A/N: Muse was feeling kinda… dark. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Xxx XXX xxX

They had been driving back from a crime scene when they heard about the accident. Since they were merely three blocks away, they radioed they were driving in to help. The sight that greeted them literally made their blood run cold: a three car pile up that included a sporty convertible, a SUV and a school van. Twisted metal fragments covered all three lanes and the moans of those in pain and their cries of help could be heard everywhere.

Without exchanging more than a glance, they both got out of their own truck and hurried to help. Nick checked on the couple that had been riding the convertible. A quick inspection told them that they were both gone for good, so he moved to the school van. The paramedics that had arrived first were already working on it, and they were quite grateful to have an extra set of arms to take the scared kids away from the scene as fast as possible.

Sofia checked the truck. The driver, an older man, had not been wearing his seatbelt and the unnatural position of his neck told the young woman he was beyond helping. She was going to move away from the vehicle when a bloody hand grabbed her ankle. Crouching down, Sofia met face to face with a middle aged woman, covered in blood but alive, looking at her with fear written all over her face.

"Please… don't leave me!" she pleaded.

"I won't." Sofia assured her, getting on all fours to asses the situation.

The woman hadn't been wearing her seatbelt either, and was trapped between the front and the back seats. As the truck had flipped over, the roof had collapsed as well, making it virtually impossible to get the woman out without the aid of the rescue units and a set of jaws to cut the vehicle in half.

"Ma'am. Ma'am. Listen to me. I'm going to get help for you. We'll get you out as soon as we can, but I need to get more help. I'm going to be right back, you hear me?"

"Y-y-yes. Please hurry. Albert must be in a lot of pain, too."

Sofia gave the woman a reassuring smile, whilst she felt a knot of sympathy in her stomach. "She hasn't realized he's no longer with her" Sofia thought, grateful for that for the time being: it would be easier to talk her into keeping still and cooperative if she found out the truth until after the ordeal was done. As a former patrol woman, she had had her share of car accidents in which she had to assist the wounded and the dying. Needless to say, it was one of the things that she least missed of being out on the streets.

She ran off towards the EMTs and explained the situation. Another police car had driven up and the cop promised to radio the request immediately. Sofia turned around to go back to the truck when Nick caught up with her. "What are you planning to do?"

he asked.

"There's not much I can do given the circumstances, save keep her company until the fire department gets here."

Nick nodded in understanding and allowed her to go her way. He had, literally, his hands full with a group of third graders, most of them none to bad for the wear, but scared beyond measure, all of them desperate to cling to his arms and chest until they found someone else that made them feel safe, preferably a someone else that went by the name of mommy.

"Ma'am?" she called out, crouching again next to the almost totaled truck, "Can you hear me? I'm back. The fire department will be here in no time at all and we'll get you out…"

"I'm here…" came the weary answer.

Sofia lay down on her stomach to peer inside the truck. She could see the woman now, and gave her an encouraging smile. "Hi there, ma'am. My name's Sofia, what's yours?"

"I'm Agatha… and this stubborn sleepyhead on my right is my husband Albert."

Sofia kept the smile on, even when it was the last thing she felt like doing. "Nice to meet you Mrs. Agatha… Mr. Albert." Sofia didn't' want to indulge into the idea of Albert being alive, but if thinking he was helped Agatha get out of there alive, then by God, she's continue making conversation with a dead man and his wife for as long as it was necessary.

She kept the older woman engaged in small talk, asking about where they were from and what had they done in Vegas so far, and answering personal questions as well (no, she wasn't married and no, she didn't have any children, and no, there wasn't a young man who was sweet on her for the time being…) all while wondering what was taking the damn rescuers so long. A stolen glance over her left shoulder told her that Nick had, literally, his hands full for the time being, and she smiled at the sight of the CSI surrounded by a bunch of dirty 8 year olds.

Suddenly, she felt her front get wet. Looking around, she realized the truck's gas tank had been ruptured and now gasoline was pouring out on the concrete, having reached where she was lying down. She excused herself for a moment, on the pretense of going to see how much longer they'd have to wait, and quickly reached the others to inform them of the potential danger and inquire on the ETA of the rescue unit she had been waiting for, and then she returned to her place next to the overturned truck.

The events of the next fifteen minutes were all hazy to her afterwards. She heard the rescue truck arrive and was also aware that Jim Brass was also now on the scene. Then she heard people shouting and smelled smoke. Her own sense of survival screamed at her to get out of there, but her sense of duty kept her rooted where she was. She remembered Agatha asking what was going on, and her own vacillation between the truth and a reassuring white lie. She also remembered the first explosion and the panicked expression on the trapped woman when she realized what was going to happen next.

Sofia could hear Nick calling out for her as well, unable to run towards her as he still had kids surrounding him, and she also remembered, more hastily but still, Brass' voice ordering someone to get her out of there ASAP. She remembered looking at Agatha and opening her mouth, but not knowing what to say.

What she did remember clearly, though, and would probably come back to haunt her for months to come, were Agatha's parting words. "Let me go, Sofia. Albert's gone; it's much better this way. Go, young girl… find a guy who'll be sweet on you."

After that, she barely recalls a loud deafening noise and a heat wave. Then, nothing but blackness.

Nick saw Sofia been thrown back by the force of the second explosion and he screamed out her name. He put down the two kids he was still carrying and ran towards her, along with an EMT carrying a first aid case. The technician got to her first and began to work fast, assessing the damage and getting her ready for transportation. Nick knelt next to her as soon as he got there, but he stopped cold as soon as he saw her.

Sofia's blouse had been badly torn and the EMT had opted for ripping if off instead of trying to work around it. AS much as he didn't want to, Nick's eyes were glued to her chest, but for all the wrong reasons.

Sofia Curtis' upper body was almost completely covered in burn scars.

OLD burn scars.

Xxx XXX xxX

A/N: How did Sofia sustain those injuries? And how will this affect the way Nick views her? Find out next week, same bat-hour, same bat-channel. In the meantime, review if you liked it and if you didn't, too!