A Christmas fic. I already know the end. Is it babe? Perhaps. Perhaps not. I won' tell ;-)

Standard Disclaimer: Own nothing, lay claim to nothing, making money from…you got it…NOTHING. But I'm having fun all the same.

Merry Christmas, Stephanie Plum.

Chapter 1

I hunched against the wind as I ducked out of the bonds office and rushed to my car. Thank god for command starts. Cold weather sucks. So does December. The first of December is the first day of the month that houses Christmas. And I'm not sure how I feel about christmas, just now. The bonds office was already decorated for christmas, and being in it made my stomach queazy. Lula had Tank, and she was already planning how they were going to spend Christmas day. Connie had great plans. Even Vinnie had plans. And the christmas music was sickening. I ducked into my car and threw the files I had just snagged in a grab-and-dash and pulled away. I was officially going to be spending as little time as possible in the bonds office. I really didn't feel like being subjected to christmas cheer if I could help it.

Christmas Cheer be damned. I walked in on my now ex-husband playing hide the salami with Joyce Barnhardt in the middle of the season of Christmas Cheerfulness. Joe Morelli relieved me of my Virginity at the Tasty Pastry one snowy december night. And Once again, I was going to be alone for Christmas. Christmas sucked.

I mean, I would spend it with my family - my nieces screaming, well, Mary-Alice would be whinnying, Val and Albert cooing to each other, Grandma would be antagonizing my dad and he'd be wishing for a gun. I'm never too sure if he wants to use it on himself or on Grandma, though. Christmas in the asylum, really. And my mother would want to know why Joe wasn't there, and lament how I'd lost my last chance at marriage, at a normal life. And I would be inadequate once again. Yup, Merry Christmas to me. Already, I was dreading it.

Joe and I had finally called it quits in September or so. It was what you'd call an amicable split. Joe couldn't handle my job, and I couldn't handle the ultimatums. But for the first time, it didn't result in a screaming match. Just a dull feeling that maybe, maybe we were two people trying to be one, but never really managing to merge completely. The hardest part was that I do love him, and he loves me. It's just not the forever-kind. Or, at least, not the forever-in-matrimony kind. We both had agreed that we didn't want to lose the other in our lives, and so managed to agree to stay friends pretty well instantly. Truth was, sex was the one thing we did well together all the time. Without it, we really didn't co-inhabit well. We did, however, do the friends thing well. Every single thursday without fail, since we agreed to go our own ways relationship wise, we got together at his house for Pizza, Beer, and the Rangers game. Sometimes we did it one other weeknight too. And we'd had numerous long, late night phone calls, just to chat. Well, not so much anymore, because now Joe has Elaine.

It's funny, because there was a time when thinking of Joe with anyone else made my stomach queasy. I hated the idea. A week and a half after we split up, a skip threw a plate at me and it sliced the side of my forehead, leaving a huge gash. Joe was the first cop on scene and he took one look at me gushing blood, swore, and hauled my ass into an ambulance. The ambulance was a Joe-imposed trip to the ER, while he cleaned up the mess I left behind and got me my body receipt for my skip. And the intern who stitched me up caught my attention. Her name was Elaine, and she loved her job in the ER. We chitchatted while she injected my head with local anesthetic - that hurt like a bitch - and forged an instant friendship while she stuck a needle through my skin eighteen times, stitching me up. She remarked that the cut was barely above my temple. That was scary. By the time I was stitched up, cleaned up, and ready to be sent home, I had been visited by a strong realization: Elaine was perfect for Joe.

I already knew she was single, from our long chat and instant friendship. So I did what any good ex-girlfriend now-turned friend would do: I hooked them up.

And I was right. Did they ever hit it off. I introduced them that night when Joe came to pick me up and take me to my apartment - Carl brought my car home for me - and they both kind of skirted around each other a bit, acting shy and distant. But later Joe asked me something about her, during one of our phone calls. And I managed to find out Elaine's lunch schedules, and then coordinate a lunch with Joe at the same time as lunch with Elaine. I happily had the three of us sitting at a table at Pino's, a rather different love triangle than what I was used to. And then Lula called me, ever-so-conveniently, requiring my emergency assistance dissuading Joyce from murdering Melvin. Or Melvin from peeing his pants because of Joyce. Something like that. It went just as planned, and I waltzed out of there right after we had all ordered, and Joe and Elaine were left to have lunch by themselves.

The funniest part was, the thought of Elaine in Joe's bed didn't bother me at all. It actually made me feel warm, and cozy. Especially as their friendship grew and they seemed so enchanted by one another. I didn't even feel jealous when Elaine became part of our thursday night routine. And they would invite me over for supper sometimes. And they even threw me a nice little birthday party. Every girl should have a friend as wonderful as Joe.

Every now and then we still had our late night calls. One night I'd had a particularly rough night, and I phoned him at 11:30 and wound up talking to him, and Elaine, and then wound up going over there. We stayed up until 5 am, like college kids, and were all exhausted at work the next day. It was a comfortable routine. And Joe and Elaine couldn't have been more perfect for each other. I was just happy to be able to claim a part in helping them find their match.

Now if only I could find mine.

Joe has asked me twice now, since we broke it off, if I was going to pursue a relationship with Ranger. Ricardo Carlos Manoso, bad-ass bounty hunter and owner of a highly-reputed and very successful security business called Rangeman. I always shrugged, which always led to Joe pointing out that he could see plain as day how we looked at each other, and then telling me that I needed to quit being so hardheaded and approach him. I guess since he is so happy with Elaine, he wants to find a way to make sure I'm happy too. Two problems with the Ranger idea, though: One - He's currently out of town. He left back at the end of July, and was originally due back in the middle of October, but went in the wind. Tank finally heard from him last week and he said he was hoping to be home by the 10th of January. And Two: His life didn't lend itself to relationships. Which is really just a fancy way of saying he doesn't do relationships, doesn't want the commitment.

And so it's December first, Christmas music is playing across Trenton, and I, Stephanie Plum, am going to be alone at Christmas. Have a Holly Jolly Good Cheerin' Season indeed. Christmas can go to hell. And melt all the snow and heat the city while it's at it.