Together – After The Credits for "The Badge", an episode of "Gunsmoke"

By Molly

July "Gunsmoke" is not mine. If it were, the characters would be treated much better, with more respect; all of the central characters.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Why did Kitty return to Dodge? The events in Ballard could only have reinforced her feeling that it was only a matter of time, probably short time, before she would see Matt Dillon lying dead in the dirt, cut down by the fast draw of some spoiler. Sure, she knew Matt was just doing his job, a job at which he excelled, of which he was proud, but she had always known this. If this dread had finally pushed her to leave Dodge, why would she then change her mind and return after seeing him come once again so close to being the one lying in the street? This story moment is set not more than a couple of hours after the credits of "The Badge".

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Matt was restless; not his usual post coital state. Kitty thought she must be losing her touch, or, perhaps it had something to do with her long absence. Pulling herself from her own sated surrender to sleep in the predawn, she adjusted her head on his chest, her hand reaching up to caress his upper arm.

"What is it, Matt?" No pretense, no coyness. They had long since operated with an uncanny sense of each other and they had never needed explanations.

"Hmm," was the non-reply. His arm held her just a little more tightly. No, they didn't need explanations, but one of them often needed more than a nudge to get him to talk. Kitty was patient. She had learned early that silence could often bring her man out more than words. Her patience was rewarded.

"I didn't believe you would come back." He countered his own earlier statement. His voice said even more than his words. He had been worried, hurt, his sense of loss intolerable. She wanted to comfort him, yet a part of her own soul still ached from the separation and, more so, from her own real fear of the dangers his life thrust upon him.

"I just kept seeing you," he continued softly, "standing there on the boardwalk, in that damned dress, and your eyes..." The dress was his favorite. What he did not say was that the scene also included another man lying dead in the street; dead from Matt's own skill with a gun. Her eyes had held the story of it all.

Kitty remained still, but for her breath and the light movements of her right hand, the same scene playing with agony in her own mind.

"You saved me, Kit." He admitted. "I never figured Steiffer would be that bold, not right there in the middle of town." There was resignation in his voice, a rare acknowledgment of his own, nearly fatal, error. "If you hadn't called out…" he left the thought unspoken. They both knew.

Kitty's hand gently slipped up to the side of his face, then on to play possessively in the waves of his mostly dark hair. A single tear fell, welled with the pain in her heart; pain of fear, of loss, of desire.

"You stood there, in the middle of everything you tried to get away from," Matt admitted the ever present curse. "I knew I had lost." This last was spoken in a harsh whisper.

Moments passed as they each fought to strengthen their ramparts. Hers to keep her from falling under the weight of the ever present fear, to enable her to hold aside just enough of herself to survive. His to keep him from falling under the assault of his desire; desire to be close, to be totally one; to enable him to retain his focus so that he could survive.

"I couldn't move." Her breath played warm across his bare chest. "I was afraid; I was afraid if I moved, my legs wouldn't hold me. I'm not even sure I was breathing." Her uncompromising stance had covered the quaking in her soul. They had brushed so terrifyingly close to the very thing she had tried to escape. She could not go to him; could not allow him to come to her. She could not think beyond the cries in her heart. Now, her body seemed to sink even farther into his warm strength.

"Because, as you said, if I hadn't called out, if I hadn't been there…" her throaty voice caught as she answered his unspoken question. Her warning had saved him. "I knew how close it had been. I realized that, as hard as it would tear at me to see you lying in the street, it would be no easier to read it, or to hear it told." She wanted to crawl inside his skin, to feel the touch of his heart. "It doesn't stop, just because I am not here." They both knew the double meaning of her statement. The threats to him would not stop; her purgatory would not end. "If there is ever something I can do…if I'm not here…" There was no need for her to compose the words.

"We're better together, Matt."

His long arms engulfed her, drawing her deeper into her sanctuary. Each savored the comfort, the security, the promise. As they quietly reclaimed the balance of their lives, the rhythms their breaths, their heartbeats, synchronized. As they drifted at last into the welcome rest of desires quenched, Kitty felt as much as heard Matt's low voice resonate, "Always."