Rules of Engagement
by Sandrine Shaw

The first time you see Samantha is over the barrel of a gun. You don't know who she is, then, or who she's working for. The way she says, "You killed my father" doesn't give anything away. You killed a lot of people's fathers, you suppose. When someone's after you, you don't usually stop to check a person's family history before you shoot them.

"I didn't kill your father," you say. It's the standard answer. The one that usually buys you time and gets you out alive, one way or the other.

She smiles and tells you, "Oh no, I know you did." There's a small pause before she adds, "Good for you."

She lowers the gun and you stare into a pair of hazel eyes, which seem oddly familiar; and then you know.

... ... ...


The first time you fight with Samantha, she breaks three of your ribs. You take pride that you can take about anyone, as long as you want to. You never lost a one-on-one struggle, except when it was Mulder and you didn't fight back.

It's that day that you start to realize that Samantha might be the exception to your every rule, because you wanted to defeat her and you couldn't. For someone who looks so frail and delicate, she's a surprisingly strong person. Maybe it's some sort of alien superpowers. Or maybe she's just a good fighter.

Afterwards, she picks you up from the floor and helps you to the doctor.

"Stop being such a baby," she tells you. You've been accused of many things, but never that. You hosted an oil alien in your body, you had your arm severed with a kitchen knife by a bunch of peasants of didn't bother with anaesthetics and you've taken a shot between your eyes that only an alien healer could fix.

You would never let anyone else call you a baby.

... ... ...


The first time you kiss Samantha is in a dirty alley, her back against a brick wall. The two of you just blew up a military base, and a couple of the greys along with it. The war is only just beginning, but you've won this battle, and that's enough for the moment.

She laughs, drunk on victory, and you kiss her because it seems to be the right thing to do. It's frantic and without finesse, but there's passion and need and that, too, is enough.

Her hands tangle in the sticky mess of your hair, and she tastes of ashes and blood. There's no time for romance, for presents and flowers and dates in fancy restaurants. If there was, she wouldn't be the person you'd choose. But the life you live is about resistance and war and destruction, and you know no better person but her to share it with.

... ... ...


The first time you make love to Samantha as opposed to fucking her, which you did on that day in the alley is on a sunny afternoon in June. You are lying on a soft hotel bed, her body cradled in your arms.

Her skin is soft and tanned where the scars don't mar it. She's tender and pliant and warm, and her kisses are sweet whispers against your lips. You touch her as if she's sacred, as if she's anyone but the battle-hardened warrior she is.

She rests her forehead against yours and sighs your name.

You've just buried her brother. You're not sure if this is about you comforting her, or if it's the other way around.

... ... ...


The first time you watch Samantha kill a person, you throw up. You've long since been immune to violence and slaughter, but there's something about the way she kills that makes your blood freeze.

Maybe it's the way she looks at the guy. Maybe it's the fact that she didn't have to kill him in the first place you got the information you wanted, you simply could have left. He was no liability, no danger to you. There was nothing he could have told anyone, nothing he could have done.

You stand by and watch her shoot him. Two bullets. One goes to his head, the other right into his heart.

Her eyes are dark and cold and you want to be as far away from this person as you can.

"We do what we have to do," she says on the way back to the headquarters. But who decides what you have to do, you wonder; but you don't say a word.

... ... ...


The first time you voice your disagreement over the way Samantha handles your team, she hits you. You slap her right back, and it gives you a sick sort of satisfaction to see the trace of red on her lips when she turns back to you.

The others don't look at either of you, so they all miss the deadly gleam in her eyes.

But then she wipes the blood away and goes on as if nothing had happened, brushing the slap away as effectively as your initial objection. She looks calm and in control while you're visibly flustered.

But later that night, her fingernails leave angry red scratches on your back.

... ... ...


The last time you see Samantha is over the barrel of a gun. She smiles and tells you that she always knew that it was going to be like this.

Maybe you knew it, too.

***

The end