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Different Names for the Same Thing

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“Babysitting duty?” said Shaw haughtily into the phone. “Again?”

“Mr Reese is out playing detective,” Harold explained, “and I have papers to grade.”

“Yeah, well, I have banks to rob,” Shaw said sullenly, but Harold had already disconnected.

That was the fourth babysitting duty in the space of three weeks. Shaw didn’t read too much into it, not then. But when it happened again, and again, she decided to call Harold out on it and find out what she had done to piss him off this time.

“I don’t know what you mean, Ms. Shaw,” said Harold, feigning ignorance.

“Bullshit,” said Shaw. “What did I do?”

“You know perfectly well what you did,” Harold snapped, all ignorance gone, now glaring at her like she was one of his students that had talked over him in class.

Shaw wracked her brains, struggling to think of what she could have possibly done. She hadn't shot anyone recently, or blown anything up, so it couldn't be that.

"Bear," said Harold, with a weary sigh.

"What about him?" said Shaw, glancing around for any signs of the dog, but the familiar patter of his feet wasn't around.

"I know it's you that keeps taking him," Harold accused.

"Taking him?" Shaw frowned. "Wait, are you saying that Bear's missing?" she asked and didn't give Harold time to respond, already making her way out of the hideout.

*

The apartment was in a crummy building, in a crummy area of town and, even though it was dark when Shaw approached it, she assumed its interior was probably crummy as well.

Breaking in was easy. She didn’t try to be stealthy (she couldn’t really, not with the way the door creaked on its hinges) and she struggled to see in the dim glow of the street lights peeking through the blinds. She could make out a shadow though, a slightly darker shade of black hidden within the depths of the apartment.

“You gonna shoot that thing or just wave it about?” Shaw said, guessing correctly that the black thing shining ever so slightly in the gloom was a gun.

Root lowered the pistol and said, “How did you find me?” before turning on a lamp. Shaw blinked against the sudden brightness, making out Root huddled in the far corner, Bear at her feet. Shaw moved towards him, dropping to her knees and rubbing behind his ears. She glanced up at Root, noting the dishevelled appearance, the bags under her eyes and wondered who she was playing today.

“You put a tracker on the dog?” she said in disbelief.

Shaw shrugged, scratched Bear’s ear one more time and climbed to her feet. She stared at Root for a moment, surprised by the way she carefully avoided her eyes. She wasn’t sure what she had been expecting, but it wasn’t whatever the hell this was. Root looking so quiet and mopey. It wasn’t something Shaw was used to and she didn’t like the way it left her unsettled, something stirring unpleasantly in the pit of her stomach.

“What’s going on, Root?” Shaw asked before she could talk herself out of it.

Root looked at her sharply. “What do you mean?”

Shaw clenched her teeth, wondering if Root really was that dense or if she was just trying to avoid the subject.

“I’ve been here for about three minutes and there’s been no innuendos, no flirting,” said Shaw, anger slipping into her voice (because giving into the anger was easier than giving into the worry, she told herself) making it hard and cold. “Heck, you haven’t even cracked a smile.”

“What’s to smile about?” said Root, tossing her gun carelessly onto the coffee table and sinking despondently onto the couch. “In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re at war.”

It was the weary anger in Root’s voice, her body language that screamed with exhaustion, that made all the anger leave Shaw. She wasn’t sure what she was left with, why it made her feel sick to her stomach.

“Yeah, I noticed,” Shaw muttered. As much as she hated the make-up counter, she couldn’t deny that she was enjoying herself just a little too much with her side-job. Sometimes she thought she had become more settled, that she had come to accept it, quicker and more easily than the others. She had learned to blend in and just get on with it. She couldn’t say the same for John who was constantly getting reprimanded both from his boss and from Harold whenever he shot someone’s kneecaps. And Harold… Harold spent most of his time hiding out in their new hideout than he did in his classroom where he should have been maintaining his cover.

But Root was something else. Shaw found the make-up counter, the bank robbing and working the occasional number to be exhausting. She couldn’t imagine how Root did it, how she could become someone new every few days.

“So what’s the deal with stealing the dog?” Shaw asked. Although she already suspected the answer. She just wanted to hear it from Root’s lips. She was tired of all these games and dancing around the truth. Root was right, they were at war. There wasn’t time for that kind of bullshit anymore.

Root shrugged, bringing her knees up and wrapping her arms around them. It made her look small and once again, Shaw struggled to figure out who she was playing. If this was Root or someone else.

When she got no answer, just Root staring despondently at her knees, Shaw muttered in Dutch for Bear to follow her and headed for the door.

Root's voice, small and broken, made her pause with her hand on the door handle. And she didn't like the way it rang in her ears, like something unpleasant and irritating, just chipping its way underneath her skin.

"I just-" Root began, her voice nothing more than a whisper in the air, faint and difficult to make out. But Shaw heard her. Shaw listened. "I didn't want to be alone."

Shaw stood silent for a moment, her hand still resting on the door handle. Loneliness wasn't something that was ever an issue for her. But lately... Lately her apartment walls felt hollow. It was too quiet, like it was almost suffocating. And she wondered if that's what it was. If that was what loneliness felt like.

She let go of the door handle, leaving Bear whining impatiently on the floor and moved back towards the couch.

"You're not alone," Shaw said, keeping her voice low so as not to startle Root.

"I haven't heard the Machine in weeks," Root said, looking up at her with eyes shining bright and watery.

“That’s not what I meant,” said Shaw.

Dropping to her knees so that she was nearer Root’s eye level, Shaw heard Root’s sharp intake of breath.

“Shaw –”

Pressing their lips together tightly, Shaw felt the softness of Root’s lips, could feel her warmth despite the cold that surrounded them with winter creeping ever closer. Shaw ran her tongue along Root’s bottom lip before pulling away, not liking how cold she felt the further apart that they were.

Root’s eyes were closed, her mouth slightly parted and Shaw wondered when she didn’t move, when she didn’t say anything, if she had read all the signals wrong. Maybe the flirting was just Root’s way of messing with her, just another round in whatever game they were playing.

“Do you want me to go?” Shaw asked, staring past Root, eyes on the door and calculating how quickly she could get out of there and pretend this never happened.

She closed her eyes briefly when Root didn’t say anything and rose hurriedly to her feet. Root grabbed a hold of her wrist before she could go very far, the lightest of touches and Shaw didn’t know if it was because she was nervous of pissing Shaw off or if she had lost all the energy to grip on any tighter.

“No,” Root breathed out and tugged slightly on Shaw’s arm. Shaw let Root pull her back down to her knees, felt her heartbeat quicken when Root brought her lips up to hers once again. What had been soft and hesitant in Shaw’s kiss, was overpowered by the need she felt in Root’s, and her hands automatically reached for Root’s waist, fingertips brushing against smooth skin under her shirt. Root pressed her fingers into the back of Shaw’s neck, pulling her closer.

The smell of Root’s perfume, the sheer warmth of her, it all felt overwhelming and Shaw pulled away, breathing heavily as she searched Root’s eyes for… something.

“Shaw, are you –”

“Don’t make this a thing,” said Shaw, sensing Root was about to talk herself out of this, about to talk her out of this and she kissed Root hungrily, pressing her down onto the couch and straddling her waist.

She ran her hands up underneath Root’s shirt and pulled apart to lift it up and over Root’s head. Goosebumps spread across Root’s bare skin and Shaw kissed them away, her hot breath sending shivers through Root. She trailed her tongue across Root’s stomach and paused at her side, staring at the scar standing raw and ragged against Root’s pale skin, still healing. She remembered what Harold had said, about the war being won at any cost, and she knew then, that Root had put herself in the line of fire. She had bought them all time to escape and save their number at the risk to her own life.

That recklessness unsettled Shaw, the way it so easily came to Root. The way she so carelessly put herself in the path of a bullet for her god. Shaw wanted to tell her there was another way, that she didn’t have to do it like that, didn’t have to prove her worth by getting herself killed. But she couldn’t find the words. Instead she kissed her way along Root’s scar, felt Root gasp more than heard her, and began undressing the rest of her.

Root’s nipples went hard when Shaw took her bra off and tossed it aside, and she took her time exploring the rest of Root’s body before capturing one in her mouth, sucking on it hard. It was uncharacteristically slow of her. Usually Shaw was quick about these things. Just another itch that needed scratched in the quickest way possible. She didn’t know if it was Root that was making her want to take her time, or if it was the looming war, the possibility of them winning and surviving it until the end diminishing with every passing day.

Whatever her reasons, Root countermanded them, tugging Shaw’s clothes off, using her nails and her teeth to urge Shaw on.

Shaw didn’t need the incentive, quickly removing the rest of her clothes and bringing their lips together in a kiss that was hot and brutal. Shaw pushed her fingers inside Root, feeling how warm and ready she was and groaned when Root brought her knee up between Shaw’s thighs in response.

Shaw felt it then; that burning desire she had been trying to contain and ignore for months. But she couldn’t ignore it now, couldn’t pretend it didn’t exist and sit inside of her like an ulcer waiting to rupture. She didn’t know how she had managed for so long and she felt like a fool for thinking that this – Root moving beneath her, panting and moaning in her ear – wasn’t inevitable.

Root bucked her hips and Shaw pressed her fingers in deeper and faster, relishing the way Root’s breath hitched, irregular and desperate, all because of her. One of Root’s hands brushed against Shaw’s inner thigh and she bit down hard on Root’s bottom lip when a finger brushed against her clit, sending sparks of something fiery hot all the way to the tips of her toes and up to the top of her head.

“Harder,” she muttered and Root complied, fingers moving faster as she bit down on Shaw’s neck. Shaw groaned, scraping the fingernails of her free hand up Root’s arm, wanting to draw blood. She drew circles around Root’s left nipple with her tongue before biting down hard, tugging on it with her teeth. Root moaned, the sound filling Shaw’s ears, bringer her closer, her arousal filling her up, pounding away as if trying to get out. All the while she kept up her own steady pace, Root clenching her muscles tightly around her, like she was trying frantically to keep hold.

Shaw looked up and watched as Root’s eyes fluttered closed, her mouth parting slightly as her orgasm built up. Shaw kissed her again hurriedly, muffling whatever Root was about to cry out, deciding she didn’t want to hear it, not now. Not yet.

Shaw came quietly, as always, her face buried in Root’s neck, inhaling the scent of her perfume mingled with sweat and found she didn’t want to move, but knew she would have to eventually. There was a war waiting for them, after all.

“Can you,” Root began when Shaw sat up slightly, averting her eyes. “Can you stay… for a little while longer?”

Shaw nodded and kissed her softly. “I think Bear’s asleep anyway.”

It was the perfect excuse. Neither of them acknowledged it as that, but they used it anyway. Anything else was too real, too honest, and didn’t have its place. Not here, not during a time of war.

Maybe on another day, when it was over, if they both survived until the end of it, coming out of the other side unmarred by the toils of war. Maybe then they could stop pretending.

But not today. Today was for something stolen and secret. Today was just for them and not for the world, not for the eyes of Samaritan to see.