The Influence of Men

A GUNSMOKE story by MarMar, May 2009

"Stryker" ATC

DISCLAIMER: as always, this is offered for my own satisfaction, the only profit hoped for is feedback from any readers who are so inclined. "Gunsmoke" and all parts of that property belong to Viacom and I intend no infringement.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is an ATC (After The Credits) story for the episode "Stryker". The idea was sparked by the scene between Stryker and Kitty, in her office, near the end, particularly the look on her face as they share a drink.

THE INFLUENCE OF MEN by MarMar

Doc scrubbed one hand over his mustache while his other hand turned the whiskey glass on the table in front of him. Giving a little shake of his head, he spoke.

"That must be a mighty long train." His voice was neutral.

Beside him at the table, also nursing a glass of whiskey, Kitty Russell lifted her eyes from the dark liquid to focus on her companion.

"Wh..what?" she stammered, before clearing the fog. Her face crinkled in question. "What train?"

Doc's warm blue eyes held steady on hers, "That train of thought you've been on. I've been sittin' here by myself for the past ten minutes." There was no accusation in his tone, only concern.

"Oh...you!" Kitty breathed out her exclamation, shifting a little in her seat. Doc noticed the movement, his practiced eye recognizing the bit of discomfort it indicated. With patience learned over years, he waited.

Kitty's eyes took on a look of something near sadness, but not quite. Her expression softened as she sighed, looking back into the glass wrapped in her fingers.

"I was just thinking about Josh Stryker, Doc." Hearing her voice in its lower register, he knew it was best to keep silent, to allow her to continue without interruption, her thoughts coming from deep within.

Kitty continued, "He wanted so much to leave something for Sarah Jean, to take care of her." Doc knew Kitty was thinking of the former marshal, former convict's efforts to protect the money so his daughter would have it, even as he lost in his efforts to protect their relationship. Doc's own thoughts turned to the patient now resting up in his office, a man whose scars could almost match those of Matt Dillon, the missing arm surpassing the current marshal's losses.

Kitty's voice brought Doc back. "He was a good man, a good marshal, according to Matt. He paid a high price for his mistake." She paused briefly. "She was just glad to have him home." Another pause. "But he just couldn't let go, couldn't accept his lot, couldn't connect with her. It nearly cost him everything."

Doc nodded, made a small noise of agreement. Other than this, he was still, suspecting there was more to come.

"Sarah Jean has paid some high prices, too. Her situation, her relationships with men, all show the mark of her father's decisions." The two friends held their thoughts to themselves for a moment, the noise in the lively saloon pressing around their silence.

"Do men even know the impact they have on the people in their lives?" Kitty spoke with firmness, finally looking again toward the man next to her. "Do they ever think about it?"

Doc knew the question was not rhetorical, but wasn't sure she was ready for any response. "Well, Kitty..."

"Look at Stryker and Sarah Jean," Kitty continued her thoughts, Doc's pause before speaking giving her an opening. "Hell, Doc, look at my own father. You know what he was and you know me well enough to figure the effects he had on my life."

"Yes, Kitty, I do." Doc acknowledged.

"And not only daughters; look at the impact Stryker had on Matt." Kitty paused. "Then there's Adam Kimbro. Matt is all too clear about the influence Kimbro had on his life; still has on his life." Her tone skirted on sardonic. "Those men were like fathers to Matt."

The older man had no comment; he had not expected this line of thought and he took a minute to consider Kitty's words. Giving a little chuckle, Doc gave a half smile and agreed. "Kitty, you're right. Those men were like fathers to Matt and they certainly left their impressions."

"They weren't always right, you know." Kitty wasn't asking. "None of them. Yet we still live under those decisions they made. I made decisions based on what my father did and said; Sarah Jean obviously lived under the shadow of her father's actions and, when he came home, even under the shadow of his thoughts. And Matt, well, it is obvious the long lasting influence his 'fathers' have had on him." She thought for a moment. "I doubt any of them understands the power of his influence."

Doc allowed himself to consider the depth of Kitty's words and their implications. Knowing they involved the relationship between Matt and herself, he would normally have eased himself out of that territory. "Yes, Kitty, I suppose you're right. Most men don't give it much thought. I've seen the devastation of it more times than I care to recall." His thoughts glanced over various patients and families he had served over his long tenure as a doctor. "Too many of us are concerned with the wider world and never see what's right in front of us." Doc spoke for himself, for the world of men in general, and for his dear, giant, hard-headed marshal friend. "Sometimes we don't see what's important, for fear of what could, what might be."

Kitty's expression lightened, her eyes took on a twinkle, but these things were missed by her dear friend whose gaze had dropped out of focus toward the stained wood of the table top.

As her eyes took in the change in her friend, a tender smile graced her lips. "You should have had kids, Curley. You would have been a wonderful father." She leaned in, closer to the gentle man.

Doc's head came up and he appeared about to speak. Then, catching the warm twinkle in her eye and smile on her lips, he easily switched tracks. "Well, now, Kitty, I did try."

He noted the slight hint of question in her eyes. "If you had ever accepted any of my numerous proposals over the years, why we wouldn't be sitting here right now. We could have had ourselves a whole passel of younguns by now, runnin' 'round, tearing up the alleyways of Dodge City." Doc was rolling with his image now. "Yes ma'am, we'd have a couple little boy hellions we'd never know where they were, two or three pretty little red haired beauties. And smart, oh, they'd all be so smart they'd run rings around their ol' parents. They'd have their scrapes, but they'd all grow up fine. Why, before we knew it, we'd be rockin' grandbabies and we'd raise them all up with our wonderful good sense and your eye for style."

He took a breath, raised his glass in salute before tossing back the remainder of the whiskey. "Yes, we would be taken care of in our old age, knowing we had done our part to populate the world with fine, upstanding, and somewhat more thoughtful men and women." Returning the empty glass to the table, he raised an eyebrow at the most lovely woman he had ever known. "You can't blame me; I tried." He ended with a tilt of his head.

Kitty, listening to his narrative sketch, rewarded him with a wonderful chuckle. Not the full, raucous laugh he loved so much, but still a welcome sound that warmed his heart. She had teased him, he had risen to the challenge, and he had been successful. Rather than seeing their pensive mood turn to melancholy, they had turned to laughter.

She reached out and took possession of both their empty glasses. "Curley, I'd say that calls for another round on the house!" Her elegant hand tenderly hugged his forearm as they exchanged sincere, loving smiles.

As Kitty stood, she leaned over and anointed his cheek with a kiss. Before moving off, she said in a somewhat sultry tone, "Seems I remember making a proposal or two myself."

Before Doc could react, she stood, letting her empty hand slide from his forearm to caress across his shoulder as she moved away to the bar.

Doc heard her greet the rabble as she passed; his eyes watched her lovingly, noting the admiring looks from several of the men. Once more scrubbing a hand across his mustache, he cocked his head, winked an eye, and basked in the joy of life.