NEW PLUM ARCHIVE OPEN That's right folks, this isn't a new story, and I haven't added a second chapter. I'm shamelessly plugging a new user upload archive specifically for Plum fanfic and I would really love it if y'all moseyed on over and had a gander. Maybe even uploaded your own stories and had a play in the shout box. plum [dot] meta101 [dot] com for those who are interested. It's open to everyone, and comes with the tagline all characters, all pairings, all welcome. The aim is to become a hub for readers and authors alike to interact, hopefully creating a unified and friendly community. Hope to see you there!

Okay, now onto the real story that you may have already read.

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Title: Paradoxical Intervention

Summary: He doesn't tell her anything. He likes his secrets. She hates them, they eat her up inside until she finds herself entangled in a mess bigger than she can handle.

Fandom: Stephanie Plum

Pairing: Steph/Ranger

Spoilers: Errr... nothing specific?

Warnings: Coarse Language, Nudity

Rating: R

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The plot is the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

A/N: Okay so this is my first foray into the insane world of Stephanie Plum. Also, I tried really hard to write this in first person, but it's just not my style. I felt like the literature police were going to bust down my door at any moment, accusing me of various crimes against fiction. No offense to those of you who write in first person, it's a perfectly valid form of narrative. And after all, Janet does it with aplomb.

Secondly, I like Joe. So this is entirely Joe friendly. After years of being involved in fandoms that have had rather vicious shipper wars I have become very tolerant of various ships and am known to bounce around a lot. There will be no Joe bashing here.

Next, Ranger has short hair. I can't stand men with long hair and the only reason I tolerate it in the books is because the series started in the nineties, when women swooned over long hair ALL. THE. TIME. I do not. Therefore my Ranger? No fucking ponytail. Deal with it.

Also, if you don't like slightly obscure subtext heavy writing styles, I wouldn't bother with this one. I don't write sappy fluff and I don't write 'spell it out' for the morons romance. If you do like oddly written fic with its fair share of profanity and angst (which what this is), you would do well to check out some of my Harry Potter fic.

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He's not like her. He's darker. More controlled. And a fuckload more mysterious.

He doesn't tell her anything. He likes his secrets. She hates them, they eat her up inside until she finds herself entangled in a mess bigger than she can handle.

He always finds her. No matter where she is, no matter what case she's working on or whose business she's sticking her nose into, he's there. Saving her ass.

Which is why she's sitting in the passenger seat of a black Tacoma desperately trying to ignore the never ending silence stretching between them.

He probably doesn't even notice it's awkward. It's probably pleasant to him. Either that or he loves torturing her with his mental fucking strength.

Yeah, it's probably that last one.

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"Tank's installed another one of those entry alarms."

She flicked her head around and raised an eyebrow, pausing momentarily as she tugged off her shoes. He closed the door gently behind him.

"You know the one-"

"I know what you mean. I don't need it, Copuzzi's dead. I shot him."

"Fuck, Steph..." he trailed off and ran a hand over his newly shorn head. "I just want you to be safe, okay?"

"I don't need your protection. I'm doing just fine on my own." Shuffling into the kitchen she rummaged around in the back of the cupboard, eventually coming across a packet of crackers and an animal treat. Dropping them into Rex's cage she reached in and gave him a scratch under the chin. "You can look after me, can't you Rex?"

"He's a goddamn hamster, Babe." Frustration was mingling with anger in his voice and she though it a good time to cut the conversation short.

"Whatever. I'll get Bob for a few nights. I'm going to bed." His hand went to rest on her arm but she tugged it away.

"Bob would probably lick an intruder to death," he said, matter of factly. His eyes were cold and still, and his mouth set in a stoic line.

She ignored him, instead moving towards the bathroom to floss and brush. There was silence behind her and she assumed he was still, watching her with that dark expression he gets when she's ignored his offers of security.

The cold tiles pressed against the soles of her feet and she scrunched up her toes in a useless attempt to keep the blood flowing. The air in the apartment was almost as cold as the tiles, but neither could match up to the atmosphere. He was watching her, she could feel it.

"Why won't you let me love you?"

Her hand jerked to a stop and she spat out the frothy mixture of spit and toothpaste. Small streaks of blood marred its white appearance and she screwed up her nose, spinning the faucet to wash it down the drain. Her eyes fell on his reflection, leaning against the door, both arms placed on either side of the frame. His expression had gone from closed and cold, to intense, washing over her in a way that made her almost forget her irritation.

Eyes stared back at her in the mirror, repeating the question in a way she was far less comfortable with, and a chill ran down her spine.

She ignored him, instead continuing with her evening routine: systematically removing the day-old, smeared, heavy, eye makeup and foundation, and drying her face off with the towel that was hanging over the shower door. She had been using the same one for the past week, but after the events of the evening, was beyond caring about the stale smell.

He was still at the door, completely stationary, gaze burning a hole through her thin tee shirt.

"Get outta my way."

He didn't move. She huffed and instead moved to stand right in front of him. After a few moments of glaring angrily into his still frighteningly-intense eyes she ducked under his arm and entered the bedroom. Glancing over her shoulder she looked at the line of his back, slightly hunched from the position he was in. He straightened slowly, leaning further into the doorway momentarily before dropping his hands to his sides.

She shoved her jeans over her hips and kicked them off, then tugged her shirt over her head and removed her bra. It took a few moments of rifling through her drawers before she eventually came up with an old shirt of Joe's that was emblazoned with the Trenton Police Department emblem. She had barely managed to pull it over her bare breasts before hands had slid up her sides in a long stroke, lifting her arms with the movement and dragging the top back over her head.

"Let me love you, Steph." He tossed the shirt to the corner of the room and rested his head on her hair. His hands slid back down her sides until they came to rest on her waist, gripping gently; his fingers almost touching in the middle, revealing the alarming weight loss she had suffered thanks to her latest escapades.

She took a shuddering breath and covered her breasts with her hands, suddenly feeling far more exposed than she had moments earlier.

"Go home."

His hands left her waist and gripped her forearms instead, pulling them gently away from her chest. She screwed her eyes shut and pressed her lips together.

"Go home, Carlos."

A finger traced her protruding ribs and she felt a tear slide down her cheek. The finger was replaced by the palm of his hand, which traveled lower, sliding past her bruised stomach and hips, coming to rest on the bandage covering the top part of her thigh.

"I can't lose you, Steph."

She gripped his wrist and shoved his hand away, jerking her body out of contact of his, she headed for the discarded shirt.

"Occupational hazard, Babe," she snapped, not bothering to glance over her shoulder at his reaction. She swiped the tear away quickly and crouched down, reaching for the old tee shirt. His hands had her before she could pull it back on, picking her up effortlessly and spinning her around. She was against the wall before she knew what was happening, and the moonlight fell on her naked chest, revealing more bruises than she had cared to remember.

"Let me love you." His forehead had come to rest against hers and his hands were back at her shoulders, pinning her against the ugly wallpaper. His eyes shimmered in the dark and she felt a shaky breath hit her lips.

"And what? Hang around for as long as you want me? Until you're bored or you decide not to come back from one of those stupid fucking missions of yours? Until you convince me you want me forever right before you toss me aside for some random piece of ass? I don't think so." She felt her body quiver in anger, her hands clenched so hard she thought her fingernails were going to tear through the skin on the palms of her hands.

His hands had moved to her jaw, gently cupping her face as he pulled his head back a little. She shoved him hard in the chest and he rocked back on his feet.

"It's only you, Steph. Ever since that stupid, fucking day in the cafe when you asked me if you needed a gun to be a bounty hunter," he snorted. He reached for her but she shrunk away from his hand.

"I'm not a toy for you to play with, Ranger," she murmured, sliding down the wall slowly until she was crouched on the floor, face turned up towards him, knees allowing her bruised torso to be hidden from view. "I can't let you love me if you don't want to do it forever. And don't bother saying it will be, because we both know that you don't do relationships."

He crouched in front of her and rubbed his hands up and down her legs. "You don't get it, do you?"

"There's nothing to get. I'll give everything to you and all I'll get back'll be crappy snippets of whatever leftovers you can give me. I don't want that."

"I want to give you everything."

She gave him what she considered her unimpressed face and looked towards the window. "Yeah, well your version of everything and my version are about as far apart as versions of shit can get, so forget it. Just go home and forget the past few weeks ever happened."

"Shit, Steph you nearly died. I'm not going to forget that in a hurry."

"Yeah, well once the adrenaline has worn off I'm sure you'll go back to thinking straight."

"Look who you're talking to." He grabbed her chin with one hand and turned it towards him. "If anyone knows about the effects of stressful situations it's me. It's not the adrenaline."

She rolled her eyes and looked back towards the window.

"Do you love Morelli?"

She nodded.

"Do you love me?"

She paused momentarily, but nodded again.

"Can you see yourself giving Morelli what he wants? Two and a half kids and a dog?"

"He's already got the dog."

He snorted and she met his eyes, smiling softly.

"Can you see yourself giving me what I want?" he asked softly.

"What do you want?"

"Just you."

She let out a shaky breath and closed her eyes. "Can we draw up some kind of contract that gives me the legal right to castrate you with a rusty knife if you get bored with me for no apparent reason?"

She felt shaking and looked back at him. His face was split in a wider grin than she had ever seen on him, and he was laughing silently, eyes glistening in the moonlight.

"I'll take that as a yes?"

He slowly stopped laughing and reached down, picking her up from the floor. She wrapped herself around him, legs encircling his waist as he pressed her against the wall once again.

"Whatever it takes, Babe. Just let me love you."

"Okay."

End.