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Lessons Learned

Chapter 11

Daniel was driving. Jack was in the front passenger seat. Sam was dozing in the very back of the SUV, stretched out on the bench seat, and Teal’c and Casey were in the center two-seat bench...dancing. Daniel glanced in the rearview mirror, fought the urge to laugh out loud as they shook their shoulders and bobbed their heads in time to the music that was playing ...no...it was blaring...from the speakers. Poison. ‘Unskinny Bop’. And Casey was singing with the music.

Jack glanced over his shoulder. Bit back a grin. Teal’c had ‘discovered’ a love for music; inspired, no doubt, by the slender blonde beside him. She worked out to music...every man in the mountain had watched her at least once. He'd been...witness...to her very aerobic, very...arousing...workout a time or two. She wasn’t trying to be provocative...she was just being herself. She worked damned hard during those workouts. The fact that she'd incorporated moves from martial arts, aerobics, and Pilates into her routine made for some damned interesting viewing. And she could fold that slender body into positions that just hurt...in more ways than one! She had Teal’c working out to music now, as well. And he'd noticed that at least three other female SG team members, two nurses, and Sam usually joined the two during their grueling hour long sessions.

"You know what?" Casey said, when the song had ended, and silence filled the interior of the vehicle for a few seconds.

Daniel reached over and turned the volume on the stereo to low. "What?"

"I could so use a pit stop."

"Next place we see."

"If it’s not soon, find a tree...I’m not picky," she replied.

Jack snorted. "Why didn’t you say something before we passed that last rest stop?"

"Because I didn’t need to go before we passed that last rest stop," she retorted.

He began to laugh. "Don’t bother, Jack," Daniel said cheerfully. "You won’t win."

The older man grinned. "From the man who should know," he said.

"Exactly."

"Where are we?" Sam’s voice asked from the back of the SUV.

"About thirty minutes further down the road than we were when you fell asleep," Jack called back to her.

No one had to see her to know that she was rolling her eyes. "Thanks, that helps so much."

"We’re just north of Portland," Casey supplied.

"Thanks, Case," Sam said. She stretched. "I need a pit stop."

Casey burst into giggles. "I just made that request."

"Well, I made it again," Sam quipped. She ran her fingers through her hair. "Are there any Doritos left?"

Teal’c reached into the box beside him, found the bag of chips and handed it back to her. "There are no other bags of that particular brand remaining, after you eat those," he told her.

"That’s okay, as long as I get the last of these," Sam sighed, stuffing one of the triangle shaped chips into her mouth.

"Any of those Oreo’s left?" Jack asked.

Teal’c handed the remainder of the cookies to the older man. "At this rate, we will need to stop and replenish our supply of ‘munchies’."

"All part of the road trip experience," Daniel grinned. This was actually his first road trip as well. And he was enjoying every minute of it.

"How close is Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon?" Casey asked.

Jack grabbed the atlas he'd decided that they needed. Checked the maps. Figured the distance as closely as possible. "From Vegas to Grand Canyon Village is about four and a half hours."

"If we want to go there, we probably ought to make reservations as soon as we get to Vegas," Sam said.

"Do you want to see the Grand Canyon?" Daniel asked his Wife, glancing at her in the rearview mirror.

"If everyone else does," she replied.

"We could spend a few days in Vegas, drive to the Canyon, and then back up to Silver Springs," Jack suggested.

Everyone agreed that it sounded like a very good idea. They'd already extended the rental of the SUV to accommodate their trip to Las Vegas. It would be no problem to extend it once again.

 

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Each of the team members were taking a turn at the wheel, and it was Casey’s turn to drive. It was nearly two a.m. Sam and Jack were side by side in the center seat, sound asleep, Teal’c had stretched his long frame as best he could on the rear seat. Daniel was snoring softly beside her. They had agreed to stop at Twin Falls, Idaho for a rest, and then they'd finish their trip to Las Vegas the following day; reservations Sam had made that afternoon insured that rooms would be waiting for them when they stopped for the night. She kept track of the dwindling mileage between the van and their destination with each passing sign.

It felt as if they'd been away from Silver Springs for longer than just five days. So much had happened! Daniel had faced down her adoptive mother, offering her the chance to find closure on the very painful childhood that still haunted her. They'd spent a single day on an archaeological dig, only to find information that led them to the Goa’uld that Harry Maybourne had warned them about. She'd experienced downloads and then 'searched' for information, which had caused enough emotional upheaval and mental calisthenics to leave her exhausted on a dozen different levels.

The minute that they'd left McChord AFB, however, the mood had lightened. They'd been like children...well, teenagers anyway...during their trip to the closest Wal-Mart they could find - filling the shopping cart with chips, cookies, crackers, pop tarts, candy, even boxes of cereal, as well as soda and water. Daniel had purchased a large ice chest for the soda, and covered the bottles of water and cans of Coke and Dr. Pepper with crushed ice.

She'd insisted that they couldn’t travel without music. She'd found a selection of ‘Billboard’ hits that offered a variety of songs from various bands. So far, they'd listened to three of the cds...twice.

The stereo was off, the silence of the night soft and warm. The stars were bright in the sky above them as the white rental sped over the Interstate toward Twin Falls. There was very little traffic on the road at this time of night. For the first time in weeks she felt absolutely peaceful. In the few months that she'd been with Daniel, been a part of SG-1, she'd learned that the peace wouldn’t last. So it was best to enjoy it while she could. She knew that when they returned to the SGC, things were going to be stressful.

The nearest threat that loomed over them would remain until they located Tem, and took his snake ass out. She was concerned about the ‘boardmembers’ she'd seen. Those men were no longer...sane. They'd been broken down, dehumanized, twisted, warped...to the point that they were barely human. No doubt they would need to be dealt with as well. And Kinsey...she sighed. Kinsey had somehow become involved with that very nasty group of men. She frowned. He hadn’t gone voluntarily. He'd been...she gasped softly as the ‘information’ was dumped on her. She gently applied the brakes, pulled the SUV to the shoulder of the highway as images began to flash through her mind.

"Casey?" Daniel’s voice asked sleepily from beside her.

"It’s okay," she said softly, "go back to sleep."

"What’s wrong?" He reached out and took her hand. "What are you sensing...seeing?"

"Kinsey. He was...taken...by Tem...well, by one of his...employees. They’re...they’re breaking him down...just like Tem did to all of them."

"Jesus," he hissed. He didn’t like the man, in fact, hate wasn’t too strong a word to use when it came to his feelings toward the former senator. It didn’t mean that he wished Kinsey to suffer in the way Casey had described to him. "Any way to get him out of there?"

She shook her head. "It’s too late. He’s already too far gone. He was pretty...twisted...before they got to him. If he hasn’t completely broken, he will soon." She shook her head. "I don’t want to think about this. We’re on vacation."

He smiled. "Okay. We won’t." He watched her as she pulled back onto the road. It was damned difficult for her to relax. Visions, images, feelings...all flooded her at any given time, she had no control over that aspect of her gift. Sometimes he wished that there was a ‘switch’ that she could throw, to turn it all off for just awhile. Even a few hours. So she could have just a bit of peace.

His thoughts moved back to Kinsey. Jack had shown him the photographs that had ‘mysteriously’ been delivered to his home. They agreed that the...encounter...encounters...weren’t the first for the senator, that was just obvious. The presence of the drugs had been the most surprising, considering the man’s public stance against illegal drugs. Hell, the bastard had been the biggest hypocrite breathing, they certainly had enough proof of that. Further investigation of Senator Robert Kinsey had revealed half a dozen former mistresses, nearly as many men whom the senator had been ‘involved with’, a membership in a very secretive group in D.C. that dabbled in bondage...he shook his head. Yeah, Kinsey was twisted all right. He wondered if this was the very reason that Tem had taken an interest in him. Maybe all of the men he'd broken down, then turned into loyal followers, had been equally as warped.

 

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When the SUV stopped again, he opened his eyes, then grinned. They were in the parking lot of an IHOP.

"I need coffee," she said simply, when Daniel glanced over at her.

"I want real food," a voice grumbled from the center seats.

"I wish to stretch my legs," came a deep rumble from the back.

"See, proof that I’m psychic!" Casey giggled. 

Bleary-eyed and a travel weary, the group staggered into the restaurant. Three truck drivers sat at a table near the door, watched them with open curiosity as they headed straight for a table.

The waitress hurried over, pad in hand. "Coffee?"

"Gallons of it," Casey muttered.

"Yes, please," Daniel replied, flashing the charming smile he was well known for.

Casey bent over and touched her toes, then used the back of the booth seat to steady herself as she went through a series of ballet movements, all aimed at stretching tired muscles. The truck drivers were watching with rapt attention as the slender blonde did several pliés. Teal’c was stretching as well, and Sam was bending backwards, her hands on the small of her back.

Daniel couldn’t help but grin at the men who gaped when Casey bent over one final time, bending that slender body in half. Yeah, it makes me hard too, he thought, taking in the curve of that sweet ass. The ass that he knew intimately. Which caused a shiver to move up and down his frame.

"Cold, Danny?" Jack asked, his cheek twitching. He was studiously not watching his lover and teammates as they worked the kinks out.

"Nope."

Casey slid into the booth beside her Husband. Leaned against him, resting her head on his shoulder; smiled when he pressed a kiss to the top of her head.

"How far to Twin Falls?" Sam asked.

"About another hour," Casey replied. She tried to hold back a yawn, didn’t succeed.

"Good. I am so ready for a bed!" the blonde major said.

"Me, too," the slender young woman agreed.

When the waitress returned with the coffee, they were all ready to order. Omelets, pancakes, and waffles were requested.

Daniel smiled when he glanced at the basket that held the assortment of syrups. Casey had sampled each flavor on a trip to their local IHOP, letting him taste each flavor as well. He'd licked her fingers clean, sucked the tips for just a few seconds...long enough to bring a flash of lust to those beautiful green eyes. She'd giggled, then excused herself, and gone to the ladies room to wash her hands. The syrup never had tasted as good on the waffles as it had on her sweet skin.

She sighed.

"Babe?" he asked.

"I’ve never been on a vacation, not like this," she said softly. "I’m having fun."

He smiled. "I’m glad."

"It’s been a long time since I’ve been on vacation," Sam said. "I’m having fun, too."

"I too am enjoying this time away from the SGC," Teal’c said.

Jack grinned. "Yeah, it has been a nice change of pace."

"So have we decided which casino we want to get rooms in?" Sam asked.

"Luxor," Daniel grinned.

Casey wrinkled her nose. "No way...too Egyptian. How about the Excalibur?"

"Treasure Island," Jack said.

"Caesar’s Palace," Sam grinned.

"Mandalay Bay."

Four pairs of eyes widened, focused on Teal'c. "When did you research Las Vegas?" Jack asked.

"When you suggested to Daniel Jackson that he should seek solace there," the Jaffa replied. He launched into a description of what he'd learned about each casino and hotel, as well as the history of the city.

Daniel remembered when Jack had ‘suggested’ a trip to Vegas. Shortly after Sha’re’s death, he'd been so depressed that the older man had told him on nearly a daily basis that he should spend a long weekend in the city. Daniel had ignored him, knowing that a trip to a casino wouldn’t stop the ache that filled his heart, his very being. Eventually Jack had given up, and had stopped mentioning even taking time off; finally realizing that he had to grieve in his own way, and his own time. When he'd taken off to Houston after the one year remembrance ceremony, Jack had been surprised. Nor had the older man expected him to return to Colorado still so hung over that he couldn't even drive, either. He'd spent two days in the infirmary, Janet insisting that he was damned near dead from alcohol poisoning. No more than he could drink without getting falling down drunk, his inability to drink much alcohol well known at the SGC, his friends hadn’t had to be told that he'd done a significant amount of elbow-bending while in Texas.

Jack remembered that time as well. Daniel had spent three years looking for Sha’re, had actually found her once, pregnant with Apophis and Amaunet’s child. She'd been taken from him again before he'd been able to get through the ‘gate with her. The next time he saw her, Amaunet had tried to kill him. Teal’c had been forced to kill her, and Daniel been devastated. He'd hoped that the younger man would go to Vegas, find a woman or two to nail into the mattress a few times...he'd remained faithful to his wife for those three years, and Jack knew that it was taking a toll on the young archaeologist; emotionally, mentally, and physically. He'd never let Daniel find out that he'd been in the locker room when they had returned from PY7 291, a planet with an ample supply of beautiful women, nearly a dozen of whom had attached themselves to the young man, eager for his attention, offering anything that he might want. He'd seen the look in those blue eyes... the pure hot lust...the freaking need...but Daniel had smiled, and gently refused, telling them that he was married. As soon as the briefing had been over, Daniel had raced to the locker room. He'd been in the shower when Jack walked in, his hand moving up and down on that impressive piece of meat, and within seconds had cried out and shot a load that would make any man proud. He shook his head mentally. Daniel'd been a damned good husband. He sometimes wondered if Sha’re had deserved him. He forced that thought from his head, turned his attention back to the conversation going on around him.

Giggles and chuckles filled the air. "Since Teal’c has done the research, I say we should take his advice, and stay at Mandalay Bay," Casey suggested.

"Sounds like a good idea to me," Daniel agreed.

Sam nodded her own agreement, and Jack grinned at his friend. "Mandalay Bay it is. Uh...they do have a pool we can lay around, right?"

"Indeed," Teal’c replied.

Their meals had arrived, and conversation came to a comfortable halt as they ate, all of them hungrier than they'd realized, in spite of the nearly non-stop snacking they'd done.

 

 

 

An hour and a half later, they were checking into the hotel, climbing sleepily to the rooms on the second floor.

Casey didn’t even manage to get undressed before she collapsed onto the bed. Daniel lovingly pulled her boots from her feet, tugged her jeans from her hips and down her slender legs. He carefully unbuttoned her blouse and worked it off her, the sexy little pink lace bra following it. He hooked his thumbs under the lace of the matching panties, and they joined the pile of clothes on the floor. He pulled the blankets back, put her head on the pillow, amazed that she'd managed to sleep through all of his efforts. His own clothes hit the carpet, and he crawled into the bed beside her, pulled her close, and immediately fell asleep.

 

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Wake-up calls had been requested for one hour before checkout time. When the phone rang, Daniel groped for the receiver. Accepted the time from the cheerful clerk. He wanted to make love. Knew that there wasn’t time. When they got to Vegas, and checked into their room, however...

With the very pleasant thoughts of just what he was going to do to his Wife...for her, playing through his mind, he kissed her awake, made sure she followed as he got up and turned on the water in the shower.

They washed quickly, knowing that to take their time would be too tempting, the gentle caresses enough to see them through the day. Casey dried her hair while he shaved. They pulled on jeans and tee shirts, repacked what little had been out, putting the dirty clothes into the ever growing bag of laundry.

"We’re going to have to do laundry," she groused.

"The hotel in Vegas will have a laundry service," he replied. He glanced at her, saw the grimace. She was still insisting that he didn’t need to have Lydia continue to come twice a week to clean their house. He knew differently. When they were home, he didn’t want her spending all of her time doing housework and laundry. He wanted that time for himself. He also knew that Casey had a tendency to rush in and clean the bathroom before the Spanish woman arrived. She always had. Lydia had laughed when he told her that Casey didn’t want her to think that she was a lousy housekeeper. The older woman had befriended his Wife...twice he'd come home to find them working together, stopping to gossip over cups of coffee and Casey’s homemade cookies.

"I’ll wash my lingerie, thank you. I don’t want anyone else handling my panties and bras." She shivered as the thought crossed her mind.

"I’ll accept that," he told her. Sometimes he just had to ‘pull rank’ on her, and spoil her the way he wanted to in spite of her protests. Besides, it was so damned fun to do it that way!

"So glad you approve," she replied. She couldn’t hide the smile that lifted the corners of her lips.

 

 

 

The Continental Breakfast had already been cleared away, but coffee was still available. Cups were filled, checkout completed, luggage loaded into the van, and the journey continued. Teal’c was driving. Sam was riding shotgun. Jack was busy working a crossword puzzle, requesting help on nearly every question, although his companions were certain he knew more of the answers than he was letting on. Daniel was lying with his head in Casey’s lap, reading one of the books he'd borrowed from Mike, and Casey was watching the scenery that passed by, humming softly as she ran her fingers through his hair.

None of them expected what was about to happen. Daniel was thrown to the floor when Teal’c suddenly hit the brakes. The pencil flew from Jack’s fingers, hit the windshield and clattered onto the dashboard. Sam had her hands braced against the dashboard, and Casey had grabbed the back of the seat where Jack was sitting.

The SUV slid to a halt, Teal’c’s quick thinking and even quicker reflexes taking the SUV to the shoulder, and past three cars that were now nothing more than twisted metal and plastic. They came to a smooth stop.

"Holy shit!" Jack whispered. He was already fumbling with the buckle of his seatbelt.

The team piled from the SUV, assessed the damage with trained eyes. "Case, grab the cell, call 9-1-1," Daniel said quietly.

"Any idea of the mile marker?" Jack asked.

"I do not know," Teal’c replied.

"Drive on down to the next one, then just back up," Jack said. The Jaffa nodded. Casey grabbed the phone, and the pack where all of the first aid kits had been placed.

They approached the cars slowly, making certain that there were no threats. The Chevy Cavalier, looked like a late 80’s model, was sitting sideways across both lanes. The rear end had been shoved clear into the backseat. The elderly driver and passenger were both unconscious, the airbags deflated in front of them. Sam checked for a pulse, nodded both times, to Jack’s relief.

The second vehicle was a Honda Civic, and was twenty feet away from the first car; the front shoved back to the windshield, the back end shoved forward and twisted. The driver, a young woman, was staring around her in a daze. Her face was bleeding, she'd been hit with pieces of the windshield as it imploded, though her air bag had protected her from most of that impact.

The third vehicle was a Geo Metro; the front of the tiny car had been ripped off, and had landed in the median. The driver, a man who looked to be in his twenties, was unconscious. The passenger, a middle-aged man, most probably the driver’s father, moaned in pain, blood pouring from multiple cuts on his face and head.

As quickly as possible the team members grabbed first-aid kits; began to apply pressure to wounds they could see and reach, comforting those conscious enough to be aware of their presence.

Teal’c had returned, and told Casey which mile marker to pass on to the police. She continued to speak with the dispatcher at the 9-1-1 center she'd reached, describing the scene and the condition of the victims.

The stillness of the air around them echoed in their ears as they waited, each silently willing help to arrive quickly. After what seemed to be an eternity, but hadn’t been more than fifteen minutes, the sounds of sirens split the air. In a sudden flurry of activity three state patrol cars, and two sheriff’s cars arrived. They could hear the wail of the ambulances and fire trucks in the distance.

Jack gathered his team, and they told the officers what they'd found, and what measures they'd taken. The uniformed men could sense the military bearing of the witnesses, listened attentively, asked questions quietly. Thanking each of them several times for their quick thinking and responses. Nothing was said as the team returned to continue offering comfort the conscious victims, or simply keeping watch over the scene. 

Jack had been studying the wrecked cars for nearly thirty minutes. It was fairly plain to see that the Honda had rear-ended the Cavalier, and had been rear-ended in return. Why the vehicles hadn’t gone around one another, he had no idea.

Sam was sitting with the young woman in the Honda. "It’s okay, the ambulance is almost here."

"I can’t feel my legs," the woman said, her voice shaking, both with shock, and fear.

"Don’t worry, that’s probably because the steering wheel is cutting off circulation. You’ll have a bad case of ‘pins and needles’ for awhile," the major smiled.

The woman tried to smile in return. "I hope so. They were going so slow...I was going to pass them...and then...suddenly...they just cut right in front of me! I couldn’t stop," the woman said, tears running down her cheeks. "I hit the brakes...but I couldn’t stop!"

"Don’t worry about that now," Sam said softly. "Just try to relax."

Casey was sitting beside Daniel, just outside of the Geo. The man had said little, his moans growing louder as his pain increased.

"Help is coming," Daniel said calmly. "The ambulance will be here in just minute."

The man managed to nod, letting the good Samaritan who had so carefully bandaged his head know that he'd heard. "Asleep," he muttered. "He must have been driving too fast again."

"Don’t talk," Daniel said. "Just concentrate on taking deep, slow breaths."

The ambulances had arrived, the drivers and medics rushing to care for the wounded.

Once again Jack gathered the team together. "We’ve given our statements, and since we didn’t see what happened, we can go," he said softly.

"I...can we..." Casey started, then looked away.

The older man reached out, pulled her into a hug. "Yeah, we can."

They waited beside the SUV, glances from the State Troopers letting them know that as soon as the victims had been cared for, they'd learn just how badly the five had been hurt.

Forty minutes later one of the troopers approached them. "They’re all going to be all right. They’re hurt, badly, but not one of them has life threatening injuries. They’re all damned lucky." The fact that the driver of the little Geo hadn’t been killed was a miracle, he thought.

"The old folks..." Jack started.

"Yeah," the trooper said softly. "I talked to the driver of the Honda. Don’t know what he was thinking. Maybe he saw her coming up in his rearview mirror, and was going to get out of the way, rather than letting her just go around him. Hard way to learn a driving lesson.  You folks drive safe now."

Nodding at the very obvious dismissal, the team crawled back into the SUV. Casey opened several bottles of water so that they could wash their hands...all of them had managed to get blood on their fingers while tending to the people in the wrecked cars.

They were subdued, not reclaiming their carefree spirits until they stopped for lunch.

 

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Casey bit into her sandwich. Frowned slightly as she chewed. "You want to know what I learned from all of that?" she asked.

"What?" Sam asked in return.

"Never trust old people when they’re driving. You don’t know what they’re going to do."

Jack, who had just lifted his coffee mug to his lips, nearly snorted coffee up his nose. "Say what?"

"Come on, Jack, you saw the same thing I did. You heard what Sam said, what that lady in the Civic told her! That old man caused the whole thing!"

He couldn’t argue, he'd already reached the same conclusion...before Sam had repeated her conversation with the Honda driver. "True. It certainly wasn’t intentional."

"Of course it wasn’t," Casey replied. "But the fact remains, that the elderly cannot be trusted when they drive. Can you imagine Emma driving?"

Daniel snickered. "Yeah, I can. Which is exactly why her daughter won’t let her!"

"Emma is what you will be...would have been," Jack said, correcting himself. Sometimes he actually forgot he was...that his team was...Immortal now. And he adored the Jackson’s feisty neighbor. He proposed to her every time he saw her, to which she always retorted that she should take him up on it, just to spite him.

She couldn’t help but giggle. "Possibly."

"It is not reasonable to allow those who are a risk to continue to be on the roads," Teal’c said. "After a certain age, driver’s licenses should no longer be granted."

"It’s not that simple," Daniel argued. "Some people are still quite good, capable drivers into their nineties. There are others in their thirties who should have their license yanked."

"Or teens," Sam added "Teenagers are a risky group, too."

"I am not having this discussion," Jack said firmly.

"Why, because you’re getting old?" Casey asked innocently.

"You are a smartass," he replied, shaking a French fry at her. "No, I am not going to discuss it because I am on vacation. I am not doing any deep thinking."

"Any thinking is deep, for you," she muttered.

"One more word, and I’m going to kick your ass," Jack threatened. Sam, Daniel, and Teal’c were chuckling loudly. He would not let her win. He would not. No way was he going to grin. Even if it killed him. Which it damned near might, if the twitching in his cheek was any indication.

"Love ya, Jack. Even if you are getting old," she teased.

"I am so going to get you. You won’t know where. You won’t know when. But you will so pay for your smartass remarks!"

She grinned. "I’ll be waiting." She heaved a dramatic sigh. "I guess it’s a good thing you’re Immortal. Otherwise, the wait wouldn’t last past next Thursday, I mean, you are over forty-five, you’re on that downhill slide into senility...and the memory is the first to go...and then what would I have to look forward to?"

He lost. He cracked up. "You’re going down, Jackson, you’re going down hard!"

Sam, Daniel, and Teal’c were laughing as well, which made the waitress smile when she approached. "I take it everything is all right here?"

"The food is fine," Jack replied. "Company leaves a bit to be desired. You should post a sign on the front door...'no smart-alecks allowed'. We could have left that one," he replied, pointing his fork at Casey, "in the car."

The waitress giggled. "I’ll be sure to pass that suggestion on to the manager."

Stomachs full, spirits high once again, anxious to get to Las Vegas and the rooms that Sam had reserved before leaving Twin Falls, they climbed into the SUV, and were back on the interstate by five p.m. It would be late when they arrived. But they'd wake up in Las Vegas. And spend a few days just lounging around the pool.


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