If There's One Thing I Hate, It's A Wise-Ass Bounty Hunter.
Morelli was already waiting for me when I got home.
He was slouched against the wall, hands stuffed into pockets, ankles crossed, his eyes fixed onto something on the ground.
For some reason he looked tired, but maybe it was just up to the dim light of the old building. Well, maybe it wasn't.
When he heard me stepping out of the elevator, he looked up expectantly and smiled at the brown grocery bag I was carrying.
"Let me guess," he said. "Leftovers."
His voice cracked at the last word and he gave me one of his mysterious smiles.
"Gee, now I know why you made detective."
He laughed and I raised the key to unlock my door, but stopped in the middle of the action because my door was already opened.
Morelli mumbled something that sounded like, "I was really planning to tell you."
My heart beat a little faster and I unholstered my gun.
"Relax, I've already taken care of this."
I raised an eyebrow at Morelli, still clutching my gun with both hands.
"What's that supposed to mean? What happened?"
"I…uhm…just thought you might appreciate some company, so I came here and found your door being widely opened. I checked your apartment, no one's in,
and no one's hiding on the fire escape, either. But there is some…ahem…better see it for yourself."
My eyes adopted the size of ping-pong-balls and I thought they'd plop out of my head, which they thankfully didn't. There were big graffiti letters sprayed all over the wall of my living room, saying "Take a vacation."
It was rude, it was threatening, and to top it all, it was misspelled.
Who on earth writes vacation with "w" ?
I involuntarily rolled my eyes. I didn't feel threatened at all. Rather angry because I really liked that wallpaper, and was pissed off that someone cracked my lock open.
"It could be dangerous for you to be at your own. Besides, your door has been unlocked with pretty little effort, I doubt that it's really protecting you."
Of 'course he was right, a hell of a lot people were longing to get me dead or alive, but one more lunatic or one less didn't really matter, did it?
"Now that you have a cop at your side, you don't need to fear anymore.
I guess I could stay the night if you want me to, protect you from the lunatic, you know."
He gave me a smug grin and cleared his throat.
"Yeah, sure. That's all the police sent me for protection? That's pathetic. I think I'll be okay on my own."
Gleefully, I watched his mouth crinkling into a pout.
"Wanna have dinner with me, though?"
I pointed at the grocery bag I was holding.
"Sure." His face lit up.
I slid the chain bold of my door for good measure.
Then I entered the kitchen and reheated some of the food in the micro wave.
While I was waiting for the food to finish getting hot, I watched Morelli making himself comfortable on my sofa. He didn't stretch out his legs on my table as usual, which was odd. Besides, he looked somewhat pale with deep shades below his eyes, maybe he had had a tough day.
I grabbed two beer bottles out of my fridge, took the food with the other hand and balanced them to the table in my living room to set the table.
Usually Morelli would have taken a seat within three seconds, but this time he was still settling (on) my sofa.
"You coming?" I asked, but I didn't get a reply.
Confused, I approached the sofa and noticed his eyelids being shut and his mouth a tiny bit open. He seemed to be sleeping, which was weird since it was only early evening and I was gone for maybe three minutes.
"Joe?" I gently shook his shoulder and was startled when he started to cough slightly, which obviously woke him up. He moaned and opened his eyes.
"It's time for dinner," I told him.
He blinked dizzily at me and seemed so vulnerable for the fraction of a second, but then he regained his composure again and grumbled,
"Finally, pancake, took you long enough."
Rubbing his eyes, he got up from the sofa and sat down at the table.
Did he really just call me "pancake"?
Since he was a cop and I only a simple bounty hunter, he was some kind of my boss. And oh boy, he really enjoyed that part.
Telling me things to do, calling me stupid names, yeah, he really loved it.
I soooo longed for revenge. Watch out, Morelli.
He brought a forkful of mashed potatoes up to his mouth, hesitated for a second, but eventually ate it. Chewing I hold some chicken out for him, but he shook his head, no. A pained expression crept over his face when he swallowed the bite and hastily reached for the bottle of beer next to him.
"Don't you like it? I don't think my Mom cooks that badly."
He avoided my glance and forked up another piece.
"No, actually it's kinda tasty. I like it."
His voice sounded a little deeper than usual, and I could swear it had a hint of scratchiness in it. I wondered why I didn't notice it earlier in the day.
Another swallow was followed by some coughing, he tried to muffle it in his fist, turning away from me.
"Swallowed…the wrong way…" He excused himself.
"Very smooth, genius."
But he repeated his performance once more, coughing so hard he wasn't able to muffle it anymore, his face going all red.
"You okay?" I asked, this time with real concern.
"Yeah," he rasped, out of breath and tried to clear his throat.
With little to no success.
"You sure?" I cocked an eyebrow at him.
He looked a little sheepish, trying to weight up his options whether to tell me or not.
"Hurts." He finally said.
"What? Your throat?"
He nodded, "I think I was yelling too much today. Overusing my voice, you know." Yeah, sure. Yelling to much, pff. I mentally rolled my eyes.
I couldn't help but smile at him, Morelli feeling unwell – this situation was priceless! Oh boy, how long have I been waiting for this.
I damned myself for being so sadistic and decided to be a little helpful at least.
"I could go fix you some tea." I offered and stood up, ready for heading into the kitchen. Morelli looked like he was going to drown himself in the nearest river, thanked me and said he was fine without tea.
I shrugged and sat down again. Fail. Why did I have these strong imaginations?
He was a Morelli, and real Morellis didn't get sick. For sure.
I should bury all of my hope.
I took a glance at Morelli, who was kneading his forehead with one hand.
"Headache?" I asked him as a pained expression showed on his face.
"Nah, I'm just tired, I guess."
Uh-hu, tired, sure.
He put his fork down, obviously he had finished eating.
"Hey, guess what I have left in the grocery bag!"
His eyes focused on me. "What is it?"
"Momma's apple pie." Jackpot.
He adored this pie, he would do ANYTHING just to get one single crumb of it.
When he didn't reach out to get a piece of the pie, I knew that something was generally wrong with him today.
I was just before asking what was up with him as a firm expression crossed his face and I thought he was going to say something important.
He turned away from me and sneezed into the crook of his right elbow instead. "Heh'DGZshh-uhh"
He straightened himself and gave his roman nose a quick swipe with the back of his hand before he looked up again. I think my mouth dropped open, at least my lips felt strangely dry, I didn't think I could handle this hotness.
"What?" He looked at me because he noticed me staring at him, but didn't even give me time to answer, because he just smothered another sneeze in the fabric of his shirt. "Ihh'TZSH-uhh."
A warm shiver passed my body and I wanted to touch him so badly.
Pull yourself together, Stephanie, I told myself and tried to get my face as neutral as possible, which wasn't that easy since Morelli drew my attention again when he wiped his nose with the back of his hand, which was also more appealing than it should be.
"You sure you're not coming down with something?"
Now I was sure I was acting way too obvious. Damn me and my loose lips.
"Positive. I'm just tired. It doesn't matter, anyway, I got work to do."
He reached into his trouser pocket, took out a little box of pills and swallowed a couple of them down with a grimace.
"You should rest, you shouldn't dope yourself up so you can keep on working, it's no good for you."
"If there's one thing I hate, it's a wise-ass bounty hunter. I can handle it, trust me. I'm not five anymore."
I pouted. This man was so horribly stoic, he'd never admit he wasn't feeling 100 percent. If he kept on working in this condition, he'd end up catching his death.
I needed to do something. But what?
"Thanks for the dinner, but I think I'd better go home now. You don't want my help anyway, do you? Call me if you need me, okay?"
He almost reached my front door when I heard myself saying,
"I was kidding before, I'm really afraid, please stay the night."
A surprised look took over both of our faces.
Did I just really say that? Seriously?
Morelli crinkled his lips to a weak, but winning smile and turned on his heel, heading straight to my sofa and for the TV.
Geez, only because I didn't want him to work anymore, I had to spend a whole evening with him. It's not that I mind being with him, rather the opposite, it's just that I don't want to admit, that I can't resist him.
We were watching TV for about 2 hours, listening to Morelli's occasional sniffles, when I heard a strange noise. Panicked, I grabbed the remote and pressed the mute button. Morelli gave me a confused look, obviously he didn't hear anything. Huh. The sound repeated itself and I felt my heart beating faster and my hands getting sweaty. "Don't you hear that? There's someone at my door!"
He listened carefully for a few seconds, then shook his head.
"Don't hear anything."
I got up from the sofa, took my gun from the table and tippy-toed to my door.
It wasn't just my paranoia, I actually heard a few footsteps and some men talking, so I pressed my ear to my door and listened carefully.
I gave Morelli a deathly look, he just shrugged and scrubbed at his nose.
The faint talking went quiet and I heard fading footsteps.
I gave an annoyed sigh and hissed at Morelli,
"Thanks a lot Officer I'm-Just-Tired, you just screwed up my plan to get the son of a bitch who's stalking me."
He gave me a tired look and rubbed his eyes.
I groaned in resignation. "What's the matter with you, anyway?"
"I never heard you sneeze before, and now you can't seem to stop it."
Morelli looked at me with a blank look on his face.
"Heh...Ihh…Ugh. My nose tihh…tickles just so mu…uhh…much."
His breath was hitching in anticipation, his nose twitching madly and his eyes were fluttering shut. No sneeze, though.
He gave a frustrated groan and sniffed wetly.
I felt the blush rising up my cheeks, I think I already wetted my undies.
"You want some tissues?"
His green-brown eyes faced me, but it seemed like he was looking through me and not paying attention.
The sneeze came out of nowhere and left him dazed and confused.
"Uhh…Finally." He sighed.
He wiped his nose on his sleeve, leaving a slightly wet trail.
"Come on, face it, you are sick."
He gave me the stink eye and dropped his head between his knees, coughing wetly.
I inched a little closer and rubbed my hand in circles over his back till the coughing subsided.
"'m not sick," he slurred, his eyes shimmering feverishly and his body was shivering from the cold.
"Morellis don't get sick. Ever."
"'course not," I soothed, gently pushed him down on the couch and covered him with my blanket.
"You sleep, and I'll go fix you some tea."
I got a quiet groan in response.
When I returned with the tea, Morelli seemed to be asleep.
His mouth was widely opened and I even spotted a little bit of drool on my pillow.
My eyes spotted him clutching his empty pill box.
Jesus, how many did he take? No wonder he was sleeping like a log.
I sat down beside him and put the mug down on the table.
My hand slid down Morelli's chest and I felt him breathing evenly, which was a good sign. With my other hand I stroked his wavy brown hair and enjoyed its softness. Suddenly I noticed his breathing becoming faster and him wriggling his nose forth and back. I scratched his nose for him and waited. His breathing slowed down a bit, but his body was still tensing and expecting the sneeze.
I giggled and traced my finger down the bridge of his nose. Nothing happened. With feather-light touches I slid my finger down the side of his nose and to my pleasure he took a shaky inhale. I tickled the tip of his nose with my finger and he scrunched his face up in anticipation.
When I lightly touched the underside of his nostrils, I finally succeeded.
"Huhhh," his muscled tensed and his body jerked to the side. "Hehh'GZSHh."
Actually I'd expected him to wake up, but he was out like a light. He didn't even open his eyes. I slowly dipped my head down and kissed his forehead. I nosed my way down to his temples, his cheeks and his throat. I tried to avoid kissing his mouth, not because I was worried to catch his cold, no, rather because I was afraid to wake him up. But I couldn't resist the temptation for too long. Naughty girl.
I slowly pressed my lips to his mouth but intuitionally backed off as I felt warm puffs of air on my skin. Oh boy. His breathing quickened and he gasped for air, his nose twitching wildly. "Heh…Uhh."
I sighed when I saw the frustrated look on his face.
I set a soft kiss on the tip of his nose and let my long hair brush against the underside of his nose. This did the trick.
I felt the moisture on the skin of my décolleté and groaned lustfully.
In that moment, Morelli opened his eyes and looked at me confusedly.
"Are you takigg advadtage of be, Plum? I knew id."
His voice was so rough and congested, but sounded ridiculously attractive at the same time.
There he got me. I wasn't able to think properly.
I felt my cheeks blushing deeply and thought of something sensible to say.
I didn't know what, though.
All I wanted was to get laid by this beautiful man.
To my surprise I didn't even need an excuse, since he fell asleep as quickly as he had woken up. Whew. That was close.
I tried to get up from the couch but couldn't because there was some weight on my lap that hasn't been there a few minutes before. I looked down at a heap curly brown hair. Damn it.
Morelli turned his head and I had a perfect view of his face.
He had unusually long lashes for a man, and also his soft lips looked quite feminine, but after all he was a really handsome man.
I loved all of the little freckles on his nose, which he really hated because they made him look kinda young, but were really adorable.
My hand wandered up to his hair and I twisted the silky strings between my fingers. His forehead shimmered sweaty and felt strangely warm. I didn't even need to take his temperature, I knew for sure that he was running a fever.
His whole body was radiating an unusual warmth although he kept shivering hardly. I felt my heart twinge in sympathy and reached for the blanket to adjust it around his lean body. Carefully I lifted his head from my lap and got up from the couch. In the bathroom I soaked a washrag with cold water and returned.
The blanket was of no use, even his teeth started chattering now and I wanted to warm him up so badly, but needed to get his temperature down a lot. Gently, I placed the cold cloth on his forehead and lay down beside him.
I snuggled closer and felt his body relax a little. He would kill me if he knew that he was the little spoon. He'd really hate that.
But I kind of enjoyed being the bigger spoon, besides it would warm him up.
His chest rose and fall evenly except for a few occasional coughing fits, that made his whole body shake.
I almost fell asleep, too, when I heard this noise from a few hours ago again. Tiredly I rubbed my eyes and didn't want to believe what was going on.
I searched my gun, it didn't lie on the table. Shit. Where did I put it?
The noise was getting louder and it seemed like someone tried to enter my front door. Startled, I grabbed my pepper spray and reluctantly got up from the sofa.
Slowly I aimed and approached the door.
The person in front of it didn't move, either. Crap.
Am I really that bad as a bounty hunter?
I yelled, trying to sound more confident than I felt.
No answer. Sure. Would have been too easy, huh?
I moved a little closer and looked through the peep hole.
"Once again, who's there? It's freaking 2 o'clock in the morning!"
Suddenly I noticed some movement next to me. Morelli.
"Dod't worry, Steph, I'll prodect you frob thad sud of a bidtch"
He had a fork in his hand and looked rather asleep than awake.
His eyes were red-rimmed and so was his nose.
Just before I was able to say anything, he steadied himself on the wall and busted out coughing.
"Geez, you're such a help," I commented sarcastically and looked through the peep hole once again. This time I saw a beardy man looking at me, a silver knife blinking in the light and I suppressed a scream.
"Hello honey, I can see you," he twittered, waving at me with an evil smile.
Gasping, I moved away and clutched my pepper spray tighter. I needed to call Ranger, he'll hopefully take care of that guy outside my door.
"There…There is a guy outside. With a knife," I stuttered into my cell phone and Ranger promised me to come immediately.
Partly relieved I set the phone down and checked my companion.
Morelli had stopped coughing in the meanwhile, but still didn't look like he could do anything to save me from that guy. Red fever patches had spread over his cheeks. A loud thunder echoed through my house and it took me a while to realize, that it was the guy, forcefully trying to open my door.
"Led be handdle this."
Morelli swayed on his feet as he tried to open my door, not noticing the chain bold.
"Stop that, you'll get the both of us killed. You're not in the condition to fight."
He gave me an angry look and gave his nose a quick swipe with his hand.
"Cookie, I'b the ode to protecd you, dot the other wahh…way…aroudd."
I rolled my eyes, I knew what was going to happen just by looking at his face.
Being horny wouldn't do me any good right now.
"Joe, no matter what happens, you don't have to worry about me. Just lie down again, please! Your fever is pretty high."
His eyes were full of confusion and obviously the fever had taken its toll because he didn't seem to notice me and pressed his knuckles under his nose, trying to starve the tickle off. "Ihh'GZTShh" Fail.
My thoughts drifted off to wanna-get-laid-by-Morelli-land.
The guy outside reminded me of his presence as he kicked against my door, causing my chain to slid open. Crap.
I backed a few steps and prepared myself to give him a dose of pepper spray. Ranger, where the hell were you?
The door flew open and the guy smiled at me, revealing two rows of bad teeth.
"Don't move, I warn you. Just get the hell outta here!"
His smile grew bigger. Was he making fun of me? Sonofabitch.
"You hehh…heard her. Dod't bmove or I'll edd you."
Oh yeah. I've totally forgotten about Morelli by now.
Like a bat out of the hell the beardy guy jumped on Morelli and threw him to the ground. He tried to stab him with his knife, but somehow Morelli managed to pierce him with his fork. The guy screamed and got furious, he sliced the cop's arm but dropped the knife as he got a kick in the balls. Morelli was panting with exhaustion, sweat running down the side of his face. Now it was my turn. I took all the courage I had, aimed and gave the guy a face-full of pepper spray. Wincing he got off Morelli and rubbed his eyes, calling me dirty names and calling for his mummy. Geez, that was easier than I thought.
For some reason Morelli also winced although I didn't hit him with the spray.
Then I looked at his bloody arm. The cut wasn't that deep, but it surely hurt and stinged like hell. I'd take care of that. Unfortunately the hint of pepper spray in the air had another effect on Morelli. His eyes unfocused, his chin went slack. "Hehhhh."
He nodded weakly and directed a weary sneeze onto the ground.
And another round. "Ihh'Tshh, Heh'gtshh, uh..uhh'Gshh.""
Then he was out like a light. Great.
How to get a tall, muscular man on your couch again?
I heard footsteps and turned my head to look into a smiling face.
Ranger. Thank God.
The next morning came way too soon.
I awoke as Morelli gave a heart-wrenching groan and sat up.
I looked at him with glee and almost laughed at the confused expression on his face.
"Whad the hell?" His voice was a congested mess.
He looked at his bandaged arm and started coughing.
After he hacked up about half a lung I decided it would be a friendly gesture not to let him suffocate, so I got up and handed him a bottle of water.
After he had taken a gulp, the fit subsided and he croaked a "thanks."
His eyes were droopy and teary when he faced me.
He barely managed to get out a whisper and I could tell that speaking hurt.
"Oh, no biggie, I just got attacked yesterday. You tried to hurt the guy with a fork and fainted by sneezing your head off."
His face was unreadable but I noticed how embarrassed he was about everything.
"Add thed? Whad happedd to the guy?"
He wiped his nose on his sleeve and got a black look from me in return as I pushed a box of tissues towards him.
"Ranger came and helped me to get rid of that guy. He's in prison right now. Oh, he also helped me to get your sorry ass on my couch again."
He blushed a little and didn't reply. Reluctantly he snatched a couple of tissues out of the box, turned away from me and tried to blow his nose with little success. Somehow I felt sorry for him. Only a little, tiny bit.
I was enjoying his current condition way too much.
I handed him a cup of tea, thanks to my thermo can it was still quite hot.
He took a sip from the steaming liquid and winced.
"Yeah, I forgot. Your throat hurts. What about some honey?"
Once again I got his typical never-kid-a-Morelli-look but I didn't leave him a choice. I spooned some honey into his tea and forced him to drink it, even though he was protesting a lot.
"You better do what I say, otherwise you'll faint again. You need to rest and to be taken care of, at least for a day."
"And what is if I don't want to take a day off?"
"Then I'll tell Vinnie about your little fainting act. I think he'd love to tease you with that for half an eternity."
Morelli groaned and rested his head on his crossed arms.
"So we okay?"
He mumbled something incoherent into his arms.
I knew what I had to do.
"Ahh, my fingers are itching. I think I need to dial Vinnie's num…"
"Yeah, fine. Deal."
A winning smile spread across my face.
Oh sweet victory.
* * * The End * * *