Author: Ren Kayashima
Disclaimer: It is sad to say that my attempt to get the rights to the Stephanie Plum characters was unsuccessful. They still belong to Janet Evanovich, who is one lucky person for having a mind like that.
September 17, 2011
Ranger sat in his office staring at the screen. He was trying to go over some reports that had been submitted by his employees, but he found his progress stalled by thought about the disastrous family dinner the night before. After Abuela feinted, things only got worse. At least that's the way they entire family chose to see it, and Ranger had a hard time disagreeing.
Although, Allegra had gotten over her issues pretty quickly compared to Stephanie who had come into the office looking irritated and sleep deprived. She had made Ranger sleep on the couch as punishment for not properly notifying his family of some of the more striking features in her family.
"Mom, stop getting on Ranger's case about it," Allegra's voice popped into his head. She had taken the side of 'Team Ranger' and he was grateful. "He's only human. With hackers making security more difficult, he's under a lot of pressure from clients to make sure all of their assets are protected. Then there's the mystery car bomber, and let's not forget Gram's constant bombardment when it comes to wedding plans. Cut him some slack."
This only did little to help his case because of mama bear instincts, but he had an ally, and it couldn't be a more important one, he thought.
Lupe, the ever curious cat, wouldn't stop asking questions about Allegra's existence, and Cayden's presence. Towards the end of dinner, Cayden choked on his wine when good ol' Abuela asked if the English professor ever felt emasculated around her grandson. However, Cayden played the part of sophisticated New Yorker. He swallowed, gave a gentle smile, and explained that despite the machismo that Ranger exuded, Cayden didn't really feel emasculated. As a gay man, he certainly didn't feel threatened. After all, Cayden's attraction was geared more towards the scholar.
The night could end at dinner though. That would be too easy. Far too easy.
There was a knock on his door, and Ranger looked away from his computer to break his train of thought.
"Come in," he said quickly.
The door opened and Julie hobbled in on crutches. "Hey, Dad," she greeted.
"How are you getting along on those," Ranger asked pointed the pen he held in his hands at the ambulation devices. At least, that's what the medical bill would call them.
"I don't like them," Julie grumbled. "At least Allegra only has a dislocated wrist. I had to end up with a fractured ankle."
Ranger leaned back in his seat with a blank stare. "How's the pain?" he asked. He clicked the pen a few times as he waited for his daughter to answer. He gave a minute shake of his head while Julie messed with the boot on her foot.
"Pain killers are okay, but it's hard to focus in school," Julie grumbled and she reached for a pen to scratch her leg. Ranger pulled his pen cup away from her and she glared at the cup. "Zook gave me his notes to look at later though," she said as she dug a finger in the boot.
"Stupid dog," Ranger said.
Julie snapped her head up. "Don't call Duke stupid. It's not his fault!" she said harshly.
"You have a fractured ankle and Allegra has a dislocated wrist. That means she can't practice or perform in orchestra until it heals," Ranger said simply. "Duke caused all of this."
"He's just a dog," Julie said. "He was over excited, and he wanted to get out of the house."
"Right," Ranger said dully as he thought about the previous night's horrible end.
"You have a dog?" Carmen asked with a small smile. She had been talking with the two teenagers about school and Allegra had mentioned that after school, the Wonderland Brigade would take a walk with their dogs in the park.
"He's a Great Dane," Allegra nodded enthusiastically. "I named him Duke because most people wouldn't understand where I go the name Orsino."
"You like Shakespeare?" Carmen asked happily. "Most kids your age have lost an interest in such important part of literature. They're too concerned with things like Facebook, Twitter, and this tumblr thing I keep hearing about."
Allegra and Julie exchanged knowing glances. The two of them fell in between the two extremes, as did most teens. However, they were closer to the more knowledgeable group of peers.
"Did you notice that all the streets in this neighborhood are named after characters and some places in Shakespearian plays?" Julie asked. "We live in the Midsummer Night's Dream area of the neighborhood."
"Do you really?" Carmen replied sounding overjoyed.
Ranger let out a sigh. Things had finally calmed down. Lupe had a pleasant look on her face as she watched the teens talk with her daughter-in-law. Antonio and Cayden were off in a corner discussing the stock market.
"Can we see the dog?" Lupe asked suddenly.
"Duke?" Allegra asked as she blinked. "Well, I should take him for a walk… Would you perhaps like to join me and Julie?"
"Julie and I," Cayden corrected her as he looked away from Antonio.
Allegra rolled her eyes. "Would you like to join Julie and I?" she repeated.
"That would be perfect, Carlos," Lupe looked at her grandson. "You'll be coming with, of course,"
"Of course, Abuela," Ranger said. "As is, Julie and Allegra are not allowed to go out alone."
"Com off it, Ranger," Allegra said with a scoff as she crossed her arms.
"You've got to stop listening to Harry Potter book tapes…" Julie muttered.
Fifteen minutes later, Julie and Allegra were walking ahead of their parents and the elder Manosos. They spoke quietly of their classes and their upcoming school events.
"So, Stephanie," Carmen smiled gently. "Carlos told me that you're a bounty hunter."
"Yeah," Stephanie drew out slowly. "I mostly get my FTA's with large amounts of luck and determination."
"Well, at least the only man you need to catch is walking right by you." Lupe chuckled.
The large group was walking by a playground and Julie broke away from the group. Allegra walked on the edge of the park with her wrist wrapped in the least. Ranger stopped walking and with a bemused grin, he watched Julie swing across the monkey bars.
Carmen tapped Stephanie on the shoulder. "Walk with me?" she asked.
Stephanie nodded with a wry smiled and followed Carmen to a small walking path. The hairs on the back of her neck raised slightly as Ranger took a moment to watch them. Stephanie glanced over her shoulder, and though she couldn't meet his penetrating dark eyes in the dark, she knew that they were looking right at each other.
"How often does he tell you that he loves you?" Carmen asked looking back at her son.
Stephanie blushed and she was glad for the cover of darkness. "He makes sure I know," she answered.
"Good," Carmen nodded. "I must say, when he told us that you and he were engaged, I was a little surprised. I was under the impression that the two of you weren't in a committed relationship."
Stephanie clasped her hands behind her back as they slowed their pace. How awkward it felt to be having a conversation with her own personal Batman's mom. She shrugged and looked at the stars just barely visible. "Things change," Stephanie said. "After Ranger… Carlos."
"You can call him Ranger, if you like," Carmen said simply. I think he prefers it actually. Carlos has always been a name he begrudgingly responds to."
Stephanie nodded. "Right. After Ranger found out about Alleg-" Stephanie was cut off by a high pitched scream.
"Duke!" Cayden shouted.
Stephanie turned to see Allegra being dragged across the lawn as she yelled. "Ow, ow, ow!"
Duke broke free, and his leash dragged behind him. He ran towards the playground right at Julie. The Great Dane jumped up onto the structure and knocked Julie off her perch. The fifteen year old yelped and fell hard on the ground.
Stephanie left Carmen's side and ran over to Allegra. "Allie!" she shouted. Her voice was anxious and twisted in fear.
Ranger was running towards Julie. She was clutching her ankle as she sobbed loudly. Stephanie looked at him as she crouched next to Allegra as she clutched her arm. She was crying silently.
"Allie what happened?" Stephanie asked frantically.
"There was a raccoon," Allie forced out between dry sobs.
Cayden joined her and pulled Allegra's arm away from her curled up body. "Come on, sweetie, let me see your arm," Cayden whispered. He looked at Stephanie. "I've got this, check on Julie. It looks like Allegra's wrist is dislocated. We'll have to take her to a doctor to determine severity, though. I can't just pop it back in and expect it to be okay. There might be ligament or tendon damage."
Stephanie brushed Allie's bangs out of her face and stood up. She didn't really want to leave the two, but she also wanted to know if Julie was okay. She jogged over to the playground where Ranger was examining the other teenager's ankle.
"It might be broken," Ranger said as he looked up at Stephanie. "What happened?"
"There was a raccoon," Stephanie said simply she didn't really have anything else to say to Ranger. What could she say?
Ranger took a deep breath bringing him back to the present moment. He looked at Julie once more. He had hoped that Stephanie and his mother were able to talk for a little bit, but a trip to the Emergency Room for both Julie and Allegra dashed all hopes for this. And it was all the dog's fault.
"How long is Allegra going to be away from the piano and violin?" Julie asked. "She can't play with her arm wrapped up."
"About two months," Ranger said. "Leaning on crutches is going to be hard on your choir practice, too."
"Mr. Wong has me sitting in a chair," Julie said. Her face lit up. "I forgot! Grandma and Abuela wanted me to tell you something. They're making enchiladas tonight. Stephanie already told them they could use the kitchen. I think they're getting along well now that the first night has passed."
Ranger suppressed the urge not to snort. His Abuela was the one that screamed and somehow he was the one that ended up sleeping on a couch.
Meanwhile, Allegra sat on her mother's desk. Her right wrist was wrapped in fabric bandages and held in a black plastic brace. Stephanie pulled out two snickers out of her desk and handed one to Allegra. She had some difficulty opening the chocolate bar at first.
Stephanie rapped on the top of Allegra's knee. "What are you thinking about?" she asked when Allie looked up.
"Do you want to have a wedding?" Allie asked quietly. She wanted to make sure that nobody would hear her.
Stephanie blinked. "Why would you ask something like that?" Stephanie asked sitting up straighter. "Of course, I want to marry Ranger."
"That's not what I asked," Allegra said defiantly. "A marriage and a wedding are two different things. Do you want a wedding?" she said the last word slowly to get her point across.
Stephanie's face fell as she looked at her hands. She had been asking herself this for over a month now, and she had to wonder why she didn't have an answer. It shouldn't be hard. You either wanted a wedding, or you don't. That was the way it worked, right? "I don't know," she admitted. She looked back up. "Why?"
Allie shrugged and swallowed a bite of her chocolate bar. She looked at her mom through her shaded glasses. "You just seemed overwhelmed is all. Maybe the wedding plans are just making things worse. I mean if you want one it would be something else entirely, but if you don't, then aren't you putting yourself through a lot of unnecessary grief?"
Author's Note: There! You get an update in two weeks. Awesome… I guess. It's now time to move the plot along a bit. Some more on the mystery bomber. Some answers about the wedding. More family development. Leave me a review and I'll try to get to get a chapter out soon. I'd have another chapter out now, but this month is the month of midterms for all five of my classes. That means essays, tests, and projects.