Many, many years ago – a prologue...
Ranger looked out of the window, pondering his next move. He knew that Steph and the cop had split up and that she was hoping that he'd come sniffing.
Trouble was, he wasn't sure what to do. He knew she didn't do 'casual', least not with him anyway and he wasn't sure he could offer her anything else as he still had a year left on his government contract. There was no way he could offer her a stable anything until that was completed, so what to do?
His thoughts were disturbed by a knock at the door. "Enter" he called out and the door opened to reveal Woody.
"Latest files from Silvio, Sir!" he said formally, walking in and dropping a pile of manila folders on his desk.
"Thank you, Woody" he replied.
Woody nodded and turned away, leaving Ranger to his thoughts. He returned to staring out of the window.
Finally, he turned back to his desk and looked at the pile of paperwork now gracing its surface. He did his best Burg Eye Roll thinking Steph would be impressed. Probably.
He sighed and picked up the first sheaf of paper. The rest of the day went in a blur.
Steph looked out of her window, music blasting away as she watched the clouds roll across the sky. A duster dangled from her hand as she pretended to remove the layer of dirt from the windowsill. She laughed as she thought about the dust bunnies that were getting too big for comfort knowing that the best course of action was to remove them before one of the Merry Men mistook them for a stalker and shot them.
Joe and her had been split up for over three months now. The ending had been soft and gentle, none of the hysterics and theatrical gestures that they'd been famous for. More a kind of realisation that perhaps they should give up hurting each other and just get on with being friends because that was what they were best at. They'd not looked back. Earlier today she'd popped her head round his door at the station to see if he wanted to watch a game tonight but he'd replied in the negative saying that he was going out with the lads for a drink and a game of pool.
She grinned as she realised what that really meant and wished him all the best. He returned her smile and said a very relieved thank you. They'd both known that when the day came that one of them wanted to date again the other would probably feel a little sad. Joe hadn't wanted to upset her with the fact that he was moving on. She was just pleased for him and had told him so.
Her head snapped up at the lyrics that suddenly caught her attention: "I want you, I need you, but there ain't no way I'm ever gonna love but don't be sad. Two outta three ain't bad..."
As she listened to the Meatloaf track she realised she that it was the story line to another part of her own life. The life she 'shared' with her best friend and mentor. Perhaps one day she'd ask him if this was the reason he didn't do relationships?
She listened to the song as she started to clean her apartment. Perhaps today was a good day for cleaning up other parts of her life too.
"You free this evening, there's something I want to talk to you about."
"Sure, Babe. What time?"
"8-ish. I've got dinner at my parents to look forward to."
"Need any back up?"
"Nah, I'm good. I need to talk to them too, Vinnie's offered me a share in the Bonds Office, he wants to pull back and work on other things."
"Yeah, I heard. See you at 8." And Ranger put the phone down.
Steph stared at the receiver in disbelief. Did he really end the call his a goodbye? Nah! Or yeah?
Ellen was waiting alone on the porch as Edna was at an early viewing with Fabiola Kliniski. Father Ted Mallory had passed on and the viewings were so popular that a booking system had been introduced. 6.15 was the only time Grandma Mazur had been able to get. Ellen and Frank had already been earlier in the day.
"Hi Mom" Steph said as she parked her latest PoS and headed up the path.
"Hi Sweetie" came the reply as Ellen smiled and welcomed her into the house.
The meatloaf was set up in the middle of the table which had already been laid out for three. Steph grinned at the irony. 2 outta 3.
Valerie and the rest of the circus troupe were on vacation so it was just Steph and her parents. This suited Steph fine as she sat down and grabbed a roll.
"Mom, Dad, how would you feel if I was to go into business with Vinnie?" She looked at her parents for signs of their thoughts.
"Why would you want to do that?" Ellen asked, sipping carefully from her glass of wine.
"He wants to slow down on the bonds front and move into real estate. As I'm his only independent BEA he's offering me a part share, at a price, obviously."
"Nothing to do with being family, then?" her father asked.
"Well, he did say he was offering me better terms because of it. I reckon it's more likely that he's frightened of Grandma Mazur and what she'll say to Harry the Hammer, but I could be wrong."
"Tell us more, Pumpkin." Her father said, between mouthfuls, so she did.
Dinner had been a success. Her parents liked the idea of her becoming her own boss and even had a little nest egg they were prepared to let her use to help fund her share of the business. Added to the money she'd built up over the last year and a small loan from the bank and she had it all covered.
She left with a smile on her face. Two things were now settled. One more thing to go.
2 outta 3.
Butterflies cavorted in her stomach and if it wasn't for the fact that she didn't want to waste the pineapple upside down cake she'd just eaten she might have been sick. She took a large gulp of air and started the car. Pulling away from the kerb she muttered, "well, here goes nothing."
Quarter of an hour later at 7.55 she pulled into Haywood. Parking next to Ranger's Cayenne she quickly got out and walked to the elevator, giving the camera a small finger wave as she stepped into its brushed steel interior.
Lost in her thoughts she ran on auto pilot and somehow found herself outside Ranger's apartment with her fingers crossed. She took a deep breath to try and to calm herself as she let herself in.
"In here, Babe" said a voice from the kitchen. Steph followed it to find Ranger stacking his plate in the dishwasher. He finished and rinsed his hands before heading towards the refrigerator, wiping his hands on his gorgeous dark blue jeans. "Beer?" he asked calmly although he could see she was anything but, which intrigued him.
"Nah, I can't. I've got a ton of paperwork I need to go through before I meet up with Vinnie in the morning."
Ranger gave her a 200 watt grin "Lightweight" he quipped before handing her a bottle of water and popping the cap on his beer.
"Shall we?" he said, steering her into the lounge. "What's up, Babe? You look tense?"
Steph gulped before she sat down on one of the chairs opposite Ranger who'd gravitated to the sofa, expecting her to join him. For a moment he looked confused, but he quickly covered his emotions, beckoning her to begin.
"Ranger, where are we at?" she asked him.
He looked confused, but made no move to hide his feelings this time. "Us. What are we to each other?" she added to clarify.
Steph raised her hand to stop him and stood up, her calmness a thing of the past. "I was listening to the radio today and heard a song that made me ask myself the same thing. We're friends, you're my part time boss, you're my mentor and for one glorious night we were lovers. But I still don't know where I stand with you?"
Ranger looked surprised so Steph continued pacing and unloading her thoughts. "Who was she, Ranger? Who is the woman that you loved so deeply that you could never offer me a relationship. Either through fear or commitment issues?"
"what was the song?" he asked. Trying to think of an answer.
"2 outta 3" by Meatloaf.
Ranger looked blankly at her. At a complete loss as to what to say. How could he tell her that that was so much farther from the truth as she could have gotten? He loved her so much that he needed to protect her from him and his damned contract!
Steph took his silence as admission of his lack of feelings for her and turned to leave.
"Steph, Babe, it's not what you think" he said standing up.
"Don't Ranger, please don't" she whispered as she put her bottle down on the table and walked out of the door.
"Fuck!" growled Ranger and stood up to follow her. His phone rang and he looked down. It was his handler. Fuck! He needed to answer it but he also needed to put Steph right. The phone stopped and he made to follow Steph. He walked out of the door into an empty corridor. Fuck! He rushed to the stairs intending to get to the parking lot before her. His phone rang again.
"What!" he snarled into the offending item as he started down after her. "Ten minutes, Bro'" said Tank "the helicopter will be here in ten minutes."
Ranger sank down on the landing and ran his fingers through his hair. "Noooooooo!" he roared as his heart shattered. He stamped on his feelings "Focus, soldier!" He snarled to himself as he quickly gathered his thoughts, took a deep breath and set off back up to his apartment to pack.
"Please be here when I get back, Babe" he whispered to no-one and then he was gone.
Into the wind.
Steph made it home without crying. Her apartment felt cold and sad as she pushed the door open and she wandered into the kitchen to stare at her furry flatmate.
"Well, Rex, it's just you and me now." She whispered as she threw a handful of nuts into his cage. He looked up at her and twitched his whiskers before scuttling off, bounty in mouth.
No tears, none whatsoever.
She couldn't cry after all, she'd got her 2 outta 3. She now knew where she stood.
She should be happy so why did it feel like she'd left her heart, beaten and battered, to die in Ranger's hands?