What had happened before they found themselves at the house of the lawyer McSween's was a bit of a blur for Kate. During the fiesta she had been calm, smiling; she might even have been happy. Everyone else seemed to be, and even Steve and Chavez were speaking to each other. There hadn't been any tension among the group almost the entire time they spent in Mexico. Steve was speaking to her, wonder of wonders, and no one brought up her story or asked any questions. Occasionally she would think she saw Doc or Chavez looking at her, curious expressions on their faces, but when she looked back at the she just saw them smiling at her.

She remembered Manuela, Charley, and how happy they had been in their few hours of marriage. She danced at their wedding, and hugged Manuela, a girl she barely even knew, and wished her luck and happiness in her life with Charley in what Kate knew was awful Spanish, But Manuela had smiled at her and thanked her anyway. She also remembered knocking Charley on his ass to make him stay with her, and how he had come to and followed them anyway. There was just no reasoning with that boy's sense of loyalty, misplaced though it may have been.

Kate was at a loss as to why anyone would want to harm Alex. When that rider had come up and given them all the news, her heart had plummeted, feeling like the ocean floor, colder and deeper than she could bear. Kate hadn't hesitated in agreeing to help Alex and Susan; after all, they and the Regulators were all she had anymore. Even her newfound sense of peace with herself wouldn't let her forgive anything happening to them on her account.

"Murphy wants the girl. Kate has to be with you, or he won't even think about leaving the McSweens alone."

Once more, she thought, I am a burden.

Half a day, two days, or more...she didn't really recall. She rode when they rode, camped and slept and ate when they did. She went back and forth between being scared enough to be sick and a steely determination to kill a man and not feel guilty afterward. Just because it was Murphy didn't mean she wouldn't have to deal with her actions after he was dead. She was always lost in these thoughts, and after the boys found that it took at least three tries to get her attention, they left her alone in her mind. A few times, she actually thought she would turn herself in, and being alone with her thoughts made her forget who she was with. One night at the fire, she started talking.

"Best thing to do. Nothing else to be done."

The men turned to her, their own conversation ending.

"Kate?" Doc was closest, and his voice snapped her out of her reverie.

"You see it, don't you? You must, all of you, and I don't want you to stop me from turning myself in."

Those few words set all the Regulators into a frenzy, jumping to their feet to be near Kate, tipping over plates and spilling cups of water everywhere.

"Now look, you're making an absolute mess," Kate tried to joke.

"You are not, Kate." Doc looked at her, pleading with his eyes, hoping that she would change her mind then and there. If he made it through this, if they made it, there were things he wanted to say to her, to ask her...and he'd be damned if he was going to let Murphy take that chance from him.

"We're fighters, Kate. No two ways about it. I can't let you turn the Regulators into a bunch of sissies on a whim."

Billy's plea was less heartfelt than Doc's, but hell, through this all he'd thought of Kate as one of the boys. She was a Regulator through and through, and she was the best of all of them.

Steve and Charley just nodded in agreement, with mumbles of something like, "Yeah, Kate, you're one of us," thrown in for good measure.

Chavez fixed Kate with his always enigmatic stare and walked away. Kate blinked, wondering what he was doing. She looked around at the men surrounding her, shadows shifting in the light of the fire, and was surprised to find that she didn't feel like crying. Not out of happiness nor frustration, she just jumped up and hugged them, feeling strangely at peace, for a woman who had just agreed to have a shootout with the most dangerous man in Lincoln.

"You know," she began, "this may very well be our last night in each other's company. And I think that perhaps this calls for a little celebration."

One of the men pulled a bottle of whiskey, remarkably unharmed in the rough days of riding, and perhaps even more remarkably, unopened. Hopefully not too much celebration, then. And Kate wouldn't touch the stuff. She'd stick to water, thank you, seasoned with desert air, smoke from the fire and...dirt? Oh well, Kate shrugged as she swallowed a mouthful of the questionable liquid mixture, at least it tasted better than whiskey. Now where did Chavez get to? Kate wandered around the bright circle around the fire, unable to see him by its light. She called back to the group before she went out in to the considerably colder and darker desert, looking for Chavez.

He wasn't far from where he'd been sitting around the fire, but he was far enough that the light and heat of the fire wouldn't be able to touch him. Kate came up beside him, with a cup of water in her hand, feeling he would have been offended to have been offered whiskey. Understandably, of course.


When he didn't turn his head, she continued,

"I only said what I said out of concern for all of you. If it means you're all free, then I have to be strong enough to do what's right. I still might."

Chavez turned, though just barely, to look at her. Kate looked up at him, waiting for a reply. He stared down at her for long enough for her to begin to feel uncomfortable, and though they were far from the flames of the campfire, Kate's face burned. She broke the gaze first, staring into her water cup, knowing that in the darkness Chavez must have seen her blush.

"My freedom can't be given by a murderer. Or by you."

Now Kate looked at him in anger, eyes burning with what might have been tears, but she was too angry to even think about letting them fall.

"What are you trying to say? That I'm wrong?"

Kate didn't need him to answer. She knew she was. It would never end if she gave herself up. She just wanted them to know she would do anything for them. And she was tired, honestly tired of running, of fighting, of seeing those she loved die. She just needed a reason, a reason beyond revenge. Something deeper, a reason her father would approve. This whole time she'd been running with them, she could almost hear her father telling her that revenge is useless; that is perpetuates a cycle of killing, and the blood won't stop when you want it to.

"I'm telling you what you need to hear. I'm telling you what your father would if he were here. We can't escape this. It won't end the bloodshed, nothing will. That will not come until all is ended."

Kate blew out whatever stupid reply she had prepared to give in a sigh of anger and submission. Chavez was right, bloody know-it-all. He placed his hand on her shoulder.

"You know we have to see this to the end. Or there will not be one."

With that, they walked back to what sanctuary the fire and the slightly intoxicated Regulators were able to offer. Kate thought about all that had happened, and as she fell asleep, she found herself fervently wishing she would wake up tomorrow morning and all would be different. The war would be over, and her father and Dick would be back, and she could go back to how things had been.