Author's Note: I swear, one day I will write something for the contests that isn't about death or Carter creeping on Popuri. That day is not today, however.

Disclaimer: I do not own HM or its characters (thank the Goddess).

He watches her through the crack of the door. He's been trying to read, but he can't stop watching. She's like an angel with cotton candy hair and sugarcoated wings. She may even be too sweet. He can't say for certain.

Carter is a man, not some monster lying in wait.

The cherub spins, her new red dress twirling around her waist and showing off her new underwear with the candy hearts. If she falls, he wonders what will become of her. Will she break like his mother's porcelain dolls?

Another thought flickers in his mind, a vision, but he shoves it into a corner. Maybe he'll mull it over more when he's alone again. He knows he won't. Even he is too afraid of himself to try. Just knowing the thought was there at all is enough to frighten him.

He closes his book and prays for restraint as his hand passes over the green cover. His throat is dry, but his black robes are damp with sweat. Her name dances over his tongue like her bare feet on the wood floor. "Popuri."

Hearing her name, the girl stops. Her red eyes are wide and hopeful, like a puppy waiting for a pet, and she never once suspects. She does more than listen to him. She trusts him without question. It was a lesson taught to her by others, people outside of his own mind, and because of that, he convinces himself that he's done no wrong by encouraging her.

Carter ruffles her hair. He's sure it would be even cuter in pigtails, but he can't bring himself to say it. There are many things he cannot say. "Have you been a good girl this week?"

At first, Popuri only pouts. Her bottom lip is swollen, wet, and red. Then she giggles, and when she smiles, she's missing both front teeth.

"Yes, Mr. Preacher Man!"

He knows she's lying. Even without her brother tattling on her, he can hear it in her voice. All children misbehave, and all children must be scolded. She is no less perfect than they.

Even so, Carter knows the day will come when he must teach her how to behave.

"I saw you dancing," he says. He smiles, and he knows it should be a crime. The thought from only moments ago begins to creep from the shadows. He can see her, more perfect than- "You're a very good girl, Popuri."

"You really think so, Mr. Preacher Man?"

"I do."

Carter takes her hand in his, and she holds on tight. Her fingers are sticky, but when she entwines them with his, he knows he's the dirty one. She is so young and alive while he, at twenty and a half, is old and dead. She is innocent and beautiful. He is wicked and ugly.

She twirls again with a laugh. The lacy hem of her dress rises and falls. Then he spins her one last time before taking her in his arms and kissing her forehead with dry, cracked lips. "I love you," he tells her. His face is buried in her hair, tickling his nose and eyelashes. "I love you… my perfect Popuri."