4: Frailties

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Not asleep, not quite awake, the girl was alone in the heart of the Monstress' territory, slumped over the table with her right cheek still flat against the surface. A painful, shuddering exhale followed each careful breath. She didn't want to move. Even a twitch in her finger would set a pulse to light up her back in a painful crescendo of boiling ice.

While the girl had no memory outside of the Dollhouse, there was familiarity to the other pain – the one of having been held against her will. The girl wasn't sure what she might learn from the hundreds of needle-pricks in her back, but she wouldn't need any more experiences to teach her not to put the slightest trust in that woman the dolls so fittingly referred to as the Monstress.

The girl tensed when she heard footsteps that stopped rather suddenly nearby.

"Did she... embroider her?" Licorice whispered, except it was so loud that it almost wasn't a whisper at all. "I didn't know you could do that to bleeder fabric!"

"I don't think you're supposed to," Scotch said. He sounded a little closer. "I mean... she bled everywhere."

"It's disgusting. We should get her out of here. Ever since that purge down here a turn ago I've felt like this place was still crawling with protos. Shouldn't we take her back to base?"

The girl felt nail-less fingertips lightly press into her injured upper-back and she gasped.

"She seems to sense pain on a far more acute level than we do," Scotch said. "Let's not move her yet."

There was a long period in which the dolls mumbled about their gross inadequacies for this situation. They had never needed to remedy a bleeder's physical discomfort before and both were feeling quite useless, which made them all the more determined to do something about it.

"Where do you think the M is?" asked Licorice.

"Distracted somewhere else, I'm sure."

"Should I get Bourbon?"

"Let's not burden him yet. Get Pop."

The girl peeled her face away from the table, turning her head in time to see Licorice running off, swinging his arms dramatically for balance. If she had been in any other state she probably would have laughed, but as it was she was barely able to summon her voice. It had been weltering in the depths of her stomach.

"What did you say happened to my back?" She touched her face. There was no feeling in her right cheek.

"The Monstress embroidered your name into your fabric," Scotch said, looking taken aback that she was conscious.

"Em...broidered?!" The girl's body and voice shook with surprise. The table creaked as Scotch leaned against it.

"Yeah, in the same cursive writing she's used on all of us. But we also have numbers, you don't."

"What does it say?"

"'Powdered Sugar.' It's... a long one. Especially to sew into someone that's made of... whatever the hell you're made out of."

"Powdered... Sugar..." mumbled Powdered Sugar, letting the sound of her name bounce around in her head.

"I'd volunteer to pick out all the stitches for you," said Scotch, "but it's in the Monstress' way to repeat everything you will ever try to undo."

"Thanks for letting me know," the girl croaked.

"Powder..." said Scotch. There was a pause, perhaps because he was wondering if the shortened form sounded all right. His voice softened ever so slightly. "Are you well enough to sit up?"

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