Wash doesn’t know how they find him.
It’s an ambush—a solo scouting mission, top secret, but they still find him. And they’re prepared for him too.
Felix bodily tackles him, throwing Wash hard to the ground and knocking the air out of him.
“Well hey Wash!” Felix laughs. Before Wash can recover enough to send out an SOS, Felix grabs a hold of Wash’s throat, choking him so he can’t speak, while his other hand yanks at the latches of his helmet. “What have you been up to, huh?”
Wash’s helmet comes off with a slight hiss, and Felix throws it without care. It’s only then that Wash sees Locus, hovering at the edge of his vision with a gun aimed at him.
“What do you want?” Wash demands. He doesn’t understand why they haven’t killed him yet, or why they don’t want him radioing for help, or—
“Control wishes to speak with you,” Locus says simply, and Wash feels like he just got shoved into ice water.
Felix grins. “Don’t worry about it,” he sings. “This will be fun.”
Wash sees the needle, but it’s too late. He tries to twist out from under Felix, but his neck is exposed without his helmet, and Felix sinks it in.
“Shhh,” Felix mocks, patting his cheek. “Just sleep it off.”
Wash struggles to stay awake, but whatever Felix drugged him with is strong. Already he can feel numbness seeping into his extremities, and his vision is blurring.
“Prepare to move him,” Locus says. “And go get the helmet. Control wants the armor intact.”
“You go get it,” Felix snaps. “Don’t be a baby, Locus, he’s already spacing out.”
Wash tries to punch Felix just to prove him wrong, but he can no longer lift his arms. Everything is so, so heavy now that it’s an effort to even breathe. Felix’s weight on his chest now feels like a thousand tons, crushing him slowly.
“We’re not taking any chances,” Locus growls, but his voice is getting further away, and Wash can’t reach any of his knives, and this is bad.
This is really bad.
His vision finally fades completely, and Wash just hopes the others find him quickly.
Wash comes to with his hands tied behind his back, lying face down in the dirt.
“He’s awake!” Felix crows, although Wash hasn’t made any movements. “Locus, are we ready?”
“Yes,” Locus says.
Wash manages to get to his feet. His head is pounding with a headache, and his entire neck feels like a bruise from the injection. His balance is off and he stumbles as he tries to back away from Felix and Locus. Felix darts forward, wrapping a hand around his elbow to keep him upright and stop him from moving away.
“You see Wash,” Felix says. “Hargrove’s really busy this week, so he can’t talk to you for a few days still. But we kind of need to keep you out of the way, where your loser friends won’t find you.”
Wash looks around, trying to figure out where he is. It’s one of the more mountainous parts of Chorus, the terrain rough and uneven. There’s clear blue skies, and it’s almost beautiful, if it wasn’t for the fact that he has no idea where he was, and couldn’t see any sign of Armonia.
There’s a drop off in front of them and Locus and Felix drag him towards it. Wash fights, dragging his feet and trying to throw them off, but his armor is gone and they’ve got him at a disadvantage.
It’s a shorter drop-off than he initially thought, just tall enough to hide the presence of the metal box with an open trap door.
Wash renews his struggles in earnest, but Felix only laughs and pushes Wash over the edge. Wash falls awkwardly on his side on the roof of the box, and tries to pull himself to his feet again to try to run. Locus catches him this time, dragging him back towards the trapdoor.
“We will see you in one week, Agent Washington,” Locus intones before dropping him.
Wash hits the ground with a shout, and there’s a loud slamming noise as the trapdoor is shut, plunging him into total darkness.
Wash takes a moment to catch his breath and assess the situation. Grimacing, he pulls his hands under his legs so he can reach the knots in the rope with his teeth. It’s a slow process, but eventually his hands are free and he can explore.
It’s some sort of crate, Wash realizes as he feels around. The metal is cool beneath his fingertips as he moves. The box is large enough for him to lie down in, but not quite tall enough for him to stand in. The most he can manage is a hunch as he pushes at what had been an entrance, but it has no give. Felix or Locus must have braced something against it, or there’s a sturdy latch that Wash can’t budge.
Wash doesn’t let himself panic. They’re not leaving him here to die. There’s food and water—MREs and bottles, all sealed so they’re probably safe, although Wash wouldn’t put it past Felix to find a way just to screw with him.
He’s not claustrophobic, he has enough supplies for a few days, and Hargrove, for whatever reason, wants him alive. And when they come for him, he’ll be ready. He’ll either be gone or he’ll have a plan to escape when they pull him out.
Wash lies down, feeling the unevenness of the metal floor digging into his back, and tries to sleep.
Wash doesn’t know how long he’s been in here, in this box.
He braces his hands against the trapdoor and pushes, but there’s still no give. There’s not even a glimmer of light around the edges to tell him where it should be; he could only tell because of the slight ridges. He thinks they might have covered the box with a tarp or something similar, hiding him even more from the others.
They’ve hidden him well; he can’t hear anyone nearby, no patrols, no civilians, no fighting. No one for Wash to yell for, no people for him to try to signal.
It’s very dark in here. Wash has mostly learned the layout by touch. He knows the exact number of bumps and ridges of the box, he has counted the water bottles, he has sorted the MRE’s by type.
He re-counts the bumps and ridges just for the sake of something to do, and his breath catches in his chest as he comes up one short. He immediately starts again, running his hands over the walls, floors, and ceiling, counting desperately, frantically. It can’t be one less, that would mean the box is getting smaller, that doesn’t make sense.
He comes up one short again, and now he’s panicking. He thinks he can physically feel the walls pressing in around him, crushing him. Felix and Locus have come back, they’ve decided he’s not worth the trouble, they’re destroying the crate with him in it to kill him, he’s going to die here in a metal box far away from his friends and they’ll never know what happened to him—
Wash’s breath is coming faster and faster in short bursts, the sound echoing back to him, mocking him, and nothing’s okay, everything is awful. He will never see the others again. This box is his coffin as well as his prison.
Finally, after far too long, the panic attack fades, and Wash is drenched in sweat and curled against the pallet of water, as far away from the walls as he could manage.
Taking deep breaths, he counts again.
This time the number is right.
He pushes against the trapdoor again and listens for any sign of life.
There is nothing.
He is still alone.
Wash had been in solitary confinement in prison, when he’d first been arrested. He’d fought tooth and nail at first, fighting the guards and other inmates alike, until they’d stripped him of his armor and put him in a white room not much bigger than his current box. He’d been released eventually, but he remembered those weeks with a stark bleakness. His only human contact coming from food shoved through a flap in the door at regular intervals, the numbing boredom, and the feeling of being left with nothing but his thoughts.
This might even be worse. At least there had been light, in solitary. At least he’d had a bed. At least there’d been running water and the regularity of meals to help him ascertain the passage of time. He only had the rumblings of his stomach to give him hints—he measured time in meals now. But he tried to pace himself on the food; he didn’t know how long they’d leave him in here, after all. There’s not enough room for him to exercise or do anything, and the darkness is oppressive and heavy. Wash isn’t afraid of the dark.
But he really hates it right now.
Wash is running low on food.
His stomach is growling constantly now, and he’s realized now why they left him in darkness. When the trapdoor opens he’ll be so sunblind he’ll be unable to fight, after… a week? Two weeks? In total darkness. Wash has tried hard to do exercises, to stretch himself so he can fight, but the lack of food is getting to him, and he’s low on water as well.
Why would they put him in this box to leave him to die?
He wonders if this is one of Felix’s games; maybe have Tucker race against a clock to find him, that sounds like something Felix would have fun with.
Wash’s fingertips are bloody from trying to pry the trapdoor open again. That was a mistake—he can’t afford the blood loss. They’re wearing him down, pushing him so far that he might actually physically break when they come.
He tries to sleep again, to escape this nightmare, but he can’t, drifting in and out. It’s night, he thinks, or it’s really cold outside. Or something’s wrong with him, because he’s freezing and shaking and clutching at himself to try to keep himself warm. But he’s wearing thin clothes and they weren’t thoughtful enough to leave him with a pillow, and the metal is freezing against his skin. Wash drifts again, trying to distance himself from this box.
In his dreams the sides of the box rush towards him, crushing his bones. Felix and Locus show up too late, and only find a corpse. The Reds and Blues find him, their voices ringing in his ears…
But he wakes up and he’s still alone.
He wonders if they’ve even noticed he’s missing.
Wash has half an MRE and a bottle of water left.
He’s going to die here. A prison turned coffin. He wonders if Felix and Locus have forgotten him. He wonders if the others have given up looking for him.
He fingers the length of rope, the one that had tied his hands together ages ago, when they’d first put in here. He worries it with his fingers, picking it apart. He’d planned to use it as a weapon when Felix and Locus came for him. Now he can’t help but doubt that he’ll get the chance.
Wash hears shouting in the distance, but he doesn’t fall for it. Not this time. The auditory hallucinations started about ten meals ago now. He knows the dangers of being alone for so long, compounded by a small space and the dark. The first time he’d screamed himself hoarse. He can’t afford that now. He needs to conserve water.
He presses his forehead against the wall and counts down from ten, trying to steady the tremors in his hands.
No one’s coming for him. Not Locus, not Felix, not Hargrove or the pirates, not his friends, not the Feds, not the Rebels. If they find him, it will be ages from now, and it certainly won’t be in time to save him.
“Go away,” Wash whispers. His throat aches and his voice is a croak. Because it’s not Donut shouting for him in the distance; the real Donut is safe in Armonia, far away from here.
“Felix, get moving.”
Locus isn’t here—he’s left Wash to die, for whatever reason.
Caboose isn’t there either. He’s probably upset that Wash is gone—oh god, Tucker probably had to deal with that, with Caboose’s fat tears flowing down his face as he sobbed gigantic, building shaking sobs like he had when Epsilon had disappeared.
“You three, spread out! He’s supposed to be in this area.”
Wash doesn’t know those voices. He wonders who they’re supposed to be, in this hallucination. Maybe the pirates? It could be one of the armies though.
Carolina isn’t here. She’s in battle, she’s fighting Locus and Felix, she’s saving Chorus.
That was Felix, and it was just as imaginary as the others. Wash screws his eyes shut and digs his fingernails into the palms of his hands.
“I found something over here, dirtbags!”
Sarge sounds close, tantalizingly close, but Wash knows that’s not the case. Sarge is far, far away from here. He’s imagining things; the rustle of a tarp being moved, the heavy sound of boots on the roof. Or if he isn’t, it’s Locus and Felix, here to move him. It’s not his friends. They’re not here.
Wash keeps telling himself it’s not real until the trapdoor is ripped open and Wash screams as he’s covered in a brilliant, blinding light for the first time in ages, before he can even see who it is who’s come to rescue him.