“Seriously, why can’t John ever be killer bait?” Shaw complains, tugging on her dress uncomfortably. It isn’t that she doesn’t love wearing formal attire; it’s that when she’s at work, she likes black and stretchy clothes that let her breathe and run and fight. Not high heels and tight cream white dresses. Besides, she hates fancy parties that don’t have any food.
“You’re not killer bait, Miss Shaw,” Finch reminds her for the third time, “you are simply keeping a closer eye on our number.”
The number in question, Asha Tumelo, happens to be spending the next few days at an upper scale retreat for same-sex couples, where Shaw is supposed to keep a close eye on her while John works the case from the city. Before Shaw has time to protest that she’d rather go in guns blazing instead of this undercover crap, the door of the safe house opens, letting another woman through – also dressed to the nines.
“Hello Harold,” Root smiles as she walks down the stairs, pulling on the end of her dress, discreetly bringing attention to her bare legs – which Shaw thoroughly ignores. “Hello sweetie,” she flirts as she gazes at Shaw.
“Oh hell no,” Shaw moves aside, taking one look at Root before she stares angrily at Finch. “You said I was going with Zoe!”
John timely walks in before Shaw explodes, paperwork in his hand, his calm demeanor bringing some quiet into the room despite the tension that stills lingers. “Zoe had an emergency,” he explains, blue eyes apologizing, “but this’ll work.”
He’s all smiles as he hands each of them their file, and Shaw can easily imagine wiping that grin off his face with a mean left hook. She clenches her jaw and refuses to look inside the document, already knowing what it holds anyway; fake Ids, credit cards, registration papers for the couple’s retreat. The usual.
“No, it won’t work,” Shaw protests once more, stubbornly ignoring Root’s probably faked hurt expression.
“This is the only way,” Finch replies patiently. “Our number is attending an all-women couples’ retreat. Short of cross-dressing one of us, there is no other way.”
“I wouldn’t mind taking drag-Fusco instead of her,” Shaw grumbles, although she quickly grabs the keys Finch is offering. “I’m driving.”
Root doesn’t need to be told twice, and she walks up the stairs swiftly to open the door, letting Shaw through. “Oh, we’re gonna have so much fun together,” she smiles and reaches for Shaw’s hand.
In one quick movement, Shaw twists Root’s hand, threatening to break her wrist. She can hear a quiet Miss Shaw! coming from Finch but she ignores it, locking eyes with Root as if to warn her. Beside her, despite her initial look of hurt and surprise, Root is smiling through the pain, and Shaw gives up before she has the time to say anything crude about it.
This number better be a victim, Shaw thinks, because if Asha’s a perp, she will kill Tumelo herself.
“Here,” Root offers Shaw a glass of whisky when she returns from the bar. “You like McClelland’s, right?”
“Let me guess, the Machine told you that,” Shaw answers, still scanning the room. A few other guests have arrived and despite the boring classic music – Shaw feels like she’s stuck in an elevator – many of them already started talking to one another. An easy crowd so far, she thinks; mostly they are businesswomen, a few artists. None of them look like much of a threat, but she knows better than to rule anyone out yet. When she takes a sip of her scotch, she relaxes a bit; as much as Shaw can relax while on the job.
“Educated guess,” Root replies with a wink before taking a sip of her white wine.
Through her earpiece, Finch inquires; “do we have eyes on our number, Miss Shaw?”
“Not yet Finch,” she answers, and checks out a woman that just walked in. Tall blonde, confident walk; she does stand apart from the rest of the crowd. Her eyes stay on her a moment too long, and when Shaw turns around, Root is staring at her, a curious grin on her face. “What?”
“Nothing,” Root answers before she runs a hand down her arm, “sugarplum.”
Shaw rolls her eyes, fighting her instincts to pull her hand out of Root’s hold. “Don’t call me that.”
“Sure, anything you want, cupcake,” Root kids, toying absently with Shaw’s fingers, but before Shaw can argue on the nickname, she squeezes her hand. “Oh did you see the arms on that one?”
She directs Shaw’s gaze toward a woman who clearly spends most of her time body building and gleams. “I’d like to see you handle her in a fight.”
Shaw smirks before she takes a sip. “I’d take her down easy.”
Root’s eyes are bright when she leans closer. “I’m sure, but how exactly do you fight someone twice your size?”
Shaw takes another sip of her whisky before she starts explaining the rudiments of most self-defense stances. She’s describing a few basic movements when she notices that Root isn’t listening really, she’s just staring at her with a weird gaze.
“And you already know all of that,” Shaw realizes.
Root gleams. “But I just love to hear you talk, sweetie pie.”
“You’re having the time of your life now, aren’t you?” Shaw accuses.
Root turns the wine in her glass, trying to act innocent. “It’s not like our trip to Anchorage, but it’s definitely something.”
Shaw shakes her head, but there’s definitely a smile lurking behind her mostly stoic features.
Finch buzzes in their ears once again. “Perhaps you could spend less time bothering Miss Shaw and more time doing your job, Miss Groves.”
Root rolls her eyes and Shaw’s smirk widens.
“Alright, you go this way, I go that way?” Shaw suggests, only instead of doing that, Root leans in.
“Or we could just...” She lets go of Shaw’s hand to run her fingers through Shaw’s hair. Urging her closer by the pressure of fingertips against her scalp, Root licks her lips and leans in. Her warm breath runs down Shaw’s skin and Shaw stops breathing altogether. Just as their lips are about to meet, Shaw finally snaps, rudely pushing Root away from her. Root’s elbow hits a woman behind her, spilling her drink all over the stranger’s dress.
“Oh my god, I am so, so sorry,” Root apologizes, embarrassed. “I’m so clumsy; she really can’t take me out anywhere.”
“It’s no problem,” the woman smiles, her Russian accent endearing – if Shaw was listening to her, and not blinking confusedly. “Things like this happen to me all the time. I’m, how do you say? Oh, all thumbs.”
“Oh no, but that’s a lie, isn’t it?” Root grins, placing a gentle hand on the woman’s upper arm and subtly pulling her towards the bar, Shaw in tow. “Aren’t you that model from that billboard?” She throws her eyes towards Shaw, forcing her to stay with them. “Honey you remember that billboard right? What was it for?”
“Revelation,” the Russian offers. “And yes, it is me up there. Irene Barysheva,” she extends her hand, which Root gladly shakes.
“Alison Wells,” Root presents herself before pointing towards Shaw, “and this is my lovely wife, Ann.”
“Nice to meet you both,” the model continues, but Shaw still isn’t really listening, because Finch is telling her that Irene Barysheva is the number’s wife, and she understands how Root just played her. Her angry face must be showing despite her best efforts, because when she snaps back to the conversation, Root is angling towards the model, handing her a clean washcloth from the bar and whispering; “ignore her bad mood: she really didn’t want to come here this weekend.”
Fortunately, the model is all smiles and Shaw fakes one her way.
“Well, you have to let me make it up to you,” Root suggests. “At the very least, let me buy you another drink.”
The Russian seems to hesitate for a second, but Root’s smile is so warm, she bends. “Alright,” she gestures towards the barman, calling him towards them. “But only one.”
Root – Alison – starts talking about how her coworkers are going to be jealous that she met Irene, which of course bring them to talk about their respective jobs. Root’s cover states that she works in video games and they end up talking about esthetic principles and how it transcends everything in life and Shaw rolls her eyes, bored out of her mind. Her own cover mentions that she’s currently unemployed – that would be the cause of the tension in the couple, Finch had explained, but she thinks she really didn’t need that to have people believe that she and Root aren’t the best item out there.
“Miss Shaw, the entrance’s security cam just showed Miss Tumelo’s car arriving,” Finch warns her, and minutes later, the woman joins them.
Despite Root’s friendly attitude, Asha’s smile is cold and tensed as they share names, and turns downright to disdain when she asks; “and what about you, Ann? What’s your line of work?”
Root doesn’t need to look at Shaw to know that she’s clenching her jaw, repressing the angered answer that no doubt swirls around her tongue. She feels Shaw’s hold around her waist tightening, and she quickly cuts whatever response she’s about to deliver.
“Ann is between jobs at the moment,” she fakes a smile before she turns to Shaw. “But I just know she’ll be great at whatever she does next.”
The compliment seems so genuine, Shaw frowns for a moment. “Thanks,” she mumbles before burying her face behind her glass. She empties its contents rapidly and is grateful when Root changes the conversation subject, even if they are once again onto the ever so boring topic of fashion.
Through her earpiece, Finch explains that Tumelo owns a chain of boutiques presently being investigated in court for copyright infringement. Apparently, there’s trouble with their designer’s creations; something about using professional designs modified by semi-professionals in an attempt to lower the prices. Shaw smirks, mentally calling their number a fraud, when she notices Root’s elbow nudging her ribs repeatedly.
“What?” she groans in a low voice.
“Irene was asking you if you wanted another drink, honey,” Root replies, and under her smile Shaw sees a little annoyance with her lack of participation in the conversation. “She likes her scotch neat,” Root answers for her anyway.
Shaw rolls her eyes, thanks Barysheva for the whisky and continues to survey the crowd, listening to Finch’s new information about their number. When Finch mentions that Irene apparently has ties to the Russian mob, she finds herself intrigued by the woman once again, only it’s at this exact moment that Root decides to bid them good night.
“Well, it’s getting late,” Root announces, and Shaw wonders what she’s doing because things are finally about to get interesting. Barysheva has just mentioned an uncle that owns a bar and Shaw wants her to elaborate on that, her instincts screaming that there’s something important there.
“Miss Groves,”, Finch intrudes, “we need to gather as much intel as we can. I strongly recommend you stay where you are.”
“I don’t know, I’m not really tired,” Shaw insists on staying, flashing her ‘wife’ a smile.
“Of course not, you could sleep five hours every night and still be perfectly rested,” Root speaks with a thinly veiled reproach. She notices a few pair of eyes turning their way and turns towards Irene and Asha. “Would you excuse us for a minute?”
Root pulls Shaw away forcefully, getting them out of earshot but remaining directly in their eyesight, which only makes Shaw frown even more.
“What the hell are you doing?”, Shaw asks, shrugging Root’s hand off her arm.
“Asha’s heartbeat has significantly increased over the last half-hour and her palms are sweaty,” Root states as if it meant something.
Shaw sighs. “Do I want to know how you know that?”
Rolling her eyes, Root continues; “we’re making her nervous. We need her to trust us.”
“Which is why you should stay, Miss Groves,” Finch reminds her over the earpiece.
Root ignores him entirely, her eyes locked in Shaw’s. “What we need to do, is have a fight.”
“What?” Shaw’s frown deepens when she notices tears gathering in Root’s eyes.
“You weren’t listening, were you?” Root’s voice gains volume, a tremolo coloring her words as she starts the waterworks. “You never listen to me.”
“Oh come on,” Shaw complains, talking to Root more than to Ann. “That’s your plan, really? That’s how you wanna play this?”
When Root slaps her hard, she doesn’t know whether to be angry or impressed.
“It’s not a game,” she cries, and if Shaw didn’t know better she’d think it wasn’t a show. “Whatever, okay? I’m going to bed. You stay, enjoy yourself without me. You’re so very good at that.”
When Root turns around and walks out on her, Shaw blinks a few times. She feels the inquiring eyes of the crowd resting on her and she sighs, returning to the bar and pretending to be shaken up by the scene.
“I’m sorry about that,” she sits down on a stool, signaling the barman for another drink.
It’s hard not to smirk when Asha places a hand on her upper arm, a concerned look in her eyes where there had been only condescension before. “It’s alright,” her tone softens. “We all have our problems, or we wouldn’t be here.”
“Amen,” Shaw replies, sipping her drink as if lost in thoughts. “You know, it’s always been a dream of mine to own a bar.”
When she walks into their room an hour later, Root has transformed half of it into Finch’s office. There are screens everywhere; camera feeds beside strange programs that Shaw would never care inquire about. Nevertheless, she walks up behind Root and takes one look at what she’s working on.
“You’ve been busy”, she states, impressed. Apparently, while Shaw was entertaining the couple at the bar, Root has sneaked into their room, bugged the place and hid a camera in the ventilation system.
“Doing my part for the team”, Root gleams, typing some kind of code on a laptop.
Uninterested in knowing what Root is planning next, Shaw opens the mini-fridge in hopes of having one last drink. When she sees only juice and water, she sighs. “Finch, why is there no alcohol here?”
Her earpiece remains quiet, but Root turns her chair around. “Harold’s gone to bed already.”
Shaw settles on a water bottle before taking the device off her ear, ditching it and her phone aside. She sits on the edge of the bed behind Root’s chair, eyes browsing the screens.
“Also, alcohol is a depressor, so it was available only tonight”, Root explains, returning her attention to her computer.
“That’s bullshit”, Shaw complains, downing her water as she watches the couple quietly settling into bed. When Irene and Asha turn off the lamps in their bedroom, Root types in a code, and the camera switches to thermal imaging instead, which only makes Shaw feel like an intruder. She takes a look at the only bed in the room and represses a sigh. “I’m sleeping in the tub.”
“Don’t be ridiculous”, Root rolls her eyes. “I won’t molest you in your sleep, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
Swiftly closing her laptop, Root reaches into the bag slumped against the desk, pulling out night clothes and a toothbrush.
“I’m not worried,” Shaw stubbornly argues.
Root smirks as she points her toothbrush at Shaw accusingly. “Then why don’t you sleep here with me?”
“I don’t share my bed”, Shaw states blankly. “Trust issues.”
“But you just said you weren’t worried,” Root taunts as she makes her way towards the bathroom.
Shaw turns around, only to notice Root hasn’t actually closed the door. Through the restroom’s mirror, she can see her change into her night clothes, and Root smirks when their eyes meet. “Look, I don’t do intimacy and relationships, okay?”
“We can share a bed without it being weird, you know. As two colleagues”, Root starts, returning in the room wearing an almost see-through white tank top and dark green pyjama pants. “Or as friends,” she continues, dropping her dress on the floor beside Shaw and locking eyes with her. She leans in, “unless you have feelings for me, Sameen?”
Her voice is low and raspy, and Shaw swallows hard. “I’m sleeping in the tub.”