68 – Pot Shots

Red Roses. Cheesy Hallmark cards. Conversation hearts. Chocolate. Bling. Silky negligees and naughty teddies. The odd appliance from the really clueless husband.

Trust Gil Grissom to opt for none of the above when it comes to sending his wife a Valentine’s present.

Very much to the team’s amusement.

For however innocently meant, perhaps there are some gifts best kept private.

First part in the Under the Influence series, a trio of stories inspired by episode 1113, “The Two Mrs. Grissoms.”

Takes place Valentines Day 2011.

*******

With apologies for the delay. There were a few unforeseen technical difficulties (stupid power adapter died and we don’t exactly live near a Best Buy). That and having to type with only your thumbs takes a while.

And with thanks to those anonymous keepers of knowledge at Google and Wikipedia who are not only good for answers, but also for frequently stimulating the most interesting questions.

And of course to Frank who is good for a little (however grumbling) help every now and again… And quite a few other things most definitely best kept private. Te quiero con toda mi alma.

*******

“We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love,” Theodor Seuss Geisel, Dr. Seuss

*******

It may have been Valentine’s Day, but love certainly wasn’t in the air in Vegas.

Well, not at the crime lab at least. Particularly after that third call out of the shift.

Now well past noon, the very last thing any of them wanted to do was spend yet another hour at the office, but with Ecklie on the warpath yet again when it came to the timely submission of paperwork, Nick, Greg and Sara had their noses stuck in their file folders, attempting to finish up sometime before the start of their next shift.

So when a for whatever reason overly perky Hodges appeared at the door to the break room, jacket already donned and appearing for all the world that he was on his way home, none of them were the least bit amused.

“Get lost, Dave,” growled Nick, not bothering to look up.

Nick’s foul mood didn’t discourage Hodges in the least — but then it seldom ever did, David Hodges not exactly adept at picking up, let alone heeding most social cues. He only shrugged and let out an airy, “This mean you’re not interested in the package that just arrived?”

This did catch their attention.

“Package?” echoed Greg.

“Express delivery from Paris,” he rejoined as equally nonchalant. “For Sara.”

They all turned to her.

“You expecting something?” Nick asked.

She shook her head. “No.”

“Grissom?” suggested Greg. “After all, it is Valentine’s Day.”

It was her turn to shrug. Her husband not exactly all that keen on public displays of sentiment notwithstanding, she supposed it was possible.

“But I thought he was still in Peru,” countered Hodges.

“He is,” Sara replied.

Still as equally perplexed as the rest of them, she rather warily held out her hand for the box.

Hodges hadn’t been joking. It was plainly an International FedEx mailer postmarked from Paris and listed The Musée du Quai Branly as the sender.

Why and what exactly they could have possibly sent her, Sara had no clue. She’d visited the MQB, that eclectic rather recent addition to the Paris art and cultural scene, a few times during her time there; knew they specialized in showcasing the indigenous art and culture of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas, but had certainly never requested anything nor had her name put on any notification lists.

Nick cut into Sara’s silent speculations with a tease of “You going to open that or just stare at it all day?”

Sara opted for the latter, setting it down beside her seemingly never ending stack of case files, the act of which caused Nick to let out an incredulous, “You’ve got to be kidding.”

“Come on,” urged Greg.

And even Hodges, though he didn’t actually say anything, was peering at her with what she regarded as far too much eagerness.

Now typically, Sara wasn’t all that susceptible to the siren song of peer pressure, but with the three of them eyeing her so intently, what else could she do?

Besides, under contents on the customs declaration form an unfamiliar hand had hurriedly scrawled the word le catalogue, which coupled with the shape and heft of the package meant it was likely to contain some sort of exhibition catalog and after all, how dangerous could a book be?

So in one swift motion, Sara ripped the pull-tab from the top of the box.

Her français may have become a little rusty over time, but it was still good enough to translate the Sexe, Mort et Sacrifice dans la Religion Mochica of its title, but even if she hadn’t, the thin octavo-sized volume left no doubt whatsoever as to its sender.

And she grinned.

Only Grissom.

As Sex, Death and Sacrifice in the Moche Religion sounded fairly innocuous enough, Sara began to flip through its pages. Apart from the brief introduction, there wasn’t a whole lot of text, the work proving more picture book than scholarly dissertation; a graphic novel without the novel.

The explicit nature of the featured works didn’t precisely surprise Sara, not after she’d done an earlier Google Images search on the subject. But that had been in the privacy of her home office.

With Moche sex pots not exactly workplace appropriate, Sara promptly snapped the book shut.

Of course this only attracted more attention rather than less.

And succeeded in dislodging the computer-generated gift card which had been tucked between the pages.

It fluttered to the floor and Sara scooted her chair back to retrieve it, actually somewhat surprised that there had been a note at all, considering her husband’s usual neglect when it came to including correspondence in his packages.

It read:

To continue our earlier discussion – though without my mother this time.  -G

Pure Grissom as it was, it arrested her in her tracks.

And she would have sighed and shook her head in amusement except she realized that the guys had taken advantage of her absorption to commandeer her book.

“Give it back,” she demanded.

But Nick and Greg only retreated further away from the table and her reach, the better apparently to continue their already engrossed perusal.

Hodges joined them, saying more statement than question, “Grissom, huh?” in a tone that suggested he was adding what the contents of said book might mean to what he already knew or had surmised about his erstwhile boss.

Way too readily and ruefully recalling his rampant case of foot-in-mouth disease from the week before and hoping to avert another bout of male fantasy induced logorrhea, Sara shot Hodges a withering Don’t even go there look, which surprisingly actually succeeded in silencing him, at least for the moment.

Not that this deterred Nick or Greg in the slightest.

“So this is what’s been keeping him in Peru,” Greg observed.

“Hardly.”

Nick didn’t even bother to conceal his smirk. “More bedtime reading for when you can’t sleep?” he asked.

“Except I’m pretty sure sleep isn’t what Grissom has in mind,” countered Greg.

Sara drew herself up and gave them a haughty, “It’s purely academic, I assure you,” in reply.

Which seemed to convince no one, for both Nick and Greg chimed, “Uh huh,” in unison.

Indicating that Nick should turn the book sideways, Greg began curiously, “Sara, since when are you into–”

”Anthropology,” she finished. “Strictly anthropology.”

Nick turned to the trace tech, gave him one of his Texas wide grins and said, “What do you think, Hodges? The lady doth protest too much?”

But it was Greg who answered.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe it’s supposed to be romantic. Some men send flowers, candy, jewelry. Grissom sends ancient porn.”

“It’s art, not porn,” Sara insisted, holding out an impatient hand. “Now may I have my book back please?”

“Keep your shirt on,” said Nick lazily turning a page. “We’re almost done.”

“Speak for yourself,” said Greg.

Hodges piped in with an eager “Can you turn that one?” And all three men cocked their heads.

“Is that even physiologically possible?” he asked.

“Kinky,” Greg observed. And the others nodded their agreement. “Man, I’ve got to learn French,” he added with a plaintive sigh.

“Don’t look at me,” said Sara. “I’m not translating. Besides, they’re not French. Peruvian. More specifically Mochinca. The Moche—”

“Were a highly stratified agrarian society which predated the Incas by more than half a millennium,” supplied Ray Langston as he entered the break room with his own burgeoning pile of files in hand to pour himself a much-needed cup of coffee. “Who apparently simply vanished more than 600 years before the Spanish conquistadors invaded Peru.

“A fiercely militaristic and highly spiritual people, they built pyramids and buried their dead in elaborate tombs. Created rich, detailed pottery celebrating–”

”Deviant sex,” finished Hodges.

“That’s not deviant sex,” Sara said simply and for a long moment all four men stood there goggling at her.

Greg was the first to regain his voice.

“Personal experience?” he asked. And the other three had to admire his pluck, or perhaps his recklessness.

But Sara was perfectly capable of giving as good as she got when the occasion called for it. So she returned his smirk with a coy, “Like you’ll ever know.” Then added, “And they’re called sex pots by the way.”

”Sexpots?” echoed Hodges.

“Sex pots. Two words.”

“Now you really have to be joking,” Nick laughed.

“Nope.”

Although admittedly she’d been as genuinely incredulous herself when Grissom had brought up the subject during that Skype call they’d shared with his mother. Except she hadn’t had much of a chance before he signed off to do much more than smirk and marvel at the apparently boundless breadth of her husband’s knowledge, however esoteric it might frequently prove to be.

She’d always loved that about Grissom: that almost boundless boyish enthusiasm of his that no matter what happened, he never seemed to outgrow.

And infectious as it was, she’d also always found it nearly impossible to resist, not even all those years ago when she was simply student to his teacher. As husband and wife, any resistance to its pull was, she knew, purely futile.

But then she reckoned the world could always use more wonder.

Though it had turned out to be a good thing she’d waited until getting home to exercise said curiosity, as even a cursory Internet search on sex pots proved revealing to say the least.

Grissom hadn’t understated the sexual nature of the artifacts. If anything, he’d understated it. Although perhaps that had been more due to her own expectations, Sara having for whatever reason originally pictured the Moche pots more like the line-drawn engraved ones the Greeks and Romans produced, rather than the three-dimensional molded vessels they proved to be. The Mochinca’s hyper-realistic, polychromatic pottery depicting everything from oral and anal sex, bestiality and sex with the skeletal made the frescos at Pompeii, the descriptions in The Kama Sutra and even the statuary of the erotic temples of Khajuraho look tame by comparison.

Something which certainly hadn’t been lost on the guys who were still pouring through the book with what Sara definitely regarded as excessive avidity.

“Grissom’s got strange taste in marital aids,” observed Hodges after a while.

“It’s art,” corrected Sara for what already felt like the hundredth time.

“Uh huh,” replied Greg as Nick once more turned the book a la centerfold style.

“Well, one man’s art is another man’s marital aid,” Langston intoned in that deep, rich bass of his, having come to peer over their shoulders.

With an exasperated shake of the head, Sara sighed, “Not you too, Dr. Ray.”

And she momentarily considered explaining that the book was the result of a very innocent conversation she and Grissom had had the week prior – with Grissom’s mother in attendance no less. But knowing Nick and Greg as long and as well as she did and should after nearly a decade of working with them, she knew equally well that anything she could and did say would be used as innuendo against her.

Even if she seriously doubted marital aids had been the last thing her husband had in mind. Gil Grissom simply loved sharing his extensive knowledge and discoveries with others, particularly with his wife.

And normally his wife loved this about him. In this case however, she was starting to wish he had picked a more private time and place.

Hoping to inject a little maturity into the discussion, Sara said, “Actually sex pots aren’t really about sex per se. Not entirely.”

And she slipped easily — a little too easily in more than one of her audience’s opinion — into an all too familiar lecture mode.

“Though it is a common enough assumption to make,” she continued. “When Alfred Kinsey first encountered them in the 1950s, he regarded them as a ‘complete, sober and realistic record of the sex life of a people uninhibited by the things that inhibit the sex life among people in the U.S.’ and maintained that their study would tell him more about what was ‘natural in sex’ than all his earlier sexual surveys. Which only further proves that scientists aren’t any more immune from the prejudices and assumptions of their day than anyone else.”

“Dr. Kinsey?” asked Greg. “As in The Kinsey Report, Kinsey?”

Sara nodded.

“Well, he did start off as an entomologist,” supplied Hodges. “I think I’m starting to detect a pattern here.”

“Anyway,” she began again, choosing to ignore this, “more recent scholarship hypothesizes that these graphic depictions of sex served far more reaching purposes than merely encoding instructions on the carnal pleasures of the body. They also evoke the Mochinca’s much more spiritual beliefs which held that life and time flowed not just between the living, but also directly from the dead.

“That these pots were principally used for the storage and poring of various liquids only further strengthens the metaphor that life was transmitted through its fluids: semen, milk and blood.

“Hence sex isn’t always about sex.”

Nick flipped the book over and indicating an intricately carved pot featuring a fleshy female very obviously performing vigorous fellatio on a spookily skeletal figure, asked “How is that not about sex?”

“Oh ye of dirty little minds,” scoffed Sara. “Like many ancestor worshipping societies, the Moche held that all life, health, fertility and abundance originated from those who had gone before, and that these dead possessed the equal powers of taking all of that away if their happiness and goodwill weren’t constantly cultivated. Ergo, all the pleasuring of skeletal figures.”

A long, drawn out, very pregnant pause on the part of the others followed this, causing a very suddenly perplexed Sara to ask, “What?”

Greg and Nick exchanged conspiratorial looks before Greg said, “You’re right, she does sound just like him.”

“And I thought that was an old wive’s tale,” laughed Nick in reply. “I mean I’ve heard of married couples starting to look like each other, but sounding alike?”

“Real funny, both of you,” Sara replied, not sounding the least bit amused.

“It is weird,” Greg agreed, as if she hadn’t said anything.

“No weirder than the rest of it really,” said Nick. “Yeah, the whole being married thing is still pretty weird. But then there was that dress last week—“

“What was wrong with the dress? cut in Sara.

“Nothing,” Nick replied, looking to Ray this time for confirmation, who only nodded his agreement. “Except, did Grissom know you went out of the house looking like that?”

“Looking like what exactly?” she asked in a far more indignant tone.

“Well….” And Nick hemmed for a moment. “Well… Like a girl,” he finished.

Sara didn’t know where to start to be insulted. So ultimately all she could do was continue to gape at him.

“Then you get this in the mail,” he said indicating the book still in his hands. “And you start channeling Grissom…”

“Again,” interjected Greg.

“Again,” Nick agreed. “It’s… It’s just… Weird.”

Even though she was fairly certain that Nick and Greg were merely attempting to wind her up, Sara was relieved to be reprieved from coming up with a suitable reply by the sudden appearance of Catherine Willows.

“Something going on here I should know about?” she asked from the door.

Hodges was quick to chime in, “Sara got a package.”

To which Catherine gave him a look that plainly said So?

“From Grissom,” he added.

Her expression added a what to her earlier So.

“It’s ancient porn,” he concluded.

“It’s an exhibition catalog from The Musée du Quai Branly in Paris. And it’s not porn. It’s art,” said Sara, starting to sound even to her own ears like a broken record.

Catherine extended an imperious hand. “Give it here,” she said.

Which the guys obediently did, but not without Hodges first saying, “You might want to check out page fifty-six.”

Catherine coolly flipped a page, then another and said, “I see.”

“It’s art,” Sara maintained, more for the others benefit than her boss’.

“You can keep saying that all you want, Sara,” said Nick. “Doesn’t change the fact that Hodges is right. It’s still ancient porn.”

”There’s no such thing as ancient porn,” Sara insisted. “The whole concept of pornography didn’t come about until the Victorians in the mid 18th Century.”

“And I don’t even want to know how you know that,” Nick whistled with an amused shake of the head.

“She does have a point,” Ray said reasonably.

Sara gave him a gracious “Thank you” in reply.

“Yeah, but that would take all the fun out of it,” said Greg.

Catherine, her examination of the contentious volume evidently complete, gave it a close with an “Amusing as this all is, don’t you all have work to do?” before returning the book back to Sara without further comment.

Although not without first meeting her gaze with what Sara regarded as far too knowing a look, and if she wasn’t mistaken, the barest hint of a wink. That and Sara could have sworn she very distinctly heard her supervisor attempting — and failing miserably — to stifle a hearty chuckle as soon as she hit the hall.

Once their boss finally disappeared from view, Nick said, “I just have one last question,” as he sank however reluctantly into the chair he had earlier vacated.

Sara took a deep breath. Considering the events of the last ten minutes, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to know.

But to her surprise Nick addressed his next query to Hodges.

“You were the school snitch, weren’t you?”

“Snitch?” echoed Hodges.

Snitch,” repeated Greg. “You know, tattletale, blabbermouth, gasbag, spy, stoolie, narc.” He was on a roll. “Canary, fink, squealer, squeaker, weasel, tabby, polly, parrot—

“You forgot rat,” said Nick.

“And snoop,” added Ray.

“And busybody,” supplied Sara.

*******

Sara, with a very happy to be home Hank in tow, had barely made it through the door to her and Grissom’s condo when her phone buzzed to indicate she had a call.

Seeing it was her husband, she greeted him with a not entirely affectionate, “You are so dead, Gil.”

To which Grissom chuckled, “Hello to you, too, dear.” Then in a tone slightly more serious he asked, “Why am I dead? The package didn’t come?”

“The book you sent? Oh, it came all right.”

“Good, I was worried it wouldn’t get there in time.”

“In time for what?” she asked slipping off her jacket to hang in the closet.

“It is Valentine’s Day, Sara.”

“Yeah, real romantic gift, Gilbert,” she sighed. “You, um forget your own address?”

“No,” he replied. “But you’re never there and I wanted to make sure you got it.”

“You could have warned me.”

“Wouldn’t that defeat the whole purpose of a gift?” he countered. “I thought they were supposed to be surprises.”

“Oh, it was,” she agreed as she descended the stairs into the kitchen. “We were all surprised.”

It was Grissom’s turn to suddenly sound uneasy. “We?” he asked.

“Yeah, we,” she replied, bending to refill Hank’s water dish. “Me, Nick, Greg, Hodges, Ray, Catherine. At least your mother wasn’t there.”

“I wasn’t expecting you to have an audience.”

“Right, the lab’s always really private, Gil.”

“I never knew you to embarrass so easily, dear.”

“It was the company and not the material,” she said, one-handedly pouring food into Hank’s dish with all the ease of customary practice.

Once the noise had died down Grissom said, “You aren’t really mad, are you?”

“No,” she replied almost chuckling herself. And she wasn’t. In hindsight it was actually a little funny in une comédie de l’absurde sort of way. “Although I’m starting to think you were right. There are some things best kept private.”

“I didn’t realize Moche pottery would prove so scandalous.”

Sara sighed, “I almost didn’t get the book back.”

She could almost hear his brow furrowing in his puzzled “That doesn’t sound like Catherine.”

“Catherine wasn’t the problem. Boys,” she hissed half under her breath in exasperation.

“Excuse me?”

“Gil, I love you, I do. And don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the gesture, I really do. But it might be better if you stuck to bugs next time. Less explaining necessary that way. That and I’m not sure the rest of the lab can take any more surprises.”

*******

A/N: The book Grissom sends to Sara is actually a real catalog from a real exhibition at The Musée du Quai Branly in Paris which ran from March to May of 2010 and featured the world’s most comprehensive exhibition of Moche pottery outside of South America on loan from the Museo Larco in Lima, Peru (and no, I do not receive any promotional consideration for mentioning either in my story… I wish). I simply found it a curious happenstance and sadly, I can never pass up a curious happenstance.

Lastly, in the spirit of full disclosure, I have absolutely no idea what is on page fifty-six of said catalogue. But from what pictures I’ve seen of the collection, it’s fairly likely to be a doozie.

*******

Continued in Louder than Words, or Let’s (Not) Talk about Sex

*******

Have a question or want to leave a comment or concern and don’t have a wordpress account? Please feel free to email me at kadhmercer@gmail.com

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: