This is based just under 5 years after the end of The Aftermath and involves characters found in the Epilogue of that story. Amy is mine, all mine (and based on my own kids and their music preferences...) Enjoy!
Torture of a Different Kind
Ranger looked up from his newspaper and grinned as Julie walked in, carrying Amy on her hip, giggling as she tickled her much younger sibling who shrieked and squirmed in response and playfully kicked her legs in delight. Taking a sip from his coffee, he leaned back to study two of the most important people in his life, knowing the other one was probably still snuggled up under the covers, deep in Denial Land and pretending that mornings didn't exist.
"Morning Trouble and Trouble" Ranger grinned out as he pointed to the counter where Ella had laid out breakfast. "Anyone hungry?"
"You have no idea, Dad" Julie replied smiling as she plonked Amy down on the stool next to her father and set off in the direction of the multitude of high calorie options masquerading as healthy cereals, Ranger's eyes still full of joy as he watched her graceful movement.
Julie was 5' 7" with long slim legs, beautiful both on the inside and out and as smart as a tack. Ranger was sure she was dating but despite appearances to the contrary he was cool with it. She was a sensible young woman and he had the sense to know that if he'd gone all caveman and 'installed' a chastity belt she would have picked its lock and then done something she might have regretted later just to prove a point.
But he'd done the smart thing and trusted her.
And she didn't disappoint.
He looked down at his youngest child who stared back with her big blue eyes full of adoration "Hiya Daddy Hero" she said seriously before climbing into his lap to give him a hug.
Ranger smiled, a mixture of surprise and awe on his face. He'd been trying to teach her that phrase for a while now. Just as he was giving up any hope of her using the crazy phrase Steph had over heard her on the phone to Frank saying "Daddy, poorly. Daddy Hero" as if it was the most natural thing in the world - he'd been fighting off man-flu at the time - since then it had been her favourite way of greeting him and his heart melted every time.
"What are you after, Rascal" he replied as he blew a big raspberry on her nose. She giggled again.
Three days ago, Amy Marie Manoso officially became a big girl – she'd turned the big three and now had her own grown up bed rather than the cot bed that had been her safe haven for most of her short life. Ranger wished he seen this part of Julie's life too but he'd made the right decision when he'd let Rachel have full control all those years ago. She'd been raised by two people who loved and nurtured her, so no regrets. He was just thankful that due to the Scrog incident he'd been given a second chance. They'd discussed it all not long after Lula was killed and he discovered that Julie held no bitterness or jealousy in her heart for the time they'd missed.
He knew he was a lucky man.
Julie plonked a small bowl of chocolate covered somethings swimming in milk and a spoon down in front of him "Yum" said Amy as she picked up her weapon of choice and dug in. "Pardon?" Ranger said pointedly.
"Ooops! Thank you, Julie!" Amy added brightly, smiling in Julie's direction before shovelling unwieldy amounts of the sugar laden cereal into her mouth. Before long a large droplet of brown milk fell off the end of her chin and rushed to join the rest of the escaped breakfast that hid in the creases of her pyjamas. Amy was everything her mother was – loud, excitable, loving, determined and messy, so godamned messy!
Ranger sighed, thinking it was a good job he was still in his fatigues. He'd learnt very early on that Amy shared her food – with the floor, the table and even the lap of the person she'd installed herself on and he'd given up trying to be corporate or badass until the moment just before he stepped out of the Batcave. His other personas couldn't possibly have baby sick, miscellaneous food or snot on their clothes it wouldn't help with the 'image-thing'.
He thought back to the first meeting he'd attended with goo on his shoulder and how Les had found it so amusing. Lester! Despite him having been dead over 4 months he still couldn't believe his errant and often annoying cousin was gone, Dios! He missed him.
Just as Amy finished the last mouthful and began tipping the remaining milk into her mouth Steph appeared with damp curls hanging down onto her shoulders, wearing dark jeans and a simple white t-shirt. Motherhood agreed with her and his heart picked up as he looked at her chest. Must be a new bra, he mused as he could have sworn they made her breasts look bigger.
"Carlos, don't let her do that!" she growled quietly pulling him from his thoughts as she gestured to the way Amy was drinking from her bowl.
"Don't Babe me, Buster. You need to go get ready." She added, trying to look stern as she glanced up at the clock on the wall and raised her eyebrows.
She was right, he realised, for once not aware of his surroundings. Ha! That was a laugh, since the female ratio for the house had increased his life had been in constant, wonderful turmoil and one hell of a distraction from the shit he waded through at Rangeman. He plonked Amy gently back down on the stool next to him and ruffled her hair before standing gingerly and letting all the little bits of half eaten food that had missed her cute mouth fall onto the floor.
"Steph, sweetheart, we really must invest in some sort of bib with a shelf in it, you know." He sighed out as he looked at the mess round his feet. Steph and Amy giggled. Julie just grinned round the piece of toast she was eating.
"Don't forget Tank's out today, visiting Lula's grave." She yelled at Ranger's disappearing back.
"Just checking you'd remembered!" she yelled playfully as she rolled her eyes. She could have sworn she heard him chuckle as he went off to get ready for work.
"All done, Honey?" Steph asked, shooing her daughter out of the kitchen "Time to get ready, we're meeting up with Grandma and Popsy today. See you in ten, Jules." She added as she too disappeared.
Amy grinned and raced ahead. The Plums were great fun and doted on her. OK, so they spoilt her nearly as rotten as her father did, but who's counting. Amy certainly was – she wanted a big chocolate chip cookie and Grandma always had one with her name on it.
Ranger stepped out of the shower and towelled himself off before wandering through to the dressing room to get Corporate Ranger out of the closet.
From another bedroom he could hear music and grinned. For her birthday Mary-Lou and Lenny had given Amy a CD player designed for under 5's and a pile of child friendly music that their youngest Tallie absolutely loved. She'd been born almost nine months after Lula died and he'd once mentioned the timing of it to Steph. She just rolled her eyes at him and muttered something about 'best friends', but he never did quite catch what she said and something told him that he may not like what he would hear anyway. As it was, he needed little to remind him of how stupid he'd been and how close he'd come to not having what he now had.
His mind snapped back to the here and now as he suddenly realised he could make out the tune Amy was listening to "...Mommy kissing Santa Claus underneath the mistletoe...what a laugh it would..." he grinned as he added the missing words, enjoying how completely inappropriate they were for the time of year. How in less than two months he was going to be 35.
He did the rounds quickly, kissing his family and saying goodbye before getting into his latest Porsche and starting his 15 minute journey to Haywood on autopilot humming "I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus" all the way.
"Report" Ranger said with authority as he viewed his key team in the morning meeting. Bobby, Hector, Ram and Angela nodded before updating him on the day's planned events.
"And to conclude" said Ram, we have the distraction that Bomber is doing over at the Indigo Club. We need to be in situ by 2130 as Demblon usually shows up to pick up his supplies just about then. Steph needs to be in place and apparently well on her way to inebriation by 2100 no later otherwise she'll arouse suspicion. Demblon's men will have been watching who comes and goes and if she's only just there when he gets there he'll smell a rat. Plus the more drunk she appears the more he's likely to bite - he likes his women drunk so that they are easier to handle."
He passed Ranger a list of the personnel who would be covering the shift, which he looked down quickly. "Put the new guy, Al, on the bar and make sure she only drinks virgins, she may need her wits about her. Demblon's a slippery bastard by all accounts."
"No probs, boss. I'll let him know." He then went on the explain the operation in detail.
Ranger nodded in agreement periodically, but his mind kept wandering to its inner most recesses where all he could hear was whispers of "if Daddy had only seen..." it was a form of Chinese water torture and was preventing him from being totally focused. Demblon was a bastard and he needed to stay on the job, but man, that tune was there, needling him in a happy go lucky, sicko kind of way...
He clasped the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes.
"You ok, Ric?" Bobby asked with concern.
"Yeah, just a lot on my mind" came the reply. If only they knew, he mentally snorted.
Ranger could see the meeting was nearly over and wanted to escape the song in his head – perhaps he could do so with spec'ing out a complex installation he just been asked to quote on.
"Well if no-one has anything further..." he said as he stood up.
Sounds of chairs being scraped across the hard flooring were his only reply so he turned and fled to the safety of his office in the hope he could occupy his mind with something that would make that damn song go away.
The phone rang and Ranger quickly picked it up "Yo" he said softly as he caressed the picture on his desk. It was taken at Mikey and Cody's christening and on the way back home they'd started wondering whether it was time Amy had a sibling – a boy this time, maybe, just to even up the hormones a bit. Hopefully they'd soon be pregnant again, but Steph had seemed a bit off for the last week or so and whcombined with Amy's excitement as her birthday had approached getting intimate had been a bit of a challenge. Soon, though, he thought, soon. They'd practice in earnest soon.
"Carlos. Got a mo?" Steph asked, bringing him away from his longing for another child.
"I'll take that as a yes" she giggled "Demblon. Do I have a suitable outfit to wear, it's just that I'm a bit snowed under so would prefer not to have to go out shopping."
"Let me check" Ranger picked up a file and quickly flipped through it searching for the information he needed. "Looks like he's a leg man, so something short would be fine. The Indigo is fairly tired so throw in a bit of slut but not too much, we don't you to look too obvious, you'll look too perfect and he'll smell a rat."
"Kick off is 2100 hours so you've plenty of time to get ready. Don't look too groomed either... what's that in the background, everything OK?" he asked, suddenly tensing as he heard a loud crashing sound.
"Chillax. It's just Julie home from school. She's something she wants to talk to you about. I'll just put her on. See you this evening, Bye."
Before Ranger could reply the phone was laid down and he heard Steph's footsteps receding on the marble hall floor. He sat patiently as he waited for Julie, his fingers caressing the picture in front of him again when all of a sudden he heard it!
"I saw Mommy kissing San..."
He closed his eyes and sighed. After a frustrating couple of hours he'd managed to clear the song from his head and there it was, back again. He lowered his head to the desk and began gently banging it on the table in desperation.
"Everything ok, Boss?" a surprised Hal said as he stuck his head through the door and saw Ranger.
"Yeah, fine, just fucking fine!" came the strained reply.
The take down went fine and Demblon was out of the Indigo Club in less than an hour so it wasn't long before the team separated for the night.
"You're quiet, what's up?" Steph asked, leaning over and caressing Ranger's earlobe.
"I'm fine, just a bit preoccupied up with a proposal that I can't seem to nail down, sorry. You did good tonight, Babe." He replied as he took Steph's wandering fingers, kissed then placed them in his lap. He didn't want to have to explain why he couldn't concentrate, he'd never live it down.
Steph smiled innocently and started to move her hand up his leg.
"Babe? Driving! Car..." He warned, amusement with a hint of danger crossing his eyes "Playing with fire..." he added, playfully.
"Well I need your help with an itch I've got, just... right... here." She said as she pulled up her skirt to expose the lace of her panties.
Ranger growled and put his foot down on the accelerator.
Lying in the exhausted aftermath of their all-night love making Ranger leant up on his elbow and looked down at Steph. "You really are beautiful, Babe. How did I get so lucky?" he asked as he leant in to kiss her nose. "After sex really suits you, you're positively glowing."
Steph put a finger on his lips to silence him "positively pregnant" she whispered back. "Off sugar and horny as hell." She added wantonly, pulling him back on top of her before he had a chance to react to the news.
Eight days later Ranger was a wreck. What with his insatiable sex-siren, pregnant wife and the music from Amy's CD player, he'd slept an average of four hours a night and his waking hours were dogged with Mommy and fucking Santa and it showed.
He thought back to the night they captured Demblon. Steph had explained that she'd known the man was a lucrative FTA and hadn't wanted to pull out when she'd found she was pregnant so had kept her news and her hormones to herself. Trouble was she was now making up for it.
He could hardly keep his eyes open and his thoughts were becoming more and more scrambled as the lack of sleep and that song were taking their toll. He decided a power nap was required to preserve his sanity so he sprawled out on one of the couches in the den and drifted off into a troubled sleep.
Amy saw her father lightly snoring on his side on the sofa and thought it looked like a good idea so decided to join him. Creeping onto the cushions carefully so as not to wake him she snuggled up against his front and quickly fell asleep.
"No, no, no! Please stop. Not that again! Just. Please. Stop!" Ranger pleaded softly sometime later, obviously having a bad dream which startled Amy awake.
She looked at him carefully as he moaned and began to thrash his head about, carefully stroking his hand to try and calm him.
"Don't worry Daddy, I have something to help you" she whispered and then wriggled away from him and went in search of Julie.
"Hi, Amy, wassup?" Julie asked as she lay sprawled across her large four poster bed, texting.
"Daddy needs something to help him sleep right. Can we put my music in his machine in the Den? Please?"
Julie smiled indulgently "Sure short stuff. I'll just go get it."
Minutes later the state of the art sound system in the den was softly crooning Christmas songs. From Jingle Bells to Silent Night the gentle tunes drifted round the room and Amy felt pleased with herself as her father sighed in his sleep.
However, as soon as Mommy started to kiss Santa under the mistletoe he woke with a start and fled the room, leaving a surprised and confused little girl in his wake.
"Daddy ran away, Mommy. Is he ok?" Amy asked a baffled Steph who'd just gone in search of them both.
"Not sure, Sweetie, but don't worry, Daddy has a lot on his mind with work at the moment."
Amy nodded wisely. After all, she knew how hectic her day usually was, making a decision on which tiara she needed to wear or which toy to take to her best friend Pheobe's was always tough so she decided that as Daddy was being a bit scarey shed go off in search of her favourite superhero sticker book and leave her father to his own devices.
Hearing what Amy had just told her, Steph was really worried. He'd obviously been struggling with something over the last few days but probably didn't want to worry her in case it affected the pregnancy. Smiling as she rubbed the small bump that sat proudly in her abdomen, she went in search of her husband. Finally she located him in the gym, staring silently at his bench press, his fists opening and closing slowly.
Walking carefully up to him then wrapping her arms round his chest she kissed his back.
"Everything ok? Carlos?" she asked cautiously as she took in his scent, immediately setting off her hormones. Again.
Giving in to her desires, she let her hands wander over his chest and it wasn't long before they started to head southwards. Ranger groaned and tipped his head back so she took that as consent and nipped his earlobe before kissing her way over to the juncture of his neck and shoulder.
"Babe!" Ranger groaned out softly, grabbing her hands and holding them to his waist. Steph grinned and tugged her hands out of his and continued on downwards.
"Babe!" he whispered again more forcefully as he recaptured her hands.
"Please, Babe. Please Stop!" he begged. "My dick is in need of time out and I need all Christmas music to go live in a third world country! Please, I'll give you whatever you want, anything, please!" he added, sinking to the floor and sobbing.
Steph looked at him in horror "what the fuck? Carlos!" she whispered, sinking to his side and rubbing circles on his back.
"Mommy, what's wrong with Daddy?" Amy sobbed as she rushed into the room to see for herself what the noise was all about, Julie hot on her heels.
"Not sure, Honey, but I think we just broke him!" was Steph's stunned reply.