The night was silent, aside from the steady crashing of the ocean upon the sand. The sky was clear, and the stars were shining radiantly like diamonds against a curtain of midnight blue. It was warm out, so the brisk breeze coming from the water was refreshing.
Baird and Sam were sitting on the beach under a couple of large palm trees, a good distance from the hotel. Azura was the best place they could think of to start rebuilding, so the hotel was sort of their home for now. It was pretty comfy; way better then their cells on the ship anyway.
They had taken the same route as every other night, walking across the cool sand until they reached "their spot" where they would spend an hour or more talking and listening to one another before heading back home to rest.
What started as a way to speak in private gradually turned into a sort of routine. It gave them a chance to "clear the cobwebs" while spending some time together. While Baird was a bit reluctant when Sam asked him to join her for a "moonlit stroll", he eventually began to enjoy having someone to talk to. It was hard at first, but opening up really helped him feel better. Sam enjoyed his company too. It was the only way she could think of to get to know him better without scaring him away. Sometimes she would talk to him about things on her mind, but most of the time she was a listening ear for her friend. And sometimes they would say nothing at all, just walk side by side listening to the ocean sounds. The silence wasn't awkward. Even when they didn't speak, they both felt it was much better then being alone.
Tonight was different though. Before, they would both seek each other out after they'd had their dinner and the others were getting ready for bed. They'd play it off, but their friends knew what they were up to, though they didn't tease them about it. It was really nice to see them both so happy. And to top it off, Baird was smiling more, and he seemed less pissed off then usual, so that was enough for them.
But as Baird bumped into Sam in the hallway while tying his electric blue hoodie around his waist, he noticed she didn't have the same eagerness like the other times. She always looked forward to their time together. But now she looked like she just wanted to curl up and go to bed. It started this morning, when she'd not wanted to eat much of her breakfast. Baird thought she wasn't feeling well. A stomach ache maybe. He'd asked her what was wrong, but she dismissed his concern and said it was just a headache. Baird saw how tired she looked, and knew she must have had trouble sleeping. All that day she sort of kept to herself. Baird caught her staring into space; saw the empty look in her eyes. "Maybe I should leave her alone," he thought. "It's ok if she doesn't want to go out. She could use the sleep anyway." But something kept telling him to find her. Something was wrong, and he wanted to help if he could. It was the least he could do, after all the times she'd been there for him.
"Hey Sam," he said, clearing his throat. Seeing her like this made him uncomfortable. "Do you, um, want to go outside and get some air? It's really beautiful out." At first he thought she'd say no, but a small smile crossed her face. "Yeah, that'd be nice."
As they stepped outside, Baird took a deep breathe of the salty air. He looked at Sam and smiled. "Nice, huh?" Sam nodded. He was happy to see that she seemed more relaxed being outside. As she closed her eyes and softly inhaled the ocean breeze, Baird couldn't help but notice how lovely she looked standing there in her cut-off shorts and hunter green tank top; the moon light illuminating her features as she raked a hand through her brunette hair. As he glanced at her sleek figure, he wanted so much to tell her how beautiful she was; how each curve of her body, her tanned skin, her gorgeous smile, everything about her was perfect. "I don't want to rush things," he'd tell himself each time he saw her. That was his excuse. No matter how hard he tried, the words just wouldn't come out. But he was working on it.
So after walking along the surf, neither of them saying a word, they had sat down to rest and admire the stars which had revealed themselves after dusk's clouds had rolled away. The calm was overwhelming, almost strange. Baird felt jittery, ready to reach for his lancer and blow the head off a locust or glowie, both of which he had to keep reminding himself were gone. It just didn't seem real. After years of fighting, things changed in what seemed like an instant.
"How long will it take?" Sam found herself asking out loud. "Hmm?" Baird was slightly startled by her voice breaking the eerie calm. "I mean, after all this time, it seems like we're just supposed to hang up our armor and pretend like nothing happened. You know, live a normal life. How do you move on after all this?" She waited for a reply, and Baird felt guilty for not having one. He felt the same way, but he didn't know what he could say to make her feel better. "And all of our friends, everyone we've lost." she continued, her voice shakier then before. "We can't even share it with them." Baird could see the sadness in Sam's eyes as she shot him a pleading glance.
"I know how you feel Sam. I do. You just feel stuck. Stuck in a world you don't know. It's almost like you don't fit anymore, once that purpose for living is gone." She looked into his eyes, waiting for him to say something more. Baird knew she was depending on him. She didn't sleep very well the last couple of nights, and after the adrenaline rush from all the fighting had worn off, she'd sort of become more quiet; more sad. Not the sort of Sam he knew at all. Baird took pride in everything that was his. He always kept his machines and things in working order, so he knew it was his job to make sure the woman he loved was alright too. He hated to see her tired and down during the day, due to her recent nightmares. Baird had taken for granted the fact that sleep came to him with ease.
After thinking for a bit, he spoke up. "I guess since the war took a while, putting everything back together will take time too. We don't have to forget them. The people we loved died so we could have what we have now. I don't think they'd want us to be sad. I know it's tough, but it's going to be alright."
They both sat quietly for a moment. Sam thought about what Baird had said. She knew he was right, but right now, nothing seemed to make sense. She had felt like crying all day, and once again she felt hot tears welling up in her eyes. She wiped at them vigorously, never taking her eyes off the waves. She was too embarrassed to look at Baird while she was this way. Sam always tried to be strong; always wanted to look composed and focused in front of her companions.
"I know today has been rough on you," Baird said suddenly. Sam swallowed the lump in her throat and looked down at her bare feet. Dom's death had been extremely painful. Now, exactly one month to the day, it wasn't any easier. In fact, the free time that Sam had found on her hands in recent days only made things worse. Without the worries of war on everyone's heads, there came more time to dwell on one's pains, losses, and regrets. Baird placed his hand ever so gently on hers, and he felt it was icy to the touch. Sam looked at him, her eyes glassy and bloodshot. Her beautiful face that was always so full of life, her expression so cheerful, was now hollow, broken.
"I miss him too," Baird whispered. He looked at her so tenderly, his eyes full of remorse and pity. Sam's body, tensely fighting back her emotions, went limp. Sobs passed her lips as the tears streamed down her face. Her grief was just too much to bear. Dom, her dear friend, the man she had once began to love, was gone forever. How could she even think of moving on when so much was lost?
She just sat there hunched over, letting the tears fall. Baird quietly scooched over closer to her and draped his massive arm across her petite frame. She leaned her body against his and buried her face in his shoulder. As Baird held her close, he could feel how frail she was. Her whole body shook with her sobs as she huddled closer to him. Her soft skin felt cold in his embrace. She was freezing, as if the warm summer night had suddenly become a blizzard. He ran his hands up and down her arms, trying to warm her up as her tears stained his faded t-shirt. He carefully pushed her hair away from her face and kissed the top of her head.
Baird just sat there and held her for the longest time, not saying a word. He thought it would be best to just let her get everything out. He just wanted Sam to know he was there for her. As he gently rubbed her back, he thought of how brave she'd been. He knew just how dear Dom was to her heart. She has witnessed his death, but she didn't break down. She kept going, never losing sight of the mission. She never even had time to grieve for him properly; they had been kept busy until about a week ago, making the surrounding area fit for inhabitance. Baird couldn't even imagine what she was going through. Up until now, she had kept everything inside, suffering silently for the sake of her friends.
feel so alone." She whispered through her sobs. Her back jumped as she inhaled sharply. Baird took her head is his hands and looked at her tear-stained face. "I know," he said whispering. "But I'm here, and I'll never leave you." Her expression, so full of pain, brightened ever so slightly. She looked relieved in a way. He hugged her and she just sank into his arms. She was utterly spent.
"Here," he said, rolling up his hoodie into a ball. He placed it on sand and gestured for her to lie down. Sam was exhausted, but she didn't move, as if she was afraid to let him go. "It's alright. Come on," Baird whispered as he eased himself down while holding her quivering body. Her sobs had ceased somewhat, but her breathing was still uneven and shaky. "Shhhh, it's ok," Baird assured her. She sniffled, closed her eyes and huddled close to him, the moonlight getting caught in her soft brown hair.
Baird gently stroked her cheek, wiping away each tear that fell. They were face to face, close enough to feel each other's breath. Baird held her close to him as if he were trying to protect her from the sadness and pain she felt. As much as he hated to see her this way, a sort of calm fulfillment came over him as he lay there that night. As he watched her slowly drift to sleep, he felt as though he'd finally done something right in life. Sam needed him, and he would be there for her, no matter what. "I promise," he whispered under his breath.