Atlantis bustled with aggravated scientists trying to direct the marines to handle their equipment delicately. While moving out had been unpleasant, it seemed that everyone had to make the return even more hassled. Laptops rested on the few flat surfaces free of clutter and metallic objects and someone was making good work of the reinstalled coffee machine.
Carson Beckett took the whole mess in his stride. He absently sorted through the piles of suspicious looking machinery and opened cases of syringes and swabs. He was used to his department being the last to unpack (certainly the first time they’d arrived in Atlantis the whole process had taken weeks) and was somewhat surprised that his office only took a couple of hours.
He supposed the marines had been a great help. They’d taken the stuff from his apartment on Earth and brought it faithfully to him. His personal possessions were the last thing on his mind as he dropped a beaker, sorted out a squabble between two botanists passing by and applied several bandaids to Rodney McKay.
By the end of the day, although many expected him to stay on into the wee hours of the morning, Carson felt he deserved some sleep – or at least some of his brandy stash which he had on good authority had been brought to Atlantis also. It paid to save marines from nasty scrapes, especially if they returned the contraband along with everything else.
Exhaustion was a good excuse for his early turning in, but he was more keen to avoid the sympathetic looks of his staff. Rumours travelled faster than news but in this case the gossip was true. All those pitying eyes followed him and as he left the infirmary, he heard an explosion of whispers breaking out. He wished they’d keep quiet, but his break up with Laura was juicy discussion. And if he had his way, they’d never know why. It hurt enough without the whole galaxy knowing.
His quarters were gloomy but he welcomed the shadows. Carson balled up his jacket and tossed it into a chair. His eyes slowly adjusted in the dim light thrown into his quarters from the city’s twinkling spires. Not that he needed to see where he was going.
He sank onto his bed, almost slumped, and closed his eyes. He lay still for a moment, debating whether or not to bury under the covers or fall asleep where he was. It took him a few more moments to suddenly shoot up, sitting rigidly in the dark. He exclaimed, “What’s this now?”
Carson scrambled out of bed immediately. He fumbled for the light switch, gave up, then remembered he was no longer on Earth and activated the overhead panels with his gene. He approached the glass tank sitting on his desk reverently. Gently tapping on the glass, he whispered, “How did you get here, Laura?”
The turtle (so named for that particular woman) ignored him, deliberately stepping past the other shelled inhabitant of the tank – Carson had yet to name that one. He smiled wanly, gazing down at his baby turtles. The marines hadn’t mentioned his pets but it seemed nothing had been forgotten.
“It’s funny,” a voice said behind him, “I named the other one Carsie.”
Beckett’s heart danced an unsteady jig in his chest and it was in no way caused by fright. He wondered briefly if he was hallucinating like a fool; he was in no hurry to discover if he had indeed lost his sanity.
He worked to keep his voice even, though it deepened involuntarily. “What are you doing here, lass? I thought you went home to your fiancé.”
“He’s not my fiancé,” Laura Cadman corrected fiercely. “Last time I checked, my government didn’t allow arranged marriages.”
Carson turned then to face her, making out her features in the darkness. His heart flip-flopped again. Forcing aside his treasonous delight, he snorted, “Lass, you didn’t seem too unhappy when he planted one on you. Or when he took you away in his car.”
Laura frowned and her hands clenched at her hips. Her eyes burned even through the shadows with indignation and tears. She took a step forward gingerly, stopping when his face twisted into a scowl. She said angrily, “I didn’t ask him to kiss me! I certainly didn’t ask him to start dithering that we were engaged. I just thought he was coming to take me to my folks’ place. It was probably my family’s damn encouragement. Hell, I never went out with him. You didn’t give me time to explain.”
“You didn’t make the time,” Carson snapped. “You let him whisk you off and never tried to contact me.”
She sighed in exasperation as he stared moodily past her to the window. Or perhaps he was casing out the bottle of brandy with its position of honour on the window sill. Cadman shook her head and told him, “I used up a fortune leaving messages on your cell phone but you never answered.”
Carson stomach somersaulted guiltily. He hadn’t turned the bloody thing on because she’d helped him choose and buy it. The SGC may not have been able to contact him abroad but it hurt too much to carry the reminder with him, nestled in a pocket with its display a picture of the two of them.
“I couldn’t figure out how to change the background picture,” he muttered, “so I kept it off.”
Laura took another step forward and this time he didn’t even flinch. She said softly, “Why do you think I was so eager to stay here? I didn’t want to marry that bastard. I came back here for you. I love you, Carson. There’s no other place in the whole damn universe I’d rather be.”
His damp blue eyes focused on her. He tried to say something – anything – but the words stuck in his throat. After struggling in silence for a few moments, he settled for walking right to her and saying everything he wanted to say in a deep kiss. When breath failed him, Carson broke away and whispered, “I feel like a right fool, love. Can you forgive me?”
“Just tell me you love me and I’ll stay every night from now on.”
The turtles, oblivious to their namesakes, nestled into their shells. Carson did bury himself under his covers but with the much welcomed company of Laura. He’d later claim ignorance of her intentions but if he had noticed that her bags were already neatly stacked at the end of the bed, he didn’t say a word.