Of Mice and Menus
Summary:Something is afoot on many scurrying feet; Geek love via rodents.
A/N: Part of the weekly Unbound Improv Challenge. First and last lines are provided – 1,000 words to get a story out of them. No spoilers. Thanks to Burked and Ann for serving as beta on this.
Disclaimer: This story is too short for a disclaimer.
"That's some swarm of mice."
"Nest," Grissom corrected, stopping his examination of a wire cage to address the detective. "You can have a swarm of bees, a clutter of spiders or a troubling of goldfish. With mice, it's a nest."
"Whatever you call it, there's a hell of a lot of them," O'Riley said, using his shoe to tentatively push one away.
A reported riot at Vaniteux, a new, upscale restaurant, had brought the entire night shift out. When they arrived, they found angry patrons and upset staff milling outside, while a multitude of multicolored mice swarmed through the debris of overturned tables, gorging themselves on the bounty left by the scurrying diners.
"This wasn't an accident," Grissom said, picking up the cage.
"You don't say? 'Cause invasions of mice are so common in Vegas. I'll go talk to the owner, see who has a grudge," O'Riley groused. He took a few steps, pausing to look at Grissom quizzically. "What's so troubling about goldfish?"
"I don't know. Never thought about it before."
O'Riley shrugged and nodded to Sara as she approached with another pair of wire cages. Grissom's attention, however, was focused on her chest.
"Is that a mouse in your pocket, or are you happy to see me?" he asked brightly, watching as a whiskered pink nose worked it's way out of the breast pocket on Sara's jacket.
"He wouldn't leave me alone. I didn't want to step on him."
"A guy can hope," Grissom teased.
"The two aren't mutually exclusive," Sara grinned as she set the cages down, noticing Grissom's attention was still focused on certain part of her anatomy. "I found this in the lounge and one by the lobby."
Grissom gave her a hint of a smile before scanning the locations she indicated. "I bet you'll find more cages there and there."
Sara turned to examine the areas he was pointing out, positive a blush was forming. The unexpected return to flirting was equally confusing and exciting.
"Covers the whole area. Maximizes the number of people who would see them," she said, nodding her head as she visualized the streams of mice spreading out from the different locations.
"Ensuring maximum panic."
They moved to a grouping of potted plants near the kitchen door. On the way, Sara pulled out a package of string cheese from another pocket and broke off a piece. She gave Grissom a bashful grin as she extracted the mouse and fed him the treat on the palm of her hand.
"Mickey's missing out on the feast," she said, pointing to a group of mice devouring a basket of rolls.
Grissom gave her an appraising look over the top of his glasses as she stroked the soft fur. Once the wee beastie was done, he picked it up by its tail. "Your Mickey is a Minnie."
"I didn't check. We just met," she deadpanned, frowning when the mouse struggled frantically in his grasp. "Here. You don't know how to handle him. Her."
"I handle mice all the time. I feed them to my reptiles."
"No wonder she doesn't like you," she grumbled, quickly taking the mouse back and pocketing it.
"I doubt if I'm on the Rodent Bureau of Investigation's most-wanted list," he said, joining Sara as she bent over to examine the plants. "And I'd never feed a friend of yours to my reptiles."
"Well, that's probably what'll happen to her anyway," Sara said sadly as she extracted another cage from the plants.
"Animal control will try to adopt them out. You can keep her."
"No good. No pet policy on my lease."
"Keep her in my office."
"Between your snakes? She's nervous enough as is."
"Then keep her at my townhouse. You can visit whenever you want," he said softly, moving to join Catherine as she exited the kitchen carrying a bowl. A confused Sara opened her mouth, but no sound came out. After a moment, she walked over to join them.
"I think this place's troubles go beyond mice," she said, nodding at the artichokes floating in water with sliced lemons.
"That water's acidulated. The artichokes shouldn't turn color. Or colors," Sara said, staring at some very unnatural looking vegetables.
"How do you know about artichokes?" Grissom quipped.
"I don't like to cook. Doesn't mean I can't," she teased back, ignoring Catherine's confused look at their easy banter.
"So, was this an inside job?" the older woman wondered.
Grissom rubbed his beard thoughtfully. "Hard to get one cage of mice into the building. Several?"
"And mess with the food," Sara added, noticing Catherine was staring at her wiggling pocket.
"Okay, there's no need for everyone to be working this. Animal control will handle the mice when they get here. Where are Nick and Warrick?"
"Nick was checking the bathrooms for more cages. Warrick's in the kitchen," Catherine answered.
"Okay, Sara and I will head back to the lab. Send Nick back when he's done; he can start checking to see if anyone bought a lot of mice recently. Make sure to get a sample of that water."
"Right," she said, placing the bowl on a table and opening her kit. "Hey, Gil. What's troubling about a group of goldfish? O'Riley's asking everyone."
"Well, troubling comes from the Latin 'turbid'. 'Turbid' means murky. Anyone who's seen a goldfish tank knows they get murky," he answered.
"You made that up," Sara laughed.
Catherine did a double-take as Grissom planted an obviously fake innocent look on his face.
"I heard you tell O'Riley that you didn't know."
"Can you think of a better reason?"
Catherine's eyebrows neared her hairline as Grissom placed his hand on Sara's back to lead her out of the room and left it there. When did this happen?
"No," Sara answered.
"Think O'Riley will know the difference? Come on. I have an empty terrarium you can keep Minnie in until you can get something better at the pet store."
Catherine sighed as she bagged the artichokes.