|Run for the Wall
Author: Cristi0819 PM
A Memorial Day one-shot with our favorite characters.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Friendship/Romance - Ranger M. & Stephanie P. - Words: 2,886 - Reviews: 50 - Favs: 34 - Follows: 5 - Published: 05-26-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8152800
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: Nothing but the storyline belongs to me. Everything else you recognize belongs to Janet Evanovich.
A/N: I had the honor of seeing the Run for the Wall come through my city last week. It was amazing to behold. I was talking to one of the riders and telling him that I searched for news footage of when they arrived at The Wall last year and how I had a hard time finding anything. He told me that every year they are ignored as if they are out of fashion. This story is just my small way of making more people aware of what these amazing men and women do every year. I salute each and every one of them! For the purposes of this story, please forget that Trenton is north of Washington, D.C. and would not normally be a stop for RFTW.
Run for the Wall
I was sitting at my kitchen table enjoying my coffee and fruit loops when I heard the locks tumble on my door. I was used to people breaking into my apartment, but I hoped this was a good guy and not some new psycho. I prefer to look good for my psycho's and I was still wearing my stolen black silk boxers and skimpy black tank top. My hair was in a ponytail and I had no armor, or makeup, on yet.
A moment later Ranger appeared around the corner of the kitchen. Whether he was a good guy or a threat remained to be seen. He was definitely a good man to have on my side, but he was also a definite threat to my libido and my sanity. I had a hard time thinking clearly when Ranger was around. It was probably due to the fact that he was gorgeous and I was in love with him.
Ranger took a seat across the table from me, took in my attire and hair and smiled. "I'm torn between telling you how cute you are and asking what you've got on under my boxers."
I grinned and said, "I've had these boxers at least a year. Possession is nine-tenths of the law."
With a blank face, Ranger said, "So the next time I find you hiding out in my apartment, I can keep you? After all, possession is nine-tenths of the law."
Why do I try witty banter with Batman? He always wins.
Ranger gave me an almost smile and then let me off the hook. "I need your help with something." He pulled out a file folder and passed it over to me. I expected to see information on a skip or something of that nature. Instead I found flyers for something called "Run for the Wall."
"What's this?" I asked him.
"Run for the Wall happens every year. It's a group of bikers, all veterans, who begin in California and make their way across the country to D.C. They ride to raise awareness of American P.O.W.'s and M.I.A.'s. Every year on Memorial Day weekend, they ride into D.C. to The Wall. This year, Tank and I made a special request of the group and they've decided to honor that request."
"What was the request?" I asked.
"The group allows Missing Man Formations. Tank's father went missing in Vietnam and was never recovered. We requested that we be allowed to ride formation for him. It means a lot to Tank. Bobby, Lester and I will ride formation with him."
It hurt my heart to hear that about Tank's father. I had no idea. "What can I do to help?" I asked.
Ranger's eyes softened and he said, "Run for the Wall never gets much media attention. I want to change that. More media attention equals more donations and will allow more veteran's to participate. Making this trip isn't cheap and more veterans would participate if they had the funds. Also, the group stops at VA hospitals along the way and visits with veterans in the hospital. These visits mean a lot to everyone. I want you to get the word out in Trenton. I want the streets filled when we ride."
"Okay," I said. "But how do I get the word out?"
"Babe, you know everybody. Talk to your friends, the cops, and people in your parent's neighborhood. A copy of the route we'll take is in the folder. We'll pass right in front of your parent's house."
I nodded and said, "I'll get started today." Ranger stood to leave and I walked him to the door. He turned to me and put a hand on my cheek and said, "Thanks for the help, Babe. I knew I could count on you." He gave me a soft kiss on the lips that left me wanting more and then was gone. I blew out the breath I didn't realize I was holding and got dressed and ready for the day.
I stopped at the Tasty Pastry, bought a dozen assorted and coffee and got permission to put a flyer in the window. I went to the bonds office next and told Lula and Connie about the Run for the Wall and what Ranger had asked me to do. Connie offered to talk to her family about the event and Lula promised to talk to everyone she knew. I didn't know if Ranger wanted ho's on the street, but in my experience, veterans are pretty accepting of others, so I didn't think it would be a problem. I went to my parent's house next and told them about the event. My mother wasn't happy about hundreds of motorcycles driving down her street, but agreed that it was a good cause. Dad said he would talk to the guys at the cab company, as well as his lodge members. Grandma was excited about it and said she would talk to "everybody." I was afraid to ask what that meant. I spent the next two days knocking on doors, talking to my old teachers and visiting local churches. I hoped it would be enough to get the response Ranger wanted and the group needed.
Ranger stopped by the night before the event. He had a bag of Chinese take-out in one hand and a shopping bag in another. He sat the shopping bag down beside the sofa and we sat down to eat. He told me more about the event while we ate. He said Tank was thrilled to finally get the chance to ride in formation for his dad. RangeMan was helping with event security, so Ranger had brought in contractors for the day to man the control desk and regular accounts.
Ranger sat back on the sofa and looked over at me. He looked at me so long that I got uncomfortable and started squirming in my seat. Finally, he said, "What's going on with Morelli?"
I shrugged and said, "Nothing really. We're taking a break."
He considered me a little longer and finally said, "I'd like you to ride with me tomorrow."
I felt my eyebrows move to my hairline as I looked at Ranger. I wasn't expecting this. "Really?" I asked. I got a Ranger nod in return.
I couldn't stop myself from asking, "Why?"
Ranger leaned closer and put a hand on my cheek and said, "Because it's important to me and so are you." He kissed me gently on the forehead and said, "I've got to go, Babe. Meet me at Veterans Memorial Park at 9:00. There's some gear for you in the bag."
I was still sitting on the sofa, stunned, when he walked out the door. Ranger said I was important to him. What did that mean?
Standing up, I grabbed the shopping bag and went into my bedroom and dumped it all on the bed. There were jeans, motorcycle boots, leather chaps and a t-shirt. I unfolded the t-shirt and laughed. It was Army green with a gold star and read "Ranger's Do It Better."
I got up early the next morning, nervous about the event. I ate quickly and spent a little extra time on my hair and make-up, wanting to look good since this was a big day for RangeMan. I got to the park early, locked my purse in my car and went to find Ranger. There were people milling about and I saw several Merry Men with their bikes and Trenton cops standing by their cruisers.
I spoke with several of Ranger's men and got hugs from Lester and Bobby, who were checking their bikes. They pointed me towards Ranger and when I saw him, my breath caught in my throat. He was wearing black jeans, black boots, a tight black t-shirt, black leather chaps and a black leather vest with various patches on it. His hair was pulled back and I'd never seen him look better. He was bent over a black, shiny Dark Custom Harley Davidson. The chrome sparkled in the sun and I had an insane urge to ride more than just the bike.
Ranger looked up and locked eyes with me. I had always felt pulled to Ranger, but never more so than on this day, in this moment. He walked over to me, took my hand in his and guided me over to his bike. On the windshield was a laminated picture of Sgt. Pierre Thomas Sr. A brief write-up described how he went missing in Vietnam on March 6, 1970. His remains were never recovered. He left behind a wife and infant son. He was described as a brave and honorable soldier, who could always be counted on in a fight.
I felt tears forming and looked up at Ranger. "It sounds like Tank inherited many qualities from his father."
Ranger nodded and was about to speak when we heard a distant rumble. He smiled and said, "Here they come." He turned me with him to face the street. The rumble soon became a roar and I watched in awe as wave upon wave of motorcycles descended on the park field. "There are over 700 riders this year." Ranger told me.
There were motorcycles of every model imaginable. Most of the riders were older Vietnam era veterans, but there were younger veterans, too and I was surprised and pleased to see so many women riding. Several even had dogs with them.
Many of the bikes had yellow "Road Guard" stickers, others were marked as "Chaplain" or "Mentor" or "Platoon Leader." There were American flags, P.O.W. flags and the Run for the Wall insignia everywhere. The RFTW insignia was an eagle with an American flag in the center and the words "We Ride for Those Who Can't" inscribed underneath.
A bike marked "Missing Man Coordinator" pulled up to us and parked. The man riding the bike was around 60 with grey hair and a long grey beard. He shook Ranger's hand and introduced himself as T-Bone. While he and Ranger went over the guidelines for the Missing Man Formation, I studied the patches on T-Bone's vest. He had many Vietnam Veterans patches, including one naming him as a helicopter pilot. The back of his vest was covered with RFTW patches for each of the past twelve years. I'd learned that an "All The Way" patch meant a rider had started in California and gone all the way to D.C. T-Bone had done it every year. What really got my attention, though, was a small gold pin on the front of the vest that proclaimed "Ex-P.O.W."
I looked up at Ranger and T-Bone, who had apparently been watching me look at the vest and blushed. "I'm sorry. I'm not trying to be rude."
T-Bone gave me a smile and said, "That's okay. That's why we're here, for people to learn about us and what we do. This is your first time?"
I nodded and he reached into his pocket and gave me an RFTW, 2012 pin and another one that read "FNG." I looked over at him and said, "Thank you. What does FNG mean?"
He grinned and said, "I'll let this guy explain it to you." He looked up at Ranger and said, "We'll be ready in about 5 minutes." He walked away and I looked at Ranger and said, "So what does it mean?"
"It stands for Fucking New Guy." I rolled my eyes at him and got a rare Ranger smile in return. Ranger got Bobby and Lester's attention and they came over to get in formation. I didn't realize until then that Tank had come up behind us. Tank was always huge, but in his leathers, he looked monstrous. His bike had POW/MIA and American flags on the back and he also had the picture of his father on the windshield. I watched as he touched the picture with one massive hand and closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them he looked straight at me and I couldn't resist giving him a hug. Tank wasn't a touchy person, but didn't seem to mind the affection today. He hugged me back and said, "Thanks for your help, Bomber. It means a lot to me." I nodded, feeling sappy and stepped back to Ranger.
A moment later the Road Guard ordered everyone to get in formation and get ready. The TPD officers road out ahead and then we were off. Ranger and I were behind Tank with Bobby and Lester on the other side and the middle, front position open in honor of Tank's father.
My arms were wrapped around Ranger as we rode from the park onto the streets of Trenton. We rode down Slater Street first and saw only a few on-lookers. I was getting really worried until we turned onto my parent's street. The sidewalks of both sides of the street were covered with people, young and old. They were carrying small flags and waving to the riders. As we neared my parent's house, I saw my Grandma with a group of elderly men wearing their uniforms. As we neared, they stood up straight and saluted. I could hear the bikes behind us honking for them as we drove by.
We passed my old elementary school, where the kids were out by the street with handmade signs of flags and soldiers and words of gratitude. The kids were thrilled at the riders honking at waving at them. We turned onto Haywood Street, where I saw the Merry Men out in force. Each of them were holding pictures of fallen friends and family members and saluted as we passed.
All too soon the ride was over and we were making our way back to the park, where RangeMan was providing lunch for the riders. We got off the bikes and I watched as Ranger, Bobby and Lester walked over to Tank and bumped fists with him. Tank looked to be very moved by the ride and the opportunity to honor his father. After a moment he looked up and said, "Thank you all for riding with me. This meant the world to me." He clasped Ranger's shoulder and left quickly.
Ranger wrapped an arm around my shoulders and led me into the crowd. I watched as riders visited with VA patients on the grounds, sometimes praying with them, sometimes crying with them. We were making our way over to the tent that held lunch when we heard "Captain Manoso?" Ranger turned and I saw one of the riders, a young man in his late twenties. "It's good to see you, Sir," the young man said. Ranger shook hands with him and said, "I'm glad you could make the trip, Private. How's the injury?"
The young man raised the jeans on his left leg a little to show the metal of his prosthesis. He grinned and said, "Better than ever." He turned serious and said, "Thank you for making this trip possible for me. I'll never forget it." We watched as he walked back into the crowd and was gone from sight. Ranger noticed me staring at him and said, "He wanted to go all the way, but his injury makes that difficult. RangeMan was able to get him a spot in one of the Chase Trucks."
My eyes had been wet since the ride began and the tears only flowed more freely now. I hugged him and said, "I'm proud of you, Ranger."
His arms tightened around me. When we straightened, he looked me in the eyes and said, "This was an important day for us, but sharing it with you made it even more special. I love you, Babe."
A/N: Many thanks to my beta and partner in crime, FairTaxGirl. Thank you all for reading and thank you to our veterans! Happy Memorial Day.