Chapter 1: The Ties That Bind
It had been several hours since a band of kidnappers managed to crack – literally – the security of Root’s office by finding the smallest pressure point in her window that, once hit, would implode inside the room. It would take a super computer to calculate the math that would factor in all those variables to hit the precise spot. And these people had that at their disposal.
Once Root was over the surprise of someone entering through the gaping hole left by the explosion, she quickly sized up who these people could be. She was a brilliant woman who had received threats before, but none made an entrance quite like that. But even their appearance didn’t scare Root. She knew that calmness must prevail if she were going to gather as many clues about them as possible. She was savvy enough to know, if you have a powerful program, someone will want it – and some would do anything to get at it.
In the seconds before the masked men grabbed her, she turned her laptop camera on and faced it towards them. She knew to leave her cell phone on and to memorize height and weight, and listen for the voice tones of her attackers.
But they seemed to be a step ahead of her. They closed her laptop, removed her phone and didn’t speak inside her office. They knew exactly what they were doing, down to the second.
“The program in Mustique?” was the first question she asked her captors when they hustled her to the helicopter. The man behind the mask smiled and Root knew she was right. “Dammit,” she said, chastising herself for not building a broader virus detector into the machine.
“You’re going to be sorry,” she warned him because she was confident about Shaw appearing any second.
“I’m waiting for her,” the man said as the helicopter hovered. “You see, Ms. Groves,” the deep voice said calmly to her over the noise of the rotor blades. “I know your weakness and I will kill her, if you don’t cooperate.”
He then aimed a gun at exactly the spot where Shaw burst through the broken glass to the outer area. She aimed her gun as Root yelled not to do anything. Of course, Shaw couldn’t hear her, but she saw the agony on Root’s face. She feared they had hurt her in the escape, but what they had really done was to threaten her raison d'etre; her very reason for living.
The text was sent to Shaw’s phone and once the boss was satisfied she understood it, the copter took off. Within minutes, Root was roughly transported from the machine to the boat, where she was promptly blindfolded and drugged. She concentrated as best she could to memorize a direction or sounds- anything that might help. Sleep took her over before she could do much of anything.
The kidnappers’ entrance caught the attention of hundreds of people who witnessed it. The FBI considered it an act of terrorism and sent a task force to help.
“Do you have any idea what they were after?” the investigator asked Harold Finch.
He and Root had rehearsed this scenario before; in case anything happened to one of them. Harold was the unlikely target because most people simply associated the brains of BEAR with Root.
“Here is a list of projects we’re working on,” he said, taking it out of his drawer. “But until they contact us, I’m afraid we won’t know if one of these is actually what they’re after.”
The FBI noted that everyone at BEAR was very cooperative.
Except the bodyguard.
Sameen Shaw would not answer their questions and did not say where she was going when she abruptly left the conference room. They didn’t know it, but Shaw didn’t suffer fools well. And Sameen considered pretty much everyone a fool right now.
Reese knew it and he played interference for her and explained that Shaw was too upset to talk.
Upset was not the word he meant, but it would work for the task force.
What Sameen was – was bloodthirsty for revenge.
And John knew she was going to have to put that on the back burner while she worked through her plan. A plan that, Reese, Martine, and Fusco waited to hear about.
“I’m helping her,” Ayala said, loading a gun she had no authority to carry.
“She’d want you to be here, with your mother,” Martine pointed out to her girlfriend. “We don’t’ know who we’re even dealing with.”
Everything in Ayala’s brain told her to go and be with Sameen, but she knew Martine was right. Her mother’s safety was more important than her desire to prove her usefulness to her sister.
“Protect her,” Ayala said, holding onto Martine’s arm.
“With my life,” she promised, causing Ayala to feel gratitude and fear at the same time.
Ayala wanted her mother to go somewhere out of the city, but Azar refused. She knew where she was most needed was to help them with the machine. She needed to write a program that would allow her to see what they were doing in there. Stealth programs were not easy to code and she didn’t want to waste precious time.
If Martine thought she had her hands full convincing Shaw’s sister not to come, she was only going to get another handful when Janine rushed at her.
“Just tell me what I can do, please,” the woman begged.
Martine knew Janine was worried sick. “Stay by your phone. If we need anything, when this goes down, I will contact you,” Martine promised.
“Please, be careful, Martine,” Janine begged. “And don’t let anything…,” but she couldn’t get the words out.
“I know,” Martine said, giving the assistant a much needed hug.
When the sedative wore off, Root woke with a start because of course, she had been dreaming of Shaw and their vacation. The cold air was the first thing that hit her face. She was in a dark and damp room and the smell told her she was near water. She had no idea how much time had passed.
Sameen knew how much time in seconds. She paced and paced until her legs grew tired. She called Fusco for updates, but there were none. Reese suggested she sleep and she agreed, but they both knew she wouldn’t. Bear – was on his best behavior. Fully aware of what was going on; he knew Shaw was his best hope. So, he sat by her quietly and only when she collapsed on the couch, did he approach her and put his head on her leg.
“I’m getting her back,” she said to him and he whined his gratitude.
The hours that passed were sheer torture for Shaw. But she relied on her military training to stay focused. Everyone offered to stay with her, but she refused to allow anyone – except Bear. She knew their friends were trying to help any way they could, but Sameen was certain she would have to do this her way.
Fusco pulled in every favor anyone ever owed him to gather what info he could and to ask for anyone to help out. He knew that he better get something soon, or a kidnapping wouldn’t be his biggest challenge. It would be an armed woman, with little tolerance for her fellow human beings on her best day, hurting and unsure of what to do.
“Usain Bolt carrying nitroglycerin,” was his analogy to Joss Carter, who insisted on working a double.
“Can you talk to her?” Joss asked, knowing that, in spite of his gruff manner sometimes, Shaw listened to Fusco.
“She won’t pick up; won’t let anyone in,” Fusco reported.
“Since when has that ever stopped you?” Joss asked in all seriousness.
“I’ve seen that woman drunk; I’ve seen that woman pissed at the world. I’ve seen her lash out at someone because she was unable to deal with the feelings. But this…,” Fusco shook his head and leaned closer to his friend’s side of the joined desks, “…this is dynamite on speed. Going closer will only get her more upset.”
Shaw’s head bobbed when exhaustion came at her, but she jumped up and started to pace. She looked at her phone and in spite of the directive to wait; there had been no further word from them. Wherever Root was, Shaw hoped that the person who heard her message was giving it to his boss in front of her.
In fact, he was.
“She thinks we’re by an oil refinery?” was the boss’ first question as he sat with Root as she woke up. The words made Root force herself to wake up faster because she knew what those words meant.
“Your girlfriend isn’t as smart as I thought she was,” he spat and Root struggled against the zip ties that held her hands in place. “Oh, I touched a nerve,” the bearded man said and Root could tell he wasn’t speaking behind a mask anymore. Of course, her eyes were covered, so he could remove his.
“A four alarm fire in an oil refinery,” he repeated and saw the tiniest movement of Root’s lips. “Is that her calling card, Ms. Groves?” he asked and Root remained motionless. “Because to be honest, I’m looking forward to meeting her.”
“Don’t you hurt her!” Root shouted, unable to maintain her composure.
“Are you ready to tell us where your machine is?” he asked, sitting back in the chair.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Root tried to buy time.
“Of course you do, Ms. Groves. Do you know how I know?” he asked in a calm voice. There was nothing about it that was familiar to Root. “Because first you sent your former lover away incognito when she failed to secure information. Then, you interrupted your vacation to go to remote location because your machine told you there was activity there. But what you didn’t know, Ms. Groves, is that it was a trap. That activity was there on purpose because we knew whoever knew about the machine would come. And we let you download a program which has rendered your machine practically useless. Now, we just need to get to its hardware so we can reconstruct it,” he explained.
Root was so annoyed at herself for not seeing this beforehand. With great responsibility, comes great danger, she knew and seemed to have forgotten.
“Don’t be hard on yourself,” the man said when he saw Root frown. “Your own bodyguard is about to walk into a trap and she considers herself to be one of the best.”
“Look, she’s no use to you. She doesn’t know about any of the projects I’m working on. I’m the only one who knows anything. So, you might as well get your torture started,” Root said.
“Oh, Miss Groves, you and I have a very different definition of torture. I’m not going to touch you,” he said slowly as he got up and got closer to deliver his verbal blow. “I’m going to touch Ms. Shaw.”
That made Root insane as she struggled to break out of the ties. She had to learn not to react to his threats, but it was hard to do when he mentioned Shaw.
Root had to focus on how to help, once Sameen arrived.
Because Root knew, her Four Alarm Fire… was coming.
Reese was almost as antsy was Shaw. He was walking the streets and wound up at the precinct. “What do you have, Lionel,” Reese asked, having walked in like he owned the joint.
“Well, hello to you, too, Tall, Dark and Bossy,” Lionel said, looking at Joss. “You hear this guy?”
Joss knew both men were tense and would be at each other’s throats any second. “We’re trying, John,” she reminded her boyfriend.
“We can’t just give Shaw any lead. You know she’ll go half-cocked into a blazing fire,” Lionel reminded her coworker.
“I know,” John said, sorry, but unable to say it just yet. “Is there anything?”
“We got guys looking for the boat, but that seems to have disappeared. The helicopter was wiped clean. No prints, no identification numbers. Flew out of a little airport in Jersey right to BEAR,” Joss said.
“We might have something,” Fusco said. “Her mother just texted me some coordinates. Says to look here,” he said and typed in the data.
“Call Shaw first, Lionel,” Reese said in case Fusco was going to follow some protocol. “I’ll go pick her up.”
“Those two,” Fusco shook his head. “They’re like the Mayhem Twins.”
Joss knew she and Fusco were going to be walking a fine line between following procedures, and doing things the BEAR way.
By the time Lionel got Shaw on the phone, John was outside waiting for her. “I’ll drive, Shaw,” he said and didn’t ask. Sameen knew it was the better idea. She threw a large duffle bag in the back seat and got in. All John had to do was take one look at her and he could tell how tightly she was wound. “We need a plan, Shaw,” he gently suggested.
“Here’s my plan; no kneecaps,” Shaw said and now Reese knew she was going to blow this.
“It’s not about where you shoot,” he pointed out. “It’s about not getting anyone on our side hurt.”
He anticipated the response because Shaw was a pot of emotions that had been simmering for hours. Any second, he knew, the lid would blow off. That moment was now.
She turned and grabbed the much taller man who was driving by his jacket lapel. “You think I don’t know that, Reese?” she yelled and he could feel the tremor in her hand.
“All I’m saying, Shaw, is that these guys are smart and we have to be smarter,” Reese said and for once in her life, that calm, even voice was what she needed in order to hear the message.
“How about this…,” Shaw started, “…you cover me, and I’ll blow those sonsov..”
“Okay, see, Shaw, I was hoping for a little more detail. Now look, Lionel will give us a head start, but the FBI and the NYPD will be looking to help, too. So, our moves have to be clean and quick. We are not going to be either if we don’t coordinate a plan,” John reiterated as he drove to the location.
The thing about Reese was that, in spite of the fact his calmness annoyed the hell out of Shaw; she respected him a great deal. This is why she listened to him when he talked.
Reese drove through Manhattan until he crossed over into the Bronx; one of the five boroughs. He stopped when he got to the docks that led to the East River.
Shaw’s phone beeped. ‘Boat waiting for you,’ Lionel’s text read.
“Fusco says there’ll be a boat there,” Shaw relayed.
Reese glanced back at the duffle bag that Shaw brought with her that contained her weaponry. “I hope it’s a big boat,” he said.
“Here’s the plan, Reese,” Shaw said as they walked toward the boat.
Reese had to admit, she had given it some thought.
Root decided to take some deep breaths and calm herself. She had to think this through. They were expecting Shaw. That wasn’t so far-fetched, because anyone who knew them, knew Shaw would come. But they expected her to find them. The odor of the room told her she was in an old and musty building. It must be one of the abandoned islands perhaps, she thought. The problem with this is that it meant it wasn’t their home base because the conditions were not conducive to keeping computer equipment. It was almost as if they were stopping there … and waiting.
And Root was right.
They picked this place to give Shaw a hard time to locate them, until they were ready. Now, that she was on her way – they were more than ready.
Root smiled just the tiniest bit when she thought this all through.
They may have counted on Shaw arriving, but they still didn’t count on one thing.
Shaw … being Shaw.
Truly, Root knew, no one could.
Chapter 2: Different, But Alike
Thank you all for returning. It means a great deal to me.
Reese didn’t necessarily agree with Shaw’s plan, but he knew he wouldn’t make her change her mind. He said he would follow her orders to the tee, but he had one condition.
“You want to shoot me with a homing device?” Shaw yelled in amazement.
“I have no idea what you’re walking into, Shaw. If they get you and take you somewhere, we need to know where that is,” he reasoned.
Shaw had several reasons why this was an insane idea, but time was wasting. “Fine!” she spat and rolled up her sleeve. She waited and finally looked up at John, whose very expression told her she got it wrong. “Oh, you are freaking kidding me!”
“They’ll see the entry point on your arm, Shaw. We need a…,” and the man who rarely uttered an inappropriate word around women finally said, “…denser area.”
“You’re going to shoot me in the ass with that?” Shaw stammered. Not a muscle on John’s face moved, but his eyes told her she was right. The silence and motionless stare told her he couldn’t do it through her pants.
“I’d let you do it yourself,” he explained, “…but the trigger is very tight because of how it needs to….” That was all he could get out.
Shaw knew she had no choice. She unbuttoned and unzipped her pants and bent over the car. Fortunately for both of them, Shaw’s lacy underwear gave him a clear shot of where to hit her.
“Sonova…,” Shaw grimaced because it hurt like hell. John coughed and looked away while she got dressed. He took out his phone, put in the tag number and sure enough, a tiny dot appeared on the map. “Why didn’t you do this to Root?” she asked, thinking what a great idea that would have been.
“She refused,” John answered.
Shaw pulled her pants back up and shoved her blouse back in. “I am so talking to her about this when I get her,” she promised.
Several minutes later, the boat was loaded. “You know what to do?” she asked John as she entered the boat alone.
“Best I figure we have less than an hour before Lionel can’t hold them off any more,” John surmised as he unhinged the boat. “Be careful, Shaw.”
Sameen saluted her friend, turned the back motor on and took off in the direction of the island. “Sonovabitch,” she said, realizing it hurt to sit on the hard surface. She looked up at John. “Did you just laugh, Reese? Cause you better not have laughed.
“I didn’t laugh, Shaw,” John said, because he was worried about her plan.
The East River current was not cooperative and Shaw had a tough time navigating the small vessel across it. She touched the northern most shore, which was not her original plan. She looked down at her phone with the information that Fusco sent her.
‘North Brother Island – thirteen acres of abandoned buildings, most overgrown with plant life including poison ivy.’ “Oh, great,” Shaw said because in the dark now, there was little hope of seeing anything.
‘Building structures are weak at best. Many crumbling. Be careful, Shaw.’
Sameen pulled the duffel bag out of the boat and unzipped it. She had her arsenal of weapons, hand selected to cause the most damage she could in the shortest time. She ripped duct tape to make her necessary accoutrements. Then, she rolled up a ball of the tape and shoved it in her pocket. That was for if she got shot.
Armed and ready to go, she sent a text to Reese. Then, she put her phone in the boat and pushed it off shore. She turned and slowly started to make her way in the dark; her path lit only by the moon. It took twenty minutes, but Shaw finally came up on a building structure with lights. She peered through the broken glass window and saw three armed men inside.
“I’m going to need you to do something,” the man who had kept Root prisoner said as he pulled off her blindfold. Root’s eyes tried to adjust to the dimly lit room.
“What’s that?” Root asked, as she looked around at her surroundings. She was right in that it was a very old room that seemed overtaken by decay. She wasn’t surprised that her kidnapper was clean shaven and conservative looking. No tell-tale tattoos that would identify if he was with a group.
He put a phone in front of Root’s face. On the screen, she could see Sameen making her way up the dimly lit path to the house. “Tell her to be careful of the entry floor. I wouldn’t want her to fall through it.”
Root watched the screen and he nodded for her to talk. Instead, Root warned Sameen of what she thought was happening. “SAMEEN! IT’S A TRAP!” Root shouted into the phone.
Instead of being surprised, the man smiled. “By the way, you can call me Jeff,” he introduced himself, putting his phone away.
Root was now rubbing the zip ties against one another very slowly, to weaken them. “Got a last name, Jeff? Something for the headstone?”
“Oh, I do adore the undying faith you have in your bodyguard, Ms. Groves. But remember, we are expecting her,” he reminded Root.
“People think they’re expecting Shaw, but truly, she’s beyond anyone’s expectations,” Root said.
“This is what is going to make my job so easy,” the man said knowingly.
Root took a deep breath and tried to silence herself. She knew what he meant. He was going to do something to Shaw to make her talk. And she knew in her heart, he was right. Of course, he’d have to capture Shaw first.
What Root didn’t know was that Shaw wasn’t going to put up much of a fight. Oh, she shot her way in and disabled the first dozen guys that attempted to come her way. She even stuck two of the beefier guards with hypodermic needles that were strapped to her back with duct tape.
And even though it seemed she ran out of ammo, Shaw was just getting started because she had not run out of ideas.
“She…she…hurt twelve people out there,” one of the few uninjured men said as they dragged Sameen inside.
“Ms. Shaw!” Jeff said, having come into the hallway to meet her. “It is a pleasure.”
“Hold that thought,” Shaw smiled back at him.
“That was quite an entrance,” he mocked. “Jeff Blackwell,” he introduced himself. “Can I get you a water?”
“You can get me Root, so I can strike a blow to one or both of your guards, rendering them incapable of talking for months,” Shaw threatened and both men pulled back as they held onto her.
Her host laughed and told the men they could let go of her. “You aren’t here by accident, Ms. Shaw,” he told Sameen who was too busy looking around for where to lay out the bodies. “But I do appreciate the show you put on to get in. You see, you’re our guest of honor. You, Ms. Shaw, are exactly what we need to get the information out of Ms. Groves.”
Sameen knew enough about tactics to understand exactly what he meant. “Oh, so you’re going to torture me in hopes of getting information out of Root,” she said to him, leaning in just a little. “Well, good luck with that. I don’t know what kind of info you want her to give up, but I’m pretty sure kicking my ass won’t do it.”
“Don’t be so modest, Ms. Shaw,” Jeff said to her. “I saw her body flinch when I mentioned mistreating you,” he shared.
“Here’s something I bet you don’t know,” Shaw said in almost a sing song voice. “By contract, I’m only supposed to shoot kneecaps. It’s true; most of your men out there have permanent damage to their meniscus and articular cartilage,” the former doctor outlined. “Makes it easy to pick them out of lineups that way,” she sneered.
“That’s what you wanted me to know?” Jeff laughed because of course he didn’t care.
“No,” Shaw smiled. “What I want you to know is that when I come for you, I’m going to break that rule and shoot you somewhere else.”
Her voice was so calm and clear, that the threat actually unnerved the man a bit. Still, she was a five foot three woman who was unarmed and about to be the pawn in his game.
But Shaw saw him flinch.
“Let’s get started, shall we?” suggested the man that had no idea the game started when Shaw touched down on the shore.
The two men pushed Sameen to follow and they walked through heavy, concrete debris to follow their leader. When they reached a room with only a light bulb hanging from above and over a chair, Shaw knew this is where they meant to bring her.
“Put Ms. Shaw in the chair and zip tie her hands,” Jeff instructed and the men did.
Seconds later, a woman walked alongside Root as she stumbled into the room. Shaw knew she wasn’t supposed to react at seeing Root, but she scanned her to see if they had hurt her. Root’s teaching was more street oriented, and she couldn’t help but call out to Shaw.
They sat Root down in a chair several feet across from Sameen. “I knew you would come for me,” Root smiled.
“Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Shaw said back. “Looks like I was invited, too. This is not going to be reflected in my Christmas bonus, is it?”
Root all but cooed at hearing her lover’s voice as she disregarded the severity of their situation. That was so Shaw.
The only problem for Root and Shaw right now, was that someone else had the upper hand. “Did you check her for homing devices?” he asked and Shaw’s heart sped up a little.
“I’ll do it,” the burly man said, but Jeff told him no and waved to the woman who had walked in with Root. “This is Claire Mahoney. Now, Claire was selected to join us because she’s excellent at solving puzzles, aren’t you?” he said as she walked over. “Now, Claire, do you think you can figure out where they may have hidden a device on Ms. Shaw?”
The man selected Claire for two reasons; he thought because she was young, Shaw would not harm her. And two, he was counting on another woman touching her to bother Root.
He was half right.
“I won’t stop looking until I find it,” Claire promised and ripped open Sameen’s shirt, sending buttons flying. Claire pulled the shirt down Sameen’s shoulders as she traced her hands up and down Shaw’s upper arms slowly.
Sameen knew exactly what they were doing and stared hard at Root to look at her and not the woman. She could tell by Root’s breathing that she was getting annoyed. She needed Root to focus because the bad stuff had not yet begun.
Claire was enjoying her search too much as she stood behind Shaw and pushed her hands down her black t-shirt and bra and cupped her breasts. Shaw could see Root’s eyes stray and come back, but she was watching this woman fondle Shaw.
“I hope that was as good for you as is it was for me,” Claire whispered into Shaw’s ear for effect.
“Never mind,” Jeff said because this wasn’t getting him anywhere. “Let’s see if I look under her skin,” he said and opened a small box that contained a set of scalpels.
“Root,” Shaw said and stared at her. Once Sameen had her attention, she slowly closed her eyes, indicating to Root that she shouldn’t look. Root nodded a little because she understood.
“Let’s look here,” Jeff said as he left a three inch cut along her bicep on her right arm. “Or here,” he said and cut along her forearm. “Now, as a medically trained person, you know what will happen if I cut deeper, but I bet Ms. Groves doesn’t know that if I do, I can sever nerves that will leave your arm useless,” he threatened.
Root couldn’t keep her eyes closed any longer and opened them to see the red blood oozing out of two long streaks in Sameen’s right arm. She knew she was supposed to know what Sameen was up to, but she couldn’t seem to figure it out. Shaw would never be captured unless she wanted to be. But what was the plan? Root’s breathing labored as Sameen tried desperately not to show the amount of pain she was in. She sat there tightlipped.
“You are in remarkable shape, Ms. Shaw,” Jeff said as he went around the back of her. He began naming muscles groups as he slid the sharp knife over them, leaving a trail of blood each time.
Root couldn’t take it anymore. “Sameen?” she called across to her.
“Do we have disability coverage?” Shaw asked back, but Root could hear the pain in her voice. “Because even though I still have two legs and an arm left, I’m going to make a sucky bodyguard for a while.”
Shaw’s nonchalance annoyed her captor as much as it confused her girlfriend. There was a message in there and Root’s brain scrambled to figure out what it was.
The next cut was less kind as he pushed the scalpel down deeper into her left shoulder.
“Okay, okay,” Root yelled because she understood now.
She had to get Jeff away from Sameen while she still had use of her limbs.
“Ready to talk, Ms. Groves?” Jeff said, sorry to see the torture end.
Root knew if Shaw was here alone, their friends were not far behind. But they were still in danger and there was plenty of time for this man to do serious damage to Shaw.
“Yes, just don’t hurt her anymore,” Root said, hoping she was half as good as Shaw was at this.
When it was over, Root was going to prove to be Sameen’s equal.
Chapter 3: Teamwork
A/N: thanks to everyone who has returned! You guys are great.
I'll respond to your great posts soon, but know I appreciate each and everyone of them.
Root’s mind raced to figure out what Sameen was trying to tell her. She had ‘three limbs left’, she said. But Shaw’s hands were tied behind her back, behind the chair, and she was injured. Root called out to Jeffrey to make him come to her.
“Ready to talk, Ms. Groves?” he asked again. “Or should I carve your girlfriend up some more?”
“Don’t hurt her,” she repeated and tried to keep her mind on what to say, but kept looking at the blood stained shirt behind him. “Oh, God,” she let out when she saw Sameen.
“I actually answer to a higher power, Ms. Groves, and Mr. Greer is waiting for me to tell him where the machine is,” Blackwell let out because he was caught between enjoying the pain he was inflicting and knowing what his boss would do if he didn’t call soon.
“You have to let Sameen go, first,” Root said, thinking she could bargain.
Root was wrong and as soon as she said it, Sameen knew what would happen.
Blackwell hauled off and hit her across her face, sending a surprised Root backwards in the chair. “There is no bargaining, Ms. Groves. Tell me where the machine is or the next cut on Ms. Shaw will be an artery!”
It wasn’t just the violent slap that convinced Shaw this man enjoyed his job; it was something in his tone. It was cold and desperate. Sameen surmised, as bad as this guy was, his boss was much worse. She bit down on her cheek so she wouldn’t react to that slap. If she did, he’d know he had them exactly where he wanted them. Sameen knew he’d push and pull until one of them cracked.
“Some girlfriend you got there. She didn’t even flinch,” Blackwell said and Claire asked if she should check Sameen out again. “No, I think Ms. Groves is getting ready to talk because the longer she waits, the more blood is oozing out of her bodyguard.”
“You got some balls,” Shaw said, hoping Root would see she was in the perfect position to hit him.
The man screamed in pain and fell to the floor, holding his injured cargo. While Root’s mind had been busy trying to think of what to do, her foot was already certain. As soon as Sameen said that, Root pushed her leg up, as fast and as hard as she could – right between the threatening man’s legs.
Root looked up to see the slightest smile and arched eyebrow on Shaw. In spite of the extreme circumstances, Root’s heart leapt to think she had impressed Sameen.
Root hadn’t just incapacitated Blackwell; she also gave Shaw a window of opportunity. Sameen’s military training in escape maneuvers took over. She stood up, bringing the chair with her. As the guards went to press her back down, she brought the chair down on their feet. They pulled her backwards, which she was ready for. She flipped over and up, using the chair as her weapon to hit them. Root sat there watching this ballet of carefully coordinated moves that eventually freed Sameen from the zip ties. Now, she stood there armed with the legs that she broke off from the chair. A swift crack to the oversized man’s shins brought them down, hitting their heads in the fall.
“GET HER!” Blackwell yelled to Claire as he pulled himself up gingerly.
“Oh, no! You’re mine, bitch,” Root said, standing up and grabbing the younger woman. With no weapon, Root did what she did best; she used her head. “This is for putting your hands on her,” Root said, grabbing the shorter woman and banging her head against Claire’s hard and knocking her out; her gun sliding across the floor.
“Nice,” Shaw said to Root, and Root smiled like she’d just been handed the first place medal.
“Don’t move,” Blackwell said, holding a Glock on Root from behind her. “You tell me where it is, or I put a bullet through Ms. Shaw’s head.” The gun was aimed at Shaw as he held onto Root’s shirt from behind.
“There’s that disarming appeal,” Shaw said as she looked around for options. She didn’t mean anything by it, but Root heard ‘disarm’ and thought it was her signal to do so. She grabbed the man’s arm and cracked it over her leg.
Sameen was surprised at how swiftly Root had moved and literally disarmed him.
Root took his gun and ran to Sameen. Shaw’s blouse was blood soaked from the swift movements. “Sameen!” Root said.
“Rip this into pieces,” Shaw said, and handed Root the ball of duct tape. Root did and Sameen started to apply the pieces to her cuts. Root didn’t want to ask what this would feel like when it was time to remove it. “There, all better,” Shaw said, when Root applied the piece to the deepest cut. It hardly covered the wound.
“This isn’t over,” Blackwell yelled from the floor. “You won’t get off this island alive.”
“I am going to talk to him,” Shaw said, shoving his gun in the back of her pants. Her tone was one that Root had never heard her use. It would have been familiar if Root had been with Shaw in Afghanistan or Syria, when she was interrogating people.
Blackwell laughed at the audaciousness of the two women; a tech genius and her bodyguard. “This is so much bigger than you,” he said as Sameen pulled him up and pushed him in the chair. “Oh, now you’re going to protect her?” he asked, mockingly. He reached under the chair and pulled out a planted gun. “You’re just not as good as you think you are, Ms. Shaw.” He aimed the gun at Shaw and she didn’t move.
John had given Sameen the allotted time. Now, Fusco and the FBI were on their way there. Fusco stalled them as long as he could to allow his friend an opportunity to do what she did best – be a badass. Like Reese, he too, had a condition. Shaw had answered with a dismissive, ‘yeah, yeah,’ when he made her promise. She didn’t know it, but Fusco was going to read her the riot act when he got her back.
They began their moves to the island.
Inside the decrepit building, Shaw wasn’t done.
She kept looking at Blackwell, listening to him. There was something about him that simply unnerved her, and that was besides the sadistic cutting and hitting Root. He was sent to extract information from Root and everything he did fit the MO of someone commissioned to do it.
But there was something else.
Claire Mahoney was coming to and grabbed for her gun, but Root stepped on her arm. “Tsk, tsk,” she said and picked the woman up and dropped her back down so her head hit the hard floor. “I really don’t like anyone touching her,” she said right before she dropped her.
“Don’t!” he barked at Root when she tried to get Claire’s gun.
A question pushed at Sameen about this man, until it formed into words. “You were sent…,” and even Shaw had a hard time saying the rest.”
“To get info and then, kill her,” Blackwell confirmed, and suddenly there was a beam of red light on Root’s head. “Now, step aside Ms. Shaw while we get what we came for.”
Sameen’s calculations told her that their backup was arriving and would take out the sniper outside. When the red light disappeared, she knew she was right.
“What?” Blackwell said and pressed his ear comm device.
“Let’s go, Root,” Shaw said and it would have appeared they were walking out with an armed man holding a gun on them.
But that was part of Shaw’s plan.
Shaw had already decided that even though they didn’t know what or who they were dealing with, this guy had to go. He had the personality type that would eventually, somewhere down the road, make him want to try to kill Root.
“Tell me or I will put a bullet through her!” he yelled as chaos erupted outside. “Or I’ll just put it through her anyway.”
“I was kind of hoping you’d say that,” Shaw said and waited for him to raise his gun on Root so that it would be a justified shooting.
Shaw stepped in front of Root, grabbed the Glock behind her back and shot. Blackwell fell backwards, the surprise expression at being out drawn still on his face; a bullet hole right between his eyes. “Told you I would break the rule,” she whispered to the dead man.
Then, she walked over to Claire and pulled her up. “Give your boss, Greer, a message; before he kills you, I mean,” Shaw smiled in the woman’s dazed face. “Tell him – I’ll be waiting for him if he’s stupid enough to come again.”
Fusco and Reese rushed into the hallway that was littered with a dozen men yelling in pain or passed out from their wounds. “Geez, she leaves a mess,” Fusco said of his friend’s talent.
“Kneecaps,” Reese noted of most of the wounds. “Nice.” He was pleased that Shaw didn’t go Annie Oakley on them because of Root.
The FBI task followed, wondering how many people were involved in this gun fight.
“That’s a twelve to one ratio,” Joss said in a low voice, amazed at that statistic.
Fusco and Reese walked down a hallway in the dark, just as the door to the room where Root and Shaw were, flew open.
“For guardian angels, you’re a little late to the party,” Shaw quipped and smiled at her friends. She winked at both of them; her gratitude for letting her do this her way.
“Geez, Shaw, you look like hell,” Fusco said of his duct taped friend.
“Are you okay, Root?” Reese asked and could see the red mark on her face.
“Yes, we’re fine,” Root assured him.
“What about that guy?” Fusco said, looking past them at the man whose head hung back over the chair.
“Him, not so much. The girl will give you information though,” Shaw said, tossing Claire towards an FBI agent.
“You’re going to a doctor,” Fusco barked thinking he should have made that one of his conditions.
“You two did all of this?” Reese asked of the wounded guards and the knocked out woman. Oh, yeah – and the dead guy.
“We make a good team,” Shaw said, paying Root the highest compliment.
“We do,” Shaw smiled and took Root’s hand.
“Impressive,” Reese said of the impromptu operation.
The FBI gathered the men and told Shaw and Root they would need to interview them.
“You know a good place to interview?” Fusco had to butt in. “The hospital. She needs to go,” he insisted.
“I can do this myself,” she said to him, insulted that he would suggest she needed medical help.
“Yeah, well Doctor Duct Tape, I think you might actually need a stitch or two,” he said, helping her outside.
“I can do my own,” Shaw reminded him because he’d seen her handiwork.
He looked at Root because anyone in their right mind knew Shaw needed to go. “Please, Cocoa Puffs?” he said.
“I think he has a point,” was all Root had to say and Shaw begrudgingly agreed.
Reese held onto Root as they walked outside to the police boat.
Two hours later, Shaw was stitched up and resting in a hospital bed. “Get me out of here,” she barked to Root who pointed out that her blood stained clothes weren’t wearable. “I’ve sent for some new clothes.”
The FBI interviewed the two women who were able to suggest that Blackwell was part of a group looking for a large computer and picked Root because of her technology background.
“That was a pretty clean shot, Ms. Shaw,” the FBI agent said of Blackwell’s wound. If you had measured it, it would have proven to be dead center.
“I’m a good shot,” Shaw said, anxious to get out of the hospital gown.
“And he threatened Ms. Groves and you felt it was necessary to take action?” the agent asked because the typical shot would have been in the heart area.
“He made viable threats and pointed his gun at her. I felt she was in imminent danger,” Shaw said slowly, giving the right answer.
“Okay, then,” the agent said and left the two women alone.
Of all the parts of her body that hurt, the one without any lidocaine was killing her right now. “Sonova,” Shaw grimaced as she moved in the bed.
“What hurts, sweetie?” Root asked worried.
“Oh yeah,” Shaw said, the issue dawning on her slowly. But the sleeping aid that Fusco had personally suggested because he warned the staff the patient could be most uncooperative was taking hold. “Remind me to shoot you in the ass later.”
Root frowned because she had no idea what Shaw was talking about. She slowly pulled the covers up on Shaw and stroked her face. “Thank you for saving me,” she whispered as she kissed Sameen’s lips.
“Likewise,” Shaw said from her medically induced sleep.
Reese and Fusco offered to stay with Sameen, but Root said she needed to be there. The two men took their posts outside the door.
“You know she’s going to be a maniac when she wakes up, right?” Fusco said to his friend.
“Yeah,” Reese said because he knew he was partly to blame.
Chapter 4: Physician, Heal Thyself
As Sameen slept peacefully, Root sat by her side, because she wanted to be there as soon as the patient woke up. Shaw’s friends - weren’t so sure.
“I probably… should… you know,” Fusco said, pointing to the exit.
“Yeah, I should… too,” John said, because neither of them wanted to be there when the woman awoke.
Joss had joined them, stopping by with coffee and was sitting with the two men. “You two are…,” she looked them up and down. “Afraid, aren’t you?”
“What?” the two men said and then talked in unison as they declared that was a preposterous idea without any merit whatsoever.
“Aha,” Joss said, not believing a word. She was laughing at her partner and boyfriend when she spotted real trouble down the hallway. “Oh-oh,” Joss said when she saw the woman arguing with the security guard.
“SHE NEEDS HER CLOTHES!” Janine shouted because she was on a mission.
“Let me see if I can …,” Joss started. “Oh, this is a whole ‘nother level of crazy here.” She walked out and put her hand on Janine’s arm and explained to the guard that this was Ms. Shaw’s personal assistant and she was bringing her clothes.
“That’s what I told him,” Janine said, thanking Joss.
“Yeah,” Joss said and wanted to point out that poking the guard in the chest and yelling was not the best way to get in. Janine raced to sit near Fusco and Reese and asked how Root and Shaw were.
“Root’s okay,” Reese reported.
“Shaw will be better…later,” Fusco said.
“Tell me what’s wrong with Shaw. Don’t hold back – I can take it,” Janine promised. Fusco shrugged his shoulders and gave her the gory details of Shaw’s incisions.
The woman promptly passed out.
“What?” Fusco asked, looking at Joss, as Reese helped him pull the woman back in the chair. “She said she could take it!”
“I’m okay,” the woman said, coming to.
“She’s not okay,” Joss admonished her partner.
Inside the hospital room, Root slept peacefully next to her unconscious girlfriend.
Shaw was dreaming and still on vacation in St. Lucia. The two were lying on the beach, the sun shining brightly and the cool breeze blowing across their bodies. Shaw was keeping a watchful eye on her lover’s fair skin, worried she would get sunburned. Root was keeping a careful eye on Shaw because she simply delighted in looking at her. Suddenly, the shark that Shaw had seen underwater appeared in the water in front of them. He lunged up on the beach, grabbed Root by her feet and dragged her back into the ocean. Shaw jumped up in her dream and grabbed Root under her arms; screaming at the large fish to let go. “You weren’t watching her,” the dream shark managed to say even though he was holding Root’s feet in his mouth. “I was right next to her!” Shaw fought with the shark because this woman would fight with anyone. “Oh, good; no rings,” he noticed as he continued to pull Root. “Makes it easier to digest.”
“You sonova bitch,” Shaw yelled at the imaginary talking shark and pulled Root with all her might to gain her release. “She’s mine!” Shaw yelled at him.
In reality, Shaw had just pulled her blanket all the way up to her neck. But she did shout out that warning and Root heard her. Root didn’t know what Shaw was dreaming about, but she liked the sound of Shaw’s declaration. The sun outside the window was dimmer than the smile on her face.
“I’m here, Sweetie,” Root said, putting her hand on Shaw’s head to check her temperature. She was fine.
But Sameen was still dreaming.
“Oh, hey,” the animated shark called back to Shaw as she pulled an unconscious Root to safety. “She’s pregnant.”
“What? What the hell does that mean?” Shaw yelled at the talking fish, but he disappeared back into the waters.
The dream content was enough to make Shaw jump out of her slumber and sit straight up in bed. She sat motionless, getting her bearings and wondering where the hell that shark was.
“Sameen, it’s okay,” Root’s soothing voice assured her.
“Where? What the hell?” Shaw said, her heart still caught in the dream world while her brain struggled to remember reality. The sharp pain of her several cuts were doing a hell of a job giving her clues. Shaw pushed her legs over the side of the bed. “Are you okay?” she asked, grabbing Root. “Let me see your ankles,” she insisted and made Root pull her pants up to show them to her. “Are you hurt?” she asked more slowly now.
“No, I’m fine, really,” Root said and gently tried to help Sameen sit back in bed. She could tell the woman had gotten up faster than her blood pressure could accommodate and she was dizzy.
Sameen lay back and felt what she was wearing. “What… the… hell… is… this?” she asked and pulled out the gown and looked down it. “Where are my clothes?” she yelled.
“Do you remember? We had to come here to have your wounds taken care of,” Root reminded her.
“No, someone made me come here. FUSCO!” she bellowed.
“I asked you to come, Sweetie. I was worried,” Root said and that calmed Shaw a little. “You were wonderful,” she said, kissing Sameen’s pouting lips. “Truly.”
“Yeah?” Shaw asked, because that kiss was the best medicine she had since she got there. “So were you,” Shaw said, pulling Root in to kiss her again.
“Oh, there’s the Princess Battleaxe now,” Fusco said when the yelling commenced. “You might want to give her those…,” he said, gently pushing Janine towards the door – kind of like the Romans pushed Christians into the lions’ den.
Janine knew if she stepped inside, Shaw would demand her clothes and leave. So, instead the assistant went to the nurses’ station and commanded that a doctor come and look at Shaw. She was told the doctor would be there during her rounds, but that wasn’t good enough and Janine insisted an exception should be made.
To shut the woman up, one was made.
The doctor walked down the hallway with Janine as she instructed her on how to handle the patient. “She’s a doctor, too, so don’t dumb anything down for her. Also, tell her what a great job she did with the duct tape….”
“The what?” asked the doctor who didn’t think that material was a suitable bandage for wounds.
“Well, it’s not like she had a suture kit with her when she got cut,” the woman barked. “Okay, go…,” she said when they got to Shaw’s room.
“Good morning, Ms. Shaw,” the doctor said, accessing her chart on her laptop. “Looks like you were in quite a brawl. How are you feeling?”
“Great, now let me go,” Shaw said.
“No fever, slept well,” the doctor read the nurses’ notes.
“How the hell do you know how I slept? I did not sleep well at all. There was a freaking shark…,” and Sameen stopped because she heard what she was saying. “Slept like a baby,” she changed her answer.
The doctor dismissed it, but Root didn’t.
“Let me see,” the doctor said and proceeded to check each of wounds under the gauze. “Dr. James did a nice job,” she said of the stitches. “I don’t think they’ll be any scaring.”
“What? Are you kidding?” Shaw asked, disappointed as she looked over her shoulder at the worst gash. “What will I tell our kids?” she asked without realizing it.
“Excuse me?” the doctor asked, confused by the patient’s dissatisfaction.
“I mean…,” Shaw said, trying to come up with something, “….did anyone check on her?” Shaw barked because she felt Root was left out. “Did they check on you?”
“Yes, they did, Sweetie,” Root said and truly, other than a sensitive cheek she was okay. After Shaw’s remark, the only thing Root could feel was joy.
“You did sustain a blow to the face,” the doctor said and looked more closely at Root. “I hope they caught him,” she sympathized.
“I shot him,” Shaw said, her voice cold.
“Oh,” the doctor responded and smiled nervously. “You’re… good to go.”
Janine appeared in the doorway and only came in when Root nodded. The doctor pushed past her to get out.
“I brought your clothes,” she said, her voice cracking when she saw how bandaged up Sameen was.
“Thank you. You always know exactly what I need,” Shaw complimented her. She held her hand out for the clothes, but the woman didn’t move. In fact, the only thing moving on Janine was her quivering lower lip.
“Are you…,” she choked back. “Is she..?” she turned to Root.
“Am I what?” Shaw asked Root.
“Yes, she’s been hurt, but she’s okay. No permanent damage,” Root explained.
“Will she be…,” and Janine meant will Shaw be Shaw, but couldn’t get it out.
“Yes, Janine, she most certainly will,” Root comforted her.
“You two know I’m right here, right?” Shaw asked as she watched the two women talking.
Much relieved now, Janine wiped a tear away and laughed. “Of course,” she said and handed Shaw the bag of clothes.
“Thanks,” Shaw said, not understand anything that was going on.
“I’m glad you’re okay,” Janine said and smiled as she left.
“What is going on with her?” Shaw asked, pulling out her clothes.
“She adores you,” Root said, gently helping Sameen undress and then put on her clothes.
“I don’t want her to,” Sameen said, grimacing when she had to move her arms.
“Oh, Sweetie,” Root said, kissing Sameen on her head, “…you don’t have a choice.”
Sitting up now, and fully dressed, Shaw’s memory was coming back intact. She pulled Root to look at her. “Are you okay?” she asked.
Root touched her face. “It doesn’t even hurt. I’m fine,” she assured her truthfully.
But Shaw already gave Root credit for being able to withstand the physical roughness. She could see that she was okay. “I meant – seeing me shoot…,” Shaw said, and had trouble looking Root in the eye for fear she had distressed her.
Root knew exactly what she meant. She cupped Shaw’s face to look at her. “You saved me; we both know that,” Root whispered because there was something maniacal about Jeffrey Blackwell.
Both women knew; if he didn’t kill Root last night; he would try another time.
“You saved me, too,” Shaw said and her statement wasn’t only about last night.
Joss made Fusco and Reese face their fears and go in to see their friend. Shaw was in a much better mood now that she was dressed and ready to leave.
“I’m hungry,” she announced and both men felt relieved that her mind was preoccupied.
“Oh, yeah, breakfast,” Fusco said.
“Yeah, let’s go,” Reese said, his voice tinged with enthusiasm. It was a dead giveaway.
“You know I’m not done with you,” Shaw said to Reese, staring up into those baby blues. “It still hurts!” she updated him. “And you…,” she said, poking Fusco in the arm.
She wasn’t sure what she was annoyed at him for, but she’d think of something.
Chapter 5: Getting Under Shaw's Skin
Root called Isabelle to assure her they were okay and would be back soon for breakfast. Banquet halls prepared smaller feasts than the chef had ready for her favorite couple and their friends. The group arrived and sat down to an extensive spread of every imaginable food delight.
“When that guy threatened to make my life a living hell,” Shaw shared of Blackwell’s threat; her mouth full of food, “… I wanted to tell him my sister is a vegan; can’t get much worse than that.”
Everyone laughed at Shaw’s joke, but Root watched her and wondered what was really going on under the dismissive humor. It was a scary experience for both of them, but Shaw would never say that.
Everyone felt the same way about Shaw when she was eating – she was simply less dangerous. But breakfast didn’t last forever and when she was done, she turned to her friends.
“So, Root,” Shaw said slowly, looking over at Reese first. “Reese here introduced me to the very latest in BEAR technology last night. He said you invented it.”
“Really? What was it?” Root asked, thinking it was a piece of technology that helped her gain access to the remote building.
“The individual monitoring device,” Reese said in a low voice.
“Oh, yes, well, we haven’t used that yet; have we, John?” Root asked.
“Really?” Shaw said, staring hard at her coworker.
“We… uhm… didn’t have a need before last night,” Reese explained.
“You used it last night?” Root asked.
“Reese insisted. Isn’t that right?” Shaw smiled, but didn’t mean it
“Because she was going in there alone, I bet,” Fusco surmised, trying to help Reese out.
“Yes,” the man of many words confirmed.
Root could kind of understand why Reese did that. Shaw was going ahead by herself, without backup, into an unknown territory. It was exactly the purpose she had invented it for.
“It’s a tracking device that we insert under someone’s skin by injecting it with a device,” Root explained to Fusco and Joss. “Why didn’t you tell me? We could have asked them to remove it from your arm last night,” Root asked Sameen.
“My arm? Oh, no, it’s not in my arm,” Shaw said, her lips pushed together now as she looked at John.
Now, Fusco and Joss were curious as to where this device was.
“Because of the shortage of time, I decided that the injection site would be noticeable on her arms,” John said in his gravelly tone, still confident in his decision.
“So, where exactly did you shoot her?” Joss asked, as she and Fusco were looking at Shaw to figure out where else it could be.
“We needed a… denser area,” Reese explained, hoping that would do it.
“You shot that thing into her head?” Fusco asked.
“Oh,” Root said and both she and Joss looked at Shaw’s derriere. “Does it hurt?” Root asked.
“YES! Of course it does. He shot me with a gun there,” Shaw complained.
“Technically, it’s a pulsation weapon,” Reese said, uncomfortable about the topic now.
“Pulsation my ass,” Shaw quipped and regretted it as soon as she said it.
“Technically, that’s right,” Fusco said and drew the attention back to him.
“And you,” Shaw said, and John wiped his mouth and signaled to Joss that they should leave. “I forget why I’m annoyed at you, but it will come to me.”
“Yeah, yeah. Look, I’m just glad you’re okay. Seriously, they were a pretty bad bunch. I owe you a lecture about going in there by yourself. So, the way I see it, if you forgive Quick Draw McGraw over there, I’ll forgo that long talk I promised you,” Fusco thought through.
Shaw felt like she was missing out on getting even with these two, but Fusco was right. Things could have been a lot worse. “Fine,” she agreed.
“Okay, good,” Fusco said, getting up when John and Joss got up to leave. “You two get some rest, okay? You may not feel the effects of last night until today,” lectured the police friend.
“We have to go to work,” Shaw said.
“I think they can manage one day without you,” Fusco said.
“Root has to work on geek stuff for the machine,” Shaw explained and Root nodded her head that Shaw was right.
“And you?” Fusco asked, hoping Shaw would rest for a while.
“I… have to give… someone a list,” Shaw said, without explaining. She didn’t feel it was necessary to tell Fusco that she was talking about his girlfriend.
The power couple left for work; both with a mission in mind.
Root was meeting with the only other person who knew as much about the machine; Azar. The woman had written a cloaking program that allowed her access to see what was going on while the group controlled the machine. Azar needed Root’s expertise to push that program to take back control without leaving an IP address or other electronic signals. She was waiting for Root downstairs because she wanted to see her daughter, too.
“Oh, Sameen,” her mother said, rushing to her daughter when she saw the white bandages on her arms.
“It’s okay,” Shaw refuted, and stood rigidly when her mother hugged her. Shaw was certain affectionate hugs after a mission was against protocol everywhere on the planet.
“And you?” Azar asked, looking at Root. “What an awful ordeal you two have been through.”
If public displays of affection unnerved Shaw, acknowledging how awful something had been was a definite no-no.
“You were in the CIA, right?” Shaw asked, and didn’t mean to sound as curt as she did, but was already annoyed the surgeon had deprived her of scars.
Azar looked quizzically at Root. “She’ll be okay,” she assured Shaw’s mother.
The trio walked into the elevator and went upstairs. Root kissed Sameen goodbye when they reached her floor as she begged Shaw not to overdo things. Shaw promised, even though she had a different definition of overdoing.
“You, too,” Shaw reminded Root. “Don’t let her hug you to death.”
Root and Azar went to her office to start analyzing what happened. The older woman had spent almost all night trying to find information on the clandestine group that had kidnapped Root. She had very little to go on. Even their names didn’t produce any solid leads on a group.
“The program you downloaded allowed them to tether onto the machine for a time. But it wasn’t stable and was susceptible to increased activity,” Azar reported.
Root looked at the well-dressed woman; every hair in place, reflecting her calm demeanor as she spoke.
“They were smart, whoever they are, and they had almost everything planned out,” Azar theorized.
“Except Sameen,” Root smiled.
Oddly enough, it was Martine and not Janine who greeted Sameen when she arrived. If anyone would understand Shaw’s dissatisfaction over the good job the doctor did on her injuries, it was Martine.
“Are you okay?” Martine asked and offered Shaw a coffee.
“Yeah,” Shaw said and there were no further questions. Just the way Shaw liked it.
“Those are some nasty cuts,” Martine said because she had seen Shaw’s arms before she went to the hospital.
“Yeah, and they think no scaring,” Shaw complained.
“Really?” Martine asked in disbelief and that’s what Shaw liked about her.
“Yeah,” Shaw said sadly.
“That’s too bad,” said the woman who, like Shaw, wore her battle scars proudly.
“Thanks,” Shaw said and shook Martine’s hand. In that gesture was Shaw’s appreciation for everything.
As soon as Martine left, Janine was there, asking Shaw if she needed anything. “A door would be nice,” Sameen commented because people kept poking their heads in to see how she was.
“I can get you an office,” Janine promised and Shaw told her that wouldn’t be necessary.
The assistant left and Shaw went back to her very important work. She was making a list of the things she remembered about her dream. The whole thing was still nagging at her.
“Hey,” Ayala said, coming into the cubicle.
Shaw’s head dropped to the desk because she really wanted to finish this list.
“I came in to see if you were okay,” Ayala said. “I wanted to go last night.”
“Well, I’m fine and I’m glad you didn’t. Someone needed to watch over Root’s nerdy counterpart,” Shaw reminded her sister. “Thanks for doing that.”
Shaw’s appreciation was exactly what Ayala had hoped for. And Sameen was beginning to understand that. “Hey,” she said to her sister as she was leaving, “I know you would have done a great job last night. Just given what we’re dealing with, it really was important that you stay with mommy.”
Ayala smiled and nodded her head. She didn’t even want to tease her sister about what she just called their mother.
Sameen got back to work. She added the last few words and looked over the list. “Okay, then,” she said, taking the note and walking down the hallway. As was her fashion, she approached Iris’ office and walked in, this time, slowing down to smile at Stella.
“Sameen!” Iris said, as if she had been waiting. In fact, she was anxiously waiting to talk with her favorite patient because she heard about the incident. But, each time she went to Shaw’s office, it was occupied. “I’m so pleased to see you,” the therapist said, getting up to greet Shaw.
“Thanks,” Shaw said and didn’t sit down.
“I heard about last night. Are you and Root okay?” Iris asked, her voice filled with concern.
“Yes, thanks. Root’s okay and seems none the worse for having been held captive,” Shaw reported.
“And you?” Iris asked, hoping Sameen would sit down.
“I’m good. Look, I have a list for you,” Shaw said and pulled the paper out of her back pants pocket. The action of moving her arm hurt and Iris could see it in the tiniest expression around her eyes.
“Can you stay?” Iris asked gingerly of her unpredictable client.
Shaw looked at the therapist, trying to convey that it was unnecessary, but she felt the polite thing to do was to sit for a minute. “Sure,” Sameen said and Iris smiled and sat down, too. She immediately grimaced and moved off the injured cheek.
“Are you okay?” Iris asked, aware that something was making Shaw feel pain.
“Reese shot me,” she said, confusing the therapist. “Okay, so …,” Sameen said, looking around. She did enjoy the calmness and quite of the room, but she truly had nothing to talk about.
“So, here’s the list,” Shaw finally said after giving Iris a minute of opportunity to talk.
“What is this?” Iris asked, accepting the paper.
“I need you to interpret those things,” Shaw explained.
“Shark, water, beach, ring,” Iris read from the list. “I’m not sure I understand.”
“I need you to write down what they mean,” Shaw explained. “I’ll pick it up later.”
“Are these from a dream?” the woman deduced correctly.
Shaw stared at her, wondering if she should answer that. “Let’s say they are.”
“Well, if they are, only you can say what they really mean,” Iris smiled apologetically.
“No, no,” Shaw said, thinking Iris was out of practice. “Don’t they give you a dream book or something,” she asked, looking at the bookshelf.
“Well, yes,” Iris said, because she could see Sameen looking for a book. “There are some common linkages between specific dream content variables and very broad outcomes in dream action, but usually, dreams are very individual.”
Undeterred, Shaw suggested; “Give it your best shot.”
That word prompted the therapist to suggest; “Sameen, could we talk about last night?”
“Damn!” Sameen murmured, “I should have never sat down!”
Shaw knew any minute; this woman would get under her skin faster than the tracking device had.
Chapter 6: Open to Interpretation
Sameen pushed her upper body forward and leaned on her legs, wishing she could just make an excuse to leave. Light blue eyes and an angelic smile stared back at her and she just couldn’t do it. Shaw smiled and nodded her head, like you do when you know you are about to give in.
“Okay, look, I get it,” Shaw said in case there was any doubt. There never was. “Last night was adrenaline charged, tense and life threatening. It’s the kind of stuff you guys love to get us to talk about because you think underneath is a plethora of emotions. But it’s not the case,” Shaw assured Iris and felt she did a good job of doing so.
“Tell me about it,” Iris said and made no attempt to hide that she was getting the pad and pen.
“Oh geez,” Shaw moaned wishing she had lied and said it was a routine walk in the park. Of course, that wasn’t true, but picking it apart was what made good soldiers crack. Maybe Iris didn’t know that. “You know why we don’t have therapists waiting for soldiers when they complete their missions?” Sameen asked, even though they asked each and every time she completed one if she wanted to talk to someone.
“So you thought of yourself as a soldier last night?” Iris asked because –Damn! – the woman was good.
Shaw hated how Iris picked out a word and hung onto it. Now, she had to answer that question. “Doc, you don’t ever forget the training you get when you’re in the military or the CIA. Although, apparently my mother has because she was using a considerable amount of hugs this morning,” the patient segued.
“I’m sure she was worried,” Iris said in a rare slip of pure projection.
“Yeah,” Shaw agreed, seeing her point. “Anyway, it was a dangerous situation and these were some pretty bad people, Doc. The one who held Root hostage pulled a gun on her.”
“Oh dear,” Iris said, unable to imagine such a circumstance. “I want to speak to Root later. How do you think she is?”
“She’s okay, really. Root is always so in the moment that she just goes with things and last night – she really seemed to know what to do. She bitchslapped the woman who put her hands…,” Shaw was explaining when she gestured toward her own breasts. She saw the expression on Iris’ face. “Well, (cough), Root will probably tell you about that,” she said, putting her hands down.
“Okay,” Iris said, hoping Root would. “And your wounds?”
Shaw looked at Iris, slightly surprised she was being so direct. “This?” she asked, putting her arms out. “It’s nothing. Not even going to scar, if you can believe that.”
“You sound disappointed,” Iris noted and was very curious about that.
“Of course I am,” Shaw immediately responded and then stopped. A big grin came over her face as if she wanted Iris to know she was wise to her ways. “Okay, before you write that in my file,” Shaw confessed without the therapist saying anything, “…I complained about what I would tell our kids because you know, I wanted to be able to say – ‘Look, here’s the one I got helping to save your mother’,” Shaw blurted out and only then remembered there was no way for Iris to know she had said that.
Iris already knew there was a boat load of information in that sentence, and she knew Shaw was worried right now that she would say something about it. So, instead she noted; “They do tell a story.”
“Yeah,” Shaw said, thinking she had dodged a bullet. “Anyway, I should tell you… seeing how you’re the company shrink, that I discharged my weapon last night,” Sameen coughed and pursed her lips.
“Where?” Iris asked, and of course meant location.
“In his head,” Shaw answered and wasn’t being funny. Just the thought of that man aiming a gun at Root, brought back the fierce anger. Iris didn’t flinch; she waited for Sameen to say more. “This nut job, who hit Root, threatened her and aimed a gun at her. I took him out.”
“Sounds to me like you felt her life was in danger and acted accordingly,” Iris concluded.
“Yes,” Shaw said and drew a deep breath and sat back further on the couch.
“Did that experience…,” Iris said slowly, gently leading Sameen, “… make you feel anything?”
“Angry,” Shaw answered immediately, but she saw Iris was sitting patiently, waiting for more. “Where is that list?” Sameen tried to derail them.
“What else did you feel…,” Iris repeated and annoyed the hell out of Shaw. This is sort of what she was expecting.
“I WAS SCARED, OKAY?” Sameen yelled. “Are you happy?” she asked as if Iris had forced her to write in a fill- in- the blank. “I was scared that she would get hurt. He hit her and I was still tied up and I couldn’t get to him and I had to play it smart or he’d see how much I was freaking out about Root being hurt. But Root was good, she got it, and hit him and that allowed me to get free. I just wanted to get her out of there and then he got a gun and held it on her. I swear, Doc, something in that man’s voice told me… in my gut… that he was going to kill Root rather than fail in his mission. He aimed it at her and I shot him,” Shaw shared. She was animated now, moving around on the couch because of her admission.
“Sounds to me like you acted bravely in spite of feeling scared,” Iris pointed out.
“I had to protect her, Doc. I mean, she’s Root. She’s everything,” Shaw said, her voice softer and steadier now.
Iris smiled at hearing Shaw say that, but she knew they were on touchy ground now. “Tell me about the dream,” she said.
“Oh, Doc, can’t you just figure that one out by yourself?” Shaw asked, exhausted from the emotional experience so far. A raised eyebrow on the therapist told Shaw she couldn’t do that.
“I can suggest that your feeling of Root in danger might have helped produce the dream,” Iris threw Shaw a bone.
Sameen drew a deep breath, knowing this women could wear her down if she wanted to. “Okay, so the shark is probably because we actually passed by some in the waters off the coast of Mustique when we were supposed to be on vacation, but took a scuba diving side trip to check out some activity on the island,” Shaw began and Iris wrote down a couple of things just to keep up. “The water and the beach were where we were staying and I have no idea what the ring is,” Shaw reported and sat back after helping Iris with this as much as she could.
“Do you remember anything else?” Iris asked.
“Yes, the shark talked; but please don’t write that down,” Shaw pleaded and of course, Iris didn’t.
“What did he say?” she asked.
Shaw swallowed hard and looked away. This was not going the way she planned. It only confirmed her suspicion that under that pastel wardrobe was a very stubborn woman. “He said I wasn’t watching Root, but in fact I was. And then he said – ‘Oh, good, no rings; easier to digest’, the whole time he was trying to drag her into the water by her ankles.”
Shaw noticed Iris was writing all of that down and she suspected it would be placed in her permanent file that she worried would now fill a cabinet.
“What do you think he meant?” Iris asked when she was done writing.
“About not watching or about the jewelry?” Shaw asked and made the therapist appreciate how smart she was.
“Both,” Iris explained.
“Well, I don’t know what he meant about not watching her, because I literally was looking at Root in my dream,” Shaw explained.
“Could he have meant another time?” Iris proffered.
“I’m always watching Root,” Shaw said back quickly, and her tone clearly indicated she was insulted that anyone would suggest otherwise.
“So, maybe he didn’t actually mean watching her. What else could it mean?” Dr. Campbell asked.
“He was taking her, even though I was watching,” Shaw noted.
"He was taking her... away from you," Iris pointed out. “What do you think the ring comment meant?” she asked slowly.
“I don’t know,” Shaw said and wanted to say – this is why I wanted to leave the list with you – but didn’t. She sighed and shook her head. “I don’t know; marriage?”
“So, who would try to take Root from you if you’re not married?” Iris put together.
“NO ONE!” Shaw said, her anger at the thought easily accessible.
“Sameen,” Iris said calmly in response because she would see how agitated the woman was, “… is it possible some part of you is afraid of losing Root? You went through this terrible ordeal where her life was in danger. You were right there with her, but this man could have mortally wounded her. I would think any of us would fear our loved one’s parting after such an experience.”
Shaw’s worse nightmares always sounded calmer out of this woman’s mouth. “So, the shark was that guy?”
“I was wondering if the shark wasn’t some aspect of your personality,” Iris suggested gently.
Shaw’s head snapped up and she frowned at the therapist. “So, I’m dragging Root and I spit her back?”
“Actually, you saved her. You pulled on her and wouldn’t let go,” Iris pointed out.
“So, I’m the shark, I’m the beach, I’m the rings,” Shaw said, throwing her hands up, not liking this.
“Sameen, the beach at the shoreline is a place of transition. It could be about your transitioning from your former self, represented by the fierceness of the shark, to a woman who is thinking about her commitments. Hence, the rings comment,” Iris said softly.
Shaw’s head pounded with this information, mostly because she was trying like hell not to take it in. But it was already there, having produced the dream. “He said… uhm… that Root was… uhm… pregnant.” Shaw cleared her throat that constricted with that statement.
“What does that mean to you?” Iris asked in such a warm tone, that Sameen was actually thinking of the answer.
“It’s a future thing. I… think… I mean, I know, I want to be with Root. I never really thought or cared about my future, you know? I mean, I was on some missions where I didn’t know if I’d make it back and honestly, I didn’t care. I went from assignment to assignment; the more dangerous, the better. But now, I want to wake up with Root and I want to kiss her goodnight and I want to fill all those hours in between with making her happy,” Shaw said sincerely.
Iris didn’t write a word; she didn’t move; she just sat there smiling at Shaw.
“Sounds sappy, right?” Shaw said, trying to dismiss her true feelings.
But she was with the one person besides Root who wouldn’t let her do that.
“Not at all,” Iris said, putting the pad and pen down on the table next to her. “Sameen, I know what you did last night took incredibly courage. But what you’re doing here requires bravery, too. To look at ourselves as emotional beings is not something that we’re comfortable with. We prefer to use our brains, to figure things out, like you wanted to do with your list. But we’re more complicated than that. We’re emotions and feelings and that never takes away from how intelligent or brave we are. In fact, it makes us more so,” Iris shared.
Shaw wasn’t sure she got all of that, but she liked the sound of it. She liked that there was someone she trusted who would try to convince her not to be afraid of her feelings. She could however, see what Iris meant about the symbolism of the shark, the beach, and water. “I think I see my future with Root. I can see her with kids and I want to be a part of that,” Shaw said.
“I think that dream is telling you; you’re feeling ready to act on that,” Iris affirmed.
“Yeah,” Shaw said, and couldn’t explain this warm feeling that radiated from her heart. “I think so, too.”
There was nothing about what just happened that should have made Shaw feel so comfortable, but she did. It always amazed her how torturous she could think a session was, and yet, she walked out feeling better.
“This… was good,” Shaw announced as she stood up. She always liked to give Iris feedback.
“I’ll see you next week, then,” Iris said, smiling pleasantly.
“What?” Shaw asked, because she felt they solved the dream mystery.
“You discharged your weapon,” Iris reminded her and only did so to give Shaw the comfort of being required to come back … if she wanted to.
“Oh, yeah, right,” Shaw acquiesced because she was going to need to talk to Iris about this more.
She thanked Iris and walked out, smiling at Stella who continued to find the woman’s manners appalling. Still, she had to admit, Dr. Campbell did seem very fond of the patient.
Shaw smiled all the way back to her desk, where she texted Root and asked her if she wanted to have lunch.
‘Your mother is still here; should I invite her?’ Root texted back.
‘Yes, but tell her no more hugging,’ Shaw answered.
‘How about if I do all the hugging?’ Root asked.
‘Okay, but…,’ and Shaw was going to stipulate not in public. But she changed her mind.
‘Yeah, that would be great.’
Chapter 7: The Butterfly Effect
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Root told Azar that she was meeting her daughter for lunch and invited her to come along. Azar politely declined. “Thank you, Samantha. I appreciate the chance to come up here today and see that both of you are okay. But, I think Sameen would prefer to have lunch alone with you. It has been my experience that after an event like last night, it is good to reconnect with loved ones and enjoy the moments together.”
Root looked at the woman who spoke those words with a smile, but whose tone was laced with sadness. If there had been any missions like this in her life, she didn’t always return to her loved ones. In fact, until recently, she couldn’t. Root asked her again, but she smiled and shook her head. “I cannot tell you what joy I feel when I see Sameen with you, Samantha,” Azar shared before she left. “I truly believe that you have managed to heal some of her deepest wounds; some that I caused myself.”
Root’s heart ached for this woman who lived with such regret. “I think it’s time that you forgive yourself, Azar. I believe Sameen has,” Root shared.
“Thank you,” the dark haired woman said, touching Root’s hand affectionately. “Please tell Sameen we’ll do dinner soon.”
As much as Root looked forward to having lunch with Shaw, she felt a tinge of regret when Azar left. She didn’t only admire the woman’s technical brilliance; she was beginning to see where Sameen got her inner strength from.
“Hey,” Shaw said as she approached the staff dining room where Root was waiting. “Where’s my mother?”
“She said she had some things to do, but thanked us for inviting her,” Root said, and stood there staring at the face she missed. “Did you have a good morning?”
“Yeah,” Shaw said, walking into the inner space. “I learned I’m a shark.”
She ordered… or more like wrestled the Parks Deli owner… for her sandwich and then joined Root at a table. “I don’t know how you eat salad every day,” Shaw said, the smallest piece of pastrami hanging from her mouth.
“I pretend it’s you,” Root smiled, her eyes bursting with laughter at her own joke. “How are your wounds?” getting more serious.
“Fine,” Shaw rolled her eyes.
“We have to put that medicine on tonight so they don’t get infected,” Root reminded her.
“Yeah,” Shaw said, taking a bite out of the sandwich that seemed bigger than her mouth.
“Is it because of the way you eat?” Root asked, going back to Shaw’s comment.
“What?” Shaw asked.
“That you think you’re a shark,” Root explained because the eating behaviors seemed a little similar.
“No!” said the woman who was defensive about her eating habits. “Why would you ask that?” she wondered as she ripped the next bite off her sandwich.
“Oh, I thought… never mind,” Root smiled.
“Dr. Campbell said I was the shark,” Shaw explained.
“Why?” Root asked, because she was getting the tail end of this story.
“I had a dream. A shark was trying to eat you,” Shaw explained.
“Oh, I see it entirely now,” Root smiled at the idea.
“No,” Sameen said, rolling her eyes. “Is everything sex with you?”
“You said there was a shark eating me and you were the shark, so naturally I thought…,” Root tried to explain.
“Stay with me here,” Shaw implored. “The shark was who I used to be. You know, Axis II Personality and all.”
“I never truly believed that diagnosis,” Root shared.
Sameen just stared at her, thinking that getting her lover to stay on track was like turning a moving ship in deep waters. A really big ship. “O…kay, the point is that I’m thinking about our future… together.”
Root liked the sound of that. “You are?” she asked, clasping her hands together; her heart fluttering with excitement.
“Yeah, because I want to be with you and all and we should decide what that looks like,” Shaw thought out. “And I can’t be naked when we do!”
“Wait, you can’t be naked when we talk about our future, or you can’t be naked IN our future,” Root teased.
“Root!” she warned because the woman had the uncanny knack of confusing her.
“Okay, okay. Well, I like the sound of this very much, Sameen Shaw,” Root cooed and reached over to push a loose strand of hair behind Shaw’s ear.
“We should decide about my apartment downtown, too,” Shaw said.
“Well, that’s your decision, but I hope you feel you won’t need it,” Root suggested, tucking another strand away from her mouth.
“Most people wouldn’t get that close to her when she’s eating,” Fusco said, interrupting their lunch and sitting down with Reese.
“She’s my shark,” Root overshared because she was stuck on the image.
“Ladies,” Reese said; his way of apologizing for barging in.
“No, please, sit down and disturb my lunch,” Shaw said on her next bite.
“Trust me, we wouldn’t be here unless it was really important,” Fusco said and Reese nodded. “That girl from last night just got released.”
“How does a would-be terrorist get out?” Shaw barked.
“A high priced lawyer,” Fusco answered, and took a small piece of the pastrami that fell onto Shaw’s wrapper and ate it.
Lions that have their food taken away look less fierce than Shaw did.
“Sorry, I’m hungry,” Fusco explained.
“They run out of donuts at the store?” Shaw asked.
“The point is that Claire Mahoney is back in her apartment and probably will be reporting back to whoever this Greer guy is. We’re not going to let that happen,” Reese explained.
“Yeah, me and Captain America are going to talk to her,” Fusco explained.
“I should go,” Shaw said, getting ready to leave.
“No, I think you and Root need to be here in case we need you,” Reese explained. “If she’s contacting anyone, we’ll need to know that.”
“Some shark,” Shaw huffed at not being invited.
Fusco looked at her, already giving that statement thought. “You’re more of a butterfly, Shaw.”
“WHAT?” Sameen inquired; her hands on either side of the table now.
“You’re more like a butterfly,” Fusco repeated and triggered one of her worst pet peeves of people repeating what they just said.
“Take-that-back,” Shaw warned him.
“No, it’s a good thing. When you started here, you were… different,” Fusco tried to elaborate and Reese just stared at him because he could see the disaster this was going to be.
“We should go,” Reese said, trying to save his police buddy.
“You know, all rough and stuff. And now… it’s like you went into a cocoon here,” Fusco kept going.
“Root! Make him stop,” Shaw said, even though she was staring straight ahead.
“Lionel, I don’t think Sameen appreciates the analogy,” Root pointed out.
“It’s metamorphosis, Shaw,” Fusco said and now she felt he was only adding insult to injury.
“I’m going to metamorphosis your ass if you don’t stop talking,” Shaw barked.
‘Don’t say it; don’t say it.’ Reese repeated in his head, praying Lionel would not remind Shaw.
“Speaking of that,” Lionel said, jumping from the frying pan into the fire. “How’s your….,” he asked, looking down. Fusco truly meant it out of his concern and wasn’t even trying to give Shaw a hard time.
But Shaw wasn’t in the mood for Fusco’s pearls of wisdom.
“Listen, Fusco, I have things on my mind. Big things and I don’t have time for your insights right now,” Shaw said.
“Geesh, okay,” the detective said, his feelings slightly singed by Shaw’s reception.
“We’ll call you when we get to Claire’s apartment,” John said, getting up and hoping to end this train wreck.
Root smiled her goodbye, but Shaw just stared hard at her friends. “A butterfly? Really?” she asked Root, her disgust palpable.
“We all change is what he meant, I think,” Root said, trying to find the silver lining.
“Change my ass,” Shaw said and that reminded her of what she was still carrying. “How do we get this thing out of me?”
Root tilted her head to the side, and scrunched up her face. That was not good. “We’re going to have to work on that,” Root said, not wanting to get Reese in trouble for literally jumping the gun.
“I am going to shoot both of them,” Shaw said to her lover.
“There you are!” Janine said as she pushed her phone into her pocket.
Something about that movement made Shaw suspicious. “How did you know…?” she was asking.
“Your portable radar device. It shows up here,” the assistant said and showed the pulsating dot on her screen to indicate exactly where Shaw was.
“Root!” Shaw said.
“Let’s go work on that now,” Root said, getting up and taking Shaw by the hand.
“Maybe it will just come out when I sprout wings!” Shaw bellowed.
Several blocks away, a very hyper and anxious Claire Mahoney was trying to reach the man she had only spoken to once. “I need to speak to Greer,” she pleaded with the man who answered the phone. “What do you mean, he’s unavailable? Tell him I have to speak to him!”
The man told her to wait by her phone and not to leave her apartment.
“Tie up those loose ends,” the elderly man in charge told his subordinate. “I really have to be more choosy in who I pick next time,” he lamented.
Claire did as she was told; she sat in the chair and waited for someone to call her back.
It was exactly where Fusco and Reese found her – dead.
Chapter 8: Probing Questions
Root was facing a never ending challenge in her relationship with Sameen. She had to concentrate very hard to appear serious as her girlfriend ranted about being called a butterfly. Root simply found Sameen irresistible when she was grouchy about things like this. Actually, she found her entire grouchy demeanor appealing.
“Can you believe him?” Shaw questioned and waited for Root to answer.
“I think he meant it as a compliment,” Root tried because she really did think Fusco was giving thought to the changes he saw in his best friend.
That statement made Shaw stop in her tracks because obviously her kind hearted girlfriend, who saw the best in everyone, was insane. “Picture this, Root, please,” Shaw said, grabbing Root’s arm and looking up at the ceiling. “You’re in a jungle, surrounded by man eating tigers and poisonous snakes. Do you want a girlfriend who’s a shark or a freaking butterfly to protect you?”
“Actually, leopards are considered more man-eating than…oh, never mind,” Root said when she saw the frustration mounting in those dark eyes. She knew the better answer; the one that Shaw was all but leading her to. “A shark,” Root affirmed.
“See?” Shaw said; glad to have the smartest person in the building on her side. “Butterfly,” she shook her head.
“Come here, you,” Root said, pulling Shaw in for a long soothing kiss. It was so easy to lock onto those lips when Shaw was pouting.
“Oh,” Shaw said, her temper dissipating with the wet kiss that left her lips tingling. “I… can… see what…uhm….”
“He meant?” Root filled in the blank for her.
“Yeah,” Shaw said, rolling her tongue over her lips. “Maybe.”
“Good,” Root said and took Shaw by the hand so she’d remember what they were doing.
Root took Shaw upstairs to her office to break the news to her.
“So, Sweetie…,” Root began as they sat on the couch.
“Are these fresh?” Shaw said of the chocolate chip cookies that Jill put out seconds before they arrived. The text from Root was explicit – freshly baked cookies were to be on a plate waiting for them.
“Yes, they are,” Root said, pushing the plate closer. It was a little something she learned from Genrika. “So, Sweetie, that prototype that I made of the tracking device was technically supposed to be used in the arm,” Root said and put her finger on a part of Shaw’s arm that wasn’t covered in a bandage.
“Yeah, Reese thought they’d see it,” Shaw said between bites.
“Yes, and he was right because it does leave an entry mark,” Root said smiling a little bit too much.
“I feel like you’re trying to sell me something,” Shaw said, but the smell of freshly baked cookies was taking the edge off her being impatient.
“No, no, it’s just that we were successful in… inserting and removing the device… when it was in someone’s…. uhm…. arm,” Root explained hesitatingly.
Sameen got it immediately. “Are you telling me that Reese shot me in a place that was not meant for this device?”
“Well, he meant well…,” Root tried.
“Root!” Shaw yelled, not appreciating Root defending the man.
“I’m sure we can figure something out,” said the genius and it would have been better if she sounded more confident.
“So, in the meantime, I have to walk around letting my ass beep so my adoring administrative assistant can find me?” Shaw bellowed.
There was an urgent knock on the door and Martine walked in. “Shaw,” she called out.
“What? How did you know I was here?” Shaw asked suspiciously.
“I…,” Martine started to explain.
“Do you have that app that shows where the hell my ass is?” Shaw barked.
“App? For what? “ Martine asked. She discretely shoved her phone in her back pocket.
“I think Ms. Rousseau was told you were in here,” Root hoped and prayed.
“Oh,” Shaw said and only then allowed Martine to update them about what Reese and Fusco discovered when they went to Claire’s apartment.
“Shot?” Root asked and immediately tried to access phone records.
“Whoever is in charge is cleaning up,” Shaw theorized correctly. “But why?”
“Loose ends?” Root asked.
“Maybe she was a weak link and he didn’t want her talking to anyone. Got a lawyer to get her out just so he could kill her,” Martine summarized.
“Let’s see…,” Root said, asking Reese to provide Claire’s cell number. A quick search of the records indicated the deceased woman made a phone call when she arrived home. “Burner cell,” she said.
“Whoever this is, Root, they’re not afraid to leave a stream of dead bodies in their wake,” Shaw pointed out.
“Who could this Greer guy be?” Martine asked.
“He sends out scouts for hackers; then he kills the scouts,” Shaw talked through. “He’s got military training, I feel.”
“Great, we got military people looking for a giant computer?” Martine asked. “That’s not good.”
“Well, for now, there’s been no activity and your mother and I successfully scrubbed any trace of their hold on the machine,” Root said.
“What do you think they have?” Martine asked.
“They said they wanted to rebuild the machine. Azar thinks they heard about it oversees and have been looking for it ever since,” Root shared.
“Why aren’t they looking at my mother?” Shaw asked, and was out of her seat.
“I think they thought she was a gatekeeper that sold it to the highest bidder. Your mother is quite wealthy,” Root said. “And the fact that she is Iranian has made every suspect she sold it in the Middle East.”
“Reese said he’s on his way back and will update us as soon as he gets here,” Martine said and left.
Shaw may have been temporarily distracted by cookies and updates, but as soon as she sat down, she remembered what they were talking about. “Isn’t this thing going to run out of juice?” Shaw asked, looking back over her hip. One look at Root’s face told her that wasn’t about to happen any time soon. “Oh, come on. I’m going to be like the Energizer Bunny here?” Shaw asked, grabbing another cookie to sooth her aggravated nerves.
“Maybe you could do me,” Root suggested.
“Now? Right here? Reese is on his way …,” Shaw felt it necessary to explain.
“Sameen!” Root said in a sing song voice that would eventually just sound like ‘I gotcha’. “Is sex all you ever think about?” Root’s eyes burst with laughter as she tried to appear shocked at Sameen.
“You said…,” Shaw tried to say with a mouth full of chocolate chip cookies.
“I meant shoot me with the device,” Root smiled because there was the lightest shade of red in Shaw’s cheeks.
“I thought you meant,” Shaw thought she should explain as if her wild eyed girlfriend didn’t know exactly what track her train of thought just pulled into.
Root leaned over and kissed the chocolate laces lips. “You are adorable,” she couldn’t help but say.
“Great! First, I’m a butterfly….,” Shaw was balking and Root knew exactly where she was going with that, so she kissed her again. When she released Shaw, she slowly licked her own lips to taste of chocolate. Both actions mesmerized Shaw. “I… can… do adorable,” she conceded.
“Oh, yes, I know,” Root cooed back, soothing her girlfriend’s ruffled feathers.
The couple decided to meet up again when Reese returned. In the meantime, Root was scowering government sub-files for anything on Greer.
When Reese returned and shared what little they knew, Shaw was even more convinced this guy was military. “Your instincts were right,” Root said, turning her laptop to face her coworkers. “Former MI6,” Root said.
“That’s Greer?” Shaw asked. “He’s like a hundred years old. Fusco is half his age and can’t figure out his IPhone. How is this guy dealing with high tech?”
“The brains doesn’t always have to know how to do it; just what to do,” Root said, which was ironic coming from her.
Just then, a very astonished Janine appeared in the doorway. She opened her mouth, but nothing came out as her mouth got very dry. “Ms. Groves… it’s the office of the President on the phone for you.”
Shaw and Reese looked at each other, but Root was very nonchalant in taking the call in the conference room.
“Mr. President?” Root said and was cordial in her responses. “I’ll see what I can do,” she said before hanging up. She went back to her computer as she thought about the phone call. Reese, Martine and Shaw exchanged looks as they waited.
“So, what did the President want?” Shaw finally had to ask.
“What?” Root asked, her mind on something else.
“The President? He just called you?” Shaw said slowly.
“Oh, yes,” Root said, smiling. “Something about a global virus he wants me to take a look at. The hackers are holding companies hostage.”
“So, you’re going to… ,” Shaw said, hoping this was a fill in the blank conversation.
In those few seconds that it took Shaw to ask her questions, Root had come up with a plan. “We’re going to find the source of that virus,” Root said.
“And…?” Shaw said, feeling that pulling teeth would take less effort.
“Then, we’re going to give it to Mr. Greer,” Root said, deciding to kill two-birds with one stone.
“Wouldn’t they already be taking precautions?” Martine asked.
“Yes, as is everyone. But BEAR is about to put out an anti-virus for free. And they’d be crazy not to use it,” explained Root.
Martine and Reese were impressed with Root’s plan, and so was Shaw. But she was caught up in how angelic Root could look while masterminding a diabolic plan to bring down their enemies.
Root went off with her team to work on the antivirus software for the latest threat that was affecting hospitals in England and companies all over the world. She called Azar to keep her abreast and to ask her to take over watching the machine. Then, she set out to create the antidote.
Shaw, in the meantime, decided to test her theory. She went to the farthest place in the building she could find and waited. She made sure no one saw her as she went into a rarely used storage room. Within minutes, her theory tested positive.
“Shaw?”Martine called from the doorway. “Why would she be in here?” she heard her coworker ask.
“I don’t know,” she heard Janine answer.
“I’m going to kill him,” Shaw said as she appeared from behind a stack of boxes to face her friends looking at their phones.
“Oh, hey, Shaw,” Martine greeted her and it was obvious that she was worried. The two women fumbled to put their phones away.
“You,” Shaw said to Martine,” …Go get your girlfriend.” Then, she turned to Janine. “You, get the things I’m going to text you. We’re ending this today.” With that, Sameen walked out and ahead of her coworkers.
‘What is she going to do?” Janine asked.
“My guess? She’s going to have Ayala remove that tracker.”
Chapter 9: A Stitch in Time
“She wants me to come there?” Ayala asked when Martine told her what Shaw said.
“She was a little light on details,” Martine explained. “Listen, did you have any medical training?”
“Are you asking me if I can doctor you needs?” asked the younger woman. “Because I’m pretty sure I proved that ….”
“Okay, no!” Martine said, still not used to her girlfriend’s spontaneity and lack of filter. “Just come here and … yeah.”
“Well, that was smooth. She won’t suspect a thing,” Janine said dryly.
“I don’t even know what she wants her to do yet,” Martine said, defensively because she didn’t like her loyalties tested. It wasn’t that she didn’t know where they lay; she just didn’t want to deal with an upset girlfriend.
“Well, based on the items she asked me to get, I’d say you were right and we’re going to operate,” Janine said and emphasized the collective pronoun.
“We? Are you kidding me?” the tall blonde woman exclaimed. “You passed out when they described Shaw’s wounds. Now, you want to be the OR nurse, handing Ayala the instruments?”
“Shaw needs me,” Janine offered as the reason she wouldn’t faint.
An hour later, Ayala sat with her sister and girlfriend and Janine. “You want me to what?” she asked, waiting to see which one of them would tell her it was a joke.
“Reese shot me with a tracking device and if you dial 1-800-Shaw, I’m pretty sure my ass shows up on your phone,” Shaw yelled.
“Okay, first, that makes no sense. And two, if Root invented it, wouldn’t’ she know how to get it out?” Ayala asked.
“It was meant to go in an arm,” Shaw said, her teeth clenched.
“Reese? Shot you? There?” Ayala laughed and then coughed to cover it up. Her sister’s dead stare was like a tractor beam.
Martine decided she needed to interpret for the two siblings. “So, Shaw thought maybe you’ve had some medical training in the army.”
“Well, sure, I had some for battle wounds,” Ayala said, realizing everyone was serious.
“Oh, there’s going to be a battle as soon as I find Reese,” Shaw huffed.
Martine attributed some of her girlfriend’s impulsiveness to her youth, but there were times when she thought the girl threw caution to the wind a little too quickly.
“Okay, let’s do this,” Ayala pushed back her chair and stood up.
“Let’s do this?” Martine said worried. “Do you have any idea how to retrieve it?”
“She said it’s in her…,” Ayala said.
“Yes, I know, but how deep is it?” Martine asked. “How are you going to find it?”
“Janine?” Shaw said and the woman produced the items that were on her list.
“You’re going to use a hand held metal detector?” Martine asked wide-eyed.
“You have a scalpel and a stitching kit?” Ayala asked like they were to do something sane.
“And alcohol wipes,” Janine announced because even though that wasn’t on the list, she thought of it herself.
“Any lidocaine?” Ayala asked about the local anesthetic.
“We don’t need that,” Shaw barked and not one person in the room with her believed that.
“Shaw! This isn’t a splinter she’s taking out!” Martine pointed out.
“I couldn’t get that,” Janine reported. She had run some scenarios through her head of where she might be able to steal some, but she didn’t have the time.
When Sameen dismissed her concern and tried to hurry things along, Martine put her foot down. “Wait here,” the woman said in a definite tone that even her girlfriend had not heard her use.
“You two are perfectly matched,” Shaw sneered of their common bossiness.
Martine was conflicted about this, but if Shaw was going to insist, she was at least going to do something to dull the inevitable pain. “Who the hell gets operated on without drugs?” she murmured to herself.
“Rousseau?” Reese said when he heard her talking to herself. “You okay?” he asked when he noticed what she had in her hand.
“Me? Oh yeah. You, I’m not sure about, but me, yep, never better,” Martine stammered. She watched his blue eyes go from her to the item in her hand. “Oh, this? Ja… Janine. She’s… pregnant. Yeah, well, she might be and we’re toasting her.”
It wasn’t just pathetic; it was the worst confabulation the woman ever came up with.
“She’s not drinking if she’s pregnant, right?” Reese said in his gravely authoritative voice.
“What? No! Geez, Reese, be serious,” Martine said, small beads of perspiration appearing on her forehead.
“Okay, we’re all meeting up later with Root,” he reminded his top security person who promptly dismissed him.
Reese stared as Martine rushed back down the hallway. She burst through the door of the conference room like someone was chasing her. Out of breath, she leaned on the closed door and said; “If you’re going to do this, please have a shot of this before. Maybe it will dull the pain.”
“You want her to drink?” Janine asked, not sure this was medically approved… anywhere. She tried to google it, but Shaw had already agreed and Martine poured some in a glass.
“You’re not the kind who sings when she’s drinking, are you? Because I don’t want you moving around,” Ayala pointed out.
“Listen you,” Shaw said, and Martine gently tipped the bottom of the glass for Shaw to drink up.
“This is nice, siblings helping one another,” Janine pointed out as she spread out the white sheet on the table. Then, she set out to cut a hole in another sheet so that only the right area of Shaw’s derriere would be exposed. “I couldn’t find any videos on YouTube on this, so I really hope you know what you’re doing,” the worried assistant implored Ayala.
“First in my class in shrapnel removal,” Ayala smiled. “Although most of it was not in the gluteus maximus.”
“You know, I should just do this myself,” Shaw balked and was beginning to believe she could. “Just give me a mirror,” she said and Martine could tell she needed a little more whiskey.
“Here you go, Shaw. No driving or doing surgery when you're drinking. I'm sure they taught you that in med school,” Martine said and handed her another glass.
“Do you have any idea how much of that I have to drink to get drunk?” Shaw asked, proud of her alcohol tolerance.
“Yeah, so drink up,” Martine said as Ayala looked at the scalpel like it was the first time she saw one. “Oh, God,” Martine said, and took a mouthful right from the bottle.
“Now, I’m going to need someone to use the gauze on the blood,” Ayala said and Martine could see the blood drain from Janine’s face.
“Yeah, that’s me,” Martine said and poured more into Shaw’s glass.
“LET’S DO THIS!” Shaw laughed out loud and Martine looked at her.
“We’re good to go,” Martine said, trying to take the glass out of Shaw’s hand, but she pulled on it until she drained it.
“Daz good stuffs,” she slurred her words.
“Only the best for you, Shaw,” Martine said.
“You know, I couldn’t stand you when I first met you,” Shaw said to the ceiling as they led her over to the table.
“Who?” Martine asked.
“All of you. I mean, at least Janine gave me her clothes, but you two were just annoying as hell,” Shaw shared.
One look at the assistant told Martine that she had to get Shaw back on track. “But you really like us now, right?” she directed.
Shaw looked at each one of her friends. “I do,” she said sincerely. “I really do.” Martine could tell that Janine was relieved and could now concentrate.
“Great,” Ayala said and was about to begin when Janine told her she had to go wash up. Ayala agreed and walked out of the room. She returned in minutes, holding her hands up like OR doctors do. Janine opened to door. She presented the woman with a sterilized gown and gloves.
“Where did you shop? Doctors are Us?” Ayala asked because the woman thought of everything. Including masks that she insisted they all wear.
“What will I do?” Janine asked.
“Probably pass out,” Martine whispered to herself. “You sit her and keep Shaw occupied. You have a very important job.”
“I do?” Janine asked enthusiastically.
“Yes, you’re going to remind her that this was her idea, ok?” Martine instructed as she and Ayala went over what they would do.
“Sameen?” Ayala said to her sister. “You need to take your pants off.”
“Sure,” Shaw said, and did so, exposing a pair of lacy black boyshort panties. “I can dead lift…,” Shaw was going to share, but couldn’t remember. “A lot.”
“I bet,” her sibling said. “Now, lets’ see where that tracker is, shall we?” she asked, as Sameen crawled up on the table.
“Tell the truth,” Shaw said on her hands and knees on the table. “You had an app that showed where the hell I was, right?”
“Yes,” Janine immediately confirmed.
“I knew it,” Shaw said and fell over on the table.
“Okay there,” Ayala said, and helped her sister stretch out and lay, face down on the table. Then, she got her ready as Shaw turned her face toward Janine and closed her eyes.
“Is it going to hurt?” Janine whispered to Martine and she meant, how much, because she wanted to be prepared.
“Like hell,” Shaw murmured because she wasn’t so drunk that she didn’t know that. “You know what?” Shaw said and got up from her horizontal position without warning.
“Oh, God, Shaw!” Martine yelled. “She could have been cutting you.”
“Yeah, but this is important,” the very inebriated Shaw explained. “If anything happens,” she said pulling Martine into her with a great amount of strength. “Give Root a message…,” Sameen said, but couldn’t put everything she felt into words.
“I think she knows, Shaw,” Martine assured her. “But nothing is going to happen.”
“I got this,” Ayala assured everyone. She really did have experience in this and was commended for her steady hand in medical procedures that were carried out when no medic was available. “Keep her occupied.”
Janine took Shaw’s hand as she appeared to fall asleep, but it was just that her eyes were too heavy to keep open.
“Hold her,” Ayala whispered to the woman who was close to Sameen in strength. Martine put her arm on Shaw’s waist so she wouldn’t move.
Ayala found the location of the tracker and pressed down on Shaw’s flesh and could feel it. “Not too deep,” she said and drew a deep breath.
As soon as the blade cut through the skin, Shaw grabbed Janine’s hand tightly. The assistant stroked Shaw’s head, assuring her it would be all right. Martine dabbed the blood while the would-be surgeon stuck the long thin tweezers in to retrieve the tracker. The incision looked much bigger than the damn transmitter that finally was plucked out. Minutes later, Ayala carefully stitched the wound and placed a sterilized bandage on it.
“All done,” Ayala announced and took a long drink from the bottle because she was far more nervous than she had let on.
“It’s all over,” Janine said soothingly to Shaw.
“Good, because she has the touch of a jack hammer,” Shaw complained. With that, the patient attempted to get up.
“Whoa,” Martine said, trying to hold Shaw in place. “How about resting for a few minutes post-op.”
“Does it hurt?” Janine asked and Shaw nodded. “Here,” the assistant said, and held Shaw’s head up while she gave her another sip of whiskey. “For the pain,” she tried to convince herself.
Sameen finally insisted she needed to get up and did so with the help of her operating room staff. “I need my pants,” she said, even though when Martine let go of her, she wobbled and almost fell over.
“I’ll give them to you, but you have to promise me that you’re rest here for a little while,” Martine bargained.
“Sure, sure,” Sameen said, and winked at Janine. Martine put Shaw’s feet through the legs and gently pulled them up. “You’re a really good friend, Martine,” Shaw said, patting the blonde woman’s head. “I would trust you with my life.”
Martine looked up at her friend and smiled; the heartfelt compliment was making her speechless.
Inebriated Shaw wasn’t done. “Thank you,” she said to Ayala. “I knew you could do it. Well, no, I didn’t know, but I figured if you screwed up, I’d just tell Mommy on you.” Then Shaw laughed at her own joke and fell over, but Janine caught her. “This woman is the best assistant I could ever have,” Shaw yelled in case the people standing right near her couldn’t hear. “She makes me smile every day. She’s so sweet,” Shaw all but squealed and automatically, Janine’s devotion subscription was renewed for another hundred years.
“Oh, Shaw,” Janine said, thinking there was no one like this woman in the world.
And Shaw should have left it at that. She had given her heartfelt thanks to each of her friends.
But Shaw was on a roll.
“I need water,” she said and insisted on walking to her office.
“No, you stay here. I’ll get it,” Martine said, “…but you have to be quiet.”
“Since when did you get so bossy?” Shaw slurred her words to ask.
“Since around your third glass of whiskey,” Martine admitted.
“I rather like it,” Ayala blurted out because she didn’t often see her girlfriend like this.
“You two were made for each other,” Shaw shared. “I used to think you and Janine,” she said to Martine, “…but we have to find the right person for her. No offense,” she said to Martine.
“None taken,” Martine said, reminding Shaw to keep her voice down as she gave her the water.
“We need someone… someone…,” Shaw said out loud, trying to decide what Janine’s type was. Now, Janine was thrilled just to be the topic of Shaw’s deep thoughts. Sameen looked at the woman, and it finally dawned on her what type of person Janine liked. “Someone… like me.”
Shaw didn’t say it in a conceited way, she was just being honest. But hearing that Shaw wanted to find someone like herself was too much for Janine to deal with, and the woman – already lightheaded from the procedure, fainted.
Ayala and Martine let go of Shaw and ran to get Janine.
Which meant Shaw was free to roam about.
Root’s team had worked very hard on the antivirus software. She asked Azar if she would use a hardcopy of it on the machine and Azar said she would stop by on her way and pick it up.
The two women were standing outside the IT room when Sameen saw them.
“ROOT!” she called out and started to walk towards her.
“Is she okay?” Azar asked, because her daughter was swaying as she walked.
“MOMMY!” Shaw called out when she saw her mother there.
Inside the conference room that just doubled as the OR, the two women were getting water for Janine when they heard Shaw outside.
“Did she just say – ‘Root’?” Martine asked in horror.
“Did she just say ‘Mommy’? Ayala asked anxiously.
“I am so fired,” Martine decided.
“I am so grounded,” Ayala concluded.
“Sweetie?” Root asked, and held onto to Shaw who looked up adoringly into Root’s eyes.
“Mommy?” Shaw said, not altering her gaze.
Azar looked at Root and then at Shaw. “Yes, dear?” she said.
“I love this woman,” Shaw declared, staring lovingly into Root’s eyes.
“Yes, Sameen, I know,” Azar assured her daughter.
“Are you okay?” Root asked and could smell the liquor on Shaw’s breath.
“Yes, look!” Shaw declared and pulled her pants down to show Root. “It’s gone!”
A fellow security member was walking by when Shaw displayed her bandage. He walked straight into the wall and bounced off, falling backwards.
“Let me take you in here,” Root said, wondering what had happened since she last saw her girlfriend. Azar helped the stunned young man to his feet as Root took Shaw in the conference room, where the three cohorts had been hiding.
As soon as Root walked in and Azar behind her, Ayala was the first to crack. “She made me do it,” she blurted out.
“Oh, this can’t be good,” Azar said.
“Made you do what?” Root asked and the three women stood at attention now.
“She made me remove the tracker,” Ayala said and Martine was calculating how many boxes she would need to pack up her desk.
“Do you have medical training?” Root asked slowly.
“Some,” Ayala admitted.
“Some?” Root, Martine and Janine all asked in unison.
“I got it out!” Ayala assured them.
“Oh, sweetie,” Root said, believing that Shaw could orchestrate her own operation and make these three women participate. “Did it hurt?”
“A little,” Shaw admitted.
“And the whiskey?” Root asked, wondering whose brilliant idea that was.
Janine wasn’t about to let her friend get into trouble. She pushed in front of Martine and yelled; “That was my idea. Mine, alone. I got the bottle. You can check it for fingerprints. I gave it to Shaw,” she said dramatically, touching the bottle to smear any fingerprints on the bottle.
No one believed her.
“I did it,” Martine said, grateful for her friend’s attempt to take the bullet.
“Well, it was a good idea in theory,” Root acknowledged. “But it’s going to have its own consequence I fear.”
“You… operated… on her?” Azar finally realized what had happened.
“I made them. See?” Shaw said, forgetting she had shown her mother. “Look.”
“We saw, Sweetie,” Root said soothingly as she stopped her. “I think we better get her home.”
Root could see that Azar was torn now between going with them and taking care of the machine. “Come with us,” she said. “I’ll get Reese to do this.”
Root and Azar helped Sameen onto the elevator and took her back to the Penthouse to recuperate. The only thing that took Sameen’s mind off the pain was the Root whispered in her ear that she would kiss it and make it better. It all but reduced Shaw into giggles.
Reese took the hard copy of the antivirus program and successfully downloaded to the machine in its private residence.
Greer’s team was behind Root and the BEAR team in developing something to counter the global virus.
But they were about to come across something that would help.
Chapter 10: Getting to Know You
Bear was not a happy camper. It seemed his two favorite pets had been going off on their own a lot lately. And apparently, sometimes it was dangerous. When Shaw came back covered in bandages, Root explained that they had a run in with some very bad people. Bear countered that he could have helped, and Root agreed. She explained that Shaw had taken it on her own to rescue her. He thought back to how upset Shaw had been that night alone with him.
He barked his theory that there should be a consequence for going rogue - and it sounded as if Root took his advice, because there was a great deal of yelling coming from the bedroom after that.
He had done a good job of ignoring Shaw as punishment for not taking him along. When she called to him, he turned his head up and walked away. He wasn’t sure what she meant by calling him a ‘divo’, but he didn’t think it was a good thing. When he heard them come in the door after work, he decided Shaw had had enough and he was going to be friendly.
Nothing prepared him for how friendly Shaw was.
“BEAR!” Sameen yelled in her still inebriated state. “Where’s my Bear?” she cooed and fell on her knees, pulling away from Root’s arm. Bear ran to them and stopped short, looking up at Root. She had warned him to be careful because of Sameen’s injuries.
“LOOKATTHATFACE!” Shaw was saying in that high-pitched tone that makes dogs twist their heads back and forth. “He was mad at me,” Sameen told her mother who was encouraging her to get up. “Are you mad at me?” Shaw asked and Bear decided enough was enough and ran to his adoring pet.
“Sameen!” both Root and Azar said as Shaw proceeded to wrestle the dog to the ground.
“She needs to eat. I’ll make her some soup,” Azar said and walked into the kitchen.
Bear let Shaw play rough with him until Root gently pulled Shaw to get up and come to the couch. Root put pillows where Sameen was about to rest any injured part of her body.
“Where’s my mother?” she asked.
“She’s in the kitchen,” Root said. “She wants to make you soup.”
“What!” Shaw yelled as if every injury was paining her. “Are you letting her do that because you’re mad at me?”
“What? No! I’m not mad at you, Sweetie,” Root assured her.
“Then why would you let her make me soup?” Shaw pleaded.
Shaw did raise a good point. Her mother just walked into Isabelle’s territory. “Stay right here, okay?” Root implored Shaw who seemed very comfortable on the couch.
“Okay,” Shaw smiled.
“Watch her,” Root instructed Bear.
Tempted to bark, ‘Oh, now you want my help’ – he didn’t and decided to let it go.
Root rushed over to the kitchen, unsure of what she might find and worse yet, whose side would she take. Azar meant well wanting to make something for Sameen, but the fact that she thought soup was a proper meal for her daughter, proved she had a lot to learn. She burst through the door where her longtime chef and friend was patiently telling Azar what ingredients she had to offer.
“Mrs. Morin is going to make Sameen… SOUP,” Isabelle said with raised eyebrows, and an overly enthusiastic tone.
“Oh, that’s great,” Root said and exchanged a worried look with the woman who knew Shaw’s carnivorous diet.
“With… ve-get-a-bles,” Isabelle said slowly to make sure Root saw the problem.
“It’s an old family recipe,” Azar said, having donned an apron as she cut up the ingredients.
“Is there chicken in it?” Root asked hopeful.
“No, it’s all…,” Azar was explaining when she finally realized what the two polite women were hinting at. “Oh,” she said, realizing her mistake. “I think we could put chicken in it,” she smiled, much to their relief.
“I’m all for a mother wanting to feed her child,” Isabelle whispered to Root, “…but not giving that child meat? No!”
Root thanked Isabelle for sharing her domain with Shaw’s mother.
When it was done, Azar walked in with two big bowls of it on a tray and brought it over to Shaw. Her inebriation was wearing off and the deadly effects were setting in.
“I think she hit me with something,” Sameen accused her sister.
“You know, I would have figured a way to remove the tracker,” Root reminded Sameen.
“I couldn’t wait,” Shaw admitted. “What… is… that?” she asked when she saw the soup.
Of all the things Azar could have said, what she did say, unnerved her daughter. “It’s Persian Ash.”
“Ash?” Sameen asked and pulled back.
“Surely you came across it when you were oversees,” Azar said of the popular dish.
“Maybe in a truck,” Shaw quipped.
“Sameen,” her mother gently scolded her. “It’s Asheh reshte; a Persian legume soup. It has chickpeas, kidney beans, turmeric, cilantro, scallions, legumes…,” Azar listed which only made matters worse.
“No, thank you,” Shaw said, turning her head and forcing a smile. “I don’t like one thing she just said,” she shared to Root.
“Isabelle suggested I put chicken in it,” Azar assured her meat-eating daughter.
“I’ll try it,” Root offered the way you do when you’re trying to convince someone to eat something new. Like a five year old maybe. She took the second bowl and took a big spoonful, as Sameen watched her carefully. “It’s delicious,” Root declared.
Shaw scanned Root’s face to see if she could detect any sign of a lie. She couldn’t; so only then, did she turn her head back and accept the spoonful that her mother held for her. “Not bad,” she said, but only because there was chicken in it.
Sameen finished the soup and thanked her mother for making it. Then, Root said she was going to put the salve on Sameen’s wounds and Azar offered to help. She did a good job of controlling her reaction upon seeing her child with several cuts.
“What kind of monster…?” she did let out finally when she saw Sameen’s deepest wound.
“A dead kind,” Shaw assured her in the best way she knew how.
“Good,” Azar said, no tolerance for anyone who hurt her children.
The whole process wore Sameen out and she fell asleep after Root helped her get changed into pajamas. Then, Root came back down to see Azar out.
“I fear I have brought all of this to your doorstep, Samantha. The machine chose you; but perhaps there was more I could have done to stop that,” Azar mused sadly.
“Sameen and I can handle whatever comes our way,” Root assured the woman. “Reese has uploaded the antivirus so I’ll check to see if that took care of any connections from outside. I’ll keep you posted.”
With that, Azar kissed Root on the cheek and thanked her for taking such good care of Sameen. Then, she went in the elevator and downstairs, where Ayala was waiting for her to take her home. Using the universal example of logic to counter Ayala’s actions;
“She made you?” she asked to see if her younger daughter wanted to change her answer.
“Yes,” Ayala answered truthfully.
“And if Sameen wanted you to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you?” the mother asked concerned about what her children had done.
“Yes,” Ayala answered because Sameen would have a good reason to suggest such a thing.
Azar turned and looked at her younger daughter and could see how sincere she was. “I believe you,” she said, pushing the hair behind Ayala’s ear and smiling. Her daughters were truly forming a bond.
Root went back up to check on her girlfriend who slept quietly under the careful watch of a very forgiving Bear. Then, she got her laptop and sat next to Sameen on the bed. She carefully checked on the machine to see if there were any traces of outside activity secured onto it. As she expected, there were none. Wherever Greer was, Root wondered if he was trying to latch back onto the machine.
His team was too busy trying to come up with the program to guard against the latest global cyber attack. Root flooded the web with free copies of the BEAR antivirus program for free under another company name. It was only a matter of time before someone on Greer’s team came across it. The IT person ran to his superior at the Greer team location and explained that he found something that just might work. He was applauded for his dedication. The program was first analyzed by the IT team and when it was deemed safe, they uploaded it.
Moments after they did, Root could see where they were located.
As Sameen slept peacefully next to her, Root saw something that would keep her up all night. Her program was intended to show the location of Greer’s machine as a pulsating light on her world map.
The problem was, the more she stared, the more lights appeared on her screen.
There were over one hundred locations of the Greer machine.
Chapter 11: Good Deeds and Bad Ideas
Root worked through the night trying to see what she could find out about the many locations that appeared on her screen. She was almost certain that her program was working as planned, but needed the team to go over every line of code to make sure they hadn’t missed anything that would cause an anomaly. The BEAR team was at work at six AM to do that very thing.
Root closed her laptop and her eyes, but kept her hand on Shaw’s bare back, gently stroking it when Shaw stirred from the pain. Isabelle was downstairs making sure she had everything available for Sameen’s breakfast; in part to make up for the dinner she had.
Finally, Sameen awoke; looking to see if Root was there. And of course, she was. It took Shaw a few more minutes of glorious sleepiness to open her eyes again.
“Did you sleep?” she asked because Root was still in her clothes.
“A little,” Root said and slid down in the bed so she could be right next to her lover. “How are you feeling?”
“Hungry,” Shaw said because she was more in tune with her stomach than her injuries.
“How are these?” Root asked and gently rubbed a finger near Shaw’s bandages.
“Fine,” Shaw lied and then remembered. “The one from yesterday hurts, though.”
Root knew immediately that Shaw remembered her promise. “Does it?” Root asked coyly, gently tugging at Sameen’s pajama shorts. “Your sister actually did a nice job here,” Root said and her breath touched Sameen’s skin, causing goosebumps. Sameen went to answer back, but Root was already applying something better than the best salve in the world; her lips. She caressed and kissed Sameen’s bare skin and could tell the effect immediately by her shuddering. Root ran her hands along Sameen’s toned legs and cupped her uninjured cheek. “I’m not going to lie,” said the woman who didn’t. “I’m going to miss being able to find you immediately,” she teased.
But Root’s teasing hit a chord and Sameen turned to face her. She pulled Root up and told her; “You have my heart, Root. No matter where I am, you’re with me.”
Even for Root, who was always in the moment, those words made her eyes well with tears. “God, Sameen,” Root said, leaning in to kiss her. Root got up on her knees and ripped off her clothes. If she felt the need to touch Sameen before; after that declaration, she needed to devour her. Shaw was hers and nothing mattered more to Root than that.
In spite of Root’s own urges, her hands and lips were soft and gentle as she manipulated Sameen’s body into a frenzy of electrical charged pulsations that ripped through her entire being. It seemed the slower Root went; the more Shaw needed it, until she arched her back, begging Root to end her glorious aching need.
Sameen wasn’t feeling the effects of the alcohol, nor the pain. All she was feeling was incredible joy. Root collapsed next to Sameen, happy to have fulfilled her promise to kiss and make it sensational.
With lightning fast moves, Shaw was suddenly sitting atop Root, ignoring Root’s pleas not to overdo anything because of her wounds.
“The only thing I’m going to overdo…,” Shaw said in a breathy tone next to Root’s ear, “….is you.”
Root’s own exhaustion made it impossible to counter Sameen with logic about being careful. Sameen moved as if her body was never injured. Her hands roamed the length of her tall lover, stopping only to gently squeeze and probe. “God, you are hot,” Shaw said because she was in love with every inch of the body she was manipulating will skillful moves.
Where Root was slow and gentle, Shaw was aggressive and in control. It always sent Root over the edge when she commanded Root’s body. Root could feel it every time; the moment when her body simply gave itself over to Shaw. It was almost as glorious as the climax that caused a guttural cry to escape her lips with reckless abandon.
Isabelle was spot on when she knew the small amount of chicken in the soup last night was not enough for Shaw. Sameen sat down and devoured sausages and pancakes like she hadn’t eaten in a week. It was a good think Root wasn’t a jealous woman, because she noticed Sameen moaned almost as much at breakfast as she had done in the bedroom. Almost, but not quite.
Isabelle beamed that she was right; Root simply smiled and stared at her omnivorous girlfriend eat. She licked her own lips unconsciously as food entered the mouth that had devoured her just thirty minutes ago.
“Is there any more of that soup?” Shaw asked, shoving the last biscuit in her mouth.
Root and Isabelle exchanged surprised glances. “Yes, your mother made quite a bit of it,” Isabelle said.
“Look, I love my mother, but you two cannot let her cook for me, okay? I mean, I’m all for trying new things… okay, that’s sorta a lie, but if the ratio of vegetables to meat is like a zillion to one – no, no good. I can’t. Now, I’m going to let it go this time because you two were being super polite to my mom, but no more. She’s not allowed in here. Put a sign up or something. Unless she can make dessert,” Sameen thought out loud to be fair. “Who gives a sick person soup? Made of vegetables?”
Sameen was dead serious and Root bit hard on her bottom lip not to laugh at how adorable she was went she ranted. Isabelle looked like her Christmas bonus came early because she was glowing from being the appointed chef of Sameen Shaw. “I promise,” Isabelle called out as the couple left.
Bear rushed to Root before the couple left. He felt perhaps Root had taken things a little too far. “I wasn’t … uhm… punishing her,” Root tried to explain the loud yelling he heard emanating from the bedroom.
He growled his confusion.
“It’s a little hard to… expound on… right now,” Root said.
Shaw burst through the kitchen day just in time to save Root from the awkward conversation. “We’ll talk later,” Root promised and went to the elevator with Shaw.
“She’s going in the pre-nup,” Shaw commented about the chef she adored.
“You want a prenup?” Root asked, gently playing with Sameen’s hand in the elevator.
“No, but you do. I have nothing. Well, I have a kick-ass arsenal, but I figure I’ll leave that to Reese and Fusco so they can update their weapons.”
“Oh, Sameen,” Root said looking lovingly at her, “… you have everything.”
That made no sense to Sameen, but she didn’t want to argue.
Besides, she didn’t know it, but she was going to need all her strength when she got to work.
Root didn’t want to send Shaw charging out to find Greer or his machines, so she decided to meet with her IT team first and update everyone later.
Martine was pacing the floor, waiting for Shaw to arrive. It had been several hours since the trio of friends had helped Sameen. Martine felt personally responsible for getting Sameen drunk, but she wasn’t going to take responsibility for what was going on in Shaw’s cubicle. She happened upon it before and she wasn’t sure she could put into words what was going on. She kept looking at the floor numbers light up on the elevator, hoping each time it was Shaw. She practically pounced in the carriage when the doors opened.
“Rousseau?” Reese said when she pushed him back in.
“Sorry, Reese. I was looking for Shaw,” Martine said.
“I heard about the operation,” the tall men said.
“She made us,” Martine automatically answered and seemingly nervous.
“Aha,” Reese said, because he could believe it. “Hey!” he called out and moved faster than his usual gait. “You shouldn’t be lifting heavy things.” Martine turned to see John rush over and grab a box out of Janine’s arms. “You have to be careful… in case,” John said and unconsciously looked at her abdomen.
“I’m fine,” Janine declared. “I’m better than fine,” she informed Reese because when you’re walking on cloud nine, you tend to feel euphoric.
“Oh, brother,” Martine said and was moving her hand in circles as if that would get Shaw there faster.
Soon enough, the door opened and there she was. “How are you feeling?” Martine asked from the elevator door, blocking Shaw’s exit.
“I’m good,” Shaw said and that was all her friend needed to hear. She pulled Shaw off the elevator and around the corner. “When I said ‘good’, I didn’t mean I was feeling up to be subdued and dragged. I should have made that clear.”
“Sorry,” Martine said, poking her head around the corner and pulling back to face her friend. “Your incision is okay?” she asked because her girlfriend may have had battlefield training, but she looked damn nervous.
“Yes, apparently not even that one is going to leave a scar,” Shaw said, rolling her eyes.
“Too bad, okay, here’s the situation,” Martine said in a low voice.
“Oh!” Shaw mocked. “We have a situation. Is it near the cafeteria?”
“Noooo,” Martine said, dragging out the word. “It’s near your office.”
“And what caused this situation?” Shaw asked only slightly intrigued.
“Actually, you did,” Martine said, looking down into eyes that rolled again. “I feel a little responsible because I gave you that whiskey, but your lips were looser than a singing canary in there.”
“Okay, first – canaries do not have lips,” Shaw felt it important to point out.
“Whatever. You were in a very sharing mood yesterday and you said some things that may have gone to someone’s head,” Martine tried to slowly build up.
“Look, if I said you were a good friend, I meant it. We’re not going to braid each other’s hair, though, okay?” Shaw explained, thinking the woman was talking about herself.
“What? No, not me!” Martine said because she would never do that. “HER!” the taller woman said and pushed Sameen to peer around the corner.
“Put it over there for now,” Shaw heard Janine order Reese. The man was holding what appeared to be a piece of the wall that divided Sameen’s cubicle from Janine’s.
“What is she doing?” Shaw asked softly.
“Gaining more access to your office,” Martine said, unable to talk the woman out of it.
“The tunnel under my desk wasn’t enough?” Shaw laughed.
“Shaw, you said some really nice things to her yesterday. Well, to all of us, actually, but especially to her,” Martine updated her friend.
“Actually, I remember being a little snarky,” Shaw recalled. “When did I say nice things?”
“Somewhere around the fourth glass,” Martine said.
Shaw was trying to figure out what she could have said that would make her friend so worried. The endless possibilities ran through her head. It sounded like she said something that was going to backfire on her. “DID I TELL MY SISTER I LOVE HER?” she finally asked, grabbing Martine by her jacket lapels.
“What?” Martine asked, thinking Ayala was amateur hour when it came to teasing Shaw. “Not your sister, Shaw. Your assistant. You told her she was wonderful and she made you smile every day.”
“Oh,” Shaw said, thinking that wasn’t so bad. “Well, okay, it’s true.”
“And how you had thought she and I would make a nice couple,” Martine said, hoping some of this would come back to the woman.
“Well, I may have overstated that a little,” Shaw said because Martine was so calm and cool and Janine was so … Janine.
“Yeah, you told us that after thinking about it, I wasn’t really good enough for her,” Martine said.
“I said that?” Shaw asked, thinking she may not have actually been in the room when these things were uttered.
“Yes, in fact, you told us that the kind of person Janine needed was more like … You,” Martine finally got to the punch line.
“Pfft, me?” Shaw scoffed. “What would she do with someone like me?” The idea seemed preposterous now.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Martine said slightly sarcastically, “…adore and worship her?”
“You’re making too big a deal out of this,” Shaw barked.
“She took the wall down between your offices, Shaw,” Martine pointed out. “She thinks you’re looking for someone like you for her.”
“I think my Matchmaking days are over. I quit while I was on top. Reese and Carter; Fusco and the Doc, you and my sister,” Shaw listed.
“Well, you made it sound like you had one more trick in your bag yesterday,” Martine shared.
“Where am I going to find someone like me?” Shaw asked - the task was impossible.
“I don’t know, but in the meantime, Janine is going to be building the Shaw Shrine and praying in front of it for her partner,” the blonde explained.
“I’ll… I’ll just talk to her. You are really making too big a deal out of this,” Shaw chastised her coworker. “I got this,” Shaw said, pulling on her blouse and taking a deep breath. With that, she walked around the corner and down the hallway.
“She so does not have this,” Martine said out loud.
“Hey, Shaw,” Reese said. “How are you feeling?”
“Good, thanks, no thanks to you,” Shaw quipped.
“I’m glad it worked out okay,” Reese said because he still believed what he did was necessary.
“Next time you aim something at me, it better be a stun gun,” Shaw balked.
“That’s more Root’s thing,” Reese said, cracking a joke, but not a smile. “Hey, do me a favor?”
“Sure, Reese, anything for a friend who shot me,” Shaw said.
“Don’t let Janine pick up anything too heavy. Rousseau told me she might be… you know… pregnant,” he updated his friend.
“Well, it’s not mine,” Shaw answered awkwardly because she felt everything Janine did was her fault.
“I didn’t think so,” Reese answered and wondered if she hit her head, too. “Are you sure you’re feeling well enough to be back at work?”
Now, Shaw was insulted. “I got this, okay?” Shaw said emphatically.
Reese watched her stomp away. “She so does not have this,” he said in a low voice.
Chapter 12: One Step Forward, Three Steps Back
While Root was in her office with her team, applying her meticulous analysis to the program she wrote, Sameen was about to use her military tactics to figuring out what was going on in her office.
Think ballet versus spasm.
If anyone had asked Janine what was going on, she would have told them that after Shaw’s heartfelt words yesterday, she felt even more devoted to the woman who cared enough about her happiness – that she was going to find her someone.
Shaw was used to the warm greeting Janine gave her every day, but this morning’s seemed to come out in slow motion.
“OHHHHMYYYYGOOOODDDD,” Janine said when she saw Shaw standing wide-eyed in the doorway. She didn’t yell it as much as she draped it across the space between them. “Are you okay?” she asked and put her hands near Sameen’s elbows to telepathically pull her to her chair. Her new plush leather chair with pillows. It was big enough for both of them to sit in.
“I’m okay,” Shaw said, looking around. “Where’s the ….?”
“I thought this would save time,” Janine said of the missing wall. By the size of the smile on her face, Sameen could tell she truly believed it was a good idea.
“And look!” Janine said of the new chair. “It’s roomier and I put cushions on it, you know, in case… it’s…,” and she whispered the last word, “…sensitive.”
There was nothing about Sameen Shaw that said – please coddle me – and yet, this woman was reducing her to the office diva. ‘Okay,’ Sameen thought to herself. ‘What military method would eradicate this problem?’
“Janine?” Sameen said, making her first mistake of many by taking the woman’s hands in hers. The electric touch practically made the woman deaf as she reveled in it. “…so that’s why I think we need the wall back,” was the next thing she heard Shaw say.
Janine shook her head. “I thought if you put the wall over here where your doorway is, we could kill two birds with one stone,” the nine o’clock Janine train said, still pulling out of the station in spite of Shaw’s sound argument. “That way, no one can barge in without going through me first.”
“Janine,” Shaw said, sitting down in a chair that felt like she just sat on clouds. “Oh, my God,” Shaw let out, “… this is really nice.”
“Right?” said the woman who felt she knew what Sameen needed at work.
“I could nap in this thing,” Shaw said as she pushed back.
“And without that opening for everyone to walk in, I could tell you if someone was coming,” Janine expounded on her thinking.
Shaw had to admit, she had a point. “I guess the chair does help…,” Shaw said.
“Good!” Janine beamed at being right about that, too.
Then, Shaw remembered what she was supposed to do. “Okay, look, Janine,” she began and the woman sat down on the chair across from her. “I may have run off at the mouth yesterday, you know, because Martine got me drunk,” Shaw began.
“Oh, she meant well,” Janine came to her friend’s defense.
“Yes, she did, but it may have made me say things,” Shaw tried again.
“Drunken lips speak sober thoughts,” Janine said and interrupted Shaw again.
“Sure,” Shaw smiled and was growing impatient, “…but it also can make you say sober thoughts in a screwed up way.”
“You mean about telling on your sister?” Janine guessed.
“No; I said that?” Shaw asked.
“Yes, you said if she didn’t do a good job, you’d tell on her,” Janine repeated.
“Let’s remember that one for later. No, what I said to you,” Shaw clarified.
Janine sat back and thought about what Shaw said. In her mind, it was all pretty clear. “Oh, you mean about finding me someone like you?” the woman asked, getting to the point.
There! Shaw’s military precision of getting to the heart of the matter was still sharp. “I shouldn’t have presumed to know what your taste is,” said the woman who fit the bill. “I mean, you were with Devon and I never saw that coming,” Shaw tried to laugh.
“Devlin,” Janine corrected her.
“Well, by either name, he was an ass,” Shaw felt it necessary to share.
“Yeah,” Janine said, the wind slowly coming out of her sails.
“So, what I’m trying to say is I have no idea what you want, so how could I possibly help?” Shaw attempted to say.
“But you do know!” Janine countered and this time, she grabbed Shaw’s hands. Shaw tried to pull back, but the grip was too tight.
A part of Shaw’s brain was on red alert to call Root. “CLEAN UP ON AISLE THREE” her brain yelled as the woman in front of her started to melt. And something worse was coming. Shaw was beginning to understand how to handle unadulterated adoration, but what happened next she was completely unprepared for.
“Oh,” Janine said, reading the expression on Shaw’s face. She let Shaw’s hands drop as an uncomfortable smile came across her face. “Of course,” the assistant said.
Shaw wanted to believe the two had just reached simpatico on all of this, but Janine’s demeanor told her one of them just took a sharp turn.
“I’m sorry,” Janine said and now Shaw was really confused.
“Why should you be sorry? I was the one who opened my big mouth,” Shaw tried.
“When you told Martine that you guys needed to find someone for me, I thought you meant help me find someone. It was silly of me to think you meant that,” Janine said and her voiced cracked.
Voice cracking was not something Shaw was ever trainee not handle. Root would know what to do; she definitely could handle voice cracking, Shaw thought. “Root would know!” Shaw declared and the wires weren’t just crossed; they were about to get tangled in knots.
“She would?” Janine asked incredulously.
“Yes, definitely,” Shaw assured her. Root seemed to be able to handle all things emo.
“Would she help? I mean, she’s so busy…,” Janine thought out.
“Well, sure, but this wouldn’t take long,” Shaw decided.
“It wouldn’t?” Janine asked curiously.
“Root’s really good at this,” Shaw said encouragingly.
Then, it dawned on why Sameen was involving Root. Who better to find her a Shaw than the woman who had her own!
“Oh wow, that makes total sense,” Janine concurred and now her voice was back to being cheery. “You’re sure she won’t mind?”
“Not at all,” Shaw promised.
“We could make it a girls’ night out!” Janine declared and Shaw could hear the wheels screeching as she totally lost what was going on.
“Sorry?” Shaw asked.
“We could all go out for drinks and look for someone, but hey, no pressure. If we don’t find the right person, it will still be a fun night out!” Janine said.
“Yeah, but…,” Shaw tried having lost track of where they were headed minutes ago. She stood up to suggest they review what just happened, but Janine had her in a gentle bear hug.
“You are the best person, ever, Shaw,” Janine said and didn’t let go.
“Thanks,” Shaw said, totally lost.
“I’ll go take care of your schedule for today,” the woman said, and now there were tears in her eyes.
Shaw stood there afraid there would be more tears, more hugging. She remained standing until she was certain the woman was back in her cubicle.
So confused was Sameen, that she was actually happy to see Fusco standing in her doorway.
“Did you see that?” she asked in a whisper.
When he said yes, she grabbed him and pulled him down the hallway. “Well?” Shaw asked and motioned with her hands for him to explain.
“You just told her Root would find her someone just like you,” Fusco said plainly.
“No, I didn’t. I told her that I was drunk during the operation yesterday and I misspoke. My matchmaking days are over. And she can thank you for that,” Shaw segued.
“Oh, cause I’m dating your shrink?” Fusco asked.
“No, because you people exhaust me,” Shaw clarified.
“Well, now you have to tell Root that you passed the yenta baton,” Fusco put crudely.
“It’s a girl’s night out, right? Root will be okay with that. And you’re coming,” barked Sameen.
“Shaw, the very title of that precludes me,” Fusco pointed out.
“No deal; you’re coming,” Shaw demanded. “You know more about this crap than I do,” she said in a rare admission.
“That’s true,” Fusco said and Sameen hit his arm.
“You know we’re all going to be looking for another you, right?” Fusco pointed out. “And I think they broke the mold. At least, I hope they did,” the detective said as he rubbed his arm.
Chapter 13: Mission Improbable
So ... what is Janine looking for?
Snowydragon said it best: "... admiration is different from love." She even agreed that I could steal that line. TY
Let me know how this works - as it's not what I expected.
Not sure I ever really described Janine and would love to hear whose image comes to mind if anyone.
Kristen Bell came to mind after this chapter.
Sameen was not at all worried about asking Root to join her in a girls’ night out. She was, however, a little concerned about sharing what the objective was. As usual, Root met the news with her characteristic assurance that they could do it.
“Of course, we are talking about someone on the Shaw spectrum,” Root said, playing with the loose strand of Sameen’s hair. “I mean, she’ll be happy with someone anywhere near you.”
Shaw looked at Root’s smile and how well she took the news. She knew, had the roles been reversed, she would have bitched and moaned. “I’m sorry I got you into this,” Shaw apologized.
“Don’t be silly,” Root assured her. “If anyone understands that woman’s obsession with you, it’s me.”
Shaw leaned over and kissed Root. She simply appreciated how uncomplicated Root made everything.
“So, I have some news,” Root said as a way to share what they learned. “Our program that was supposed to lock onto the location of Greer’s machine, found more than one of them.”
“How many?” Shaw asked.
“So far; one hundred and forty,” Root answered and looked at her computer. “It’s slowing down at least.”
“Can you tell if they’re computers or larger collections of devices?” Shaw asked and Root liked that this was her first question.
“Yes, we can,” Root smiled. “So far, these all look like smaller containment; some larger than a desktop, but could be the servers for a small group.”
“What connects them?” Shaw asked.
“The program seems to be the only common denominator; not the locations. One’s an office, another is a school, a large warehouse type shopping store; a medical building…,” Root listed.
“Information, data on people’s choices, but why?” Shaw thought through.
It seemed that Root and her team hadn’t picked their heads up to see the forest for the trees. They had been looking at geographic locations connection while Sameen looked at it from another view – what they might be taking from those locations.
“Building a large data base!” Root concluded off of Sameen’s suggestion. “Beauty and brains,” Root smiled and kissed Shaw’s surprised lips.
“Yeah, I’m the whole package,” Shaw said sarcastically to cover her blushing.
“You really are,” Root gushed because she always knew that.
With that thought about data collecting in mind, Root and her team tweaked the program to look a little deeper at what information was being stored. If it was successful, it would take hours before they knew.
Plenty of time for shopping for someone like Shaw.
“I don’t think I’ve even set out to do something where I already knew the success rate was a minus zero at best,” Martine shared to her girlfriend. She had stopped there to pick her up before they met up with the group.
“I don’t know what the big deal is. I’m like Shaw,” Ayala suggested.
“Noooo,” Martine blurted out in a deep voice that seemed to come straight from her heart. Ayala turned slowly to look at her; the insult apparent on her face. “No, I meant, yeah you’re alike because you’re sisters, but that’s not what this is about,” she attempted to dig herself out.
“Really?” the younger woman asked, her hands on her scantily clad hips. “Do tell.”
“We have to look at this from Janine’s perspective. She adores your sister. It’s almost inexplicable. Your sister grabbed her and stripped her of her clothes the first time they met,” Martine relayed.
“Sort of what I did to you,” Ayala tried because there was no mistaking she was the aggressor.
“Yes, but to Janine – Shaw’s the sun and you… you are… like a speeding…,” Martine tried to think of adjectives as the woman smiled coyly at her, kneeling before Martine and running her hands up her thighs. Just as her hands reached the apex, Martine added, “… meteorite,” the blonde barely got out as her lover’s hands collided with her core.
“I like it,” Ayala said as she set out to dominate their lovemaking.
Martine couldn’t help but think that there was a solid steadiness to Shaw that her younger sister didn’t yet seem to have. She wanted to question it, but the woman’s hands were making her forget everything.
Root was watching Shaw get ready for their outing. “Now, will I be required to perform any actually testing on the candidates?” she teased of their mission. “I mean, who knows you better than I do?”
“No!” Shaw answered emphatically, even though she knew Root was teasing. “No… touching.” She smiled after she said it, but felt a twinge of jealousy, just the same. “I don’t even know what we’re doing,” Sameen admitted, pulling up tight black pants donning a black sleeveless t-shirt. She grimaced only a little when the pants hit the operation site.
“We’re going out for a night of fun,” Root said to take the pressure off Sameen.
“Yeah,” Shaw said, liking Root’s interpretation. “Fun.”
Root’s calculation presented them with the best place for possible candidates at a club downtown. The place offered large tables upstairs for groups and looked down over the dance floor. Root’s approach was simply mathematical – the more people, the better the odds. Shaw’s approach was slightly more factory conveyor belt.
“No, no, no, nope, no, never, doubt it, what do you do?” is how Shaw entered the club, passing the long line of patrons who were waiting to get in. She was going to go through everyone she passed, in hopes of getting it over with. She stopped and opened another one’s jacket and shook her head. Root wasn’t sure what she based her negative response on, but she loved watching her go through the process.
Root smiled and grabbed Sameen by the arm so they could meet their friends.
Zoe and Joss were the first one’s there. Joss loved girls’ night out and thanked the couple for organizing it. Zoe looked ravishing as usual. “You look angry, Shaw,” she said because of the woman’s intense gaze at the population.
“She’s on a mission,” Joss explained. “She even got Fusco to come.”
“Well, he is one of the girls according to Shaw,” Zoe laughed.
“Where is he?” Shaw barked.
“I don’t know, Shaw..,” Joss said, lifting up her hand. “Did he get off his leash?” Joss and Zoe bent over laughing because of Shaw’s dependency on her friend in her missions.
“Not funny,” Shaw said and Root pulled her to sit down.
“There he is,” Joss said of the only man invited that evening. Fusco had no intention of staying, especially since Reese invited him over to watch the playoffs. But he knew better than not to show.
“Ladies,” Fusco said as he approached the table. “Where’s the guest of honor?” he asked, ordering a club soda.
“Get me one of those,” Shaw said to him as she scanned the crowd. “There, that one. How about that one?” Sameen’s training told her, the sooner she got this over with, the better.
“Really?” Root said, not seeing any similarity.
“Oh, you mean the bouncer?” Zoe asked and peered over her drink at Root to rein her girlfriend in.
“Yeah,” Shaw said.
“I don’t see it,” Joss said and Fusco shook his head.
Shaw went back to sizing up the crowd when the woman of the hour appeared.
Janine always dressed nicely for work, but tonight she had taken it up a few notches. Her dress was form fitting, with a v-cut neck. She wore high heels and her hair was swept up on her head. She wore the same amount of makeup, but she had on more jewelry. “Hi everyone,” Janine smiled as she approached the table.
Zoe, Joss and Root understood that the woman was dressed for a fun night out with her friends. Shaw didn’t quite see it like that. In Shaw’s eyes, the clothing seemed to counter the woman’s innocence. Shaw went from seeking-mode to protective-mode without realizing it. “”She’s going to attract the wrong people,” a very judgmental Sameen said.
Then the waiter came over to take Janine’s drink order.
“Long Island Ice Tea,” Janine ordered. It was a concoction of vodka, rum, triple sec, gin, tequila, with a splash of soda.
“You ain’t wasting any time,” Joss teased the younger woman.
“I’ll have one of those,” Zoe second.
“No,” Shaw said of the drink choice, but Root put her hand on her leg to remind her Janine was old enough to make her own choices. “Fine,” Shaw said back without her lips moving. “You can hold her head later. Did you notice how he was looking at her?” she asked Root, but she hadn’t noticed.
The waiter returned with the drinks and placed them down. Janine had caught his eye and when he placed the drink in front of her, he lingered a moment, staring at her or at some part of her.
Shaw’s arm suddenly reached across her friend and grabbed his tie. “Thank you,” she said and stared hard at him.
“Didyoubringataser?” Zoe asked Fusco as she sipped her drink.
“She’ll be fine,” Fusco said and no one believed him. “Well, here’s to finding… “ and then he saw the look on Shaw’s face. “… luck?” he guessed.
“Don’t give up your day job, Fusco,” Joss yelled over the blaring, but enticing music.
A little while later, Fusco ordered two more club sodas and a new waitress brought them over. Seemed the waiter refused to come back.
“Is there anything I can get you?” she asked Janine and she ordered a second drink. The woman brought it back within minutes and placed it down in front of her, lingering just a second.
“Enjoy,” she smiled.
“Thanks,” Janine said, looking up at her and smiling. Their hands touched for a split second and without anyone even noticing.
“All we have to do is bring her out on the dance floor,” Zoe decided and grabbed Joss and then Janine to go downstairs to dance.
“I’ll go search the bar area, but so help me, Shaw, if someone calls the cops on me, I’m taking you with me,” Fusco warned.
Everyone went off, leaving Root and Sameen at the table. “This is impossible,” Shaw harrumphed loudly.
Instead of contradicting her with optimism and cheerfulness, Root said; “True.”
“What?” Shaw asked, surprised at Root’s answer.
“It’s impossible, but maybe not improbable,” Root clarified.
“Then why did you agree?” Shaw asked.
“Sameen, this woman adores you. What she’s looking for is love. Two different things,” Root said assertively.
Shaw stared up at Root as if she were speaking another language. “Where was that information two hours ago?”
“Well, just because I know it, didn’t mean I didn’t want to give it a try,” Root smiled. “From the minute you met this woman, you swept her off her feet. You’re bigger than life, Shaw. And nothing can replace that. No, what Janine is searching for is someone who will love her.”
“I…,” and Shaw was going to say she cared for the woman. “… like her… you know, enough to tolerate her.”
Root smiled at Shaw’s rendition of a Hallmark card. She reached over to play with the strands of hair that framed the frowning face. “She’s very lucky.”
“So, again, what are we doing here? Can we go?” asked the woman who would abort a mission that was doomed to fail.
“Janine doesn’t need another you, Shaw. She’s already got you. What she needs is someone who will appreciate the woman she is under the intensity that you bring out in her,” Root theorized as she searched the crowd.
Sameen tried to filter through those sentences for anything she could understand. “So, it’s my fault?”
“No,” Root assured her. “You can’t help that you’re charismatic.”
Shaw was on auto-pilot and immediately went to protest that she was not what Root just said, but when she slowed down, she decided she liked that word. “I’m charismatic?” she asked as if she had never given it thought.
Root looked over at her, light brown eyes reflecting the strobe lights of the dance floor. “Oh, God, yes,” she said softly and kissed Sameen’s cheek.
Shaw’s entire demeanor changed and she sat up and smiled. And then Shaw realized that this is what Janine …. or anyone needed; to be the person their lover’s eyes reflected back. Shaw always wanted to be the person Root saw.
No one saw Sameen the way Root did.
“We can’t find her someone, can we?” Shaw asked.
“Well, we certainly can increase the odds, but she’s got to do the real finding,” Root said wisely.
Shaw looked over the balcony to see how Janine was doing with that. As much as she wanted to trust that Root was right, that could take all night. “I have to speed this up,” Shaw decided and kissed Root. “I’ll be back,” she promised.
Root was not at all surprised that even after agreeing with her, Shaw felt it necessary to take off and speed up the progression. Root knew some things were learned by trial and error.
Shaw was just getting through a crowd of people she had pointed at and dismissed when Ayala and Martine showed up.
“Shaw,” Martine said from behind dark glasses.
“We’re sitting upstairs,” Shaw said, wondering what was going on.
“Sorry we’re late,” Ayala all but giggled. With that she gave Sameen a kiss on her cheek and went upstairs. “I have to talk to Root.”
“I think that girl’s going to kill me,” Martine said of the youth’s energy. “How’s the search?” If anyone could understand Sameen’s approach to this matchmaking, it was Martine.
“I cleared this side of the room. No one,” Shaw reported.
“What about the perimeter? That’s usually where shy people hang out. I’m thinking shy might work,” Martine suggested, pulling her shades down just enough to peer over.
Shaw stared at her; her hands on her hips. “How does shy resemble me in any way?”
“This is less about you than we originally thought,” Martine had decided on the way over and was updating Shaw.
“That’s what Root said,” Shaw confirmed.
“I’ll take the perimeter then,” Martine said and was about to leave when an out- of- breath Janine ran over to them. Martine took one look at the transformed woman and then looked at Shaw.
“I don’t know; I can’t explain it,” Shaw admitted, rolling her eyes.
“Hi you two,” she greeted them cheerfully. “You have to come dance,” she laughed and pulled at Shaw.
“I’m on club soda, for God’s sake,” Shaw protested, but Janine pulled harder. “What the hell,” Sameen conceded and went with her.
“You got moves, Shaw,” Joss yelled to her when she joined in.
“Oh, I can work it,” Shaw said, letting loose for a few minutes. The whole time, her eyes were on perspective applicants and her heart was upstairs with Root.
A few minutes later, the women reconvened upstairs. “Well, I checked the perimeter and found no one,” Martine reported, taking a seat next to Ayala. The younger woman had spent that time upstairs with Root talking about what her mother had been working on.
“Bar is void of anyone I would even want at this table,” Fusco reported.
“Love is in the last place you would expect it,” Ayala said, turning to look at Martine and smiled.
“In that case, I’ll be at Reese’s watching the game,” Fusco announced.
Zoe couldn’t help but ask if that was where he was looking for love. She and Joss loved to tease the goodhearted man.
“Sure, sure, make jokes,” he said as he stood up at the exact moment the waitress assigned to the table was walking over with a tray of drinks. His shoulder came right under the tray, sending the contents flying. The waitress was doused in liquor and the floor was covered in glass.
Fusco apologized profusely and helped the woman. She assured him it was her fault and someone would clean up the mess. She couldn’t have been nicer about the whole thing.
Her boss wasn’t so nice.
“What the hell, Emily?” she barked when she thought saw the accident prone waitress’ latest faux pas. It had been the kind of crash that anyone could hear over the music. “I’m so sorry, sir,” the boss said to Lionel who was insisting it was his fault. “You won’t have to pay,” she insisted back. She turned and out of sheer aggravation, pushed Emily to go get cleaned up. “This is coming out of your pay, you idiot!”
And then the panel of experts who had gathered to lend their skills in love hunting - learned a very important lesson about why their mission was failing.
They had misread the clues.
Janine didn’t want anyone like Shaw; she wanted to be like Shaw.
“Get your hands off of her,” Janine growled and the entire table turned slowly to see who that was. She had put her hand on the boss’ shoulder and turned her around swiftly to face her. “My friend explained it was his fault. Now apologize to Emily.” Her voice was a little wobbly, but stern.
The boss stared at the angelic face with the devilish voice and looked at the table for confirmation that this wasn’t a joke.
“I’d do as she says,” Sameen warned the boss-lady. “She’s a badass.”
Chapter 14: Getting the Message Across
There wasn’t a person at the table who didn’t seem slightly surprised by Janine’s aggressive action; including Janine.
“I think she’s been hanging out with Shaw,” Fusco said and everyone nodded. The woman certainly did appear like a graduate of the Shaw School of Social Graces.
Although the manager attempted to point out it was Emily’s fault, Janine held onto her tightly until she reluctantly apologized. “Put all of that on our tab,” Janine ordered the woman and she simply nodded before leaving with her tail between her legs.
Emily stood there silent; bouncing on the balls of her feet and holding the tray in her hand in front of her. “Thank you. That was… really nice of you. I really appreciate that. It was very kind… of all of you,” she smiled and started to walk away.
“Hey,” Janine said, touching the waitress’ drenched sleeve, “… I’m Janine.”
“Emily,” the woman smiled back. “Let me get you new drinks.”
Everyone watched Janine watch Emily walk away.
“Well, I think that concludes our meeting for tonight,” Zoe said, the first to pick up on the connection.
“What are you talking about?” Fusco asked, still upset about the expensive mistake he made.
As the group started to explain the obvious to the detective, Root turned to the love of her life. “We had it wrong,” she admitted to Sameen.
“No kidding,” Shaw agreed. “That waitress is nothing like me. I mean, she’s my height maybe, but that’s it. I don’t get it.”
“I don’t think she’s looking for her own Shaw, Shaw,” Root said.
“You know this is like my 4th club soda and I’m thinking clearly, right?” Shaw bemoaned.
“When you admire a superhero, Shaw, you don’t want to be the superhero’s girlfriend. You want to be the superhero,” Root pointed out.
“I should have had whiskey,” Shaw said out loud.
“I think she wants to be more like you,” Root clarified and ran her finger round the bandages on Sameen’s arm.
Sameen looked at Root and then at Janine, whose eyes hadn’t moved from watching the waitress who was coming back from the bar. “So, she’s not me?” Shaw pointed at the waitress. “….she is?” she pointed at Janine.
“Yes, sort of,” Root smiled to think that Shaw was someone’s idol.
“This is making my head hurt,” Shaw complained.
“I’ll take care of that,” Root said, sliding her hand over Shaw’s thigh to rest between her legs. It was very discreetly done, but Shaw jumped nonetheless.
“You okay, there, Shaw?” Zoe asked, smiling broadly at the woman.
“You know I carry a gun, right?” Shaw asked the woman.
“Oh yes, I’ve been out with you enough times to know you’re loaded,” Zoe teased.
Shaw frowned at her, looking to see if there was a joke in there to be insulted over. Zoe truly liked Sameen and often expressed her fondness in mischievous banter. “You know, Shaw,” she said, winking at Root first, “…I don’t think I’ve ever been tempted to kiss another woman like I am with you.”
“Don’t make me hurt you,” Root said, sounding just like Shaw, and everyone broke out laughing at the good natured teasing.
The music started up again and there was one more round of drinks and dancing. Fusco even looked like he was going to join them, but Sameen pulled him back so they could talk.
“I need you to do something with me,” Shaw shouted over the noise. She cupped his ear and said it to him and he nodded. “Don’t make me regret telling you, okay?” she pleaded.
“Yeah, yeah,” the good friend answered back. He couldn’t keep the smile off his face.
“Stop doing that,” Shaw barked and he tried to wipe it off.
The group went back upstairs, finished their drinks and got ready to leave. “Who’s taking Gidget home?” Zoe asked, ever the watchful eye on the group.
“I could take her. I shoulda left hours ago,” Fusco said and looked at his watch as if he hadn’t enjoyed every moment of being surrounded by beautiful women.
“Thanks guys, but I’m okay,” Janine said and everyone had to admit, she sounded fine.
“You’re not going home alone,” Shaw ordered.
“I’m going out,” Janine said, smiling.
“Out? It’s two…,” Shaw said and Root gently leaned into her girlfriend so she’d stop sounding so parental.
“I’ll be okay, thanks, Shaw,” Janine said and it didn’t ease Sameen’s mind at all.
“You don’t need a ride?” Fusco asked and Janine thanked him.
Shaw felt very unsettled that, not only had they failed at their mission, now they were leaving the fledgling alone.
“I don’t understand,” Shaw admitted as they all said goodnight and went their separate ways. Janine had taken Emily up on her offer to go out for coffee as a way of thanking her. “Do we know what that waitress’ last name is? How do we know anything about her?”
“You know Janine can take care of herself,” Root proffered gently.
“What?” Shaw asked as if it never occurred to her, which it hadn’t. “Yeah, sure, but… but,” she repeated because she had not retort for that.
For a person who once proclaimed proudly that she didn’t do feelings, the woman who sat next to Root in the car was expressing a lot of them. “Come here, you,” Root said, pulling Shaw in to kiss her even though her lips were not done worrying about leaving her assistant alone.
“You think she’s okay?” Shaw asked, after Root had calmed her lips down.
“I do,” Root said because she could spot people who had been out on their own for some time, and surprisingly, Janine was one of them.
The couple went home and, in spite of the hour, Root insisted on changing Shaw’s bandages. “I think this one…,” she said of the tracker injury, “…is healing nicely.” She gently placed her lips near it, sending shivers directly up Shaw’s spine.
Root grazed her fingers up and down Shaw’s back as she held her in her arm.
“I feel sorry for everyone,” Shaw said sleepily.
“Tonight? Our friends?” Root asked.
“Just… everyone,” Shaw said, her eyes unable to stay awake. “No one has you, but me.”
Root watched as Shaw’s smile stayed even after she fell asleep. “I’m the lucky one,” she whispered to Sameen as she fell asleep next to her.
Root was blissfully slumbering, still holding onto Sameen, she thought, when yelling (of a very frustrated nature) woke her up. She reached to touch her lover, but she wasn’t there.
“You’d think she’d send a text, but noooo,” was the first thing Root heard. “Where is it?” she heard Sameen yell next, as drawers were opened and shut loudly. “Sonova, I put it right there,” Shaw declared and Root could hear Bear explain he never saw it.
“You never saw it because I haven’t worn it in a really long time, but I’m wearing it today,” Shaw barked as more drawers were banged.
Offering a simple solution to what Bear deemed a simple problem, Shaw refuted him. “I can’t send a text. I’m not her mother!” she pointed out. “But you would think a little consideration, right? I mean, how do I know if she’s not in an alley somewhere?”
Root decided Sameen was upset that she hadn’t heard from Janine, and that was reminding Shaw how much she did care about the woman. She looked over at Bear who tilted his head to indicate he had no idea what had the short one upset. He sneaked over to Root’s side and wiggled his way up on the bed; front paws first until she hugged him and then he climbed all the way up.
“Oh, Bear,” Root said, but he could tell she wasn’t going to make him get down.
“Here it is!” Shaw sounded like she was updating, but she was unaware that Root was awake.
“Wow,” Root said, and Bear snuggled closer for protection.
“Good morning,” Shaw said, changing her tone and coming over to kiss Root good morning.
“You’re wearing that… to work?” Root asked out of sheer curiosity.
“Yes! Yes, I am. It says everything I feel. I won’t have to explain myself once today,” Shaw decided.
“Okay,” Root laughed and pulled Shaw back in. It was so easy; so inviting to kiss Sameen’s full lower lip when it was scowling.
Just then Sameen’s phone beeped and she pulled it out to look at it. “Ugh,” she expressed because it wasn’t who she expected.
“Are you worried?” Root asked, slowly getting up because they had gotten in so late.
“What? Worried? About what?” Shaw rebuffed.
“Janine,” Root answered even though Shaw didn’t want her to.
“What?” she asked as if Root had just asked her if she were concerned about the price of crude oil going up. “Pfft!” she tried. “That’s… so… ridiculous… really; it is,” the woman bellowed.
“Okay,” Root smiled and kissed her again as she went in to get ready.
Shaw shoved her hands in her pocket, wishing she could have continued arguing how crazy a statement that was, but no one was listening. She looked down at the dog in the bed. “Did you tell her?” she asked and Root covered her mouth when she heard that in the other room.
Going along with her girlfriend’s denial was part and parcel for Root. She knew Shaw would come to it in her own time.
And then she’d help Shaw clean up the mess.
Root was the best girlfriend in the world.
“Oh, my,” Isabelle said of Shaw’s graphic t-shirt. “So, that’s the kind of mood we’re in?”
“It’s not a mood,” Shaw corrected her. “It’s a lifestyle. It’s my anthem!”
"I see,” said the chef who didn’t buy it for a minute. “Very direct.”
“Thank you,” Shaw said because that was the whole point.
Her phone beeped again just before she was done eating. “Really” she asked no one as she took out her phone and looked. Suddenly, she finished her breakfast in one large, over stuffed, bite.
“I learned the Heimlich just for you,” Isabelle assured her because she often feared Sameen would choke on the large potions.
“I have to go,” Shaw said, jumping off the stool and wiping her mouth, before kissing Root.
“Sure,” Root said and pushed her plate back. “I’ll just be a minute.”
“Oh, I have to go… now,” Shaw explained. “I have this thing. Reese, I have a thing with Reese. He’s such a pain in the ass with his meetings,” she stammered.
“Well, I’m going to the office,” Root said, not catching on yet.
“That’s the thing, right? It’s not even at the office!” Shaw said, as if she didn’t just flame Root’s curiosity.
“Where is it?” Root asked, confused.
“It’s at a place…,” Shaw said and forgot that she wasn’t good at thinking fast on her feet unless she was being sarcastic. “That’s the really annoying part. He won’t tell me. I have to go meet him now and then, he’ll tell me.” Realizing she was simply digging herself in deeper, Shaw decided to yell her way to the elevator and leave. “I don’t know why you keep him. He’s good at what he does, but he really can be so bossy and quite at the same time,” she said which took her to the elevator. “I’ll see you at work. Martine is waiting for you,” she shouted as the door closed and she leaned back against the wall like she had just escaped.
Then, and only then, did she realize Reese would be at work and Root was bound to see him. She stamped her feet in the elevator because she was getting frustrated. The doorman asked her if she was okay.
She assured him she was. He only had to look at her t-shirt to doubt that.
Fusco was waiting outside as instructed. “Nice message, Shaw,” he noted.
“This is exactly what I want to convey to the world today,” she barked.
“Today? I’m surprised you don’t have that tattooed somewhere,” her friend declared.
“Are you going to help me, or what?” Sameen said.
“I’m here, ain’t I?” Fusco pointed out. “Now, look, I’ve done this kind of thing before. So, first you gotta tell me what you have in mind.”
Sameen didn’t care for any operation where someone else had the upper hand, but she had to make an exception because she wanted to get this right.
“I don’t know,” she admitted, stopping on the street corner and looking around. “Something really nice.”
“Oh, that narrows it down,” Fusco commented and witnesses thought she growled at him. “Come on, I know a guy who can help us.”
“What does that mean, Fusco? You know a guy? I don’t want something that fell off a truck!”
Lionel shook his head. “Would I help you get a fenced engagement ring, Shaw? Come on, Princess Charming,” he called.
Amazingly, Shaw followed.
Chapter 15: Diamond in the Rough
Reese looked down at the text from Shaw that simply stated he could not be at work. The man of few words wasn’t about to figure this out in text, so he called her. Sameen told him that she had explained her absence at work this morning by saying she was at an offsite meeting with him. “So I can’t be here because you’re playing hooky?” he pointed out.
“Yes,” Shaw replied.
“Where would you like me to go?” he inquired and Sameen felt the need to disclose what a dangerous question that was.
“I don’t think you have time to bust balls this morning,” Fusco snapped and now Reese knew that she was with the good detective.
“You’re playing hooky with Lionel?” Reese asked and then heard his poor friend’s arm get smacked for being loud. “How long will this take, Shaw?”
Putting pressure on Sameen to complete a task she knew nothing about only served to make her more frustrated. “THIS is why I am wearing this shirt!” she said to her friend who shook his head. “Not long, okay, Reese? Pretend Carter wants to go shopping and hide somewhere.” She hung up, pushing her phone in her back pocket.
“You didn’t get that memo about treating people who were doing you favors nicely, did you? Too busy picking out that t-shirt maybe?” Lionel suggested.
“Are you going to help me?” Shaw asked because there was time later to review her character flaws.
“Come on,” Lionel said, walking to their destination.
Minutes later, the stocky detective and his petite friend, both wearing dark sunglasses and matching swaying gaits, walked into the jewelry store.
“Detective!” the owner said when he saw Lionel. “It has been too long. What can I help you with today,” he said before sizing up the couple.
“We’re looking for an engagement ring,” Lionel said in a low voice, even though the store was empty.
“Oh, of course. Congratulations,” he gushed. “You’re a very lucky woman. The detective …”
“What?” Shaw barked, just catching on to his meaning.
“OH! Oh, God no,” Lionel protested, even though he liked that someone thought he would be with a woman as hot as Shaw. “We’re friends,” he explained.
“Friends make the best lovers,” the jeweler pointed out.
“Make him stop,” Sameen demanded.
“No, Antonio, this is my friend, Sameen. She is getting engaged. Not to me,” Fusco said, taking Shaw by the shoulders and putting her right in front of the shop owner.
Now the man could see Sameen’s t-shirt. “This is a time to express your love, not your dissatisfaction with the human race,” he pointed out and now Lionel had to step back in front of Shaw to protect the man.
“Could you show us … some rings,” Lionel begged.
“Come into my office and we’ll talk. Then, I will know what kind of person is going to wear this ring,” the expert explained.
Before she could utter her favorite threat, Lionel grabbed Sameen by the shoulders and whispered that every jewelry store had cameras that were on twenty-four seven. He wanted her to choose her actions wisely.
The only thing that softened Sameen’s demeanor was answering the man’s questions about her intended. “Tell me about her,” he said and Shaw slowed down and relaxed. “For example, what did you think the first time you met her?”
“I thought she was annoying,” Shaw said truthfully and Lionel nudged her. “What? That’s what I thought.
The man laughed uncomfortably. “Okay, then, what was she like on your first date.”
“She tazed me...,” the honest woman continued to make her point, but Lionel shouted over her.
“I THINK YOU MEAN ADJECTIVES, right, Antonio?” Fusco smiled and the man nodded his head.
Sameen looked at Lionel, wondering when he got to be so bossy. “Okay, well, she’s … just the kindest, sweetest, smartest person I know. We shouldn’t even be together. I mean, I’m rough and she’s calm; I’m incredibly sane and she’s … wow, some days, she’s out there. Still, she makes me… (cough)… whole,” Shaw said in spite of how uncomfortable it was to say that to a stranger.
“We want something perfect,” Lionel added and Shaw smiled because she knew he really was the best person to help her.
For the next hour the man discussed the differences in diamonds and settings and much to Fusco’s surprise, Shaw sat there quietly and attentively. She would look at a setting and ask Lionel what he thought. Finally, the selection was made. The master jeweler said he would start working on it right away and would call Sameen when it was ready.
“He is a very good friend to you, no?” Antonio asked Shaw.
Sameen looked over at the man who had seen her at her worst. “Yeah, he is,” Shaw smiled and that simple compliment would keep Fusco on cloud nine for months. Deep down, he knew how Shaw really felt; but it was nice to hear it.
“I’m glad you finally listened to me,” Lionel teased her when they stepped out into the late morning sun.
“Yeah, well, you were right; it is time,” Shaw said, trying to push away any emotion that brought up. She shoved her hands into her pockets and stood there with Fusco.
“So, when’s it gonna happen?” Fusco asked.
Sameen hadn’t thought that far ahead. “I… don’t know. Soon, I guess.”
“Shaw, you got to set it up. Do you want to put the ring in a glass of champagne or a fortune cookie…,” he suggested.
“She could choke!” the ever practical woman noted.
“Yeah, okay, so we’ll work on the actual event then,” Fusco said, feeling he had already taxed the romance out of Shaw for one day.
Sameen was an expert at compartmentalizing things, so she didn’t look at all suspicious when she returned. Lionel, on the other hand, was an open book – screaming PLEASE READ ME!
“Well, you look happy today, Detective,” Martine noticed and then turned to Sameen. “Love the shirt.”
“See?” Shaw said to Fusco who suggested she turn it inside out on the way there. “Now, where is she?” she asked of the woman, that most mornings, she dreaded seeing.
“Who?” Martine asked.
“The party animal from last night. She never texted me…,” and then she heard what she just said. “I mean… about today and my schedule.”
Martine stared at Shaw, not saying a word about the soft spot she just exposed to them. “She’s here,” she said.
Right on cue, the woman appeared.
“Oh!” Janine said from down the hallway when she noticed Shaw and the t-shirt.
“Here’s the real test, Shaw,” Fusco smiled.
“Is that…? Is that because of…?” Janine began and couldn’t say ‘me’ out of fear Shaw would affirm it was. “Of last night?’ she finally picked.
“Last night? No, it’s because … of every day,” Shaw smiled, looking down at the graphic tee.
“But… but it’s not true, is it?” Janine asked, getting closer now.
“Here we go,” Fusco said, smiling because he knew this woman was like water; seeping into every nook and cranny of Shaw’s logic.
“Is it true? Yes, it’s true?” Shaw retorted and wondered how anyone could question it.
The assistant walked over now into Shaw’s personal space, and pulled the shirt out at its bottom. “No,” she concurred. “It’s giving off the wrong message.”
“No, it’s the right message,” Shaw said, pulling her shirt back. “This is exactly the message I want to give off.”
“So much negativity, don’t you think?” Fusco stirred the pot more.
“Well, it’s not just that; it’s an untruth,” Janine reasoned. “Take it off.”
It was hard to say whose head snapped around faster; Fusco’s or Shaw’s.
“Excuse me?” Shaw said and both Martine and Fusco stood at attention in case they needed to intervene.
“That’s not you, Shaw,” Janine reasoned and sincerely meant it. “Come on; I’ll find you something else,” the assistant said and went off to find something.
Shaw looked around for her support, but it seemed no one was willing to take on the mini-Shaw who was still directing Shaw to follow. “Root was fine with this,” she pointed out to everyone.
“Root would be fine if all you wore was your underwear,” Fusco pointed out and Martine had to agree.
“Fine!” Shaw said. “I know who will give me her honest opinion on this,” and she pointed right at Fusco when she said that because she was going to see his girlfriend.
When Lionel realized where she was going, he decided he had a lot of paperwork to do at the station.
Before Sameen could reach Iris’ office, Reese saw her in the hallway. “Shaw,” he said glancing down for a second to see the apparel. “In a good mood?”
“If everyone believed my message, I would be,” she stormed off and walking in on the therapist.
Iris had made it a point in her notes to talk to Sameen about barging in. It was a work in progress.
“What do you think when you read this?” Shaw said, pushing her chest out for the therapist to read. Iris stood up and walked around her desk to get a closer look. Although – the bold, black block lettering made it easy to see from far away.
“I think you’re making a statement,” Iris said clearly.
“And does it offend you?” Shaw asked, closing the door.
“I’m not easily offended,” Iris answered.
“Yes, it’s one of the things I like about you. No drama,” Shaw said. “So, do you think I should take it off?”
“I’d like to hear why you chose to wear it before I answer that,” Iris said, even though she was never going to answer that.
“Okay, that’s fair,” Shaw said and walked over to take her seat on the couch. “Because I wanted people to stay away from me today.”
“So, you wore a t-shirt that says; I HATE EVERYONE; hoping everyone would keep their distance,” Iris noted and sat across from Sameen.
“Yes, after last night, I decided it was the perfect day to wear it,” Shaw explained.
“What happened last night?” Iris naturally asked and Shaw frowned that she gave that one up so easily.
“We took Janine out to find her someone like me; well, we thought we did, but it turned out, after several hours, that she didn’t need our help. She was doing fine on her own,” Shaw summed up.
“That was very thoughtful of all of you,” Iris slipped because she knew where her boyfriend was last night.
Sameen took that in and thought about it. “You know what it is, Doc? People… are… soooo needy.”
“A human attribute,” the therapist agreed.
“Well, shouldn’t they get them all in order? Take out one or two a day; at most?” Shaw complained.
“Do you feel responsible to meet the needs of the many?” Iris asked.
“No, I just don’t want to hear about them,” Shaw said.
“Because you feel responsible in some way,” Iris reframed the question.
“Yes,” Shaw said because it sounded like a different question.
“How does that feel?” Iris asked, and now Shaw knew she was knee-deep into a session.
“It feels like I need to let everyone know …,” and she pointed to her shirt.
“But why do you feel responsible?” Iris asked.
‘Geez, this woman is stubborn,’ Sameen thought to herself, but it was written all over her face. “Because I’m stronger and can get things done and won’t let my feelings get in the way of accomplishing what I need to do.”
“You are very accomplished,” Iris said.
“And I need to concentrate on Root. She’s got a lot on her plate now. And I realized something last night, Doc,” Shaw shared now that her t-shirt issue was settled, or so she thought.
“What’s that?” Iris asked with great interest.
“I sat with all of our friends, who are really good people, you know? And I thought how fortunate I am to have them. Don’t tell them that, ok?” Sameen asked the therapist.
“Never,” Iris promised.
“And then, on top of all of that, I have Root. And I realized I would give up everything just to be with her. That I want to be with her the rest of my life,” Shaw said, looking off in the distance.
“I’m glad to hear that, Sameen,” Iris said.
“I’m going to ask her … soon,” Sameen let out even though she hadn’t planned on it.
It was the first time Sameen ever saw Iris come close to being emotional. Her light eyes watered ever so slightly as she smiled. “That’s wonderful,” she said and her voice cracked just a little.
The positive energy Sameen felt from saying those words about Root contradicted the t-shirt message. “I’ll keep you posted,” she said as she rose to leave.
“Please do,” Iris said and got up from her chair.
Sameen went to shake the woman’s hand who helped her get this far in her emotional journey, but it didn’t seem enough. Her body moved closer, but then she questioned if you were supposed to hug your therapist.
“Oh, hell,” Shaw said and pulled a surprised Iris into her and hugged her – hard. Within seconds, she pushed the woman back, still holding onto her forearms, to make sure she was steady. Then, without a word and only a nod, Sameen thanked Iris and left.
Iris was so taken with this great gesture that she had to hold onto the chair for fear she’d fall over.
It would seem no one was immune to Shaw’s touch.
Shaw left the office in what would be one of her shortest sessions to date. She walked out of there feeling elated because that’s how she felt when she talked about Root. Root just wasn’t her safe space; she was her shield against all the other annoying things about humanity.
Janine was right – the shirt wasn’t really what she wanted to convey.
She walked into her cubicle, ripped off the shirt and walked through the opening to her assistant’s office, expecting her replacement outfit to be there.
“Shaw,” Reese said because he had been summoned there by Janine. He had looked long enough to know Sameen was standing there in her black sports bra. Now, his eyes were glued to the ceiling.
“Reese,” Shaw said because nothing about her toned body embarrassed her.
“I knew you’d agree,” Janine bubbled as she took the only article of clothing that she had been able to find from Reese’s stiff hand.
Shaw was enjoying John’s sheer embarrassment and instantly held up her arms for Janine to put the shirt on her. “You okay, there, Reese?” she asked, now that she was clothed.
John could tell from her tone how much she was reveling in his discomfort, but the tables were about to turn. “Nice team spirit there, Shaw. We have a meeting now.”
The smug look on Shaw’s face turned to a frown when she tried to figure out what had him so cheery. She looked down at her new apparel, which felt stiff and uncomfortable.
“I’m sorry, it’s all I could find,” Janine apologized of the white polo, emblazoned with the BEAR SECURITY TEAM logo.
Shaw considered how annoyed she could be, but decided against it. “No, that’s okay, I’m just going to work it,” she said, pulling on the material and leaving for her meeting. “Stay the course, Sameen; stay the course,” she repeated one of Root’s mantras to her.
While Root was preparing to update the security team on the IT’s new findings, there was another meeting going on somewhere in the city.
“It would seem that Ms. Groves presented us with more problems than we had originally planned for,” the septuagenarian said as he stood at the head of the table. “I think I’ve demonstrated that I am willing to deal with any team that fails,” he warned to the people who had been assembled there as the next team.
“Mr. Greer, we have the feed now,” an IT person interrupted him.
“Put it up here,” Greer instructed him and within seconds, the team was looking at the images on the large screen behind him.
“What are we looking at, Sir?” one of the women asked.
“This is Sameen Shaw, shopping for what would appear to be some sort of jewelry. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is how we are going to get Ms. Groves to cooperate with us. We’re going to take her crown jewel,” Greer smiled confidently.
Chapter 16: Plans in the Making
Heads did turn when Sameen walked into the security meeting and not for the usual reasons. “Nice shirt, Shaw!” a couple of the members said, thinking she had finally worn the uniform of her own volition.
“Okay, okay, losers; don’t put all your hopes in one basket,” Shaw reminded them, and confused them, at the same time.
The only thing that made her not regret taking off her graphic t-shirt was the smile Root gave her when she entered the room. “I like it on you,” said the woman who never cared for uniforms.
Root began the update under the pretense of hackers trying to infiltrate the BEAR systems. After the dramatic kidnapping, she had to come up with some reason why someone would want to take her. People and the press assumed it was for ransom or to gain the latest technological breakthroughs that BEAR was working on. Very few knew it was by a clandestine group trying to gain access to the machine.
Security was increased any place that Root went and if Shaw was absent, Martine or Reese were in her place. Root was not to be left alone.
The meeting concluded and Root slowly ran her finger of the logo on the left breast pocket of Shaw’s shirt. “I really like this,” Root said and her expression told Shaw it had nothing to do with the apparel.
“I took… the other… one off,” Shaw coughed.
“So, how did your meeting go with Reese?” Root smiled.
“It was good,” Shaw smiled, shoving her hands in her pockets and looking around.
‘Such a terrible liar,’ Root thought, but would never rush Shaw to tell her the truth.
Root knew if Sameen wasn’t telling her something, she had a good reason. That didn’t mean she didn’t want Sameen to know that the danger posed by Greer’s group extended to her. So, after the update meeting, Root asked to see Shaw upstairs.
“Nice cover,” Shaw said of Root’s ploy.
“I need every one on their toes, and I feel bad not being able to tell them the real reasons. But I came as close as I could, I hope,” Root considered as they sat on the couch in her office.
“I think everyone understood,” Shaw assured her.
“Listen, Sameen, I need to you be extra cautious,” Root started her request slowly.
“I won’t leave your side, and if I do, Martine or Reese will be there,” Shaw assured her.
“Yes, I know, but I’m thinking you could do with some protection,” Root said and as many times as she rehearsed that in her head, it still didn’t come out right.
It was met with the predictable response. “I don’t need protection, okay? I do the protecting!”
Root was not surprised that Sameen took it that way. “Of course,” Root said, trying to soothe her girlfriend’s easily ruffled feathers. “I’m just asking you to be careful… for me.” Root had to douse the flames of irritation in Sameen, by making it a personal request.
“Sure,” Sameen said, because there was little she’d deny Root.
The machine was working hard at its twofold mission of keeping tabs on anyone trying to find her, and trying to figure out what the other cluster of machines were up to.
“Data mining,” Root had told her. “But to what end?”
The machine wasn’t the only one on a secret mission. When they were home that night, Sameen waited until Root was singing in the shower before she confided in Bear.
“Don’t go all gaga on me, okay, but I’m getting something special for Root soon and I need you to guard it,” Sameen whispered to the dog.
He howled his question.
“You don’t know what guard means?” she said back in disbelief. “I will want you to protect it. Like you do with Root,” she explained rather than insult him because there was no time for that.
He barked his addition to that thought.
“You do not protect me!” Shaw argued. “What is it with everyone around here? I do the protecting, remember? Like when that poodle in the park was annoying you because it was low to the ground and could… you know… ,” Sameen reminded him. “Never mind. It freaked you out and I had to tell the owner to get her away from you.”
Bear said he didn’t remember that at all, and besides, it was a male dog.
“See? You just tripped yourself up there, didn’t you?” said the woman who no longer questioned her sanity when talking to the canine.
Root emerged from the shower and Sameen grabbed a magazine in an attempt to look nonchalant. She looked over at Bear, who caught on that he was supposed to look like nothing was going on. So, he started to stare at the ceiling.
If Root thought Shaw was bad at lying, Bear was even worse.
Root smiled to herself at the duo. “Let’s put your medicine on,” she said, as she sat next to Shaw. Sameen gladly pulled the company polo shirt off and offered it to Bear.
“Even he doesn’t want it,” she said when he refused.
Root slowly lifted the gauze and noticed how well Shaw was healing. “Either you have incredible restorative powers, or I’m a damn good nurse,” Root shared as she applied the salve.
“You are good,” Shaw smiled to Root, “… but I bruise easy, heal quick.”
“I prefer no more bruises, okay?” Root asked, as she kissed the skin around the wound on her shoulder.
“Remember that the next time your mouth is on my neck,” Shaw teased.
“I’ll have to do a better job of hiding them,” Root said and put her hands in areas that she promised wouldn’t show.
“Don’t be so sure of that one,” Sameen suggested when Root’s hand was between her thighs.
Root pulled her back into her arms, pretending to be bothered by that. “You are mine, Shaw. All of you; every square inch of you – it’s all mine,” Root said slowly in Sameen’s ear.
The words were sweet, but the message reached far past their hearts; igniting flames deep inside. They took turns declaring which parts of the other’s body was theirs, until the two fell asleep, covered in kisses.
The couple woke up the next morning ready to meet the demands of the day. Over breakfast, Sameen shared that she thought Root’s theory about Janine was right.
“She was very bossy yesterday,” Shaw said over waffles.
“With you?” Isabelle asked amazed.
“Yes! Can you believe it?” Sameen responded.
“She’s trying to be like Shaw,” Root updated the chef.
“Ooohh,” Isabelle said as if that made perfect sense.
“I don’t get it,” Sameen admitted and didn’t care to be enlightened because she was enjoying her breakfast too much.
They finished eating and got ready for work. “I will see you later,” Sameen said to Bear as she winked. She had gotten a text that informed her that the jewelry was ready. “Hey, let’s do dinner tonight. Somewhere nice,” Shaw said, because that’s as far as she got with the event planning. Whenever she gave it thought, she would ask – ‘how hard could this be?’ and in true Shaw fashion, answered that it wouldn’t be hard at all.
Fusco was going to disagree.
“Do you want me to pick it up?” he asked when he was having second breakfast with her that morning.
“No, thanks. I want to make sure it’s perfect,” Shaw said, eating an English muffin with scrambled egg and sausage.
“So, what are your plans?” he asked, diving into his fruit salad. “To pop the question,” he elaborated as he looked around, making people look at how suspicious he appeared.
“If you ever go undercover, I’m making an office bet of how fast you get caught,” she mocked him. “And how hard could this be? Your statement says it all,” Shaw declared and added, “Pop-the-question,” using her hands to make a popping motion. “You just ask.”
Fusco pushed back in his seat, the disdain evident on his face. “Have I taught you anything?” he asked seriously.
“Wha?” Shaw asked, her mouth full of delicious food that she was certain he was about to ruin.
“You gotta be romantic. Women like that,” was out of his mouth before he realized it. Now it was Shaw who pushed back in her seat.
“Excuse me?” she said, her head moving back and forth.
“Okay, I know you’re a woman, too; somewhere in there,” he smiled at Sameen. “But Root is romantic and you can’t just throw the ring down and ask her to marry you.”
“I wasn’t going to throw it,” Shaw said defensively.
“Good, so what are you going to do?” Fusco pressed.
“I… was… going to go… to dinner,” Shaw said and now that she put it out there, it did seem flimsy.
“Wow, you figured out the food part,” Fusco remarked.
“Fusco!” Shaw warned him because he wasn’t helping.
“Okay, look. Dinner is fine, but you have to figure out how you want to ask her. After dinner, before dessert, on the way home?”
Every time Lionel asked a question, it sounded more and more complicated. “Look, I got this, okay? I’m going to ask her… after dinner… before dessert… and I’m going to speak from my heart.”
That part, Lionel liked. “Okay, good. That’s good, Shaw,” he affirmed. “When are you getting the ring?”
“I’m going right after breakfast. Martine will cover for me and I’ll be back before lunch,” Shaw said because her schedule was divided into meal times.
Fusco felt like the proud brother as he reached across the table and squeezed Shaw’s hand. “What are you doing?” Sameen asked.
“I’m proud of you, Shaw. That’s all,” he assured her.
“Okay, but no hand holding until the ring is on her finger, okay?” Sameen suggested because she didn’t want him to attract attention.
“Got it,” Fusco said as they finished their breakfast.
Minutes later, Fusco went to work and Sameen traveled uptown to the jewelry store.
The jeweler sent her a text,” the man updated Greer.
“Good,” the older man smiled. “Alert Mr. Lambert. I don’t want anything to go wrong this time,” he said in his gravelly voice.
The man turned and typed into his computer. “Mr. Lambert says he is ready.”
“Remind him, I want her unharmed,” Greer said to the underling who then sent that message.
“There’s plenty of time to hurt Ms. Shaw later - if we don’t get what we want.”
Chapter 17: The Good Samaritan
Sameen had never felt more right about doing something in her life. The closer she got to the jewelry store, the more excited she felt. Antonio was waiting on a customer, but as soon as she entered, he waved to her.
“I’ll look around. Please take your customer,” the British accented man smiled.
Antonio thanked him and went to the back to get Shaw’s purchase. In his absence, the other customer walked closer to Sameen, all the time looking at the jewelry in the glass encasement.
“I’ll never find the right ring,” he seemed to say to no one.
Shaw smiled, but didn’t take up the conversation. She had a one track mind and it was to get the ring, and get out.
When Antonio returned, he took out the brightest diamond Shaw ever saw. She had seen similar jewels in drug deals overseas, but never one so perfectly set and surrounded by other smaller diamonds. “It’s is one of a kind,” he assured the woman.
“Wow,” the other customer said. “I’m sorry, but the light hit it and I couldn’t help but notice it.”
Something about this whole thing was unnerving Sameen. She smiled at the guy she was sizing up in the expensive suit. The way his jacket pulled, she was certain he had a gun. And he was invading personal space on purpose.
“Thanks,” Shaw said and smiled at Antonio to put it in a box. She thanked the man, took her purchase and stepped outside. Lambert continued talking to Antonio about rings.
Shaw called Fusco and asked him to send a cop car to the jewelry store – just in case. Then, she continued on her way.
A block away, on a side street, she heard someone call out to her: “You dropped this,” the accented man called and had something in his hand. Sameen tightened her grip on her gun and considered this might be a robbery.
But it was so much worse.
Sameen turned to see the familiar face holding out her receipt. And then she felt the needle being jabbed into the side of her neck … in broad daylight.
“Are you okay, miss?” Lambert called out and asked someone to call an ambulance for the woman who just fainted into his accomplice’s arms. Within seconds, the ambulance was there and two EMT’s were putting an unconscious woman into their vehicle.
The Good Samaritan told them that she had fainted. They said they would take care of it from there.
And by that they meant – they were taking her to the predetermined location.
Then, Lambert and the man who had injected their victim walked down into the subway station. No one was worried that any camera caught their images because Greer’s machine had seen to that.
An hour later, Sameen came to in a chair, in a small room. Before opening her eyes, she tried to establish anything she could with her other senses. This place smelled clean and the temperature was regulated. It wasn’t noisy like an office, but it wasn’t quite like a hospital. She felt the restraints and knew this wasn’t good. The only piece of good news that she was sure of was that the ring was still in her pocket. Or at least the box was.
Sameen opened her eyes and realized she was alone. She struggled, but her feet and hands were restrained. As soon as she drew her first conscious breath, Lambert came into the room. Sameen shook her head just the slightest. Her instincts had been right.
“You’re probably kicking yourself right now, Ms. Shaw, aren’t’ you? You suspected something in the store, but you didn’t act on it. Probably thought you were anxious or excited about your purchase,” he taunted her and established for Sameen, what kind of tactic he was going to use. He was going to try to press her buttons. She hardly listened as she planned her escape.
“Don’t bother, Ms. Shaw. Within a short time, your gallant boss will charge through those doors to save you. The great Sameen Shaw being rescued. Now, somewhere in that militarily trained heart, that’s got to bother you,” Lambert continued.
Sameen didn’t say a word; in fact, she hardly looked at him. She was trying to remember anything she could about what happened. She knew she was drugged and an ambulance had taken her away because she heard sirens.
“We’ve gotten to know you better, Ms. Shaw,” Lambert said in a friendly voice. “My predecessor miscalculated how dangerous you could be. I won’t make that mistake. But you see, I know your weakness and any minute, I’m going to call her. In the end, she’ll do as I say and come here alone. And when she sees how easily I can torture you, she’ll give us what we want. You see, last time we kidnapped the wrong woman. You have experience in that rescue sort of thing, so you knew how to stay calm and act. But when Ms. Groves sees you…,” Lambert foretold, “… I don’t think she’ll be able to be so calm about it.”
Shaw pulled at her restraints a little to see how difficult it would be to get out.
“Ah, ah,” Lambert warned her. “We placed them where they wouldn’t hurt your cuts. So barbaric, Mr. Blackwell was. He was, unfortunately, a tad sadistic,” Lambert said in a tone that sounded like he was apologizing. “I’ve decided the best way to get you to cooperate is through drugs.” He nodded towards a mirror and within seconds, a woman dressed in a white uniform, came in. “This won’t last long; just long enough for me to contact Ms. Groves and tell her where to come and collect you. Or your body; depending on whether or not she cooperates.”
Sameen still wouldn’t look at him, but grimaced when the nurse injected the drug into her neck. She fought it as hard as she could, but slumped over in her seat once it took effect.
“I do hope Ms. Groves cooperates this time. I would so hate to hurt that beautiful face,” Lambert said, picking Sameen up by her chin and letting her head drop.
Back at BEAR, Root had texted Sameen about lunch and the reply said she would meet her outside the dining hall. The CEO was about to leave when her phone beeped indicating a call was coming through. It was from Sameen’s number, or so she thought.
“Hi, Sweetie,” Root cooed into the phone.
“Ms. Groves, Sweetie, as your refer to Ms. Shaw, is secured at our location. She was abducted this morning, without so much as a whimper I’d like to point out,” Lambert announced.
“Who is this?” Root said and began tapping into her laptop to activate the phone beacon.
“Don’t bother trying to locate her phone, MS. Groves. I spoofed her number to make sure you would pick up. She’s unharmed, I assure you. But that isn’t a permanent condition. You know what we want. If you alert anyone, like the NYPD or your own security team, harm will come to her. Are you prepared, Ms. Groves, to play nice?”
Root’s mind raced even while she agreed to do as he asked.
“You’re probably wondering why I don’t just negotiate the machine’s location for Ms. Shaw’s release,” Lambert said and this told Root she was dealing with someone smart and devious. “That’s because my employer believes that you will be better motivated if you can see the pain that can be inflicted upon your friend.”
“I’ll do as you say,” Root said as she turned on the second set of cameras in her office.
“Good. I’ll send you the instructions on where you should come, Ms. Groves,” Lambert said and hung up.
Then, he went over to the desk of his IT staff member and watched Root in her office. “Keep an eye on her,” he said, “…make sure she does not contact anyone.”
The man moved in closer to the screen and did as he was told. The only thing he noticed was Root going over to the long credenza and pouring water into a glass and drinking it. Then, she took the empty glass and refilled it; put seemed to change her mind. She poured the water back into the pitcher and walked over to the window. There were other little gestures that the IT man assumed were fidgeting or anxious behaviors as she waited for the location.
Lambert sent Root the information and the man could see her look at her phone.
Root put on her jacket, taking a moment to pull at the lapel and button the buttons. All motions that went unsuspected to the men watching her. But when Reese checked the camera feed later; those gestures would indicate ‘4AF’ and he would know there was an emergency.
“Scramble her reception,” Lambert told the IT man and as soon as he did, Reese and Martine lost the signal that had established on Root’s phone.
Root walked to Grand Central as instructed and waited by the clock in the center of the main room. A cleaning person approached and picked up some trash nearby. He took out a rag and started to wipe the counter – leaving behind a note for Root. She was instructed to go the Vanderbilt side of the train station and enter the Campbell Bar. She was to order a drink at the bar – specifically white wine – and someone would come and get her.
Sameen came to with a start. “You’re recovery time is remarkable, Ms. Shaw,” Lambert said. “Ms. Groves is on her way over now. A little detour through Grand Central and then up here to the apartment.”
Finally, Sameen decided to speak. “What is it that you want from her?” she asked.
“Oh, Ms. Shaw,” he smiled. “Don’t play dumb; it’s unbecoming.”
Shaw’s heart rate increased, but it didn’t show on her face. She still appeared calm as she kept her breath steady.
“We need Ms. Groves’ machine to expand. We have limited capability now; a stream of city cameras, the ability to hack into some office building cameras like at BEAR. But we need to expand to really accomplish our mission,” Lambert felt it safe to share.
The fact that he was willing to tell her this, didn’t only tell Sameen how far along they were.
It told her they were never going to let her or Root leave.
Chapter 18: Out of Chaos, Comes Clarity
A/N: You guys make me try to be a better writer. Some comments that the original version of this chapter was confusing made me go back and revamp a few points. So, hopefully those tweaks work and this gives the story a better 'flow'. Thanks so much for your help.
If Greer’s people thought they learned something about Shaw from the last time they met; Root was certain she learned something about them. She knew that people who want technological power have a myriad of ways of getting what they want. Given the activity that she, Harry, and Azar had been monitoring, Root knew they had recently acquired the ability to take over the street cameras in the City. Fearing that they could have accessed the cameras at BEAR, Root decided her every move had to be calculated.
Root decided that while they might be tracking her, they wouldn’t get that her sequence of behavioral moves in her office, would tell Reese and Martine that Shaw was in trouble. The odd display of water pouring and then buttoning a jacket that she would leave in the lobby, were all clues for the security team to figure out. Water was Shaw’s astrological sign; the jacket she put on, but then took off, was code for danger.
Before Root left the office, she said goodbye to Bear, using the Danish word for ‘emergency’. All the time it seemed she was telling him to stay and hugging him goodbye. In reality, she was passing him critical information.
As soon as Root left the building, Bear went to Reese and Martine. Within minutes, they viewed her actions on a protected network and deciphered their meaning. Root and the Security Team had outlined different scenarios in case of another attack by someone looking for the machine.
“Operation Blind Man?” Martine asked and Reese nodded. She went to get the props while John tapped into his phone to see where Root was headed.
Shaw would have a lot of questions for Reese when she found out that Root was being tracked by her earrings and not a device somewhere injected into her flesh.
Seconds later, John took Bear with the accoutrements he would need to appear as if the canine was his Seeing Eye companion, and followed the flashing dot on his phone. Martine loaded schematics to his phone once he knew where Root was and now all he had to do was wait.
Root had taken three of the most important things she could take with her; her attitude and two guns. Now, she sat at the bar as instructed, dressed in a low-cut purple, sleeveless dress and high heels. Hardly the outfit conducive to rescuing someone.
When the camera revealed that she was indeed, alone, Lambert sent someone for her. The woman approached her as Root sat there, legs crossed and calm.
“Ms. Groves?” the woman said and Root smiled and followed her. They walked to an elevator and went upstairs. Then, Root followed as the woman walked short distance down an empty hallway until they reached a door. It was a section of the grand transportation hub that few knew existed until a few years ago.
“The Campbell Apartment,” Root said and smiled. Root was very fond of the long forgotten landmarks of New York City. Many of them became her refuge when she was living on the streets years ago.
Inside the large apartment, Lambert’s phone alerted him that Root was there. “Right on time,” he said to Sameen who decided she would take pleasure in hurting this guy. “Now, let me tell you how this is going to go. I believe in full disclosure,” he smiled cynically at Sameen. “I’m going to tell your boss; your girlfriend and might I add,” he said, putting his hand on the box in Shaw’s pants pocket, “… your intended; that you’re in here unharmed as long as she takes us to the machine. If she refuses, and I seriously doubt that, I’m going to open that window over there so she can witness you being tortured.”
Shaw just stared at him without flinching.
“I’m betting she caves before you do, Ms. Shaw,” he added because there was something about Sameen he actually admired.
Lambert greeted Root the way admirers meet their favorite people. “Ms. Groves, it is a pleasure. I am Jeremy Lambert,” he said as he walked into the area where she was. He signaled to the woman to pat her down for weapons. “You understand of course,” he said apologetically.
The woman removed the two guns from her purse.
“Can’t blame a girl for trying,” Root smiled at her host. “I want to see Sameen,” she said after the woman took the weapons away.
“Of course, of course,” Lambert said and put his arm out for her to walk ahead. “You’ll find that we’ve taken good care of Ms. Shaw,” he assured her, “…except for the occasional drug injection to keep her cooperative.”
Sameen had taught Root that one of the first things an enemy operative does, if they’re not already killing you, is to find your weaknesses and press down so hard, it makes you crack. Root knew this is what Lambert was doing. She bit her inner cheek to maintain her stalwart expression on her face.
He took Root to a room outside the smaller one that Shaw was in. He motioned for the woman to open the curtain so that Root could see Sameen secured in the chair, but unharmed. “We took caution not to apply those restraints to her injures,” he noted as if he knew Root would appreciate that. “So, let’s get down to business, shall we?” he asked and sat at a table.
“Release her,” Root said as she took her seat.
“Tell me where the machine is located first,” Lambert smiled.
“Tell me what you’re doing with all this hardware, Mr. Lambert,” Root said back, crossing her legs and putting her pocketbook on the table. “Besides being a voyeur.”
“I understand your natural curiosity, Ms. Groves. Mr. Greer has authorized me to tell you enough to whet your appetite,” Lambert said agreeably. “He came across a program, many years ago, stolen by a CIA operative. The operative handed over the program and kept a little something on the side; the true nature of the machine. Eventually, they sold it and it’s been handed over piecemeal to different owners until Mr. Greer acquired it. It’s a shadow of its former self, he believes, and set out to reconstruct his piece with the more powerful engine. Hackers looking to make money, like your friend, set out to find it. All roads led to Manhattan, Ms. Groves. And all of Manhattan points to you, since you are the only one smart enough to recognize what the machine can do,” he explained. “So, now I’ve told you my story; you tell me yours. Where is the machine? Or shall I show you what we’re capable of doing to your friend?”
“What do you intend to do with such a massive machine?” Root asked, concentrating on her breathing.
“We’re going to create a better world, Ms. Groves and you could be a part of that, if you wish to work with us,” Lambert said. He had disagreed with Greer on that offer, but was told to extend it, nonetheless.
“You’re very kind to offer,” Root smiled. “But you see, any second Shaw is going to grow weary of her restraints and break out. Then, she’ll overpower that scrawny woman with the needle and come out here where, if you’re smart, you’ll start to worry.”
Lambert looked over at Shaw, who sat complacent in her chair. He looked back at Root and smiled. “They said you were a little crazy, Ms. Groves, but I had no idea how far your delusions took you. Now, you’re wasting my time,” he said in a much sharper tone and nodded to a large man to go into Shaw to convince Root they were serious.
“Perfect,” Root said because she knew once Shaw got angry, she’d be like a bull in a china shop and dispose of that man.
Lambert stared at Root, surprised she didn’t take him more seriously. “You’ve just lost your option,” he lectured Root as the man went inside the room. Root grimaced at what was coming next, but felt there was little she could do. She needed the door opened and she needed Shaw to free herself. She saw the force at which the man’s arm swung at Shaw’s head.
It hurt like hell. But as Root predicted, it was the impetus to make Sameen snap into action. When her head swung to the side from the blow, she came back with full force and picked up the chair and swung around, hitting the man with the legs. Then, she threw herself at him, catching him as he fell down. She broke the zip ties as he held onto the chair to get up. It was a combination of ballet and martial arts as Sameen took care of the man in a few blows.
Lambert called for help as Root sat there calmly. “I’d be very afraid if I were you,” she taunted Lambert.
“Ms. Groves! Are you insane? I have a dozen men on their way in to tear your friend apart; limb by limb. And then, Ms. Groves you will have nothing left to barter with and I will turn you over to them,” Lambert yelled.
“Ordinarily, I’d say that’s a great plan, but you’re missing the part where I came in here armed,” Root pointed out.
“You’re bluffing,” Lambert said because she had been checked.
“Have it your way,” Root smiled as she waited patiently. Sameen may have subdued her attacker, but there were more on the way. She couldn’t see Root through the one way mirror, but she knew she was somewhere nearby.
Shaw picked up the chair and smashed it into the mirror, breaking the glass.
“Now you’ve just made her angry,” Root said to Lambert whose men were running towards the inner area.
Then, they all heard it and stopped.
The explosion of a drone carried missile hitting a section of the building closest to the Campbell Apartment. It was small and would cause the least amount of damage, but Lambert didn’t know that. Chaos ensued, as Root predicted, which allowed her other weapon to get through. As people rushed to grab Sameen and Root, Reese and Bear made their way up in the elevator. When it opened on the third floor, Bear got off. “Here you go,” Reese said to him and handed him the device, which he deftly grabbed with his mouth. “Three doors down,” Reese instructed based on Morse code from Root tapping her earring. On her prior walk through the place, she noted which rooms had an accessible desktop.
Bear walked down the hallway, and entered the room, undetected. He sat there whimpering when spotted by one of Greer’s IT people. “Get out of here,” she called to Bear who put on his friendliest demeanor. “Where did you come from?” the woman asked and petted the seemingly lost and anxious dog. “Did that noise scare you?” she asked and Bear whimpered. All the time he was actually telling her that his pet caused that explosion. “Where is your owner?” the woman asked because of Bear’s apparel that designated him as a helper. Her phone rang and orders were shouted to her to establish a reduction in power to prevent any damage to the program.
“They’d have my head if I didn’t protect their precious machine,” she confided in her new found friend. He whined until she guessed he wanted water and got up to get him some. It took only a couple of minutes.
When she returned, she gave him the bowl of water. He barked, now that his mouth was empty, but she didn’t understand his question about whether it was tap or bottled water. She petted him affectionately and he thanked her.
“Where are you going?” she shouted when Bear took off. Then, she turned back to her computer screen and saw that files were being deleted. “What?” she asked as she pounded on keys, trying desperately to unlock them. It was too late.
She never noticed the canine saliva covered flash drive that was adeptly shoved into the CPU and causing the damage.
Bear made his way down the hallway as people scrambled to see what the damage was. He kept walking slowly, looking for Root's scent.
“Was that your attempt at scaring us, Ms. Groves,” Lambert asked, only smiling now that he was assured there was no damage done to the computer room.
“Yes,” Root said.
In the meantime, two more men were taken care of by Shaw and Lambert called for her to be drugged again.
Before that could happen, he got an emergency call.
“What do you mean?” he shouted when he was informed that the program seemed to be deleting files on its own. “PULL THE PLUG!” he shouted.
Root looked over and tilted her head and smiled. “Take her in there with Ms. Shaw,” he shouted to two large men. They grabbed Root roughly and brought her into Sameen. They pushed her through the door and shut it behind them.
“Root! Are you okay?” Sameen said as she rushed over to her.
“Yes, I’m fine,” Root said and took Sameen’s head in her hands and kissed her.
“Did they …?” Shaw asked, but looking at Root in high heels and a dress showed no signs of being roughed up.
“No, we were having a nice chat until a small missile caused a distraction,” Root explained, looking Shaw up and down. “Are you okay?”
“Yes,” Shaw assured her and started to look around for a way out.
“Give it a couple of minutes,” Root assured her. “Oh, here,” the taller woman said, as if she just remembered. “I brought you this,” she said, taking out a tiny tube of lip gloss and a credit card.
“You’re thinking about shopping for makeup at a time like this?” Shaw asked, unable to get the meaning.
“Oil for the lock,” Root said, handing the tube to Sameen. “Worth a shot,” she said when Sameen stood there motionless.
Shaw rolled her eyes, but wasn’t sure what else to do. She applied the oil and then tried to jimmy the lock with the card, as Root sat on the table watching.
“I really thought you’d be good at this,” Root said in a noncritical tone.
“Excuse me?” Shaw barked. “You give me a tube of lube and an Amex card and you expect me to be MacGyver?”
Getting Shaw upset was like rubbing two twigs together slowly. The point was to get her angry slowly, so she’d stop thinking and use her instinct.
“They’re going to come back in here and torture us,” Root pointed out.
“Thanks for the heads up, Captain Obvious,” Shaw said, out of patience. “Almost… got… it.”
The lock unlocked and the handle seemed to turn and then stopped.
“Step back,” Shaw said, and grabbed a chair to hit the person entering.
The door flew open and Shaw lunged, but no one was there.
“BEAR!” Root said excitedly. She had told him to follow her scent. Opening the door was simply what Bear did best.
“I see you finally understood how to guard,” Shaw said of the canine. He barked that he did. “Let’s go,” she said and Root followed her out of the room.
“Wait,” Root said as they entered the outer room she and Lambert had been talking in. “We may need these,” she said, grabbing her guns that had been confiscated and placed in a drawer.
“Two guns?” Shaw asked and would have rolled her eyes if there was time.
As soon as they entered the hallway, Shaw had to subdue one of the burly men sent back to guard them. His cries of pain caused two more to rush down the hallway.
“It’s true,” noted Shaw, “… the bigger they are, the harder they fall.”
Root raised both guns and shot the oncoming men in the kneecaps.
“Okay, that was kinda hot,” Shaw said of her girlfriend handling weapons so adeptly.
Bear jumped up and pressed the button for the elevator. Shaw held the door as Root fired two more times, taking down the two men rushing at them.
In the meantime, Lambert was inside the computer room in a full-fledged panic. “The police will be here! Mr. Greer says to let them go for now.”
It wasn’t until they were on the elevator without anyone trying to stop them, did the women realize something was amiss. The elevator door opened on the bottom floor into the bar area where Root had first been when she arrived.
“NYPD is on their way,” Shaw noted by the sound of the sirens approaching.
“Find Reese,” Root instructed Bear who took off to do so.
As soon as the missile hit, people evacuated the building.
Except for the elderly gentleman who sat at the bar where Root had been before.
“Let’s go,” Shaw said, but suddenly realized Root was not walking with her. “Root!” Shaw called, but she was slowly walking toward the man at the bar. Something had caught her attention.
“NYPD is going to be swarming this place soon,” Shaw informed Root. “Wait. Is that… Greer?” Shaw ran to catch up with Root who seemed to be like a moth drawn to the fire. Shaw had no way of knowing that it was what the man was holding that actually caught Root’s attention.
The man took a sip of his drink as if nothing was going on. Glass and broken furniture surrounded the tables; damage from the small explosion. The bartender asked if he wanted more and he waved the man off. Then, he turned to greet his guests.
“Miss Groves, Miss Shaw; it is truly a pleasure to meet you both,” John Greer said in the friendliest of tones.
“If you’re who I think you are, I’m about to change your mind,” Shaw said, getting so stiff that when Root put her hand on her arm, it felt like steel. Shaw’s head snapped to look at Root. What could she possibly be thinking?
“Go ahead, Miss Groves, take it. It’s yours,” he said of a notebook that was under his hand. He slid it across the bar a short distance.
“Where did you… ?” Root asked, almost afraid to touch the book.
“Oh, I know where you’ve been, Miss Groves,” the man smiled and Shaw stared at what Root was slowly picking up.
“What the hell is that?” Shaw demanded to know. The sirens were slowing down, announcing that the cops were approaching the building.
“Well, Miss Shaw, it’s an old diary of Miss Groves. She left it here many years ago when she was, what shall we say, visiting the Campbell Apartment? You used to stay here quite often, didn’t you, my dear?”
The man had just handed Root a piece of her history; an old journal that she wrote in. She wrote about her wildest dreams, her saddest nightmares, and her activities. When she left to live with Harry, she couldn’t find it. She made several trips back here to her secret place, but then construction took over and she could no longer access the places she used to.
“Growing up unloved is an awful thing,” Greer said and Shaw lunged at him, but he didn’t flinch. The bartender pulled out a Glock and aimed it at Shaw.
“I am going to take real pleasure in kicking your prehistoric sorry ass,” Shaw threatened Greer. She was willing to make an exception to her own moral code of not hurting the elderly. “Let’s go, Root,” Shaw demanded, but Root couldn’t move. She continued to stare at the book as if Greer had handed her - her own Pandora’s Box.
Shaw realized that this man was cleverer than either of them had given him credit for. He was disarming Root without so much as a weapon.
Greer may not have ascertained the location of the machine, but he got the next best thing. He was harming her caretaker.
“Each time I see you two, you surprise me. Eventually, Ms. Groves, we will figure out how you got to our machine and we will repair it. You see, machines are not like people; they can be restored after they’re damaged. A machine would never carry the feeling of being unloved around for years, causing it to do desperate things to relieve the pain of that feeling.”
Sameen calculated how fast the gunman would shoot her and if she could still throw Greer to the ground, ending his life.
“Have you told Miss Shaw all the things you did? I’m sure she’d be interested in knowing especially given what she had planned for you this evening,” Greer smirked.
Shaw had seen trained people dismantle another human being with words; and she knew instantly, Greer must have been trained by the best. One look at Root told Shaw that whatever he found out about her had just transported her back in time and stripped her of her armor.
“There’s no sense in drawing this out now. The police will no doubt want to ask me about my offices and I will be more than happy to show them the damage to my high tech security business upstairs. Until we meet again,” John Greer said and actually had the nerve to bow his head to the couple before walking away.
“Shoot him!” Shaw said to Root, but she stood there motionless.
“No,” Root finally uttered. “We need him,” she said because without him, they may never know what was truly going on.
“What is this?” Shaw asked, wanting Root to start moving. Now that the bartender followed Greer out, the two women were there alone.
“An old diary,” Root smiled, but Shaw could see the painful affect the long forgotten journal had on her.
“We’ll talk about that later,” Shaw said, tugging on Root to leave. They did not need to be the last two people in the building when the NYPD arrived. Even pulling now, Shaw could tell Root seemed incapable of rushing. Finally, Sameen couldn’t take it. She stopped and turned to look at Root.
“What?” she asked. “What is it? A handwritten account of your darkest sins? What could be in that book?” she shouted.
“I… ,” Root started and her voice cracked. She drew a deep breath and looked her anxious girlfriend in the eye. “…hurt people.”
“Welcome to the club,” Shaw responded because she had done her fair share of that very thing. “Besides, those people you hurt, deserved it,” Shaw said of some of Root’s former foster parents.
“People I care about,” Root expanded.
“Root!” Shaw said through gritted teeth because she felt her lover was not getting the gravity of the situation if they were discovered there. “Can we do this later?”
“Your mother,” Root said … because she sorta had an impulsivity issue.
“What?” Shaw asked, because she found Root’s explanations more confusing as they went on. “What about her?” she asked, listening to hear if she could tell how far away the cops were.
“I gave your mother’s location to Greer,” Root explained and now she had Shaw’s full attention.
“What are you talking about?” Shaw asked.
“I didn’t know it was her, but I knew that someone was juicing up the electricity in the city years ago. I thought they were voyeurs because the activity seemed to follow someone. Greer’s group put out a call on the dark web looking for information about powerful machines. I tracked your mother’s activity and gave him the information. It was why she had to leave again,” Root said.
Shaw just looked at Root, trying to figure out what she was telling her.
“I didn’t know it was Azar, I swear it. When she came back into your life and I realized that she was probably the woman I pointed out to this group, I didn’t know what to do. I tried to protect her and we succeeded because no one from Greer’s group suspects her anymore.”
Sameen shook her head, even though it hurt like hell. “Does my mother know?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” Root said truthfully.
“She’s okay? Right now?” Shaw asked.
“Yes, her activity has been completely masked,” Root assured Shaw.
The memory of a time when Root felt so unloved and unwanted, before Finch found her, was enough to mess with Root’s head. Even when she was with Harold, she felt a warmth and admiration for her talents, but it never filled the void Root felt all those years. Feelings rushed at Root from the deepest resources of her soul now. She was staring at the woman who adored her, and yet, she felt like an unwanted child.
Feeling unloved was a feeling Sameen was well acquainted with. She saw it reflected in Root’s eyes immediately.
“Well, not exactly the way I had it planned,” Sameen said and pulled Root over to a glass littered stool. She wiped it clear and nodded for Root to sit. “I was hoping for music playing softly, Root, but with you, I have a feeling our background music is going to be sirens more often than not,” Shaw smiled.
“What do you mean?” Root asked, sorry she had stopped them from leaving. How would they explain their presence?
Shaw took Root’s hands in hers. “From the minute I met you, you annoyed the hell out me. You made me angry and frustrated and I couldn’t believe I took a job working with you,” Shaw said and Root thought maybe Sameen picked now to share how upset she was with the news she just heard. “But you made me feel other things. Other things I wasn’t supposed to feel. Things that I had buried so far down, it gave me my own diagnosis. The only person who could stand me was Fusco and I think that was because he decided I was the punishment he deserved for driving his wife away,” Shaw shared and could tell she was confusing Root. “But you… you did things to me without my even knowing. You got past walls that everyone else failed to get through. You make me want to be a better person. You make me whole, Root. You’re my safe place and I know I can’t live without you. So…,” Shaw continued and pushed her hand into her pocket and took out the box.
Then, Sameen Shaw got down on one knee, after clearing the spot of debris first.
“I promise you, Root; I will always do right by you. I will protect you and kick anyone’s ass who tries to hurt you. There will never be another day in your life that you ever doubt you are wanted and loved. I will always be by your side. And Root, you know how you’re always telling me we’re just noise in the system and confusing the hell out of me? Well, if we are, I want us … to be a symphony. Will you marry me?”
Root’s eyes immediately filled with water as she looked at Sameen on one knee. She had never heard words that truly sounded like music to her ears. She knew she was staring at the one person who made her feel like – finally – she belonged.
This was her Shaw.
“Oh, my, God, Sameen… YES!” she said, and Sameen took the ring out and put it on Root’s finger.
Root pulled Sameen up and into the tightest hug she could manage without hurting her lover. “I love you Sameen Shaw. I always have; I always will.”
“Okay, good,” Shaw said sincerely and kissed Root back. “Now, let’s get out of here before Fusco has to put us in a lineup.”
The two women rushed out the back stairwell, because Root knew exactly where it was.
Seconds after they left, Detective Fusco opened the door to the room and yelled. “I found where it hit.” He walked through the debris and noticed something on the floor. He walked over and picked it up, shoving it in his pocket just before the police followed him in there.
“Find anything?” one of them asked him.
“I think we just missed them,” he mused and didn’t mean the bad guys the way the cop thought he did.
“Way to go, Shaw,” he said softly, knowing that this was the perfect place for his chaotic friend to propose.
Chapter 19: Mother of all Plans
It was in the afterglow of burning embers from the direct hit, that Root stopped Shaw in the street and pulled her into a warm kiss. “You proposed!” Root declared in the midst of cops and firemen rushing to Grand Central, as people rushed away. She was still holding onto her journal.
“Yeah, well not the way I planned it, but yes,” Shaw smiled up at Root.
“It’s beautiful,” Root said as she gazed at her ring at the end of her extended arm.
“I’m glad you like it,” Shaw said and meant it. Since they never discussed it, she wasn’t sure she knew what Root’s taste was in diamonds.
“You have made me the happiest person on this planet,” Root said, kissing Shaw to prove it.
“Okay, I’m glad, but could we get away from the heavy police presence before they want to ask us some questions; like what we were doing there?” Sameen pointed out.
Root took Shaw’s hand and walked down the street; her smile brighter than the afternoon sun.
“How did you mess with the program?” Shaw asked when they were far enough away.
“Protocol Four. Reese and Rousseau used Bear as a Guide Dog and gave him a flash drive to put into a computer,” Root said as if she just explained a normal every day occurrence.
“Bear? Did all that?” Shaw asked. “Wait, how did they know where to find you?”
“My earrings,” Root answered quickly, playfully touching one.
Shaw stopped in her tracks. “Earrings?”
Root pushed her hair back to show the small studs in her ears.
“How come I didn’t get the jewelry choice?” Shaw asked and decided Reese was going to answer that question. A car pulled over to the curb. “Speak of the devil,” Shaw said when Martine got out and opened the back door.
“You guys okay?” she asked.
“We are, but I’m going to kill the driver in about two minutes,” Shaw said as she got in and poked the man hard on his arm. “Hey, how come I didn’t get the jewelry tracker?”
John looked in the rear view mirror expressionless. He honestly didn’t have an answer that would appease Shaw. He never even considered that as an option for the woman he thought looked most comfortable when carrying an AK-47.
“I’m sure John didn’t have that option available,” Root said and took Shaw’s hand in the backseat.
“Fine,” Shaw said, letting it go… for now.
Now, Root was torn between going back to work to work out their strategies, and announcing to everyone that they were engaged. She decided she knew where to go first. “We have to tell your mother?” she said to Shaw when they arrived at the office.
“You want to tell my mother that you gave her up to Greer?” Shaw said, both eyebrows raised high.
“Oh,” Root said wishing Shaw hadn’t reminded her of that. “Actually, I was hoping we could tell her about this…,” she said, putting her hand out. “First.”
“Okay,” Shaw said letting out a deep breath. “Then, we eat.”
The couple said goodbye to Reese and Martine who went up in the elevator together.
“Did you notice…?” Martine asked, looking up at the digital floor display.
“Yes,” John confirmed.
Then, the two returned to work without another word about it.
Shaw’s phone rang as they drove uptown to her mother’s apartment. “Nice calling card, you two,” Fusco whispered into his phone.
“Isn’t it cool? She has drones that…,” but Fusco interrupted her.
“Ah, ah, ah, Shaw. The walls have ears here,” he reminded her. “Hey, congratulations you two,” he said and hung up.
“How did Lionel know?” Root asked.
“Beats me,” Shaw wondered because she didn’t realize she dropped the box.
The couple arrived at the apartment. “Look, let me just tell my mother about this slowly. I don’t want her to make a fuss, ok?” Shaw asked.
“Of course,” Root smiled and grabbed Sameen’s hand.
Alystair greeted them and Shaw noticed he was carrying a gun in a holster. “That’s good,” she complimented him.
Then, the couple went into the room where Azar and Ayala were monitoring the machine’s security.
“Oh, thank God,” Azar said, jumping up from her seat and rushing over to hug Sameen. “When John notified us, I was so worried,” the older woman said.
“Yes, well about all of that,” Shaw started as her younger sister came over and asked if they were okay.
“We’ve been watching carefully since Reese contacted us,” Ayala started to explain and, truth be told, Root wanted to hear what they had been doing. “Those clusters that we saw seemed to have stopped. Whatever they were doing, something happened.”
“Root happened,” Shaw said, smiling at her Brainiac partner.
Root beamed and actually blushed that Shaw thought so highly of her plan. The two stared at each other as silence filled the room.
“Was that your missile?” Ayala asked Root, thinking the woman had that type of hardware available to her.
“Yes,” Root said and Ayala all but squealed with delight.
“Isn’t that cool?” Shaw asked her sister and the two practically giggled like it was Christmas morning.
“Sweetie,” Root said, taking Shaw’s arm because they were way off track.
“Oh, and this…happened,” Shaw announced their engagement by picking up Root’s arm to show them the ring.
“Mazel tov!” Ayala yelled and grabbed the two women into a tight squeeze. When she finally let go, Shaw’s mother approached.
“Arousitoon mobarak,” she said in her native tongue and hugged them both.
Shaw still struggled with hugs lasting longer than two seconds, unless it was Root, of course.
“This is truly wonderful,” her mother gushed, her eyes smiling brightly. “I am so thankful I have lived to see this day.”
“O..kay…,” Shaw said, but her mother insisted on getting out special glasses to have a drink.
Azar filled the glasses and gave each woman one. “To Sameen and Root,” she said and all four downed the liquor in unison. “May you always bring joy to each other.”
“Not bad,” Shaw said of her mother’s choice of alcohol.
“Where will you get married? We have to have a bachelorette party. Oh my God, am I the maid of honor?” Ayala asked excitedly and now her sister looked like a deer in headlights.
As much as Root enjoyed her future sister-in-law’s enthusiasm, she could feel the calmness drain out of Shaw. “We haven’t even had time to discuss… any of that,” Root smiled, taking charge as she did when she was in protective mode.
“Where did you propose?” Ayala asked, the whole event striking her inner romantic cord.
“In the debris,” Shaw answered and put her glass down. “Look, I’m just going to come out and tell you this,” she continued and Root thought she could hear the whistle of more things exploding – as in Shaw’s efforts to do this smoothly. “This guy, who took me and then lured Root there, seems to know things. Like not just about the machine, but about Root. And while I don’t want Root to lose any daughter-in-law points, she thinks maybe… she helped your paths cross in the past.”
Oh, so not smooth.
“I don’t understand,” Azar said because no one could figure that out.
“I think Sameen is saying that I may have picked up on your activity when you were back here, years ago, watching Sameen. I remember finding a program whose activity used the cameras in New York,” Root explained at a slower pace.
“And this guy, Greer, was looking for information and Root gave it to him. So, yeah, that happened, too,” Shaw summed up.
Shaw knew her mother would be diplomatic because she always seemed to be. Root knew as a techie, Azar would understand how their paths crossed based on the technology. Neither expected Azar to smile and say; “I know.”
“What does that mean? You know?” Shaw asked first.
“I was aware of a rogue source tracking me all those years before. I traced it back to the NY Public Library and found who was behind that brilliant program. I saw you, Root, sitting there are dabbling in things that, I admit, I was surprised you understood. I
knew how smart you were because you were using a popular CD-ROM game to disguise your own program. It was very clever,” Azar said with sincere admiration.
“I imagine that is why you had to leave,” Root said, feeling a pain in her heart for what she thought she caused.
“Oh, my dear, Samantha,” Azar said, taking Root’s hands in hers. “Greer was in his infant stage. He was snooping around for the genesis of his machine. He had an idea of what he wanted to do, but was terribly unsure of what he needed.”
“And you know this... ?” Shaw asked.
“I met him,” Azar said and sat down. “I took a sample of the program, told him via the same website you probably used, that I had found something. We met and talked over drinks. He tried to recruit me and I poisoned him,” Azar said nonchalantly.
Root was pretty sure she understood where Sameen got her poor summation skills from.
“You poisoned him?” Shaw asked. “Well, it didn’t take!”
“Well, I didn’t want to kill him, just erase his memory. A rather dangerous drug, but it worked. He told about his background and what he wanted to do, and I left him with some bogus coding,” Azar said. “I lost track of him. He must have taken his project underground.”
“Has he ever contacted you?” Root asked.
“No, in all the searches that I found about the machine, he was never among them. Of course, they’re usually hackers like you were, Root. Just not as bright, thank goodness.”
“Well, he’s back and badder than ever, I think,” Root said and was relieved to hear that she hadn’t caused Azar’s disappearance.
“Funny how all of our paths crossed so long ago,” Azar mused.
“Yeah, hysterical,” Shaw said. “Now, we have to take precautions and by that I mean, no leaving the house,” Shaw instructed her sister and mother.
“I’m not even on their radar,” Azar assured her daughter. “I have changed identities so many times, and left very little trace.”
“You stay with her,” Shaw said, ignoring her mother.
“Are we going to wear chiffon dresses?” Ayala teased her sister.
Shaw shook her head, regretting that she told her sibling anything. “I’m… we’re… let’s go, Root,” she said.
Root smiled and hugged her future mother-in-law. “She gets hungry … after being kidnapped,” Root tried.
“You know how to use that, right?” Shaw barked at Alystair because her stomach was growling and she had just overdosed on hugs.
“Yes,” he assured his most worthy opponent.
The couple stopped on the top step outside. “That went well,” Root smiled and pulled Shaw into her body.
“Too many questions,” Shaw said.
“Wait until you tell Janine,” Root teased and then engulfed Shaw’s mouth in the sweetest of kisses so she couldn’t yell.
After what seemed like long delicious minutes of osculating, Root finally released her fiancée. “We’ll do it together,” she assured her.
Shaw just rolled her eyes and shook her head.
She knew in her heart, her genius future spouse was no match... for Janine.
Chapter 20: Code of Behavior
It was another family reunion when the couple got home after their long day of being abducted and handled. But now was a time for celebration. Root watched as Shaw ran and then slid across the floor on her knees to greet Bear when they got off the elevator.
“Oh, my God, Bear, you really are a hero!” Shaw said, grabbing him and wrestling him playfully to the ground. Shaw’s praise was like a shot of adrenaline to the canine.
Root smiled and looked up to the ceiling, wondering if she should worry about their children when they came home with awards. “No, she wouldn’t,” Root actually said out loud.
Isabelle burst through the door and held her apron to her mouth, tears welling in her eyes. “We’re okay,” Root said and the plump woman ran to her and hugged her.
“Oh, thank God!” the woman prayed out loud. “I heard it on the television and I called Janine and she told me that it was all over and you two were okay, but I had to see it for myself.” The television reports said it was an explosion might have been caused by a gas leak. Janine filled in the real story to the worried chef.
“Janine,” Shaw said, suddenly remember a needier person than Bear. “I should… call her.”
Root smiled and watched as Shaw went into the living room to call her devoted assistant. “Isn’t that wonderful?” she said, thinking how attentive her Axis II fiancée was.
“I don’t know what this world is coming to when people will go to such lengths to get their hands on some technology,” the woman expressed aghast. Then she looked down. “Is that?” Isabelle said when the light hit the ring. It was the kind of stone that was hard to miss.
Root pulled her into the kitchen and confirmed that it was. “Oh, I can’t take it,” Isabelle said of the full range of excitement and sat down on a stool, holding Root’s hand to look at the ring. “I… I… oh, I have to stop crying,” the woman said, dabbing her eyes with her apron. When she felt she could speak again, Isabelle looked at Root. “I can’t think of anyone else I would want you to spend your life with. You two are perfect for each other. I’m so …wait, when did this happen?” the woman had to ask.
“Right in the middle of everything!” Root gushed as if she thought it was the most romantic setting.
“Oh, brother,” Shaw said, coming into the kitchen after talking to a woman whose voice pierced her eardrums. “She’s on her way over…,” Shaw said because Janine begged her to grant her a two minute audience. Then, she looked up and saw the chef rushing at her. “NO!” Shaw tried, but it was too late. She was fully embraced in a tight hug that nearly knocked the air out of her lungs.
“Oh, did that hurt?” Isabelle asked, worried she had touched one of Shaw’s wounds.
“No, it’s just annoying,” Shaw said and caught the raised eyebrow of her lover at the counter. “I mean, annoying we don’t get to do it more often!” Shaw said in a tone that even Isabelle didn’t believe.
“Oh, you,” the chef said, smiling. “I am just so happy for you both. Truly.”
“Thanks,” Shaw said and smiled. Isabelle stood there, holding onto Shaw. Sameen tried to smile back, but she was wondering why the woman wasn’t getting the food ready. She uttered the two words that propelled Isabelle across the room. “I’m hungry.”
“I’ll get it set right now,” the woman promised and went to get out the food she had prepared.
“I missed you,” Root said and Shaw was going to explain that they had only been apart a couple of minutes and that she was only in the other room, but she didn’t.
“Me, too,” Shaw said, giving the answer she thought Root wanted to hear. Root smirked with a look that told Shaw she appreciated the effort, but it still needed a little work to be anywhere near convincing.
“Shaw was magnificent today,” Root shared with Isabelle as she put a steak that could feel a family of three … on Sameen’s plate.
“Not really,” Sameen argued, taking her first bite of the deliciously prepared meat. “I didn’t shoot anyone.”
“Oh, stop,” Isabelle said, unaware of how serious Sameen was.
“I am really going to enjoy getting even with that decrepit man and his poorly socialized guard dog,” Shaw said, her mouth full.
Isabelle stared at Root who didn’t offer anything to contradict that Sameen was sincere. Root just smiled and shrugged her shoulders.
“Well,” Isabelle started to say, but had no idea where to go after that. Instead, she just listened to Shaw moan through dinner about how tender the steak was and how smooth the mash potatoes were. Later that night, she would go home and tell her husband that she wanted him to get a candle from the basement that she had been saving; the one with the picture of St. Michael on it. She didn’t think she’d ever convince her favorite couple not to get themselves mixed up with dangerous people, so she’d just have to pray for their safety.
When dinner was over, the doorman announced that Janine was on her way up.
“She’ll be up in a minute,” Sameen said to Root. “I better tell her slowly.”
Root agreed and went upstairs to converse with Harry about what their next steps should be. Even while she sat watching Sameen enjoy her meal; her mind came up with several options. She noticed the old diary she had put down in the entryway, and took it with her.
Shaw waited until Root was upstairs before instructing Bear. “Okay, now when the door opens and she rushes at me, you just intercept her, ok?” Shaw swore the dog nodded yes, but when the doors opened and Janine saw Shaw standing there, he didn’t move an inch. In that short time, he calculated that she would fall over him given the speed at which she was moving. So, he opted out.
“SHAW!” Janine said and rushed at the woman, even though she promised herself to go slow. She couldn’t help it. She was worried sick about her boss. Shaw was expecting some interference and so she was completely unprepared for the gentle assault as Janine hugged her and put her head on Shaw’s shoulder.
“I was so worried,” she confessed in way too many syllables, her arms still wrapped around Shaw.
“It’s okay,” Shaw said, frowning at Bear, but patting Janine’s back with one hand because Root had taught her people find it soothing.
“Why does this keep happening? I don’t understand why people are trying to get at you and Root,” the woman wailed.
“Well,” Shaw said and took that break in the squeeze to put distance between them. She took Janine by the elbow and led her into the living room. Should she tell the woman that there were evil people out there trying to get at a machine that was housed in a secret location? No, Shaw decided. “People be crazy,” she said, using her summation skills again.
“I’m just so glad you and Root are okay. You’re both okay, right?” Janine asked again to be sure.
“Yes, we’re really both fine,” Shaw assured her and patted the woman’s knee to indicate two minutes was almost up.
Then, Bear reminded Shaw of something with a long, soulful howl that lasted longer than the woman’s visit.
“I am!” Shaw said, impatiently, even though she hadn’t remembered before he told her. She turned back to Janine on the couch; “So…,” she started slowly as she gently pulled a pillow in-between them. “I… have… some…news.” Sameen was only hesitating because she was trying to prepare for the woman’s move.
Bear shook his head in the background thinking Shaw was making too big a deal of this.
“Am I fired?” Janine asked, because Sameen wasn’t completing her thought.
“What?” Shaw asked, and wondered how people could jump to conclusions so fast. “No!”
“Oh, I thought maybe…,” Janine said and wasn’t sure what she thought. It was just her deepest fear that Sameen would reject her.
“I’ll never fire you,” Shaw said, hoping that would put this worry to rest.
“Oh my, God, really?” Janine said of the lifetime guaranteed employment.
“What?” Shaw asked, because she wasn’t really listening. “Look, could we just stay on track here. I have something important to tell you and it’s good news. Root and I are …,” but that as far as she got before the woman lunged.
“…engaged.” The word was propelled out of her when the wind was pushed out of her chest.
“I AM SO HAPPY FOR YOU!” said the woman who was always happy when Sameen was involved. “OH MY GOD! THIS IS WONDERFUL NEWS!”
“Yes, yes, it is, but I think Root wants me breathing on our wedding day,” Shaw said because the pillow had been quickly discarded before Janine hugged her again.
Nothing got between her and the woman she adored.
“Oh, yes,” Janine smiled, slightly embarrassed, but unable to help herself. “Oh, Shaw, I am thrilled for you both. You are the perfect couple. She’s so lucky.”
“Thank you,” Shaw said, because underneath it all, Sameen did appreciate how kind the woman was to her.
“What can I do?” Janine asked immediately.
“Oh, that’s very sweet of you, but we haven’t…,” Shaw attempted to explain.
“That’s okay,” Janine said and jumped up from her seat. “You take your time and decide, and then tell me what I can do to help. In any way,” she said.
“Thank you,” Shaw said and she was really thanking her for getting up so this visit could end.
“I’ll see you at work tomorrow. I’ll have everything in order,” Janine said and Shaw was afraid she was going to salute her when she stepped on the elevator.
“Okay,” Shaw winked as the door closed and thought she heard the woman humming the tune to "Get Me to the Church on Time."
“Well, that went well,” Shaw said and Bear looked at her. “Who asked you?”
Root was already done with her conference call and on the steps. “She can’t help it, Bear. Shaw has animal magnetism,” Root cooed as she walked down and closed the distance between them.
“He is not going to get that reference,” Shaw said as Root pulled her in.
“Ms. Shaw, if you would come with me,” Root said, trying to change her tone to sound serious.
“Oh?” Shaw asked, because she was becoming well acquainted with the spontaneous beginnings of Root acting out her fantasies.
“We are required at BEAR to follow strict protocol. After any dangerous mission, I am required to inspect the staff member for contusions or bruising,” Root explained as if she memorized the employee handbook.
“Isn’t that a job for a doctor?” Shaw asked because she never wanted it to be too easy for Root to whip her up into her game.
Interesting choice of word there, Shaw.
But Root was ready. She turned back to face Sameen to show she was wearing her stethoscope. “Camp Fire Scouts are always prepared,” she reminded her partner.
“I wasn’t hurt in the blast, you know,” Shaw reminded Root, trying to slow her down.
“Oh,” Root smiled. “I was actually referring to your meeting with Janine. Sit here,” Root said and pulled Sameen to sit on the couch. “Name?” she asked as she picked up a clipboard.
“You have a clipboard?” Shaw asked amazed at how quickly Root could set a stage.
“Name?” she asked.
“Sameen Shaw,” the patient answered. “Do you want me to disrobe?” Shaw asked, laughing because she thought there was a chance she could direct this play.
“Marital status?” Root asked, looking at the paper.
“Marital what?” Shaw asked because that was a new one. Root nodded her head. “Oh, I’m...,” and then Sameen realized what she was about to say. “I’m engaged to the most wonderful woman in the world,” she smiled, not at all upset that Root just led her exactly where she wanted her.
“Oh, Shaw,” Root said at hearing the sound of that, and then tried to get back into character. “Okay, now you can disrobe.”
“There’s no new bruises, I promise you,” Shaw teased.
“I’m sorry we can’t take your word for it,” Root countered. “I’m required to do a thorough body search.”
“A thorough body search?” Shaw chuckled as Root helped her off with her clothes.
“Yes, very thorough," Root reiterated as she began. “It’s protocol.”
“You’re going to check me for bruises… with a stethoscope?” the former medical doctor just had to ask because she wanted Root to be authentic.
Root was not deterred. She picked up the end of the specially made instruments and pressed a button. “It vibrates,” she smiled.
“Oh,” was all Shaw could say before the exam began.
She said it a few more times after it began; just with more syllables.
Chapter 21: Child's Play
The next morning, when the couple arrived at work, Root asked Sameen to come with her to announce their engagement to Harold. As it turned out, both Grace and Genrika were with him when they arrived. Sameen wasn’t sure how they were going to tell them, but Root rushing through the door and holding out her hand to show off the gorgeous engagement ring wasn’t it.
There was a round of warm hugs and congratulations. Grace couldn’t let go of Root’s hand as she admired the beautiful ring.
“This is great!” Gen said to Shaw.
“You think so, kid?” Shaw asked, wondering what a twelve year old thought of all of this.
“Yes, definitely. I’ll have to go to college locally, because you’re going to need babysitters,” Gen thought through as she looked up at the ceiling, tapping her finger to her chin.
“Wait! Whoa, kid,” Shaw said, pulling Gen away from the trio who were still talking about how it happened. “No one…,” she tried, but the prodigy train was already leaving the station.
“Taylor would be good, too, but he has his heart set on Harvard. Lee is great with kids, so we could use him as backup,” Gen decided.
Shaw stared, her eyes wide with unease over the topic. “Okay… just … no,” Shaw commanded and as usual, the youth flicked her commands off like lint on a sweater.
“They’ll be so cute!” the girl practically squealed. “And smart! OMG –so smart!”
“I’m going to stop talking to you now,” Shaw announced because it was the only way to concede defeat without saying so.
“We couldn’t be happier for you,” Harold said when the newly engaged couple left his office.
“I wonder if he’ll let me sit by his computer after we’re married,” Shaw wondered.
“Doubt it,” Root said because Harry was so particular. “You and Gen were having an interesting conversation it seemed,” said the woman who rarely took her eyes off Shaw.
“Kids,” Shaw revealed without realizing it. One look at those light brown eyes that stared back with great curiosity, told Shaw she slipped. “I mean… kids! You can’t live with them, you can’t charge them rent.”
The genius CEO simply gazed back as she tried to figure that one out.
“I have to go. I have to stop Janine from making bridesmaids’ dresses,” Shaw blathered, pointing to the elevator nervously.
Root watched as Sameen left still mumbling to herself. Genrika couldn’t help but notice. She looked up at Root. “I figured her out,” she said pleasantly as a plausible explanation. “Her volume’s much louder now.”
“You okay, Shaw?” Reese asked when she flew off the elevator.
“I think I just got made by a twelve year old,” Shaw admitted.
“Could be worse,” Reese assured her, but didn’t explain how.
It seemed Genrika’s secret power was making Sameen appreciate the sanctity of her office with her guard dog.
“Are you okay?” Janine asked, when Shaw walking into her cubicle backward. “Have you been cleared to come back to work?” the assistant asked with her hands on her hips.
“From head to toe,” Shaw said. “Listen, I want a height requirement on my visitors. Like those Disney rides. No one allowed in here who isn’t this tall,” Shaw said, shooting her hand out to indicate a height close to her own.
“Sure,” Janine said and wondered who spooked her boss. Obviously, someone under five feet, two inches.
Shaw walked into her office through the adjoining doorway. Fusco was waiting there for her with coffee and Danish. The fact that Shaw didn’t insult him, nor devour the pastry was of great concern to the detective.
“You okay?” he asked as she sat down.
“Me? Yeah, I’m …,” Shaw said, unable to formulate complete thoughts. “Do you want kids?” is how the first question came out.
“With you?” Fusco asked, unsure of what they were talking about. “Look, Shaw, aren’t you rushing things? I mean, you don’t have to be married, but you want to have some time with Captain Crunch before you think about little puffs,” he said and then started laughing at his own joke. “OUCH!” he said when Shaw regained his attention. “What?”
“Not what I meant,” she barked.
“What did you mean?” he asked, slowly pushing the food over to her. When she didn’t take it, he knew whatever they were talking about was serious.
“Wait, one of yous isn’t pregnant, are you?”
The look on Shaw’s face was priceless; Fusco’s injuries would come with a price. “Would you stop hitting me?” he bellowed.
“Would you stop being an ass,” Shaw demanded.
“You’re not making sense, Shaw,” Fusco said and decided to eat the Danish. That brought her back to her senses.
“Give me that,” she said and shoved the pastry into her mouth as she tried to figure out what she was saying.
“I hope they have Root’s manners,” the man said under his breath and then pulled back to protect himself.
Shaw chewed and downed her coffee as her eyes darted back and forth. Fusco waited, like you do when the water is heating up and you’re waiting for it to boil. Finally, she got it.
“Lionel, do you think I’d make a good parent?” Shaw whispered and leaned in so he’d hear her.
Now, Shaw and Fusco had the kind of relationship that was built on affectionate torture. Shaw had set it up like that years ago because it was the only way for her to express how much she cared. But Lionel knew when it was appropriate and when it wasn’t. Most of the time.
He put his coffee down and covered her hands with his meaty ones. “Shaw, you’re gonna make an awesome mom.”
The words hit Shaw in her heart and she swallowed hard to hold back the emotion that swelled inside. “Thanks,” she coughed.
The exchange took seconds, but it was so poignant that she had to put a lid on it.
“Did you eat my pastry?” she asked horrified and getting her emotions in check.
“You stopped eating it!” Fusco said defensively.
“You want to get breakfast?” Shaw asked.
“Sure,” said the man who decided this woman was the worst thing for his diet.
Fusco walked with Shaw to the employee dining room. She wanted to talk to her friend about her plan, before presenting it to Root.
“Each time, they find us like siffing fucks. I think we go on the offense next time,” Shaw said, her mouth so full, Fusco wasn’t sure he understood.
“OH! Sitting ducks,” he finally deciphered. “What do you propose? And remember, I’m a cop. With a badge and a sworn oath?”
“Are you done?” she asked because none of that mattered. “I say we turn the tables. We go after them.”
“Them? Technically, them haven’t done anything. We checked into that company that rents the space in Grand Central and it’s a software corporation. The ‘gas’…,” and he stopped to use air quotes which made Shaw roll her eyes, “…leak explosion meant we could go in and look around. It all looked kosher, Shaw. Rooms of nerds doing nerdy things.”
“So, you’re saying I can’t go in there and settle a score?” Shaw asked in her own vernacular.
“If by settling a score, you mean going in there and shooting up the joint, then no,” the cop clarified.
“They kidnapped Root and then drugged me!” she reminded him.
“Yes, and if their fingerprints were anywhere or if we found a room where you were held, we could do something. Every office up there was work stations,” he said because Greer’s group was fast and clever.
“I’m going to get them,” Shaw said, nodding her head.
“Yeah, that’s what worries me,” said her good friend.
Chapter 22: Trying On For Size
By the time the couple met up in the afternoon, both couldn’t wait to share what each felt was the perfect plan to handle the situation with Greer.
“First,” Root said excitedly, having spent the day with her IT team, “... we create a concern in the business community about viruses. Social media picks up on it and spreads the word. Then, we offer our latest anti-virus software for free!”
The approach was a sound, logistical approach.
“What was your idea?” Root said, equally enthusiastic to hear about Shaw’s.
“A high powered rifle on the roof across from their offices,” Shaw said, with a ‘right?’ expression on her face at how brilliant that was.
Root desperately fired all cylinders of her highly developed brain to see how what would work. She pushed up on the eyeglasses that she only wore after staring at her screen for hours. “Okay…,” she said as if she figured it out, but hadn’t really. “What… will you shoot?” she asked in a ‘just to be clear’ kind of voice.
“Lambert and Greer,” Shaw said, thinking it should have been obvious.
Shaw wanted direct; Root wanted dramatic. Or maybe it was the other way around. Shaw wanted people falling over; Root wanted a slow systematic implosion of epic proportions.
“Sweetie,” Root began slowly, “… taking them out won’t stop this … whatever it is. We need to find out what they’re up to and eradicate them at the source.”
Militarily, it sounded like it made sense. “So, you want to put a firewall on thousands of computers with your free antivirus software that will detect what Greer’s doing? And then can I shoot them?” Shaw asked.
Root was not one to ever deny Shaw anything. “Yes,” she said and added a caveat.
Satisfied that they could both have their way, Shaw smiled and relaxed. “So, what was Gen smiling about so much this morning?” Root asked, playing with the hair that refused to stay back in Sameen’s ponytail.
She could tell by the way Root was asking that she already knew something was up. “She wants to be our babysitter. I mean, don’t you think she’s jumping the gun here? That kid! She’s like a mini-you on steroids. Really smart, but all over the place,” Shaw complained.
“What did you tell her?” Root smiled to think how adept the kid was at getting under Shaw’s skin.
“I mean, she wants to go to school around here so she can be available. And get this,” Shaw ranted on, “…if she’s not free, she says we can use Fusco’s kid because Joss’ son will be up in Boston at Harvard. Oh, she has it all figured it out,” Shaw laughed at how ridiculous it was.
Root wasn’t laughing. She started to smile, but something was absolutely pulling at her heart strings. Sameen saw immediately that Root was somewhere else. Sameen tried to get her back on track. “I mean, that’s nuts, right?” she asked and stared at Root.
Root pushed forward at Shaw as they sat there and took her hands. “I want your babies,” Root said.
“You want my what?”” Shaw said, pulling back because she was unsure of what this meant.
“I want your babies. I want to have kids that are like you,” Root said.
“Okay, well we know that means I would have to … you know… have like a … donor,” Shaw heard herself unnecessarily explain to her brilliant fiancée.
“Not necessarily,” said the woman with something up her sleeve. She didn’t want to reveal it just yet. “In the meantime, I have a great idea.” Root still didn’t say what it was, but Shaw could see from the twinkle in Root’s eye, that she thought it was bloody brilliant.
“O…kay,” Shaw said, getting up from her seat. “I’m… going to go back to work now, okay?”
“Yes,” Root said, coming back and kissing her goodbye. She had to get busy if she were going to test her hypothesis. She set out to get what she thought they needed to do it. An hour later, she employed Gen to help her.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” the tween asked suspiciously. “Do you have enough snacks?”
“It’s only for a short time,” Root explained. “How much could they eat?”
“I meant for Shaw,” Gen said, her chin dipped down as she looked over at Root.
“Good point,” she said.
If Shaw was methodical in her planning, it included the shortest route to complete her objective. She wanted payback for Greer and Lambert, so she’d shoot them from a nearby rooftop. Clean and simple. Root’s planning was usually a bit more unpredictable. The free software was a brilliant idea because it was targeted to the computer clusters that Greer’s machine had been data mining. But when it came to Root’s plans for her personal life; they were less precise and orderly and more… what’s the word?
“I have a surprise,” she said to Shaw as they entered the Penthouse lobby that night.
“Does it include talking Reese out of watching us, because he sucks at undercover,” Shaw moaned. John had insisted that he tail the two of them, at least for a few days, to make sure Greer didn’t try anything. “I do the protecting; I don’t need protecting,” Shaw stated again for the umpteenth time.
“Yes, but let John have this one,” Root pleaded. “Besides, you are going to be very busy tonight.” The smile on Root’s face announced something definitely was going on.
“You didn’t buy me a Wonder Woman costume, did you?” Shaw asked because the only fantasies left seemed to be in the comic book hero genre.
“Oh my, God!” Root said, having not come up with that one yet. “I love it!”
“I’m too short,” Shaw reminded her.
“I’m not,” Root said and put her two wrists up in the heroine’s signature ‘x’ position.
Sameen was expressionless, as she stared straight ahead.
“Now, remember, this is just a trial,” Root said when they reached the top floor.
It took Sameen a minute, but she finally guessed it. “You got the Extreme Sports package?” she said with such glee, that it took Root a second to figure out she was serious.
“No, silly,” Root said, forgetting Sameen’s interpretation of fun was always slightly different from hers.
And then the elevator door opened to what Root thought was a wonderful experiment for them. Shaw’s immediate expression was that she was looking out at a nightmare.
“Where… did you … who… are they? Where did you get them?” Shaw asked when she heard the shrieks of what she was sure were one dozen kids.
“I borrowed them!” Root squealed. “We’re babysitting. Oh, but there are so many.”
“No, we’re ….,” Shaw declared, but a kid in a big wheel ran into her leg.
“JEFFREY!” a familiar voice called out and came over to grab the runaway driver.
“Janine?” Shaw said, wondering what the hell was going on.
“She got you kids,” Janine explained. “Although, more than we planned.”
“She got me what?” Shaw barked; the noise seemed to come from every corner of the apartment. “OUCH!” Shaw yelled and looked down to see what just bit her ankle.
“Careful; she’s a biter,” Janine said and scooped the two year old up in her arm. “Shaw, this is Jane.”
“Tell Jane I bite back,” Shaw said, unable to get her head around that fact that she was threatening a toddler. “ROOT!”
“She’s running after the twins,” Janine said as if she just told her Root was getting groceries.
Shaw pulled on the woman who she was almost certain had pledged an oath of allegiance to her. “You knew about this?”
Janine took a deep breath. “To be honest, I didn’t think it was going to be a great surprise. But Root wanted to… you know… try them out.”
“Try… them… out? They’re not cars!” Shaw bellowed and stepped on a LEGO. “OH MY FREAKING…,” she said, hobbling on one foot. Even through the shoe, it hurt like hell.
“Language,” Janine said under her breath. “The eight year olds are really susceptible to that.”
“The what? ROOT!” Shaw called out.
Root came down the hallway, holding hands with the most adorable, curly haired identical twins. “I think I goofed,” she admitted.
“You think?” Shaw said and jumped back when the biting toddler walked back towards her.
“I thought we could, you know, try out a couple. But I asked a few people if we could babysit, and every one of them took me up on the offer,” Root shrugged her shoulders.
Root started to walk into the living room and Shaw followed; this time, the biting toddler along for the ride as she sat on Shaw’s shoe and held onto her leg. “Root! Get off, would you? Root, you offered to babysit a dozen kids?” Root turned to look at Sameen, who was desperately trying to unhinge a two year old from her leg. “Okay, just… if you could…get off… there you go. God, you have some grip.”
Watching Sameen interact with the foreign substances known as children was endearing. When Sameen put her hands out to stop the driver, the two year old reattached herself to Shaw’s leg.
“Root! They won’t listen. Get off. Get out of that car, you maniac driver. Is that a baby crying? ROOT!”
Root knew that kids were the best judges of character and it was a just a matter of minutes before they all fell under the spell of Shaw’s charisma.
Or… were locked up.
“All changed and happy,” Janine announced as she came out carrying a baby. “Here you go. Might as well try out the small ones, too,” she said, handing the baby to Shaw and then pried the toddler off her leg.
In spite of the fact that Shaw stood there, holding onto the baby with a worse expression then if she had been holding onto explosives, Root smiled broadly. Underneath the look of sheer terror on Shaw’s face and past the gritted teeth that she used to tell Root to take the baby, Root could see it.
Shaw was going to be a natural at this.
You know, after a while and some practice.
A lot of practice.
Root stood there and stared; taking in the image of Shaw holding a baby and uttering that she had no idea what to do. She was biting on her lower lip as she showered Shaw with her affectionate gaze.
“ROOT!” the shorter woman bellowed and finally the trance was broken. “What.. do I do with this?”
Just then, the much needed reinforcements appeared. Or so Sameen thought. Bear came home, much to the delight of the children who ran or crawled to him.
“Oh, thank God,” Shaw said upon seeing the other biter. “Do something,” she instructed him and by that she meant; a) scare them away or b) entertain them.
But Bear had experience with these shorter beings. Their high pitch squeals made his head twist from side to side. And he was certain they were of limited intelligence because invariably, they confused him with being a horse and wanted to ride him.
He glanced over at Shaw and attempted to convey she was on her own. Then, he took off, like a bat out of hell; the fastest Shaw had ever seen him move. “CHICKEN!” she yelled and the baby got startled and started crying.
Root had never actually seen Sameen… panic.
“Oh, geez. Now, what? Where’s the off button. Kids should come with remotes. So, you can turn the volume down,” Shaw said in one breath. But, finally she got it. “It’s okay. I’m sorry I yelled. Please don’t cry. It’s okay,” she reassured the baby who suddenly became fascinated with Shaw’s voice and stopped crying.
“You’re doing great,” Root whispered. Then, she directed Shaw over to the playpen where she put the baby down.
“Let’s give them all back,” Shaw said in a tiny voice.
“Not for another hour,” Root said softly and she might as well have said they were all staying until they were ready to leave for college.
“AN HOUR?” Shaw bellowed and the baby’s lip started to quiver. “Oh, it’s okay, it’s okay,” Shaw changed her tone and the baby went back to playing with a toy. “Man, she’s such a baby,” she said to Root.
Janine came back in and reported that if they put on a children’s television show, they could gather them all in one place. It worked like a charm. Three toddlers, a set of twins, two eight year olds and a baby, all quieted down.
Shaw slowly backed out of the room and went into the kitchen. “Oh my God! I wondered where you were,” she said when she saw Isabelle. The woman was busy preparing dinner for the guests. “Here you go,” the chef said and handed Shaw a small tray of cookies. Assuming that the cookies were compensation for her twelve minutes of hard work, Shaw grabbed some and pushed them in her mouth. “Didyouknowaboutdis?” she asked Isabelle.
“Just found out before,” the chef said as she hurried back to preparing the meals.
“There’s like two dozen of them in there,” Shaw exaggerated, drinking milk that left a mustache.
“I’m giving them dinner, which will help,” the chef said.
“What… is… that?” Shaw said and picked up the square tan object and pressed down on it.
“A chicken nugget,” Isabelle explained and Shaw immediately dropped it back on the plate. “Let’s just throw that one out,” the chef decided.
“They eat that?” asked the woman who had survived Marine food.
“Yes, so I’m told,” Isabelle said because each kid came with a set of instructions.
“I bet they’re messy as hell,” Shaw decided and Isabelle handed her a napkin to wipe the milk off her upper lip.
“Now, we’re going to take this inside,” Isabelle said to Shaw as if they were planning their first wave of infiltration.
“Got it,” Shaw said, unaware of what the sight of food did to kids who were hungry. As soon as they saw it, they ran screaming to Shaw.
“Do they feed you at home?” Shaw asked the eight year old that arrived first. Everyone sat down at the table.
Then, perhaps because they were in a new environment, or perhaps because they wanted to test their babysitters, or perhaps because some of them were spoiled brats, pandemonium broke out with kids complaining about the food and how they weren’t going to eat. Sameen watched Root do her best to negotiate with the band of protesters.
Suddenly, a loud bang at the end of the table caught their attention and silenced them.
“All right, listen up,” Shaw said in her I’m in charge and not taking crap tone. “You will thank Ms. Groves for inviting you into her home. You will eat the food that is on your plate and then, you will march yourself into the kitchen, where you will thank Isabelle for cooking for you and you will offer to do the dishes. You will not leave this table until you ask if you can be excused. Do you understand that?” Shaw said in a calm, but very stern, voice.
Even the toddlers nodded their heads yes.
“Good. Now, let’s enjoy our last meal together,” Shaw said and sat down.
Little hands took the food and put it into their mouths without another complaint.
Root looked down the table at Shaw, as she helped the guests with cutting food or squirting ketchup on their plates.
There was no mistaking who the disciplinarian in their family would be.
Twenty minutes later, little people popped out of their seats, stood at attention as they held onto empty plates, and in unison screamed; “MAY WE BE EXCUSED PLEASE, SIR?”
Janine was feeding the baby who clapped her hands to join in.
“Yes, you may,” Shaw answered authoritatively and the group followed the eight year olds who marched dramatically into the kitchen.
Shaw rolled her eyes. “Let’s leave before they …. Oh, look! They’re back.”
Root and Shaw took them into the living room where they proceeded to ask for a book to be read or to wrestle with Sameen. Now that she knew she could get them to listen, they weren’t so frightening. Shaw poked her head up above the group long enough to look over at Root who was reading a story. It warmed her heart to see Root so tender.
“What’s that?” one of the boys asked when he saw Shaw’s arm.
“A tattoo,” Shaw said and they looked on with interest.
“Are you and Woot getting mawreed?” a curious girl asked.
“You should get a tattoo of Root,” the eldest suggested.
“What’s that?” the other one asked of her bandage.
“Occupational hazard,” Shaw answered and they seemed satisfied with that.
“Does it hoit?” asked one of the twins.
“Only when I laugh,” Shaw said, grabbing her and tickling her.
Root finished the story and sat there with Janine as even the baby crawled over to Shaw.
“They can’t help it,” Janine said of the children’s attraction. “She’s charismatic.”
“Yes, she is,” smiled Root who could easily imagine those children being their own.
Eventually, the various parents arrived and thanked Root for the generous offer to babysit.
“I’m taking you home,” whispered one of the youngest to Shaw and pulled on her arm.
“Well, I thank you, but I have to stay here with Root,” Sameen informed the little girl.
“Then, I’m coming back,” she answered undaunted.
“Oh, hell,” Shaw blurted out.
“When can we come back?” was the group question as they entered the elevator and left, after thanking their hostesses.
“Well, that was fun!” Root announced when silence revisited their home.
Janine took one look at Shaw and knew she didn’t quite agree. “I’ll just be going now,” the assistant said as she got her coat.
“Thanks for all your help,” Root said to her as Shaw walked her to the elevator.
“If I told her I would like to own the Yankees one day, do you think she’d have the team over for dinner?” Shaw wondered out loud to her assistant.
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” she replied.
Janine left with Isabelle, who felt it necessary to tell Shaw that Root had the best of intentions, and there were more cookies left.
Shaw returned to the living room where Root sat on the couch, looking apprehensively at Shaw’s reaction to the event. “Too much?” Root asked, the guilt showing on her face.
Shaw sat down on the couch next to her. “For you? Nah,” Sameen smiled because one of the things she loved about her fiancée was her doing things over the top. “it was a… good experience,” Shaw said, reassuring her partner.
“You are the best,” Root said, leaning in to kiss Sameen. She ran her fingers up Shaw’s arm, over the USMC tattoo.
“Maybe I’ll get a new one,” Sameen suggested. “You know, so people know I’m engaged.”
“Really?” Root asked. “What would you get?”
“Something that reminds me of you,” Shaw said.
“Does it hurt to get one?” Root asked the woman who would never admit it did.
“Not worse than what we just went through,” Shaw teased and put her head in Root’s lap where she promptly fell asleep.
What do you think Shaw's new tattoo would be?
Chapter 24: Expression of Love
A/N: I tried to incorporate ALL of your wonderful Shaw's tattoo suggestions. If I missed one, give me a shout and I'll put it in. Tweet me
Root had the uncanny ability to sleep in almost any position, as long as Shaw was comfortable nearby. Sameen woke up in Root’s lap the next morning and couldn’t imagine how her lover managed to get any sleep. But, she did.
After morning kisses, showers and sharing what their schedules were, they headed into the kitchen. Both were surprised to see Reese and Fusco there, already enjoying their breakfasts.
“Where they hell were you two last night?” Shaw asked. “I had a runaway driver and a biter on the loose.”
“What are you talking about?” Fusco said.
“You could have easily made your traffic ticket quota in our living room alone,” she continued as Isabelle presented her with a plate that looked more like a platter.
“You’re not helping her,” Fusco chastised the woman, but mostly out of jealousy that his breakfast was fruit and Melba toast.
“She enjoys it,” Isabelle said, and it was music to Shaw’s ears as she wagged her finger at Fusco.
“See? She gets me,” Sameen said, waving a turkey sausage at her dieting friend.
Fusco updated the group on what they learned about the software company working out of Grand Central. “Your Greer guy is former military, started his own company and now works here. They seemed to have some healthcare and government contracts. Mostly, running personnel software like payroll and benefits.”
“I bet they’re collecting all that information,” Root surmised.
Root explained about the free antivirus software that would be distributed soon and felt this would give them a window into what was really going on with Greer’s project.
“Just no more missiles,” Fusco begged. “Homeland Security still can’t figure out where that came from.”
The Cheshire like grin on Sameen’s face all but said – my fiancée’s got an army of drones.
With all the excitement, John hadn’t congratulated his friends on their engagement. He reached down and picked up a wrapped box and presented it to them. “Congratulations,” he said and smiled.
“God, Reese, if I had known getting engaged would actually make you have an expression on your face, I would have ….,” Shaw was about to tease, but Root interrupted her.
“This is very thoughtful, John,” Root said and put the box in between her and Sameen so they could open it.
“Is it a blender? Because if it’s a blender,” Shaw started and Root decided they were going to have to spend a little time on this very topic.
“Not a blender, Shaw,” Reese replied.
“Oh, they’re beautiful!” Root said of the lovely champagne flute glasses. “Thank you, John,” Root said and got up and kissed his cheek.
Shaw looked on in agony. Was this going to happen… a lot? “Yeah, thanks, Reese.”
Fusco could feel Shaw rolling her eyes next to him. “I’m waiting for you to pick out your china pattern,” he said to get even.
“Our what?” Shaw asked, her mouth full of egg.
“Chi-na pat-tern,” Fusco repeated.
“We have china,” Shaw argued.
“Well, actually, we’ve broken a few pieces,” Root offered and made Shaw stop to think about how that happened.
“Oh, yeah,” Shaw smiled. “Well, Root will pick it out,” Shaw reasoned.
Fusco was about to get the most points he ever received in the torture game with Shaw. “Don’t you want to do it… together?” he asked because he knew Root wanted to make all those decisions with Sameen.
One look at Fusco and Sameen understood he knew he just racked up a score in the triple digits. She couldn’t even counter him right now because to do so, would mean that she would be telling Root she would rather have root canal than pick out china patterns.
“What? Oh, sure,” Sameen said and the smiled reappeared on Root’s face.
After breakfast, Fusco and Reese waited near the elevator. Lionel actually pulled Reese in front of him when Shaw came out first. “I swear, Shaw, if you hit me, I will handcuff you,” he warned.
Shaw just stared back at him. “I would, but I need my strength,” she said.
“Shaw’s going for a tattoo,” Root all but cooed. She was excited that her woman wanted to ink something so significant.
“A romantic tattoo!” Lionel pressed his luck. “What do you think, Reese? Two pink hearts?”
John gave in some thought before sharing; “Something more… metallic.”
“Thank you, Reese,” Shaw harrumphed.
“So, what is it?” Fusco asked.
Shaw hesitated. “I’m… not sure yet,” she admitted. “I have a few ideas.”
“I have one of the best ink artists coming to the office!” Root shared and Sameen wish she hadn’t. Getting your fiancée to hire a top tattoo artist and having them come to her palatial office, sort of took away from the whole experience.
“Will it be televised?” Fusco asked as they went down in the elevator together.
“If Janine hears about it,” Reese said and his lip curled just the tiniest bit.
It wasn’t that Shaw didn’t appreciate that all she had to do was utter a thought, and Root sprang into action to make it happen. But getting a tattoo was a singular and cathartic experience; like praying. It wasn’t meant to do with a crowd watching, Shaw felt.
“I don’t want it to hurt you,” Root said and now Shaw was certain she needed to do this in private.
“Nah, it won’t hurt,” she assured the anxious woman. “But you know, it’s best to do this in a quiet space, so he can concentrate. So, why don’t I do this somewhere… else … and surprise you?”
“Really?” Root asked, loving the idea what Shaw would want to surprise her.
“Yes,” Shaw said.
“This is going to be so special,” Root said and didn’t realize the pressure she was putting Shaw under to make it so.
“Ye-es, it.. is,” Sameen said.
Root agreed that she would wait; not an easy task for someone who had planned on staring at every injection into her lover’s skin.
Sameen felt relief that she could just get this done now; but couldn’t decide which of the many possibilities they discussed, should be chosen.
“Nice digs,” the tattooist said of all the state of the art equipment that was set up to his specifications. “What are we doing here?”
“Look, I just got engaged,” Shaw started and the man stared at her expressionless.
“Congrats,” he said. “So, what’s it going to be?”
“I always thought I’d write something like – ‘I don’t do feelings; I do Root,” you know?” Shaw laughed and the man sat expressionless. “Because I don’t do feelings. Never mind,” Sameen said, and rolled her eyes at how hard this decision was.
“So, we’re doing a quote?” he asked.
“Well, I told my fiancée that I wanted something that reminds me of her,” Shaw went on, now pacing back and forth. “But there are so many things, right?” she asked, like he knew them. “I could pick an arrow, right? Because she thinks of me as an arrow; straight and to the point. We all have shapes,” she felt it necessary to explain. “And that’s mine.”
“How big do you want it?” he asked, but Sameen wasn’t done.
“Or I could do a zip tie around my wrist because, and this is funny, but the second time I met her…,” Shaw was laughing, but the artist was staring back wide-eyed.
“The thing is,” Shaw continued her soliloquy and the man simply put down the tool so she could continue, “…I could do a flame, because she is the hottest person I know. Especially, like when she’s shooting with two guns, which you would think was lame, but it’s not when she does it. I could do two guns. No, wait! I could do musical notes because she thinks we’re all just noise in the system, but wants us to be symphony. And that’s romantic, right?” Shaw questioned and continued before the tattooist could agree.
“Or a tazer because I can’t help but think of her when I see one. Or maybe just 4-A-F, which stands for ‘Four Alarm Fire’ which our love is; in an oil refinery, I might add, because geeezzus, we are hot together,” Shaw shared her every inner thought.
Now, she had the man’s attention because, as a true artist, he was really interested in capturing what was in this woman’s heart. He was going to have to wait.
“Or the yin-yang symbol, because she completes me; she makes me whole. Or a pile of bricks,” Shaw said and he looked at her quizzically. “Because she’s the only one who has ever broken down my wall,” Shaw said in a soft voice.
“That’s a lot to choose from,” the man pointed out.
“Or her name, because Root is just everything to me,” Shaw said in a tone that she never used when getting a tattoo before.
“Let’s get that heart off your sleeve and put it where it belongs,” the man said and assured Shaw he had all the information he needed now.
Shaw decided to put herself in his hands – literally.
Root didn’t realize how long something like this could take. After an hour, she was pacing back and forth, outside the room. “Should I knock?” she asked Martine who had joined her with Janine.
“I wouldn’t do that,” Martine expressed. “He’s probably in a zone right now and you don’t want to disturb that.”
“I bet it hurts; does it hurt?” Janine asked anxiously.
“Like hell,” Martine shared. “But Shaw will do fine.”
“I’ll kill him if he doesn’t do a good job,” Root said.
“Look at the canvas he’s got. I wouldn’t worry,” Janine suggested.
Then, the two women sat next to Root as they waited for Shaw to emerge.
Chapter 25: Show and Tell
Hope this works to include everything.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
After the second hour, Janine had Root’s hand in hers; not so much to comfort as to be comforted. They didn’t realize that a lot of the time that passed had been on Shaw’s monologue of choices. When the door finally opened, the trio sprung to their feet.
“Are you okay?” Janine asked, as Root just smiled at Shaw. She didn’t need to ask; she could read Shaw’s expression of satisfaction.
“What do you think?” Shaw asked and extended her left arm out to show Root. There, on the inside of her limb, was an arrow; the very symbol Root used to describe Shaw. Plainly above the shaft was the couple’s alpha-numeric code name: 4AF with a flame. The arrow’s tail included two handguns because no one shot the way Root did. The tip encompassed small lightning bolts; two tiny drops of blood; and a small bracelet-shaped object. All to signify how Root tazed, drugged and zip tied Shaw when they first met.
The man used all the imagery Shaw talked about.
“It’s beautiful!” Root gushed because she understood the images immediately.
“It looks… a… little… sore,” Janine said and started to sway.
“I’ll get her to her office,” Martine said. “Nice job, Shaw.”
“It’s…so us,” Root gushed when they were alone.
“Yeah, he did a good job on this one,” Shaw said.
“This one?” Root asked.
“Well, this one is sorta the one everyone can see. So, I asked him to do one for…uhm,” and Shaw looked around to make sure they were alone, “…just you.” With that, Sameen pulled the scoop neck of her black t-shirt down, exposing the upper protuberance of her left breast encased in the low cut bra.
The action of baring the burgeoning flesh made Root weak in her knees, and she hadn’t even seen the tattoo yet. When she did, she had to sit down.
“Do you like it?” Shaw asked, sitting next to her and even closer now.
“You had my name…?” Root asked, but her throat was closing as other parts of her body feverishly stirred.
“Yeah, over my heart and look, this ‘o’ is the yin-yang sign because you complete me,” Shaw explained as she tugged on her shirt to keep the top of her breast exposed. “And this?” she said pointing to the third letter in Root’s name.
Root felt so lightheaded that she had trouble seeing the orange colored circle. “Is that… a peach?” she guessed correctly.
“Yes,” Shaw said, smiling seductively. “Because kissing you is like…”
Root wanted to beg Sameen to stop talking for a second because her entire body was on overload and she was having trouble breathing.
“…biting into the most succulent peach; it’s like sweet and juicy,” Shaw listed adjectives as she stared down at it, unaware of how faint she was making Root.
“Oh…my…God,” Root uttered, her face flush with arousal.
“…and just a little wet.”
That was it.
Root’s body sprung at Shaw, knocking her over on the long couch. She grabbed Shaw’s head and pushed her down into a kiss that was so hard, she actually bit Shaw’s lip.
Shaw’s immediate reaction was to push back, because she thought Root fell over, but once she realized she was experiencing what she had just described, she relaxed and gave into it.
The door opened and the tattooist stood in the hallway for a second. Root was moaning her thoughts and couldn’t stop kissing the lips she had just bitten with her teeth.
“Dank’s,” Shaw said and looked up at him. Root stopped for a second, but only to get oxygen into her lungs.
He couldn’t remember the last time he saw a more satisfied customer. “You’re a lucky woman,” he said to Root. “She didn’t flinch.”
He wasn’t at the elevator before Root indulged in another round of unbridled passion that included soft kisses around her tattooed name.
“I’d give that twenty-four hours before doing anything,” he yelled from the elevator as the door closed.
Root heard him and pulled back to look at Shaw, worried.
“We’ll work around it,” Shaw suggested and swore Root picked her up in one fell-swoop before pushing her into the office where she locked the door behind them.
“I want to make sure he did a good job,” Root said as she was pulling off her clothes.
“You like to do you inspections… naked?” Shaw teased because it was easy to see how turned on Root was. She wasn’t even able to form words; she just pulled gently at Sameen’s clothing until they lay in a pile at her feet.
“I’ll be…,” and Root meant to assure Sameen she would be gentle, but her body couldn’t wait. She pushed Sameen back on the table where the process had just been completed. Root wanted to kiss her, but kept breaking away so she could step back to admire Shaw’s exquisite body. Her hands roamed as Sameen pulled her up on top. “I don’t want to hurt…,” she tried, but Shaw pulled her forcefully down and wrapped her legs around her.
“Nothing hurts when you’re here,” she whispered in Root’s ear, her hand draping across Root’s alabaster skin.
It was the green light that ignited Root to devour Shaw’s flesh – except the newly inked parts – as her molten need for Shaw went on overload. . Shaw was on a high from the cessation of pain and was so turned on by Root, that there was no thought given except the rhythmic motion of their bodies. Root’s fiery, cataclysmic response pushed Shaw over the edge until she shattered into a thousand pieces of delicious satisfaction.
The only thought Shaw had afterwards, as they lay in each other’s arms, was that she should have made the flame larger.
Root had her own take. “I think we just raised that four alarm fire to double digits.”
After recovering and getting dressed, the two women returned to their offices. Root went back but found herself staring out the window and daydreaming about their afternoon delight.
Shaw returned to her office where a large pillow was placed on her desk for her arm.
“You need to keep hydrated,” Janine said, giving Shaw a large glass of orange juice. “I read that.”
“You’ve been researching tattoos?” Shaw asked and smiled because Janine’s head was turned away so she didn’t have to see the newly minted arm tattoo.
“Well, a little, I can’t… the pictures,” the assistant tried to explain.
“Got it,” Shaw said and pulled a napkin up over her arm. A gesture that did not go unappreciated.
“You must think I’m a total wimp,” Janine professed.
“Are you kidding? You’re a total badass at what you do,” Shaw complimented her.
“Really? At what I do? But… what do I do?” Janine expressed, doubting herself.
“You’re my right hand,” Shaw explained. “Well, more like my left one today.”
“Yes, yes, that’s… that’s what I do,” Janine said, walking back into her cubicle.
Of course, the eager assistant was researching the process of tattooing as it related to regular people. Little of her actual investigating would relate to someone as tough as Shaw. When Root came to collect her fiancé, at the end of the day, Janine was ready with her notes.
“She should get rest and you can ice the area if it hurts. She won’t say it hurts; we both know that. So, ice it and watch it for swelling. Her lip looked a little swollen to me, but I am not sure that’s related to the tattoo,” the ever vigilant assistant shared.
Root could only smile at being the cause of the bee-stung lip. “I bit her,” she shared.
“Ooohh,” Janine said, but worried. Not one to tell the CEO of the company what to do, she felt torn because they were talking about her most favorite person. “You… will … take care of her?” she asked and by that she meant, let her rest.
There were many answers Root could have provided to that question, but she understood exactly where Janine was coming from. And it was a place of total goodness.
“Yes, I promise,” she assured the woman. “You can even call her later to check in on her.”
Had Root given Janine her Christmas bonus, the woman would have been less grateful. “I will, thank you, I will,” Janine said, before she left.
“Did you just tell her to check in on me later?” Shaw asked with a look of, ‘are you crazy?’
“You are responsible for the things you tame, Shaw,” Root quoted the famous saying. “You of all people should know that,” she teased.
“I really hate that you’re so smart, you know that, right?” Shaw complained as they got ready to go home.
“You love that I’m so smart,” Root corrected her.
“Okay, yes, but then I hate that you know that I do,” Shaw said, trying to one up her.
“No you don’t; you like that I know you so well,” Root countered.
Sameen was losing and she didn’t like it. So, she answered with the only thing she knew could get Root to stop talking.
There, in the crowded elevator as they stood behind everyone; Shaw pulled at her t-shirt to expose the tattoo that only Root could see.
“Not…,” Root said, and wanted to complete her thought about it not being fair, but she couldn’t think.
Shaw’s smile was victorious.
Across town, in the bowels of Greer’s company, Lambert was updating his boss.
“Every portal that we had managed to infiltrate, seems to have downloaded a free antivirus software from BEAR. We’re dead in the water if they included a surveillance code in that,” Lambert shared.
“I have no doubt that Ms. Groves would do that. I’m surprised you don’t know that already, Jeremy,” the older man chastised him. If it weren’t for the man’s undying devotion to the older man, he’d have gotten rid of him.
“I have the team working on a counter code,” Lambert reported, hoping to impress his boss.
But Greer was too busy fixing his tie and matching pocket square in his suit pocket. “Not to worry, Mr. Lambert. I think I may have found someone who can help us.”
“I’ll get my coat,” the younger man said.
“No, that’s alright. I’m meeting someone for drinks. I’ll be back soon,” Greer said, forcing a smile on his face. With that, he walked out of his offices in Grand Central Station and down to his car. He gave the driver the address of the café uptown. “Good employees are so hard to find these days,” he murmured to himself as his driver took off.
“Where is my mother?” Ayala asked Alystair when she returned from her workout.
“She said she was going to meet you,” he explained.
“She never said anything to me about that,” Ayala stated and dialed her mother on her cell.
The call went directly to voicemail.
And of course - you know whose words I lifted in this chapter. Thank you, Sarah.
Chapter 26: The Tree Doesn't Grow Far From the Apples
Hope the plot works to move the story along.
And per your request - Bear's reaction to being left out.
And Janine's TLC.
Azar knew there would be hell to pay when her daughters found out what she had done; but she was willing to pay that price. She knew Ayala would be especially cross because she didn’t only pride herself on being her mother’s bodyguard; she now seemed determined to impress her big sister at doing it.
Their mother had spent time accessing what happened at Grand Central and how Lambert abducted her daughter. And while she thought Root’s move to infiltrate the very machines that Greer’s program was monitoring was brilliant, she felt the need to settle a score.
It wasn’t that Azar didn’t think that Root and her elder daughter could handle the menacing group on their own. But this group had crossed a line and made it personal for Azar by hurting her family.
In reaching out to Greer, Azar slipped in some former MI-6 code names to let him know, she knew what she was doing. She presented herself as a knowledgeable hacker who had uncovered a flaw in his system. She promised she could give him undeniable proof for a piece of the action in exchange. He had no intention of doing anything until this woman was vetted.
When he decided her credentials were valid, he agreed to meet her. A very cautious man, Greer arrived ten minutes early; only to find his new friend already seated at the table. “Ms. Abdallah?” Greer asked as he approached the table. Of course she had used an alias; not unusual with professional hackers.
“Mr. Greer, it is a pleasure,” she replied. Her dark eyes smiled as she extended her hand to him. She was impeccably dressed in a dark suit with a white blouse. The blouse’s standup collar accentuated her neck which was adorned in a thick gold necklace. It caught his eye, and he decided it was probably bought in her native country because of the intricate design.
When he sat down, he noticed his favorite drink was already waiting for him. He smiled, but waved for the waiter anyway. “Would you be so kind as to replace this with an Earl Gray tea,” he asked and the waiter took the drink away.
Azar smiled. “You are either not in the mood for a drink, or you are a very cautious man.”
“The latter,” the older man clarified. “You’d be surprised by the number of people who wish me ill. But I thank you for researching my favorite libation,” he began. “Now, you, Ms. Abdallah, let me tell you what I know about you,” he countered, trying to impress her. “You are an ISFP,” Greer said, thanking the waiter when he turned with the tea.
“You’ve found my Myers-Briggs personality results? I’m impressed, Mr. Greer; it’s ancient history,” the woman confessed modestly.
“Not ancient at all, my dear,” he smiled. There was something very charming about the woman that he found alluring.
Usually the people who were out to impress him were a fraction of his age and he abhorred their poor manners. This woman’s eyes were welcoming and her smile was captivating. It had been a long time since he found stirrings in the presence of a female. John Greer had been nothing but business for years now. “You are quiet, sensitive and kind, although I do imagine your life as a hacker has peeled off some of those layers.”
Azar actually managed to blush at his accolades.
“You’re loyal, faithful and private, which are good assets in this business. But you also socially uncomfortable, prone to discouragement and do not like to draw attention to yourself. Also good qualities for someone who is going to live their life underground,” the man went on. Azar’s file was filled with lots of mistruths, but each thing revealed would tell her how far Greer had managed to hack to get the info.
“I feel as if I am sitting here…,” Azar said, her hand on her chest, drawing his attention to her cleavage, “… exposed.”
Thinking she was impressed with his research and candor, her continued. “You are flexible, open minded, likely to be original and creative,” he said as he poured the hot water into the waiting cup. His voice got a less warm when he added;
“And you suffer from cyclothymia,” he said and smiled when he thought he saw surprise on her face. “Diagnosed years ago,” he said, waiting for his tea to reach the right temperature. “I am going to say that you’re taking your medication because your mood at present seems neither manic, nor depressive,” he assessed, believing she suffered from a disorder in the bipolar family.
“I don’t always take it,” Azar confessed and casted her eyes downward, as if she were ashamed. In fact, she had fabricated everything Greer found out about her.
“No, I imagine that it dulls your senses and when you’re working, you prefer the highs of that amplified state,” he suggested. Thinking he had stripped away any doubt that he wasn’t a man who knew now how to get what he wanted, he sat back.
“Your research is… impressive,” the woman admitted and he smiled.
“That is but a small example of what my magnificent program can do,” he boasted because Azar buried her information deep so that he would feel he actually had uncovered something. “So, Ms. Abdallah, tell me what flaw you found in my system. Were you scurrying around on the dark web and think you found something I have not discovered myself?”
“Anyone who spends any amount of time there knows the potential of your program,” she started.
“Then, you know there are no flaws that I am unaware of,” he bragged.
“Oh, I think you have found it, Mr. Greer; but you refuse to act on it. Your biggest flaw design, Mr. Greer, isn’t in any of your software,” the Persian woman said, slowing taking back the control she let John Greer think he had for a few minutes. “It’s in your organization… Jeremy Lambert,” she smiled, taking a sip of her drink.
“Lambert is annoyingly devoted, Ms. Abdallah,” Greer pointed out and took a sip of the perfectly steeped cup of tea.
“Don’t confuse devotion for competence, Mr. Greer,” she smiled. “I saw the news about the gas explosion in Grand Central,” she shook her head. “Now, your system is at risk because of his ineptitude.”
“Is that so, Ms. Abdallah?” Greer grinned. He didn’t feel threatened at all because his team was already assessing what the BEAR software was doing. She wasn’t telling him anything new.
“Yes,” Azar smiled pleasantly. “For example, the only reason you came alone to meet me is because you believe your program has hacked into the security camera feed of the restaurant,” she said accurately. Greer’s head immediately went to the corner where a camera was located. “But I disrupted that signal. That has left you quite vulnerable.”
“We are in the middle of a restaurant at dinner time,” he pointed out.
“Exactly,” Azar agreed. “This is why it will take a little while for the ambulance to get through traffic to get to you.”
He sat back again. “Are you going to shoot me? What is it that you want?” he asked out of curiosity.
“I’m not going to touch you, Mr. Greer,” Azar smiled knowingly. “The tea you just drank is laced with a poison that will resemble the symptoms of a heart attack. I knew you wouldn’t accept the drink I ordered, so I had someone prepare that cup just for you. Now, you won’t actually have an attack, but they won’t know that until they’ve scorched your chest with defibrillator paddles.”
“You do have a wild imagination,” Greer laughed as he leaned in to the table. “I don’t know what your game is, my dear, but that equipment does not cause burns,” he scoffed.
“Unless your chest is first covered in an active agent that will cause the burning,” Azar smiled back, looking menacingly at him.
Now, he started to worry.
“Why exactly did you ask to meet me?” he questioned.
“You’re going to wake up later and not remember most of this. You will, however, find this card in your pocket,” Azar said, slipping a credit-card shaped object across the table.
“What is this?” he asked.
“It’s the answer to all your problems, Mr. Greer. Think of it as my calling card,” Azar explained.
“I think I’ve had enough,” Greer said without a hint of anger. His years in MI-6 left him unfazed by most subversive tactics.
Before he could rise out of his seat, Azar took her phone out and entered a code. “Remember, John, that’s the answer to your issue,” she said of the card.
Then, much to Greer’s surprise, she retrieved what looked like a gas mask and placed it over her face. The gas immediately started to discharge through the vents. Patrons dropped or fell over in their seats. He looked over in horror as he succumbed, slipping into a slumber. Azar stood up, slipped the card into his inside pocket and removed her necklace. She placed it around the neck of another patron, so that when Greer described it, and the woman was identified, people would think he was having a senior moment.
With that, the well-coiffed woman walked outside, removed the mask, dialed 911 and reported a gas leak at a restaurant with possible heart attack victim. The fire department and prearranged EMT’s arrived on the scene.
While Root and her team were attempting to get past Greer’s firewalls, the Persian former CIA operative had just delivered something that might just make it past the entire security team.
She looked up at the street camera and winked. The machine was more than willing to assist her former caretaker on this excursion. The machine understood Azar was also protecting her and in reconnecting, it re-energized the association of Azar as her guardian. The poison, the gas, the paid off EMT who would brand Greer's chest were the former CIA's doing. But the machine was with her and she was learning an important lesson from Azar in the process.
She was learning the art of revenge because … no one messes with family.
While Azar was proving payback was a bitch to John Greer, who now was receiving a large dose of volts to his un-attacked heart, Ayala was frantically trying to find her.
“I’m okay and on my way home,” her mother texted her, which didn’t settle her nerves.
“No! I will meet you at Sameen’s. We are going to talk about this,” Ayala warned her and made her mother smile.
Sameen had no idea any of this was coming her way and was already dealing with her own challenge at the moment.
“Root!” she called out from the kitchen. “Come in here and talk to him. He’s gone all Belgian Supermodel on me and won’t eat!”
Root walked into the kitchen where Shaw sat on the floor in front of the dog that wouldn’t look at her. “What is up with this devo,” Shaw asked.
“Sweetie,” Root implored, “…calling him names won’t help.”
“But he’s not eating,” Shaw explained because she took the idea seriously.
“Did you show him the tattoo?” Root asked, sitting at the counter.
“Yes,” Shaw said and tried to connect that. “He wants a tattoo?”
“I doubt it,” Root said, but wasn’t certain. “Probably has something to do with the lack of Bear imagery.”
“He’s upset because I didn’t have something of his inked on my body?” Shaw asked incuriously.
“Probably,” Root said softly, scrunching up her face.
“How about I put a paw on my ass because you are such a big pain there,” Shaw barked, adding fuel to the fire.
“Sameen,” Root called. She patted the stool next to her for Shaw to sit so she could explain. Shaw stood up and wore a ‘why me?’ expression on her face. “He’s the baby,” she preempted Root’s case.
“He did do an incredible job the other day,” Root reminded Shaw of his heroic acts.
“You’re not seriously asking me to get a paw tattooed on my ass, are you?” Shaw bellowed.
“No, silly,” Root said, leaning into Sameen. “Just give him time.”
Shaw was about to argue, but the doorman announced that Janine was there.
“You told her to call and she showed up?” Shaw pointed out to Root.
“I think she’s a visual person; she needs to see you,” Root reasoned.
“That’s your defense?” Shaw suspiciously and Root nodded her head yes. “Well, I’m not taking the moody roommate and the obsessed assistant, so you pick.”
“Come here, Bear; we’ll talk,” Root chose immediately.
“I really should have phrased that differently,” Shaw mumbled to herself as she went to face her assistant.
“Oh, my God, let me see,” Janine begged as she bounced out of the elevator and into Sameen’s personal space. She gently lifted Shaw’s arm and looked at her suspiciously. “Have you iced it?” she asked because the skin looked swollen.
“I was…,’ Shaw tried to explain why she hadn’t, but she was pulled into the kitchen.
“I knew I should have come here sooner,” Janine admonished herself. “You guys are so busy…,” she went on as she made Shaw sit next to Root as she went to retrieve ice. “Twenty minutes on, twenty minutes off,” she repeated what she read.
“Is this the only one?” she asked as she gently placed the ice along her inner arm.
“The only one?” Shaw asked, stalling and looking at Root, who could only smile at how quickly the weakest woman in the room could disarm the strongest one. “There was … I don’t think… I can…,’ Shaw tried and looked wide eyed at Root to help.
Root had to admit, she didn’t know a lot about the after care of tattoos and knew the woman had probably done extensive research. “Maybe you should put some ice on it,” Root suggested because she had placed her mouth and hands all around it.
“Where is it?” Janine asked because she needed to know in order to make the ice pack. “Is it?” she asked, looking directly at Shaw’s derriere.
“No!” Shaw said, not caring for the attention.
“Okay, then…, “ Janine said and felt there was no need for hesitation.
“Here,” Shaw conceded and gently pulled down on her t-shirt.
“OH MY GOD!” Janine said, clasping her hands. “That is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen!”
Root beamed that someone else had now seen her name emblazoned across Shaw’s breast. “Isn’t it?” Root grinned.
“Yes! So romantic, Shaw,” Janine said sincerely. “But you need ice.”
“I need peace,” Shaw said, but no one paid attention.
Bear was now wailing that there were two tattoos without any mention of him. Root was trying to explain why that was. Janine was back with the second ice pack and pulled at Shaw’s shirt to place it directly where it was needed. She was so fast, that all Shaw could do was stare up at her, hoping to bring her attention to the fact that she was holding ice on her bare breast.
Thinking Shaw was being thoughtful, Janine assured her; “Don’t worry. I could do this all night.”
Sameen was an expert at keeping people physically at bay. Once they made it past her safety space, she was at a total loss as to how to remove them. Martial arts simply didn’t seem appropriate.
“Root!” she tried because she felt confident her fiancée would pry the assistant off her breast.
“I think Sameen wanted to arrange a luncheon with the security staff for your heroics,” Root was explaining and didn’t hear the cry for help. “And a trophy,” she added to lift his spirits.
Bear was making a lot of noise asking for the particulars.
“Yes, tomorrow would be perfect,” Root agreed and put it into her calendar.
“Root!” Shaw said again.
“Tomorrow, luncheon for Bear. You’ll make a small speech,” she updated Sameen.
Root would have eventually noticed that her lover’s left breast was released from its encasement and covered by the woman’s hand holding the ice bag, but the noise in the entryway distracted her.
“SAMEEN! COME TALK TO YOUR MOTHER!” they heard Ayala yell. She assured the doorman no announcement was needed seeing how it was Shaw’s mother. He tried to announce them anyway, but the couple was otherwise engaged.
“I understand your concern, but I truly don’t think we should barge in here like this,” Azar attempted to say. She had hoped to calm her daughter down before they went into the elevator, but the younger sibling wouldn’t hear of it.
Thinking the best defense was a good offense, she decided to tell her older sister first.
Root ran in with Bear; Sameen was behind her, still attached to the ice pack and its maker.
“New tattoos?” Ayala asked, wondering how her sister was so calm standing there exposed.
“What?” Shaw asked, and then slowly pulled her clothing back up, removing Janine’s hand.
“That is one devoted woman,” Ayala couldn’t help but note. Then, she remembered why she was there. “Talk to her!” she demanded even though Shaw had no idea what she was talking about. “Go ahead!” she instructed her mother. “Tell her what you did.”
“Oh, so when she does something bad, she’s my mother?” Shaw asked, not caring for the bossy tone in her sibling’s voice.
“Why don’t we all go in here,” Root suggested and no one realized it until they sat down, but Janine was sitting right next to Shaw.
“What is this about?” Shaw asked, accepting that she couldn’t shake the woman off if she tried.
“In my defense,” Azar began with the worst like she could have.
“She went out without telling anyone. She told Alystair that she was meeting me. But where was she? Go ahead, ask her!” commanded the sibling who had noticed the gas mask in her bag and questioned her on the way over.
“Look at you; raising a little pit bull of parenting skills,” Shaw said to her mother. “Now, make it easy on all of us and tell us what you did.” Shaw was mocking just a little because she couldn’t imagine what egregious thing her mother might have done what would upset her sister like this.
“I went to see Greer,” Azar said and then proceeded to straighten out her dress even though there were no wrinkles.
“WHAT?” Root and Shaw said together.
“Isn’t that the man who?” Janine asked, having seen the man’s name in the security reports.
“YES!” Shaw confirmed.
“Oh, he’s very bad. Very bad,” the assistant stated.
“What the hell were you thinking?” Shaw asked.
“That’s what I want to know, too,” her younger sibling chimed in.
“No one messes with my family,” Azar said plainly and Janine grabbed her own chest at how sweet that was, uttering, “Ohhh.”
“Look, I get it, you were probably angry, frustrated, and a little bit scared that they messed with your favorite daughter,” Shaw began.
“I’m not scared,” Azar felt it was necessary to point out, thinking she was assuring her kids.
That wasn’t the point.
Shaw was in her mother’s personal space so fast that Ayala actually stood up to protect her mother. But when she heard that her sister was speaking from the heart, she actually just stood closer to Sameen.
“Well, maybe you should!” Shaw lectured. “You could have been hurt tonight. Greer’s going to get smarter because he knows who he’s up against with Root.”
"Yes, of course. I only meant,” the older woman tried, but Shaw wasn’t done.
“And while you might not be worried about what happens to you because you have some antiquated CIA training skills you’re itching to use; other people are! Other people who care for you. Try to remember that,” Shaw finished her lecture that sprung from her heart.
Now, Azar could have pointed out that her daughter was the first person to want to settle a score when it came to someone hurting someone she loved, but she didn’t. She just sat there, taking in that her two daughters were on the same side of the issue – together. She did all she could do but jump up and grab them in a hug. Instead, she looked over at Root with a knowing look and came back to her off spring.
“You’re absolutely right,” Azar said,
“Damn straight, I’m right,” Shaw quipped.
“Damn straight, she’s right,” Ayala echoed, as they stood shoulder to shoulder.
Root leaned over to Janine. “I know who I’m going to get my parenting advice from.”
Chapter 27: Ice and Fire
A/N: Internet out yesterday
Root’s passing comment in admiration to Azar’s skill at handling her daughters didn’t go unnoticed by the alert helper. Janine’s mind was still on the wedding preparations; she hadn’t thought about children. She had so many questions, but knew it was not the appropriate time to ask. Instead, she tried to concentrate on her boss.
“Seriously, mom; what did you expect to do? Greer’s probably got his machine watching him or he wouldn’t have met you alone,” Shaw pointed out, thinking like an operative.
“Yes, and now he knows what you look like. Did you really think shooting him or whatever you did was worth exposing yourself as an enemy?” Ayala reasoned.
“I didn’t shoot him!” Azar replied indignantly.
“I didn’t think she would shoot someone; too classy,” Janine whispered to Root.
“Oh, don’t get me wrong,” Azar said when she heard the remark. “I am capable of shooting a person dead center, but I didn’t want to kill Greer. I wanted to make him the Trojan horse.”
Root knew that, in spite of the woman’s training as a CIA operative, she was a hacker at heart. “You gave him something?”
The sheer look of satisfaction on Azar’s face confirmed Root’s assumption. “When he comes to in the ambulance…,” she tried to explain.
“Ambulance?” Ayala said and she and her sister decided they better hear their mother out.
“I poisoned him… a little,” Azar confessed.
“Again with the poison?” Shaw barked. “Her code name from now on is Arsenic and Old Lace,” she said, thinking she was very clever until she saw the scowl on her mother’s face.
“Underneath everyone’s exterior is a human machine that continuously gives out clues. For Mr. Greer, it’s an obsession to detail. He is convinced his instrument could possible run a better world, if only he could get his hands on more hardware and harness it to the mystery machine that people whisper about; namely yours, Samantha. So, I tempted him with something that would unnerve him; a flaw in his system. He couldn’t resist and felt safe coming to meet me because he had set his program to hack the surrounding cameras. I know this because I disrupted the signals before I got there,” she explained.
“So, he walks in and you slip something into his drink?” Shaw asked, still thinking this was a foolhardy mission.
“No, first I flirted with him,” she said, but her daughters both put their hands up in protest to stop telling them such things.
“I’ll never un-see that now,” Shaw complained.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Sameen. I was cordial and polite; I didn’t touch him,” Azar chastised the overreaction.
“Make her stop,” Shaw said, grabbing her stomach.
“What did you do then?” Ayala asked, patting her sister’s leg to show her empathy.
“I told him I was aware of the flaw in his system and had the answer. I told him it was Jeremy Lambert, but of course he didn’t believe me. So, to prove I had control of the situation, I told him he had just been poisoned; that the symptoms would mimic a heart attack, and that the ambulance on its way would use the defibrillator paddles on him that would leave burn marks.”
The former doctor felt it important to point out that the devices do not leave marks. Azar smiled shrewdly and said they do, if your chest is first covered in an agent to accelerate the heat. She looked over at the looks of disbelief on her daughters. “That part was revenge, I admit,” the woman explained, smiling.
“What was the mask for?” Ayala asked.
“You wore a mask?” Shaw asked. “That… was your disguise?”
Azar smiled to think how little faith her children had in her skills. “It was a gas mask and it was for the nerve blocking vapor that temporarily knocked out the entire restaurant. I told him he wouldn’t remember a lot of what happened,” she smiled as if it had been the civilized thing to do.
“So, now he’s going to have nightmares of a dark haired woman poisoning him?” Shaw asked.
“What did you give him?” Root asked, intrigued and calmer than the siblings.
“A digital card, like the one you use to get into a hotel room. I explained that the proof of Lambert’s incompetence was on it. Out of curiosity, I think he will look at it,” Azar said.
“But he’ll have it scrubbed first?” Root pointed out because no one would just put a card into their system.
“I’m counting on it. The program he uses to decipher if that card is clean will, in fact, act as a twenty-four hour detonator,” Azar said and Root clasped her hands in awe.
“My God! You’re brilliant!” said the brilliant hacker with such admiration that it took Shaw a second to realize the love fest in motion.
“Don’t!” she turned to Root. “Encourage her!”
But Root and Azar were connecting on a different plane that her daughters could not yet appreciate. “You wrote the code for that?” Root asked all excited.
“Yes,” Azar said and Root fell back on the couch, her hand on her head in amazement.
“That is so cool!” Root gushed.
Shaw’s head spun back and forth and finally looked at Ayala, who shrugged her shoulders to indicate she was out of ideas.
“Okay, you know what’s not cool?” Shaw barked, trying to break up the nerd connection, “… going out without telling your bodyguard!”
“YES!” Ayala agreed, thinking that was an excellent point.
Even Shaw knew what her mother did was cool, though. “She is kind of old school badass,” Shaw admitted.
“And lethal,” Ayala added, amazed she had rarely seen this side of her mother. By the time her youngest daughter was aware that her mother was involved with a machine, she was in her more subdued stage. She had already taken care of the men that killed Shaw’s father.
“So, he doesn’t know he met you?” Janine asked, wondering if there was room on her worry plate for one more person to worry about.
“His memory will be very hazy at best. Someone, undoubtedly, Lambert, will ask him about meeting someone. Then, Greer will find the card. The threads are like gossamer at best, but I’m betting he’s curious enough to try and make them connect,” Azar explained.
“Were you at least armed?” Ayala asked, unsure if she wanted to know the answer.
“Always,” the woman affirmed.
Hoping to throw it back to her sister, Shaw felt it necessary to point out how her mother went out without telling her bodyguard. “I would ground her for that alone,” Shaw suggested.
“Yes, I think she’s right,” Ayala concurred. She was secretly happy her sister wasn’t blaming her for any of this.
“God, you people are so exhausting!” Shaw moaned as she held her head. “You’re all staying here tonight. I won’t take no for an answer,” she announced, thinking she would worry less if her mother and sister were under the same roof.
Of course, her relatives weren’t the only ones there.
Root looked at Shaw because she had just told EVERYONE in the room they were staying. Sameen was getting better at reading Root’s expressions. Instead of just shouting out – “WHAT?” – now she took the time to reflect on what her fiancée’s expression might be telling her. “Oh,” she said, getting it. There was no backtracking now without hurting the woman’s feelings. That didn’t meant she knew how to finesse the situation. “And that means you, too,” she said sternly to Janine, as if she needed convincing.
“Me?” Janine asked, genuinely confused why Sameen would insist on her staying. “Why…?”
Shaw looked over at Root as if to say – I didn’t know there would be a Q&A about this! Root understood she had just been handed the baton so she came up with the only thing she could think of. “Well, it’s been twenty minutes. Isn’t it time to ice Sameen?”
Janine jumped from the couch and ran – as in break neck speed – because she looked at her watch and realized it was seconds past twenty minutes. All four women stared as she rushed out.
“I need to be… iced?” Shaw said incredulously to Root.
“Is she…,” Ayala started to ask. “…going to do that throughout the night?”
With that, Janine hurried back with the long ice bag for Shaw’s arm, and a smaller one. Then, Shaw… and everyone… watched as Janine held the second bag of ice and motioned around Shaw’s breast, trying to decide the most delicate way to do this in front of everyone. “I could… should I?...” she stammered, until Shaw took it from her.
“Thanks, I got this,” she smiled and gingerly took the bag.
In spite of the fact that Root wanted to be Shaw’s caretaker, and she would be as soon as they went upstairs, she simply could not deny the assistant the sheer joy of helping Shaw. Even if Shaw sat there scowling.
Twenty minutes later, and not a minute before, Shaw was released from the woman’s careful watch and the ice. She promised she’d have the ice ready every twenty minutes throughout the night, but Sameen assured her that she could manage.
After everyone was settled in their respective bedrooms, Shaw collapsed in bed with Root.
“You’re mother’s kind of a rebel, isn’t she?” Root said, smiling.
“Yeah, she is,” Shaw had to agree.
“I think I know where you get it from,” Root teased, gently kissing the length of Shaw’s newly inked arm.
“You better not leave any marks or my nurse will have words with you,” Shaw playfully warned Root.
“You’re right,” Root said, picking right up on the game, “I better only touch places she won’t be looking. Like… right here,” Root said, invading Sameen’s short pajama leg and grazing her skin.
Minutes later, Shaw reached for the bag of ice, but put it on her forehead – in an attempt to cool her temperature that was spiking from the fires Root was setting off.
“Remember,” Root whispered to woman falling under her spell, “…if you scream, as you so often do, I know of at least one woman who will rush in here to rescue you.”
Stifling Shaw’s screams was one way Root though of heightening the intensity. And in spite of the pillow over her mouth, Bear wasn’t the only one who heard the sounds of someone in the throes of passion.
Before retiring that night, both Azar and Ayala, separately, thanked Janine for taking such good care of Sameen. It renewed her adoration with vigor. As if it could get any more extreme.
The only thing that made Sameen more civilized at breakfast was the fact that she was eating – and that Root had taken care of every pang of pain or frustration she felt the night before. Root’s lips had left a trail of hot kisses that Sameen was certain were inscribed into her skin. Shaw had used ice packs to cool off, but never one applied them to the tattoos.
When Janine inspected her arm, she could not say for certain that it looked its best. “We’re going to have to keep an eye on…,” and she hesitated, but felt it necessary to inform her boss that she meant, “... both of them,” as she pointed to both areas.
“Sorry, Bear, I can’t make a speech at your luncheon today because I’ll be bearing myself in my office,” Sameen tried to get out of the toast.
“Don’t be silly,” Root said and Shaw thought she was coming to her defense. “It’s only for twenty minutes.”
“No, that’s not the answer …,” Shaw tried, but it was too late.
Bear was getting his speech and Janine was getting her way.
When the women went to part their ways, Shaw instructed Ayala to keep her mother at the Penthouse. “Just in case she decides to settle an old score with the Girl Scouts or something,” she said and the sibling agreed.
“I texted Fusco last night. He’ll be at work to update me,” Sameen told Root on their way over.
“I hope he can do it in twenty minutes,” Root teased and Shaw told her that it was her sad duty to report that her sense of humor was lacking. Seriously lacking.
Janine was waiting and ready as soon as Sameen saw her way to her office. With limited mobility of one arm, Shaw found it harder to answer the phone and swat her assistant away. This is why Fusco stopped in his tracks when he arrived at the doorway between Shaw’s office and her assistant. Shaw’s left arm was wrapped in ice; her right hand was holding the phone, and Janine stood behind her, holding the second bag of ice in place; down Shaw’s blouse.
“You two want me to come back?” the detective asked, standing there holding coffee and donuts.
Janine was looking at her watch, counting down the time. “Three, two, one… No, detective, please come in. We’re all done here.”
In spite of the green light, Fusco moved in slowly, staring at Shaw to explain. “Yes, that’s fine,” Shaw said to the person on the other end of the phone and hung up. Once she gave up fighting, she simply went with the flow.
“What… was she doing?” Fusco asked, putting the coffee down and letting Shaw grabbed the bag of treats.
“Must you always get jelly?” she balked.
“Again, what was she doing?” he insisted.
“She read you have to ice tattoos for twenty-four hours,” Shaw said and then realized how she could get even with him. “I’ll show you as soon as I’m done,” she said, grabbing the donut and eating it.
“For someone who doesn’t like jelly donuts, you sure can eat them fast enough,” he complained because hers was the Boston crème donut. “Can I update you, or will Peggy Olsen be bursting in here to do yoga with you?”
“Peggy Olsen?” Shaw asked, getting off track.
“Mad Men?” Fusco explained.
“Why not Pennymoney?” Shaw wanted to know – if he insisted on coming up with a nickname for Janine.
“James Bonds’ assistant? It’s MoneyPenny, Shaw. Geez, that’s why she’s Peggy Olsen and not Moneypenny. Because you’re not James Bond,” Fusco explained and annoyed his friend.
“Forget all that,” Shaw instructed. “What did you hear about the restaurant?”
“One of your favorite places? Were you and Ethel there last night, because there was some funny business going on,” Fusco said, putting on his reading glasses and taking out the file he sort of borrowed. Then, he read the facts; “A call to 911 from a burner cell alerted the FDNY of a possible gas leak. Three containers of knock-out gas were found in the vents which caused all the patrons to fall asleep. Nothing taken, no jewelry stolen. One guy taken to the hospital with possible heart attack, but recovered before getting to the hospital and checked himself out; no other injuries.” He put the folder down. “Care to enlighten?” he asked, taking a bit of the donut meant for his friend.
“That was Greer,” Shaw said and Lionel verified the patient’s name.
“The guy from Grand Central?” he asked and Sameen nodded.
“You trying to take him out on your own, Shaw? I told you, you can’t do it that way,” Fusco lectured her.
“It wasn’t me!” she said defensively.
“Then, how come you know about it?” he asked.
“Apparently my mother paid him a visit,” Shaw whispered.
“Your mother?” Fusco asked, surprised. “She did all that?”
“Yes, and she believes that she left no trace, so keep an eye for that, ok?” Shaw asked like she was talking about fixing a parking ticket.
“Your mother? She went to that place with Greer? The old guy?” the detective asked, trying to piece it together.
“For payback,” Shaw explained.
“Oh,” her friend said, because he understood that. “Still, she took some chance..,” he mentioned without mentioning all of them.
“Yeah, well apparently, my mother is a badass,” Shaw said, a mixture of surprise and proud. “She gets it from me,” she added.
“It’s usually the other way around,” Fusco pointed out, smiling. “Maybe, Shaw, you’re really not the toughest one around,” he suggested and laughed.
“Very funny,” she said sarcastically.
And then, she tried to play the ace up her sleeve to get even and win back all the points he scored the other day when he suggested she go shopping for china with Root.
“Hey, Fusco, want to see my other tattoo?” she asked and put her hand to her shirt.
The mere thought of Shaw exposing any delicate part of her body, sent the man rushing out of the room. “See you later, Shaw,” he yelled, dancing around Janine to get out of the office.
“Who’s a badass?” she asked mockingly, thinking she had just proven her point.
“Time for your speech, Shaw,” Janine informed her; and Shaw was certain she could hear her toughness deflating around her.
“I swear, I’d rather pick out china patterns,” Shaw bemoaned as she got ready.
“Oh, by the way, Root asked me to tell you you’re going shopping for china after work,” Janine delivered the message.
“Just shoot me,” Shaw said, rolling her eyes. “Just shoot me now.”
Shaw had no way of knowing it, but within twenty-four hours, someone was going to try to grant her wish.
Root had only to thank Sameen for giving the speech to quell her balking. “Just mention how helpful he was in carrying out a major security task; you can leave it vague,” Root explained, since not everyone knew of their excursion to Grand Central.
Shaw walked into the large conference room where the security team was gathered. There was a long buffet table adorned with food and a large cake that said: Congratulations Bear.
“Don’t you think we’re making just a teensy bit too much out of this?” Shaw whispered to Root.
“Do you want to live with him when he’s insulted and mopey?” Root asked.
“You’re enabling him,” Shaw stated.
“Yes,” Root said as if that were completely obvious to everyone – except Bear.
“Fine,” Shaw conceded, rolling her eyes.
“You’re so cute when you do that,” Root smiled.
“Do what?” Shaw asked.
“Enabling me, enabling him,” Root said. If it weren’t for the fact that Root’s eyes smiled so broadly over her doing this, Shaw may have protested.
Instead, she drew a deep breath and stood at the front of the room.
“Sometimes, we perform security operations that are not announced; more covert because of the nature of our business. When you’re doing that, you need to have the best people by your side. In one of our latest encounters… with a… competitor,” Shaw decided to call Greer, “… Bear was with us. He not only performed magnificently, he saved the day with his quick thinking. Thanks, buddy,” Shaw said, and knelt down to hug the canine.
That was what Bear appreciated most. He proceeded to lick her face unceremoniously.
“That was really nice, Shaw,” Reese said after the festivities and handing her a wet towel.
“The speech?” she asked.
“I meant leaving food for everyone,” John said and because he thought it was funny, little crinkles appeared around his eyes.
“You know, when I’m not available, Reese, you have to be with Root; am I right?” Shaw said, the brilliant idea just forming in her head.
“Yes,” Reese said, looking at dark eyes that twinkled with trouble.
“Well, if I’m shopping for…oh, I don’t know… china patterns, let’s say, I’m not there in a bodyguard capacity. Now, am I?” Shaw smiled… broadly.
“Are you suggesting that…,” Reese attempted to clarify, but Shaw was already confirming that it was exactly what she meant.
“Fine,” Reese said, because two could play this poorly orchestrated chess game.
Sameen might have been doing this to bust Reese, but she was also grateful to have an extra set of eyes with them when she was distracted. And nothing said distraction like shopping for china patterns.
Reese accepted his fate graciously, but not without making sure Shaw had all the help she needed.
Yes, he invited Janine.
“But it’s past the twenty-four hours for her tattoo care. What possible help could I be?” Janine questioned. “Why didn’t she ask me herself?”
“You know Shaw; she doesn’t like to take advantage,” Reese reasoned.
“That’s so true,” she said, sold on the idea.
Shaw kept looking at, what would be considered by anyone who knew him, the broad smile of Reese’s face.
“I know I already have china,” Root said, oohing and aahing at the different choices displayed on the tables, “…but I want us to have our own design.”
Then, Shaw saw what had Reese smiling so much. Janine was running down the aisle, apologizing for being late. One look at Reese and she knew he had invited her.
“I’m sorry for being late, but I stopped to get these,” Janine said, passing the bag of freshly baked mini-pastries to Shaw. Then, she turned to Root and explained; “Gen says it helps to have treats when she’s doing something she doesn’t like. Not that she doesn’t like this, but just in case,” the ever effervescent assistant explained.
“We don’t pay you enough,” Root beamed because she adored the idea of someone wanting to pay such good attention to her fiancé.
“Oh, that’s not true at all,” Janine said back and handed Shaw a cold bottle of water.
Shaw thought Reese’s idea backfired and she moaned over the pastry – loudly. “Want one, Reese?” she asked, but he politely refused.
Janine would prove, once again, her worth in gold when she suggested that they have their individual design done for their plates. “Make it unique; like you are,” she said to Root who loved the idea.
“Guns on china,” Reese murmured because it was the first thing that came into his head.
“YES!” Shaw agreed. “Can we get guns on the rim? Because Isabelle makes killer meals,” she laughed at her ability to deliver the perfect punchline.
Reese shook his head and Root looked up to the ceiling, wondering if this was something she should give in on. “I was thinking… Vera Wang?” she suggested. Shaw wondered if this was just something she should give in on.
After all, marriage is about compromise, she told herself. ‘Wait,’ Shaw thought; ‘Where did I get that from?’ It wasn’t like she had ever thought or talked about the steps to a good relationship, but that literally sprung into her head. The perplexed look on Sameen’s face as she tried to answer that convinced Root that she should give in.
“We’ll design our own,” Root smiled and took Sameen’s hand.
Still confused by her insight, Sameen asked Janine to remind her she needed to talk to Doc about something. “Stuff is just coming into my head,” she whispered to the dutiful assistant, who mistook this for voices.
“You’re hearing things?” she whispered as Root looked around.
“Yeah, but it’s my voice,” Shaw said, unnerved.
While the couple shopped for things that Sameen never game any thought to, Jeremy Lambert was enacting phase one of his virtual test of their machine.
“How are you feeling?” he asked his boss who seemed to have had some side effects from the restaurant gas leak. The emergency room doctor assured him that the memory lapse was due to the noxious fumes and that it affected older people more severely.
“He may never regain his recall of what happened,” the doctor had said.
“I’m fine,” Greer said, but still seemed groggy.
“I’m going to test phase one of connections,” Jeremy said.
“Robbery?” Greer asked and his underling confirmed it. “Matching up thieves with prime places to commit the crime and then calling the cops? Child’s play for our little machine.”
“We have to proceed slowly,” Lambert said and this annoyed the septuagenarian who wanted to move things along.
“You really are annoying,” Greer said and waved his hand at the other man to leave.
“I’ll keep you posted,” Jeremy said, because he was always looking for his boss’ approval.
“Do that,” Greer said and put his hand in his new suit jacket and felt the card he found.
Lambert returned to his command room where he could commence witnessing the first attempt of their machine to orchestrate the outcome of an event. Information about soft targets was leaked onto the dark web; hackers sold that information to would be thieves looking for a heist. From that, Lambert could deduce when they would strike and alert police. It would go a long way to sell their program which could seemingly predict when an event would take place.
“Commence,” he said and the machine traveled through fiber networks until it took over the stores internal cameras.
“Call 911?” a worker bee asked, and Lambert told him not to until he gave the signal.
“Turn on facial recognition program,” Lambert instructed and the IT person did. “Zoom in there,” Lambert said and smiled broadly when the program identified one of his prime targets.
“Call 911?” the worker repeated.
“Yes,” Lambert gave the okay. “There is no way this can’t work in our favor,” he said.
The call to the police said that shots had been fired at the store where the soon to be newlyweds were shopping and a team of thieves had just entered. They carried weapons and assurances that armored guards would be carrying out the weeks’ receipts any second. The schedule varied, and you could only find it by having an expert hacker find it. Then you had to sell that info online to experienced thieves. Then, you called the police and everyone walks away happy. Unless, you’re the robbers.
It was a taste of how little Greer’s team cared for anything but their objective.
The issue Lambert always failed to grasp, which Greer tried to drill into his head, was that the variable most difficult to nail down was human behavior. Hackers will hack, thieves will steal, and police will respond to a robbery, but what Lambert didn’t count on were the patrons in the store.
The thieves arrived on time, staged their positions and when the time was right, they raised their guns and told everyone to get down on the floor. They knew the exact time the safe would be open to give up the receipts, and it was theirs for the taking.
The customers of the high end fine china and glassware fell to the ground. Except three.
“Root, get down,” Shaw said as her partner, not as her bodyguard.
“I got this,” Reese said and sized up the situation.
“We got this,” Shaw barked and pulled out her weapon.
Root looked around, deciding there were three of them against four would be robbers.
“I want audio,” Jeremy said to the techie at the desk. “I want a gunshot to ring out right over…,” he said and took control of the mouse, “… this one’s head.”
The man did as he was instructed and the result was that the robbers all heard gunfire coming from the direction of Shaw.
As Lambert predicated, they took aim in Shaw’s direction.
“Easy there,” John said and put both hands out to ease their reaction. “No one wants to get hurt here.”
“Again,” Lambert smiled to think he was in control of this real life game playing out in front of him.
“But they’ll…,” the techie tried to say, but Lambert insisted.
This time, one of the gunmen fired in Shaw’s direction.
Root turned and would have jumped in front of Sameen, but she had distanced herself just a little bit too much.
Sameen fell to the floor and Root scrambled to grab her. She scooped her up in her arms and grabbed her body, looking for the blood.
There was none.
“I got her,” Reese said and the couple turned to see Janine in Reese’s arm.
The police arrived and stormed the store. The would-be thieves were apprehended without further incident. An ambulance was called for the wounded woman.
Which was good because Sameen was about to lose it. She had just assured Root she was okay, but couldn’t explain how she suddenly fell and hit her head. And then she looked over at Reese.
“What happened?” Shaw asked, springing from her horizontal position.
“She pushed you out of the way,” Reese said and held onto the woman as Sameen did what Sameen did well.
She lost it.
“WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?” she yelled down at the woman in pain. “ARE YOU CRAZY? YOU COULD HAVE GOTTEN YOURSELF KILLED!”
“Sweetie,” Root said, aware of what was really going on inside Sameen. But Root’s gently touch wasn’t enough to calm Shaw down.
“She’s going to be okay,” Reese said, because he was familiar with gunshot wounds.
“I’m sorry, Shaw,” Janine said because she knew she had upset her. “That’s a lot of blood,” the injured woman said and passed out.
“I’m gonna kill her,” Shaw barked and Root suggested that she hold that thought until the police were out of earshot.
The EMT's arrived and Reese explained what happened. They attended to her and asked if anyone was going to ride in the ambulance with her.
“I will because I ‘m going to kill her,” Shaw bellowed and Root smiled uneasily at the attendant.
“She’s… they’re… close,” Root explained with the innocent smile that only she could muster and be convincing.
“Okay, Lady,” the EMT said. “If you go; no yelling or touching. Promise?”
Shaw realized she had to get ahold of her emotions. “Yes,” she said and Reese said he and Root would follow.
Sameen climbed into the back of the ambulance just as they were putting in an IV so they could medicate the anxious woman.
“I’ve never been shot before,” she explained to the EMT.
“Well, you were pretty heroic from what I hear,” the attendant said as the Valium took hold.
“SHAW!” Janine said when she realized who was next to her. “This is Shaw,” she introduced her boss.
“This is the woman you took a bullet for?” the woman attendant asked because if she had to guess, she would have said Shaw did not look like she needed help.
“I couldn’t let anything happen to her. She’s getting married,” Janine said and drifted off.
“I guess you’re going to have to wait on that lecture,” the EMT smiled to Sameen.
“I can wait,” Shaw said, caught between scared and grateful.
Sorry, Emma ;-)
Chapter 29: Seeds of Doubt
The hospital staff strongly suggested that Sameen sit with Root and Reese while they took care of the patient. They were certain the woman was having an adverse reaction to the medication because she was yelling out uncontrollably every time she came to. The wound required stitches and after the procedure, Janine was resting comfortably in her room.
Root had an unsettling feeling about what had just happened. She kept thinking how someone had to know when the store was going to pass on the receipts because the schedule varied. Then, even if the robbers were smart; she questioned how the police were there so soon. She had asked Fusco to check into that. He was on his way there with the update.
“Is it just me, or does trouble seem to follow you two, like – all the time,” the detective whispered in the waiting area. “What’s up with her?” he asked Root when he noticed how tense Shaw was.
“She’s tense,” Root answered truthfully.
“Over Peggy Olsen?” he asked, forgetting that no one knew his nickname for Janine.
“Who?” Root asked and Fusco explained. “Yes,” she confirmed.
“Look at this,” he said and Shaw came over to look at the details Fusco found. The call to the police occurred seconds after the gunmen entered the store. From a burner phone. “Several people reported those gunshots coming from the speaker in the ceiling; like an audio file,” he said and now they understood why the gunman shot in Shaw’s direction.
While they were talking, a woman asked the nurse where she could find Janine. She hurried in the direction of the small room where the patient slept.
“This doesn’t sound right,” Shaw was saying, the hairs on her neck reacting to her gut. Then, a total stranger walked into Janine’s room.
Or, she attempted to enter.
The bodyguard flew from her seat and grabbed the unsuspecting suspect and pinned her against the wall. “Who the hell are you?” Shaw demanded.
The woman was obviously not prepared to be physically slammed against the door and screamed. “I’m Emily! A friend of Janine’s!”
Root had recognized the woman as the waitress from the night they all went out, but she was too slow to stop her fiancé from the well-meaning assault.
“Of course! Emily,” Root said, trying to peel Sameen off of her and smiling like it was the way they greeted all visitors. “Sweetie, it’s Emily; Janine’s friend,” Root interpreted so Sameen would listen.
“I saw it on the news!” the woman said.
Shaw stared at her for a second and when Root’s message got through; she released her and brushed off her shoulders as if the woman had fallen down. “Sure, Emily,” Shaw said.
“Oh, brother,” Fusco said of his high-strung friend. “Shaw, you want I should get you something to eat?”
“No,” Shaw lied and he knew he better go get her something.
“Is Janine okay?” Emily asked, putting a little distance between her and Shaw.
“Yes, thankfully,” Root said in a very friendly tone, hoping to erase the welcome. “It grazed her shoulder and she only needed stitches.”
“I just heard that there was a shooting and I saw them bringing her to the ambulance on television,” Emily explained.
“I’m sure she’ll be happy to see you,” Root said and they all went into the room.
Shaw was like a caged tiger; pacing the room back and forth. There was a part of her brain telling her she was supposed to be the patient; not the visitor. It was hard for her to accept that someone protected her.
Root saw it immediately. She knew situations like this made Shaw feel out of control. So, she gave it back to her.
“What do you want to do when she’s released?” Root whispered as Janine came to and talked to Emily.
“What?” Shaw asked.
“What do you want to do?” Root asked again.
Shaw’s eyes darted back and forth. “We might as well bring her back to the Penthouse Prison where we’re keeping all the others,” Shaw said.
“Ms. Shaw?” Emily called over. “Janine would like to see you.”
Shaw looked at Root, who nodded her head, and Shaw went over. Janine was still in and out, but seeing her friend Emily made her want to sit up in bed.
Root took Emily outside for a minute.
“She seems... nice,” Sameen said.
“She is,” Janine smiled. “Shaw?” she asked, because she knew something was bothering her boss.
“Look, I’m just going to come out and say this, okay?” Sameen started because it had been building. “You shouldn’t have done that. You could have seriously gotten yourself hurt and I would never have forgiven myself if you did. I do the protecting, I don’t need the protecting,” Shaw said, but it didn’t sound anywhere near as forceful as she wanted it to sound.
“I know,” Janine said, sorry that she upset her. “I didn’t plan it, I just reacted.”
Shaw totally got that because that’s often just how she operated. “Yeah,” she replied. “Well, you’re not going home,” Sameen added as if that was some sort of punishment for her actions.
“Shaw, I’m fine,” Janine smiled because she was touched Sameen was concerned. “Emily has offered to come home with me.”
This meant two things to the woman who was unnerved; Janine wasn’t listening and she was going home with a total stranger. “Root!” Shaw called and her fiancée appeared in the room. “She wants to go home with someone who could be Greer’s operative for all we know.”
“Maybe Fusco could fingerprint her,” Root smiled and really shouldn’t have teased.
“Yes! Okay, good,” Shaw said and went outside to make sure that was done.
Root bit her lip as she looked over apologetically at Janine. Then, they both heard her say: “And we’ll need a copy of your driver’s license, too.”
Janine was all smiles at her friend’s over protectiveness. “Better Emily knows what she’s in for,” she said to ease Root’s mind.
Emily had no idea who she was dealing with.
The former doctor was about to ask for a DNA kit when Fusco suggested that he had enough information to go on after taking the glass Shaw insisted Emily hold. “License,” Shaw said and make Fusco take a picture of it.
“She’s…,” Fusco started to explain, but couldn’t find the right word.
“It’s okay,” Emily said because she knew how much her friend adored the overprotective woman who stood there, staring at her.
Shaw motioned for Fusco to get on that. “I can’t wait to see what kind of pension you give me,” he said as he went and did what his friend requested. No, ordered. He left the candy machine goodies that he got her.
Reese took in the whole picture and understood what was going on. He left to update Martine at the office.
An hour later, when Fusco texted Shaw that the woman was in no known criminal database, Shaw allowed the patient to be discharged. Janine received orders from her doctors for wound care; and orders from her boss to check in every hour.
Then, Shaw allowed Emily to wheel Janine to the waiting car and accompany her home. She stopped them before they got in the car. “Hey,” Shaw said to her assistant. “I just wanted to say thanks. It was a very brave thing you did and I appreciate it.”
Janine’s face beamed as she listened to her friend’s accolades.
“But I don’t want you to ever do that again!” Shaw exclaimed and then nodded for Emily to take her home.
Emily didn’t know it, but her entire future with Janine hung on a thin thread when she shared her opinion of Shaw. “Wow,” she said, when they were in the car together. “She’s a good friend.”
Janine smiled at the woman’s assessment. “She’s the best,” Janine affirmed.
Shaw watched the car pull away and then looked at her watch. If Janine didn’t call in an hour, a SWAT team would descend on her apartment. Luckily for everyone involved, she did indeed remember.
While Shaw was sorting out feelings; Root was sorting through the details of the days’ event. Fusco confirmed the timing of the events and now Root was checking out the cameras in the store. Something had hacked into them while the heist was going on.
She felt if it was Greer, it was more of a demonstration of how their system could predict or prevent criminal activities. Even if they created them to begin with.
“I think we were incidentals to the robbery,” Root surmised when they returned to work. Shaw was in Root’s office and couldn’t seem to stay still.
“But you said they made the gunshot appear as if it came from me,” Shaw pointed out.
“Yes, but there was no way for them to know we were going to be there. So, I think they staged this whole thing and our paths crossed,” Root said, typing away furiously as she tracked information on the dark web.
“So, they didn’t want the thieves to shoot at me?” Shaw asked.
“No, they did,” Root said, confusing Sameen who was already on edge. One glance over at Shaw and Root knew she had to explain herself. “I think Greer’s group is testing their system to set up occurrences like the robbery. I found some info on the hackers’ site about the store where we went. Thieves can purchase that info and stage their heists based on it. But I couldn’t track the source. Then, the cops were called from a burner phone with the location and time of the robbery. I think Greer’s people were burning the candle at both ends to prove they can present themselves as a system capable of predicting events. The fact that we were there, was just bonus points.”
“I knew shopping for china patterns was dangerous,” Shaw slipped and then looked away. “If it’s Greer, can we please just blow them up?”
“Well, it will take me some time to confirm that,” Root answered. “In the meantime, I wonder what he’s doing with your mother’s card.”
Across town, the very card Root spoke of was being toyed with in Greer’s wrinkled hand. Lambert was pontificating about how he knew the machine could pull off the event without trouble. “And to have those two there at the same time was just icing on the cake,” he gloated when he told his boss that he orchestrated the audio program to make it sound as if the shots came from Shaw.
Greer was a big picture man; and while Lambert saw one successful trial run, Greer questioned what good that would do without additional hardware and programming. The event may have been successful, but it brought them no closer to acquiring what they needed.
As Greer watched Lambert’s lips move, droning on and on about the orchestrated heist, he played with the card. “Jeremy Lambert is your weak link,” he heard a woman’s sultry voice say in his head.
“Yes, yes, Jeremy,” Greer said, disinterested as he got up to end the meeting.
“I think maybe he hit his head,” Lambert whispered to another staff member when Greer left the room. He was wondering if the heart attack they initially thought he had wasn’t affecting his cognitive abilities.
Azar had cast doubt on Jeremy to make Greer question him; and she caused Greer to appear as if he had a physical malady.
And that wasn’t even the card of her sleeve.
That item; was being handed over by Greer to his trusted IT person to scour for anything that might be suspicious.
They wouldn’t find anything and within the hour, they’d hand it back to Greer. “There are word documents; that much we know,” the staff member said. “But it’s password protected.”
Greer thanked the man and started to think about what it could be. He put the card in the external drive and sure enough, the box appeared asking for a password. He thought long and hard and then typed in; A-b-d-a-l-l-a-h.
He wasn’t even sure where he got that from and was surprised when it worked. There, before him, were documents and files attesting to what someone had told him about Jeremy Lambert.
“Get Samantha on the phone,” Azar said to her younger daughter, who was cooped up with her in the Penthouse.
"Tell her – we’re in.”
Chapter 30: Root Being Root, Shaw Being Shaw
Root did get Azar’s message and began working with her on infiltrating Greer’s system, undetected. Shaw listened in, but she wanted a more hands on approach – as in - annihilating Greer’s hardware.
“It’s not that I’m against your way,” Root shared, because she was pretty much never against anything Shaw wanted “…but I think we can be more effective handling this from the inside.”
“Yeah,” Shaw said, but that wasn’t her style and she felt bored. Now that she knew her fiancée had her own fleet of drones, Shaw figured she had the answer to any issue they faced.
“I bet people are worried after seeing the news,” Root said, as she looked at her screen.
“I’m sure Reese updated them. They’re probably throwing Janine a parade. I mean, they should do something,” Shaw said, her feelings mixed about the whole thing.
“I’m sure there are some people who would feel relieved seeing you,” Root said, laying out the breadcrumbs to lead Shaw where she needed to go.
“Like Martine? She’s fine,” Shaw countered.
“I was thinking Doctor Campbell. You know, she’s kind of out of the loop in terms of office updates. I bet she’d love to see you after the news. You know, to make sure you’re okay,” Root tried.
“What makes you think she’d think I wasn’t okay,” the very sharp, dark eyed woman asked pointedly.
“No, I meant after hearing the broadcast; I’m sure she’d be relieved if you just went in and said hi,” Root clarified.
“You think she’d feel better?” Shaw asked, always willing to help the Doctor.
“Yes,” Root said; leaving out the part where she also thought it would do Shaw a world of good, too. This was simply, Root being Root.
“Okay,” Shaw replied and kissed Root goodbye.
Sameen made her way back to her floor, where for the first time in ages, her cubicle seemed very empty. There was no one there to greet her or give her messages. She sat down in her large leather chair, but she couldn’t get comfortable. In fact, her whole office felt uncomfortable for some reason.
Maybe Root was right – she should visit the doctor.
Sameen was walking down the hallway when Martine approached. “You okay there, Shaw?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Sameen answered halfheartedly.
“That was really something,” Martine assessed. “Reese says Greer’s group might have something to do with it,” she noted, looking around to make sure no one was there. “When are we just going to put an end to those people?”
If Martine had told Shaw she won the lottery, she would have been less enthusiastic. “RIGHT?” she said to her kindred spirit friend.
“I know the offense is probably more sophisticated than that,” Martine admitted, “…but I would really enjoy putting a hurting on those bastards.”
“YES!” Shaw said and moved in to hug the woman she thought was bloody brilliant in her analysis. She caught herself, coughed, and patted Martine on the shoulder. “I think we should discuss this further with Reese later.”
“Good,” Martine said, happy to see Shaw agreed.
“I gotta go make sure the doc is okay,” Shaw explained as she left.
Root wasn’t far off the mark when she said Iris was probably worried. She had seen the news and spoken to a certain detective who could update her. But she was concerned about what he couldn’t see going on with his friend.
Iris was deep in thought about her favorite patient when the woman suddenly appeared in her doorway. So surprised was the therapist, that she leaped to her feet and called out Shaw’s name in a high pitched, excited tone.
“SA-MEEN!” Iris said, astonished, yet thrilled, to see the woman standing right there.
“Hey,” Shaw said and looked around the office to see what had the doctor so excited.
“I’m so pleased you stopped in,” Iris said and Shaw figured Root was right – again.
“Yeah, Root said you would be,” Shaw replied and walked in. Since she was only there to show the therapist that she was okay, she wasn’t sure if she should sit. She walked behind the couch; her finger running along the back of it.
Iris tried to put together what she knew about her client. “Can you stay?” she asked, not assuming Shaw was there for herself. She knew Shaw’s approach would be indirect.
“Oh, well, I don’t know,” Shaw said, looking at her watch. She wasn’t sure why she would stay now that Iris could see she was alright. Maybe she had questions. “Sure,” she said and came around and sat down.
“I saw the news; I’m glad you’re okay. How is Janine?” Iris asked.
“She’s okay; she’s on her way home with a stranger that everyone seems to think is perfectly normal. I wanted her to stay with the rest of the captives at our apartment, but she suddenly got a stubborn streak in her and wanted to go home, so we let her,” Sameen replied.
Iris loved that Shaw’s spontaneous responses always offered them so much to discuss.
“So, you don’t trust the stranger?” Iris asked.
“I don’t trust anyone,” Shaw reminded the woman. “Except Root, of course, and you. Fusco, most days, but not about restaurants; and Reese, for sure, except about tracking devices, and Martine. Especially, Martine,” Shaw smiled because the woman had impressed her with her analysis.
“And Janine?” Iris asked , secretly happy she was on that list.
“Oh, yeah, of course,” Shaw responded. “Except when we’re shopping and there’s a robbery. Do you what she did? She pushed me out of the way. One minute, I’m standing there with my gun drawn, ready to take care of business, and the next thing, I’m on the floor!” Shaw explained and Iris could hear the tenseness in her voice.
“That must have taken you by surprise,” Iris suggested.
“By? Surprise? Yes, it did!” Shaw confirmed. “I mean, looking at it doc, you might think it was brave, but it was very careless, and she could have been hurt much worse than she is. I mean, I… I appreciate that she tried… that she did…but, I didn’t need her to.”
“Sameen, those sound like conflicting feelings. You had the situation under control, but Janine instinctively protected you,” Iris summed up.
“Yeah, how messed up is that?” Shaw exclaimed.
“Do you think it speaks to her affection for you?” Iris asked gently.
Dark eyes, filled with storms of confusion, glared back. It took a minute for words to form to match her feelings, but when they did, they were razor sharp.
“Affection? Do you know what you get when you have affectionate people? Accidents, careless mistakes, people who can’t concentrate on the mission at hand. And even worse?” Shaw asked, jumping up from her seat now. “…responsibility. I have a house full of people I’m responsible for now. My mother, who took it upon herself to walk into the enemy’s den and, brace yourself for this, flirted with the man.” Shaw’s whole body shuddered when she said that. “I’ll never unsee that, Doc.”
Iris was in the dark, but that was okay. Shaw’s feelings were coming through loud and clear. She leaned back in her chair, not yet ready to grab the pen and pad.
“I told my sister to keep an eye on my mother at our place because she got away from her once. God knows, what that woman will do next time. It’s like the CIA training in her woke up after all these years. Do you have any idea how dangerous it was for her to meet that man?”
“I’m guessing it was very dangerous,” Iris admitted.
“It was insane. Now, Root is encouraging her because she managed to slip the old guy a chip or something, I don’t know. But Root is cheering her on and the two of them are having a nerd-fest upstairs, but they don’t know what they’re up against,” Shaw affirmed.
“What are they up against?” Iris asked and it slowly dawned on Shaw that Iris was, indeed, clueless about these events. She sat back down on the edge of the couch cushion.
“Root has a… competitor, who’s pretty cutthroat in his attempts to steal Root’s… ideas. Sort of,” Shaw said, not really good at lying to this woman. “My mother thought she could help. Now, they’re like two nerds in a peapod. Someone’s got to watch out for them!”
“And that someone is you,” Iris stated.
“Yes!” Shaw said, glad the woman could so easily connect the dots. “But how am I going to do that if Tinker Bell is trying to protect me?”
“And Janine is Tinker Bell, “ Iris identified.
“Yes, I mean no. I don’t know, doc. Look at what you’ve done to me,” Shaw said, almost pleading. “You have awoken this giant blob of feelings inside and now I’m useless.” Then, to drive her point home, she waved her finger at Iris to pay close attention to what she was going to say next. “I… almost… hugged… Martine.”
Then, Shaw sat back and threw her arms out as if to ask Iris what more proof did she need after that.
For a split second, Iris thought it might be helpful is she installed a seatbelt on her chair to keep her steady with the twists and turns of Shaw’s sessions.
“Did you?” Iris asked.
“Did I what?” Shaw responded.
“Hug her?” Iris clarified.
“NOOO!” Shaw said, as if she had escaped the jaws of death.
“So, you were able to stop yourself,” Iris pointed out.
“Barely,” Shaw huffed. “I mean, I was this close…,” she said putting her thumb and index finger a half inch apart to show the proximity.
“But you didn't,” Iris pressed.
“Sometimes I think you think you’re making a point, but really what you’re doing is not,” Shaw said.
Iris had to control the smile that often wanted to appear at Shaw’s candor. “Sameen, what I am suggesting is that the feelings you have, about Janine and what happened, seem mixed to you, but that’s because you can have more than one feeling at a time.”
Shaw looked at the therapist like she just explained human nature using the terms of calculus. “More than one? At a time? You mean, like when I adore Root, but wish she wouldn’t get so turned at the most inopportune moments like in the middle of a crowded room?”
Iris smiled; not surprised that Shaw would ask for clarification using her feelings for Root.
“Yes,” Iris confirmed. “I’m sure you appreciate what Janine did, because she acted out of great concern for you, but it also left you feeling as if the tables had been turned. The point, Sameen, is that you handled all of that and were aware of your feelings enough to know when to refrain from hugging someone.”
Sameen listened carefully and thought about what the therapist offered. “So, I’m not going to turn into one of those people who emote all over the place, right? She was asking for Iris’ guarantee on that.
“I’m certain you won’t,” Iris said, going out on a professional limb. “The goal of this process, Sameen, is not to change you, but to make you more the person you are inside.”
Considering Shaw’s level of ego confidence, that sounded okay with her. Shaw being more Shaw. She liked it.
“Okay, then,” Shaw said, nodding her head and feeling like they had accomplished something. “I’m glad you’re feeling better,” she added because that had been the singular purpose of her visit.
“I truly am,” Iris shared, smiling as she walked Sameen to the door and watched her leave. “You have no idea,” she whispered.
Chapter 31: On the Menu This Evening
Lionel couldn’t help but notice that Iris seemed to smile all through dinner. At first, he thought she was really happy to be spending time with him; which she was. But she kept staring off into space and grinning. “Happy to be here?” he finally asked.
“What? Oh, yes,” Iris said, looking down to see that he had just filled her plate with spaghetti and meatballs.
“I used that turkey meat, like you said,” he shared because he was watching his weight.
“Oh, that’s great,” Iris said encouragingly.
“So, what’s new?” he asked, even though he knew she couldn’t share too many details of her job.
“Well, I had a really good day at work,” Iris summarized.
“Yeah? That’s good,” Lionel said without asking for details. “Mine started out going downhill,” he said.
“Oh, no! Why?” Iris asked, not accepting the grated parmesan cheese he offered. He started to put it on his meal, but stopped and sighed.
“I swear,” he said sitting down and pouring them each a glass of red wine. “… trouble just seems to follow Lucy and Ethel.”
Iris was getting more acquainted with her boyfriend’s common practice of assigning nicknames. “The robbery?” she felt she was allowed to ask because it was in the news.
“They were shopping for china or something and this big robbery happens at the same time. Weird that the cops were called just as they got there. Anyways, Shaw’s assistant jumps right out in front of her and pushes her down. Well, Maybelline ain’t happy about that, you can imagine,” Lionel said, eating a big forkful of spaghetti twirled around his fork.
“Oh?” Iris asked and complimented his culinary skills. “This is really good.”
“Thanks,” he took time out to respond. “Yeah, this assistant – you must know her – pulls Shaw down and takes the bullet. Well, gets grazed. She’s rushed to the hospital and Shaw is pacing back and forth like she’s upset. Oh wait, I got garlic bread,” he said and jumped up to take it out of the oven. “Careful, it’s hot,” he said as he a piece onto Iris’ plate.
Iris thanked him, folded her hands and rested her chin on them; smiling across the table at him.
“What? I got sauce on my face?” Fusco asked, becoming self-conscious.
“You’re a wonderful friend to Shaw,” she commented.
“What?” he asked, as if they had been talking about something else.
Iris went back to eating. “Whenever you talk about her, you get this look on your face.”
“Yeah? Is it my totally aggravated look? Because, between you, me and the lamppost outside; she can be one pain in the ass. Like today, she’s ordering me around like I’m on her payroll. She fingerprinted a visitor! Had the woman hold onto a glass so I could take it back to the station. Do you have any idea how many times the guys in forensics asked what case the evidence was for? “ he complained, but not convincingly.
“You two have a special bond,” Iris said, in spite of his long diatribe.
“Yeah,” Fusco conceded. “She’s still a pain in the ass, though,” he wanted to make sure she knew.
“This is delicious,” Iris said, ignoring his remark.
Across town, Joss and Reese were sitting down to a nice meal in a quiet restaurant that they liked to frequent. Their schedules seemed to be making it harder and harder to have quality time together.
“So, Taylor really wants to go on this trip next week with his robotics team. They’ll stay in the college dorms right on campus. It will give him a real taste of what college life will be like, I think,” Joss said as she cut into her chicken francaise and ate a piece.
Reese looked across the table as the candle light flickered in big, soft brown eyes. “Oh,” he said, finally getting that this was Joss’ way of saying they might get to spend some time together. “Good.”
Not one to be easily put off, Joss raised her eyebrows at him and said; “I hope you mean good for you; not just good for Taylor.” If there was a line in the sand for what Detective Carter would stand for, it was a foot deep with signs pointing to its location.
And Reese knew it. He had never met a woman who could get so much across with so few words.
“No, I meant it will be nice,” he said, putting his hand across the table to touch hers.
“Damn, you are good,” Joss smiled because the man’s touch was enough to melt her instantly. Now that their schedule was settled, Joss asked Reese what else was going on. “I see that look on your face, John, and I always know who you’re worried about when I see it.”
“Damn, you are good,” Reese repeated back and she laughed. “Someone’s after BEAR’s …, “ and he stopped because he respected Joss’ professionalism.
“Stuff?” she offered.
“Yeah, stuff,” Reese smiled. “And they’re getting more brazen in their attempts.”
“Well, if I know you bunch, you’re all in it up to your necks together. And if that’s true, then I know you have a certain detective who’s right there with you. So, I’ll keep my ears out for anything,” Joss smiled as she ate the last of her chicken.
“Thanks,” the pair of blue eyes smiled back at her.
“I’m not having dessert unless you promise me we’ll work out later,” she said, peering over the dessert list when they brought it over.
Reese smiled and pulled the menu out of Joss’ hand. “Let’s have dessert at home.”
One of the things that Root admired most about Azar was her impeccable timing. The woman knew that she was overstaying her welcome, even if Sameen insisted she be there when they got home. Instead, Root found a lovely bouquet of flowers, thanking them for being such wonderful hostesses. She assured them that Ayala was going back to her townhouse with her.
“Oh, she said to thank you,” Isabelle said when she saw Root. “Now, dinner is all ready and waiting on the hotplates. Now, unless there’s anything else you need, I’ll be off.”
“Leaving us?” Root teased the woman.
“I think you two need a little alone time. Leave the dishes and we’ll take care of them in the morning,” Isabelle instructed.
Root smiled, thanked the chef and picked up the two large pink shopping bags that had been delivered a short time ago. She ran upstairs and got ready.
When she heard the elevator coming up, she knew it was Sameen.
“Where is Isabelle going? I saw her going down the block,” Shaw asked, slightly panicky that they would be left on their own for dinner. “You’re not? I mean, we’re not…?” she tried to explain her concern.
Root looked right at her with a knowing look and invaded her personal space. She played with Sameen’s long strand of hair as she gave her a look. “Are you saying I couldn’t make you a decent meal?” Root asked and Sameen opened her mouth, but only garble came out.
“I’m… saying…,” Shaw started as her throat got dry, “…that your… particular…talents… lie elsewhere,” she finished and was pleased with how she recouped.
“You’re a terrible liar,” Root informed the former operative.
“But eating is so important,” Shaw tried to counter.
“I couldn’t agree more,” Root said, dragging Sameen into the kitchen where dinner was waiting.
“Oh, you really meant…,” Shaw pointed to the hallway as if her words were out there. “I thought you were alluding to…,” she stammered. “Where… where is my mother?”
“Where is my mother?” Root repeated. “That’s the best you can do, Shaw, after getting caught red handed; accusing me of making sexual innuendos? “ Root teased mercilessly.
“I didn’t say you said,” Shaw dug herself in deeper. “It’s just that usually you twist…,” she tried to explain, but Root had taken Shaw’s index finger and placed it in her mouth. Her wet tongue surrounded the digit, as it slid up and down it. She slowly pulled it out of her mouth before asking; “Twist?”
Shaw’s breathing had quickened as her body reacted sharply to the gesture. “Twist…,” she tried to complete the thought. “…me around your finger.”
“Sweet,” Root smiled and got the two plates that Isabelle had prepared.
“I’m not so hungry,” Sameen admitted because another hunger was craving her attention right now.
“Oh, trust me, Sweetie,” Root said coyly, putting the plate down in front of her lover, “… you’re going to need your strength for the night I have planned.”
Shaw blinked hard; amazed that Root could sound so sweet and innocent when issuing those warnings.
“Okay,” Shaw said and sat down.
Finally, it dawned on Sameen that they were alone. “No, really, where is my mother?” she asked as she devoured the steak.
“She went home with your sister. She promised to stay put until we speak,” Root conveyed.
“That woman never does what she’s told!” Shaw barked.
“Hmm; let’s test if that’s a familial thing,” Root proposed and confused Sameen.
“A familial what?” she asked as they finished dinner.
“Let’s see if you’re any better than your mother at following precise directions,” Root explained.
Shaw looked around for a clue to explain what Root was talking about. “Oh, I get it,” Shaw finally said. “You want me to do the dishes.”
Root found Sameen’s slowness to pick up on her sexual teasing endearing. “No,” Root said. “I’m going to give you some directions,” she said, taking Sameen by the hand into the living room. “And we’ll see if you are any better at following them.”
“Is this like truth or dare or something?” Sameen guessed terribly wrong.
“Get undressed,” Root said as she sat on the couch.
“You want me to get undressed? Oh, so this is how you’re going to prove…?”
“Now,” Root said, fully aware of what would happen.
“Excuse me?” Shaw said back annoyed.
“And put this on,” Root said, pulling the low cut, black lace one piece negligee.
“Oh,” Shaw smiled as she did as her fiancée requested. Her clothes lay in a pile as she pulled the Victoria Secret item over her head. “Nice.”
The matching lace V-string panties dangled on Root’s finger. “Maybe not,” she smiled seductively as she threw them back in the bag.
“What about…,” Shaw was asking when Root pulled open her blouse and displayed the white lace one piece teddy. “How did you?” Sameen tried to ask, but Root was already pulling her down to sit on her lap.
Shaw laughed at Root’s theatrics. “No firewoman saving me from a fire?” Shaw teased of Root’s often played out fantasies.
“Oh, there’ll be fires,” Root promised and began to slide her hands up Sameen’s very firm thighs. She felt the smoothness of cream as she massaged Sameen’s legs. Shaw removed the tie from her hair and shook it loose, sending it cascading down her chest.
Root reached up to touch the ample curvy flesh and squeezed them gently. She buried her head there before pulling the thin material aside to envelop them in her mouth, one at a time.
Shaw pushed Root slowly back on the couch so she could slide the spaghetti straps of Root’s lingerie off. She bent over, leaving a trail of kisses across Root’s shoulder and down her collar bone to her breasts.
In the meantime, Root grabbed Shaw’s perfectly formed buttocks and massaged them, causing Sameen to sit back up. This gave Root full advantage as she moved her hands to the cleft between Shaw’s brazenly exposed legs. “There isn’t an inch of you I don’t want to taste,” Root said as Sameen arched against loving hands.
“Oh, God, Root,” Shaw said, unable to slow down as she squirmed at the invasion.
Minutes passed as Root maintained her pressure with steady, but slow circular motions until Sameen begged her to increase the speed. Root moved her hand in response as she pressed forward and hugged Sameen so she wouldn’t fall. Shaw’s pulsating need was met with the right touch, sending her crashing in waves of body shuddering joy. Shaw screamed out in ecstasy as Root brought her down into that pulsating abyss. Then, she gently helped her lover to lie on the couch. Shaw’s was breathing in little gasps, and her heartbeat could be felt when Root put her hand on her chest.
Shaw let out a laugh, when she wasn’t trying to catch her breath. “I’ve never…(gasp)… like this… (deep breath)… in my life,” Sameen complimented her lover.
Root smiled to think she could cause such thorough and unabashed abandon in Sameen.
Shaw’s incredible workout routine meant that she could physically recover quickly from these heightened bursts of pleasure. This was great because Root was so turned on, she couldn’t stop touching Shaw’s incredibly toned arms. She enjoyed that Sameen could be so physical with her, in spite of the height difference.
In seconds, Shaw sat up and pulled Root so that now she was atop her. Root squealed at the dizzying thrust. She loved when Sameen pinned her hands above her head and she playfully struggled as if there were a chance she could get free. This was Sameen in perfect balance; using her muscles to restrain and excite; and using gentle ministrations to cause Root to gasp. Shaw slipped her tongue past Root’s lips and stroked her mouth to frenzy. She ran her hands over Root’s smooth skin, gently pulling and encasing her flesh in her mouth. Each time Sameen nipped at her skin, Root arched her back in excitement. Time seemed to stop as Shaw moved slowly down Root’s body, leaving a throbbing trail of fires that built up inside her. Sameen managed to hold Root’s hands down at her side, which always excited her. She’d pull against Shaw, just to feel the strength of the hands that held her in place. Even as Shaw positioned herself between Root’s legs and toyed with soft flesh.
“Pleeaaassse,” Root could barely get out before Shaw deftly touched her most sensitive spot and granted her release, making her body convulse in pleasure. The fires extinguish brought a warm feeling throughout Root’s body.
Shaw moved up alongside her breathless partner. “I think that proves what a good listener I am,” Shaw teased.
“Yes,” Root panted.
"Oh, I do love being right," Shaw boasted.
In an apartment in Queens, Janine was feeling much better, thanks to the care of her new friend, Emily.
“I’m not sure chicken soup is actually good for bullet wounds, but it’s about the only thing I can make,” Emily admitted as she brought in a large cup on a tray.
“It’s a good thing I’m ambidextrous,” Janine said and then blushed when Emily said; “Interesting.”
“This is really good,” Janine lied because she didn’t care for the taste, but appreciated the effort.
“Please try to finish it. You need your strength,” the woman said as she straightened out the pillows on the couch where Janine was lying.
Janine didn’t want to insult her guest, so she pushed past the taste and soon finished the whole cup. “That was good. You’ll have to…give…me…,” Janine said, but was struggling to keep her eyes opened.
“Go to sleep now,” Emily said and caught the cup before it fell out of her hands.
She watched as the woman succumbed to the drug induced sleep. Then, she grabbed her phone. “Tell Lambert I’m ready,” Emily said as she waited for instructions.
“Nothing like getting in behind the firewall,” Lambert laughed as he texted Emily what he wanted her to look for.
While Root and Shaw took showers and got dressed, Azar and Ayala were working at monitoring Greer’s operation.
“Nothing like getting in behind the firewall,” Ayala said as she wrote down what she was seeing.