( For the first parts of this AU, follow these links to It Just Takes One and A New Doll )
“He got in the floor,” Noriko explained, her disappointed voice muffled by the ceiling of wood over Oscar’s head. Some boards creaked under the humans’ weight.
“Lemme guess,” her boyfriend said, amusement in his tone. “Left him up on the table? You know they’re good climbers, Nori.”
There was a sound of a playful slap on a shoulder. “Just get him out, please?”
Oscar limped faster. The floor overhead creaked and groaned as the huge human man crossed the room. If he were to glance behind, he was sure he’d see the light from the knot in the wood winking out under a massive shadow.
Oscar was over halfway across the room from there. They’d never find him once he got into the walls on the other side. He was so close.
Or so he thought.
Up ahead was a sight that made the blood rush out of Oscar’s face. Cold fear washed over him.
Wedged in between the support boards was another block of wood, perpendicular to the rest. It blocked passage further in the room, and Oscar could tell from looking at it that it’d be too heavy to push even if he didn’t have an injured ankle.
There was a smiley face scratched into it with faded ink.
A trap. The floor was a trap.
Oscar stood frozen, favoring one leg. The humans moved around above him. They were ready for him to attempt an escape. Noriko never once worried about losing track of him. Humans were more powerful and that inked smiley face bore into him while heavy footsteps approached overhead. Tears stung in his eyes.
A wrenching sound tore through the air and light burst down on him. Oscar looked up in shock and tried to throw himself backwards, out of the light, as Noriko’s boyfriend pulled a floorboard right out of its base.
Oscar’s ankle protested, and he fell. Seconds later, a hand snatched in at him, and he was pinned. The dust dug into his cheek from the pressure on his back.
Then, the powerful fingers dragged him backwards. Oscar swept through the dust until fingertips the size of his head pinched the back of his shirt. With no further warning, they yanked him upwards.
Oscar tried to curl into himself as much as he could as he soared up out of the floor in a precarious grip. The room whirled around him and the floor waited below as the man held him up.
It didn’t take long for Noriko to snatch him in a fist and wrench him away. As her hand closed around him, Oscar finally yelped in pain.
“Oh, no, baby,” Noriko cooed, whisking Oscar up towards her face. She opened her fist to cradle Oscar in both hands, and all he could see through the jostling pain was her eyes and the straight black curtain of her hair.
“Did Thomas hurt you, little sweetie?” she prompted. Oscar shuddered and tried to curl into a ball on her palm. A single finger nudged at him and forced him to uncurl again. “Tell me where you’re hurt.” There was no room for defiance in her tone.
Oscar sniffled and realized there were tears spilling from his eyes and tracking through the dust on his face. He shook all over, fear thrumming in every nerve. He really was just a little pet doll to these people. They knew he’d go for an escape and had a trap for him in there. It was all so overwhelming and he sobbed quietly.
Noriko expected an answer, so he lifted a shaky hand to brush at his eyes. His tears were grainy with dust, and his cheek stung from dragging along the ground. He met her dramatically concerned gaze and then pointed to his sprained ankle without a word.
She gasped and held him even closer so she could observe the swelling. If he wanted, Oscar could reach up and touch her face from so close. Instead, he lay down in her hands and covered his face while more sobs shook his little shoulders.
“Ohhhh my gosh,” Noriko whispered, her voice almost breaking. “Thomas, you hurt him!”
Thomas grunted noncommittally. The floorboard clattered back into place. “He coulda got that any time after he scampered off. Lease now he won’t run off so easy.”
“Oh, you’re so awful,” Noriko scolded. Oscar hiccupped. Her voice was so loud and close.
A fingertip nudged at his side and rolled him over again. Noriko took advantage of Oscar’s surprised flail to unfold his fearful curl and pin him to her palm with a thumb. She walked out of the room, looking him over with pity. Oscar held back a whimper of pain and defeat while more quiet tears came.
“Oh, sweet pea,” Noriko said quietly. “Don’t worry. Mama’s gonna get you all cleaned up and then we can put some ice on it. Gotta help you heal up right for when it’s time to meet Mina.”
Oscar shivered as Noriko reached the sink in her cluttered kitchen. That name had come up again. Mina. Oscar didn’t know who she was. Just another human.
The water turned on with a metallic squeal of the faucet, and crashed into the chrome basin of the sink. Oscar pushed other thoughts away. His focus fixed on the water as Noriko, still cradling him in one hand, moved him inexorably towards the relentless stream.
He held his breath and closed his eyes tight.
It was all he could do.