Wheeeeee 5/6 lovins! They are funtimes. I enjoy them. Hopefully you enjoy them also! If not, why are you reading this? WHY???? *ahem*
All of these here characturrs is belongin' to Shane Acker!
5 shifted on his makeshift bed and opened his optic. Something had woken him; some noise other than the distant heartbeat of machinery and explosions. Without rising, he glanced around the upside-down garbage can that he and his fellow stitchpunks had taken shelter under. 7 rested fitfully next to the jagged crack that was their exit, the sharpened bottle opener she'd taken to carrying cradled in her arms. 8 snored, sprawled out on the other side of the 'door'. 1 slept on the neatly folded pile of dinner napkins 8 had set up against a wall for him. 2 had dozed off nestled on top of a dusty felt beret, the twins on either side of- hang on, where were the twins?
5 started to sit up, scanning the area again. Nope. 3 and 4 had vanished. Again.
Again came the muffled sound of movement, close by somewhere. Frowning, 5 started to turn, to climb out of his bed, and was greeted by two pairs of flashing optics right in front of him. He yelped and tumbled backwards, landing heavily on his burlap rear. The twins' optics strobed with silent laughter.
"Yeah, yeah. What do you guys want? 1's gonna be mad if he wakes up," 5 tried to scold, but the words only came out as mildly irritated and mostly amused.
3 and 4 abruptly ceased their light-up giggles and scuttled forward to pull urgently at his hands, pointing at the exit. He blinked.
"What? You want me to go out there? This late? It's dangerous. What's this about?"
4 crouched and projected a flickering image on the compact dirt floor: 6
"Wha…S-Six? But-" 5's brow furrowed. "Y-you mean you… found number 6?"
The pair nodded hastily and tugged at his hands again. He sighed and stood up, following them silently past the sleeping guardians and out into the cold night.
Earlier That Day….
The ragged band of stitchpunks ran for cover as yet another mortar blasted the roof off a building, sending human bodies screaming through the air.
7 located a space big enough for all of them under a porch, the house behind it a cold, charred wreck. Together they crouched in temporary safety, waiting for the machines to pass. Suddenly the warrior's head turned and she cried out above the din:
"Where are the twins?!"
2 and 5 looked around in alarm. 8 lifted each foot and checked the bottom to be sure he had not accidentally stepped on the little ones. 1 huffed disdainfully.
"Probably destroyed in the explosion. Or caught out there under a rock. Either way, they won't last long."
"NO!" 7 leapt up and snatched her weapon, running out from under the porch and back into the chaos.
"7! Wait!" 2 ran after her, 5 following closely. 1 and 8 hesitated, but hurried after them when a round of shells hit the ground behind the porch.
7 dove down as shrapnel flew by overhead. To her right, she spotted two sets of tiny footprints that trailed off toward a skeletal wooden structure. She jumped to her feet and sprinted toward the construct, the others hot on her heels. Inside the structure, 3 and 4 huddled behind a support, examining a large plane of cardboard and paper they'd propped up. 7 came running up, throwing herself behind a wooden plank and ducking down as the others fell in alongside her. She turned, panting, to stare at the twins.
"You-you guys are- you're alright?" She knelt in front of them, touching their hooded heads. They nodded.
"What on earth were you thinking, running off like that?"
The little beings pointed to the object they'd been perusing. It had strange markings on it. At the top it said "DEC". Under that it said, "Sun, Mon, Tues, Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat".
"Huh," was all 5 managed. 8 frowned and tilted his head. 1 exploded.
"You little idiots! What possessed you to-"
"1, look," 2 interrupted. "It's us."
Surprisingly, the leader did pause and glance up at the twins' discovery. It said:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
After that the page was torn away.
"Hmph," 1 groused, but the others ignored him, still staring.
After a moment, 5 spoke up hesitantly.
"Well- there's me- and there's you, 7. But what's that one? There's one between us that I've never seen."
"That's, um… Six," 7 said absently.
"It's on there twice," 8 grunted. Everyone turned to look at him, then back to the paper.
"No, no," 2 said kindly. "That's Nine. It's a different number, it just resembles 6 upside-down. Hmm…" He tapped his chin. "I wonder if this means there's more…"
"Can't be. There are only eight of us," snapped 1.
"Well, then, where's 6?" 5 asked, reaching up to touch the number next to his.
"How should I know? Probably dead if we haven't found them yet," 1 replied dismissively.
"I hope not," The one-eyed stitchpunk murmured, running his finger down the curve of the new number.
(^_^) (_) Later…
"Wait up!" 5 hissed at the pair of scurrying shapes ahead of him. They paused for a fraction of a second before racing forward once more. 5 rolled his eye and jogged faster after them.
It was so dark that when 3 and 4 stopped dead 5 almost tripped over them. He pulled up sharply and avoided collision, sputtering in indignation. They glanced back at him, then pointed to a rusted metal pipe that jutted from the ground in front of them. He blinked his one optic and edged anxiously over to the dark tunnel. He peered over the edge but couldn't see to the bottom. Shaking his head, he turned back to them.
"I-I can't see anything. I don't-"
3's optics lit up, illuminating the pipe fully. It went about eight feet straight down into the earth like a well. At the bottom was a hunched figure, dirty and disheveled. It was striped, and had a patch of tangled yarn atop its down-turned head. 5 could just make out the number scrawled on its back.
'6!" The one-eyed being called down. He saw the figure flinch and glance quickly up at him and away.
Must've fallen down there and gotten trapped. 5's sympathetic heart twinged at the thought. I wonder how long he's been stuck down there. Poor guy.
"Okay. Uh," he looked back at the twins, then at the surrounding area. "Um, let's see…" He grabbed a length of sturdy twine and began lowering it into the hole. "Grab on; we'll pull you up!" He shouted when he saw 6 look up at the string. "Guys, I'm gonna need your help-"
3 and 4 darted forward and grabbed on to the end of the cord. 5 glanced down the pipe again and realized that the striped stitchpunk had actually shrunk away from the lifeline, clutching himself in fear. 5 frowned, confused.
"C'mon!" He called encouragingly. "Grab hold of it!"
6 only looked at him uncomprehendingly.
"It's okay, grab on," 5 smiled. "You don't wanna stay down there, do you?"
The stranger shuddered and, after another moment of hesitation, gripped the twine, digging in his sharp fingers. 5 and the twins hauled on the line, pulling him upward. The one-eyed stitchpunk was surprised by how easy it was; this new being seemed to weigh very little. With a final effort, the striped creature tumbled out of the pit and onto the ground at 5's feet.
"There we go!" 5 said cheerfully. "That's better, huh? I'm 5, this is 3 and 4." Smiling, he bent down to help, but 6 stumbled back, scuttling away on his rump, his mismatched optics wide. 5's brow furrowed in confusion and he took a step toward the odd stitchpunk, who continued to back away.
"What's wrong? Is it the eye? I'm not gonna hurt you, I promise. I'd never-" He glanced at the twins, looking for help. They shrugged, optics flashing. He sighed and turned back to 6, who had pressed himself against the wall of a nearby house, still staring fearfully at his rescuers.
"It's okay, really. You're safe now. Come with us; we can take care of you. There's a bunch of us and- oh, you're hurt!"
6 clutched his left side, where a ragged tear had been opened, and held up his other hand as if to ward off a blow or fend away a predator. 5 shook his head.
"No, no, I'm not gonna hit you; I want to help. Come back with us, 'kay?" He offered a hand, noticing that the stranger's fingers seemed odd. Pointed and silver. He was small, too, maybe as small as 3 or 4.
6 paused and glanced up at 5's kind, smiling face. He slowly tilted his outstretched hand, reaching for 5's. Suddenly his face changed, his stitched bows coming together in consternation. He grabbed his head, tangling those strange fingers in his mop of hair, as his expression turned to one of horror and agony. He shook violently, rocking in place. 3, 4, and 5 immediately hurried forward in concern, 5 leaning down to touch 6's shoulder.
"What is it? What's wrong?"
6 gasped and shoved 5's hand away, scrambling to his feet and stumbling away with a look of terror. Before 5 could react, the bizarre stitchpunk had scrambled over the low wall and disappeared.
"Wait-" 5 started to call, but it was too late. He sighed in frustration and turned back to the twins. "Well," he shrugged. "I…I guess we should go back? Y'know… get some rest."
3 and 4 nodded glumly. The trio started for the shelter, the twins occasionally scampering off to examine something. Halfway there, 5 heard a faint scuffling sound behind him. He glanced back over his shoulder just in time to spot a figure dart back into the shadows cast by the ruined buildings. Grinning, he continued on his way as if he hadn't seen anything. Every now and then he'd hear the susurration of footsteps or the tap of fingers against stone and brick.
"C'mon, guys, keep up," he called in as loud a voice as he dared. "We're almost there."
3 and 4, who were walking alongside him, stared quizzically up at him and he chuckled.
A few minutes later they reached the garbage can. 5 held back a moment, pretending to keep watch as the twins slipped through the triangular gap. He peered around, noticing the knotted patch of yarn that poked up from behind a charred mason jar a few feet away. Smiling once more, he retreated into the shelter, lying down on his bed to wait patiently.
Almost a full hour after that, he sensed rather than head someone in the doorway. Opening his optic only a tiny bit, he saw 6's head duck back behind the entrance, then slowly peep out once again. He beamed and sat up, beckoning for 6 to enter.
"C'mon. It's okay," he whispered. "You'll be safe in here."
6 dithered indecisively in the threshold, his hands wringing together, then grasping his injured side, then tugging nervously at the key around his neck.
5 stood and held out his hands placatingly. He tilted head and asked softly, "Were you all alone out there, all this time?"
A hesitation, followed by a single nod.
5 murmured sympathetically. "Aw, gosh, I'm sorry. You must've been scared."
6 clung to the edge of the door, optics down, nodding again.
5 smiled; he couldn't help but find this new stitchpunk's shyness endearing. Cute, even.
7 shifted and grumbled in her sleep and 6 nearly leapt out of his cloth. 5 laughed.
"You're even jumpier than I am, huh?"
The striped being edged nervously around 7 form, clenching and unclenching his hands.
"It's okay," 5 assured him. "7's nice. You'll like her. Probably."
6 took another shuffling, cautious step closer, then darted forward and threw himself at 5, wrapping his thin arms around the other stitchpunk's neck and burying his face in 5's chest. 5 was knocked off-balance by the sudden weight and he tumbled backward onto his bed, 6 on top of him.
The striped being snuggled closer, making small apologetic noises that melted any annoyance 5 might've conjured. The older stitchpunk chuckled nervously, patting 6's back.
"Don't worry; nobody's gonna hurt you."
Grunting, he shifted so that they could both lie down on the little bed and pulled up the scrap of t-shirt he'd been using as a blanket. 6 never relinquished his grip around 5's shoulders, but sighed contentedly and let his head drop.
"F-five…" he mumbled timidly
5 blinked, his single optic widening.
"So you can talk. I'd pretty much decided you were like 3 and 4."
6 muttered incoherently and nuzzled into 5's neck, closing his eyes. This caused an odd sensation in 5's inner workings, a kind of tingly feeling that made him happy and uncomfortable simultaneously.
"6…" He tried to speak, but for some reason no other words came to mind. He glanced down and saw that the small stitchpunk had fallen asleep against his chest. "Oh."
After a moment, 5 realized that he was grinning like an idiot. Coughing softly to cover his embarrassment (even though no one could see him), he lay back against the bed and stared into the darkness above him, pondering the strangeness of everything.
Within minutes he, too, had drifted off.