76 – Pass the Pig

Welcomes, like peace offerings, take many forms. Some more unusual than others.

Follows “Sooner Rather than Later” and takes place post episode 1203 “Bittersweet,”

 circa October 2011.

An admittedly strange bout of wishful thinking, but then isn’t that what fanfic is all about?

*******

“I never met a pig I didn’t like. All pigs are intelligent, emotional, and sensitive souls. They all love company. They all crave contact and comfort. Pigs have a delightful sense of mischief; most of them seem to enjoy a good joke and appreciate music. And that is something you would certainly never suspect from your relationship with a pork chop,”

The Good Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood, Sy Montgomery

*******

“You… uh… need something, Sara? Or are you practicing being a better door than a window?”

While D.B. Russell hadn’t bothered to look up from his reports, Sara Sidle took this as permission to enter and did.

So much for her hoping the as yet relatively new grave shift supervisor hadn’t noticed her loitering. She certainly hadn’t registered precisely how long she’d been lingering. Mind you in her own defense she had been more than a little preoccupied.

Initially, it was the office itself which had given her pause. True, by the time she had come to share the space with the guys, there had been alterations a plenty. Heck the space had seen more changes in the last three years than it had in the previous nine. But something about Russell having taking it over had struck her stronger. And it wasn’t his choice of decorating.

Although she really didn’t understand what everyone else was muttering about. Sara rather liked what he’d done with the place. But then she liked vegetation.

Made sense actually, Russell’s mushroom fascination if you stopped to think about it, coming from Seattle as he did. They didn’t classify that part of the Pacific Northwest a temperate rainforest for nothing. With all the precipitation the region received, the parks there were probably teeming with fungi. As for what he did with what he grew, Sara really didn’t want to know.

Still, when it came to weird, Russell’s office didn’t even register. Neither did Russell for that matter. But then Sara had grown up on the California coast where people like Russell were normal. That and after being married to Grissom and having spent the better part of the last ten years living in the world’s capital of weird, very few things struck her as strange anymore.

Except for some reason her colleagues didn’t seem to share this sentiment. Exactly who had originally dubbed the new supervisor Moonbeam, Sara had no clue, but the choice and tone which frequently accompanied it made Grissom’s earlier Bugman appellation sound almost affectionate in contrast.

After all it hadn’t been Russell’s fault he’d been hired to head Grave. After the Haskell fiasco, Ecklie had and in no uncertain terms, made it abundantly clear that changes had to be made. And if they were all completely honest about it, Ecklie probably hadn’t had much of a choice in the matter either. Didn’t mean they had to like it or them. But however loyal to Catherine and the team as she was, Sara wasn’t all that keen on this particular show of solidarity.

Ultimately though her standing there had much more to do with her trying to screw up the courage to say what she had come to say. Hadn’t been the first time she’d stood in that doorway attempting to do just that. Probably wouldn’t be the last. The occupant was different this time, that’s for sure. The reason not so much.

Change might be the only constant in the universe, but there were still some things which never did. Sara Sidle knew and all to well, that she could be impulsive, temperamental and tended far too frequently to get more than a little overly emotionally involved in her cases. But she knew, too, when she was wrong.

Amazing the clarity a couple of days could bring. So did having your husband show up several days earlier than you were expecting.

Of course when it came to Gina Sinclair, it wasn’t even a question. Sara hadn’t just been wrong. She hadn’t merely crossed the line; she’d vaulted over it. Not only that, she’d been curt with Russell when he’d rightly called her on it. Sadly, turning forty hadn’t automatically meant she’d outgrown her problems with authority, but these days it was her policy to at least try to keep her insubordination and line crossing to a minimum. And to own up to her mistakes.

Of course being human, she wasn’t entirely keen on having to.

So Sara had been both relieved and not to find Russell still in his office this late in the afternoon. Albeit with him apparently firmly ensconced behind his desk and a rather formidable pile of file folders, ostensibly in the midst of what Sara knew from Grissom’s prior grumblings on the matter to be that most dreaded of all administrative tasks: paperwork patrol, she almost opted to defer her visit for another time. Except she wasn’t entirely sure she could muster up the courage or humility twice. Which partially explained what she’d been doing dawdling just outside the boss’s office jar in hand as long as she had.

Well, it explained the dawdling, the jar, not so much.

Mind you it probably wasn’t the most conventional of selections. For while both her husband and her mother-in-law leaned more towards the botanical when it came to such presentations, the recall of which always brought a faint smile to her lips, Russell already had plenty of plants of his own, even a few particularly impressive orchid species, any of which Sara knew would have made Dr. Velasquez, the botanist who had headed the biodiversity census project she and Grissom had worked on in Costa Rica, green with envy.

But a peace offering was still a peace offering no matter how unusual. Hopefully, Russell would regard it as such.

So it was with one final deep breath that Sara launched in with “La Vegas Market.”

At this Russell did look up, uncharacteristically nonplused.

Undeterred, she said, “Best farmer’s market in Nevada, if you can believe the marketing. It’s probably nothing like what you’re used to in Seattle, but it does beat grocery store produce any day of the week.

“The location rotates: Tuesday nights in Garden Park in Summerlin, Wednesdays in Bruce Trent Park and Saturday afternoons at Floyd Lamb, but I haven’t been able to get out to that one for a while for some reason or other.”

Russell either didn’t get or didn’t register this thinly veiled lament on their weekend work hours.

“Maps are all there,” she continued, placing a printout atop his file folders.

When he continued to simply stare at her, Sara offered, “Catherine said your wife was looking for a farmer’s market in Vegas.”

“Ah,” he nodded, recalling that she indeed had. More than a month ago. “Thanks,” he said giving it a cursory examination before slipping it into one of his shirt pockets. “She’ll appreciate it.”

When Sara only carried on standing there, Russell said, more curious than in a hurry to get rid of her, “Was there something else?”

It was her turn to look sheepish. “Uh, yeah. This is for you,” she replied drawing the jar out from where she’d kept it concealed behind her back.

There was a long moment of stunned silence before Russell’s gaze shifted from gift to the giver.

“It’s a… pig… in a jar,” he stammered.

“Irradiated fetal pig. Yeah.”

“Insert bad cop joke here?”

“No,” laughed Sara.

“Well, it can’t be an attempt to suck up,” Russell observed reasonably.

“Don’t have me pegged for a brown-noser?”

His rejoining smile plainly read I didn’t say that, but what he actually replied was, “I believe Hodges still holds the monopoly on that around here.”

She smirked. “Some things don’t change.”

“Besides, no smart person would use a dead pig in a jar to suck up. Which makes this what? An obscure office hazing ritual?”

To which Sara snorted. Something which only rendered her boss more interested rather than less.

“You really don’t want to know,” she insisted. For the only possible graveyard hazing ritual Sara could come up with was Grissom’s first day on the job mandatory blood donation policy. Even now, Sara wasn’t the only one still wondering how she had managed to avoid falling victim to that one.

“Lab tradition,” she supplied gesturing to the pig.

Russell nodded sagely. “They did warn me Vegas was weird. Except,” he countered, “I don’t recall anyone giving Morgan a pig.”

“It kinda comes with the office.”

“So I shouldn’t read too much into the choice of gift then?”

“No.”

Then as if recollecting something, he asked, “Didn’t Nick have a pig like this?”

Sara shrugged. “Unlawful procurement is part of the tradition.”

After all Hodges had pinched it from Grissom in the first place. Not that her husband had been all that upset to discover that at some point during his packing up, Miss Piggy had gone AWOL. Nor all that surprised. In truth he’d been more than a little pleased. Besides, he maintained then as well as now, she really did belong there.

A belief Hodges seemed to have shared from what Nick had told her of its sudden reappearance in the office. Nicky, amused but still somewhat begrudgingly as bugs were one thing, bugs he could do, but pigs were something else entirely, had taken responsibility for her. Albeit reluctantly enough that Sara seriously doubted he’d been all that dismayed when Greg had purloined the pig to present it to her as an official welcome to the office present. For her part, while she would never let on, she’d been secretly thrilled. So had Grissom.

And she’d only managed to lose possession of said pig because thinking even pigs had their places, she hadn’t had the heart to pack her up to take with her. Unfortunately, that hadn’t kept Miss Piggy from somehow managing to end up being put aside along with all the rest of Nick’s things while he’d been busy off with his beetles in Hawaii.

But since Hodges was actually right — for once — at least about it feeling wrong for Miss Piggy not to be here, Sara had decided to take matters into her own hands and without any further consultation. Not even with Grissom. There was something to be said for plausible deniability after all. Even if she had the feeling her husband would have approved.

In any case, Russell, eyeing the pig intently, was saying, “I’m almost afraid to ask, but what was it doing here in the first place?”

“Grissom’s. Used her for testing the effects of radiation on tissue. As pigs are most like people, anatomically speaking,” she explained.

“Not to mention behaviorally. Perhaps Orwell wasn’t being entirely allegorical then.”

Recognizing the reference Sara quoted, “‘The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.’

Animal Farm,” she supplied unnecessarily. At the frankly incredulous look her boss was giving her she added, trying to contain her eye roll, “Despite what Grissom might tell you, I do read something other than crime books.”

Then gesturing to the pig, she said, “But whatever did she do to you?”

The comparison probably was an insult to pigs now that he thought about it, but before Russell could say as much, Sara was saying, “If you ask me pigs get a bum rap. They’re highly intelligent, social, resourceful.

“And considering the current state of the planet, you’re right, Orwell probably had a point: ‘Four legs good, two legs bad.’”

Russell nodded thoughtfully, but he was smiling once more when he said, “I think I’m starting to see the family resemblance.

“Your husband,” it was his turn to supply. He may have only been supervisor for a handful of weeks now, but it hadn’t escaped his notice or apparently that of her coworkers from what he occasionally overheard, that she had a habit of not so infrequently channeling Grissom.

For her part, Sara was more amused than annoyed at this. She could think of plenty of insults far worse and few compliments as good.

“I take it you’ve met,” she said.

“Couple of times.”

Which didn’t surprise her in the slightest. The forensics community may have grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade, but it wasn’t that large. That and her husband had always been in demand when it came to conference circuit. Popularity of forensic studies notwithstanding, there still weren’t a heck of a lot of forensic entomologists out there.

“First time must have been what — nine years ago now. Forensic Academy Conference.”

She smirked in spite of herself.

“Case study on the use and limitations of insect evidence to determine time of death.”

“Kaye Shelton,” Sara nodded, intimately familiar as she was with that particular case.

“Insightful, if macabre. He had an inordinate fondness for Shakespeare as well as beetles if I recall.”

As she couldn’t rightly refute this, she only smiled. The Shakespeare, like the insects, grew on you, she knew, and strangely in the same way baseball and opera or perhaps more accurately Gil Grissom did. Or at least had for her.

“And a rather… quirky sense of humor,” finished Russell.

Sara had to choke back a snort. Quirky was definitely a good word for it, to put it mildly, she mused. But all in all, she thought this rather rich of Russell. But then perhaps it really did take one to know one.

Admittedly, she hadn’t been entirely immune to the general sense of bafflement Russell’s methods seemed to engender around the office. Of course they’d all at one time or another groaned and rolled their eyes at Grissom’s quotations, although never quite as openly as they did at D.B. Russell’s stories.

Sara’s initial impression had been perhaps it was just men of a certain age. After all, the ability to stay strictly ad rem wasn’t exactly Grissom’s strong suit either. Except the more she thought about it, that couldn’t be it as her husband had been pretty much that way the entire time she’d known him.

She didn’t tell Russell this though. Instead she only said, “You have no idea.”

“Certainly makes an impression.”

At this Sara laughed. “You really have no idea.”

Positive there had to be a story behind this, Russell settled back into his chair, waiting for her to elaborate. He was in any case a patient man, particularly when intrigued. And while it hadn’t quite been a blush, the way she had colored as she’d said this, it was the closest he’d ever observed in Sara. Which definitely intrigue him.

And while she considered attempting to wait him out, Sara knew that look only too well and decided there was no point in even attempting to fight it.

“Same conference,” she offered after a moment. “San Francisco, ’98. His lecture. Double murder in a garage. It’s where we first met.”

Trying and failing to work out how that could possibly be construed as sexy, Russell had an equally hard time keeping his incredulity from his, “And that was a turn on?”

At the askance scowl Sara was suddenly shooting him, he raised both his hands up in mock surrender chuckling, “Hey, whatever floats your boat.”

The death glare softened slightly. However Russell reasoned a change in subject was in order. Returning his attention to the jar still perched atop his paperwork, he said, “So – uh – do I have to keep it on my desk?”

Sara did smile at this. “I’m sure you can find a corner around here somewhere for her.”

Her?” he echoed. “That’s the third time you’ve referred to it as her. She got a name too?”

“Miss Piggy.”

“Of course.” Although really not entirely sure he wanted to know the answer, he next asked, “There isn’t a Kermit floating around here, is there?”

“Not that I know of. But Nick did lose a tarantula a few years back.”

“Never found him?”

“No, but then Stevie was AWOL for more than two years before he just showed up one day.”

If Sara wasn’t mistaken, Russell didn’t look all that thrilled about the prospect.

“I wouldn’t worry,” she assured him. “They’re mostly harmless.”

To which Russell quipped, “I’m not so sure the same could be said of your husband.”

Now normally, Russell was pretty easy to read – well a whole lot easier than Grissom ever was, at least at the beginning – but the new shift supervisor had somehow instantly acquired an almost sphinx-like sagacity, leaving Sara unsure if he was speaking in earnest or merely jest. But before she could even begin to ask what he meant by this, her phone let out one of its insistent peals.

From the way she was grinning rather than scowling at the caller ID, Russell reasoned it could only be one person on the other end of the line.

“Speak of the devil?” He grinned too and knowing a thing or two about spousal calls during work or near work hours, he said, “Go ahead and take it. We’re done here anyway, right?”

She nodded and was just about to pick up her cell, only to be caught up short by her boss’s call of “Oh and Sara –”

She turned. “Yeah?”

Russell, gesturing to the pig, let out a rather uncertain “Uh –” before settling on a genuine “Thanks for the –”

“Anytime.”

Her phone chimed thrice. This time Sara answered and with a far more cheery than usual, “Your ears burning, Gil?” There was a laugh and then an amused, “Tell you when I get home,” another laugh, and a dogged, “I’m on my way out the door now. Yes, physically,” before her voice completely trailed off as she disappeared down the corridor.

Which left D.B. Russell alone with the pig and his pile of paperwork.

They really weren’t kidding when they said Vegas was weird, he mused. But he was starting to like that about the place.

He was still chuckling to himself as he set back to tackling the last of his reports when his own phone chirped.

“Hey,” he greeted his wife. “No, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you… Just finishing up… Another hour or so… What do I want for dinner?”

For some reason his eyes settled once again upon the pig in the jar.

“Uh… Anything but pork chops.”

*******

 

A/N: Originally this and “Sooner Rather than Later” were supposed to be two halves of the same story. But I could never get all their respective pieces to fit together and the two different tones just didn’t work. The reason I mention this was the name I’d settled on for the uber-story version had been “Pass the Pig and an Unexpected Object Lesson in Taking the Sweet with the Sour” and yes, I REALLY need stop reading Victorian Lit.   And for some reason, the presence of the words pig, sweet and sour all in one sentence screamed sweet and sour pork for Frank. Maybe he was hungry at the time. Who knows. It was amusing enough that I actually considered using it for a title before the split.

Anyway, what I do know is no one else on the planet possesses his level of talent when it comes to turning sows’ ears into silk purses. Present company a perfect case in point.

And to give credit — and blame — where they are due, the first line and the pork chops were Frank’s idea.

 

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Soul (@literaryvision)
    Jul 08, 2012 @ 12:12:47

    I just went through and read all of these stories in the past 3 days, and while it isn’t the first time I’ve done so, I finally realized what it is that keeps drawing me back in. Other than the wonderful writing and exceptional grasp of the characters that is. While you don’t downplay the emotionally taxing moments, you also don’t need to overstate the beautiful ones. In fact, they have an understated elegance even with the simplicity of beauty being the natural focus. I am a firm believer in living every single day for beauty. Life has many moments filled with it to offer if only we choose to look and to see. You capture it quite well. I guess it comes from your seeming belief in the beauty of life as well, for in the midst of worry and pain you can still see beauty. You still have an unfailing belief in love. I do hope things have gotten better, and if they have not I hope that they will. As a fan and fellow writer I would say focus on the work to get you through when it gets too tough if that happens, but as a woman I say you always have people to talk to should you need the ears and shoulders. We call ourselves your fans.

  2. Gloria Fuqua
    Sep 13, 2012 @ 22:03:21

    Hope you have not given up on ff writing–perhaps found another endeavor?

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: