Sorry for the delay in posting this - I struggled to follow the last chapter so this took longer than planned - sorry if it doesn't live up to what's gone before. Thanks for all your feedback - much appreciated.
Steph came round again before Bobby could get out of his chair. Crap, did I faint, again? She thought. Nah.
"You OK? " Bobby said giving her a funny look.
Oops! "Yeah just closed my eyes for a few seconds, I'm fine. Run that by me again." She said as she laid back against the pillows and turned her head to look at him. She needed to concentrate and her pounding headache wasn't helping.
"Ranger's not dead."
"But the blood, his body, he told me he'd have to break his promise, he went limp in my arms..." Tears threatened to fall as she pictured the events unfurling in her head. She desperately wanted to believe him, but, but...
"Hey, it's OK. He lost a lot of blood, he passed out, that's all. He's fine, confined to bed, but fine."
"Bet he loves that" she said sniffling and laughing at the same time. "When can I see him?"
"Shortly. He's two doors up. His doctor came in to check him over so I thought I'd pop in and see how you were doing. He knows you're awake and he's desperate to be here. It's killing him that you took such a tumble."
"Yeah, what happened?"
"Ahh, well Tank sort of threw you when he pulled you away from Ranger..."
"Sort of threw me?"
"Yeah, he was trying to get you out of the way before you got trampled on by the paramedics and he turned round, tripped and started to fall so launched you into the air. It didn't help that he'd just been shot and had a broken arm so wasn't fully functional. I think you'd have been fine otherwise." He coughed to hide a slight snigger, obviously remembering how comical the whole spectacle must have looked. "Unfortunately" he continued, looking more serious "you hit your head as you landed and as he's so tall you fell a fair old distance... You should have heard Ranger when he found out. He went purple. I thought I'd seen him at his angriest, but..." he shook his head, recalling the moment Ranger had gone ballistic. "Let's just say I think Tank'll be doing the shitty shifts for a while and Ranger's ordered a new toothbrush be brought in especially."
At that moment Frank, Ellen and Edna walked back in.
"I'll go now and report back, Ranger will want to know that you're OK. Mr and Mrs Plum, Grandma." Bobby said as he nodded towards them all and left the room.
"Oh, Stephanie" said Ellen, pulling her into her arms "you gave us quite a scare, sweetheart..."
"Ranger, thank God..." Steph said as she entered the room.
He moved the lap top he'd been working on off the covers and onto the over bed table in front of him. He thought she looked fragile as she walked over to the bed - he opened his arms to welcome her and smiled.
"Babe." He sighed, wrapping himself around her, soaking up her smell and burying his face in her curls. He'd missed her and it had been the longest week of his life. Head injuries, well you just never knew, he thought as he caressed her back. She curled her legs up sideways on the bed and pressed her body against his, snaking her arms under his and up towards his shoulders.
They stayed like that for a long while, each absorbing warmth, strength and comfort from the other. Relaxed by their intimacy, no words were needed.
After several minutes Ranger started to chuckle whilst running small circles across Steph's back, deep in thought. The sound started as a soft low rumble in his abdomen and soon filled the air around them.
"Ranger?" she said, pulling back to check that he was OK.
"Sorry, I'm just thinking about the stuff I'm lining up for Tank to do." He said sniggering softly. "I've even ordered an extra soft tooth brush – Porsche needs a clean..."
"Ranger, you wouldn't, would you?!"
"No, not really, he was trying to protect both of us, but he doesn't need to know that. He thinks I'm really mad with him so he's only been in to see me when Bobby's been around - coward!" He said with a wolf grin.
"Babe, payback's a bitch."
She smiled at him and noticed that all of a sudden he looked tired and sore. "Looks like you've not been sleeping properly, Batman? You'll ruin your looks and I'll need to find myself a new model" she said, trying to sound less concerned than she was.
"I'll sleep fine now that I know you're OK." He sighed then smiled at her again.
She decided to change the subject to something more positive. "When do you get out? I'm hoping to be released tomorrow. They just want to keep any eye on me as I haven't moved for a week and I'm a little wobbly on my legs. I'm booked in for a physical assessment at 9.00am. After that they'll make a decision."
"Hoping to get the all clear tomorrow too. The stitches are healing nicely, but I've been bed bound as the bullet nicked an artery and I needed to let my body do its thing. I think Bobby has been telling the doctors to string it out for as long as possible - that I wouldn't sit still if I was allowed to leave prematurely. Bastard. I'll give him the toothbrush assignment if I don't get out tomorrow."
"You can't do that, it's for your own good, idiot" she said, patting him on the arm. He pretended that it hurt.
At that moment a nurse came in to look at his vitals. Steph chuckled as the woman's eyes glazed slightly when she looked at Ranger before shaking her head and rolling out the blood pressure guage. Ranger held out his arm and Steph thought she saw the poor girl's face blush slightly as she touched his forearm, Steph giggled, pulling out of his embrace and off the bed. Her let her go reluctantly.
"Ranger, let the nurse do her job!" She patted his arm, he pretended that it hurt, again. "Behave or I'll leave." Steph warned, giggling again.
The nurse left a few minutes later having filled in the chart at the end of the bed .
"OK, Buster, move over." Steph said as she playfully pushed him.
Despite the tiredness that hung round his eyes, Ranger managed a wolf grin and winked suggestively at her before moving over to the side. She raised the covers and slid in beside him. Luckily he'd been moved to a larger than average bed so there was plenty of room.
Within minutes they were both asleep, spooning each other, Ranger's front to Steph's back. Relaxed and contented, Ranger sighed and pulled her closer to him, she mewed and smiled, pulling ing his arms more tightly around her.
Bobby popped in to check on them before heading back to Haywood and persuaded the staff that it was best to leave them to it.
Ranger slept properly for the first time in over a week.
The next morning Tank sidled into Steph's room, looking sheepish, followed by Lester. He was sporting a black plaster cast on his arm and Lester had one arm in a sling and was limping.
"Hi Tank! Come to sweep me off my feet again?" said Steph, she laughed at the look on his face. "It's OK, Bobby told me what happened. It wasn't anyone's fault that I hit my head. You were trying to save Ranger. He was in far greater danger than I was. Anyway, I got to stay with Ranger last night and Lula has supplied me with donuts this morning so I'm good. Please, don't worry about it."
The men swiftly closed the gap between them and Steph and gave them both big hugs and they returned the sentiment as best they could with all the strappings they were wearing. It felt good to be alive.
Tank sat in the chair and Lester sat on the edge of the bed trying to look comfortable - well as best as two muscle bound but damaged men could. Before long, they began gossiping about what had been happening and life at Haywood. This is good, Joe was right, I needed to come back, I need to be here, she thought to herself, enjoying the two men's company.
At that moment the doors flew open and Bobby pushed a wheelchair in bearing a very unhappy looking Ranger. "Christ, first chance I get to see Steph today and you lot are here. Get off my woman - now!" he snapped. They all froze, including Steph. Their faces must have been a picture because Ranger burst out laughing. "Gotcha! Sorry, couldn't resist. Ella told me you'd be here Tank and she also told me you were nervous about Steph's reaction to seeing you."
Steph rolled her eyes. "Ranger!" she sighed then giggled.
The tension evaporated and the Merry Men stayed for a few more minutes before leaving to go find the paperwork needed to get the couple discharged. Or so they said – they really just wanted to give the invalids some time together. "We'll be back to get you two asap, so no necking – you're both signed off any physical activity – especially you, Boss" Bobby said before he turned and left, shaking his head and grinning.
"Alone at last" Ranger muttered as he rolled his wheelchair over to the bed. "I didn't get a chance to ask you last night. Want to tell me why you kept us all waiting for so long?"
Steph shuffled and looked uncomfortable as she spoke softly "I thought you were dead so I figured I'd go check out Denial Land and I felt safe there." She wrapped her arms round her shoulders and looked into his beautiful face as she said it.
"You were out for over a week, I figured I was pretty close to losing you." He replied looking equally unhappy and uncomfortable.
"Well when you said you were sorry that you'd have to break you promise about coming home for dinner I thought" she bit her lip, closed her eyes and swallowed hard "I thought you were dying. I didn't think I could face that again, not after Joe..." her comment was barely audible. She dropped her head to her chest to hide the tears that threatened to spill out.
He reached forward and raised her chin, with two fingers, and looked deep into her eyes. "I meant that it might be a few days before I could be home for dinner. That's all." He said smiling gently.
"Steph, wild horses will never take me from you again, I love you too much to ever let you go. You're my guiding star. You bring me home when I'm lost. Christ, you've saved me from the darkness so many times and you've no idea how much you've influenced my life.
She smiled at his sudden outburst of emotion.
"What's so funny?" he said, looking confused and hurt.
"Don't worry, Carlos I'm not laughing at you, it's just that someone recently told me I was good for you."
"He also told me to change my name, that it didn't suit me anymore."
"Funny you should say that – I hadn't planned it this way but..." he said, smiling and taking a small black box out of his pocket...