The End of Nineteen

I don't own these characters; I just like to spend time with them. No other profit to be had.

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Kitty stood by the grave for a good long time, before finally succumbing to the gentle pressure of Doc's hand on her back and walking away. Without a backwards glance, she walked stiffly out of the cemetery and climbed into the buggy beside Doc.

Doc glanced at her several times, concern clouding his features. But he knew there was nothing he could do for the woman at his side. Ultimately whether she survived this or not was up to her. As her friend, and more importantly the man that loved her like a father, all he could do was be there for her when or if should she need him.

Festus sadly mounted Ruth and followed them away from the cemetery and back down to Dodge. When they reached the Long Branch, he dismounted and stepped over to help Kitty out of the buggy. "Doc, I'll take yer buggy on over to the stable." He told the physician.

Doc nodded, a sad grateful smile hovered for a moment then disappeared. Taking Kitty by the arm, he escorted her in and back up to her rooms, where she had been spending most of her time since it had happened.

Once inside, Kitty walked over her to her settee and sat down heavily, trying in vain to straighten out the wrinkles in her black dress. The same black dress she had worn now for the last two weeks.

Fetching a packet of powder from his black bag, Doc stirred it into a glass of water and firmly handed it to Kitty to drink. Giving up the futile battle, she accepted the glass and tried not to make a face as she swallowed the bitter concoction.

"You going to be alright alone here tonight?" Doc asked, noting the dark circles under her eyes and knowing how very little sleep she had gotten.

Kitty, staring at the floor in front of her, nodded not raising her head to meet his gaze. "Yeah," she finally muttered. "I'll be fine, Doc. It's just gonna take some time to get used to this."

Doc gently patted her on the shoulder. "I know it will." He said sadly. "For all of us. But you know what Matt would say. He would say…"

"I know, Doc." Kitty stopped him. "I know exactly what he would say and he'd be right. But right now that doesn't necessarily make me feel a whole lot better."

Doc nodded. "I know." Looking around the room at the packing crates and half- filled suitcases he noted very little left to be done. "I see you're about all packed up."

Kitty took around her room and agreed. "Almost, just a few more things to do."

Suddenly she stood and crossed quickly to the dresser opening the top drawer. "I almost forgot, Doc." She told him as she pulled out a battered bible and handed it to him. "Matt would want you to have this. It was his mother's I believe. He always said you were probably the most Christian man on the frontier, including the preacher."

Doc smiled at the thought but shook his head, trying to hand the treasured tome back to her. "I can't take it, Kitty. By rights it should stay with you."

"No, Doc," Kitty pushed it back into his hands. "He would want you to have it. I know he would. Besides, I have something much more important from him." Without thinking of it, she gently caressed the slight swell of her stomach, a soft smile touching her lips for perhaps the first time in the last two weeks.

Doc tucked the precious book under his arm and grabbed his hat, heading for the door. "Alright then," he said softly, "I'll go on. You need to get some rest if you're going to make that stage in the morning."

Kitty nodded. "Will you be there in the morning, Doc?" she asked as he reached for the door.

"I'll be there," he answered. "Probably half of Ford County will be there too. But me and Festus will be right up front."

Kitty smiled gratefully. "I appreciate that, Doc."

Doc nodded silently, opened the door and left, his heart breaking, knowing tomorrow morning would probably be the last time he would ever see Kitty Russell.

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The next morning proved to be cold and dreary. A storm had come in overnight and the skies were gray with chilly rain to greet her when Kitty stepped out of the Long Branch for the last time. Giving one last glance at Sam, she smiled sadly at having to leave him and the rest of her friends as well as her home. But she knew it was for the best.

As promised, Doc was waiting for her, with Festus by his side and a large number of Dodge City citizens behind them. Not a word was spoken by anyone though as Doc extended an elbow and patted her hand comfortably when she took it.

"Ready?" he asked.

"Let's go." She whispered, not trusting her voice for fear of betraying her emotions.

Festus stepped up on her other side and together he and Doc, with Sam and most of the town following, escorted her to the stage station.

"You made it just in time, Miss Kitty." Jim Buck told her as he took her bag from Sam and threw it up on top of the stage to be secured. "Is that all the luggage you have?"

Kitty nodded. "Yes, that's it. The rest of my things will be shipped to me when I find a place."

Jim nodded and stepped back respectfully as she turned to tell her friends goodbye. Unchecked tears flowed down her cheeks as she hugged and kissed each one of the men that become so dear to her. Wishing never to let them go and yet knowing she couldn't stay with them. She had to leave. In this there was no choice.

"You be careful," Doc whispered in her ear as she hugged him one last time. "And if you need me, if either of you ever need me, you know how to get a hold of me."

Kitty nodded. "I know," she sniffled.

When Doc finally released her, Jim stepped back up beside her and took her arm, helping her up and into the stage. Climbing up into the box he snapped the reins. "Harruppp" he yelled as the conveyance gave a lurch and started on its way out of town.

Kitty watched out the window for some time as first her home, then her friends and at last her town faded out of sight. Her heart was full of conflicting emotions as she sat back in the seat, waiting to arrive at the next phase of her life.

Though heartbroken at having to leave behind people who had become like family to her, she knew she couldn't stay in Dodge. The die had been cast two weeks prior and now she could only sit tight and see this through.

TBC