Title: Happy Trails: The Tale of the Complicated Cowboy
Author: Summer Reign
Spoilers: Bull (the episode, I wasn't about to swear or anything)
Disclaimer: I don't own CSI, even though I have delusions of grandeur occasionally and think I can do the characters some justice.
Summary: Grissom thinks, then acts, then chooses a new path in life (Trust me. I haven't steered you wrong yet, have I? That was a pun! I'm getting more like Grissom every day.)
1. The Lone Ranger
He left Bruno with the sitter for the night.
Why not? Bruno and Maggie liked each other, spent half the day together anyway, and Grissom just wanted to…be alone. Truly alone.
Nothing wrong with that. Nope. Not at all.
In fact, during the past week, he'd come to grips with…things.
She was better off without him. Time by herself would teach her that. And he was…probably…more suited to a life without complications.
He threw himself into work, but lately had reintroduced some things into his life that he used to enjoy. Bought a shopping bag full of books. Filled the refrigerator with junk food. Started thinking about painting the living room white again. It looked so much more—him—than the toasted almond color it was now (she had actually lobbied for a deep plum shade. Almond was the compromise).
Today had almost been fun, as far as work was concerned. Putting aside the tragic element of a young life snuffed out, the case of the dead cowboy was rather fascinating.
Cowboys always intrigued him. Ever since he was a child.
They always seemed to be one step above the normal, mortal, man.
In the back of his mind, Desperado was kicking in as part of the soundtrack to his thoughts. The melody was good, but when the lyrics started to pop into his consciousness, he rather hurriedly walked to his stereo system and put on some classical music he hadn't played in quite some time (because she didn't care for it).
Then he toed off his shoes.
And went into the kitchen.
Grissom opened the refrigerator and pulled out a beer. Surveyed the contents and rejected everything.
He selected a pint of Rocky Road ice cream from the freezer, instead. Then went into the cabinets and took out the largest bag of non-baked, fully fried potato chips they owned. He owned.
And he could almost hear the sound of her laughter in the background.
He took his feast to the coffee table and started eating, and drinking—pretty much everything at once. Tasted good. Much better than the low-fat, high-fiber, vegetable-laden crap he had been eating for the past two years.
No non-lectures on cholesterol (she said a lot by saying nothing at all). No dog staring at him with a drooling mouth and soft brown eyes.
Maybe…just maybe…he'd ask Maggie if she wanted to keep him.
The minute the thought entered his mind, a pain ran through his entire system.
Bruno had been nothing but a godsend. From the day they got him. And Sara…
The pain intensified.
He got up and dumped his beer. Put the ice cream back in the freezer, and the potato chips back in the cupboard.
Then he went over to the stereo and turned it off.
Silence. This is what his life was now. This is what it could be like, every day, for the rest of his existence.
He always knew, once he took that step towards life, towards love, he could never go back. Suddenly, he was surprised that—in his own way—he had even made the attempt.
It was time to think of something.
No. It was time to stop thinking and start acting.
After all, Roy Rogers was nothing without Dale Evans and Trigger.
He was better off without her.
That thought kept running through her mind, preventing her from going home.
During her self-imposed solitary confinement, she came to realize several things. The past won't change no matter how much you want it to. The ghosts will only haunt you for as long as you let them. And she had made a difference during her career as a CSI.
She wasn't sure she fully understood any of those things when she left a few months before.
But along with those important revelations, she also realized something else. In spite of their happiness, she didn't make a lasting difference in Grissom's life. Oh, she had made him happy. That much, she knew. And she had made him willing to commit to another person. But, that was an incredibly spontaneous move on his part and she didn't know if it was fueled by her 'ordeal' or by all those bee pheromones floating through the air.
All she did know, really and truly know, was when she left, he did not follow her.
He called. But he didn't come.
She told him not to, but if she had really made a difference in his life, taking that risk of…what? Displeasing her? Making her angry? Having her throw him out? All of it would be worth it, if he really had learned to move past his comfort level for the sake of love.
So, maybe, just maybe, he was better off without her in the long run. He enjoyed predictability, routine. It was safe and secure. Life with her was his roller coaster. Exciting, but not good for the digestion, in the long run.
Well, that wasn't true, either. She had become part of his routine. And he had come to know her, to a degree. Enough so he wasn't entirely walking around on eggshells around her. But, still…he wasn't entirely comfortable living with anyone but himself. She was somewhat of a wildcard to him.
She sighed. Either she over-talked, or over-thought. And she was driving herself nuts.
Maybe it was time to quietly set him completely free.
He could calmly live the life of the single scientist in his quest for…whatever caught his fancy that week.
And she could just…miss him. Terribly. Forever.
II. Smoke Signals
His computer screen hadn't moved in minutes. He was beginning to worry. Up until a few moments ago, this instant messenger thing had been going fast and furious.
Sara's Squeeze: Sara? You're awfully quiet.
Grissom's Gal: I'm sorry. I'm actually laughing. I mean, really laughing.
Sara's Squeeze: Of course. I can see how my threatened testicles would be a source of great amusement.
Grissom's Gal: Well, if they were really threatened, I'd…
Sara's Squeeze: You'd…
Damn. Timing sucked.
He could see Raymond Montanegro making an attempt to do exactly what he had tipped him (well) to do.
He was pounding on Sara's door.
"Ms. Sidle. Manager! I need to see you for a moment."
A "BRB" suddenly appeared on Grissom's screen and he closed his laptop and stepped out of the car.
He could hear Raymond's overloud, highly unconvincing voice. "Uh, Ms. Sidle. There's…uh…some liquid coming out of your car. The bottom of your car. I think you should take a look at it?"
Geez. Why couldn't Raymond be like every other person in California: An Actor slumming between gigs.
No, Raymond was just a nice guy running a very unusual cross between a B&B and a motel. It was something Sara's mother suggested. Inexpensive as a motel, clean as a B&B. It suited Sara.
And, speaking of Sara…there she was. He could see her in the doorway, looking wary. She probably suspected Raymond of something nefarious. Great. Grissom hadn't seen her in months and was going to be the source of an immediate reintroduction of angst into her life.
He took a deep breath and adjusted his new hat. Then he opened the passenger-side door and took Bruno out. He adjusted the elastic band under his headgear, too.
But before he knew it, Bruno had pulled himself and his leash out of Grissom's hand and was barkingly running toward Sara. She took one look in his direction and dropped to her knees.
"Baby Dog!" she said accepting his slobbery kisses, while his child's cowboy hat fell to the ground.
Grissom was becoming extremely jealous.
And then he knew she was looking at him. Staring at him. Never letting her eyes waver from his.
And he wasn't sure if his Stetson was on right, or where in the hell Raymond went. Did he just skeedaddle out of there or did he vanish into thin air?
He didn't give a shit.
Because his arms suddenly became full of Sara. His Sara. Bruno's Sara.
"Cowboys don't let their womenfolk suffer," he said in her ear and she sobbed (just a little) into the crook of his neck.
Gilbert Grissom was probably the only person on God's Green Earth who could unabashedly tell the woman he loved that a poem written for a bull reminded him of her.
They had been in communication since that awful day she left Las Vegas. Their first few conversations were awkward beyond belief. He didn't know what to say and she couldn't stop crying. Quietly, but still…
She spent her time reassuring him that she'd be all right. That she would seek some sort of professional help, in between her personal search for sanity. And, in time, their conversations and emails became less formal. Not ultra romantic or loving, but normal. Although they never, ever discussed work.
Sara had been sitting in her room when her laptop signaled an instant message. Grissom didn't use IM often. Her mother did. Sara wasn't all that crazy about talking to her mother again, but she went to the machine.
It had been Grissom and he jumped right in, talking about the day's case. At first, she was going to tell him to stop, but the conversation went from mildly amusing to hysterical within a very short amount of time. From that silly poem, and his not so flattering word-association, to bull semen and a woman seemingly after his testes, Sara found herself laughing, truly laughing, for the first time in months.
And, as with all good things, it came to an abrupt end when the manager knocked on her door.
But, that wasn't really the end.
She knew something was up from the stilted way Raymond talked. And then she heard the bark. She'd know that bark anywhere. It was the one she had spent nearly two years trying to hush. And now, it was sweet music to her ears.
If it was a hallucination, so be it. Her big old slobbery dog was coming toward her…wearing a…cowboy hat? Yes, a cheap, black, child's-version of a cowboy hat, complete with elastic band under the poor dog's chin. He knocked it off about two seconds after she put her arms around the big lug and he showered her with doggy slime.
And then it hit her. Bruno, even in her fantasies, was no Lassie. He would not be going anywhere unaccompanied by parent or guardian.
She looked up and there he was. It all made sense now.
The almost uncharacteristic communication about work. The talk about cowboys.
There was Gil Grissom: cowboy extraordinaire. Well, not that she knew shit about cowboys, but this man in jeans and a half- unbuttoned blue denim shirt, with a pretty nifty cowboy hat on (well, nifty in comparison to his usual choice in headgear) was standing by the car, and when she caught his eye, he slowly started walking toward her.
In this getup, for the very first time, she understood that some part of him must have been born to this role. His stance and gait made him look as if he was made to ride the range. Perhaps he had, in a past life.
But the only life she cared about was here and now.
And, as she ran to him, hers suddenly looked a whole lot brighter.
III. Home on the Range
Biology forced Grissom to catch at least a few winks of sleep. Sex will do that to a soul. Especially sex after a prolonged period of abstinence. A prolonged period of abstinence compounded by the anxiety produced by the very real possibility that sex (with love, anyway) would never again happen in his lifetime.
But he was awake as soon as he could keep his eyes open. And opened, they remained.
He just watched her.
He couldn't stop saying that. He couldn't stop wanting it to still be true. So much for all that claptrap about leading a solitary life without complications.
She looked thinner, somehow. And she was doing that very weird thing with her hair. Instead of letting it go wavy, she beat it into submission and let it lay lank, long and dark against her pale skin.
Still, there wasn't a more beautiful sight in the world.
They hadn't talked much. Mumbled endearments and a few "down, Bruno's." Not much else, so far.
She certainly didn't greet him as if she was annoyed with him for interrupting her solo pursuit of exorcising her past. He hadn't been sure that was going to be the case.
Once he decided to act, he realized that, from the moment he found out she was gone, there had been no grand gesture to get her back. He simply called her and asked her if she wanted to come home, if she wanted his company, if she needed to be alone. It was no more than her landlord would do. No more than her supervisor would do.
Certainly not what a fiancée would do.
So, he thought of his grand gesture, and he also thought he'd wear down any defenses she might have over his not listening to her with a bit of humor. He got the His-and-dog matching hats and hit the road. And then realized she wouldn't know what the hell that signified without a little back-story. So, he asked Raymond to give him a half-hour while he sat in the parking lot IMing away, telling her about the cowboy case. He could almost hear her laughter over his story. They hadn't discussed a case—at all—since she left.
Sara stirred in her sleep. One eye opened, then another—but she was close to unconsciousness already. She put out a heavy hand and it more or less landed on the side of his face.
"You're real?" she muttered. And he quietly kissed her nose in response.
"S'good," she said and fell asleep again.
S'very good. And he'd be damned if he didn't do everything in his power to make it even better.
Sara tried to keep her eyes opened.
Impossible. She was mentally scolding herself, even while slipping back into sleep.
She had slept a lot over the past few months. But, it had often been interrupted and she'd wake to a feeling of either dread or a deep, dark weight pressing against her soul.
Life would never be the same.
And now, when she finally was feeling as if she could wake to find life returning to normal, her body was throwing her for a loop and not letting her find out for sure.
Defense mechanism, she thought, and snuggled closer to Grissom.
She felt the smooth warmth of his chest. She loved his chest. She loved all of him.
And by the way his arms tightened around her body, she thought he might kind of like her himself.
Sooner or later, her subconscious would have to let her enjoy that with full awareness.
IV: A Cowboy's Work is Never Done
They were seated across from each other on the bed, eating potato chips. Full-fat potato chips. It was not a food Sara normally indulged in, and she would give him a pointed look when he would reach for them at the grocery store, but…this was a special occasion and both of them could stand to gain a few pounds.
Besides, the 7-Eleven down the road didn't have much of a variety in the way of baked chips.
Plus, a third of the economy-sized bag was somehow ending up in Bruno's stomach, anyway. Grissom winced. They were SO going to regret that later.
Grissom had pulled out a copy of the poem the cowboy had written. He longed to share it with Sara. Not only to show her why he came to the conclusion that it was, indeed, written for a bull, but also to show why it reminded him of his situation with Sara. Something that, whenever he brought it up, earned an eye-roll and a giggle from her.
Which he didn't mind at all. It was the expected reaction from Sara. It was normal. Something he hadn't experienced in a very long time.
"I can't help now but wonder what your brown eyes were concealing.
They just showed me reflections of all that I was feeling.
Our bodies close together like my ride hand in my glove,
Heart pounding with excitement and dare I say it—love.
I know I'll never own you, it's your nature to run free,
But I'll pray the Lord above that one day you'll come back to me.
Then we'll ride off in glory until our time is done,
And I will be your hero, your cowboy in the sun."
"Okay, " she said, closing the bag of chips and putting it on the nightstand. "I can see the brown eyes connection. And maybe the fact that I did, technically, leave. But, that's about it. And I'm not entirely convinced about the cow thing, either."
"Yeah. Sorry. Bull. I'm still half-asleep. But, don't you think those words would be carrying things a bit far—in the bull/rider relationship?"
"It's all he really had. The glory of the rodeo."
"Okay. That's depressing."
"Life is depressing, at times," he said, and immediately regretted it when she reached out and took the paper from his hands and spent an inordinate amount of time reading the poem.
"You think it's in my nature to 'run free?'" She asked, finally.
"Well," he paused. "I don't know. You possess a certain independent spirit. But, I never said ALL of the poem reminded me of you."
"I can see why you like the poem, actually."
"Yeah. The dude is pretty passive."
"Respectful of the nature of the being he loves," Grissom said, automatically defensive.
"I know," she said, frowning. "Seriously, I do. I guess, I just wanted it both ways. I wanted you to respect my wishes, but—deep down—I think I wanted you to go after me at the same time. And that's not fair to you. I know that you are a very literal person. If I wanted more, I should have spelled it out."
"Spell it out, now," He said, leaning forward and putting his hand under her chin, tilting it up so she looked him in the eye, instead of focusing on the paper.
"I…ran," She shrugged her shoulders. "I didn't feel well and I ran to get better. I didn't want you to see me come unglued. You always seemed to admire my strength. How could I show you how weak I can really be? And, even now, I keep thinking you might be finding your post-Sara life easy and less stressful. I am a complication, Gris. And I don't see that changing. I am ready to go home, if you want me, but I'm not ready to go back to work. Maybe I never will be. That's just not something I'm able to face at this time. And that's the reason you asked me to come to Vegas."
"Sara. I asked you to stay in Vegas because I wanted you there. And it went way beyond work. And, I don't know what I ever did to make you feel I wanted you to be invincible."
She raised an eyebrow and he laughed, a hollow bitter sound. Yeah, he guessed he did know, after all.
"Okay. Some mistakes were made along the way. But it's not what I intended. I never asked for the perfect CSI. I just happened to get her. And I guess I expected the same in real life, for a while. But, when I found your more vulnerable side…it didn't disappoint me. On the contrary. It made you more real. More beautiful, in a way. Because I saw all the vulnerability stemming from this deep caring within. A good deal of it focused on me, which was scary as hell. It just wasn't something I was used to."
Grissom took a deep breath. This was, sort of, going well. He wasn't sure he was making any sense but he was definitely trying. "There have been a lot of conflicting emotions running through me, Sara. And I was searching for answers the way I always do. Intellectually, not personally. The simple fact is, when we're apart, it's easy to allow all our individual insecurities to overcome us. I think," he said, moving his hand around to the nape of her neck and pulling her closer, "We were meant to be one of those couples who have to be together at all times. It's the only way we can always read each other and make sense of our lives."
She smiled. "I think, you may be right."
"Come home, Sara," he said, lightly brushing his lips against hers. "Complicate my life," he whispered against her mouth. "Simplify my life."
She put her arms around his neck and kissed him back. A sweet, wet meeting of lips that lasted for a long moment before she whispered a 'yes' against his mouth.
Sara left the room she had called 'home' for the past few months with nary a backwards glance. No place was home without the man who was currently packing up their car.
She emerged into the early morning light, and took a deep breath. Instead of a pure sea breeze, the breeze was mixed with the smell of freshly laid tar. There was new construction going on constantly in this area. It was actually a smell that she found perversely pleasant, in a way. It reminded her of highways and road trips and life…
They were going off in separate cars. They would drive to the rental agency, drop off her compact car and then hit the road back to Vegas. With one small detour along the way; a very unexpected detour suggested by Grissom and happily agreed to by Sara.
She walked over to the back of the car, and put her arms around his neck. He dropped whatever he had been putting in the trunk and grabbed onto her hips, instead. She gave him a long, hard kiss.
"That was one for the road, Gil," she said, and moved toward her car.
She turned back.
He smiled at her, "I have an early wedding present for you," he said, sheepishly pulling out a white Stetson hat for her. He placed it on her head and she felt herself smile wider than she had in ages.
"You are the corniest man I have ever met," she said softly, lovingly.
"I know," he proudly acknowledged.
She patted her own hat and then gave Bruno a pat on his, thankfully, bare head.
"You taking Trigger or should I?"
"Trigger, you go with the Mrs." Grissom said in his best midwestern-western twang.
Sara just shook her head again.
Life had suddenly become a whole lot lighter.
She settled Bruno into the passenger seat and then closed the door. She took one last look at Grissom before heading to the driver's side.
He was standing, as he had just yesterday, in his blue denim outfit. But, this morning, the light was hitting him in just the right way and, for a moment, it took her breath away.
There…standing right there…was her future.
And, he had changed.
He took a chance. He came after her, after all.
Her hero. Her corny cowboy in the sun.
A/N: Aw, shucks, ma'am. You had to know this was going to be a mush-fest, didn't you?
There was something awfully endearing about Grissom in Bull. And there's something awfully endearing about David Rambo (who never did answer me about the offer to have his babies, even though I think my baby-making days are just about kaput). Anyway, I guess I stole his poem, but I mean no offense and will absolutely refuse any money offered to me for it;-) So, I hope he'll forgive me.
And, I will do anything to get Grissom and Sara together. So, if you so desire, join me in this alternate universe while we are patiently (ha!) waiting for the real deal.
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