Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Promise to Try

Chapter One

Matt Dillon was dying…or at least he was giving every indication that he was trying to as he laid in the back room of Doc's office.

"Doc?" Kitty questioned as she watched the old man pull off his glasses and tuck them away.

He gave a shake of his head, a finger swiping across his mustache as he met her gaze. "I don't know, Kitty. I just don't know."

The lump in her throat grew; her heart feeling like it was being squeezed right out of her chest. They'd been down this road so many times before; the question and answer seemingly always the same, but this time it felt different. This time she couldn't seem to find any spark of hope in Doc's eyes…this time felt like it could become the time she had always dreaded. This could be the time she lost him.

She swallowed hard; her blue eyes filling rapidly but she held the tears at bay. "Are you saying there isn't anything you can do for him?"

Doc shook his head; "I'm doing everything I can, Kitty…but he's in pretty bad shape. He had already lost a lot of blood by the time Festus found him out on the prairie and the infection was already setting in. I'd feel better if we could get that fever to break."

She'd feel better too, she thought as she took a breath and tried to steel herself. "What are his chances, Doc?"

His gaze shifted towards the open door of the back room and then back to the redhead he loved as a daughter. How could he tell her that he didn't think the chances were good at all; that a man could only take so much abuse over the years before his body surrendered. How could he tell her that she might have to say goodbye to the man she loved?

"Doc, answer me," she demanded; her tone firm but betraying the slightest quiver of emotion.

"I don't know, Kitty."

Kitty closed her eyes; her hand curling into a fist at her side. How she hated the words 'I don't know, Kitty.' She hated them as much as she hated the words, "It's my job, Kitty' and 'I'm sorry, Kitty.'

"I'm doing everything I can," he stated once again. "I'm not giving up on him yet and neither should you."

"I had no intention of giving up on him," she replied.

Doc was silent for a moment, the ticking of the clock filling the office. "It's not entirely up to me, you know," he gently reminded her. "It's up to him to fight it…and if anyone can give him a reason to fight; it's you, Kitty."

She gave a small nod; the gentle rustle of her skirts the only sound passing between them as she made her way back to Matt's bedside. She paused in the doorway; he looked so broken and weak…he looked so far from the man she knew he was and it tore her heart to pieces. He had added two bullet shaped scars to the collection that marred his body…a collection that seemed to grow each year. The memory of the night before ran through her mind; the shrillness of Festus's voice as he rode into town yelling for Doc; the feel of her heart plummeting as she pushed through the crowd outside…the bead of sweat that had trickled down Doc's temple as he probed for the bullets…the smell of blood and infection wrinkling her nose as she stood by and waited, as always.

Kitty breathed deeply and exhaled slowly, calming her heart and shaking off the memory as she moved into the room. She picked up a cloth and dipped it into the basin of water and sponged off Matt's sweat dampened skin before trailing her fingertips along his jaw.

"Hey, Cowboy," she said quietly; "This isn't the homecoming we had planned for you. What's the big idea?"

Her comment was met by silence as she knew it would be and she sighed as she took his hand. "Don't leave me, Matt," she pleaded quietly. "I know you always tried to prepare me for the day when you'd have to…but it's not time yet…I'm not ready to let you go; and I know, you're thinking that I'll never be ready, and that's true…but I've always figured that I'll know when the time is right and when I'll have to do it…and it's just not today, Matt Dillon."

"You promised me; do you remember? You always told me that you couldn't promise that the job wouldn't kill you one day, but you could promise to always try to make it home to me…you promised to try to always come back to me; and I'm holding you to that, Cowboy. You have to fight this, do you hear me? Don't you dare leave me now," she told him; her voice choked with tears as she squeezed his hand.

"You promised to try," she told him; reaching for the damp cloth to sponge his skin once more. "And you know how I feel about broken promises…so you just better try as hard as you can, because I'm not sure I could forgive you for leaving me when I'm far from finished with you."

A rebellious tear broke free and rolled down her cheek as she kept her hand curled around his. He didn't make a sound; didn't give any indication at all that he could hear her or feel her next to him. His breath was raspy, his face an eerie pale that slightly unnerved her. Her grip tightened around his hand. Her eyes strayed towards the bandages that covered his wounds; his collections of scars entering her mind once more. She had counted them once, years before, and with each one that he acquired, she had wondered if it would be the last; the one that would finish the collection and take him away from her. How would she go on with out him? She wasn't sure she'd know how.

"Don't leave me, Matt," she whispered once again. "Please don't leave me."