"There is no intensity of love or feeling that does not involve the risk of crippling hurt."
William S. Burroughs
Horse Sense and Heart Sense
Chapter 11: Logic and Love
The next morning, Matt and Kitty both showed up in the predawn hours. Buck was surprised to see Kitty up so early, but was well aware that even late-risers sometimes dragged themselves out of bed to watch the miracle of a new day beginning. Matt saddled him first, and then Kitty's sorrel, and then they took an early morning ride together out to Pawnee Creek. Matt helped Kitty down and spread a blanket next to his favorite cottonwood tree. Then he and Kitty sat with their backs against the rough trunk and watched as the sun crested the horizon and the darkness of night was replaced by the bright promise of a new day.
Buck saw that Matt was totally focused on Kitty. Buck could see the love in Matt's eyes as he watched the first rays of the sun sparkle in her sapphire eyes and turn her hair to flames. At odds with the love in his eyes was the rigidity in his posture. Matt was being very careful to not touch this woman whom he so clearly loved. Kitty also was stressed, but unlike Matt, she kept her eyes focused on the sun rising over the prairie. The magnificent beginning of a new day did nothing to reduce the tension between the two humans Buck cared so much about.
It was Matt that finally broke the slightly uncomfortable silence. "Kitty, you know, I was leaving… the day I got shot."
Kitty took a deep breath. Buck could tell she wasn't looking forward to the conversation. "Yeah, Matt, I've tried to talk to you about it."
"I know. I'm ready to talk now."
A sad sigh. "Well, I'm listening."
Matt plucked a long stem of foxtail grass. Tied it in a knot and watched it break when he pulled it too tight. "I'm pretty much recovered. I figure it's time I left." He shifted his gaze from the broken stem to the seemingly unending prairie. "I got a telegram offering me a transfer to Colorado."
Kitty looked over towards Matt, tried to make eye contact with him, but Matt's eyes were focused out on the far horizon. It was almost as if he had already left her. "I already know that, Matt. Telegram came in yesterday at 3:00.
With a sardonic look, Matt shook his head and rolled his eyes heavenward. "I don't have many secrets, do I?"
"Like I told you, Matt Dillon leaving Kansas is big news, and this time you didn't even bother to ride to Spearville." She gave him a cool stare. "But you still have some secrets and I think I have a right to them. Why? Why are you leaving me?"
It was Matt's turn to take a deep breath. Buck could tell he was struggling with what he wanted to say. Matt wasn't good with words. Finally, he blurted out, "I want you to be safe."
Buck snorted. No one was safe from life's tragedies. Living was risky. Buck was near certain that Matt knew that very well. Few people led a riskier life than Matt, and Buck knew more than most about the pain those risks had brought Matt… and Kitty. Buck also understood that the risks of Matt's job might extend to the ones he loved. But few men were more skilled with fists and weapons than Matt Dillon, and few men were more selfless. Buck figured any man, woman, or child would be safer with Matt as a friend… or lover, than without him. Not for the first time, Buck wondered when Matt was going to realize that. Buck sure wished he could explain things to this stubborn human he owned.
Kitty looked perplexed. "Nobody's safe, Matt. Nobody."
"I know," responded Matt. "But, I don't want it to be my fault."
"You're not making any sense."
Buck could tell Matt was having a very hard time explaining himself. Buck figured that was partly because Matt didn't like talking, especially about feelings, and partly because his logic was so flawed by guilt. Buck couldn't count the number of times people told Matt that he wasn't making sense and he figured there were a lot more times when folks thought it, but kept it to themselves. Matt really needed to work on his communication skills.
Seeming to carefully consider his next words, Matt shifted his gaze and looked straight into the arresting depths of Kitty's fathomless blue eyes. He was momentarily ensnared. "I love you." Matt blinked, severing the connection, and then returned to contemplating the distant prairie. "That's why I have to go."
"Matt, I just don't get that. When I woke up, I was broken; I needed you. Oh, I knew you'd go after Bonner, no matter what. And as angry as I was to be left alone, I was even more afraid you wouldn't be coming back. Then I saw that damn badge lying on the table. It was like you'd gone to battle without your shield. I knew what that meant, and I was sure the dog soldiers would kill ya. By then, it was too late for me to die. I was alive and alone. Maybe you were dead and didn't need me. But I sure as hell still needed you and a dead hero isn't much comfort."
Matt remained focused on the distance, his face an impassive mask. "I'm more sorry than I can tell, Kitty. I know I messed up. I was wrong, and I sure as hell wasn't a hero. Matt dropped his focus to the ground then back to the far horizon. I loved you and I hated them, and I focused on the wrong thing."
"But, Matt, you came back, and you were there for me in every way I needed. I don't think I could have put the pieces of me back together without you. Then, when I found out you were leaving-from that cowboy passing through from Spearville, I thought… Matt, I didn't want your," she spat out the last word, "Pity."
Matt pulled his gaze from the prairie, focused on Kitty, confusion plain on his features. "My pity?"
"We haven't been together since… since before Bonner. I wasn't ready for a long time and you never pushed and I appreciated that. But, after a while, it wasn't me anymore that was keeping us apart. There was some kind of invisible wall between us. You wouldn't let me close, and at first I just thought you needed time to get things straight in your head." Kitty paused and dropped her eyes, seeming to suddenly find her hands fascinating. She twisted her ring, slipping it on and off her finger. Finally she raised her eyes. "Then when I found out you were leaving, I thought… maybe you didn't want me anymore, that you thought I was used, that I was second-hand goods. I thought you were being "nice" to me because you felt guilty."
Matt had waited patiently. It was clear to him that what she had to say was going to be painful. But when he heard her say that he thought she was 'used, second-hand goods,' he lurched to his feet, leaving Kitty sitting alone by the cottonwood. Buck could see the tension in his face and shoulders. Buck remembered Matt's hurt when Doc asked him something similar and he knew her thinking that had cut the lawman deep.
Matt walked over, patted Buck's shoulder and fiddled a bit with his mane, pulling out some tangles. Buck ducked his head to nudge gently at Matt. Buck knew Matt drew comfort from him. It was part of the bond between them. Not much talking, but Buck knew Matt felt as strongly bonded to him as he was to Matt. Buck wished he could give him advice instead of just comfort.
Finally Matt spun around, facing Kitty. Buck could hear the pain in Matt's voice as he asked, "How could you think that?" Matt shook his head in disbelief, raked his hands through his hair leaving the curls in disarray. "I must be even more of a bastard than I imagined. I will always want you. I'll never stop wanting."
Kitty still sat leaning against the cottonwood, her posture rigid. There were tears building in her eyes now as she tried to understand. "What was I supposed to think? You were leaving and I needed a reason."
Buck shook his head. Matt could be very aggravating.
Kitty waited patiently, but wasn't surprised when nothing more seemed forthcoming. She needed an answer. "So why do you have to leave?"
Matt sighed and moved closer to her and finally dropped back on the ground next to her. He knew he needed to fix at least this one thing. He couldn't leave her thinking that. "I wouldn't be strong enough to leave. If we…" He shook his head. "I couldn't."
So Kitty had an answer to one question, but still no answer to why he was leaving. "Matt, I don't want you to go." Emboldened by the knowledge that he still wanted her, Kitty reached over, tried to pull him into her embrace.
Matt shook off her embrace, climbed back to his feet determined to keep the wall he'd built between them intact. He walked the few feet to where Buck still stood, and needlessly adjusted the buckles on his saddle. Buck could tell he was avoiding her touch, still determined to leave. Finally, Matt swallowed and turned back towards her. Kitty was openly crying now, hurt by his clear rejection, tears flowing down her cheeks. Matt moved forward to comfort her, but stopped himself from sitting next to her again. Buck knew he was trying to keep his distance, fighting to stick to his plan.
But at the same time Matt could see he was hurting her. He didn't want that. He'd had enough of hurting her; he had to make her understand that he was leaving for her own good. "Because of me, bad things happen to you. Because I love you, bad things happen to you. I tried so hard not to love you, but we both know how that worked out."
"Matt, bad things happen to everyone. It's not your fault."
"How could you say that, Kitty? Bonner took you because I love you. There was no other reason. You know that. He wanted to hurt me, not you. Somehow, I should have protected you. How can you ever forgive me?"
"Matt there is nothing to forgive. It wasn't your fault."
"Everything he did to you, he did to hurt me, every single horrible thing. And he did hurt me, Kitty. No one ever hurt me the way he did. He hurt you so terribly and I… I know I'm weak, but the things he did to you, hurt me here." Matt hit his chest with his fist. "I wasn't even there and he hurt me so much. I hated him for what he did to you, to us. Hate ruins a man. I wanted to kill him with my bare hands. I wanted to look into his eyes and watch the light go out. Nothing else mattered to me, not even living. Then, when I didn't kill him, I felt so empty. There was nothing left inside me but guilt and pain because of what I cost you and what I almost did. I hurt so bad." He looked into her eyes, trying to make her understand. "It was all my fault. I brought Bonner to you because I was weak and couldn't stay away from you… and I knew it was dangerous."
"No, Kitty, there's nothing you can say. He took you because I love you. He took you just because you were 'my woman'… as if you ever belonged to anyone."
"Kitty. I've gone over it and over it. I'm a danger to anyone I care about. I can't risk you. I won't. Not again."
Buck was remembering how Kitty had said she thought Matt was worried, that if he ever started talking about the things he kept bottled up inside, he wouldn't be able to stop. Buck was thinking that's what had just happened.
Kitty wiped her tears away. Buck could see that she finally understood. Buck knew she was very familiar with Matt's belief that as a lawman, he had no right to family or love and that he had an over-developed sense of responsibility which led him to take the blame for things he couldn't control. Bonner had hurt her horribly. She had wanted to die.
And he had hurt Matt, too—more than she had realized. She could see now that Matt didn't want to risk being hurt like that again. For him, risking his life was easy, but he was afraid to risk her, or his heart. But she wasn't running away and she wasn't going to let Matt run either.
It was clear to her now that she had been so wrong in thinking Matt didn't want her. He was leaving for the same old tired reasons she had heard so many times. Buck watched as the desolation on her face was replaced by a calculating look. Buck figured things were about to get interesting and nobody knew Matt Dillon better than Kitty Russell.
She looked up at him. He was close now, towering over her. "Matt, how did you get shot?"
Matt stepped back from her giving her a confused look, trying to follow the abrupt change in the direction of the conversation. "Kitty, you were there. I figure you already know the answer to that question."
"Yeah, but I want to hear how you saw it."
"Not much to it really. I heard a shot coming from the Long Branch. I went to investigate. Those men were trying to take you; I had to stop it. I am the law in Dodge after all. I guess I should have moved a little faster when that fellow pointed a gun is all."
"Matt, how many men would have stood there and taken those bullets while they wrestled a knife away from a man threatening a whore?"
Matt's blue eyes darkened and flashed with momentary anger as he responded, "You know, I hate that word. You're not a…. You're a lady." Buck couldn't help but notice that Matt had again avoided answering the question she had asked. It was a special talent that Matt had that never ceased to amaze him.
"That's what you see, Matt, but a lot of men see a woman in a saloon, and, to them, that means she's a whore. You almost died because a man from my past wanted revenge. Do you think I should leave Dodge so you'll be safe?"
"Kitty, I wish you would stop using that word, and you're being ridiculous." Matt should his head in disbelief. "It's not the same at all. I'm the Marshal."
"No, Matt, I'm not being ridiculous." She glared defiantly at him. "You took an unreasonable risk to save me and, even worse, you made no effort to keep yourself safe. I hated that, Matt. I need you with me."
"Look, Kitty. I told you. I'm a U.S. Marshal and it's my job to risk my life for the safety of the citizens. You know that." Buck could tell Kitty was pushing Matt into an area he didn't want to go. He took a physical step backward, bumping against Buck's shoulder and neck. He reached around and ran his hand down Buck's jawline. Buck turned his head towards his rider and gave him a comforting little bump with his nose.
"Yeah, sure, Matt. I know all about that badge and the responsibilities that come with it. So how many times have you been hurt breaking up fights in the Long Branch, making sure I was safe?"
"I don't know, Kitty. I don't keep count. I break up fights in all the saloons in Dodge. It's just my job."
Kitty took an exasperated breath, decided to try a different tack. Doc was right; arguing with Matt was like talking to a rock. "You were on your way out of town the day those men came, weren't you? Leaving for good?"
"What would have happened if you had left town earlier?"
"I almost did."
Buck saw Matt's eyes narrow as he turned his head to look him in the eye. For one brief moment, their gazes met, then Buck looked away. He had a sudden interest in a particularly juicy tuft of grass. Matt shook his head as if dismissing a particularly crazy notion that had just flitted though his brain. He pulled his focus back to Kitty and explained, "I was…delayed."
"And what would have happened? If you hadn't been delayed?"
Matt moved away from Buck, lowered himself back down and again leaned against the cottonwood. He looked over at Kitty. "You don't hate me, or at least blame me, for what Bonner did to you?"
Kitty smiled enigmatically. Buck figured she must think she had Matt where she wanted him now. Answer or no answer, even the stubborn Marshal Matt Dillon could see what would have happened if he had left town earlier.
"No. Matt, you can't take responsibility for the evil that other men do." She reached over taking his hand in both of hers, rubbing it gently.
Matt swallowed, glanced down at his large hand wrapped in her smaller ones, and allowed it.
"Matt, do you hate me because a man from my past who was looking for revenge almost killed you?"
"Of course not. I already told you, I was doing my job. I just should have done it a little better."
"Matt, nobody's safe in this world. Life is full of risk. We both know that."
He pulled his hand back. "Kitty, risk-taking is my job. I know that, but when my risks impact your safety…"
Kitty recaptured his hand, interlacing her fingers with his and reached up with her other hand and put a finger on his lips. "Shhhhh, Matt. I'm trying to tell you. I feel a lot safer having you around." She caressed his cheek and gently turned his head until his gaze rested on her face. "Matt Dillon, who'd look out for me if you weren't here?"
Matt looked at her, but seemed momentarily rendered speechless.
Kitty slowly leaned closer, pillowing her head against his arm and then slowly dropped her hand from his face to rest on his chest. "Matt, hold me. I miss you."
Buck raised his head from the grass, paused in mid-chomp, and watched as Matt involuntarily leaned into the comfort of her touch. Buck could see Matt battling with his feelings, breathing seemed to suddenly be a challenge for him, but ultimately his will surrendered and his heart ruled. Even his stubbornness was no match for her logic, and his overwhelming love for everything about her. Matt couldn't resist her. He reached over and pulled the woman he adored into his strong embrace, and she stretched to reach around his broad chest, holding him tightly. He nuzzled her hair and inhaled her scent. She reached up, pulling his head down and capturing his lips in a long, loving kiss. Matt rolled over reversing their positions, his larger form protectively hovering over her. "Woman, the things you do to me." He looked into her sapphire eyes and was lost, captured in their depths.
"I love you, Kitty Russell."
Apparently judging words as inadequate for the moment, she pulled him down into a second, more passionate kiss.
Buck nickered softly and returned to his grazing, chomping and munching the sweet grass. Everything was going to be fine. It didn't look like they were going to be leaving Dodge after all. And not that he was an arrogant horse, but he really was brilliant. He'd figured this out weeks ago, although he had nearly lost hope that these two humans would ever understand the truth of it. Humans were complicated. He chewed another mouthful of delicious moist green grass. It was good to be a horse.