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Held Together By Stitches & Metal

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The city outside was dyed a dark gray, a low rumble of thunder sounded throughout as Ms. Lamb shoved the key into the lock of Astatine’s apartment door. In his arms, Lionel carried her through as Ms. Lamb parted the sheets where Astatine had built herself a blanket fort on the first night she stayed. Kind enough to have lent his jumper to keep her warm, he set her down gently onto the mattress. 
Everything had gone black after Ms. Lamb had told her she was now truly a part of the company. Only half aware of what was going on around her, Astatine slowly opened her eyes. Whirring, they focused on the otherwise blurry figures of Ms. Lamb and Lionel as she heard her send him off to get food, leaving the two women alone.  

Ms. Lamb sighed, looking at the little nest her dunnock had made. She searched around the bedroom, finding extra sheets in a drawer. Kicking off her shoes, she untied the sheets Astatine had tied to the kitchen chairs in an attempt of providing more room to accommodate both of them. Astatine could not be bothered to ask what she was doing, As she stood awkwardly on the bed, she realized at the moment she was much too short to even reach the ceiling. With a groan, she sat down next to where Astatine laid. A forearm covering her face, dark hair splayed over the pillow. Gazing at her, she gently placed a hand over hers where it was pressed to her sternum, body straining with each jagged breath. 
Astatine carefully pulled at the sleeves and brought her reattached hand above her, she curled her fingers, unfurling absently. She stared intently at the glowing green seams on the cuffs, how the light spread through her, veins of another kind. 

“You’ll get used to it.” Lamb murmured. 

She wanted to believe her. Grateful as she was that she could still feel, still hold her close to her, still able to see her, Astatine began to wonder if this was truly what she had wanted out of Automnicon. Her expectations had been thrown away, pushing her towards a much greater endeavor far beyond what she thought she would or even could do. Still, she was at her command. Pride was perhaps not the correct word to ascribe how she felt about her job, though she did her best to please her. 
Lamb brushed her fingers over Astatine’s cheek, her expression dejected yet loving. 

Their quiet moment was interrupted by the door clicking open, signaling Lionel’s return. He set the cartons down and peered into the bedroom. 

Lamb looked up, though she continued to caress Astatine’s scarred face. “Lionel, can you please help me with fixing the sheets?”

“How so?”

Astatine turned her head, “Really, it’s fine-”

“No, we’ll fix what I’ve ruined.” She said, climbing off the bed. 

The two lingered on each other for a moment before Ms. Lamb instructed him to tack the sheets onto the ceiling. They draped over the chairs still gathered around the bed, enclosing her once more in comforting darkness.  
Disappointed to find that Lamb had not returned to her bed, she curled away from the door. Wincing with each breath, she turned onto her back again as it pained her the least. 

Standing in the kitchen, Lionel set down their food. 

"How is she?" Lionel asked. 

"She's fine." She looked back at her through the open bedroom door, past the sheets, the fabric of clothes bunched up as she turned on her side, exposing the metal framework of her new spine. "She'll be fine."

His eyes flickered up from the table to her, for as long as he had known her, he had never heard her tone falter in such a way. He opened his mouth to say something, but by the time the first words had left his mouth, Lamb turned on her heels with their cartons and kicked the door closed behind her. Lionel sighed, hesitating on whether or not he should leave. The two could take care of themselves, more than anything Lamb could take care of Astatine on her own. He took up his own container and left. 

"Don't turn on the light." Astatine implored when she returned. Ignoring Lamb’s orders for her to stay in bed, she crawled out from the bedsheets. Body heavy, she collapsed. Her legs outstretched in front of her, she leaned her head back. Ms. Lamb handed her a carton of chow mein, joining her on the floor. She ate slowly, uncaring for courtesy as the noodles dangled from her mouth. Finding the sight to be rather adorable, Lamb’s face contorted to an unsure smile. Neither spoke. 

Once they were done, she nestled her head against Astatine’s shoulder. 

“Are you going to stay?” 

Lamb took her empty carton and stood up. “Would you like for me to?”

“Yes.” 

“Then I’ll stay,” 

Astatine stayed on the floor while Lamb threw away their empty containers. Once she returned, she leaned down to help her up. Wincing, she felt a twinge of pain, not enough to outwardly complain about but too much to ignore. She grabbed Lamb’s arms, pushing her away as the pressure she was putting on her in an attempt to help was too much for her to bear. She got up on her own, feeling as though her limbs did not belong to her, each movement a negotiation rather than an order.

Lamb stood back, lifting her chin. “You’re going to have to get used to that if you’re going to continue this job.” 

Sucking in a breath, Astatine’s brow furrowed. Her chest tightened. The memories of that night resurfaced, Onaway’s sharp claws sinking into her face, the cold knife plunging into her body. Her stomach twisted as the sound of her bones splintering as her hands fell from her being echoed through her mind, each hard kick punctuated by the words “You’d think that she would know to choose someone stronger.”

The way those three injured her, destroying her so thoroughly she could hardly recognize herself, her features soured, face twisting to a grimace, a lump caught in her throat.  "You have no idea what it was like-"

"Yes, I do." She said sharply. "You know I do."

She sat on the edge of her bed, her jaw clenched. Lamb sat next to her, taking her hand. Astatine closed her eyes, all she could see was the Lamb who laid bleeding in her bathtub. The one whose metalwork glimmered slightly in the light, the one whose scars criss crossed over her torso as blood seeped down her skin. Her face fell, she found herself unable to say anything more.

"I'll do better next time." Astatine laid back onto her bed, closing the sheets around her. She knew that she was disappointed, she could feel it in the tensity of her body as she had held her. Beyond that she knew she was angry that Mr. King had hurt her, perhaps she was even angry at herself for sending her after him at all. She had so much anger in that small body of hers. 

Lamb sighed, unsure of what else she could say to her. 
If she was going to stay the night with her, certainly she would have to find something to wear other than her suit that was stained with Astatine’s blood. Searching around the room, she found a hooded sweatshirt emblazoned with the Automnicon logo she recalled Astatine had gotten some time before, the faded black and scratched print told her how well loved it was. She smiled to herself, laying it over her arm as she continued. 

Astatine felt Lamb curl up next to her, She turned her head, smiling softly at the sight of her. Lamb gently traced her collarbone, a cold metallic finger moving back and forth over her skin. On occasion she would leave tiny kisses, lightly resting her arm on her waist. Astatine pressed her lips to Lamb’s, only pulling away to wince when she pressed too hard against her aching, wounded body. She squeezed her eyes shut, teeth clenched as she felt her push up the hem, fingers running over her newly stitched skin. Purple welts bloomed across her abdomen, stains left by the twins and Mr. King. 
She gently stroked her dark hair, brushing it out of her face to kiss her bruised skin, sunken in tone to something so lifeless. Gently tracing her finger down the metal panels against her nose, Lamb pressed a kiss to the tip. 
For the sake of getting her into the retreat she had called her her wife, though deep within the chambers of her heart she hoped that one day she would genuinely marry the woman next to her.

Moving her arm, Astatine pushed her hand up Lamb’s hem as well, though her scars were old and her body did not ache, Lamb narrowed her eyes. She wrapped an arm over her, lacing her hand with Astatine’s. Her own body did not glow the way hers did, merely hydraulic steel and interconnected wires. The points of data ran circuits through her, making a beautiful body damaged from her endeavors. The two of them, held together by stitches and metal, could watch the world decay. 

If they ever broke her again she swore to herself she would rewire her and repair her damaged parts. Lamb waited until her breath evened out, until she was sleeping soundly next to her. While she herself kept her eyes open, gently caressing Astatine's hair as she stayed up trying to plan what their futures would hold.