It was always evident when someone had died.
Carson walked into their quarters slowly. His head hung low, his shoulders slumped, as he shuffled quietly through the darkened room. Laura knew what death looked like on Carson – defeat. Defeat hung on pale skin illuminated by the night sky through their window, on half-closed eyes and pursed lips. She lay still on their bed and watched him move wordlessly through the dark, careful and deliberate in his movements, his muscles tense with stress as he pulled his shirt over his head and tossed it haphazardly to the floor in front of the bathroom.
She couldn't tell from his expression how the person had died, although she gathered that it was something lengthy and possibly unavoidable. One didn't spend intimate time with a man and not learn to read his signs, and Carson wore his emotions on his sleeve in all but the most deliberate instances. When it was sudden, he was wide awake. If there had been an attack, he wouldn't have made it past the couch tucked away in the back of his office. No, the sullen and dejected sigh as he removed his pants and sat gingerly on the side of the bed told her that it had been a day where he'd gone through everything he had to give, and had still failed, if only in his eyes.
"I…" he mumbled finally, his voice hoarse and hollow. He tried to articulate once again, but resorted to shaking his head as he fell against the pillow and stared at the ceiling.
"Shh," she whispered, reaching a hand out to stroke his chin in the hopes that he'd turn to look at her. "You don't have to say anything." Carson released the breath he was holding with a sigh. "You look exhausted," she added, not bothering to admit that was obviously a gross understatement.
"Aye," he replied quietly. He reached up and rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands. That simple action in the dark made him look so small, so vulnerable to her.
Laura inched across the sheets and pressed herself flush against him, her eyes never leaving the defeated frown still set against his lips. "We're alive, you know," she said simply. She watched as those words registered with him. The lines along his mouth eased and his eyes slid finally slid closed.
After a long pause, he replied with a simple, "Aye, we are."
She knew he would be fine. He always was. She could tell by the way his breathing slowed as he allowed himself sleep. She could tell by the softening of his troubled expression and the relaxing of his body against both the mattress and her.
She saw that he would be fine by morning, but she would watch him just a bit longer. Just to make sure.
Laura wasn't sure how much time had passed. An hour, maybe. Long enough for Carson's shallow and tired breathing to grow deeper and more relaxed. She'd finally closed her eyes when he started snoring; a light, breathy snore that never kept her awake, just reminded her that he was there and with her.
She opened her eyes again when he started muttering. Mostly in English, a smattering of Gaelic, and a handful of Latin words that she assumed were medical terms or pieces of prayers, and that was only when the words were the least bit intelligible. The words bothered her the most. Carson only spoke in his sleep when he was deeply troubled. The death tonight must've really done a number on him for his mind to be racing this much, even in sleep. Sometimes she could distract him. Answer his mutterings with a silly little question of her own. Like, one night she asked if he was sure he wanted to paint the infirmary a glittery purple or another night when she said yes, but what would Rodney do with a chicken suit afterwards? If he wanted to be distracted, he'd chuckle and answer her question groggily, his accent even thicker in sleep, wrap an arm around her and doze back off. If he didn't want to be distracted, if his mind really needed that time in whatever deep sleep haze he was in, her questions would go unanswered.
She preferred when he answered. A deep laugh and words rolling in the dark in his thick, sleepy brogue… It didn't matter what he said, anything said in that voice sent a slight shiver down her spine. His words, his voice, affected her in ways that no man's had before. Sometimes when she was feeling ill, or just couldn't sleep, Carson would retrieve one of his medical journals from the stack on the small desk he kept in the room and read to her in an attempt to bore her into sleep. What she never told him was that she'd get lost in his words, the tones of his voice, the light laugh he'd give when he reached a conclusion he obviously didn't agree with, his rolling r's, vowels that slurred into the next, the way his voice would deepen as he got quieter and the world would slow down until it was just his voice filling up the room with sounds that would leave her breathless if she would let them. He'd hear the slight catch in her breathing and set down the journal in his lap. "Do you want me to continue?" he'd ask, smiling as he leaned over to place a soft kiss on her lips. She always said yes, closed her eyes, and let her thoughts get lost in his voice until she fell asleep.
Maybe she'd question him tonight, just to see if he wanted the distraction. "But how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?" she asked quietly.
Carson smiled slightly. "Three," he finally answered before turning on his side, wrapping an arm around her, and falling back to sleep. In silence.
He's asleep, he needs his rest, no need to wake him up, she could wait until morning when he was in a better mood and rested.
Laura told herself a lot of things while Carson trailed his hand down her body as he slept. His hand finally stopped against her hips, the rough pad of his thumb tracing small circles before stilling. She swallowed hard. His hands were so close, so very close. If she just shifted sideways and curved towards him, his fingers would fall just slightly and brush against…
No, she scolded herself. He needs sleep. She told herself to stop thinking about his hands. His rough but gentle physician's hands. If Carson knew only one thing, it was how to use his hands. Those hands that could bring whatever they touched to life. Those hands that were again shifting back up her body and now resting on her waist.
She tilted her head back slightly, just slightly, to rest in the crook of his shoulder. If she wasn't going to think about his hands, she also couldn't think about his shoulders. Or his arms. Carson was stronger than he let on, although she learned from a few of the nurses that that was quite common with doctors. She'd heard of him physically restraining patients while the nurses set up the straps or the IVs, setting legs and arms and cracking open ribcages when need be. None of these things, the nurses said, were an easy feat. She'd felt those arms stretch and flex when he'd pick her up and spin her around when the day had been a good one, when she'd grab him just above the elbow to pull him away from his tests for dinner, when she'd pull off his shirt at night just to admire what was hers.
Carson shifted closer, tightening his grip and pulling her flush against his body. Laura held her breath for a moment before sighing when he began to snore once again. When this had first started, she'd marveled at how easily she fit into his embrace. Broad chest, large arms, solid body… all surrounding her. Usually a leg thrown haphazardly over hers depending on what went on before they fell asleep. The weight was comforting. The weight was appealing. The weight was distracting, especially now that the weight of his arm and that hand was trailing further up her body, now brushing lightly across her collarbone. His fingers were feather light and coupled with warm breath settling against her shoulder as he slept. If she tilted back further to escape the temptation of his hands…
"Carson," she gasped quietly as his leg slipped between hers.
He placed a small kiss at the nape of her neck before smiling against her skin. "Are you awake yet, love?" he whispered, his voice deep and resonant in the dark. "Or should I continue?"
There were a few little secrets that Laura kept from Carson. None of them terribly important in the grand scheme of things, but small things she wanted to keep only for herself. Things like how she told people that blue was her favorite color, but it was really pink. Or how she claimed that she curled up close against him and pulled the blanket up to her neck on stormy nights because it was cold, when it was really because she had a fear of lightening. Irrational yes, but everyone has their small little childhood fear and that was hers. Laura learned quickly in the Marine Corps that admission of the small, secret things like that, especially from a female officer, could drastically reduce public opinion, and so she learned to keep things like that close. Not long after it became habit; some small things that were hers and only hers and she liked that.
Things like how, when Carson spent days in the infirmary tending to others at the expense of his own rest, she would pull one of his shirts from the drawers and sleep with it instead of sleeping alone. It wasn't just the tactile sensation of having something there; it was the scent of the fabric. It smelled like him, and there was happily nothing that the Atlantis laundry could do to erase that.
He smelled like soap and latex, like warm ginger and spices. He smelled like things she couldn't place but knew and craved. He smelled like Carson and that was the best way she knew to describe it.
And on days like today where she didn't have to report for duty as early as he did, she'd watch through drowsy eyes as he climbed quietly out of bed and into the shower. She'd reach over to his side and pull his pillow to her and just inhale the scent of him. But as soon as the shower stopped, she'd push his pillow back into place and smile at him as he stepped back into the bedroom.
This morning was just the same. Carson smiled at her as he scrubbed a towel through his hair. "Did I wake you?" he asked lightly.
Laura shook her head, lying happily in bed. The sheets even smelled like him this morning. "Nah, already awake," she replied.
He sat down on the bed and brushed a hand through her hair. "Why do you look so happy this morning, love?" he chuckled. "You almost look like you're up to something."
"Nope," Laura chirped. "Just waiting for you."
She'd keep that secret for herself just a little while longer. Some things were more fun that way.
Laura smiled as Carson discarded his towel on the foot of the bed and lay back down next to her. "And what were you waiting for me for?" he asked, turning to smile at her as he pushed his damp hair back from his forehead.
"I was waiting," Laura replied languidly, rolling over to slide on top of him and finally settle straddled on his hips. "I was waiting to tell you good morning properly." She leaned forward and braced her hands against his shoulders. "Since you have to get up earlier than me, and since yesterday was so terrible, I wanted to start this morning off right. So, good morning shower hair," she said lightly, tilting further forward to place a light kiss against his damp hair.
"And good morning ear," she continued, dragging a feather light kiss down from his forehead to the tip of his ear. She nipped gently, smiling against his skin and placing another kiss right behind his ear before moving on.
She moved down from his ear to his neck just under his chin. Her hand slid down to rest against his bare and still damp chest as she placed a trail of light, breathy kisses all along his neck. "And good morning neck," she mumbled, enjoying the sharp intake of breath as she reached a sensitive spot near his collarbone. She smiled against his skin again as he finally reached up and pulled her down on top of him. The feeling of his warm, damp skin against hers made her sigh quietly as she stretched forward, her mouth only a breath away from his. "And good morning lips," she said quietly, placing her lips against his and sucking gently, playfully, on his lower lip.
Laura loved the taste of him in the morning. His skin tasted like soap and shampoo from the shower, still damp and slick against her as she waited for him to stop toying with her and kiss her back. He loved to play that game; to let her make the first move, to try and hold still as long as he could until he always, always, leaned his head up to her, slipped a hand into her hair, and kissed her back with a passion that she was certain his staff didn't know that he had. It took her a moment to regain her thoughts; the soft press of his lips, the faint, lemon taste of his…
"Lemon?" Laura snapped, pulling her head back and staring down at Carson slightly aghast. "My toothpaste?"
Carson smiled wickedly as he stretched. He licked his lips slightly and slipped his hands behind his head. "Aye. Quite a bit more refreshing than the standard issue muck they assign us," he answered casually. "Don't you agree?"
She sat up, straddling his chest and crossing her arms over her own. "Do you know how much I had to barter on the Lindsey Novak Black Market to get something that wasn't the standard issue muck?" she laughed. "And you're just stealing it right from under me? It's like I don't even know you, Carson Beckett."
"I'll make it up to you," he replied, sitting up and giving her a quick kiss before shifting her from his lap. "But for now, I've got to get to the infirmary."
"To steal the toothpaste of other helpless women," Laura grumbled as she fell back against the sheet. "What's next? Mouthwash?"
Carson laughed. "I'm full of surprises."
Laura shifted again, sitting up this time as she watched him dress. "Hey Carson?" she said quietly. "Have a better day than yesterday, okay?"
He nodded slowly, pulling on his shirt and fumbling with his watch. "I'll do my best," he answered finally. "It was Sgt. Martinez who died last night. Infection from the arrow wound from M4X-332 last week."
"I figured." She knew Carson had been worried about the guy for the past couple of days, and it never looked like it would have a good ending. "At least today will be better."
"And if it's not?" he asked.
"Then I'll make it up to you tonight," she answered brightly. "Now go. Save lives. And don't steal any more toothpaste!" she called out as the door shifted closed behind him.