A/N: As a diehard babe, I didn't like the way FLF ended. So I wrote a new ending inspired by Blue October's song "My Never." It's really a Twilight song, part of the 2008 Breaking Dawn Concert Series with Stephenie Meyer. But after having just read FLF, all I could think about was Ranger.
SPOILERS for FLF.
Disclaimer: Not my characters, not making any money.
I Saw Forever
…That doesn't happen to me
I've never been here before
I saw forever in my never…
The last Ranger scene in FLF, but from Ranger's pov:
"You should be happy," Stephanie said to me. "You solved your mystery."
"I was almost ruined by two goofy kids. I'm embarrassed."
"Whoa," she said. "That's an emotion."
"You think I don't have emotions?"
"I don't think you very often get embarrassed."
"It takes a lot," I said.
"You brought me in to snoop around. Now that you found your bad guys does this mean I'm being terminated?"
I looked down at her. "That's your decision."
"I think I'll keep the job for a while longer, but I'll move out of your bed."
"That's the safe way to go," I said. "But not the most satisfying. The job will get boring."
"But not your bed?"
"Not if we're in it together."
The look on her face told me there was no doubt in her mind.
While Stephanie gathered up her things from the bathroom and packed her clothes into a plastic shopping bag I found for her, I walked out into the kitchen and dialed Tank. "Can you get a tracker on the taxi in the next five minutes?" I murmured, my back to the bedroom.
I could tell by his voice that he was wearing a big, shit-eating grin. "Consider it done, boss."
I walked back into the living room and picked up Rex's aquarium as Stephanie came into the hall with her things. "Going to move into Morelli's until your apartment is ready?" I kept my question casual, pretending it didn't matter.
"No way." She shook her head. "I'm off men. I'm going to stay with my parents."
I nodded, tucked the rodent habitat under one arm and opened the door for her. "I'll walk you down."
Once Rex and Stephanie's things were stowed in Mr. Plum's cab, I inserted myself between Stephanie and the driver's door and put my hands on her shoulders, turning her to face me. I hesitated, drew a breath. "Thank you for your help, Babe." And I brushed my lips across hers.
Her beautiful blue eyes went blind for a moment, and then she blinked them back to awareness. "De nada, Ranger. See you tomorrow."
After watching her drive away, I trudged back up to the fifth floor. All those nights of patrolling, looking for the thieves, had taken their toll. I was tired. For the first time ever I could feel middle age looming.
I stopped in the control room, where Victor Zullick was monitoring the GPS trackers. "Do you have Stephanie's location?"
Victor pointed to a blip on the screen. "This is the taxicab. Heading for the Burg."
I stood and watched for a couple of minutes, and my heart sank when the dot on the map took the turn for Morelli's house. Off men, yeah, right. That didn't last long. "I'll be up on seven," I told Victor and forced myself to stride to the stairwell.
After a couple hours leafing through the papers on my desk I'd had it. It was ten, and I was exhausted. A quick shower and bed. A good night's sleep would do wonders for my mood. I'd been under an incredible strain, especially the past week, but now that the mystery of the break-ins was solved things would get back to normal.
As I showered I thought about Stephanie's assessment of me as emotionless. I had emotions, just like anyone else, though it was true I kept them hidden from most people. What really stung was that I'd shared more of my feelings with Stephanie than with anyone else, ever. And she still thought I was cold, indifferent?
When I walked naked from the bathroom, intending to go straight to bed, the computer drew me back into the den. Standing at the desk I punched up the tracker screen. The cab was parked in front of Morelli's house. Blanking the monitor I hit the sack.
I pulled the pillow from Stephanie's side of the bed and inhaled. The scent of her hair clung. You've been a huge asshole to her, I told myself. You're getting exactly what you deserve.
Wrapping my arms around the pillow, I emptied my mind, awaiting sleep.
Tank and I walked up the steps and through the red-painted wooden doors into the church. I looked down at myself. Black suit, white shirt, black tie, black dress shoes. Tank was dressed the same.
Inside the church stained glass windows cast a golden glow over the people seated there, flooding the sanctuary with warmth. Seated on the left side near the back were a dozen of my men, all wearing suits.
"Someone needs to watch their backs," I told Tank and jerked my head to the left. We moved toward the corner and leaned against the rear wall, folding our arms across our chests in a relaxed pose. But my arms were tensed, my chest tight, my breathing short.
The organ resounded and I looked toward the door. The vision in white stopped my heart.
It was Stephanie, wearing a strapless white gown with a long train. Her bare arms and shoulders shimmered with a pale vulnerability that made my throat ache. Her curls floated in wispy flutters on top of her head, encircled by a band of white flowers that matched the nosegay she held at her waist.
A tremulous smile touched her lips as she looked toward the front of the church, dragging my gaze forward with hers. A tuxedoed Joe Morelli waited there, a cocky grin on his face, and he gave me a quick, arrogant wink before turning his attention to Stephanie.
The priest's voice boomed like thunder, filling the church with shuddering sound waves. "…let them speak now or forever hold their peace."
Tank's hand clamped on my arm as I opened my mouth. His deep voice rumbled in my ear. "Carlos…"
I shouted, but no sound came. I sucked in air and tried again, my chest heaving, throat straining, but there was only an echoing silence.
The priest looked back down at his liturgy and opened his mouth, ready to proceed with the ceremony. I used every iota of strength I could summon to draw in a deep breath, tensed my chest, opened my throat and screamed at the top of my lungs. "No-o-o-o-o-o…!"
My own shout woke me, and I jerked upright in the darkness, gasping for air, my heart hammering, cold sweat dripping down my throat.
It was just a dream.
I looked at the clock. Not quite midnight. I'd been sleeping for less than two hours. My throat was parched, and I rolled out of bed and padded to the kitchen for a bottle of water.
After drinking my fill I bypassed the bed in favor of the den, clicking the monitor back to life, my eyes riveted on Slater Street. No blip. The relief was so sharp I could taste it when I found the taxi stationary at the Plum house. Sighing, I flicked the monitor off again and sank back into the cool sheets.