14: Cross

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Cross came straight up to the cage and gazed through the bars at Scotch for a time until his eyes shifted to Powder. He stared with no discernible expression on his face. His embroidered pupils shifted up as though little fingers behind them could poke the direction they looked. He studied the roof of the cage (probably wondering how Scotch had gotten inside), motionless to the point of it being unnerving. Then he opened his mouth—a wide, toothless mouth that spoke with paradoxically sharp pronunciation.

"A darling with my human..." His grainy voice was higher than Powder had expected. "What do you want?" he asked Scotch.

"To leave without any blood or fluff," Scotch answered. "Should we make a deal?"

"A deal?" One of Cross' hands came up to grasp a bar of the cage. Like Dolly, all of his outer layers had fallen off his hands and just the skeletal wires of the palm and fingers remained. He began to walk around the cage, spinning it with him. "I have already sent for a deal with the Monstress. It doesn't include you, though. If I had known a darling was down here I would have been more bold in my bargaining."

Cross stopped walking but the cage kept spinning. Powder focused her eyes on the floor to keep from being sick.

"What kind of a deal do you want with the M?" asked Scotch. "You want to be her lover or something?"

Cross laughed, his face creasing in places faces don't usually crease. It also made his eyes stretch. Dust bellowed out of him.

"Her lover? You mean, take your body? Disgusting." He spun the cage again from where he stood, allowing his wire fingers to drag along the bars.

"You're trading me for something," Powder said, fear making her more aware and cognitive. "What is it?"

"Think." Those eyes poked in her direction.

"It's not for a body or you would take Scotch's..."

"Nope."

"It can't be power because Madame can't give it to dolls," said Scotch.

Cross grabbed hold of the bars and the cage lurched to a halt, rolling both Scotch and Powder over to their left.

"Oh, but it is power," he said, his throat gurgling from what was probably a defective saliva valve. "You just can't imagine anything past that huge bed and round stage. The Monstress isn't from here, just like Blue isn't." Cross jerked his head at Powder.

"You want to go where the M is from. You want to go..." Powder's words failed her but she could see Cross' eyes poking at her. He was more ambitious than she had realized.

"To the First Realm, yes," he said. "She shouldn't refuse me, should she? I now have the two things she prizes most; the girl she lives through and the boy she—"

"It doesn't exist," blurted Scotch. "You and I had our beginnings here. We're complete products of the Dollhouse. And if it was real, how do you even know that rotten spirit inside you can adjust to it?"

A clatter followed by hissing alerted them to a new presence.

"I didn't expect to hear back so soon," Cross said, turning around to face the newcomer. "The Monstress must be keen to not let anything happen to Blue." He left the cage and meandered over to the proto moving in from the shadows, his hip joints a little too loose.

It was Dull Face or, as Scotch referred to him, "Meringue". His legs looked further apart than they had before and his back now listed dramatically to one side. He had managed to pop his eye back into his skull but it remained slightly recessed in its socket.

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