|Don't You Want the Job?
Author: mahc PM
ATC for 'Anybody Can Kill a Marshal' Part of the flashback dialogue between Matt and Kitty is from the ep. I take no credit for that, of course, except for the surrounding description.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance - Matt D. & Kitty R. - Words: 1,845 - Reviews: 9 - Favs: 1 - Published: 06-07-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7061654
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Don't You Want the Job?
ATC for "Anybody Can Kill a Marshal"
The Long Branch was, for all intents and purposes, closed, its few remaining clientele hurried on their way by the approaching storm. Matt Dillon sloshed across the muddy river that was Front Street and heaved his aching body up onto the boardwalk, trying to stomp the mud and water from his boots without sending shards of pain up his wounded leg. He failed completely and settled for shaking enough water from his coat to make a few splashes on the wood.
Inside the saloon, Sam Noonan was dousing a lantern, leaving only one burning long enough to light the proprietor's way to bed. Matt's eyes met the barkeeper's.
Tugging off his hat and slapping it against his good leg to knock off the excess rainwater, he stepped through the doors, unable to conceal the evidence of his injury.
"Marshal," Sam greeted. "How's the leg?"
He guessed everybody knew, considering the fact that he had been shot right there on the street. "Oh, it's all right," he lied.
Kitty's gaze ran over him coolly, but he felt her measure him both emotionally and physically. "Matt," she acknowledged, her tone cordial, but aloof.
"Kitty." With a nod and cautious smile, he limped across the floor to the back table that usually served as "their" table. Easing himself into a chair and trying in vain to ignore the ache in his leg, he watched as she floated behind the bar and busied herself there for a few more minutes. She was punishing him, but he would take it stoically in anticipation of reconciliation later.
Sam moved behind him to secure the front doors, then turned to his boss. "Good night, Miss Kitty, Marshal."
"Night, Sam," she returned warmly, watching as he disappeared into the office. They heard the outer door close and lock.
Finally, she walked toward Matt, two full whiskey glasses in her hands. He stood, grunting a bit with the pain, and pulled back a chair for her.
"It's a double," she told him, handing him one glass. "You look like you could use it."
His smile tightened as he sat again. "Thanks."
"Doc says you rode all the way to Pretty Prairie."
He winced. He should have told her himself. "Yeah."
"Find what you needed?"
"Some of it."
Although she was still rather frosty toward him, her ire seemed to have melted a bit. He flinched as he thought back to their heated conversation a week before.
Danger had descended upon him without any warning as he sat at his office table, going through some official papers, oblivious to the imminent storm. The door swung open with purpose, and she marched in, looking beautiful as always in a sharp suit, complete with saucy hat and matching hand muff.
Smiling at the unanticipated visit, he greeted her warmly, feeling his body respond automatically to her presence as the familiar scent of lilacs drifted over him. "Hello, Kitty."
"You make me sick," she declared without preliminaries.
That certainly wasn't the way he anticipated the conversation's path. Bemused, he pushed up from the table. "Well, what's the matter now? I haven't even seen ya today."
"You keep stalkin' around in the dead of night you won't be around to see me."
Damn. He ducked his head and fiddled with the papers on the table. "Oh, that. You heard about that, huh?"
As he moved behind her, she turned. "Well, I wouldn't have, if I hadn't stumbled over Louie Pheeters."
Glancing back from where he knelt by the safe, he said, "Well, now you see. I, uh, wasn't alone. Louie was with me." It was a vain attempt at humor.
"I just don't understand men."
"Kitty, if you don't," he observed ironically, "I don't know who does."
She ignored his comment. "It isn't brave, you know, running around by yourself. It's kinda stupid. You oughta get yourself some deputies."
Matt stood again, spreading his arms in supplication. "You mean go runnin' around in a crowd?"
They were standing close to each other, and he saw the true concern that fueled her anger. "Who's after you, do you know?"
"Kitty, when a man's tryin' to shoot you from ambush, it's kinda hard to tell who he is." More seriously now, he looked her straight in the eyes. "He was ridin' a horse. That's all I know."
"Well, that means he'll ride back and try it again!"
"Maybe he will," he admitted, easing his hands into his front pockets.
"You know he will!" she exclaimed, irritated at his calm acceptance of it.
"Kitty, look, there's always gonna be somebody. That's just the way this job is. And I can't run around and hide. And believe me there isn't a crowd big enough to get lost in if somebody really wants to kill me."
"You're very comforting." Sarcasm weighed down her tone.
"You've known that all along," he reminded her, no longer teasing at all.
"But I don't have to like it."
Ducking his head, he smiled slightly and let a bit of mischief twinkle in his blue eyes. "You know, uh, maybe what I need is a, is a woman deputy."
"I'll pass the word around."
A little surprised, he laughed. "Don't you want the job?" But his efforts at charm failed soundly.
"I told you," she snapped, "you make me sick."
She strode from the jail, leaving only the lingering fragrance of lilacs to waft around him. Matt ran a hand through his hair, scratching his head. She was mad at him and scared for him at the same time. Women could be darned confusing.
Not long after, as he lay in Doc's office with two bullet wounds throbbing in his right leg, he pondered her strange attitude. He and the physician had just discussed the mystery behind the man who had shot him, the man who lay dead in Doc's side room. With no answers there, Matt turned to another mystery.
Glancing up a bit sheepishly, he cleared his throat and asked, "Has, uh, Kitty been up here?"
Doc pushed out his lips before he answered. "No, no she hasn't."
"I figure she heard about the, uh, about this."
"Probably," the physician agreed.
"She was pretty mad that I didn't tell her about getting shot at before."
"Well, Doc, I just didn't figure she needed to worry."
"So you figured it'd be better for her to hear about it from Louis Pheeters instead of you?"
Matt lowered his gaze. "She told you, huh?"
"She told me."
"How long 'till I can get up on this leg?"
Doc rubbed a hand over his mustache in contemplation. "Week to ten days."
"Ten days!" Matt bellowed predictably. "I gotta head out to Pretty Prairie tomorrow."
"Oh, you do? You just gonna head on out to Pretty Prairie, which is more'n a hundred miles from here."
"I don't have much of a choice, Doc."
"You have a choice between getting that leg well and messing it up maybe permanently."
He shook his head, taking on a placating tone. "I'll be careful, Doc."
The physician drew back, his mustache scrunched, his brow furrowed. "Hmmph."
Matt kept his smile to himself.
Doc had been right, of course. His leg hurt like the devil all the way to Pretty Prairie and back, and he didn't do it any more good by limping around on it to do his rounds once he returned. He could sure use a soft bed and some attention from the woman who, at that moment, didn't seem too inclined even to give him the time of day.
But after a few seconds of glaring at him, she sighed, her face softening, her voice quiet. "Doc said that man who shot you was hired to – " She stopped, as if she couldn't complete the thought.
His eyes were gentle as they acknowledged her fear. "I found out he wanted the money to help a young woman have an operation."
"Really?" she asked, sculpted eyebrows lifting.
"He died before I could find out who bought him, though."
They sat in silence for a couple of minutes before she shifted and looked at him again. "Is the 'marshal' off duty tonight?" Her tone was just partly sarcastic.
"Quint helped me with rounds," he explained, then sighed, knowing she'd find out sooner or later about the latest attempt to kill him. Carefully, he relayed the events of the past hour, watching for her anger to re-ignite over the danger.
But to his surprise, she put a gentle hand over his. "Why'd he want to see you dead, Matt?"
"I don't know," he confessed. "Probably never will."
"And you don't know who he was?"
"Except that his name was Cleebe, or Cleeve, or something like that. Guess I'm more worried about this Lucas fellow now."
"Doesn't make sense."
He shrugged. "Sometimes it's just like that, Kitty."
He watched her absorb that for a few seconds, then blinked in surprise as she stood and held out her hand for him to take. "Come on."
"Where?" He didn't want to take anything for granted.
She lifted her chin toward the upstairs. "You need to get off that leg."
"It's okay, Kitty."
"Sure it is. I have a nice, soft pillow you can prop it on." Her tone had turned softer, almost suggestive.
Before he could answer, she had already lifted the remaining lantern and headed up the stairs. Managing not to grunt too loudly as he pushed up from the table, he followed her with a halting gait. She stopped halfway up to wait for him. When he reached her, she slipped an arm around his waist and gave him her support the rest of the way up.
"That offer still good?" she asked coyly as they slowly ascended.
"Being your female deputy."
He raised both brows. "You interested?"
"Maybe. Of course, I'd need to know what the duties were."
He cleared his throat. "Well now, why don't we try some out tonight and see how it goes."
"You willing to give me a chance?" she asked.
"Yes, ma'am. And if things work out," he added, feeling his heart beat faster with his own suggestion, "we'll see about continuing on a more permanent basis."
Her head turned toward him, a question in her eyes. He knew she expected a teasing grin from him, but he remained straight-faced and serious. After a moment, she drew in a deep breath and nodded, wrapping her arm more tightly around him.
Matt pulled her close as they continued up the stairs, leaving the saloon in darkness, carrying the light with them.