DISCLAIMER: CSI and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS.
SPOILERS: Brief mention of "Jackpot," but I moved the timeline of the episode to season six to fit my needs.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

A Road Trip to Remember
By Ann


Part 1

There is nothing that compares to the feeling of completing a case especially when justice for the victim is the end result. The problem is you barely get to enjoy the natural high because another case is right around the corner, and you find yourself back at square one fighting once again for yet another victim. Oh well, a short-lived victory is better than none at all.

Noticing there is only fifteen minutes left in my shift; I can't help but smile as I will get to savor my victory for another sixteen hours. Gathering my things, I turn to leave only to find Catherine standing in the doorway. Crap. If she is seeking me out, this can't be good.

Catherine looks a bit apologetic as she says, "Sara? I have a huge favor to ask of you. Grissom called and asked me to meet him in Jackpot, Nevada to help him work the 'head' case. Mom is out of town, and I can't get a sitter for Lindsey. Um . . . it's about a ten hour drive. If you'll do this, I promise I'll work your next two shifts when you return."

What? Huge favor, my ass, this is what I classify as a 'whopper.' I open my mouth to answer with a resounding no when Catherine adds, "Sofia is going to go too. Grissom is having a bit of trouble with the law up there so Brass is sending Sofia to act as a buffer."

My jaw clamps down on my negative response as visions of taking a road trip with the object of my affection rapidly fill my brain. We'll be alone with no one to interrupt, just she and I in a car for hours. Before I know it, I have agreed to Catherine's favor.

At seven thirty, Sofia meets me at the lab with her overnight bag, and together we walk to the Yukon. Catherine has arranged for us to use her vehicle since it was already packed with the items Grissom requested. I add my kit to the back along with our luggage.

Sofia offers to drive the first leg so that I can get some sleep, and I agree although I'm not sure how much sleep I'll get with Sofia so near.

Climbing into the vehicle, we find driving directions on the front dash. They are handwritten but give the names of the interstates and highways. It even lists the approximate number of miles we have to travel on each. I glance at it to note roughly 600 miles will be on the interstate and the last 70 miles on a lesser traveled road. I breathe a sigh of relief knowing we'll be in civilization for most of the trip.

Sofia smoothly enters the freeway ramp to I-15 N, and we're officially on our way. This particular stretch will be the longest at over four hundred miles, but there are plenty of towns and cities along the way to stop for gas and refreshment. Sofia switches the radio to an easy listening station, and I fall asleep by the third song.

Five hours later, I awake with a feeling of loneliness. As I open my eyes, I find myself alone in the SUV. I quickly sit up and take notice of my surroundings. We are parked next to a set of gas pumps, and there appears to be a small food mart to the right.

Sofia steps out of the doors with a bag and two cups. I'm hoping they are filled with coffee. Right about now, I could even drink some of the sludge Nick is famous for.

I jump out of the Yukon and take the bag and one of the cups from her hand. Taking a tentative sip, I am surprised by the flavorful taste and equally surprised the coffee is made exactly the way I like it. How did Sofia know how I take my coffee?

Glancing in the bag, I find everything from chips to M&M's. Using my investigative skills, I determine Sofia must be a junk food junkie. I reach in and pull out a bag of my favorite treat, powdered sugar donuts. Smiling, I crawl back into the vehicle. We definitely have the makings of the perfect road trip.

Sofia retakes the wheel and says, "I'll drive until we get to Interstate 80. We only have about an hour left on this stretch of highway. Why don't you try to get a little more sleep?"

Is she kidding? I haven't slept for five straight hours in . . . well, I don't remember. Besides, after I drink this coffee and consume half of these donuts, I'll be on the caffeine and sugar rush train until tomorrow.

We enjoy a pleasant conversation for the next hour. I've learned quite a bit about Ms. Sofia Curtis. It seems she's had a few parental issues in her life as well. I know how it is to always try to please your parents. The only difference is I got the crap beat out of me even when I did accomplish something worthwhile. At least my days of looking for approval from my parents are over; poor Sofia still has to live in her mother's shadow.

She takes the I-80 exit and pulls into an empty lot for us to switch places. After a couple of minutes, I adjust the seat and mirrors and accelerate onto the freeway, only 240 miles to go. Sofia reaches into the bag and smiles as she pulls out a Hershey's Symphony bar. She even goes so far as to make little sounds of enjoyment when she takes her first bite. I wiggle in my seat as I try to keep my mind out of the gutter.

I use the next part of our journey to find out if we have anything in common. We both like to run, swim, hike, and watch movies. I've even managed to find some similarities in our differences. I'm a vegetarian, she doesn't eat red meat. She likes to dance to any music, I can handle slow dancing. I like camping out in the great outdoors; she likes to sleep in a tent. She likes football; I like to watch the cheerleaders which by the way, I didn't confess to. Now, if I could just figure out if she has really been flirting with me lately, I'd ask her out.

As we get to the exit for US-93, Sofia decides we better get something more substantial to eat since the next highway may not have much to choose from. There's not much to choose from at this exit either as I quickly glance around noting a roadside diner, a 7-11, and a gas station. I guess we'll take the diner.

I am surprised as we step into the restaurant. I was expecting the typical greasy spoon look, but everything looks to be in clean and tidy. Maybe I'll order something after all.

The waitress is very friendly and quite helpful. I was slightly pissed when she mentioned the drive from Vegas straight up US-93 was shorter, but I calmed down when she explained there was so much road construction; it would have taken us a longer amount of time. She also said we needed to be careful on the rest of the drive since the road is in pretty bad shape. Great, that's all we need; we'll probably fall in some hole and be swallowed up.

We make a stop at both the gas station and the 7-11 store before resuming our journey. Sofia purchased some more junk food along with several bottles of water. She said she wanted to be prepared in case we were stranded on the highway since the waitress also pointed out that there was very little traffic from here to Jackpot. I just think she's looking for an excuse to keep her supply of sweets from dwindling.

Twenty minutes later, we are both standing outside the Yukon with the hood up watching the steam billow from the radiator. I put my hands on my hips and turn my attention to Sofia. She gives me the most innocent look as she asks "What?"

She's got to be kidding, right? She has to know that she jinxed us with all her talk about being stranded on the highway.

I avoid her question and instead pull my cell off my hip. As I flip it open, the first thing I see is the words 'no service.' No shit. There isn't a car, truck, or tower miles from here. Sofia has pulled out her cell and apparently found the same message. She flips it shut and begins to look up and down the vehicle-free highway. I ignore her and walk the short distance to a small clump of trees. A few minutes later, a frustrated Sofia follows.

We both take a seat at the base of the larger tree and look out at the highway. Sofia turns to me and asks, "What are we going to do now?"

I close my eyes and respond, "I'm going to wait for the radiator to cool down some and then see if we can put some of your newly acquired water in it. Hopefully, it will be enough to get us to Jackpot."

Sofia doesn't reply but instead gets up and walks back to the vehicle. I open my eyes and ask, "Where are you going?"

She matter-of-factly replies, "To get our stuff. It's hotter than hell in that truck and all our food will be ruined."

I close my eyes as I mutter, "you mean all of your junk food."


Part 2

Thirty minutes later, I open my eyes to find all of our things neatly arranged around me. Shit, I fell asleep. It must be the heat or something. I didn't even stir when Sofia came back with everything. Some help I am. Oh well, time to try adding water to the radiator.

Speaking of Sofia, I glance around and wonder where she could possibly be. I can't help but smile when I remember how much water she drank at lunch.

I stand and brush off my pants when Sofia comes from around the corner of the tree scaring the ever loving shit out of me. "Fuck, don't sneak up on me like that. Where did you go?"

She grins and holds up a container of water saying, "I found a small stream behind these trees. I'd rather not use up our bottled water because we may end up needing it later."

Snatching the container from her, I start toward the Yukon. She asks if I need any help, and I reply, "No. There's no sense in both of us standing out in this heat. You stay here, and I'll call if I need you."

She nods her assent and takes a seat on the ground. What is the matter with me? Why am I snapping at Sofia? She hasn't done anything wrong. I once again blame the heat. Yes, it must be the heat.

As I step onto the shoulder of the road, I look both ways before attempting to cross the deserted highway to the truck. Laughing at the unnecessary precaution, I take a second step when a loud noise suddenly fills the air. I feel my body being lifted in the air and not so gently land somewhere on the ground behind me. An excruciating pain in my shoulder causes me to scream out in pain, and thankfully, only darkness follows.

The sound of Sofia's voice pulls me from my unconsciousness. The pain in my head keeps me from opening my eyes so I try to take in my surroundings by sound and touch alone. I seem to be lying on the ground with my head elevated. My right arm is encased in some sort of apparatus, maybe a sling. Sofia is still talking so I decide to focus in on her words.

". . . so I just wanted you to know how I feel about you." Shit, I missed the best part. How does she feel? What has she been saying? Frustrated, I shake my head. Whoa, big mistake, Sara. I immediately still my movements to keep the world from revolving too quickly. I can just imagine what it would have felt like if my eyes had been opened.

"Sara. Hey, Sara. Please wake up." Sofia's voice is filled with such anguish that I force myself to open my eyes. She leans down and lightly kisses my forehead making the effort worthwhile.

I even manage to whisper, "What happened?" She doesn't answer, but instead holds me near. I close my eyes and decide to wait for any explanations. I'm going to relish being near her for now.

Sofia finally releases me and replies, "You scared the live out of me. You've been unconscious for almost half an hour. The car exploded and knocked you twenty feet in the air. You must have landed on your shoulder because it was dislocated. I put it back in place and tied it up with one of my shirts. I didn't want to move you, but it's so hot I had to get you out of the sun."

My eyes pop wide open. The Yukon exploded? How did that happen?

Realizing that my lips aren't moving, I concentrate on asking the questions aloud. Sofia purses her lips before answering, "I really think there had to be some sort of explosive involved the way the front end lifted off the ground. If the radiator hadn't overheated when it did, we would have been incinerated."

Holy shit! A bomb?

I try to lift my head only to have Sofia hold me in place as she gently lowers my head back onto her leg. Oh my God, I'm lying on her thigh mere inches from the part of her anatomy I've only dreamed about. I have to concentrate on breathing slowly to keep from hyperventilating.

We sit in silence as we both take in the realization that we could have been killed. If Catherine had gone alone . . . Catherine! This is her truck. Could someone have tried to kill her? I look up to Sofia and ask, "Did you notice what time the Yukon exploded?"

Confused, she answers, "Around five thirty, why?" I slowly lift myself into a sitting position, and this time Sofia allows me to.

I take a few moments to make sure there is no dizziness before replying, "This was a last minute request by Grissom for Catherine to drive to Jackpot. No one knew but us."

Taking a breath I add, "Catherine picks Lindsey up at her sister's house everyday at the same time. She takes her home, and the two have dinner and visit until Lindsey's bedtime. Catherine's mother comes by later to stay with Lindsey for the night. Sofia, she picks Lindsey up at five thirty."

Sofia reflects on the information before asking, "What type of cases is Catherine currently working on?"

I close my eyes to try and remember what she's told me, a rape case that was closed when the guy admitted guilt, a robbery that only involved a few paintings, and a murder for hire case. It's got to be the murder for hire case.

I open my eyes and relay my suspicions to Sofia. She agrees but adds there's nothing we can do now. Fuck, we don't have any way to communicate. All we can do is hope someone heard the explosion and comes to our aid. I point out the Yukon has a GPS locator and maybe Archie can pinpoint our position before the bomb went off as I'm sure it's not able to function after the blast.

About an hour later, it becomes apparent that no one seems to use this road. Maybe everyone is avoiding it because of the construction the waitress talked about. Regardless, the sun is going down, and it appears we are going to have to spend the night stranded alongside the road. At least Sofia got our stuff out before the vehicle exploded.

We share a bottled water and a package of peanut butter crackers. Sofia also has some Tylenol that I gratefully accept. She makes a pillow by rolling up a pair of my jeans and covers me with a jacket. My shoulder is starting to throb like a mother, but I keep it to myself. After all, pain is a natural part of life according to the book of Sidle. That's what mom always said anyway.

I'm a bit startled when Sofia lies down next to me. She grins and says, "It's getting a little cooler, and I don't want you to catch cold. If you start shivering, that shoulder is going to hurt a lot more than it is now. Just lie still and let my body give you some warmth."

Oh Sofia honey, your body will definitely generate heat of another kind if you get any closer.

Once she gets settled, I ask, "Hey Sofia, where did you learn to put a shoulder back in place?"

Looking up at the darkening sky, she replies, "When I was in college, my roommate had a trick shoulder. I had to put it back in place all the time." She laughs and adds, "One time we were making love, and her shoulder went out at the most inconvenient time for me. We had to stop what we were doing to fix it. She did her best to make it up to me though."

I lie completely still and rerun her last few sentences through my mind focusing on the key words, she and making love. Shit, I think Sofia just came out to me or at the very least admitted to a lesbian relationship.

An awkward silence ensues as we lay side by side looking up at the sky. Sofia finally asks, "Are you uncomfortable because I'm gay?" Okay, she definitely came out to me.

I must hesitate too long because Sofia makes a move to get up. I reach out to stop her which may not have been the smartest thing to do since a rather excruciating pain shoots through my shoulder. I lie back and close my eyes trying not to cry out in pain, and Sofia quickly moves to my side to comfort me. She softly strokes my hair and speaks in soft tones. I concentrate on both the movement and her words.

Several minutes later, the pain has become bearable, and I open my eyes. Sofia continues her ministrations and asks, "Are you feeling better? How's the pain?"

I attempt to smile while replying, "It's better, but for the record I wasn't uncomfortable because you're gay. I was nervous because we both are."


Part 3

Sofia looks down at me with a serious expression before she begins to laugh uncontrollably. I personally don't see the humor in it, but it has definitely broken the ice so to speak. I fold my one good arm across my stomach and patiently wait for her to regain control.

Finally, Sofia wipes the tears from her eyes and says, "Did I ever have my signals crossed. I wanted to ask you out when we first met, but I figured you were straight. So I asked Catherine instead."

What? Sofia asked Catherine? Catherine Willows who makes it a point to flaunt every date she has ever had with a man. She thought I was straight and Catherine was gay? Sofia really needs to go in and have her gaydar tested or at least rotated and aligned.

But Catherine? Oh hell, who gives a damn anyway. She did say she wanted to ask me out so that should account for something. Wait. Could she possibly still be interested?

I open my mouth to voice my question when Sofia leans down and attaches hers to mine. Is this really happening? As if reading my mind, she lightly licks my lips to affirm my doubting question. I rise up to try to get closer and moan when the familiar stab of pain goes through my shoulder. This time I don't care, this time I'm going to persevere and reap my reward for 'being tough.'

Precious minutes later, Sofia pulls back and says, "I've always wondered what it would be like to kiss you. This definitely exceeded my expectations."

I lift back up for a repeat performance but quickly lie back down when the pain worsens. I do manage to reply, "Ditto" through my clenched teeth before closing my eyes and trying to relax as Sofia once again attends to me.

I awaken freezing, hungry, and alone. Night has fallen, and the air definitely has a chill in it. I reflexively jump when I see a light coming my way. Shit, I sure hope its Sofia because I don't think I'm up to fighting anyone in the shape I'm in.

As the flashlight comes near, I am barely able to make out Sofia's silhouette. Relieved, I ease my shivering body back down. I can't help but laugh when I see what she is carrying in her other hand. Where did she get a roll of toilet paper?

Sofia is not yet aware of my wakeful state as she sits down beside me. I take this rare opportunity to observe her even if the lighting is poor. Reaching in her travel bag, she pulls out a bottle of . . . anti-bacterial gel? Good Lord, what else does she have in that bag?

My growling stomach turns her attention to me. "Sara? How are you feeling? Would you like to try to eat something?"

A second growl answers her latter question as she reaches over and retrieves her junk food bag. Next, she very carefully helps me to sit up.

Damn, I am stiff as a board. Sofia positions me to lean against her side while she rummages through her bag. Coincidentally, my head is now in perfect alignment with her right breast, and by the looks of things, Sofia is feeling a bit chilled too. Great, now the stiffness has migrated to yet another more private part of my anatomy.

Sofia, totally unaware of what she is doing to me, triumphantly holds up two Twinkies. She carefully opens one of the packages and hands it to me. I smile my thanks and take a small bite. Sofia breaks hers in half and proceeds to use her tongue to thoroughly remove the inner filling. The image this provokes causes me to choke on the very same kind of filling she is so carefully removing.

Son of a bitch, coughing is definitely not something someone with a dislocated shoulder needs to experience. Ow, ow, ow! Sofia quickly comes to my rescue by handing me a bottle of water, but I don't think I can stop coughing long enough to take a sip.

Realizing I've got a real problem, Sofia slides behind me and braces my body against hers. At least the jarring motion has stopped as I slowly begin to relax in the safe cocoon Sofia has provided.

I finally manage to take a few sips of water as the coughing begins to subside. As long as I don't look at Sofia's half-eaten Twinkie, I think I may survive. I close my eyes and feel myself drift off once again as Sofia lightly rubs my left arm.

The next time I open my eyes, the sun is just starting to rise. It barely peeks over the small mountains as it casts an orange glow. Sofia's arms tighten around me as we are both mesmerized by the beauty of it all. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever enjoyed a sunrise with another person before. Maybe we can do this again when I'm back to one hundred percent.

Daylight finally arrives, but there are still no cars in sight. I'm beginning to get a little worried. Shouldn't there at least be a few big rigs taking this route? Is there another way to get to Jackpot that we don't know about? Surely Grissom has called looking for Catherine, and she's told him everything. Why isn't someone looking for us?

I express my worries to Sofia, but she reassures me that Grissom probably didn't call Catherine until late, and if the road is as bad as the waitress said, they more than likely wanted to wait until morning. I argue that we are beside a state highway not on some rural road so there is no reason that someone couldn't come looking for us. Sofia agrees, but says she isn't going to worry until the sun has been up for awhile.

Instead, she grabs her ever present junk bag and peers inside. Please don't let her pull out a Twinkie. I don't think I could possibly watch her stick her tongue inside one of those spongy cakes in the broad daylight. I sigh in relief when she hands me a cherry pop tart. I think I'm home free until she makes some comment about cherries. I quickly grab another bottle of water just in case.

We make it through our breakfast conversation without incident. We have even made plans for a movie and dinner on Saturday that is if we're rescued by then.

Sofia picks up our trash and places it in her 'garbage' bag. I frown when I notice it is beginning to fill up. I sure hope someone finds us before it becomes full.

Thirty minutes later, I am squirming like a worm on a hook. I really don't want to pee in the woods especially since I will more than likely need help. A few more minute pass by, and it becomes apparent that if I don't want to have an embarrassing accident, I will indeed be squatting in the bushes. I quickly work through the specifics and come up with a plan.

I'll get Sofia to undo my button, and I'll stick some of her toilet paper in my pocket. After asking her for a good location, I will be able to take things from there. What could possibly go wrong?


Part 4

Sofia unbuttons my jeans as I look down and watch her hands. I would much rather she be completing this task under different circumstances, but for right now, I'm just going to have to get over my embarrassment. It certainly doesn't seem to be phasing her any as she smiles and unrolls some toilet paper to place in my pocket. That's okay though because I'm sure I'm embarrassed enough for both of us.

I offer my thanks and turn to walk along the path Sofia told me about. She asked if I needed her to accompany me, but I quickly assured her I could manage on my own. She's going to give me fifteen minutes before she comes looking for me. Talk about incentive to try for the world's fastest 'pee' record.

Making my way down the trail, I spot a few prime locations and head for the closest one. I work the zipper down and then begin the task of getting both my jeans and underwear lowered. I'm sweating bullets by the time I am able to assume the 'squat position,' but I smile in relief as I finally empty my overflowing bladder.

I use the toilet paper, and for a minute worry if it is biodegradable. I decide it is the least of my worries at this time as I lean over to pull up my underwear and jeans. When a branch pokes me in the ass, I no longer give a rat's ass about the toilet paper as my focus turns to the possibilities of splinters. There's no way I'm going to let Sofia check for minute pieces of wood in my ass.

Sweat is dripping down my nose when I finally manage to one-handedly pull up my underwear and then my pants. The added perspiration made a difficult job almost impossible. I don't even bother to zip my jeans as I head back down the trail. I glance at my watch to see I only have three minutes left before Sofia comes to look for me.

As I near the bend to our 'camp,' I hear the distinct sound of a rattle. I slowly turn to my left to find a coiled rattlesnake looking right at me. Son of a bitch, okay Sara relax, don't act scared. It's a good thing I've already visited the shrubs or else I would be sporting a pair of wet jeans right about now.

I read somewhere that the effective strike range of a snake is usually one third to one half its length. I wonder if I could get this guy to stretch out so I can determine if it is safe for me to back away. Damn it, why didn't I bring my gun with me?

Mr. Snake is still not pleased by my presence as his rattle begins to increase in tempo. I decide to make an attempt to take baby steps backwards until I'm sure I am out of his range. The minute I move my left foot, he lifts up as if to strike. Instead, it is me who jumps when a gunshot is heard. Mr. Snake, on the other hand, no longer has a head. I watch as his body sways back and forth before hightailing it toward the smoking gun and Sofia's arms.

I don't even bother to be careful with my injured shoulder as I grab hold of my savior. Sofia wraps an arm around me but is careful to keep the gun in a safe position. Burrowing into her neck, I feel the tears come. I guess the combination of nearly getting blown up, being knocked out, dislocating a shoulder, and coming face to face with a venomous snake has finally taken its toll.

After my mini-breakdown, we check to make sure Mr. Snake is indeed dead. Rather, Sofia checked, and I looked over her shoulder. Together, we walk back to our campsite. Well, after Sofia zipped and buttoned my jeans.

When we get closer to the road, I pick up the sound of two voices, both male. I listen more intently as I motion for Sofia to stop. A few more sentences between the two makes me smile. Grissom . . . I knew he would come through sooner or later. Sofia and I both pick up our pace as we head toward our rescuers.

Grissom introduces us to Deputy Sheriff Brooks and then asks us what happened. We explain the situation in detail including the exploding Yukon. Grissom no longer pays attention to what is being said as he moves toward the charred remains of the SUV. Typical Grissom, he didn't even ask if we were okay.

As Grissom walks away, Sheriff Brooks explains the reason for the lack of traffic on the road. The highway department closed off the road from Interstate 80 to Jackpot about thirty minutes after we turned onto the highway. Traffic already on the road was allowed to continue through to their intended destination. The crew worked during the night and re-opened the road around 8:00 a.m. Everyone just assumed all the cars and trucks had made it through yesterday, and Grissom didn't call Catherine until around 6:00 a.m. to ask why she hadn't arrived. I feel better knowing no one came to check on us because they didn't know to, not because they didn't care.

Grissom walks back towards us as a highway patrol car pulls up, and Sofia and I begin to gather our things happy that we can finally get the hell out of here. As I attempt to pick up my kit, Grissom says, "Oh good, you have your kit. Bring it over, and we can begin to process the Yukon. You know you really should have started on the scene immediately. It's not often we get the opportunity to work a fresh scene."

I watch as Grissom once again makes his way across the highway.

Okay, now I am officially pissed. I am going to march over there and give him a piece of my mind. How in the hell could I process a scene when I'm unconscious? Even the great and powerful Grissom couldn't pull that off. With my mind made up, I head toward Grissom only to have the kit taken out of my hand by a faster moving Sofia.

Grissom doesn't even look up and says, "Sofia can ride into town with the highway patrolmen, and Sheriff Brooks can drive us back when we are finished with the truck. I'll have him arrange a tow, and you can go over the vehicle in one of the local garages. Bring your kit over and let's get started."

Sofia unceremoniously drops the kit at Grissom's feet and says, "Gil Grissom, you are the most self-centered person I have ever met. Now listen closely while I outline what is going to happen. That nice highway patrolman over there will drive Sara and me to the hospital for x-rays. I will call Catherine and Brass to let them know that Catherine's life may be in danger. You and Sheriff Brooks can stay out here and process this scene. If and only if Sara is cleared by the doctor then she can look over the SUV back in town. Here is your kit. We'll see you back in town."

She then turns and escorts me back to the patrol car while a stunned Grissom tries to figure out what just transpired.

Holy shit, that was hot! She is so damn sexy when she takes control. I can't help but wonder if she's the same way in the bedroom.


Part 5

The highway patrolman, State Trooper Brown, helps us load our things into his trunk as I crawl into the back seat. Sofia rides up front with the officer, and I find myself wishing she were back here with me. Disappointed, I decide that I may as well take advantage of the room so I gently lie down on the seat. The pain in my shoulder is minimal, but I am getting the worst headache. More than likely it stems from my anger at Grissom. I close my eyes and try to fill my mind with more pleasant things as I slowly drift off to sleep.

The back door of the patrol car opens jarring me from a wonderful dream involving a hot tub, strawberries, chocolate, and a naked Sofia. A hand reaches in, and upon recognition, I don't hesitate to take it. Sofia pulls me from the vehicle and points to a nearby wheelchair. I shake my head and say "Oh no, no way I'm getting in that thing. There is absolutely nothing wrong with my legs."

Compromising, she replies, "Okay for now, but if they run any tests, you're riding. Let's go see what we can find out."

She motions me ahead of her as we step through the doors of the small clinic. We are immediately met by the sister of Nurse Ratched, only her name is Nurse Walker.

The nurse thrusts some forms at us and grumpily tells us to call her when we've completed all the information. We move to a couple of rickety chairs, and I hand the papers to Sofia who looks at me confused until she realizes I can't write with my left hand.

As Sofia begins to call out the questions, it quickly becomes apparent that having her fill out the information is not such a good idea after all. Especially when questions which refer to next of kin, emergency contact, history of previous injuries, etc. are being asked of me. I feign being in pain and ask her to just fill in the necessary information like my name, age, address, and insurance. Actually, my shoulder is starting to throb, and my head has a five piece band playing in it so I didn't have to delve too deep into my playacting skills.

Filling in the minimum amount of information, Sofia calls the nurse back over and hands her the semi-completed form. Nurse Walker acts as if she is not going to accept the form until she sees the insurance information. She immediately brings us to a small room and informs us that the doctor will be with us shortly. I guess the clinic is not used to treating patients who actually have insurance which makes me wonder how qualified the doctor is.

Nervously, I adjust my sling. Maybe we should have tried to find the closest city with more than ten thousand people. I bet this place barely has a thousand. A knock at the door interrupts me before I can express my concerns to Sofia.

The door swings open to reveal a short, balding man with extremely thick glasses. He smiles and introduces himself as Doctor Welby. Please let this guy be an actual doctor and not a manifestation of the TV one. I glance at Sofia to find the ghost of a grin appear on her beautiful face as Doctor Welby brings me back to reality when he begins to unfasten my sling.

He carefully checks my range of motion much to my dismay and then uses a penlight to check my pupils. After making a few notations on a chart, he says, "We've only got an older model x-ray machine so I can check your shoulder to be sure there aren't any broken bones. I am fairly certain you have a minor concussion, but I recommend you get an MRI when you get back to Vegas. If you begin to experience headaches accompanied by dizziness and nausea, you need to be checked out immediately. I'll have Nurse Walker come back in and escort you to the x-ray machines. I'll see you when you've finished."

The minute Doctor Welby leaves the room, Sofia steps in front of me and gently caresses my face. Smiling, she says, "I know you have a headache. Do you have any of the other symptoms he described? Please be honest because if you do we're getting the hell out of here and heading for the closest hospital."

Touched by her concern, I answer, "No dizziness or nausea, and I promise to tell you immediately if either of them make an appearance." She nods her head before gently kissing my lips.

Of course, Nurse Walker chooses that exact moment to come back into the room, and she doesn't make an attempt to hide her displeasure. "Well I never. Come on let's go to x-ray. The sooner you two perverts get out of here, the better."

She turns on her heel and leaves the room expecting us to follow.

Sofia helps me up, and together we walk through the door as Sofia mutters, "Judging from her looks, I'd say she's definitely 'never.'"

Sofia leaves me at the x-ray room so that she can call Catherine and Brass but not before giving Nurse Walker a deadly glare. The older nurse just smirks and moves toward the machine. Once she has it in position, she motions me over to begin the x-rays.

Several x-rays later, I almost scream out in pain as Nurse Walker takes great joy in manipulating my shoulder in the correct position for each x-ray. Her enjoyment comes to a screeching halt when from seemingly out of nowhere Sofia steps behind her and softly says, "If you cause her anymore pain, I will not hesitate to go get my gun and shoot you."

The process goes much smoother from that point on.

Doctor Welby meets us back in the waiting area and tells us he will process the x-rays and call us with the results. Sofia gives him the name of the hotel where we'll be staying; however, I don't think it was necessary as there is only one hotel in town, and the highway patrolman said it only had five rooms. We walk out the door as Sofia opens her cell to phone State Trooper Brown while I move to the shaded bench next to the entrance and take a seat.

Arriving at the hotel, Sofia goes in to secure us a room while the officer and I unload our things. I thank the state trooper for all his help, and he tips his hat as Sofia returns with a key. Grabbing our things, we head to Room 4. I guess we're on the first floor of this luxury hotel.

Sofia quickly unlocks the door and ushers me inside. I sigh in relief as the cool air hits my face. Truthfully, I was a bit worried that our room would only have fans, and I would perish from heat stroke. As I glance around, I find a completely different reason to be concerned. In the center of the room sits the smallest double bed I've ever seen.


Part 6

I turn to Sofia to ask about another room, but she anticipates my question. "Sara, this is the only room left. Grissom has one, one has a major plumbing problem, and two are being used by visiting relatives of the manager. I plan to sleep on the floor so don't worry about sharing a bed. Besides, I would be afraid I would somehow hurt your shoulder during the night."

She smiles and adds, "And I don't think we should sleep together before our first date, do you?"

Nervously, I answer, "No, I guess not, but I don't want you to have to sleep on the floor either. Technically, we did sleep together last night although we really didn't have a choice. Maybe we can get a rollaway or something."

Sofia's reply is interrupted by a knock on the door. She opens it to reveal Grissom who immediately walks into the room.

Grissom turns to me and says, "Sara, the car's in the garage down the street. You can . . ."

His sentence is cut off by the sound of Sofia clearing her throat. He looks over at her before continuing. "Um . . . I mean if you're feeling up to it, I would really like for you to look it over and see what you think. I'm going to take advantage of the sheriff's change in attitude to see if I can find out anymore on my case. I'd like to continue using your kit, if I may?"

Amused by Grissom's attempt to be pleasant and understanding of my injury, I answer, "Sure, Gris. I shouldn't need anything from it to check out the Yukon. I'll get right on it after I rest for awhile."

Grissom nods his head and then asks, "Sofia, did you get to talk to Catherine?"

Crap, I forgot all about her phone call to Vegas.

Sofia explains her short conversation with Brass. It seems Catherine's hearing has been moved up to the day after tomorrow and with all the evidence against him, the defendant apparently felt that taking Catherine out of the picture would either postpone the hearing or perhaps somehow taint the evidence against him. Catherine and family have been moved to a safe house until after the hearing. Oh man, I pity the person who had to tell Catherine. I can just imagine how she reacted.

Of course, Grissom mutters something about the shift now being short three people, and I just shake my head. Sofia ushers Grissom out the door while I carefully lie down on the lumpy mattress; however, it doesn't take long for my body to adjust to the not so comfortable bed. I'm just happy to be lying on something other than the ground.

I must have dozed off for a few minutes because when I open my eyes Sofia has returned to the room. Blinking a few times, I focus in on her. She is standing with her back to me in only her bra and underwear. My eyes pop open as she bends over to retrieve something out of her bag. Jesus H. Christ, my imagination doesn't do her justice at all. I always thought I was an ass woman, but apparently I have switched to a leg woman. Damn, they go on forever.

As Sofia turns, I quickly shut my eyes. I concentrate on keeping my breathing slow and steady. Hopefully, she will think I am still asleep.

My plan must work because she very quietly tiptoes into the bathroom and gently closes the door. Opening my eyes, I stare up at the ceiling. Jeez Sara, now you've turned into a peeping Tom.

When Sofia steps out of the bathroom, she is fully dressed, damn it. I make a big production of stretching my good arm as if I've just woken, and she smiles and sits on the bed next to me. Moving my hair out of my eyes, she says, "Let's go for a walk and try to find a diner or something. Even I can't live on junk food alone."

She pulls me from the bed and doesn't release my hand until we're out the door.

We walk down the sidewalk and take in the sights. Actually, we could have probably seen everything from our hotel window, but it's nice to be outside. As far as finding an eating establishment, I'd say our choices are pretty slim. There's a diner and a diner. I'll think we'll try the diner.

Conversation comes to a halt when we enter the restaurant. Something tells me these people don't take too kindly to strangers or maybe Nurse Walker has been busy talking about the two perverts. When the waitress smirks at us before showing us to our seat, I decide to go with the Nurse Walker explanation.

I look over the menu only to find meat, meat, and more meat. Grissom better hurry up and solve his case or I'm going to starve. Since I've already made one reference to "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" with my Nurse Ratched comparison, I hope I don't have to re-enact the chicken sandwich scene just to get a couple of pieces of toast; although, I wouldn't mind seeing the expression on this particular waitress' face if I told her to hold the chicken between her knees.

Sofia flips the menu over and points to something on the back so I glance at the same location on my menu to find a salad. Okay, maybe I can live on lettuce and toast for a couple of days. Throw in a little of Sofia's junk food, and I might even gain a few pounds.

A few minutes later, the waitress returns with her classic smirk to take our order. As she walks away, I notice how bowlegged she is. The chicken would have never stayed in place.

The salad was actually very good. The vegetables were fresh, and it was served with homemade bread. Yes, I do believe I may gain some weight eating at this place. As we get up to leave, Sofia puts down a very generous tip. Before I can protest, she whispers in my ear that she knows the waitress is a flag waving homophobe, but we can't take the chance that she won't wait on us again before we leave town. Good point.

We stroll down to Billy Joe's garage, and Sofia flashes her badge to get us in to see the Yukon. Billy Joe turns on the light and tells us to 'holler' if we need him. Walking toward the vehicle, the realization of what could have happened hits me full force.

The truck is charred everywhere. Someone knew exactly what he was doing when he set this bomb. If we hadn't had car trouble, we would be burned beyond recognition. As I step closer, the burned stench reaches my nostrils, and I begin to sway as everything fades to black.


Part 7

I hear voices, one soft and one loud. With the size of the headache I have, I'm just glad the soft one is the nearer of the two. I focus in on the words and try to figure out where I am. ". . . Look she's fine, she just fainted. I should have insisted she get more rest before bringing her here." Okay, that's Sofia.

The other voice shouts, "She looks dead to me. Let's take her over to the clinic."

Oh no, I'm not going back there.

I force myself to open my eyes as Sofia answers in a calm, controlled voice, "She is not dead. Would you just go get a wet rag or something and please be sure it's clean."

The sound of muttering and shuffling feet can be heard in the distance followed by the closing of a door.

Sofia looks down at me, and I try my best to conjure up a smile, but I can only manage a grimace. She succeeds in the smile department and says, "Hey, welcome back. You know we really have to quit meeting like this."

She brushes the hair from my face and asks, "What happened?"

Hell if I know. Instead, I respond with a question of my own, "I fainted?"

Sofia looks at me with a 'duh' expression and replies, "Yes, you did faint. I'm just glad I was close enough to catch you. You could have re-injured your shoulder or hit your head. Do you remember what caused you to faint?"

Wow, she caught me. I guess I must be falling for her. I laugh aloud at my thought, and Sofia looks at me with another worried expression. She must think I'm hallucinating or something. Maybe I better answer her more lucidly.

"Um . . . I remember walking toward the Yukon and smelling that awful burnt odor. That's the last thing I remember."

My attention shifts to the door as a rather large woman walks in the room carrying a rag. She hands it to Sofia and says, "This was the only clean rag I could find. Hey! You're not dead; you're awake."

If this is a mechanic, I sure hope she knows the difference between a dead battery and an engine beyond repair.

Sofia wipes my face with the cool rag while she makes the introductions. "Sara, this is Ruth. Ruth, this is Sara, formerly known as the dead woman."

I stifle a laugh as I say hello to the Amazon. Both Ruth and Sofia help me to stand as Sofia makes certain she is on my injured side. Good thing, too. I think Ruth could very easily crush me.

I step toward the Yukon when Sofia reaches out to stop me. "Sara Sidle, you and I are going back to the hotel, and you are going to lie down. When you can convince me that you are okay, we will come back to check on the SUV. Ruth is going to make sure no one enters this room. Right, Ruth?"

The Amazon nods her head in assent.

We slowly make our way back to the hotel, and Sofia has kept her arm around my waist the entire time. Whenever someone glances our way, Sofia glares at them and dares them to say something. So far no one has.

When we enter the room, I have to keep myself from falling on the bed. I think the combination of my headache and the heat has done a real number on me. I'm also feeling a bit nauseous, but I think it's because of the headache. For right now, I am going to keep that little bit of information to myself.

Sofia walks back from the small bathroom with another wet rag. She gently places it on my forehead as I close my eyes. The coolness of the room and the rag provide instantaneous relief as I drift off of my own accord this time.

Once again I open my eyes to the sound of voices, but this time there is no fog, and I instantly recognize the voices of Sofia and Grissom. It also seems that night has fallen as the streetlight glows through the window. I glance at the door just as Sofia closes it behind Grissom.

Sofia jumps when she turns around and sees me looking at her. "Jesus, Sara. Make a little noise or something, will you? I thought you were still sleeping."

Moving toward the bed, she asks "How's the head?"

I roll my neck around pleased that the pain seems to have subsided. Smiling, I answer, "Fine. What did Grissom want?"

She sits down next to me and replies, "He's had a break in his case, and he and the sheriff have reached an understanding as well. But the best news is Warrick will be driving up and should be here around ten a.m. Grissom wants us to drive his car back, and we have two days to return. Oh, and Doctor Welby called and said there are no breaks in your arm or shoulder area."

Ah, life is looking better. Two days to get back to Vegas, huh? We need to ask around and find out if there's anything worth doing on the road home, I mean besides Sofia. Jeez, I have got to quit thinking things like that. I should be ashamed of myself, not.

Grabbing the remote, Sofia tinkers with the TV and finally gets a channel to come in. She resumes her seat next to me in the bed as we watch 'Criminal Minds.' I'm just glad it's not another one of those CSI shows.

Leaning against the headboard, I say, "All that's missing now is the popcorn."

Sofia grins and reaches over for her goody bag. She rummages around before pulling out a bag of Gardetto's. Placing the bag down, she grabs a small cooler and puts it on the bed. Where the hell did that thing come from?

Sofia opens the lid and says, "Grissom brought us some drinks. He even had them iced down. Okay, here's where we find out the most important aspect about each other. Coke or Pepsi?"

I don't hesitate to answer, "Coke."

She smiles as she pulls two from the cooler.

As Sofia settles next to me, she explains, "Tomorrow we can sleep in, take our time packing, and then head out. Grissom said we probably should take the same route home since US-93 has closures everywhere. I was thinking that we could get a map and figure about where the halfway point is. We can find a nearby hotel and stay there for the night. Then we can sleep late again the next morning."

Grinning, I reply, "I do believe you look forward to days you can sleep in."

Sofia returns my grin and answers, "Yes, I do, but it's much more enjoyable when I have someone in bed with me to snuggle with."

Oh yeah, the second leg of this road trip is going to be much more enjoyable than the first especially since my doubts and nervousness seem to have disappeared. Our flirting conversations have returned as well. Only this time, there's no question in my mind that she is flirting with me.

No, I don't think it's going to take much effort to get Sofia to share the bed with me tonight or tomorrow night for that matter. We can be snuggle buddies for now, but when I am able to take this sling off, I'm hoping for a much more up close and personal relationship followed, of course, by the snuggling.


Part 8

The local news comes on, and Sofia rises from the bed and gathers our trash to place in the waste basket. Glancing around the room, she says, "Shit. I forgot to check on a rollaway, and I didn't ask for extra blankets or pillows either. Oh well, I can always use my bag for a pillow."

I do believe this is the first time I have ever heard Sofia curse, and there's no way in hell she's sleeping on the floor. I'll just have to trick her somehow.

Smiling, I say, "Hey Sofia, I'm going to need some assistance with my pajamas."

Sofia raises an eyebrow and asks, "You wear pajamas?"

She smirks and adds, "I would have taken you for a sleep in the nude kind of gal."

It looks like playful Sofia is alive and well.

She leaves the door wide open for my next move as I reply, "Well, if we're going to be sleeping in the same bed, I thought I better wear at least a sleep shirt. I have an extra large t-shirt in my bag. Could you get it for me please?"

Sofia walks over and carries my bag back to the bed. She takes out a few items before she smiles triumphantly and pulls out my shirt. Now I just need her to help me get this one off and put that one on. I am very thankful that I chose to wear a sports bra.

Sofia takes great care in unfastening my sling. When my arm no longer has the support, I immediately feel a sharp pain, and Sofia reaches around and lends the support I need as I slowly exhale through the pain.

I close my eyes and say, "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all."

Sofia smiles and replies, "Actually, it's better to have some movement every once in awhile so the joint doesn't freeze up. Can you use your good arm to offer some support while I undo your buttons?"

Opening my eyes, I answer, "Sure. It doesn't have anything else better to do."

I concentrate on keeping my shoulder as still as possible while Sofia works on my buttons. I can guarantee you that I would rather be focusing on her task, but I think I will wait until the unbuttoning is leading to something much more enjoyable.

Finishing with the last button, Sofia says, "We need to gently work the sleeve down your arm. Let your arm rest on your leg so that I can slide your shirt off your good arm. Then we'll get to the other one."

I slowly rest my right arm on my leg as she eases my shirt off my left shoulder and brings it around so that there is only slack. "Okay, Sara. Support your arm again and let me do the work." Together, we manage to finally free the shirt from my injured shoulder, and I am totally exhausted.

I look up at Sofia and ask, "Was it good for you?"

Sofia laughs and replies, "Oh yeah, it was everything I've dreamed of and more."

Hmm, I wonder if she's kidding about the dreaming aspect. I know she's been the subject of my dreams on a weekly basis.

Standing, Sofia says, "If you're not too uncomfortable sleeping in your bra, I really think it would be a good idea to forego your t-shirt. Let's just put your sling back on." Sounds good to me because now that I know how difficult it is to get a button down the front shirt off, I don't even want to think about how hard it would be to get a shirt over my head.

For my reply, I simply hand Sofia the sling. She smiles and moves to place it around my neck. I know one thing for certain; I need to wear a pair of shorts because there is no way I'm laying next to Sofia in just my bra and underwear.

She must be a mind reader because she has retrieved a pair from my bag. At least it will be easier to remove my pants. I reach down to unbutton my jeans, but a pair of hands beat me to it. I glance up at her and nod my head for her to continue.

The two of us survive the next part of my undressing, and Sofia helps me under the covers. She grabs her bag and moves to the small bathroom shutting the door behind her. Little does she know, I've already had the privilege of seeing her in her underwear as well.

A few minutes later, Sofia emerges wearing a tank and boxers. Not quite the same effect as her bikini underwear and bra, but she is stunning nonetheless. She walks around to the other side of the bed and climbs in as we lay shoulder to shoulder.

Sofia reaches for the light on the nightstand and asks, "Do you need anything before I turn out the light?"

I reply that I'm good to go so she smiles and flips the switch.

The streetlight casts a soft glow into the room. At least I'll be able to find the bathroom in the middle of the night if I need it.

Turning on her side facing away from me, Sofia softly says, "Goodnight, Sara. Be sure to call me if you need me."

I smile and return her wish of a goodnight.

Sometime during the night, I awaken sweating like a pig. Why am I so hot? I attempt to lift my left arm to cast off the covers, but it is as immobile as my right. Shit. Did I somehow injure it too? Why can't I lift it?

Taking stock of the situation, I immediately come to the realization that Sofia is practically lying on top of me. She has somehow pinned my left arm to my side. Well, not somehow, she is attached to me like a leech, and my arm just happens to be underneath her. I think I may have also found the reason as to why I am so hot.

I try to slowly rock away from her, but she's not going to release me so easily. To add to the problem of my human attachment, my bladder has suddenly decided to make an appearance, and it is not going to take 'later' for an answer.

Managing to slide a couple of inches, I am on the brink of a successful escape when Sofia scoots forward negating all of my progress. In fact, I think she may have actually gained ground. Damn, she wasn't kidding about being a snuggler.

I hate to wake her, but I would hate even more having an accident. Softly, I whisper, "Sofia, can you move back just a bit?"

No response. In a louder voice, I say, "Sofia. I need to get up for a minute. Could you let me up?"

Still no response. I look down to see the outline of her face on my shoulder. If I can lean down just a little more, I can try something a little more extreme.

Stretching my neck, I am able to reach her lips, so I do. Oh, my. She's either awake or she is a better kisser in her sleep than any of the dates I've ever had. Her tongue insinuates itself between my lips, and I don't hesitate to let her in. A moan fills the air, and I'm not sure if it's me or her. Another moan is followed by a hand to my breast.

As much as I'm enjoying this, I know we need to stop so I pull away and look down at Sofia. Her eyes open and instant realization is apparent in her blue orbs. "Shit, Sara. I'm so sorry. I knew I should have slept on the floor. Besides basically molesting you, did I hurt you?"

Crap, she's so upset. I never should have kissed her.

I make it a point to maintain eye contact since she is still pinning my arm and I can't make any other type of contact. "You didn't initiate the kiss; I did. I tried to wake you and didn't have any success. I thought if I kissed you maybe you would let go."

Sofia mutters, "Not likely."

Smiling, I say, "If I didn't have to go to the bathroom so badly, I wouldn't have minded your snuggling."

Even in the dim light, I can see embarrassment cross her face. She immediately releases me and helps me sit up. Concerned, she asks, "Do you need any help going to the bathroom? I mean, getting to the bathroom."

She is so cute when she's flustered. I stand and reply, "No. I think I can manage, but if I'm not back in ten minutes, come get me. Who knows this place may have a Mrs. Snake."

Sofia grins as I walk into the bathroom and close the door.


Part 9

I make it back to the bed before the ten minute limit I placed on myself, and Sofia lifts the covers in silent invitation for me to retake my previous position. I don't hesitate to crawl into the bed and snuggle in next to her. She places her arm protectively around my waist, and the two of us return to the land of dreams.

When we next awaken, there is no sign of awkwardness or insecurity. In fact, the good morning kiss we share feels like the most natural thing in the world. It's as if we have been waking up next to each others for years. We snuggle together for another hour before deciding to get up and greet the day, and what a joyous day it is turning out to be.

I find myself in dire need of a shower but am unsure how I'm going to manage. Having a naked Sofia in the shower with a naked me is out of the question. If I could just figure out a way to immobilize my arm in the shower, I think I can get through the basics of soaping and rinsing.

Sofia, the ever present mind reader, offers, "Hey, if bet we could use a towel as a sling while you shower, then you won't have to worry about getting your hospital sling wet."

Grinning, I congratulate Sofia on her ingenuity as we walk toward the bathroom. A couple of minutes later, my towel sling is in place and my bra unhooked. Sofia moves back to the room, but not before leaving the door slightly ajar. She said she wanted to be able to hear me if I had a problem or needed her in any way. Oh Lord, if she only knew.

I manage to soap myself up with one hand and allow the water to rinse the lather from my body. Looking over at the shampoo bottle, I pick it up with my left hand and very carefully flip the lid open with my right. I pour the liquid directly on my head and then flip the lid closed. Using my left hand, I am able to work the shampoo into a lather. Hey, this isn't so difficult after all.

Turning off the water, I grab the towel and begin the drying off process. I gently unhook my makeshift sling and slide both my clean bra and underwear on. Next, I am able to pull on my jeans, followed by the realization that there is no way I can hook my bra. Oh darn, I guess I'm going to need Sofia after all.

Warrick arrives shortly after Sofia and I manage to get me dressed. Hugging each of us he says, "Oh man, am I ever glad to see you two alive and safe. Well, relatively safe. How's the shoulder?"

Smiling, I reply, "As good as to be expected for someone who was catapulted into the air. I was very lucky. We both were very lucky."

We explain the whole ordeal to Warrick in detail especially the actual explosion. In the course of his investigation, he will need to know how the vehicle behaved when it exploded. Of course, Sofia goes over this part of the story as I was too busy being unconscious at the time.

Warrick hugs us one more time before handing over the keys to his Denali. He unloads his things in our room since we won't be in need of it anymore.

On our way out of town, we drive Warrick down to the garage and introduce him to Ruth. She promises to take good care of him and wishes us well on our trip home. She also points out that US-93 is now open to I-80. I'm not too keen on taking the same route, but it becomes apparent that it is our only choice unless we travel up to Idaho or over to Utah.

We are about ten miles outside of town when I realize we didn't say good-bye to Grissom. When I express my concern to Sofia, she says, "What would it have mattered? He's so interested in his case; he probably wouldn't have noticed we were leaving. In fact, I bet he doesn't realize we're gone until sometime tomorrow."

I know she's right, but I can't help but feel a little guilty. Maybe I can try to call him when we stop for the night.

About twenty miles later, we are passing the scene of our 'accident.' There is a huge blackened spot on the shoulder of the road where the Yukon used to be, and I glance over to see the tree where we spent the night.

A wave of nausea quickly passes over me as I shut my eyes. Leaning back against the headrest, I concentrate on taking slow even breaths. Shit. Why is this affecting me like this? After all I've been through in my life; you would think I could handle a little bombing incident.

I calm somewhat when Sofia reaches out and gently takes my hand. I don't open my eyes, but I am able to squeeze her hand in thanks. She makes it a point to maintain contact, and every now and then, she rubs her thumb over the back of my hand just to let me know she is still here.

When I feel the vehicle slow and come to a stop, I finally open my eyes to find we are in front of the same restaurant in which we dined the other day. Sofia smiles and asks, "Would you like to get a bite to eat or would you rather drive on until we find something else?"

Glancing over to the 7-11 store, I reply, "Why don't we head over to the store and get some drinks?" Grinning, I add, "Besides, I think you need to restock your junk bag."

Sofia laughs as she backs out and drives to the front of the store. Getting out, she walks over to my side and opens the door. "Okay, Sara. You're going with me this time. You need to get some junk food of your own. The only reason my bag is low is because I've had to share with you."

Chuckling, I step out of the truck and head for the door. Sofia catches up with me and pulls the door open for me to enter. We immediately head for the candy and chip aisle.

Several hours later, we reach IH-15 and decide to start looking for someplace to stay. Even though it's not the halfway point, we are both tired of being cooped up in the truck. It seems the last few days of lazing around have had a detrimental effect on both of us. Either that or we're a bad influence on each other.

Sofia spots a Holiday Inn Express and takes the next exit. Ten minutes later, we are in the lobby checking in. The clerk asks for the number of rooms and smoking preference. Before Sofia can answer, I say "One room with a king size bed and non-smoking, please."

Raising an eyebrow, Sofia smirks and hands the clerk a department credit card. She explains to the woman that we are on a budget and have to share a room. The clerk shakes her head as she processes the card. Sofia signs the receipt, and the woman hands her a key. As we are walking to the door, the clerk softly mutters "Sharing a room is one thing, but sharing a bed is another."

I quickly grab Sofia's hand and pull her from the lobby before she can rip the woman to shreds. When we check out, Sofia can either lodge a complaint with the manager or find this woman and take her out.

This hotel seems to be clean, and it is close to several eating establishments. I'm too tired to try and find another one.


Part 10

Sofia makes a couple of angry attempts to slide the key card into the lock, and she is apparently still pissed off about our check-in encounter. Finally, the door opens, and I immediately make my way to the window air conditioner. I crank it up full blast before shucking off my shoes and lying on the bed.

Sofia hasn't said a word since I pulled her from the lobby, and she is currently making quite a bit of racket carrying our things in. I guess we are having our first spat. Closing my eyes, I try to relax.

Several minutes later, I am joined by Sofia, and neither one of us bothers to climb under the covers. I decide to test the stormy waters as I scoot next to her and put my head on her shoulder. She wraps her arm around me, and her anger seems to melt away as her body relaxes into mine.

Later, I open my eyes to find Sofia still lying beside me. The TV is on, but it is muted, and the channels are being flipped through at a rapid pace. How is she able to tell what program is on? The image of the station barely makes an appearance before she flips to another. With the sound off, it is even more difficult to get a read on what is being aired.

"Um, Sofia, what exactly are you looking for?"

Startled, Sofia turns to me and smiles. She leans down, kisses me, and replies, "Nothing in particular. I was just waiting for you to wake up. You must be starving because your stomach has been growling for the past half hour. I don't know how you were able to sleep through all that noise."

I lift up and swat her with my good arm. Sofia ducks out of the way and rolls off the bed on the other side landing smoothly on her feet. It looks like all is right in our world again.

Sofia immediately walks over to my side and begins to put on my shoes. Usually, this would make me mad, but she's right, I am starving. The sooner I get on my shoes, the sooner we can get to a restaurant.

We drive a couple of blocks and find a cafeteria. I can't believe my luck; I'm going to be able to choose from a variety of vegetables for a change. Sofia picks up two trays and places them on the steel bar made especially for the sliding of the trays. For the first time in days, I actually can't make my mind up because there is too much to choose from as opposed to too little.

Sofia carries my tray to the table and then returns for hers. Her choice of a meat, two vegetables, bread, and two desserts confirms my suspicion of her very sweet tooth. When she eats one of her desserts before anything else, I have to smile.

As we walk to the Denali, I spot a theater across the street so I glance at the marquee to see what is playing. Yes! "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." I have wanted to see the sequel to the first one, but I haven't had the time especially since the movie runs about two and a half hours. We've got plenty of time here in . . . where the hell are we?

I turn to Sofia and ask, "Hey, Sofia. What is the name of this town?"

She shrugs her shoulders and replies, "Beats me. I just pulled into the first decent hotel I saw."

Smiling, I point toward the theater across the street and ask, "Fancy a movie?"

Sofia returns my smile, and we jump in the Denali to drive across to the parking lot. We check the times for the movies, and 'Pirates' is on in fifteen minutes. She expresses her desire to see the film as well so we head for the ticket booth.

When we hand the ticket to the usher inside, Sofia makes a beeline for the concession stand before he can tear off the stub. We just ate; what in the world could she possibly want?

I decide to wait next to the foyer which will lead us to the appropriate screen. Sofia puts something in her pocket before turning toward me. Good Lord, she has one of those super size drinks and a box of something, most likely candy. She must have one hell of a metabolism or she works out like a fiend or by the looks of her, I'd say a combination of the two.

When she approaches me, I say, "You just ate. Where do you plan to put that monster drink and candy?"

Sofia motions me down the hall and replies, "You're going to be glad I got these refreshments. This movie is well over two hours long."

We manage to find a seat near the back, and the theater is relatively empty. The lights turn low as the preview and commercials begin to play. I really hate that you can't go to the movies anymore without seeing commercials.

Half-way into the movie, I've got to go to the restroom. I've been sipping on that damn gallon drink; I guess those vegetables made me thirsty, plus Sofia made it too damn convenient for me to just reach between us and drink whenever I wanted.

I nudge Sofia and whisper, "Hey, I drank too much soda. I've got to go to the restroom."

She whispers back, "Do you want me to go with you?"

What am I eight? Of course, I don't need her to go with me. Instead I softly reply, "No, I can manage. I'll be back in a jiffy. Keep up with what's going on for me."

I ease down the aisle and make my way down the steps. Whoa, this is much more difficult in the dark especially when my balance is a little off. I place my hand on the rail and carefully take each step one by one.

On the return trip, the steps are much easier to see as there is a light below each one. I also notice that we are pretty much isolated from the rest of the movie goers. There is no one within eight rows of us. Squinting, I am just able to make out Sofia's head.

I begin my slide back down the row toward Sofia when I realize I am on the opposite side of her. I guess I must have gotten turned around when I went to the restroom. It really doesn't matter, but perhaps it is a blessing in disguise since the soda will no longer be between us tempting me.

Two seats from Sofia, my foot hits something, and I go flying forward. Lucky for me, I land right in Sofia's lap. It must be lucky for her too since she takes the opportunity to lay one on me before she helps me back into my seat. I continue to watch the rest of the movie with a goofy smile on my face.


Part 11

We sit and watch the ending credits until we are the only two left in the theatre. Sofia stands and begins to pick up her trash, but not before glancing around and then stealing a kiss. She is really getting quite adept at catching me off guard.

Arriving in the parking lot, Sofia opens the door to the Denali and closes it behind me when I get in. It's nice to see that chivalry is still alive and well, and what a wonderful form it comes in these days.

Two blocks from the hotel, Sofia turns into a parking lot, and I look up to see the popular 7-11 sign reflecting in the glass. She opens the door and says, "I'm craving ice cream. Let's go see what they've got."

Groaning, I open the door and follow my sweetaholic girlfriend into the store. Sofia leads us to the back where the refrigerated cases are located and finds the one with the ice cream cartons. When she peers into the glass, I shake my head and join her in front of the case

Sofia's eyes are alight with excitement over the rather large selection of ice cream. Personally, I wouldn't mind plain vanilla, but I don't think it would be a very good idea to voice my preference at this time.

I turn my attention to the next refrigerated case and the many soft drinks. As I take notice of all the different flavors of diet coke and coke, I am suddenly pulled against Sofia's body. Whoa, she is full of surprises today. I mean, I love a change of pace, but I haven't gotten used to the current one at this point.

She moves her other hand to my mouth and her mouth to my ear as she holds me tightly. Okay, this is not something I've thought about. I mean, I've thought about different positions and all, but I'm not too comfortable with being held or restrained. Besides, I think our first time should be in a bed.

I try not to fight her hold especially since she is being careful with my shoulder; however, I can't help but be alarmed by Sofia's sudden display of dominance. My heart begins to beat rapidly, and I am beginning to become a bit frightened.

Sofia gently whispers, "Sara, be still and listen because we don't have much time. I want you to glance up at the mirror in the corner."

I shift my eyes to the mirror in question to see a man standing at the check-out counter. He is wearing a black ski mask and appears to be pointing a gun at the clerk. When Sofia is sure I have seen what I need to see, she slowly maneuvers us to an aisle away from the mirror.

Shit, is this 'everyone try to kill Sara Sidle week or something?' I can't believe my luck as of late. The only silver lining is Sofia seems to be having the same kind of week as me. If I have to go through all of this, I can't think of anyone else I'd rather have with me.

Sofia motions me to squat down as she takes a position beside me. Reaching down, she pulls up her pants leg and removes a revolver. I open my mouth to ask why she felt the need to be armed when going on a date with me, but she puts her finger to her mouth silencing me.

Leaning forward, she watches the reflection in the mirror. Maybe the guy has already robbed the place and is long gone or maybe there is more than one of them. I close my eyes and hope for the former.

I jump when Sofia touches my leg, and I quietly swallow my yelp. She points to herself with one finger and then to her eyes with two as she slowly moves down the aisle.

Yelling can be heard from the front of the store, and I don't think the robber is very happy about something.

As I watch Sofia make her way to the other end of the aisle, I find myself praying that there is only one guy. I really don't want her to have to deal with even one, but at least she wouldn't be outnumbered, and she does have the element of surprise on her side.

She reaches the end of the aisle and peers around the corner with her gun out in front. More yelling can be heard followed by the sound of the clerk crying and begging. Sofia steadies herself and steps out.

Pointing her gun in the direction of the front counter, she says, "Police, freeze. Drop your weapon and put your hands on your head."

I concentrate on Sofia's trigger finger. Both her hands and her finger are steady as a rock, and I know the minute the robber does something stupid. Without hesitation, Sofia fires her weapon three times. I wince at the loud sound, but there is no sound at all after the last shot is fired.

A few seconds later, I pick up the sobbing of the clerk and nothing more. I start to stand, but without looking my way, Sofia motions for me to stay put as she steps forward out of view. I wait a full minute before I slowly move to the end of the aisle. I've got to know what's going on.

I peek around the corner to see Sofia standing over the robber. She kicks his gun to the side and orders the clerk to call the police and emergency personnel. He looks at her strangely and says, "But I thought you are the police."

Sofia never takes her eyes off the shooting victim, and replies, "I am. I'm just not a cop in this town."

The stranger seems to understand as he reaches for the phone.

I carefully scan my surroundings before stepping out into the front of the store. Knowing better than to startle a cop especially one with a gun, I say, "Sofia, I'm coming out now."

She doesn't answer, but she doesn't shoot me either. I take that as a good sign.

A couple of hours later, we are back in the hotel room after giving our statement to the police. The robber is a local man who has committed plenty of petty crimes but has never ventured into armed robbery until tonight. He was taken to the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery. Then he'll get to serve his time in the state penitentiary. Of course, Sofia and I get to come back and testify unless there is some sort of plea bargain.

Sofia hasn't said a word since we left the store, and frankly, I am at a loss myself. What do you say to someone who just shot another person?

Finally, she says, "I think I'm going to take a quick shower."

She grabs her things and goes into the bathroom closing the door behind her. I carefully undo my sling and manage to undress myself. Changing into boxers and a t-shirt, I put my sling back on and crawl into bed.

Sofia steps from the bathroom wearing basically the same outfit as me. Normally, I would make some type of teasing comment, but now, I'm not sure if it would be accepted in the manner in which it was intended.

I turn on the TV and wait for her to dry her hair. I think this silent treatment has gone on long enough.

Ten minutes later, she crawls into bed and stays on her side. Not to be deterred, I slide over next to her. She looks over at me and smiles, not her usual bright smile, but a rather sad smile.

I scoot closer and put my head on her shoulder. She doesn't hesitate to put her arm around me so I decide to take the plunge.

"You want to talk about it?" I ask as I turn my face toward hers.

Sofia leans down and gently kisses my lips before replying. "It was a good shoot. He was threatening the clerk, and his finger was definitely moving toward the trigger. I pulled his attention away, and he turned his gun toward me. He was going to shoot. There's no doubt in my mind. It's just . . . so . . . frustrating. Why didn't he put the damn gun down? Why do they always turn and fire?"

My heart stops at the last question. He fired? I don't remember hearing two different sounds. Oh my God, she could have been killed! Reflexively, I reach for her hand.

She must sense my distress because she holds me more closely and adds, "Hey, I'm fine. I shouldn't have let him get off a shot. I was just hoping he would put the gun down. Next time, I won't hesitate."

Damn right, she won't; at least, she better not. I plan to remind her on a daily basis not to take any more chances. If we're going to try to build any kind of relationship, she has to look out for herself. Whoa, did I just use the 'r' word?

Sofia chuckles and I wonder if I spoke aloud.

She kisses the tops of my head and asks, "You know what?"

I shake my head no and reply, "What?"

Sofia answers, "I didn't get my ice cream."


Part 12

I turn my face toward Sofia and gently kiss her lips. Very slowly, I rotate my body until I am straddling hers. She places her hands on my hips and allows me to control the kiss. Moving my hand to her shirt, I begin my attempt to unbutton the small buttons. Attempt being the applicable word here since I can't get even one of the damn things undone. Frustrated, I pull my lips from hers and sit up with my eyes closed and head raised toward the ceiling.

Sofia moves her hands to the top of my thighs and says, "Hey, its okay. You're working with only one paw here. Cut yourself some slack. I'd like nothing more than to make love to you, but we've got plenty of time. There's no rush."

Opening my eyes, I look down and ask, "Paw? Is that your way of subtly letting me know I am more or less mauling you?"

Sitting up quickly and somehow managing not to displace me from her lap, Sofia replies, "No! That's not what I meant. You seemed upset so I was trying to lighten things up."

Shit, I've gone and done it again. Here I was trying to play with her, and I've upset her. I've got to remember everything is still new, and she's not used to my sarcastic humor.

I reach up with my good 'paw' and softly caress her face. Leaning forward, I kiss her and smile as I pull away. "I'm sorry, Sofia. I was just kidding. I'm a bit sarcastic when I'm frustrated. I want to make love to you so badly, but I don't seem to be able to manage the simple task of undoing buttons. Pretty sad, huh?"

Sofia returns my smile and rubs my thighs awakening my previously frustrated libido. Stealing a kiss, she looks deeply into my eyes and asks, "Sara, do you trust me?"

I don't hesitate in replying, "Yes."

Very carefully, she lays me on my back and stays on my 'good' side. She unfastens my sling and places it on the floor. Kissing me, she begins to unbutton my shirt and then her own. She slides hers to the side, and somehow she removes her bra, all without losing contact with my lips.

She takes my left hand and places it on her breast as she slowly eases my shirt off my right arm. Helping me to sit up, she is able to remove both my shirt and bra. I am starting to like this tit for tat process of undressing.

Sofia moves her mouth to my neck, and I gladly allow her access. Wanting to reciprocate in some way, I begin to knead her breast, and her pleasure is immediately made known as she moans into my neck. Lifting her head, she places her mouth on mine, and we exchange hot, wet kisses.

I lose track of the time as we continue to explore each other's mouths and bodies, and without skipping a beat, jeans and underwear are removed.

Sofia gently pulls me on top of her and softly says, "Easy now. I want this to be pure pleasure with no pain. Let me guide us through. I don't want you to re-injure your shoulder."

Fuck, is she kidding? My shoulder is the last thing on my mind right now. There are other parts of my body that are screaming for attention and could care less if I even have a shoulder. Closing my eyes, I concentrate on giving up control.

Oh my God, have you ever been on a rollercoaster that took you through multiple loops and turns at lightening speeds before slowing to go under a waterfall, and then oh so softly, placing you in a hot whirlpool bath at the end of the ride?

My breathing slows as Sofia kisses her way back up my body. Very carefully, she pulls me into her arms, and I instinctively nestle into her as I slowly drift to sleep. I have never felt so safe in my entire life.

The next morning, I awaken to the sound of Sofia's voice. She is speaking softly into her cell phone, and I slowly roll over to try to get a better view. Her back is to me as she sits in a chair looking out the window, and I take a few moments to simply watch her movements.

She gestures a few times with her hand to make some kind of point, and I concentrate on the long slender fingers and shiver when I recall exactly how she played me last night. She was so gentle yet possessive at the same time. I have never had a lover who can come close to Sofia.

I move my focus to the rest of her lovely body. She has put on a pair of bikini underwear and a tight t-shirt leaving absolutely nothing to my imagination. Of course, now that I've seen her up close and personal, I don't need to imagine what lies beneath.

Sofia flips her phone closed and notices me watching her. She grins as she stands and walks toward the bed. Leaning down, she gives me a very sweet good morning kiss. She returns to her standing position and says, "I called Brass and filled him in on our latest escapade. He said for us to take an extra day, and that he will call Ecklie to let them know we won't be returning tomorrow. Think you can stand an extra day on our little road trip."

Smiling broadly, I reply, "I'm pretty sure I can manage a bit more time in your company."

She retrieves a map from the nearby desk and spreads it out on the bed. We both study the distance to Vegas and try to decide where we want our next stop to be. Since it will take about six hours to return home, we decide to travel about four hours today and leave the last two hours for tomorrow. That will allow plenty of 'snuggling' time for Sofia in the morning.

We pack our bags and check-out of the hotel, and I am so very thankful we have a different clerk than when we checked-in. Even though Sofia has become sort of a hero in this town, I don't think the local police would take too kindly to her punching out a hotel clerk.


Part 13

I make the suggestion we have breakfast so that we won't have to stop until we reach St. George. As we're getting into the truck, our friendly clerk is getting out of her car in the adjacent parking space. Sofia notices her and makes a move to get out of the driver's seat. I quickly grab her arm and stop all progress. Lifting my hand to her neck, I pull her to me and give her a preview of what she can expect later tonight or possibly this afternoon.

When I release her lips, Sofia seems to be in a much better mood if her goofy grin is any indication. She automatically closes her door and slowly backs out before smiling and waving at the clerk.

Of course, her wave consists primarily of a prominent display of her middle finger, but she does wave nonetheless. Taking my hand, she pulls out of the parking lot, and I quickly glance in the side mirror to see the clerk still standing next to the empty space in total shock.

We find an IHOP down the road and enjoy a nice relaxing meal. Our waitress didn't even blink an eye when Sofia climbed into the booth next to me. She just smiled at both of us and took our order. Maybe our luck is finally changing for the good.

Back on the road, I express some guilt about not being able to help with the driving, but Sofia assures me she'd rather drive than ride. It's not that she doesn't trust me; she says the trip seems to go by faster when she's in the driver's seat. I fail to mention that it's probably because she usually exceeds the speed limit by at least 10 miles per hour.

We arrive in St. George and begin to search for a suitable hotel. Sofia quickly spots a Marriott and points out the sign which advertises continental breakfast, a luxurious swimming pool, and large hot tub. Grinning, she pulls under the covered drive and heads for the lobby. I barely get my seatbelt undone, and she's already at the desk checking in. We're going to have to have a little talk about leaving me behind.

I reach the desk just as the clerk is handing Sofia two room keys. He shows her a map and points out a parking location. She turns and takes my hand as we leave the building. I may as well have stayed in the truck for all the good I did.

Sofia pulls the SUV all the way around to the very back of the building. She parks under an awning, and I notice a sign marking our parking place, HM-suite only. What does that mean? Handicapped something?

I turn to ask Sofia the significance of the letters, but she has already gotten out and retrieved our things. She shoulders a bag and patiently waits for me at the end of the sidewalk. Once again, I am totally in the dark as to what is transpiring, but I think I'll see this through before going ballistic.

We follow the sidewalk until it ends at a gated door. Sofia swipes her card key at the entrance, and the gate swings open. We walk through to find a single door on the other side. She once again uses her key and walks into the opened door. As I step through the door, I glance at the room number only to find the words Honeymoon Suite. Holy crap, I didn't even know we were engaged.

Sofia places our things down in the middle of the spacious room as I stand in the doorway dumbstruck. She turns toward me and says, "Hope you don't mind, but I asked the clerk about the hot tub, and he said it was located next to the pool. He also added that a group of high school students are staying for a few days, and they have pretty much staked out the area for themselves. I asked if any of the rooms were equipped with a whirlpool, and he said the honeymoon suite had its own private hot tub adjacent to the master bath."

Okay, I guess she has her heart set on the hot tub for some reason. I walk into the room and push the door shut with my foot. Looking around, I notice just how elegant this space is.

Turning back to Sofia, I ask, "Um, Sofia? Who is footing the bill for this room?"

Sofia begins to unpack our things and replies, "Las Vegas PD and the crime lab, why?"

Why? Ecklie is going to go ape shit on me when we get back, that's why. How am I going to explain spending the night in the honeymoon suite with Sofia?

Not waiting for my response, she adds, "I was able to talk the hotel clerk into letting us stay the night in this suite at the same rate as the other rooms."

What? Please tell me she didn't promise something in exchange. There's no way I'm letting her go out with him. We'll just have to take one of the other rooms.

Clearing my throat, I ask, "And just how did you manage to talk him into that?"

Smiling, she replies, "I pointed out that I was a police officer, and if any of those high school students were causing a disturbance, or even worse, consuming alcohol that I wouldn't hesitate to call the local law and have the whole lot arrested."

I wrinkle my brow in my classic confused look and answer, "I would think he would be ecstatic if a bunch of rowdy teenagers were taken care of, so to speak."

Sofia places our empty suitcases in the closet and explains, "Normally, he would, but when he was complaining about the students, he happened to mention one of the teens in question is the daughter of a United States senator. I'm fairly certain it would be better for the manager to deal with the teens than the dad. Besides, you need to start working that shoulder of yours, and the hot tub is the best place to start. The fact that we have it

to ourselves is an added bonus."

Aw, how sweet. She's worried about therapy for my shoulder. I guess I'm going to have to excuse her well-disguised blackmail agreement with the clerk as well as leaving me out of the loop, but we still need to discuss the importance of letting me in on her petty crimes.

I walk toward the master bedroom and am awestruck by the sheer size of the bed. I don't even know if there is a word to describe it. If there's a queen and a king size bed, then this one must be the emperor. Four people could sleep in this thing and not even be aware of any one else. Damn this shoulder, we could have had some very interesting sex on this bed.

Heading to the master bath, I open the door to yet another large room. There are two dressing areas with separate sinks. The bathtub is enormous, and a walk-in shower is located in the far corner. I notice a side door and peer inside to find the mother of all hot tubs.

Quickly approximating the area, I'd say at least ten people could comfortably fit in this tub. I'm beginning to wonder what this hotel had in mind when it allowed for such large accommodations since a honeymoon usually only involves two people.

I jump when Sofia puts her hand on my shoulder. "Shit, Sofia. Have you gone back to sneaking up on me again?"

She wraps her arms around me and replies, "Sorry. Wow, would you look at the size of that thing? What do you say we give it a try?"

Wrinkling my nose, I answer, "I don't know. I mean, you do know what probably goes on in these things, especially one located in the honeymoon suite."

Sofia makes a point of smelling the air and says, "Smell that? Chlorine. I'd say they clean this tub thoroughly between guests."

She begins to undo my shirt and pants, and suddenly, I'm not quite as worried about climbing in; probably because I got a whiff of cleanser and chlorine myself.

I actually manage to exercise my shoulder in-between our extra-curricular activities, and the hot water acts as a balm to the injured joint. Before we get out, I am able to use my shoulder a little during the aforementioned activities as well.

Our water exercises have depleted both of us to the point of needing a nap so we dry each other off and climb into the gargantuan bed. The drying off process leads to an extension of our earlier activities, and I succeed in taking Sofia on the same rollercoaster ride she took me on last night. Soon afterwards, we are nestled in each other's arms sound asleep.


Part 14

After our nap, Sofia suggests we explore the city. I'm a little skeptical giving our track record as of late, but I go along nonetheless. Besides, I have decided to leave my sling off, and I know she wouldn't choose an activity that would cause further injury.

We visit the lobby to see if there is any information about the various activities in the area. Sofia's eyes immediately light up when she see a sign advertising horseback riding into the mountains and a second sign which boasts a state of the art paintball arena. Surely, she isn't seriously contemplating either of these two activities.

I watch her read the fine print on the paintball brochure, and I have no doubt we will be using the honeymoon suite's washer and dryer after all.

Thirty minutes later, I am sitting in an air-conditioned area waiting for Sofia to complete her paintball game. There are monitors in the room showing different parts of the playing arena if anyone wants to watch the progress of the game.

Sofia signed up for a winner take all category, and she is competing against ten other players, all male. One by one, the players who have been 'killed' limp into the room. Jeez, these guys are serious about this game. The only players remaining are Sofia, a football coach, and a former Marine. I quit watching the monitors when Sofia dove over a five foot fence in order to avoid 'gunfire.'

This is absolutely ridiculous; she could be hurt playing this barbaric game. I can't believe I'm sitting here waiting for her to walk through that door covered in paint and more than likely bruised and battered. My anger turns to fear as I suddenly realize the kind of danger Sofia faces every day on her job. This paintball adventure really is a game to her.

Different crime scenarios flood my brain, and all at once, the room has become too small. I quickly exit the building, and slide down the wall with my knees pulled up as I lean my head against the brick and close my eyes. Evaluating the last few days, I keep coming to the same conclusion. I have fallen for a police officer.

I jump slightly when the door next to me flies open and a triumphant Sofia steps out. "Hey, Sara. I won. Those guys didn't stand a chance."

I look up to see her pants and shirt ripped and torn, but there is not one single trace of paint anywhere on her. There is blood dripping from her knee, and her left sleeve has dried blood on it. She is dirty and sweaty and has never looked more beautiful.

Straightening my legs out in front of me, I ask, "What did you win?"

Sofia extends her hand to me, and I reach up with my left hand as she helps me stand. Smiling, she replies, "Oh nothing. It's enough knowing I kicked those guys' asses."

Her smile and good humor seems to be contagious as my gloomy thoughts quickly fade away. Shaking my head, I laughingly say, "Well, congratulations on defending the honor of women everywhere. Now let's go back to the hotel and get you cleaned up."

Back in the room, Sofia removes her pants and shirt to reveal numerous nicks and red areas. She invites me to take a bath with her in the heart shaped tub, and I enthusiastically agree with the stipulation that she rinse off in the shower before climbing into the tub.

While Sofia is in the shower, I prepare the bath with the complimentary French vanilla bubble bath. I'm sure glad we aren't responsible for the water bill at this hotel because judging by the size of the tub, I estimate well over ninety gallons of water will be used to fill it to near capacity.

I turn the faucet off just as Sofia pulls me into a hug, a very wet hug. I guess I should have removed my clothes before completing my bath filling chore. Oh well, I'll just put them in the washer along with her clothes.

We soak in the hot water until it begins to turn tepid. As I rise to step from the tub, I am pulled back in by an amorous Sofia. She places light kisses on various parts of my body and uses her hands to quickly bring me to a highly aroused state. It seems she has her own idea of how to heat the water without ever turning on the faucet.

I now know the reason why so many towels have been supplied to this suite. It takes three of the larger ones to absorb the water which escaped from the tub during one of our more vigorous displays of affection. I've also noticed that I have regained some range of motion in my shoulder. I have to wonder if sex with a partner is part of a regular physical therapy session. It certainly works for me.

Our clothes are now in the washer, and hunger has become our latest issue to deal with. Sofia doesn't want to order room service, and I don't want to leave the washer unattended. We compromise by finding a pizza place that delivers.

The pizza guy almost gets a huge tip when Sofia starts to open the door with just a t-shirt and underwear on. A very shirt t-shirt at that, and she isn't wearing a bra either. I make her go back in the sitting area while I pay for the pizza.

After our meal, we decide to move to the den area to watch TV. Our room is equipped with a TV that has movies on demand, but the problem is there are so many movies to choose from we can't make a decision except that we both would like to see a comedy.

I flip through the list as Sofia lies down and places her head in my lap. Putting her hand on my thigh, she softly strokes up and down and back and forth. The movie list becomes a distant memory when her hand moves upward with no intention of returning.

When we crawl into bed later that night, sleep is the only thing we are seeking. We've put in a full day between Sofia's paintball outing, our lengthy bath, and our marathon couch session. I nestle into Sofia, and soon we are fast asleep.

Morning comes, and Sofia finally gets to enjoy some cuddling time. Of course, the cuddles soon lead to making love which in turn leads to more cuddling. I used to think circular cycles were boring, but I may have found one cycle in particular that bears repeating, over and over again.

The reality that this is the last leg of our road trip finally sinks in as we begin to pack our things, and neither one of us seems to be in too big of a hurry to leave this place. We both know what awaits us when we return, and our time together is going to be limited. At least we usually keep the same shift hours unless there is some sort of an emergency situation.

We finally load our things into the Denali and go to the lobby to check out. Sofia doesn't even mention stopping to get some treats for the ride home. Seeing as we're only two hours away, I guess she figures she can make it without her junk food fix.

Our conversation turns more work related the closer we get to Vegas. As we talk about our co-workers, we can't decide whether we want to tell them about our relationship just yet. Playing it by ear may be the way to go for now.

At two o'clock, we hit the Vegas city limits, and with no traffic, the drive to CSI headquarters only takes about twenty minutes. Sofia pulls the Denali into the garage and hands the keys over to the proper personnel. She unloads our things and places them at the garage entrance before going to retrieve her car.

Sofia insists that I should wait at least one more day to drive. Fine by me, especially if it means I get to enjoy her company awhile longer.

While I'm waiting for Sofia, my cell rings. It's Catherine letting me know that she testified this morning, and the bastard is being held in remand until the trial. She apologizes for putting my life in jeopardy, and I assure her that it wasn't her fault that some asshole planted a bomb.

Catherine says Ecklie gave her the next two days off, and she insists that the least she can do is take my shifts both nights. I start to protest but figure my shoulder will be much better in two days. Thanking her, I say my goodbye.

A few minutes later, Sofia drives up and pops the trunk while I separate our things. As I begin to load them into the car, Sofia gets out to assist me. Closing the trunk, we climb in and head for my apartment.

Several blocks later, it becomes apparent we are traveling in the wrong direction. I open my mouth to correct the error, but Sofia smiles and accelerates onto the freeway. Ten minutes later, we have parked in front of some very nice condos.

Turning towards me, Sofia says, "I talked to Brass on the phone when I went to retrieve my car. He said he didn't want to see my face back in the department for another three days. He also mentioned he had talked with Catherine, and she was taking your next two shifts."

Pausing, she adds, "Sara, I want to spend more time with you. I know how good we are together away from Vegas. I'd like to believe we'd be even better now that we're home. Um, would you consider staying with me the next couple of days?"

Smiling, I reply, "Under one condition."

Sofia nods her head for me to state my terms.

I take her hand and say, "Let's stay tonight at your place and tomorrow night at mine. That way we can get acclimated to each other's space."

She leans forward and softly kisses my lips. Pulling back, she replies, "Sounds like an excellent plan to me."

We both climb out of the car and begin to get our things out of the trunk. I make a mental note to thank Catherine for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime.

Even though the trip was filled with its share of danger, the relationship I am building with Sofia definitely made it all worthwhile. This has truly been a road trip to remember.

The End

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