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just you and the moon on my skin

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Tightening his hands on the steering wheel, Dwayne attempted to keep the truck on the road, as high winds tried to push the vehicle sideways.  He and Loretta had left the conference late that afternoon hoping to make it home before midnight.  They had been to a NCIS symposium that was located just outside of New Orleans.  Dwayne had been invited to speak at several of the classes this year and at first he had quibbled, not sure he wanted to go, but when he learned that Loretta was also going they had decided to travel together. 

For five days and four nights it had been wall to wall meetings, and informational classes on the latest techniques the agency was employing.  And although both of them had been extremely busy as both students and teachers of various classes they had still had time to spend most evenings together. 

Dwayne couldn’t help the small smile that played across his lips as he remembered their late night conversations, the two of them having ordered room service rather than going out.  They had talked about their day and what they thought of the classes and various meetings.  Then the conversation would drift sometimes to nothing of consequence but other times they would hit on the more painful memories that they shared, and they found talking about them helped.  It had been a nice change of pace not to be interrupted with another case or an ex-agent, partner, friend, or spy back for revenge.

The last night had been a bit different.  After the two of them had finished dinner in her room and after talking half the night away, the conversation had lulled and that’s when he had noticed a growing tension between the two of them.  Taken aback, he had quickly said goodnight and walked to the door before pausing, unsure, and almost turning around very nearly overtaken with the sudden urge to take Loretta in his arms and seeing where it would lead.  Instead then he had forced himself to walk out the door.  He had needed time to think.  He had spent most of the rest of the night tossing and turning trying to figure out what had happened to change things between them until finally around four in the morning Dwayne had realized he couldn’t deny it anymore.   He had fallen in love with his best friend. 

A blinding flash of lightning brought him back to their current precarious and potentially deadly situation, and the unfortunate decision he had made to try to beat the storm home.  The clouds had been heavy with rain this afternoon but Dwayne had hoped to get to the freeway before the worst of the storm hit. Unfortunately, the freeway had washed out and they had been forced to take a detour down poorly lit country roads as the storm continued to worsen.  The rain was now coming down in sheets and Dwayne was having difficulty seeing the road in front of him.  Out of the corner of his eye he saw Loretta had a death grip on the handle of the passenger side door. 

“I’m sorry Loretta.  I thought we would’ve been able to make it back to New Orleans in time,” Dwayne breathed out as he slowed his truck to a crawl. 

“Dwayne Pride, I stood next to you just this afternoon and agreed with your assessment of the situation.  I wanted to get home as much as you did.  So if blame is going to be placed it should be on both of us,” Loretta said firmly. 

Dwayne smiled slightly at the vehemence in Loretta’s voice.  He could always count on her to try to make him feel better.  He risked a glance at his passenger checking to make sure she was okay before bringing his gaze back to the road.  Stepping lightly on the brake, Dwayne slowed the truck even more, they were now at a crawl as he followed the broken yellow line, but no matter how slow he went it still felt too fast.  He couldn’t even really call it rain anymore as it was approaching hurricane levels of downpour. 

“Keep an eye out, we need to get off the road,” Dwayne breathed out in a gasp as a gust of wind rocked the truck. 

Loretta her voice shaking just a bit said, “I have been looking but I haven’t seen a single sign of civilization.  More than likely the power has already been knocked out.”

Dwayne nodded tersely.  He had noticed a distinct lack of any sort of light even for a back country road and he couldn’t remember the last time he had seen another car.

The silence in the truck was fraught with worry and anxiety, so Dwayne tried to distract both of them.  “You never did tell me how your last lecture went.”

 “Dwayne, I know what you’re doing,” Loretta said with a smile and shot him an amused look.

Hearing the humor in her voice, Dwayne figured it was mission accomplished and he responded with a faux innocence, “Who, me?”

Loretta waggled one finger at him, “Yes and don’t bat your baby blues at me Special Agent Pride.  I have grown immune to their power.”

Dwayne risked a quick look at her and said in a low intimate voice, “Are you sure about that?”

Loretta laughed and then said, “I plead the fifth,” as she patted his arm in amusement.  Then she launched into an amusing story about how she started off in the wrong conference room and almost gave her lecture about the rates of decomposition on bodies that had been submerged in water to a meeting of the Red Hat Society who were booked at the same hotel for their annual tea. 

He found himself laughing right along with Loretta, picturing all of the elderly women in their red hats with shocked expressions. 

“Look out!” Loretta shouted as she pointed out the window.  Dwayne saw a large black dog briefly illuminated against the car’s headlights.

Jerking the wheel to the side in an effort to avoid the animal, Dwayne felt the car start to hydroplane across the road.  He tried to turn into the spin but he knew it was too late. “Hold on!”

The truck skidded off the side of the road, rolling over twice and coming to a rest in a ditch that ran alongside the road. 

~New Orleans~

Loretta woke with a start, jerking her head up sharply, causing pain to ripple up her spine and into her skull.  The overhead light was emitting a dull sickly glow that hurt her eyes, and the now shattered passenger window was allowing the driving wind and freezing rain to come into the cab, soaking her.  Reaching up, she gripped her head trying to stop the ache. When the pain subsided to a dull roar, Loretta brought her hands back down.  Shocked at the sight of blood on her fingertips she gently felt over her forehead and into her hair until she found a small gash.  

Through the pain she tried to remember what had happened.  She slowly turned her head her gaze slipping from the cracked windshield which was blurred with rain and mud, to her purse which had landed on the dash, its contents spilling out, and finally her eyes coming to rest uncomprehendingly on a man who was sitting to her left.  He was slumped over seemingly unconscious, his hands lax by his side.  This concerned her.  She knew him, he was familiar but the information kept slipping from her grasp.  Then it came back to her in a painful rush.

 The conference…the storm…the dog…

“Dwayne,” Loretta breathed out. 

She fumbled with her seatbelt, her fingers uncoordinated and clumsy.  Finally getting the button pushed she quickly slid over.  With trembling hands, Loretta pushed two fingers against his throat feeling for a pulse.  Loretta sagged a bit in relief when she felt the steady beat beneath her fingertips before gently pushing Dwayne into an upright position, cupping the back of his head and tenderly resting it against the headrest.  Although she had some concern about spinal injuries there was no help for it, she had to see if he was seriously injured or not. 

Loretta carefully cupped his face pleading, “Sweetheart, open your eyes for me.”  She waited a moment then when there was no response a disappointed sigh left her. 

Thankfully the dull overhead light was just enough illumination in which to examine him.  There was a hard red bump forming under Dwayne’s right eye, which would probably be a rather spectacular bruise in the next few hours.  Loretta pressed lightly on his right cheekbone.  She didn’t think it was broken although it could still be cracked but that was nothing she could confirm without an x-ray.  Other than that there were no other injuries visible but that didn’t rule out internal ones. 

Loretta’s mind was clearing and with that her awareness of how dire their situation was.  She needed to call for help.  Grabbing her purse off the dash, she rummaged through it looking for her cell phone.  Not finding it she squinted at the floor boards but with the low light she couldn’t see much and trying made her head hurt something awful. 

“Did you just call me sweetheart?”

A ragged voice off to her right brought her focus back to Dwayne.  Loretta smiled in relief as she saw Dwayne’s blue eyes staring back at her. 

“Maybe,” Loretta said tiredly.  The endearment had just slipped out she hadn’t meant for him to actually hear it.   “How are you feeling?” she asked in a low voice. 

Dwayne roughly shook his head as though trying to clear it and then said, “Okay I think.”  Then his eyes got wide as he took in their surroundings before his gaze swung to her and he cupped the side of her face tenderly with one of his hands and asked in a rough voice, “Are you okay?”

Loretta smiled warmly at the worried tone in Dwayne’s voice and placed her hand over his and said reassuringly, “I’m fine.”

His eyes traced her features as though reassuring himself that she spoke the truth, but when he frowned she knew he must have seen the blood on her hairline.  “It is just a small gash where some flying glass hit me.”

Dwayne looked pensive for a minute and then nodded although he still looked worried.  Sitting back and unbuckling his seatbelt he dug his cell phone out of his pocket.  Squinting at the screen, Dwayne hit the home button and the phone lit up, then he cursed.  “Damn, I don’t have a signal.”

With a sigh of disappointment, Loretta passed a hand over her eyes wincing slightly as the movement made the throbbing in her head spike suddenly.  When she opened her eyes she saw Dwayne staring at her in concern. 

She reached over and patted his knee in reassurance before saying, “I have a bit of a headache but only time will help that.  I am more concerned with our situation.”

It continued to storm outside and thanks to the broken window on her side of the truck she was wet and cold and she couldn’t stop shivering.  She had brought a light jacket with her to the conference but it was in her luggage and even if it wasn’t it wouldn’t stand up to this storm.

“I agree,” Dwayne said and stopped when the faint overhead light dimmed even more and then continued, “We definitely can’t stay here.” Dwayne reached behind his seat and drew out his heavy weather jacket.  “I keep this back here, in case of emergency.  Here put this on, it will help at least a little bit.”  He helped her thread her arms into the jacket’s long sleeves and then asked, “Can you grab the flashlight out of the glove box?”

Loretta nodded and opened the glove box handing him the flashlight and said, “Be careful out there.”

He nodded, before pushing the door open and quickly closing it behind him.  Loretta tried to peer through the rain soaked window to keep an eye on Dwayne.  With a shiver she zipped up the jacket Dwayne had loaned her, grateful for the warmth that immediately followed.

After a few minutes Dwayne returned, soaked to the skin, “There is a mailbox just down the way.  I couldn’t see a house but if we follow the driveway there has to be a house or some sort of business and hopefully they still have power or at least a phone.” 

Loretta nodded and Dwayne held out his hand and helped Loretta climb over the center console and out of the driver’s side door. 

The truck had rolled into a large ditch and had landed at an angle.  Although it had thankfully landed upright, it was unfortunately stuck in a ditch rapidly filling with water.  Stepping out of the truck, Loretta was immediately immersed in rainwater up to her waist.  She gasped in shock as the cold water hit her skin. 

“This way,” Dwayne shouted to be heard over the storm, grabbing her hand he pulled them both towards the other side of the ditch. 

Loretta gripped his hand tighter as they wadded through the ditchwater, praying that she wouldn’t fall into the foul water.   She breathed out a sigh of relief as they climbed out the other side.  Spotting the mailbox, she felt hope surge through her that help could be just around the corner.  Beyond the mailbox was a long unpaved driveway.  Regrettably the storm had turned the dirt into thick mud that clung to their shoes and threatened to render them shoeless with each step.  She was very thankful when Dwayne wrapped an arm around her shoulders and brought her close to his side as they trudged along and that helped provide a smidgen of warmth and a lot of comfort.  They had been walking for twenty minutes with only the flashlight lighting their way when they almost managed to walk right past a small house. 

The house was in typical “shotgun” style that was popular in the south, long, narrow, and box-like.  Loretta could’ve collapsed on the front porch in relief.  The home was in total darkness so more than likely the power was still out.  Dwayne pounded on the door, calling for help and Loretta peeked through a gap in the curtains. 

“Dwayne, the front room has no furniture.  I don’t think anyone lives here,” Loretta shouted trying to compete with the howling storm.

He nodded and then tested the door handle, trying to turn it to no avail. 

“Damn it,” Dwayne growled out in frustration. 

Loretta pushed up on the window but it was locked tight as well.

“Apologies to the owners,” Dwayne said right before he gave the front door a solid kick.  The door shuddered but held fast.  He cursed under his breath as he reared back and tried again.  This time the door flew inwards hitting the wall with bang.

Loretta stumbled inside with Dwayne right behind her before he turned and pushed the door closed managing to wedge the now broken door shut. 

The front room was small and empty.  The only saving grace was the fireplace against the far wall. 

“Maybe we can find some firewood,” Loretta said in a low voice.  She felt a little bad as she was dripping water on some stranger’s hardwood floor, but she almost didn’t care as thankful she was to be out of the rain.   

“Let’s look through the rest of the house…” Dwayne said before trailing off and retaking Loretta’s hand.  Using the flashlight to light the way in the pitch black house, they discovered the second room was a kitchen.  Beyond the kitchen, was a bedroom and bathroom. 

“I’ll check the back porch to see if they have a wood box,” Dwayne said handing her the flashlight. 

“And I’ll check the cupboards in the bedroom and kitchen to see what I can scrounge up as far as supplies go,” Loretta stated, before reluctantly letting go of Dwayne’s hand.  He gave her a soft smile, digging his phone out of his pocket and turning on the light, before unlocking and going out the back door. 

Loretta turned and surveyed the room.  There was one bed tucked against the wall.  The mattress looked new as it was wrapped in plastic.  She surmised whoever owned the house was planning on eventually coming back and wanted to keep the mattress in good condition.  There weren’t any built in closets in the bedroom so she went into the bathroom where she found a deeply recessed cupboard.

Opening the door, she let out a triumphant, “Jackpot!”  Inside was a plethora of blankets and towels.  She felt she had truly struck gold. 

She moved on to the kitchen next.  Opening the cupboards she found a few cans of fruit that hadn’t expired yet, and thankfully, a can opener in one of the drawers. 

Hearing the backdoor open, she peeked her head around the corner and saw Dwayne with a bundle of firewood in his arms.

“I found a well stocked wood box.  I’m going to make a couple of trips so we don’t have to go back out later,” Dwayne said, a wide smile on his face, obviously very happy with his find. 

“And I found blankets and a few cans of peaches and fruit cocktail,” Loretta countered, holding up two of the cans. Placing the cans back on the counter, she followed him into the front room.

“Well, Loretta,” Dwayne said squatting down and placing the wood next to the fire place, “I think we are going to be just fine.”   

As Loretta watched Dwayne stack the wood in fireplace and attempt to start a fire she felt an involuntary tremor go up her spine and she realized she was shivering.  She had been momentarily distracted with the search for provisions but once again she was reminded that she was soaked to the skin and she still had a headache thanks to what was probably a concussion. 

It didn’t take Dwayne long to get the kindling to catch and he soon had a roaring fire going, which was already spreading heat to the rest of the room. 

Standing up with a satisfied smile on his face, Dwayne walked over to her and placing his hands on her shoulders asked, “How are you doing? Honestly.”

She felt the I’m fine die on her tongue at his honestly and instead said, “I’m freezing and my head hurts a bit.  How are you?”

“About the same although my head doesn’t hurt,” Dwayne said.

When Loretta saw him shiver she said in concern, “We need to get out of these wet clothes before we develop hypothermia.  We can hang our wet clothes up to dry and use the blankets in the meantime.”

Dwayne cleared his throat and in the low light she couldn’t be sure but she thought he might be blushing before he said, “A very practical suggestion.  I am going to get more firewood so why don’t you go get changed first.”

In the bathroom, Loretta quickly divested herself of her wet clothes and hung them over the shower curtain rod.  Then she unfolded one of the blankets and tried to figure out how to best get maximum coverage.  In the end she managed to achieve an almost toga like garment, which would hopefully stay where it was placed.  The blanket fell past her feet, so gathering the extra material; Loretta stepped out of the bathroom and walked through the doorway to the front room, where she saw Dwayne crouched down tending to the fire.  When he looked up she felt suddenly shy dressed only in what was basically a thick sheet.  Trying laugh it off she said, “I’m calling it blanket-chic.”

Dwayne watched her for a long moment, and then stood and taking in a deep breath said, “You look beautiful.”

She smiled at the compliment, feeling more at ease, and then noticed the new addition to the room.  Next to the fire place Dwayne had dragged in the mattress from the other room.

“The heat from the fire won’t reach into that back bedroom so I thought it would be better to put it in here and we could take turns resting and this way we will be warmer,” Dwayne said a bit sheepishly.

“Take turns?  Dwayne we are both adults and this is a king size mattress, we can share,” Loretta said, even though the thought of sharing a bed with Dwayne made her feel a bit giddy.

When she looked back up she saw there was a look in his eyes that made a curl of heat unravel in her stomach.  There was also a sudden tension in the air that made Loretta want to fill the quiet but at the same time she was loath to break the silence afraid if she spoke it would shatter the moment between them.   While she was still undecided, Dwayne leaned down slowly and hesitatingly as though unsure if he would be accepted or not and Loretta in response pushed up and brushed her lips against his. 

It was a gentle kiss, light and soft, and everything she had ever thought it could be. 

Sighing against his mouth she parted her lips and they deepened the kiss. Then wanting to get closer to Dwayne, Loretta placed her hands on his chest.  The damp cold shirt under her fingers brought her back to reality.

Reluctantly pulling away, Loretta said a bit breathlessly, “Dwayne you have to be freezing.  You must go and change before you catch your death.”

Dwayne, who had a slightly dazed look in his eyes and a pleased half smile on his lips, cleared his throat saying softly, “Um…Okay.”

As he walked away, Loretta couldn’t help almost absently placing a fingertip on her lower lip, lost in her thoughts.  She couldn’t believe they just kissed.  They had been best friends for over a decade but they had never crossed the line between friendship and more.  There of course had been times when they had seemed on the verge but one or the other had always drawn back and they had never spoken or even really acknowledged those moments. 

Now though maybe there was chance for them.  They could take the next step if they wanted.  Did she want to? Yes.  The answer came to her quickly and easily as soon as she thought of the question. 

Trying to distract herself from her cycling thoughts, Loretta unwrapped the plastic from the mattress.  She jumped a bit when a particularly loud thump hit the side of house.  Walking over to the window, Loretta couldn’t help watching as nature tore itself across the landscape.  Lightning illuminated her view showing her trees that were bent almost in half battered by the near gale force wind and the rain was still falling in sheets.  She shuddered as she thought about what might have happened to the two of them if they hadn’t found this house.

She heard a creak of a floor board which heralded Dwayne’s return, looking over she saw he had opted to wrap the blanket around his waist and another one was draped over his shoulders.  Dwayne was a very fit handsome man and Loretta felt her cheeks heat up at the sight of his bare chest so she gave him a brief smiled before she dragged her gaze from him back to the window. 

Loretta shook her head at her own foolishness; she had seen Dwayne with his shirt off before.  Although that had always been in a professional capacity when he had been injured and had needed a quick patch up.  Now seeing him half undressed, in a darkened room with only the firelight to illuminate the two of them it felt more intimate. 

Clearing her throat nervously, Loretta said, “The storm doesn’t seem to be letting up at all.”

He walked up behind her and placed his hands gently on her upper arms.  She could feel the warmth of him against her back, and she unconsciously leaned backwards.  Loretta sighed as he enfolded her in his arms and softly placed a kiss at her temple. 

Loretta could feel herself melt against Dwayne at the feel of his lips against her skin.  They stood there for a long moment watching the storm rage outside the window.  Before a loud pop from the fireplace had them turning around.

“I should stack more wood on the fire,” Dwayne said, moving away reluctantly.  Loretta nodded, not quite trusting her voice.  When she realized she was staring at the way the shadows from the fire were dancing across Dwayne’s bare skin and wondering how warm to the touch he would be, Loretta turned abruptly and went to go get the rest of the blankets and grab the food off the counter.

When she returned with both blankets and canned food in hand, she saw Dwayne had placed the mattress close enough to the fireplace to feel the fire’s heat but far enough away to keep them from being roasted.  Silently they worked together to spread out the blankets and make the bed.  When they finished they stood across from each other, their eyes met and held as time stretched out between them.  To Loretta it felt like one of those moments in life when you know everything could change, if you only had the courage to take the next step. 

“Are you hungry?” Dwayne asked gesturing to the canned food that Loretta had placed on the floor next to the mattress.

Loretta couldn’t feel anything but butterflies as far as her stomach was concerned so she shook her head.

With a tender expression, Dwayne held out his hand palm up and Loretta let out a soft sigh and slid her hand into his.  With her other hand she gathered up her blanket-skirt and then with his help lay down on the mattress.  Moving one arm under her head as a pillow, Loretta turned onto her side, her back to the fire, facing Dwayne who mirrored her. 

“We’ve been friends for a long time Dwayne…,” Loretta said hesitatingly, allowing the sentence to trail off, unsure herself what she was trying to say only that Dwayne was one of the most important people in her life and she didn’t want to lose him if things didn’t work out between the two of them.   

“Yes we have, Loretta,” Dwayne said softly, shifting a bit trying to get comfortable before he stretched out his arm in comfort but then seemed to think better of it and placed his hand between them on the mattress.

“This would change so much,” Loretta whispered, “I am willing to admit I am nervous.”

“What are you afraid of?” Dwayne asked his voice soft and understanding. 

 At first Loretta wasn’t sure she what she was going to say, but then looking into Dwayne’s eyes she remembered she could tell her best friend anything.  “I am worried that we could destroy what we have, which is so very precious to me.  What if we begin a relationship…and it doesn’t work out.”  Her voice had started off strong but towards the end it had taken on a hesitant tone. 

“Loretta, I don’t think either one of us would allow that to happen,” Dwayne said with a quiet confidence before he continued his voice lowering to a whisper, “I am nervous as well, but I think the two of us could make it.” 

Loretta couldn’t help but scoot closer at the confession and she laid her hand over his and twining their fingers together.

“Any new relationship is a risk but I want to try because I love you,” Dwayne breathed out, before continuing his voice stronger, “Loretta, I am in love with you.”

“Sweetheart…,” Loretta murmured a feeling of joy rushing through her at his declaration, and then a slow smile spread across her lips, as something indefinable settled within her.  Then she brought their joined hands up to her mouth and placed a soft kiss to the palm of his hand.  “I’m in love with you too and you’re right together we can do this.”

Dwayne leaned over with a broad grin and captured her lips with his own.  Loretta cupped the back of his head drew him down towards her as she moved onto her back, and the passion between them grew.  She ran her hands down his shoulders, widening her legs and pulling him impossibly closer.  Loretta moaned slightly as one of his hands gripped her thigh and pulled her leg over his hip before brushing his fingertips across her breasts. 

The blankets loosened and fell away as their desire rose, and the only sound was the crackle of the fire and their sighs of pleasure.

~New Orleans~

The fire was casting shadows about the room, as they lay in each other’s arms.  It wouldn’t be too long before dawn would break the horizon; both were sleepy but satisfied as they talked in low whispers about inconsequential things.  Their improvised togas that had been wrapped around them were now draped over them, keeping them warm.  The fire was getting low and Dwayne knew he should get up soon to add more firewood but not yet, he didn’t want to move.  He had Loretta by his side and hadn’t felt this sense of quiet joy in a long while.  

Dwayne gently placed a couple of kisses along one shoulder, as one of his hands slowly caressed from shoulder to hip. Feeling Loretta stretch and then lean into his caresses Dwayne leisurely turned her in his arms, and kissed her deeply.  When they broke apart, Loretta’s brown eyes gazed lovingly up at him, a tender expression on her face. 

“Are we going to tell the others?” Loretta asked. 

“I don’t want to hide it,” Dwayne responded, hoping she felt the same but he would bow to her wishes, he could understand if she wanted to keep their private life just between the two of them for now. 

A relieved smile spread across her face. “I was hoping you felt that way.  I couldn’t imagine even if we wanted to we could keep the change in our relationship a secret from trained investigators for very long.”

He couldn’t help leaning down and try to capture her lovely smile in a kiss so he could keep it with him always.

When they broke apart, Loretta reached up and caressed her fingers slowly across his throat and collar bone, causing Dwayne to shudder, before she continued, “I was thinking that maybe when this storm finally breaks and we get out of here we go out on a official date.”

“That is a mighty fine idea,” Dwayne agreed contemplating going in for another kiss seeing his desire reflected in her eyes, but then his gaze fell on a slight cut on her forehead and he was rather abruptly reminded that she had been hurt earlier. 

His expression must have changed because Loretta with a concerned look on her face asked, “What’s wrong?”

Gently brushing a hand over her hair that was nearest to the wound, Dwayne asked, “How are you feeling?”

“Oh that,” Loretta said dismissively, “I stopped feeling that hours ago.”

Bringing her hand up, Loretta covered her mouth hiding the yawn that caught her by surprise, before she chuckled and with a twinkle in her eye said, “Excuse me, it is not the company, I think the day is getting to me.”

Dwayne gave a breathy laugh before laying down next to her and drawing Loretta back into his arms with her head on his chest and started running a hand slowly up and down her back.  “You are excused; I think we could both use a bit of shuteye.  The storm doesn’t sound quite so hurricane-like anymore so come daylight we will probably have a bit of a hike ahead of us until we either find a phone or get a signal.” 

Loretta hummed in agreement her eyes already closed, and although Dwayne felt the pull of sleep he couldn’t help but try to stay awake wanting to savor this moment between them and think of this new reality where he had his love in his arms.

~New Orleans~

Loretta gave the form in her hands one last through look, making sure she had dotted every I and crossed every T, then she quickly signed her name to the bottom, before placing it in the outbox to be filed at the county office.  Glancing at her watch, she saw it was almost time…

“Hey Loretta, are you ready?”

Looking up, Loretta saw Dwayne with a large grin on his face standing in the doorway.  “Just let me gather my things,” Loretta answered a rush of joy going through her, “I was just finishing some paperwork.”

Walking over to Dwayne, with her jacket and purse in hand, Loretta stopped in front of him, reached up, and pulled him down for a long slow kiss.  It still felt amazing to her that she was allowed to do this now, to have this with the man she loved.  After a long while they broke apart both breathing a bit more rapidly, Loretta gently traced a finger along his cheekbone where a faint yellowish bruise was all that remained of last week’s misadventure. 

They had woken up that following morning and had gotten dressed in their mostly dry clothing, before putting the house back to as close as they could to how they found it. They also left a note to the owners about how to contact them so they could pay for damages.  Then they had started the long walk back to where they had left the truck.  Thankfully that morning was sunny although still cold.  When they had reached the ditch, they saw the truck was a total loss; not only had it rolled a couple of times during the accident but now the water was almost to the roof, the inside completely flooded. 

They had taken a moment at the muddy bank and just held each other realizing just how close it had been to neither one of them walking away.  Then they had turned and start walking down the road.  They had been walking for about half an hour when they had flagged down a passing car whose driver kindly delivered them to closest town where they finally were able to get a signal to call for a tow truck and call Dwayne’s brother Jimmy for a ride home.  They had spent the rest of the weekend at Loretta’s house, resting up and spending time together. 

Dropping her hand, she turned and murmured a thank you as Dwayne helped her with her jacket.  Loretta’s mind was filled with plans as they walked down the hallway, Dwayne’s arm slung around her shoulders.  They were going to go out tonight, and tomorrow she, Dwayne, and CJ were going to visit CJ’s elder brother Danny.  

“Where do you want to go to dinner tonight?” Dwayne asked as they leisurely strolled down the hall.

Loretta thought about for a minute before saying, “I don’t know.  I heard of a new place near the French Quarter that serves the best Mexican food.”

“That sounds good,” Dwayne said in an agreeable tone.

She stopped and smiled up at him and said with a laugh, “I think I could get you to agree to just about anything right now.”

Dwayne made a face like he was giving that thought serious consideration before he sagely nodded and said, “You know I think you’re right.” 

Then he leaned down and placed a kiss on her smiling lips which Loretta returned with fervor. 

“Woah..sorry…I.”

Breaking the kiss, Loretta saw a wide eyed Sebastian open and close his mouth a few times before pointed to a file folder in his hands and stammered out, “I…was just…bringing this to you to sign.”  He paused for a minute as they both continued to stare at him in silence, a bright red blush made its way across his cheeks and he slowly started to back away before continuing, “You know what it really isn’t important I’ll come back...or is now a better time because…later might be worse…”

Loretta watched as Sebastian continued to babble and stammer and after sharing an amused glance with Dwayne decided to rescue the poor man, “It’s okay Sebastian, just put it on my desk and I will look at it on Monday.”

He looked relieved to be given a reason to stop talking and move on.  As he walked past them he said quickly and a bit nervously, “I think the two of you are going to be so great together.”  At their raised eyebrows he continued on more anxiously, “Both of you are really good people.  And not that you need my approval or anything but…”

This time it was Dwayne who took pity on him and said, “Thank you, Sebastian.  We’ll see you on Monday.”  And then he steered the two of them past the blushing, well meaning NCIS agent. 

As they climbed in and buckled up in Dwayne’s temporary car, they both couldn’t help laughing a bit at the remembrance of Sebastian’s shocked look. 

“You know the cat is out of the bag now don’t you?” Loretta said in an amused voice, they had planned on telling the others soon but because they had been so busy there hadn’t been a spare moment to do so.

“Oh yeah, he’s probably got the others on a conference call right now,” Dwayne said, looking over at her as he started the car. 

Loretta shook her head still laughing, “You are probably right.”

Just then Dwayne’s phone chirped, he pulled it out of his pocket and said, “Speak of the devil or devils in this case. We’ve been invited to drinks at the bar after we’re finished with dinner.  What do you say?”

“Of course,” Loretta said, “After all, they are family.”

“Yes they are,” Dwayne said, as he leaned over for a kiss that Loretta was all too happy to give him. 

The End