"Hostage" MM after the credits
Disclaimer: "Gunsmoke" and all its properties belong to Viacom, or some other
gargantuan conglomerate. I own only my ideas, my dreams and my stories.
No copyright infringement is intended and no money is to be made from this
endeavour. It would be a sin to make such a profit from love.
Author's Note: This story is set following the end of the episode "Hostage", season 18.
This episode tells of a brutal assault, rape, and finally shooting of Kitty, in
retribution for the hanging of a man Matt captured. Matt's unsuccessful, desperate
attempts to stop the hanging are followed by his vigil at Kitty's bedside and the
tracking of the gang of Dog Soldiers and near killing of their leader.
"Hostage" MM After The Credits by MarMar1
In the twelve days since Kitty had returned, eleven since Bonner and the Dog Soldiers had been captured, Matt had attended to most of his regular, in town, duties, but little else, giving only perfunctory attention even to those. It wasn't something the casual observer would have noticed; he was there, he was around. It was just that his attention to detail, the kind of attention which had become second nature to him years ago, which had countless times saved his life and the lives of others, had given way to the constant thoughts and awareness of Kitty. Even when he was physically about his usual business in town, Matt Dillon was actually more in attendance in the small, upstairs office and home of Doctor Adams.
The first day or two, Matt had been quite aware of the additional attention paid to his activities and whereabouts. Attention paid by many, perhaps most, of the good people of Dodge City. He had no detailed recollection of the first day, the day he had followed the posse back into town, the captured animals trussed and encircled in the impenetrable human cell, walls of men and bars of rifles. Arriving shortly after the posse, he had passed the group still saddled in front of his office. Entering, his mind refused to work and he said nothing. He had seen Festus and Newly busily gathering items, weapons, shells, saddlebags, supplies. He recalled Howie, from the Dodge House, skidding to a stop as he came in the door, making eye contact with Newly and telling him that Josh Randall had left on a fresh mount supplied by Moss Grimmick. Newly had nodded and thanked Howie for the information. Matt recalled it seemed not ten minutes later, Newly and Festus were mounting up, telling him not to worry, they would be back in a couple of days.
The posse had ridden out then, taking its human garbage with them, toward Ft. Dodge. Josh had taken the fresh horse out at top speed, riding on to the fort to solicit troops to handle the Dog Soldiers. He would bring the troops back, meeting the posse on the trail for the exchange. While it might have been safer, easier, to lock the prisoners up in town and await the troops with their locked wagon and fresh, trained men, the Dodge jail was not built to accommodate so many at one time. Had it been, no one wanted to suggest it. The citizens of Dodge had circled, unwilling to accept the presence of such evil in their town any longer than it took to water a horse and grab some hardtack. Matt wasn't positive, but he thought not one of the posse had dropped out upon the return to town. Friends and family had quickly brought supplies, clothing, necessities, wishing them Godspeed. He did remember there was little conversation. No questions, other than those expressed in a look. No extended explanations. Even the prisoners, waiting in the street outside the jail, so near the office of the town doctor, seemed unwilling to disturb the quiet atmosphere charged with tension, sat silently in their saddles. Matt could not remember uttering any words, only watching as his friends moved about him, competently preparing for their task. No one asked if the marshal would be accompanying the posse. No one expected he would.
He did remember seeing, as they began to move away, the look on the face of his deputy as Festus gazed up toward Doc's office, then, turning to Matt, saying, "We'll be back directly, Matthew. You take care of things here." Their eyes had held for a moment, each acknowledging the others pain and charging him with his assigned duty. Then they were gone. He had been numb, standing there in the dirt street, watching them ride out, taking with them the man he would forever want to kill. With a quiet solemnness, those left behind moved off to resume their lives. Most allowed him his privacy, there in the street, some acknowledged him with a nod and "Marshal". Two or three actually stopped next to him, momentarily resting a hand on his arm or shoulder. No other words spoken, none needed, none adequate.
The posse had returned and the beat of life had resumed. Matt made his rounds, he was seen about town. Normally a man of few words, no one questioned when he failed to stop for a friendly chat. He spent no time at the Long Branch, enjoyed no gathering with friends. Festus and Newly retained their deputy badges, continuing their support of their friend. They worked as they were accustomed when the marshal was away from the town for days on end. Life had resumed. It was just the same, while at the same time everything was different.
Most gave little thought to the details, but if asked might have admitted that Dodge City seemed to endure the feeling of waiting, of holding its breath. Some, those more closely scarred by the actions of the marauders, wondered what would be the ultimate cost of those actions. They waited, and worried, and watched.
♥ ♣ ♦ ♠
Matt paced nervously in Doc's outer room. Through the door, he could hear Doc and Kitty, knowing that his old friend was trying one last time to convince the strong-willed woman to wait a few more days before moving back to her rooms, her home, above the saloon. Matt was inclined to agree with Doc, but was sure the argument would be to no avail. So sure, that he now waited for Kitty to be ready so that he would be there to walk with her, to help her if need be. The voices had quieted; Doc appeared in the doorway.
Matt understood Doc's concerns. He shared them. Kitty had been out of bed for the first time only three days earlier and it had been more than difficult. She had sat in the chair only briefly, needing help to walk the breadth of the small room. In those days her stamina had improved somewhat, but the pain was still there. Matt saw the pain she could not keep from her eyes, the way she held her shoulders. He did not ask, nor coddle, he was careful to not distract her from her determined attempts to speed her own recovery, but he saw her pain, the mate to his own.
"Stubborn woman" Doc muttered as he pretended to straighten the items atop his desk. He said nothing more. It had all been said and said again and he knew it was that same strong will which had allowed her to survive, to make the trip back to Dodge. Doc could only hope that time would work the magic needed. Needed to heal Kitty's body and to soothe her soul, to calm the rage he knew lived within Matt, to assuage the sorrow and quilt that seemed to drape Dodge City.
Matt's eyes moved from Doc to the doorway between the rooms when he saw movement. Kitty was there, a slender hand on the door frame. Matt saw her standing there and, just as every other time he had seen her since his colossal failure to protect her from Bonner and his minions, his chest tightened, his heart lurched, he struggled to breathe. He looked at her now, there in her red cloak. He saw the terrible evidence of what he had allowed to happen. He knew that the past twelve days had brought changes. The bruises which covered her face were beginning to yellow as they receded. The terrible burn on her cheek was scabbed over and healing. The dark circles under her eyes were still there, but less prominent. He knew she was not sleeping well, just as he knew that the rest of her body carried evidence to match, and worse. He did not have to see to know that under the cloak she wore only the loose nightgown he had brought from her room a few days ago. It would be some time yet before she was up to dressing, before her body would submit to the stricter confines. Her hair was down, clean now, with the help of Bess Ronniger who had come to town last week, having only then heard of the awful events. Matt saw the silky red strands which had fallen over her shoulder; his fingers itched with the desire to reach out and feel the softness, to raise it to his face and take in the fragrance he knew was there. He had offered to brush it for her, when it was dry after Bess had washed it, but she had demurred, saying the combing Bess had given it would be enough. He had seen the veiled pleading in her eyes and understood. Over the days, Matt had sat with Kitty, had spent most of each day and night there at Doc's. He had held her hand, had stroked her hair, had in fact held her once she was able to move more than her hands. Still, he understood it was too soon; that she could accept his presence, his general offers of physical comfort, but she was not ready for anything more personal. Had Matt never brushed her hair in the past, it might have been easier now, but he had. He had loved to brush out her hair and more often than not, even when he had not planned it as such, it had become the precursor to much more intimate activities between them.
His eyes moved from her shining locks and he met her eyes. For an eternity which lasted only a moment their gazes held, their souls touched across the room, across time, across barriers. Matt felt the pain again in his chest when she broke the connection.
Looking down, then toward Doc, she said quietly, "I'm ready."
As she moved to walk toward the outer door, Matt met her, offering his arm. "May I see you home?" he offered with a soft smile.
As she took Matt's proffered arm, Doc spoke. "Now, Kitty, take it easy on those stairs; and I want you to get into bed as soon as you get over there. Let folks wait on you, you have a ways to go yet."
Kitty stopped him before he could continue, "I know, Curley. I will. Come see me in the morning, I don't want you to worry." She smiled at her dear friend, but he saw the deep river of emotion that ran fast under the smile.
Matt gently placed his large hand over hers that rested in the crook of his left arm. "Ready?" he asked, eager to get her home and resting again. Eager to see her in her own place, hoping it would bring her some comfort.
She turned to look up at Matt briefly, saying "Yes, let's go." Together they exited Doc's office, a place so familiar and safe, yet filled with too many agonizing memories.
♥ ♣ ♦ ♠
They stood for a minute on the landing outside Doc's door. It was dark, past nine o'clock. They had agreed to this hour, knowing it would provide more privacy. Other than Doc, few knew of their plans. Sam, who needed to know that Kitty would be in residence upstairs when he locked up for the night. Matt had spoken with him earlier while he was at the Long Branch preparing the way for Kitty's return, checking the bed linens, unlocking the upstairs door, airing the room. Festus and Newly, duly forewarned, prepared to intercept any demands for the marshal's time. Neither Matt nor Kitty wanted to draw attention, whether from curious onlookers or concerned well-wishers. While he had been neither clandestine nor obvious, Matt, especially, was aware of the extra attention his actions had garnered for the past two weeks. Darkness was a familiar cover.
Kitty's hand dropped from Matt's arm and he understood. She would do this herself. Stepping back to allow her access to the handrail, Matt moved to walk at her left side. Moving down one step, Matt positioned himself to her left and just in front of her. This, he knew, would allow him to instantly assist her should she need it, to block any chance of a fall. It also gave her more room to maneuver without having him bump her left arm. Her last concession to Doc was the sling now holding that arm in place. Protection for her wrist and finger, the only broken bones she had suffered. Matt shuddered, thinking about what it might have taken to cause those breaks. He carried her one small bag, little more than an oversized reticule, really. She'd had little need for much in the way of personal items during her stay at Doc's; hairbrush, a few toiletries. The rest, her soft nightgown, moccasins, cloak, she was wearing.
Seeing her hand on the rail, feeling her readiness to continue, Matt stepped down. Kitty mirrored his step and they began the longest journey they had ever shared.
Barely a third of the way down, Matt saw that Kitty's grip on the rail had tightened. He knew she was in pain. The first step down had elicited from her a sound that mixed a gasp and a groan. Matt had clamped his teeth onto the inside of his mouth to keep from asking her if she was all right, to keep from offering to help. He knew that she was far from all right. He knew that the time when she would be all right again was somewhere off in the future. He knew she needed to be successful, to reclaim that little bit of her independence. It was agony for him to watch her struggle and he ached to have her turn to him and let him help. For Matt, this was the most difficult distance they had ever endured. The only sound after that first was the sound of their slow, irregular steps.
Reaching the bottom of the stairs, Matt turned, making room for Kitty. She joined him on the boardwalk, but leaned slightly into the stair railing, her eyes closed. Without looking, Matt knew that Doc was keeping vigil from his window above. The streetlamp cast its usual dance of light across the boards and the sign to the doctor's office. He wondered, in the back of his mind, how many others were looking on. Kitty sighed; Matt waited.
Kitty stood straighter and Matt knew she was ready for the next leg of the journey. The distance across the alley, from Doc's stairs to the side stairs leading to the back, upper entrance to the Long Branch's private rooms stretched ahead like the open prairie. In all the years, all the thousands of times he had traversed this ground, Matt had never imagined it being an impassable expanse.
He waited while Kitty stepped off the boardwalk onto the dirt ground. As soon as her hand gave up the security of the stair rail, Matt moved to her right side, making himself available, forcing his long legs to match her steps, shortened from her usual confident pace by the damage wrought at the hands of demons masquerading as men.
Five steps into the trail of a dozen or so, Kitty's hand reached out for the support of his arm. His years of intimate familiarity with her touch caused him to be surprised by the weight of her hold on him. He became even more aware of the effort she expended to even breathe without expressing her pain. The hood of her cloak had slipped from her head affording him an unobstructed view of her face. His heart swelled as he noted the clear, determined look in her eyes. The light autumn breeze played with the hair around her face. Forcing his gaze back to their path, he focused again on matching her movements and being prepared to offer the help he so desperately wanted to provide.
Their slow progress stopped as they reached the foot of the staircase. Kitty had moved her hand from Matt's arm to take hold of the stair rail post. Slowly, her eyes scanning the barrier before her, Kitty contemplated the ascent. A trip she made several times each day was now a challenge beyond her abilities. Matt realized he was holding his breath as he waited for her to move onto the bottom step. Still he waited.
After agonizing moments, she turned her face up to him. The lamplight sparkled on the single tear sliding down her cheek as she spoke, "Oh, Matt." Her voice a plea and despair.
As swift and gentle as the breeze, he lifted her into his arms. No questions, no permission sought, no apology offered, no reproach given. His arms supported her with a strength and surety at once familiar and totally new. Her eyes caressed his, her good arm reached behind his neck, and her head found its home on his shoulder. There in the warm glow of the lamplight, heedless of their surroundings, Matt cradled her, telling her "You don't have to do this alone." He delicately kissed her forehead. Then, beginning the climb, his feet finding their way in the well-worn grooves, he promised, "Together, Kit, always together." Matt carried his lady home.
♥ ♣ ♦ ♠
Standing at his darkened window, Doc smiled, scrubbed his hand across his mustache as if to wipe the smile away, then smiled even more as his gaze lingered across the alley on the closed door through which his friends has disappeared. Knowing they had been well aware of his scrutiny, he reveled in their trust. His joy was multiplied in understanding the bridge they had crossed.
Others, under cover of dark windows and walkways, who might have been privy to this rare display, would share in this joy. While none would dare speak of it in detail, the residents of Dodge would talk and continue to watch. They would begin to know that the ultimate price for the assault would not be paid by the marshal and his lady. Dodge City would begin to breathe again. Everything had changed, yet everything remained truly, strongly the same.