All standard warnings apply.

And much love to Stayce, for fixing all my booboos again! And for holding my hand and dragging me out from under my desk every time I went "omg, I can't believe I'm writing this." : )

:And to Court and Haleigh for some of the brainstorming. Someday, the "gleaming love sword" will make an appearance!

Turning the Tables

I rolled over in bed again, and sighed. It was only eleven, but I'd been up since 4:30 and I really wanted to be asleep a good hour ago. Sometimes, I really thought this new idea I had to actually train, and improve at my job, was a shitty idea. Especially when I knew I'd have to get up at 4:30, again. I contemplated calling Ranger and calling the whole idea off, but quickly dismissed the notion. After all, the real reason I decided to run in the mornings was so that I actually got some time with him.

I'd been off-again with Morelli for almost eight weeks, now - and it was for good, this time. Within a couple of weeks, I'd started looking forward to Ranger being "back in my bed" as he'd put it once before. But the longer we were off-again, and the more obvious it became to the rest of the world that this time, it might actually stick, the more distant Ranger got. So I decided that more training, mostly running, was a requirement if I wanted to continue at my job. And I called Ranger up so we could run in the mornings.

Ranger's presence did make getting up in the middle of the night almost worth it. I got an hour of his time, every day, even if we ran in silence. And every now and then he kissed me - a quick, fleeting kiss. But there were no heated kisses in the alley, and he never came to my apartment.

Problem was, I wasn't sleeping well at night, and getting up that early seriously messed with me. I was cranky, easily irritated, and in seriously need of way more than my shower massager could provide. Sometimes, I even thought about calling Diesel down - I was sure he'd be more than amenable to my plans.

Except I didn't want Diesel. I wanted Ranger. And he didn't want me.

I'd already spent most of my afternoon pacing my apartment. I ate a pint of Cherry Garcia. I paced some more. And I'd been tossing and turning in bed ever since. And my mind - my mind couldn't quite replaying the conversation I'd had with Lula...the one that Tank had butted in on.

"What's your problem, white girl?" Lula asked me, as we were standing at the counter waiting for our Cluck-in-a-bucket order.

"Nothing." I shrugged.

"Yeah right. I know you, and if you ain't got a problem, then my name ain't Lula."

I sighed.

"You ain't gonna tell me you want Officer Hottie back - now that he's making google eyes at that new receptionist they got at the cop shop."

"How do you know about the new receptionist?" Lula never went into the cop shop. Ever.

"I got my sources." She said smugly. Probably Tank, I mused. "So you want him back?"

"No!" Who would, when they could have Ranger. Except I couldn't have Ranger. Apparently when the thrill of the chase was gone - when I was available instead of being another man's girlfriend, Ranger wasn't interested.

"Ahhh...I know..." Lula looked at me knowingly. "It's Mr. Tall, Dark, and Gorgeous you're wanting."

I shrugged, grabbed my tray of food, and headed towards a table.

"So why don't you go get him then?" Lula asked as she joined me at the table. "You should, you know."

"Ranger's not interested." I told her, and took a bite of my burger.

Lula snorted. "Yeah right. He's too interested in you, if you ask me."

"Maybe you should talk to him." Tank's dry voice spoke up from directly behind me. I jumped three feet in the air and spun around.

"A little warning, please? And why should I? If he wanted me he'd still be..." I trailed off. Kissing the daylights out of me in the alley behind the office, probably. But he didn't. Not anymore.

"Pressuring you?" Lula asked. "Maybe he's wanting more than you visiting his bed just because he's good at making you hot and bothered. Maybe Batman wants YOU to want him, without his help."

I opened my mouth, and then shut it. But I didn't buy it. Ranger went after what he wanted. If he still wanted me... And besides...

"White girl, is Ranger worth it?"

I sighed. He was worth it to me. But was I worth it to him? And if he said no...

"Cause if he's worth it, then you gotta get your head outta your scrawny white ass and go to him. He's a man, Steph, and men, well, they're slow sometimes. If you want him to be yours, then you gotta take him and make him yours."

I couldn't get the conversation out of my head. I sat up, fluffed my pillow, and flopped back down. Nope, didn't help. Well hell, I could just ask him over the phone, right? I reached over, grabbed my cell, and flipped it open, pressing 1. Before it could ring, though, I flipped the phone shut. Nope, I couldn't ask him over the phone.

I rolled over a couple of more times, but still couldn't get comfortable. I couldn't shut my brain down. And there was no way I was going to fall asleep, with my thoughts spinning so fast they were making my heart race. The only thing to do would be to talk to Ranger. Hash it out for real. Once and for all. And if he didn't want me, well...then I guess it would be time to move on. New job, new career, maybe new city. We'd see. I'd see. I'd talk to him in the morning. During our run.

Or maybe, I thought, as I rolled over again... Maybe it would be better to just go now. Then, if he didn't... then I could just call it quits right then, not bother with the running, sleep in and, do...something...tomorrow. Before I could really think about it, or change my mind, I rolled out of bed, slipped a zip-up hoodie on over my tank top, and headed for the door.

I almost chickened out in the parking garage. But, I was already there, and it wasn't like it was that hard to go up, ask if he wanted me, and then come back down. And besides, I reasoned with myself, it would look awfully odd that I drove up, and then left again - and Ranger would surely question me about it tomorrow, and then what would I say?

I reminded myself of that all the way up to the 7th floor, and then silently let myself into the apartment and shrugged out of the hoodie. It was almost dark, and silent. I figured, though, that Ranger was here. That or on the 5th floor, in which case he'd be up here shortly to see what I was up to, I was sure. All of his vehicles were here, so unless he went out in an Explorer...

Then again, he could be in bed, like normal people. My mind pointed out. It was, afterall, after midnight. My stomach flipped and I wondered what the heck I was doing. But my feet took me towards his bedroom. The only light in the apartment was coming from the bedroom. As I stepped into the doorway, I noticed the bedside lamp. And then I saw Ranger. He was lying in bed, propped up slightly against the pillows, covers still pulled back, wearing only his black silk boxers. His Sandburg book was laying face down on the bedside table. His head was tipped back, his breathing slow and steady, his face relaxed in sleep - or near sleep...and his hand was resting on his stomach, one finger gently flexing. I marvelled for a minute, that I could be standing in his space, and not wake him - that he was not aware of my intrusion into his surroundings. I wasn't sure if that had anything to do with me, or if he was just less aware in his own space - but somehow, I'd never pictured Ranger NOT aware.

My eyes drifted downward, and settled on places that I really shouldn't have been looking at. And then, as if a string was connecting his hand and my eyes, his hand slowly travelled down, until it was resting over the black silk boxers. I watched, mesmerized, as he breathed out a small sigh, his fingers flexing. He hardened instantly.

My body tightened immediately as I watched the change in his. I leaned against the doorframe, heat pooling low in my stomach. It was impossible not to watch, as his fingers moved, almost idly, brushing over himself. An ache built so quickly it took my breath away, and I forced my eyes away from him, and up towards his face. His eyes were still closed, and lips were curled up into the hint of a smile.

He made a noise, low in his throat, as he exhaled, and my eyes dropped against my will, to see his thumb and forefinger wrapped around the base of his extended length, still covered by the boxers. Slowly, his fingers travelled upwards, pausing at his tip. His forefinger came up to lazily brush over the tip once, and then again. His movements were agonizingly slow, almost lazy. It was almost as if he didn't realize he was doing it, and that was the hottest part, I thought, as my pelvic muscles clenched again. He let out another noise, almost a groan, as he gently thrust upwards, into the cradle of his fingers. And then a whispered, "God, Babe."

My legs let go, and I sagged against the doorframe as I sucked in a breath. Babe? Did he mean me? Or... Don't be a fool, Stephanie - you can't possibly be the only Babe in his life, the realistic Stephanie sniped in one ear. You know he meant you, the desperate-for-Ranger Stephanie countered. My eyes snapped back to his face, and I drank in the site of his closed eyes, slightly crinkled, and his smile - still only the barest hint, but ever so sensual. I followed the movement of his hand as it settled on his stomach and then drifted lower, pushing the waistband of his boxers. His hand rubbed against his length, pushing the boxers down until he sprang free. He made a sound of distinct satisfaction as his hand wrapped around himself, and squeezed gently.

He relaxed after that, but a quick glance at his face showed that he was still smiling. His hand didn't move - just stayed wrapped around his length as his mind engaged in whatever fantasy it was acting out. Hardly daring to breathe, I gathered my wits and picked myself up off the wall. Then, I took a moment to survey him. I'd never really had that luxury, and it was more than a sight to behold. It had been...a while... since I'd seen what I was seeing now...and the last time it was in a frantic bid to keep him from answering the door at full mast. And the time before that... well... it was dark. I felt my panties get damper as I remembered, distinctly, the feel of him... against me, inside of the dark. It was all I could do not to use the doorframe to hold myself up, again. I watched him, fascinated, as his thumb unhurriedly stroked his shaft, and continued to remember.

I was just about lost in my own fantasy, and in desperate need of the shower massager, when he groaned. "More, Babe." His abs contracted, and he pressed his hips against his hand at the same time as he squeezed himself. "Yes."

I didn't register crossing the room, and I wasn't really sure how I managed to do it without losing my legs. Yet suddenly, I was halfway to the bed, when I froze as he shifted, pressing himself against his hand again. His movements were slow, sensual, and entirely uninhibited. And, God help me, I wanted to be a part of them.

Don't do it, Stephanie. You know he'll send you away in the morning, Reasonable Stephanie pointed out. You know you want to, Unreasonable Stephanie begged. I brushed my hand over my chest, trying to push away the ache in my breasts, and took another step forward, my eyes locked on his hand and his thumb's absent caresses. He twitched, and I wondered briefly how he could possibly still be so relaxed, so obviously not aware of my presence.

His abs clenched again, and I could no sooner stop my feet from taking me closer and closer to the bed than I could make my heart stop beating. I crawled up onto the bed, between his spread legs, then reached out, and carefully touched the very tip of him. He sucked in a breath, and his hand moved up, stroking himself, pushing my fingers away. He shifted a leg, and I watched his thigh muscle contract. It begged to be touched, so I trailed one finger up from his knee, slowly making my way to his groin. His muscles twitched under my touch, and a trail of goosebumps marked my path. I continued my journey, watching his body react to my touch, enjoying the feeling of power that came over me.

As I reached his groin, I slid my hand over his balls, caressing them briefly before moving upwards, along his shaft, below his hand. With gentle pressure I stroked upwards, pushing his hand up with me, until I reached his head and his hand dislodged, falling weightless to his side. His fingers curled into a fist though, as I raked one fingernail down to the base of his shaft with feather-light pressure. I retraced my path upwards, watching as his hips reacted of their own accord, lifting off of the bed to press against my hand. He released a guttural noise from low in his throat, something unintelligible that sounded ever so slightly like 'Babe'. I rested my head on his leg, and looked up his body at his face. It was thrown back, and the expression on it was one of complete abandon, that made my body clench with need. His breathing was just a bit heavier than normal, and I wondered just how much I could affect him.

I kissed his thigh, and then the sensitive spot where his leg met his groin, causing him to shudder underneath my mouth. Then, I moved up. My hand was still around him, and I squeezed him gently before taking the tip of him in my mouth. His hips jerked, and then his entire body went still, with a tension that hadn't been there before. One of his hands settled on my head. "Steph?" He rasped. "What-"

I didn't want him to have time to think, to tell me he didn't want this, so I ignored him, splayed one hand on his hip, and sucked gently. His question got caught off in a hiss of breath, and his hips jerked again. "Jesus. Babe. Don't stop."

I didn't. I just took him a little deeper, and was rewarded with another hiss of breath. His leg flexed underneath my hand, and his other hand touched my head, so both were fisted in my hair, his fingers exerting a gentle pressure on my scalp. I continued to tease him, moving, shifting, sucking gently as his breath start to come in soft pants, accentuated by the occasional groan that he couldn't contain. I sucked a little harder, and his hips thrust up against my mouth - a gentle, controlled movement - even as his fingers twined tighter in my hair. I smiled to myself, and repeated the action, to be rewarded with another, slightly less controlled, upward motion of his hips. His breathing became harsher, heavier, and I could tell he was rapidly losing control. I wanted him to - and I wanted to be the one he lost control with.

I could tell he was on the brink, and then his hands were harsher, pulling me up, away, off of him. I ignored it, moving back to take him again, when he shifted us slightly. "Steph. I'm going to..."

"I know. Let me-"

"No." He said, his voice harsh. Then, he was hauling me up his body, a slow, sensual motion that pressed me against him as he pulled me up. He didn't stop until we were eye to eye. His eyes were deep, fathomless pools as he stared into mine, seeming to search for something.

"I want-" I started again, but was cut off by a sharp shake of his head.

"I want to be inside you. Deep inside you. Where I belong." He informed me, and then captured my mouth. His hands slid down my back, and then up again, hot against my skin as he pulled my shirt up, breaking the kiss long enough to pull it over my head and discard it on the floor. I was braless, since I hadn't bothered changing out of my night-clothes before leaving the house, and his hands immediately wrapped around me, pressing me closer, so that my aching nipples brushed against his chest.

The kiss deepened and his tongue thrust against mine as one of his hands came up to tangle in my hair, framing my face. The other moved down, pressing against my ass, pressing me closer to him as he pulsed against me. My body ignited, and suddenly I needed, more than anything, to be skin to skin with him. As if he had the same need, he suddenly rolled us, so he was pressing me into the mattress. He kissed me once more - harsh and passionate, before dropping a quick kiss onto my collarbone, and then taking one breast in his mouth and sucking, hard. I writhed against him, and he made a sound of satisfaction deep in his throat as he gentled his attentions. His hands travelled down my ribs, to my waist, and slid into my shorts. I lifted my hips and he slid them down, as far as he could without breaking his kiss. Finally, he moved away, discarding the rest of our clothing, and then coming back over top of me, so we were skin to skin, and repeating his attentions on my other breast.

Somewhere along the way, I lost coherent thought. And when I couldn't control my body anymore, and I moaned and arched up against him, he broke away and shifted back up my body, so we were hip to hip, and mouth to mouth. "I wanted to take it slow." He rasped against my lips, then gave me a quick, hard kiss. "I can't. Babe. Now."

I nodded and made a noise of assent, and then he was kissing me, capture my gasp with his mouth as he slid all the way home in one smooth thrust. He paused for a moment, and reared up to look down on me, a small smile playing on my face. "Babe." His voice was the merest whisper. "It's been so long." He pulled out ever so slightly, then flexed his pelvis back into mine. "So right." He said, and then he was kissing me, and moving - fast and hard and I was more than ready for him.

Moments later, we were on the brink...and then teetering, and falling. He pressed himself deeper, then stilled as we came together, holding tightly to one another, unaware of anything except the feel of our bodies against one another, connected to each other.

I was still clinging to his shoulders a long time later when he pulled his face out of my hair, and rolled us to the side. He tucked me against him and slung one of his legs over mine, holding me close in his arms. I felt him reach around, and was about to ask what he was doing when the covers came up over us. I sighed, and tucked my face into his shoulder.

"Babe." He breathed, a few moments later. "You're mine." He said, but it was more of a question than a statement.

I snuggled closer to him. I guess I didn't have to talk to him about our relationship after all, although I still intended to demand an explanation for the distance he'd put between us. "MMM..." I agreed. "I love you." I'm sure he'd never admit it, but I could swear I felt the last bit of tension leave his body, as I faded off to sleep.