A/N: My sincerest apologies for the long time it took, and the tiny chapter on top of it. I was in camp for four weeks and I had had tests and finals before that. I'll try to get the next one in faster!
Other Wybie whimpered very softly in pain, obviously struggling to keep any other sounds down. Coraline's hand was steady as she dipped her paintbrush in the melting ice, painting a symbol on the back of the buttons instinctively. The black button painting on the back washed away easily, only replaced by a sharp picture of a crystal that Coraline didn't remember ever seeing before. But she had painted it with water. And the water hardened, turning it into a painting in frost.
She threaded the needle carefully, sewing the buttons back in. Other Wybie bit his lip to keep from crying out, but Coraline didn't pause. She instead concentrated on the bluish color of the tips of her fingers as they twisted and sewed.
She was quick to finish, knot the thread, and cut.
Other Wybie let out a soft sigh of relief, gingerly touching his eyes. He smiled, giving Coraline a small thumbs-up. His skin was still cloth. His eyes were still buttons. But the very tips of his fingers looked a little blue…
"Is it over?" Wybie asked quietly, daring to peak out from behind his hands.
"Yeah. Don't worry. Now what do we do?"
The cat sat on the work table, curling his tail around his paws. "Find the Knight and the Faery. Defeat them."
"Well, yeah, but I don't know them at all!" Coraline threw up her hands. "At least with the Other Mother, I had some, I don't know, context to put her in! I knew what she would fall for! I don't know anything about these guys."
"And that guy made out of stone doesn't exactly look like someone who you can beat up," Wybie said, hunching over slightly and crossing his arms nervously. He glanced over at his button-eyed counterpart, looking straight at his feet after one brief look at the face that was so eerily like his own. "Do you have any ideas about them?"
Other Wybie frowned sadly, shaking his head.
"If you need 'context,' then find it," the cat said, tilting his chin up arrogantly as if the answer were obvious. "Find out what you can. Build up an army."
"An army? How do I do that? There isn't any cloth or thread or needles or glass eyes in there!"
"Wait, wait…" Wybie suddenly frowned thoughtfully, closing his eyes and rubbing his temples. "There was something a voice in the dungeon said… when I was looking for, uh, the Other me. They were talking about the reigning Beldam—I think they were talking about you, Jonesy—and they called you the Ice Queen. I think they expect you to use the ice and stuff to make dolls."
"What?!" Coraline furiously ran a hand through her hair. "No one ever bothered teaching me how to work with ice!"
"Just… try?" Wybie shrugged, sighing. "I can't think of anything else to do right now, Jonesy."
Coraline glared at the ground for a long, long moment. "Then you guys try to figure out what's going on. Something tells me that we'll be here for a while—try to find something we can live off of while I try to do this… ice sculpture thing."
Other Wybie looked conflicted for a long moment, then slowly, he tugged on his real self's sleeve gently. Wybie stiffened. This went against the silent agreement they had seemed to develop to ignore each other. He avoided looking at his Other. "Uh… yeah?"
"I think he wants you to go with him." Coraline gathered up any tools she could find and kicked the door to the inside of the shed open. "Don't worry—he wouldn't take you anyplace dangerous unless there's a really good reason. Trust him."
"Trust him. That's what she says. Trust the living doll that looks just like me with buttons for eyes…" Wybie muttered under his breath, but he took her word for it. When Other Wybie walked into the woods, he followed him, leaving Coraline to figure out the ice sculptures.
Both the Wybies stayed in awkward silence, only tensing up when they got to the edge of the woods and stared at the imposing Pink Palace. (Wybie only realized how ridiculous that sounded after he thought it.) The leaves crunched under their feet, and the sky was perpetually night.
Wybie didn't like it.
Other Wybie glanced at his counterpart, making small gestures at the window at the far corner of the house. "That's where you think we should go?"
Other Wybie nodded.
He hesitated, then tapped his button eye. He held out his gloved hand, wriggling his fingers like spider legs.
"That's where she works?"
"I can't believe I'm doing this." Wybie wrung his hands nervously and slowly crept up to the house. The unnerving part was that he couldn't hear Other Wybie walking behind him, but he knew that he was being followed.
They both gathered at the indicated window, peaking in apprehensively. It was the Other Mother's workshop. It was completely empty.
Other Wybie slowly opened the door, climbing inside. Wybie helped his Other inside, biting his lip nervously as he touched the rough cloth skin and felt the comparative lightness. There was something weird about someone being so human and yet so… not.
The Other started trembling as he crawled into the window and onto a worktable. He turned around, holding out his hands, and after a nervous hesitation, Wybie grabbed his wrists and let him help him inside.
Inside, it was just black. The two boys hugged each other, shaking, and waited until their eyes adjusted to the darkness.
Wybie shifted, pawing the worktable to see where it ended. Something sharp stabbed deep in his palm, eliciting a stifled cry of pain. Other Wybie instinctively grabbed Wybie's hurt hand, feeling for the problem and pulling out a needle gently.
Wybie sighed in relief. "Thanks."
Other Wybie nodded and tentatively scooted to the edge, stepping to the ground. Wybie followed his Other, nursing his hurt hand.
"What are we looking for?"
Other Wybie didn't respond. He was shaking, staring at the rapidly clarified room around them.
Half-done dolls, both human-sized and not, were lying on the worktables, partially sewn up or stuffed with sawdust. Various sharp and not-so-sharp tools covered the tables and hung on the walls, casting nightmarish shadows. Under the tables, there were shelves of boxes, books, and even more tools and materials.
This was the place that Other Wybie had been created. This was the place all of the Others had been created.
Wybie shook, thoroughly unnerved by the thought of the things that had happened in that room. His Other must have been terrified.
He rubbed the back of his neck, hesitantly putting a hand on his Other's shoulder. "L-Let's look through some of the books. M-Maybe there's something there."
Other Wybie snapped out of his fearful daze, nodding and going on the floor to grab some of the books.