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Out of the Box

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The blindfold itches, but Wash makes no move to remove it.

He’s still not sure if this is a dream or not, if he’s really free of the bumps and ridges of the metal box that had been his prison for weeks on weeks. This could be another hallucination, more vivid and fullbodied than any of the others he’d had. It could be some sort of fever dream, the smell of something more than his unshowered self, the feeling of new clothes against his skin, the taste of fresh food on his tongue.

He could be imagining this.

But as more time passes, Wash finds himself slowly starting to believe it.

This is real; the soft cotton of the blindfold around his eyes, the ungiving firmness of the hospital bench that he sits on, and the warm, real presence of other people all around him, even if he can’t see them.

Carolina squeezes his hand. “You okay?”

“Fine,” Wash rasps. She’s not wearing her armor anymore—he can feel the raised lines of her scars. It’s killing him not to be able to look at her face, to be able to reassure himself that this isn’t some kind of cruel trick on Felix’s part, stealing his friends’ voices to gain his trust. But as the hours drag on, the paranoia fades.

Tucker presses against his other side, a warm, comforting presence. If it’s a trick, it’s a very good one; they even got the scent of Tucker’s shampoo right. “How long do you have to wear that thing?” He asks. Fingers tap against his temple, right above the blindfold.  

“For a few more hours, at least!” Grey says, cheerful as ever. “Light hurts a lot right now, much better to give him time to adjust slowly!”

Wash nods. The room he’s in now is large, large enough that he can’t hear the echoes of every movement, and it’s exhilarating, knowing that he can stand fully without hitting his head, can walk, can run.

He shouldn’t; he’s not in great shape, as Grey keeps firmly reminding him, but he could.

“How did you find me?” He asks again. Tucker’s taken possession of his other hand, rubbing his thumb over Wash’s knuckles. Wash squeezes back, nearly giddy at the human contact. They’re here, they found him, it’s all alright now.

“Your armor,” Carolina says. “We recovered it when we took a pirate base not far from where they’d stashed you. We traced Felix and Locus’s footsteps from there.”  

Wash nods. He startles slightly when someone touches his head, but relaxes as he recognizes the large hands. Caboose has hugged him so often and so hard that Wash nearly cracked a few ribs, but Wash didn’t even care, he was just so glad to be out of that box.

Carolina pauses. “We thought you were dead, when we saw that armor. But Epsilon decrypted a message from Hargrove. Wash… he wanted you alive.”

“I know,” Wash says. He’s thought about that long and hard. “I don’t know why.”

“Well, it doesn’t fucking matter now,” Tucker says, too loudly, but his grip on Wash’s hand is like iron, and it’s comforting, grounding, and most of all real. “Felix and Locus are fucking dead, and Hargrove can fucking suck a dick.”

Wash can’t take it anymore, yanking his hand out of Tucker and Carolina’s grips and yanking off the blindfold, because it’s been weeks since he’s seen his friends, and he needs this, he needs to see this.

“Wash!” Carolina and Tucker yell altogether, but the light only stings, doesn’t burn like when they’d pulled him out of the box, and Wash feasts his eyes hungrily on the familiar infirmary, on the worried Grey, rushing towards him, still in her armor, before turning around, first to his left, to see Tucker, his face framed with his dreadlocks, his expression terrified, and then to Carolina, with Caboose hovering over her shoulder.

Caboose is grinning. Carolina looks thoughtful.

Real. This is real.

Wash doesn’t cry, but he does let Caboose pull him into another hug, and just sits there, not even blinking, savoring the feeling of being in a large, light room.