A/N: I started wondering about 5's early life after I saw the movie for the second time and realized that he, 3, and 4 were the last ones aside from 9 to join the group. Then just moments later, he loses his eye. Talk about a traumatizing intro! If I'm lucky and motivated this will continue into after the group arrives at the Sanctuary. The usual 'I own nothing' disclaimer applies. I borrowed the quote from the 9 experiment website.
"5 was born today. I expected he would spring from my hand like the others, but he didn't. He looked back at me, trusting, and waited for me to gently place him among the equipment in my lab. Whereas they all initially showed such a primal need to explore the environment alone, 5 waited for me to show him the way. He trusts me. He is my purest creation to date."
--- the Scientist's journal
His first moment of awareness was one of warmth. Something warm, curiously hard and soft at the same time enfolded him around his waist, leaving his feet dangling. It pulsed gently. He focused on its rhythm. Despite the empty air under his feet he had no fear of falling; the warm thing had always been there, and wouldn't let him fall.
"5, can you hear me?" an aged voice asked. He blinked in surprise, abruptly realizing that he possessed sight. An old man, immensely large to 5's optics, stared at him within a cluttered room. The warm thing supporting him was the man's hand. 5 stared back, waiting to see what would happen next. The man smiled.
"Welcome 5," he said, placing his small creation on his feet on the worn desk and releasing him. 5 took a tentative step towards his creator, but having never used his legs before balance eluded him and he started to fall. The Scientist's hand shot out to catch him. 5 grabbed the man's index finger with both hands and held on tightly until his legs stopped threatening to give way.
"Easy now," the Scientist said, "Just put one foot in front of the other. You'll get it."
At his creator's urging, 5 took a few steps, using the Scientist's finger for support. He felt steadier within seconds, and dropped one hand to his side.
"That's it. Try it without me now."
5 looked at the Scientist with a trace of fear, but took his other hand off the man's finger. The Scientist wouldn't let anything bad happen to him. He took one step on his own, then another. So now he could walk alone. The little stitchpunk smiled, and discovered that he also had a voice.
5 awoke to the sound of explosions. He'd curled up just a few hours before with his back pressed against the Scientist's hand after the old man had fallen asleep at his desk. The faint light of the stitchpunk's first dawn filtered through the window as the only illumination.
What's going on out there? he thought, clambering to his feet as the door to the lab burst open. A tall man raced in, slamming the door behind him. Not a man, 5 realized as the stranger crossed the room and shook the Scientist awake, a boy. His face was soft and round, and though he had height he was lanky, all arms and legs. He was dressed in well-worn fatigues that hung loosely on his frame.
"We have to go now," he said, sparing 5 a glance as the Scientist sat up and rubbed his face, "Both of you."
"I need to pack," the old man replied, beginning to frantically disassemble his equipment.
"There's no time! Come on!" the boy cried, taking the Scientist's arm. The old man shrugged him off.
"I can't leave my work, not now-" he said, then stopped, his eyes resting on 5.
The little stitchpunk let his creator lift him from the desk. This was only the second time he had been handled in his short existence but he enjoyed the warmth of the human's hands.
"I'm sorry 5, but it's time for you to go now," the Scientist told him.
"Go where?" he asked with wide optics. Had he done something wrong? Something to make the Scientist not want him anymore?
"Into the world."
The Scientist handed 5 to the boy.
"Drop him off wherever you feel is safest- as close to the last ones as you can. He's not the type that's meant to be alone."
The boy placed 5 into the breast pocket of his oversized army coat. The pocket was so deep that when 5's feet reached the bottom only his head and shoulders remained above.
"Wait! What did I do? Please!" 5 pleaded. The Scientist gave him a weary smile.
"Nothing, but it's not safe for you to be with me anymore. Look for the others of your kind, but don't let the machines see you."
"Don't worry, little buddy, you're safe with me," the boy told him, then nodded at the Scientist. Before 5 could ask anything else the boy took off into the chaos outside, carrying the hapless stitchpunk with him.
It was so loud! Artillery fire and explosions filled the air, louder and closer than 5 could ever remember them being. A huge world of streets and crumbled buildings unfolded before him as the boy ran. Flashes of fire, two-legged machines with guns slung under their bellies, humans running, shouting... how could he be expected to find anyone in this? The boy zigzagged through the streets so violently that 5 lost his footing and collapsed into the recesses of the canvas pocket. The warm darkness of the pocket was soothing after the sheer bigness he had just seen. The little stitchpunk pressed himself close to the boy's pounding chest, trying to focus on its frenetic rhythm instead of the dangerous noises outside. He was unable to suppress a yelp of terror as the pocket bucked almost horizontal. It righted itself as the boy's back impacted with something and stopped moving.
"Quiet," the boy's voice came from outside. His large, warm hand stroked the pocket in a bid to soothe its passenger. 5 clamped his mouth shut and touched the hand in return before he froze. The ground had just shook without an explosion. The boy was barely daring to breathe. The ground shook again. Then the boy barked a curse and started running. 5 heard a string of shots. Something whizzed through the boy's chest less than an inch above the stitchpunk's head as the human's body convulsed with multiple impacts. 5 screamed. The pocket went horizontal again and the boy collapsed face-down on the ground. Amazingly, 5 was not crushed as he'd expected to be; something had prevented the boy's chest from hitting the ground, propping it a couple of inches off the concrete. Something hot and sticky flowed over his cloth skin as the boy's body came to rest.
He was too frightened to even scream as the ground shook all around him from an impact that had to be within three feet. The ground shook again and again, but each vibration was slightly less until he could no longer feel them. It was then that he realized the boy's chest was completely still. The rhythm was gone.
"Hey," he called tentatively, "Are you okay?"
"Are you alive?" he tried again.
Silence. Panic sparking through his gears, 5 beat his hands against the boy's chest and shrieked, "Say something!"
Nothing happened. 5 at last unfolded himself and squeezed his way out of the pocket. The first thing he encountered was the boy's arm, curled protectively around the pocket. He found a very small gap at the boy's wrist he was able to escape through. As he stood he found himself next to the boy's face. The human's eyes were open, an expression of shock and pain marring his youthful features. 5 recoiled immediately, looking down to the ground. His legs were red, when formerly they had been brown. He realized abruptly that his own body was coated with the boy's blood.
Oh my... 5 felt his whole body trembling. His gears started whirling so fast it hurt, and the world whirled drunkenly with them.
He's dead! I'm next! I'm going to die!
He landed on his knees, legs shaking too badly to hold him.
I'm going to die! I'm going to die! He's dead!
With no one to catch him this time he collapsed in a heap, burying his head in his hands and shuttering his optics tight to try and make the world stop spinning. The panic attack lasted no longer than a few minutes, but it seemed like an eternity before the world was still and his gears returned to a more normal pace.
5 clambered shakily to his feet. He had to get out of here, but still... He forced himself to look at the dead boy. It looked like the boy's last conscious act had been to save 5 from being crushed beneath him. It didn't seem right just to leave him in the street like garbage. He should do something for the human before he moved on.
Not far down the street, a torn flag lay rumpled on the pavement. 5 dragged it back to the human's body and used it to cover his face, hiding that horrible death stare.
"Thank you," he said to the body, then the stitchpunk wandered into the rubble alone. He needed somewhere to hide. And wash.