Mattie had always been particular with just about everything. Even from a young age, she had showed signs of who she would eventually grow up to be. Organized, a keen tongue, and a knack for getting things done the way she wished them. She had been this way for as long as she could remember, and she held no regret for that. She quite liked her life that way, and was intent on keeping it as such.
That was, until the year she turned fourteen, when her father was murdered. That was the time of the 'bump in the road' of her life, as she often thought back on it. For a very short amount of time, and for the first time, Mattie had been thrown into situations she had barely been able to handle. Of course, she had never let this show. She always kept a knowledgeable air about her, never letting on that she was in fact, scared, and unsure of what the best thing was to do. There were a short few things that she ihad/i been completely sure of. Killing Chaney had been one of them. That journey however, changed her in more ways than she ever would have thought. It forced her to see the light on many things. How naive she had been was one example. She finally came to terms that things were indeed just as Rooster had said, "You cannot have your way in every little particular."
And it was so. Amongst sleeping without proper bedding, forced to stray from her eating schedule, and unable to keep proper cleanliness, being faced with the realization of not getting her way all of the time was just about the worst. It belittled her, made her feel foolish in more ways than one. Her 'headstrong ways' had gotten her into trouble, and it was this that she would regret for many a fortnight following her journey.
What she would think back on the most however, was how for the first time in her life, she was faced with something she desired, but had no idea of how to obtain it. Money would not work, nor would the threat of law. Not even her wit, or her respectable skill of persuasioncould aid her in this abnormal situation. For what she wanted was not an object, or anything she could really explain. It had been difficult enough just coming to terms with it. It was not until the third night out on their manhunt did she lay that conflict with herself to rest.
They'd had another clear night, luckily enough. Mattie was dragged out from all the riding they had done, and was a bit irate from being made to collect firewood while the Marshal just sat and told his stories, sipping from his whiskey bottle as he did so. When she had brought back enough wood, she determinedly took a seat next to the older man, thinking to herself that if he asked her to complete another chore, she would very well tell him to do it himself.
He kept right on talking, taking no notice of her ruffled state, and it was this in and of itself that practically forced her annoyance away. As odd as it was, she had found herself growing fond of Rooster's stories. Stories of another life, of years long since past. Whether they were truth or fiction, Mattie did not know, but it bothered her none. Out riding, it kept from things falling silent between them, and she hardly had to speak. And now, after a long day, it was almost relaxing to sit and listen to him go on. She was also hesitant to admit it, but part of the reason she enjoyed his stories was his voice. The low slurs and gritty tone. Yes, she was very partial to the sound of his voice.
Mattie blinked against the light of the fire. "Hm?" She had not been listening. Not to his words, anyway. She turned to look at him, only to see him staring upon her rather intently. She felt her face grow hot, and not because of the fire.
"I asked if you had any friends back home."
She was a bit surprised at his inquiry. This was the first time he had asked her about anything of the sort. "Well our farm stands on its own for quite a few miles, so my family was who I spent most of my time with," she told him. "There were a few girls in town about my age though, and once every so often Papa would allow me to accompany him on his trips there so I could see them."
Rooster gave a rather overenthusiastic nod, seemingly satisfied with this answer. "I did not keep many friends as a boy myself. Oh, I spent some time with a fare few my age, but I never kept to the same group for long. I guess you could say that is how it stayed for me all the way up till now. Friends, women. I hold no regrets though. I do not feel the need to bow my head when I speak of it."
He paused long enough to take another drink. He swallowed it down, then turned to her again. "What about you, sis? You got yourself a sweetheart yet?"
Again she blushed, inwardly cursing the involuntary reaction in her body. She was grateful at least that the firelight would prevent it from being terribly obvious. She shook her head rather fervently.
"I am fourteen," she stated as firmly as she was able. "I am still too young to be fooling around with such things."
Rooster made an odd noise out of the side of his mouth that Mattie was unsure of how to interpret. "You know that smart tongue of yours has me forgetting sometimes that you still are just a baby."
Her cheeks grew hotter still, but now for an entirely different reason (and a much more reasonable one, she noted). "I am not!" she countered, shooting him a glare of utmost ferocity. He looked at her for what had felt like a long time, saying nothing. She did her best to hold her glare steady, but it all but crumbled when he smiled at her. It was an odd expression to see on his face, different from the sarcastic type of grin she usually saw on him. No, this was.. sincere. Sweet, almost.
Then, he reached forth and tucked a stray hair behind her left ear. She jumped nearly a foot at the touch, but he paid no mind to her reaction. He just kept on smiling and said, "No. I do not supposed you are."
Mattie stared at him, unable to think of a proper response, and feeling more and more foolish as the seconds ticked by. His fingertips lingered about her temple, and she did not ponder moving away.
"You are drunk," was all she could say.
"Hardly a time that you will find me otherwise," he said, bemused.
She swallowed, unused to this frantic thumping of her heart, the sudden inability to think straight. This was not how she normally was, and she detested the way this man made her feel. How easily she had just been reduced to someone with the intelligence of a bushwhacker. And before she could realize what was going on, Rooster had leaned in and clumsily planted a kiss to her mouth.
She knew she should hit him, push him, or just plain move away, but something held her there. Her fingers clenched and unclenched the blankets beneath her, unable to do anything else. All her mind could comprehend was the feeling of the older man so close to her, and how much she found herself enjoying it. His rough beard against the skin of her face, his dry lips unmoving against her own. Her mind spun and spun, and while she desperately wanted to do something rather than just sit there, it was just out of her reach. And when Rooster moved away again, she felt her stomach drop.
"I do apologize for that," he mumbled as he leaned back again. "It was not preconcei-"
"Wait," she said, the word flying from her mouth before she could stop it. He tilted his head, looking at her with somewhat of a surprised expression. Then, his mouth curled ever so slightly, a small smile playing upon his lips.
"Wait?" he echoed. "Wait for what, baby sis?"
She could not stand how she had not an ounce of control of her body. She was not used to this. All she knew was how to be in charge, have things exactly how she wanted them. This, all of this, how she was reacting, how frightened she was, she did not know how to handle it. What was the best course of action? All she could do was stare at the man sitting next to her, feeling absolutely stupid. Why did she feel this way? Rooster Cogburn was an old man, a hardened U.S. Marshal, a drunkard who wallowed in filth, swore, and had not a shred of decency. Why should she have these desires, why did she want him to lean back down and kiss her once more?
But moreover, why did he kiss her at all? Compared to him, she very well was a baby. A little girl. A man like him, why would he decide to kiss her? Maybe it had not been a decision at all, she thought, hating how the possibility depressed her. It was probably the whiskey, and nothing more.
She pursed her lips and at long last tore her gaze away from him. "Nothing," she finally said. She brought her knees tight against her chest and wrapped her arms around them, staring determinedly into the fire. She heard him move back to his previous leaning position beside her, but she did not look at him. A bough of silence fell between them, but not much time went by before Rooster began with his stories again. She did not mind, and was content to listen.
After a while, his words began to slur more and more before they were eventually replaced with loud snores. It was only then that Mattie felt it okay to look over at the Marshal, who had completely slumped over and fallen asleep with his head resting on his arm. It was hardly attractive, she thought.
She pondered for a moment, at war with herself. Then, after a few moments, stood up. She stepped over the string of rope that wound around the man at her feet, and lowered herself again. With hardly a worry of waking him up, Mattie laid herself next to him underneath the blankets. Tentatively, she allowed herself the indulgence of curling up rather close to him, her forehead pressed against his chest. He still smelled heavily of alcohol, his snoring was atrocious, and her heart and mind were still begging questions to be answered, but she paid no heed to any of these things. For now, she was warm, and comfortable. And in the morning when he would ask why she had slept there, she would just tell him that she had been afraid of the snakes.