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He’s terrible at this. There’s bad, there’s worse, and then there’s just stop while you’re ahead and go back home. Wash is pretty sure that’s where he fits in, staring at aisles and aisles of things, all bright and colorful and overwhelming. His shoulders tense slightly and he jams his hands into his pockets, determinedly stepping forward. He hasn’t been out to one of the larger shops since-- well, since everything happened, with Connie and York both finding reasons to alternate shifts of watching him. It’s comforting in some ways but mostly, anymore, it just makes him feel like he can’t handle himself.

It’d taken explaining that to both of them for them to let him go -- he’s an adult, damnit, he can walk down the street without having an episode. (He thinks.) They make him carry his phone, and York goes to work with a worried look on her face, Connie following shortly after.

Wash makes it to the store, of course, and is halfway down an aisle before someone touches his shoulder, and for a moment, he tenses, wanting to move instinctively and spin, pin them back and down and stop them from getting that close to his neck. He freezes instead, because he’s normal, he’s fine, he’s just shopping, and turns, slowly.

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you!”

The girl’s awash in Christmas gear- awful and tacky and for a moment, it’s comforting more than anything else. Once he’s sure he’s not going to slip, he explains what he needs, and follows her around the store, feeling lost the whole way.

It’s two hours later that he returns to an empty house, and it takes some time, but he manages. The little pine that York bought is still sitting on the counter, and he carefully affixes lights to the back porch, and around the windows. It took time to find ornaments so small, but he manages there, too, and beside the tree, he painstakingly wraps four small presents, the majority of his two hours having been spent picking them out.

By the time York and Connie get home, he’s halfway through a glass of coffee, not missing the way York’s face lights up in relief, and the way Connie reaches out to touch the lights with a tiny smile. Washington isn’t particularly religious, but it’s nice, all the same, to see the way York fingers the wrapping paper and the way the lights bounce off Connie’s hair. After all three of them wrap the gifts, Wash is fiddling with one of the large ribbons left over - he’d bought it purely on impulse, because it’d matched York’s armor, but there was no gift that was large enough for it.

“We could just toss it out,” Wash offers wryly, fingering the silkiness of it with a shake of his head. “I don’t...know what I was thinking, really.”

Connie looks like she’s considering it, but York-- well, York leans forward and takes the silk in hand with a look that’s almost predatory. Wash leans back, eyebrows raised, and somehow finds himself caged in between the two of them after Connie slips behind him with her hands on his shoulders so it isn’t a surprise. Once, he’d have panicked. Right now, there’s a low roll of warmth through his belly as York slips the bow around his wrists and ties it, settling into his lap with a lopsided smirk. “Nah. Pretty sure we’ll find a good use for it.”

One look at the two of them, and he believes it.

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WASHINGTON

December 2012

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