It had been a month since I'd moved back into my own apartment. I'd dumped Morelli's sorry ass the minute he'd opened his mouth to yell at me over the situation with Slayers. Ranger had let me stay with him until Val and company had vacated my place.
I'd slept on the couch.
Since I'd moved back, he'd been coming over fairly regularly. Lunch here, dinner there, helping with each others' skips. For me, the ones I couldn't handle by myself; for him, the ones who could be lured out of a bar with a short skirt. We'd had breakfast together every morning. Not because he'd stayed the night before, but because he'd drag me out of bed to work out with him then reward me with coffee and oatmeal. Though he'd been slowly converting me to the wonders of tea. At the same time, I'd been slowly convincing him of the wonders of sugar. And cream. It worked out well for us.
Then he took me out after one of our distraction jobs. We had dinner, we talked, we laughed. Nothing unusual for us – we really were good friends. In fact, he was probably one of the best friends I'd ever had.
He walked me up to my apartment and came inside. I saw the way he looked at me. I knew what was coming.
He stalked toward me, backing me up until I was pressed between his chest and the wall. I wasn't sure which was harder. One of his hands came up and settled on my throat, his fingers on my pulse. The other hand wound its way around to the small of my back, pulling me even tighter against him.
"Morelli's gone?" he asked, voice rough and low.
"Yes," I agreed.
"Your bed's been empty," he informed me.
"You remember what I told you?"
"I do." Then he kissed me. And it was sin, heat, and wonder.
"You want this?" he asked, dragging himself away from me.
"I don't," I told him as I felt him freeze. "Not if it's just you and me and a bed. Not if it's just sex."
"Then we seem to be at an impasse," Ranger said. "I don't do relationships and you don't do casual sex."
"Well, that's not exactly true," I corrected. His eyebrows flew up his forehead. "You won't do relationships, and I do do casual sex. Just not with you." He took a step back, dropping his hands to his sides. And now it was me advancing and him retreating.
"And that's not exactly true, either," I told him. "You do relationships. You and I have a relationship. You just won't do a relationship that's romantic in nature." He took another step back, then seemed to realize what he'd done and took the step back towards me.
"And you won't do casual sex with me," he clarified. "With other men, but not with me."
"No. Not with you," I shook my head.
"What's wrong," he asked, countenance dark. "Not good enough for you anymore?"
"Too good," I told him. "Too good by far. And you mean too much to me already, so it wouldn't be casual. It wouldn't be simple fucking. Nothing between us is casual or simple, Ranger. And I'd start to want more from you. More that you aren't willing to give. So I won't let us start down that road."
There was silence. I waited, but he had nothing to say.
"I suppose you were right, anyway, Ranger. We seem to be at an impasse."
I put a hand to his cheek, feeling its roughness as he pressed into it. His hands settled gently on my hips. And I closed my eyes and leaned into him, kissing him gently, ever so gently. Then I pulled away, leaning my head back against the wall. And then he was gone. I slid down the wall and cried until I had no more tears. Then I took a shower and went to bed.
He came the next morning. I hadn't been sure that he would, but I should have known better. He yanked me out of bed and we did our run and our work out. And we had breakfast where I drank coffee filled with cream and sugar and he had oatmeal with sparing amounts of each.
And it wasn't weird or awkward. I wouldn't let it be. I'd meant what I'd said. Ranger meant too much to me, and if I wasn't willing to screw it up with sex, neither was I willing to screw it up because of a lack of it.
"I've been thinking," he said as I grabbed the bowls and brought them to the sink.
"And you're going to share?" I teased.
"I've been thinking about the reasons I'm not willing to have a relationship," he continued as though I hadn't said anything at all. I dropped the bowls and listened as they shattered on the floor. He grabbed me, lifting me over the broken glass and pressing me against the same wall I'd been thrust against the night before.
"I've been thinking about the reasons I'm not willing to have a relationship," he said. "And none of them seem good enough anymore."
He kissed me, hard, then pulled back.
"You want this?" he asked. I wrapped my arms around him, pulling him close again.
"Is it everything?" I asked.
We kissed again, and it was perfect. It was everything.