Pacing and the crunch of paper. It was the repeated pattern that stirred Number 83 from his light slumber. A hushed curse, muttered under the breath and the ripping of paper. Cole wrinkled his nose at the dim glow of the desk light.
"..Fuck this.." His bunk mate muttered. "..Fuck this, I am so done."
"Damon baby, what you doing?" He sat up, shielding his eyes, trying to make out what Baird was doing. "It's late, man."
The floor was covered with scraps and shreds of old paper that didn't look like it'd seen the light of day for years. Baird, was busy tearing up pages that seemed to be kept in a booklet. Though the blonde was thankful that his partner couldn't see the exact expression he was wearing.
A spiteful cocktail his emotions decided to throw at him, like a Molotov of bitterness and a long forgotten ache.
"'m not tired, just go back to bed." Damon muttered back, kicking a scrap of paper aside.
"I would, but you're makin too much noise with all that cussin and mumblin." Cole shook his head, debating whether to reach for one of the scraps or not. Baird was funny like that. He was private even with him, but would sometimes drop little hints that it was okay to poke about something. He was just waiting for that hint when Baird would realise that he wasn't getting rid of him that quickly.
The mechanic snarled to himself as he shunted the book aside. He knew Cole wouldn't just start snooping at what he ripped up. But he knew he'd keep worrying about him. Damnnit why did he have to do that shit?
"Yeah well.. just one of those nights." He shrugged, feigning that he didn't care as much as he did. But this was one of the nights that was increasing in occurrence.
In the past Baird had been able to sleep as sound as a baby - The only Gear in the barracks to never suffer from nightmares. But this was before Baird had opened himself up to people. That moment he started to give a shit about people, was the moment he opened the Pandora's Box for those little voices that niggled in the back of head. Those thoughts that kept you awake and bothered you. Got under your skin. The personal demons everyone experienced, regret and guilt. And now they'd gotten their claws into Damon Baird too.
For years he just hadn't cared long enough to give those thoughts the time they needed to take root. So now they had, Cole was pretty sure that old scenarios were starting to hit home.
"Whatcha tearing up there?" he leant forward, propping himself up with his elbows on his thighs.
"Just something I should have gotten rid of years ago. It doesn't matter Cole." Baird shook his head, turning so he didn't have his back to Cole. A good sign at least, he wasn't trying to shut him out.
"If you should have, then why didn't ya? Don't take a genius to see it's botherin you."
Baird seemed to mull it over. But it looked as though even he didn't know. He wasn't exactly the kind to horde.
"I dunno." He shrugged with his arms out. "Been waitin for the right way to get rid of it."
"An' tearin it up's the right way?" Cole asked. "Shit man, if that was the right way all along why didn't you do it sooner?"
I got tired of having the weight on my shoulders. Baird remained silent and gave a half-assed shrug. And there was where the problem laid.
"Can't leave me hanging here, baby. What is it?"
It wasn't that Baird didn't trust him. He did. Shit, he trusted him with everything. He was the only person he ever did. The only person he actually gave a shit about since the day he met him. But that made the jump to give him one of his secrets that much worse. Always paranoid from childhood experience that Cole would suddenly have a major personality switch and become the harpy bitch like his mother was and belittle the notion. Without a second thought, just shoot him down. No, he never would. The logical part of his mind knew it and constantly bitched at him for it... but that once muted emotional side was starting to find the volume control. And it was scared. He was good enough at this to not show any signs of just how bad it was other than the awkward silence.
"Letters." He finally said, finding himself unable to meet Cole's glance. "They're just a bunch of stupid letters and old journal entries."
"They sound like they got a lotta baggage there, Damon."
"They sure as hell didn't fuckin used to." Baird leant back, gripping at the desk. Something to just anchor him. Something to take the mind off the need to have something of an emotional outburst. That wasn't what he did. He didn't give people the pleasure of seeing they got to him. He was the one who would cut you down to size and spew venom if you poked him too much. Got too close to saying something that hit him too close to home.
Taking the chance Cole reached for one of the crumpled pieces of paper. He glanced to and from Baird before he opened it, asking his permission silently. The blonde didn't stop him, so he slowly flattened it out, careful to not rip any of the starts of frays in the folds.
It didn't have more than a couple of words written on it. But it was one of the letters. Cole didn't even need to properly read it, he just spotted who it was from at the bottom to know it was a hell of an emotional bombshell. 'Your Mother.' Damn it just sounded cold.
'An Engineer? Good lord, if your grandfather heard that a Baird wanted to be an engineer he'd be turning in his grave. No, you're going to sign up to the military if you want to see a single penny of your inheritance.
Shit, it didn't even have the 'Dear Damon' or something. No pleasantries, no how are you? He must have had this when he was at college, because they were both in their early twenties when they signed up.
"Damn.." He sighed shaking his head. "Ain't no way a family should be."
"That was the Bairds. My parents were just all about 'love' and 'family'." His arms had started to fold over his chest. Part of him had always been jealous of the way that Cole had such a good relationship with his mother. They were opposite ends of the social spectrum and yet the supposed 'Tyran dream' white, founding old money family was fucking miserable and the under-privileged ethnic family were tight knit. Cole's mother was loving and raised a hell of a good man. Yet Baird's family were selfish and cold. Only concerned with money and their status.
"Y'know, I've started to wonder what I'd have been like if my family weren't assholes. I know I'm an asshole, but in a different way. Fuck I don't know what I'd do if I did turn out like them."
"Baby, you're incapable of turnin out like them. Cause you care too much about it." No, Cole wasn't about to dress up that he did have a tendency in the past of being callous, but he was getting there. Last thing he needed was him firing out accusations like everyone else. "You're too good for that."
Baird scoffed and shook his head. "Look will you friggin stop with all that 'baby' crap, man?"
"Never bothered ya before." Then again you never cared enough to take it seriously. Take it like it was a 'pet name' rather than just a turn of phrase.
"Just not in the mood for it right now." He mumbled, his right hand coming up to rake through the hair on the back of his head. He shook his head, wincing like he said it wrong. "No.. That's.. I'm just frigging tired."
"I know." Cole's brows lowered sympathetically. "But you gotta let go of the ghosts of the past that weigh you down. Find your own way of dealin with it."
"I've never had to 'deal with it'. It never used to bother me at all. I could have cared less about the bitch."
"An then you met Boomer Lady?"
After the way Baird had reacted to finding out that Bernie wouldn't have been joining them on the mainland and going to Anvil Gate instead.. yeah it'd been hard on him. The first ever person he could have happily called a true mother figure. She was fair. Blunt but fair. She cared and gave him enough respect to confuse the guy. They used to bitch at each other and then he heard how she'd stuck up for him when Alex Brand had started badmouthing him. Called him 'her boy'. The look on his face when he'd overheard Anya telling Dom about it had made him stop in his tracks. And suddenly he had to head back to the camp. Yeah, Cole remembered it. Watched him start to open up to people and stop being so abrasive.
"Yeah." She'd made him realise and see the real way a parent acted. Helped him understand what the norm was. "Then I met Boomer Lady. Guess the smack to the head started putting sense into me."
"I didn't wanna say anythin' but you seemed happier lately." Cole patted the space of bed next to him. There was no point in letting Baird isolate himself anymore tonight. He needed someone right now, and Cole wasn't about to turn him down when he was in need. "You know how I get through it?"
Baird looked at the space suspiciously, still not quite used to being in quite such an intimate setting. But even so, he pushed himself away from the desk and settled himself down."How?"
"For me, I write. Marcus broods and Dom got angrier." He gave a shrug. "I write to my momma. Tell her what's happened, what's goin on. Things I'd tell her if she was still alive. Hurts, but makes me feel better."
"Whatever makes you happy." He considered it, but didn't think he was going to have much luck tonight. It was something he'd battle with in the morning.
The blonde deflated somewhat, finding himself leaning on Cole's shoulder. He was Baird's pillar. Hell he was borderline co-dependent on him and it didn't take Doc Hayman's boisterous diagnosis to tell him. He knew it. Cole was everyone's pillar, but he always made the special exceptions for Baird. It was little things. That's probably why he found it so easy to get attached to Cole as much as he was. But no matter how much he told himself not to, he found himself ignoring it.
"I got other things to make me happy, baby. It just helps." Cole smirked, his large hand on the back of his partner's head; the gentle grip holding him to his shoulder.
"Thought I told you to not call me that right now?"
"I don't see you stoppin me." He chuckled. Or giving me reason to think you're not my baby.
"Yeah, yeah." He huffed and gave Cole a sharp elbow to the ribs. "Let's just sleep already."
It was the unspoken word between the two of them. But for now it was alright. They could quite happily live with cramping into the same single bunk. Not making their unspoken agreement public. When he was ready Baird'd say it out loud. Until then, the way he slept so soundly when he was being spooned or held, or the way he nestled against Cole, said it louder than anything.
"If that's what you want."