Disclaimer: I don't own Stargate Atlantis or its characters…

Author's Note: The idea came to me when I was thinking about much abuse Sheppard must take and the reasons why Elizabeth and John wouldn't have a relationship. Maybe I addressed them here…what do you think?

Elizabeth ran her hand along the bare skin, feeling the toned muscles ripple beneath her touch. She hesitated at the circular discoloration marring his bicep. Running her finger around its circumference, she recalled what had damaged the skin. A projectile had pierced the flesh, a straight through and through, with a bullet from one of their own handguns no less. Her hand continued its exploration of his naked torso, rediscovering the traces of old injuries, injuries he had taken protecting her and the rest of their people; scars from shrapnel penetrating his skin, lacerations from edge-weapons, the uniform pattern made from some alien torture device.

Finally, she found the fresh wound, sustained when some indigenous group decided that they didn't like what John Sheppard and his team had to say, and that the easiest way to shut them up was to hurl sizable spears at the unfortunate Atlantians. One of the six inch long double edged metal blades struck him right in the chest. If it had been just a few inches more medial, Elizabeth would be mourning the man instead if lying on top of him and running her hands over his bare flesh.

It had been over a week since he had returned through the 'gate with the spearhead protruding from his chest, blood soaking his clothes as he held the various rags the others had provided him from their own clothing. Carson had fixed him up pretty nicely, and now that the bandages were off, Elizabeth could better examine the doctor's work. The stitches were excellent, precise and uniform. They would have put her grandmother's superb quilting skills to shame. She gingerly ran a finger along the raised threads where it bound the incised flesh together.

"Oww, Elizabeth!" John scolded, as the delicate finger pressed down upon the bruised and battered tissue. "What are you doing?"

"Sorry," she said, realizing the sensitivity of the far from healed wound. "I was just admiring Carson's handiwork."

"Does he do a good job keeping me pretty?" John asked jokingly as he stroked Elizabeth's brown curls. "Or should I tell him that you're firing him and finding someone who can keep your man in one piece better?"

"I'm not sure anyone could keep up with that, John," she said looking up into his eyes and smiling at him. "Considering how much trouble you get in, it would be a full-time job."

He chuckled and pulled her even closer to him and she snuggled into his chest. She was happy to spend this time with him, although they both knew it probably wouldn't last. But maybe that was why they tried to make the best of it, enjoy it while they could. Just because they were able to joke about John's propensity for injury and to get himself into other, potentially fatal, binds, didn't mean they were ignorant of the risks. Elizabeth knew that someday he wouldn't come back. It was only a matter of time. She also knew that it was very likely that she herself would give him such an order, send him on the mission he wouldn't be able to survive. And oddly enough, she was resigned to it.

Elizabeth would have never thought she would be capable of such an odd and hypocritical mindset. Never had she thought she would be able to send someone she cared about to their death. That was before she had arrived in the Pegasus galaxy and all its hardships, and all its evils. But it wasn't all bad. There were magnificent wonders to be discovered. And there was John Sheppard; a man that she had grown to love; a man that she would not hesitate to send to his death to save all those who resided in Atlantis. It was simply a fact. There was no point in debating it with herself. She knew, if need be, she would make the decision.

And John knew that she would give him the order, if necessary. He respected her all the more for it, for the strength she carried deep within herself, the strength that kept them all moving forward in the most desperate of situations. Yet at the same time, she showed such tenderness towards him, such affection and warmth. So he savored it, knowing that every time he walked through the stargate could be his last, that the one final glance of her sending him off could be the final time he laid eyes upon her. And knowing that business was business-a matter of survival-and pleasure was pleasure-even though he fought the struggle against falling in love with her and letting that love influence his decisions on a daily basis-was precisely what allowed them to foster such a relationship.

Elizabeth would never ask him to change, to stop him from trying to safeguard the lives of others. And he would never refuse to follow her order to save Atlantis, even to his death, just so that he could see her again, hold her in his arms one more time. He had no wish to die, but John knew that day would come-it already had on previous occasions, but his luck had held-and couldn't deny that quite a significant part of him would think of Elizabeth. The connection to her he had formed would not serve to make him hesitate when the time came. Instead, he would embrace his demise if it meant her safety among others.

That time may be soon, but it was not that moment. So John held her close to him, breathed in her scent, kissed her cheek, reveled in the glory of her and the joy of their intimacy. She squirmed in his grasp and moved to leave the bed.

"What are you doing?" he asked quietly, pathetically.

"I'm getting up," Elizabeth replied. "Have to get out of bed sometime."

"Not yet," John pleaded with her, giving her a hurt and yearning boyish look. "Atlantis is safe. The work can wait for a few minutes more."

"John," Elizabeth said in what was meant to be a stern manner, but only showed that she was amenable to his offer. He instantly notices her predilection to being persuaded, and took advantage.

"Please," he coaxed. "Just a few more minutes."

Elizabeth sighed and climbed back into his welcoming arms. She would take the few minutes when she could get them. She never knew when they'd be the last they had.

"This is perfect," John whispered into her ear as she cuddled up close to him.

"It is," she murmured, as she was lulled by the feelings of bliss from being cradled in his arms. "Perfect."

END