Here's part one of the next installment in the Fearful Symmetry series. I doubt I'll have a chance to get part two written down until after the weekend.

Title: The Hopes and Fears

Rating: PG-13 (You know me. Violence as necessary for the plot, but not too much, and the more steamy romance is left to your imagination.)

Pairing: H/C (Who else? Some have heard a sister-in-law squeaking in the background, but I think it's a mouse. One of the smaller rodents, anyway. Here, kitty, kitty!)

Somewhat Unusual Disclaimer: I do not own CSIM or its characters. If I did, I'd move H/C along much faster. I have only borrowed them for fun, and no infringement is meant. Chrissy is a real character (in every sense of the phrase) but one I have secured rights to. She is depicted 100% accurately with the exception that she does not live in Florida. Lisa is an interesting blend of fact and fiction. She started out based on a real character but was tweaked pretty sharply as necessary for the plot. Call it about 50/50. Again, nothing has been manipulated here that I didn't have rights to manipulate. Neither of these two will sue me. The rest of the supporting cast, including Sam, are pure fiction. The crime is entirely fictitious (thankfully). The crime scene is also entirely fictitious (regretfully).

Series Recap: In order, in case you haven't read them yet. The events in this fiction are based on my previous stories Fearful Symmetry, Can't Fight This Feeling, Gold Medals, Surprises, Honeymoon, and Blackout.

A/N: I'm in my element here, more than I've ever been before on a CSIM story, which I'm sure you will realize pretty quickly, but beware of dismissing things as just irrelevant details. This story isn't a pure joyride on my part. There is a plot (and angst, and eventual happy ending, of course). This one is a totally different experiment for me, though. Hopefully, you will enjoy it. If not, no hard feelings, and just meet me at the next one. It's not like I'm trying to introduce new standing characters. Chrissy and Lisa are a one-time venture into CSIM, and they will retreat back to my world after this story, while the Fearful Symmetry series will continue with H/C as always. That said, enjoy this one.

Definition: "Dressage: The execution by a trained horse of precision movements in response to barely perceptible signals from its rider." From Webster's Dictionary. The emphasis is on the second syllable. It rhymes with massage.

***

"The hopes and fears of all the years Are met in thee tonight."

From "O Little Town of Bethlehem"

***

"I'll be home for Christmas," promised the radio. "You can plan on me. Please have . . ." The voice died in mid croon as Calleigh hit the switch. "Enough, already," she grumbled and returned with a scowl worthy of the Grinch to trying to unwind 10 feet of garland which had somehow tied itself into 20 feet of knot. Decorating CSI had been Alexx's idea, and Horatio, in a surge of satisfaction at the completion of a case and at life in general, had agreed. Alexx, of course, made it a "family activity." Delko was untangling lights on the layout table, skillfully investigating which worked and which needed new bulbs. Horatio was in his office sorting out ornaments from a box. Only Speed had given a disbelieving grunt and disappeared, making some comment about refusing to put jingle bells on his bike. "Come on," Delko had called after him, "wouldn't you rather do this than investigate crime scenes?" Speed turned back at the door. "No," he said flatly and vanished.

Calleigh herself wished for some small crime to start off this morning instead of decorations. Not a murder or anything, just some little but intricate problem to immerse herself in besides the coming holiday. Something she actually had a chance at solving. There was altogether too much Christmas cheer in Miami, and they still had a week and a half left to go. She sighed. Abruptly, she felt Horatio's eyes on her and looked up from the lab. He was standing at the window wall of his office, head slightly tilted, looking at her like the glass was a microscope lens that let him see her better. As their eyes met, he gave a slight jerk of his head, and she sighed again, dropped her garland knot, and trudged up the stairs, for once going to him reluctantly.

"I don't know why you let Alexx talk you into this," she complained as she entered his office. "We've never done it before."

He closed the door gently after her, and her heart dropped slightly at the click. Caught! "Why shouldn't things be different this year?" His head was still slightly tilted, but he wasn't looking at her like a specimen anymore. She studied her husband in return, matching his loving, approving appraisal. He looked so much more relaxed than he used to, thin and pale as ever, but his stance easy, his sapphire eyes clear and calm. She smiled at him and gave him her best Southern drawl.

"I probably shouldn't say it, but I'm good for you."

"I'll say it then. You're good for me." He crossed to the chairs in front of his desk, running one hand slowly across her back as he passed her, drawing her along with him like a magnet. "You didn't answer my question, though."

"What question?" She stalled. She should have known better. He didn't even bother repeating it, just held her in his steady gaze. "I guess there's no real reason we can't change things this year."

"Exactly." He leaned forward slightly, covering her hands with his. "Calleigh, this year will be different. Special. They're my family now, too."

She never could hide from him. She didn't even want to anymore, usually. "You don't know what Mother can be like," she started, then broke off, remembering that he had endured her mother at her worst the day of her father's funeral. "She'll just get drunk, and then she'll cry about Dad not being with us. And Peter's coming, and I've got a million things to take care of, and it still won't work out." It wasn't really the Christmas present as much as the Christmases past that haunted her. As long as she could remember, the holiday had been something to simply endure. She suddenly felt tears welling up in her eyes. He leaned forward and kissed them away gently.

"Calleigh, have I ever lied to you?"

She looked at him, startled. "Of course not."

"So believe me now. This Christmas will be special, because it's our first one together. Nothing that happens can diminish that."

Once again, pure adoration for this man swept over her like a flood, leaving her powerless, carrying her off with it. She leaned forward in her chair and wrapped both arms around him, resting her head on his chest, squeezing him tightly. "I believe you," she said, and at that moment, she did.

He returned her hug wholeheartedly. "Now the first thing we need to do is schedule a celebration by ourselves. That's what Christmas is, after all. Celebrating the gift of love. So you and I need to have our own time. Let's see, we've got your family and Yelina and Ray Jr. over for dinner on Christmas itself, and Alexx has invited the whole team to her place for lunch on the 24th. Your family is flying in that afternoon, so that rules out that day. Shall we take the 23rd or the 26th?"

"Both," she said instantly, looking up at him. He smiled, and she wondered again at how much it transformed his face, like throwing a light switch, changing his whole expression.

"Right, we'll celebrate before they come and after they leave."

"Especially after they leave."

He was still smiling. "They're my family too now, remember? Whatever happens, you won't deal with it alone." His eyes went distant slightly, focusing in, and the smile faded. After a moment, he went on. "You know, Calleigh, I've really been looking forward to a different Christmas myself. I used to put off going home as long as I could on Christmas, work overtime, then walk the sidewalks until I was exhausted, because I knew I'd wind up back at an empty house."

"Oh, Horatio." She covered his hands in turn. "I'm sorry, I hadn't even thought of what it's been like for you through the years. I was too busy remembering what it's been like for me."

His eyes met hers directly, filled with understanding and determination over the sadness. "I just wanted you to know I understand where you're coming from. Not much happiness there. But this year, it will be different. I promise."

"Yes, it will," she said, suddenly determined to make it so for him. He stood up, pulled her to her feet, and wrapped her in his arms. They were together. He was right. This Christmas would be different.

"Sorry, guys." Speed opened the door, looking a bit self-conscious. "Hate to interrupt, but we've got a DB."

Calleigh sighed and broke their embrace. "No peace on earth today, I guess."

His eyes met hers, regretfully agreeing. "And no good will to men."

They followed Speed from the office, but their arms were still touching unobtrusively as they walked, holding the connection, and somehow, the Christmas music blaring from the radios they passed didn't bother Calleigh as much anymore.

***

The Hummer wound its way through the traffic to the outskirts of Miami, finally turning off the road at a large sign that read "Erdenheim Stables: Dressage Lessons and Boarding." The fence-lined drive traveled between manicured pastures up to a huge barn. Horses dotted the fields. Horatio pulled the Hummer in alongside the squad car already there, and he, Calleigh, and Alexx got out as Speed and Delko in the second Hummer pulled alongside.

"Pretty picturesque for a crime scene," said Calleigh, looking around at the white fences and the obviously irrigated grass.

Delko whistled slightly as he got out. "How much money do you suppose is tied up in this place? A patch this size, this close to the city."

"Lot more than we make," Speed concluded.

"Let's get going, people," said Horatio. "Crime doesn't carry a price tag." He headed for the main door to the building, and the team fell into step behind him.

Inside, the barn consisted of a long aisle with stalls on each side. A few shorter aisles ran off it, presumably to other rooms. Everything here, from the seasoned oak woodwork to the iron bars at the front of each stall to the brass nameplates on each door, spelled money, and Speed and Delko eyed each other again, their eyes clicking like cash registers. The activity was halfway down the right side, and Horatio turned that way. Adele was questioning a woman, and she looked up with relief as they came in.

"Horatio, glad you got here so quickly. Body's in there, Alexx." She motioned to the open stall door behind her.

"What have we got?" Horatio asked.

"Man trampled to death by a horse, it looks like." She stressed the word slightly, and Horatio threw it back at her.

"It -looks- like?"

"Your call, not mine, but it looks staged to me."

"It is staged," said the woman Adele had been questioning. "I'm telling you, Val didn't do it."

"Who's Val?"

"Valentine." She waved a hand up the aisle a few feet. There was a blank space every four stalls for the length of the aisle, like a stall with the door left off, and a gray horse was crosstied in the closest one. The horse's front legs had blood on them from the hooves halfway to the knees. Horatio knelt a few feet away, eyeing the stains. The woman followed him. "This is the gentlest horse in the barn. One of the few I'd say was safe for anyone. He never killed anybody."

"I think you're right," Horatio said. "That blood isn't spatter. It's direct transfer. Still could be useful, though. We know the killer handled him, so he probably left something." He stood and turned to face the woman. She looked like a clean hobo in faded blue jeans and an old sweat shirt, but the eyes and expression were far from run-of-the-mill, even with the stress and shock of this morning's events. He wasn't sure of the horse, but this woman was a thoroughbred if he'd ever seen one.

"Samantha Winters, Horatio Caine." Adele made the introductions. "She found the body."

"When?"

"About 8:00," she said. "We were late getting here this morning, because we had a flat tire on the way."

"Who is we?"

"Lisa Wilson, my partner. She was having car trouble, so I went by to pick her up. Then I had a flat tire, so we were late getting here. We usually get to the barn about 7:00 to feed the horses and do chores. We split the barn, and I took this half to feed."

"And the man was dead in the stall?"

"Right. I thought Val was hurt at first when I saw his legs, but when I opened the door to check, the man was lying there. So we called 911."

"Did you touch anything?"

"Only the horse. I moved him down to the crossties and fed him there. He was a little nervous, but I swear, he never touched that man. He never kicked anyone in his life."

"Did you touch his legs at all?"

"No. I left him just like he was. I thought you'd want to see it."

"Thank you," said Horatio sincerely. "What about the stall door?"

"I handled the latch, opening it."

"We'll need your fingerprints. Also your partner's. Calleigh, could you get Ms. Winter's fingerprints, please?" He moved to the stall and entered it. "What can you tell me, Alexx?"

"Blunt force trauma. His whole skull is crushed in. I'll have to do more testing back at the morgue, but it could be from a horseshoe. Some blunt object, anyway, and a lot of force. Not how you planned to spend Christmas this year, was it?" She consoled the body as if it could hear here.

"What about lividity?"

"Dual lividity. He's been moved." Horatio studied the victim. Medium aged, dark hair, with a face that was too narrow and a small chin. If he had been living, Horatio thought, he probably wouldn't have liked him. With him dead, it made no difference whether Horatio liked him or not. He studied the stall.

"Not much blood on the wall, and again, that isn't spatter. This is definitely staged." He turned back to Sam. "Have you ever seen him before?" He knew the answer already - she was too calm for him to be even a casual acquaintance - but he had to go through the motions.

"Never in my life."

"What kind of lock system is on this barn?"

"First class. I don't know how he could have gotten in."

"Okay, thank you." Horatio stepped back out of the way to let the ME's people remove the body. "Calleigh, I want you to study access. The lock system and all doors. Look for any other way in. Eric, process this stall, and Speed, you process the horse."

"What?" Speed's voice rose slightly in protest.

"You process the horse. And be sure to get a cast of his shoes, to compare to the wounds."

"H, I don't like horses. I ride bikes. Remember?"

"Just think of him as a living part of the crime scene. The killer handled him. Treat it like any other case."

"I'm staying with the horse," said Sam, eying Speed dubiously.

"Speed would probably appreciate that."

"What are you going to do, H?" asked Eric.

"I want to talk to the partner. Where is she?"

"I already talked to her. She confirms everything," said Adele, but she knew Horatio too well to be offended or surprised.

"She's in the arena with Chrissy," said Sam. "Go to the end of the aisle and turn left. She had to get on with the day's routine."

"Don't let a little murder mess up the day's routine," muttered Speed, not quite softly enough. Sam straightened up to her full height, which wasn't much under his, and gave him a steely glare.

"These are animals, Mr. Speed. They don't have an off switch. They have to be fed, exercised, taken care of, no matter what else is happening. We have 20 horses here, and we can't just put them on hold. We're working with you as much as we can. All the lessons today have been cancelled already, and Lisa's working shorthanded so I could help you with Valentine."

"And we appreciate it," said Horatio sincerely, looking at Speed steadily.

"Right, sorry," said the trace expert. He turned back to face the gray horse. "Okay, horse, you're a crime scene. Got it?" Val looked back at him, then snorted, shifting his feet slightly. The steel shoes rang on the roughened concrete floor. Speed could imagine those feet slamming into flesh. He sighed and opened his field kit. "Process a horse," he grumbled to himself. "They never teach you what you need in seminars."

***

As Horatio turned left at the end of the aisle, he thought he heard music faintly. It grew as he walked down the second aisle, and it swelled as he opened the door at the end. He recognized the theme from the Superman movies. The door was a good six feet wide, and it opened into a huge indoor arena, 220 feet by 80. Overhead fans whirred softly, keeping the air stirred up and cool. One entire short wall of the room was a mirror. A low white railing, about a foot high, marked off a slightly smaller rectangular arena inside the larger one, leaving about a 10 foot perimeter all the way around, and a horse was being ridden inside this railing. Horatio stood watching for a minute, fascinated. The horse was dancing. His mind, spotting the patterns in anything, instantly caught the precision. The flashing feet kept perfect time with the music, and the careful choreography was obvious. Nothing random or casual at all here; every single step was planned, but there was a freedom and exuberance to it, too. He didn't know much about horses, but he had never seen anything like this before.

The music now was the love theme, "Can You Read My Mind?", and the horse was cantering circles like she was fastened to an invisible carousel. The rider never moved. Neither of them noticed Horatio. The horse's ears were half tilted back toward her rider, and the pair of them made a study in focused concentration. The music switched to the main march again, and the horse changed gaits and paraded across the ring diagonally, the legs crossing over, moving forward and sideways at the same time. Every stride matched the one before, and the rhythm never broke. She crisscrossed the ring each way diagonally, drawing a huge invisible X, her steps so light and floating that she seemed to defy gravity. Down to the end of the ring, and the horse went into a tight figure eight as the music gathered itself. Then came the final musical surge to the ending, and the horse leaped out of the figure eight like a plane on the runway drops into the extra gear that leads to takeoff. Up the center line she surged with the music, straight as an arrow, the strides coming not faster but longer, the perfect rhythm held even in the explosion of energy. Almost at the last instant before she would have crashed over the white rail and into the mirror wall, the music stopped, and the horse stopped in unison with it, going from full flight to immobility instantly.

The rider made the first visible movement Horatio had seen. She unsnapped a remote control from her belt and pointed it at the wall, then replaced it and gave the horse a pat on the neck. "Awesome, Chrissy. Thank you." The horse turned her neck into a U, bringing her head back to her rider's boot, making soft anticipating noises, and the woman laughed and took a treat from a small pouch hooked onto her belt, handing it to the horse. They started off at a walk, the reins loose now. "At least you never change," said the woman. "Quite a morning, Chris. Oh, hello." She spotted Horatio for the first time.

"Horatio Caine, Crime Lab. Are you Lisa Wilson?"

"Yes."

"I'd like to ask you some questions, please."

"Sure, go ahead." At that moment, the horse suddenly tossed her head and capered sideways, twisting like a snake. Lisa straightened up, bringing her back instantly into balance. "Whoa, girl. Easy now." She circled the horse back to Horatio, stopped about ten feet away, and dismounted. He sized her up in one quick glance. Medium height, strawberry blonde hair, and green eyes which didn't quite match. She was smaller than she had seemed on horseback, and there was an air of reserve, almost of hesitation about her, but Horatio got the feeling that the impression of meekness was deceiving.

"Sorry," he said, stepping across the low white rail to join them. "I didn't mean to spook your horse."

"You didn't. She was correcting me."

"Correcting you?"

"She's focused on work, all the time. Any time my attention goes to something else, that's when she acts up. She refuses to be ridden casually."

Horatio grinned to himself. A horse with intensity and dedication. He could relate. "Glad to meet you, Chrissy." He reached for her nose, and Lisa stopped him, authority replacing the hesitation instantly.

"Don't ever reach for a strange horse's head, and don't stand straight in front of her. Come up from the side, and touch her neck first."

"Why?" Horatio hadn't lost track of why he was there, but his mind, like a thirsty sponge, could never resist new information.

"Horses' eyes function separately. They've got two separate vision fields, and there are small blind spots, about 10 degrees or so, directly in front and directly behind. Coming from the front, you're liable to hit that blind spot. At the side, you're in the center of her vision."

He studied the animal, seeing it now. Eyes set on the sides of the head like that couldn't possibly work as a pair. "She looks like she focuses forward, though." She did indeed have her head up, ears pricked alertly toward him.

"The ears, not the eyes. The ears work like radar dishes. They rotate, so they can focus forward together." She reached up and grabbed an ear playfully in demonstration, twisting it around, and the horse arched into the caress lovingly like a cat. "She'll hear you coming, and she'll try to identify you by sound, but you could still spook her if you pop into her vision at the last minute."

"Interesting. Thank you," Horatio said sincerely. He stepped to the mare's side and gave her a pat on the neck. She was much larger up close than she had looked in action, big even for a horse, and tightly muscled, not like a football player but like a gymnast. She eyed him calmly, a queen accepting homage. Horatio turned back to Lisa. "I do have a few questions for you."

"Do you mind if we walk while you ask them? Chrissy shouldn't stand around while she's hot. I need to cool her out."

"No problem." They started around the ring. "I understand you arrived late this morning."

"Right. Sam came by to pick me up, because my car is in the garage. Then we had a flat tire." She had an odd stride, slightly choppy. The right leg was stiff, not bending quite all the way. Horatio cut his own long stride back to match and noticed that the horse had done the same thing.

"I want you to think back to when you first arrived, before you found the body. Did anything seem different? Out of place?"

She took a minute to consider. "The horses were restless. I thought it was because we were late to feed them. Nothing out of place, though. We didn't even know anything was wrong until Sam was feeding and got to Val."

"What about the locks? All fastened securely?"

"It's an electronic lock system. You key in a pass code. It showed that it was set, same as usual."

He tilted his head slightly, considering. "Who else would have the code, besides you and your partner?"

"The boarders all have access."

"How many people?"

"Eight."

"How often is the code changed?"

She sighed. "Only if one of the boarders leaves. It hasn't happened for ten months. I know, we've been careless."

He didn't say anything, since she had already worked that out herself. "Is it one of those locks that's part of a security system with a monitor?"

"No video monitors." She shuddered slightly. "I think we'll add them, though. The system is monitored by a company downtown. Temperature sensors and all that. They call 911 if there's a fire or break in."

"They wouldn't question an authorized code, but they should have a log." They were back around by the door again, and he stopped. "Thank you, Ms. Wilson. You've been quite helpful. We'll need a list of the boarders."

"I gave one to that detective." She eyed him. "Do you know who he is?"

"Not yet. No ID."

"Why here? Wouldn't you hide a body if you killed someone? Here, we had to find it as soon as we did chores."

"Usually, not always. How predictable is your schedule here?"

"Very, if someone was watching. The horses like routine." She shivered slightly, feeling the unseen eyes watching.

"Thank you again." They shook hands. Her grip was surprisingly strong for her size. "We'll let you know when we do have answers."

The woman and the horse started off on another slow lap, and Horatio left the arena. "Why here," he repeated to himself. "That, I think, will answer a lot of questions." He headed back down the aisle to rejoin his team.

"Horatio!" Calleigh called him from the main door, before he even got down to Speed and Delko, and he swung her way instead, favoring her with a businesslike but thoroughly warm smile, which she returned. They still loved working together as much as ever.

She led him out to the parking area in front of the barn, stopping behind a Land Rover. "I came out to check the car. Spare on the left rear, which confirms their story. Then I was looking for tracks."

"Pretty hopeless here," said Horatio, eyeing the well-traveled gravel. "No one rakes their gravel drive level every day. These cars could be from any time recently."

"Right, but I was thinking, look at the light." He studied the floodlight above their head. In darkness, it would illuminate the whole front of the barn. "So I walked around the building, in case they parked somewhere else. Over here, beside a side door." They were walking as she spoke, and they stopped next to a grassy area on the side. Horatio knelt, studying the ruts.

"Heavy rain last night, luckily. This came after."

"Right. I'll get a cast of them."

"Get prints from all the lock keypads, too. Good job, as always." He gave her a pat on the shoulder that was just a second too long to be casual as he stood up. He turned slowly, studying the whole scene again. Not a terribly busy road, especially at night. Someone could easily drive up the main drive and around the barn without being noticed. "You're right," he said.

"I know," she replied, opening her field kit to cast the tracks. "What specifically am I right about?"

"This is too picturesque for a crime scene."

"Nothing is perfect. Present company excepted." He returned her smile. "What do you think went on here last night?"

"I don't know yet. But I intend to find out." There was solid iron in his soft voice. It was a solemn promise, to the victim, whoever he had been, to his family, and to everyone whose world had been disrupted here. Calleigh reached out and squeezed his arm lightly with her gloved hand. His eyes met hers, but he wasn't smiling anymore. He turned and went back inside.