TITLE: Tenderness
AUTHOR: Susan / apckrfan
DISCLAIMER: I don't own any characters. They belong to Janet Evanovich as much as I would love a Ranger of my very own. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is made.
SPOILERS: Ten Big Ones
SUMMARY: Ranger gives Stephanie a once over after everything is said and done to ensure she's all right
COUPLES: Stephanie & Ranger
FEEDBACK: This is my first attempt at a Plum fic so please, I can't write better without it.
STATUS: Complete
NOTES: rqfic group Challenge #35 from Lisa L. "Black and Blue"

Morelli was not thrilled that it was Ranger bringing her home; she would be stupid to think otherwise. She sat in Ranger's car, noticing tonight only that it was black like every other vehicle he acquired. She hesitated to say he owned his vehicles, because one never could be sure when it came to Ranger and his endless supply of shiny new, black vehicles of various shapes, sizes and styles.

Tonight she had been scared, pee in her pants, want her mother type of scared no doubt about it. Going home with Morelli was not an option. She did not want to get into yet another argument about how she should quit her job. Ranger did not scold her, Ranger did not tell her to get out of the bounty hunter business. She knew there were times he laughed at her, that was probably most of the time if she wanted to be honest with herself, but he never told her to get a new job. And he was always there to help her. Like now.

She could have gone home with Morelli, but her things were at Ranger's place and, if she wanted to be completely honest with herself, Ranger was at Ranger's place. She had to admit, even if it was not the bat cave, she could get used to sharing space with Ranger.

She closed her eyes, letting her forehead fall against the window not wanting to see anything. Her head hurt. Beyond being black and blue she did not think anything had happened that would result in a concussion. It was probably best not to mention her head hurting to Ranger.

"Babe," he said softly, seeming to sense her predicament even though she said nothing. A light touch to her head was his next gesture. "Babe," he repeated.


"We're home," he said in an amused tone of voice.

"Home? But my sister's still here."

"No, Babe, not your place, mine."

She sat up ramrod straight then. He took her home and Morelli had to suspect that was Ranger's intention. "Were we followed?"

He let his head fall back and gave a solid, hearty laugh as if it was the most amusing thing he had ever heard. It probably was. The idea of anyone, even police officers, following Ranger was amusing. "Okay, never mind," she mumbled and grabbed for the door handle.

"I'll get it," he said getting out and coming around to her side of the car.

"Thanks," she said as she stood from the car. She ran a hand the length of her body, to smooth out her clothes and to make sure that she had not in fact wet herself like a normal woman would have faced with the possibility of being gang raped. Literally. She had not, that was good, so she did not have to worry about being totally embarrassed in front of Ranger.

"You want to stay here tonight?"

"I don't really have anywhere else to go."

"You're safe now, you could go back to Morelli's."

"Is that your way of telling me I've overstayed my welcome."

"Babe, I didn't invite you."

"But you let me stay."

He laughed again and she realized he was baiting her. "No problem. You can stay. I should probably look you over to make sure you're not hurt anyway."

"Oh boy," she whispered. Ranger looking her over could lead to other, bad things, especially considering she was not sure exactly what she and Morelli were doing. As if that was a new thing.

He placed a hand at the back of her neck as they got into the elevator and began the trip up to his floor. She followed him into the apartment and stood in the foyer, wondering what she was supposed to do now. She was conflicted, couch or bed. First thing first she needed a shower. She felt dirty and violated; her dealings with Ramirez had left her feeling this way, too.

"I need a shower," she said finally. In truth, the idea of being able to use his shower gel again was a way of pacifying her, especially since soon enough she would be back in her apartment without the benefit of Ranger or his shower gel. It was the closest she was ever going to have to calling something of Ranger's hers.

"Have at it, I think you know where things are," he said and she felt her face grow warm as she blushed. It went unmentioned that she had spent days here without his presence so he was quite sure she knew where everything was.

She stood under the pulsating water with her eyes closed, her hands at her head enjoying the feel of the water cascading over her body. She could stay in here all night, though she doubted Ranger would appreciate her hogging his bathroom for that long. She let out a startled scream when the shower curtain was pushed back.

"Babe, it's me," came his voice from beside the shower.

"What are you doing in here?"

"Just need to make sure you're all right."

"I'm fine," she said, not sure that her naked with a shower curtain as their only barrier was going to be wise. He stepped into the shower then and her eyes flew open. "I said I'm fine." Them both naked with no shower curtain separating them was definitely not wise.

He smirked, the water spraying lightly over his perfectly sculpted body making him look even more kissable than he normally did. Lula would probably faint on the spot if she ever found out she had been in a shower with Ranger.

"Just need to make sure."

"And you thought the shower was the best time to do this?"

"I have a hard time thinking of a much better time."

"Oh boy," she said again wondering if it had really gotten hotter in there or if it was just her. Then he stepped closer, his mouth closing over hers and Stephanie realized that he had a more intimate way of ensuring she was all right in mind. As he kissed her and she remembered all the goodness that came with Ranger kisses she no longer felt conflicted about where to spend the night.

The End

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I do not own the copyright on the characters in my fics, they are works of fiction based on characters other people own written for fun. No copyright infringement is meant or profit is made from these stories.