This story represents a huge breakthrough for me. As I have long been an avid Matthew-centric observer and point of view hound, I'm trying something completely new here: Mary point of view! I hope it is up to snuff! My eternal gratitude to R. Grace for her ceaseless help on this journey!
Sounds can often be taken for granted. They can be misunderstood or ignored. For a sound to be memorable it must be meaningful, tied somehow to something of value to the listener.
Lady Mary Crawley had new reason to be intrigued by sounds: the soft mumblings, relaxed sighs, and gentle intakes of breath she had discovered were on constant parade from her husband's lips. When he slept and peacefully dreamt, he released all kinds of delicate whispers in his relaxed state. These were music to her ears.
She had grown very used to the louder noises they made together, but those she could not focus on. Those moments of pure ecstasy held her unable to recreate, or perhaps even imagine, correctly. As she was held so completely in the luxury of their love making, it was the actions, not the noises, that transfixed her.
The quiet moments were more a mystery to her. And she had so much to learn. She wanted to be the interpreter of all his sighs as he slept. To her, every puff of air had a unique quality when it came from her slumbering husband. It was an ongoing project of hers to catalog these private moments. Since he often drifted off to sleep first, she watched him descend into repose perched on his chest, hovering just above him. His long, lean body was always in the same position. Matthew stretched out flat on his back to ease any future aches in his spine that may try to appear. She placed her head on his chest to feel his heart beat beneath her. Her husband released a deep breath that seemed to echo between their bodies.
During such times, his muted babbling was quite frequent. A deep intake of breath followed by a hum of what she knew could only be contentment. Then his lips would part and nonsensical words often fell from them. His tongue would click against his mouth and his breath would be blown out in gasps.
But even in the deepest of sleep, as she watched him, his little sighs never seemed to abate. His dreams seemed to demand he comment on them. If she fondled him, rubbing her nose into his cheek, his reaction would be a different kind of sigh. A slightly deeper, huskier exhalation, almost a moan. But each sweet little noise was so gentle. She couldn't help but tease him playfully.
During all the nights of their honeymoon, Mary played a game with cataloguing these little sounds. It felt completely natural to her to have to learn more about him this way. The feeling of observing him in such an unguarded state made her feel very powerful indeed. She absolutely adored the way he relaxed for her to watch over. It was all for her. And so she had to make the most of it.
When he fell asleep with his mouth open, the little sighs were much more pronounced. They were almost words. She could attribute some meaning to the mutterings, occasionally. When they were exhausted from their travels, finally arrived at their destination - a beautiful seaside lodge on the Mediterranean coast in the port town of Nice - Matthew hummed his contentment. He kicked off his shoes and sprawled idly, laying flat on his back on their large four-poster bed. Mary opened the curtains to see their view of the coast, and it was absolutely glorious. But then, seeing her husband already drifting off to sleep, her attention was completely diverted. He yawned and clicked his tongue, his eyes closed. Walking towards him, she tickled his socked feet lightly before she crawled into the nook of his shoulder, laying her head on its usual spot. Matthew opened his arms for her, and under his breath, muttered that this was as "nice as Nice can be." The sentiment made her giggle, and became something Mary often recognized when he repeated it during his sleepy mutterings.
But the most commonly repeated word that was pulled from his lips while he slumbered was not the name of their honeymoon location. No, it was his wife's name. When this happened, Mary always rewarded his dreams with a kiss. On his lips, cheek, or wherever she could reach him in that moment.
Mary worried when Matthew's sighs seemed to grow closer together, his murmurs deeper. It seemed, according to her research, that these were the first indication of alarm. They were the first dangerous step to the night terrors that still occasionally plagued him. These gave her further cause to understand the inventory of her husband's collection of sighs. She would stroke his hair and kiss him to break the traumatic hold of his nightmares for the comfort of her embrace. Mary longed to perform acts such as Morpheus did in Greek Mythology. She alone longed to be the shaper of his dreams.
Sometimes, while watching him sleep, her mind drifted back in time to his arrival at the village hospital, drugged into stupor. That had been her first exercise in cataloguing how he slept. It had been ridiculous to argue with Sybil, but she had determined that only she understood the little noises, bare whispers that occasionally sprang from his bruised lips. Dr. Clarkson had said morphine often produced a condition where the patient had vivid dreams; it was not uncommon for them to stir and talk gibberish. Mary knew that the word "morphine" was derived from "Morpheus," after all. But she was determined to be stronger than any drug in his battered body.
Sybil consulted with the doctor and believed it was the drugs that produced such gibberish from Matthew. However, something about this theory seemed wrong to Mary. It was not the morphine, however much of it he had in his bruised and battered body that prodded him to mumble.
"No," she said to Sybil quite sternly. "This is just how he is."
Her sister never mentioned it again. Mary didn't understand the certainty she felt and was glad when the subject shifted to more practical subjects regarding her volunteer status. At first, she had been indignant that other nurses would ask for her to provide assistance with other patients. Obviously, she was here for Captain Crawley only. She had to explain this more than once to other nurses when her sister or Dr. Clarkson were not available. Mary would not budge from Matthew's side; she meant every word she had said to her father on the subject.
Mary had a job to do protecting him from the fringes of constant nightmares as the morphine left his system. The ragged breathing patterns and harsh intakes of breath made it rather obvious when she would be forced, once again, to wake him despite his need for rest. She would call his name softly until his sighs hitched into full breaths and he drowsily came awake, fidgeting and fighting against anything and everything. Though he was weak, his sighs were strong, and Mary couldn't explain how much this simple observation meant to her. Deep in the hollows of the heart she denied having, this was enough comfort despite everything. This tiny shard of truth was enough. So she would watch him as he yawned, his eyes closing again as he sighed. Her heart would sing its praise for he was here, he was alive, and he was safe. Nothing else mattered.
When Mary thought of that time, lying as she was half atop her sleeping husband, a shiver still invaded her most cruelly. That was how her inventory of Matthew's napping form had started, but, in her current position, was how it would end. She would now always be allowed, not only the luxury of watching him sleep, but causing him to sleep as well. Mary grinned wantonly as she nestled her naked body further against him. She loved her husband in body now, not just in spirit. And when he drowsily shifted against her, his arms adjusting their grip on her waist, she loved to hear the sing-song heave of his delighted sigh. She had been correct with her assumptions from the hospital. It was just Matthew. He made those same sounds with her here as he had then. She felt a bold vindication of her love for him, a love that she had previously embraced only in spirit, but now had joined with, body and soul.
Though her husband was, typically, the first to awaken, she was also keen to understand his morning noises. If she heard any sounds scamper into her ears from where her head lay pillowed on his chest, it was necessary for her to resume her research, whatever the hour. Mary wanted to see the cat-like stretch he needed to perform with accompanying almost-purring as he broke free from slumber. Her first waking thought was typically of possessing him completely. Mine, she smiled fondly. She loved the rustle of the soft bedding as he moved. His feet seemed to almost pace as he rubbed them across the mattress, a sure indication he was becoming alert, testing his surroundings. She loved to run her own feet along his and have them dance beneath the covers.
If she was lucky enough to catalogue his sweet little noises in the morning, she was always astonished to find them completely in unison with the previous evening. Somehow, the transfer of time did nothing to change his gentle consistency. All she could do was marvel at him before she kissed him and drew another round of noises from him.
"You," he teased, his eyes opened to find her watching him before he rolled her playfully under him. And she giggled with astonishment at the pitfalls of his lusty breathing. She knew what those less-than-delicate sighs indicated.
"Only you," she would say back to him.
These noises needed no inventory or catalogue, for she understood them completely. She was free to indulge herself and give up all her research. So, in the soft light of morning, they basked in the pleasure of making love and creating all sorts of sounds together.