• The characters in this story are mine, almost completely. David Crosser is mine entirely. Colin Forester is mine, but sparked by KitsuneNova.

    Colin Forester had been born and raised in the small town of Westbrook. His family was well-etched into the very foundation of the place, it would seem. His greatest (that could be remembered) grandfather was there the day the town was founded, and he'd put a lot of money into the place. The town hall was sub-named for the Forester family. About half the buildings were, actually. And it drove Colin nuts. Especially since he was the last Forester alive.

    Colin's mother had died in giving birth to him. Five years later, his father went the way of a bullet to the brain, his own doing. Colin had been left alone to tend after the family name and home. When the family's fortune wore out (it's amazing how many of those simple and kindly townsfolk will take advantage of an orphan five-year-old's vast fortunes) Colin was left with nothing. He took quickly to swindling and cheating at alley-gambling to get a bite to eat each night. He worked menial chores for lodgings in whatever home he could find for the night. By age seven, he knew the ways of the beggar and the swindler intimately and could cheat anyone he came across out of a night's stay and a well-cooked dinner with one simple sentence. It usually began with the phrase, "I'll bet."

    Not long after his great downfall, at about age eight, he met David Crosser. David was everything Colin had wished he could have been in his life, but knew he'd never achieve. Of course, David hadn't seen his potential the way Colin had, and Colin had found it his duty to bring that potential to the foreground. They became fast friends (against David's will at first).

    David was a different boy than any of the others Colin had met. David had more power behind his voice and more strength in his arms than Colin had, and he knew it but never seemed to abuse this amazing power. But most importantly, David had a real family.

    David's mother was a sweet woman. She'd make lunch for the boys every day, inviting Colin in (against David's will at first, again) when he lingered at the edge of the yard. She fussed over the smaller boy as though he were her own and, in time, he did become hers in a way. David's father took Colin in at lessons (yet again against David's will) and taught him the many traits and skills of blacksmithing, tailoring, hunting, and bounty-hunting. By age thirteen, Colin was almost as well-rounded a young man as David.

    And so it happened that, over time, David grew to accept Colin as a part of his life. The two were nearly inseparable anyway, whether David liked it or not. And Colin knew that David did not like it, at first. But he learned, in time, how to wear the larger boy down. He had his own special ways of speaking that would melt David's hardened state, causing him to eventually give in to damn near anything Colin had in mind.

    Perhaps that's how they had ended up here, in the middle of a wooded field, both out of breath and terrified, looking over their shoulder in fear of what may be behind. It could have been David's sudden desire to speak up in a situation that called for more finesse than a grunted command from the muscle of the party. Or it could have been Colin's decision to drag David away to the darker sides of town for a bit of some sparring for money. They were near broke, after all. After all, at age sixteen, with both Colin's and David's parents closing in on the ends of their lives, the two had to make due for themselves eventually.

    "This was a bad idea," David spat, his tone low and angry.

    "Well, now he tells me," Colin piped, his high lilting voice cheery, even in the face of danger. "As though I was supposed to know they had guns under those heavy coats. What was that, some sort of secret code they forgot to teach me at school?"

    "What school?" David shot back, turning and throwing a knife over his shoulder at one of their pursuers. It hit its target and downed one of the five men trailing them. He pumped a fist in the air... only to yank it back close to his body when a bullet almost took it away from him.

    "You idiot! This is no time for celebrating one small victory! Never dance until you've won the war. One battle never counts for s**t!" Now there was some anger in Colin's voice. He twitched his nose in fear. "You could have lost your hand."

    "You would have swindled me a new one," David laughed.

    Colin nodded thoughtfully. "Something in silver, I think."

    "Silver's heavy."

    "Well, I was going for class, not use."

    Another bullet rent through the air above their heads and the two stopped their bickering, ducking behind a grove of trees. David gasped for air and felt his belt for another knife.

    "Use your gun. You're better with a gun." Colin was pulling out his own knives (of which he had about nine on his person at all times), holding two at the ready in case one of their assailants would come barreling through the trees at them.

    David nodded his agreement and yanked out his pistol. "Think we should whistle to let them know where we are?"

    "You kidding? Let them crash around like a bunch of oafs for all I care. We can wait it out. Now shut up."

    David took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Colin watched the trees around them, listening for the thunder of boots that had been at their heels.

    "You had to try for one more hand, didn't you?" David asked after some time. "You couldn't let it go. You thought, 'Hey, we're rich. Let's get richer.' You never know when to quit."

    "You try gambling sometime and then tell me how easy it is to quit when you're winning," Colin grumped, kicking at David sharply. "And if you had been able to get your head out of the damned gutter and stop thinking for two seconds about how pretty Fiona's getting all the sudden, we might not have gotten caught. Who's the one who dropped the hidden Ace?"

    "Me," David sighed. "But, she really is getting gorgeous. And she's got such nice b-"

    "Oh don't even go there, old friend. I will seriously chop your hand off myself if you even think about those around me."

    David chuckled and fell silent again, much to Colin's joy. They sat together, watching the trees and waiting. Nothing came. An hour later, both cramped from being crouched behind the trunks they'd chosen as hiding places, they peered around their trees to find no one for miles.

    "You think they gave up?" David asked.

    "Next time they see us in town, they'll try to kill us," Colin assured him.

    David laughed. "Let's go the long way home."

    "Oh? The long way? You think you can stand being away from Fiona that long?"

    David shoved at Colin and ran from the trees. "We run, we'll be able to visit her before nightfall!"

    "Only you want to visit her, David!" Colin shouted, taking off after his friend. "And you want to visit her after nightfall, where it's dark and secluded, and with very little in the way of clothes on."