01 – Mirror, Mirror

Between dealing with an oft irascible mother-in-law, a husband who manages to get stuck in Peru at the most inopportune times and a 24/7 job where bizarre is the ordinary, Sara Sidle’s life is far from dull — or perfect.

But then sometimes that’s not such a bad thing. And sometimes all it takes is a small thing to remind her of that fact.

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

Follows “Pot Shots” and “Let’s (Not) Talk about Sex.

********

A/N: Okay, I admit it, I obsess over the smallest and weirdest things, but that necklace of Sara’s has fascinated me ever since I saw the promotional pics.

There just had to be a story there… That and I hate loose ends…

*******

In-clu-sion: noun.

– The action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure. A person or thing that is included within a larger group or structure.

– Biology. Geology. Metallurgy. A body or particle recognizably distinct from the substance in which it is embedded.

New Oxford American Dictionary

*******

One: Mirror, Mirror

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength,

while loving someone deeply gives you courage,”

Lao Tzu

*******

Six in the evening usually found Sara asleep. Well, if she managed to get out of work on time. And these days that proved to be a rather big if.

But tonight found her lingering overlong in front of the bathroom mirror, not out of vanity, but because one of the useful things she had gotten out of all her mandatory PEAP counseling sessions was that mirrors were good for giving yourself pep talks.

And tonight she certainly needed it.

If only to calm her stomach, which at the moment was fluttering with all the intensity of her having somehow managed to swallow an entire rabble of butterflies.

She took a deep breath. Then another.

She could do this.

“Dinner,” she murmured. “It’s only dinner. It’s only dinner. It’s only–”

She was cut off mid-mantra by a perplexed and frankly concerned query of “You okay?”

Her eyes flashed wide, something which came almost as much of a shock as Grissom’s sudden presence beside her did, her not having realized she’d closed them in the first place. In any case, Sara hurriedly brushed aside her surprise, gave him a slightly forced smile and a little too studied a “Yeah. Why?”

Which apparently her husband didn’t buy for a minute.

“For one you’re talking to yourself. Out loud.”

“Like you’ve never done it,” Sara scoffed.

Grissom ignored this. “And you look nervous. Lovely,” he added brushing a thumb along the bare skin at the nape of her neck, “but nervous.”

Instinctively, her lips twitched at the unsought after compliment. Still, she sighed, “That’s because I am nervous.”

“Why?”

Why? she mentally echoed. Why?

But instead she settled on saying, “Even you can’t be that dense.”

“It’s only dinner,” he reminded her, leaving Sara unsure if he was deliberately parroting what he’d overheard her say earlier or if it was just one those strange happenstances which life seemed to be rife with. In any case, apparently her husband really was that clueless. Or perhaps after fifty plus years of exposure he was simply inured.

So Sara decided to spell it out for him. “With your mother. And it’s never just dinner with her, Gil.”

“You survived lunch okay.”

That she had and twice and on her own but still —

And it was equally true that ever since that heated spat of theirs in the courtyard of Desert Palms there had been a very definitive thaw in the chill between mother and daughter-in-law. Of course Betty was still hard to get close to. Still questioned everything. Still had to be right about it all. Still came across as emotionally unavailable most of the time.

Like mother, like son, indeed.

Sara fervently hoped it wouldn’t take her quite so long to win over the mother as it had the son. She didn’t think she could take seven years of butterflies.

But strangely enough — though perhaps she shouldn’t be all that surprised as strange and Grissom sort of went together — telling off Betty had somehow managed to improve rather than further damage the relationship.

And yet —

Sara let out a long breath of “My signing still sucks. Maybe by Christmas I just might — might — progress past squirrel.”

“You’re doing just fine,” Grissom rejoined and meant it.  Knew it too, as his wife had insisted on practicing her ASL during their last several Skype calls. He found hers perfectly passable, far better actually than most near beginners. A finding which hadn’t surprised him in the least. Sara, he knew, never did anything halfway.

Though apparently she was not to be so easily mollified. “Just ask your mother if you don’t believe me. She’s always correcting me. Always.

“That means she likes you.”

“Bullshit.”

But Grissom persisted. “If she didn’t like you, she wouldn’t bother.”

Sara shook her head. “That makes absolutely no sense.”

Although the more she thought about it, that did explain a lot, and not just about her mother-in-law. And while she wondered if the same were true of Betty’s other criticisms, Sara decided it best to keep this thought to herself.

In any case, Grissom apparently had something else on his mind.

“Honey,” he began. The endearment and its gentle, yet firm earnestness effectively silenced any further protests. Her eyes met his in the mirror.  “She appreciates it. I appreciate it,” he said, giving her shoulder a squeeze for extra emphasis. They shared a smile. Careful not to muss her hair, done up as he noticed in that way he was particularly fond of, he pressed a kiss there, murmuring, “So stop worrying.”

Easier said than done.

“You about ready?” he asked giving her robe-clad form a thorough and certainly not entirely disapproving appraisal. Grissom was of course already dressed in jacket and tie, looking as well–kept and dapper as he usually did in such attire.

“Just have to dress.”

“I still don’t see why you can’t wear the dress from the Gilbert Foundation party.”

This not being the first time her husband raised this particular objection, Sara only shook her head again and patiently replied, “Like I told you before, the guys already think I only own one dress. I don’t want to give your mother that same impression. Besides,” she added with all the mock severity she could muster, “you stood me up. If anything you’re supposed to still be in the doghouse.”

“I am?”

“Well, according to Nick anyway.”

“And what exactly does Nick have to do with it?”

*******

That first shift after Betty had stopped by with pot of apologetic African violets in hand, Nick Stokes had entered the office he, Sara, Greg and Ray all shared and observing the pretty plant on her desk, asked genuinely curious as to the answer, “Flowers actually work?”

Sara didn’t bother to glance up from her case file. “Work for what?”

“Getting a guy out of the doghouse.”

“And who’s supposed to be in the doghouse?”

“I don’t know about you,” Nick rejoined in that characteristic Texas drawl of his, “but where I come from, husbands get sent to the doghouse when they stand their wives up.”

“They’re not from Grissom,” was all Sara replied.

Nick laughed, “Have an admirer we don’t know about?”

Sara snorted. “Hardly. Betty.”

Nick couldn’t have looked more flummoxed if he tried. “What — how?” he eventually stammered.

Sara only smiled sphinx-like and satisfied into her paperwork.

*******

“And according to you?” Grissom asked once Sara finished relating this incident to him.

His abrupt mystification was not without warrant. For the last several days hadn’t seemed altogether different than his usual time home. No silent treatment, cold-shouldering or sleeping on the couch, all the things he associated with being in the doghouse, although his notions were thankfully more rooted theory than actual experience.

In fact, the hours and days had been very much quite the contrary, now that he thought about it. Sure there had been that initially awkward conversation involving their sex life — or lack thereof as Grissom had been surprised to hear Hodges describe it. But mostly what time they were able to spend together, Sara’s schedule being what it was, had been much as their favorite times usually were: quietly passionately familiarly intimate.

So if this was what being in the doghouse actually entailed, Grissom was starting to think perhaps it wasn’t quite such a fate to fear. This was, however, only a brief thought, a very brief thought, as his wife playfully, though hurriedly and thoroughly disabused him of such notions.

“Lucky for you,” she said giving him a sportive smirk, “there’s time off for good behavior.”

Amused now as well as bemused, he was about to inquire what precisely she meant by this, when Sara continued, this time more arch than anything, “Anyway, if you want to see me in that dress, you’re just going to have to take me out somewhere yourself.”

Except to Sara’s surprise, Grissom didn’t look the least bit daunted by the prospect. If anything, he appeared intrigued, so that all she could do was shake her head for a third time and shoo him out with an insistent, “Five minutes,” so that she could finish getting ready in peace.

*******

Continued in L’affaire du Collier, or the Affair of the Necklace

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: