The water mirror sulked for the remainder of the day, stealing away the happily burbling memory eater and hiding under Red's bed, humiliated. Peter came a few times, glancing underneath, wanting to play with his little 'brother', but the water mirror warned him away every time with little hisses and snarls.
When evening finally crept up upon the town, drowning everything in navy blue, the mirror finally crept out of Red's room, stomped into the kitchen with the bubbling memory eater held in his arms like a stuffed toy, and raised his voice to a shrill whine, "What is there to eat…?"
Red glanced back at him before shrugging, "The Wolf left an half-hour ago with his coat and hood on. Said he was going to get a few things to eat since there's nothing left." She turned her attention back to Peter, who she had been combing. The young wolf shivered against her, having fallen asleep during the grooming. At her feet lay the heavy extra blanket she had dug out of the attic to cover Peter, but he had long since pushed it off.
"Hmph." Snorted the water mirror, his little eyes furrowing under the constantly dripping and algae-coated hair. Clacking his sharp teeth at her to show his irritation, he set the memory eater down, slunk over to the trash bin, and leaned over to peer at the scraps inside. Slowly, he reached down, picked up a turkey bone, and then turned it over, regarding it suspiciously. "How long has this been in here?"
"Um… Since earlier today." Red replied, not bothering to look over.
The water mirror nibbled at the end of it cautiously before brightening, deeming it acceptable, and shoving the whole bone into his mouth. Cracking it into little bits quickly with his sharp teeth, he swallowed, reached in for a handful of moist scraps, and then turned yearning eyes towards Red. "Will there be lots of yummy food tonight?"
"Depends on what the Wolf brings back." Red glanced over, saw the handful of wilting vegetable scraps and blackened, rotten meat strips, and asked in disgust, "You're going to eat that?"
The water mirror glanced down at it, blinking, "It's food, isn't it?"
"Yes, but it's bad food."
"Well… you waste stuff." The water mirror crammed the handful of garbage into his mouth, chewed noisily, gulped it down, and then licked at his grimy fingers, baby blue eyes calculating as they watched her. Sniffling, ignoring the trails of rotting meat juices around his mouth, he toddled over, suddenly whimpering, "Do you have any water…?"
"I poured the last of it over you earlier, remember?" apologized Red.
The water mirror looked up at her with tearing eyes, "But I'm losing my water."
Red stared at him before feeling her heart wrench. If he had been in his usual disguise of a cold, frightening, intimidating man, she would have been able to snap a stubborn 'No!', but now that he had reverted back to his 'normal' self, this little boy who looked so tortured…
Sighing, Red gently put her arms around Peter, strained to hold him as she rose to her feet, and then bent to set the little sleepy wolf onto the bunched up blanket. Peter moaned softly before gathering the blanket up around himself and curling up. Red stood, turned towards the water mirror.
With a soft whimper, the water mirror raised his arms and demanded, "Carry me to the well."
Red sighed before kneeling and offering her arms to the water mirror. Instantly, the water mirror's arms looped around her neck, his legs hooked around her waist, and he clung to her as she stood, putting her arms underneath him for leverage. He wriggled a bit to get comfortable before twisting around and gazing at the memory eater. His little hand extended in want. "Carry him too."
"I can't carry both of you, dummy." Red bumped her chin against his head, grimaced when a patch of algae came off to stick to her skin.
"Mm…" The water mirror turned his eyes back to her before reaching forward, picking the algae from his holder's chin, and popping it into his mouse. Suddenly, his eyes lit up, and he began to claw at his hair, pulling long slimy strings of bright green algae to his mouth and sucking at it eagerly.
Red frowned in disgust, "You know, that's pretty gross."
The water mirror's knees squeezed at her sides as he murmured around his mouthful, "I want some water… Take me to the well now. I'm thirsty. Or better yet, take me to the river. There'll be fishies there."
Red sighed, "The well's better. I can't leave Peter here all by himself for such a long time."
"But I want fishies." Growled the water mirror.
"You can have fishies later. How about a pond instead?"
The water mirror's eyes grew downcast, "Fine… Then… can you tell me where to go? I really need to have some water…" His form began to writhe as he tried to twist up into something obviously bigger, but he failed.
Red set him down before wiping at her shirt, which had been soaked by the close contact with the mirror, "Fine. You go on the main street, head down till you see the church, and it's there in the back."
The water mirror grew still all of the sudden, "A church?"
"Yes, a church."
"…" With a soft growl, the water mirror growled, "How close to the church?"
"In the backyard. It's not actually part of the church, but it's on the property."
"Mmm… I guess that's okay." Whispered the water mirror before biting at the tips of his fingers nervously, "As long as I don't have to go in."
"Why? What's wrong?" asked Red, curious about his unnerved behavior.
The water mirror clicked his teeth at her, "Only place that reflections and mirrors lose all their power. I have hardly any power as it is…. " He shivered before whispering, "'Cause God doesn't have a reflection, and that lack of a reflection gives us no power while we're there."
Red stared at him before slowly nodding, "Okay…"
After a few moments on uneasy silence, the water mirror glanced around before whispering, "How many fishies can I bring back?"
Red smiled at him, "As many as you want." She would want fish if the Wolf brought back a barrelful of meat back from the market.
"Really?" At the prospect, the water mirror tensed, excited, his eyes brimming with sudden boyish competition. "Even a hundred?"
Red nodded, and the water instantly was at the doorway, shivering with delight, "Okay! I'll bring back a hundred fishies for you! Then you'll have to give me a prize, okay?" Without waiting for an answer, he sprinted down the hall, reached the front door, slammed it open, and quickly rushed outside.
Red stared at the kitchen doorway before suddenly shuddering. What if the water mirror actually did bring back a hundred fish?
The water mirror, to the ordinary passerby, might have been another grungy, hungry little boy jaunting off for a quick dip on a spring day. The wet-darkened cuffs of his pants made soft splishing noises at they hit against the ground, collecting dust, leaving dribbles of water behind in the dirt.
He paused, glancing around, and then smiled happily when he saw the tell-tale steeple of a church. He did a quick little jaunt down the street before latching onto the black iron-wrought fence, and peered up at the weathered building, which half-hid behind aged weeping willows that were colored a slight off-color green-yellow.
However, his eyes cast down within a moment, roving across the grass before locking onto a small pool of water. Immediately, he felt his stomach rumble, and, releasing his tight hold from the fence, skittered down the sidewalk before finally finding a gate. Sticking his hand through a gap in the posts, he grabbed the string that held it locked, yanked down, and then tumbled in as the gate opened.
The ground underneath his feet was wet from a recent watering, causing his rotten shoes to sink deep into the mud, but the water-mirror paid no attention, scrabbling over to the side of the water and throwing himself down. He landed on his knees and palms, face just inches above the water, and stared at the ripples in the water and his non-existent reflection.
"Hur…? Who're you? Never seen you hear before." Came a curious voice from his right.
With a slow growl, the water mirror glanced up before baring sharp teeth at the casually-dressed boy sitting off to the bank on his right. A long wooden branch with a white string attached laid in his hands, the end of the string dangling in the water.
The boy stared at him before sniffing and returning his eyes to the little piece of apple bobbing at the end of the string. "Fine… Don't… talk to me, I… guess."
The water mirror snorted before dipping his face to the water and slurping in a mouthful. A few bugs tickled the top of his mouth, but he quickly swallowed them down before sliding his head deeper into the water. He breathed in deeply before freezing as a fish flashed away in the water below him. His stomach grumbled again, and the mirror found himself drooling, his fingers clawing into the soil.
Suddenly, a hand gripped the back of his shirt and hauled him up. Squawking, the mirror writhed before hissing, "What are you doing? Let go of-"
"Are you trying to drown yourself?" came an angry accusation.
"No, no, no! I'm eating! I'm eating!" squealed the water mirror, clawing at the hands on the back of his neck.
The boy let go. "Eating?"
The water mirror snarled at him, his outline contorting as rage overtook him. "I need the water, brat!" With a vicious growl, he threw himself forward into the water, growing transparent as he hit the surface, melding with the clear liquid. It was a welcome addition to himself, a welcome change after being stuck in his pitiful form for such a while.
Drifting down deeper, absorbing more and more water as he went, the mirror eyed a fish who swam close, oblivious to the boy that had blended so perfectly into its watery home. It was a large fish, fat after years of daily feeding, and the mirror wanted it, so badly so.
The fish came closer, its dumb eyes round as it noticed the apple bit bobbing on the surface.
The moment it twitched its fins, ready to head up towards the treat, the water mirror grabbed out at it, his translucent claws hardening and clamping down around the fish. It struggled fiercely until sharp jaws fixed down around it. Not bothering to bite and chew, he extended his jaws, wrapping his
tongue around the fish, and then dragged it down his throat, grunting gently under his breath. The fish cleared his throat, sliding down into his stomach, and he curled up, petting his stomach, purring in pleasure. Licking his lips, he glanced down and watched the fish twist in his stomach, before suddenly stilling and starting to break apart. The sight sent shivers of pleasure down his spine.
He heard a splash from above, glanced up, and growled when he saw the boy's face, eyes wide, hair wriggling like eels in the water. He watched the boy for a moment, feeling hunger yawn within him, before grinning sharply. Fish meat was good enough, but red meat…
Creeping up towards the surface, he twisted in on himself, twisting up into the form he loved. As his form grew firm, he grew less translucent, his white hair writhing in the water, his eyes deepening to deep, hungry black.
The boy saw him, squeaked, and staggered back from the water's edge as the surface erupted. Chuckling, sharp teeth snapping, the water mirror lunged at the boy, his upper body colored before disappearing into translucent threads of water that sprouted from the suddenly turbulent surface of the water. His claws raked at the air, but missed as the boy leapt back.
Recoiling, snapping his jaws, the mirror lilted softly, "Come here, little boy… I'm hungry." He didn't want to chase his prey down. He wanted to stay by the water, absorb more, but he wanted the meat too…
The boy stared at him, eyes wide, and then turned, sprinting away with a loud shriek.
Snarling, the mirror slid back before hacking up a fish bone. He took it from his mouth, flicked it away, and then called up a plush chair to lay back on. Lying down, he mewled slightly before extending himself down into the pond, searching for more fish that he could feed on.
He found two fish almost instantly, caught them, and pulled them deep into his core. Closing his eyes, he thrummed with happiness and scratched at his stomach lazily. Well, since he couldn't have the boy for his lunch, he might as well have as many fish as he could.
"Father! Father! See? There's a monster!"
His eyes sliding open slowly, the water mirror regarded the little boy hungrily, who was dragging along a hesitant man dressed in a black habit. Smiling softly, revealing sharp teeth, he grumbled, "Brought more food for me, boy?"
The boy stopped before clinging to the priest's leg, eyes wide, "See? He wants to eat us."
The priest stared before stuttering, "Y-y-yes… I see…" He cast a glance at the old building next to him, as if confused why a monster would show up so close to a sacred place.
The water mirror straightened before licking the tips of his fingers, brushing his fingers back through his hair, and bowing, "Hello, Father. You must forgive my intrusion here. I was just," Dragging a fish up from the depths of the pond, he grabbed it in his right hand, held it up for the two humans to see, and then bit deep into it, "hungry."
The priest gulped before coughing hoarsely, "Well, you won't find too much to eat here, demon."
The mirror chuckled, swallowed down the rest of the fish, and then purred softly, "I'll leave when I've had my fill and I feel like it."
Slowly, the priest and the boy backed away, and the water mirror spat at them, suddenly angry. Again, he had scared away red meat! How stupid of him!
Rushing to the side of the pond, he craned forward, motioned with a finger, look hungry, look eager, "No, no, you needn't be afraid. I can't eat you. You're a priest." He snapped his jaws around the word, accenting it. "Why don't you come here? Bring the boy too."
The priest shook his head, "No use tempting a hungry thing." He stepped back, pushing the boy back slightly.
The water mirror grunted softly before pulling himself free of the water, the long strands of liquid separating with long twanging sounds. "Then I'll go over there." With an almost bow-legged step, he tottered towards the priest and the boy, leaning towards the left as his arms bent up, the claws on the end sharpening in anticipation.
The priest turned a pasty white before motioning to the boy, "Go inside. I'll be right in."
The boy rushed away, heading towards the door to the church.
With a hiss, the water mirror drew himself tall, stretching himself until he stood two heads above the priest. Crackling happily, his laughter coarse and grating, he leaned towards the priest and lilted, "Protecting the boy…? How very nice of you…" His tongue slid out, dripping with saliva.
The priest glowered at him, turning his head to meet the mirror's eyes as the mirror prowled around him. "Leave me be."
"No, no…." The mirror extended a hand, reaching for the priest's neck, "I've become quite powerless here in your little world. I need food."
The priest watched his hand, unblinking. Slowly, the mirror paused, a bit curious, and asked, "You're not afraid?"
"Why should I be?" challenged the priest.
The water mirror narrowed his eyes, "Hmm…" Bending slightly, he grabbed the priest's robes, pulled the man up until his feet dangled above the ground, and drew in a long breath before smiling sharply, "You smell delicious. Why waste your body to a church when you can become part of me?" He moaned happily, long tendrils sprouting from his chest to start to wind around the priest's torso.
The priest gritted his teeth, "Let me go."
"Why should I?" the mirror's chest parted, yawning into a large cavernous hole.
The priest's eyes flickered with slight fear before he snapped, "You set me down right now!"
Startled, the water mirror reared, eyes darkening, and released his hold on the man. Snapping his jaws, he growled before crouching, eyeing the man with sudden, angry distaste, reminded of Red. "Fine. Go away. Go back to your safe church. Go rot in there."
Slowly, the priest turned and staggered back towards the door into the church. He was obviously shivering, and the mirror found pleasure when he saw him lean against a door post, hand over his stomach. Obviously, he had been masking nervous fear with angry bravery.
Turning back to the pond, he stared at it before licking his lips. Fishes. Fishes for Red. He wanted to bring fishes back for the girl. That would be sure to get him onto her good side for what he had planned for later today.
Snaking his way back to the pond, he dipped his legs back in, his feet soaking up the water before threading down to the depths of the pond, hunting for fish.
As the first fish fell prey to his tendrils, the water mirror glanced up at the cloudy sky and grinned. It looked as if it were going to rain.
What a welcome thing…
"I'm back! I'm back!" came a squeaking voice, accompanied by the sound of door opening, the door closing, and then little pitter-patters of feet scampering down the hall.
Red glanced towards the doorway as the water mirror, once again in his boyish form, bounced in. She blinked before sniffing, "What happened to you?"
Patting his rounded belly, the mirror nibbled at the tip of his finger before belching, slowly sitting down, "I brought back fish. Lots of fish." He laid back down onto his back, petting his stomach, and groaned. "Can I have a bucket to put them in?"
Red glanced him over with a curious eye before grabbing the bucket that had housed water before. Walking over, she crouched, set the bucket on the mirror's bloated belly, and then sat back, "But… haven't you already eaten them?"
"Mmm… Sort of…" Struggling to sit up, his little eyes tired, the water mirror yawned before taking the bucket, managing to pull himself up over it, and stilling.
Red watched in slight disgust as his stomach unthreaded itself down the middle. A silvery diamond body slipped out, thumped into the buckets.
Grumbling, the water mirror reached into himself and began to pull the fish out, "You better cook some of these for me, you know. I was the one who caught them. You can't let the big Wolf eat all of them." He paused, hand deep inside the cavity, and grimaced, "But this things mine." He pulled out a small red crawdad, raised it to his mouth, and clamped his little jaws around the tail. Holding it by his teeth, he resumed cleaning out the fish into the bucket.
Red felt her stomach curl in on itself, "How many… are there?"
"About twenty-nine fishies." The mirror growled around the crawdad.
"… Twenty-nine?" asked Red in disbelief. "I wouldn't even believe if someone told me there were five fish in that pond."
The mirror glared at her, pushed out a last fish, and then pulled the split down his middle back together. "Well, there were more. Now…" Spitting out the crawdad as he pulled the bucket out from under his stomach, he glanced over the wet, silvery bodies before taking a fat, pinkish-gray fish, sniffing at it testily, and asking, "Where's my son?"
Red shrugged, "Peter woke up an hour ago or so and said he wanted to go on a walk. He took the memory eater in a basket. I said they could go from here to the Blue's dad's tavern and back, but that was it… Oh! And the little one said his first word!" She clapped her hands happily.
"What was it?"
"Sparrow. We've decided to call him that just because he had no name yet."
The mirror nibbled at the fish's tail, eyes flitting over Red in curiosity, "So they're both on a walk?"
"Well then, that means we're the only ones here, doesn't it?" The mirror's eyes darkened to their usual black, pinpricks of excited yellow sparking up in their centers.
Staring at his eyes, Red asked uneasily, "… So?"
"I have something to ask you." Said the mirror matter-of-factly, ignoring Red's question for the most part. His jaws twisted around the back fin of the pink fish in an almost nervous way.
"Two questions actually: Is the stove hot?"
"And now…" The mirror leaned forward, eyes serious and excited as his little pink tongue ran across his lips. "You know how I lost my sister, right?"
"The fire-mirror…? Yes, I guess so." Red stared at his face, unsure of what direction the water mirror was heading in.
"Well…" Slowly, the mirror let the fish drop from his hands and cocked his head, eyes widening into pleading orbs, "we need a fire mirror."
Red saw his fingers begin to twitch, his eyes begin to glow brightly. Unnerved, she asked, "And you need help finding one?"
"No, I already know who I want."
The mirror smiled, "The only girl human with whom I'm good friends with." His eyes widened, and a hungry grin came onto his face. After a few moments of disbelieving silence from Red, he whispered, "And you wouldn't need to keep a stove… You'd always be warm… It has so many good things that come with it…" He sniffled slightly, eyes pleading.
Red's face grew red with restrained anger, "You- you what? You want me to be turned into a- a mirror? Are you crazy?"
Sticking out his lower lip in a pout, the mirror growled, "But you would make a great mirror. You're already so feisty." He shivered in delight. "And don't forget I've yet another mirror to find afterwards, since the King killed my little brother too."
Red stood and glared at the mirror, "No. I will not become a mirror." Throwing him an angry glance, she crossed her arms and turned.
Growing purple-blue in rage, the mirror wrenched up into his older form, black eyes flaring with red anger, "How dare you? Do you know what I'm offering you?" Grabbing out with his claws, he snagged the hair on the back of her head and yanked her back to him.
Red struggled, feeling the water mirror's free hand travel around her waist before locking into place, enclosing her in a vice. Releasing her hair, the mirror thrummed with adoring happiness, digging his pale nose into her neck and rubbing the tip against her skin, "You'll be an excellent sister. Now that I've got my power back from my meal, turning you will be easy as pie." He let his nose travel up before snuffling into her hair. "And you'll learn to enjoy it. You don't have to live in the mirror world like other sister does. You can still live here. You'll just have to come in every so often to make sure I'm not flooding the regions to death." A hand travelled up to her throat, where the sharp claws at the ends of the fingers stroked her pulsing artery there.
Red squeaked, "What are you going to do? Let go! Let go!" She kicked out behind her.
The water mirror felt a soft pressure as her foot hit his leg, Giggling, he twirled around, Red flopping like a rag doll in his arms, and made his way for the stove, "I just need to boil down to a good age and then burn your physical body. I'll make it so it won't hurt that badly, my dear, but it might sting."
Red shrieked and flailed, "You're going to put me into the stove?"
"After I get you to the stage I want!" laughed the mirror, nuzzling the top of her head lovingly. The hand that he had been caressing her throat with trailed down to her chest, flattening above the throbbing beat that was Red's heart. He waited for a moment before clawing his fingers and sliding the down deep into her flesh.
Red yelled as pain lanced up from her chest, but the scream throbbed off into soft sobbing as the pain quickly ebbed away, replaced by numbness. Behind her, the water mirror continued to rub his cheek and nose against the back of her head, his eyes brightening to a sunshine yellow. The skin just above where his fingers dug into Red's flesh was quickly turning into the same shade.
"You see, dear, what I have to do is make you our age." Said the water mirror hoarsely into her hair. "I'm taking your age away from you. Soon, you'll be six years old, just like me and sister. We have to be equal, you know."
Red felt her clothes loosen around her, her legs shrinking till they were invisible underneath the hem of her skirt. Her torso slid down until her nose was against the neckline of her search.
Suddenly, she tumbled down to the floor, losing herself in her clothes. A low, drawling purr rumbled out from above her as the water mirror lilted, "See? Not so bad, is it? Now, let me see what my new little sister will look like as a six-year-old." Kneeling, he grabbed her shirt's neckline and pulled it down until a ruddy little face presented itself, eyes wide and quivering.
Young Red sniffled and stared up at him before reaching up with little hands to cover a sneeze.
Instantly, the water mirror's eyes closed, and he threaded his fingers into her hair as he whispered, "Perfect… You're just beautiful, sister…" Slowly, his eyes opened, twirling pinwheels of gold
and black. His fingers twitched their way down to Red's armpits, where he curled them up, lifted her up, and hugged the little girl to his chest, rubbing his nose against her hair once more.
Red hung in his arms, her eyes wide and confused. Everything was so confusing? Why was everything so big? 'Sister'…? This man had called her 'sister'?
A soft wail broke through her lips, and her little eyes screwed up as cold tears began to leak out.
Immediately, the water mirror patted her back, cooing softly as he swayed side to side, "No, no… It's okay, little sister… Shh…. It's a new feeling, but you'll get used to it… Shh… It's scary, I know…" He stroked her head before bouncing her up and down slightly.
Red's sobs ebbed away before watery innocent eyes travelled up to meet the water mirror's pinwheeling golden ones.
Licking her cheek and the salty tears on it, the water mirror whispered, "Now, now, this part may hurt, but it's only for a little while." He cast a long look at the stove before reaching down with one hand, grabbing the handle to the stove, and yanking it open. The instant flames presented themselves, he grinned widely. Everything was perfect. He had just completed making Red young enough. There was the stove, the bucket of fish for the little voracious mirror that would emerge once he had burned Red's physical body…
Kneeling, he peered into the stove before glancing down at the little girl who was nuzzling his shoulder in her temporary six-year-old innocence. He licked his lips before slowly pulling her away from his shoulder. "Now, now… it's time to become like big brother, dearie."
Red snuffled, rubbing her eyes, "Why…?"
"Because, my dear, we're going to make you into something special." He began to gently push her towards the flames.
Red's arms wrapped around his arm and tightened, "Noooo…"
"Come now, it'll only sting for a-"
The mirror paused as he heard a creak from down the hall. Glancing over his shoulder, he stared at the door before releasing Red, curling back over himself, and straightening, infuriated. Nobody was going to interrupt Red's burning once he had begun the proper ceremony! He wanted a mirror sister, not a pile of rotten ashes! Slinking to the door, he stood at the doorway for a few seconds before hissing and starting forward.
The instant he passed through the door into the hall, he heard a sharp jagged crack before he slumped violently to the side, his shoulder exploding into several hundred little drops. Growling, he twisted around to snap his jaws at the intruder.
Giggling hysterically, Hansel hefted his gun up again, bandages disarrayed around his head, "Who you? Who you? Who you?"
Hansel was disheveled, to say the least. The somewhat clean shirt and pants he had departed from the house with were now caked with mud, grass, and bits of leaves, which emitted a low, dark smell of musty earth. The bandages covering the left side of his face were coming unwrapped, showing larger and larger bits of hair and skin underneath the dirty cloth.
Staring at the man, the water mirror growled deep in his throat before pulling back, "You must be the snake's original."
Hansel staggered forward, looking more drunk than dangerous, "Snake? Snake? Do I know a snkae? Nah, nah… Just looking for my little Gretel. She wandered off somewhere I was sleeping, and I got a gun from my old house and I got her some candies…" He let his gun drop as he dug his left hand deep into his pocket, withdrawing a handful of paper-wrapped taffies a moment later. Grinning at his fist, he remarked, "She'll be happy…" His eye rolled up, showing sudden confusion, "Gretel? Gretel? Where are you?"
In the kitchen, Red sniffled in curiosity before hurrying over to the door, her too-large clothes dragging on the floor and causing her to stumble twice, and peering out, eyes wide.
Instantly, Hansel's eye locked on the round little face that presented itself. For a few seconds, he stared, mind obviously trying to click its way to some sort of conclusion about this little girl.
"Gretel?" Hansel cocked his head to the side, eye glinting as the pupil enlarged, "You're little again."
Clicking his tongue against his sharp teeth, the water mirror motioned to Red, "Shh, shh, come here, dearie. That man wants to hurt you." He couldn't have this man reminding Red of who she really was before he got the chance to burn her physical body and turn her into the fire mirror.
Hansel's eye stayed fixated on Red's face, the mirror's words not falling upon his ears. Holding out the hand in which he still clutched the candy, he purred, "Gretel, I got candy for you, see? And I got my gun too, because I want to protect you. And I got meat too, since you didn't bring money for meat." Dropping the candy on the floor, Hansel dug his hand back into his pocket and produced a small, half-rotten mouse. "We can cook it into a soup, see?" He paused, glanced down at his feet, and then dropped the mouse among the small pile of candies.
Red stared at the pile of candy before glancing back at the water mirror, eyes wide and questioning.
Seeing what she wanted, the mirror snapped irately, "You can eat after we're done."
Red turned her face back towards Hansel before slinking hesitantly towards him and the little pile of paper-wrapped candies.
"Dearie!" snarled the water mirror.
At the sound of his angry voice, Hansel glanced sharply up, snapping back from his monotone dream-world. Baring his teeth, he hissed before raising his gun back up half-way to his shoulder, daring the mirror to repeat himself with the hatred that burned in his one eye.
The water mirror snapped his jaws at the huntsman, "You think that thing could stop me? I'll eat it along with your body!"
Hansel's snarl died off slowly, the aggressive frown slowly twitching up to its usual neutral grim line. He let the gun fall to his side before smiling softly and whispering, "Shh… She's eating…"
The water mirror glared witheringly at Red, who sat at Hansel's feet, her little fingers working on unrolling a candy from its paper. Working it free, she nibbled at the end, her eyes slowly transferring up to meet the mirror's grumpy glare. She paused before holding up a candy, offering him one.
The mirror growled before sighing, "Fine… you've given her the candies and the… 'meat' and showed her your new gun. Can you just… go away now?"
Hansel's sleepy eye turned slowly towards him, "Hm? Why?"
"We were in the middle of something important."
"Oh really? A game? I want to play too." Yawned Hansel, dropping his gun to the floor.
Annoyed, the mirror scratched at his chest, "No, not a game! It's just a-" He froze before slowly letting his eyes travel back to Hansel, a sudden hungry glint worming up in them.
He had come to the original's world for three things: To find a better home for him and his mirror, to be closer to his son, and to find replacements for the now-dead fire mirror and air mirror. He already had one selected, Red, since she was the only human girl whom he really liked…
But what said he couldn't use this annoying intruder as a mirror replacement too? He already was Red's brother, seemingly, and he knew his reflection as well…
Grinning at the idea, the water mirror straightened before saying in a lulling tone, "Of course you can play. Just come into the kitchen now." He crooked a finger at Hansel, who's eye brightened out of its sleepy daze at the word 'play'.
Stepping over Red, Hansel followed the mirror into the kitchen, "What game are we playing?"
The mirror beamed at him, his smile ravenous, "It's called the burning game."
"Burning?" Hansel's hand travelled up to his bandages.
"Yes… But not that kind that hurt that much." Soothed the mirror, slinking closer, the fingers on his right hand sharpening into claws as he neared the man. He would need to make this one young again before throwing him into the stove and locking him in.
Hansel fingered a lock of blonde hair, suddenly unsure, "It…. Doesn't hurt, right?"
"No…" said the mirror, reaching out and placing his clawed hand on Hansel's chest, right above the huntsman's heart. When Hansel didn't react, he arched his claws, sliding them in deep.
Hansel stiffened, blinking once before stilling, staring at the water mirror as his body twitched, muscles and meat pulling back and disappearing, afternoon scruff disappearing from his cheeks and chin, his blonde hair lightening to an almost platinum yellow. The skin paled and the color of the ice-blue eye brightened.
After a few moments, the mirror slowly pulled his hand back, his hand still knuckle-deep in the chest of a sleepy-looking, young boy. Setting him down slowly before retracting his hand, the mirror glanced him over before cooing, "Hello, little brother."
Hansel's eye slowly travelled up, and he hesitantly wiggled his fingers in a small child's wave. As it had done with Red, the change back into a six-year-old had left him bewildered.
Reaching down to brush at the grungy bandages that still clung to Hansel's hair, the mirror said, "We'll just get rid of these before making you better, okay?"
Nodding uncertainly, Hansel reached up, wrapped his little fingers into the strips of cloth, and pulled down on them. They came off slowly, and the mirror instantly congratulated himself on his find.
Hansel's left eye socket was jagged, red, and black, empty after having taken a lead bullet from close range. When the mirror reached out, gently pushing his cheek in a silent order, Hansel turned his head, revealing a rather large livid scar on the back of his head, where the bullet had exited. The mirror could barely contain himself in his joy. Here was a damaged child, like him and his sister! As their 'mother', the witch who had first ensnared them and enslaved them to the mirrors, would have said, "The only child one can truly perfect."
Fingers twitching with excitement, the mirror gently scooped the little Hansel up, wrapping his arms around him, bouncing him, murmuring soft whispers of praise and promise. It was all part of the ceremony: pamper the child, let it feel trust and love in you.
Hansel rubbed his nose against the mirror's shoulder before speaking in a small, small voice, "Big brother?"
"Yes." The mirror stopped patting Hansel's back.
"I have a boo-boo on my head…"
"Well, would a game make it better?" teased the mirror.
"A game?" the look of slight bewilderment wandered off of Hansel's face, only leaving unbridled excitement, "Yes! A game! Let's play! Play with me, big brother!"
"Mmhmm…" the mirror nuzzled Hansel's forehead before turning towards the stove and its open door. "It's called 'The Fireman'."
Hansel's lips formed a small 'o', "Fireman?"
"Because the person who stays in the fire for the longest time will be the best fireman." Said the water mirror in the most serious tone he could muster.
"… I can be a good fireman." Said little Hansel thoughtfully.
"You could. You just need to show me." The mirror knelt in front of the stove.
Hansel stared at the glowing red coals inside the stove, "… But that'll hurt."
"Good firemen will be protected." Whispered the mirror before pulling Hansel away from his chest, "Now… it's time to play."
Hansel continued to stare at the stove, eyes wide.
With a sudden, violent motion, the mirror shoved the boy to the stove's opening, grabbed his foot, tipped it up, shoved him in, and slammed the stove door shut with a victorious growl.
Instantly, hideous, heart-wrenching shrieks and sobs came from within, muffled and echoing within the hot iron stove, "I don't wanna be a fireman, big brother! I don't wanna! I'm scared!" The pitiful patter of little fists pounding against the iron stove door started, but almost immediately stopped as the bottom of the little fists got scorched by the searing heat of the metal walls. Hoarse wails began to worm up from the innards of the stove, and the water mirror scooted closer, eyes concentrating on the door.
The wails gave way to silence, before the small gasping noise of gagging and airless coughs echoed out. Even these faded away within a few moments, and the mirror began to shiver with excitement. He wanted to peep inside, just to see, but he had to wait until it was all done.
"Big brother?" A little weight rested on his shoulder.
Not bothering to look at Red, the mirror whispered, "I'm busy, dearie. Give me a few more seconds and then I'll play with you."
Red sniffled before toddling over to the chair, pulling herself up on it, and settling down to play with her fingers.
Pupils dilating, the mirror leaned forward, grabbed the stove door's handle, and eased it open gently. The dark smell of burnt meat slugged out, but he ignored it, fastening his eyes onto his prize instead.
The crumpled little body lay inside, skin charred. The blonde hair had curled up and blackened, the skin cracking to reveal dark red underneath. Slowly, tenderly, the mirror reached inside, gently took up the stiff body, and pulled it to his lap, taking care not to clutch to hard and crumple it to ash. The
instant it lay safe across his crossed legs, he leaned forward, fingers tracing the small chest before resting above his heart. After a slight pause, the mirror closed his eyes, letting a small needle of water extend from the palm of his hand, piercing the skin, and spearing the still, charred heart.
Instantly, Hansel's 'good' eye opened, the white a dark red-yellow now after the burning, accenting the still-blue of the color around the pupil, and he began to gasp, shrill long breaths that whistled through a burnt esophagus. Struggling up, he croaked a few meaningless sounds before erupting into sobs.
A deep sense of satisfaction worming up inside of him, the mirror stumbled up, hurried over to the bucket of fish, and set the wailing and burnt Hansel next to it. Stepping back, he knelt, excited to watch.
For the first two minutes, Hansel just cried, eyes closed, black tears streaming out, and long, loud sobs throbbing through the kitchen air. His fists lay in his lap, the knuckles cracking as he clutched them tighter and tighter, screaming at the discomfort he felt.
However, slowly, Hansel seemed to notice that there was fish. His wails slowly dwindled to sniffles, and then to curious squeaks as he forced himself to his knees. Clutching the side of the bucket, he peered in and froze, eye widening.
The water mirror grunted happily. For the first hour or so after becoming a mirror, he had been uncomfortable too. Having been drowned, he hadn't been able to cry properly, rather vomiting water up between racking hiccups, but he was sure that the new little mirror's mood would brighten once he had a good thing to eat. It was one of the things that was constant whenever a new mirror was made: the hunger always came with it.
Hansel poked at a fish, snuffling, before picking it up hesitantly, dragging it out of the bucket with a somewhat hungry 'Ewwww…'. He plopped it on the ground, stared at it, and then glanced up at the water mirror. He seemed to be already drifting back into a fit of monotone dreariness.
The water mirror met the gaze and mouthed, "Why don't you try biting it?"
Hansel glanced back down at the fish before raising the back fin to his mouth and nibbling at the scales, his little eyes thoughtful as he tried to like the taste. Then, with a somewhat lopsided grin, he bit heartily into the fin, not seeming to notice that all he was getting was membrane and bone.
The water mirror chuckled before growing distracted by Red, who sat pouting on the chair as she watched them. He bit his lip, unsure. He really wanted to play with his newly-changed little brother for a bit before turning her…
"Dearie, you want to come sit with us?" The water mirror patted the ground beside him.
Instantly, Red sat on the floor besides him, little eyes wide as she watched little Hansel devour the fish eagerly. She cocked her head as the boy slurped up the last bite, licking his peeled lips, and then sucking the fish blood and scales from his cracked fingertips, bright yet dull eye roving back towards the bucket with questioning happiness. However, they stilled before sliding over to Red and affixing upon her. After a few moments, he crawled over to her, whimpering, and, laying down on the tile of the kitchen, rested his head on her lap as he sniffled, "I'm tired, baby sister. So tired…"
Red watched the top of the pale blonde, brown, and burnt black head before toying with some of the strands of hair silently.
The water mirror quivered in quiet happiness. So perfect with each other, these two. Once Red was turned, he would feed them the rest of the fish before taking them into the town in search of a
mirror shop. They would need to choose their own mirrors in order to feel comfortable with it once they made it into a home.
Small sniffles interrupted his happy thoughts, and he glanced over to watch the cracked Hansel sit up, hands creeping down to press flat against his tummy. From the look on his face, he was obviously feeling something inside of him.
Reaching over, the water mirror gently plucked Hansel's hands off of his stomach, lifted the burnt, over-large shirt, and watched intently as the black skin on the little boy's stomach start to peel back, revealing a pulsing, red-and-orange light, very much like the ones that coal gave off. He pushed a finger against the black skin, only to withdraw it at once; Hansel had begun to burn up in an attempt to digest his first meal of fish. However, at the rate he was warming up, it would take forever for him to rid of the fish in his stomach.
Reaching up to pet Hansel's head, the water mirror purred, "Want a spark?"
Hansel stared up at him before nodding hesitantly.
Pushing a hand against Hansel's chest, the water mirror let a sharp needle trickle down, worming beneath a crack in the seared flesh and digging down. Circling around the burnt heart, it began to manually make it beat faster, pulsing in and out.
Hansel hiccupped before opening his mouth and belching a small cloud of sparks.
The water mirror chuckled before increasing the pulse just a bit more.
Hansel stilled, his body beginning to glow slightly as the cinders underneath the cracked skin burnt brighter and brighter.
The water mirror withdrew his hand quickly and scooted back. He didn't want any nasty surprises burning up his hands and arms.
Quivering, Hansel scratched at some of the glowing embers that shone though the cracks of the skin on his arm before freezing, his face screwing up, and then bringing up his hands to cover his nose as he sneezed. A flared jet of bright red flame plumed out of his back, making a mane that went from the back of his neck all the way down to his bottom. Hansel's eyes grew wide, and he twisted about to see this new development before glancing back down between himself and the bucket of fish.
His shirt began to crackle as four thick and wavering tendrils of sparks wormed out from underneath it, slithering over to the bucket, grabbing the handle, and pulling it closer before viciously jamming it up against Hansel's body. From the glazed look of ecstasy that crossed the boy's face, he was engorging himself by absorbing the fish deep into the fiery pit that was now his stomach.
The water mirror leaned over, cooing his loving encouragement, when he heard the front door open.
"Marie! I'm home!" came an excited and happy voice, along with the snuffling burbles of a baby wanting to be let down. Little pitter-pats of feet came tramping down the hall, "Me and Sparrow went down to the street and there was a puppet guy there and he gave us some things called croissants with chocolate inside of them and-" The voice trailed off as Peter came to the doorway, the eyes that had been wide with happiness now widening even further with sudden surprise.
In his arms, the memory eater writhed miserably, a little piece of fluffy bread stuck in its little fist still. "Spppppa. Spa-row." He snapped his teeth before shrieking the word again, tail curling up to touch its stomach.
The water mirror's face split into a feeble grin, "Oh… hello... Come back early, I guess…?"
OOC: Bahhhh! Sorry for taking so long to update! I guess my summer job has been eating up all the time, with all this salmonella outbreak and stuff. (I work in a Food Safety Lab as an intern)... So... Yes. This shall be continued. Once I'm back at school and no longer worrying over tomatoes and jalapenos, I should have more time to write.