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Just to Remind You

Chapter Text

“Eagle One is in position,” came the breezy announcement over the earpieces.

John mouthed Eagle One?  to Shaw, but she was already rolling her eyes. Since Samaritan’s downfall and Shaw’s return, Root had wholeheartedly embraced a new level of the lighthearted philosophy get your kicks when you can. It was impossible to predict her sense of humor.

“Currently Doing That, what’s your twenty?”

Shaw’s fist thudded off John’s shoulder before his expression could complete its transition to amusement.

“Root,” Shaw growled, “don’t call me that.” 

“Why not?” Root asked evilly. “You kissed me first, remember?”

“Well, she did think she was gonna die, Root,” John added. This earned him another sock to the arm. He rubbed at it half-jokingly. “That’s going to bruise, Shaw,” he advised her.

“Suck it up,” Shaw ordered. “Root—“

“You started it, Sameen. No take-backs!” Root’s transmission cut out in the middle of what sounded suspiciously like chuckling.

A few seconds later, Harold’s mildly irritated voice cut through Shaw’s fuming.

“Mr. Reese, I’ve just received a message from Ms. Groves addressing me as ‘If I Had to Pick a Dude.’ Perhaps giving her the boxed set of that particular television series was ill-advised?”

Before Harold had even finished speaking, John was already backing away from Shaw as she reached out to strangle him.

Chapter Text

Shaw was checking her nano for the fifth time when she heard a noise behind her. She spun around and crushed the intruder against the wall, only to find herself staring at Root.

“Hey, sweetie,” Root purred.

Shaw released her with a throaty tch, throwing her arms down rather dramatically, in Root’s opinion.

“What do you want, Root?” Shaw spat.

She was uncertain of how to treat Root since her return, so she simply acted as if nothing had changed. The whole team was happier than the last time they had been together; Samaritan was gone, and that was to be expected. Root was acting strangely, though. She was still flirty, but there was less behind it. At some point before Shaw’s disappearance, there was a sense that Root would act on her promises if Shaw only let her. That was less apparent now, and Shaw pushed away the thought that it was something she missed.  

“Can’t a woman just spend some time with her favorite assassin?” Root asked innocently, her eyes on the trajectory of the nearest security camera.

“No,” Shaw answered readily.

Root smirked.

“Can I borrow your phone?” she requested. She did it so smoothly that Shaw was removing it from her pocket before recognition caught up with her.

“What do you want with it?” she asked suspiciously.

Root tilted her head and looked at her with the same expression normal people reserved for adorable pictures of puppies.

Fine,” Shaw grumbled. Her eyes were already tired from all the renewed eye-rolling after months of having no one at whom to roll them, but then they stretched wide when Root nonchalantly threw her phone at the security camera. She turned to look at the other woman incredulously as the phone knocked the camera sideways and broke on the floor, the pieces skittering into all corners of the hall.

A strangled “what the hell, Root?” was about all she could muster.

“I needed to redirect the camera so She can see down that hallway,” Root explained as if it were obvious. “You’re about to have company.”

Shaw shook her head in disbelief. “This is just recon, Root, we haven’t seen anybody near this guy all day. Why is company coming?”

Root at least had the decency to appear a little sheepish.

“I may have tipped them off—“

Again?!?” Shaw groaned. “What did you need this time?”

“It’s the best way to get Dominic’s communication frequencies,” Root protested. “Okay, there are seven of them.”

Shaw rolled her eyes once again, but her heart wasn’t really in it. After all, a shoot-out was better than the boredom of guard duty.

“I hate you,” she added for good measure as she positioned herself against the wall. She was peering around the corner when she felt Root’s hands on her shoulders as she leaned into Shaw’s back.

“Do you kiss everyone you hate, Shaw?” Root breathed into her ear. “Or just me?”

Shaw’s quick elbow caught only worn leather as Root peeled away. When Shaw turned back to look, Root was already halfway down the hallway.

“Where are you going?” Shaw inquired in a voice that was not quite as expressionless as she would have liked.

“Don’t worry about me, Sameen, I’ll see you later,” was the carefree reply. Shaw snorted and turned back toward the sound of booted feet.

“I don't worry,” she muttered angrily to herself.

Chapter Text

“Remember that one time Shaw kissed me?” Root mused aloud.

Harold turned his head toward her slowly, as if certain that he had misheard. Though John and Shaw were right there, Root’s eyes were fixed only on him.

“I’m sorry?” he stuttered.

“Shaw kissed me. You were there,” Root reminded him helpfully. She sat atop a desk she had dragged into the subway ‘for work,’ but which Harold had noticed functioned more often as a sort of throne.

Root bit into her apple thoughtfully.

“Do you remember that, John?” Root called through a mouthful of apple.

“Unfortunately,” John deadpanned. That earned him a hard smack to the head. Root’s grin told him that his punishment at Shaw’s hands was only the icing on the cake of whatever game she was playing.

“Root, will you shut up already?” Shaw groaned.

Root ignored her entirely.

“What about you, Bear?” she asked of the large dog. “Did you hear about that?”

Shaw’s eyes narrowed at Bear’s soft whuff. Even the dog was betraying her.

“Ms. Groves, perhaps if you would—“ Harold began, but he was cut off by a wave of Root’s apple.

“One second, Harry,” she interrupted sweetly. She fished her phone out of her pocket and pressed a few keys. The whole subway was held in the scene of her creation while she listened.

“Hi, Lionel,” Root simpered. As if on cue, Shaw let out a wordless cry of protest and Harold and John rose in unison to pretend interest in something else. Something far away from the subway.

Quickly, even as Shaw stood and bore down on her, Root spoke into the receiver.

“Lionel, do you remember that one time when Sameen—“ Before she could finish her question, Shaw had ripped the phone from her hands, dropped it to the floor, and stepped on it. The crunch of electronics was mirrored by the smack of the door closing behind Harold and John as they made their hasty escape.

“Was that really necessary?” Root protested, but it lacked energy. Her eyes followed Shaw’s flushed features with interest. “Upset, Shaw?”

“What is your problem?” Shaw spat.

“Maybe I just wanted to be alone with you, Sameen,” Root murmured seductively.

Shaw’s hands clenched air and a growl escaped her throat, but Root’s Cheshire grin only grew wider.

Chapter Text

When Root showed up again with a motorcycle helmet and a smirk, Shaw didn’t say anything. She gripped the gas tank of the vehicle, careful not to cling to Root’s frame, and thought as the wind whipped against her legs.

Her mind fell back to John’s muttered ‘she never stopped looking for you, Sameen.’ To Harold’s soft ‘Ms. Groves changed while you were away.’ To the way that Lionel had seemed genuinely afraid of Root, not only for himself but for others, when she first returned. And finally, to the folder of videos that had mysteriously appeared on her laptop’s hard drive.

It was all of varying quality, some gritty to match its content, and some painstakingly clear. The person in it, however, never changed. She always begged for the same thing, pleading with her god not to throw hope and her out into the cold together.

Root, desperate to save Shaw. Never demanding a single thing more, just as she had never asked for more than what Shaw wanted to give.

Once she had watched them, Shaw had erased the videos. She did not need them to hear Root’s pleas in her head.

“This is it,” Root chirped as they slowed.

Shaw shook her head free of both thoughts and helmet before swinging herself off the motorcycle. Root stayed seated for a moment. With a decision that had been both months and a split second in the making, Shaw surged forward and pressed their lips together ferociously.

This time, when she released Root, hands clenched in the front of her jacket, it was to keep her close in a shared breath rather than to push her away toward uncertain safety.

“What was that for?” Root asked breathlessly. Surprise was already fading as cocky contentment dawned on her features.

Shaw shrugged and tangled their mouths together again, taking the time to fasten her hands in Root’s hair and press her entire body as closely to Root’s as she could.

 

Chapter Text

"I don't know, Captain Crazy, I had some pretty close calls." Lionel bristled even more than usual in response to Root's behavior with three empty beer bottles on the floor next to her. "You can't just declare yourself biggest badass without hearing out the rest of us!"

Root rolled her eyes.

"Okay, Lionel, what did you do that makes you so deserving of the title?" The two had been speaking over and around each other since their arrival, which was probably what had prompted Harold to leave their nicest safe-house an hour before. He had not been interested in sharing drinks and war stories after they regrouped from the mission in the comfortably lavish condo, and John had barely said a word since his second whiskey. Shaw joined John in maintaining silence as she studied the strange camaraderie Root and Fusco had developed since Samaritan fell. Even though Fusco wasn't drinking, he had joined Root in enthusiastically debating everything the other said, although neither ever crossed the divide between argumentative into angry.

"Well, there was that one time that I—" Fusco began. Root shook her head dismissively, and Fusco left off with a grunt of annoyance.

"It's still not gonna top the 'dodging bullets coming through the floor' one," she asserted after a sip of Finch's best bourbon. "Nothing tops that."

The decisive clink of a bottle being set down on the table called Root's attention back to Shaw. Besides her usual awareness on a visceral level of Shaw's presence, she had nearly forgotten about the dark-haired woman.

"How about kissing you, saving all your asses by hitting the elevator override, and going out in a hail of bullets?" Shaw offered in a blank tone. "And then I survived," she added proudly. Given her tone, she might as well have said checkmate.

Root looked at Shaw in wonderment, as did Lionel. The most Shaw had said about that day since her return had been that she did not remember how they had gotten her out of the basement. Root's voice took on a soft tone as she spoke.

"You're right, Sameen. That is my favorite," she murmured.

"Oh, for God's sake," Lionel muttered disgustedly.

Shaw grinned evilly and her eyes flickered to Fusco's involuntary shudder.

"No, Lionel, that's my line." Root's eyes widened even more at Shaw's humor, and Fusco swore.

"That's it. I'm going home." John finished his drink in one long pull and rose silently to follow the detective, throwing out a low "'night" as he exited.

Shaw's head swiveled to watch them leave with a contented smirk.

"Having fun, Sameen?" Root asked adoringly. Shaw looked at her and stood, gracefully arranging herself until she was straddling Root in her chair.

"No," Shaw retorted.

Try as she might, Root could not quite convince Shaw to retract that statement, but she did manage to satisfy herself that it was completely false.

Chapter Text

Shaw was slamming her fingers down on the keyboard like gun-hammers when she heard the casual voice behind her.

“You seem tense, Sameen,” Root remarked silkily. “Anything I can do to help with that?”

Shaw turned to glare murderously at the hacker.

“Why am I the one on the nerd squad when you’re going to be here anyway?” she demanded grumpily.

“I needed to be a little more… flexible,” Root explained, savoring the last word as it left her mouth.

Harold’s voice over the comms interrupted Shaw just as she opened her mouth to spit back a retort.

“Do you have the flashdrive, Ms. Groves?”

“Yes, Harry,” Root answered piously. “I’m giving it to Shaw to copy now.” She slipped the small piece of plastic onto the desk next to Shaw. “Can you figure out how to put it in?” she asked with an amused smile as she glanced over the divider of the cubicle.

Shaw groaned quietly.

“That was terrible.”

Root looked honored that Shaw had deigned to comment directly on her innuendoes.

“I’m a little off today, Sameen,” she purred. “I was hoping you could help me do a hard reset later.” She watched Shaw plug the drive in predatorily, waiting for her reply, but was interrupted by Harold.

“Ms. Groves, you do realize that I can hear you, do you not?” His voice came across the comms clearly and desperately.

Root sighed with a beatific smile.

“Sorry, Harry,” she apologized without a hint of sincerity. She nodded at Shaw’s computer and winked. “Maybe later I can show you how I like to turn it on.”With that, she turned to go.

At that moment, it occurred to Shaw that perhaps, if she had to put up with Root's irritating insinuations, she might as well enjoy herself too. She spoke quickly, her voice grabbing at Root's retreating back and holding her in place a few paces away.

“Laptop or desktop?”

Root stepped carefully back into the cubicle, disbelievingly delighted.

“I’m sorry?”

Shaw merely cocked an eyebrow in amusement at having turned the tables and flustered the hacker for once. Root, however, did not remain speechless for long.

“I’ve already seen what you can do on the laptop, so maybe this time we should try a desktop,” Root murmured, moving closer to Shaw’s chair and resting a hip against her desk.

“Ms. Shaw, perhaps this conversation would be best suited to another setting,” Harold pled.

Shaw ignored him and shrugged carelessly, but Root could see a proud expression in her eyes behind her ridiculously attractive fake glasses.

“If you think you can handle it,” she challenged. “But this time we should use Internet Explorer.”

Root shook her head lightly, entertained by her inability to predict what Shaw would say next.

“And why is that?” she asked.

“Well, that way it’ll take all night long.” Shaw’s sparking eyes flashed up to Root, and they stayed that way for a charged moment before John’s voice crackled over the comms.

“Shaw, if you’re not too busy, the number’s on his way back to his office,” he warned.

Harold’s muttered ‘thank God’ did not escape the hearing of either woman, and both shared an evil smirk before moving. Shaw ejected the flashdrive and handed it back to Root, who took it with a quirk of the lips and a fluttering wave as she practically skipped out of the cubicle.

“You can breathe now, Harry,” Shaw advised him quietly. “Root’s on the number.”

“We’ve still got the comms, though,” Root’s voice sounded over the earpieces. “And I was looking forward to making Shaw finish.”

Though neither could see the other, both could picture the malicious grin growing on the other’s face at Harold’s groan. 

Chapter Text

Shaw held her stance as her last remaining assailant fell with a pleasing thud against the concrete and gravel of the mechanic’s shop. The sound was mirrored to her right, and she glanced over to see that John had put down several of his own. The number was huddled off near a half-dismantled Ford, visibly shaking and clutching weakly at the briefcase gripped in his white-knuckled hands. 

Shaw relaxed her core and straightened, only to hear the sudden echo of a shot going off nearby. She whipped around, Ruger out, but her eyes met only a writhing figure on the ground. Then a well-memorized silhouette stepped into the door, backlit by the streaming sun of a New York autumn.

“You missed one,” Root grinned.

Shaw lowered her handgun with neither a word nor a change of expression, but her eyes never left Root. Even when the hacker tucked her gun into her waistband and walked up to rest her hands on Shaw’s shoulders above sullenly crossed arms, the smaller woman did not move; if it had been anyone else, it might have been said that she relaxed. Still, she maintained stubborn silence in the face of Root’s relentless sunshine expression.

Just when Root’s half-smile of burning, unblinking affection was bordering on too much to bear in silence, John cleared his throat.

“Shaw, we should get our friend down to the station,” he reminded her. “He has an appointment with the district attorney.”

Shaw smirked with the twitch of an eyebrow, and Root released her lightly, although her face remained irritatingly affectionate.

“Who are you people?” the number whispered, having found his voice again somewhere in the silent garage. “And what did you say about the district attorney?”

Shaw strode toward him, danger slipping around every curve and joint of her body.

“You know, if you’re going to cook the books for a chop shop, you should consider not selling secrets to a rival crew,” she remarked cuttingly. “Unless you’re really serious about not getting caught.” He gasped involuntarily when she grabbed his arm to hustle him away.

“But you did get caught, so now you’re turning state’s evidence,” she continued flatly. “Get in the car.”

She practically threw his arm away from her, and he stumbled toward the NYPD unmarked vehicle that John had never quite gotten around to returning when he ‘retired.’

As she stalked around to the driver’s side and gestured impatiently to John to get in, she looked at Root.

“Coming?” she inquired passively.

Root grinned.

“Sorry, Sam, I brought my own ride today,” she simpered. “You’re always welcome to join, of course. I’ll even ride bitch,” she offered salaciously.

 “Can’t,” Shaw declared. “Finch said we got another number a couple of hours ago.”

Root’s disappointed pout brought an involuntarily chuckle from the bottom of Shaw’s throat. She was about to duck into the car when Root’s voice called her attention back to the hacker.

“Oh, and you’re out of milk at your place. You should pick some up on the way home,” Root added evilly. She glanced at John, clearly bent on embarrassing Shaw if at all possible. “Could you get soy milk this time? I’m getting tired of skim.” Her smirk grew wider, if that were possible, at Shaw’s groan of disgust as she swung into the car.

“You buy it,” Shaw spat through the window. “You live there too.”

Though the speed made it difficult to tell for sure, Shaw was nearly certain that she saw a look of shock on Root’s face as the car sped away.

Five blocks later, Shaw heard the low drone indicating that her earpiece had been switched on.

“Did you mean that?” Root’s tinny voice demanded slowly.

“Mean what?” Shaw answered, keeping her eyes firmly directed toward the road.

“That I live at your place.” The sentence hung out over the channel like a half-completed bridge waiting for an answer to complete its crossing.

“You live anywhere else? Your clothes and computer shit are everywhere. Either you start doing something to help out or I slash the next thing that trips me in half,” Shaw replied. She kept her voice low and stubbornly refused to look anywhere near John. She was painfully aware that he could hear everything said on her end of the conversation.

Several seconds of crackling silence ended with a murmur.

“I’ll pick up milk on my way back.” Then she added in a near-whisper, as if trying out the taste of the last word on her tongue, “On my way home.”

“Get skim,” Shaw ordered with her customary brusqueness. “Or the leather jacket will be in pieces when you get there.”

A low chuckle brought back Root’s usual flirtatiousness.

“Careful, Shaw, anyone would think you’re getting domestic.” With that, she cut the connection.

Shaw huffed lightly in annoyance, then caught John looking at her out of the corner of her eye. She turned slowly to face him, still driving, and watched his eyes drift a little frantically between her shark eyes and the road she was no longer watching.

“Something you wanted to say?” she asked dangerously. He said nothing, but directed his gaze out the passenger window.

Shaw had just turned her head back to the road with satisfaction when John finally spoke.

“So you guys are living together now? That’s a big step for you, Shaw,” he said in his low, modulated voice. The undercurrent of a curling smile that leaked out of his words swept the satisfied smirk off her face.

“Who are you people?” The number again inquired fearfully from the backseat.

Shaw’s sudden acceleration and a number of increasingly unnecessary swerves did not really answer either question, but it did prompt silence from both men for the rest of the drive.

Chapter Text

Shaw was rubbing Bear’s head joyously, grinning all the while, when she heard the familiar footsteps of heeled leather boots behind her. A little impractical for a non-professional, if you asked Shaw. Not that she was complaining. They were kind of sexy, even if they did make the height difference between the hacker and the ex-agent infinitely more irritating.

“Who’s a good boy,” she crooned to the dog, ignoring Root’s hovering presence behind her.

Suddenly, Bear surged up from his sprawl and trotted around Shaw. To Root. Who was holding out a mere toy as if that should tempt Bear away from Shaw. And the traitor was chewing on it.

Shaw rose from her crouch dripping with disgust.

“I expected better from you,” she remarked acidly as she swept past.

“I can’t imagine why,” Root drawled with a chuckle.

“I meant the dog,” Shaw added viciously when she caught Root’s sappily amused expression. “You, I should have shot in the heart instead of in the shoulder.”

Shaw was firmly of the opinion that conversations could be won, and pride in her latest triumph fueled her victorious stride. Her epic exit line was ruined, however, when Root recovered quickly and wheeled around to call after her.

“Who says you didn’t get me through the heart, Sameen?”

Shaw did not even bother to pause or turn around. At least the only other person around to hear Root’s smug victory laugh was Bear.

Chapter Text

“She’s not interested.”

“But—“

“Not. Interested.” Then, as the gobsmacked little nerd was slow on the uptake, she hissed “Move.”

Shaw shook her head in disbelief as she watched the nervous man retreat hastily toward the far end of the bar. And then out the door. Whoops.

“He was just admiring the modifications on my phone, Sameen,” Root pointed out lazily as she sipped her drink. “No need to get jealous.” This last was said with a distinctly Root-like sense of glee that appeared most often when Shaw was likely to become violent. She was, as she had said before, kind of a big fan.

“Whatever,” Shaw snorted.

Root cocked an eyebrow.

“I wanted his chair,” Shaw stated bluntly.

Root continued to half-smirk at her disbelievingly.

Shaw glared.

“What are you looking at?” she demanded. While Root shrugged, Shaw waved a threat at the bartender and he hastened over. “Lagavulin single malt.”

The bartender extended her drink a minute later, snatching his hand back as if bitten once Shaw had her hands on the glass. She brought it to her lips and sipped carelessly.

“Stop looking at me,” she ordered, narrowing her eyes at Root. She redirected her gaze forward and sat, body language broadcasting the lie that she had come to drink alone.

“Whatever you say, Sam,” Root murmured, her eyes never leaving Shaw’s lips. Suddenly, her hand darted out and snatched Shaw’s glass from her grasp. Shaw could only watch in furious disbelief as Root lifted the tumbler to her own mouth.

“Tastes good, Sameen,” Root murmured, licking her lips wickedly.

Shaw let loose an angry noise from the back of her throat.

“You’re paying for that,” she growled as she tried to flag down the bartender again. He was suspiciously looking anywhere but at the two dangerous women.

“I always intended to,” Root said lightly. She tossed a few bills on the bar, and Shaw saw a few more zeroes than were strictly necessary before she was dragged from her chair by Root’s insistent grasp on her arm. When she grudgingly started walking, the hand released her arm and drifted to her back, then lower.

“Let’s get you home,” Root husked in her ear. She had to lean down to do so, and Shaw allowed her eyes to drag all over Root’s tight dress before returning her close gaze.

“If we make it that far,” she murmured challengingly.

After that, it was all Root could manage to walk while not smashing into the bar’s door on the way out.

Chapter Text

“I’m calling about a death benefit for my client.” Root heard the flat words as she entered the apartment on a gust of cold hallway air. She paused beside the door to remove her boots, unsure if Shaw had heard her.

“Nearly three years ago.” Root frowned at Shaw’s back and padded toward the couch. She hovered there, her eyes fixed on taut shoulders and tense posture as Shaw rested her elbows on the kitchen island.

“Her daughter. Sameen Shaw.”

At that, Root startled momentarily. She ghosted carefully into the kitchen, carving Shaw a wide perimeter transgressed only by curious eyes as she crossed to the cupboard to retrieve two mugs. She switched on the electric kettle and settled back against the counter to watch and wait.

“No, I don’t think you understand,” Shaw gritted. She seemed barely to be hanging on to any semblance of assumed professional distance. “Your office failed to assign my client a Casualty Assistance Representative at the time of her daughter’s death. She had no way of knowing.”

There was a pause, followed by growing anger that Root could track across Shaw’s face like game in the snow. The rising noise from the kettle mixed with Shaw’s growing anger filled the room with eerie tension.

“Her daughter was a decorated officer who died in the line of duty. Dr. Shaw is the rightful recipient,” Shaw argued. The title sounded familiar from Shaw’s mouth this time, not like the few times Root had heard her stumble minutely over using it in reference to herself for a cover. “I don’t care if three years is too long.”

Root quietly reached over and shut off the boiling kettle. She listened as she busied herself with placing tea into the infuser and then into the hot water.

“Don't you dare hang up,” Shaw spat with deadly intent.

Root turned around again just in time to see Shaw slam the phone violently onto the island with a vicious crack. She stared unseeing at the corner cupboards, still unwilling to look in Root’s direction. Root silently carried the kettle over and poured two mugs, pushing one carefully between Shaw’s dangling hands.

Shaw finally looked at her, daring eyes challenging her to say something. Root watched her hands curl around the too-hot mug in a subtle bid for grounding pain before she met Root’s eyes, then broke away again.

“I was technically on active, hazardous duty when I was declared dead,” Shaw stated, shifting her hips back to lean forward onto the counter and subjecting her steaming tea to hard scrutiny. “They owe her a hundred thousand.”

Root stepped closer and mimicked Shaw in bending to place her elbows on the island around her mug.

“I can raid the shady corporate slush fund of your choice,” Root offered softly.

“It’s not that. It-- It doesn’t matter,” Shaw muttered. She was staring straight ahead, as if seeing something other than cupboards in the tiny kitchen. Then she scoffed lightly, her empty tone betraying a hint of annoyance. “I died for that money.”

“No, you didn’t.” Root uttered the statement with absolute certainty. Even now, Shaw was acting for someone else; she was the furthest thing from a mercenary Root could imagine, even if her file would make it seem all she was.

Shaw shrugged. Root chose to read a library in that shrug; to her, it spoke of uncaring, but also of a woman who had lost a daughter and a daughter who had lost a life. Of a queen's rage at being treated like a pawn; of the quiet certainty of a growled you do not get to hurt her again. And last, a silent tiredness at once more being forced to embody Schrodinger's theory. Root also knew that Shaw would have looked askance at her wordy interpretation of a foreign body’s language, but it did not make the translation any less accurate.

She lifted her mug to her lips. “I can take it out of Control’s operating funds.”

A small smile ghosted across Shaw’s face.

“What about her personal account?” she asked slowly.

“I’ll do both,” Root assured her.

Shaw nodded slightly. A tiny smirk was visible in the split second before she raised her mug and let the tea wash it away. And though neither looked at the other, if Root leaned a little to the side and her arm ended pressed lightly to Shaw’s shoulder, both pretended not to notice.

Chapter Text

Quiet nights were few and far between, but they made them memorable. Root kept the occasionally fitting label ‘date night’ tucked deep into her back pocket, and the photos she snuck with her phone on those evenings saved to an even more deeply hidden folder of the same name. She had dared to push it a little farther this time, though. Popcorn, the couch, and the third season of Leverage queued up on Netflix were not their usual fare, although she had also provided liquor to tempt Shaw into the evening.

It worked. Though Shaw entered warily, she finally settled onto the sofa with the grumpy grace of a cat. The first episode played in silence punctuated only by occasional scoffs and harumphs from Shaw. To be honest, Root was more concerned with the occasional hint of an expression on Shaw’s face than with the plot. Uncharacteristic nerves over an increasingly insistent need in the back of her mind caused Root to fast overtake Shaw’s drinking pace.

By the second episode, Root was leaning against Shaw with only the flimsy excuse of a long day on offer. By the third, Shaw had sighed heavily and moved back against the armrest, allowing Root to settle horizontally alongside her by default. By the end of the fifth, Root had devolved into an even handsier and more demonstrative version of herself than usual, completely ignoring the television in favor of her true favorite entertainment, until Shaw finally grabbed for the remote and clicked off the television as the credits rolled.

“What exactly are you trying to do?” she asked skeptically as Root encircled her waist with long reaching arms and buried her head in Shaw’s neck. “Don’t start anything you can’t finish,” she warned against feather-light bites.

Root raised her head and leveled a lovesick gaze at Shaw.

“You’re my favorite pretzel, you know that, Sameen?” she sing-songed.

A slight bemused smirk tugged at the corners of Shaw’s lips when she heard the reference to the episode they had just watched, but mostly she just stared, caught in the middle of pulling Root’s hands out from behind her back.  

Root shook her head, courage gone. She pushed somewhat ineffectively at Shaw’s shirt, attempting to tug it up over her bra. When Shaw reached down impatiently to help, Root gently shoved Shaw’s hands away and concealed her face in Shaw’s midriff. Shaw could feel the vibrations of Root’s speech, but heard nothing that could really be called words.

“Root,” she snapped, tugging Root’s head up, “Jesus, how much did you drink, anyway?”

Root looked sleepily offended.

“I just wanted to tell you that I really like pretzels, Sam. I really, really—“ she choked off her own words by pressing her lips to Shaw’s. Shaw pushed her away reluctantly by the throat.

“Root?” The other woman refused to meet her eye, so Shaw tightened what had started as a light grip and shook Root’s chin lightly. Root’s eyes refocused and came to lock onto Shaw’s before she dropped her forehead to rest on Shaw’s shoulder.

“You’re my favorite pretzel, Sam. I want pretzels all the time and I can’t stop thinking about them and I had never even thought I would ever get to have pretzels before but now I do and I don’t want to lose them by saying something stupid.” The words exploded out in one long, muddled mutter.

Shaw wriggled out from under Root, then hauled Root to her feet. She pushed Root lightly toward the bedroom.

“Sameen?” came Root’s fearful query.

Steady hands rested on the back of her hips to guide her towards the bed.

“Just sleep.”

“Sameen I’m sorry, it’s just I needed to tell you about… pretzels for a long time, but we can forget it,” Root rushed out morosely. She was sitting on the bed watching Shaw rummage in the dresser drawers, and she saw Shaw’s back tense.

“Please forget it,” Root whispered, her mind horribly aware of the damage she was probably doing even while her drunk mouth would not stop babbling.

Shaw turned around and quickly stripped off Root’s shirt, but not in the way Root would have liked. Instead, just as quickly, she tossed a baggy shirt over Root’s head and pulled it down over her arms. Root struggled a bit putting her arms through the correct holes, but when she finished, she was aware of Shaw staring at her with an oddly curious expression.

“Do you want me to forget you said it?” she asked, still inquisitive rather than demanding.

“No,” Root smiled, then remembered that she was being stupid and looked sad again.

“Okay.”

It took a second for Root to register what had happened, and by then, Shaw had moved around to the other side of the bed and swiftly begun to change her own shirt.

“Okay?” Root inquired, twisting around just to make sure.

“Yup,” Shaw affirmed as she stripped off her pants. She turned off the light and climbed into her side of the bed. Root had not moved, having been transfixed by the power of pretzels, and Shaw sighed. “Take your pants off and lay down.”

Root complied and slipped clumsily under her half of the blankets.

“Sameen?” she whispered.

“Go to sleep, Root,” was Shaw’s quiet reply.

“Thank you.”

Shaw did not answer, but she shifted closer to Root in a silent response; not quite touching, but close enough that the comfort of body heat passed between them like a promise. Before sleep blindfolded her, Root tucked her head in just a hair’s breadth above Shaw’s shoulder.

When she woke up, she did not open her eyes immediately, but instead lay still mired in thoughts of the hazy, yet still cringe worthy, memories she had of the night before. Telling herself she had to face reality at some point, she cracked an eye, and sleepy grin came unbidden to her face.

Shaw was still there. Grumpy even in solid sleep, yes, but there.

Chapter Text

“That was the best thing I’ve ever tasted,” Shaw declared on the way to the back alley where they’d left the car. Though it seemed to Root that she had eaten nearly her own weight in hot wings at the buffet, she still moved with the constantly vigilant energy of a shark. A particularly attractive shark, in Root’s not-so-humble opinion.

“I’m disappointed, Shaw,” Root purred. She slunk through the crisp New York spring evening to anchor herself against Shaw, conveniently pinning the shorter woman to the car door. “I thought I was the best thing you’d ever tasted.”

Shaw smirked up at Root. Instead of answering, she pushed upward to lock her mouth onto Root’s. Shaw’s kisses often felt like particularly enjoyable punches, but this one was different. Hotter.

Too hot.

Root peeled away, even taking a step back. She raised a wondering hand to her lips, then looked at Shaw, who was waiting impatiently for an explanation as to why exactly Root was getting in the way of her fun.

“I like your fire, Sameen, you know that,” Root murmured through numbed, grinning lips, “but exactly how hot were those hot wings?”

Shaw barked a short laugh when she realized what had Root’s eyes watering. She tugged Root in and pushed her against the car.

“If you can’t stand the heat--” she commented drily. She bypassed Root’s mouth and moved downward, leaving open-mouth kisses that tingled in her wake. Root gasped. She should have guessed that scorched-earth warfare would have been Shaw’s forte when it came to sex too.

The hand at her jean zipper yanked her back to a scorching thought.

“Don't,” Root warned suddenly, grabbing Shaw’s hands and pulling them up.

Shaw gave her the look, the cajoling but fiery flirt look that Root could barely ever resist.

No,” Root emphasized. She looped her arms around Shaw’s neck and ground her hips into Shaw’s. “I’m all for pain, you know that,” she whispered, and Shaw make a low sound in the back of her throat. Root leaned back against the car and pulled Shaw forward to straddle her slightly bent leg. “But hot wings are finger food,” she purred into Shaw’s neck. “So your fingers are not coming anywhere near me.”

Shaw was adjusting to the change in plans, but even the solid friction of Root’s thigh did not remove the grudging air from her attention to Root’s neck. Root tugged her head up, and Shaw met her eyes defiantly until Root edged forward with a leer and enthusiastically attacked her mouth. After several moments of everything concentrated intensely on the pressure and heat they created between them, Shaw broke away briefly.

“I thought that hurt,” she pointed out critically.

“It does,” Root grinned.

Shaw scoffed.

“I don’t know, Sameen,” Root continued playfully. “The heat’s growing on me.”

Shaw moved closer, closing all distance between them and pressing Root fully against the car.

“Yeah?” she asked huskily. Root’s head knocked back against the glass of the window, and she looks down lazily through lowered lashes.

“Maybe you should try to convince me,” she hinted suggestively.

Shaw shifted impossibly closer and stared Root straight in the eye from inches away. Root barely registered the slight quirk of an eyebrow accepting the challenge before Shaw began her next onslaught and her eyes drifted closed. After that, all she could remember was fire and the sound of Shaw’s name as it was pulled achingly from her lips.

Chapter Text

“You alright there, Shaw?” John inquired with amusement. “You stare any harder you might melt the screen.”

Shaw redirected her burning glare towards a more attentive victim.

“What?” she snapped.

“I’m just saying, Root can’t see you,” John pointed out with a shrug. “Maybe you should try using your big-girl words.”

Shaw’s glare went from stun to kill instantly, and John quickly found something else to do with Harold on the other side of the subway platform.

Shaw settled back in the chair, still brooding over the screen. Not only was Root laughing with the number, but she was touching her arm. And lingering. And discussing coding languages, which was one of Root’s favorite topics. That was personal and should not be part of the mission, Shaw decided. Neither should getting coffee with the number. Clearly, Root was losing focus and, and getting distracted, probably, which only left one thing for Shaw to do.

“I’ll be back,” she tossed over her shoulder as she strode out of the Batcave.

“What was that about?” Finch asked curiously.

John shrugged.

“I have a feeling we’re going to want to see this,” he suggested as he moved back toward the computer display.


 

Shaw scowled at several giggling students passing by. Of course their number was a computer science professor. Of course. Campuses were hotbeds of irritation, and now the number was making Root lose focus. Why not concentrate everything Shaw hated in one place, after all?

“I hope you’re happy,” she informed Root grumpily. The hacker turned in surprise as Shaw swung herself into the seat beside her.

“I’m always happy to see you,” Root smirked, “but you only have two minutes until the number comes back.”

“Yeah, I’d hate to interrupt your date,” Shaw muttered under her breath as she scanned the campus coffee shop for threats. None, unless you counted boisterous dude-bros, which Shaw most decidedly did not.

Root regarded her with exasperated affection.

“I’m supposed to be visiting faculty, so She agreed it would be easier to watch her from close by instead of following her. Never been much of a lurker,” Root confessed airily. “I like to leave that to John.”

Shaw ignored the dig at Reese. “Yeah, pretty close,” she said flatly. She was certain that she remained expressionless, but Root’s face responded with a touch of amusement to something Shaw could not quantify.

“Sameen—“ she began warmly before stopping. “She’s coming back,” she warned after listening.

“Whatever,” Shaw emphasized. She shoved her bag into Root’s lap and stood abruptly.

“Just in case,” she added quickly, nodding at the bag before turning away. Nearly immediately, her comm snapped to life.

“Two guns, Shaw?” Root gushed. “You’re too sweet.”

“Whatever,” Shaw repeated. Then, just to remind Root to focus, and only for that reason, she added “I’ll be in the back corner.”

“Keeping an eye on me and my date?” Root chuckled. “Sameen, you’re adorable.”

Shaw did not deign to answer, but each time Root glanced at her over the course of the afternoon, she made sure to glower especially dangerously. Just to keep Root on target.

Chapter Text

“Root, where are my grenades?” Shaw’s voice demanded without preamble over the earpieces.

“Which grenades?” Root asked innocently, as if that were a reasonable question.

My grenades,” Shaw growled. “I had ten in the ‘fridge and now there are only five.”

“…why do you need them?” Root hedged.

“Root. Where. Are. My. Grenades.” Shaw ground out every word through gritted teeth. Even over the comms, the power of her anger was palpable.

“Domestic bliss,” was Fusco’s unsolicited addition to the conversation. “This sounds like the part I don’t miss.”

“You’re not missing anything,” Shaw responded hotly. “Just people who steal your weapons and your dog and leave their shit lying around everywhere.”

“I see what you mean,” Fusco grunted. “This van is a mess.”

Root’s huff of annoyance at both of them was clearly audible.

“Don’t get all grumpy with me,” Fusco protested. “I’m not getting involved in anything between you and Ms. One-Woman Army.”

“Are you two together?” Shaw demanded. “Root, what the hell?” She sounded almost hurt.

“Fusco and I are on a field-trip,” Root murmured.

“Without me,” Shaw stated with disbelief. “You take my grenades, but not me?”

“She told me you’d be busy today,” Root explained. The shrug was apparent in her tone. “But if you’re unhappy with me, Shaw, we can always change your call-sign to Been There, Done That.”

“Root—“ Shaw started with exasperation, but then she heard the subtle click of an ended connection. “Did she just turn off her earpiece?”

“Yeah, she’s gone,” Fusco confirmed. “She took the grenades too.” A moment later, he interrupted Shaw’s scowling time. “What does she mean calling me ‘It Happened Once in a Simulation’?”


 

Root was unpacking the day’s bounty of illegal weapons lifted from their number when her feet were unceremoniously hooked out from under her. She landed hard on her back, with Shaw’s hands and feet restraining her arms and legs.

“Not exactly what I was expecting,” she noted with mock disappointment. “Come to apologize?”

Shaw smiled, sphinx-like, and settled in more comfortably on top of Root.

“Sure, Root,” she rolled her eyes. “I’m sorry I caught you stealing my weapons.”

Root smirked. That would do for now.

“I’ll get you for the grenades and leaving me behind later,” Shaw added dangerously. “Right now, there’s the small matter of call signs to discuss.”

Root grinned even wider.

“I knew you liked Currently Doing That,” she exclaimed gleefully.

Shaw raised her eyebrows.

“No,” she shook her head pityingly. “But no one puts me in the past tense.” She watched Root closely, shifting with Root’s token attempts to escape, challenging her with eyes and tense muscles.

Root met her eyes with a self-satisfied smirk.

“Prove it.”

Chapter Text

“Sameen, if I die,” Root started dramatically, “tell Bear I love him.” Despite her flippancy, John saw her wince with pain as Shaw applied pressure to her midriff.

“Root, if you die, I’ll kill you myself, and it’ll be a painful death,” Shaw warned. “Stay awake,” she added as she stripped off her jacket.

“My pleasure, Shaw,” Root chuckled.

“Yeah, that belongs to me too,” Shaw shot back, pressing the jacket to Root’s side. John grimaced at the bad comeback; apparently, innuendo was not something Shaw could multitask. “Harold, get your ass over here with that gauze!” she called over her shoulder. John stood helplessly, knowing that he would only be in the way if he tried to help before he was called.

“I love it when you’re like this,” Root wheezes. “All… protective and… demanding. It’s hot.” She started coughing.

“Shut up,” Shaw ordered. Her motions were as efficient as ever, but John could see a certain tension in her shoulders that belied her blank demeanor.

Crooked footsteps approached rapidly.

“Here are more medical supplies,” Harold announced, dumping his bounty onto the table where Shaw had dragged Root after she collapsed at the entrance to the subway. “Ms. Shaw, she needs a hospital,” he added urgently, exchanging glances with John.

Shaw inspected the supplies, then started to cut away Root’s shirt. “I have to at least get the bleeding to stop before we can move her. Then you can take her to see a real doctor,” she muttered. The scissors were proving difficult, so Shaw threw them aside and opted to rip Root’s shirt open instead. John preemptively looked away; Shaw had a strange memory, and she’d file anything untoward away for later and make him pay if she needed to let off some steam.

“I love it when you… do that, Shaw, but… not in front of Harry,” Root rattled. Hearing her, Harold drifted back to stand next to John.

“You don’t have that luxury, Root,” Shaw reminded her before continuing sarcastically. “Because someone wouldn’t listen when I said don’t use my grenades.”

“I needed them,” Root argued breathlessly. John looked wordlessly at Harold; he shrugged to indicate that he had no idea why Root had needed the explosives.

“Yeah, well, you’re not supposed to stick around while they blow up,” Shaw muttered angrily. Her hands probed Root’s stomach, where the most obvious wound was. “How far away were you?”

“Near the edge… of the blast radius,” Root wheezed.

“Idiot.” Harold stepped forward as if to halt the argument, but Shaw warned him off with a shake of her head. “You’ve got a fragment in here, but that’s the only major thing. Except—“ she paused, and both Harold and John edged forward, anxious to know what was wrong. John caught a glimpse of a gouge along the right side of Root’s ribcage when Shaw pulled away the edges of the bloody shirt. “And you got shot,” she stated matter-of-factly. “I’m not even surprised anymore.”

“You’re just… disappointed… that you didn’t do it first,” Root laughed, choking a bit as Shaw automatically accepted a temporary bandage from John and applied it to the wound.

“I did do it first,” Shaw argued. Root laughed again. “Stop moving,” Shaw ordered. “I’m going to numb this area, take the fragment out, clean it and sew it up, then wrap everything. The bullet barely caught you, so I think your ribs are fine, but when I’m sure the bleeding’s stopped I’ll look at it again to make sure.” John watched a look pass between the two women as Shaw finished her assessment. It was a look of more understanding than he would have thought possible of either of them, even under the circumstances. “What?”

“I—okay.”

“The numbing stuff we have isn’t going to block everything.”

“I trust you.”

John stepped up to offer himself up to Shaw’s instruction. When he did, he saw Root’s hand creep out to squeeze Shaw’s. He noted thoughtfully that she did not make any returning move or pressure, but neither did she pull away.  

“John?”

The tall man stepped closer.  

“Keep her torso steady.”

“Got it.” He stood close, hands resting lightly on Root’s upper chest and hip, ready to hold her in place once Shaw administered the local anesthetic.

“Watch your hands, John,” Root joked hoarsely. “Or Shaw’ll cut them off.”

John looked down at her pale face, keeping his expression neutral. He wanted to give her a retort, to keep everything as reassuringly normal as possible, but Shaw was tapping a needle in a business-like manner and there was no time.

“Do you want me to tie you down?” Shaw demanded of Root in a half-mutter, attention fixed on the needle in her hand as she applied the anesthetic.

“I always want you to tie me—“ the rest of Root’s innuendo was lost to a hiss of pain. She was tense under John’s hands, and he shifted a little to ensure that she could not move. Shaw waited for the drugs to take effect, then nodded at John. He steadied his hands as she grasped the shard. “Pulling it out,” she warned.

“This isn’t so—“ Root cut off again with a gasp.

“Ms. Groves, perhaps you shouldn’t talk,” Harold suggested anxiously from somewhere near her knees.

“She can if she wants,” Shaw snapped. Root started several other sentences, but each was interrupted by fresh bursts of pain as Shaw cleaned the wound. Eventually, she fell silent, although her muscles pulled and tensed agonizingly under John’s hands.

“Stitches,” Shaw warned quietly. John could have told her to save her breath, but when there was no retort, not even an attempt, she glanced up anyway. Root’s eyes were closed; she had passed out, her muscles now limp.

“Ms. Shaw, how serious is it?” Harold inquired softly.

“Well, she got blown up and shot,” Shaw started sarcastically. She paused. “I don’t know yet,” she admitted, eyes fixed on her stitching. “But she needs blood.”

“I’ll get it,” Harold promised. He walked away quickly.

“Shaw?” John asked quietly.

“I don’t know!” Shaw barked, shooting him a harsh look. Then, more quietly, as she looked down and her steady hands deftly manipulated needle and surgical silk, “I don’t know.” John nodded, but said nothing.

They finished in silence, interrupted only by Harold’s return. Shaw started a transfusion, then allowed John to help her transfer Root to a camp bed. They cleaned up, wiped the table down, stowed the medical supplies nearby, just in case, anything that could be done.

When Harold had long since left with a quiet “keep me apprised,” and he could not come up with even the worst excuse to linger any longer, John approached the chair Shaw had placed next to Root’s bed.

“I can stay and watch her tonight,” he offered quietly, knowing she would refuse, but hoping anyway. “You should get some sleep.”

Shaw did not even look at him.

“I’ll sleep here.”

He did not believe her promise to sleep at all, but he respected her need to stay. He started to move away, then paused.  

“Call if you need to.”

Shaw nodded silently. John glanced back at the door, and the last thing he saw before emerging into the outer world was Shaw, a figure cloaked in black, sitting watch over a pale, sleeping Root.


 

In the morning, a crisp draft followed Reese and Finch into the subway. “John—“ Harold began from the doorway, but quietened suddenly.

“Shh, Harold,” John warned in a whisper.

Shaw no longer sat watch like the subway’s resident death’s head; she was lying on her side, body limp in sleep,  facing Root from another camp bed dragged flush to Root’s at some point during the night.

Harold nodded and the two crept on care-softened feet into the subway car to begin the day’s work. John saw Shaw’s shoulders relax a tiny bit once they had passed, but he held his silence; there was no need to share Shaw’s secret wakefulness with Harold. John shut the door carefully, hoping that Shaw would get some sleep if she thought they were no longer watching. It could not hurt to let her stay there, asleep or awake as she wished, where she could still watch over Root until she awoke.

Chapter Text

Hard sweeps of wind rattled graffiti-adorned boarded windows as Shaw made her sure way down the abandoned street. She had followed every evasion protocol known to man and a few no mere man had never heard of to get there, but that did not prevent her from glancing warily down the desolate grey pavement in both directions anyways, just in case. Seeing no one, she directed her blank face up to the dingy security camera on the corner of the building.

“Hey.”

She spoke quietly but firmly, her simple utterance a summons rather than a greeting. It was several long moments before a red light blinked to life under the screen of dirt. It flickered and stuttered a few more times then, and Shaw recognized the Morse code signal HR—here. She shifted on the balls of her feet, though her hands remained clenched heavily in her pockets.

“I don’t know what you’re planning.”

The camera light remained off, waiting for her. She spoke a little louder, lest the wind carry her words away before they hit their target.

“But if this is the long-term plan, with the irrelevant numbers and the other threats, you need a new one.”

Shaw looked away from the camera. Even though there was nothing human on the other side of the camera, she was still akin to the subject of one of the surgeries she used to perform, an entire life’s worth of vulnerabilities laid bare for all to see.

“She’ll always go if you tell her to. Alone,” she added. “And the numbers and new threats aren’t going to stop. Samaritan’s gone. There’s no excuse. You need to find more people to help her. You need to protect her. Or you’re going to lose your precious Analogue Interface.”

She looked back at the camera, hoping that even the Machine could see something true behind black eyes.

“She’ll die alone out there, for you, and she shouldn’t have to,” she stated baldly. “And if you let her, I’ll pull the plug on you myself.” Then, for good measure, she added, “I’ll melt your servers into a puddle, too.” The threats rebalanced her, and it was with renewed defiance that she stared up at the camera.

A few seconds later, the reply came—OK.

“I thought so,” Shaw muttered. Just as she turned to go, however, more winks of red light caught her eye. She paused to watch. Her face remained expressionless, even as each translated letter flashed to typewritten life on the screen of her mind’s eye.

I-L-V-H-R-2

It was a long time after the light blinked out for good that Shaw finally walked away, borne along with wind-driven debris through crooked ghostly streets. And if she wandered for a while, mired in thought but far from lost there, it was as a soldier on patrol, and not, certainly not, as a woman with uncertainties burning ever brighter.

Chapter Text

Shaw spotted the twin flashes of Root’s grin and the bouquet of white flowers long before the light turned. She joined the tide of New Yorkers washing across the street and stalked over to join her whatever-Root-was on the opposite corner.

“Whatever this is,” Shaw ground out without preamble, gesturing between them, “we do not do flowers.” She glared pointedly at the bunch in the crook of Root’s arm.

Root simpered. She reached out a hand to touch Shaw’s arm in mock reassurance.

“Don't worry, Sam. They’re not for you.”

Shaw followed Root down the sidewalk as she walked away. She refused to rise to the bait and ask what Root meant, but she could not help but exude the unspoken question as she caught up to Root.

“Where are we going?”

Root drew up half of her mouth in her signature smirk, the one that made Shaw want to punch her and then jump her bones while she was down.

“Well, first I’m going to get these in water,” Root answered seriously, lifting the flowers to examine their cut ends.

Shaw realized that they were close to the apartment and stopped momentarily.

“Why did you call me if you’re just going home?” she demanded.

Root turned with a sardonic smile.

“Ever heard of afternoon delight, Sameen?” she drawled. When Shaw only waited with a cocked eyebrow, she sighed. “She has something for us, and we need the bike.”

Shaw’s eyes sparkled, and she strode forward again to lead the way to the apartment.

“I’m driving,” she crowed as she passed Root. “And don’t think I don’t know you’re lying about the flowers,” she added over her shoulder. “You can do what you want, but I am not getting mushy about today.”

Root trailed behind all the way down the block and into the building, trying to decipher Shaw’s comments. She climbed the stairs and caught the door before it shut behind Shaw, who was already jangling the keys impatiently when Root entered. Root ignored Shaw’s expectant glare and moved into the kitchen, admiring the bouquet as she went.

“I’ve always liked irises,” Root remarked lightly. “Although I like blue better. And sometimes yellow.”

Shaw growled, and Root turned to her in surprise. She had not expected such a strong reaction from so little provocation.

“Root, I’m serious,” Shaw emphasized as she followed Root to the kitchen. “We’re not making this a big deal.” Root kept her face straight, still uncertain of Shaw’s meaning. “You tying me up and threatening me with an iron may have been fun, but it’s not worth celebrating and I’m not getting you flowers or any of that shit.” The realization hit, and a quick whisper from the Machine confirmed her sudden insight.

“Shaw, are you referring to our anniversary?” she asked incredulously.

“It’s not our anniversary,” Shaw answered impatiently. Then she looked skeptical. “Wait, you’re not?”

The grin growing on Root’s face was unbearable.

“No,” she said slowly. “These are from my number. He sent them in anticipation of our date tonight.”

“You have a date with someone else tonight,” Shaw stated flatly. She shrugged after a moment and turned to go. “I’ll be out by the bike, just hurry up.”

Root moved quickly to intercept Shaw, spinning her around and brushing her hands fondly up and down Shaw’s arms as Shaw scowled.

“You remember the day we met.”

“It was a memorable week,” Shaw observed sarcastically. She leaned in and opened her mouth to drive her point about Root’s general insignificance in the larger realm of her life home, but Root kissed her suddenly and swallowed all her words. When Root finally gave Shaw her mouth back, just to see what she might say, Shaw instead looked thoughtful.

“You remember the day we met,” Root murmured again with deep approval. This time, Shaw had the grace to say nothing. Suddenly, her eyes narrowed.

“But you didn’t.” Shaw went from well-kissed and neutral to pissed in a nanosecond. “What is the number doing giving you flowers and taking you on dates?”

Root kissed her again for appeasement, firmly, and then eased back.

“It’s the best way to keep him out of a turf war while his big shipment of drugs comes in,” she grinned. “And I think you being there to bust his whole crew is a good present, don’t you? Maybe you can use the rocket launcher,” she added thoughtfully. Then she smiled back at Shaw. “I can still buy you flowers, though, if you want.”

Shaw looked at Root almost pityingly.

“I’ll take the rocket launcher.”


Later that evening, Shaw stepped cat-like along the tops of rusted shipping containers turned variations of gray by growing shadows. Root had given her very specific directions, but the last steps became unnecessary when Shaw spotted the sniper’s nest from rows away. It was not the rifle so much as the large arrangement of white flowers surrounding it that caught her attention.

Once she was safely ensconced, with both herself and the beacon-like floral extravagance hidden from the sightline of anyone on the ground, Shaw plucked the note from the site of the rifle.

Hey Sweetie,

White irises don’t fit either of us, but white heather belongs to you. The iron's all ready when you're done, if you want revenge. I hope you do. 

Root

Shaw shook her head with a quirk of her lips and tucked the note into her shirt. Turning her attention back to the stirrings of activity on the ground, she ran her hands over the rifle, swiftly checking its readiness. Not that she was impatient, but the advisory phrase strike while the iron's hot had taken on a whole new motivational aspect since her arrival. 

Chapter Text

It’s a year later, and this time of year is always going to feel dark to Root, even if a bright-lit spring is supposedly just around the next concrete corner. It will always bring back black memories that leave blacker holes when she blocks them from her mind with words and sardonic smiles and distractions. Always.

Tonight, they’re in the middle of working a number, and Shaw refuses to drink on those nights. But then, the number ends up at a karaoke bar, and somehow it’s fun to watch Shaw’s grumpiness and discomfort, even though Root swears she can see a tiny smile on Shaw’s face when Root won’t stop joking. And the number goes home, with John following, and suddenly She tactfully bows out and the rest of the night is just theirs.

Root talks her into one drink, just one drink, Sameen, with a beckoning grin and a resisted tug on her wrist, and Shaw lets her, even though the singing sucks. But one drink becomes more and then Root is up on stage, singing something loud and beating. She can feel the whole building and all the air inside pounding with the music, but it all centers on Shaw’s smirk and raised glass as she sits back to watch.

Root convinces them to let her sing again. She’s good at that, convincing people, but not always Shaw, Shaw who does what she wants. What does she want? She’s in a karaoke bar watching Root onstage, singing, crooning almost, a slower song this time, low and dangerous. Root’s weaving predatorily through the crowd to get to Shaw, because she wants to ask her what she wants. Is this what she wants? To be here, with Root?

She makes it to Shaw before the songs ends, so she ends up breathing the last lines standing there, in front of her. It’s a little cheesy, no less subtle than some things she’s done before, but she didn’t plan this one at all. It feels right, though, the song for Shaw and Shaw’s challenging little smirk and the air of disdainful ennui that Root loves so much.

When Root asks what did you think and Shaw growls off-key before hiding her smile with a beer bottle, Root is not satisfied. They have their games, and those are fun, but every once in a while she needs something more obvious.

She takes the bottle away from Shaw, who lets her, probably because she wants to see what Root will do next. She’s always interested in that, what Root’s going to do, not anxious like Harold or silently cautious like John. Just interested. Root is interested right back, in what Shaw might do, and right now she leans in to kiss Shaw, hard, because Shaw’s there but what comes next?

Shaw kisses back, biting almost, leaning forward on her bar stool, urging Root closer with boots at the backs of her legs. They draw each other in, and Root clutches for the smaller woman harder than she should, because she just wants Shaw to always be there, right there.

Always lasts for about five minutes, until the hoots and whistles seep their way through Root’s hands on Shaw’s ears and Shaw pulls away. Root chases after for a split second before she can come back to the world. It’s good that Shaw doesn’t let go, though, because Root had started to feel like they were attached, and losing that body pressed against hers feels for a moment like losing a limb.

Shaw slips down off the stool, catching Root around the waist, and tugs her to the door. Root’s not sure where they’re going, but Shaw has that glint in her eye that she gets, the one that promises so much and always delivers. She’d chase that glint anywhere, she thinks. She has chased it, everywhere and anywhere, for nearly three years now.

Then they’re outside and there’s steam coming from their mouths every time they pull apart for a split-second breath. Root feels so incredibly warm, though, so she thinks wildly that the steam must be smoke from that four-alarm fire Shaw warned her about. They are natural disasters together, and that’s the kind of destruction Root thrives on, craves. Not that other kind she found last year, that one guiltily directed inward that she fears and fends off at odd moments, that makes her seek reassurance in touch and sarcasm that she can’t seem to find anywhere else but Shaw. She never needed reassurance before that day, but now she does. It’s terrifying how much she needs.

There are rough bricks at her back and Shaw’s hands are everywhere. Honestly, Root could die happily just thinking about those quick hands. She whispers, though, in puffs of smoke signals rising in the cold—what do you want.

Shaw pauses, and even though Root wants more than anything to tug Shaw’s hands back and make them quick again, she needs an answer. She looks at Shaw and asks again, more slowly, more surely.

Her answer is a slow stifled grin and a surging tidal wave of motion that crashes Shaw into Root, a punch and a kiss all in one. It’s so familiar, so like that day she lost everything in an endless scream that went on for months. The memory makes Root’s jaw ache, or maybe that’s just the price she pays for kissing a force of nature. But this time, when it ends, Shaw is still there, not seeking any more destruction than what she and Root can wreak together. And then she starts in again.

So when Root has another question, and she asks what’s next, Shaw doesn’t even pause. She just looks at Root and keeps going. This is what’s next. They will go on as before, but together now and different for it, somehow. With hope now, maybe that’s the difference.

Root can live with that, she decides, and hooks a leg around Shaw’s. She puts her off-balance enough to crash Shaw into the wall instead, every pause between grabs and tugs and teeth punctuated by a whispered prayer: stay, please, stay.

Shaw, this one time, answers back with a smile and her hands steadying Root’s shoulders, followed by a rough don't stop when Root does. So Root keeps going, but a little slower, because she’s not chasing something that’s going to disappear anymore. The pursuit ends here, with Shaw, with acceptance, with reassurance, with a promise that Shaw has been making, silently but surely, over and over again, for months.  And in a single flashing moment, Root finally believes her.

Chapter Text

As with many of the exchanges that took place between the two women, it began with a physical non-sequitur. Apropos of nothing that Harold could fathom, Shaw strode swiftly into the library, lobbed a magazine at the back of Root’s head, sneered ‘real cute, Root’ and stalked out again. Stranger yet, as these encounters often became, Root only called ‘thanks, sweetie’ sweetly as Shaw retreated, then picked up the magazine and regarded it curiously.

“What is that?” Harold ventured to ask. It was perhaps the safest question he could ask.

Root tossed the magazine up onto his desk, where he read the glossy front page.

Modern Bride?” he voiced incredulously.

Root shrugged, her eyes sparkling.

“You think she’s trying to tell me something, Harry?” she asked playfully.

Harold sighed. He sincerely hoped not.


 

A week later, Harold looked up to find Shaw marching stony-faced into the subway, with a bemused Root trailing behind. Harold could only stare at them in the vague alarm that generally struck him in their joint presence, until Shaw spoke.

“What’s the number?” she inquired tersely.

Harold gladly handed over a photo and a slip of paper with an address.

“Mr. Reese is already there—“ he trailed off as Shaw unceremoniously walked away before he finished.

“She’s a little tense this morning,” Root commented sweetly as she hopped up to sit on her desk. “She thinks I’m leaving wedding magazines lying around to get her to propose.” Without acknowledging the strangeness of the information she had just imparted, she pulled a granola bar out of her pocket and dedicated herself to its delicate unwrapping.

Harold raised his eyebrows helplessly. First there had been the highly uncomfortable flirting, which had only grown into more overt romantic and sexual insinuations; then they had moved in together, essentially; then last month with the grenades… his coworkers’ relationship was proving to be more stressful than the AI apocalypse.

Still, though he had heretofore remained as uninvolved as possible, Root’s dangling conversation starter was too tempting to pass up.

“Perhaps you might consider proposing to her,” he offered with a smile. “If that’s what you want.”

Root shook her head incredulously.

I’m not the one who wants her to propose,” she laughed. “But it is fun to watch her like this.”

Harold was truly confounded.

“Then why would you leave--?“ Harold exclaimed, exasperated by the incomprehensible relationship tactics of the woman in front of him.

“Oh, I wouldn’t,” Root assured him with a grin. “I’m not that clumsy.”

“Then who--?”

Root took a bite of her granola bar, eyes bright with amusement.

“Do you really want to know, Harry?” she asked pityingly, leaning back to prop herself up on her free hand.

Harold turned back to the subway car and his computer screens, where at least some things made sense and everything was logical.

“I suppose not,” he murmured with chagrin.


 

“Shaw, are you set up?”

Only light, nearly inaudible static sounded over the comms. Finch waited for a response to John’s inquiry.

“… Ms. Shaw?”

Faint cursing became audible.

“Shaw, you alright?” Reese sounded vaguely amused.

“Really, Root?” Shaw exploded. “In my rifle case?”

Root’s smooth voice entered the conversation.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Sameen.”

“I’m talking about the magazines currently rubber banded around my Vanquish,” Shaw spat.  

“… could you describe them?” Root’s voice was filled with glee, which Shaw apparently did not appreciate. Harold could only listen helplessly as the conversation played out.

“They look like I’ll be using them to beat you to death later,” Shaw threatened.

Root chuckled, which caused incomprehensible noises of anger to explode from Shaw.

“I’m serious, Root! It’s just a bigger apartment, that does not mean a proposal. Besides,” she continued, deaf to the astonished silence that had fallen over the comms, “neither of us are religious, plus legally I’m dead and you haven’t existed for years, so it makes no goddamn sense.” When stunned static was all that followed, Shaw ended with a suspicious “what?”

“A bigger apartment.”

“Yeah, Root,” Shaw huffed. “You keep filling the place up with every shiny thing you come across and I’m tired of tripping over it all.”

“You’ve been looking at apartments?” Root’s voice was still playful, but softer. Harold began to wonder if he should not turn his earpiece off to give them some privacy, but reasoned that something might come up. After all, they were still working a number.

Shaw’s eye roll was so obviously implied it was nearly audible.

“Unless you’d rather go back to nomadic squatting,” Shaw muttered sarcastically.

“I guess we can move,” Root ceded quietly.

Harold startled, then smiled a little to himself. Ms. Shaw must surely understand how stressful that period of her life had been for Root. In all of his own anxiety over the havoc those two had the potential to cause, he often forgot just how well they understood each other.

Their voices cut back into Harold’s thoughts.

“I’m still not proposing,” Shaw reminded Root cautiously.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Root agreed. “And I’d hate for the spark to go out of our relationship.” She paused. “Or the handcuffs.”

“Yeah, can’t forget those,” Shaw agreed in a low voice.

They were both silent for a moment, and Harold was extremely gratified when the conversation took a different direction.

“I want a computer room.”

“Not after all this wedding magazine shit,” Shaw shot back.

Root sighed.

“That wasn’t even me,” she pouted.

Right.”

“Think about it, Shaw,” Root ordered wickedly. “Who else around here is a nosy romantic with access to your rifle case?”

For a brief, frightening moment, the thought struck Harold that if Ms. Shaw got the idea that it had been him, he would not have time before his imminent death to protest. Luckily, her final conclusion ended his fear; at least, the fear he had felt for himself.

“Reese.” Her voice was calm, level, and utterly terrifying.

“—yeah?”

“You’re dead.”

“Sweetie,” Root cut in with a reasonable tone, “you can’t kill him.”

“Why not?” Shaw demanded.

“Who else can we talk into bringing beer and pizza and moving the heavy stuff?”

“… fine.”


 

BONUS:

“Ms. Shaw, if you’d like, I’d be happy to offer you and Ms. Groves occupancy in one of our lesser-used safehouses. There’s a lovely condo in the East Village—“ Shaw cut in sharply.

“The one on East 7th? No way in hell.”

Harold was taken aback, and his face showed it.

“What?” Shaw demanded. “You didn’t think I went through all the safe houses first?” When all he could do with look at her in surprise, she shrugged and continued. “The one in Chelsea’s okay, but I’d want to tear out two of the walls. You need open plan, for the light, and I’m not living anywhere with a kitchen that shitty.”

She continued for several minutes, discussing load-bearing walls, kitchen ranges, and the relative merits of loft-style apartments. All the while, Harold could only watch in disbelief until she was stopped by a call from Reese. Seemingly aware of how her effusiveness about apartment-hunting had affected Harold, and fully enjoying it, Shaw grinned wolfishly and walked away.

It was not until a week later, when he discovered all his records of that particular safe house missing, that he realized his offer had been accepted.

Chapter Text

Root prided herself on truly seeing Shaw; she’d practically made observing her an art form. But one night, when she nipped at Shaw’s hip unexpectedly and turned lethally lustful eyes upward to Shaw’s gasp, she saw something she’d never noticed before.

She hid uncertainty from her voice as she shifted to loom over Shaw’s prone body.

“Sameen, if you undo the cuffs then it’s no fun,” she purred. Her eyes, though, scanned Shaw’s face, and she caught the quick flicker that marked the smaller woman’s discomfort. Root delicately dropped a hand onto the loose cuffs and pushed them away, then brought Shaw’s hands down gently to rest under her own. “Sameen?”

“What, Root?” Shaw asked dully.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Root responded quietly. She played with Shaw’s hands, encouraged by the agent’s failure to pull them away.

“Root, if you’re just going to stop then get off me,” Shaw warned, flicking Root’s fingers away and bracing her hands against the mattress to sit up. Root rose on her knees to accommodate Shaw, then settled back as she watched. Shaw sat with her arms draped loosely over knees brought up in a barrier.

“Sameen, why wouldn’t you tell me?” Root’s voice was low and calm, but the modulation was manufactured to mask a whole host of other feelings.

“Nothing to tell,” Shaw shrugged.

“I wouldn’t call it nothing,” Root argued. “If you don’t want to be tied up—or anything else--“

Shaw interrupted abruptly, her dark eyes fixed on Root’s.

“Did She tell you anything about while I was gone?”

A million words existed to better describe that time, starting with capture, running through torture—in many senses of the word—and ending somewhere around voiceless pain.

“Yes,” Root admitted freely.

“You made Her tell you.”

“Yes.”

“Video?” Shaw inquired dispassionately.

Root shook her head slowly.

“Only audio,” she whispered. “But She wouldn’t let me hear all of it.”

Shaw nodded, once, as if simply confirming an abstract theory. Then she unfolded her knees, breaking the barrier, and leaned forward. She steadied herself with one hand on Root’s leg and the other at the back of her neck, pulling Root into a hard kiss.

She eased mere inches away, only far enough to allow her eyes to focus on and fill Root’s.

“It’s only sometimes,” she stated. “And you’re hot when you think I can’t get away.”

Concern became blurry in Root’s eyes as interest rose to take its place.

“But you’ll tell me? If it ever gets—“ she paused.

Shaw kissed her again, crawling forward to move things in a more pleasant direction.

“Yeah,” she agreed from somewhere sensitive near Root’s good ear. Root gasped, and Shaw raised her head to grin and part her lips wickedly.

“My turn,” she asserted. With that, being spun backward and readily ravaged crashed the moments all together in Root’s head, pivoting around the drawling bite of metal at her wrists and Shaw’s heat covering her.

Chapter Text

Shaw had Root backed against the door before it even closed.

“Shaw—“ Root murmured. “If I had known having a pile of guns fall on me would be that much of a turn-on, I would have had Her arrange something months ago.”

“Can you not talk about your special friend right now?” Shaw demanded briefly. Then she muttered something against Root’s neck.

“What was that?” Root asked breathlessly, head tipped back against the heavy wood.

Shaw leaned back and Root tipped her head forward to meet Shaw’s eyes.

“I said the guns were fucking hot,” Shaw growled. She busied herself with the zipper of Root’s jacket, but then the buttons on her blouse proved to be too slow in yielding.

“I like this shirt,” Root reminded Shaw absently as buttons skittered across the floor.

Shaw merely grunted her indifference.

“You know—“ Root gasped, “those guns gave me some pretty bad bruises.” Shaw raised her head to give Root a quizzical look. “The least you could do is kiss them better.”

Shaw rolled her eyes.

“I was,” she pointed out, “until you interrupted with commentary. Besides,” she lowered her head again, and Root groaned at the renewed contact, “you gonna tell me you didn’t enjoy it?”

“This? Yes,” Root answered throatily. “The cascade of weaponry,” she choked on a stifled breath, “not so much.”

“Really?” Shaw asked incredulously. “That would have been my favorite part.”

“You would have liked it even more than when I—?“ Root’s retort was cut off by the route Shaw’s hands and lips were tracing down her hips.

“Well, maybe not more than that,” Shaw ceded. Root slid her hands into Shaw’s hair as the other woman looked up at her from her waist, scratching a little at her scalp. “We can experiment and find out,” she offered. “Could take all night.”

They shared one last smirk before Root’s head fell back with an involuntary moan, prompted by Shaw’s swift attention to her pants zipper.

Chapter Text

Guns. Guns are part of her now, just a different manifestation of the weapon she’s always been. It’s not a tool she points at her cowering prisoner, in a black and white train tunnel that goes on forever; it’s her own limb. Natural in the dark.

“Root.”

Don’t look. “What are you doing here?” Where did she appear from?

“Tracker.”

She looks. White in the dark brackets Shaw's silhouette.

“Where?”

Silence. “Don’t.”

Shoot now.

But then Shaw’s there, in between them.

“Root.”

“I have to. I want to.”

“I know.”

“He hurt you.”

“Yeah, he did.”

“Move, please.”

“No.”

Move.” Her voice echoes away. Shaw’s stone face remains.

“Root.”

She frowns. It’s been Her voice, not Shaw’s, this whole time, and she just noticed.

“Stop saying my name like it makes a difference.”

“It does.”

“I know what I’m doing. I’m hardly innocent, Shaw.”

Machine-Shaw says nothing.

Her head cocks. “Worried about me?” A sweet mask, and a familiar one.

Silence. Shifting. Yes.

“I’ve done this before.”

“I know.”

“What difference would it make?”

The train track rumbles.

“Maybe none.”

“Then move.”

“When was the last time you did this?”

A whisper, but no shame. “When we found you.”

“It didn’t change anything.”

“It did, actually.”

What, Root?”

Her eyes feel cold. “I punished them.”

“You killed them.”

“They hurt you.”

The rumbling is more insistent now, vibrating at the edges of Root’s thoughts.

“Don’t make this about me.”

“It is about you.”

“No, it’s not. I don’t care about him.” She hasn’t even looked at him, it’s true. Only at Root. “This is about you.”

The mask twitches. “I’m getting rid of him.”

“You can try to erase it, but you can’t. I should know. I know everything.”

“I can make it right.” She’s so frustrated. “They hurt you.”

“A lot of people have.”

“How can you not care?” A demand, now, because she needs to know this.

“This,” a brief gesture behind Her, an acknowledgment meant only to dismiss, “this is not worth it.”

“Worth what?”

“You tell me.”

“He deserves to die.”

There’s a whistle in the distance. Getting closer.

“Probably. But you don’t have to kill him.”

“It has to be me.”

“You can’t erase it. It wasn’t your fault, anyway.” Her eyes reject focus, unable to bear the implacability. “Root. You could not have stopped it.”

Slowly. “I called you. I called Shaw.”

“I was coming anyway.” Eyes focus again, brought back by Shaw’s real voice, sudden and fleeting.

“You were?”

“Yeah.” Her again.

Her arms start to lower. “I could have gone instead.”

The shrieking is louder. Inside her head or out?

“No, you couldn't have.”

The gun falls from her grip and a dark, glinting piece of her shatters on the floor.

“C’mon.”

“But he…”

Come on.”

But that dark piece that is gone now was not the only darkness she had. There’s something left; there always will be. And another gun in her waistband.

The rumbling and the whistle are overpowering. Maybe the gunshot would be deafening, if Control hadn’t already taken care of that.

Screams and Machine-Shaw’s dispassionate glance behind her fill the thundering, vibrating air.

Root smirks. Her mouth feels like glass.

“After all the people the others have kneecapped…”

“I get it.”

“He does deserve it.”

“Maybe. Now come on. There’s a train coming.”

Chapter Text

“Which key again?”

“Shift.”

“Which one’s that?”

Root sighed with exasperation, although a hint of a smile crept unbidden onto her face.

“We both know you can type with more than two fingers, Shaw,” she stated, her irritation starting to show. “This would be over a lot more quickly if you would just cooperate.”

Shaw twisted her lips into a smile that was somehow sarcastic in and of itself.

“I thought you liked it when I used two fingers.”

Root could not help but smile in frustrated admiration.

“And I’d hate for the fun to end,” Shaw added, maliciously returning to her spirited, intermittent pecking at the keyboard.

Root’s smile dropped from her face.

“Sameen, this is for your own good. She just wants you both to learn coding so Harold and I don’t have to be there all the time.” She frowned at Shaw’s disinterested expression. “You’re making this much harder than it has to be.”

Shaw half-glared, half-smirked at Root, her eyes never leaving Root’s face as she typed out a rapid sentence. Root nodded in acceptance of her assumed victory, but was brought up short when she turned to the screen and read what Shaw had typed.

“Well, that’s just rude,” she muttered. She twisted to face Shaw again, but the ex-agent had risen noiselessly and was padding into the subway car. Root rolled her eyes and followed for an impromptu break.

“How’s it going, John?” Shaw asked, barely-concealed glee badly hidden beneath her vague attempt at an innocent question.

Glares from both men seated in front of the computer display made for a ready answer.

Root followed Shaw’s move as she leaned in to look closer, casually curving herself around the smaller woman’s back. Even after an afternoon of finally being the one to bait Root, Shaw’s good mood did not extend that far. She pushed her away and glared at Root’s grin, then returned her attention to John’s plight.

“Are you reviewing the first step or something?” she asked, confused.

“Don’t push it, Shaw,” John warned, not looking at her.

“You haven’t gotten it to say ‘Hello, World’ yet?” Shaw exclaimed. “John, that’s—“ An uncharacteristically exaggerated warning look from Harold stopped her.

Root rested a hand on Shaw’s arm, managing to at least gain her attention before being thrown off.

“Why don’t we switch?” she suggested. “Maybe you’ll cooperate with Harold.”

Shaw rolled her eyes, but Harold was already nodding.

“A fine idea, Ms. Groves,” he expressed a little too eagerly. “Ms. Shaw, if you please.” He rose and walked swiftly away, followed shortly by a bemused Shaw.

“Okay, John,” Root sighed as she collapsed into Harold’s recently vacated chair to John’s right. “What parts of this do you actually understand?”

John turned his head to look at her hopelessly, more like a puppy than the guard dog to which she often compared him.

“None of it,” he lamented.

Root closed her eyes. If she were religious, it would almost certainly have been a prayer.

“Then let’s start at the beginning.”

 

 

For the third time in as many minutes, Shaw glanced up, distracted once again by the laughter emanating from the subway car.

“—so we’ll need to define both variables before we do anything else, because… Ms. Shaw, are you listening?” Harold sighed, but Shaw did not answer. “Ms. Shaw—“

“Realistically, Harold, I’d just allocate the dynamic memory later when I know more about the variables I’m using,” Shaw interrupted forcefully. She stood, and Harold’s bewildered eyes followed her as she walked away. When she was several steps away, his mind fully registered what she had said and he rose quickly.

“Ms. Shaw, do you mean to tell me you already know the basics of C++?” he asked incredulously.

Root and John both turned, surprised to find Shaw and Harold suddenly in the subway car.

“Shaw?” Root inquired.

Shaw shrugged with unconcealed self-satisfaction.

“I picked it up here and there,” she teased vaguely. John seemed annoyed if not surprised, but Root was clearly highly interested.

“And you sat there, typed with two fingers, and made me explain valid identifiers twice just to amuse yourself?” Root’s question, full of pride and admiration in Shaw’s waywardness, prompted an even more smug expression from the other woman. “What else do you know?”

Shaw shrugged again.

“As far as hacking goes, some basic system backdoor location stuff, brute force attacks, you know, useful things,” she emphasized, her disdain for the day’s activities now clearly on display. “Oh, and Javascript,” she added as an afterthought. The admiring, lustful look on Root’s face was positively obscene.

“Well, that’s just great, Shaw,” John muttered sarcastically.

“Sorry to ruin your fun, John.” Shaw leaned in closer and examined his screen. “You forgot quotation marks there and—there.” She pointed out the offending areas with glee. John’s unamused glare followed her as she drifted toward the door. “See you nerds later.”

“Calling the rest of us nerds is a little hypocritical, Sameen, don’t you think?” Root tossed out cheerfully to Shaw’s departing back.

“Not when I can shoot you from four hundred yards away in the dark,” Shaw responded without breaking stride.

John and Harold had been watching this exchange with vague interest, but at this typical Root-Shaw exchange, both looked at each other in amused bafflement.

“Isn’t she perfect?” Root sighed. Both men looked at her, unsure how to respond, but the need for an answer was put to rest when she continued speaking to the empty space in front of her. Apparently, the Machine was now weighing in on the conversation.

“Do you want tea, Mr. Reese?” Finch inquired, somewhat desperately.

“Harold,” John replied as he stood, “I think we might need something stronger.”

Chapter Text

[2:44]

Goddess, Light of My Life: Have u seen Harry?

Adorably Grumpy Puppy: No

Adorably Grumpy Puppy: Stop changing your name in my phone

Goddess, Light of My Life: DON’T CHANGE IT

Adorably Grumpy Puppy: Too late

Root: I’ll just change it again

Adorably Grumpy Puppy: If you can find my phone

Root AKA The Hottest Woman I Have Ever Met: Did you really think I couldn’t access your phone from here?

Adorably Grumpy Puppy: Change it back, Root

Adorably Grumpy Puppy: Or else

Root AKA The Hottest Woman I Have Ever Met: Try me, Sameen. I’m ready.

Root AKA The Hottest Woman I Have Ever Met: ̿’ ̿’\̵͇̿̿\з=ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ=ε/̵͇̿̿/’̿’̿

Adorably Grumpy Puppy: 2 guns = lame

Root AKA The Hottest Ninja Assassin I Have Ever Met: u jealous?

Root AKA The Hottest Ninja Assassin I Have Ever Met: http://japaneseemoticons.net/fighting-weapons-violence-emoticons/

Root AKA The Hottest Ninja Assassin I Have Ever Met: ur welcome

Adorably Grumpy Puppy: This is not over

Adorably Grumpy Puppy: And sleeping with a hot ninja assassin does not make you one


 

[3:58]

Adorably Grumpy Puppy: Did you take my emergency snack?

Adorably Grumpy Puppy: ROOT

Adorably Grumpy Puppy: ╾━╤デ╦︻(▀̿̿Ĺ̯̿̿▀̿ ̿)

Adorably Grumpy Puppy: I will end you

The Hottest Ninja Assassin I Have Ever Met AKA The Woman Who Will Win This Argument: I do usually finish first

The Hottest Ninja Assassin I Have Ever Met AKA The Woman Who Is Winning This Argument: (☞゚∀゚)☞

Adorably Grumpy Puppy: I hate you

Official Winner of This Conversation: lol keep telling urself that, Sameen

Adorably Grumpy Puppy: At least I can spell

Queen of Communication and My Heart: lol rofl that’s adorbs

Adorably Grumpy Puppy: Now you’re just doing it to annoy me.

Queen of Communication and My Heart: v(°∇^*)⌒☆


 

[7:21]

Adorably Grumpy Clueless Puppy: {-_-}و︻̷┻̿═━一

Adorably Grumpy Clueless Puppy: Wait ignore that

Killer in the Streets and in Your Sheets: ?

Killer in the Streets and in Your Sheets: You’ve been sending those to John, haven’t you?

Adorably Grumpy Clueless Puppy: No

The Woman Who Is Going to Bring Me a Sandwich and Break My Headboard Tonight: ok whatever u say

Adorably Grumpy Clueless Puppy: Pastrami, you know which one, NO MAYONNAISE

Adorably Grumpy Clueless Puppy: And hydrate this time

Goddess of Sex and Sandwiches: there in 20

Adorably Grumpy Sex Goddess: 10

Goddess of Sex and Sandwiches and Hurrying: In a rush?

Adorably Grumpy Sex Goddess: I’m HUNGRY.

I Think You Know What I’m Hungry For: me too (o‿∩)

Adorably Grumpy Sex Goddess: Get off your phone


 

[7:26]

Adorably Grumpy Sex Goddess: HURRY UP

Sexy, but Not Like She’s Trying Too Hard: You should relax, Sameen. I can help w/ that ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

Adorably Grumpy Sex Goddess: This better be a damn good sandwich.

Chapter Text

“Shaw?”

She raised her head in vague interest at the sound of Root’s voice on the phone. After all, maybe there was a jet to commandeer or a terrorist on whom to turn the tables. She glanced down at the cast encasing her lower left leg and grimaced. Anything that did not require walking would do.

“Yeah?” Her voice betrayed curiosity, but it was restrained; it would not do to alert Root to the fact that the mind-crushingly boredom of being benched was making her desperate.

“Do you know staff-fighting?”

That did not directly indicate that Shaw’s violent aid was needed, but there was still hope.

“Yeah, I guess,” Shaw answered. “You need me to prove it?”

Root’s next question abruptly shattered any hopes of rescue from the overwhelming crush of time to fill.

“Do you think we’d be drift compatible?”

Shaw exhaled noisily. “What the hell does that even mean?”

“C’mon, Shaw,” Root wheedled disappointedly. “Pacific Rim? Giant robots? Mind melds?”

“Never heard of it,” Shaw huffed dismissively as she put the phone on speaker. “Get to the point.” She shifted awkwardly on the couch and lay down with the phone on her stomach. She planned to keep Root talking as long as possible. At this point, anything was better than sharpening her knives again and thinking about everything she was missing.

“It’s a movie,” Root started.

No, really?” Shaw muttered sarcastically.


 

“Why are you doing this to me?” Shaw demanded angrily.

Root considered the question for a moment, her head cocked to the side and sporting a shit-eating grin that Shaw wanted nothing more than to knock off her face.

“I’d like to say it’s because I’m trying to cheer you up, which is true,” she shrugged, “but also because you can’t move and I’m going to enjoy it very, very much.”

Shaw glared at Root.

“Give me back my crutches.”

Root shook her head virtuously.

“You’re supposed to stay off that leg for two days.”

“That’s why I need the crutches,” Shaw spat. “So I don’t have to put my weight on my left leg while I’m kicking your ass with my right.”

Root had already knelt in front of the television to put the disc into the slot.

“So eloquent,” she commented before standing. She regarded Shaw’s inelegant manner of sprawling on the couch. “Care to share, Sameen?”

Shaw almost grinned, but she was still a little too pissed.

“Nope,” she responded, popping the ‘p’ sound with relish. She waited for Root to settle on the floor, her back nestled against the couch, before making her next demand. “I want popcorn.”

Root sighed heavily and stood up again.

“Anything else, since I’m up?” she asked with cheerful sarcasm.

“I’ll let you know,” Shaw answered agreeably.

Root shook her head on the way to the kitchen. Shaw was only agreeable when she was about to strike.


 

Half an hour later, when Shaw had finally tired of letting Root sit down only to make yet another forceful request, she allowed Root to start the television. The comments started immediately after Root refused to give her the remote.

“Skip the previews.” The command was punctuated by a none-too-gentle nudge from Shaw’s cast-encased foot to the back of Root’s head. Root rolled her eyes and shifted sideways to make it harder for Shaw to do again before she complied.

“What is this about again?” Shaw whined in a bored tone as the menu came up.

“Be patient,” Root chided.

A piece of popcorn hit her in the ear, and she gritted her teeth.

“People fighting huge monsters in giant robots.”

“Well, hurry up and play it then, get it over with.” Thirty seconds later, she was at it again. “Turn the volume up.”

“These are the studio credits, there’s nothing to hear yet. It starts out loud,” Root argued. More popcorn peppered her face and shoulder. “If you don’t stop, you’re going to run out,” she reminded Shaw with pique.

“Then I’ll just make you go get me more,” Shaw shrugged.

“And if I refuse?” Root inquired sweetly.

“Then I’ll chug all this water,” Shaw threatened, hefting the gallon container, “and you’ll have to give me my crutches back so I can get to the bathroom. And trust me,” she emphasized in sneering reference to Root’s somewhat annoying refrain, “you don’t want me to have my crutches when I’m pissed.”

Root sighed and turned up the volume, simultaneously dialing her implant down in preparation for the imminent blast of sound.


 

As hoped, Shaw’s comments tapered off as the movie gained her attention. Over an hour into the plot, Root chanced a quick glance at Shaw’s face. When this garnered no reaction, she let her eyes linger. Shaw’s face, lit by the battle sequence flickering on the large screen, remained as rapt and attentive as it had been for the last twenty minutes. At first, Root had suspected a plot to lull her into a false sense of security, but nothing had transpired.

Cautiously, Root rose from the floor and slipped into the kitchen. When she returned, she carefully lifted Shaw’s legs and sat down on the sofa cushion while simultaneously passing a new bowl of popcorn to Shaw. The smaller woman accepted the silent bribe without ever removing her eyes from the jaeger wading in all its glory across the screen, although she did settle her legs more comfortably onto Root’s lap.

Root let out the breath she had been holding and turned back to the movie. She did not want to miss any of the final battle.


 

“Do you copy? Uh, guys?”

Root switched off the television set. Shaw, who had been so engrossed in the epic fight that she had not seemed to notice Root tracing patterns on her bare leg for the last ten minutes, suddenly turned her attention back to Root.

“Hey!” she snapped, kicking at the remote. “Turn it back on, there’s still the after-credit scene with Chau and the shoe!” She pointed at the screen and waited, staring at it like a setter fixed on its master’s prey.

Root grinned her best gotcha smirk.

“I thought you didn’t like ‘nerd’ movies, Shaw,” she commented pointedly. “And that you’d never heard of Pacific Rim.”

Shaw glared at her, caught out in her lie.

“Reese might have made me watch it once,” she allowed grudgingly. “It’s okay, I guess.”

“That’s funny,” Root remarked airily. “He said you made Harold pull strings with the suppliers to get you the special-edition Blu-ray before it was officially released.” She hit play, aware that Shaw was pointedly not looking at her.

“Actually,” Root continued, “that’s what we’re watching now. I found it in your stuff when we moved.”

Root—“ Shaw menaced, snapping her head toward Root and leaning forward threateningly.

“Shh, you’re missing it,” Root exclaimed. She spoke along with the man emerging from the monster. “’Where is my goddamn shoe?’” Her eyes sparkled at Shaw. “Don’t you love that?”

Shaw growled angrily from the back of her throat.

“I’ve heard this version has some really cool special features, too,” Root observed gleefully.

Shut. Up.

Chapter Text

Shaw is just stumbling over the soft midnight edge between awake and asleep when Root’s breath ruffles across her bare back. A cool finger ghosts downward, just to the left of her spine. Shaw’s throat releases a wordless question as she regains her footing in wakefulness.

 “I thought you were asleep,” Root whispers. “I was just thinking.”

Shaw’s voice is dusted heavy with sleep-sanded lethargy when she grunts: “What?”

“Have you always had this scar, here?” Root’s finger brushes down again in tactile illustration.

Shaw stills and considers, then rolls onto her side to turn her slow-blinking gaze onto Root.

“Yeah. That one… shrapnel, in Pakistan, I think.”

“Oh.” Root’s fingers sliding meditatively back and forth on Shaw’s shoulder blade continue their communion in silence. “When?”

“Maybe five years ago? I don’t remember. Go to sleep.”

Instead, Root’s hand slides to another silver-white mark made visible by the aqua-soft glow from the window.

“What about this one?”

“Root—“ Shaw tugs Root down beside her so that Root is facing away, but her hand anchors Root’s shoulder with a certain air of permanence. “Sleep.”

“I’m leaving in the morning,” Root breathes into the dark. “We’re starting some of the new secondary interfaces.”

“Where?”

“D.C., for now.”

Shaw’s fingers smooth over the puckered skin that marks Root as someone Shaw hunted, once.

“You used to send people out into the field, people you taught,” Root murmurs. Shaw shifts forward, her breath running cool strands along the nape of Root’s neck.

“They’ll survive,” Shaw asserts quietly. “Probably. You trained them.”

Root breathes out all the air in her lungs, slowly, emptying everything out and starting again with the next breath.

“She told me all the probabilities, but I just—“ The filaments of Shaw’s inhales and exhales change course when Root heaves her shoulders in a sharp sigh. “What if they don’t make it?”

“Then… they don’t. They know the risks.”

There is a long spiderweb of silence spinning in the short space between them, until Root lifts her head slightly and snaps it.

“I never thought…”

“Hmm?” Shaw is teetering again, and it will take more than a whisper from Root to awaken her now.

“That scar. When you shot me… I thought I knew everything then.” The words seep from her mouth to puddle and stream across the bed, flowing like water, quietly out of her control.

Shaw’s thumb circles the mark again, a touchstone printed onto Root’s skin.

“Yeah?”

“I acted like I knew, but I never saw any of this coming.” Her admission comes out on a deceptively light breath.

Shaw’s sleepy mutter almost loses itself in Root’s shoulder.

“No one does.”

She tucks her forehead into the hollow at the back of Root’s neck, her breath an alternating, calming pattern of hot and cool against Root’s skin.

“Good night, Sameen.”

“Mm.”

The royal blue tide of night-silence creeps in again and pulls Shaw down into sleep. Root, though; Root blinks against it, loathe to drift away just yet. She needs time, still, to find a tucked-away place in her mind to stow powerlessness and worry. When she finds that spot, then, then the whirring of her mind will pause, and she can let go.  Then, she can sleep.

Chapter Text

“Shaw, come back down,” Root called. “We can go get steak.”

“No.”

“Sameen...”

No.”

“It can’t be comfortable up there,” Root reminded her. She could feel the glare hitting her between the eyes, even if she could only make out the barest silhouette of its originator. 

“No, it’s not comfortable, Root, it’s a fucking tree,” Shaw spat. 

Root rolled her eyes at the ground in lieu of the other woman. 

“Everyone’s waiting for you,” she sighed. “Wallowing doesn’t become you, Sameen.” 

“I’m not wallowing,” Shaw rejoined viciously. “I’m just preparing for the next time you give me thirty seconds to climb a tree and set up my rifle only to shoot the guy yourself.”

“I appreciate the vote of confidence, Shaw, but I can’t predict the future. I needed you there,” Root coaxed. “Just in case.” 

She could hear the painful sound of Shaw’s teeth grinding.

“You could have at least let me shoot him,” Shaw accused finally. 

“Yes, okay,” Root admitted sarcastically. “Next time I’ll let you shoot him.” 

“Good.”

Seconds later, a long rifle case strapped to her back, Shaw landed gracefully next to Root. The taller woman looked at her in admiring surprise. 

“You always land on your feet, don’t you?” 

Shaw sneered. 

“Compliment me all you want,” she snarked as she began to walk towards the others, undoubtedly preparing to wrest the keys from John so she could drive. “You still owe me someone to shoot.”

“Okay, Sam,” Root answered, shaking her head. 

“I want a tough one, too. Not one of those stupid idiots who doesn’t know an uppercut from a papercut,” Shaw insisted, glancing up at Root at her side. 

“You’re so demanding when you’ve been disappointed,” Root remarked airily. 

“A fucking tree, Root.”

“I did enjoy watching you climb it, though,” Root remembered meditatively. 

“Now you owe me two,” Shaw

“Sameen--” Root whined lightly. 

“Three,” Shaw declared pointedly. 

Root threw her hands up in mock-surrender as they reached the van. 

“Fine,” she sighed. “I owe you three guys to shoot.” 

All three waiting men turned to look at them with varying expressions. Harold looked concerned, John resigned, and Fusco incredulous. Shaw took the opportunity to stalk up to John and hold out her hand insistently. 

Keys.” 

He handed them over without question. 

“Shotgun,” Root chirped. 

Harold and John looked at her dubiously. Fusco, on the other hand, shrugged. All three began to pile into the van. 

As they pulled away, Fusco leaned forward between the two front seats. 

“So, who we shooting?” he asked conversationally. 

Root just laughed, and even Shaw had to quirk her mouth in amusement when she caught sight of Harold’s ‘why me’ expression in the rear-view mirror. 

Chapter Text

2016.05.04_0400

Home network killergalpals identified.

Implant connecting...

Phone detected.

Accessing camera...

"Mm'at are you doing?"

"You were sleeping in my t-shirt while I was gone... that's so cute, Sameen."

"This is my shirt!"

"...are you sure?"

"See the big, bold letters that say 'Marines'? Stealing my clothes does not make them yours."

"Still..."

"Root, stop taking pictures or I swear--"

"You could always come over here and make me."

...

"Ow!"

"Did you really think holding it over your head would--"

Camera access terminated.

Chapter Text

“Okay, so she hacks people too, but you know she tased me? Twice?” Shaw drawled. “Some people skills.”

Root, Shaw, John, and Harold had all shown up to the subway that morning only to watch it turn silently into one of their quiet days; no numbers came up, no rogue artificial intelligences tried to kill them… it was actually quite boring. Then Harper had shown up and proceeded to dig fascinating stories out of everyone else, which had led to this: an analysis of Root, whom Harper held in high esteem as a trouble-maker of the highest order, even as the woman in question lazed atop her desk crunching on trail mix snatched from Shaw’s bag.

“From what I’ve heard, that’s not even the craziest thing she’s ever done,” Harper scoffed, scrunching her face into an incredulous expression.

“Not even close,” John agreed with the grifter. “You know she threatened to jump off a roof unless the Machine told her where Shaw was?”

Shaw turned on Root like a viper.

“You did what?”

“I didn’t say I would jump,” Root protested offhandedly.

Shaw snatched the bag of trail mix away from Root with a warning glare.

“You said you would walk along the edge with your eyes closed until you either went splat or She told you,” Harper reminded her sometimes-hero gleefully. “I’ve seen the video.”

“There’s video?” Both women said it at nearly the same time, although their tones could not be more different; Root seemed interested, if out of boredom more than anything else, but Shaw was visibly livid.

“Harold’s got it,” Harper informed them. She hopped up onto the back of the nearest chair to better watch the situation she had managed to stir up.

Harold looked up from his desk suddenly, startled by the predatory looks he was now receiving from two of his more dangerous co-workers.

“Show me the footage, Harold,” Shaw ordered as she advanced slowly into the subway car. Root, on the other hand, moving in much the same way, murmured a soft “don’t you dare.”

“I’m not sure—“ he squeaked placatingly.

Only Reese’s quick-step in between predator and prey kept Harold from a heart attack.

“Neither of you get it,” he asserted. He turned his head to look at Finch, hands still up defensively. “We can keep it for blackmail.”

Shaw and Root rolled their eyes and turned, nearly in tandem, to slink back to their customary thrones on Root’s desk.

“You can try,” Shaw muttered. Then she rounded on Root. “You're a world-class idiot, you know that?”

Root merely smiled, taking it as a term of endearment. Of the three, though, Harper’s was the happiest expression. She loved this job.

Chapter Text

Root was sunk into the sofa in a tangled slump, eyes fixed unblinkingly through her glasses on her glowing screen, when Shaw strode through on her way out the door. When Root did not speak, not even to comment on the usually notable effect of Shaw's yoga pants, Shaw turned around at the door and regarded the hacker suspiciously.

"What are you doing?" she demanded.

"Huh?" Root answered. Finally, she looked up. "Just a problem I'm having," she mumbled, her eyes returning immediately to the computer.

"Like a number problem?" Shaw prodded. She could always go to the gym later.

"What? No," Root murmured.

Shaw rolled her eyes. The only time Root ever shut up was when she was on the computer, and she was only this non-communicative when she was working through something tricky.

Hours later, Shaw returned to the apartment to find Root exactly where she had left her, dreadful posture, annoyed squint, and all. She seemed not to have noticed that the daylight had gone, leaving her in a glowing bubble of sickly light emitted by the computer screen. Shaw sighed, switched on the overhead light, and padded into the bedroom. When Shaw emerged from the shower, there was no change. She wrung her hair out into a towel, neatly avoiding wetting her clean tank top and sleep shorts, and stared at Root.

"You've been sitting there since before I left for my workout," Shaw pointed out. "What gives?"

Root hummed an inquisitive, absent response.

Shaw hovered behind her and studied the screen. Long strings of code stretched down in an endless scroll. Every few seconds, Root tapped the down arrow, moving slowly through the lines as she went. Her expression indicated heavy focus, but she typed nothing. Though Shaw watched her for several minutes, the only other motion she made was to push up her glasses as they slid down her nose.

"You screwed up something and now you have to find it, huh?"

Root sighed and looked at Shaw with annoyance.

"This is a very complicated program."

Shaw grinned.

"Whatever you say." Then she frowned. "Can't She just tell you?"

Root hmmphed and turned back to the screen.

"Root?"

"Probably," Root admitted reluctantly. She turned back to Shaw. "I was one of the best hackers in the world even before I met Her, you know."

Shaw laughed at Root’s pride and cocked an eyebrow.

"Sure, Root."

"I was!" Root protested, craning around to glare at Shaw. "I still am!"

"Oh, I believe you," Shaw nodded mock-seriously.

“Don’t make me prove myself, Sameen,” Root warned sweetly, her head tipped back against the sofa to meet Shaw’s eyes. “I’d hate for your phone to start autocorrecting ‘shut up’ to ‘I love you’ again.”

Shaw’s expression went dark.

“Do it and I hurt you, Root,” she challenged. She held Root’s head between her hands, a gesture that hit their usual balance between affection and threat.

Root grinned up at Shaw.

“Is that a promise, Sameen?”

Shaw grinned back wolfishly, but shrugged noncommittally.

“Maybe.”

“Well,” Root purred, shaking off Shaw’s hands and turning her face down toward her computer screen, “give me two hours and we’ll see about you holding up your end of the deal.”

“You’re going to ignore your girlfriend for two hours to nerd around on your computer?”

When she registered Shaw’s seduction-laden complaint, Root looked up to find Shaw standing in the bedroom door.

“What did you say?” she asked breathlessly.

“You heard me,” Shaw smirked. She moved to pull off her shorts.

“You never call yourself that,” Root murmured incredulously as a smile grew on her face.

Shaw rolled her eyes.

“God, you’re easy,” she muttered sarcastically. “Hurry up. And leave the glasses on.” Her commanding tone left no room for disobedience.

Root was up and off the couch before Shaw’s shirt could hit the floor.

Chapter Text

"Are you feeling well, Ms. Shaw?" Harold inquired politely. 

"Huh?" Shaw turned to face him, her cheek bulging with popsicle. 

"That's your fourth popsicle in the last hour," he clarified. "I thought perhaps you weren't feeling well."

Shaw pulled the stick out and gestured carelessly with it.

"I'm bored." She started to wander away. "There’s a bunch in there if you want one."

Harold weighed the rarity of Ms. Shaw offering to share her food against the nutritionally lacking snack. For her part, Shaw settled on the floor with Bear halfway in her lap, eager to be petted.

"Thank you," Harold finally ventured. He walked over to the 'fridge and bent awkwardly to examine the freezer compartment.

"Not a red one," Shaw instructed him from where she watched on the floor.

Harold glanced back briefly, but Shaw was busily keeping Bear away from her own popsicle. He pulled a yellow one at random and licked it tentatively.

"This is--" he started in surprise. "This is quite good."

"That one's pineapple," Shaw informed him. “You have to blend them really well or it’s lumpy.”

"Did you make these, Ms. Shaw?" Harold asked incredulously.

Shaw rolled her eyes, as if the answer were obvious. "Don't tell John, he’ll want me to make lime ones or something stupid."

Harold shook his head and sat back down. In the face of a woman like Ms. Shaw, there was nothing for it but to shut up and eat his popsicle.


"What are these?" John pulled a gaily-decorated tin out from behind Bear's bed.

Fusco shrugged.

"Hell if I know. Toy for the mutt?" he suggested.

"Harold doesn't usually give him things that would make a lot of noise," John noted with knitted eyebrows. "And he's not playing with it. It's like he's guarding it."

He pried the tight lid off and peered inside, then laughed.

"What?" Fusco asked.

John held out the tin.

"Cookies."

Fusco grabbed one and bit into it hesitantly.

"Hey, that's pretty good," he exclaimed as he took another.

"What are you doing?"

Both men whipped around at the sudden and bone-chilling sound of Shaw's inscrutable voice. John quickly shoved the tin into Fusco's hands as if making a Hail Mary pass in a game of hot potato.

"Cookie?" Fusco offered tentatively after glaring at his partner in crime.

Shaw stalked toward them and snatched the tin from Fusco's hands. Her boots clicked on the parquet floor, leaving both men to wonder how on earth she managed to approach silently in the first place.

"These are mine," she emphasized. Then she looked at Bear. "I told you to guard these."

The dog tilted his head.

"You can't let him sweet-talk you," Shaw sighed. "We'll work on it." Then she snapped her head back to her co-workers and pointed at them menacingly. "Don't touch my food." She placed the tin deliberately into a gap in the bookshelf and strode away toward the main entrance.

John and Fusco glanced at each other.

"How does she even do that?" Fusco muttered. "Like an evil Tollhouse elf."

"Shh, she'll hear you, Lionel," John warned. He palmed the second cookie lying loosely in Fusco's left hand and took a bite. "These are good."

"Hey!" Fusco protested. He huffed and then took another bite of his own. "Yeah, they are. The chocolate is still melty, how does that happen?"

John looked at him sidelong.

"It's that evil Tollhouse elf magic."

"Shut up."


"I want pancakes," Root declared sleepily to Shaw's back.

"Make them yourself," Shaw grumbled from inside her cocoon of blankets.

"But yours are so much better," Root whined. She leaned over Shaw's back and rested her chin on Shaw's shoulder. "Please?"

"No," Shaw grumbled, though she did not push Root away. Root took that as a positive sign that she was close to cracking.

"I'll make it worth your while..." she purred. Her hands made their soft way along Shaw's midriff as she whispered in her partner's ear.

"You'd do that anyway," Shaw asserted, but her voice had that raspy quality that Root had come to associate with an impending and mutually satisfying compromise.

"True," Root grinned, "but not until after pancakes." She bit teasingly at Shaw's shoulder before quickly taking advantage of their relative positions to shove Shaw unceremoniously off the bed.

Shaw gasped and scrambled, but could not stop herself from tumbling from the thankfully low bed onto the floor. As she went, though, she did manage to grab hold of Root's wandering hand. With a laugh, the taller woman fell with her in a bright avalanche of blankets, landing mostly on top. 

"I hate you," Shaw growled. "Get off me."

Root smiled brightly down at Shaw.

"I want chocolate chips on mine."

Shaw glared up at the annoyingly perky woman, then huffed.

"Then you're going to the store to get bacon."

As the tables turned, Root pouted.

"I'll have to get dressed--"

"Life sucks," Shaw informed her as she shoved Root off and rose to pull on her boxer shorts. "Go."

"But--"

"Now."

Root stood and sighed in a put-upon manner.

"The things I do for you."

Shaw stared in open-mouthed amazement at Root's audacity as the other woman exited the room, waving her fingers delicately behind her in farewell.


"So, team dinner tonight." Dani ventured from the passenger seat. The woman sitting next to her was professional as hell and damn good at her job, so the look she shot back was enough to make Dani regret having attempted a personal conversation.

"Yeah," Shaw answered, redirecting her eyes to gaze out the windshield. Then, glancing back at the police detective and thinking of the hours they had left in the car, Shaw took pity on her companion.

“Met everyone?” she asked.

Dani looked relieved at the conversation opener.

“I think so,” she answered quickly. “Barely spoken to Harper, though.”

Shaw grinned and rolled her eyes.

“Prepare yourself,” she advised Dani. “You’ve worked with her and Root separately, but together… it’s enough to make you want to shoot yourself. Or them.” She paused a beat, then added, “Mostly them.”

Dani laughed, but looked quizzical.

“Oh, I thought you and Root—?” She left the question open, hoping Shaw would fill in the blanks.

“Who told you that?” Shaw asked carefully as she raised the binoculars to her suddenly guarded eyes.

“Root,” Dani admitted.

Shaw sighed.

“She would,” she muttered. She lowered the binoculars and turned back to Dani. “Problem?”

“No,” Dani hastened to reassure her. “No, it’s nice.”

Shaw glared harder.

“I mean,” Dani added quickly, “nice for you both, I’m sure. You can keep an eye on each other or whatever.”

Satisfied by Dani’s discomfort, Shaw released her from her commanding gaze.

“It’s nice that you guys are cooking for the whole team,” Dani continued. “It feels kinda weird, honestly, but I guess getting to know everyone a little better can’t be a bad thing.”

Shaw dropped the binoculars into her lap and turned quickly.

“What?”

“Root said you’re cooking,” Dani said carefully. “It’s at your place, too, isn’t it?”

Shaw stabbed viciously at her earpiece.

“Root?!?”

Dani stared wide-eyed at Shaw’s carefully-controlled fury. Suddenly, Shaw ripped open the driver’s-side door and sprang out.

“I’ll send Fusco or John in a few,” she declared. If asked in a court of law, Dani would have been willing to swear that she heard Shaw say “Answer your goddamn comm, Root, I’m going to rip you apart” before she turned and stalked away.

Chapter Text

Only a subtle disconnect allowed his presence there. Their work was dark, gritty; it did not quite agree with the bright, soft pink of trees blossoming, late in the year, and the vibrant green of fresh-mown grass. The air around him seemed to blur a little, the colors to dim, sucked in by a black hole that rotated slowly around his bowed head.

“Here? Really?” she murmured. An answer whispered confirmation in her ear, as quiet as the coordinates she had received an hour before. “Well, you know best.”

Hands in the pockets of her jacket, she walked lightly toward the black-clad figure radiating a heavy spirit.

“I don’t know how you can stand to wear those suits in this weather, John,” Root remarked. “Much less how you keep it up through August.”

John shifted his eyes toward her curiously, but the stone in front of him drew his gaze back within seconds. Hard to tell, then if the black hole was of his own making, or if it originated in the stone, a trap designed to pull this battered soldier back again and again.

“But then, without it you just wouldn’t be the Lurch we all know and,” she paused, wrinkling her nose, “well, Bear loves you, anyway.”

“Gee, thanks, Root,” John intoned. He still looked at the simple headstone as if it held the keys to his universe locked away inside grey, weather-beaten stone.

“I should be thanking you, John,” Root declared with a slight smile that jockeyed for dominance with his somber mood.

“How’s that?” he asked tonelessly.

Root shrugged.

“If you hadn’t gone on your little rampage of pain after Detective Carter was killed—“ she shrugged again. “Who knows when Harold would have started to trust me.”

This finally gained John’s attention for more than a breaking second, and he slowly raised his head to look at her. The muscles in his jaw twitched with contained emotion, a shock of pain and anger and loss that took control away.

“I’m glad you got something out of it,” he ground out finally before affixing his gaze to the horizon. The hard set of his shoulders, the clench in his jaw—everything sent warning ripples to lap at her perception, cautioning her to leave, but she had never been one to heed warnings.

“Seems like you did too,” she remarked lightly. “Over two years’ worth of brooding and you haven’t run out of material yet.”

John turned once again, casting off sadness and replacing it rapidly with anger, to meet Root’s half-amused, half-sympathetic eyes.

“You know that’s rich, coming from you?” he growled. “After everything I watched you do to get Shaw back?”

Root smiled as if humoring him.

“That’s the point, John,” Root explained, a little sadly. “You always know what You’re doing, don’t You?” she murmured as an afterthought.

John frowned in confusion, but his face cleared when he realized Root was not speaking to him.

“The Machine sent you?”

Root sighed.

“She sees you, John. She knows you’re still hurting. She’d like you to move past it, and She obviously wants me to help you.” She grimaced. “Much as I’d love to pass this one to Harry, I can see Her point.”

John sighed, as he often did in the face of Root’s semi-religious mysticism.

“Get to the point, Root,” he exhaled resignedly.

“I never really met her,” Root noted, studying the gravestone for the first time. “Though I did admire her work. She was an interrogator in Afghanistan and Iraq, but you knew that.”

“She was good,” John agreed. “That’s why she made detective so quickly.”

“She made people want to tell her things,” Root added softly.

“You could say things to her that you couldn’t say to anyone else,” John exhaled in agreement.

“But you didn’t,” Root guessed. “So you come here and talk to her, now that there’s no risk in talking.” She looked at John with something akin to disgust mixed with pity. “Pretty cowardly, John.”

“You’re not going to make me mad enough to yell and tell you whatever it is you want to know, Root,” John replied evenly, although his jaw twitched.

“I don’t care what you say, John,” Root shrugged. “It’s not about that.”

John closed his eyes and breathed out heavily. Finally, with Root’s steady eyes fixed on him, he began to speak again.

“You know how it felt, when you lost Shaw,” he started quietly. “But there was still hope, for a while. Then we all gave up, and then there was hope again because at least we knew she was alive.” He opened his eyes and looked at Root, revealing depths of pain usually walled away. “I never had that. She died in my arms. I did everything I could to make it right and I couldn’t bring her back.”

Root stepped forward and, in a move that appeared to startle them both, placed her hand on John’s arm.

“I do know how you feel. You were there for it. Destruction across five states, right? And it was got worse, after,” she reminded him delicately. “When she wasn’t there anymore, but everything became a memory or a wish that it could be different.” She cleared her throat softly and looked at him with bright eyes. “You know I know. But this isn’t about Carter, John,” she murmured. “This is about you. You’re still here.”

“You gonna tell me she wouldn’t have wanted this?” John asked.

“No,” Root replied readily, removing her hand to stand steadily next to John. From behind, they seemed like an honor guard grouped around a single grave, feet planted firmly, straight-backed, arms at their sides. “She wouldn’t have, from what I’ve heard, but the point is that there is nothing left to do for Carter. You, here, this,” she gestured lightly at the grey stone at their feet, “this has absolutely no purpose.”

John stood still for a minute, and the wind tossed tree branches lightly, blowing dying flowers off to drift toward the ground.

“I saw her, you know,” he stated carefully. “That day in the mountains, when Fusco found me almost frozen. I thought I was going to die, and I saw her and she saved me.”

Root weighed this information and nodded.

“She told me I had to open up, or there’d be no one to care that I was gone,” John admitted.

“She was right,” Root decided. She cleared her throat again, this time more strongly. “Bear might notice, and Harold would miss his helper-monkey, but it would take me a few days.”

John glanced incredulously at Root’s mock-serious face.

“So, as they say, it’s time to get back on the horse,” Root encouraged in her particularly perky manner. She leaned in as if sharing a joke or a piece of delicious gossip, which, given her usual professions of disdain for John, was likely what she thought of his situation. “You might start by opening up to the team, I guess, but I for one would really rather you just started dating again. So who are you going to go for?”

“Can we not talk about this?” John growled, but the black hole was dissipating into the late spring air under the onslaught of Root’s peculiar pep-talk. Root’s expression of joyful disapproval only made it worse.

“The women you involve yourself with are impressive, John. They may be a little lacking in judgment when it comes to you, but otherwise I tend to wish I knew them better.” She wrinkled her nose. “Except that therapist you were dating. That was, to quote Harold, ‘ill-advised.’”

“Well, the last therapist I saw before her turned out to be a criminal mastermind and murderer intent on kidnapping my friend,” John retorted blandly.

Root looked pleased at his reaction, and proud of his summation of her as a person.

“True,” she admitted. “I’d go for Zoe, if I were you. She seems strangely attracted to the brooding, damaged thing you’ve got going on there.” She gestured vaguely up and down John’s black-clad form.

“Good thing you’re not me, then.”

“I’m thankful every day, John, for exactly that reason,” Root sighed fervently. She turned around as if to leave, but first leaned in close to John. “You have reservations tonight. She’s expecting you to pick her up at seven.”

John clenched his jaw, but then Root continued and it got worse.

“And you’re seeing a therapist tomorrow at ten.” John opened his mouth to protest, but Root railroaded over his words. “I’m good, John, but you need real professional help.” She laughed. “We all do, really, but She made this appointment just for you, and She’d really like it if you went.”

Suddenly, Root breezed away before he could reply. A second later, he felt hands bracing against his back as she came back, almost as an afterthought, to lean up and whisper in his ear.

“And if Zoe doesn't work out, you could always try Harold,” Root breathed. “I’ve always thought there was a certain something there, haven’t you?” Then, she faded away, much like the Cheshire cat, gone to take her grin back to the real world rather than lurk here to brighten these shadows he drew around himself.

John sighed to himself. There, even with the wind barely blowing worth a breath, blossoms fell around him and dusted each resting place with whispering white snow. He stood there for a long time and let his eyes trace up and down the rise and fall of Joss Carter’s epitaph.

He turned and walked away, shedding his suit jacket in acquiescence to the changing season as he went. He was not lighter, exactly, not yet, but there was a newfound hopefulness about his light shirt blazing bright in the sun that showed promise brought on by two words, said just before he left.

“Bye, Joss.”  

Chapter Text

“What’ve we got, Finch?” John called easily as he and Shaw swung into the subway station. Shaw echoed his question, but considering that her mouth was stuffed full of pastrami, it came out as more of a muffled series of grunts.

Harold spared her a quizzical glance before directing his attention back to the glass board upon which he had pinned a series of pictures.

“Troy Mitchell, nineteen, history of minor offenses and ties to an offshoot of the Brotherhood—“

Her mouth clear again, Shaw raised her hand and snatched the scrap of paper from Harold’s hand.

“Gang stuff, that’s us,” she stated shortly, gesturing to John. “Let’s go.”

“Actually, Ms. Shaw,” Harold rushed, sharing a look with John, “Detective Fusco will be assisting Mr. Reese today. Since she’s away, Ms. Groves requested that you take care of something for her.”

Shaw challenged him with raised brows.

“Oh?”

Quickly, Harold handed her another small sheet accompanied by a photograph.

“Your cover,” he explained, tapping the photo.

Shaw’s eyes lit up.

“Oh, yeah,” she replied enthusiastically. “Yeah, I can handle that.”


 

Hours later, an exhilarated Shaw freed a hand to swipe sweat from her forehead. In the same motion, she activated the private comm line Root had set up for them after the last time they had accidentally scarred Harold.

“How’d you know?” she asked without preamble.

“You sound out of breath,” Root commented, dodging the question. “Good day?”

“I said no presents, Root.” Even though her words were harsh, Shaw’s near-affectionate voice conjured up a satisfied smile and bright eyes.

“If you must know how, your hometown finally digitized their birth records,” Root informed her. “And Sameen isn’t exactly a common name.”

“I’ll have to fix those records,” Shaw responded distractedly, as if already plotting how best to erase all unauthorized mention of her name from the earth.

Root’s voice conveyed the slow curl of her lips into a beaming smile.

“Already done.”

“But you took a look at my birthday first,” Shaw noted, with a note of accusation that was completely overwritten by gruff affection.

“Want me to apologize?” Root asked cheekily.

Shaw rolled her eyes.

“I’ll let it go this time.”

A bark sounded, loud enough to boom over the comm, and Root’s laugh echoed back over the connection.

 “Don’t you have an embezzling pet-owner to save?” she reminded Shaw.

“I already did that,” Shaw answered dismissively. “Now we’re going to the park, aren’t we?” she asked her charges eagerly.

Root would perhaps always envy dogs a bit for the easy, unguarded enthusiasm they evoked in Shaw; still, she had to celebrate that Shaw let her bear witness to that tone of voice at all, considering that she usually only used it in the absence of other people.

Shaw sighed happily, and the sounds of excited whuffs and the tinkle of leashes rang out over the line.

“Where was this dog-walker cover when I was stuck on the makeup counter at Macy’s?”

Root chuckled again.

“Happy birthday, Sameen.”


 

“Ms. Shaw--?” Harold called nervously, just after entering the subway to the padding of paws on the concrete and varied barking that seemed to come from all corners of the platform.

John strode further into the room, where several dogs came up to say hello. Harold caught up to him as he reached down to pet one.

“Ms.—“ the call died on Harold’s lips when he and John both looked up to find Shaw relaxing on the floor next to Bear’s bed, alternately eating a wrap and petting the two dogs curled up by her folded legs. She jerked her chin in greeting, along with the smile that always made Harold nervous.

“Hey.” When Harold continued to look distressed, she rushed to reassure him. “Don’t worry, I’ll return them,” she told him quickly. She thought for a second. “Eventually.”

Harold looked at John helplessly.

“I’d blame Root,” John advised him. “They are pretty cute, though.”

Harold appeared to be on the cusp of a reply when his attention was snatched away by a particularly sturdy mutt running by with something in its mouth.

“Was that—No—that is not for chewing—“ he exclaimed as he followed the dog.

Shaw grinned and took a bite of her wrap, following the chase with interest. Between bites, she advised John of her new philosophical findings.

“I take it back. Birthdays don’t completely suck.”

Chapter Text

She stares down a shiny black gun barrel, and her life flashes before Her eyes.


 

She is three. She falls heavily on the playground. Someone else's mother fusses over her, but she pulls away from the coddling hands and runs away to play again. She does not cry.

She is six. When the Oilers fumble the ball, she leaps up next to her father and yells angrily too.

She is ten. She gets her black pants dirty when she hides behind her father's casket to avoid all the apologies. She confesses this to her mother on the way to the car, and will not stop asking why it does not matter. It has always mattered before.

She is twelve. The girl who has cheated off her paper starts to cry when the teacher confronts them both. She rolls her hiding eyes and says nothing.

She is fourteen. She punches the boy who suddenly tries to kiss her after the movie. He calls her a tease and runs away, while she stands there frowning.

She is seventeen. She leads a different boy to the car, and they fall into the back together. She never returns his calls, and unplugs her phone when he does not stop calling.

She is eighteen. Instead of electives, she takes more advanced biology courses and an internship with the best trauma center in the city.

She is twenty. She wears a Marines t-shirt ringed with sweat and stands over a man twice her size as he cries out in pain on the training mat.

She is twenty-one. She is a speck in the distant desert until she shoots out the security camera's dusty eye.

She is twenty-two. Her classmates invite her out when they realize she has the highest grades in every class, but she drinks alone.

She is twenty-three. Some of her patients die and some live. Either way, she fills out the paperwork with the same meticulousness that marks all of her actions.

She is twenty-four. She bundles her white coats and other clothes she no longer needs to donate to Goodwill.

She is twenty-eight. She asks a question in Mandarin and gets no response. The man screams in pain when she breaks his finger. She asks again.

She is thirty. She finally believes her partner when he swears having a beer together does not mean a date. At the bar, he jokingly asks if she's ever killed a man, and she laughs. She laughs more than usual that night.

She is thirty-two. She is clinically dead for thirteen minutes and fourteen seconds.

She is thirty-three. She has spent all year shooting at knees instead of chests, saving instead of killing, part of a ragtag team that cares too much. She is riding a bike in the dark and swearing, cursing the prey-turned-colleage-turned-something-more she's riding to save.

Then, everything speeds up:

She turns the corner and disappears into Sameen Grey.

She checks her bank balance at the local branch and clenches the knife she carries in her pocket when she sees the sum of her paltry paychecks.

She paces the subway platform like a tiger, hands clenching and unclenching around air, followed back and forth by a whining dog.

She emerges from underground to wage war on a city gone mad, stopping a dozen crimes in the space of a few hours before she runs headlong to the New York Stock Exchange.

She drops out of the ventilation system with a quip, but she runs out of harsh words in the face of a yawning elevator shaft. There is a kiss like a punch and then running, bullets, screaming, pain.

She is unconscious when she is loaded onto a truck stocked with medical supplies.

She wakes up every few hours or so, and she bites the first person who gets close enough. She tears her stitches trying to get up, even though she's bound to the bed.

Water pours over her head, and she laughs when she has the breath. She nearly drowns every time, but she's been dead before.

She meets her own rescue mission at the door with a smirk. She manages to say 'you guys look like shit' before she collapses in a bloody heap. Only some of the blood is hers.

She is bowled over by the large dog as he runs to greet her. She stays on the floor for a long time, petting him, rough-housing, and whispering to him.

She watches from the bed as a taller woman prepares to leave. She grabs the other woman's arm before she can put on her shoes and tugs her back onto the bed. She dismisses confusion with a roll of her eyes and a muttered 'don't make me regret this' before falling asleep.

She plays rock-paper-scissors with a much taller man to determine who has to sit the night-shift for their stakeout. She punches his shoulder angrily when she loses, but he only laughs.

She trades sarcasm with a scruffy detective every time they work together; she trains several younger women, one to pick pockets and one to shoot a rifle; she calls the limping man a friend for the first time, and he stares for seconds before he smiles. Over and over again, she matches her frowning mouth to the crooked grin of the taller woman, the analogue interface, in different places and with different words every time, but always with something that looks a lot like love.


 

She stares down the barrel of a gun, power written in every line of her body. She shoots first, and he collapses, clutching his knee and howling. She leans down, takes his gun, and walks out of the scope of the security camera's gaze.

Sameen Shaw is fearless. She never sees her life flash before her eyes.

But the Machine is always watching, always thinking, always worrying, and She remembers everything.

Chapter Text

“Really, John? No tie?”

Reese jerked his head in surprise at the sound of the comm. Zoe frowned, but he merely smiled awkwardly and put a hand up to his ear.

“Root?” he asked shortly. “What do you want?”

“Just checking in,” came the answer from over his left shoulder. He turned around to find Root standing behind him, grin as bright as a 200-watt bulb.

“Root—“ he started, but she overrode him with her best charming psycho voice.

“You must be Ms. Morgan,” she stated brightly, stepping forward to shake hands. “I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.”

Zoe threw an amused glance at a glowering John before taking Root’s offered hand.

“Nice to meet you—“

“Root,” the hacker supplied. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

“Well,” Zoe started, giving John another look, this one slightly confused, “I hadn’t realized John—“

“No, not from him,” Root rushed to explain. “A different friend.”

“Root, what do you want?” John asked impatiently. He gestured around the quiet, romantically-lit restaurant with frustration. “I can’t help right now. Get Shaw.”

“In the kitchen,” hummed a voice in his ear. “You should have ordered the salmon, by the way. It’s better than the sole.”

“Then get Lionel if you need help,” John ordered. “Or Finch, or Harper, or Silva, anyone, but I’m busy.”

Zoe watched it all with interest, and listened to the parts of the conversation she could hear. She looked up in surprise when Root spoke again, her happy gaze still fixed on the fixer.

“Actually,” Root drawled, “we need Zoe.”

“No,” John started, but Zoe put a staying hand on his arm.

“What do you need me for?” she asked with interest.

“Something illegal,” Root answered gleefully. “And fun.”

“Sounds like something I’d be sorry to miss,” Zoe replied, looking at John. “As long as John can come, I don’t see why not.”

“Gee, thanks for including me,” John said sarcastically, but he said it to an empty chair. Root had already whisked Zoe up and was urging her toward the kitchen, the hacker’s arm linked through the fixer’s.

“I’ve only heard of your work second-hand, but I have to say, I would love to hear more about it from you,” Root gushed.

Shaw met them at the kitchen door.

“Stop talking her ear off,” she ordered Root. “She gets obsessed,” she explained shortly to Zoe, who seemed to take it in stride.

“Why the kitchen?” Zoe asked curiously.

“Yeah, our coats are in the front,” John added with annoyance.

“We may have some people following us,” Root admitted. Then she smiled brightly again. “The car’s around back.”

The three women walked quickly toward the back exit, Shaw still trying to restrain Root’s inquisition into Zoe’s methods of operation. John sighed and followed.

“Can I at least drive?” he asked plaintively.

“No,” Shaw and Root chorused. Shaw looked put-out, but Root only grinned as if it were her birthday.

“So, that state legislature election last year…” she began as she opened the door for Zoe.

Reese barely managed to make it in the door before Shaw roared off. He heaved another sigh and settled in. With these three, it could be a different kind of late night than he had expected.

Chapter Text

Shaw watched as Root deftly maneuvered a screwdriver around the edge of the gallon can. The lid came off with a delicate pop, and the hacker moved busily on to the next can.

"What are we doing?" she asked in a bored tone. "And why do you need me for it?"

Root grinned up at her.

 “We’re setting a trap.”

Shaw scoffed.

“With paint?”

“You can tap into your creative side, Sam,” she murmured into Shaw's ear, leaning close as she brushed past.

Shaw shook her head in grudgingly affectionate exasperation and sidestepped to avoid the dangerous tilt of one of the cans. She fell in neatly next to Root as the taller woman left the apartment building's maintenance room, knowing that Root would most likely tell her what to do at the last second with as little explanation as possible. That was the fun part.

"A hard nudge should distract him," Root murmured, her eyes fixed straight ahead.

Shaw followed her gaze to a suited figure making his way down the sidewalk toward them. His well-dressed appearance and semi-eccentric manner of arguing enthusiastically into the tiny Bluetooth tightly tucked into his ear made him indistinguishable from the half-dozen other power-mad businessmen one could expect to encounter in this part of town.

"Him?" A shark-like leer was growing on Shaw's face.

"Heavy-duty case. Step hard," Root advised. Gibberish for now, but Shaw tucked it in the back of her mind as she sped up.

When she was nearly level with the oblivious businessman, Shaw stumbled neatly into his path. She checked his shoulder viciously, then pivoted to steady him.

"So sorry--" she started half-heartedly. Just then, Root crashed into the man. The loose lids flew from the cans, followed closely by twin waves of frantic red paint surging for the pristine suit. The impact knocked one can free of Root's arms altogether, and its clatter on the cement rang into the silence of mounting rage as a flood of red covered two- thousand-dollar Italian shoes.

"What the hell do you--"

"I'm so sorry--"

Both Root and the man spoke at the same time. Before he could brush her away, she reached out and began to paw ineffectually at his chest.

"Maybe if we just--"

Shaw, still standing a step away, watched in admiration as Root's hand dipped imperceptibly into a pocket, drawing out a phone and dropping it to the ground. As Shaw stepped up seamlessly, she ground her heel down as hard as she could on the vulnerable phone.

"Here, take your jacket off," she advised from the man's elbow.

Between Root and Shaw's rapid advice and apologies, their target's rage quickly boiled over. He threw out both arms, stepped away, and looked at them both in disgust.

"Lady, if I weren't in such a hurry, I'd get your name and sue you for everything you're worth," he spat at Root before squelching away in a trail of scarlet footprints.

Root grinned after him, then looked at the smashed phone lying on the ground.

"Perfect execution," she purred with satisfaction.

"Phone call we didn't want him to get?" Shaw raised an eyebrow.

"He wouldn't want to get it either, if he knew his business partner is planning to kill him," Root shrugged. "We'll go see him next."

Shaw stifled a grin in favor of mocking Root.

"And two gallons of red paint is your idea of subtle?"

Root shrugged again, eminently pleased with herself. "Some of his business practices are... less than ethical. She just told us to save him, not that he had to like it." She looked down at her own paint spattered clothing. "I did like this shirt, though."

Shaw saw the glint in Root's eyes and the tensing of her muscles a split second before she actually lunged for Shaw.

"Don't touch me," Shaw warned as she darted away. Her pride did not allow her to run, so she settled for batting Root's hands away, earning herself several spatters of color along her forearms.

Root pouted.

"There's a camera-blind alley right up there--" she teased. "I was thinking we could--" she raised her eyebrows suggestively.

Shaw inclined her head as if considering the offer she had already decided to accept. She began to walk slowly, as if in thought, followed by a bemused Root.

"How much time do we have before we have to get to the business partner's?"

Root looked to the side, as she often did when listening to the Machine.

"We don’t have to leave for twenty minutes," she grinned.

"Yeah, all right," Shaw answered finally, carelessly, with a sigh belied by her grin as she grabbed a laughing Root's arm and swung her into the alley.


 

"Somebody call for the cops?" Fusco called sarcastically as he rounded the corner into the office. He stopped abruptly. "What happened to you two?"

The two paint-smeared women glanced up in unison.

"This?" Root asked innocently, pulling at her too-small black (and now red-smeared) t-shirt. Shaw smirked with satisfaction as she shoved their would-be killer toward Fusco. "Business as usual."

Fusco's eyes traveled over Shaw's looser-than-usual white shirt and up through both women's paint-streaked hair.

"Is that paint or blood or--? And how--?” he paused in disgust. “You know what? I don't wanna know."

Root grinned, and Shaw's dangerous smile followed a second later.

"No, Lionel," she murmured quietly as she slipped past him to leave, "you really don't."

Chapter Text

Root felt eyes on her the second she emerged from the bedroom, buttoning her shirt as she went. She glanced up to meet Shaw’s appreciative gaze, but was surprised to see said gaze turn to a glare in an instant.

“I haven’t even spoken to you yet today,” she protested as she brushed past Shaw into the kitchen and headed for the cupboard with the cereal. “Are we out of coffee or something?” The aggressive sounds of the blender were Shaw’s only reply.

Root grabbed a bowl and a spoon in one hand and a random box of cereal in the other (Wheat Chex, according to the Machine, though Root could care less). She sidled up behind Shaw while the other woman’s hands were occupied with pouring her smoothie into a large glass.

“Is this because I got home late last night or--?” she inquired, placing her breakfast materials on either side of Shaw in favor of sliding her hands along the shorter woman’s side. She nudged aside Shaw’s daily pony-tail and started to kiss her way along her neck.

“You need to stop,” Shaw informed her tersely.

Root raised her head and removed her hands, though she remained a mere inch away from Shaw’s back.

“Not that,” Shaw growled. Root could picture the roll of her eyes that accompanied the words. Before Root could start again, though, Shaw shrugged away to turn around. “You need to go change.”

Root’s face spoke to her confusion. She plucked at the neckline of her black t-shirt and smoothed a hand down her black-jean-clad thigh.

“And here I thought you were a fan of the monochromatic look, Sameen.”

Shaw glared harder.

“I am,” she insisted. “On me.” She gestured at her own clothing, which, now that Root looked, was also all-black. And was also jeans and a t-shirt. Thus…

“Oh,” she sighed. Then she grinned. “We can be twins today.”

“No, we can’t,” Shaw informed her as she propelled Root toward the bedroom. “You need to stop. I'm not a pod person.”

“It was an accident,” Root protested. She tried to resist, but then, attempting to go in the direction opposite of the one Sameen Shaw wanted you to go was futile at best. Within seconds, Shaw had succeeded in pushing Root into the bedroom and installing her in front of the closet.

“Tuesday might have been an accident,” she admitted threateningly. “Thursday wasn’t. Even John noticed. It’s not funny anymore.”

The Machine informed her that, as indicated, she and Shaw had dressed in frighteningly similar clothing multiple times in the last few weeks. Huh.

“They do say couples start to look like each other after a while,” Root mused, well aware that any protests on her part about it truly having been an accident were useless. She dug through the drawers to hide her smile at Shaw’s unintelligible noise of annoyance. The agent could hardly protest about being called part of a couple; it was a few months and several shared apartments too late for that. Root cheerfully held up a green button-up shirt for approval, but Shaw only rolled her eyes and walked away.

“You could wear a red shirt today and then we’d be in complementary colors, Sam,” Root called after her.

Shaw’s reply was short and to-the-point.

“Over John’s dead body.” Obviously shirt colors was not a matter worthy of self-sacrifice.

Root grinned.

“Don’t tempt me.”

Chapter Text

Harold was on his way in from lunch when he found her wandering through the dusty liquid light filtering into the library stacks, trailing her hands along the spines of the books they had restored to the shelves months ago. When she paused, he cleared his throat softly, and she turned her good ear to him.

“Can I help you with something, Root?” he asked politely.

Root shook her head and turned to face him. She leaned back on the shelves behind her.

“No.” She smiled. “Just visiting.”

“Would you care for some tea, then?” he inquired.

An acquiescent nod later, Root was padding silently behind him to his usual nook.


Root sat and watched as steam rose from twin cups to mingle with dancing motes. Her long shadow stretched across the table and slipped under delicate porcelain to raise it to her lips. Harold followed suit, and the two sat in companionable silence punctuated only by soft sipping sounds.

“I take it you’re between tasks at the moment?” Harold asked finally.

“She gave me the day off.” Root’s eyes sparkled as if sharing a joke, and she touched the side of her head. “Radio silence unless it’s an emergency.”

Harold tipped his head.

“You should have made plans,” he urged. “I’m sure I could still wrangle dinner reservations somewhere for you and Ms. Shaw, if you’d like.” He sipped at his tea before he noticed Root’s bemused eyes. “You don’t often slow down. You should relax.”

Root looked at him askance.

“I think there’s a saying involving a pot and a kettle that applies here, Harold.”

“Our situations are a little different.” Harold paused, placing his cup on its saucer with a hushed rattle, then continued. “I leave our work here at the end of the day, but with the Machine built into your head, I would imagine that’s nearly impossible for you to do.”

Root settled back in her wing-backed armchair.

“You’re not wrong,” she admitted. “But it’s more of a gift than anything else.” When Harold looked skeptical, she smiled and shook her head. “I sleep and eat and everything, Harry. She knows I’m not a machine.”

Harold picked up his tea again and took a sip, politely willing to let that particular issue pass.

“Then what’s weighing on your mind?” he ventured.

A ghost of surprise crossed Root’s face.

“What makes you ask that?” she inquired carefully.

Harold breathed a chuckle.

“Libraries are wonderful places to be alone with one’s thoughts,” he said simply.

Root averted her eyes and crossed an arm over her chest, cradling her cup on crossed knees.

“It’s all been numbers for months,” she finally answered. “The other shoe has to drop sooner or later.” A slow, resigned fear crept into her eyes as they rose to meet Harold’s, one that spoke of so many things she never thought she’d have, and so had never imagined she stood to lose.

“Perhaps we’ve overcome everything already.” Harold smiled over the rim of his cup.

A thread of Root’s usual smiling mysteriousness wove through her next words, though shame in her own revealed fear crossed her face.

“I wish I had your optimism, Harold.”

“Neither of us has much precedence for comparison when it comes to an easy life,” Harold started. “Relatively speaking, that is. I’ve often wondered if I’ll ever be completely comfortable with a happy existence. Still—“

Harold reached out to pour another cup of tea for himself, first offering the pot to Root, who declined with a shake of her head.

“You once told me that you knew where you were headed, that a good end would be a privilege. I said—“

Root interrupted. “You said we have more to look forward to than death.”

Her friend smiled at her.

“Exactly.” He raised his tea to his mouth and murmured into it. “Would it kill you to admit I was right?”

Root’s smile crinkled at the corners of her down-turned eyes.

“I’ve come to believe time is our most valuable possession,” Harold told her thoughtfully. “And that it’s worth using for our own enjoyment, as well as for selfless purposes.”

Root raised an eyebrow.

“Seize the day? Really, Harold?”

“Well, what are you planning to do today?” Harold asked lightly.

Root looked around the library, lit with a dim magical glow that murmured comfort and belonging.

“I thought I might read for a while.” She turned an ironic smile back to Harold. “Unless you’d like to hack something with me?”

Harold surprised her by shrugging instead of adopting his usual disapproval.

“I suppose that could be fun…”

Their shared smirks lit the room for a moment before they vanished again under twin sips of tea.

Chapter Text

The elevator door clanged shut behind Shaw, narrowly missing her shoulder. She rubbed her arm where she had rammed it into a corner while turning to cover her teammates. She raised an eyebrow at Fusco, who was leaning forward and panting from all the running. Then she frowned.

“Why aren’t we moving?”

Root craned her neck to look at the dead control panel with interest.

“They cut the power.”

Shaw closed her eyes and sighed heavily.

“Backup generators?”

Root shrugged.

“How long are we gonna be stuck in here?” Fusco demanded.

“Finch?” Shaw demanded.

Until Mr. Reese can gain me access to the backup generator, I’m afraid there’s not much I can do,” Harold answered over the comms. “It may get a little hot, but you should have enough ventilation to avoid suffocation.” Shaw cut the connection in disgust.

Should?” Fusco demanded threateningly.

“The good news is,” Root chirped, ignoring Fusco and gesturing at the door, “since this bank is a little more paranoid than most, they can’t get in the elevator any more than we can get out.” A spirited clanging almost drowned out her next words. “But I guess they get points for trying.” She pulled a pack of playing cards from her jacket pocket. “Poker, anyone?”

Fusco sneered at her incredulously, while Shaw glared.

“You knew this was going to happen.”

“It was a possibility.” Root shrugged.

Shaw settled cross-legged on the floor.

“I hate elevators,” she grumbled.

“See if I ever help you again,” Fusco warned her. “Glasses told me he didn’t need me today, I shoulda listened.” Shaw merely rolled her eyes.

 “I told her not to bring you,” Root inserted, joining Shaw on the floor.

“Hey!” Fusco’s indignation visibly multiplied as he eased himself down in the corner. Root and Shaw looked at him silently, waiting for him to keep complaining. “Well, are you gonna deal?” he demanded of Root.

“We could be playing strip poker right now,” Root whispered to Shaw.

“No, no, no,” Fusco protested, waving his arms. “I do not need to hear that.”

Shaw slumped back and knocked her head against the wall in annoyance. This could be a long few hours.


 

An hour later, the elevator could more appropriately be called an oven. Tempers ran equally high.

“You’re cheating!”

Root’s expression was the epitome of who, me? , but Fusco was having none of it.

“There are five aces in play!” He pulled his hand away from loosening his tie yet again to shake a finger at Root.

Shaw grabbed Root’s sweaty wrist and studied her cards.

“Hey!”

Just before it could escalate any further, a cool blast of air and a bright ding alerted them to the renewed power.

You should be moving now,” Harold’s voice cut in.

At the ground floor, the three lurched out of the elevator. Fusco nearly ran into John, while Root leaned against the wall.

“Never again,” Fusco panted, bracing himself against John’s shoulder.

“Where’s Shaw?” John asked. All three of them looked around.

In the car,” came Shaw’s voice over the comms. “You have thirty seconds to get your asses out here or I leave without you. I’m starving.

Chapter Text

"Hey, tall, dark, and crazy, you got a second?" Fusco didn't even wait for Root's reply, but instead jogged to catch up with her longer strides as she wound through the maze of the library.

"For you, I have thirty," Root replied. Her expression questioned why he appeared to have been waiting for her, but it quickly turned into a grin. "Twenty-five seconds, now," she prompted.

Fusco looked at her askance, and she sighed as if disappointed that her humor were not better appreciated.

"You spend too much time with Shaw, you know that?" When Root just raised an eyebrow, Fusco sighed again and gestured impatiently for her to keep walking down what Reese and Shaw called the armory section.

"See, I got a problem," he began as he fell in beside her. "About a month ago, we started getting these... presents. Guys with illegal weapons, kilos of coke, that kinda thing, all beat up and ziptied. Some of 'em got taser marks in painful places." He glanced at Root as if waiting for a reply, but her eyes remained fixed inscrutably on the songs of books flashing past behind his shoulder. "You wouldn't happen to know anything about it, would you?"

"Sounds like something Finch, Reese, and Shaw would do," Root hazarded with a shrug. " I wouldn't worry about it. "

"See, that's what I thought," Fusco replied, dodging around an errant step stool to keep up. "But they usually warn me when it's one of theirs. Plus these guys are really beat up, not just kneecapped or whatever. So I asked Glasses."

Root was good, the best, but even she couldn't help but glance sideways at that.

"He's got no clue," Fusco continued. He stopped walking, halting Root's quickening pace, and suddenly there was something hard about his eyes that made it easy to see how he had cut it as a detective all these years.

"And?" Root asked sweetly.Her hand lightly pushed a shelving cart back and forth. She looked up suddenly and stared, the spark in her eyes starting to burn. Fusco wanted nothing more than to let it go and run from those eyes, but he squared his shoulders like a real Brooklyner and bulled forward.

"I did a little digging, and it turns out that one way or another, a bunch of these guys got ties to Decima Technologies. Now that's a name I know. You wanna tell me what's going on?"

Root's eyes flamed and then became as hard as coal. "

What did you tell Harold?"

Fusco's eyes glinted. "That I made a mistake, nothin' to worry about."

"Good." Root turned to leave, but Fusco caught her arm and turned her back around.

"Not so fast, Cap'n Crazy."

Root rolled her eyes. "If you really enjoy your adorable nicknames so much, Lionel, I'm sure I could come up with a few of my own," she offered in a sugary threat.

Fusco ignored her attempt to change the subject. "I dunno exactly what the deal is with you guys, especially you," he began in a low voice, glancing down the dusky aisles. "But I gotta wonder if this is exactly kosher."

Root's iron gaze somehow manage to remind him without words that he had once been a corrupt cop.

"I do a lot of things Harold doesn't need to be bothered about," Root explained stonily. "May I have my arm back now?" The smile she gave him was no longer the combination of friendly and happily unhinged that he had grown accustomed to, but the cold, almost-all-crazy one he had nearly forgotten and shuddered to see again. Before he could reply, she pulled out of his grip and strode away.

"Our friends don't like being protected," Fusco called after her. "Especially your girlfriend."

This last perceptive addendum caught Root and stilled her feet on the cold marble floor until she halted just before the door. "Don't let her hear you call her that," she replied without turning around. The door closed behind her with a decisive crack before Fusco could add anything else.

Chapter Text

Gen stretched cozily in the corner of the overstuffed couch she had claimed as her own, content as a cat in her sun-warmed pajamas.

“Are you going to put on real clothes today?” Shaw demanded as she crossed the room, with Bear padding along beside her.

“Are you going to give me my ice cream?” Gen shot back without removing her eyes from the television.

Shaw rolled her eyes, but even by biting her lip, she could not quite keep a small smile down.

“Brat.”

Gen grabbed the bowl as soon as Shaw extended her arm, and neatly caught the spoon dislodged by the sudden motion.

“That’s why you like me. What are we doing today?” she asked around a mouthful of vanilla.

Shaw shrugged and tucked herself into the other corner of the couch. “Bear, hier,” she ordered, patting the couch beside her. When Bear was settled, she looked up at the television. “Wait, are these my--?” she asked suddenly. She grabbed the remote and paused the video.

“Hey!”

“They are!” Shaw squinted at the video, blurry on the larger screen. She turned to Gen incredulously. “These were in my closet.”

“Yeah, along with some--other stuff.” Gen pulled a face.  “At least these are educational.”

“My old interrogations are not—“ Shaw argued before pausing and cocking her head in thought. “Okay, so they’re educational. But Finch probably wouldn’t think so.” After the casual comment, she pressed play and returned to stroking Bear’s fur. “What are you going to do to buy my silence?”

Gen turned to her and raised an eyebrow. “What are you going to do to buy mine?” When Shaw glared, she continued. “I’m thirteen. You’re in charge. Who is Finch really going to blame when he finds out I’ve been watching videos ‘inappropriate for my age group’?” The way she said the last phrase clued Shaw in to where Gen might have heard it.

“That’s what they say at school, huh?”

Gen looked at her warily, unused to sympathetic inquiries from Shaw.

“Yeah.”

“What else is inappropriate for your age group?”

“Pretty much anything fun,” Gen informed her. “Including everything spies do.”

“So you’re out of practice.” Shaw spoke definitely, but had she not ducked her head to look at Bear, a glint of humor might have been detected in her eyes.

Gen practically yelped in protest.

“Am not!”

“Wanna bet?”

The two eyed each other warily over the couch cushions.

“You start at the 23rd and 8th metro stop. If you make it to Penn Station without me catching you by—“ Shaw checked her watch “three, you get to pick dinner.”

Gen consulted her phone. “It’s one-thirty.”

“Better get dressed fast, then,” Shaw suggested. She rose from the couch and moved toward the door, then stooped to push her feet into the boots lying where she had kicked them the night before. Bear snuffed at her feet. “Of course you can come, Buddy,” she murmured.

“No fair!” Gen whined from the other room. “You can’t use Bear!”

“This is why I wanted John to have the questionable pleasure of her visit this weekend,” Shaw told the dog conversationally.

“Hey!”


 

“Would you hurry up?” Shaw asked lazily as she leaned on the wall. “Bear’s probably hungry.” Gen’s glare over her shoulder did nothing to cow her. “Want the key?”

“I got it,” Gen announced as the door swung open. She stowed her lock picks carefully in her pocket. “Can we try breaking into John’s place tomorrow?”

“I thought you wanted a challenge.” While Gen considered that, Shaw headed for the kitchen. She stuck her head in, then returned to the living room. “Gen, is Bear in your room?”

The complete silence, though, made an answer irrelevant. While Gen checked, Shaw pulled out her phone.

“Finch, we have a problem.”

“Ms. Shaw?”

“Bear’s gone.”

Suddenly, Shaw turned at the click of the lock.

“Where can he have—“

“Never mind.” With that short reply, Shaw cut off the call. “I changed the locks,” she informed her intruder coldly.

Root shrugged without making eye contact. “I needed Bear.” She bent to unfasten the leash from his collar, then stood up as he trotted to Shaw.

“Sure, just do what you want,” Shaw muttered sarcastically. She reached to pet Bear’s head, but her narrowed eyes never left Root’s face.

“Is that Root?” a small voice stage-whispered from the next room. When both women swiveled to look at the girl, Gen stepped forward. “Are you Root?”

Root glanced at Shaw before answering. “You must be Gen. It’s nice to meet you.” Her expression was neutral, but she spoke distractedly.

“Where have you been?” Gen demanded without preamble.

“You should go,” Shaw told Root harshly. She tried to push Gen ahead of her into the kitchen, but Gen darted around her.

The girl yanked the door open again as Root pulled it shut behind her.

“What did you do to her?” Gen pressed.

Root looked up at Shaw, who stood behind Gen with her hand on the door.

“I protected her,” she answered finally. “She doesn’t like that.”

The words that Shaw had thrown at Root two weeks before hung in the space between them.

You can love me as much as you want, Root, but that does not give you special privileges.

The word love, used for the first time between them, and used in anger, had gone down Shaw’s throat and settled at the bottom of her stomach like a stone. The words Root shot back had not been any better.

I won’t apologize for protecting you.

“But—“ Gen’s argument interrupted the heated battle playing out between the assassin and the agent.

“Bear needs to be fed,” Shaw told her tersely, shuffling the girl backward.

“I already fed him.”

Shaw ignored Root’s words and shut the door firmly on the hacker. She stalked into the kitchen and began pulling Bear’s kibble from the cupboard. A few seconds later, Gen stopped a few inches too close and stared at the side of Shaw’s face.

“What?” Shaw demanded.

“You don’t trust Root anymore?” When Shaw just glared, Gen elaborated. “She said she fed Bear.”

“I never trusted Root.”

“Uh-huh.”

She stared incredulously at the girl, who was getting much too tall for Shaw’s tastes.

“You’re a horrible liar,” Gen notified her before turning on her heel and heading for her room.

Chapter Text

The doctor's office was just on the shabby side of nondescript, stiflingly still and silent with the stale feeling of a Monday. Shaw strode straight through the stillness and past the front desk as if she fully intended to continue straight through the empty waiting room and crash through the back wall into the alley behind.

"Let's go," she ordered tersely. She leant forward, challenging a seated Root who had no intention of fighting back. "Come. On."

"Sam, it's not what you think," Root began.

Shaw's eyes narrowed. "Did he work for Greer too?" She pointed angrily at the inner office, though she kept her voice low. "How many of his fingers were you going to break before you called the cops?"

Root sat through Shaw's accusations with resigned sadness.

"I have an appointment," she answered when Shaw paused for a breath. "I wasn't--" She trailed off as if she had run out of words.

The corner of Shaw's mouth twitched. Anger was frozen on her face, waiting for some other emotion to be chosen to replace it.

"Shaw--"

Just then, a nurse emerged from one of the exam rooms ranged down the hall.

"Anna Mason?" Root looked at her, though Shaw's gaze remained fixed coldly on Root. "You'll be in exam two."

Root nodded once and brushed her hair from her face. She uncoiled from her chair and paced toward the examination rooms.

"Root?"

Root paused, her back to Shaw.

"I'll be out here."


An hour later, Shaw followed the laconic nurse cautiously into the exam room.

"Root?"

"Sam." Root smiled gingerly. She tried to sit up, but lost her balance and nearly fell over. Shaw lunged smoothly to catch her arm and shoved her back into a safer position.

"She might be a little dizzy," the nurse informed Shaw belatedly.

Shaw rolled her eyes.

"Usually I'd have done this at the hospital, and we'd keep her for observation, but she insisted her doctor friend would keep an eye on her," the doctor added jovially. He winked at Shaw, who stared at him, expressionless, until all undesirable friendliness was gone from his face.

"Friend?" Shaw muttered into Root's good ear as she helped her sit up. Whatever answer Root might have attempted was lost in the bustle of the nurse obstructing Shaw at every turn while they settled Root in a wheelchair.

Once they had reached the car and a surreptitious middle finger had been given to the nurse's back as she shuffled away, Shaw threw herself into the driver's seat.

"How the fuck did you break your implant?" she demanded bluntly.

Root finally managed to click the seatbelt buckle into its slot.

"It wasn't broken."

Shaw snorted in disbelief and turned the key viciously.

"The internal part of your implant shouldn't need surgical adjustment unless there's something very wrong," she informed as she swung the car out of the parking lot. "I guess it was only a matter of time until you got whacked in the head hard enough to damage the implant too, you've gone through the external transmitters like candy." Her matter-of-fact monotone hid the worry that Root had had a concussion and relied solely on the Machine for medical attention instead of calling her.

"Four in two years," Root reasoned. She leaned her head carefully against the cool glass of the window to brace against a mild wave of nausea. "That's not bad." She smiled as if that won her the debate.

Shaw did not deign to answer such a ridiculous claim, but instead stared angrily up at the red light holding the car in stasis.

"You should have called me." The light changed and she guided the car onto the entrance ramp. Root rolled her neck to look at Shaw out of the corner of her eye. "This is the second time She's had to call us because you won't ask for help." Shaw pushed futilely at the steering wheel as if it constricted her.

Root tipped her head further, considering this newly revealed concern of Shaw's.

"I asked Her to call you," Root told her quietly. Unspoken was the addition of because you wouldn't have answered if it were me calling.

It was new, Root actually seeking help. It was some indication that she had gleaned something from her shouting match with Shaw weeks ago. Shaw's eyes never strayed from the road rolling out in front of her, though the lack of cars made her vigilance near-superfluous. "I'm trying," she murmured finally. "And I just--"

"I know," Root interrupted. She closed her eyes and exhaled. "I'm sorry. I really am. For everything."

Shaw's jaw clenched again. By the time she was ready to even glance at Root, the hacker had succumbed to drug-encouraged sleep. Her steady breathing measured out the highway until Shaw curved the car into its place on the curb in front of their apartment building. When Root stirred, Shaw was sitting silently with her hands still on the wheel.

"Sam?"

"We're here," Shaw answered. She came to life then, as if she had been the one asleep. "Wait," she ordered. She leaned over Root and unlatched the passenger side door.

"I can get the--"

"Tell me next time," Shaw interrupted abruptly. She stayed braced on the door, hovering over Root with her gaze on the gap between seat and door until she looked up at Root. Her dark eyes seemed a threatening vacuum, but Root could usually find the slim worry and care tucked just inside. She often prided herself that she was the only one who could find these, but it occurred to her at that moment that perhaps Shaw trusted her enough to let her see them on purpose.

That sense gave her next words their iron certainty. "I will." And she intended to.

"You better," Shaw warned. With that, she made to move back to her side of the car, but Root clutched at her jacket.

"I'm trying too," she murmured. "I'll try harder." Her eyes drilled into Shaw's as she tried to convey just how much she meant that.

Shaw shifted and slipped away, out of the car. For a panicked moment, Root stared after her in fear that she was simply gone, but a knock on her window grabbed her attention once again.

"You coming?" Shaw asked impatiently. She wrapped Root's arm around her shoulder and pulled until she was standing. "I’m ordering pizza."

Root smiled with the grace of one who feels forgiven.

"That's why I love you," she sighed into Shaw's shoulder. She held her breath as she waited to see how this declaration, thus far only a weapon drawn in argument, would fare in peacetime.

"Yeah, yeah." Root could almost hear Shaw's familiar eye roll, and she grinned foolishly. Maybe it was the drugs, but suddenly, the shifting world she inhabited stabilized, held in place for the evening by pizza, a place that felt like home, and a compact Persian sociopath.

Chapter Text

Shaw's favorite mornings are made of silence. There are days that she revels in lazy mornings, but mostly, she's up and at 'em before the first touches of daylight paint the walls. There's a muted excitement to easing out from beside Root's sleeping form to lace up her sneakers and slip on her weighted pack before the night-creases pressed into her skin have had their chance to fade. It's comfort-soft, like sliding into her oldest, softest t-shirt. When Bear's spent the night, she unhooks his leash and takes him too. She jogs down West 22nd and picks up speed for a healthy pace along the river near Chelsea Pier. The light smack of her trainers on pavement are the only human sounds this side of the Hudson River Greenway, and that's the way she likes it.


If the morning doesn't demand any hurry, she swings by the outdoor park and does her pull-ups at one of the fitness stations there. There are usually a few people around by then, early runners and those sorts, but it's worth it for the chance to make friends with the dogs that come out to walk before their owners leave for work. Bear likes that too. Then, she picks up a light jog again for a few blocks, until her breath picks up a little and she reaches her gym, ready to push herself even further into the quiet intensity she's been building. 


The door is heavy, to test the mettle of newcomers, as Mick claims. Shaw pushes it open without missing a beat and steps into the dim interior. It's a classic gym, the kind you see in boxer movie training montages, with gloomy lighting, bags ranged artfully around the center ring, and a pervasive musty smell to round it all out. She could barely believe it still existed when she and John stumbled into it, when Mick's number came up. It does, though, and it's miles better than the shiny tai bo and piloxing hot-spots that the other neighborhood gyms seem to be turning into. She gets a discount here, too, and Bear's never been turned away. Perks of having saved the owner's life.


There are usually at least a couple of other early risers there by the time she arrives. She wraps her hands and warms up on the bags for a few minutes, but after that, it all depends on mood. She's usually spoiling for a friendly bout by then, although every so often the weights are more appealing. She can usually count on at least one hardy regular to be game for sparring. Warren's solid, and Alex has some unexpected moves, even if Shaw always manages to catch her with her hands down at least once. Silva even drifts in once or twice a month, by not-quite-spoken invitation.


Most of the other early birds have jobs with more regular hours, and they drift away as nine o'clock approaches. Shaw usually makes a path for home then too. By the time she's tossing her keys into their customary spot in Root's upturned motorcycle helmet, it's her opinion that she no longer has to be quiet to keep from waking Root, so she doesn't bother to muffle the everyday sounds of the door, the coffeemaker, or her shoes as she kicks them off.


It's not silent, but it's still comfortably quiet as Shaw steps into the shower. Sometimes a hand snakes past her hip and turns the water almost hotter than she can stand before Root slips in and distracts her. Either way, Shaw's always the first to the kitchen. She settles in for coffee and oatmeal or milk-steeped granola at the kitchen island, and devotes her whole attention to the endeavor. When Root comes in, she always generates much more motion than Shaw finds necessary; she can never stay still, not even while she's pouring coffee. Shaw can forgive her for that, since she also seems to understand that Shaw would much rather the morning stay quiet as long as possible. In place of her usual chatter, Root just murmurs to the Machine and uses contact for Shaw. She anchors her hand on Shaw's shoulder while she drinks coffee, leans across her to grab the milk, tugs on Shaw's pony tail playfully and steals kisses when she thinks she can get away with it.


Shaw usually gets a call by then, John or Harold with a number. If not, she dresses for work anyway; it just means she'll be at the library by the time she has to go out. By that point, Root might be striding out the door with a cheerful 'bye, sweetie,' or she might be settled on the couch with her laptop, trying to micromanage the other interfaces. Shaw's not entirely sure how that works, to be honest, but Root seems pleased.


Not all mornings are like this. There are nights that bleed into days, when she watches the sun rise over derelict buildings and drinks tepid coffee from styrofoam on stakeout. There are loud noises and fast driving and gunpowder. In Shaw's opinion, those aren't bad ways to wake up. There are early-morning calls to halt bank robbers, rogue cops, and gang shootings, and the uncertainty is part of what she enjoys about her work. Quiet mornings would lose their appeal, if they happened every morning. They don't, though, so when they do come around, she hangs onto the quiet as long as she can.

Chapter Text

[14:37 EST]
Root: i'm boooooooooored
Armed and Gorgeous: I'm hungry.
Trying to Have a Conversation with You: ?
Bad Conversationalist, Although Great in Bed: I thought we were sharing.
Cute and Bored: so how's the #?
Bad Conversationalist, Although Great in Bed: You're not cute
The Cutest: of course i am, now play nice
No Fun: I'm busy

[14:54 EST]
Entertain Me: She says your phone hasn't moved in two hours
No Fun: It's called a stakeout, Root
Totally available if you needed a hand: mm, sounds fun :)
No Fun: No.
Disappointed: No what?
Buzz Kill: No you're not coming to the stakeout
Disappointed: Ok
Buzz Kill: That's it?
Disappointed: ... yes?
She's Onto Me: What are you up to?
Who me?: I'm not up to anything.
She took the bait: You just used punctuation. Spill.
Casually Plotting: I might have something that needs stolen, but if you're busy...
Evil Minion: I can get John to do it. Where are you?
Evil Mastermind: Harbor. Bring the battering ram
Army of Shaw: On my way.

[17:09 EST]
HF: Ms. Shaw, I've just seen the police report for a stolen Coast Guard cutter taken from the harbor by a suspect matching your description. Care to explain?

[17:19 EST]
HF: Ms. Shaw, taking out your earpiece does not mean I can't find out exactly where you are.

[17:21 EST]
Army of Shaw: Finch is on to me. He doesn't know where I am yet but he'll be in the satellite feed any minute.

[17:22 EST]
Root: Relax, Harry. I borrowed Shaw for a bit.
Harry: Stealing federal property seems excessive, Ms. Groves.
Root: Entirely warranted, trust me.
Harry: Will you be sharing details?
Root: Bribery, extortion, murder... It's an old story and we've all been there, I'd hate to bore you.
Harry: I can assure that we certainly have not "all been there."

[17:25 EST]
JR: You left me to babysit the number while you stole a boat? That's cold, Shaw.
Shaw: Thought you and Fusco could use some bonding time.
JR: You owe me.
Shaw: Shut up.
Shaw: If you can find me I'll let you drive it on the way back.
JR: Deal.

[17:28 EST]
LF: Why is it that I always gotta clean up after you guys while you're off committing felonies?
Short and Deadly: I couldn't do it without you, Lionel. Don't get the number killed.
LF: This guy? Twenty bucks says he's the doer.
Short and Deadly: Thirty.
LF: Done.

[17:35]
Brooklyn's Best: Hey crazy you been in my phone again?
FBI's Most Wanted: I don't know what you're talking about :)
Brooklyn's Best: Short and Deadly, huh? She'll kill you.
Last Laugh: no she'll kill you :)

[19:16 EST]
LF: Dammit Shaw.
Shaw: I take cash or alcohol.

[21:31 EST]
Army of Shaw: Do I have to give it back?
Hacker with a Yacht: I guess we could keep it. Might be hard to keep in New York, though. I could probably wrangle a berth in New Jersey.
Captain My Captain: Not worth it. I'll put it back and meet you at the library.
Wearing That Dress You Like: Oh? Do we have plans?
Hot Date: Drinks on Fusco
Already Planning the Afterparty: yesss

 

Chapter Text

 "They're going to the animal shelter," Root repeated patiently. "They're old enough to be fed as adults, and they're healthy. They'll be adopted quickly."

"You don't know that," Shaw shot back. She crossed the platform to replace Mike in his basket before turning to point an accusatory finger at Root. "That shelter could kill them if they don't get adopted quickly enough."

Root heaved a dramatic sigh at John, who was doing his best to remain inobtrusive. The box of kittens Shaw had brought home to her and Root's apartment certainly had nothing to do with him. All he had done was point out the box in the alley.

"I did my research, Sameen," she groaned. "It's a no-kill shelter and they will be fine." She rounded on Reese. "Do you and Zoe want some kittens? I bet Zoe loves kittens," she enthused unconvincingly. Reese let his unimpressed face answer for him. 

Shaw narrowed her eyes at Root.

"They're still too little. Tango won't eat unless you rub his stomach, and Echo might have worms," she argued.

"I'm just gonna leave you two to it," John murmured as he backed away. Root and Shaw together, arguing, was a bit much for him without one of the others to absorb some of the force of two hurricanes clashing.

"Pecho does not have worms!"

"Stop merging his name with your stupid internet meme!" They were so engrossed in their argument that neither woman seemed to notice him leaving.

As he approached the door to the subway, he noticed that it stood open a few inches. Not enough to draw attention, but enough to allow a small animal through. A kitten, say. Just like the orange one making his merry escape before John's eyes.

With characteristic grace that surprised most people, John darted out the door, shut it behind him, and grabbed at the tiny kitten.

"Gotcha," he whispered into the orange cat's fluffy face. He thought it was Golf. Or .jpg. He could not keep their dual names in order, since Shaw insisted on NATO alphabet letters for names and Root persisted in calling them by computer-related terms. The only one he was sure of was Pepe-Echo, because Root derived a special joy from calling him Pecho and pissing Shaw off even more than usual.

A quiet noise from his feet brought his attention back to the escaped kitten situation. Apparently the orange one was not the only one to have noticed the open door. The black and white one (Delta?) scratched at his polished black shoe with seeming joy.

"Yeah, you've been at Root and Shaw's too long," John grumbled. He tucked the orange one into his shirt pocket and crouched to scoop up Delta. As he did so, he caught sight of another ball of fur trying to jump up the stairs and out into the freedom of Chinatown. "Hey!"

By the time he had gathered all of them, he had seven kittens in his hands in addition to Pecho in his breast pocket. He could barely get the door open again without dropping them. As he approached, he heard Root call out frantically to Shaw, who kept up a steady stream of murmured expletives as she knelt on the edge of the subway platform.

"Make sure none of them fell onto the tracks!"

"This is your fault," Shaw spat. "They shouldn't have been here at all!"

"Looking for these?" John asked. The two women spun to look at him, then rushed toward him. In seconds, he had been relieved of his escapees as Root cuddled Delta and Shaw counted the others into their basket.

"We're missing one." Shaw started to look around the platform again. "I think it's Golf."

".jpg," Root supplied. "She's the smartest. She might have made it outside." She seemed torn between worry and pride.

John rolled his eyes and reached inside his breast pocket, where the orange kitten had been purring like a motor since he put her there.

"There she is Hey, .jpg!" Root purred as she reached out to receive the tiny kitten.

"Her name is Golf," Shaw informed her angrily, then turned to John with the box. "Reese, take them back to my place." She did not even turn her head to acknowledge Root's indignant interjection of "our place!" "There's solid food in the cupboard next to the sink, but watch Tango and use the dropper if you have to." She shoved the box carefully into his hands, then tipped her head to Root. "Give Golf to him."

".jpg."

"Whatever."

"Shaw--" John began.

Before he could protest, Shaw and Root had turned away and begun bickering again. John sighed and looked at the box in his arms. The black one was already trying to escape.

"I have claw marks on my ass, Sameen. They can't stay," Root exclaimed.

John started as their argument filtered back into his consciousness, then headed for the door. Though cat-sitting was hardly his first choice, he might as well make his escape before they got any more explicit.

Unfortunately, though, that mental picture wasn't going to go away any time soon.

Chapter Text

"Shaw."

"I will murder you."

"Sam." Root merely raised an eyebrow at the click of Shaw's gun safety.

"Say my name one more time."

"You have to wake up. Just for a minute, then you can go back to sleep," Root sympathized. "Just tell me what day it is."

Shaw's bruised eyes glared at her from the cocoon of the comforter, but she did shove her handgun back behind the mattress.

"I've had a concussion before, Root. I'm not going to fall into a coma because John was too slow to stop Stacey the soccer mom from braining me with a pipe."

"Brianne."

"Huh?"

"Her name was Brianne."

"Okay, Brianne the soccer mom." Shaw groaned. "Can I go back to sleep now?"

Root smiled.

"Of course," she promised. "Right after you tell me what day it is."

Shaw growled in anger and frustration.

"It's," she cast a cursory glance at her phone, "two AM in the fucking morning, which makes it Wednesday. Let me sleep." She turned over, pulling most of the blankets with her.

"See you in two hours."

A single eye emerged from Shaw's nest of blankets to warn Root off.

"Don't you dare."

Root grinned into the dark, tugged the covers back as best she could, and closed her eyes. The Machine would wake her when it was time.