A/N: Set about three weeks after chapter 1. Still Stephanie x Morelli, because dude, how great was the movie? :) (Also, I totally realize where the "cupcake" pairing came into play. Is it sad that I didn't get that before now? I was like, "Man, Cupcake pairing? How stupid is that?" XD )

Also, wow, just totally realized that I changed where Stephanie was shot. So just ignore the mention of her stomach and pretend it's her shoulder instead. That's what I get for writing the second chapter at 1am. .


Outside of Pino's

Chapter 2

It continued with a knock on my door.

I was in for the night, but I groaned and pushed off the couch anyway, thinking it was probably Morelli. He was the only one who stopped by this late. And while I wasn't in the mood to fool around, I wouldn't say no to some company. Rex had gone to bed early, and the apartment was way too quiet.

"I hope you brought me food," I said as I opened the door. "Because I—" My words died on my lips as I stared at the man standing on my doormat.

"Nice to see you again, Plum," Harry Mundino thrust me aside and stalked into the apartment. My gaze slid to my coat rack, which held my purse and my gun. Morelli had lectured me about the benefits of keeping my firearm close, so I hadn't used the cookie jar in months. Now I was wishing I'd thought to keep it on me.

"H-Harry," I swallowed hard, fear keeping me frozen to the spot as he casually surveyed the apartment. I'd seen his face in my nightmares for months, and just looking at him, my stomach started to ache where he'd shot me. I couldn't believe that, after months of evading the police, he shows up like nothing had happened. "I thought you'd blown town after…"

"After I kidnapped you? Shot you?" he turned to look at me, folding his arms. "Nah. You're too much fun to follow, Stephanie. But I couldn't finish the job while your cop boyfriend was hanging around. So I waited. Patience is a virtue, eh?"

I started edging for the door. "So they say," I replied. If I could just get to the hallway, to Big Blue, to the station and Morelli, I'd be fine. God, I needed a panic button in my apartment. This kind of shit happened too often.

"Ah ah," Mundino pulled out a gun, and I immediately stopped moving. "You're not getting away this time. Well, not alive, anyway."

"Why do you care about me anymore?" I demanded, although I doubt my voice was as forceful as I'd wanted. "Johnny Casso's in prison. Your kidnapping didn't do anything the first time—what do you hope to accomplish now?" My voice had a tinge of desperation, but in my defense, the gun was bring back very, very bad memories.

He shrugged a shoulder, "I'm gonna finish what I started. Nothin' personal."

"Oh, this seems very personal," I muttered. In my head, Morelli was urging me to move, attack, flee, but I couldn't take my eyes off of the shiny silver weapon in Mundino's hand.

He noticed my gaze and stepped closer, holding the gun up for my scrutiny, "You like it? Had to get a new one after our last encounter. It's a bit bigger than before, but I figure if I aim just right, you'll actually die slower."

I shuddered, and he laughed darkly, grabbing my arm and moving even closer, "But don't worry, cupcake. It'll be a while before I actually get around to shooting you."

It took all of my courage to do anything but tremble in fear, but I somehow managed to grab a lamp off the nearby table and swing it. Mundino ducked when he saw it, but it glanced off his head anyway, knocking him aside and freeing me from his grasp. I let out a squeal and ran for the door, my only thought to get out.

"Damn it!" he snarled, and he fired four shots at me. They all missed, but I stumbled and nearly fell down the stairs as I tried to avoid them.

Somehow I managed to get outside. Big Blue's keys were in my purse, along with my mace and my gun, so I sprinted down the street instead. My parents house was close, but I wasn't going to lead this maniac there. The station was the best option. I just had to hope I could make it there in time.

"Stop running, Stephanie! Or I'm going to put another hole in you!"

I whimpered and ran faster than I ever had in my life, but I could hear him catching up to me. I heard him cock the gun, felt him aim, and knew I wasn't going to make it to the station. The bullet ripped through me just as I saw red and blue flashing lights.

My vision faded as the pain ripped through me. I kept trying to run, though, because if I stopped, I was dead. I ran and ran and ran right into Morelli. He grabbed my shoulders hard, shook me, shouted, "Stephanie! Steph, come on. Look at me!"

I stared at his blue eyes until I realized that I wasn't on the street and I hadn't been shot again and Mundino was nowhere to be seen. My side burned, my throat was hoarse from screaming, but I wasn't dying. I was just sitting in bed, panicking over a nightmare while Morelli watched.

My face burned in embarrassment, but tears welled in my eyes. Joe breathed a sigh when he realized that I wasn't still dreaming, and he gathered me in his arms, "You're okay, cupcake."

"I n-need a new profession," I sobbed, because this kind of thing had never happened when I worked in lingerie.

Morelli chuckled, "Can't argue there."

I stared at the front door, visible through the open bedroom door of my apartment, and remembered Mundino wrestling his way inside. They'd gotten a name off his prints, but despite Joe's best work, he hadn't been found. The fact that he was still out there was obviously wreaking havoc on my mind.

"I need to find Mundino," I said brokenly. This had gone on long enough.

Morelli scowled, "Go back to getting a new profession. I liked that better."

"Joe," I snapped.

He narrowed his eyes at me, "You've only been out of the hospital two weeks, Stephanie. Jesus, give yourself some time to heal, will you?"

I pushed out of his arms and swung out of bed, wincing as my stomach burned at the motion. I'd probably pulled some stitches. I had a habit of doing that. I resisted the urge to check for blood and instead paced to my closet. "I haven't had a decent night sleep since they took me off the morphine. Every time I close my eyes, I see that bastard breaking into my apartment to finish me off. It's not going to happen, Morelli."

"Damn straight it's not," he growled, following me. "There's a reason I'm here, you know. It ain't for your charming personality."

I started flicking through my hangers, browsing my selection of clothes. I stopped on a particularly alluring dress, one that had made Morelli lust for me more than once. I pulled it out and started to change.

"What are you doing?" he said, catching my arm.

"Getting dressed," I replied. "I'm going out."

"No, you're not."

"Yes, I am."

We glared at each other for a moment before I pulled my arm free. He watched as I tugged my tank top over my head, about to replace it with the dress. It was grabbed from my hands before I could, and a second later Morelli was running his finger gently over my healing gunshot wound.

"Damn it, Stephanie," he said, showing me the blood on his finger. "Sit your ass down. You aren't going anywhere."

There were downsides to living with a cop. He was as stubborn as anyone I'd ever met, and he tended to never take "no" for an answer. Unfortunately for him, I was done playing the invalid. He'd been carting me around for two weeks, watching me as if I might break at the first strong wind, and I was sick and fucking tired of it.

"Leave me alone, Morelli," I snatched the dress back, slipping it over myself before he could stop me.

"Just where are you planning to go?" he demanded. "It's two in the morning."

"I'm going to Carry's," I pushed past him, grabbing my purse off the hook and checking that I still had my gun. My side ached, and every step was a bit unsteady, but I ignored it. I was done waiting around. Carry's was Mundino's favorite bar; if there was any place to flush him out, it'd be there. And I was the perfect bait.

The plan was flawless, except for one minor setback in the form of a seriously pissed vice cop. Morelli stormed around me, standing in front of the door with a furious expression on his face. A brick wall would have been easier to get past.

"Are you insane?" he said through gritted teeth. "Or are you just trying to die?"

"I'm trying to end this, Joe," I said firmly. "I'm not going to live in fear of this guy anymore."

Joe barked a laugh, "So instead you're going to show up injured and dressed like that and try to take him down yourself?"

"Yes!"

Morelli grabbed my purse and threw it onto the couch, "Absolutely not. I didn't save your ass just to watch you throw everything away like this."

"It's not your decision to make!"

"Jesus, Stephanie," Joe grabbed my arms and shook me once. "Don't you get it? Don't you understand that I had to watch once as you nearly died from what this guy did? There is no one who wants him more than me. Understand? No one." He had leant in close to me, blue eyes blazing, nose nearly touching mine. "So you'll stay here and you'll damn well like it, because I am not going to lose you again."

My resolve faltered as I stared at him. I could still picture Mundino trying to break into my apartment, but looking into Joe's eyes, I knew that I was as safe here as I'd be anywhere.

Joe relaxed a bit when he didn't see me fighting back, and he stepped away, running a hand through his curly hair, "I'll have a black-and-white check Carry's, okay? Maybe we'll get lucky."

"Maybe," I mumbled. I was exhausted and hurting and my earlier adrenaline had parted with a wave, leaving me swaying on my feet. Morelli looped his arm around my waist and guided me back to the bedroom, setting me on the mattress. He disappeared inside the bathroom, but I saw him poking his head out every few seconds to make sure I didn't take off.

He came back with a new bandage and a warm washcloth and he lifted my dress off, frowning as he began to clean the blood off my wound. I squirmed away, and he rolled his eyes, "Sit still. You're gonna be the death of me, cupcake. We're going back to the doctor's tomorrow to make sure you don't need new stitches."

"I don't," I said, but only because I'd been to the doctor's three times this week and I was frankly sick of the whole place.

Morelli chuckled, and we fell into silence as he worked. When I'd been bandaged up again, he sat next to me on the bed, playing with a strand of my hair, tucking it behind my ear, "We'll get him, Stephanie. I promise. Just not tonight."

"I know," I leaned against his shoulder. "I just… don't want to be afraid anymore."

He couldn't say anything to that, so he didn't, and after a while I fell asleep. This time, I didn't dream.


A/N: Review? :)