The pain was gone. That was the first thing he realized as he came to. His surroundings were quiet, save for the slight scraping of rocks being moved. 5 unshuttered his remaining optic blearily. All he saw was a bland wooden ceiling. He tried to raise a hand to his face, only to have it catch on cloth. He was still lying on the tin, but someone had loosely wrapped him in a scrap of slightly yellowed linen. Given the cold metal under his back the blanket was appreciated, but right now it was in his way. He freed his hands, and started to sit up when an arm circled behind his shoulders and a hand took one of his. Where had they come from? He didn't see anyone.
"Slowly now," the gentle voice came from his newly blind side as the other helped him into a sitting position.
2, 5 reminded himself, His name is 2.
5 turned his head enough to catch the old stitchpunk at the edge of his visual range.
This will take some getting used to, he thought, raising a hand to touch the space where his optic had been. His fingers met smooth leather.
"I'm sorry I couldn't repair your eye," 2 said as he watched.
"You saved my life," 5 responded, squeezing the hand that still held his, "You and 7. I could never properly thank you."
For one sickening moment he couldn't remember seeing 3 and 4 since his injury.
"The others 7 found with me," he asked, "The twins. Where are they? Were they hurt?"
2 patted his back.
"They were here, remember? They're fine-- exploring our new home. 7's gone to check on them."
In a flash he remembered the small hands on his arm and nodded. Satisfied that he was steady and fully alert now 2 released 5 and gave him the space to swing his legs over the impromptu operating table.
"Take all the time you need," 2 called over his shoulder as he wandered over to a heap of broken masonry and started shifting pieces to a small gap in the floorboards.
"What are you doing?" 5 asked.
"I want to turn this space into a work shop, since 1 has decided we're staying here. But first I've got to clean up this mess."
"I'll help," 5 said, climbing off the battered tin box and wandering over to join 2 in clearing the rubble. The harsh voice was their leader? Despite his trepidation it still made sense to him in a way that the eldest would lead them, having the most experience of the eight.
"I hope this place has books," he said as they worked, "3 and 4 spent all their time reading them in our last home before it burned down."
"This sanctuary is a very large place. There's bound to be books somewhere."
The pair lifted a larger piece of rubble together and, finding that it was too large for the hole, set it in a corner.
"We can probably make a table out of that if we can't get it out of the room," 2 said as they set the piece down.
"I guess so," 5 replied, "The top's flat enough."
"The twins don't speak, do they?"
2's question caught 5 momentarily off-balance.
"Um, not the same way we do. They've got this flashing code thing they do with their eyes, and they can project pictures. They understand us just fine though," he added hastily, worried that 2 would believe 3 and 4 could not be communicated with.
2's voice was wistful when he responded, "I had wondered, when I saw that 3's blueprints didn't include a voice box."
"You saw his blueprints?!"
2's optics seemed to glow.
"I had the pleasure of thoroughly exploring the Scientist's lab before I set out on my own. Between his diagrams, practical models, and watching the first stages of 3's construction I gained a good understanding of our bodies."
"Oh," 5 replied softly, remembering the protective warmth of the Scientist's hand. "So that's how you knew how to fix me."
He still missed the old man. They worked silently for a moment before 5 asked, "Could you teach me? I... I never had that kind of chance."
2's face creased in a smile that could be heard in his voice.
"Of course. Let's take a break."
2 brushed his hands together to rid them of the dust.
"Now we'll need some sort of visual aid-- supplies to make a diagram, or some sort of machinery..."
2 searched around the room and, finding nothing in evidence, lifted his hands to the strings on his chest.
"I suppose we could use my parts."
5 stopped him.
"Let's use mine. They're easier to get at."
2 clapped him on the shoulder.
"Okay. A mirror then. Help me get the lid off that tin."
The two stitchpunks pried the lid free. Although the outside of the tin was tarnished the inside of the lid still shone bright. They propped it against the nearest wall. 5 caught sight of his own reflection and froze, mesmerized by the patch on his face.
It was close, he thought, his gears picking up speed. The room was just beginning to spin when 2 put a hand on his shoulder.
"It's going to be difficult to get used to," he said, "Are you alright?"
Focus on 2, he thought, fighting his mounting anxiety. 2 was a soothing presence, a healing presence. The room stilled.
"Just-just... it's different," he said, running a hand over the patch, "I'm fine."
"Are you sure? We don't have to use your innards for our lesson if you don't want to. I'm sure 6 has found drawing supplies by now--"
"It's okay, really," 5 replied. Then he dropped both hands to his buttons. To his surprise 5 had no fear of opening his fabric for 2. The other stitchpunk had been nothing but kind to him. Patient with him. Just like the Scientist. He trusted 2.
5 pulled the fabric of his torso aside and found himself riveted by his reflection again, this time with fascination.
"We are intricate, aren't we?" 2 said, "Look behind your ribs. See how each part works with the others?"
2 pointed to the reflection.
"These gears here in the centre are always turning- as long as you're alive. The box in the middle powers everything in your body."
"That's the only thing I haven't figured out yet. It's obvious that this," he said, pointing to a small open cylinder "Was designed for a lead of some kind, but I don't know what's in the box to hold a charge. Near as I can tell it's the seat of our consciousness too, so protect this area above all."
"You didn't see 3's built?"
"The Scientist released me before he started on it. I wish I had seen it. Would've answered a lot of my questions."
2 continued with the lesson.
"Out near your limbs you'll notice a few gears that aren't moving at the moment. These move your limbs. With your permission," he finished, tapping the back of 5's hand, which was still holding his cloth skin open, "I'll hold that for a moment so you can move your arm and see those parts at work."
5 let 2 grasp the edge of his fabric and moved his arm slowly. The until-then still gears in his shoulder clicked into a nearby spinning gear and came to life.
"There, you see? The parts in your hips work in much the same-- what's that?"
2 looked from the mirror to 5's shoulder gear directly. A reddish-black crust clung to some of the grooves. 5 recognized it immediately, remembering in a flash the feeling of the boy's blood coating him.
"Blood" he replied, surprised he could speak at all, "Human blood."
He'd released the fold of his cloth he held open, and 2 took that as a cue to do the same. 5 clutched his burlap shut, trembling.
"Oh dear," 2 said, "Did the human survive?"
"No. He--he saved me."
2 put a gentle arm around 5's shoulders, and something deep in 5's parts seemed to break. Buttons still undone 5 pulled the older stitchpunk into a hug. Despite being unable to shed tears he started to sob.
"Shhh, boy, it's alright," 2 said, rubbing his back.
"Why did he make us, knowing those things were out there?" 5 cried, "Why send us out into a war? Into a dying world?"
2 moved himself to arm's length and put a hand under 5's chin to get him to meet his gaze.
"He sent us out to live. You didn't see what the gas did-- everything that breathed is dead. He must have known what was coming and designed us to survive after he and his kind perished."
2 lowered his hand, but the trembling 5 didn't look away.
"You've been through a lot," the older stitchpunk said, "Probably more than I have. But although life has pain it also has its joys. He must have thought those joys were worth it. I do."
5 found a small, shaky smile coming to his lips. He liked 2 more every minute.
"You're a lot like him," he replied, "From the little I saw."
"I'll take that as a compliment. Do you want help cleaning your gears? Contaminants like that could encourage rust."
"Okay. Will you teach me more while we work?" 5 asked eagerly in spite of the quiver in his voice. 2 clapped his new student on the shoulder again.
"Of course! Now let's find some supplies. There's got to be light machine oil somewhere in a place this big."
A/N: I just realized that this fic is a quinary: "Consisting of or containing five parts or elements." Fitting for a 5-centric fic, I guess. I may write more about 5 in the near future, but I've arrived where I wanted to for this story. Thank you to all you lovely people that reviewed or stuck this on your favourites/ author alerts. Until next time :)