Their trials take a day and an age while Doc has nothing to do but think and lay tracks for the future, such as it is. Unlike Baby, he has networks to untangle and people to buy and sell, two gunshot wounds and a shattered shoulder. Altogether, Baby's six months into his relatively short sentence before Doc is processed.
When Doc hears where he is to be transferred, he assumes it's an administrative mistake. Hell of a mistake, Doc thinks, eyes on Baby in the prison commissary. Baby didn't testify against him, but the kid didn't have to. He'd done enough damage already.
They're both in the slow lane now.
It sure as fuck ain't the retirement Doc had planned, but it isn't the first time he's been burned, and he's done more with less.
As for Baby, sunglasses and earbuds are strictly forbidden. Doc watches from afar while Baby ignores his presence with a studiousness and commitment that is both impressive and amusingly transparent. There are marked improvements in the boy's spatial and situational awareness. He still floats around the institution as if operating his body from another plane of existence entirely, waiting for instruction. The boy is a living doll in a jumpsuit, one that lies flat on his back in his bunk and stares at the ceiling when left to its own devices.
Doc worries, at first, that Baby might be unwell or medicated. He learns later that the boy's nearer than before to deaf, and speaks not at all. Doc wonders if he's still got that crash signal in his head, or if the gun silenced that as well.
So Baby's still all of one piece, a deaf mute of no interest to anyone so far as the other inmates have gathered. So far. Baby still has a lot to learn.
Doc sees trouble coming for him, and not just because he can hear Bull and his boys talking in the cafeteria. He follows them toward the showers around noon, and watches as they form a loose group moving down the hallway, all shouting and gesturing. Baby's coming with his head down and when he tries to weave through the group he almost trips and then shoulder checks one of the men. The mood takes a turn, and the group tightens and forms a circle around Baby, hiding him from view. Doc hears two heavy thuds of fists colliding with flesh.
He watches from the end of the hallway as the circle breaks up. The men are laughing and talking normally again, walking into the showers. Baby keeps coming down the hallway and passes Doc by slowly, eyes down, giving no sign of the deep bruise that's surely spreading under his shirt.
Doc makes a plan to break up the routine. Unsatisfied with Baby's failure to cower, two of them jump the boy in a blind spot. Doc's not a brawler, and he's got pins in his spine and shoulder now, but he's still a highly trained professional with a plastic blade and a point to make.
Doc steps in close to Baby and pulls him against his chest by his hip and neck. He speaks right against Baby's ear, but he's looking hard at the two men. "I'm here now, Baby. Everything's going to be okay."
Bull glances incredulously between Baby and Doc, holding his scratched cheek in one hand and his wrist with the other. "Fuck, Doc! You the baby daddy or something?"
"Yeah, I'm the baby daddy." Doc says, and that's that.
Doc walks with Baby to the library the next day, and makes sure his little drop-out motor savant gets signed up for the next GED cycle. The coordinator explains that Doc can't make Baby do anything, and that there are no ASL interpreters available.
"Baby," Doc draws the kid's attention with a word, aware that the boy will have been watching their lips in the corners of his eyes. Baby never did need ears to hear. "Speak."
Baby clear his throat after a moment and mutters dutifully, "Doc won't make me do anything. An interpreter won't be necessary." Doc missed that accent. He smiles.
They're sitting outside on the bench, Baby staring at the return address on the latest card from his girlfriend, Doc doing nothing at all, when Bull and his friends break away from the gang. Doc looks to the heavens as they approach. Tell them a thousand times, never, ever, deal in the yard and they'll still try it.
"—It true, then?" Bull steps forward first. "Your baby got a baby momma? Ain't your tit supplying?"
Doc squeezes Baby's shoulder with one hand and shakes his head, most of his attention on the beginnings of a disturbance across the yard, a group breaking apart like nervous animals and reforming on the edges. "Baby's mine, and Baby knows that I'll shatter his kneecaps if he doesn't walk out of here clean and rehabilitated." He's done worse for worse causes.
Bull scoffs, "K, man," and wanders off.
Doc looks at Baby, and is satisfied by the faint wariness hovering about the kid's brow as he studies the postcard.
There are men who won't be satisfied. One of them is Joe, a returning resident to general population whose supply chain Doc has rethreaded like so many scattered pearls. Joe knows better than to attack Doc directly and he doesn't waste any time cornering Baby. He's got the boy's hand between his own shoulder blades and his pants off his hips when Doc get the tip off from two of Bull's buddies.
Doc receives a concussion and bruised ribs on one side for his trouble. If Joe breaks a thumb or two and dislocates his arm on the way down, that's just as well.
Doc watches Baby watching him as it happens, wide eyes and parted lips on that usually stubbornly set face. Baby's not immune to violence, never has been. It's why Doc does this for him.
What Baby needs, Baby gets. Doc spends a week in solitary, not his first and not his last. Baby doesn't say a word when Doc's tossed back into general, but Doc can read the last week in the bags under his eyes. He turns his back on Doc who, disinclined to speak himself after seven days left with his own thoughts, follows Baby into his bunk.
Sheltering him with his body between the cement wall and the rest of the world, Doc slides a knee between Baby's thighs and his hands up the back of Baby's regulatory white shirt. Baby's always been a strange one about contact, and he presses himself away from Doc's hands, tight against Doc's chest, his mouth open wide and gasping, and warm. Doc doesn't spare him the sensitive spots around the wings of his shoulder blades and the plain of lumbar spine until Baby's bloodied Doc's chapped lips and left a wet spot on his leg.
The next day Doc makes him sit down and show him his homework at the lunch table. He curls a proprietary hand over Baby's right ear and down his neck when he gets up to dispose of their trays.
A day comes when Baby's in between cell mates and has been granted an accelerated parole hearing, pushed along by the information Doc has fed him about their old friend Griff.
Doc nudges him until he's lying on his stomach. He straddles the kid's knees and pushes his shirt up his back and his pants down over his ass, watching patiently as Baby shifts until his arms are folded under the pillow and the pillow is supporting his head. Baby offers acres of perfect, untouchable skin and Doc aches to mark him. He rearranges himself until he's sitting with one leg over Baby, foot on the floor, and the other folded between Baby's knees, pinning Baby by the seat of his pants.
Baby doesn't especially take to being touched in so many places at once. He bites the pillow while Doc squeezes his ass and thighs and reaches up to press on the faint bruises staining his back purple and green.
It takes an age, even with the butter packets Doc's been warming in his pocket, for Baby to open to his fingers and transform under his hands from a tight live wire of a thing to a warm body, glowing with heat and nudging his cock against the mattress with tiny helpless movements. He shines with sweat and takes deep, controlled breaths while Doc rubs his back and edges him, now burning with something near to anger at his Baby for giving him something he doesn't get to have.
Each barely audible whine that Doc drags out of Baby infuriates him and makes him itch for all the time and space in the world to press himself against Baby's skin and push deep inside until he's screaming. He makes Baby come on three fingers and milks him until the pillow's wet and his eyelashes are sticking in wet clumps to his cheeks, until he's making no sound at all.
Doc stands up to wash his hands and lie down on the second cot to take himself in hand. He sighs, half in annoyance, when Baby scrambles over a minute later to duck his head and offer his ineffectual aid.
"Do it right," Doc says and tugs his hair until Baby slides down and finds a better angle to suck and grip at the same time. He curls up heavy and warm on Doc's legs, shamelessly pulling off at the last second and letting Doc finish on his own stomach.
"How many messes can you make me clean up?" Doc gripes when Baby glances up. Baby's lip twitches. He buries his face in Doc's side and pretends to fall asleep. Doc rolls his eyes and pulls Baby's hair, speaking to himself now. "Just one more, darling." And he doesn't need to tell Baby what he'll do if he encounters him this side the bars again.