can you take us down?" Syd said to the pilot, who nodded and started scanning the ground for a place to land.

Once the helicopter set down, Alex and Sydney immediately started walking towards the campsite they had seen. When they came to the clearing, what they saw made them speed up their pace. The tents were ripped to pieces and everything at the campsite was trashed.

"Oh my God," Alex breathed as she saw the destruction.

"No blood, no bodies," Syd mumbled, more to reassure herself than her friend. She walked quickly towards the other side of the campsite, followed closely by Alex.

"Is that what I think it is?" she asked as she looked down at some clearly defined tracks in the dirt.

"Bear tracks," Alex confirmed Sydney's fears.

"And blood," Syd added, nearly chocking on the words as she realized exactly what they could mean.

"We've got to get back to the chopper and get some help." Alex was trying desperately to avoid thinking about what could have potentially happened to her fiancé and his friends. The two frightened women ran all the way back to the helicopter, jumping in and telling their pilot to take off immediately.

Trivette was sitting in the cabin, waiting for Walker to return after his quest for help, when he heard the sound of a helicopter overhead. He ran and poured water over the fire, hoping that the smoke would draw the attention of the people in the chopper. When he looked at his unconscious friend shivering on the table, he just had to hope that whomever it was, they would be able to help.

"We've got smoke. Looks like it's coming from a cabin," the pilot said as he pointed to a small cabin in amongst the trees.

"There's a lot of trees around it, can we land?" Syd asked, feeling that they had just found their friends.

"Looks like there's a clearing about a half a mile to the north," Chris said, heading in the direction of the clearing.

"All right, let's do it," Syd responded, determined to get to the cabin as soon as possible in case anyone was in trouble. She just couldn't shake the terrible feeling that something was wrong.

The pilot set the helicopter down a minute later, and Syd shook herself from her morbid thoughts. "All right Chris, we're gonna check it out, we'll be right back," Syd said as she and Alex jumped out of the helicopter and started running in the direction of the cabin.

She stopped running when she heard the sounds of screaming coming from where they had left the helicopter. She pulled out her gun and turned to run in the direction that had just come from.

When they reached the clearing, they slowed down, cautiously looking for any sign of their pilot.

"Chris?" Alex called, quieting down as Sydney gestured for her silence.

Syd looked around a group of trees and what she saw made her sick. "Oh my lord, you don't wanna see that. We gotta get out of here," Syd said, turning her friend away from the bloody body of their pilot.

"Back to the cabin," Alex said, turning to run towards the cabin once again.

They both came to a stop and looked around at the trees surrounding them, neither having any clue of where the cabin was. "Which way do we go?" Alex asked, desperate to get out of the open now that she had seen what this bear could, and would do.

"I don't know," Syd answered, looking around her frantically. She tried to focus on how to get out of their current predicament, but all that she could think about was the possibility that the bear had gotten to Gage and had done to him what he had done to Chris. She was shaken from her thoughts as from nowhere, Walker ran out of the trees towards them.

"Alex." He didn't slow down, instead simply grabbing onto Alex's arm and dragging her along behind him. "Come on," he yelled, leading the way for Sydney to follow him back to the cabin.

When they finally had the cabin in sight, Walker yelled, "Trivette, open the door." The door opened for them just as they ran up the steps and they ran through it, Walker and Trivette immediately barricading it once they were all in safely. Syd stood with her gun pointed at the door while they placed the heavy wooden table against the door, holding it there with their body weight. Once the bear stopped ramming the door, Syd started to relax slightly, lowering her gun. As she did so, she noticed the unconscious form of her partner lying on the table next to her.

"Gage?" she asked, putting her gun in its holster, her movements slow because of her shock, before dropping to her knees next to him.

"Oh no..." Alex sighed as she got her first look at Gage.

"The bear got him," Walker said softly, although that much was obvious. Syd looked down at her partner's pained expression, noticing the bloody bandages covering most of his chest, and the fear and grief she felt at that moment was so much greater than any she had ever felt before. She hesitantly reached out her hand to brush her fingers against his forehead, shocked to feel how warm his skin was. His wounds had to be infected. Her fear for him increased with that realization, and for the first time since she had met him, she felt like she was losing him. It seemed that there was a very good chance that she would soon find out what her life would be like without him in it. Just the thought gave her the chills. In the time that they had been partners, he had come to have such a big place in her life, and in her heart, that without him, she would be incomplete. She couldn't lose him; she wouldn't lose him.

"Walker we gotta get him outta here," Syd said, gently wiping a cool cloth over Gage's sweat dampened forehead.

"The door and windows won't hold much longer," Trivette added, knowing that they had to find a way out of the cabin and to safety, and fast.

Walker looked around him and assessed their current situation. "I'm gonna have to try to get to the helicopter."

"The helicopter's a half mile away," Syd commented, wondering if Walker could make the trip before the bear got to him.

"And even if you make it there, who knows if it's even gonna be able to fly?" Alex reasoned, desperately trying to keep him from leaving.

"It doesn't need to be able to fly, let's just hope the radio works. I can call for help," Walker replied, determined as ever to go.

"Walker, the bear is not going to let you get to the helicopter," Alex pleaded with him.

"She's right, you were lucky once, you try it again..." Trivette let the comment hang, knowing that everyone in the room could complete the warning.

"Well if I was lucky once, I can be lucky twice," Walker said with confidence.

Sydney didn't understand how he could possibly feel so confident, but she wanted to believe that he could do it. She knew that it was very likely that he wouldn't survive, but if that was what it took to get her partner help, then that was what needed to be done. Still, he was her friend and she wanted to offer him every advantage possible against the bear.

"Here, take this," Syd said as she offered her gun to him.

"No, if the bear gets in, you're going to need it," Walker responded, turning to face Alex.

"Are you sure about this?" she asked, knowing that if he was determined to go, that he was stubborn enough not to let anything stop him.

"Piece of cake," he said before kissing her cheek and heading out the back window of the cabin.

A few minutes after Walker left, Syd was back at Gage's side, trying to bring down his fever. She looked down at his chest and saw that the bandages were mostly covered with blood.

"Trivette, can you help me redo these bandages?" she called, knowing that Alex was too distracted looking out the window and thinking about Walker to be of any help.

"Sure," Trivette said simply, grabbing the bandages and tape and kneeling beside her. "Do you want me to take them off?" he offered, knowing how difficult it would be for her to see the wounds.

Syd shook her head no, and reached determined fingers towards one of the bandages. As she pulled the gauze back, she couldn't help the gasp that escaped her as she saw what had been done to her partner's chest. His skin that had been so smooth and perfect now had deep ridges where the bear's claw had hit him. She steeled herself and continued, needing to do everything in her power to help him. She didn't know what she would do if she lost him, and she wasn't ready to find out. She continued the re-bandaging in silence, grateful for Trivette's silent assistance. They were almost finished when she noticed Gage start to stir.

Gage felt like he had been run over by about a dozen trucks. With the amount of pain he was feeling, it seemed like he should have been dead. He struggled to open his eyes and when he did, what he saw made him come to the conclusion that he had in fact died, and that this was heaven. Syd was kneeling next to him, applying bandages to his wounds with gentle fingers. But if this was heaven, why was he in such agony?

"Syd?" he muttered in confusion.

"Gage." She sighed in relief as he regained consciousness. She was so worried and the fact that he was awake was reassuring.

Once he realized that she was actually there in the cabin with him, his confusion turned to worry. When he had been attacked, the one thought that had comforted him was that Sydney was nowhere nearby, that she was safe. Now that she was in the cabin with him, that meant that she was also at risk of being attacked. "What are you doin' here?"

"Shh... it's a long story. You have to rest," Sydney said softly to him, brushing her fingers across his forehead soothingly. Gage nodded and his eyes closed once again as he fell asleep, this time with traces of a smile on his lips, despite all the pain.

Syd couldn't believe it. When he had asked her what she was doing there, she had heard a note of concern in his voice. He had been attacked by a bear and was now battling blood loss and an infection, and he was concerned about her. His protective instinct towards her, even when he was in more immediate danger, was just one of the things that she loved about him.

Sydney heard the commotion and the sound of men being attacked by the bear and didn't leave her place by Gage's side. She heard the sound of gunshots and didn't leave his side. She watched Alex and Trivette run outside, Walker obviously having killed the bear, and still didn't leave Gage's side.

When they finally loaded him onto a helicopter to be taken to the hospital, she insisted on riding with him, holding his hand the entire way. She only let him be taken away from her when they arrived at the hospital, understanding that she wasn't allowed in the room while he was being treated, but still hating the separation. She waited impatiently in the waiting room, praying that he wouldn't be taken from her. When the doctor finally came out and told her that Gage would be fine and that she would be able to see him in a few minutes, she was so relieved she started to cry tears of joy.

Not wanting to scare Gage when he woke up, Sydney headed to the bathroom to freshen up in the five minutes she had before she could see Gage. She splashed some water on her face, washing off what remained of her makeup and the traces of her tears. Brushing her fingers through her hair, she gave herself one last glance in the mirror before turning and leaving the bathroom. Sydney walked over to Gage's hospital room, and determined to keep her composure, she took a deep breath before slowly pushing open the door and hesitantly walking into the room.

Gage was still unconscious, and Sydney found herself glad of that fact. At least that way he wasn't feeling any pain. She walked closer to his bed, relieved to see that he wasn't as pale as he had been. He also was resting much more peacefully. She placed her hand softly against his forehead, grateful that he also didn't seem to be running a fever anymore. She pulled up a chair and sat at his bedside, running her fingers soothingly through his hair. She looked at his peaceful features, noticing, not for the first time, just how very handsome he was. In her opinion, he was the most attractive man that she had ever seen. Of course, her opinion was slightly biased, considering the fact that she happened to be in love with the man in question.

She had fallen in love with him gradually over the time that she had known him, and while her feelings for him were strong, she wasn't willing to risk losing his friendship or their partnership. He was the best friend she had ever had. She could talk to him about anything, and she never tired of spending time with him. Some of her favorite memories involved spending the night at one of their apartments, eating dinner and watching a movie together.

He was also the best partner she could ever ask for. She trusted him implicitly, as she knew he trusted her. They could communicate without speaking, and they fought perfectly as a team. She always knew that if she were in trouble, he would be there to help her, just as she had always tried to be there for him. And now, she felt like she had failed him. He had needed her when he had been attacked and she hadn't been there for him. Sydney didn't know what she would have done if she had been there, but she knew that she would have done anything to protect her partner.

Now, as Sydney sat next to his hospital bed, staring at his peaceful features, she came to a realization. Life was too short for her to continue fighting her feelings for him. She had come too close to losing the man she loved forever for her to hide her love from him. If there was even the smallest chance that he returned her feelings and that they could have a relationship together, she had to try.

With a new determination to reveal her feelings for the man lying unconscious before her, Sydney sat back to wait, still running her fingers softly through his hair.

The last thing Gage remembered was seeing Syd in the cabin. Now, he seemed to be lying on a bed, instead of the hard wood of the table, and there was a hand tangled in his hair and a weight on his upper arm. He also didn't feel as horrible as he had. Each breath didn't cause unbearable agony, and he didn't have the chills anymore. Deciding that opening his eyes would be a good start for figuring out where he was and what had happened, he struggled to pry them open.

When Gage finally succeeded in opening his eyes, the first thing he saw was a dark head of hair leaning against his arm. He blinked and looked closer, identifying the person lying partially on top of him as his partner. She had her fingers of her left hand tangled gently through his hair and her head resting partially on top of his right arm and partially against the edge of the bed. She was sitting on a chair next to the bed and was bent over in what had to be an uncomfortable position. She probably had been waiting for him to wake up and had fallen asleep.

Gage smiled softly and lifted his left hand from where it was resting at his side and set it gently on top of Sydney's head. It was only then that he noticed the IV line in his arm. Assuming that that meant that he was in the hospital and they were all safe from the bear, Gage relaxed completely and started to gently stroke his partner's soft hair. When he had seen her in the cabin, he had been so worried that the bear would somehow get to her. If she had been attacked, he would have been unable to help her. The fear that that thought had generated in him had shocked him. He knew that as partners they were forced to trust each other with their lives, and it was only natural that he wouldn't want to let Sydney down. In addition to being partners, they were also best friends, and of course it made sense that he didn't want to lose her. Still, that wasn't enough to explain the intensity of the fear that he had felt.

Gage gently tipped Sydney's head to the side so that he could see her face. She was so incredibly beautiful, and her relaxed appearance made her even more breathtaking. It was in watching her sleep that he realized exactly why he had been as terrified as he had, even when he himself was in danger. He was in love with her. Sydney was everything to him. She was his partner, his best friend, and the woman who held his heart.

Gage didn't have time to figure out exactly what his most recent revelation meant for their relationship as he felt Sydney start to stir. He stilled his hand on her hair, not removing it from her head, while he watched her wake up. He smiled as she nestled her head further into the crook of his arm, ignoring the slight twinge of pain as her cheek came to rest against one of the wounds on his shoulder. He gently pushed a stray strand of hair back from her face, still waiting for her to open her eyes.

Sydney woke up slowly, trying to figure out what the weight was that was resting on top of her head. She opened her eyes, blinking to clear the sleep from them and was surprised to find herself looking into her partner's smiling face. The weight on her head was that of his hand, tangled gently in her hair, and she was using his shoulder as a pillow.

"Am I dreaming?" she murmured, looking questioningly into his eyes.

"No," he replied with a quirk of his lips.

"You're really awake?" Syd asked, still not moving from her current position resting against him, even though it was slightly uncomfortable.

"Yep." Gage smiled at his still half-asleep partner.

"You're really okay?" Syd needed his reassurance that what she was seeing was really happening.

"A little sore, but fine," Gage responded softly, starting to stroke her hair once again. He was shocked as his partner who had still been drowsy moments ago suddenly was wide awake as she pulled away from him. The disappointment he felt as she pulled back from him faded quickly as she instead grabbed onto both sides of his face and planted a firm kiss on his lips. When she pulled back from him she appeared to be just as shocked as he was at the unexpected contact. She looked self-consciously away from him as he ran his tongue over his lips, trying to memorize what it had felt like to kiss her.

Not seeing any way out of the awkward situation, Sydney finally got up the nerve to look at her still silent partner and was shocked at what she saw. Gage was lying there, running his fingers against his lips, staring off into space with a dreamy look on his face. It seemed almost like he was trying to commit to memory the feel of her lips against his. If that was true, that might imply that he felt for her at least some of what she felt for him. Knowing that, as she had promised herself earlier, she had to find a way to let him know about her feelings for him, she couldn't pass up this opportunity.

"Gage," Syd whispered as she stood, covering his hand with hers as he looked up at her in shock. She pulled his hand gently away from his face before covering his lips with hers. She kissed him slowly and softly, letting him feel her fear, her relief, and, most of all, her love, through her kiss. After overcoming his shock, Gage kissed her back just as tenderly, pouring all of the same emotions into the kiss.

The kiss went beyond breathtaking to heart-stopping, leaving them both awed at the strength of the emotions behind it. When they both pulled back, all they could do was stare into each other's eyes. There was no need for words, the intimate kiss that they had just shared had said it all.

After an indeterminable length of time, Sydney stood, pushing the chair back from the bed, and walked around to the other side of the bed. Ignoring Gage's questioning glance, she helped him to sit forward slightly as she slid onto the bed beside him, pulling him back so that his head rested against her shoulder, running her right hand through his hair and holding his left hand tightly in her own. She brushed a gentle kiss to his forehead and encouraged him to rest. It wasn't long before he fell asleep, resting comfortably in the arms of the woman he loved.

When Jessica Taylor, the night nurse, walked into Ranger Gage's hospital room at two o'clock in the morning, she was shocked at what she saw. Her patient had a visitor, which in and of itself was interesting since visiting hours had ended long before. There was also the fact that her patient wasn't alone in his bed. He was sleeping cradled in the arms of a woman who had also fallen asleep. Jessica walked closer to the two, seeing that, even in sleep, they were still holding tightly to each other's hands. Ranger Gage's head was resting against the woman's shoulder, and her head was resting gently on top of his. Just looking at the two, Jessica could tell that they were deeply in love with each other. She sighed as she watched them sleep, wanting desperately to find a love like the one these two shared for herself. Not able to bear forcing the couple to separate, Jessica silently walked out of the room with a renewed sense of hope in her heart.

When Sydney and Gage woke up the next morning, it was to a commotion coming from the hall outside of the room. Seeing that Alex, Walker, and Trivette were there to visit Gage, Sydney quickly pulled back from him, staying on the edge of his bed but no longer cradling him in her arms.

As their three friends asked Gage how he was feeling and updated him on all that had happened while he had been unconscious, Sydney looked for something to do to distract her from the almost overwhelming desire to kiss her partner. Grabbing a nearby latex glove and sharpie, she started to fiddle with them, finding that it was impossible for her to keep a smile from her face.

"Give me that. What are you doing?" Gage asked a laughing Sydney as he took the blown up latex glove that she had been drawing on away from her. She had drawn a face on the front, with the thumb as the nose, leaving the fingers sticking up as the hair. "I look alright with a mohawk." He smiled, laughing with his partner who was sitting beside him on the edge of his bed.

"Well, I can see you're feeling better." Alex laughed, happy to see her friend smiling and laughing once again.

"Well, like I say, I'm still pretty sore," Gage said, gesturing to his chest.

"I guess all you can really do is... grin and bear it," Trivette said in a serious tone of voice. Everyone started laughing at his horrible pun, causing Trivette to smile in triumph.

"Don't make me laugh. Oww..." Gage said, trying to stop himself from laughing as his wounded chest protested.

Syd decided to try and change the subject, hoping to help Gage to stop laughing. "So you guys, the wedding's a little over a week away, are you nervous?"

Walker hesitated before answering the question, trying to figure out his feelings on the subject. "No, I'm not nervous, are you nervous?" he asked his fiancé.

"No," Alex said confidently in response.

"Well maybe a little bit," Walker admitted, seeing Alex make the same confession. Everyone laughed once again, Gage trying valiantly to avoid it, but finally unable to keep from chuckling.

While Sydney watched Alex and Walker together, she couldn't help but be incredibly jealous of them. They were obviously very much in love and were happily preparing for their wedding. While she now had a strong reason to hope that Gage shared her feelings, she also knew how he felt about marriage. He had made that quite clear when he had referred to marriage as 'the old ball and chain' during their conversation a little over a week ago. They had been discussing Walker and Alex's upcoming wedding, and Gage had been very clear about how he felt about the subject. He looked at marriage as something that ruined perfectly wonderful relationships, which was the exact opposite of how she viewed it. She felt that marriage could only improve a relationship, bringing the couple closer, and binding them together forever. She had always dreamed of finding a man that she loved who loved her in return, marrying him, and starting a family with him. Now, it seemed that she had found the man she loved, who she suspected loved her in return, but who would never want to marry her.

She shook herself from her thoughts as she realized how depressed she was making herself. Just the day before she had been facing the very real possibility of a life without Gage, and now, not only was he alright, but they had also started a relationship. She should be ecstatic. Determined not to let her thoughts depress her, she turned her attention back to her friends, laughing and joking with them once again.

Gage had noticed Sydney's distraction during their visit with their friends, but had decided not to mention it until they were alone once again. Now that Walker, Alex, and Trivette were gone, he intended to find out exactly what was bothering her, but he had something else that he needed to do first. He reached out his arm and pulled her to him, covering her lips with his. This kiss was more passionate than the one the previous evening, conveying the desperate longing they felt for each other in addition to their love. When he pulled back from her, she smiled brightly at him, and he didn't try to stop himself from pulling her back to him for another kiss.

"Mmm... that was nice." Syd sighed, leaning gently against his side, careful not to bump his chest.

"Mmm hmm..." Gage murmured, brushing kisses along her jaw and down to her neck. She moaned in disappointment when he stopped the gentle kisses. "So... Syd."

"Yea?" She wondered at the serious tone in his voice.

"Why'd you get so upset when Walker and Alex were talking about the wedding?" He felt her body stiffen next to him, and squeezed his arm around her shoulders in silent reassurance.

"What do you mean? I wasn't upset," Syd said, knowing that it was probably useless trying to lie to him, but still not wanting him to know the truth.

"Come on, Syd. I know you. I know when you're upset. Now talk to me, please?" Gage begged, feeling a desperate need to know what had upset her for some unknown reason.

"Fine." She sighed in resignation, taking a moment to figure out just how much to tell him. "I guess I was just jealous."

Syd mumbled the words, and Gage had to struggle to be able to hear what she had said. "Jealous? Of Alex?" Gage asked in confusion.

"Yea." Syd sighed, not realizing what assumptions were being made by the man beside her.

"You want Walker?" Gage asked, desperately hoping that she would say no.

"What?" She looked at him in shock, suddenly realizing why he had come to that conclusion. "No, of course not, idiot." She chuckled slightly at the relieved look on Gage's face.

"Okay. Then, what did you mean? What are you jealous of Alex for?" he asked in curiosity.

"That she's getting married," she admitted finally, hoping that he wouldn't make the connection that she had.

"Oh," Gage said, taking a moment to digest that. He should have known that it would be something like that. He knew how his partner viewed marriage and should have known that she would be feeling jealous of Alex. He thought back to a conversation that they had had about a week ago. She had been so insistent that marriage could enrich a relationship, bring it to another level. It was during that conversation that Gage had realized that his partner was a hopeless romantic, although she would never admit to that. She had argued so passionately about the subject, just as he had argued insistently that marriage only caused trouble.

Gage almost groaned aloud as he realized what had upset her so much earlier. They had started a relationship the night before, and he was pretty sure that she loved him as much as he loved her. The problem was that she wanted desperately to get married and he didn't. Listening to Walker and Alex talk about their wedding must have made Syd realize that that was something that she could never have, or at least that she thought she could never have.

Gage's silence was starting to worry Sydney. She could tell from his expression that he was thinking, and she was worried that he would figure out exactly why she was so very jealous of Alex. "See Gage, no big deal. Just a little jealousy that Alex is getting to live every little girl's dream." She shrugged, trying to make light of her feelings, and also knowing that she wasn't doing a very good job of it.

Gage shook himself from his thoughts and listened to what she was saying, knowing that her words weren't entirely true but deciding to hold off on confronting her about her real feelings for the moment. Instead he kissed her softly on the forehead before pushing her out of the bed and sending her out to find a doctor who would let him go home.

Gage was allowed to leave the hospital on one condition, that he not be alone. So now, Sydney was going to be taking Gage back to his apartment, having already made a trip to her place to grab some clothes for herself.

"Hey, Syd. Thanks for doing this. I really just had to get out of there," Gage said as with her help he settled into the passenger side of her car.

"No problem, just try not to whine and complain too much, okay?" she asked as she walked around to the other side of the car.

"Me? Whine and complain? You must be thinking of your other partner," he teased as she settled into the driver's seat.

"Gage, fasten your seat belt."

"Aww... Do I have to Syd? It just hurts so much." Gage was completely serious, and completely unaware of the whining tone in his voice.

"Is that your idea of not whining and complaining?" At Gage's confused look, it was practically impossible for Syd to keep from bursting into laughter. Instead she forced herself to glare at him, smiling in satisfaction as he reluctantly buckled his seat belt.

Sydney couldn't believe it. All Gage had in his refrigerator was milk that had expired a week ago, a couple eggs, and half a loaf of bread. She shook her head and closed the refrigerator door, turning to look through his kitchen cabinets. She found some cereal, a jar of peanut butter, some cinnamon, and some coffee beans.

Sydney was starting to wonder how her partner survived on the food that he had in his apartment when she noticed the restaurant delivery menus taped to the side of the refrigerator. She shook her head and was about to yell out to him to find out what he wanted for dinner when she realized that he may be sleeping. Once they had reached his apartment she had sent him straight to his bed, despite all his whining and complaining. She walked over to his bedroom, smiling softly as she noticed him sleeping peacefully. She grabbed a notepad and wrote a note to him which she left on his bedside table. She leaned over and brushed a kiss against his forehead before turning and leaving his apartment.

Gage was having the most wonderful dream. He was in his bed in his apartment, but he wasn't alone. Sydney was stretched out on top of him, wrapped securely in his arms, with her head nestled against his chest. She was drawing meaningless patterns across his chest with her fingertips. He reluctantly pulled his arm from around her waist and stilled her hand as her movements were starting to tickle him. He felt something hard digging into his palm that was wrapped around her hand. He pulled his hand back and looked at hers, noticing for the first time the diamond ring on the ring finger of her left hand. He lifted his left hand from where it still rested around her waist and was simultaneously surprised and relieved to find a white gold band on his finger. He looked up into Sydney's concerned gaze and realized that he was looking at his wife. His 'wife.' Deciding that he really liked the sound of that, he pressed a kiss to Syd's lips and laid back down to go to sleep.

Gage woke suddenly, sighing in disappointment as he remembered that it was only a dream and that, in reality, he was quite unmarried and, therefore, quite alone in his bed. Deciding that those were two things he was going to have to fix, Gage turned his attention to finding his partner.

Instead of finding Sydney, all he found was a note: 'Gage, I'm at the market, buying food - since you don't have any! I'll be back soon. Love, Syd.'

"Love. She said love." Gage smiled, closing his eyes in happiness.

"Of course I did, you idiot. Why else do you think I put up with all your whining and complaining?"

Gage's eyes flew open as he heard his partner's voice from the doorway to his room. When he saw her standing there with a smirk on her face, he couldn't help but laugh. "Because of my amazing good looks and incredible charm?"

"Yea, that's it exactly." Syd infused as much sarcasm into the sentence as possible, despite the fact that it was actually true. "Now, come on, it's time for your sponge bath." Syd turned without waiting to see his reaction and walked across the room to his bathroom, leaving a stunned Gage lying on his bed.

"Uh, Syd? Sponge bath?" A slightly panicked and rather intrigued Gage pulled himself to his feet as quickly as he could and followed after her.

"So. How exactly do we do this?" Gage asked, standing somewhat nervously in front of Syd in his bathroom, wearing only his boxers.

Syd looked around the bathroom, anxiously avoiding looking at the almost naked man in front of her. As she looked over at his shower, she had to laugh as she noticed that Gage's tent was currently serving as a shower curtain. Typical Gage.

Noticing what she was looking at, Gage shrugged. "My shower curtain tore, what else was I supposed to do?"

"Um, I don't know. Buy a new shower curtain?" Syd laughed as he shrugged once again. Now that they were both more relaxed, Syd decided to tackle the subject of the sponge bath once again. "Now, my suggestion is that we do your hair over the sink and the rest of you in the tub."

At the thought of how exactly she was going to wash the rest of him, Gage nearly groaned aloud. His voice was slightly strangled when he spoke. "Sure, sounds fine to me."

"Good, now grab your shampoo and come over here," Syd said as she rolled up the sleeves of her shirt. She had changed earlier into something more comfortable, and was now wearing a comfy old pair of sweats.

Gage did as ordered and came to stand hesitantly next to Sydney by the sink. "Here you go." She took the shampoo from him before turning her attention back to getting the water warm enough.

"Okay, that should be good enough. Now, bend over so I can get to your hair."

Gage moved so that his head was over the sink, sighing in pleasure as he felt Sydney's hands gently bathe his hair with the warm water. Once it was wet, she ran her fingers through his soft locks for a few moments, enjoying the feeling almost as much as he was. Then she grabbed onto the shampoo, poured some into her hand and began to massage it into his hair.

Without opening his eyes, Gage spoke in a hushed voice, hardly even aware of what he was saying. "Mmm... Can I keep you?"

Sydney's fingers stilled in his hair as her heart stopped at his quiet words. She forced herself to continue the gentle massage while his soft-spoken request embedded itself firmly in her heart. With her delicate caress of his forehead and hair, she made a silent promise that if he wanted her, she would be his forever.

After Sydney had finished washing and rinsing his hair, she carefully toweled it dry. "Okay, now it's time for the rest of you. Come on, over to the tub."

Gage, who had been completely relaxed, now tensed up in nervous anticipation. He was about to be standing in his bathtub as Sydney ran her hands over every inch of his back and legs. He knew how amazing it was going to feel to have the hands of the woman he loved running over his body, and he just hoped that he wouldn't embarrass himself.

Gage stood hesitantly and walked over to the tub where his partner was waiting for him. He stepped carefully into the tub, as she warmed up the water and grabbed a washcloth and soap. She wet the cloth and then stood once again. "Okay, turn around so I can get to your back."

Gage turned silently and sighed as he felt the warm washcloth against his back. Sydney used it to wet his back before soaping up her hands. She began to slowly run her them across the smooth warmth of his broad shoulders. Feeling him tense at her touch, she started to gently massage the tight muscles. She ran her hands down to the small of his back, soaping the entire length before bringing them back up to his shoulders. She then moved her hands over the powerful muscles of his arms, running them down to his hands. She pulled away from him to pick up the washcloth once again, using it to rinse the soap from his back.

As she ran the cloth over his arms, bringing it down to his hands, she was shocked when he grabbed onto her wrist. He held tightly to her as he turned, before pulling her towards him, forcing her to step into the tub. He turned her so that her back was against the wall, bracing his arms on either side of her before he covered her mouth with his. His kiss demanded a response, and she returned the embrace with equal passion. Her arms found their way around his neck and she pulled him closer to her. He groaned as their bodies came into contact. The sound was incited entirely by pleasure, but the tinge of pain he felt as Sydney's chest pressed into his wounds was enough to bring him from the haze of passion that had overtaken him. Gage slowed and softened the kisses, finally pulling back from her a couple minutes later. They were both breathing hard as he rested his forehead against hers, looking deeply into her chocolate brown eyes.

"I love you, Syd," Gage murmured softly.

Sydney looked into his pale blue eyes, seeing his sincerity reflected in his gaze as well as hearing it in his voice. "I love you, too, Gage," she whispered. He smiled brilliantly at her, and she gave him an answering smile. They kissed again, a much more gentle, slow, and loving embrace.

An indeterminable time later, Gage pulled back from her once again, putting more space between them in hopes of regaining his control.

Realizing what Gage was trying to do, Sydney took a deep breath and ducked under his arm, stepping out of the tub. She grabbed the washcloth and quickly ran it over Gage's legs, aware of his loving gaze resting on her the entire time. Once he was clean and dry, she checked his bandages and then led him back to his bed, his hand held tightly in hers. She got him propped in a sitting position in his bed and was about to pull away when his hand tightened on hers. She looked questioningly at him, and when he pulled her towards him, she sighed and gave in, settling herself on the bed next to him.

"Syd, there's something I want to talk to you about," Gage said, somewhat nervously fiddling with their joined fingers which were resting on his lap.

"Yea?" Syd asked, wondering what had caused the nervousness she could hear in his voice.

He looked up from their joined hands, looking into her eyes, and all of the nervousness he was feeling faded away. This was Sydney he was talking to, there was no reason for him to be nervous.

"Sydney, you're the best partner I've ever had, the only partner I would ever want." He placed a finger against her lips as she started to say something. "Shh... Please, just let me finish this." He watched her nod, knowing that she was confused at his behavior and smiled encouragingly at her. "We can communicate without speaking, and you always seem to know what I'm thinking. There isn't anything that we can't handle together. I trust you with my life, and I know you return that trust. I would give my life for you without hesitation." Gage smiled softly at her as he felt her hand tighten around his, knowing that the idea had upset her but needing her to know. "At the same time, you're my best friend. I've never been closer to anyone than I am to you. You know me better than anyone ever has before, and I know that I can be myself around you." Gage smiled as he saw the pleased look on her face at his revelation. He pressed a quick kiss to her lips before he continued. "I don't remember when I fell in love with you. All I know is that at some point, you became everything to me.

"When I saw that bear, my first thought was that I was glad that you weren't there, that you were safe. When I saw you in the cabin, I was afraid that you would be hurt. I only realized why I was so afraid when I was watching you sleep in the hospital. I'm in love with you. I love you more than anything else in the world. I love you more than I thought was possible. I love you, and I will love you forever. If you'll let me, I will spend the rest of my life trying to show you how much I love you." Gage paused, brushing the beginnings of tears from Sydney's cheeks. "Sydney Cooke, will you marry me?"

Sydney didn't try to stop the tears of happiness coursing down her cheeks. She smiled brilliantly up at him. "Yes. Yes I'll marry you, Gage." She didn't have a chance to say anything more as his mouth crashed down on hers. She returned his delighted kiss enthusiastically, fighting to keep from smiling.

After they separated, they lay in each other's arms, smiling from ear to ear. "I thought you were planning on being a bachelor the rest of your life. What changed your mind?" Syd asked, hardly daring to ask the question for fear that he might change his mind once again.

"You," Gage said softly, tucking a strand of her hair behind her ear.

"You care to elaborate?" Syd smiled, liking his answer but still curious.

"All it took was the right woman... you. You're smart, funny, kind, and caring. Not to mention beautiful and sexy." Gage practically purred the last word, and she felt the heat of his gaze as his eyes swept over her body. "You kick butt with the best of them, and you give one hell of a sponge bath. That's one hell of a combination." He chuckled slightly as she laughed before turning serious once again. "All it took was realizing just how much I need you in my life, just how much I want to hold you in my arms and never let go. Well, that and a little conversation with my friend the grizzly."

Syd slapped his arm gently. "Yea, well, if I were you, I'd get new friends." She watched a smile spread across his face and wondered how she had gotten so incredibly lucky as to have this man love her. "Hey, Gage. Can I make a recommendation?" She waited until he nodded before she continued. "For your bachelor party? Hire the strippers," she said as seriously as she could, trying to keep the smile from breaking out on her face. She failed miserably, and he laughed in pure joy as he watched his fiancé laugh. His 'fiancé.' He really liked the sound of that.

The End