This is something new. Just a short fic... It's actually a songfic, done slightly differently. The lyrics (although sometimes slightly modified) appear, in relatively correct order, but are engaged within the story. I'm not a huge fan of songfics (though I read htem all!) but thought i'd try this.

Ranger's POV, mentions pieces of TS and some from before it.

As always, the characters belong to the wonderful Janet, and I can't lay any claim to Ranger's wonderful self.


It had been a long, hard week. Most of it was spent in Miami dealing with a break-in on an Rangeman account, and then in Mexico tracking a skip. A skip who'd shot my babe. Were I to have my choice, I would have sent him into a permanent siesta, and brought back the certificate instead of the man. But it wasn't my choice, though I can't say he didn't get to Trenton somewhat more roughed up than he had left.

We got off the plane in the middle of the night. Two range-man vehicles were waiting, Tank in one, Lester and Bobby in the other. I shoved the skip into the back of Lester & Bobby's SUV. He yelped as his head hit the frame on the way in. Big baby. I nodded to them, signaled to Tank, and climbed in the passenger side of the SUV. My rib & shoulder still throbbed from being shot by Scrog, but the world continues and so must I. Downtime isn't an option. Once again I was wading through garbage, thankful that I wasn't included in that category, but aware that at times I was no better. I stared out the window, in my "zone" as my babe liked to call it. But really, I was thinking, my thoughts in turmoil, worrying, wondering, replaying things best left in the past, best left burried in the sludge from which they'd been borne. I'd been feeling that more often than not lately, especially since Scrog.

We pulled into the Haywood parking lot and I got out, grabbed my bag, and headed for the truck.

"Boss?" Tank inquired.

"Back later. Something to take care of."

"Are you offline?"

I paused for a minute. "Yeah." I threw the duffel bag in the passenger seat and climbed into the truck, roaring out of the parking lot seconds later.

I needed to go somewhere. Anywhere. Wired as I was feeling, I was never going to sleep. I was exhausted, I'd gotten little to no sleep all week. But I couldn't wind down. So I drove. And as I drove, I thought. I thought about my childhood, my teenager screwups, and where they led me. Down that dark road from which I can never retrace my steps. As I thought, I drove mindlessly.

Suddenly I realized the truck was stopped. So much for being aware of my surroundings. The lot was faintly lit, and I looked to my right to see my babe's apartment. Well, I supposed, maybe it would be best to check on her. Make sure she was ok. Make sure the bullet wounds were healing. I looked around for Morelli's truck, and was glad to see that it was no where in the parking lot. Her mini was, though. Amazing that she still has that car. Silently, I made my way up the stairs and carefully slipped the locks on her door. I locked them mutely behind me, and made my way to her bedroom.

She was sprawled on the bed, half under and half on top of the covers. One arm hung over the side, and her face was tipped sideways on the pillow. The bandaging on her head was off and there was an angry red mark where the bullet had grazed her head. They had to shave her head to stitch it, and my heart twisted at the dissarray it made of her hair. Her arm, the one flung over the side, was still bandaged. That one had required surgery to dig out. And it had happened because of me. Because I wasn't sharp enough and hadn't thought it would be an issue. And she got shot.

One more mark for the dark side of Ranger.

Watching her sleep, listening to her even breathing, relaxed me. Tonight, I was willing to admit that I needed her. That I'd give up anything to touch her, because I knew she felt me - I knew she understood. I knew she was willing to let me touch her. My men, they respected me and acted to my authority. But Steph...she challenged my authority with her saucy temperament. She reached into me, questioning me, getting close to me, when others backed off. I sprawled in her chair and slouched down, watching her. It was amazing, that someone wholesome and good like my babe would be willing to have anything to do with me, wouldn't be repulsed by what I am. I was often looked upon as a "sex god" but in truth, only those as soul-deprivated as myself were usually willing to touch me. People like Jeanne Ellen. Where it was physical release, but nothing more, for she was as mercenary and soulless as I. But that wasn't enough. My babe wasn't about physical release, it was... special. She cared. And sometimes, she'd look at me with eyes that seemed to say it was unconditional. Like no matter what I said, what I did, she cared.

And being near her was heaven. I didn't want to, and couldn't bear to, go home alone right now. I needed to be near her. She brought peace. Perhaps that's where my "zone" comes from when driving with her - the peace she brings to my mind. Because as many disasters as she gets in, she will watch my back to the best of her abilities.

As I wound down I couldn't focus on anything but this moment - so unbearably sweet I could taste it. I was breathing her air, her essence, and it was healing me. I knew at some point I'd have to go home, but not yet, not now. I needed her tonight. I couldn't hold her, but I needed her close. I didn't want her to know that, couldn't bear to show her my weakness when she saw me as batman, a superhero who couldn't be harmed.

No - not true. I knew she knew I was physically mortal, but she thought I was infallible. And I didn't want her to think of me as weak. I didn't want to fall off the pedestal she put me on. It felt too good to be regarded with not just respect, but awe and inspiration, and worship. Someday it'll be over. And she'll be married, maybe to Morelli, maybe to someone else. Morelli will never let her fly. I wish I could try. But I can't, not without hurting her in a way that would kill me piece by piece. I shouldn't be here. I should leave her alone, leave her life. But I can't bear to be away from her, not yet. She is my weakness.

She whimpered in her sleep and her breathing changed. I thought about moving, leaving, in case she woke up. I don't want the world to see me like this, vulnerable, human. I don't want them to know what I've done, to be judged. They wouldn't understand. She wouldn't understand. But my armor is cracking, my heart is breaking in pieces every time I push her away. Part of me wants her to know who I am, wants her to make a choice. To be with me - my friend, my heart - or to leave so I can try and pick up the fragments of what's left of me. To fumble through the dark once she takes the light away with her. I remained an enigma to her on purpose. I can't bear the day that she would turn from me in revulsion. And if she knew, if she knew any of it, she invariably would. And I can't bear to lose her. Not yet.

Not yet.

My eyes and chest ached with unshed tears. I couldn't fight them, but they wouldn't fall either. This was truth. I could admit it, briefly, while she slept. The moment of truth in the lie I live with her. I need her. Not just sexually, although god knows I want her more than I've wanted anyone. I need her emotionally. I need her close. I need her spirit, her fire, her saucy wit, her wild independent streak that has her chasing FTA's she would be better off avoiding meeting eyes with at the mall, nevermind talking to and apprehending.

My rib throbbed as I shifted positions. I welcomed the pain. My life was starting to feel surreal, like a movie, a time warp I can't get out of. Rangeman, the security business, was thriving and it was good, solid, work. But chasing FTA's, getting shot, being an enigma floating on the wind was starting to make me spin out of control. The pain brought me back to reality. Reminded me that I am real, that it is my life, and brought a glimpse of hope that I may still have control of my own destiny.

My babe flipped onto her back and whimpered, then slowly opened my eyes. I sat still, not daring to breathe. Unerringly, she looked straight at me.


I stayed silent.

"Where have you been?" she asked. I didn't answer. I couldn't answer past the lump in my throat. "Why are you here? It's the middle of the night? Did you have to break in again?" Indignation was in her tone now. Ah, that's my babe. Silently, I rose. I moved over to her, gently touched her head above the welt from the bullet, then turned to leave.

I was at the door when her voice stopped me. Soft. Worried. "Ranger?" I waited, but I didn't turn back to her. I wasn't ready to leave, but couldn't stay if she was awake. Not without explaining, and I didn't want to explain. I didn't want it to end yet.

"Are you ok?"

I swallowed. Forced myself to speak. "Yeah. Fine. Go back to sleep. I'm sorry I woke you." And I headed down the hall, silent as I came in.

"Ranger?" her voice, right behind me. I stopped again, again not turning. She pressed herself up against my back, her arms around my waist and her head resting on my shoulder, her ear touching mine. "You're not ok."

"You're not supposed to see this." I whispered. "Batman's supposed to be infallible."

"What's wrong?"

I couldn't answer. I swallowed convulsively. My heart was in my throat and I couldn't answer, couldn't speak. I was overtired and it was catching up to me and I just... couldn't.

"I love you." she whispered in my ear. I placed my hands against hers - flat on my stomach - and squeezed them gently. I couldn't answer. We were silent for a minute.

"This isn't a sexual invitation. But come to bed." she offered. I stood, head pressed against hers, hands on hers, not answering. Kissing the side of my jaw, she gently disentagled herself and then took me by the arm and led me back.

I took the invitation, weak as I am. I'd give up forever for one night in her arms, just holding her. I crawled into her bed and pulled her to me, burrying my face in her hair. We lay together, silent, for a while. Her breathing slowly changed. Slowed. Moved towards sleep.

"I want you to know who I am. But I'm so scared to lose you if you ever find out. I'm so scared you'll hate me" I whispered to her after I thought she was sleeping. I rubbed my cheek against her hair and savored the feel of her.

"I could never hate you." she eventually mumurred as I was drifting towards sleep myself. "I know you killed Abruzzi. For me. I know you have darkness in your past. It doesn't matter. You're the second most honorable man I know."

I drifted on the verge of sleep, wondering who the most honorable man was. Scared to ask because I didn't want to hear it was Morelli.

"almost as honorable as my dad." she finished on a shallow breath.

I hugged her tighter to me and she sighed. "you're the closest to heaven I'll ever be. I love you." I whispered into her hair. And I thought that maybe I would tell her that when she was awake, someday. Maybe I would tell her more about me someday. And maybe she would understand, unlike the rest of the world. And when everything is broken, maybe she'll help pick up the pieces. I won't tell her soon. But maybe someday. I need her. She is the air I breathe.

I fell asleep, at peace, if only for this night.