Trust and Misunderstanding
Matt had just ridden back into Dodge, and as usual, he was exhausted. Though it wasn't too late, the town seemed uncommonly quiet, or so he thought. When he was just about in front of the jail, Doc came running out from the darkness shouting.
"Matt, Dan Whelan's in town and he's got Kitty in the Long Branch!"
After hearing a gunshot from the Long Branch, Matt wasted no time, jumping off Buck and positioning himself by a front window of the saloon. He heard Kitty's voice from inside taunting Whelan.
"You're a coward!" Kitty bristled "How does it feel to have your back against the wall?"
Matt quietly moved to the other side of the batwing doors to get a better vantage point, calling out to let Kitty go. Whelan yelled his ultimatum; Matt needed to give up or he would kill Kitty.
Kitty's feisty adrenaline fed attitude spurred an agitated declaration to Matt that was actually for Whelan.
"No he won't Matt. He's a loser on his last losing streak!"
The final insulting remarks sent Kitty careening backwards towards the end of the bar, as Dan Whelan's free hand struck her with a vengeance. That brief moment gave Matt a chance to call out to Whelan, before he shot him, but not before Matt took a bullet in his left arm. Kitty rubbed her jaw momentarily, but quickly made her way to Matt's side, along with her bartender Sam and helped him to a chair. Doc, having heard the gunshots, entered promptly and exited stating he was going to get his bag.
It was then that Matt noticed that there had been a card game in progress. He looked suspiciously at Kitty, asking her if she had been dealing. Kitty for the most part remained beautifully poker-faced. She didn't actually lie about dealing, remembering she had promised Matt she would not deal at the Long Branch any more. Then again, Matt knowing Kitty as he did, found the queen of hearts neatly hidden between her vest and her blouse.
It was an important game. Everything Whelan's men had pilfered from the town as well as Dillon's life was at stake. Kitty had a talent and a plan which worked, up to a point. Whelan's men left him behind calling him a cheat and a welcher. What Kitty didn't bargain for was Dan Whelan being on a mission bigger than Dodge City and more important than his own life; kill the man that ruined his life, Matt Dillon.
"Matt you're gonna have to trust me. This was one game I couldn't afford to lose."
Matt stared at Kitty as she patted his shoulder, looking doe eyed into his questioning face. To Kitty's surprise, he stood, curtly saying he was going up to Doc's office.
"Sam, let Percy know about Whelan's body. You stay here Kitty. After all this, I'm sure there are things to straighten up"
He shot a look at the table of cards and shook his head, a beleaguered smile on his face.
"I'll be back by after Doc is done with me." There was reluctance in his voice as he sighed. "Kitty, we really need to talk."
Kitty felt like she had just been kicked in the gut. She knew what she had promised Matt, but this was a matter of life and death. He'd just have to understand. Sam asked Kitty if it was OK to go get Percy, to which she agreed, but asked him to close the outer doors. It was getting late and a dead man propped up against the bar was not the kind of entertainment she wanted her clientele to expect.
Matt caught Doc at the top of the stairs, as the physician exited his office.
"Matt, what are ya doin'? I said I was getting my bag." Doc snapped irritably.
"I needed to get some air, Doc." He motioned to the door. "Come on let's get this over with."
Once inside, Doc asked where Kitty was. She was always there after Matt had been shot; every time trying to aid Doc or in loving support of Matt, but not tonight
"I told her to stay at the Long Branch, Doc. My head needed some clearin' and there were things she needed to get done there."
"What's going on in your head that needs clearing," Doc chided. "I can see you are pretty tired, and this was sure no welcome home party, but..."
Matt interrupted as if talking to himself. "Kitty was... bein' Kitty again." The big lawman sighed, "Ya know, I wouldn't want her any other way." His voice drifted off.
An uncomfortable silence filled the room as Doc worked on Matt's wound. The more he wondered what had happened between Kitty and the good marshal, the more annoyed he became.
Matt let out a yelp as Doc spoke. "If ya want her, then why in tarnation isn't she here right now?"
"I'm goin' back to see her when we're done here." Matt's voice was strained. "Geez Doc, are ya pulling that bullet out or pushin' it in farther?"
"Oh for heaven's sake, I'm done with you," Doc exclaimed. "I thought if I dug far enough I could stimulate that brain of yours!"
Doc shook his head, pulled his earlobe thoughtlessly as he said his goodnight to Matt, reminding him to talk to Kitty; she was probably worried sick.
Sam, Percy and Whelan's body were gone from the saloon and none too soon for Kitty. She sat alone at a back table sipping whiskey, her mind racing between fear and anger.
Does he not trust me? Kitty thought. This is my business, and what I was doing was for the whole town her frustration began to mount. Not to mention his own well being.
She was so wrapped up in her own thoughts Matt had to rap on the door a second time, calling out her name softly. Kitty marched across the room gaining power with every step, yet still feeling a chill in the pit of her stomach. She unlocked the door, turning on her heel after giving the door a shove in Matt's direction. He locked the doors behind himself once inside and was surprised to find her sitting alone in semi darkness, not having gone up to her room.
"Kitty?" He questioned "What are ya doing down here? I figured you'd be upstairs by now."
Avoiding the question Kitty headed for a second glass and the whiskey, motioning Matt to sit. While pouring him a drink, she spoke.
"You said we had to talk." This time her voice was curt. "Down here seemed like a better place for talkin', Matt."
As soon as he sat, Matt took a hearty swig of liquor and began to speak, but was cut off by Kitty. She began to pace after noting that he hadn't taken his hat off. That usually signaled he planned to stay for only a short time.
"Look Matt, I'm sorry that I broke my promise, but Whelan's gang was going from business to business taking everything they could get their hands on. They ended up in here killing time." Kitty mentally grimaced, realizing her bad choice of words. She strutted over to the table where Matt sat, slapped both her hands firmly on the table and leaned forward looking into his face. Her eyes were ablaze with what seemed like a cross between exasperation and anguish.
"They decided to play cards while waiting for you, Matt," her voice was strong but desperate, "to burn down Dodge and kill you."
As Kitty leaned on the table, Matt noticed the tiny tear in the center of her blouse where the cameo she always wore with that outfit would have been. His mind began to churn at the thought of what might have been done to her. Not just by Whelan, but by the whole gang. He placed one of his hands over one of Kitty's on the table.
"Kitty, what happened to your jewelry, your blouse?" Concern played over his features.
Kitty's anguish slid into frustrated fury. Matt hadn't acknowledged anything she'd just told him.
"I've just apologized, and tried explaining what happened here." She pulled her hand from under his, stepped back, crossing her arms in front of her. "Matthew Dillon, have you heard anything I've said?"
The lighting was dim, but enough that Matt noticed the bruise on Kitty's jaw line. He summarized that she had most likely received it from Whelan, after her last vicious remark about him. This brought him back to the reason he was so upset with Kitty to begin with. Being bone tired from the day's ride, not to mention the evening's events capping off with Kitty's apparent wrath, set the normally tight lip marshal off.
"Oh I sure heard you, Kitty!" Matt snapped. "As I recall, you told me and Dan Whelan that he was a loser on his last losing streak. Now sit down!"
His unusually sharp tone caught Kitty by surprise. Wide-eyed, she turned and moved to the bar where she took root facing away from Matt. He'd seen this posture by her before; but a fight with her was not his intention. He took off his hat, placing it on the table and ran his hand through his thick hair absentmindedly. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath and sighed.
"Please Kitty; this talk is not going the way either of us wants."
She heard him move a chair and half turned to see Matt leaning on the table with his head in one hand while holding the top of the recently shot arm with the other. She couldn't tell if the pained look on his face was from the recent gun shot or something else.
"You OK, cowboy?" She questioned not looking at him.
"Just plain exhausted, Kit," he responded quietly. "Please come sit by me. I think we could both do with another drink."
She could never refuse that 'sheepish little boy' look on his face. As she crossed to the table, Matt refilled their drinks. The small shock of electricity wasn't lost on either of them when their hands touched exchanging glasses.
"Look Kitty," Matt asserted.
"Aw Matt." Kitty uttered.
They both began to speak at the same time and both offered the other the floor to speak first. They found themselves smiling at each other, the tension broken.
"Ladies first." Matt offered with a tip of his head.
Kitty took a deep breath and settled in her chair before beginning her apology. He took note of her uneasiness, and tried to abate Kitty's discomfort by leisurely downing some whiskey while leaning back in his chair, to at least give the appearance of relaxation. If he got too relaxed he was afraid he'd fall asleep.
"Matt, about the dealing…" she began but suddenly found herself at a loss for words.
His head snapped up, looked into her dark blue eyes and interrupted her thoughts.
"Honey, I understand about the dealing."
Kitty's brow furrowed. "Am I gonna get a word in here?"
Matt leaned forward and gently put his rather large fingers over her lips. His eyes smiled lovingly at her.
"The stakes were a bit high, but Kitty, I trust you. I knew there was a very good reason for you to break your promise. Well... and this is your business, and you are a big girl."
His eyes twinkled at the last statement. Kitty's face reflected her confusion as she removed his hand from her face.
"What's got your back up then?" She questioned, still holding his hand.
Matt squirmed uncomfortably in his chair, retrieving his hand so he could better play with his near empty glass on the table. Kitty stilled his nervous hands with one of hers and refilled the glass. She saw something in his eyes she didn't think she'd seen before.
"What's the matter, Cowboy? If it isn't my bilkin', it can't be that bad, can it?"
Kitty tried to smile valiantly, but the distance that Matt seemed to be setting between them was making her nervous. She leaned forward and gave his thigh a gentle squeeze. That simple gesture stimulated more than Matt's brain. He cleared his throat as if to give a speech.
"I'm sorry I put you through the mill tonight. This is something I just need to work through. It's not you, honey. It's me."
Kitty looked at Matt blankly. She knew something was gnawing at him. He was most certainly giving her the impression that she was the center of the problem.
"I know you Matthew Dillon. You know I can stand the gaff, so tell me what has you tied in knots?"
She put down her drink, crossed her arms and settled in her chair as if she was about to hear a long-winded story. Matt read Kitty's actions as if to say they weren't going anywhere until he confessed to whatever was eating at him.
"Plain and simple Kitty, you scared me. The thought of what Whelan might have done to you, what the whole gang could have done to you; and I've warned you about that mouth of yours..." His voice broke off as he turned his head away from her releasing a ragged breath, then turned back, locking eyes with her.
"I understand why you taunted Whelan, Kitty. Generally speaking it worked pretty well."
He shrugged the shoulder of the arm that had earlier taken the bullet. The resigned look on his face melted into a smile of loving approval.
"That was a wild and foolish thing you did there. I'm guessin' it caught me off guard as much as it caught Whelan, and that panicked the daylights outta me. Like I said earlier, it is my problem."
Kitty saw the fatigue in his eyes as he snatched his hat and began to play with the brim.
"I know we're too old to change, and honestly honey, I wouldn't want ya to. I love your spunk... well yer strength," he reassessed.
Gingerly leaning over, he reached out and turned her head with his thumb to get a better look at the bruise that had bloomed on Kitty's jaw. Never in his life had he imagined anyone doing for him what this woman has over the years.
She looked out of the corner of her eye and saw pride in his eyes. Kitty caught Matt's hand, giving his knuckles a tender kiss as she rose and slid behind him. Her hand shifted slowly from his shoulder to rest over his heart. He placed his free hand over hers giving it a light squeeze. She began to run the fingers of her other hand through the Marshal's head of thick curls. As his head fell back to rest comfortably on Kitty's soft breasts, she spoke warmly.
"I can't help it Cowboy. Part of lovin' you, is protecting you the best I can. I'm sorry I take chances like this, but just rollin' outta bed each day brings new chances."
Matt's eyes closed as her hand stroked his forehead. Both lovers were in their own worlds, focused on the the chances the other had taken to bring them to this point. A hum escaped his lips as the hat he was holding hit the floor, the thud breaking the peaceful silence.
"Matt, are you fixin' to leave?" Kitty asked coyly.
"I didn't think I was gonna be very good company, Honey."
Her hand snaked from his hair down the side of his face to his neck. She gently raked her nails over the stubble up to his chin and down his throat. The movement of her breathing against his head securely lulled him as Kitty's hand slid under Matt's shirt, fingers dancing across bare skin.
"What?" His eyes flew open as she ever so gently gave the soft hair on his chest a tug.
Kitty looked down at him; her eyes twinkled, but her voice was flat.
"He gave it back to me. I told him it was paste, Matt and he gave it back as a gift."
Matt stared at Kitty aware that he may have fallen asleep. Shyly he grinned at her in apology.
"I missed something didn't I?"
Kitty's response was to move the hand under his shirt playfully. Her hand caressed his chest, lightly grazing his nipples with her nails. As her hand moved lower, her breasts pressed into Matt's head.
"I asked if you were planning on staying. I figured I could take care of your sore arm, and you could take care of my sore face." She squinted at him as seductive mischief swept across her face.
"By the way, I thought you liked my mouth." She pouted as she extracted her hands from Matt's body and headed for the stairs to her room.
They were both tired, but they needed the connection that words couldn't capture, especially for Matt. Suddenly revitalized, he rose from the chair retrieving his hat from the floor and turned to Kitty.
"Honey, there are things about your mouth, I can't begin to tell you."
He licked his lips as he headed for the staircase.
From the top of the stairs Kitty teased, "Get a wiggle on it, Cowboy. My mouth needs to do something besides talkin'!"
For a moment, Matt thought he could take the steps two at a time, but opted to save his strength for the bedroom.
"We'll see whose gets ta wigglin'. He chuckled as he made his way up the stairs, tapping on the door while he opened it. "Miss Russell", he stated in his official Marshal voice, "what else might you have hidden in your clothing?"
Matt was greeted with a bawdy laugh and two soft arms, as he kicked the door shut. They both knew that they'd finish discussing the events of the day at some point, but not now, maybe not even in the morning over coffee. The unspoken understanding between them had always bound them and would be enough for now.