NOTES AND DISCLAIMERS: CSI not mine, this is not for profit ever. For smut_queen for the csi_ficathon. The book about invention is Joel Mokyr's Lever of Riches and the information about the harnesses for horses was found there. Thanks to Younger and Dine.

DREAMING OF HORSES



Two years of no notions.

Gil brought her to the conference but wouldn't let her help with the care and feeding of his racing cockroaches. She wasn't put out about that at all.

He bought her a plastic horse only one inch high and left it on top of her Palm Pilot. He remembered the oddest things from conversations they'd had once, two years earlier.

She went to three talks and listened to papers presented and then she came back to their room where they ordered room service and made love on the bed on top of the covers. She heard rustling from the cages as he kissed her stomach, the beard a second scratch against her skin and she started laughing. It was all so absurdly funny.

*

She had plenty of plans.

Grissom didn't sleep with Sara the night he took her home after the not DUI. She hadn't thought he would. She didn't want him to. After he said no not to her face but through a glass, she didn't want his pity, consolation, whatever. She was perfectly okay with casual sex (she thinks about the mile high club and Grissom's almost smile) but not with Grissom. That wasn't right.

*

He listened to her talk about the conference over breakfast in the hotel's restaurant. "I'm not eating again with the cockroaches watching." He looked at her blankly and she knew he was laughing inside.

He asked her questions about what everyone had said, a frown here, a smile there, twice fierce interest and a request to repeat what she'd said. He took notes right there on a napkin and tucked it in his pocket.

She said, "You could've gone, too, you know, they'd be okay without you." She grinned. He'd been scouting competitors and making plans.

"I'll be there today. Which ones are you going to?"

So they planned out their day and where they'd meet for lunch.

*

The first day after the not DUI, she stared at the ceiling. She'd never sweated the kids, husband. She slotted it in some time in her thirties, when her career was where she wanted it. She didn't dwell on the ease she felt writing out children altogether in some of her plans. But she never planned to be alone in her apartment, in the dry still overwhelming heat, ashamed. She pictured Grissom saying, "No one plans on shame, Sara."

She laughed out loud, fell back on the couch and just kept laughing. Everything was so wrong and absurd, it was just plain funny.

*

They had two more days of the conference and then Gil's cockroach racing would start. Sara sat alone in the middle of the room for four of the papers, asked three questions total and took copious notes. She loved it. She loved learning and she was already thinking about how to tell Gil and things they could do back in Vegas to apply all of this. She loved that she got to come.

She loved that every day she ate all three meals with Gil and she was even adjusting to looking up from their bed and seeing cockroaches moving around in a glass cage on the other side of the hotel room.

*

She spent two days after her not DUI (she called it that in her head, over and over again) cleaning her apartment. She usually cleaned on a schedule; bathroom one weekend, floors the next, a cycle of six tasks to keep things neat for herself. She didn't bring people home since Hank so the lack of clutter and dust and grease stains was what she wanted. But this was more of a cleansing. Purification, she thought. And laughed again. She threw out chipped dishes and clothes she hadn't worn in a year. She took all her books off the shelves and dusted them, put them back in a more organized fashion. She rearranged her living room, and went to the store to buy two new lamps for more light.

*

Gil's cockroaches all lost again. She laughed without even trying to stop as he sighed. Sara refused to buy any snacks at the event because chocolate covered up a lot of things. Maybe they'd try to be clever for the non-bug-lovers attending.

Gil said, "You have no sympathy for me at all, do you?"

"I'm sorry your cockroaches lost. I feel your pain." She started laughing again at the end and Gil just glared. "Come on, now our actual vacation starts. I promise not to joke about it. Well, not too much."

All they had planned was to rent a car and see where it took them.

*

She had two weeks off, enforced vacation (she asked Grissom once how many personal days he had, he hadn't answered). Three days to clean and rearrange the apartment. On the fourth day Catherine just showed up, said, "This is a surprise, because everyone should get nice surprises," took her to an exclusive spa. "It's your birthday present," Catherine said.

"My birthday was months ago," Sara said. She was lying in a chair, thin green robe, sunshine everywhere. It was very alien. Manicure (for polish, she insisted on clear), pedicure, facial, massage. The only thing she asked for was a haircut.

*

The first day after the losing races, she let Gil drive. She resolved not to do so again when he stopped at a cheap amusement park, built, she was sure, just a few days ago. A rickety traveling Ferris wheel and other lame rides. He kissed Sara in the tunnel of love while she closed her eyes and didn't think about a mother and Catherine and a child's broken arm. A hazard, she thought, of dating someone you worked with. So many cases, she had so few places unspoiled.

Gil looked at her and said, "What?"

She shrugged. "Just a case. From years ago. But I remember them."

He said, "It's okay." He meant it and it made her smile feel real.

*

She had a new haircut and no calluses on her feet. She hadn't had a drink since that night and she noted no signs of withdrawal or even aches. She spent the next two days reading journal articles, catching up. She stopped for lunch and dinner, made both meals from scratch and never used the microwave. That felt like a good plan.

*

Sara drove the next two days. They only stopped for food, grease, water and bathrooms. Gil played classical music, Sara had books on tape and they switched off. They stuck with the highway. It was beautiful in a very flat way.

She'd only been with Gil for six months but it felt longer. And shorter. She was still surprised to see him sitting next to her in the car, or at her apartment after work. One day at a time, that was all she allowed herself to think.

*

She'd always made time to do her reading so she was done with all the journals after two days. She didn't have her car so she walked to the public library, a two-hour walk worth it in sunshine and heat, and roamed the stacks at random. A book of poetry, a book about invention, a novel with a black cover. She walked home and the heat was much less worthy. She just felt dirty. She read the poetry book in the bathtub.

She still had eight days left before she could go back to work. She read her three books, returned them, checked out three more. Four days in a haze of brightness and sweat and bubble bath wet pages along the bottom.

She learned that the modern horse collar was invented in the middle ages - a change from a throat and girth harness to a breast strap and collar. She couldn't imagine it would ever be useful at work but she still sketched out the difference on a notebook so she was clear on what the author meant.

*

Gil complained about all the driving, even if he was just sitting for most of it. She suspected he hadn't enjoyed listening to the audio version of the Kennedy biography she'd checked out. They stopped in the first real-sized town and got a nice suite in the nicest hotel. They walked around a couple of the streets near the hotel and stopped in the first restaurant. They spent the next four days in the hotel, eating out at the same restaurant and going to the small used bookstore one block over.

On the fourth day, Gil said, "We should really get those boys home." He looked over at the cage with loving care.

She laughed and said, "Those losers? They can handle the cage and think about the consequences."

*

She hadn't checked out any books on her third visit to the library. She started watching TV. She had over 100 channels and with lowered expectations, she could find something to watch every minute she was awake.

Nick came by on the eleventh day of her vacation. (How many days Nick hasn't taken, she wondered, does anyone take the vacation they deserve?) He brought take-out. She said, "Why are you here?" and thought she sounded confused, not sharp.

He smiled. "Because I missed having you to talk to." She wondered if he was lying. Probably not, she thought.

He talked about the cases she'd missed, all of them straightforward. "Confirming the suspect we already had kind of stuff," he said.

The take-out was good. She hugged him goodbye and he looked as surprised as she felt.

*

They still had one day left on their vacation when they got back to Las Vegas. A day of domesticity, she thought and laughed. She'd kept her apartment, he kept his, and she thought they wouldn't change that any time soon. Maybe never. She wanted her space and her plants. She wanted her own bed, certainly not every night, but she knew it was there and it kept her from being lost. They went to Gil's first, so he could put his loser cockroaches in their larger cage.

She dragged him into his bedroom and left him half-asleep on the bed. She went to her apartment and checked her voicemail. Calls from Catherine and Nick, one from Greg, all updates on cases. Catherine asked if she'd had a good time.

*

She decided two weeks of forced vacation, most of it completely alone, was a form of rehab. Books, cleaning, reading, TV. She'd been off-balance, lost.

She'd always liked Grissom, as his student, admirer, friend. Then he called for her, he wanted her and she let herself think of something else. He wanted her in Las Vegas, he talked to her like he needed her. Then he didn't, then she made other plans, and then he was ending her talking to a murderer walking away.

Being lost, she thought, happened. Plans, notions. Things screwed up, the wrong things provided comfort. When she was younger, she never thought she'd need comfort. She was strong enough for anything. She knew then she'd make her life work just as it should be.

On a soap opera where a completely unrealistic court room drama was unfolding, one of the characters looked down and said, "Life is what happens when you're making other plans. John Lennon said that, I think." He laughed and sounded fake and the music swelled as a woman wearing too much make-up stared at him.

She gave up on plans. She gave up on should. She wrote it on a pad of paper next to her bad drawings of horses and pinned it to her refrigerator.

She had fourteen messages in her voicemail. One for every day she was gone. All from Grissom, all roughly the same thing: 'Call me when you're ready to talk. Call me when you're ready.'

She erased all of them. She'd see him tomorrow. She felt ready even if she didn't know what she would say. She thought Grissom might like to hear about the horses.

The End.

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