Sam, Festus and Bess Ronniger were pacing outside of Doc's office when the wagon carrying Matt arrived.
Luke stopped the wagon and jumped off. He took a step towards his mother and simply said, "I'm sorry Ma," before turning to help the others get Matt up to Doc's office. Once Matt was in bed, Luke said to Festus, "I'm turning myself in for robbery, just like I told the Marshal I would."
Festus nodded, "All right Luke, let's go."
Doc started right to work on Matt. He stripped off the vest and shirt, "Kitty fill that basin with cool water and wet those strips of cloth, we have to cool him down."
Doc and Kitty wiped Matt's face, arms, chest and back with cool water. They couldn't get him to drink, so they wiped his lips with water and quinine, hoping he would reflexively lick and ingest some.
After a few hours Matt started to get agitated, tossing and turning in delirium, "Don't make me shoot you, don't do it …"
Kitty moved quickly to Matt's side and took his hand, "It's all right Cowboy, you don't have to shoot, just rest. Everything's all right just rest."
It took some time, but Matt calmed down.
Doc continued to wipe Matt's forehead as he spoke, "He must hear you on some level Kitty." He paused and looked up at her, "I get the feeling you've heard Matt talk like that before."
Kitty looked back at Doc, tears forming in her eyes. She hesitated before saying softly, "Doc - every once in a while Matt has nightmares, bad nightmares."
Doc turned his attention back to Matt, "A man like Matt, having to do and see the things he's has to in his job - I guess it would be a surprise if he didn't have nightmares."
Kitty and Doc were with Matt day and night trying to cool him down and get water and quinine into him somehow. They spelled each other to get a few hours of sleep. Festus brought up meals for them and insisting on spelling them both for an hour here and there.
Matt continued to get delirious whenever his fever spiked, sometimes talking incoherently about shooting and killing, sometimes calling Kitty's name.
Kitty would take his hand, speak to him softly and eventually he would calm.
It was three long days before Matt opened his eyes and seemed lucid for the first time. He saw Kitty, and whispered barely audibly, "Kitty, you're here."
Kitty took Matt's hand and kissed his palm gently, "Where else would I be Cowboy?"
Doc heard Matt's voice and immediately went and checked his pulse, "How do you feel?"
Matt's whispered, "A little tired I guess."
Doc felt Matt's forehead, "Well, that's not a surprise. You've been battling with demons for the last 72 hours straight."
Matt whispered, "Did I win?"
Doc nodded as he rubbed his mustache, "Matt, I'd sure say you did."
Two Days Later
Judge Caleb Brooker made his way up to Doc's office to take Matt's statement on the matter of Luke Ronniger.
"Hello Matt, how are you feeling?"
Matt was sitting in bed, propped up by a pillow looking pale and weak, "I'm fine. I could have appeared in court, Judge, you didn't have to come up here."
"Not according to Doc Adams, and forgive me Matt, I'd trust you with my life but I trust Doc more when it comes to your health. Now if you feel up to it tell me about Luke Ronniger."
"Judge, he and Gideon Barker robbed a few dollars and some coffee beans from some cowboys. They want to see justice done, but acknowledge they didn't lose much. He did help rob a man named Carl Jessup, but was so conflicted that he only took half of the man's money when he could have taken it all. I'm sure Mr. Jessup would testify to that. When I caught up to them, Luke and Gideon Barker were about to rob a stagecoach. Luke came willingly. I didn't even have to handcuff him."
Judge Barker interrupted, "Didn't they escape from custody?"
Matt nodded, "Barker attacked me and left me for dead. Luke went with him. When I caught up to them, I heard them arguing. It turns out that Luke wanted to stay with me and Barker held him at gunpoint. Judge, I'm alive right now because Luke went for help, when he could have run away."
Matt started to cough. The Judge filled a cup with water and handed it to him, waiting a few minutes before continuing, " Matt, if you hadn't stopped them before they robbed the stagecoach, young Luke would be in deep trouble. He's a lucky young man."
Judge Brooker rose to leave, "Thank you Matt, and one more thing. Please listen to the good doctor. We need you to be fully recovered."
Matt was visibly tiring and just nodded.
Three Days Later
Luke's trial was over. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail plus a year of probation. He had been found guilty of two robberies, but given the extenuating circumstances and Matt's statement, the sentence was light. Mr. Jessup and the two cowboys got their money back, and were satisfied with the outcome.
Doc told Matt about the trial and then hesitated for a minute before plunging and speaking about a more sensitive and personal matter.
"Matt, if you continues to recover the way you have been, I'll release you in a few days, but you absolutely cannot go back to work right away. The best thing you could do is to go away with Kitty for a few days and let her take care of you."
"Doc, Kitty has been taking care of me. In fact, I'm afraid she's been wearing herself out. Every minute she's not running the Long Branch she's been spending with me. I told her she didn't have to spend every free minute taking care of me or keeping me company.
Doc shook his head and scowled a little, "She told me that. You just don't get it, do you?"
"Get what? All I know is that Kitty hasn't taken a minute for herself since I've been up here."
"Matt, she's worried that you won't recover, she's worried that you'll go back to work too soon, she's worried that you won't tell her if you're not well. She still feels terribly guilty about not noticing you were sick. She wants, no needs to take care of you, and to make sure that you are all right. Matt a few days away would do you a lot of good, you need it. My main point though, is that while it would do you a lot of good - in some ways it would do Kitty even more."
"I'll think about it Doc."
Later that day Kitty went to visit Matt, "Feel like having company, Cowboy."
"Kitty, I always feel like having your company. I hope you know that. I just want to make sure you're not wearing yourself out."
Kitty smiled and entered, kissing Matt on the forehead, "I know Cowboy, but believe it or not spending time with you is not wearing."
Matt patted the side of the bed. "Come here. Doc will be gone for a while."
Kitty removed her shoes and got in bed next to Matt. Closing her eyes with contentment she snuggled close and ran her hand over his chest.
"Kitty, I was thinking."
"Mmm – Are you sure you're well enough?"
Matt smiled, "Seriously, I was hoping that when Doc springs me from here we could go away for a few days. That is if you have time. Do you think Bess would let us use her lakeside cabin?"
"Cowboy, that sound so good. I'm sure Bess would be glad to. I'll ask her later today.
Two Days Later
Bess was more than pleased to lend them her cabin, and insisted that she stock it with food and every comfort. She was well aware that if Matt hadn't intervened, her son would have been involved in a stagecoach robbery and who knows what else might have followed.
The evening before Doc released Matt, Luke showed up to visit him.
"Marshal, I'll be heading off to the penitentiary on Monday and I just wanted to thank you."
Matt smiled, "Luke, I don't think I've ever had anyone thank me for sending him to the penitentiary before."
Luke blushed a little and avoided Matt's eyes, "Marshal, I guess I just wanted you to know that I'm grateful to you for coming after me. I was a fool to think highly of Gideon Barker."
Matt knew what the young man was going through, "Luke, I did some real foolish things when I was your age, and I had some people help me out. When your time comes, I'm sure you'll do the same for someone else."
Luke looked at Matt and for the first time smiled, "I sure will. Thank you."
The Next Day
It was early Sunday when Matt and Kitty drove to the cabin. They were going to stay until noon on Friday. They'd be to be back in town by Friday night when they both planned on being back at work.
Matt got down from the carriage a little more slowly than usual. Then he helped Kitty down. She, of course, noticed the slowness in his movement, and looked at him.
He noticed her stare, "I'm fine Kitty."
Kitty continued looking him in the eye until he sighed and replied. "I guess I still am a little weak." He took her arm and smiled, "but I expect your cooking will take care of that."
Kitty nodded and kissed him lightly, "I am a good cook Cowboy you know that, and you'll also be spending plenty of time in bed."
Matt answered with great seriousness, "And some of that time in bed might even be resting."
Kitty laughed and arm in arm they went into the cabin.
The days passed quickly. Matt remembered Doc's words and let Kitty hover over him all she wanted. Kitty could see that Matt getting better and stronger almost by the minute.
They relished their time together – walks in the woods, moonlight rows on the lake, leisurely meals, long mornings in bed – all with no chance at being interrupted.
Friday morning after lingering in bed making each other happy – very happy indeed, they sat in the kitchen eating breakfast.
"Matt, we'll be leaving soon. I know you're feeling much better, but are you really all right? All right enough to go back to work? Be honest with me Matt."
"Kitty between your cooking and the rest I've been getting I'm fine. In fact, the only fever I've been feeling is the fever that comes on when you kiss me."
Kitty laughed and held her hand to her forehead, "Oh Cowboy, I'm afraid I have that fever too."
She rose from the table and walked over to kiss him deeply.
"Kitty, it seems we're both getting feverish. Maybe we should go back to bed and do something about it." He took her by the hand and led her into the bedroom saying, "Honey, it seems that feeling feverish isn't always bad."