|No Way Home
Author: Temperance Booth PM
Ranger breaks into Stephanie's apartment one night to find...Nothing! Stephanie's gone! But where did she go and why?Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Chapters: 3 - Words: 4,509 - Reviews: 87 - Favs: 22 - Follows: 61 - Updated: 06-06-06 - Published: 09-14-05 - id: 2579115
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: I am so sorry to all my reviewers. A lot has happened since I first uploaded this story and I haven't really had the time to write much. Add that to a TERRIBLE case of writer's block and you got my new chapter. Also I do realize that I misspelled Manoso. Sorry about that too!
Summary: Steph disappeared 3 years ago. Now she's surfaced again in LA. Tank found her while they were looking for recruits for the LA branch of RangeMan. Ranger just called and he's on his way…..
Never letting his eyes leave Stephanie's he carefully put his phone down. They shared a moment of silence, both knowing who had just called. Then Tommy burst into the room.
"Ranger's on his way here!"
I realized I wasn't breathing and sucked in a deep breath. I was seriously contemplating making a run for it when Tank put his hand on my shoulder. I'm not quite sure whether it was to calm me down or to make sure I didn't head for the front door. My oxygen supply seemed a little low again so I took in another deep breath. That seemed to clear my head a little and I calmed down.
In a weak voice I asked, "What are we going to do?"
Then Tank informed her as cool as could be, "We wait." After that I admit, I started to panic a little. I hadn't seen Ranger in over 3 years. I'm pretty sure he was going to be pissed at me for leaving but I had to. Charlie and I wouldn't have been free in Trenton. We wouldn't have had lives of our own. I decided that thinking about what could've been wasn't helping me calm down so I stood up, turned and left the kitchen.
I knew that when Tank heard the door slam he must have thought I'd run. I admit, I almost did. Then I heard a little giggle coming from the living room. I couldn't leave Charlie. She was my life. I had to do what was best for her and right now Ranger looked like he was it. So instead I changed my course from the front door to the bathroom.
Closing the door tightly behind me I turned on the sink and splashed some cold water on my face. Realizing that this had probably smeared my mascara, I quickly grabbed a towel and my make-up bag to begin repairing the damage. Hey, I may not live in Jersey any more but I gotta have some priorities. A Cuban sex god/mercenary was going to arrive any minute and I should probably look my best so the coroner wouldn't have to do much when they found my strangled corpse. Just then there was a knock on the door.
Showtime. Taking one last deep breath I opened the bathroom door and motioned for Tank to let me answer the front door. Standing in front of the door it came to me that this probably wasn't such a great idea. I spun around to try to make it to the window but ran smack dab into Tank's massive chest. Looking down at me and shaking his head he gripped my shoulders and spun me around. I was again facing the door. Bracing myself. I grasped the door knob and turned it letting the door swing open. (A/N: I could end this chapter here but I feel really bad about not updating so…..)
An awkward silence settled over the adults standing in the hallway for a second time that day. When I had opened the door I instinctively shut my eyes. I was afraid as to what I would find if I opened them. But curiosity out-weighed my fright and I cracked one lid open. Seeing the man in front of me I opened the other.
The years had been kind to Ranger. He still had the black pony-tail and that delicious skin and those melt-you-with-one-glance eyes but something about him had changed. His features looked softer more resigned. He still looked heavenly, but I got the sense that women did throw themselves at him too much any more. He looked almost….haunted.
We stood in silence for a few more minutes, all of us waiting for Ranger to react, none of us really wanting him too. And again, for the second time that day, Charlie broke the silence. She came waddling out of the living room rubbing her eyes and saying, "Mommy I sleepy." I glanced at Ranger's face and was amazed to see a shocked look on his face. The shock became more evident when Charlie tugged on my shirt, pointed to him and asked, "Is that the bad guy, Mommy, or is he a good guy too."
Bending down my gaze transferred from Ranger to my daughter and I explained, "No, no sweetie he is a good guy too. And…I think it is time for someone to go to bed. Lets get you tucked in, ok?" glancing at the still silent Ranger I stood up, picked up Charlie and made my way towards her room.
Closing the door I settled Charlie into bed and began our nightly ritual. I led her over to the little bookshelf in the corner of her pink room and let her pick out a book. Taking the book from her tiny fist and scooping her up I swung her around and plopped her down onto her Wonder Woman bed spread. I felt a smile tug at the corners of my mouth when she giggled and all thoughts of the men standing in the other room evaporated.
She crawled under the covers and made room for me to snuggle with her. Then we began reading her choice for the night, Carl Goes to Daycare.
After Stephanie left to put Charlie to bed, the silence settled back over the three men in the hallway. Tank and Ranger were involved in some sort of stare off and all Tommy could do was hope that fists didn't start flying. Tank had a look in his eye like he was daring Ranger to yell at him or punch him or something and at the moment it looked like Ranger might take him up on his challenge.
Fearing for his safety—he'd seen both men fight—Tommy cautiously and surreptitiously attempted to press himself against the wall. Of course Tank and Ranger both noticed the movement and broke their gazes to glance at him. When they looked back at each other there was no longer the challenging look in either's eyes. Rather, Ranger looked even more resigned than he had when he had entered the apartment. Slowly he let out a sigh and spoke the first words since he had seen Stephanie, "Did you know?"
Tommy didn't have the telepathic thing going on that they did but he understood the question. Ranger was asking if Tank knew that she was here. He was asking how long Tank had kept this from him. He was asking if Tank was ever gonna tell him. Tank vehemently shook his head and replied, "She was one of Carmen's recruits. None of your sister's employees knew what she looked like so I guess it was just chance that she asked me to come help Tommy. Ranger silently nodded and silence settled back onto the group.
Slowly Stephanie opened the door to her daughter's room and slipped out, pausing to look at her sleeping daughter. A sad smile made its way onto her features as she thought of what she was about to face. Taking one last deep breath she inched the door closed and made her way back into the hall.
All eyes turned to Steph as she closed the door and without breaking the silence she motioned for them to follow her into the kitchen. Ranger was the last to enter the kitchen and quickly observed his surroundings.
He noted the cookie jar resting innocently on the counter top and the box of Tasty Cakes lying next to the toaster. He could practically see the gun most likely occupying the cookie jar, devoid of bullets. That was until he noticed how she was sitting in her chair. At first he thought she was sitting the way she was because she was nervous. Hell, she had better be nervous. She had no idea what he'd been through trying to find her. But then he realized that she must have a gun tucked into the waistband of her jeans.
She had been Carmen's top choice for a recruit. That didn't happen while your gun sat—unloaded—in your cookie jar. Trying to squelch the small smile that was threatening to grace his features at the thought that his Babe had finally learned how to take care of herself, Ranger sat down in the only empty chair left around the kitchen table. Right across from Steph.
Looking Ranger right in the eye Stephanie asked, "Where should I start?"
Not breaking the contact Ranger simple said, "Beginning."
Sighing Steph nodded and looked at Tank and Tommy before returning her gaze to Ranger. Biting her lip she asked in an almost inaudible whisper, "Could—for the first part could not ready to let the world know. Could Tank and Tommy leave for just that part."
Letting no emotion show Ranger coldly answered, "No. I put them through hell trying to find you. They deserve to know why too."
Tears threatening to overflow Stephanie hung her head, "Right. I deserve that. Okay. Beginning….I broke up with Morelli."
The tears began to fall, "Well to say the least he didn't take it that well. He—," her voice broke but she continued.
"We argued. He said that we were meant to be together. Then he showed me what he meant." She had to stop and take a few calming breaths.
"When I found out I was pregnant I knew that we couldn't have a life in Trenton. Not with him there. Not with all the whispers and looks I would get when I began to show. How would I explain who the father was. Morelli would've used it to marry me. To force me to—I couldn't live like that. So I left." She paused to gauge Ranger's reaction.
Before she could continue Ranger looked at Tank and Tommy and nodded towards the door. The two men slowly and silently got up and left the room. Tank stopped to squeeze Stephanie's arm before disappearing behind the swinging door. He then looked at his Babe. She had been through so much and as soon as she had begun to cry he regretted being so harsh to her. He opened his mouth to apologize but Stephanie stopped him. She shook her head and continued on with her story.
"You don't spend time around people like you without learning how to disappear. So that's what I did. I sold my furniture and apartment for a little extra cash, started takin all the jobs Connie could get me. I made plans. I figured LA would be a good place to disappear in. Found a guy that made good fake I.D.'s, set myself up with a whole new identity. When everything was perfect, I split."
She paused and sucked in a deep breath before she went on, "I am so sorry that I hurt you. I swear I never meant for you to get hurt. I just couldn't stay there. I mean you were—and we were—and…" her voice dropped to a whisper as she repeated, "I'm sorry."
A/N: Ok guys that was it. Tell me what you thought. Constructive criticism is welcome, but if you're just looking to be mean go somewhere else. Thank you to all of my reviewers and if you've read this chapter too I am truly greatful.