Summary: for anuna_81's Shep-a-thon, Prompt: Breathing
Disclaimer: I ain't got no money, and nobody'd be daft enough to pay me for this. As it is thought, so let it be said; you make the toys, I play with 'em.

AN: Scent is the sense most closely tied to memory. The most primitive.

The crystal clear atmosphere in the aftermath of the storm conflicted with the terror leftover from the Genii attack. No matter how deeply Elizabeth breathed of the wonderful salt air, her lungs still felt constricted and her body shivery, shocky. Cold in so many more ways than one.

Her closed eyes into the bright sun, she took another breath; and found a new scent on the breeze. One that suddenly opened her chest. Her whole body filled with oxygen, both waking, at the primitive cellular level, and going into a mental drowse in response to it.

"Elizabeth?"

It took a conscious effort to fight off the primeval absorption in the scent of clean male that had slowed her thoughts to a crawl.

Elizabeth turned her head, blinking the sunspots out of her eyes to look at the tired man stepping besides her. Even now that she was thinking instead of reacting, she still felt rejuvenated, still had a disconnected urge to get closer and bury herself in that scent.

She remembered the moment when he'd reached for her after releasing her from her captor, both of them soaked to the skin, the air filled with ozone, gunpowder and terror. Not only her own; she remembered now that she'd felt it from him too. As cold as they'd been, the stress had made them sweat, and the fear was in that smell. Just a few moments ago, that memory was part of what was weighing against her skin and organs, what made her feel small and weak and alone; fear without comfort, pain in both of them, with nothing to heal it.

But now. She recognized that it was only soap on skin that she smelled, but deep inside, it resonated with an intrinsic safety. And though she wanted to deny it, she was too tired to: she recognized the man. Not as a random protector, but as the man who cared enough to kill to avenge her, to save her. Whom she cared for and felt connected to.

"I'm alright." And she was. Freshly showered and in dry clothe, with warm sunshine on her skin; and now she could finally relax, watching him watching her, a sad half-smile on his lips. There were new ghosts behind his eyes, but he stood straight and at ease besides her, and Elizabeth felt only calmness from him. Intrinsic safety, communicated in the most primitive way, right to the bottom of her soul.

He trusted her word without question and closed his eyes, facing the sun himself and breathing deeply.

When John woke, he knew where he was. Without opening his eyes, without moving a muscle. The breath he took in the instant his mind became conscious was all he needed. The air was chilled from night, charged as though rain was on the horizon again; and it carried the smell of the room to him with crystalline quality. Even down to the tint of iron from his filthy uniform in the laundry pile. The strongest scent, though, was that of them, the two of them, together.

Dried sweat, warm sex, lavender soap, IrishSping, citrus shampoo, musk deodorant and vanilla perfume. Hair that was damp when it came to leave its scent on the pillow, skin that had rested against another all night and altered its scent from the extended contact.

Home for his mendicant soul. Joy that came straight from the most primitive caveman at the back of his mind, possessive of all that made her his mate and wanting nothing but to have her presence, her safety and her returned love for him embedded in him.

Even that first day, a week after the Great Storm, John had awoken and recognized his new place at the deepest level of his awareness. Consciously, he wanted to deny that he deserved it; but he'd physically, viscerally, felt the belonging, felt Elizabeth's hold on him, and the way she needed him as strongly as he did her. His body went with the evidence of his senses over the arguments of his mind and refused to let go, instead nuzzling into the soft flesh he cradled. Warm, sleepy Elizabeth; marked with *his* scent. Heaven in his arms.

Never to be let go of, lest he slip into a senseless hell.

Though even as the thought went through his mind, John sighed, and with a last, lingering kiss to her shoulder, made himself scoot out of bed. A quick shower and he pulled a clean uniform from the closet before going by her side of the bed to give her a good-morning kiss, and let her have her own nuzzle into *his* skin as he smiled with pleasure. Then he left her, *their*, quarters, a lifesigns detector in his hand to make sure no one saw the door he came out of and his schedule for the day beginning to make itself heard over his absorption with his home.

In 12 or so hours, he'd be back, baring trouble, and so would Elizabeth. Together again, to breathe life into each other for another day.