Disclaimer: Janet Evonovitch's character's are not mine. I'm borrowing them...
Author's Note: Hi Everyone!
This is my first fan fic about a book. It's also my first first person (hehe) fic ever. So please be gentle... )
This is a "Babe" story all the way.
I'm not sure where exactly to position timeline though. Definately before Ten Big Ones.... possibly after Hard Eight but beforeTo the Nines.
Anywho, I have the next two chapters written and I like the shape it's taking.
So please read on and PLEASE REVIEW!!
What is that sound???
Somewhere in my muddled mind I acknowledged that the phone was ringing. Delving deeper into the warmth of the sheets I did my best to ignore it…
.. it wasn't working…
Sighing heavily, I heaved myself out of bed, silently swearing to throttle whoever was on the other line.
"What?!!" I hissed, without a semblance of civility… not really caring who was on the other line.
The word was soft and sent ripples of something indescribable through me – I was instantly awake; my eyes seeking out the digital clock on the nightstand.
"Where've you been?" the question was hissed too, but I couldn't help it. Quickly thought I added, "Its 2:37 in the morning," realizing only after I said it, that it sounded a lot more frustrated than I felt.
He was silent then said softly, "I need your help, babe."
If possible I became even more alert, pulling myself into a sitting position and swinging my feet off the side; my heart suddenly pounding – Ranger asking for help?
"What is it?"
There was a pause, then, "Will you help me?"
"Of course," I nearly snapped at the phone.
What kind of question was that?
"Ranger what is it? What's going on? You're making me nervous…" I stood up, walking over to her window.
"Get away from there," he hissed in my ear.
I staggered back, "How dangerous is this?"
Another pause, he was weighing his words very carefully.
"Does it matter?"
I thought on that for approximately four seconds before sighing, "No, I guess not… I promise."
He was silent.
"Open your door," he said, his voice was soft, so soft… so quiet… it was beginning to scare me.
Quickly I padded through the dark, empty apartment, peering into Rex's cage to see if he was up.
He wasn't --- no decent being would be up at this time…
Sighing again I unlocked all the locks and slid the security chain off – so much security and still people managed to break in.
Swinging the door open with a flourish I almost dropped the phone as I stared with my mouth open at what was in front of me.
Standing there was a dark haired girl, who was falling asleep on her feet. She was dressed in a man's shirt that reached her calves and had big socks on her feet… and no shoes…. The dark hair was pulled back in a pony tale and her skinny arms were wrapped around her midsection – not exactly what I expected.
"That's my daughter. Her name is Veronica."
The words rang around in my head for a few seconds… failing to produce any reaction… failing to register…
"Your daughter?" I finally rasped out.
"You knew I had a daughter."
"Yeah… I guess… but…. I didn't know you had a daughter… know what I mean…"
The answer was crisp… and I got the feeling he wanted to get off the phone..
"What is it you need?"
"Keep her until morning. I'll stop by and pick her up around nine."
Silently, I eyed the girl in front of her… the girl who had yet to look at me.
"I thought you're daughter was like… a teenager or something…"
"She looks eleven."
"Her mother was small boned."
Again the words were crisp.
"How much danger are we gonna be in?"
"Normally I'd say none, but since you're involved, I'm gonna bump it up to very little"
I scowled at the phone, "That's not funny, I haven't blown anything up in a month and a half."
He didn't respond to that, instead he said, seriously, "You'll be safe…I wouldn't ask… it's just… I can't be with her right now…"
There was something in that voice… in the way he said it…
I felt myself melt… and not in a sexual way… in a much more dangerous way… in an I-want-to-hold-you-and-make-it-all-better kind of way…
"Okay, fine, I'll see you in the morning."
He was silent.
I was ready to hang up.
"Thank you Stephanie."
The phone clicked off abruptly and I just stared at it.
He'd called me Stephanie…
A feeling of dread started to fill me, it started in the pit of my stomach and was quickly working its way out… closing my eyes for a moment, I did my best squelch it. Whatever the problem was, Ranger was more than qualified to handle it.
He was batman.
"Hi," I said softly to the spawn of batman, "You wanna come in?"
The girl sighed, and walked past me into the apartment without even looking at me.
… it looked like she was baby batsitting…
"Do you want something to eat?"
The girl was sitting on the couch, obviously trying to stay awake.
She shook her head.
Thank god, cause all I have is in the house is pie and I don't really wanna share.
"Do you want something to drink?"
Again the girl shook her head.
Thank god, cause all I have in the house is water – tap.
"Is there anything you want to do?"
For an answer the girl, pulled her feet under her shifted her weight to one side and buried her face into the sofa – obviously ready to take a nap.
Evidently the girl had inherited her father's conversation skills.
I wanted to go back to bed…
…to sleep until my alarm rang, then throw it against the wall and sleep some more…
It had been a long week, Ranger had disappeared and Vinnie had handed his FTA's to me.
Lula and I had spent the entire week chasing one or the other from the pile… we'd gotten two…
Ranger's FTA's tended to be… tougher… than what I'm used to.
And I was trying to keep my current car intact.
At least the Ranger mystery was solved… he'd been spending time with his daughter.
Sighing, I headed to my bedroom, pulling one of the blankets off my bed; I dragged it to where the girl was sleeping.
Hastily I covered the child with it and nearly ran back to bed.
Sliding under the covers I called sleep.
Sleep wasn't picking up… and didn't have an answering machine.
It was 3:18.
All normal people in the world were sound asleep, snug in their beds.
Then again "normal" was a relative term… right?
Sighing, I crawled out of bed and headed for the kitchen… pie would help… pie always helped…
I was staggering my way through the kitchen, when I heard a soft moan come from the sofa.
Pausing, with my hand on the refrigerator door, I glanced quickly towards the darkened living room; with my luck there was someone in there quietly molesting the girl.
As the baby-bat-sitter it was my duty to go over there and make sure there was no one molesting her…
….right now… I had to walk over there now… not later… not after pie… but now…
Pulling myself away from the large ice box that held yummy, gooey comfort I prepared myself to face the molester…
Baby-bat sitting was hard work.
As it turned there was no baby-bat-molester, there was however, a baby-bat tossing and turning…almost writhing under the covers; her eyes shut tight, her fist clenched at her sides.
"Hey," I whispered, walking closer, kneeling down in front of the sofa. I reached out and touched the girl… she was damp with perspiration… "Hey, wake up… it's just a dream…" I whispered, trying to make my voice sound comforting… not entirely sure what a comforting voice sounded like.
The girl didn't wake up though, her struggling became more pronounced and her breathing suddenly became erratic.
I started to panic… I stood, then kneeled again, then stood, and finally sat on the sofa next to the girl… "Wake up, come on kid… wake up… it's just a dream…"
The girl shot up suddenly, grasping the blanket against with white-knuckled fists, her chest heaving.
"It was just a dream… everything's fine… it's okay now," I said quietly.
The girl shifted a little to face me, her eyes wide and suddenly tear filled, she shook her head vigorously, "No, no," she gasped out, brokenly, "…it'll never be okay again," she cried softly, before burying her face in my lap.
The girl was crying, sobbing, and all I could do was look down at her… at the dark, shiny head on her lap… while the girl's words whirled around in my head.
"It'll never be okay again…"
There was something on the tip of my brain that was important… very important…
…her mother was small boned…
Ranger's words filled my brain suddenly, and the pieces began to form together…
"… her mother was small boned…"
He'd said that… he'd said was…
…but Ranger's ex lived in Florida…
"... it'll never be okay again…" I heard the girl's words again, and looked down at the dark head in horror.
"Oh god," I whispered, my hands automatically reaching out to touch the girl's hair, "oh no…"
This girl had lost her mother.
Her sobs had quieted a little, she was whimpering now.
"I'm so sorry," I said softly, not knowing what else to say or do.
The girl said nothing.
She'd lost her mother… and now she had to live with Ranger?
Is that what was going on?
Was Ranger going to have to be a full time dad?
The thought was mind-boggling… the thought of Ranger having a kid in the first place took some thought adjustment… of him being a dad…
The child shifted a little against her, and brought my thoughts crashing back to the girl…
… searching my mind for anything useful, I blurted out the only thing I could think of, "You want some pie?" I said and then could have kicked herself… pie… the girl had just lost her mother and she was offering her pie???
The kid said nothing, just sniffled a little.
"I don't know exactly what's going on…" I began hesitantly, "… I usually don't… but I do know that your Dad… he's really good at fixing problems. He fixes most of mine and he may not be the best conversationalist around but he's… he's a good guy to have when things get tough… and if there's a situation that he can't… fix… then he just… he makes it better… as better as he can… I know I'm probably not making much sense but I'm just trying to make you understand that… you could do worse than Ranger for a dad…"
The girl said nothing, didn't even sniffle.
I frowned, geez... that at least deserved a sniffle.
Squinting my eyes I peered at the girl, "Veronica?" I asked hesitantly.
Leaning down closer, "Veronica... hello??"
She's asleep on me.
The thought materialized slowly and even slower was the realization that I couldn't move without waking the girl.
I groaned softly, technically I could move the girl… but the idea didn't appeal to me… I didn't want to wake this girl… not when her reality was so… not nice.
Instead I decided to snuggle in deeper against the cushions and focus on the girl whose head was on my lap.
I didn't get too far into my focusing when sleep finally decided to pay a visit.
It could have been the sunshine or it could have been the subconscious awareness that someone was staring at me… more likely than not though it was the scent of donuts that pulled me out of sleep land.
"You broke in," it was a statement.
He nodded - once.
I stared, figuring it was okay since he was staring too.
It wasn't just that he looked exhausted… it was that he looked weary; as if it was taking an effort just to be.
"You don't look so good."
He said nothing – surprising.
I tried to sit up, but became aware that Veronica was still lying on my lap. Ranger's eyes drifted down to his daughter; if possible his face became even harder.
He stood abruptly, "Up Nica," he said roughly, and as if a puppet pulled by a string the girl was off my lap in an instant.
She stood her eyes still blurry from sleep and swollen from tears, blinking furiously as if trying to figure out where she was.
It occurred to me suddenly that she'd obeyed his command before actually being awake.
"I brought you donuts for your effort, Steph, thanks."
He headed for the door.
"Wait! That's it you're leaving?"
He nodded, "Yeah, thanks."
"But… stay… let her have a donut… you can't just leave… she's not even actually awake yet." I muttered, not liking what I was seeing, "We didn't even get to talk last night or anything…" I added.
Ranger smirked a little, "It wasn't allowed," he said, before facing his daughter, "Thank Stephanie, Nica." He ordered.
"Thank you, Stephanie," the girl parroted instantly.
I stood there horrified as they walked out; staring at the door in shock. He ordered and she obeyed.
What kind of father-daughter relationship was that?
None of your business, that's what it is. The answer came immediately and I sighed. I had no business getting involved or even interested in Ranger's relationship with his daughter. Even if it was kinda weird.
I picked up the blankets and made the bed and fed Rex and spent the morning in what could be called domestic bliss – otherwise known as boredom.
I called in to see if Connie had any normal, non-rapist, non-gang involved skips for me and found that the answer was no.
I could however, come in and file if I wanted.
I still had $40 I could go out and spend… I wasn't resorting to filing till I was desperate. I went out and found myself a very pretty imitation coach bag, some McDonald fries, and went to the fruit mart to get grapes… for Rex… I was a good parent.
It was late when I got back to my apartment. I'd spent the evening with Mary Lou in the park… watching joggers… it was one of the best sports around.
I fumbled with the keys a little as I entered with my bags, the apartment was dark
The apartment was very dark and very quiet when I entered it and I briefly felt bad for leaving Rex alone all day. But then again I did have the grapes…
The grapes would make it all better.
Stumbling a little I made my way to the kitchen and dumped the bags on the counter, hanging on to my purse so I could pull out the gun and stick in the cookie jar where it belonged; then felt along the wall for the light switch.
Light flooded the room… that's why I didn't notice immediately… after all when your eyes are adjusting to sudden bright light they can't right away notice the tall blonde, built dude standing a few feet away from you holding a blade.
"Don't move," he said seriously.
The words didn't actually register in my mind, instead some sort of Ranger/Morelli induced instinct took over and I pulled out my gun.
"Holy shit!" the guy with the blade exclaimed.
It was the last thing I heard before a sudden pain at the back of my head, made all the lights go out.