Disclaimer: Not mine. Spoilers: Season eight. Pre-Reckoning Warnings: Character death, het, lies, manipulation, explosions, sex. Rating: R, possibly shading to NC17, but I doubt it.
Pairings: Sam/Pete, Sam/Jack.
Notes: er... I think this was Nos' fault as well as being the fault of a rant about people not remembering that Sam is a trained soldier and has, y'know, reflexes. Thanks to Rose for pointing out a few errors. Any left are my own, as even after 15 hours, I'm not too objective.

Much thanks to Kym and Oberon. Any errors are my own.

Reflexive Impulse
by ALC Punk!

She wasn't supposed to have to use her hand to hand combat skills on the planet Earth. Sam Carter reflected grimly that she was supposed to be safe on her home planet. No goa'uld, no jaffa.

In fact, she was coming off of a week-long mission where they'd been fighting for their lives. Her nerves were on end, her muscles ready in case something threatened and even here on Earth, she felt threatened. After having been kidnaped by a billionaire intent on experimenting on her for his own ends, she was always slightly paranoid on Earth. But nothing like she was while on watch while jaffa passed nearby.

Wire-taut, one of her academy professors used to joke. He'd been referring to the special ops kids, the ones shown how to kill and maim with barely a movement. He'd been mocking them.

Now, she understands, because her nerves are wire-taut, her reactions almost too fast to be human. She's been taught by human and jaffa, and too many years of experience. It had never been a problem, before. She'd thought turning it off was easy.

But she should have known better.

Movement out of the corner of her eye as she turned from locking the door.

And she couldn't help but react, reflexively lashing out fist and foot, elbow to the throat, slamming the attacker into the wall and snapping his neck.

Too fast.

Too fucking fast.

She'd broken a nail, she thought as she stared down at the surprised look on Pete Shanahan's face.

A broken nail. Something hysterical bubbled inside and she fought it down stumbling over to her phone, picking it up, then dropping it.

Who the fuck was she going to call?

Her cell phone rang, the sound irritating. Again, Sam was reminded that she needed to change her ring tone; Daniel Jackson had changed it to The Bangles' "Walk Like An Egyptian" which really annoyed her.

"Carter." The adrenaline and training snapped her back straight as she stepped back into her own persona.

"Hey."

A strange weightless feeling flooded her at the familiar voice. "Sir?"

"Carter?"

She swallowed and glanced wildly around, her eyes passing over the still form of her fiancé. Ex-fiancé, now. "I think... I think you'd better get over here, sir."

There was silence, then she heard him sigh. "Carter "

"I broke a nail when he hit the wall, Jack."

Maybe it was the almost hysterical panic in that sentence, maybe it was her use of his first name, but General Jack O'Neill stopped objecting, "Carter, I want you to sit on your couch until I get there." Or maybe it was the strangeness of her comment.

"Yes, sir." She replied, a mechanical inflection taking over her voice as she throttled down the panic.

She could do this, she decided as she clicked the off button and reached out a finger and poked Pete's cheek. It was already cooler than the human body normally was, and her heartbeat quickened. Definitely dead.

Backing away, she hit the wall and allowed it to take her weight as her legs folded and she slid down, almost slumped on the ground to wait. She couldn't leave Pete sitting there alone, she thought. It was irrational, but since she'd killed him, the nicest thing she could do would be to sit here and hold vigil until Jack arrived.

The general.

Not Jack.

Time passed, but all she could do was stare at the broken nail on her right hand. It was irritating. She'd spent almost an hour under the pounding hot water the SGC showers provided, just so that she could carefully reshape her nails. One of the girliest things she'd done in months. There had been something comforting about having relatively clean nails after the last week.

Coated in mud and dirt, and later the blood of fallen jaffa. Men and women and children screaming as they fought for their freedom.

But that was elsewhere. Another planet, a different world. Strangely, it felt more like home than her own house did at that moment. Death and blood followed her, tracking in her footstops. Spreading its wings and surrounding her.

She'd saved Teal'c's life with a well-placed zat blast.

He'd saved Daniel's.

Daniel had saved hers, then made a joke about lives saved belonging to the saviour.

She wondered if an innocent life lost was a debt to be paid by the killer.

That thought was interrupted by the sound of footsteps on her porch. Sam stiffened, staring at her front door, remembering that she hadn't had time to lock it.

Adrenaline splashed through her, and she was standing on the balls of her feet when the door opened and a voice said, "Carter?"

Relief made her sag. "Sir?"

He looked at her. "What " His gaze tracked to the body, and he stiffened. "What happened?"

"I broke a nail." Her voice sounded almost disconnected. She liked feeling disconnected, Sam decided. She held out her right hand. "Right here. It snapped off when I broke his neck against the wall."

"Carter..."

"He... I didn't kow it was him, sir. I thought he was an attacker..." Her voice trailed off as she stared down at Pete. The body. The dead man staring at her from blank eyes.

"It's okay, Carter."

"Is it?" She tilted her head to the side and studied him. "I just murdered my fiancé, Jack. How is that in any way okay?"

He was silent for a moment, and she could almost see the possibilities running through his head. The things he knew, the procedures that would have to be followed. There would be inquiry boards, and maybe a court-martial. Police and autopsies, and disapproving people who didn't understand being so tense you could snap in an instant.

The front door closing with a soft click yanked at her, and she realized she'd fallen into a daze, eyes focused on nothing. "Sir?"

"Give me a minute, Carter." He ran a hand through his hair, scratching his scalp as if it would make him think better.

"We should call..."

"Yeah."

He made no move towards her phone. "Carter?"

Leaning against the wall, she suddenly snorted, "I killed my fiancé."

The words fell into dead air.

He nodded. "We'll figure this out. Do you have trash bags? An old sheet you don't want anymore, and a roll of duct tape would also be good."

A moment of surprise, as she worked through the connotations, "Sir?"

"Get them, Carter."

The command tone snapped her into motion and she headed for the kitchen, knowing the bags and the tape would be there. She had the perfect sheets, too. Mark had given them to her, and they were the ugliest green imaginable. There'd been some joke about them being olive drab. Sam wore olive drab almost every day. Olive drab was prettier.

As she moved around her house, something vaguely like sanity returned. This was wrong. They should be calling the police. Except that she didn't want to. Collecting the items took less time than she'd thought, and by the time she'd returned, the general had emptied the body's pockets.

Ignoring the array of items, she began laying out trash bags, then settling the sheets on top. "This work?"

He nodded.

Together they rolled the body, Sam making a face at the odors released. She'd forgotten that the human body lost all function in death. Last time she'd been on a battlefield.

Idly, she wondered if she could sell her house.

Between them, they got the body rolled and bundled, secure in sheets and plastic, taped until it looked more like some strange mummified artifact. The thought of Daniel startled her, but she ignored it as he directed them to the side of her house, where the door to the backyard was. They left the bundle near the door and went back.

The general inspected the wall and floor, nodding at the lack of mess.

Sam felt obscurely grateful that Pete had been wearing expensive, thick pants. Cleaning up that sort of bodily fluid would have been her undoing. "Now what?"

"Did he drive?"

"I assume so."

The general nodded, "We wait until dark, then."

She swallowed, "Jack..."

"Carter?"

"I don't think I can wait that long."

He reached out and touched her cheek, "You know the alternatives."

"Yes." Summoning the woman who had killed thirteen jaffa in less than a minute with a rapid-fire machine gun, Sam nodded, "I... I can wait."

"Good girl." He gestured towards the kitchen. "We should clean our hands and put the... supplies away."

Minutes passed (hours maybe, but she wasn't counting down death), and she found him behind her as she tried to scrub the blood from her hands. "Carter."

"I can't get it off."

"I know."

She was shaking. And that wasn't allowed. The scrubber dropped from her hands and she turned and picked up the towel, ignoring the tackiness of the blood on her knuckles. "I should make coffee."

"Are you going to be all right?"

"Of course."

He let her go, watched her as she made coffee, her hands moving to accomplish a task they'd done a thousand times before.

When she'd finished, she sat at the table, waiting for the machine to finish its job. He moved quickly around her kitchen, assembling a random assortment of chemicals on her counter, then began mixing them in various doses until he had a large mound of something she thought looked like cookie dough.

She'd always liked chocolate chip.

The percolator gurgled its emptiness, and she moved to pour them both mugs, then cradled hers and looked at the home-made explosive. "You need a timer."

He merely took off his watch.

"You'll need..." She didn't say anything more, leaving the kitchen and returning with her toolbox, containing the delicate tools she sometimes used to fix alien technology. It was left more and more often in her closet, gathering dust.

She was doing so much more killing these days.

They worked in silence, knowing what needed to be done to prepare things. They left the timer unattached from the lump, for now. Sam eyed the bowl it was in, and felt a strange sadness that one of the few bowls her mother had used (she made cookies in it, with chocolate and lumps of peanut butter, and Sam remembered getting goop in her hair because Mark threw spoon-fulls when her mother's back was turned), and that she still owned, was being used to destroy.

When it was finished, she glanced at the slowly lengthening afternoon shadows, and went to sit at the table, coffee cradled between her hands. The warmth made her bones ache, and she wondered if that was from being in the desert too often.

He joined her, eventually, hunching in his chair and stretching his legs out with a soft sigh.

"Done this before?"

A short laugh, "I could tell you, Carter, but then I'd have to kill you."

She didn't laugh in reply.

His hand touched her cheek again. "Sam."

The use of her first name jerked her back into reality, and she felt scalding needles prick her nerves. "Oh, God."

"Hey."

"I we have to do this."

"Yes."

He let the silence close in again until the shadows were dark enough that she couldn't see him in the half-light. "Time to go."

"I know." But for just a moment, she tried to pretend that it wasn't. That they could sit there, not having to do anything for a moment longer.

Then the moment was past.

They stood without consulting each other.

He handed her the keys to his truck. "I need you to drive to my house and wait for me there."

"No. I'm going with you."

There was a little more silence, then he sighed. "All right."

She took the keys to Pete's car and went out to open it up, carrying the bowl, the timer carefully stored in a pocket. The bowl was set in the backseat, and then she opened the trunk and turned to find Jack hoisting the large, ungainly artifact. He'd gotten it over his shoulder in a fireman's carry.

And, thanks to rigor mortis, the body looked like nothing except a rather odd stack of wood wrapped in a tarp.

Fighting back a strangled laugh, Sam helped him maneuver it into the trunk, then closed the lid, pleased he'd fit (just barely). She got into the passenger seat without being told, putting her seatbelt on as he slid into the other side, adjusted the seat, and started the car. Pete was shorter, she thought incongruously.

That had always irritated her.

Patterns of streetlights and darkness lulled her into an odd daze, and she jerked awake when there was nothing but darkness. He pulled off the roadway eventually, the tires crunching over grass and sand. Dirt. Not quite the desert, but far from civilization.

Are you sure you want to do this?

Yes.

The question could never be answered negatively. She'd come too far.

Jack didn't ask it as they got out in the middle of nowhere, the moonlight beginning to filter down on them. She stared at it, reminded of a hundred different watches in the night, moons that had looked the same, yet different. Double and triple, sometimes no moon, the astronomical configurations always differed. Sometimes larger, sometimes smaller. One had been tinted bright green.

A moment later, he moved around and opened the trunk and dragged out the large object. With her help he got it into the second seat, then went back to the trunk and pulled out something she hadn't noticed.

The smell of gasoline quickly filled the night air, the scent searing into her nostrils and making her want to cough as he climbed back out and stood. Sam fought down the hysterical giggle that bubbled up at the thought that Pete's own conscientiousness in having a spare gas can meant it was easier for her to kill him.

Again.

Several minutes passed, and then Jack nudged her, "Timer."

"Oh." She pulled it from her pocket and handed it over. He returned to the vehicle and fiddled, movements obscured in the darkness.

Eventually, he was done, moving back to catch her hand and pull her back. They walked carefully, picking their way over the uneven ground, hands tangled together until Sam, glancing back, couldn't see the car anymore. He stopped abruptly and pulled her to the ground. "Four. Three. Two. One."

Sonic boom, she thought muzzily. The fireball lit even her tightly-closed eyelids.

The general rolled off of her, and she moved to sit and watch the distantly burning vehicle. She felt as though she could feel the heat pulsing into her skin for a moment. Then the feeling was gone, and she simply stared, eyes unfocusing.

"We should go." he said eventually.

"Yeah."

They left when the fire was dead. Sam calculated how long super-heated gasses had cooked the fat, sinew and bone until it was nothing but ash. At least two hours. When the wind shifted, she could almost scent the smell of burnt flesh.

As the moon rose, visibility got slightly better so that they weren't in danger of falling as often. She still held onto his hand.

Dimly, she realized they were following tire tracks. "Jack."

"We'll deal with them closer to the road."

"All right."

Ten minutes later, they were doing just that, dragging branches and scrubby bushes across the churn-marks, making a mess of the tread and direction for ten yards until you couldn't tell from the road that there'd been any sort of passage.

She wondered if it would pass muster in broad daylight, then decided she didn't care.

The walk towards civilization passed without conversation. She'd let his hand go when they were obscuring the tire tracks, and now felt no inclination to recover it. When they could see lights in the distance, Sam suddenly stopped.

"Carter?"

Life.

"Carter, are you all right?"

She glanced at him, then dropped onto the ground, fisting a hand in the scrubby grass. "Gosh, Jack. I don't know. I just killed my fiancé, bundled up his body and helped blow it up to cover it all up. I don't think that counts as all right."

"You blew up a sun, once."

The non sequitor made her laugh. "You are such an ass."

"Yup." He held out a hand, and she let him drag her to her feet, and into his arms. "Hey."

"You're not safety anymore."

"I know."

She leaned in and kissed the side of his neck, savoring the taste of sweat and dirt and Jack O'Neill. "We need to get our stories straight."

"Yup." His arms closed tighter around her.

Hers slid around him, and she relaxed against him with a sigh. "How'd you get the explosion so concentrated?"

"Packed it into the gas can."

"Ah." Her breath seemed to tickle his neck, as the skin twitched. "We should go."

"I'm sorry about the bowl."

She blinked in the darkness, wondering how he'd known. "It's all right."

"I'll buy you another one."

"Okay."

He slowly released her, and they set off again, holding hands. Again.


Sam greyed out after the second mile. After a week off world, her body was demanding sleep. Finally. The adrenaline that had pushed her through the day and afternoon and night was finally gone. Luckily, the general seemed to know her endurance, and once they'd passed the first suburbs, he found them a city bus.

No one paid the slightly grubby officers any notice. Neither was in uniform, and they seemed like just so much white trash.

It took three different bus routes to get to her house. She went in the side door, eyeing the interior for a minute.

"Carter?"

"I..." She turned and looked at him. "Just let me get a few things. I can't stay here tonight."

"I know."

He was silent as he helped her pack clothing and toiletries. She wondered if he understood where she wanted to go, or whether she'd find herself packed off to a nice, quiet hotel.

They went out her front door, and she locked up, depositing her keys in her pocket before following him to his truck and climbing in after he'd tossed her bag in the back seat. The radio was on, classical softly pouring through the speakers and she leaned her head against the seat and simply listened as he drove.

When they stopped, she sat up and blinked at the dark house in front of her. A relieved sigh sild out of her soundlessly, and she got out, dragging her bag with her and followed him into his house.

"The spare bed has sheets from Daniel's last drunken binge, and there should be enough hot water for both of us to shower tonight."

He'd already turned to his room when she got the words out. "I don't want to be alone."

"Carter." The tenseness to his back hurt.

"Not..."

"I can't do this."

She swallowed, "All right." One step, two, and she was cuddled against his back, her arms around his waist. "But I can't face myself alone, Jack."

A breath escaped him, then he slowly nodded.

They moved into his room, and she began pulling at her clothes, at his, suddenly desperate to remove the dirt and stains. He turned, suddenly, and caught her between himself and a wall. The kiss was anything but gentle. Fiercely, she dragged at his collar, pulling him even closer and arching into him, grinding against him.

"God." He managed as he dragged his mouth from hers.

"There is nothing divine here."

"Say that later." His mouth claimed hers again, the urgency making her moan.

"Clean." She whimpered hours, minutes later.

"Yes."

They made it to the bathroom, almost tripping over their discarded shoes and clothes, and Jack almost scalded them and she banged her head on the side of the shower before they'd figured out how they fit. And then there was soap and and hands. Hands in very new places.

Jack made good use of the soap, driving her insane until she was ready to beg.

Then she did beg, shameless and full of need, and his fingers drove into her, his mouth closing on hers as she fell off the edge of the world.

In the aftermath, he quickly cleaned himself, then soaped her hair and rinsed them both until they squeaked. The abrasions on her knuckles stung, the nerves awakening under the warm water and soap.

She ignored the pain in order to catch his head in her hands and drag his mouth back to hers.

"My knees," he finally complained.

Sam smirked against his chest, but let him go and turned off the water. "I like your knees."

"But they're a little tired, Carter."

"True." She handed him a towel and worked the other through her hair then down her arms and sides and legs, noticing the nicks and scars, the permanent road map of injuries sustained in eight years of war.

Her hands were so delicate.

She used them against him, dragging him to the bed and then gliding them across his skin until he was the one mutely begging. With a strange laugh, she settled onto him, feeling oddly powerful as he looked up at her. Then his fingers found her and did that again, and she lost herself, body moving of its own accord until he was trembling beneath her.

When he came down, his fingers took her over the edge again, leaving her sprawled on his chest.

Almost content.

"Carter."

"Hrm. Wake me in a decade."

"You're too heavy to sleep like this. And I'm cold."

"Ass." She informed him, yawning and moving to get the blanket they'd kicked off at some point. Then she curled half into his side and on him, draping one leg possessively over his. She'd never been like this with Pete, she thought.

But then, she hadn't just killed him, either.

Jack's hand laced with hers, his breathing settled. Sam waited for sleep to come until the light was beginning to show through the curtain. Then she relaxed, letting something she hadn't even been aware of fade.

It was his watch now.

f-