[A tag to the television motion picture The Cowboy and The Movie Star]
Sean awoke with a start - something was wrong. She arose as quickly as the stitches in her healing lower abdomen would allow, although they did keep her from bolting straight out of bed. Her stomach was knotted with fear as she padded down the hall to the room next to the master bedroom. The content sound of a soft, muffled lullaby wafted from the room, and Sean slowed her pace, the tension melting from her as she stopped in the doorway. What had long served as a spare bedroom was now transformed into a lovingly decorated nursery. And now, there sat Brannan in a creaking antique rocking chair, serenading their five day old son, Clint Jr., as he cuddled him to his chest. His faithful dog, Scratch, lay curled at his feet.
Brannan glanced up when he sensed the movement, giving her the warmest smile she had ever seen. Her heart still skipped a beat whenever she laid eyes upon him. He held a finger to his lips, silently asking her to be still. Checking to make sure his son was asleep, Clint placed a gentle kiss to the tiny forehead before laying the infant into his crib. After tucking him in, Brannan strolled to Sean's side, placing a soft kiss on her forehead.
"Hi." The tone was soft and gentle. "I didn't think I was singing that loud... not that I can sing that great anyways." Clint grinned sheepishly. "I'm sorry if I woke you up."
Sean's smile was filled with relief, her heart finally settling back into her chest. "You didn't, Brannan. It's okay."
Clint's eyes narrowed as he studied his wife and reaching out, he took a supportive hold of her arm. "C'mon... you just got home, you know? You're not supposed to be out of bed." Brannan glanced back and snorted softly. The dog had made himself comfortable on the rug in front of the crib. "Scratch, you're in charge. " He told his four legged companion in a hushed tone and nodded towards the crib, "Keep your eye on things in here." His soft chuckle soothed Sean's heart as his attention turned back to her. Allowing his wife to set the pace, he led her back towards their bedroom, his hand dropping to the small of her back as he ushered her to the massive oak framed bed. "Are you alright?"
Sean stopped and turned to face him. Her brown eyes red and damp.
Clint frowned again. "Actress? What is it?"
Her eyes searched his, desperately seeking and holding close the ease and gentleness she found in the questioning blue eyes. "I... I'm okay." The new mother took a deep breath, exhaling slowly. "I didn't hear the baby cry. He... he didn't cry." She reached out and grasped his arm. "It scared me. I thought..." She looked down, not able to finish her sentence.
Brannan's weathered features instantly softened. He understood. "Aw, hey now..." The cowboy took a step closer, wrapping his arms around her in a gentle hug. Still sensing a tenseness, he brought up a hand and cupped the back of her head. "Everything's just fine, okay?" He nuzzled the side of her head with his cheek. "Li'l Clint woke up and was screamin' as loud as he could." Loving eyes locked onto her as he pulled back. "You were sleeping so sound, you didn't hear him. I decided to let you sleep and take care of himself myself, " The blue eyes twinkled. "Or try to, anyway." He cupped her cheek in his hand. "He's just fine. C'mon." Leading her back to their bed, Clint pulled back the covers and fluffed her pillow.
Once Brannan tucked her in, he headed to his side of the bed and climbed in beside her. Arranging his pillow against the headboard, his arm automatically opened, and he tucked her close to his side. "Have I told you just how much I love you lately? Hmm?" He whispered. "Because of you, everything I've ever wanted in my life, I finally have. There are no words to describe how lucky I truly am." Closing his eyes as he relished the nearness of her, he sighed a deep content sigh. "God you feel good. I've missed you... I love being together again in our bed."
Sean rested her head against her husband's chest, cherishing the safety and comfort she felt there. "I missed you, too." She placed a loving kiss to his chest, her fingers tenderly stroking the chest hairs. "I love you, Brannan. I'd do anything for you." She listened to the man's strong beating heart. "Remember, I wanted this in my life, too," She tilted her head and studied him, loving his weathered features in the soft moonlight. "Just as much as you did." Sean lowered her head again and snuggled next to her cowboy. "I never in a million years thought this would ever happen to me." A soft chuckle escaped her lips as she remembered what it had been like, only one short year ago. "You were so stubborn, I had to do something about it. It was too good to just let it go."
Brannan smiled down at her and kissed the top of her head. "Mmm... I know. It hit me like a ton of bricks when you left the hospital." His eyes trailed to the window, studying the moonlit glow as he gathered his thoughts. "There were things I should have said and done..." He snorted at the recollection, "Hell, by the time I tried... it goes to figure we'd get interrupted, you know?"
Sean giggled at the memory. "I remember. Liz didn't have very good timing, did she?"
"Nope." Clint chuckled. "Thinking back, she didn't have a very good anything. At least... not any that I can really remember." His grin faded and he gave Sean a gentle squeeze. "Thank God you came back." He whispered, almost to himself. Looking down at her again, his tone grew serious. "Sean? Are you really okay? I mean... well... I don't know these things, you know? I didn't even consider you'd have to have a caesarian section and I'm sorry for that. I really am." A sigh interrupted his thoughts. "I don't like seeing you in pain, you know? It hurts me almost as much."
Sean gave his arm a reassuring rub. "I'm fine, Brannan. It's going to take a little while to heal. I'm a little stiff, and every now and then there's a twinge of pain, but I'm okay." She adjusted her head and found skeptical blue eyes scrutinizing hers. She smiled. "Really, I'll be just fine."
Clint's eyes turned soft again. "Good." His relief was evident. "I'll do anything I can to help you. After everything you've done for me, it's the very least I can do." Lowering his head, he placed soft kiss on her forehead. "It's late. It's been a long day and you need your rest. I'll keep my ears open for l'il Clint, alright?"
Sean looked at him. Her tired brown eyes soaking in the craggy gentle face and the loving blue eyes of her cowboy. "You're right. I am tired." She tried to lean up to kiss him, but her healing lower abdomen stopped her short and she winced in pain. It did not go unnoticed.
"Hey, hey.... easy there." Clint said with concern. "If you want somethin', all you have to do is ask me, you know?"
"Then," replied Sean with a soft smile, "would you please kiss me goodnight?"
Brannan chuckled. "Lady, that would be my pleasure." Adjusting, he gave her a loving kiss, his eyes adoring her as he pulled back, his voice whisper soft. "Goodnight, actress. Thank you for our son."
Sean's tired eyes focused solely on his until she could keep them open no longer. She rested her head onto Clint's chest, his heartbeat and breathing instantly lulling her to sleep. She felt so loved, so wanted... so needed.
Brannan felt the exact same way. As he lay in bed listening to his wife's slow easy breathing, he thought about all that had happened to him in the past year. He was a sentimental, old-fashioned man who wasn't real keen on the idea of change. He had thought that his first wife, Liz, would give him the love and the security of family for which he longed for. As it turned out, after they were married, Liz quickly grew bored with the unglamorous ranch life, and turned Clint's deep rooted sentimentality towards the River Belle to her advantage in the divorce proceedings. Her demands had forced Brannan to sell the ranch that had been in his family for almost one hundred years.
The River Belle ranch was everything to Clint. All his life, he was content to live on the ranch, run it as generations of his family had done before him and have his own family raised there. Liz dashed those hopes and Clint found himself losing everything. Everything except the one thing he knew he could always count on. His devoted companion - Scratch.
Baffled by the reality of his world crumbling down around him, Clint and Scratch had gone on one last cattle drive, taking the cows and calves that were left on the ranch up to the summer pasture. He needed time to think and plan on what he was going to do in his future - a future without the River Belle.
Sean, on the other hand, was a famous actress. Fame, fortune and glamour surrounded her, but she was lonely as well. She was also sentimental and old-fashioned, and the self-centered, shallow Hollywood life disgusted her. Her agent Marlene had tried to talk her into having an affair with her leading man, David, on the set of 'Love Conquers All'. An affair that Sean had hoped for until she met David's wife and children on the set one day. Bursting into tears after the unexpected meeting, Sean had fled the set and headed to her dressing trailer. She packed a bag and headed to one of the remote locations that was scheduled to be used in later filming, but she never made it to her destination. Fate had taken over. Driving aimlessly at night, Sean rounded a curve and came face to face with a massive steer stopped right in the middle of the road. Veering to avoid the steer, she ended up in a gully with her car stuck on the sharp decline. The airbag in the car had deployed upon impact, rendering Sean unconscious. When she regained consciousness, it was morning, and cattle surrounded her - Brannan's cattle.
Clint and Scratch had greeted her when she freed herself from the vehicle. Her adventure was just beginning. Faced with no other choice, Sean reluctantly agreed to join Clint on the drive. The decision came in handy for Clint, when Sean ended up saving his life. He had contracted blood poisoning after an altercation with a grizzly bear - one that Sean had provoked after spotting cubs wandering in a meadow. It had become Sean's total responsibility to find their way back to civilization as Brannan was delirious with fever and poison and he was unable to help her at all. She came upon a road and waited. Finally after a couple hours, an old farm truck happened by and the driver had taken them to the hospital. Clint had been fortunate. Any longer, and he would have died from vascular shock.
But, the trip turned out to be much more than Sean saving Brannan's life. They had discovered along the way that they had many things in common. Once the initial resentment of one ruining the others' plan was over, they found that they enjoyed each others company immensely and could talk about anything. Clint realized this more than ever after Sean visited him in the hospital. As she left, Brannan watched with sad eyes as she climbed into her waiting limousine. She was headed for New York. He'd never see her again.
One month later Clint's lawyer, Frank Dumas, had arrived at the River Belle to have him sign the closing papers. The ranch had sold. Clint resigned himself to the fact that everything was gone. His wife, his marriage, but most of all - his ranch. There was nothing left. Although Sean had offered at the hospital to lend him the money he needed to keep the ranch, that wasn't his way of doing business and he stubbornly refused.
As Clint stared at the papers lying in front of him, he wondered if pride really mattered. No. This is who you are and this is what you do, he thought to himself at the time. He signed the papers, closed the folder, handing them back to Frank without a second glance. He had to - it was the only way. What he missed was the knowing grin on Frank's face.
Frank patted him on the shoulder and left the house. He returned to his vehicle, opened up the back door and let Sean out. Her presence kept secret by the tinted windows of his sport utility vehicle. "I think he needs you more than ever right now." Frank stated as Sean climbed out of the back seat. He shut the door. "He's not happy with himself and the situation at all. He did what he had to do, but he's hurting."
Sean couldn't bear to hear that - not her stubborn Brannan. She had to show him that it was all going to be okay. Taking a deep breath, the actress squared her shoulders, walked up the stairs and onto the front porch.
When Sean looked through the screen door, her heart almost broke. Brannan was sitting at the kitchen table; his head lowered in silent defeat. Scratch was sitting on the chair next to him, and it looked to Sean as if Clint was holding the only thing he had left. Scratch raised his ears when he heard footsteps on the porch. As she opened the door, Clint raised his head and looked back towards the door, almost afraid of what he would see. Sean walked in, stood in the foyer and watched as disbelief then joy registered on his face.
She came back!
Sean smiled softly. "You have two choices this time, Brannan." She said matter-of- factly. "You can finally take me back to town, or, you can teach me something about ranching." With that statement, she lifted her hand that held the file with the closing papers Clint just signed.
Sean didn't know what to expect. The look on Brannan's face was unreadable. He stood up and walked over to her, his eyes locked on hers. Grinning at her cowboy hat, Clint slowly pushed it off her head with his index finger. The cowboy took her in his arms and kissed her - a long, loving kiss - one that was way overdue. When they parted, Clint stood there with her in his arms. "You bought the River Belle?"
"Of course I did," Sean retorted. "You didn't expect me to lose the two things that changed my life, did you?"
Clint frowned. "'Two things'?"
"Yes, two." Sean stated, simple and sure. "You, number one. Number two, I wanted to go on the drive again, remember? I wouldn't be able to do that if the River Belle had sold to someone else."
Clint laughed and hugged her - hard. "I... I don't believe this..." His chuckle faded, his hug turning into more than words of gratitude. He didn't want to let her go. "I can't believe you did this for me."
Sean pulled away, her hand cupped the side of his face, making him look into her eyes. She smiled softly, "I didn't do this for you, Brannan. I did it for us." Her warm brown eyes looked deep into his. "I love you."
Clint was speechless. Sean continued, "Now that the divorce is final with the sale of the ranch... will you marry me?"
Brannan blinked in surprise. He couldn't believe what he just heard. He stood there and studied, thinking about her offer. Sean started to squirm and broke away from his stare. Her proposal had caught her by surprise as well. It just flowed out without her even thinking about it. Now the fear of another rejection was creeping in and all she wanted to do was get away.
Clint's eyes narrowed as he realized what was going on. After the journey they had been on, he had begun to understand just how much alike they really were. He took her chin in his hand and raised her head. Her eyes shifted back to his and he smiled. "Yes, I will."
A baby's cry awoke Clint from his dream. It took him a minute to realize that he wasn't standing in the foyer any more. He was in his bed, Sean was at his side, and it was his child that was crying. God, it felt so good... so right. He looked over at Sean who was still sleeping soundly and grinned. Hauling up on one elbow, Brannan leaned over and tenderly brushed the hairs away from her face. "Don't worry, actress, " he whispered and gave a soft kiss to her cheek. "I'll get him."
Clint got up
and padded down the hall into the nursery to comfort his crying
son. Yes sir, he was the happiest man alive.