"Why are we doing this again?" Kakios spat as he shivered on the street corner, the grey sky just beginning to spill fat drops of rain.
"Because, despite all precaution, fate hates us. That's why, even though I locked the girl in her room, she escaped and its automatically our faults so get over it and keep an eye out- geez." Tempo seethed as he rubbed his arms to keep warm.
Kakios opened his mouth to respond but it came out as a grunt of surprise as something bumped into him. Turning to the disgusting earth thing, Kakios readied a rude snarl of a remark…
Only to get lost in an icy green gaze.
"Sorry." The man rumbled as he and two others waited for the pedestrian light to turn green.
His hair was plastered to his head from the rain that beat down hard and darkened the sky. His cheek bones were sharp, but the reddened cheeks and swollen lips made him look slightly softer and a bit more innocent. A strong jaw made him look sullen as a whole. Maybe lost in thought would have been a better term. All in all…
Kakios was mesmerized.
"Uh. Hi." There it was again. That familiar tone that made Kakios turn to goop. It made him horny.
It made him hungry.
A weird feeling to be sure.
"Kakios. Quit staring at him like a lost puppy and keep your focus!" Tempo hissed in his ear, making him jump slightly. A muffled snicker turned Kakios's attention back to his temporary crush, causing him to bite his lip and lose focus…
Hercules stared back at the blond guy that just kept staring at him. It felt creepy and Sophie kept throwing him these…
He didn't want to be rude…
But what the fuck?
Tom snickered with a slightly sympathetic look as Sophie grunted with stifled laughter; overall it just made Hercules itch with embarrassment.
The other skinny man dragged the hopeless blond guy off as Sophie finally popped the lid on her laughter and nearly choked laughing. Tom couldn't help but grin.
"I see that your list of hopeless fans is not limited to just girls."
"You just watch…one of these days I'm going to throw you both in a bag and off a bridge." Hercules muttered as they finally headed across the walk towards their neighborhood.
Nancy nearly jumped to the ceiling as the doorbell chimed; She was deeply engrossed in her romance novel at the time. Must be her precious son who forgot to take out the garbage and remove his rank smelling boxers from the living room couch. Slowly uncurling herself from the comfort of the couch, she made her way to the door.
"Oh, my darling children, two thirds of which I have not even given birth to. Am I to assume that this is a sleepover? Better finish your homework is all I have to say." Nancy quipped sarcastically as the three slinked in the door dripping wet.
"Thank you Mrs. Hulliven." Hercules said politely as he kicked his shoes off.
Nancy grinned. "At least I know which one of you two boys have a shot at getting a girlfriend! Now, each of you get bathed before you catch a cold."
"What about me? Do I get a shot at a girlfriend?" Sophie grinned in mock innocence.
"Don't even go there." Nancy raised a brow as she turned to grab the extra towels from the linen closet in the laundry room.
Sophie gave one last smile and ran off to join the two boys who were whispering and muttering some forbidden things- or something.
Oh, the whims of teenage kids; who can know them?
The girl looked behind her, down the night darkened street through a sinister fog that appeared to be slowly stalking her. Escape seemed like the best idea when she left- but she had forgotten that she had no idea where to go. It was during this thought that she was interrupted by the smell of something smooth and sweet. Even through the pungent smell of rain and wet things the girl could smell the hot sweet smell of something baking.
And she was so hungry; surely it would not hurt to ask.
The source of the smell revealed itself to be a cozy looking bakery that sat along the street with some other stores. Lights were still on in the store, unlike the others, encouraging the girl to have a peek. Oh, the smells were getting so strong it was making her mouth water. She leaned on the window, looking at the people inside, in a rush to put things places and turn lights off. Realizing the bakery must be closed, the girl turned sadly back to the street.
"Oh, my GOD! LOOK!" a voice screamed from inside the store, and the girl outside jumped in alarm. Had that man come after her with a monster? Was there a car coming?
A man ran out of the store sputtering, as a naked girl stood shivering in the rain.
"Are you okay!? What happened to you?" the man looked stricken as he thought of his own child. A number of horrible scenarios raced through his mind as he guided the child inside the bakery.
"Rub, what happened? Is that girl alright? Do I need to call the hospital?" a plump older woman asked worriedly. She looked as sweet as the odor that attracted the girl to the shop.
Another woman, a lot younger, looked surprised enough that it appeared her eyes might fall out of her head. "Oh god; did some pervert do this to you?"
The three women and two men stared in horror, the absolute worst images popping in their mind's eye.
The girl just stood there, still too scared to answer. Even though the scary man was scary, she felt like seeing him for the first time was a lot less terrifying than these people and there stabbing looks of-
Sympathy? Concern? Whatever it was, it freaked her out.
"Can I have something to eat?" apparently, not enough to curb her appetite.
The man named Rub shook to life first. "Of course! Carlo could you get some of those leftover cinnamon buns and a glass of milk." Rub turned back towards the girl, taking of his jacket and handing it to her. "Here cover up, you must be freezing."
"Hey, you got a name, sweetie?" the oh-god/oh-my-god woman asked soothingly as she pulled out a chair for the girl.
The girl thought a moment about what the man had said to her.
The oh-god/oh-my-god girl looked a bit puzzled, the older woman and the dark brown haired woman who's name tag said 'my name is 'Sherry' gave the girl a smile.
"I'm Gwen, and these two lovely ladies are Sherry and LeAnn." The older woman smiled heartily, her graying blond hair swaying with her enthusiasm. Pointing over to the frantic man that, by the looks of things, seemed to be in charge, Gwen continued. "That one over there is Ruben, our boss and Carlo is the one getting you a snack. Can you tell us what you remember? Or at least who your parents are?"
Mustang blinked a moment at Gwen then replied nonchalantly –
"I don't know what parents are."
LeAnn looked about ready to fall over, while Sherry froze in confusion. Poor Carlo walked in on the last part of the conversation, his expression turning to lost and dumbfounded at once.
Mustang thought a moment, comforted by the appearance of a steamy cinnamon bun. She seemed to know a lot of things, but there was still this feeling of void in her mind.
"Um…did your parents do something bad to you?" Carlos tried, settling down beside Sherry. Sinking her teeth into the soft pastry, Mustang licked the sugar off her lips slowly, to savor the experience before answering.
The bun was almost as tasty as the cookie she ate before.
"No. I ran away because…I don't really know why. But I…can't find my-my- way back to his office. I don't know where else to go." Mustang found that really made her sad. What if she would never be able to find her way back?
"I don't know how to get home."
Ruben walked over to the table after hanging up the phone. The police said they had not had any missing children reported to them. Ruben felt terrible and offered to house her until they found a place to keep her. He would take her into the hospital in the morning in case she was hurt in any way. He looked at his staff, who looked sad- if not slightly perplexed. Sherry tapped him on the shoulder and whispered.
"I think she's an orphan, looking for her parents. Maybe some predator saw she was alone and attacked her. She may not want to talk about it. She may even be traumatized because she's hardly making sense."
Ruben pulled up a chair and sat down, folding his hands one the table.
"What is your name again, sweetheart?" He asked first.
"Mustang." Mustang replied pausing, then looking up at Ruben. "This is really yummy. Thank you very much."
Ruben bit his lip. Poor child.
"Tell us exactly what happened. If it's too hard to talk about, we understand; but it will make it easier for us to help you."
Mustang thought another moment, and then replied. "When I first woke up I was wet and cold on a hard table and the scary man told me my name and that I was a pet and that I was in his office in hell. Then he told me to stay put with the beautiful red haired lady and she gave me a lot of cookies and had me take a bath. But after I was done in the bath, I tried to find the red lady and I couldn't find her so I got scared again. I looked and looked but I couldn't find her, and there was a monster in the hallway so I ran until I found the river. There was a man in a boat. So I jumped in the boat and he took me down the river and-and I- got off the boat and said 'thank you sir' and ran some more- but my feet where hurting, because I was running a long time you see and then I smelled a yummy smell and then I came here because I was hungry. And that's it." Mustang finished, and gulped down her milk.
Ruben thought he was going to throw up. From what he could make out, the girl had not only escaped a sex or fetish maniac, but had travel at least twenty miles on foot from the nearest river with boats, with no clothes, and nothing to eat but cookies.
"Oh. My. God." Said the oh-god/oh-my-god lady; otherwise known as LeAnn.
Gwen was crying, Carlo was red eyed and Mustang sat there wondering why.
"I'm going to have you stay with my family for the night, okay sweetheart? We'll make sure you have a good night's sleep and a warm meal. No one's going to do anymore scary things to you anymore." Ruben said solemnly, nodding to his staff as he helped her button the coat he had given her.
Hercules, Sophie and Tom looked up as the conversation Nancy was having on the phone seemed to get grim.
"What do you mean dear? What!? Oh my god! I'll get it ready as fast as I can." Nancy slammed the phone down in hast, running to the linen closet to grab another sleeping bag.
"Tom! Can you be a dear and run a bath!? Hercules, can you take that leftover stew in the fridge and pop it in the microwave and make a mug of hot chocolate? And Sophie can you go in the guest closet and pull out some panties and a night shirt?" Nancy called from the laundry room.
Sophie gave Tom and Hercules a look and they looked back as curious as she. The three got up from the table and did as they were told keeping an eye on the front door.
Tom shuddered after thinking about who it was that could be visiting…was it his grandmother? He knew it was terrible of him, but he couldn't stand the woman. But she was definitely something that could get his mother moving.
No, no. His grandmother hated chocolate.
Nancy nearly tripped to get to the door as soon as she heard the tell-tale rattling from the outside.
Hercules had just finished making the hot chocolate and set it on the table next to the bowl of stew. Sophie also sat at the table, waiting anxiously.
"Hey, hun. I'm sorry about this, but couldn't just leave her at the station waiting. She was completely naked when I found her." Ruben, Tom's father apologized as he stumbled into the house, a small girl, of what looked to be eleven, close behind.
"Oh…sweetie. I'm so sorry." Nancy nearly scooped the girl off the floor with a hug and immediately shuffled her towards the bathroom.
The girl had stringy mud caked hair that was long; all the way down to the backs of her knees. Her pale skin, also tinted grey with dirt and mud made her look ghoulish. To top all of that off, her eyes were such an amber, they almost appeared to be orange.
At the doorway of the bathroom, the girl stopped mid step and gave Nancy a long blank look.
"You're not going to disappear, are you?" the girl finally spoke with a little croak of a voice.
"No, no, sweetie, not at all! I'll be right in the kitchen. Don't worry about a thing! There're soap and towels on the sink and your clothes are next to them." Nancy exclaimed patting the girl on the head as she headed toward the kitchen.
Mustang looked around the bathroom, the sound of dripping water ringing the silence. The mirror didn't talk- and that was kind of a drag. But the water was warm and welcoming, so she shrugged of the coat and stepped into the water.
It felt like a warm wet skin was hugging her. She splashed around a bit, but then got down to the business of scrubbing herself clean.
Did the scary man miss her? She pondered this as she watched the magic soap make fluffy white foam on her skin. It tingled so good.
Did the Red lady miss her? She was so nice. She made the best cookies.
Well- they were the only cookies she had ever had.
The dirt seemed hard to get off at first, but it eventually melted away leaving Mustang feeling clean and fresh as she stepped out of the bathtub and wrapped in the fuzzy big towel. Life seemed to be full of hot baths and sweet edible things, which was also good.
But, what were these small cloth things? Where did they go? She had figured out that the shirt had worked. Hmm…
One big hole and two smaller ones. She slipped her feet in the two small holes and then looked at her handy work. No, that wasn't quite right. Pull them up?
That seemed to do the trick. They kept her hinder parts warm like a hug.
At the kitchen table Nancy looked at the bowl with a worried scowl.
"That poor little darling. I wonder what happened to her!"
Hercules sort of looked at his hands, still wondering about what he had seen earlier, while Sophie and Tom continued to play cards and wait for their little guest.
Who entered the kitchen so silently, she almost went unnoticed.
"Oh! Come and sit down! We have to soup and hot chocolate for you!" Nancy waved over the girl who sat down promptly, but did not eat.
Instead she stared at Hercules.
Of course anyone could feel a stare that hard, so naturally, Hercules slowly lifted his head.
Mustang felt her mouth lift into an involuntary smile. His eyes were so pretty. It reminded her of the Red lady. She was pretty two.
"You're so pretty." Mustang found herself saying to the pretty man.
Hercules didn't know whether to bury himself six feet under or laugh. Tom busted out laughing before he had the chance. Sophie was on the floor. Even Nancy had to role her eyes and grin.
"I don't know who you are kid, but you don't have any tact." Hercules gave up and chuckled nervously, trying to rub the blush away from his cheeks. The girl seemed to be brightening up by the minute.
This man's voice sounded so familiar…
" I'm beat, I leave her in your hands kids. Make sure you guys don't stay up too late. And make sure….um darling what is your name?" Nancy yawned as she rose from her chair.
"Mustang." The girl said quietly.
"Um…make sure Mustang has everything she needs, okay? Call me if you need any help." Nancy concluded and left the room. Sophie seemed to spring to life.
"What happened to you Mustang?"
"I was just made yesterday. I ran away because I got scared. But I don't know where I'm supposed to go. I miss the Red lady." Mustang said through a mouthful of stew. It was tasty.
Tom scratched the light stubble at his chin and glanced at Hercules.
"Hey, you remember what that card said about the oracle? Maybe we could ask it how to get this girl back to where she came from." Tom muttered pulling Sophie's make-up mirror from her purse.
"Hey!" Sophie exclaimed, getting excited. "This is getting good! It's like a movie! It could work!"
Interested, Mustang leaned over to get a better look.
Handing to mirror over to Hercules, Tom grabbed a note pad-
I mean you ought to have learned by now that if you don't remember details in a fairytale, you get screwed over.
"Oracle." Hercules finally said after a long pause, feeling silly.
"Stalled a long while didn't we? I would've thought you'd be itching to know if it involved a tragedy…brats." The mirror rippled like gently disturbed water with the voice of the oracle. Sophie nearly choked in surprise.
"Holy CRAP! It really worked!"
"So, what is it I'm supposed to be hearing anyway? Why didn't you just tell me in the store?" Hercules looked at his hands nervously. He hoped it wasn't going to be a foreseeing of his death or something.
"It's quite a long subject; you would have been opening up cards for days. I am here to give you message. You have been kept in ignorance and I have been bound to silence about certain matters but I say this. You must refrain from dawdling around still waters. Ignore- oh my…" the oracle stopped in surprise.
"What?" Hercules breathed, his heart almost freezing from anticipation.
"What? I'll tell you what. Something seems to be wrong in the underworld. A moment, if I may." The voice rippled once more and then was still.
Sophie bit her cheeks and squealed. "Oooh! This is sooo awesome! The underworld! That's freakin' awesome."
Hercules scowled. "Noooo, it's not! I don't want anything to do with that weird stuff let alone the underworld!"
Tom laughed. "You know Sophie. She was bound to drag us to hell one way or another-"
"You know where hell is!? That's where the scary man's office is! That's where the red lady is!" Mustang's sang eagerly. Hercules sputtered with dismay.
"Not you too! Come on, can't I have a normal life!?"
"You…you've been in hell?" Tom gaped at Mustang, who nodded matter-of-factly.
"That's where I saw the monster in the hallway and another talking mirror- except he was funnier. And the pretty red haired lady that gave me cookies and the blood room-"
"Can you take us there?" Sophie interrupted, nearly hopping of her seat. Mustang knitted her brow in frustration.
"No…I got lost. I can't get back."
"I say we help her find her way back." Sophie announced and the mirror rippled back to life.
"You should really stay put." the mirror answered testily, continuing its message. "The last of my message is that an immortal pursues you, and if you wish to remain unharmed, ignore any standing water no matter what the circumstance and you will be unharmed … at least for now." The voice faded at last and then the mirror was still again.
Hercules looked pale and confused as the room stayed silent. Mustang leaned over and patted his hand.
"Don't worry. If you eat cookies and have a bath, things should turn out okay."