The door opens and Wash looks up. Whatever it is they drugged him with is keeping his movements sluggish, and he stares up at Locus blearily, his limbs too heavy to move.
Locus holds out his hand, and Wash’s stomach growls as he sees the food in it. He knows what this is, knows that Locus is trying to do. But he needs to eat. He glares up at Locus and starts to eat as best he can.
“Training today, Agent Washington,” Locus tells him quietly, and Wash doesn’t say anything, just keeps eating, although he goes cold.
The others don’t know where he is. They don’t even know he’s alive, from the ominous comments Locus has made.
No one is looking for him. Only Locus and the pirates know he’s here.
“Aww, he’s getting better at this,” Felix coos from the doorway. “I always wanted a pet.”
Right. And Felix.
When he’s done eating Locus grabs him by the scruff of his neck and forces him to his feet. Wash gives a few token struggles, but he’s exhausted and drugged to the point where moving is difficult and he’s dragged into the hallway and dropped to his knees.
They’re not bothering to train him to fight. They’re training him to be obedient. And if Wash wants to live—and he does, he needs to make it back to them, he needs to warn the others about Felix and Locus—then he needs to do what they want. Which for now, is learning to read the signs of where he’s supposed to go.
Wash starts moving. It’s slow going, on his hands and knees, unable to stand under the weight of the drugs. First door, bright teal tape on the floor. He swallows and keeps going. He’s learning what they want, what they’re doing, and he hates it, hates the fact that he can feel his brain go flat with fear at the sight of the tape. Red tape on the next one. He keeps going. His limbs are steadying as the drug starts to wear off, until finally he gets to a door with orange tape. He stops and looks behind him. Orange tape means he needs permission from Felix. Felix nods, and Wash goes in.
Wash is dead.
The knowledge pounds in Tucker’s head like a drumbeat.
Felix brought the armor he managed to scavenge, coated in blood. He’s got audio of Wash screaming, but no visuals because he couldn’t get the angle right.
“I’m sorry,” Felix says, and for once the guy actually sounds sincere, exhausted to the core and just... miserable. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t fast enough—Locus decided he was a threat—”
Tucker can’t find it in him to say it’s not Felix’s fault and stumbles away instead, tears streaming behind his helmet.
Wash sacrificed himself to make sure the rest of them made it out of there.
Felix says that the others are alive.
Tucker is going to do anything to make sure that Wash didn’t die in vain.
Wash wakes up cuffed to a bed.
The room is sterile and terrifyingly white; the kind of white that Wash associates with padded cells and hospitals. Even the air smells of disinfectant. Everything hurts; his head is throbbing, and he has the sour taste in his mouth that tells him he’s been out for too long and that everything is wrong. His armor is gone too.
He starts fighting immediately, trying to sit up despite the weakness he feels, tugging at the cuff, hoping to find it loose enough to slip out of, or even to snap the chain. Someone in medic-purple armor immediately comes into his vision, holding a threatening-looking needle, and Wash tries to pull away, trying to figure out how he’s going to fight, with only one hand available and out of armor.
“He’s awake?” Wash freezes, looking for the source of the voice. He knows that voice.
The fight comes rushing back, and Wash remembers looking up at the helmet, cursing out the man above him.
“Yes,” the medic says, scowling. They help Wash sit up, to his surprise, although they look like they want to put him right back under. Something cold sinks into his stomach as he realizes he can’t hear Sarge or Donut, and he can only see Locus and the medic as he finally gets a better look at the room.
Locus comes to stand right by Wash. He looks almost comically out of place in the hospital instead of the battlefield. He seems to be unarmed, clearly not wanting to risk letting Wash near any of his weapons. Wash bets there’s a knife tucked away somewhere, but he can’t see anything, and it won’t help him if he can’t find it. “I see you’re recovering from your injuries. My employer will be pleased.”
“Where are the others?” Wash demands. He can now see guards by the door, telling him just how carefully Locus is handling his capture. They don’t want to take risks with him. Wash thinks he should be flattered but all it does is worry him.
Why is he still alive?
“Far away from here,” Locus says. “Originally, you were supposed to have accompanied them, but my employer decided there were better ways to make use of you.”
“What does the Federal Army want with me?” Wash pulls on the handcuff slightly. He tries to keep his heart rate even, tries to not let Locus see his concern. Why separate him from the others? Are they alive?
“Nothing,” Locus says calmly. “In this matter, I am not working with the Federal Army.”
“For your purposes,” Locus says, “the name is irrelevant.” A hand comes to rest on Wash’s implants, and Wash tries to thrash away, but Locus’ hand remains there, armored fingers clutching the back of his neck tightly. “My employer has given me the task of breaking you, Agent Washington.”
Wash grits his teeth. His breathing is ragged, but he glares up at Locus with as much ferocity as he could muster. “You can try.” Freelancer had tried, and if they’d succeeded, it wasn’t completely, and not in the way that Locus meant.
Locus lets go and takes a step back, looking at Wash appraisingly, tilting his helmet to one side. “There is no rescue coming. There is no escape. I have time, and resources, and plenty of assistance. You will break, Agent Washington. I look forward to it.”
Wash doesn’t doubt him on that part.
“And what happens then?” Wash demands. He’ll escape by then, he’s confident of that. But he needs to know Locus’ endgame before he can try to figure out what he’s going to do.
Locus nods approvingly, like this is the first sensible thing he’s said. “Then you will work with us.”
“I’m thinking,” Wash’s eyes flew to the doorway, where Felix was standing, confident and unmistakable in his orange and steel armor, “the first thing we make you do is kill Lavernius Tucker.”
“Felix,” Locus greets, and Wash feels his stomach drop.
It must show on his face because Felix laughs. “Oh man, you were wrong, Locs! He did buy the charming-mercenary act!”
Felix and Locus are working together. The armies, the civil war—whatever is really going on, Felix and Locus are playing some other game, something with someone else in charge, and for some reason, they want Wash as another piece on the board.
“My partner, Felix,” Locus says to Wash, “will be assisting me in the process.”
“Don’t get me wrong,” Felix says. “I’m sure Locus would do a great job. But he doesn’t have my… touch.”
“I still need to prep him,” the medic interrupts.
“Very well,” Locus nods. “I will see you soon, Agent Washington.”
The medic moves to inject Wash, but Felix stops them. “No,” Felix says. “Leave him awake for this. Just call it… step one.”
The medic sighs, irritated, but puts down the needle. “Get the guards in here then, I need to move him.”
Felix laughs again. “Have fun, Wash!”
Two of the guards come in, and hold him down as the cuff is removed and he’s dragged over to a chair that reminds Wash terrifyingly of implantation from Freelancer. He’s forced onto it face down, and strapped into place. There’s a gap for his head to press through, but a strap around the back of his head keeps him from moving it.
“Anything else you need?” One of the guards asks.
“One of you stay here, just in case. I’m not taking chances with such a valuable asset.”
Wash pulls on the straps around his wrists hard. He doesn’t like the way the medic is talking about him. It’s calculated, calm, efficient. Like he’s an unusually interesting labrat.
“Project Washington, log 12. Subject is now conscious and vocal, despite initial suspicions of brain damage. Beginning preliminary preparations.”
Wash didn’t like the sound of that.
The medic’s armored fingers lightly pressed against his implant site. “We’ll need to upgrade this eventually,” they observed. “I need to talk to Control about getting the equipment.”
“Who’s Control?” Wash demanded, unable to move enough to even try to throw the medic’s hands off. “What are you doing?”
“I think you’ve got other things to worry about,” the medic says, matter of factly.
A needle presses into the back of his neck and Wash distantly hears himself beginning to scream.
“Skin hunger,” Grey says to them as Wash curls up against Tucker’s side. He’s no longer shaking now that Carolina and Tucker have taken off their armor, and is just content to plaster himself to Tucker and never let go.
Wash hasn’t said a single word since they brought him home. He’s shown no sign of remembering any of them except Tucker, and that burns at the others, Tucker knows. Carolina is taking it particularly hard. She’s been punching walls, that Wash can barely even look at her.
“Skin hunger doesn’t do this,” Carolina snaps. “You’ve seen how he’s acting, that’s not—”
“It’s a part of it, sweetie,” Grey says softly. “I’m sure there’s plenty of the rest of it, but that’s a component for sure. Deny him human contact when he misbehaves, provide it when he does. It’s an element of his conditioning, even if we don’t have the other parts yet.”
“Um, Doctor Grey,” Caboose says. “Why does Washington recognize Tucker and not me? That is not very nice of him to have forgotten the rest of us.”
Grey let out a nervous giggle. “Oh my! He doesn’t recognize Captain Tucker, silly!”
“He doesn’t?” Tucker demands. He’s petting Wash’s hair to calm him down.
“Nope! I believe that, since you killed his last handler, Agent Washington now believes you are his handler.”
Tucker felt his skin crawl. “Wait. Handler?”
Grey nods. “Oh yes! It was fairly clear there was a level of dependency. And fear. Quite a bit of fear!
“Wash is scared of Tucker?” Carolina demands, skeptical.
“He’s scared of everyone right now,” Grey says.
Wash buries his face in Tucker’s shirt and continues to say nothing at all.
Wash knows they’re winning the day he can’t remember Tucker’s name for a whole half an hour.
It’s the drugs, he knows—they’ve finally perfected the dosage, and it’s terrifying him because Felix has outlined to him exactly what they’re going to make him do once his training is complete, and if he can’t remember them…
He’s been losing for a while now, he realizes, biting his lip as he goes over it in his head. Even when Locus and Felix aren’t there, he doesn’t cross the taped over thresholds. Two days ago they didn’t even bother closing the door to his cell, just taped it over with teal tape, and Wash had been too terrified to even consider crossing it. Yesterday two of the pirates tried to force him across a blue line, and Wash had fought them, fought them until Felix caught them at it, and gotten rid of them.
Then Felix had cupped his face in his bare hands and told him he was a good broken toy, and Wash hadn’t even responded to the insults, just leaned into the touch.
Locus pushes the door open and Wash doesn’t move from his position. Protein bar today—Wash finds his muscles relaxing at this confirmation that he did well, and he tries to rebel against it, but Locus holds it out and Wash loses track of those thoughts as he eats, then swallows the pills Locus offers him.
The last thing he thinks clearly for a while is that Tucker’s coming for him. He has to be.
Locus takes him from the cell soon after that. Takes him to a room usually cordoned off with teal tape, but there’s no tape there right now. Locus pets his hair and Wash whimpers, leaning into the touch. He was good today, he gets to be touched, and Locus chuckles, his hand resting on Wash’s lower back. “Behave,” Locus tells him, before leaving Wash there. There’s a ripping sound of tape, and when Wash goes back to the door, the teal tape is back and Wash recoils instantly, moving away from it.
He wanders around the room instead, and is surprised by the food. His stomach growls, but he doesn’t move to take anything. That would be against the rules. Instead, he sits on the floor and waits, once he’s done exploring the room and determining all entrances are off limits.
Felix comes soon after, and laughs when he sees Wash perk up. “You’re pathetic,” he tells Wash, but he rubs soothing circles against Wash’s back and Wash doesn’t care.
The pirates think it’s funny. A pet Freelancer.
Locus isn’t here all the time—he’s busy with whatever it is he’s doing, although he swings by every day to feed Wash and to put him in his place if Wash has misbehaved. Felix is even less frequent, but when he’s there, it guarantees training.
The pirates are in charge, otherwise.
They don’t hurt him unless he provokes them. He did it a lot at first, trying to fight them or escape while they were around. They don’t take their time with it—their orders are to leave punishment to Locus—but he still comes away from it hurting enough even before Locus punishes him for it. But they report on his behavior to Locus and that’s almost as bad.
The first… well, while, Wash isn’t sure how long he’s been here anymore... at first, Locus only punishes Wash himself, sometimes with Felix.
But then he catches Wash on the wrong side of a line for the third time that day. It’s only a red line, but Locus is furious.
Locus gives Wash to the pirates that night.
Wash is thrown back into his cell, hours later, covered in bruises and cuts, with his ribs broken and throat hoarse from screaming, and Locus is waiting for him.
“No one is coming to help you, Agent Washington,” Locus says calmly. Wash is determinedly not shaking from his position on the floor, even though he wants to. “You will break.” He bends over and grabs Wash’s chin with his armored hand, forcing Wash to look up at him. “It is up to you how much pain you will suffer before that happens.”
Wash’s stomach growls loudly; Locus had fed him barely a few bites of an MRE before throwing him to the pirates.
Locus kicks him and Wash whines, curling up into a ball.
“The pain stops when you accept your fate, Washington,” Locus reminds him.
Wash thinks of Felix’s first words to him when he woke up in this hell. They’re going to make him kill Tucker when he breaks.
He pauses in his thoughts.
If he breaks.
He’s going to get out of here.
He won’t hurt Tucker. They can’t make him.
Locus leaves, the door closing behind him, leaving Wash alone with his thoughts.
Someone wearing the Meta suit shows up on the field one day, and everything goes to shit.
Whoever it is is good, very good, and Tucker charges right towards him, sword out and shouting a battle cry that Carolina has been trying to get him to stop using.
“Swish!” Tucker has been buzzing with a nervous energy all week; ever since they learned Wash was alive, and prisoner somewhere, they’ve been desperately ripping apart everything, trying to find him.
The pirates they interrogated only laugh when they ask. Even Grey hasn’t been able to get anything useful out of them.
Now, at least, he’s got something he can fight, can beat, and whoever the fuck is in the armor is going to have a lot to answer for to Carolina once Tucker is finished with them.
The first strike is blocked easily, but Tucker manages to kick him instead, sending the man stumbling backwards. Sarge charges in next, and ducks under the gun that’s being pointed in his face, slamming the butt of his gun upwards, right under the chin of the helmet.
Later, he realizes that Felix did it on purpose. The helmet was too loose for that to happen accidentally.
The helmet flies off, and everything in the entire world stops. Sarge is there too, equally frozen in place.
Blank slate-grey eyes stare back at him. There’s a moment where Tucker thinks, maybe, maybe Wash recognizes him, but then the gun comes up and Grif tackles him to keep him from getting a bullet to the face and Tucker struggles to keep his focus on staying alive and not on what the fuck Felix and Locus have been doing to him to turn Wash into this.
Sometime after Wash learns the meaning of all the colors, they start having him kill prisoners who wear teal. At first, Wash is resistant; it’s been ages since he’s held a weapon—they give him a small knife, useless against armor, but deadly enough for the shaking person in teal scrubs.
When he tries to refuse, Felix takes the knife and uses it on Wash while Locus kills the prisoner himself. Slowly. Painfully.
At least if Wash kills them, he can make it quick.
They start making the prisoners fight him; they give them crude weapons and tell them they’ll be free if they kill him, so that self-preservation kicks in and Wash fights back. The drugs no longer impede his movement, and Wash is lightning fast as he regains lost muscle mass.
He’s rewarded when he kills them. Rewarded more if it’s particularly brutal or painful; this is Felix’s work. Locus is happier when he’s quick.
They throw him against people in armor soon; always bright colors, all the bad colors, and one by one Wash kills them. Wash feels sick the first few times, and Locus is surprisingly patient with him for that, as long as he still follows through and kills them. Felix likes to make him fight the teal ones in particular, orders Wash to make it nasty and painful and slow. .
“God I can’t wait,” Felix says, petting Wash’s hair. He’s covered in blood but Felix doesn’t care, laughing as he nudges the body that Wash is shying away from, still worried about the color of the armor. “He’s going to be crushed when you fight him. And when you kill him? Oh man I hope I’ll have a camera.”
Wash says nothing, (he’s no longer sure if he knows how), and just leans into the touch and waits for Locus to take him back to his cell.
They know there’s going to be some weird things happening now that Wash is back, but none of them expected this.
“Wash,” Tucker tugs on his arm, but Wash is curled up into a ball, chest rising and falling far too rapidly, just in front of the door. “C’mon, Wash, we need to go in here.”
Normally they just let Wash do whatever he wants (although he follows Tucker around unless Tucker tells him not to, then he follows Grif, and they all know it’s because, just like Tucker is the new Locus in Wash’s drugged out brain, Grif is Felix because of his armor color). But they need him to go in here, because Grey needs blood samples, needs to try to figure out what they put in Wash’s systems that’s making him so quiet and confused.
Wash shakes his head desperately, not even leaning into Tucker’s touch like he normally does, and he’s letting out a desperate, whining noise that’s like a stab in the gut.
“What’s wrong, Wash?” Carolina asks quietly, kneeling down next to him. Epsilon doesn’t make an appearance—Wash reacts to him badly, and isn’t that just like Felix, to make sure Wash remembers what Epsilon did to him, but not who the rest of them are?
Wash just curls up tighter, and Carolina glances at him. “When did this happen?” She asks.
“I don’t know! He was fine until I tried to turn into this door?”
Carolina bites her lip. “Grey says we need to find out what they dosed him with soon. She thinks he might go into withdrawal.”
Tucker and she share a desperate look. They’ve been worried about what physically did to Wash for ages; they’re still piecing together what they did to him, but physically, all they know is that something’s wrong with his implants and they were definitely drugging him. They need to get him to the infirmary; now that he’s eating again and isn’t freaking out at everyone who isn’t Tucker, they can finally determine what happened to him and try to fix it.
“I’m sorry Wash,” Tucker says, and then they grab him and force him through the doorway, Wash thrashing and yelling the whole way.
Grey sedates him the second they get him into the room, then Tucker and Carolina go back to examine the doorway to figure out what was wrong.
“The quarantine line,” Carolina says suddenly. Tucker joins her, staring at the line of dark blue paint.
“Wash is scared of colors,” Tucker whispers.
“Blue was one of the worst,” Carolina says, glancing at him. Teal was the only one worse than dark blue.
“Let’s… let’s get rid of this. For when we get Wash out of there.”
Wash is being punished again; he’s been bad all week and he’s trying, he is, but they keep grabbing his neck and he can’t help but yell and fight whenever anyone but Locus and Felix tries it.
He’s never been in this room before; the room is usually cordoned off with teal tape, but today he was lead in by Locus, and Felix is already waiting for them.
“He’s certainly ready,” Felix laughs, reaching out and touching Wash’s split lip and pressing at the black eye. Wash cries out and leans away.
“One last thing,” Locus tells him. “If you do well today, your punishment is over.”
Wash looks at him, wondering what’s about to happen.
Felix pushes down on his shoulders until Wash is on his knees.
“Here’s what you’re going to do,” Felix tells him, crouching next to Wash. “Every time you hear this sound—” He presses a button and a voice, a familiar voice comes out.
“Wash!” The voice yells.
“Whenever you hear that sound,” Felix tells him. “You need to yell “Tucker!” Can you manage that?”
Wash hesitates, looking at Locus. Locus had told him a long time ago that he’s not allowed to speak. He’s not about to break one of Locus’ rules for Felix.
“You have permission,” Locus says, nodding in approval.
“Are you sure he can?” Felix says, getting up and kicking Wash lightly in the ribs. Wash winces, but accepts it as part of his punishment—he broke one of the pirate’s noses today. He’s earned this. “It’s been awhile since he’s talked.”
“I’ve been lowering his dosage for the past week,” Locus says. “He should be able to speak.”
“You worried he’ll recognize them?” Felix asks, pulling on Wash’s hair hard. Wash wonders what it is they’re talking about.
“The armor should distract him.” Locus isn’t even watching them, his focus almost entirely on the equipment.
Felix laughs. “Good point. Now let’s practice, Washy. So when you hear this—”
The recording plays again and Wash thinks the world is shaking, but Locus is looking at him expectantly and so all he does is open his mouth and say, “Tucker?”
“Wow, you sound like a frog,” Felix snorts. “Yell it, Wash. I want panic.”
Wash nods, and when Felix plays it again he’s ready.
“Tucker!” Something in that word stirs something in Wash’s brain, fear-addled and drugged as it is. The word is familiar on his tongue. It’s... green grass and warm steel and laughter and...
“Excellent,” Locus says, distracting Wash from his thoughts. “We’re ready.” He puts down the camera, and walks towards Wash. “Hands behind your back, Washington.”
Wash complies, although he whimpers as the cuffs are attached around his wrists and a blindfold secured over his eyes.
“Just do this right, and then we’re done,” Locus says to him. “Can you do this?”
Wash nods. He’ll do anything to stop the punishment, to be good again, and Locus knows it.
The door opens and someone else walks in. One of the pirates.
“You’re allowed to struggle today,” Locus tells him. “Struggle and yell all you like.”
Oh. Are they proving to Control how far his training has come today? It’s been awhile since they’ve had to do that, but Wash figures they’re about due. Or... maybe not? It’s hard to keep track of time.
“Start the call,” Locus says.
Wash lowers his head and listens to words that barely even register. There’s shouting, and then Felix laughs.
“Heeey there, Tucker! You know, Locus and I realized recently we’d never bothered to correct a misconception of yours! Why don’t you say hello?”
A hand fists in his hair and yanks Wash to his feet, and Wash hears shouting, but there’s only one voice that matters.
Felix telling him how to sound goes right out of his head, because all Wash ends up saying is. “Tucker?” He knows that voice. How does he know that voice?
Locus punches him in the side and Wash doubles over, crying out
There’s a lot of noises, but none of them are the word he’s supposed to respond to. Locus pushes him towards Felix, and Wash goes, stumbling forward until Felix grabs him by the hair and pulls him in front of him.
“He’s a bit beat up, I know,” Felix says, shaking him slightly. Wash wants to go limp, but he tries to pull away instead, because he’s allowed, and he doesn’t want to be near Felix, doesn’t want to wait until Felix sinks a knife into him for misbehaving. “But I think he looks better this way, don’t you?”
“You son of a bitch—”
“Want to see them, Washy?” Felix asks, mocking, and before Wash can formulate how he’s supposed to response, his blindfold is ripped off and he’s looking up at a screen full of people in colorful armor.
Wash recoils, and Felix laughs loudly.
It’s the voice, it’s the voice, and Wash says it the way Felix told him too, loud and panicked and thrashing in Felix’s grip, trying to get away from the colors.
One of the teal ones rushes forward, and Felix stuffs the blindfold in his mouth, gagging him.
Wash desperately tries to keep saying the word (or is it a name?) but Felix has his knife out and drags it across Wash’s chest, not enough to be dangerous but enough to draw blood, and Wash cries out and falls to the ground. There’s a calamity on the other side of the screen.
“Locus, take him away would you? As much fun it is to hear him scream, we’ve got business.”
“No! Wash!” It’s the voice again, and so Wash forces himself to try to call out again through the gag, even as Locus hauls him to his feet.
“Say goodbye,” Felix says. “I doubt you’ll be seeing him again, after all!”
“You can stop now,” Locus says in Wash’s ear as he pulls Wash away. Wash follows him limply, struggling to find his feet.
When they get to his cell, Locus removes the handcuffs and gag. “You did well, Washington.”
Wash perks up slightly at that. Is he not going to be punished anymore?
Locus presses a pill into his mouth, and Wash swallows obediently. It’s been a long time since he’s refused the drugs.
Locus takes off his armor and Wash practically vibrates while he waits. When Locus finally reaches for him, pulling him against his chest, Wash practically sobs with joy. It’s been a whole week since he’s been touched, and he only gets this much when he’s been very good. Control must be happy with his progress, Wash thinks, closing his eyes and leaning against Locus.
That night he dreams of teal armor and the word “Tucker!” over and over again.
When Felix calls them to say he’s got an offer, Tucker isn’t sure what to expect.
There’s been this... knot inside of Tucker, ever since he realized Locus probably killed Wash on purpose, to get him out of the way. A Freelancer was too much of a risk.
They’re all mourning him. It’s almost suffocating.
Felix appears on screen.
“You,” Kimball says, voice dripping with loathing. “What the hell do you want?”
“You sick fuck,” Tucker snaps. “We’re not buying what you’re selling, so why don’t you skip ahead to the part where we tell you to fuck off?”
“Heeey there, Tucker!” Felix is practically bouncing in place, and that’s how Tucker knows it’s not going to be good. “You know, Locus and I realized recently we’d never bothered to correct a misconception of yours! Why don’t you say hello?”
Tucker feels his stomach drop like a stone as Locus steps into view. He’s got his hands tangled in a shock of blonde hair, streaked with grey. The man he’s holding upright is wearing a prisoner’s uniform, and is covered in bruises and small cuts. His lip is split open, and there’s a trail of dried blood from the corner of his mouth. There’s a ring of bruises around his neck that look like fingers, and he’s pale and practically shaking as he’s pulled to a stand. There’s a blindfold over his eyes and his hands are cuffed behind his back. And despite all that, Tucker would know him anywhere.
Wash freezes, head turning as much as he can in Locus’ grip, trying to find the source of the sound. “Tucker?” His voice is a rasp, like he’s been screaming or hasn’t used it in ages.
Locus punches Wash in the ribs and Wash doubles over, shouting in pain.
The whole room erupts in shouting at that point. Tucker spits curses at Felix, his eyes never leaving Wash, who’s struggling in Locus’ grip, breath coming in short, audible pants as he tries to recover.
Locus pushes Wash forward and Wash stumbles into Felix, who laughs and pulls him forward like a rag doll so they’ve got a better view. Wash looks thin, and in pain, and Tucker’s heart lurches something awful as he realizes that they had him the whole time.
“He’s a bit beat up, I know,” Felix says, tugging on Wash’s hair. “But I think he looks better this way, don’t you?”
“You son of a bitch—” Tucker snarls.
“Want to see them, Washy?” Felix says, his voice almost a coo, before ripping the blindfold off Wash’s face, and Tucker sees Wash’s steely grey eyes for the first time in months.
Wash recoils; he must be blinded by the light or something, Tucker guesses
“Wash?” He says, reaching out slightly towards the screen, unable to help himself.
Wash is fighting Felix’s grip now, head tossing back and forth, but he still yells out Tucker’s name, panicked and confused sounding. Tucker feels like he might cry, and he’s glad that he’s wearing his helmet, because Felix is probably enjoying this too much as it is, the sick fuck.
As Tucker steps forward, Felix stuffs the blindfold into Wash’s mouth, but Wash still keeps shouting through the gag.
Tucker thinks he’s saying his name.
There’s a flash of silver, and Tucker yells again as Felix drags his knife across Wash’s chest, cutting through the prison uniform and drawing blood and Wash tumbles down, screaming, out of sight of the camera, and everyone is shouting again.
“Locus, take him away would you? As much fun it is to hear him scream, we’ve got business.” Felix says, and there’s another muffled shout, indicating that Felix just kicked Wash.
“No! Wash!” Tucker’s practically pressed against the screen now, watching desperately as Locus hauls Wash to his feet and drags him away, Wash fighting him and screaming the whole way.
“Say goodbye,” Felix says. “I doubt you’ll be seeing him again, after all!”
“Wash!” Tucker is far from the only one to yell the name as Locus pulls Wash out of sight, Wash’s muffled screams echoing in their ears.
Wash is staring blankly at Locus’ body, and Tucker scrambles at the latches of the suit, because Grey says that they can probably hurt him through it, and he needs Wash out of that thing now.
Wash is no longer fighting; he went limp the second Locus went down, confirming their suspicions that Locus was the one who’d been controlling Wash at least.
Finally, Wash blinks slowly before staring right at Tucker. He recoils for a moment, shaking. He’s scared of Tucker.
“Wash, Wash, it’s okay,” Tucker pulls off his helmet desperately. “It’s me! It’s me, right?”
“It’s going to be fine,” Tucker lies through his teeth, because Wash looks pale and thin and scared and that’s all so wrong that Tucker can’t even bear to think about it. “He’s dead, right? He can’t hurt you anymore.”
Wash’s look is uncertain, but taking off the helmet helped. Thinking quickly, Tucker removes his breastplate and gloves. Each piece that comes off seems to relax Wash more, and, getting the message, he starts removing his own armor, piece by piece.
Finally, Wash is completely out of armor and Tucker’s only in his bottom half, and he can’t help himself. He reaches out and touches Wash’s face. Wash lets out a stifled noise—a sob, Tucker thinks, and leans into it. Tears are flowing down Wash’s face. “Wash,” Tucker breathes, and before he can stop himself he’s pulling Wash against his chest.
Wash lets out another noise—Tucker hates this, why isn’t Wash talking, but finally Tucker has to push him away, because they need to find the others. Reluctantly, Tucker puts on his armor, and Wash seems to shrink again. He starts moving away to call the others to help him with Wash, because Wash is hovering over Locus’ body now, staring down at him.
But the minute Tucker moves, Wash moves with him, staying just a few steps behind him.
“You know what? He can walk,” Tucker says. “Just send people to get the armor.” He glares at Locus again. “And Locus’ body, I guess. We could use it for target practice.”
Wash won’t eat.
Ever since they pulled him out of that fucking suit, ever since Tucker killed Locus, ever since he followed Tucker back, he won’t eat.
He’s not talking either, but honestly the eating is more concerning right now. He’s not shying away from Tucker; in fact, quite the opposite. He’s following Tucker around like… like a puppy or something and he practically luxuriates in every tiny bit of human contact Tucker or anyone else gives him. Caboose fucking hugged him as soon as they got back and Wash was practically glowing for hours.
But he won’t eat. They’ve tried pretty much everything; sticking to bland food, leaving him alone with it, but he won’t eat.
Tucker’s trying again today. He holds the protein bar out to Wash. “C’mon,” he begs. “Wash, you need to eat.”
Wash slowly inches forward, but he’s done that before, it doesn’t mean anything, before he takes a big bite out of the protein bar, and Tucker thinks he might actually cry. Wash relaxes as he eats, and Tucker just wants to bring Locus back to life so he can kill him again for doing this to Wash.
Once Wash is done he starts to back away again but Tucker reaches for him and Wash leans against his hand. “You’re gonna be fine, Wash,” Tucker mutters. “We’re gonna help you.”
His new handler is weird, Wash can’t help but think. He doesn’t… he’s nothing like Locus, or even like Felix. (Wash knows him, he knows him, but he doesn’t know his name, he can’t remember…
He’s not giving Wash the drugs, which worries Wash because the last time he didn’t take his drugs, he was punished for a week.
But… he’s not going to be punished if he’s not given them and doesn’t take them, right?
There’s no tape in the new base, which means Wash can wander freely, but there’s so many colors that it makes Wash nervous. It’s bad enough that his new handler wears teal.
At least he’s no longer in trouble. The new handler’s punishments are lighter than Locus or Felix’s, but Wash still doesn’t like it. Being left alone is… hard. Harder than it should be. Harder than it was. Wash isn’t sure why he hates being left alone by his new handler more than he hated being left alone by Locus. Being left alone by Locus had meant Felix, after all. And Felix… Wash wonders where Felix is. The new handler killed Locus, but he didn’t see Felix die. But Wash is being good again, and the food reflects that.
Today though, the handler wants to try something new. He holds out a green apple, and Wash knows what this one means. Wash eats it, and then waits. His handler starts to stroke his hair and Wash relaxes again.
The door opens and a soldier in grey armor with green streaks walks in. Wash immediately follows orders.
He pulls out the knife he stole off one of the soldiers and pounces, ready to go for the kill.
The man screams and starts to run away, and before Wash can give chase his handler shouts and pulls him back, grabbing the knife out of his hands, and Wash curls up instantly, wondering what he did wrong.
Suddenly, he’s being pulled into his handler’s lap and there’s a hand in his hair again, petting him. “You’re fine, you’re fine, you’re fine…” his handler whispers. “You didn’t do anything wrong, you’re fine…”
Lips press against his forehead and Wash tries to relax, but he doesn’t understand. Why doesn’t… why doesn’t….
That’s his handler’s name.
Wash opens his mouth, clumsily trying to find the words to ask Tucker what he wants, what Wash did wrong, but all that comes out is a whimper. His tongue is too clumsy to form words. Wash realizes he doesn’t even remember the last time he spoke. Felix and Locus didn’t like it when he spoke. (“You don’t get opinions,” Felix had whispered in his ear as Wash wriggled beneath him, begging him to stop. Stop what? Wash doesn’t remember, but he thinks there was blood. “You’re nothing.”)
“I’ve got you Wash,” Tucker says. “I’ve got you.”
Wash feels exhausted, and lets his eyes close.
Tucker has him. It’s going to be fine.
“Tucker,” Wash says as Tucker makes to leave one night.
Tucker freezes, then instantly goes back to Wash. “Wash? Wash? Do you know me?”
“Tucker,” Wash whispers again, and then he smiles, and Tucker thinks he might actually cry. Or hug Wash. He decides to hug Wash, just because.
“You remember,” Tucker whispers. “You’re remembering.”
“I—yes. Remembering,” Wash whispers. “There was… snow.”
“Lots of snow, yeah. We changed your armor, remember?”
“Yes,” Wash whispers. He pauses, struggling to think. “Locus… he’s… dead?”
“Dead as a fucking doornail, you saw me right? I was a fucking badass,” Tucker’s babbling, yes, but he doesn’t care, Wash can remember, Wash can talk, this is… they’ve been so scared the damage was permanent.
“Felix?” Wash is tense under his hands, and Tucker really wishes they’d been better at this.
“Not yet. We’re working on it.”
Wash clings to Tucker tightly, burying his face in his shoulder. “Don’t… don’t go?”
“No way,” Tucker says instantly. “I’m… I’m not going anywhere.”