A/N: This is a TRUE GRIT fanfic. If you do not like or are not familiar with the Coen Brother's 2010 rendition of this movie, then this might not be the story for you. However, it is in my head and I'm running with it.

[ * * * ]

Still here? Okay. I am using the "pretty much no contractions used" approach to the text, as was done in the movie, so it takes a bit of getting used to and I know it so if it feels odd to read, I'm with you.

This story will be a divergence, meaning it will not gel in all particulars with the movie, though it does start and stay there (or mostly there) for a while. I am making a couple of changes from the story, though, that will become apparent if you are familiar with the source material.

It will all be written in Ranger LaBoeuf's point of view.

Thanks for reading. ~ LJ

Chapter One In Which LaBoeuf Encounters a Difficult Girl

"She is fourteen, and there all alone," Mrs. Ross sighed, her presence a faint one in the room, consumed in mourning. Black bombazine enveloped her, rending her nigh on invisible, even in the bright light of an afternoon. "She has been in contact with our lawyer already, Mr. Dagget informs me, and he fears she is determined to do something rash."

I cleared my throat. "Rash, Mrs. Ross? Pardon me, but she is only a little girl."

I heard a snort by the door and turned, my hand on my still-holstered revolver, to see who it was. A negro with a clean-shaven face and lines that bespoke laughter leaned lightly against the frame of the door. "That one? My apologies, Mizz Ross, Mister Ranger – I saw you flash that badge of yours when you got here – but Miss Mattie ain't been a little girl since she was in her cradle." He crossed his arms with all the casual comfortableness of a resident of the house. I concluded that he was a hired hand of long and good standing. "She shooed me off, she did, Ranger. Sent me and the body of her father on the train and agreed to sleep in the undertaker's. Imagine that."

Everything that I knew of propriety rebelled and stiffened to hear that. That a little girl would tell her elder, her guardian on an errand, to leave her behind? Absurd. Ridiculous.

I dwelt on that aspect of young Mattie Ross's character as I road from Yell County, Arkansas to Fort Smith. After making inquiries, I discovered the young woman who was on the trail of Tom Cheney – the entire town had heard of her business – had spoken to Marshall Rooster Cogburn and was boarding at the only respectable house in the tiny town.

Cogburn. A one-eyed drunkard who could barely sit upright on his horse. I had heard of him. Surely, once I had had the chance to speak with the girl, she would give me the information she had and I could pursue Chaney and bring him back to the Governor for prosecution.

The reward would not hurt my feelings, either.

Mrs. Floyd's Boarding House was a respectable establishment. I made it my business to charm her out of her only free room and asked after her youngest guest. "Oh, she's out tending to her horse, I daresay."

"Thank you, ma'am. I will wait for her on your fine porch, if that would be all right."

She pursed her lips but told me I was welcome to wait.

I had thought to get a feel for the girl before we conversed. When I saw the young lady walking so uprightly down the center of Main Street, her hair in two rigid braids, steps sure and forthright, I knew this was my quarry. Mattie Ross. She saw me; I knew she did, for her dark eyes met mine without pause. Still, she did not speak to me, so I waited until later, figuring to catch her after her dinner.

This did not happen. Instead, I caught her in bed.

Assuring Mrs. Floyd that a young girl had nothing to fear from a Texas Ranger, I insinuated myself into the room Mattie Ross had been sharing. Same stick-straight braids, laying in order on either side of her face. Straight brows. Impertinent nose, and a quilt pulled up almost to her shoulders.

She sniffled in her sleep and I felt my face relax into a smile as I settled more easily back into the rocking chair the room afforded. Some trick of the morning light hit her expression and her lips curved – perhaps at some happy dream. And I realized uncomfortably that when she smiled, she was rather pretty. Her mouth should smile, I decided, especially that upper lip...

I could kiss that pair of lips and be blissfully content, my thoughts told me. My thoughts were ridiculous. Kiss Mattie Ross? She was fourteen years old! What she needed, I reminded myself, was a good spanking for sending her guardian away.

Uncomfortable in my mind and body for a moment, I made to shift in the chair. The movement or the noise I made awoke the girl and her eyes blinked as she started awake.

"Who are you?"

"William LaBoeuf, Texas Ranger," I told her as we got introductions out of the way. The girl had a tongue on her – a sharp one. Dared to tell me, her elder by fifteen years, that being kissed by me would be equally as unpleasant and unwelcome as the whipping I felt she would best benefit through receiving. She also refused my aid, clinging to her ideal of hiring a U.S. Marshal over a Texas Ranger.

Well, she was a foolish girl, make no mistake, but I left her there in her bed, unmolested. I then went to track down Marshal Cogburn. Little did I realize at that time what an impact these two people would make on the life of a Texas Ranger.