Why Cowboys Sleep With Their Boots On
By Skylar

He's in the middle of nowhere, Texas.

The heat is excruciating and he remembers too late that he forgot to wear sunscreen. The sun is being merciless today, and he knows tomorrow he'll wake up with one hell of a sunburn but he doesn't care, because Sofia is walking towards him wearing a plaid shirt, jeans, boots and a cowboy hat, and for a moment he forgets about the heat (though he still feels it, two types now).

She's enjoying herself, he notes, and for a moment he thanks Mrs. Sweeny for making them drive all the way out here merely to retrieve a piece of evidence and get an interrogation that'll hopefully help them solve their latest case. At the same time he curses at her, thinking of the drive back. But that doesn't matter now, because Sofia is wearing a cowboy hat and boots and the big buckle of her belt is shining bright under the Texas sun.

And she's smiling. Nick has never seen her smile like this.

"I could get used to this," she says as she reaches him, leaning on the hood of the old pick up truck next to him, and the declaration sounds like music to Nick's ears.

"Yeah?" he says teasingly, passing her a beer.

"It's nice, isn't it?" she asks in wonderment.

Nick chuckles and continues to watch the people mingling around the fair. Some sort of jalapeño festival today, with enough food to feed the entire state, games for the children and dancing for the adults, the chili cook-off about to get underway. It was nice. It was the closest thing to perfection he'd seen in a very long time.

"Do you miss it?" she asks suddenly, watching the expression on his face. "Texas, I mean."

He smiles. Her accent today is a weird hybrid between British and New England, possibly South African, he guesses. He's never heard a South African speak before, but he knows her father was stationed there for a while. Whatever it is, she's trying to hide it, but the Texas drawl all around them makes her own weird little twang stand out even more. He knows she has quite a bit of trouble controlling it, but he can't help being endeared by it.

Without responding he takes a chug of cold beer, a welcoming distraction from the heat, and he squints under the sun's rays. "Yeah, sometimes."

"Ever think of coming back?" she asks, bringing her own bottle to her lips and taking a small sip.

"Every once in a while," he says thoughtfully, looking at the ground as if replaying a fond memory in his mind.

"Why don't you?"

He doesn't know why she's suddenly so curious about him, but they're in the middle of nowhere, Texas, about to get her acquainted with her very first bowl of chili, and suddenly he feels like being honest.

"Work," he says, "I got my life there now."

She nods and looks away, and he doesn't tell her about the fact that he really doesn't have much of a life at all (but he thinks there's an undercurrent of sympathy on her face).

A moment of silence falls upon them, and he drinks from his beer once more. The music is fast and loud and it takes him back to his youth, hot summer days in the lake out by the outskirts of town, gathering with his friends and generally being up to no good. Reaching adolescence. Starting to chase after girls. Kissing Jenny McCall out behind her father's old barn, praying they wouldn't get caught. Taking it a little further after that, until her little brother caught them one night and screamed bloody murder (they never did meet at the barn after that). Every day more of the same, but in a way he found he lived and enjoyed life to its fullest back then, in a small town with very little possibilities.

(Maybe he'll tell her about that someday. He thinks, hopes, she'll like hearing about it.)

He did think of coming back. More often than he cared to admit. He thought of leaving the force and buying some property, vast land and grow something profitable, buy a few horses, get married, raise a few little critters—it was a dream that still played out on the back of his mind, where for now he let it reside.

But work had become too much a part of him, and he didn't know how he would be able to function without the lab. Until he figured that out, Texas remained but a state 1,200 miles away.

He casts a sidelong glance at Sofia and can't help but chuckle. Sensing the reason for his amusement she turns to him, putting her hand on top of her cowboy hat.

"It was a gift from the sheriff," she says defensively.

"I didn't say anything," he replies, and suddenly feels the hat on his head, and he looks over and finds her smiling. He's plagued with the compulsion to figure out a way to keep her this happy indefinitely.

"I think you're a better cowboy than I am a cowgirl," she says, drinking from her beer once more.

Nick disagrees, because despite her background she looks the part, has a bit of the cowboy swagger that drives men around these parts crazy, and she's got the attitude to boot. She can wear a pair of jeans like nobody's business, he found out today, and her hair is as wild and untamed as she, blowing in the light breeze in all kinds of directions as if trying to decide which way to take off.

(He's always been a sucker for blondes. He doesn't tell her that part, though.)

She cold be so much trouble if she wanted. She could wrap him 'round her little finger and do whatever she wanted with him. Around Sofia Curtis, Nick found he always needed to sleep with his boots on, one eye open, and his hand on his gun.

But she didn't get it. He got the feeling she didn't even know the effect she had on men, on him. Or maybe it was just him. He always was a sucker for blondes.

"Can you teach me?"

He looks over and she's looking at all the couples dancing, the men spinning the women around, all of them moving to the beat of the music. He chuckles and hesitates, shaking his head.

"Come on," she coaxes, taking one step forward. "I'm in Texas, I always wanted to learn."

"It's a little complicated," he says, trying to find an excuse, any excuse, because he knows that if he gets her in his arms, all bets are off.

"It doesn't look complicated," she says, looking at the couples and then back at him. "That man is even telling them what to do."

He's amused, smiles at her and says nothing, leaning back on the pick up truck, and during those seconds he can feel a little something dangerous ping-pong back and forth between them until she shakes her head at him. He's not entirely sure, but he gets the feeling he's playing eye-footsie with Sofia Curtis, and the thought is a bit exhilarating.

"Nevermind, then. I'll just find my own cowboy," she says, taking a sip of her beer with some sort of smile on her face, looking at him straight in the eyes and he can see now, she's not as ignorant as he thought. The Devil in Texas and suddenly he thinks of the McCall's barn.

He chuckles and takes her beer, puts the two bottles on the hood and grabs her hand. The music is a little too fast and he decides to wait for a slower song, and he explains the basics to her but finds putting them into practice is harder than he anticipated. Sofia doesn't mind the fact that she can't seem to get the steps down to save her life, she merely laughs, staring at their feet, and not too long after decides to take over (to hell with the do-si-do) as she comes up with her own little moves. Nick plays along, and people are looking but he doesn't care so long as he can feel her hair on his hand, the sway of her hips and the vibration of her laughter on her skin.

(She could kill him. She could rip him to shreds with that smile and a blink of those blue eyes.)

The song dies down and a slower one begins, and he starts feeling apologetic but she grabs his hands again, because this she can dance and she's not leaving Texas without getting something right on the dance floor. He feels a little nervous, but it dissolves into something more peaceful as they find a rhythm together, the fiddle singing about love and heartache.

"I could get used to this," she repeats, and Nick knows she's talking about Texas, about dancing and jalapeño fairs and children running around, warm summer days and cowboy hats and boots, but for a moment he lets himself live a small illusion as she rests her chin on his shoulder and he draws her closer, their fingers intertwined and his heart beating fast.

Las Vegas sits on the back of his mind, not quietly, but he's got his dangerous blonde, a pair of boots and a cowboy hat and he knows, without a doubt--he could get used to this, too.

The End