Daddy's hands weren't always gentle but I've come to understand, there was always love in Daddy's hands

rating: +51+x

March 23rd, 1868

The streets of Riddle were abuzz with chatter as they saw what was likely the most garish thing they'd ever seen approaching down the central street way. Drawn by two haggard horses was a carriage that was at one point brightly painted, but had faded away over years of undercare and lack of touchups. Between the mostly-working lights and the cartoons of William Shakespeare were the words "Fantasyland Players", though the S and the L in first word were so far gone that one could assume they were never there.

Guiding this carriage was a young woman. Tired, her beauty was hidden beneath dozens of sleepless nights and a bandana she wore around her mouth. Where one would normally expect a left leg, a fleshy stump wrapped in bandages took its place. If a person had eyes, they could pretty clearly see that this woman needed help. Fortunately for her, most of the population of Riddle had eyes.

"Help, we need a doctor!" shouted the woman hoarsely, "We got folks sick with the rottin' plague!"

With the name drop of the rotting plague, most of the town cast aside their sympathy for the tired girl and gave the carriage an exceptionally wide berth. One citizen, however, was curious. From her shack, she heard the young woman's cries. As a doctor, she was obligated to help. Adorned in mask and gown, she made her way to meet with the carriage and its driver.

"Please…" the woman begged, losing hope.

"No need to ask further." said the doctor as she approached from the saloon, "I'm a doctor."

The woman turned her head towards the sound of the voice. She sighed in relief, and slowed the horses to a stop. The doctor waited patiently for the woman; rushing anything involving the plague would get nobody anywhere. As the young woman gathered her crutch and tried to get down from the carriage, the doctor gently patted one of the horses on its nose. If only she were a veterinarian, she could possibly help these as well.

The young woman staggered as she stepped down, doing her best to keep balance on one leg before using her crutch once she hit dirt. Once sufficiently balanced, she pulled down her bandana and gave a tired smile to the doctor. Aside from a splotch of dried blood beneath her pointed nose, she looked healthy, no signs of the plague.

"You're not infected." stated the doctor.

"I was infected." said the young woman, gesturing to her stump, "Had to cut it off. Someone needed to drive the carriage."

The doctor tilted her head down to look at the stump. Obviously she didn't have the proper medical equipment to keep it from getting infected with other sorts of bacteria, and it would likely need to be cleaned if she didn't want to die after getting all this way. Despite that, it's impressive that she was able to perform such a stressful surgery on herself and survive to tell the tale.

"How old are you, miss?"

"Sixteen." said the young woman, "And it's Leslie, by the way. Leslie Gilroy."

Leslie extended a hand out to the doctor to shake it. The doctor took it and gently shook it in reply.

"I'm guessing the infected are in the back, then?" the doctor asked, breaking the handshake and moving around to the back of the carriage.

"Yes. There are seven of 'em. There… used to be eight." Leslie said, "Some of 'em are in a pretty bad way. Especially Ducky's lil' girl."


"That's just a nickname." Leslie said, "Can they be cured? Of the plague?

"I'm certain they can." the doctor said flatly, "It will take time, however."

"Oh! Thank you, thank you!" said Leslie, threatening to jump but stumbling and nearly falling over.

The doctor eyed Leslie, feeling sorry for the sight she's making, "Seems as though I may need to work on you as well."

April 7th, 1868

Leslie knocked gently on the door; she didn't want to wake anyone up while they were getting their rest. After all, the doctor said that proper rest and recovery was key to healing. Leslie took the brief moment between the knock and the eventual door opening to lean against the wall, taking some weight off of her prosthetic leg. She felt embarrassed, like she was a baby trying to re-learn how to walk. She hoped she wouldn't need to take as many frequent breaks soon.

Leslie heard the doorknob turn, and soon saw the black-robed figure of the doctor once more. Leslie smiled, glad to see that she didn't look as overwhelmed as she was when she first handled the seven of them.

"Afternoon again, doctor!"

"Have I been working that long?" the doctor asked, "I suppose time does fly when your hands are full."

"Ya didn't hear the clock tower?" Leslie asked, "I may be new here, but I've found that it's pretty darn useful if ya wanna keep track a' things!"

"It seems I got a bit too invested." the doctor said, "They're fine, if you're wondering. Still asleep for the time being."

Leslie sighed. She cared a lot about her friends. Hell, she would consider them family, even. A weird, dysfunctional kind of family, but a family. She wanted to get back on the road with them, singing songs and practicing lines. Showing up in villages and towns, performing new plays or making up ones on the spot. It was the moments of quiet that got to her the most, the times where she resented things like Pete's Oboe or Ducky and his daughter squabbling became fond memories that she tried to cling onto.

"You seem pretty thoughtful there, Miss Gilroy." the doctor noted, closing the door behind her, "Considering everything you've gone through, I bet you've got quite a few thoughts in there, don't you?"

Leslie nodded.

"Aside from our brief introduction, we haven't exactly had much time to talk. All I know is that you rode in here on a carriage full of bodies and a missing leg you amputated yourself. Surely there's a story that goes along with that, wouldn't you think?"

"I mean…" Leslie paused, "A-are ya sure? I wouldn't be keepin' ya from anythin'?"

"As I said, they're still asleep. I have bells tied on their wrists in the case that they start showing convulsions. If something goes wrong, I'll be able to hear it." the doctor explained, "So, why don't we just sit down and chat?"

Leslie looked around the hallway, trying to find a chair. "Sit where?"

"On the ground, obviously." the doctor said, sitting crosslegged in front of Leslie, "Don't be so nervous, I'm sure you'd like a break from putting pressure on your leg."

Leslie went against the doctor's orders and laughed nervously in reply. She hesitated, then followed the doctor's lead, sitting down crosslegged. It did feel a lot better, honestly. The prosthetic may help her get from place to place, but damn, did it itch sometimes. Leslie took this opportunity to scratch between the prosthetic and the scarred skin of her thigh.

"You know, I still don't know how you were able to do that." the doctor said.

"Do what?" Leslie asked, looking at the doctor while still scratching.

"Amputate your leg. I wouldn't have taken you for a girl who knows her medicine."

"I read a lot. Anything I don't read about I pick up elsewhere. Learned about the rottin' plague at a colony we stopped by for a performance. Kinda had to be a quick learner there."

"A colony?"

"Yep. Whole town a' people with the plague. Run by some guy, forget his name though. Think it's… Joe?" Leslie mused to herself, "Don't really matter now, I guess."

"I would like to learn a bit more about that colony eventually… but I suppose if you don't want to talk about it right now, I understand."

"Thanks… 'preciate it." Leslie said with a small smile.

The two were quiet for a moment, pondering the words that were just said. The doctor saw a drive in this woman that she admired, a willingness to learn and a desire to do what's right. Leslie saw this woman as an intelligent, caring person who wanted to help the world however she could, even in small ways. Leslie decided to break the silence.

"Do ya like readin' much, doctor?"

"Hm? Oh, of course. When you see the sort of thing that I see in my work, it's easy to feel a reprieve in literature. I find a warm comfort in knowing the protagonist will overcome their own personal challenges in some way, whether it be vice, disease, or some other trauma."

"Not all books end like that, though. Titus Andronicus ended with everyone gettin' killed. Even Titus, he got killed by Saturninus."

"You've read Titus Andronicus?"

"I performed it. I was Lavinia! I'm usually playin' roles like Lavinia, actually."

The doctor briefly considered but then decided against bringing up the potential psychological impacts of playing characters that are at all similar to a girl who was raped, disfigured, and then killed. She was worried, but she didn't want to pry; not now, anyway.

"In any case, that story is a tragedy. When I want an escape, I reach for a comedy." the doctor said.

"That does make a bit more sense, yeah. If ya live a grim life, ya wanna read about lives not-so-grim, right?" Leslie asked.

"Well, in a sense. I wouldn't necessarily say my life is so terrible, though," the doctor said, "I won't lie, it's not an easy life, and I don't exactly do this for the pleasure of cutting open diseased bodies."

Leslie grimaced at the mental image.

"But, I know that I'm good at what I do. The fact that I'm good at what I do means that I can help other people have a life that is, well, a life not-so-grim."

"Huh," Leslie said, "Ya know, that's actually… that's a real nice way of livin' yer life. Bein' helpful and kind and such."

"Thank you." the doctor said with a nod, "Have you read Great Expectations?"

"No ma'am. What's it about?"

"Well, I-" the doctor was interrupted by the sound of a bell ringing from inside the patient ward, "Excuse me, this shouldn't take more than a moment."

The doctor gracefully stood up, dusting her robe with the back of her hand. She opened the door, gave Leslie a curt nod, and closed it so she could work. Leslie liked the doctor. She hoped that they could talk more soon.

April 16th, 1868

Leslie sat down on the chair and removed her prosthetic leg. The smell alone could tell that she had been neglecting to clean it like she promised. She was dying to scratch it, but knew that it would only make things worse. The doctor saw this whole scene and sighed in disappointment.

"I expected better from you, Leslie." the doctor said, "Now we need to cut away the necrosis and re-suture the wounds. You remember how much that hurt the first time, don't you?"

"I know, I know, I'm sorry doc, I just…" Leslie sighed, "I just really liked that book ya gave me. I've been reading it every day since ya gave it to me!"

The doctor quirked an eyebrow, "I wouldn't have taken you for a slow reader."

"I ain't slow! I just read it a bunch, tryin' to find things I missed!" Leslie said, a little indignant.

The doctor opened her mouth a little in shock, but then brushed it off with a laugh, "My deepest condolences for underestimating you."

As the doctor rolled up Leslie's pant leg, Leslie winced.

"It's still sensitive."

"I'm trying to go as slow as I can." the doctor reassured, "I'd give you morphine if there wasn't a bit of a shortage."


"Don't be. You aren't one of the seven people who need to be operated on."

"Yeah but… I brought 'em here…"

"You shouldn't be sorry for saving their lives, Leslie."

Once enough of the stump was uncovered, the doctor took out her operating tools and began to cut away. A few of the stitches had already fallen out, which made taking out the other ones easier. Dead flaps of skin that were turning a sickly shade somewhere between red and black flopped uselessly from the stump. The doctor had seen worse. She'd seen worse today with her friends.

"I mean… I'm not the one- ah," Leslie winced again as the doctor began to remove some of the stitches, "Not the one doin' the savin'."

The doctor sliced carefully around the dead skin. Drips of blood fell to the ground. The doctor gently dabbed at the fresh wounds with a damp towel, cleaning off the dirt and discharge. Minutes pass, the injuries begin looking more healthy. Leslie still had to hold back her hand to keep herself from scratching while the doctor operates.

As the doctor gave Leslie another towel to bite on, she began to thread the needle for the new stitches, "I'll warn you to know when you need to bite down hard."

Leslie nodded.

The doctor leaned in to get a better look at the wounds and prepared her needle to sew. Just as she was about to begin, however, she noticed something a bit further up the thigh she didn't notice before. A scar. Three of them, older, not ones she had left behind. The straightness of them made it look less like an accident and more like an intentional cut. Leslie's eyes were squinted shut and she had already begun biting down on the towel anyway.

"Leslie?" the doctor asked.

"Shud ah beht dawn?" Leslie muffled through the towel.

"Not yet, but, may I ask where these came from?" the doctor asked, tapping gently one of the scars.

Leslie opened her eyes to look where the doctor had tapped. Her face instantly changed from worry to panic and fear. Leslie tried to pull down the pant leg and spat out the towel.

"You shouldn't worry about that!" Leslie said, "It's nothin'!"

"I'm a doctor, it's my job to worry about injuries." the doctor said, "Why shouldn't I worry about it?"

"Because… because…"

"If it's something you want to keep a secret, you shouldn't worry about me." the doctor said, "I'm not one to gossip."

"Just…" Leslie sighed and looked away, "Please… it's nothin'… can ya just let it go?"

The doctor was silent for a beat, but eventually nodded, "Fine. I'll stop."

"Th-thank you." Leslie said shakily.

The doctor picked up the towel from where it fell and gave it back to Leslie, "You dropped this. I know you'll need it for what's going to happen next."

Leslie looked back to the doctor and gave a thankful smile. She took the towel and put it back in her mouth, preparing herself for the inevitable suturing and pain that comes with it. The doctor's thoughts could not escape those scars. The way that Leslie reacted when she noticed them. Whether someone did it to her or, God forbid it, she did it to herself, she wanted to find out. But now was not a time for asking questions.

The doctor began sewing the wounds. Leslie screamed into the towel.

April 24th, 1868

When Ducky came to, all that he could really comprehend was that the room was too damn bright. Smelled like shit, too… Jesus, what the fuck was that smell? It was like iron and meat and… lavender? Ducky tried to raise his arm to rub his eye, but much to his surprise, he could barely even feel it.

"Wh… what the fuck?" Ducky said to himself.

"I wouldn't try to move too much, sir." a voice said next to him, "Your body is already under a fair bit of duress from the surgery."

"The fuck? Who the fuck are you?" Ducky said, opening his eyes wider and trying to turn his head to the voice, "What the fuck did you do to me?"

"I saved your life." the voice said, "Leslie, your… companion? She drove for weeks to get you all help."

As Ducky's vision cleared, he could see the source of the voice. It was a woman, dressed in a long black robe. He hair was tied back and she wore half of a glass face. Ducky would have thought she was a specter of death if he were superstitious. Whatever she was, Ducky was furious at her.

"Tell me what you fucking did to me!" Ducky said, letting spittle fly, "What the fuck happened?"

"You… are aware that you were infected with the rotting plague, are you not?" the doctor asked.

"The rot-" Ducky interrupted himself, memories of the days leading up to this flooding back to him, "Fuck… FUCK! Those fuckin' rottie sons of bitches tried to kill us! They don't respect the art of the fuckin' stage!"

"Regardless of what happened, what matters now is you no longer have the plague. You are cured, as are your friends." the doctor said, gesturing behind Ducky.

Ducky achingly flipped over in bed, letting out a grunt. There they were; Pete, Patty, Mark, Mikey, Bobbie-Sue, and thank fuck little Lilly, too. He squinted, and then realized that some were missing.

"Where the fuck is Billy?" Ducky asked, "And where the fuck is Leslie?"

"Leslie was the one who drove you to my care." the doctor said, "And Billy, well, Leslie told me he didn't make it."

Ducky turned back to the doctor, his face once again turning red with anger, "You let Billy die?! You piece of shit!"

The doctor sighed and put a hand to her forehead, "My condolences, but I didn't let him die, sir. He died before I even had the chance to try."

Ducky grumbled, "Fuckin' Leslie lives but ol' Billy dies… 'course…"

The doctor tried to keep her composure as she continued to calmly speak, "Speaking of Leslie, she's been worried sick for all of you for the last month. She did so much to make sure that you all made it here safe."

"'Course she was," Ducky said, "We're her fuckin' family. Or close enough at least."

"You're Ducky, correct? The show runner of your group?"

"Just a nickname. But yeah, that's me." Ducky said, "Charmed, I'm sure."

"You wouldn't happen to know why Leslie has multiple knife scars going up her inner thigh, would you?" the doctor asked.

"'Scuse me?" Ducky asked.

"They weren't unintentional, I could tell. They were blatantly deliberate." the doctor added, "The only reason someone would deliberately cut down there would be to hide the wound."

Ducky remained silent. Then he started smiling. Then he started chuckling. The doctor had a good feeling that she and Ducky wouldn't be getting along.

"That'd be my work, if you're wonderin'." Ducky said, "Leslie's a bit of a wild child. If you've known her as long as we have, you'd know she's prone to disobey orders. Ungrateful little shit."

The doctor was stunned at how casual Ducky spoke. Like he was telling the setup to a joke.

"She shoulda acted more like Lilly. If she did, maybe she'd get the Juliet roles more." Ducky said, "You know my girl Lilly? Beautiful girl, always does what she's told."

The doctor didn't respond to the question. Ducky rolled his eyes.

"Look, I can tell you've never had kids. I've had two. One a' my blood and one off the streets." Ducky explained, "Everyone knows that ya gotta show 'em a little tough love if you want 'em to listen. I usually do the usual slap on the ass, but sometimes ya gotta go a little further. I don't like goin further, but I don't wanna be a neglectful parent."

The doctor balled her fists. Her eyes darted to her surgical kit. Accidents happen during operations, perhaps a slip of the knife that lands on a vital artery. A mistake surely, even professionals… no. She wouldn't. She wasn't going to stoop down to that level.

"I need to step out for a moment. Take your time to recover, you should be back to normal in due time." the doctor said, standing up from her chair.

"Don't fuckin' judge me for doin' my job. I'm a father as much as I am an actor." Ducky hissed, "You wouldn't understand."

The doctor didn't say anything as she promptly left the ward and closed the door behind her. As usual, Leslie was just outside waiting for her to report back. She was getting better at standing on her new leg, not needing to rely on leaning on the wall nearly as much as she had to before. Leslie looked worried.

"Are they okay in there? Ya said that they should be up soon, right?" Leslie asked expectantly.

The doctor still had flashes of rage across her face, but they faded upon seeing Leslie again, "They're fine, Leslie. Some of them are stirring, but… don't visit them just yet. They need to take time to get back up."

The worry in Leslie's face immediately vanished, replaced by a joyous smile. She staggered forward and wrapped her arms around the doctor, squeezing her in a tight, thankful hug.

"You're the best, doc! I knew you could do it!"

The doctor looked down at Leslie, at first in surprise, but then in knowing. Knowing that she knew what she had to do now. She had to make her life a little not-so-grim. The doctor wrapped her arms around Leslie in return.

April 30th, 1868

Today was finally the day. The doctor declared the Fantasyland Players as all healed, and they were all preparing to load back up into their carriage to leave. Leslie had been living out of that carriage, so she really didn't need to do much packing. Instead, she spent her last moments in Riddle with the doctor, giving her last goodbyes.

The two sat together on the back of the carriage, Leslie talking and the doctor listening. The doctor was a good listener, as much as Leslie was a good talker. Mostly, Leslie talked about hopes and dreams for the future. It was endearing, really, listening her talk about becoming a huge star in the acting business, becoming as well known as Shakespeare himself.

"…and when we're all rollin' in money, I'll be sure to come right back here to this town to thank you!" Leslie said.

"Aw, how sweet." the doctor said, patting Leslie on the knee, "I look forward to you returning then!"

"You'll remember me, right?" Leslie asked.

The doctor smiled, "Of course, Leslie. I'll remember you no matter where your life leads you."

Leslie grinned. Just as she was about to speak again, she was interrupted by a booming voice calling out.

"Allllllright folks! The Fantasyland Players are rollin' on outta here! We greatly appreciate y'all's hospitality, but our mission is to spread the stage across the country!" Ducky shouted out.

"Thank you all very much!" a lighter voice shouted behind Ducky's. Leslie knew that that voice belonged to Lilly, "We wish we could stay for longer, but for now we must depart! Oh reservoir!"

Leslie sighed, looking to the doctor, "I guess that means that I'll be leavin' soon."

"I…" the doctor hesitated. Now had to be the time she said something, "I'll think about you. I'll worry about you more than anything."

"Whaddya mean doc?" Leslie asked, "There somethin' wrong with my leg still?"

"No, not… not that." the doctor said, "Why do you stay with those people? Especially…"

As if on cue, Ducky himself came out from around the side of the carriage, revealing himself to the duo. Sunlight glinted off his bald head and his bushy mustache perfectly framed his grin. Behind him hopped the curly-locked girl Lilly, followed by the all five of his fellow acting comrades.

"Well well, gettin' to know Leslie a little better, hm?" Ducky asks, "Well, there ain't gonna be much time left for talkin'. We're headin' out A-S-A-P, so vamoose!"

Leslie sighed, looking from Ducky to the doctor, "Sorry, doc. But I really do promise, I will visit!"

The doctor looked back at Leslie, the poor girl, still wanting to go with those people despite what they've done. Leslie was too kind to think of those people as awful, her optimism was as much of a crutch to her as it was a boon. It was now or never. The doctor had to say something.

The doctor turned to the Fantasyland Players, who were all anxious to get out of this town as soon as possible. She cleared her throat, and spoke, "Do you all realize that you're traveling with a child abuser?"

There were murmurs among the group.

"Doc, what are you doing?" Leslie asked, confused.

"Helping you." the doctor said back, before returning her attention back to the players, "Do you realize that your leader, Ducky, is the kind of person who beats children? Cuts them? Demands obedience and stifles choice?"

The group was silent. Leslie looked at the doctor with a mixture of horror and worry.

"If you all are decent people, then you would know to leave that man behind." the doctor put a hand on Leslie's shoulder, "Don't let this girl who did so much for you suffer at the hands of a cruel man."

The silence was deafening between the two parties. Ducky looked bewildered, like he was just punched in the gut. The doctor stared him down. Leslie's thoughts were swimming, mixing with each other. She didn't know whether to feel thankful that someone finally got those words out in the open, or horrified for the same reason.

Lilly was the first one to break the silence. She giggled. Pete and Mikey followed soon, laughing along with her. Eventually, the whole crew broke out in uproarious laughter. The doctor flinched, not sure what to make of the situation.

"This isn't funny!." the doctor exclaimed, "Ducky is a terrible human being! He admitted it to me himself!"

"Aw hell, doc." the lanky man, Pete said, "Ya think that Ducky's a bad man? He's the best damn father I'd ever done seen!"

"Harshness is essential to raisin' a family." the giant woman, Bobbie-Sue added, "If ya don't show who's boss, yer kid'll grow up to hate ya!"

"They'll walk alllll over ya." Ducky growled through a menacing smile, "You should really learn to keep outta folk's business, especially when it comes to their kids."

The doctor was stunned, "Why hide the cuts? Why hide them if you didn't want everyone else to see?"

"Cuts don't looks pretty." Ducky said, "They're harder to cover up on the face. We are actors, after all."

Ducky walked up to the doctor. Even though he was a short and stocky man, the way he carried himself made him look ten feet taller.

"Now get yer hands off my daughter and get the fuck outta my carriage,"

Leslie's eyes were starting to well up. She knew what happened when Ducky got angry, and didn't want the doctor to go through that, "Please doc, just go. Ya don't have to do this…"

The doctor stared back at Ducky. She was not going to let this happen. She was not going to let this girl get away with these people. The doctor centered herself and regained her resolve. She let go of Leslie's shoulder.

"Atta girl." Ducky said through a cocky grin.

The doctor wound her arm back and brought it straight across Ducky's cheek with a resounding smack. Ducky stumbled backwards, his eyes bulging like grapes in his skull. The Fantasyland Players gasped in horror.

"Daddy!" Lilly screamed.

"Doc, no!" Leslie said, grabbing the doctor's arm.

"You don't have to go with them. You could stay here, read your books, be surrounded by people who care about you." the doctor said hurriedly to Leslie, "Please, stay with me."

Leslie really didn't know what to do. The Fantasyland Players were her family, they were her life. If she stayed here, she didn't know how she would become the famous actor she dreamed about becoming. If she stayed here, she would be abandoning people that she's known for practically all her life. If she stayed here…

"You could be happy." the doctor said, "You wouldn't have to hide anything, you wouldn't have to worry about being stepped on or beaten. You wouldn't have to-"

The doctor was interrupted by Ducky grabbing her robe and throwing her off the carriage. The doctor tumbled to the ground, face planting into the dusty street. The doctor tried to raise herself up and realized that her mask had cracked. Ducky stopped her from getting up any further by stomping down on her back.

"How dare you?! You worthless piece of trash, tryin' to steal my daughter away from me with lies? You may have saved my life, but that don't give you no right to take my girl!" Ducky said, grinding his boot into the doctor's back.

"Stop! Please!" Leslie said, hopping off the carriage. She stumbled, crashing into Ducky helplessly.

"I'll deal with you later." Ducky said without even looking at Leslie, "For now, we gotta make an example of people who try to break up the family!"

The Fantasyland Players were all hooting and hollering, cheering as Ducky laid into the doctor. His boots left bruises on her body, and the doctor could feel every single one. The doctor's screams of pain weren't heard over the sound of cheering. She could swear that she felt bones break.

Leslie worthlessly tried beating at Ducky's thigh, "Stop! Stop! You'll kill her!"

Ducky finally relented, but kept the look of fire and rage in his eyes as he turned to Leslie, "Why are you tryin' to defend her? What has she done for you that I haven't done tenfold?"

"She was nice to me!" Leslie said.

Ducky chuckled, "And I haven't been nice to you?"

Ducky stepped off of the doctor's coughing body and stood over Leslie. Leslie looked up in fear.

"Didn't I sweep ya up off the streets when ya had nowhere to go? Give ya a place to live? A family to call yer own? Dreams to aspire to?" Ducky said, lifting Leslie up by the arm, "Say yer sorry, and I'll let ya get off without a punishment this time."

Leslie shivered in silent fear. Ducky looked at her expectantly. Leslie took a deep shaky breath and looked away from Ducky.


"No?" Ducky asked, "Try that again. Ya wanna say 'I'm sorry Daddy'."

"No, Ducky." Leslie said with a little more conviction, "I'm not sorry."

Ducky didn't say anything. Leslie prepared herself for the inevitable beating, but one never came. Ducky just let Leslie drop to the ground in a heap.

"Yer trash, Leslie. Always been trash. Ungrateful, untalented, and disobedient." Ducky waved to the rest of the Fantasyland Players, "Come on, looks like we'll need to find some new recruits on the road."

The rest of the group followed behind Ducky, stepping over the pair on the ground. Some of them looked back. Ducky did not. Leslie and the doctor coughed on the ground as the carriage kicked up dust, leaving Riddle behind.

"Are you okay?" the doctor said through bloody coughs.

"Y-yeah…" Leslie said, "Are you okay?"

The doctor gave a strained laugh and tried to sit up. Everything hurt. Her mask was shattered on the ground, revealing her whole face, scars and all, to the world. She could feel bones grating against each other, and trickles of blood dripping down in places that broke skin.

"Just fine." the doctor said.

"Ya didn't have to do that, doc… not for me."

The doctor crawled over and reached her hand out to Leslie's shoulder, "You did that for yourself, Leslie. You were the one who said no."

Leslie freely let tears flow from her face as she smiled to the doctor.

"I'm proud of you, Leslie." the doctor said, "If you're looking for a place to stay now, I'd be more than willing to give you a home here, in Riddle. Perhaps you could be my… apprentice? It may not have the glitz and glamor of theatre, but I have faith that you could do a lot of good like that."

Leslie gave a little laugh and the doctor smiled back, "That sounds great, doc. Especially since it looks like ya may need a little bit of doctorin' yerself."

"Is it that bad?"

Leslie nodded.

"I suppose that neither of us are doing much good in the dirt, then." the doctor said.

Leslie and the doctor supported each other as they shakily stood up off the ground. Holding tight to each other, they took step after step back into the heart of the town.

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