Disclaimer: the characters aren't mine, I'm just having a little fun with them.

Based on "Lips of an Angel" by Hinder.


"Babe."

That one word covered so much ground between Ranger and I. Tonight it was both a greeting and a question. I knew it was late to be calling him – especially because we'd barely spoken in the three months since I officially moved in with Morelli. I sighed into the phone.

"Kind of late for a social call, Babe," he said quietly. I drew breath to answer him, but the words stuck in my throat and all I managed to do was choke a little bit. OK, so maybe it was kind of a sob. I heard him moving around and then the faint click of a door closing from his end of the line. Damn, I'd interrupted him somewhere he couldn't talk. I don't know why I assumed he'd be home alone this late. That was really stupid of me. The man is unbelievably hot, of course he's not alone. The thought brought on a fresh wave of agony and I squeaked a little as the tears came.

"Steph, talk to me."

I sucked in another breath and managed to choke out his name before catching on a sob again. "Ranger…"

He sighed. There was complete silence for several long seconds before he began speaking softly. "Babe, you can always talk to me. But you should know that I'm not alone tonight and it's hard for me to speak freely," he paused, "Please, Steph, tell me why you are calling me in tears at nearly midnight."

I swallowed my sobs long enough to whisper a few words. "I…I just needed to hear your voice." I didn't tell him that his ghost was destroying my relationship; that the memory of that one magical night we'd spent together haunted both my dreams and my waking thoughts.

"Does Morelli know you are talking to me?" he asked.

"No," I whispered. "He isn't here tonight." If Joe knew any of this it would kill him. I squeezed my eyes shut against the miserable tears. What was I doing? I loved Joe. We lived together. He was making marriage noises. And here I was calling the one person for whom I would undo every bit of it.

"I suppose it's better if they don't know," he said. Shit. He said they – that means there's a woman in his life now. Effing fantastic…now I'm screwing up four lives.

"Ranger, I'm sorry. I don't know why I'm calling you like this…"

He cut me off. "Yes, you do." He sighed. "God, Babe. You have no idea how good it is to hear you say my name." When I didn't respond he took a deep breath and plunged ahead. "You know, it's funny that you called me tonight."

"Why is that?" I whispered.

"I dreamt of you last night."

My stomach did a back-flip. He dreams of me, too? "Ranger, I dream of you – of us – almost every night."

"Shit, Babe." I heard a hollow thump from his end. I guess he either hit something soft or else thunked his head against a wall. I was fighting down a fresh wave of tears when he spoke again. "I guess neither of us has really moved on, then."

Moved on? He made it sound like we'd been a real couple instead of just so much unanswered heat.

"You know I loved you," he said sharply. Shit, I guess I must have said that last comment out loud. I started to apologize, "Ranger, I…" but he cut me off again.

"I still do."

I pulled the phone away from my ear and stared at it in stunned silence. Did he just say he loves me?

"Babe?"

"I'm still here." I put the phone back to my ear and searched frantically for a response that wouldn't make an even bigger mess of things. The best I could come up with was, "So what do we do now?"

"Do you love Morelli?" he asked. I opened my mouth to say yes but hesitated and thought about it. "Yes, but I'm not in love with him," I told him. "I'm miserable now because I've always loved you more, I was just too stupid to realize it." Then the question flew out of my mouth before I could stop it, "Do you love the woman in the other room?" Crap. Crap, crap, crap.

"No," he answered softly. "I've tried to, but I find myself wishing she was you."

I tried very hard not to be too happy about that - it just seemed mean. "How do we fix this?" I asked him.

He took so long to answer that I actually checked my phone to make sure the call hadn't been dropped. "It's not just us involved here, Babe," he said finally. "There are innocent parties on either side who deserve an explanation."

"I know," I said. God, Joe was going to hate me.

His next words sounded like regular Ranger: calm, confident, and businesslike; the emotion of the last few minutes completely absent from his voice. "You take care of your end, and I'll take care of mine," he said. "You call me when you are ready to give this an honest shot."

I could barely believe my ears. Ranger wanted a relationship? That sank in for a moment. Ranger wanted a relationship! What I said to him was, "Okay."

"Babe?"

"Yeah?"

The softness crept back into his voice. "I'm glad you called me tonight."