A Gunsmoke Story

by Amanda

POV: Kitty

Spoilers: "The Wedding"

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: Matt and Kitty aren't mine dadgummit!


A single beam of sunlight sliced between the opulent curtains and window frame, interloping into the otherwise dark room and falling directly upon the sole occupant of the bed.  Groaning, she mumbled an annoyed curse and yanked the covers over her head. 


Kitty Russell, proprietor of the Long Branch Saloon, was not a morning person.  If there ever had been a time when she was, she had overcome the tendency long ago.  Of course, she didn't know many people in her business who were.  Late nights which usually turned into early mornings dictated that she rarely made it to bed before three a.m.  As a result, the sun shone high in the sky by the time she roused herself the next day.


If those late hours happened to end with a certain lawman staying for the evening, the sun might have peaked and headed toward afternoon by the time she recovered enough to rise.  Occasionally, she managed to drag her protesting body from the bed to partake of an early breakfast with that same lawman.  Recently, though, she had shared neither bed nor breakfast with him.  The increasing population of Kansas meant that the U.S. Marshal's job drew him into those growing areas more often, keeping him away from Dodge for days and even weeks at a time.  When he was in town, he spent large portions of his evenings policing the heavy and rowdy crowds of cowboys that poured into the "Queen of the Cowtowns." 


This particular morning, as she indulged herself with a few more minutes in bed, Kitty remembered almost a week back, when she had determined that enough was enough: He needed a day off they both needed a day off. 




He had been gone again dealing with the dregs of society, dragging in after dark.  His first stop, as was often the case to her great satisfaction, was the Long Branch.  Kitty noted that he hadn't even bothered to take off his coat when he dropped his long frame into a chair, body slumped in fatigue, the endless days and nights showing clearly in the deeper lines of his handsome face and the weary slouch of his shoulders.


Without a word, she poured him a beer, for the moment content simply to enjoy being close to him again. Later, she would help more by being even closer to him. 


"Thanks, Kitty," he murmured, taking a long pull at the golden liquid.


"You look tired, Matt," she noted, trying to make it sound more casual than she really meant. 


"Well, I can't say I'll be sorry to see this day end," he admitted, allowing the exhaustion to show.  She knew that revelation was a concession only to her.  If anyone else had walked up, he would have straightened his back and shoved the power back into his voice.  It warmed her to know that he shared this bit of vulnerability with her alone.


"You know what we haven't done in a long time?" she asked, pretending as if the thought had just occurred to her. 


"What's that?"


"Taken a whole day off and done nothin'." 


He laughed, and answered wistfully, "Sure I wish I could," before raising the glass to his lips again.


"Why can't you?  Festus is here, and Newly and Burke."  Granted, Burke's help probably wouldn't be too persuasive.  But certainly Festus and Newly could handle things for one little day. 


Matt cocked his head, and she felt a quick thrill to think that he might actually be considering her suggestion.


Upping the ante, she prodded, "Spring Creek. Cold chicken in a basket.  Bottle of champagne chilled in the stream.  Like we used to." 


After a moment, his eyes flashed, and he leaned toward her.  "By golly, Kitty.  You know somethin'? You've just made yourself a date."


A date! 


She beamed at him.  A date!  A real date!  It seemed almost too good to be true.

He smiled at her, and she was so caught up in the intoxicating blue eyes that she didn't hear the jangling visitor approach.  


"Miz Kitty.  Matthew."


Glancing back, she pushed down a flash of irritation, determined that not even Festus' untimely interruption of one of her rare moments with Matt could make her angry.  She was going on a date! 


"Hello, Festus," Matt acknowledged, and Kitty added her own greeting.


"When'd you git back?" the deputy asked Matt. 


"Oh, just a few minutes ago.  How's things?"


Kitty reflected that "things" had been better just a few minutes before. 


"Oh, everything's real quiet, Matthew.  I didn't think you'd be back `till late."


"Yeah, well, I finished up a little early there." 


Not taking a hint, as usual, Festus continued.  "I told ol' Doc an' Burke that you wadn't gonna be home `till later."


She caught Matt's subtle smirk of amusement and knew her irritation wasn't completely invisible, but she was a good sport and, when Matt invited Festus to sit with them, she was able to add her own genuine acceptance, offering the deputy a beer, which he, of course, took.  It was in the process of topping off Matt's glass that the moment fell apart.


"Want a refill, Matt?" she had just asked when Festus stretched out his hand, which held a piece of paper that looked ominously like a telegram.  Kitty hated telegrams.  In her experience they rarely brought anything but bad news.


"Uh, Matthew, this here come fer ya' a little bit ago." 


Kitty's eyes cut toward Matt, and he shot her a chagrined look, the kind he always got when he knew she wasn't going to like what he was about to have to tell her.  After reading for a second or two, he sighed, his expression falling into even more apologetic lines.


"Sorry, Kitty," he murmured, those two simple words destroying the joy that had only moments before surged through her heart. 


"I figured as much.  Where to this time?"


"Salt Flat.  Gotta pick up a prisoner."  Stuffing the damned thing in his shirt pocket, he said, "Festus, I shouldn't be gone more'n a day or two." 


Another day.  Or two.


Then he gave her a final, rueful glance as he gathered his hat in his hands.  "Well, Kitty, maybe when I get back " 


With a weak smile that didn't fool either of them, she let him go. "Sure, Matt."


He rose a little stiffly, giving into the limp more than usual, the fatigue betraying him.  As he disappeared into the night, she wondered how much worse it would be after another day or two of hard riding and little sleep. 


With deeper perception than he sometimes got credit for, Festus asked softly, "What wuz thet there all about, Miz Kitty?"


Wistfully, she told him.  "It's called daydreaming, Festus."  And she had done way too much of it recently. 




That had been a week ago, and even though Matt had returned in the time he promised, he had barely found time to do more than nod toward her as he strode through the Long Branch breaking up scuffles and jailing drunks.  If things had been quiet while he was gone, they certainly livened up when he got back.  Once or twice they had managed to share a beer, but duty pulled him back onto the streets of Dodge before he even finished his first glass. 


And now she lay under the covers, dreading the day, already halfway to dark, wondering if she would spend her evening alone once more.  She had wondered that very same thing each night for the past week.


Each night she had lain in bed, thinking about their last visit to Spring Creek, her body shivering with the sensations provoked by the visions.  Each night as her eyes fluttered shut, she had escaped to the memories of the security of his arms, the ecstasy of his touch.  Each night, she had concentrated on the taste of his lips, the warmth of his hands, the weight of his hips.   


And each night, the sharp retort of gunfire had shattered her passionate dreams, jerking her from him, the all-too-familiar sensation of dread shooting through her trembling body.  Heart pounding, she had waited for the knock at her door, for someone to call to her, to cry out that she was needed at Doc's office or worst of all, at Percy Crump's.

But each night, just before she thought she couldn't stand it any longer, Matt's strong voice would echo past her window, ordering the disruptive drovers back to their rooms and bedrolls.  Eventually, her heart would slow to normal, and she would whisper another heart-felt prayer of thanks to the Heavens before trying in vain to re-gather her dreams. 


With a rueful sigh, she shook her head and scolded herself.  Lying around wallowing in self-pity would do her no good, and would certainly not change whether her evening was spent alone or with him.  With forced energy, she dragged herself from the warm covers and prepared for the day, taking her time with her toiletries and paint, knowing it would be hours before the crowds swarmed the Long Branch.  Maybe tonight would be the night.  Maybe tonight he could stay for more than just one glass of beer.


The clock was just striking noon when she descended the familiar stairs, her sharp eyes noting the few early customers, most of whom were nursing solitary drinks or engaging in card games continued from the night before.  As usual, Sam saw her immediately and nodded a greeting, his calm countenance telling her that things were normal. 


"Morning, Miss Kitty."


"Morning, Sam." 


The bartender started to say something else, but both of them were distracted by the familiar stomp of boots outside on the boardwalk.  After a few moments, Festus' scruffy face peered over the doors, and the deputy cracked a smile at them and walked in, his spurs jingling happily.


"Mornin', Miz Kitty.  Sam." 


"Festus," she greeted, peering behind him in the vain hope that perhaps she might glimpse a tall shadow darkening the doorway.  But the deputy was alone this morning.  As casually as possible, she asked, "Matt at the jail?"


Festus cleared his throat, cut an uneasy glance toward Sam, and looked down.  "Uh, naw, Miz Kitty.  Matthew ain't well, he ain't chere.  He's gawn."


Disappointment and anger rushed through her.  "Gone?"  Matt hadn't mentioned anything about having to go off again.  Of course sometimes things came up suddenly, she knew, but he usually found some way to get word to her that he would be leaving. 


"Yes'm.  Told me an' Newly he wuz gonna be gone all day t'day and weren't gonna be back `till tomorraSed we wuz in charge." 


With effort, she tried to suppress the intense hurt that spread through her chest.  Apparently, tonight wouldn't be the night, after all.  "I see."   


And Sam saw, too, she noticed.  With a familiar look of sympathy he couldn't quite hide, the loyal bartender smiled encouragingly at her.  "Oh, Miz Kitty, there's a delivery out back.  Came a little while ago.  Thought maybe you'd want to check it and make sure everything's there that's supposed ta be."


Bless Sam's heart.  He knew she needed something to distract her from the pain of yet another disappointment.  Nodding her silent gratitude, she sighed and stepped through the office door, making her way down the short hallway to the outside entrance where most deliveries were made. 


The bright sun blinded her for a moment, drawing tears to her eyes until she was able to adjust.  Squinting, she glanced around to determine which of the shipments she was expecting waited for her.  But there were no crates of glasses stacked by the door, nor were there any barrels of whiskey.  In fact, there was nothing out in that alley except a very patient horse hitched to one of Moss Grimmick's finest buggies, which was freshly rubbed down so that the leather seats shone ebony.  Squinting again, she looked for the driver, but didn't see a soul. 


Strange.  Sam had definitely said there was a delivery.  She started to turn back into the saloon to see if the bartender had meant something else when the delicious smell of fried chicken wafted past her.  A closer look revealed a woven basket resting on the passenger side of the buggy seat. 


"What on earth?" she murmured, stepping onto the bottom of the buggy so that she could peek inside.  Her eyes fell to a note that had been carefully placed so that it protruded from under a blue checkered napkin.  Underneath the napkin, a generous serving of cold fried chicken waited.  Corn pones and roasted potatoes provided the very satisfactory accoutrements. Heart pounding, she slid open the envelope, a thrill of delight surging through her at the sight of his bold script:

"The champagne is chilling in the creek.  All I need now is you." 


Tears welled in her eyes, and she was pretty sure she actually squealed with the delight those words brought her.  Spinning on one heel, she clutched the note to her heart and rushed back toward the door of the saloon, but her determined path was blocked by a very big, very solid barrier that she plowed right into.


"Whoa!" the barrier laughed, long arms coming up to steady her. 


She caught her breath as she looked up into those lovely blue eyes, the pleasure he felt about his surprise clear in them.


"Oh, Matt," she breathed. 


He wore his gray dress coat and held his hat in one hand, grasping her arm with the other.  A half-smile curved his lips, and his gaze held hers solidly, if a bit ruefully.  "I was hoping, Miss Russell," he declared, voice smooth and full of cordiality, "that you would do me the honor of accompanying me on a picnic this afternoon.  That is, if you're free." He stopped for a moment, then added quietly, "And I'm not too late."


He looked so innocent and so boyish that she couldn't keep the laughter from her throat.  "Well, Mister Dillon, I don't know.  I'll have to check my social calendar.  There are other gentlemen in this town who have interest in me, you know." 


Unexpectedly, the boyish expression fell, a frown drawing down his brow.  He stepped toward her in earnest.  "I do know that, Kitty.  I'm just hoping maybe you'll overlook my shortcomings and allow me the pleasure."


Despite his seriousness, Kitty raised a brow in mischief, looked him up and down, lingering just a bit at the delicious view below his belt, and noted archly, "There's nothing short about you, Matt Dillon."  She shook her head and let the saucy smile creep to her lips.  "And believe me, the pleasure's all mine." 


"Kitty!"  He cast an embarrassed glance over his shoulder. 


It wasn't until then that she noticed Sam and Festus in the hallway, wide grins stretching their mouths.  Despite her own slight chagrin over the two overhearing that intimate exchange, she couldn't suppress a laugh at the deep flush that splashed across her lover's rugged cheeks. 


Decisively, she nodded proudly toward the eavesdroppers, slid an arm through Matt's, and tugged him toward the buggy.  "Marshal Dillon, I would be delighted to accompany you on a picnic.  And I feel certain that there will be enough pleasure to go around."


He leaned closer, shielding their conversation from any curious ears that might still be tuned their way.  "And around and around and around." 


Heat rushed through her body, settling with a delicious tingle deep within.  Regulating her breathing as best she could, she accepted his help to climb up onto the buggy seat, snuggling next to him when he joined her and took the ribbons.


She remembered her rueful comment to Festus when Matt had left a week before.  Sighing, she wondered aloud, "Am I daydreaming?" 


He shot her a bemused frown.  "What?"


But she just smiled secretly and shook her head.  "Nothing."  


"That champagne ought to be cold by now," he noted, clicking at the horse and bracing her body with his as the buggy jerked forward.


"Probably," she agreed, then looked up at him slyly, sliding her hand slowly up his hard thigh.  "But I think I'm more in the mood for something hot." 


The muscles tensed under her fingers, and she heard him suck in a quick breath.  "Yes, ma'am," he murmured.


As she snuggled closer to him, she sighed happily and tried not to think about what would happen when they returned the next day.  Chances were he would have to head out again.  Chances were there would be a prisoner to pick up or a horse thief to track or a fugitive to recover.  Chances were she would sleep alone again in that big bed and wake up with the sunlight laughing at her plight. 


But today and tonight she would lose herself in the most beautiful daydream she'd had in a long time. And she'd take her chances that it wouldn't be the last time.




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