Authors Notes: I sincerely thank Emmint for providing the inspiration for this story through her imaginative series, Buck Remembers. It is definitely a challenge to write an entire story from the perspective of a horse, even if he is an exceptionally brilliant horse. I also thank LilyJack for her encouragement, editorial assistance, and, most importantly, her assurances regarding a story written entirely from the perspective of a horse.

They all died the same way hard and fast and hating something. It's the hate a man carries that destroys him. It's not the bullets. Hate can twist and sicken him till he's no good to anybody, including himself. And that's a bad thing to watch.

Matt Dillon in "Doc's Revenge" -Season 1, episode 29. Written by John Dunkel. Directed by Ted Post.

Horse Sense and Heart Sense

By GunShy

Chapter 1: Hate

Buck's thoughts drifted back to the terrible time when Jude Bonner had taken her. For Buck, it had been the worst of times in his long history with his human. It had almost cost Matt his life and his… soul. Buck figured that if Kitty had died, nothing could have saved Matt from self-destruction. The man he had carried on that long ride from Hays to Dodge had been like a stranger to him. The confident and near unflappable lawman Buck knew so well was replaced by a man filled with darkness, fear, guilt, and hate.

It all started with Matt arresting an outlaw in a no account town. It had been a black night with the rain falling in soaking sheets. Fiery fingers of white lightning had intermittently reached across the sky, erasing the darkness as nearly concurrent peals of thunder obliterated the incessant drumming sound of the rain. The flashes of lightning made the intervening darkness even blacker. Matt had been tracking a small band of wanted men for days, and now the rain had washed away the tracks. But Matt had doggedly continued on and silently ridden into a small town in the middle of nowhere, the rain and the mud muffling even the sounds of Buck's footfalls. The only signs of life emanated from the saloon, which was lit by flickering yellow light. Matt thoughtfully walked Buck up on the boardwalk near the saloon so that he would be out of the rain. Buck always appreciated the little extra things Matt did for him. The only other horse in the nearly deserted town stood out in the downpour, tethered to a hitching post. Matt walked into the saloon and a few minutes later walked out with his prisoner. The man's cronies were gone without a trace, but Matt had at least one prisoner to show for those long hard days on the trail. There had been no shooting and no fighting. Buck judged it an exceptionally peaceful arrest. It turned out the poor horse huddled in the rain belonged to the unfortunate outlaw. Buck couldn't say he thought much of a man who would leave his horse tied out in the rain like that. It was a remarkably ordinary beginning to an extraordinarily terrible time.

All the way back to Dodge, the callow prisoner whined and threatened, warning the Marshal that his big brother, Jude Bonner, and his dog soldiers, would burn Kansas to the ground before they let the law hang him, that there would be blood, that the Marshal in particular would be sorry because Jude would make him pay. Matt was seemingly unmoved by the threats. Bringing outlaws to justice regardless of the consequences was his job. Matt first delivered Virgil Bonner to Dodge where he was convicted of murder and sentenced to hang and then to Hays City where Virgil Bonner did, indeed, hang.

Buck knew something was wrong even before the hanging, but he hadn't known exactly what. He had seen a highly distraught Newly gallop into the stable in Hays and leave his horse before racing out onto the street. In those few brief moments while Newly dismounted, Buck saw blood on Newly's shirt and clear evidence that he had been beaten. Those observations propelled Buck straight into worry mode. Most times, Buck loved being a horse, but being left in the dark like this was decidedly problematic. It never even occurred to Newly that Buck would want to know what news he brought, that Buck would be worried. Questioning Newly's horse had been fruitless; he didn't know anything that Buck hadn't already guessed: Something really bad had happened in Dodge.

Buck was stuck in his stall without even any conversations to eavesdrop on. He had been a bit of a wreck. Then, shortly after the hanging, Matt and Newly had rushed into the stable and quickly started saddling up. As soon as Buck saw Matt, he knew that whatever had happened was even worse than he imagined. The light that Buck always saw in Matt was gone, replaced by darkness. Matt looked like what Buck imagined a man who had been to hell and hadn't found his way back might look like. His lip was curled with hate and his eyes were sunken, the warm blue replaced with flat black showing no spark of life.

A tense Newly, still wearing his bloody shirt, tried to offer comfort. "Look, Marshal, we…we don't know…what happened. All we know is Bonner took her. You've done everything you can. You talked to the governor to try to stop the hanging. You even tried to talk Virgil into brokering a trade—you for her."

Buck knew, the her Newly spoke of had to be Kitty Russell.

"Yeah, Newly," Matt snarled. "I did everything I could. I arrested Virgil Bonner and because of that they took her. I couldn't stop them from hanging Virgil Bonner and because of that…because of that..." Matt dropped his head, unable to verbalize the thought. He swallowed and leaned forward, resting against his saddle, his fingers entwined in Buck's mane. "But the worst thing, the worst thing of all is that they took her because I love her and I…I knew better." With those final bitter words, Matt lifted his head, finished attaching his bedroll, climbed into his saddle, and dug his heels into Buck's sides. As Buck roared out of the stable and galloped out of town and onto the road towards Dodge, he wished he could outrun the pain of what he had just heard. Buck now knew why Newly had come to Hays, and he wished he didn't.

There were no more words between the two men as they raced towards Dodge. Even when they had stopped to allow Buck and Newly's horse time to rest, there had been no words. Buck could plainly see that Matt was in no mood for talking and Newly knew it, too. Each man was isolated, alone with his own dark thoughts as they hastened towards Dodge. Buck knew that while both men were physically focused on getting to Dodge as quickly as possible, the pre-eminent thoughts running through each one's mind had to be where was Kitty and was she still alive. Buck was painfully aware that with Virgil Bonner dead, there would be no reason for Jude Bonner to keep her alive. He knew that Matt carried that same awareness, an awareness that smothered hope, and extinguished the warm comforting presence Buck associated with his human, leaving behind an empty pit of darkness.

Many times Buck had heard Matt tell Kitty that as a lawman, he had no right to a wife or a family. He regularly reminded her that anyone close to him was at risk. It was a fear Matt carried with him always. There had been many times in their long relationship when Buck had seen Matt try to pull away, warning Kitty that it was too dangerous for her to be around him. But Matt couldn't stay away and she didn't want him to. Matt was the moth to Kitty's flame. Only it was Kitty that Matt feared would be burned.

On the long trip home, Buck, like the two men, had plenty of time to think, and he didn't much like his thoughts. Matt was the most important person in Buck's world, but Kitty was a close second. In Buck's mind, they were so intertwined that he couldn't imagine one without the other. Right now Buck feared he might lose them both. Buck knew that they both had a desperate love for one another, but he had always believed that Matt, in particular, needed Kitty. He was inherently incomplete without her. The casual observer often mistakenly thought the opposite. They saw the bigger than life iconic Marshal as completely self-sufficient. Buck knew better. He had seen him broken.

Buck understood that Kitty was one of the few people Matt let inside the hard shell he used to protect himself from the world, the only one with whom he felt safe sharing his pain and inner turmoil, and even his love. Matt was a killer. He killed to uphold the law, and protect the weak and innocent, but Buck knew that it still ripped him up inside. Sometimes the men he killed haunted him. It was Kitty who helped him both keep his humanity and deal with the guilt that sometimes nearly overwhelmed him. It was the man inside the hard shell that allowed Matt to temper justice with compassion. It was the dichotomy of that hard outer shell and the compassionate inner man with an iron core that made Matt one of the best lawmen the west had ever seen. But without Kitty, the hard façade might take over the entire man. And if that happened, Matt would be little different than the killers and spoilers he had spent his life bringing to justice. Right now, the risk for Matt was that the compassionate man that lived inside that shell would be broken and unfixable, leaving behind nothing but a shell and a heartless killer.

Buck's world was shattering as he steadily carried Matt back to Dodge. Even with Kitty's fate unknown, Buck could feel a coldness emanating from Matt that he had never felt before. Matt's comforting presence deep inside Buck was gone. The warm core of the man chillingly replaced by ice. Buck didn't want to think about what would happen if Bonner killed Kitty. Buck knew Matt blamed himself. He heard the pain in those last words Matt had spoken to Newly. 'They took her because I loved her and I knew better.' Buck knew that every living thing needed to love and be loved. Why Matt thought that he could, or even should, deprive himself of love made no sense to Buck.

Finally they reached Dodge. As soon as they rounded the bend onto Front Street, they immediately saw the somber crowd gathered at the foot of Doc's stairs. Both riders pulled their horses to a halt in front of the Long Branch and rapidly dismounted. Matt dropped the reins to the ground, not even bothering to secure Buck. They knew, Kitty must be up there in Doc's office, a supposition that the men milling around in the street quickly confirmed. Buck watched as Matt rushed up the stairs to face his future. Soon Sam, and Festus came down those same stairs. Buck listened as Sam and Festus shared that Kitty was bad off and that Doc had said he'd done all he could. Matt was alone with her. They all hoped him being there would help.

Buck, still saddled and ready, patiently stood outside the Long Branch as day turned to night, but still Matt did not return. Buck wasn't alone during his vigil as the citizens of Dodge also waited. Buck carefully listened to the conversations around him, but no one seemed to know much. He learned that Kitty had selflessly surrendered to Bonner to save the men of Dodge, that Bonner had returned her in terrible condition, and then he had shot her down in cold blood as she struggled toward the Long Branch. No one seemed to know more, so like Buck, they waited and hoped. As long as Matt remained up there, Buck knew Kitty still lived.

To be continued