MAGIC BEANS

Disclaimer: If I owned the Brothers Grimm, I would either be very old or very rich (and I'm not).

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Thanks to Alone Dreaming for pointing out some mistakes…they're both fixed now.

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"And then they all lived happily ever after? Jake, you can't be serious." Will Grimm closed the small, slightly charred book and frowned. "No one's going to want to read that, and you know that's not how it happened."

Jacob rolled his eyes, snatching the book from his brother. "It's supposed to be a tale, of course it's not exactly 'how it happened.'"

"Honestly, brother, the boy Jake brings home magic beans, his sister is cured, and they all live happily ever after?" Will asked dubiously, raising his eyebrows. "First of all, the name's a bit obvious."

Jake adjusted his spectacles and sighed noisily. "Is there a second of all?"

"Well, I just think you might need to flesh it out a bit more. Or, better yet, rip it out of our little book." To Jake's dismay, Will pantomimed tearing pages from a volume and throwing them over his shoulder. "I don't want any magic beans in our book!"

"I think I like the first option more, and I do want this in the book," Jake said evenly, opening the book and setting it on his desk. "Now thank you for your 'help,' but I'd like to get on with my writing."

-

Magic beans. Those bloody magic beans.

Will stormed out of the hut, walking quite a few feet down the road before realizing he had no destination. If only Jacob would forget those useless beans. Instead, he was writing them in the book of tales as if they were important. As if they hadn't ruined the Grimm family fifteen years ago.

Sometimes, because of the way that Jake still seemed to believe in those useless legumes, Will doubted that his brother understood what had happened. But there was no way he could have ignored their sister's small body, pale and cold and lifeless, killed, in a roundabout sort of way, by the beans. That story Jake was writing was an insult to all that had happened.

Will sat on a log that had fallen on the side of the road and buried his face in his hands. Perhaps the thing Jake didn't understand was that Will was still haunted by the death.

-

"Wilhelm, I have a job for you," Mother said in a hushed voice. None of them talked very loud in the cottage. Its one room had somehow, without any prior agreement, come to be treated as solemnly and quietly as a deathbed.

Wilhelm stood up quickly from where he had been talking, as quietly as always, with Jacob. "Yes, Mother?" he asked.

"Your sister needs a doctor," Mother said quietly. "Sadly, we cannot afford one without selling something."

"You're not selling me, are you?" Jacob whispered, coming to stand next to Wilhelm.

Mother smiled a sad smile. "No, no, of course not," she said. "Wilhelm, I want you to go into town and sell the cow."

Wilhelm gaped. "Into town? By myself?" None of the children had ventured into the village, six miles away, without their mother. Despite his love for his sister, Wilhelm was reluctant. "I could always stay and help take care of her," he suggested.

Mother was supposed to take this to mean that she would go into town, leaving her daughter in the care of Wilhelm and Jacob. Of course, she did not.

"Alright, Will, you don't have to go," she said, rubbing her forehead. She turned her attention to the smaller boy that still looked up at her with eyes wide beneath his spectacles. "Yes, Jake, you can take the cow into town."

A genuine smile plastered itself onto Jacob's face. "I'd love to!" he said. It was the loudest anyone had spoken in days.

Wilhelm shook his head slightly at the stupidity of his brother. Going into town was not something to be excited about, especially not the six miles of dragging a lethargic cow behind. Jacob would probably realize this soon, and then Mother would sell the cow herself, bring a doctor, and they would all live happily.

"Be sure you get a good price for the cow," Mother reminded Jacob quietly. "Listen to a few offers before you sell her. Can you do that, Jacob?"

"Yes," he answered puffing out his small chest, "I'll pick the best offer, the very best."

Their sister had died within the week.

-

Will said nothing to his brother the rest of the night, though. Remembering had put him in a sour mood, and he snapped at the villagers who tried to make pleasant conversation as he got the materials for his supper.

He dreamed that night of going to town, magic beans, and small, cold, corpses.

When he awoke, Jake was already out of bed. Will squinted sleepily at the window. Narrow, golden beams of sunlight poked hesitantly into the room.

It was earlier than Will usually awoke, though because of his restless sleep he wasn't surprised. The fact that Jake was up as well was, however, slightly odd.

He swung his legs over the edge of his bed, levering himself stiffly into a standing position. He tried to clear his mind of the last night's images, but despite his efforts a ghost of them remained. A ghost—now that was ironic.

His brother was at his desk in the main room of the hut, writing as usual in the little book. He closed the book and looked up almost guiltily as Will entered.

"I'm sorry," Jake said.

Will exhaled. Then a pause. "I suppose I am too," he said grudgingly.

Jake's eyebrows shot up in surprise, and he peered at his brother over the tops of his spectacles. "You're sorry? What did you do?"

Will cast around the room for a chair, found one, and pulled it over to Jake's desk. He sat down. "It was my fault from the beginning, wasn't it?"

Jake shook his head slightly, unsure of what his brother was saying. "No, I don't think so…"

"I should have gone. To sell the cow. Then I would have gotten the money and there would have been no magic beans at all."

Jacob began to flip through the book. "I say you're thinking about it all wrong. It was my childish mistake."

"I know that," Will said. "And I've blamed you for it since it happened. But part of the blame should rest on me."

Jacob shook his said. "No, no, that's not what I mean. You're thinking about the entire incident wrong. We were children. You don't blame children for something like that."

"We were old enough to have some idea what we were doing," Will cut in quickly.

"And this is why you bring it up over and over again? Because you really think we're at fault?" Jake held up a hand as his brother opened his mouth to say something else. "I know it was only a metaphor that meant 'nothing fantastic can be what it seems.' But you brought it up a lot, didn't you?"

Will shrugged defensively. He took a moment to find the right words. "Alright," he said finally. "If you want me to leave the magic beans alone, then I will. But what is the point of adding them to our book?"

"You've still got it all wrong," said Jake. "I'm not saying we should forget them. I only said that you have to stop blaming yourself—and me, of course—for making mistakes when we were children fifteen years ago."

Will stared at his brother in exasperation. "Just tell me what you mean, then, and stop trying to make me figure it out on my own!"

Jake found the page he had been looking for and pushed the open book across the desk to Will. "I'm trying to say that in the end, there were magic beans. The stories were real. And 'Jake and the Beans' is supposed to represent that. Of course, we're the only ones who will understand, but I still think it's important to have it in our book."

Will wordlessly picked up the volume.

"I did what you suggested, and 'fleshed out' the story," Jake added. "I made up some nonsense about a huge beanstalk and a giant to make it more interesting, but the magic beans are still in there."

Grunting, Will read. Jake watched him, trying to pick up the minute expressions that flitted across his brother's face. Finally, Will set the book on the desk.

"It could use some work," he said slowly, "but… it's not bad."

Jake let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding and smiled. "Really? You like it?"

"Yes," Will said, his voice on the edge of being indecisive, "But really, Jake, you need to change the character's name."

Jake shrugged. "How about Jack?"

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