Authors Note: Thanks for your reviews, as always. You've all been very kind to me with my first endeavor in this fandom and I appreciate that greatly.
Chapter 10- Epilogue
18 Months Later
Matt Dillon paced at the bottom of Doc's steps, his hat in his hand, and every so often he slapped it against his thigh in frustration. Passersby eyed him warily, sensing that the Marshal was in no mood for conversation. Even a few rough looking cowboys who sized him up, seemed to think better of pushing him, and mounted their horses and went on about their business. He supposed he looked mean and disagreeable…and well, he was feeling somewhat disagreeable and maybe not exactly mean, but certainly a little bit angry.
How dare Doc throw him out the office? That was his wife up there! He had a right to be 'in the way' as Doc had termed it…and yet there he stood at the bottom of the stairs, his eyes boring a hole in that white wooden door. The only reason he hadn't marched back through it was because Doc had suggested that it might be best for Kitty if he just stayed outside. It seemed like he had been waiting forever. Why didn't he come out and tell him something?
His heart twisted with anguish. What if Kitty needed him? What if something had gone wrong? What if…? Among the what ifs were whys. Why hadn't she stayed home like he told her to? He knew that she had been antsy for the last few days but he thought that they had come to an agreement. She was supposed to stay put in their newly built house right outside of town. It wasn't far outside of town; the town was within walking distance and visible from the upstairs windows. She was supposed to stay home and rest.
Matt blew out an exasperated breath as his gaze darted to an unusually silent Festus Haggen who was sitting as still as a statue on the bottom step. His deputy kept shooting him apologetic looks, but he wasn't in the mood to discuss it just yet. His instructions that morning had been simple. He had to ride out of town and serve some papers and look into a complaint. He'd be back that night. Newly was to look after the town and Festus was supposed to go out to the house and keep an eye on Kitty and help her with anything she needed done…and to make sure she stayed put. If anything happened, Festus was to make sure Kitty was comfortably settled and then ride for Doc and then have Newly get word to him somehow. Nowhere in his instructions did it say, hitch up the wagon and take her to town.
He should've known…he just should've known better than to send Festus out there. All Kitty had to do was bat those pretty blue eyes, say please, and promise him a free beer and Festus would do whatever she wanted…and that day, Kitty Dillon wanted to go to town.
Matt didn't think he'd ever forget the way his stomach dropped to his toes when he heard Newly's voice calling out to him over the thundering sound of his horses hooves as they pounded towards him. When the younger man finally reached him, he informed the Marshal that his child was on the verge of being born in the office of the Long Branch.
On the ride back to town, Newly filled him in on the story which was quickly circulating through Dodge. Festus had drove Kitty into town, per her wishes, and escorted her to the saloon, where she was intent on checking on business. The deputy took up residence at the bar with his free beer while Sam brought the ledgers to Kitty who took a table near the bar. Apparently, all was well for awhile, but then Kitty rose from her chair, crying out as she pressed a hand against the swell of her belly, and announced that the baby was coming.
According to the deputy, Mrs. Dillon's announcement sent cowboys scrambling out of the saloon like tumbleweeds in a windstorm. Apparently none of them wanted to see or hear anything that might get them shot by the lady's overly protective husband. Newly had entered the saloon at that point, just in time to see Festus trip over his own feet as he ran for the batwing doors, Doc's name already bellowing from his lips. Sam, figuring the nearest room was best, ushered Kitty into the office and away from the few gawkers who had remained. On her way to the office, Kitty had demanded that Newly find her husband.
Matt's jaw clenched as he recalled how they had encountered Doc, ten miles outside of Dodge, just coming back from a call. The realization that his wife could be giving birth without the presence of Doc, had terrified him; and the fear had turned into anger. He was angry at all of them; Kitty for not staying home, Festus for giving in to her and taking her to town, because he was sure that buggy ride hadn't helped matters; Newly for not staying with her since he had medical experience, Doc for being away; and most of all, with himself for being away when it had happened.
Matt had been doing everything in his power to stay close to home during her pregnancy; especially this last month…but that week he had been antsy himself and he had felt the urge to ride off for awhile, knowing full well that he could've sent Newly off on the task of serving the papers and checking into the complaint…but he had wanted to do it himself; wanted to take Buck and ride off for the day and have some time alone between completing his tasks. As he had burst through the office door of the Long Branch, his temper had been boiling. Doc quickly examined Kitty and determined there was time to get her up to the office and beckoned her husband to carry her there.
In hindsight, he realized that arguing with his wife while she was in labor wasn't the best idea. He hadn't been able to stop himself though as he sat by her side, holding her hand as her body was wracked with contractions. The words, "If you had stayed home like you were supposed to, our baby wouldn't have almost been born in the saloon," echoed in his ears.
Of course Kitty's tart response echoed as well. "Well why shouldn't it be born in the saloon? That's where it got its start, and you didn't seem to mind that!" And that was when Doc had put him out of the office.
Matt slapped his hat against his thigh once again and paced a few more steps. What the hell had gotten into him anyway? He wasn't proud of the way he had acted; he owed his wife an apology…but he was pretty sure that Kitty had crushed a bone in his left hand during one of her pains. He supposed he deserved it, probably that and then some. At least it wasn't his gun hand. He just wished Doc would come out and tell him something. It had been hours; darkness was setting in. How long did it take?
About that time, the door opened and Doc called out. "Matt, you can come up now."
He took the steps two at a time, and when he stepped into the office, Doc was folding his glasses and tucking them in his pocket as one of the women from town bundled up bed linens and gave him a smile as she left.
"Doc, how is she?" he asked.
The old man smiled. "She's tired, but she's just fine, Matt."
"And the baby?"
"It has all of its fingers and toes and is as healthy as any baby I've ever seen."
"Is it a boy or a girl?" the Marshal questioned.
Doc's eyes twinkled merrily as he swiped a finger across his mustache and then nodded towards the closed door of the back room. "Go ask your wife."
Matt tossed his hat onto the desk and moved towards the door. A smile curved his lips upwards as his eyes landed on Kitty as she rested against the pillows, cuddling the small bundle in her arms.
"Kitty," he said quietly as he closed the door behind him.
She glanced up at him and smiled. "Hey, Cowboy," she said softly; exhaustion present in her voice.
"Are you okay?"
"We're fine," she answered. "Are you going to stand over there all night or are you going to come over here and meet your daughter?"
His smile widened as he forced his feet forward. "A girl, huh. Guess you were right."
"Aren't I always?" she teased. "You're not disappointed that it's not a boy, are you, Matt?"
"God no," he breathed as he cautiously perched at the edge of the bed and took his first look at his daughter.
She looked so very tiny and delicate, he thought to himself; sure that his large hands would swallow her up when held her. She had a headful of copper colored hair, her mother's nose and mouth…and his eyes he realized as those tiny lids opened and revealed eyes the same shade of blue as his.
"She's beautiful," he whispered; in awe as he brushed her soft cheek with his fingertip.
"I think she's perfect," his wife concurred.
Matt captured her lips in a tender kiss. "I love you, Kitty."
"I love you too, Matt…and I'm sorry for not staying home like you asked me to…"
He silenced her with a kiss. "No; I'm sorry. I don't know what got into me. I guess I just…"
She laughed softly; "We'll just chalk it up to being a nervous father-to-be."
Matt smiled and nodded; "I can agree to that."
"I just hope you weren't too hard on Festus."
"I was too mad to be hard on him," he replied; "But I'll buy him a drink and make sure everything is smoothed over anyway. Now what are we going to name this little lady?"
Kitty smiled; "Well, I'm sure you recall our agreement. If I was right, I got to choose her first name."
"I remember," he chuckled; "But I know you've picked out ten already."
"I think I've settled on one," she replied. "Hannah."
"Hannah," he said as he gazed as his child. "I think it suits her; but per our agreement, I get to add to it and make it Hannah Kathleen; because I think she should share her mother's name."
She kissed him and nodded; "I think Hannah Kathleen Dillon suits her just fine," she remarked before kissing her baby's head.
Doc's knock sounded at the door, followed by his head poking in as he opened it a crack. "Everything alright?"
"Everything's fine, Doc," Kitty answered.
"Good," he smiled. "Do I have permission to put Festus out of his misery and give him the news?"
Matt laughed quietly; "Yeah, go ahead."
"And, Doc," Kitty said; stopping him before he closed the door. "After you tell Festus, go down to the Long Branch and tell everyone that drinks are on the house tonight in honor of Hannah Kathleen Dillon."
Doc's smile grew wider, "I'll do that, Kitty; and congratulations to you both. Matt, I assume you'll be staying with them tonight?"
"Doc, you couldn't drag me out of here," he remarked.
"Just making sure; because if I could drag you out of here tonight, you and I would have to have words," he stated before closing the door behind him.
"Do you want to hold her, Matt?" Kitty asked.
He nodded; despite the flutter of nerves he felt as Kitty shifted and laid the tiny bundle in his arms. He gazed down at their baby's face; seeing the reflections of both of them in her features. He couldn't make her a lot of promises…but like her mother, he'd promise her to try…because so far; that was working out pretty well for all of them.