Title: The Calling
Pairing: GSR but includes all main CSI characters
Rating: T for now, future chapters may rise
Genre: A little bit of everything
Summary: After a fourteen year absence from his homeland Grissom returns to his roots to be torn between love, honor and revenge. Providence Grove would never be the same.
Beta: Massive thanks to the ever amazing and helpful mingsmommy: For your fantastic beta and taking the time to give your advice and thoughts throughout the writing of this story.
A/N: This was the beginning of a challenge fiction set at 1hour2write. It just got a little bigger than expected, so it is a W.I.P.
July 15th, 1859, Providence Grove, Maryland.
The heat was oppressive but the shade provided by the spacious porch and the soothing, back and forth motion of the old rocking chair, were an absolute blissful accompaniment to his reading.
Looking around his estate, he sighed before returning his attention to the book.
The only sounds in the background were those of birds chirping, so when the unmistakable clatter of hoofs galloping towards the large front path of the main house were heard, Captain Thomas Sidle reluctantly withdrew his focus from his book.
When his gaze fell upon, 'the intruder,' annoyance was replaced by amusement as he witnessed a magnificent coal black mustang, it's front legs painted white to the knee, being ridden into his presence. Thomas stood from his chair and made his way towards the animal. When the horse came to a halt, the rider bowed his head and with his gloved hand touched the rim of his hat in a sign of respect and salute.
"I remember the boy, but now I see the man in front of me." The older man brought his hand to stroke the mustang's neck.
"Fourteen years will do that to a person," the rider retorted.
"Well, I would suggest you take your rear from that animal and give an old man a proper greeting."
The rider smirked.
Doing as he was told, he dismounted, his spurs making a clinking sound when his boots hit the ground. Removing his gloves and hat he looked in Thomas's eyes and extended his hand. "Captain Sidle…"
The older man grabbed his hand and pulled him into a fierce hug, strongly patting the rider's back.
"It's been too long, Gil, my boy. I'm glad you're home."
When they pulled apart he quickly continued, "Come. Let's get you out of this heat. We have fourteen years of catching up to do." Turning, he called to a passing stable boy.
"Take this horse to the stables, boy. Wash him and feed him," he ordered.
The boy bowed his head in respect and took the horse's reins, "Yes, sir." Before turning away, he heard Gil speak.
"Be careful. He's a little ticklish on his belly and tends to bite if you groom him too hard."
The young boy's response was automatic and the same, "Yes, sir," came in reply. With that the young boy took the horse for proper care.
"Come, Gil. Laura's inside; she'll be extremely pleased to see you."
He strolled behind the captain towards the main house. It was just as he remembered; low-pitched roof, narrow side windows flanking the front door, the entryway central and glorious. Before entering he paused just outside inhaling that oh so rich and familiar earthy scent.
He was home.
Walking through the house, the captain led Gil through the outer hall to the drawing room.
The younger man took in his surroundings; not much had changed and fond memories flooded his mind. Following the captain, they entered the room through double doors.
"My dear, we have company," Captain Sidle called.
Laura stood and approached her husband and then she saw him. She rushed forward; convinced her eyes were deceiving her. They were not. "Oh my," she gasped. "Gil, is that really you?"
Grissom grinned broadly as Thomas stood aside, "Yes, ma'am."
"My goodness…." She pulled him into a tight embrace. "I didn't know if you would come or not." She pulled back to get a look at his features. "You were a mere boy when you left and look at you now! Even I couldn't have imagined you growing into such a fine young man."
The young rancher felt his cheeks flush. Living alone for so long, he wasn't used to such praise. He cleared his throat, "Thank you, ma'am."
"It's very nice to see you still have your manners, Gil, but you're part of this family, so I think I can manage if you call me Laura now."
"Please go out onto the veranda and sit. I'll get the servants to bring us some tea, unless you would like something stronger?"
"Tea will be fine," he responded.
Laura flapped her arms excitedly. "Please, go, sit. I'll join you in a moment."
The captain chuckled as she disappeared. "She's as eccentric as ever."
Grissom smiled. Laura Sidle was by no means a typical wife.
The older man grinned. "Well, come, my boy, we have a lot to talk about."
Grissom sat in the shade; he'd had enough of the sun for one day. After ten hours of travelling that was enough for any man.
"I have to say, Captain, I feel a little lost as to why you called for me, not that you know…it's nice to be home and all, but your note didn't give me much…" He took the captains telegram from his pocket and placed it on the table. "….and where is Robbins? I know that man is a workaholic so why didn't I see him as I rode in?"
The captain placed his arms behind his back and began pacing the veranda.
"Here we go, gentlemen." Laura reappeared, a servant following with a tray.
The servant placed the tray on the table. "Would you like me to pour, ma'am?"
"No Anne-Marie that's fine. I can take it from here; go back to your chores."
"So…" Laura began pouring, "what did I miss?" She handed a cup to Grissom.
"Thank you." He smiled as he took the cup.
"Gil was asking why I called him."
Looking up shocked she placed the tea pot down. "You haven't told him yet?"
The captain shook his head.
"But I thought you told him in the telegram."
"I thought it best we did it face to face."
"Oh…" The lady of the house sat and looked a little nervous.
"What's happened?" Grissom knew something was wrong
"Gil…" the captain sighed, "…what I am about to ask you will be a big decision for you and you don't have to give me an answer now.
Grissom shuffled in his seat. "What is it?"
"You have come home as I requested you to do so. I would like you to stay, permanently."
He looked at Laura then back at the captain, he was confused. "Why?"
"I need you to help me run the estate. You're the only one I trust to be my second."
"What do you mean? What about Robbins?"
The older man fondled his beard. "Robbins is dead."
Laura watched as Grissom's cup began to shake, his face paling in an instant. "W…what?"
The ranch owner pulled a chair close to apprentice and sat, looking him in the eye. "Robbins is dead."
"Erm…" Grissom shook his head. "…what? When? How?"
"Two weeks ago."
In total shock, Grissom placed his cup on the table. "What happened?" His voice cracked as he witnessed the captain chewing on his bottom lip. "It wasn't natural, was it?" He knew something just wasn't as it should be.
"No. Robbins was stabbed."
Laura jumped as Grissom shot from his chair. "What? He was murdered?" he shouted, running a shaky hand through his hair.
The man of the house stood quickly and placed his hands on his friend's shoulders. "Calm down son, getting yourself worked up will not help." He looked to his wife. "My dear, would you be kind enough to bring some brandy while we take a walk?"
Laura nodded quickly and disappeared inside the house.
The captain could feel Grissom shaking under his grasp. "Please Gil, walk with me. I think we need to get some air."
The former soldier led his friend towards the stables. "You always loved it out here, Gil. If I ever needed to find you I would know where to come."
"Tell me what happened, Captain."
They walked towards the outer fence to the bottom field. The captain watched in awe as suddenly horse after horse walked from the field towards them and Grissom reached out to touch each one in turn. They continued along the fence and the horses followed.
"How do you do that?"
"The horses, it's like they live to serve you."
"I'm not sure." Grissom reached out once again and was greeted by the warm passing of a tongue on the back of his hand. "So what happened?"
"We don't know. We found him in the outer stable early one Sunday morning. He was already gone. He'd been stabbed twice. Back and side."
Stopping, Grissom grabbed the fence, squeezing until his knuckles turned white.
The captain addressed him, his voice soft and full of feeling. "I know it hurts, son. He was the only father you ever knew." He shook his head. "And now he's gone."
The younger man bowed his head and took several deep breaths, fighting the sting of tears. "You know what hurts the most? He was taken from us. I understand everyone dies." He raised his head and looked far out on the horizon. "But for his fate to be decided at another's hand…" He swallowed heavily and shook his head. "I didn't even get a chance to say goodbye…"
He faced his former boss again. "So, you don't know who is responsible?"
Shaking his head the older man sighed. "No."
"Do you have any idea why?"
"A few rumors but nothing that can't wait until tomorrow. You should rest."
The captain placed his arm over Grissom's broad shoulders. "Come, back to the house for a brandy and we can talk more tomorrow. About Robbins and my proposition."
Grissom took one last look out to the horizon. "If you don't mind, I need a little time alone."
"Sure, if that's what you need."
The younger man nodded.
"Let me walk you to your lodgings and you can get some rest. Maybe you can come by the house later for that brandy if you feel up to it."
Nodding again, Grissom followed the captain.
Suddenly the sound of approaching horses echoed through the air. Grissom stopped and turned to see three riders heading their way. Stepping aside to let them pass he looked on curiously as the front rider came to a halt in front of them.
The sight before him was magnificent. It was a white and brown pinto, extremely well built, almost five foot seven. He noticed his blue eyes twinkling. But it wasn't just the horse that caught his attention; it was the rider upon him. She was beautiful and well in command of her beast. Her slender legs wrapped around the horse perfectly and she looked more than comfortable upon such a large animal. His eyes drifted slowly up her body and noted the perfect roundness to her thighs. Her arms were firm but feminine and he wished her hands did not bear gloves. Slowly his glance fell upon her face, her hair was long, golden brown, perfect in spite of her riding and she bore the most alluring pair of chocolate brown eyes he had ever seen. When their eyes locked the blue eyes of the horse were quickly forgotten in favor of rich, captivating brown ones. Though he was mesmerized by those eyes, the female rider quickly averted her gaze.
She bowed her head to the captain. "Good evening, sir."
He nodded in return. "My dear."
The two male riders also paid their respects to the ranch owner, bowing their heads and hurriedly removing their hats.
"Sir." They announced in unison.
Grissom noticed they were both young men but respectable to look at although one seemed to be merely a teenager. Well treated and presentable but there was something about his hair that had Grissom's eyebrow shooting up to the sky. The other, definitely in his early twenties, had a more serious face and Grissom noticed the curiosity in the man's expression when he saw him.
"Boys." The captain acknowledged with a slightly amused twitch of his lips.
The female rider returned her gaze to Grissom for a brief moment before looking back to the captain. "I can see you have company so I will not be of bother; shall I see you at dinner?"
Flashing Grissom one more quick look, the rider grinned. "Yah!" Clicking her heels quickly into her steed, she pulled away and rode down the pathway towards the house.
Her two chaperones trying to keep up.
Turning, Grissom watched them disappear; my, she was an impressive rider. "Who was that?"
The captain smiled. "Oh, come Gil, are you telling me you don't remember?"
The younger man frowned, his mind grasping at the memory of what he had just seen. Deep, chocolate brown, he knew those eyes. He shook his head slightly; it couldn't be.
The captain's grin verified his thought.
With a slap on the back the rancher chuckled. "See, you do remember."
"An adult? Yes, Gil, my boy, my daughter certainly has grown since the last time you saw her. She is a fine young woman. Tough as nails, too; actually a little too tough. I think she inherited her mother's temper." He chuckled at his own remark but quickly turned to a more concerned tone. "She needs a good man to take her in hand; gratefully I think we are almost there with that one."
Smiling, Grissom took a deep breath. Sara was only six the last time he had seen her. He'd never imagined she would grow into such a marvelous beauty.
"Come, there will be plenty of time to catch up and talk later. Now you need to rest or you'll be no good to anyone."
They passed by the stables and into a dirt path that led to a small cottage.
"I take it you'd be more comfortable in Robbins's quarters; after all they're yours too, but I didn't know when you were coming so the servants haven't cleaned it yet. If you prefer, I can get you a room ready in the house."
"That won't be necessary, captain," Grissom said shaking his head. "This will do fine; after all it's where I grew up."
"You're sure you don't want to join us for dinner? It was long ride, you must be hungry."
"Thank you, but I think an early night will do me good."
"I understand, but I'll make sure Anne-Marie brings you something to eat. Pork chops and pea rice, right?"
He couldn't prevent his smile, "If it's Roberta making it." His mouth was already watering at the thought of Roberta's cooking.
"Who else? That woman was God's personal gift to our stomachs!"
They both laughed and for a brief moment the heavy mood was lifted.
Before making his way back to the house, the captain put his hand on Grissom's shoulder.
"Think about my offer. I know that it's been a long time and you probably have a life waiting for you somewhere, but you are the only one I trust and I really could use your help, Gilbert."
The young rancher nodded. He didn't see a point in correcting the man at this time. He had a life but it was just him and his horses. There was no significant other waiting for him.
The closest thing he had to a family was right here at this place and maybe that could add some weight to his decision.
"I promise I'll think about it and I'll let you know."
"Good. I'll leave you to it, then. Goodnight."
The rancher started the path back and Grissom watched from the porch of the small shack. He was turning to walk inside the house when he heard…
"Gil, it's really good to have you home." He saw his friend had stopped midway and was facing him.
"It's good to be home, sir."
Sara sat at the dining table tucking into her rice.
"I really do wish you would eat something more substantial." The captain said to his daughter.
Looking up she finished what she was eating before speaking. "Let's not get into this again father. Please? You know my food preferences. I don't like meat. Is it such a sin?"
"I just worry about you, that's all. You are a growing woman."
She grinned. "I've been growing for twenty years and I have yet to have an issue with what I eat."
The man of the house continued eating. "When will Hank be calling again?"
Sara coughed and swallowed quickly. "Father…."
"Am I not allowed to ask about my daughter's courting?" He placed his cutlery down raising his brow to his only child.
"We are not courting; you just want us to be…" Sara's frustration in regards to being paired with Hank was very evident.
"Hank is a good man, from a good background and you know it is my wish you at least try. He likes you."
Sara looked to her mother who just dropped her head and continued with her meal.
Looking back at her father she opened her mouth to speak but her opportunity was cut short.
"I think the two of you could have a wonderful future together."
Sara chewed on her bottom lip. She knew she could never win an argument with her father no matter how hard she tried. Thinking quickly she changed the subject. "Father, who was that man I saw you with earlier? Did he leave?"
The captain raised his brow again, wiped his mouth on his napkin and grinned. "He's staying in Robbins's place. You don't remember him?"
"There was something familiar about him but, I can't seem to place him." She pushed her rice around on her plate.
"Well, you were very young."
She felt something click. "Horses..."
"He was the one who was obsessed with the horses, I remember now. He was always with the horses."
The man of the house grinned. "Indeed he was and you my dear, if I recall correctly, were sometimes quite a nuisance to him."
A look of shock passed over her face. "I was?"
The captain stood, his meal finished. "Yes."
"Maybe tomorrow, my daughter, it's been a long day and I am tired." He walked from his seat and around the table, placing his hands on the back of Laura's chair.
Sara was too curious; she wanted to know. "But…."
The captain frowned, Sara knew better than to argue with him.
She looked down at her half finished rice. "Yes, father." An echo of disappointment was very evident in her voice.
"Laura, have you finished?" He looked down to his wife.
Nodding she placed her napkin on the table and stood. "Good night, Sara."
"Good night, mother," she sighed in return.
Following his wife from the dining room the captain stopped and turned back to face Sara. "I may be seeing Hank tomorrow…."
She stood quickly. "Father, I don't….."
Sharply he held up his index finger. "You need a good man to take care of you, Sara."
Silencing her argument she sat back down.
The captain nodded. "It is time for bed Sara, do not be too long. Goodnight."
She sighed heavily again once her father left the room. Of all the people in all the world he could want to court her, Hank Peddigrew was not at the top of her list. Sara contemplated her father's words. 'You need a good man to take care of you.'
Wrinkling her nose, she shivered, trying to get the thought of Hank out of her mind.
Later that night, Sara watched the moon through her window. She just couldn't shake him from her mind; she decided she couldn't wait for the break of dawn to satisfy her curiosity so she changed from her white cotton nightgown into her riding clothes.
Holding her breath, she slowly opened one of the solid oak double doors of her bedroom, exhaling happily when she realized the door had failed to produce the loud and irritating creak it usually did.
She poked her head outside and glanced both ways to make sure there was no one in sight and finally made her way to the spiral staircase that led to the main floor. Tiptoeing her way through it, she noticed the smell of sweetened tobacco in the air and realized her father had been smoking his hideous pipe again.
Reaching the end of the staircase, she peeked into the main living room and smiled at the picture in front of her eyes.
Captain Thomas Sidle was snoring loudly, mouth slightly agape, seated on his enormous old leather chair, his glasses perched on the tip of his nose. The pipe was carefully set in the ashtray, its last puffs of smoke drifting through the air.
He was a good man, Sara knew that but when it came to fatherhood and particularly headstrong girl children, he was sometimes completely clueless.
Making her way towards the entry door she was about to reach for the handle when the door opened from the outside, revealing two very drunk, yet familiar, men.
"Cousin!" they both yelled in unison, opening their arms, clearly amused at the unexpected sight of their relative.
Sara quickly covered both their mouths with her hands. "Shhhhhhhhh, father's asleep. Be quiet." She looked at both men with her most serious expression. "Gregory, Nicholas, I am going to remove my hands but you have to promise not to make a sound, alright?"
They both clumsily nodded.
"Now please, do you think you can reach your chambers quietly?"
"Dear cousin…'hic'…are you implying…'hic'…that we're drunk?" Gregory asked in between his hiccups.
"Yeah, we're not drunk. We're merely enjoying the blissful experience that is whiskey and where are you going at this ungodly hour, Sara?" Nicolas struggled to keep his balance.
"Erm…I'm…I'm…" She needed an excuse and she needed it fast. They were obviously drunk but stupid was something that her cousins were not. Well, Gregory was sometimes just plain old dumb, but still. "I'm going to check on Melissa."
"Sara, you know it's still…" Gregory started counting fingers from his right hand. When he reached his brilliant conclusion he continued "… three months till your mare has the foal."
"Still, I want to check on her. It was a really hot day yesterday and I'm concerned," she stated hoping this would be the end of the conversation.
"We'll go with you, coz!" Nicolas slurred, his whiskey clenched breath making Sara squirm.
"Nicolas. Gregory. Bed! I am not a baby and I think I can check on my horse without help!" She deadpanned still slightly above a whisper but adding the famous Sidle stare that she knew left her cousins with wobbly knees. When they made no attempt to move, she stretched her arm, finger pointing to stairs "Now!"
The boys exchanged frightened looks and by silent mutual agreement decided to drop the subject. They said their goodbyes and swaggered their way upstairs leaning on each other the whole way up.
When Sara finally found herself outside she was pleased it was a full moon night. The sky was clear, the sound of cicadas could be heard perfectly and the light provided was more than enough for her short walk towards the small shack.
She realized she couldn't quite explain why she was doing this. In a few hours a new day would be born and she would have plenty of opportunities to meet him, but there was something inside that was just drawing her to him and truth be told, patience was not one of her virtues.
Sara knew she wasn't a normal, typical woman. She hated the dresses, corsets and uncomfortable shoes her mother made her wear when they had guests at the house or when they went to town. She hated the fact that her father insisted on Hank courting her, when it was clear that she wasn't the least interested in the man. All the other single women seemed to drool every Sunday morning after church when he appeared. So why couldn't he pick one of those women? Like Sofia or Wendy? Why couldn't he just leave her alone?
She knew that one day she had to at least welcome the idea of getting married and her mother kept reminding her she wasn't getting any younger but Hank was definitely not in her plans. The man was so full of himself; the mere thought of him annoyed her.
Two years before, there had been David. He was shy, sweet and caring and he was pursuing a career in Medicine. He would make the perfect husband. He just wasn't perfect for her. It was over before it even started.
She was so deep in thought; she failed to notice the shack was now close. At first it seemed quiet but suddenly she saw one boot covered leg dropping from the hammock by the porch and she quickly hid behind a bush, dropping to her knees.
The hammock swayed lightly and after a few seconds came to a stop. Another leg joined the first one on the floor and then Gil sat up.
"Gilbert…" she whispered, finally recalling his name, she watched on.
In his left hand was a now closed, very thick book. With his free hand he picked up an oil lamp from the floor and placed it at the wooden railing in front of him.
Sara was dumfounded.
He was shirtless and very fine looking.
She didn't know which she liked the most, the way the oil lamp lit his body or the way the moon light accentuated his features. What she did know was that for the first time in her adult life, Sara felt like having a totally inappropriate but very girlie reaction. She wanted to giggle.
He was a sight for seeing.
She decided there was no better time than the present and she looked at him thoroughly. Tall, tanned with well defined abs. A smooth chest covered by an almost non existing layer of thin gold hair, trimmed beard, curly brown hair and a pair of dark blue eyes that reminded her of the picture of the Pacific Ocean she once saw in one of her father's many books. He had a silver chain around his neck with a beautiful tiny locket at the tip. As her eyes drifted down his abdomen she noticed just below his navel, quite a large angry looking scar running downwards and disappearing under his pants. She found herself wondering how he came to receive such a brutal looking disfigurement.
He seemed lost in thought, looking at the sky, gripping the rail in front of him, accentuating his muscular arms even more. She concentrated on his face and realized he looked sad.
After a few minutes he turned and went inside the house taking the oil lamp and the book with him.
Sara decided it was time to head home, she stood and left quietly. She couldn't shake from her mind what she had just witnessed. She finally reached a conclusion that made her blush and giggle for the second time that night.
Gilbert was handsome.
He was really handsome, more now than she could ever remember.
With a renewed and defined girlie sway she made the rest of the way towards the main house…humming.