Warning: This story will contain MxM relationships

Ares: So, Cada, our first chapter! Excited?

Cada bounces on his toes

Ares: I'll take that as a yes.

Cada: I'm nervous

Ares: Yeah, yeah.

Cada: What is that supposed to mean?

Ares: Oh, nothing.

Cada: Living the Dream…Or Not

I fought the shaking in my hands as I slid one into the closest pocket. It had been far too long since I'd eaten. Slipping my hand back out, I dropped the coins I'd collected into the bag hung around my waist under my long coat. Being a pickpocket myself, I wasn't dumb enough to make my money easily accessible. And today, with the rich and the poor converging on the market, someone would probably be dumb enough to try.

Market days were always whirl and bustle and a hundred people too many crowded into the little village square. So they were, of course, my favorite day of the week. When people are bumping into you on every side, you don't notice the bump that lasts a little too long, someone standing a little too close. And with the vendors crying their wares over the babble of the crowds, it's loud enough that no one hears the clink of gold falling into your hand. Or at least, no one should. But this man would catch me and I didn't even try. The throbbing in my wrist on cold days was enough reminder of past mistakes that I didn't want to repeat them.

A well-dressed woman's money pouch fell silently into my hand as I slid a small blade through the string. Heavy. I grinned, tucking it away in one of the many pockets on the inside of my clothing. I'd be eating well for once; even with the fee I owed the man who housed me.

A foot hooked around my ankle and I fell against a tall man in nobleman's dress. He sneered and shoved me off, checking his money pouch. When he saw that everything was in order he merely pushed me away. I glared at the rival who'd tripped me and began looking for my next target.

There. He was near my age, moving with a limp. An easy catch. His clothes weren't rich, but the bulge of the leather bag at his hip was. With that much money, gold or no, I could finally leave this village and my past behind.

I closed my eyes, not wanting to think about it, and seeing the memories behind them anyways.

Ten years had passed since the day I saw my parents' deaths. I had been nowhere near them at the time, but thanks to my curse of a gift, I had seen every second. I will never forget any sight or sound of that scene that played itself out in my head.

My stomach lurched with hunger, and I almost decided to give it up for the day. Suddenly I remembered the boy, the one I had chosen. Lost in my memories, I had forgotten him. I looked up, and could not find him. For a moment, I almost panicked, thinking of how much money I'd lost. Then I saw him, bartering with one of the loud-mouthed vendors at the edge of the square for some useless item or other.

Careful not to jostle anyone, I moved slowly through the sun-soaked crowd toward where he stood by the wall of booths that ran along the edges of the square just inside the line of rather worse-for-wear stone houses. Not bad looking, this boy with his foolishly large money pouch. Tawny hair framed a strong, straight-featured face set with alert hazel eyes, and skin brown from the sun smoothed over lean, corded muscle. A fighter, judging by the scars that littered his skin. I looked down at my own too-thin hands and the silver scars that decorated my knuckles. I hadn't wanted any of those fights, but I had fought them nonetheless. In my line of work, you couldn't afford not to. Better sorry than dead.

Those weren't the only scars I carried. It was the other scars, the ones that snaked down my back, that had put me on the streets in the first place. And all of them were that dreadful woman's fault.

She called herself my aunt. Pah! Just because she was married to the man who was once my true aunt's husband did not give her the right to style herself related to me. Especially not when she proved with every word and gesture how much she hated me.

Six years she worked on my uncle, turning him against me, making him forget anything but her. She took away my inheritance, my childhood, and the last of my family. If there is one person in all this word that I hate, she is it.

I was close enough that I could have reached out and touched the boy's rough shirt, but I didn't. This would require careful timing. I wanted the whole bag, but there was no way he wouldn't feel me take one that heavy. Before I could clip the string, I'd need a clear escape route, something which was nearly impossible in the press of the crowds. I knew this place like the back of my hand and there was no way he'd catch me with that leg. Now if only I had some way to-

A slight movement caught my eye and I grinned, reaching out and yanking Adel, the boy who'd tripped me earlier, to my side. With his help I wouldn't need to run. I shoved him forward so he fell against the boy, making them both stumble and cutting the purse strings in the same motion. Chuckling to myself, I turned to walk away. This was too easy.

Ares: Infamy Isn't Everything

I stared down at the list the merchant had handed me.

"You're kidding me, right?"

"I'm afraid not, Ares. This is what I need you to do for me."

The old man regarded me with barely concealed distrust. And believe you me, the feeling was mutual.

I sighed, then muttered, "Alright, fine. I'll get your damned food."

Without waiting for a response, I turned and made for the door. How very polite of me.

As I left, the merchant's son, Astor, sneered, "How fitting. You've become a pack mule."

Returning the sneer, I shot back, "Strange, considering you're the ass."

Leaving him to think of a response, I made my exit.

Once outside, I sighed and took a second look at the list in my hand, feeling the bag of gold the old coot had given me to buy the supplies heavy against my hip. I headed down the road, avoiding a large cart as it wheeled past, and stepping over a drunken sot lying on the worn cobblestones. Making sure to ignore the stares that had always followed me, I continued down the way. The houses loomed over me, their royal blue roofs sharply contrasting with the white and grey of the stones.

I watched as a group of children ran around, throwing pebbles at each other, but they all stopped when they saw me looking at them. Their laughter died abruptly, and they became impossibly quiet. One by one, they ran away, looking back over their shoulder as if I was going to chase them. Like there was any chance in the deepest depths of Hell I could catch them.

Now, here in the tiny town of Alleria, we all pretty much know everyone else and their mother. There's the immensely overweight butcher, with hands like, dare I say it, hams, and the smith who lost his eye in an unfortunate smelting accident. There's Astor, the pretty boy of the town, who likes to believe he's perfect in every way, and would be, if he weren't so cruel and insensitive. And then there's me:

'That kid who lives alone, the boy with the bad leg.'

'I heard wolves raised him.'

'Wasn't he possessed by a demon?'

'He'll kill you, just like he killed his master, stay away from him.'

Yeah, that's me they're talking about. Now, what I'd like to say to those who believe any of the rumors is that none of those are true. I'm pretty damn sure wolves didn't raise me, and I certainly am not possessed. That last part, however, in a convoluted sort of way, isn't far off. Long story short, I screwed up, and my master died for it. Life sucks like that.

I stopped at a large stand near the edge of the village square, teeming with fruit and vegetables, beans and sugar, with turkeys and chickens hanging from ropes. I took out the list and rattled it off, ignoring the look the man gave me.

"I need a large bag of sugar, and your finest coffee beans. I need milk, a live goose, and the best eggs of the bunch. Give me a bag of figs as well."

The merchant wrote the order down, then headed for the back of the stand. "Come back in a few hours, everything will be ready."

I nodded, then headed back down the road. I had some time to kill.

I strolled across the square, pushing my way through the motley throng and dodging carts and cows that went by, their bells clanging loudly. When my stomach growled, I knew just what I needed. My growling stomach never lies. As I headed to the bakery on the eastern edge of the square, I couldn't help but shake the feeling that someone was following me. Must be the madness everyone thinks I'm plagued with.

I was taken completely by surprise, however, when a boy crashed into me, sending both of us falling to the ground. I struggled to regain my balance, then immediately realized the sack of gold was gone. Drawing my dagger, I looked around for any sign of the person who swiped the money. I spotted a dark-haired boy, not much older than me, walking away, and yelled, "Hey! You! Gimme back my gold!"

Man, I hate it when they run.