"Stop complaining. If you didn't want to come you should have made it clear before we left."
"I'm not complaining 1. I just don't understand why you wanted me to come. 7 or 8 would have been much better suited…"
1 stopped walking and turned to face 2, his expression close to glaring.
"7 is argumentative and stubborn, and 8 lacks the intellectual ability required for counting up to his name, let alone finding a suitable place to stay. I chose you because you're more reasonable than 7, and less stupid than 8."
2 started to say something, thought better of it, and sighed; it wasn't worth it. 1 started walking again, and 2 followed him in silence. Awhile later, they came to the front of a large building which had miraculously remained standing after a fighter plane had recently crashed into it. There was still smoke floating up from the tail-end of the plane. Wordlessly, 1 entered the building, with 2 close behind him. The inside of the building was surprisingly tidy and well-kept; the only signs of the war outside being some drastically misplaced furniture, though nothing seemed to be broken.
"This is a possibility," 1 murmured, seemingly to himself, "It's certainly big enough."
"Is this where you were thinking we should stay?" 2 asked. 1 turned to look at him.
"I cannot reach a decision without having seen the rest of the building," he said gruffly, "We need to be sure that it's safe." 1 began to walk towards the staircase that led up into the rest of the building. 2 hid a smile; as much as he tried to appear strict and orderly, it was clear to 2 that 1 did genuinely care about all of them. When they reached the staircase 1 stopped and laid a hand on top of the first step.
"This may be a problem," he said, frowning slightly as he looked up to where the staircase spiraled upwards. While 1 thought of the implications of the problem, 2 looked for a way to fix it. Eventually he spotted a thick, leather-bound book lying at the edge of the staircase. He walked over to it and, with some effort, managed to pull himself on top of it. From there, and with the added height of the book below him, 2 managed to climb onto the first step. He walked over to 1 and reached out a hand.
"Want some help?" 2 asked, grinning. 1 looked up at him, surprised.
"How did you…?"
2 pointed to the book that he had used to gain some extra height.
"I climbed onto that first," he explained. 1 frowned.
"How do you plan to climb the rest of them?" he asked, "We can't possibly drag that book up every step."
"Then we'll need something lighter," 2 said, and he pointed at something behind 1, "That building block should be about the right size." 1 went and retrieved the building block and passed it to 2 before using the book to climb onto the first step with him.
"What's your plan then?" he asked, "And I hope you've taken into account that we'll also have to eventually climb back down."
"Of course," 2 replied, "All we have to do is; one of us needs to climb onto the building block and then onto the next step, then whoever is left on the step below has to pass the block up…"
"And how does this person get to the next step?" 1 interrupted.
"The first one of us to climb up can help the other," 2 explained calmly, "And it'll get easier once we're used to it."
"Very well then," said 1, "I'll climb first…I am the leader after all." 1 took the building block from 2, placed it near the second step and climbed on top of it. He then grabbed the edge of the step and carefully hauled himself onto it. 2 passed the building block up to 1.
"Now you need to help me up," he said, and reached up a hand. 1 reached down and grasped 2's hand tightly. He didn't want him to fall and become injured; if either of them was harmed it would make getting back to the others incredibly difficult. It took awhile, but eventually both of them were on the second step.
"I do hope you're right about this getting easier," said 1, "Otherwise it could be days before we reach the top."
"It shouldn't take us more than 20 minutes," 2 replied, "And there's only eleven steps left to go."
"Eleven?" 1 looked up and groaned, "I'm beginning to wonder if this building is worth it." 2 chuckled good humouredly at 1's expression.
"Then perhaps we should be grateful that there aren't twelve steps left."
1 turned and glared at him.
"Eleven steps is still…,"
"Nonsense, 1! This is an adventure! Try and have some fun," 2 interrupted as he grabbed the building block from 1 and placed it against the next step.
"Fun?" 1 scoffed, "You do realize that there is a war going on?"
Instead of taking offence at 1's words, 2 turned and gave him a smile.
"The war isn't in here 1, and our lives don't have to be an empty echo of what is happening out there. We can find happiness and laughter, if we are willing to search for it." 1 harrumphed under his breath at this, but nevertheless he climbed onto the building block and reached the next step. After ascending the next few steps, 1 was surprised to discover that 2 had been right; it did get easier once they were used to it. When they finally reached the top of the staircase, 1 let out a quiet sigh of relief.
"That didn't take quite as long as I expected," 2 said as he moved the building block away from the edge of the staircase so that it couldn't fall down before they needed to use it again.
"Your prediction was twenty minutes," stated 1, "How long did it take us?"
"Fifteen," 2 replied, "Which gives us five more minutes to explore."
"We're not here to explore, we are here to scout," 1 reprimanded, "Do not phrase it so lightly." 2 considered pointing out to 1 that the two words meant essentially the same thing, but decided against it in order to avoid the conflict that would undoubtedly follow.
"I'll take the left side of the building," 1 decided, "I trust that you can effectively scout the right side by yourself?"
"Of course," 2 replied as he began to wander away from 1, looking curiously at every strange object he passed, "Take your time and don't worry about me."
"I'll take no more time than is absolutely necessary," 1 called over his shoulder as he stalked off to inspect his allocated side of the building, "And neither will you, for that matter." 2 rolled his optics at that, and he bent down to examine the exposed remains of a pocket watch. He couldn't help but smile when he saw that the battery was still inside; he had been intending to find some so that when they eventually moved to a more permanent location, they could have some electricity. Although it would undoubtedly be limited, 2 knew that electricity would be largely useful for them, especially if he could manage to set up some form of lighting. The battery appeared to be in working condition, though of course there was no way to be certain without having some way to test it. So, somewhat reluctantly, 2 opted to leave it there for now and simply hope that he'd have a chance to collect it if indeed they did decide to make the cathedral their home, given that he currently had no practical way of getting it back to the library.
1, meanwhile, was being wary for any danger that could potentially be a threat to them if they did move in; holes in the floor, unsafe objects, holes in the roof…
2 looked up, his curiosity replaced with an expression of concern as he called out; "1? 1, was that you?"
When there was no immediate reply, 2 quickly made his way over to where he had last seen the older stitchpunk.
"1? Are you okay?" he asked, seeing him sprawled out on the ground on top of a large black shape. 1 slowly got to his feet, waving away any attempts made by 2 to aid him. "This place is unsuitable for a home and I suggest that we leave immediately," he said, glaring at the black object.
"How did you get…" 2 began to ask.
"That is irrelevant," 1 cut in briskly, "All that matters is that we're leaving."
He began to march back towards the stairs but was halted by 2, who held up a hand to stop him.
"Wait a moment, 1. That object you tripped over…"
"I did not trip," 1's voice was filled with a prideful vehemence that surprised 2, but caused him to rephrase his sentence nonetheless.
"That object you were standing near…it looks almost like a…chess piece."
"Chess?" 1 scoffed, "Why do such matters interest you? In fact, disregard that question, we're leaving. Did you not hear me? We're leaving."
But 2 was already walking behind a nearby box.
"Well I'm leaving," said 1, "And let me tell you; you'll have a hard time getting back down those stairs by yourself," he added, seemingly unaware of the blatant irony.
1 turned to leave, but paused when he heard an exclamation of surprise, and then; "1! Come, come. You must see this!"
1 rolled his optics and sighed heavily, but what little curiosity he had had been piqued and so he made his way to behind the box… and there he was met with a shocking sight.
A chessboard stood there…
…already set up with all the pieces.