Everyone familiar belongs to Janet. Mistakes are mine.
"So it happened?"
This was the question that greeted Ranger and I when we ventured out of his apartment the next morning and headed down to the fifth floor.
"If you mean that Stephanie has agreed to move into Seven with me," Ranger said, "then yes, it did happen."
"'Bout damn time," Lester told us.
"We were starting to give up hope," Bobby added.
"Thanks for reminding me of what a stubborn idiot I've been," I told the room.
"You weren't the only one who was being stubborn, Babe."
I cut my eyes to him. "I notice that you didn't agree to being an idiot too."
"People will believe I'm stubborn to an absolute fault, but no one will ever accuse me of being an idiot. And you aren't one either. Stubborn, yes, but you were smarter than both of us at times."
"Like smart for breaking into your apartment and stealing your beer?" I teased, since that's sorta what got us to this point.
Both of us seemed tired of fighting what's between us and decided yesterday in his kitchen to finally give into it.
"You didn't break in, and you weren't stealing. I gave you a key fob for a reason ... what's mine is yours. But to answer your question ... yes," he said, curling an arm around me and pulling me back to him for a mostly-innocent kiss.
Sure, it was a bit embarrassing hearing a round of cheers erupt as Ranger's lips moved against mine, but I was too distracted with how accepted I feel to be worried about engaging in PDAs with the Boss.
"Does this mean you're working for us?" Ram asked, when Ranger had retracted his lips.
"No. Stephanie's working for me," the Bat-Boss corrected, "but with all of you here."
"Sorry, Sir. No offense meant."
I glanced at Ranger again. "Does Rangeman have classes that teach people how to respond and apologize quickly like that?" I asked. "I'd like to sign my mom and Morelli up, maybe a few others, if it does."
"Speaking of that," Ranger said to our audience, "Stephanie's mother and Detective Morelli are not cleared to step foot on Rangeman property. If I find either one on this side of the security gate, I won't be happy ... and neither will be the man who allowed them entrance. That rule stands even if they're riding shotgun to someone who's been given permission to visit. Santos and Hal, you've been chosen to pack up everything at Steph's place so no one ambushes her there. You can put your immature games to some use."
I don't even have to voice my immediate concerns anymore. I should know by now that Ranger would be able to accurately predict what my mother or Morelli will try, and has already prepared for whichever attempt they go with. When Ranger first suggested it, I had to admit I was all for hiding out here while my apartment is being stripped.
One man nodded at Ranger's order, while the other's mouth kicked up into a cocky grin.
"We're happy for you two," Halosaurus told us, likely just to break the sudden silence and palpable tension a potential emotional-terrorist attack had caused.
"Got it, Boss," Lester replied, before turning to Hal. "You are so toast."
"We are happy for you guys," Vince added, cutting off Lester's impending smack talk. "Work's gonna be fun."
"Like it isn't already?" I asked. "With one or more of you being shot at or threatened at least once a day. You guys are totally nuts for calling that a perk of the job."
"Yeah, but with you being along for the ride," Lester explained, "we're given permission to do everything in our power to protect you, so our hands are a lot less tied so to speak."
"Okay, so now you're looking forward to partnering-up with me?" I said back. "Just so you can do a little more ass-kicking, or kick said ass a little harder, instead of looking like you drew the short straw anytime you were given Stephanie-duty?"
Lester crossed his arms defensively over his chest. "What? You think you're the only one who can grow up?"