Sticks and Stones
It was late afternoon with only a few more daylight hours left in the rapidly shortening days prior to the onset winter.  There was a chill in the air, but it was offset slightly by a mostly sunny sky.  Even so, the boy was grateful his hair was growing to cover the tops of his ears to afford him a little bit more warmth.  The market was still busy with merchants trying to sell off their stock before the day's end, but various stalls and ground spaces stood empty, many sellers already done for the season.  

Done with his work, Noah had taken to loitering in the town center.  It was a great place to people watch, and sometimes folks dropped money or the rare piece of food that he could snatch from the ground.  The boy sat on a low, fence that separated one business from another and quietly observed all the goings on from his perch.   In his lap sat one of the many village strays, and he rather happily cuddled the scruffy creature. 

It wasn't long before he noticed one of the Seymour brothers nearby.  Rather content with his sit spot, the waif frowned, trying to decide whether to run off or not.  However, he didn't want to disturb the friendly cat on his lap and instead decided to remain there.  Instead, he bumped his hat over his eyes and ducked his head, hoping not to be noticed.  All his attention turned to the feline who seemed particularly pleased to receive so much attention.
Edward was looking around as he wandered through the market place as if he ran it. His hands tucked into his pockets and his chest puffed out with a pleased smile upon his features. He strolled through leisurely until he heard something. A figure caught his eye as he was sitting in an unusual spot.

The boy sniffed and frowned wiping at his nose before he walked towards him, pulling up his pants some as he went to attempt to look tough. He folded his arms and stared at him then at the animal. His lips thinned as he glared at it, perhaps a stir of jealousy that an animal would want the company of the little kid over him. Then again, he would probably throw a stone to scare it away if people were looking. He couldn't show he liked petting soft furry beasts.

He raised up his hands and gave a sudden shout to try to scare it away. His focus returning to the boy in question.

"Eh! No'a. What ya doin' ere? Think'n you can come 'n go as ya please?? What should I do with th' likes o' you?"
Unlike Ed, he wasn't ashamed to show his love for small creatures, even if it ended with him being the butt of others' jokes.  Perhaps, he thought of the many strays as kindred spirits, whom he thought deserved better than being chased or pelted with objects.  

When the older boy shouted, the cat stood up so tall that its back arched and its hair stood on end.  It leapt off Noah's lap so quickly that only bits of gray fur stuck to the kid's pants.  "'Ey!  Wha' ye do tha' fah!  Ye scared Soot!"  He blurted out before he realized he probably shouldn't have shouted at Edward.  Or admitted he'd named the little beast.

The smaller boy's eyes went round, fully registering everything Ed had uttered.  He shrunk away slightly, but then sputtered out stubbornly, "Nowt!  I'm just sittin' 'ere.  I...I can come 'ere jus' like everyone else."
"Wha? you tryin' ta act big a' me? Sure I scared et. Why nah? It's a li'l coward just like ya! If I wanna remind ya who's boss, I will!"
Ed tugged at his suspenders and puffed up his chest as he towered over him. He frowned at the boy and started to roll up his sleeves. He walked over and glared at him. Slowly the kid looked left and right, certain no one was watching them. They could careless what the street kids were up to. He then snatched his collar tightly and tugged Noah to his feet.

"Come on! Or else ya be want'n a beatin??" He said as he glared at the kid.

He didn't really give him a chance to reply. He simply pulled Noah along as he walked down the street. Any time he thought the kid even considered trying to break free, he'd give him a bit of a tug. 

"My ma wants me 'n Fred ta collect fire wood. I dun feel like it. So you'll be doin' itfor me."
"Nah, I wasn't!"  He protested in response to Ed asking if he was trying to act big.  He'd just been defending his animal friend, after all!   The smaller boy bristled slightly when he was called a coward, but he was smart enough to keep his mouth shut this time.

Noah made a strangled sort of noise and pawed at the hand that had his shirt in its clutches.  He stumbled a bit until he regained his footing, though every time Ed gave him a tug, he felt as if he were about to topple over once more.  Once or twice he tried to tear away from his clutches, but he was unsuccessful and only ended up choking himself in the process.

"W...wha'?"  He blurted upon hearing the chore Ed so readily passed off to him.  "It's for ye family, not mine!"
Ed rolled his eyes and released Noah and stuffed his hands into his pockets. He towered over the smaller kid and tried to give him his angriest most evil eye he could manage. The kind his mom warned him about receiving from the creepy old women outside of town. Saying they'd cause an early death or something. He didn't remember or care. Point was to be scary.

"Wha? You sayin' no ta me!? Ah got bett'r things te do. I din need ta be messin' around pick'n up sticks! You weren' busy. So you do it!"

He decided to try another tactic and scratched idly at his cheek as he looked around briefly. He leaned into the kid, looping an arm around his neck to draw him close as he spoke low and conspiratorially to him.

"Ye wanna be a top dog, don' ya? Nah 'ave anyone tell ya wha ta do , right? Well.. ya gotta start small. Ah tells ya what. You do this for me, and do a good job o' it, and.." He looked around smiling as he felt clever.

"Ah'll let ya 'ang out with my broth'r 'n me. What ya say? Not mak'n ya work or beat'n ya up. Just like we was pals. Everyone else will see ya with us and know you're becomin' a top dog too!"

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