"You can't be serious, Finch," said Shaw incredulously.
"I'm afraid that I am, Miss Shaw. If Mr. Reese weren't currently away on another mission, I would have recruited him to help you with this number. But, seeing as you and Miss Groves are available, it only made sense for you two to handle this mission together, " said Harold in his usual dull manner of speaking, though there was a glint in his eyes that made Shaw want to shoot something…or someone.
"There has to be a different cover I can use, Finch," Shaw reasoned desperately, the frown on her face deepening at Harold's steely resolve.
"I'm sorry, Miss Shaw, but this is the best that I can do," said Harold, not sounding sorry at all. "Here are the keys to your temporary apartment. Detective Fusco has stocked the place with groceries, toiletries, clothes, weapons and whatever else you and Miss Groves may need."
"You're enjoying this, aren't you?" Shaw accused, shaking her head in irritation as she snatched the offered keys from his grasp. Judging by the slight twinkle in his eyes and the slight upturn of his lips, it was obvious that Finch was getting a kick out of her miserable state. She could only imagine how much John was going to tease her when he got back and caught wind of her current situation. "Not cool, Harold."
"I am doing no such thing, Miss Shaw. Perhaps you should spend more time focusing on your mission and less time complaining about your cover," said Finch, turning his back to Shaw and facing toward his computer screens.
Shaw knew a dismissal when she saw one.
Releasing an irritated huff, Shaw turned on her heels and walked out of the abandoned subway station, making her way onto the busy streets of New York City.
Shaw parked in her 'new' apartment building's underground parking garage, eyeing the endless rows of expensive, foreign cars parked nearby, and quickly concluded that she was in the wealthy part of town. Of course, the lavish, well-kept building, complete with a well-dressed doorman and several valet attendants waiting out front, had already given that much away.
Leave it to Harold to dump her in the middle of the suburbs, surrounded by snotty, rich people, and not one good barbeque joint within a ten mile radius. She could only hope that Lionel stocked the fridge with beer and a lot of red meat.
As Shaw made her way up to her apartment – Apartment 201 – she took the time to assess her surroundings. So far, she'd seen about two dozen men donning polo shirts and Bermuda shorts, and did her best to hide her disgust at their wardrobe choices. It was like walking into the Twilight Zone; a Twilight Zone filled with terribly dressed wealthy people.
"You couldn't have picked a better location, Finch?" Shaw grunted lowly, forcibly smiling – more like grimacing – at a couple passing by.
"Miss Shaw, I take it you've made it to your location safely?" said Finch over their communications.
"You would know, Finch. I'm sure you're tracking my location as we speak," said Shaw with a roll of her eyes, stopping before Apartment 201 with the keys Finch handed her in her grasp. She frowned at the door, reluctant to see what's on the other side, and stood there, unmoving. "Is there any way I can get out of this?"
"I think you already know the answer to that, Sameen," said a new voice through the comm., their tone flirty and sweet, and belonging to the one person Shaw was wary of seeing.
"And how have you settled in, Miss Groves?" Harold asked, ignoring Shaw's previous question.
"I've settled in just fine, Harry. The case worker should be arriving in an hour so, Sameen, it'd be great if you came in. I'm sure staring at the door isn't that interesting," said Root mockingly, causing a few mumbled expletives to pass through Shaw's lips.
"Are you really going to make me suffer through this, Harold?" Shaw asked through gritted teeth, uncaring of whether or not Root was still listening in.
"I'm afraid my hands are tied, Miss Shaw. You and Miss Groves are going to have to learn to get along if you want this mission to be successful. You have less than an hour to put aside your differences. Good luck."
With that, Harold signed off, leaving Shaw alone in unnerving silence. She could feel eyes watching her, and she knew that those eyes belonged to Root. It was with a heavy sigh that Shaw pushed her key into the lock and opened the door to her apartment.
She wasn't surprised when she came face-to-face with a smirking Root, nor was she surprised when she caught sight of several ugly paintings adorning the walls of the spacious apartment. As she walked further into her temporary home – ignoring Root's presence – she took notice of the pricey looking furniture, all made of glass or marble, and the flawless photoshopped pictures of her and Root. It was scary how real those pictures looked, but what was even scarier was the fact that Harold obviously decorated the place.
"Do you like our new home, sweetie?" said Root flirtatiously, her lips ghosting over Shaw's ear.
Shaw rolled her eyes and turned to face Root, a scowl forming on her face as her nose brushed against Root's chin. If there was one thing Shaw disliked about Root, it was her disregard of Shaw's personal space. The woman had no boundaries and Shaw was all about boundaries.
"Don't push me, Root."
"Why, Sameen, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you were unhappy to see me," said Root, clutching her chest in mock hurt.
"Well, lucky for us, you do know better."
"There's no need to be a sourpuss, Sam."
"Whatever," said Shaw, rolling her eyes and walking into the surprisingly large kitchen as a way to distance herself from her overly perky partner.
She busied herself with looking through the cabinets to see that they were, indeed, filled to the brim. They held everything from Oreos to tomato paste. She felt, more than heard, Root enter the kitchen, the woman's presence overwhelming her like the burning sensation of a bullet to the gut. She was everywhere and nowhere, and that made having to do this particular mission with Root all the more difficult.
Root made her feel things she didn't want to feel and if she could find a way to distance herself from her while on this mission, she'd do it. Unfortunately, distancing herself from the hacker was highly unlikely in this situation.
Ignoring Root's presence to the best of her ability, Shaw opened both the freezer and the refrigerator. Just like the cabinets, both were fully stocked and filled with things that made Shaw's stomach growl. She made a mental note to tell Lionel that he wasn't completely useless.
"Sameen," Root started, eliciting an eye roll from Shaw as she closed the doors of the refrigerator and turned to face her. "You have less than forty-five minutes to get dressed into something more," Root gestured to Shaw's oversized black hoodie, tight, black skinny jeans, and ankle-high black boots, "appropriate."
"Whatever," Shaw gritted out, heading to the master bedroom to change.
As she walked into the master bedroom, she noticed how colorful the room was. The room was painted sunflower yellow and had three photoshopped portraits of her and Root hung just a few inches above the headboard. One was a picture of them dressed in white wedding gowns, engaged in a kiss that looked startlingly real. The next picture was of them in front of Mount Everest, their backs the only thing visible in the photo. Shaw squinted at the photo and realized that it wasn't photoshopped. The photo was real.
Not allowing herself to leer at the picture for too long, Shaw turned her attention to the third picture. In this picture, she and Root were sitting together on a bench in Central Park, both with mischievous smirks stretched across their lips. As Shaw looked closely at the photo, she realized that this particular picture was also authentic.
Shaw's stomach lurched at how couple-y they looked in the photos.
"The picture from Central Park is my favorite," said Root from behind Shaw, a smile in the taller brunette's voice.
Everywhere and nowhere. That was Root.
Shaw suppressed a groan at being caught and, instead of dignifying Root's comment with a reply, Shaw stormed into the master bathroom and locked the door behind her.
"You look nice, Sameen," Root complimented, eyeing Shaw's tight-fitted black dress with appreciative eyes.
Root smirked and poked Shaw in the cheek. "Just remember to smile and be friendly. Our numbers should be arriving any minute now."
"Whatever," Shaw replied, her features twisting into its usual scowl.
And just like Root – well, the machine – predicted, a knock on the door sounded, signaling the arrival of their numbers. Plastering on a friendly smile, Root opened the front door, revealing a graying older woman, around the age of sixty-seven, and two teenagers: one boy and one girl.
"Good afternoon, Mrs. And Mrs. Johnson, I'm Melanie Tanner and this," the woman gestured to the brunette boy, his features harsh and appraising, "is Josh. And this is his younger sister," she gestured to the brunette girl standing beside him, her features soft and curious, "is Daniela."
"It's very nice to meet you all," Root said with a bright smile, stepping back and opening the door wider for their guests. "Please, come in. Feel free to look around, kids. You will be living here after all."
Shaw plastered on a forced smile as their guests entered the apartment. Their first number, Josh, eyed her with a lecherous grin on his face, his eyes roaming over her body in an appreciative manner. Their second number, Daniela, just stared at her with an appraising look, as if looking at her would tell her Shaw's life story.
Shaw quickly decided that this was going to be a long mission.