Disclaimer: Standard just borrowing, etc. Not Morelli friendly this is your only warning! Hope you enjoy, Please read and review. Thanks.
Heartbreak, Broken Promises, and Shattered Dreams
Ranger had been out of town a lot lately, lately being the last seven months since Stephanie had announced that she was pregnant and that, because of said pregnancy she was accepting Joe's proposal.
Ranger had made sure he was out of town for the wedding which was a simple affair.
Ranger avoided being in places where he might run into the new Mrs. Morelli. He often heard the guys talking about her; he knew that the baby was a girl. Tank had given him that news after Lula and not Joe went with her to her ultrasound appointment.
Ranger heard other things also, like how Joe was seen at a certain sleezy motel three nights a week. He heard how Joe had started frequenting bars around town. He still had a reputation as a good cop. But the traits of the Morelli male were peeking through.
When Stephanie was eight months pregnant, Ranger was on the road, driving to nowhere, when he received the call.
"Yo!" He knew from the caller I.D. it was Tank. And he sighed wondering for a minute what was so fubared since he left a few hours ago, to warrant the call. He had been clear that he was only to be called in an emergency.
Tank didn't sound like himself when he talked. Ranger knew right away whatever it was, was bad.
"Ranger…uh.. man you better pull over before I tell you."
I pulled onto a pull off where there were picnic tables. One had a family at it, a little girl her braids flying, was being chased by her brother and a puppy.
"Talk!" The scene before me made me sad, thinking of the someday that I had pictured for Steph and I that would never be.
"Man... this is hard." I heard a struggle then Lula's voice filled the phone. "You need to get your ass back here now. That fool Morelli…."
Tank was back on the phone. "Ranger, Joe picked up Steph to go to her appointment and well, he'd been drinking. He wrapped the car around a telephone pole…"
I dropped the phone and had to scramble to find it fighting my belt. "critical condition and she lost the baby."
I clenched my hands thinking he'd better be dead. I felt angry, but more with myself, it was my fault I sent her back to him more than once. She had come to me with the news of the pregnancy and I knew she wanted me to talk her out of marrying him but I had just congratulated her and stuck to my stubborn belief that she was better off with him. He could give her a ring, children, a future.
"Walked away without a scratch, until he tripped a few times on the way to lock up, right now he's only being charged with DUI."
"It will take me a few hours to get back, I want a man on her around the clock until I get there."
"Man, there's no way I could get the guys to leave her, so that won't be a problem."
"And Tank if she wakes up…"
"Don't worry." And the line went dead as Tank disconnected.
Tank walked into the hospital his fingers intertwined with Lula's. He pulled her hand to his lips and kissed them. He didn't know how he would be able to handle this without her next to him.
They got on the elevator and stepped out when it reached the third floor. He knew that Stephanie was in a bed down the hall in the ICU Unit. They had all been in to see her.
She had looked so small and helpless in that bed with all the tubes and wires coming from her to a huge number of machines, each with its job to do, each giving them a small piece of the bigger picture, which was that she was fighting for her life. Tank had not been able to help himself as he had reached to gently touch her clearly deflated belly.
A memory surfaced, had it only been yesterday that she had stopped by Rangeman with Lula. He had laid his huge hand on that belly and felt life there as it kicked him. Lula had smiled and reminded him that soon, it would be his child he would feel. Stephanie had asked to talk to him in private.
"Tank, this came in the mail today." And she handed him the envelope and picture it had contained. He could see the unshed tears. "I can pay. I need to know, before the baby comes."
The picture showed Joe and Terry Gilman as well as a couple other ladies in compromising positions.
He had assured her that he would get the information and there would be no charge. Just a friend helping another friend.
Then they had talked about baby names and Tank had suggested Carlita or maybe Roberta. She just laughed and said that they had decided on Francis Alexis Morelli. Then she and Lula had headed off to the mall for baby shopping. He couldn't forget that even the picture had not dampened how happy she had been about the baby.
She had even told him that she had been saving in the event of a rainy day. In case she and Francis needed a place of their own. Tank had offered an apartment on the fourth floor, which she had turned down. She knew that Ranger had been avoiding her since the announcement of her pregnancy and subsequent marriage. Always thinking of others, she hadn't wanted to invade his space or make him uncomfortable by her presence.
He sat down and prayed for Stephanie, for the child she would never hold. A tear ran down his face and he quickly brushed it away. He stood and walked from the room.
Cal was guarding the door. "I'll be right back, call if she wakes." And Tank was gone, down the hall and down the stairs. He kept going until he was outside then he let out a bloodcurdling scream of frustration and worry. Then, he started running, he never noticed the black SUV half a block behind him or the rain that pelted him until he was soaked through. He only stopped when thunder roared its distress over head and lightening lit the sky. It was as if heaven itself was mourning.
He was bent over breathing deeply. He startled, and had a gun to Junior's temple before Junior could react.
Junior froze. "Relax man, it's only me." He knew how lethal members of the A-team could be. They were the ones that disappeared for long periods of time on secret government missions and the fact that they kept coming back was testimony to how good they were at what they did.
Tank released a relieved Junior. "Any news?"
Junior shook his head. "Sorry man, I was just watching your back."
Tank nodded, walked to the SUV and climbed in. "Let's get back to the hospital."
When they arrived back at the hospital Tank went to jump from the truck and was stopped by Junior hand. "Man you might want to change before going back up." And Junior reached in the back and handed him a duffle.
"Thanks didn't think." Tank ducked into the restroom and quickly changed. He wasn't surprised to see Cal waiting at the door to take the duffel now filled with wet clothes.
He climbed the stairs back to the third floor the first thing he noticed were Steph's family and friends camped out in the waiting room. He also noticed a lack of any of Morelli's family. As far as Tank knew, they had not even called to see how Steph was doing.
Connie and Lula were in one corner as well as Sally Sweet. In another corner were a group of Trenton's finest. He knew Big Dog, and Carl but out of the large group he could only name a handful. Steph had touched many people and they either accepted her as a friend or wanted her dead. He was surprised to see that even some of her former FTA's graced the room.
He wasn't in the mood to talk right now so he walked past the waiting room without entering. Lula spotted him and exited the room to question him. "Any news on our girl?" Her voice quivered.
Tank knew that the doctor had only released that she was in critical condition. No one else knew that she had lost the baby; it had been hard enough to give that news to Ranger. But Stephanie had been with Lula when she came to Rangeman to let him know that their children would be growing up together. Tank had never though he would have a family.
He had felt her baby move and marveled that in a few months he would be feeling his child move while holding his godchild. Steph had floored him and Lula when she had asked if they would be the baby's godparents.
He looked around and found an empty room he pulled Lula in and sat in a chair with her on his lap.
"Honey, we don't have a godchild no more."
Lula started wailing; she shook and sobbed as tears filled her eyes. Suddenly, she jumped up. "I'm going to kill that bastard."
Tank stopped her as she fumbled in her bag clearly looking for her gun. A gun that, unknown to her, Tank had relieved her of some time earlier.
"Baby, you need to calm down." And he settled his large hand softly on her abdomen.
"But our babies were supposed to be best friends and play together! We even had it worked out how we would get Val or Mary Lou to watch them so we could go shopping."
Tank held her until she calmed then walked hand in hand back to the waiting room.
The doctor was in the room when they re-entered. He looked at the chart and noted that in the absence of Carlos Manoso, his second in command Pierre Dupree was next of kin and had medical power of attorney. The form all Rangeman employees sign had not been changed since Stephanie's marriage to Joe. Tank had asked her about it once and she had refused to change it, stating that she trusted Ranger to make the right decisions for her if she couldn't.
"Mrs. Morelli suffered serious injuries in the crash. Most likely the only reason she is still with us is that she was wearing her belt at the time of the crash. The fetus she carried suffered terminal injury and was self aborted at the scene. No attempted was made to resuscitate the infant because its injuries were severe it never had a chance Mrs. Morelli is very lucky to be alive. She's suffered multiple cracked and broken ribs, fractured collarbone, broken right arm and multiple breaks to her right leg and hip, ruptured spleen and severe concussion. She's already been through surgery and will need many more if she is ever to walk again. Right now we have her in listed as guarded condition. If her condition continues to improve, we'll upgrade her condition in a day or so."
"We think so but it's really too so to tell. Right now, she's fighting. That's good."
"Has she regained consciousness?"
"Briefly, but we sedated her. We don't want her knowing about the baby yet, it could cause a setback."
The doctor left, allowing Tank to return to Stephanie's side.Sitting in a chair beside her head, he spoke to her in a low voice.
Ranger was four hours from Trenton, remembering the last time he'd been alone with Steph. She had been with him doing surveillance. He knew that Steph hated it but he had come to treasure these times alone with her. Since the whole Dickie thing, he had backed off, but that didn't mean he didn't want Steph in his life. It was quite the opposite, they had become that much closer, both physically and emotionally.
Although he kept to the line that he didn't do relationships, and no ring or babies. He knew he was lying to himself and had even started to change his life so that 'someday' would come sooner rather than later.
He knew he had it bad when he started picturing little Babes and Rangers. He would see children and wonder what theirs would look like. His color and her fabulous blue eyes, his eyes and her riot of curls.
That last night he had been in his zone while she had fidgeted. At last he had spoken.
She had sighed and turned to him. Her face had held sadness to it. He had reached out and cupped it using a finger to trace her lips. When her tongue had come out to wet them he had been tempted to reach over and kiss her but then her words had stopped him.
"I need to pee." He had chuckled, then she continued and shattered his heart with her words.
"It's not funny." She had sighed as tears filled her eyes. "I'm pregnant. Morelli wants to get married."
He had pulled her close and held her tight as both their worlds shattered. "I don't know how. We always use condoms." She had sniffed through her tears.
It was only a couple months later he found out how. He prayed that Steph never found out or maybe he prayed that she did. Ranger was sure if she knew, Morelli would loss a part of his anatomy that he was fond of.
It was at a bar and Ranger had been sitting in a dark back corner waiting for a skip to show. Morelli had walked in with some unknowns they had taken the booth next to mine and started in on the drinks.
"Yup, got her to marry me and got her out of his life."
"Thought she would never quit. How did you convince her?"
Morelli had laughed. "No convincing was needed, I just took control of things."
"Yup, told her one night that Bob was lonely, then punched holes in all the condoms damn near got caught when one broke but I was lucky it happened in the shower and she never noticed."
"Swift! So you planned on getting her knocked up."
"Sure, I knew it was the only way she would pick me and not Rambo. She'll have this baby and before she knows we'll have a houseful she won't have a choice but to become the perfect burg housewife and mother."
Ranger had been so angry at how Morelli had tricked her that he'd had been tempted to kill the cop right there. Then a memory of Steph glowing after she had heard her baby's heartbeat for the first time filled his mind the pure joy that had been on her face. She had never known that he had been watching over her.
He had walked out of that bar with his hands clenched, wanting to kill the cop and knowing that if Steph knew she would hate him but also knowing that he could not would not be the one to tell her of the deception. Ranger would watch over her and silently support her until Morelli screwed up to bad and she chooses to leave.
Who could have known that Morelli's screw up would be so stupid and life threatening. How could he have ever gotten behind the wheel drunk and with Steph and their unborn child in the car? After that night in the bar Ranger had always made sure that Steph had a man on her, just thinking about all the precautions he had taken to keep her safe and it had been the cop, the one other person that he had really trusted her to, that had almost killed her this time.
The sound of a siren and flashing lights disrupted his thinking. Shit, just what he didn't need when he was in a hurry to get to Steph's side. He pulled to the side of the road and waited for the officer to approach the window.
The officer looked like he hadn't had a good day and wasn't happy when he approached the window. "Know how fast you were going buddy?"
"I'm in a hurry responding to an emergency" And Ranger handed him a government I.D.
His eyebrows went up and Ranger could see the distain and anger in his eyes. "Boy, you people are always in a hurry."
It was best not to react to his behavior so Ranger held out the I.D. and waited for him to take it. His hand moved to his gun and Ranger tensed. Without moving, his hand settled on the gun kept between the seats Both men waited. Finally, the officer took the I.D. Ranger was relieved that he had decided to act correctly, this could have turned bad if he had decided to pursue force.
I watched as his eyes widened at the government I.D.
"I'll need to call this in."
Ranger nodded but didn't reply otherwise. He knew what the officer would be told and knew that in the next two minutes he'd be on his way with a clear path.
It was why Morelli could never make a charge stick, no matter how hard he tried.
The officer returned looking just a little pale and returned the I.D.
"Have a good night and watch the speed."
Ranger peeled out knowing that in just under an hour he'd be at the hospital.
Tank sat in the chair talking to Steph. He smiled, knowing that if Ranger ever found out about half of what he was telling her, he would end up in the gym with him. Not something that either of them enjoyed when it happened. But that didn't stop him from telling her about Ranger as a geeky kid and later as a nerdy teen. The time passed and he only stopped when someone else entered the room.
He had only left his chair when Frank and Ellen Plum had come in, excusing himself to make a few calls. He had walked to the waiting room and sat holding Lula for a time. The guys had questioned him on how Bombshell was doing. He had been as vague as possible. Most of the guys had been with Rangeman long enough to know that until Ranger was back in charge, only necessary info would be released.
As Ranger pulled up to Trenton Memorial, he paused, parked in front were no fewer than a dozen TPD vehicles, he also counted half a dozen Rangeman trucks, then he noticed that some of the guys had driven their own personal vehicles. When he pulled next to the building, an officer removed the cones blocking off a space just feet from the entrance. He had to smile, Steph would have found it amusing, the smile quickly turned to a frown. If Steph didn't make it, Morelli's life wouldn't be worth shit. Cop or not he would make sure he paid the ultimate price.
When he stepped from the car, he was surrounded not by Rangemen but by Trenton's finest.
"If you need anything…"
"Sorry man…great woman…"
He missed most of what was said as he made his way inside. Always aware, he noticed the crowd surrounding the elevators and was happy that he preferred stairs.
His senses at high alert he picked up the antiseptic smells. Heard the machines and voices but he focused on the room at the end of the hall where two men in black Rangeman uniforms were posted. They didn't move or acknowledge him in any way as he walked into the room.
He stopped just inside the doorway and let the door close behind him.
Tank was seated in a chair leaning in, talking to Stephanie. She looked like an angel laying in the bed her hair forming a halo around her face. He took a step closer and he could make out bruises and cuts on her beautiful face. Her eyes were closed and she looked relaxed. He had seen her sleep enough times to know that although her eyes were closed she was not in sleep.
He took another step closer and took in the cast on her leg and arm. Tank stopped talking and looked up at him.
"How is she?" He needed to know but was afraid of the answer.
Tank stood and led him to the far corner of the room. Then he spoke in a low whisper, the voice they used on missions when it was important that they weren't overheard.
"She's in a chemical coma right now, the doctors will start bringing her out of it in the morning if she stays stable." Then he explained all of her injuries and that how he has made sure she was never alone because the doctor wasn't sure as to how much she could hear and understand.
"I'll stay with her now. Why don't you get Lula and go get some rest. I'll call if she wakes or anything changes."
Tank nodded. Weary from all the hours. As Tank opened the door Ranger spoke once more. "Thanks for being with her."
Tank turned. "You know I did it for her and not you."
Ranger nodded. He'd made a lot of mistakes when it came to Stephanie Plum and just hoped that he would have a chance to make it up to her.
I was running down the hall, the walls were all white. I would turn a corner only to be confronted with more endless corridors. I could hear my baby crying but the more I ran the farther away the cry was. Finally, I collapsed onto the ground, I couldn't run and I could no longer hear the cries of my baby. I screamed and my voice echoed down the empty corridors. Emotions washed over me anger, fear, and exhaustion until I had nothing left. The fight left my body and I felt as if I was floating. Instead of being in the white sterile corridors, I was in a meadow with a sweet breeze blowing and I felt calm, serene, and peaceful. Of across the meadow I could see a child playing running and hiding in the tall grasses. But again every time I walked closer the child went farther away.
Then, I felt it the tug to my heart I always felt when Ranger was present. I felt myself being pulled from the peace of the meadow into darkness.
I ran my hand through my hair. The latest update from the doctor hadn't been good news. It had been two weeks since the accident and Stephanie still had not awoken from her coma. The doctors had expected that once they weaned her of the chemical coma that she should have woken within a few hours. Now they weren't sure if she would ever wake up.
Most of the machines had been removed. She still had wires and tubes everywhere. I couldn't help looking at the monitor on the wall that showed her vital signs. He'd made Bobby explain to him exactly what each line meant. He knew that every breath, every heart beat was being recorded.
"Mr. Manoso as I explained, it would be best if Ms. Morelli was moved into a long term care facility. There's nothing more medically that we can do at this time. What she needs now is simple care giving and that's best done at a private facility."
"And the latest test?"
"We already went over this. Everything was normal; we can't find a reason for her not waking up…unless."
"Unless what?" I growled, daring the doctor to repeat what he had only voiced once. That maybe Steph was giving up, unless she recalled the events of the accident including the death of her child. Was it possible? I didn't think so.
"Nothing, I would like to recommend…"
"I'll be taking her home with me."
"I recommend a …."
"I have a doctor on staff."
The doctor knew when to quit. He had butted heads with Ranger since Ranger had shown up at Steph's side. He only left her side to shower and change or if Steph had to have test done.
He made sure that Bobby was up to date on her condition and he brought in experts whenever Bobby recommended it. Ranger had no doubt that Steph would recover under the care of the Rangemen, most of who thought of Steph as a little sister.
Joe had finally talked Vinnie into bailing him out, then he had quickly disappeared. Some said that he had fled to Canada, no one really knew.
A week after bringing Steph home from the hospital I was sitting in bed with her. The physical therapist had just left and I had Steph propped between my legs, brushing her hair. Part of her therapy was in a whirlpool that I'd installed so it had became part of the ritual for me to do her hair after the session was over with.
"Ranger…" Her voice was raspy and low from disuse.
At first, I was so stunned that I wasn't sure it was real. I often talked to Steph, but until today she had never responded. I turned her so I could see her face. Those bright blue eyes were open and taking in where she was. I could see confusion in her eyes.
"Babe, I'm so glad you're awake." And I kissed her cheek. I reached to the bedside table and held a bottle of water to her lips.
Steph took a few sips. I noticed her hands shaking and weak but decided not to comment on it. I knew it was a side effect of the long coma.
"Why am I here?" Then she laid a hand on her flat belly and a tear slid for her eye. She looked me in the eye. "My baby?"
I could see all the questions fleeting in and out and around her mind.
I turned her and continued working on her hair as I talked. She needed to know and I had to be the one to tell her.
So, as I finished her hair and then started massaging her shoulder, being careful to always maintain contact I told her of the accident. Her baby's birth and death. Morelli disappearing. By the time I finished she was crying in bouts. I held her to me providing what comfort I could.
One Month later:
Whew, I can't believe that I just completed five miles on the treadmill. A month ago today I awoke from a coma to find that my life had completely changed while I was unconscious.
I'd lost the baby I was carrying and my husband who had caused the accident by drinking and driving had vanished. Because Ranger had medical power of attorney for me he had moved me into his seventh floor apartment. I'm still living there. I really don't know what's going on with us. I know I still love him and I owe him for everything he's done for me. But it's too soon for me to move on yet, the wound runs deep this time.
Dickie had caused my trust of men to crumble but I was strong and so when Joe had proposed I had taken the risk. What Joe had done was so far outside what I'd ever experienced before that part of me wasn't sure if I'd ever be able to trust a man again, even Ranger.
But Ranger had already started showing me in small ways that he could be trusted and who knew, maybe someday.
I stepped off the treadmill and made my way to the elevator. I would take a shower upstairs then go down to the fifth to work some files. When the elevator doors opened Lester was inside. He pulled me into his embrace. I'd noticed since I woke up that the guys were very touchy, always holding me. For big ex-army guys they were big teddy bears.
Lester leaned his head on mine as he spoke. I was comfortably cocooned into his arms my back to his front. "Just the girl I needed to see. This came for you." And he handed me an envelope. I looked it over it was from a law firm in New Mexico.
I turned my head so I could see him. "I don't know anyone in New Mexico."
Lester just grunted and continued to hold me. Ranger was waiting with the apartment door open. My guess was that he knew about my mail.
"Babe, Cal called and let me know it's been checked so it's safe for you to open it." He took my hand and intertwined his fingers with mine. We walked to the couch and sat down. I felt both their set of eyes on me.
Ranger ran a hand down my arm. Just his touch comforted me. I pulled the envelope open and a bunch of papers fell out. I started reading them. At first, they didn't make any sense. Then I knew what they were and I handed them to Ranger.
Ranger read the papers and handed them to Lester.
He wrapped his hands around me and held me tight. "You okay with this Babe?"
I nodded as I felt tears roll down my cheeks. Joe was in rehab some place out west. The papers were divorce papers that he had signed. He's given me the house and rights to his retirement account.
I was free. Now I just needed to heal. I knew with Rangers help, someday, I would be ready to try flying again.