There had been two weeks to his vacation, and he was on the last leg. So many times he'd been told by those close to him that he needed to take some time off, and the opportunity arose for Gil Grissom when he was asked to speak at an Entomological Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. That was his idea of a vacation.
In truth, the conference should have only had him away from the lab and his nightshift crew for a weekend, but he had decided to drive instead of fly. There were parts of the country he'd yet to see, and backgrounds in his life he couldn't afford to not look into.
That was why he was traveling Interstate 80 through Illinois at ten o'clock in the evening.
He remembered when he was younger, there were always stories. His father's tales, mostly, before he'd gone to find a new life without his wife or his son. The fondest of those stories for Gil were ones of pure simplicity.
The story had always begun the same way, his father telling about his travels from New England as a young man. This was before he had a woman to love, and obligations to worry about, when life came down to how far a bus could take you with the change in your pocket.
This man, with few worries in the world, lived for traveling and seeing new places. That's why he had decided to buy his bus tickets out west. He'd started his travels on small roads in New England, going day by day and mile by mile.
From the East Coast to the West Coast - that was all that had mattered for his father back then. Oddly enough, edging around mid-life, Gil wanted to know what enamored his father to the road. In a way, he considered it a right of passage.
Gil had chosen I-80 for it's practicality, mostly. It took him not too far off course from his destination, and gave him a chance to see a world outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. He didn't regret it a bit.
Illinois in darkness was a wonderful place. Quiet, secluded, and not unlike his townhouse, when Grissom really got to thinking about it. But there was something more. He figured it was the smell, and the feeling he got knowing that he'd traveled most of his journey with his window down.
Somewhere along that road - as rural as it was - the darkness had stricken him. So vastly different from the garish lights he was used to. And nothing but wheat fields for miles around. No cars, few houses, and all the time in the world.
It wasn't too long before he found himself pulling off to the side of the road. He just wanted to see the darkness and feel the air around him. What he didn't expect was the feeling he got as he walked away from his vehicle. He almost felt free.
Wheat fields lay on both sides of the road, and the smell was enormous. There wasn't a sniff of his past years of existence anywhere to be found. No sand, no salt, not even a hint of asphalt to break up the smell of the wheat. Just sweetness and mist.
The stars were brilliant, the fields were brilliant. The sky looked like it moved right up to him; he was standing at the edge of infinity.
The fireflies were all around. He hadn't noticed them when he was driving - he'd been too busy thinking to realize that there was more to the world than himself. Which was probably why the scene took his breath away. There were thousands upon thousands of lights working in complete disorder.
Carefully, he reached out and snatched one of the insects from the air, bringing it close enough to look at. It was a female from what he could tell by her lighting patterns.
He knew so much about these little creatures. Genus, species, life span... minute facts that were dwarfed by the miracle that was around him. And suddenly he wasn't a forensic entomologist anymore. He was just a guy that knew if he held his hand up, that firefly would crawl to the tips of his fingers before flying away.
Gil let his object of awe fly back towards the others and took a few steps closer to the wheat field. Everything was becoming so much clearer without headlights to obscure his view or his thoughts.
He didn't want to mentally dissect these creatures, but instead just to appreciate them for what they were. There were no questions running though his mind about their bioluminescence, or whether or not their eggs really glowed. No thoughts of the perfect specimen... just simplicity, and the knowledge that when he was gone, those creatures would still be there, surviving in the only way they knew how.
In a way, he wondered if that's what his father had done.
Maybe being away was his way of surviving.
Maybe the fireflies had endeared themselves to him long before there was a wife or a son to worry about.
Maybe this was what it was all about.