It was a real date. Ranger had asked- a week ahead of time- with a specific destination and arrival time in mind. Dinner at Tierra Columbia, a small restaurant in 'the hood' of Philadelphia, but run by Ranger's second cousin. And before dinner, an evening at the Philadelphia Museum of Art's special exhibition of Salvador Dali, one of Ranger's favorite painters, she had discovered. She had learned a great deal about Ranger during the family dinner with cousin Emilio and in the three weeks since the stalker take down at Tia's.
And she liked it all.
Thinking back over the dinner Tia's, during which Ranger did not lose physical contact with her, to the nightly phone calls or visits with true conversations that Ranger actually started, Stephanie couldn't help but smile. She had been looking forward to this night since Ranger had called her Wonder Woman cell phone during a particularly boring stakeout and asked if she was busy Saturday night. Well, after he asked if she was wearing any underwear.
"Babe. You free Saturday night?"
Lester, her partner, was looking across the front seat at her expectantly, having recognized the Batman ring tone. "So far. Why, should I reserve the night for you?"
"Dinner reservations. Cuban." Ranger was always so economical with the words.
"Okay. Later." And she hung up on him for a change.
And then a huge bouquet of exotic flowers in tropical hues had shown up at her apartment, with a note:
Saturday, 5 PM. Dress casual, but sexy. Dinner and an art show, if it's okay with you.. Call you tonight with details.
Hell, yes, it was okay with her. Especially when Lester let her know that the restaurant was another family member's. So far, she really liked all of Ranger's family except for Alec. Emilio had been quite charming and playfully flirtatious, making Ranger uncomfortable and letting Steph in on the act with an exaggerated wink out of Ranger's sight. He even insisted on 'examining' Steph for injuries, much to Ranger's chagrin.
And the date invitation had led to a late night telephone conversation that had made Stephanie's lifetime. As the conversation was ending, and Steph expected another abrupt disconnect from the man in black, his voice trembled and he actually hesitated. "Stephanie, I-"
In his pause, Steph waited expectantly. "Yes?" she eventually tried to egg him on as the silence stretched.
"Thank you for going out with me," he stated slowly. "Thank you for not giving up on us, even when I was difficult."
She teared up a little at the emotion in his voice. Maybe they could work this relationship thing out after all. "You've never given up on me, and my middle name is difficult. Thank you for giving this relationship a chance, finally."
Ranger's voice trembled slightly again, and he said the words that made her heart race with joy. "Love you, Babe."
Slightly taken aback- no "in my own way" was attached- Steph answered back in an equally trembling voice. "I love you, too, Ranger."
Ranger had actually said goodbye, and waited for her to hang up first.
Steph was really looking forward to this date.