16: Victims

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Powder's mind went whirring at the Voice's words. Her vision blurred. Pieces that had been jumbled in a hideous pile came together and snapped into place—vivid in theory but cloudy in detail. She almost walked straight into Scotch, who had all but run from the room at their dismissal. He turned just in time for their collision and Powder bumped her face against him. She stared ahead at his chest, then up his neck and into his face. Powder tried hard to see the doll she had come to know, but only saw a man she knew nothing about. Nothing except that in a garage somewhere in the First Realm he was lying facedown. Perhaps all of the dolls, as men, were lying facedown as well.

"Powder?" Scotch waved a hand in front of her eyes.

She turned and started walking, not ready or prepared to tell him anything she had just realized.

"Where did Mint go?"

"He went on ahead to report everything that happened to Bourbon."

"Does the M know all the damage that occurred during the proto attack?" Powder asked, her legs not moving nearly as fast as she was trying to go.

Scotch caught up with her.

"She must not or she would have asked me how the others were doing."

"Speaking of which, what about your tear? Why didn't you let her fix it?"

Powder held the bandage at her stomach. Her mind was taking all the thoughts about dead people in the First Realm far away from her brain and moving them instead to places like her shins and kneecaps, which had no experience with these things and threatened to be unsteady.

"I make a point of never involving the M unless I have to," said Scotch. "She always lectures us about how we don't take care of our bodies."

"But isn't the hole just going to get bigger?"

"Hey, can you sew?" Hope was dawning in Scotch's voice.

"Not in a way that will hide it from the M."

"I don't care about how perfect it looks, it just needs to be closed."

"But she'll see it... and she'll know I did it." Didn't Scotch understand yet the perils of her relationship with the Monstress?

"I'll tell her Pop did it; he's helped out a little in the past."

"Then why don't you have Pop do it?" Powder wobbled on her bad ankle.

"Because he's not—Hey, you seem like you're—"

Powder rolled her ankle, barely managing to catch onto Scotch's arm and avoiding face-planting into the worn carpet.

"Do you want me to carry you?" Scotch asked as Powder walked her hands up his arms to get back to standing.

"No," she said, letting go of him, "I should regain my strength."

"By using it?"

It was unclear if Scotch was being curious or sarcastic. Powder flushed. She took a couple steps forward to prove her ability and Scotch walked slowly beside her, one arm slightly extended.

"Thank you." Powder didn't mean to say it so quietly but it came out that way.

"For what?"

"For everything. Helping me, protecting me..."

Scotch kicked the carpet. "You mean, for leaving you to be operated on by Cross while I watched from a cage?"

"You got out of the cage by yourself," Powder pointed out.

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