This is my first fan fic, and I'm really not sure if I can do this at all, but I love reading them so much that I thought I'd give it a try. Please do review, and feel free to be (constructively) critical.

Disclaimer: I own none of these characters. I might claim the plot on a good day. I am making no profit for this dribbil, and will return all characters to the very talented J.E. soon, with minimal wear and tear.

Rated Mature for language. Be forewarned that these are adult characters.

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It had started out as one of those really great days. You know those days when you wake up, on-time, and everything is right with the world. That's how it had started at least. If I had known then how exactly it was going to shape up, I would have been far less cheery when my alarm went off. But, not yet comprehending the horror that would later befall me, I actually treated my alarm clock nicely. I jumped in the shower and was soon ready to face my day and my latest skip.

Walking into the kitchen, I saw why I had woken so cheery. A McDonalds bag was sitting on my dining room table, with a large Coke next to it, still dripping with condensation. Warm fries and a coke – the perfect breakfast. I had been over at Ranger's apartment the evening before, and after too mcuh wine, one the Merry Men had driven me home. Joe and I were trying to give it a go, so I figured that staying over, even on the couch or the fourth floor, wasn't really in my best interest. I looked out the window, confirming that my car was now parked directly in front of the building, proving that Ranger had in fact brought it by for me (seeing as how if I had driven it, it would have been tucked into it's spot next the dumpster), and silently thanked him for wonderful food he dropped off with it (even if he did consistently mutter about it killing me).

And then, when I swung through the office, a box of Tasty Pastry donuts were waiting for me. Lula had brought them in that morning. Even the realization that I needed to go stake out the house of my latest skip, as I had gotten nowhere yesterday trying to track him down, didn't damper my enthusiasm about what a wonderful day it was going to be – McDonald's fries, Tasty Pastry Boston crème donuts, and my car next to the door. What more can a girl ask for? Apparently a lot.

"Hey Lula, wanna go with me catch this guy?" I asked.

"Is that that Jimmy Clark dude that tried to pop his own mama? Hell yeah, I'll come with you! You need some muscle to get this guy, and I got just a big enough gun to take him." Climbing off the couch, she pulled her gun out of her purse, which was, I had to admit, quite large and probably big enough to take Jimmy. But still, I couldn't condone shooting the guy just because a fight with his mom went bad. Hell, fights with my mom went that bad all the time. Granted I didn't end the fight with a baseball bat, but this was his first offense….

"No!" I finally decided. "There will be no shooting! Besides, I can't even find this guy. I'm gonna go stake out his house for a while – I didn't get anywhere talking to his friends yesterday."

"Oh hell girl, I'm not gonna go sit outside in this heat, waiting for some skinny white dude to come home. Let me know when you need some fire power, and I'm all yours" she said, levering herself back onto the couch, now with another donut.

Connie grinned at me over the files, knowing that neither of us were good at a stake out, but together we'd probably never even get there. Oh well. I gave the girls a finger wave and, taking a deep breath, forced myself out into the scorching August heat to go stare at Jimmy Clark's house for a few hours. If I got lucky, maybe I'd have another round of breakfast delivered. After all, I'd found myself two rounds of free, delicious breakfast already today; and with the way my luck was going this wonderful morning, I was almost expecting a third.

Two hours later, my ass was just starting to get numb, and I had actually managed to surprise myself at how long I had managed to sit there. I usually only lasted about 10 minutes on a stake out. My newfound expertise at bounty-hunting must go with the good mood I had woken up in. About that time, the passenger door opened; for a split second, I was sure it was my third breakfast. But it was just Ranger, not that he's not yummy in his own way. But wait, I thought despairingly, I had agreed not to sample any more of Ranger's yumminess, even though he was looking especially edible today in his painted on black t-shirt and black cargos – seriously, why am I surprised. Even though he's got another couple weeks restricted to office work, he still looks like he's ready to take down Trenton's bad guys at a moment's notice. Yep, even hurt, he's Batman. No doubt about it.

Of course, by the time my mind had filtered through all this, Ranger had gingerly lowered himself into the passenger seat, and was now looking at me with his patented semi-amused smirk, patiently waiting until I snapped back to reality.

"Yo," I finally managed, realizing he was definitely all-out smirking at me now. Damn hormones.

"On a stake out?" he asked, glancing through the file that had been in his seat. His blank face remained, but I noticed a slight added tension around his eyes before it was gone again, the only indication of his displeasure that Vinnie had given me the would-be mom whacker.

"Yep," I replied, quite proud of myself. "I've been here for two hours, and I'm not even bored yet."

"Babe." Huh, I guess he wasn't nearly as proud of me as I was about my two hour feat.

"Hey, thanks for breakfast this morning, even if you are sure it will be my demise."

"What?" he asked.

"The McDonald's – you left my hangover cure for me when you dropped of my car, right?" I asked, only belatedly realizing that perhaps I should have thought harder about my breakfast's origins.

"Nope. I had an early meeting. Just dropped of the car."

Huh. Must have been Morelli then. We had been getting along even better than usual over the past month since I had told him I loved him. And at least he appreciates my passion for McDonald's. Maybe it was a goodwill gesture to prove that he was okay with me spending the evening before at Ranger's.

"Might want to double check," Ranger said, handing me my phone. "And there's a reason I don't share your McDonald's passion." Damn ESP.

I quickly dialed Morelli's cell to confirm the McDonald's delivery.

"Hey Cupckae." He answered on the first ring.

"Hey. Did you bring me breakfast this morning?"

"Uh, no. Bob ate some furniture this morning, so I had my hands full cleaning up after him. Don't tell me some psycho let you a gift that you ate."

"Uhh," I managed. That hadn't even occurred to me till he said it. "No! I'm sure not. At least I'm pretty sure not." Though you never know with my life. No, I was determined to retain my cheery mood. "No psychos for me. I only have one file at the moment. I'm on a stake-out" I announced proudly.

"Who's your skip?"

"Jimmy Clark" I replied, only to hear Morelli swear under his breath. "Joe," I started again, "We had an agreement. You don't criticize my job, and I don't kiss Ranger. I'm holding up my end here." Turns out those secret kisses in the ally weren't so secret after all. And Joe wasn't thrilled with them continuing, which was entirely fair, really. And I had agreed to the compromise. After all, I did love Joe, and I wanted to give this a real shot. Not so easily done with Ranger constantly playing havoc on my hormones, or 'applying pressure' as he so eloquently put it.

"And I even agreed to keep my hands to myself," Ranger said, just loudly enough for Joe to hear.

Joe actually laughed. Maybe this compromise thing wasn't the worst idea we've had. "Well, well. Manoso and I agreeing. We're just turning into one big happy family. Well, I won't criticize your job, Cupcake. But please do try to be careful with this one. I guess I can be glad that Ranger's there to help you. Bye," he said, hanging up.

See what a good day this was so far, Joe didn't even yell once, even when he realized I was chasing a skip charged with attempted murder. And he actually laughed and seemed fine with the fact that Ranger was next to me. Yep, it was a good day.

"So that agreement with Morelli is working?" Ranger asked. I had seen him tense up, just the slightest, when Joe reacted to the fact that I was after Jimmy. I actually almost did the ESP thing, realizing that he was recalling our conversation from the night before, and reiterating his desire to see me happy.

I had gone over to his apartment to tell him about my decision to really try with Joe. Well, I had gone over there because Tank had called, but after a glass or three of wine, I had ended up spilling my and Joe's compromise. I explained that I had told him I loved him for the first time (him being Joe, since my happy state of denial stopped me from ever telling Ranger of my revelation) on our way to the hospital after Scrog. Ranger actually seemed glad for me. He even seemed okay with me not letting him poach anymore, when I explained it in my jelly-donut/hormone terms. "Babe," he had said, "I know I hurt you when I told you to go back to Morelli, but I did it for a reason. You know I love you, but Morelli's a good guy, he can offer you a whole life that I can't. And all I really want is for you to be happy, and get everything you deserve." I had teared up at the obvious admission of love, even if this one came with yet another 'go back to Morelli' speech. I wasn't sure if this was better or worse than the 'in my own way' speech. Worse, defiantly worse. At least my proficiency in denial could allow me to believe that 'in my own way' really meant forever and ever. Not much to misunderstand with this speech.

"What could you offer me?" I had asked. Probably I wouldn't have without the wine. But hey, I was curious, sue me. "You'd have to love me instead of Morelli for me to offer you anything," he had replied. He had been oddly frank last night, looking back. It was a little creepy, really, all of that discussion of love with Ranger. But there wasn't nearly enough wine in denial-land for me to touch that last statement. "What if I do love you?" I had blurted out. Huh. Guess there was enough wine. This wasn't going to end well. "Babe." was all he said. He took the wine glass from my hand, the corners of his mouth tilting up as he called Lester to say that he was pretty sure it was time for me to head home, and he was really sure I shouldn't drive myself, seeing as how I was blurting out all sorts of stuff over here.

"Yeah," I said, my mind finally pulling back to the present, the stake-out, the question Ranger had just asked about Morelli. "Yeah, it's working so far. I'm happy."

"Good. So, how long are you going to watch our friend Jimmy here?" he asked, changing the subject to less emotionally-charged topic, thank god. It was bad enough having all the 'where is this relationship going' talks with Joe lately, I couldn't handle Ranger too.

"Till I get overly bored, or until my ass gets any number. Proally not much longer." I said, some of my pride from earlier starting to fade, since I hadn't actually seen anything on this stake-out.

"Did you check the note on the door?" he asked.

"What note?"

"Babe." So we're back to one word sentences. Well, better than declarations of love that really weren't declarations at all. He got out and walked to the front door, grabbing the note that had been taped there. He read it, blank face in tact, and headed back to the car. Although maybe I'm getting better at reading him, because I could swear he looked amused.

He climbed bank into the car, still favoring his shoulder, and silently handed me the note.

Stephanie,

As much as I admire your persistence, I suggest you stop looking for me. I don't need to add the 'or else' here do I?

Jimmy

Oh, I hope you enjoyed your breakfast this morning. Coke and fries are the best for a hangover, aren't they? Hope it did the trick!

My eyes got huge as I read the note, and turned to Ranger. Yep, he was definitely amused. He wasn't even bothering to hide it now. "I'm not sure if I should be glad that I finally picked up a stalker who brings the right kind of gifts, or if I should hurl since I actually ate it," I finally sputtered out. My stomach seemed to go with the hurling route, and I quickly rolled down the window. The note was threatening in general, but the change from threatening to high-school-cheerleader-nice was just plain creepy.

"When you're done deciding if you're going to hurl," Ranger said, (and yes, he was still smirking), "I need you for a job tonight. You up for it?"

"A job!" I screeched, forgetting my hurling and only now realizing that I hadn't asked Ranger why he had shown up in my car. "The whole reason Tank called me last night was to get you to rest and stop working, since you're still not entirely healed yet!" I was a bit perturbed that my and Tank's master plan of forcing Ranger to rest hadn't worked. Not that Tank really thought he could force Ranger to do anything, but he thought my presence might be at least a little convincing. Huh. Guess we had both overestimated my charm and devastating good looks.

"Yeah, I'm going to have a 'talk' with Tank about when I'm strong enough to kick his ass again."

"Hey, don't blame Tank," I replied, giggling. "It was either calling me or Celia." Ranger glared, clearly less than thrilled at the idea of Celia showing up to take care of him. I had gotten to meet Celia at the hospital. I had a suspicion that Ranger was not happy with me meeting his older sister at all, and even less happy about all of our time to chat while he was unconscious. I had now gone from giggling to all out-laughing at the thought of mother-hen Celia showing up and flapping around her very un-flappable brother. Ranger's glare was becoming more menacing, perhaps due to the fact that his very intimidating glare no longer had any effect on me, seeing as I was now choking a bit, trying, unsuccessfully, to stop laughing.

"Okay," I finally sputtered, trying to change the subject back to the night at hand to put him out of his misery. "What's the job and what do you need from me?"

"Distraction, ten o'clock. Got a skip who's gonna be at a dive bar on Stark Street."

"Great," I muttered, knowing that any bar on Stark required me to look very, very low class if I'm going to lure him anywhere. "Is he dangerous?" I asked, knowing full well that Ranger knew I'd do it regardless.

"Apparently less dangerous than your skip," he replied, once again looking amused. He was silent for a minute while I attempted my own intimidating glare.

"I'm glad you're happy with Joe, babe, but I do question the man's intelligence sometimes," he said, suddenly going back to last night's heart-to-heart (well, as much of one as you're going to have with the master of one-word sentences).

"Why's that?" I asked, genuinely curious, since Ranger never says anything negative about Joe. And a bit shocked at the change of subject.

"He just seems to keep giving you reasons to walk away, like criticizing you about your job. He yells, you get huffy, and he lets you walk away."

Now I don't appreciate being called 'huffy,' but I have to admit that I did actually get a bit huffy when the phrase 'let you walk away' sunk in. "Let me? Let me?" I asked, my voice getting a big squeaky. Ranger smirked at the obvious sign of my huffiness. "What, and if you and I were together, you wouldn't 'let me' walk away?"

"Babe," he said, still smirking. Smug bastard. He climbed out of the car. Just before he closed the door, he leaned back in. "If it were you and me, babe, I wouldn't keep giving you reasons to walk away. I'll pick you up at 9:30, show some leg." He actually winked, before walking away, leaving me open-mouthed. Smug bastard, I thought again. Seriously, what did I just say about not being able to handle deep emotional conversations with Ranger.

Great, my good day was done. I had eaten a gift left from my latest psycho (and happily, I might add – I couldn't even claim I had eaten it under duress). I had wasted all afternoon on a stakeout. And now, I had to explain to my on-again boyfriend exactly why I would be dressing like a skank for an evening with my ex-lover. Oh, and I had to tell him about my psycho. He had agreed to not yell about my job, but me eating a psycho's breakfast could test anyone's patience. I was pretty sure he wouldn't remain nearly as calm as he had been an hour ago. Finally, I couldn't do it anymore. I gave into the urge to bang my head against the steering wheel, muttering 'why me?'. Good day, my ass.