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Natural Selection

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Root's recent employment and Gary's subsequent background check didn't cause them any immediate problems, but Shaw stayed on her guard all the same and had taken to carrying her back up piece strapped to her ankle with her everywhere she went, and made sure Root never went out alone. This caused them both problems, mainly because the unrelenting close proximity was starting to get on each other’s nerves. It wasn't Root's presence that got to Shaw, but her flippant attitude towards everything. It was a front, she thought, the way Root so calmly went about her day as if Decima weren't hiding around the corner, waiting for them to slip up.

After spending a week sleeping on her battered couch, Shaw's back had taken to twinging randomly throughout the day, which only worsened her mood, so she had taken to going out for extra-long runs in the mornings to ease the tension in her body. It had the added benefit of giving her some space from the other woman and it soon became a routine that Shaw looked forward to.

Saturday’s were always Joe’s busiest nights and Shaw and Root quickly found a working rhythm that suited them. They weaved eloquently around each other behind the bar, like they were made to move together and Shaw could tell Gary was impressed with the way they poured drinks with seamless efficiency. He liked the tips they made too. And Root made a lot of tips.

Shaw watched out from the corner of her eye as Root flirted and charmed the socks off of every person in the bar, men and women alike. Even Lou had taken a fancy to her, although he assured ‘Mary’ that she was still his favourite.

On Root’s second Saturday shift at the bar, it seemed like most of the town had made an appearance and Shaw could barely push her way through the crowd to collect the empty glasses. It was so busy that even Gary was behind the bar. Shaw walked past him with the stack of empties in her arms.

“Never seen the place this busy before,” she muttered to him.

Gary shrugged. “We can thank your friend for that.”

Shaw glanced Root’s way. She was giving some guy dressed entirely in denim her brightest smile and he was doing his damnedest to charm her right back. Shaw walked over to the other woman, giving the guy in denim her best scowl until he backed off into the crowd. She recognised him vaguely as one of the louts that always hung around with Danes.

“Enjoying yourself?” Shaw muttered.

Root glanced at her over her shoulder. "I've always been a people person."

Shaw snorted. "Yeah right."

Shaking her head, Shaw retreated into the crowd of people once again and tried to ignore the annoyed feeling in her gut every time she thought of Root and that smile that was directed to everyone and anybody that came near her tonight. A few people gave her a polite “hello” as she passed, but most of them gave her a wide berth. She had been keeping a low profile during her time here in this town, but that hadn't stopped Mary Woods from getting a reputation as someone constantly in a bad mood. It was probably only her looks (and the fact that Joe's was the only bar in town) that kept half the customers coming back. With Root, it was the exact opposite, and she had somehow managed to charm the entire town in one shift. As a result, it seemed that the bar's clientele had doubled over night. Gary hadn't been complaining, but Shaw didn't like it. There was too many people, too many unknowns. The only small comfort was that no one could try anything in a crowd like this, not unless they were willing to risk collateral damage. But then, she thought, since when had Decima ever cared about collateral damage? They'd probably blow up the entire town if it meant getting to Root and Shaw.

"Your girlfriend's good," said a voice in her ear.

Shaw turned around to find Lou grinning at her from ear to ear.

"She's not my girlfriend," Shaw grumbled. "I don't even like her most of the time."

"Uh-huh," said Lou knowingly. "Is that why you've been glaring at everyone who even so much as looks her way all night?"

"I have not," Shaw began, then realised he was probably spot on. She cleared her throat. "I always glare at everyone."

Lou just grinned at her again before taking another sip of his drink.

"Whatever, old man," she muttered, rolling her eyes. But his words wouldn't leave her head and her eyes quickly found Root, locking with the other woman's briefly before Shaw forced herself to look away. She snatched up a glass from a nearby table. It was still half full with a dark coloured beer and its owner shouted “hey!” at her as she pushed her way through the throng, downing the contents.

The alcohol felt good going down her throat, but she knew Gary would have a fit if he caught her drinking on the job. So many rules and stipulations, it was almost worse than working for Harold.


At least with Finch, she had felt like she was doing something productive, something worthwhile. Here, it just felt like she was rotting, biding her time until someone put a bullet in her.

The Machine couldn't have placed her new identity in somewhere more exciting? Somewhere where she could use her skills? It was almost as if it was punishing her. Punishing her for failing to stop Samaritan from coming online in the first place. Which was stupid really, because how were any of them supposed to stop it when the Machine had kept them in the dark at every turn? Shaw wasn't even sure Root had had the entire picture most of the time. She had just known that something was coming, something bad, and trusted the Machine blindly to get them through it.

Well look how that worked out.

They were alive, yes, but Shaw didn't think her new life as Mary Woods was worth it.


As the night wore on, Shaw's mood didn't improve, but it wasn't her dark looks that cleared everyone out of the bar. Deputy Billy Danes managed to that all by himself as soon as he walked through the door. Shaw watched as some of the less brave customers (or those who just preferred an easily life) abandoned their drinks and made a hasty exit out of the front door. Lou glanced her way then quickly retreated into his usual spot at the table in the back corner.

Shaw never took her eyes off the deputy, and the solid weight of the gun strapped to her ankle was reassuring.

Danes sauntered up to the bar, smiling widely when he saw Root. "Well, well, well, look who it is."

"Hey there," said Root, throwing him that bright smile again. Shaw clenched her fist, but was glad to see the smile didn't quite reach Root's eyes.

"What can I get you?" Root asked.

Danes ordered his usual and stood at the bar, nursing his drink, watching Root as she worked.

Shaw didn't like the way he looked at her. Didn't like the way Danes stared hungrily after Root as if she was something he could claim and take for his own.

Shaw watched him carefully, itched to have the gun in her hand even as she thought that a bullet was too good for this guy and wondered where his wife was tonight. Wondered if she was at home, nursing a fresh bruise and dreading her husband coming home drunk. Not that Danes needed to be drunk to beat the crap out of his wife. Alcohol wasn't an excuse he could use to explain away his behaviour. He beat his wife stone cold sober, just like he terrorised the town on a daily basis.

Root moved around the bar to clear away some tables and Danes took the opportunity to make his move. He grabbed Root around the waist, pulling her into his lap. Root tried to move out of his grip, but he held her tight.

Shaw felt something inside of her snap and, abandoning the pretence of clearing away glasses, moved towards them.

"I don't think she's interested."

Danes stilled his hand movements, currently attempting to get underneath Root's shirt, and shifted his head slightly to look at her.

"And what the hell business is it of yours?"

"Seriously," Shaw said and was surprised at how calm her voice sounded considering the rage that was currently burning through her. "Let her go."

Danes pushed Root unceremoniously away from him and pulled himself to his full height, standing toe to toe with Shaw, as if he was trying to look menacing. But Shaw had never been intimidated by someone else's height, considering most people were bigger than her, and she smirked up at him. She could see Lou staring at her with concern from across the bar, but he stayed frozen in his seat. Shaw didn't blame the old man. Besides, it wasn't as if she needed his assistance anyway.

"See, that wasn't so hard, was it?" Shaw said.

Danes gritted his teeth and moved his right arm, probably to go for his gun, but maybe not. Either way, Shaw moved quickly and she had already knocked his arm away before he could blink.

"Shaw," Root warned.

Maybe it was the use of her real name - a stark reminder of all she used to be - or maybe it was just six months pent up frustration and anger finally bursting at the seams that caused her to bring her fist up to connect with Danes’ jaw.

He staggered backwards with a grunt, muttering "fucking bitch" through a mouthful of blood. Shaw grabbed him by the back of the neck and slammed his face into the bar. He slumped to floor out cold.

"Fucking dykes," said a voice behind her as something smashed into the back if her head. A beer bottle by the looks of things, Shaw noted absently as she staggered around to get a look at her attacker. Dressed in Denim was staring at her menacingly.

"Oh, you are really gonna wish you hadn't fucking done that," Shaw said, taking a step forward.

Root grabbed her arm, stilling her. "Don't," she said, her voice a warning.

Shaw pulled away from her but swayed on the spot, her vision going slightly blurry. She reached a hand up to the back of her head, bringing back blood, sticky between her fingers.

Dressed in Denim picked up another empty bottle, smashing it against a table and pointing the jagged edge in her direction.

"That the best you got?" Shaw asked. She thought about going for her gun, but right now, using her fists was probably going to bring her more satisfaction.

"That's enough," a voice barked and the sound of a gun cocking filled the room. Gary appeared behind the bar, shotgun in his hands. "I don’t like fights in my bar," he reminded them. Denim dropped the bottle in his hand, not wanting to risk Gary's wrath and bent down to check on the deputy. Gary shot Shaw a questioning look, like he couldn't quite believe his bartender was capable of hand to hand combat, not to mention the fact that she had taken on the six foot deputy who had a gun, and a grudge, and won.

"We should go," Root said, nudging her slightly towards the door.

Shaw shrugged away from her touch. She felt lightheaded from the scalp wound but would be damned if she let Root help her out of there. Root quickly retrieved their stuff from the back room as Gary (along with the rest of the bar) still stared at her mutely.

"Sorry about the mess," she said as Root passed Shaw her jacket. Shaw slipped it on, her eyes meeting Lou's across the room. He gaped at her and she felt a pang of regret as she walked out of the bar, knowing it was probably the last time she would ever see the old man. He was the only person in this godforsaken town that she had actually liked.


Fortunately, it was still early, so the liquor store was still open. Shaw pushed the glass door open, Root following behind her wordlessly, arms folded and a pissed off look on her face.

Shaw grabbed a bottle of vodka off one of the shelves and tossed enough money at the cashier to cover it and more. He stared at her for moment and she wondered just how badly she was bleeding from that head wound. It didn't feel too bad at the moment, but she knew it would be throbbing in the morning by the time the adrenaline wore off.

Outside, Shaw twisted loose the cap of the bottle and tossed it aside into the middle of the road, taking a deep drink. The vodka burned its way down her throat but it was like an old friend coming home and she relished the feel of it.

Shaw had worked her way through about a third of the bottle by the time they made it back to her apartment. She kicked her shoes off at the door and staggered to the couch, her shin catching the edge of the coffee table and only Root's firm grip on her upper arms kept her from sprawling to the floor. Shaw pulled out of her hands and managed to sit down without any more incidents. She drank more of the vodka as Root disappeared, returning a moment later with a first aid kit in her hands. She perched on the edge of the coffee table and bent Shaw's head down to get a better look at her wound.

"I don't think it'll need stitches," she said.

"Is that your expert medical opinion?" Shaw asked.

Root glared at her and pressed a gauze firmly down on the wound. Shaw hissed and batted Root’s hand away.

"That was stupid, you know," Root said, searching in the first aid kit for some badges. "I don't need you defending my honour."

"Don't flatter yourself," Shaw said, leaning back. "I didn't do it for you." It wasn't a total lie, but Root still looked at her as if she didn't quite believe her.

"Aren’t you the one that keeps harping on about keeping a low profile?" Root said, removing the gauze and fixing a bandage firmly to the wound. "I think the bleeding's stopped."

Shaw grunted, unconcerned and watched the other woman carefully as she concentrated on what she was doing.  Although she had seemed pissed when they left the bar, she looked remarkably calm now, and Shaw realised belatedly that Root had walked away from the bar fight without a scratch. It didn't seem like Root, to just sit there and take it as some guy fondled her in front of a bar full of people. Where was the old Root, the Root that would have tasered the guy before he could even touch her? She missed that Root so fiercely that she almost resented the shell of the woman sitting in front of her. The woman without the Machine in her ear, without a purpose.

"Aren't you tired, Root?" Shaw said suddenly, leaning forward. "Aren't you tired of hiding?"

"It's not hiding," Root said, tidying up the contents of the first aid kit, her eyes diverted. "It's surviving."

"But it's hardly living, is it?" Shaw said quietly. This time Root looked up, their eyes locked and Shaw found herself leaning even further forward, her gaze darting down to Root's mouth, at her slightly parted lips.

Root leaned back. "Shaw, you don't want to do this."

"Yeah, I do," said Shaw honestly. "I really do."

This time when she moved forward, Root didn't pull back.

Shaw still had the bottle of vodka in one hand, but with her free one she grabbed Root by the lapel of her jacket and pulled her closer, deepening the kiss, forcing her tongue into the other woman's mouth.

Root's hands found her shoulders and she gently pushed Shaw back, breaking the kiss.

"No, not like this," she said shaking her head slightly. Shaw looked at her questioningly, not used to being turned down, but was happy to see the flush of Root's cheeks and the slight hitch of her breath that gave her arousal away. "You're drunk and you’re angry," Root explained.

"When am I not drunk and angry?" Shaw said and took another swig from the bottle nonchalantly to prove her point.

Root stared at her for moment before standing up. "Come on," she said, pulling Shaw to her feet. Shaw let her - she was drunk and the blood loss from her head wound hadn't helped - and she swayed on her feet slightly as Root guided her to the bedroom.

"Okay, you're kinda giving me mixed signals here," Shaw said as Root pushed her towards the bed.

"Sleeping on that couch has made you grouchy and off your game," said Root, prising the bottle of vodka out of Shaw's grip and placing it carefully on the nightstand. "And I'm gonna need you cranked to eleven."

"Whatever," Shaw muttered as Root pushed her back onto the bed. Shaw liked the feel of it, Root leaning over her as she pressed her down. She wondered what it would be like if it was the other way around, if it was Root beneath her on the bed. She thought about doing just that, thought how easily it would be to grab Root and have her flipped onto her back, squirming delightfully beneath her. And Sameen Shaw had never been turned down twice before in her life. But before she could do anything, her head hit the pillow and she was out like a light.


Shaw's eyes snapped open when someone shook her awake, her arm reaching out blindly for the gun on the nightstand that wasn't there, knocking the bottle of vodka over in the process. It took Shaw a moment to realise it was just Root standing over her, but that thought wasn't exactly comforting as she remembered Root giving her another wakeup call over a year ago. There was no taser in sight this time though, just Root staring down at her, the corners of her lips twitching as she moved quickly to straighten the knocked over bottle. It was too late to save the contents though, and the clear liquid dripped to the floor and the reeking smell of the distilled spirit filled her senses.

"What time is it?" Shaw asked groggily. Her head was pounding, and it was a relief that Root hadn't turned the lamp on because Shaw didn't think her eyes could take it.

"Get up," Root whispered. "We need to go. Now."

Shaw heard the apprehension in Root’s tone and was up almost instantly despite the protest coming from her throbbing head. “Why, what’s going on?” she asked as Root handed Shaw her discarded shoes and she quickly pulled them on.

“Deputy Danes and friend are out front,” Root explained, bending down to pull something out from under the bed.

Shaw rolled her eyes. “I’m going to kill that fucking guy.”

“No,” said Root, “you’re not. Low profile, remember?”

“Whatever,” Shaw said, tying the last of her shoelaces. “What are you doing?”

Root hefted a large duffel bag from under the bed and dumped it at Shaw’s feet with a clatter. “I took the liberty of making some preparations. Just the essentials,” she added.

Shaw raised an eyebrow at her before peering in the bag. It was filled with an array of guns – definitely more varied and lethal than anything in Shaw’s current arsenal – and several stacks of hundred dollar bills. Shaw pulled one out and flicked through it.

“What did you do, rob a bank?” she asked.

“Something like that,” Root said cryptically. “Come on Short Stack, time to go.”

Shaw grumbled at the nickname but there wasn’t time to comment further on it as a large thud hit against the front door; someone trying to kick it open by the sound of things. Shaw followed Root as she lifted the bag and began to escape through the bedroom window.

In the alley at the back of Shaw’s apartment building, Root had a car waiting for them and she tossed the bag into the bag seat quickly before opening the driver’s door. Shaw paused for a moment, staring at the car in wonder. Between the vehicle, the guns and the money, it looked like Root had been a little busy the past couple of weeks. So much for staying indoors where it was safe.

Shaw made a move for the driver’s seat. “I’m driving,” she said.

Root stared at her, shaking her head. “With a concussion and that cheap ass vodka… no, you’re not. That’s a bad combination. Besides,” she added, “we don’t have time to argue, so get in.”

Shaw opened her mouth to protest but there was a shout from above and she spied Danes’ head peeking out of her bedroom window. “Fine,” she snapped and got into the passenger seat.

Root had been right about the head wound and the booze being a bad combination though, because almost as soon as Shaw had sat down and rested her head against the window, she fell asleep.