Disclaimer: All property of JE
"I'm worried about Hal," Stephanie said.
Ranger glanced over at her. They were on the stairs, climbing up to Ranger's office. (The elevator was still indisposed, a fact that Stephanie was reminded of with every aching step.)
"I mean, he seems all - jittery," Stephanie explained. "Like yesterday, when he saw me in the hallway, he turned bright red and ran into a door."
"What were you wearing?"
Stephanie rolled her eyes. "Oh, the usual. Leather thong and spandex."
Ranger smiled. "Too bad I missed it."
She was going to give herself a brain hemorrhage with all the eye-rolling. She made herself stop.
"I'm serious. And it's not just Hal. The other day, I went to the bar with him and Lester and when I woke up the next morning, they'd burned my window down."
Ranger stopped, mid-step. "Your window?"
"They said they were making a flaming mojito."
"Babe. No self-respecting man would drink a mojito."
She frowned. "What were they really up to, then?"
At that moment, Lester was in the RangeMan kitchen, doing his best to divert Ella's attention.
"Ella, did you do something new with your hair?" he asked, propping himself against the counter.
Ella was refilling the fruit bowl. "Lester, you know I can't give you any more donuts. Ranger doesn't want you all to get fat and embarrass him."
"Aw, Ella, I didn't mean it like that. I was just thinking how nice you look today."
She gave him a look that could have scalded water. "Lester..."
"Yes?" he said innocently.
"I am not one of those women, what you call cougars," Ella said, opening the cupboard to restock the coffee beans. "You are a nice boy, Lester, but I am very happy with my Louis."
Lester could feel his face go hot. "Uh, Ella, I didn't mean.."
"I admit, Louis has been getting along," Ella continued. "He's getting a bit heavy around the middle and he's not so good in the sack these days, but I still love him."
Lester felt slightly nauseous. Ella was like a second mom to everyone at RangeMan. He did not want to think of her in that way.
"So don't feel bad, Lester." Ella began wiping the counter. "You are a very nice looking boy. You have nice muscles. I'm sure lots of nice girls would like you." Ella gave him a maternal pat.
"Actually, Ella, I'm quite good in that department-"
"You could talk to Louis. He'll give you some pointers. He may not look it now, but when he was younger...oh..." Ella gave a longing sigh.
Lester was momentarily speechless.
Ella gave him one last pat. It felt almost pitying. "Or is it...that? Because you can get medication for it. I have a friend who works in pharmacy. I can get something for you. I'll be very discreet, Lester, you needn't be embarrassed."
This was too much. Even for Lester.
"Ella," he said, grabbing her by the shoulders. "There's nothing wrong with...that. Actually, it's - it's doing very well."
She smiled understandingly. "I understand. You don't feel comfortable talking to me about it." She lowered her voice. "I'll talk to my friend in pharmacy and get you something on Monday." She turned and began packing up her things.
At that moment, Hal appeared at the doorway. He tossed Lester a keycard, which Lester caught with a dazed expression.
"I think you dropped this, Ella," Lester said, handing the keycard to her.
She looked at the plastic card confusedly. "Thank you. I hadn't realized I'd taken it out of my bag." She frowned and then turned her attention back to Lester. "Lester, I hope I didn't make you too uncomfortable-"
But Lester had already gone, the door swinging behind him.
Five minutes later, he was cornering Hal in the men's washroom.
"How did it go?" Lester demanded.
"I did what you said. I put that little cube thing in Rangers bedroom. Right beside his bed."
Lester froze. "Right beside his bed?"
Hal gave him a hurt expression. "Les, I'm not stupid. I hid it behind a clock."
Lester breathed out a sigh of relief.
The little cube was a device that emitted electromagnetic waves that interfered with one's thought patterns. More specifically, it adjusted them to a more romantic frequency. Lester had seen it online and bought it in a heartbeat. It was a stroke a genius, if he did say so himself. He had pinched the keycard to Ranger's apartment from Ella and while he distracted her, Hal had gone upstairs and planted the cube where it could radiate romantic thought processes into Ranger's head.
Lester grinned to himself. This time next morning, Ranger's thought patterns would revolve around nothing but Stephanie. It was perfect.
His grin diminished somewhat at the thought that several old ladies would soon be discussing the defects of his balls.
Hal, on the other hand, was slowly inching away. His forehead still ached from his five stitches.
Lester, in his opinion, had gone off the deep end. The only reason he had gone along with him this time was because Lester had threatened to reveal his stash of Barney DVDs to the others. As for the fact that Ranger would find out what they'd done and kill them, he had resigned himself to that inevitability long ago. He sighed. He should have listened to Mama...
The next morning, Lester jogged up to Ranger's apartment and knocked on the door. He was grinning to himself. He imagined Ranger inside, composing love sonnets to Bombshell.
However, the Ranger who opened the door looked as cool and unruffled as usual.
He raised an eyebrow when he saw Lester.
"Just wanted to bring you this," Lester said, handing him a manila envelope. Ranger still had his eyebrow raised, so Lester explained: "I just thought you might want to see it. Right away. They're reports from that new contract we got."
Ranger took the envelope and began flipping through the papers inside.
Lester felt disappointed, then reminded himself that maybe it took time for the electromagnetic waves to work. Maybe he hadn't just spent $250.00 for nothing.
"So, uh, how're you feeling?" Lester said. Surely there had to be some effect.
Ranger looked up and something changed in his expression. "Actually..." he said. He stepped into the hallway, advancing towards Lester.
Lester took an automatic step back. He suddenly found himself pressed against the hallway wall. Ranger leaned forward and placed an arm on the wall beside him.
"Now that you mention it," Ranger said, but his voice had grown lower. Huskier. "I feel kind of...strange, Lester."
The husky voice. The arm against the wall. The hungry expression on Ranger's face.
"Maybe you should go back to bed," Lester said, leaping away from Ranger. "Sleep it off."
And, without waiting for a reply, he threw open the stairwell door and ran down the stairs.
He burst into the control room. Tank and the other RangeMan employees were at their cubicles, passing around contraband boxes of donuts.
"STAY AWAY FROM RANGER!" Lester half-yelled, half-panted.
Bobby frowned. "Les, what's wrong?"
"Ranger - Ranger's not feeling very good today," Lester said, trying to modulate his voice so that he didn't sound like a crazy person. "So nobody go near ten feet of him, all right?"
The RangeMan employees exchanged looks. "Lester," Binky said. "You seem kinda stressed. Here. Have a donut. You'll feel better."
Lester shook his head frantically. "NO! Listen to me! Nobody. Goes. Near. Ranger."
And then he turned and bolted for the washroom.
There was a beat of silence in the control room as they registered what had happened.
"Maybe Ranger's got gas?" Binky suggested.
The others nodded with dawning realization. Ah. Gas. That made sense. They returned to their work and the box of donuts.
Lester, meanwhile, was hyperventilating in the bathroom.
The electromagnetic waves had worked all right. But not in the way they were supposed to. The romantic thought processes were supposed to be directed solely towards Bombshell.
Instead, it had created a sex-crazed Ranger that was a danger to anyone around him.
What had he done?
He had interfered with nature and fate and created an abomination.
There was no way out of this now. Lester felt a craven urge to curl up in a fetal position.
What had he done?
"That was evil."
Ranger turned and was greeted by the sight of Stephanie sipping a cup of coffee.
He shrugged. "He shouldn't have put that thing in my room."
He'd found the electronic device right before he'd gone to bed and researched its origin and capabilities. After Lester had shown up acting strange, he'd put two and two together.
"But it was kinda sweet," Stephanie said. "I mean, him wanting to hook us up with that."
"Babe." Ranger gave her a look. "That's not all he did."
Stephanie frowned. "Huh?"
"The elevator," he explained. "I've been thinking about it and the rats thing never made sense. I'm guessing it was Lester who tampered with the elevator so we could get some personal time in there."
Stephanie looked at him incredulously. "That's crazy."
"And he probably got Hal to go along," Ranger continued. "That explains why he was acting so weird."
Stephanie giggled. "Poor Hal. Poor Lester."
"I mean, they went through all that effort and..." She shook her head, still smiling. "So, when should we tell them?"
"That we've already been going out for the past month."
"Let's give it a few days. Right before I send Lester and Hal off on an extended business assignment abroad."
"Don't be so hard on them. They meant well."
"Well, I might just change my mind. If I get in a better mood," Ranger said, taking Stephanie's hand and leading her towards the bedroom.
Under his breath, he muttered, "like I need any help in the romance department", before leaning down to cover Stephanie's mouth with a kiss.
A/N: And...that's it! Drop by a review and let me know what you thought about this story. :)