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  1. the time she had a spa day and might have enjoyed it

 

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“Okay, so what’s the plan?” Shaw asked as she removed her clothes in the changing room. “Who’s the number?”

 

Root’s burning gaze up and down her body was the least of Shaw’s concerns - she was too busy wondering how she was going to conceal her USP compact in the plush terrycloth robe they gave her. She considered the pockets, but the weight and outline of the gun would be too obvious.

 

There were bags under Root’s eyes and she looked just slightly more serious in between flippant remarks; Shaw had come to expect that from Root working relevant threats. At least that mopey look from within the library cage had been almost wiped from Shaw’s memory at this point; plus Root seemed committed to this whole mission to save all of them from some upcoming evil ASI.

 

Root smirked from where she leaned against the wood-paneled lockers. “Who says there’s a number?”

 

“You said the Machine sent us here,” Shaw muttered under her breath, mindful of the unknown woman getting dressed on the other end of the room. There wasn’t much to worry about, not like people actually thought the Machine was anything but an actual machine of some kind. Which, technically it was, just--

 

Anyway, normal people didn’t exactly jump to ASI conclusion.

 

“She did,” Root tilted her head. “It’s just that She thinks we need a day off and booked us here. I was assured it’s the best spa in the entire city. Platinum package.”

 

“Are you fucking serious?!” Shaw demanded, loudly this time, earning a horrified look from the stranger a few feet away. “I’m going home.”

 

While Shaw started pulling her clothing out of the locker, Root looked like she considered reaching for Shaw’s arm and was rewarded with a pointed glare. The hacker sighed dramatically as she leaned against the wood paneling once again. “I guess the big lug was right about you. ”

 

Shaw narrowed her eyes, every bone in her body filled with suspicion.

 

“You just don’t know how to relax. It’s always either firearms, food or…” Root trailed off, biting her lip as she stared at a spot around Shaw’s neck.

 

“There’s no way Reese would’ve said anything to you,” Shaw pointed out, sticking out her chest in challenge. “At least not willingly.”

 

“Not to me ,” Root replied. “To Harry.”

 

Shaw rolled her eyes. She knew how to relax just fine. Just because she was predictable in how she spent her downtime didn’t mean she didn’t know how to have fun and-- and---

 

What the fuck were Reese and Finch saying behind her back? Was she going to have to go through the recorded data from her bugs again? Ugh. Not that she cared what they thought of her, but they should mind their own business, like she did. (If you didn’t count the bugs.)

 

As she put the robe on and shoved the gun - unnecessary after all - into the locker, she was still picturing ways to get back at Reese for this. Harold too, but Reese was supposed to have her back.

 

Her mother used to say Shaw’s main motivation was spite, which turned out to be quite true. She didn’t even know (or care) what a platinum package at a spa entailed, but all of a sudden she felt defiant enough to find out.

 

“Wow, this area is really tense,” the massage therapist commented thirty minutes later as Shaw lay face down on the flat table. He was working her right shoulder blade, which apparently had a knot the size of Bear’s tennis ball underneath the cartilage. “How did this happen?”

 

Firing a lot of guns with her right hand was the answer, but she didn’t want to say that. She was considering her choices when Root spoke up from the massage table a few feet away: “Tennis. We play doubles twice a week. Sameen gets very competitive.”

 

The massage therapist feigned some interest in this tidbit of information, before returning his attention to Shaw’s muscles. “It must hurt quite a bit.”

 

“It doesn’t,” Shaw replied curtly. Honestly, she had arm day three times a week and never really noticed it or felt it before.

 

The man must’ve noticed she wasn’t one for small talk because he stopped after that, other than to ask her to flip over.

 

“Isn’t girl time just wonderful?” Root teased from her mud bath sometime later.

 

“Root, shut up,” Shaw grumbled.

 

“This is supposed to be relaxing you,” Root pointed out.

 

Shaw would’ve rolled her eyes if it weren’t for the cucumber slices. “Then tell your friend to book me a solo session next time.”

 

“So what you’re saying is you’ve enjoyed this enough to come back.”

 

A defeated sigh escaped Shaw’s lungs. “Not really my thing, but it could be worse, I guess.”

 

She left the spa two hours later, with her toenails painted a dark red, skin so clear and smooth that it glistened in the sunlight, and almost every knot on her body massaged into oblivion.




#

 

  1. the time shaw stroked root’s hair until root fell asleep

 

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Shaw was woken up by a sharp kick to the shin. When she blinked herself awake, she barely managed to stop the instinctive reactionary punch from making contact with Root’s face.

 

Not that Root wouldn’t have deserved it, because what the fuck . Exhaustion clinged to Shaw’s bones, her eyelids heavy and she was more irritable - to her own surprise, as she hadn’t even known that was possible. Even just a few hours working at the makeup counter had a way of zapping her energy like nothing else she ever experienced.

 

It wasn’t until Shaw’s eyes adjusted to the darkness of her room that she noticed Root was still asleep, agitated as small beads of sweat formed at her temples and she was mumbling words Shaw couldn’t make out.

 

“Root,” she hissed as she used her body to jostle the mattress. No luck; Root still seemed to struggle in her unconscious state.

 

Sighing, Shaw reached over to try and shake Root awake. “Come on, wake up.”

 

Root’s eyes snapped open; Shaw could see Root’s entire body tense even further, the neck muscles straining beneath the skin.

 

“Sorry,” Root muttered.

 

Shaw shrugged in response. It wasn’t an inconvenience, not really, just one of those weird things about sharing a bed with someone else - not that Shaw was an expert. Still, whatever had just slipped into or out of Root’s subconscious that made her so uneasy was not Shaw’s problem.

 

When Shaw closed her eyes, she felt Root get up and heard her slip her shirt back on; Shaw dozed off at the sound of the water running in the kitchen sink. Her attempt at sleep was short lived, awareness returning to her slowly as the mattress dipped under Root’s weight again.  

 

It was a shitty bed in a pre-furnished sublet, but at least it was new and clean, even if it creaked and shifted with Root’s endless tossing and turning. Every move was telegraphed across the cheap pillowtop and Shaw grunted in frustration.

 

She turned on her side to face Root. “Stop.”

 

Root didn’t reply as she stilled, staring at the ceiling. It was obvious she was trying to make herself as unobtrusive as possible; Shaw knew there was no way it would last. The thought of kicking Root out to get a good night of sleep - or half of one - was tempting, but Shaw was getting tired of the mopey act; she had to admit the smirks and sated smiles on Root’s face were less annoying than the doom and gloom that had overtaken her since the fight against Samaritan began.

 

“Going all rigor mortis on me won’t help either,” she pointed out, opening her eyes fully. Root’s breathing was visibly uneven as she tried to be quiet, her hair stuck to the side of her face closest to Shaw.

 

Shaw didn’t have nightmares, never really had them. At worst, she had dreams that were unpleasant or uncomfortable memories - nothing like her dad waking up in cold sweat, hyperventilating and screaming at whoever tried to calm him down.

 

Her mom would come into her room during those nights, to reassure her everything was fine, before everyone figured out fear was not a part of her they needed to worry about. Still, she’d been confused, and her mother would get into the twin bed, run her fingers through Shaw’s hair, and whisper in Farsi, telling Shaw to go back to sleep.

 

Shaw had later recognized the signs of PTSD (when she was older and in medical school, and her father was six feet underground), and that her mother’s actions and motions were likely for her own sake as much as Shaw’s.

 

With that memory in mind, Shaw’s hand reached out hesitantly to move Root’s hair off her face, following up the stray strands of hair until she was touching Root’s scalp. Shaw moved her fingers awkwardly, contracting her hand almost into a claw before letting her fingers spread out again, then repeating the motions, just like her mother had done. Even though Shaw wasn’t sure this would work, she figured it was worth a shot; she would really like some real sleep before morning came and she had to return to retail hell.

 

Root turned slightly to glance at her, eyes filled with surprise and questions.

 

“My mom used to do this.” Shaw figured the Machine probably knew this crap, anyway, so she didn’t see a point in elaborating or lying. “Don’t make it weird.”

 

A small, sad smile formed on Root’s face before she turned on her side, away from Shaw, and shifted closer. There was still space between them, but Shaw’s arm wasn’t stretched or bent unnaturally like this, so she let her fingers continue the motion. From where her forearm rested against the nape of Root’s neck, Shaw could feel the pulse rate slowly returning to normal.

 

The uneven breathing gave way to barely audible appreciative whimpers. It was nothing like the ones Shaw was used to hearing from Root, but these soft sounds continued even after Root dozed off, and Shaw let them lull her back to sleep.




#

 

  1. the time she went on a date and liked it

 

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“Is this seat taken?”

 

Still staring out at the skyline, Shaw took a deep breath. “Is that truly the best you could come up with?” she asked when she finally turned around to look at Root.

 

Root smirked and stood patiently next to the restaurant table, until Shaw used a boot to push out the chair to her right.

 

“So chivalrous,” Root teased as she took a seat.

 

Shaw ignored the comment and narrowed her eyes at her self-appointed dinner companion. “The Machine really needs to learn to mind her own business.”

 

“Have a little faith, Sameen. I found you without any help,” Root challenged. “And no, I didn’t use any trackers.”

 

Shaw noticed Root didn’t say she hadn’t bugged Shaw, just that she hadn’t used any possible bugs to track her down. But it would be rather hypocritical of Shaw to point that out.

 

“Oh, good evening,” the waiter said as he noted Root’s presence. Then, turning back to Shaw, he began to look pale again, possibly due to the previous exchanges he’d had with her throughout the evening. “Are-- are you, uh, finally ready to order? It’s completely fine if you’re not, I just-- your friend is here now, so I thought...”

 

“She’ll have the steak,” Root intervened before the kid passed out from hyperventilating. “Porterhouse?” she asked Shaw, who just gave a curt nod. “I’ll have… whatever the chef recommends.”

 

“Certainly,” the waiter replied, some color returning to his face. “I’ll have those right out.”

 

“I can order for myself,” Shaw pointed out grumpily, and took another sip of her scotch. The ice cubes had almost totally melted, which meant she must’ve spent longer at the table than she’d realized. She finished the watered-down scotch anyway.

 

“I know you can.” Root offered her a sympathetic smile, like she could see through it all... see right through Shaw. Which she probably could, with or without assistance from the Machine.

 

A long time ago, it had pissed Shaw off to no end how Root could read her so thoroughly; lately it just seemed to exasperate her at most. Maybe it was because, since Samaritan, she had come to terms with the fact she could read Root too. The way Shaw had known once she took a seat at the restaurant that it would be just a matter of time before Root tracked her down.

 

Shaw returned her attention to the view outside the restaurant.

 

“It’s my father’s birthday,” she explained after a few minutes in silence. Then flippantly, she added: “I mean, it would’ve been if he hadn’t died.”

 

It was the first time his birthday had come around after her escape from Samaritan’s grasp, and she’d started to think about this stuff a lot more. She’d always understood the concept of honoring the dead, but she found the whole grieving thing rather pointless. They were dead, and no amount of emotion or platitudes would change that. But today she’d found herself wandering the city, remembering moments with her father, wondering where else in the city her parents had been to.

 

It was nothing like she imagined grief felt like - there was no pain associated with it, just… nostalgia and curiosity.

 

She turned back to Root, but avoided eye contact, just staring down at the empty glass.

 

“Yeah.” Root’s voice was soft and devoid of any real surprise, like she’d known. The Machine had probably spat it out before Shaw even remembered the date’s importance.

 

The waiter came by with extra plates and silverware for Root, then poured her some water as well.

 

Shaw bit her lip. “I, uh, miss him, I guess?” Her admission was quiet, muttered awkwardly once the server was gone. “Being inside my own head for all those months, it just made me think about a lot of this stuff, you know? Things I didn’t even know were in there.”

 

She was using their code for ‘that time an evil ASI tried to kill us all and locked me up for almost an entire year,’ and Root nodded as she reached for her fresh glass of water.

 

“I know it’s normal. To miss people who are dead, I mean,” Shaw added. “I’m just not really used to normal.”

 

Root smiled at that. “Don’t worry, you’re still pretty atypical to me.” Coming from anyone else, it would’ve seemed like a bad thing, but Root looked at her like she didn’t mind.

 

It still weirded Shaw out, the heaviness on her sternum every time Root looked at her like that. Not that Root hadn’t always been expressive around Shaw, but since ‘those months’ it was as if Root stopped holding any of it back, all of her emotions laid bare every time.

 

Shaw moved before she considered any of it, her chair tipping precariously as her lips pressed against Root’s.

 

So much had changed, and pre-captivity Shaw would’ve never believed she’d confide in Root about anything, let alone her father. Or kiss her like this, softly and in a public place - not that Shaw expected to make this a common occurrence, but in that moment it just felt like the thing to do. It felt right and it felt good and--

 

It felt.

 

A muffled surprised gasp made Shaw pull away, and she saw the server’s face turn into terror at the possibility of incurring her wrath again. She wanted to stare him down once more, but he was holding food this time, so she broke eye contact and waited for her plate to be placed in front of her.



*

 

Shaw was actually glad they left the restaurant as soon as they were done with their entrees, because there was a dessert truck the next block over with fresh pavlova. Root went with a crème brûlée and they ate together as they kept walking through the streets.

 

“No, but thanks,” Root stated. “I think we’d prefer walking.”

 

Shaw’s face scrunched in confusion. “Huh?”

 

“She wanted to know if She should get us an Uber.”

 

Rolling her eyes, Shaw knew she should have figured. “How considerate of Her.”

 

“She detects a tone of gratitude underneath your sarcasm that She appreciates.”

 

“Maybe it’s just wishful thinking. Get Her core heuristics debugged, and tell Her to stop eavesdropping while She’s at it.”

 

“You’re right,” Root said once she tossed her crème brûlée container into the trash. “Not about the eavesdropping as it’s outside Her control, but She’s sorry for interrupting our date.”

 

“Our date?”

 

“What else would you call sharing a meal, getting to know each other better, and then strolling together through the streets of New York City?”

 

Shaw sneered playfully. “I call it you crashing my dinner.”

 

“Semantics. It’s a date.”

 

“Yeah?” Shaw asked, fully aware she was taking the bait. “I didn’t ask you out, and I sure as hell didn’t agree to go on a date with you.”

 

Pausing and turning, Root’s face was filled with amusement and affection, plain as day. A year and a half before, the sight would’ve made Shaw feel annoyed, made her question this arrangement and maybe regret letting Root near her to start with. Yet Shaw felt nothing but warmth now, from the pit of her stomach to the bridge of her nose; it was hard enough to keep herself from grinning and to keep up the facade she was putting up.

 

“Fair enough,” Root conceded, lips quirking downwards as her eyes glinted.

 

Shaw smirked-- no, grinned, at that, and resumed walking. Root fell into perfect step next to her, high spirited and practically bouncing in a way that probably had nothing to do with the sugar from the dessert.

 

“If it were a date though,” Shaw yielded, “... I guess it wouldn’t be a bad one.” Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed that her concession threw Root off, the taller woman’s stride swerving for a moment or two.

 

“Is that right?” Root asked when she recovered.

 

“Not that I’m an expert at these things. But then again, neither are you.”

 

“You don’t know that,” Root argued in mock offense. “I’m great at dates, especially first dates.”

 

“Please,” Shaw scoffed. “Give me one example. And it doesn’t count if you drugged, kidnapped, conned or killed the person, during or after.”

 

Root opened and shut her mouth a couple of times before settling on: “It’s not my fault a lot of them were too incapacitated or too unwilling to go on a second date.”

 

Shaw rolled her eyes as they reached her place. They stood on the sidewalk, surrounded by the the noise of traffic and people that was typical of New York City - it was everywhere, but it seemed like every street, every building, had their own dissonant signature. Shaw had never really done that, stopped and listened. It seemed like she was always rushing in and out of the building in a hurry, or too tired to notice or care.

 

“I miss the stars sometimes,” Root said as she stared upwards, at the grayish, hazy sky and crescent moon hanging right above them.

 

It made sense, Shaw thought as followed the elegant jaw line to the curve of the cochlear implant. Where Shaw had been focused on the sounds around them, Root had turned to her sight instead.

 

“That’s probably the only thing I miss about…” she trailed off.

 

“Home?” Shaw knew about Bishop, TX; her brief research into the town had yielded little, not due to lack of effort but because it was truly that boring of a place. Still, Root had grown up there, and despite whatever happened later, to her it had been home.

 

That concept was practically non-existent in Shaw’s own life. Home was a military base halfway across the world, a house in Iran built by her grandfather’s hands, or the small apartment her mother had moved them to after her father’s death; and at the same time, home was none of those, because she’d never experienced any real attachment to those places, never missed them or thought about them much.

 

“Yeah,” Root replied, lowering her gaze back down. “Though I was too busy running to look up.”

 

Shaw nodded softly, knowing this was Root’s way of giving back after Shaw talked about her father. They never discussed the lives they were born into, just the ones they’d lived since. This felt different , like stumbling into something they’d forgotten, memories buried beneath the surface.

 

Sharing those memories with one another left Shaw feeling more exposed and vulnerable than all of her time at Samaritan’s hands.

 

Standing on her tiptoes, Shaw pressed her lips against Root’s, softly and slowly. It was similar to the kiss at dinner but not the same; more intimate in the way it chased ghosts away, easier than trying to put her thoughts into words.

 

Root’s lips tasted like custard and caramel. Shaw forced herself to keep it gentle and almost virtuous, ignoring Root’s attempts to deepen the kiss. It was almost like an undercover kiss - foreign and awkward, but underneath it there was something else, the thing that kept Shaw from breaking during all of those months.

 

“Sameen…”

 

She’d just dodged Root’s deft tongue once more, and Shaw smiled at hearing her name moaned in such an exasperated tone, their lips just a hair’s breadth away.

 

“Isn’t this how dates usually end?” she asked when she pulled back. “I was trying for normal.”

 

“Is that what that was?” The amusement on Root’s face was palpable. “And…?”

 

“Normal’s kind of boring.” Shaw was nonchalant but honest. Chaste kisses weren’t entirely horrible like she’d expected, but they were not as good as what she preferred.

 

“I think this is the part where you try to convince me to come up to your place with a thinly veiled excuse.”

 

“Is ‘all your shit is at my place, so you kind of have to anyway’ thinly veiled enough?”

 

Root pursed her lips as she pretended to consider the question. “I was thinking more along the lines of ‘how about a nightcap?’ or ‘my router is not working, so can you take a look at it?’”

 

Shaw rolled her eyes. “Do people actually go for that shit?”

 

Root fake-glared at her. “Not everyone can be as upfront as you, Sameen.”

 

And then Root was leaning forward; hands tugged on Shaw’s jacket, teeth bit down on Shaw’s lip. There was no dodging Root this time; Shaw knew she could just weather the storm, or pick up her own pace to try and match Root’s.

 

With Root’s stupid heeled boots, Shaw had no real choice but to use her momentum to get closer. Root caught her around the waist until they were pressed against each other, in a decidedly more lewd kiss than the previous one. It wasn’t until a car honked that Shaw remembered where they were.

 

She barely had time to pull her hand out of Root’s shirt to flip the car’s occupants off.

 

“Of course, not everyone has the... charm to pull off being so direct,” Root added when they parted.

 

Shaw smirked, pulling back so she wasn’t on her tiptoes any longer. “No one has accused me of being charming before, so have you stopped to consider that maybe you’re just easy?”

 

“Only when it comes to you.“ The look on Root’s face was affectionate and serious and almost terrified at the confession; it wasn’t exactly news but it only made the ache inside Shaw that much worse.

 

“How about ‘do you want to come upstairs?’” Shaw aimed for coy - and failed - as she hooked her fingers into Root’s belt loops.

 

“I thought you’d never ask,” Root teased. She pressed their lips together one more time before pulling away completely. “See? Oddly charming.”

 

“I just didn’t want to have to explain to Finch why we got arrested on public indecency charges.”




#

 

  1. the time shaw asked fusco for relationship advice

 

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Shaw tapped her fingers on the steering wheel for two hours and fidgeted with the radio for another hour, before she finally blurted it out: “How do you ask someone to move in with you?”

 

Lionel stopped mid sip, but he at least had the decency not to spray the dashboard with coffee. “Excuse me?”

 

“Forget I asked,” Shaw replied, resuming the tapping on the steering wheel. She really hated overnight stakeouts.  

 

Her sudden indifference was too late, though, and Fusco was interested. “You and Fruitcake going steady?”

 

She closed her eyes, and regretted ever agreeing to spending hours in a car with Fusco, of all people.

 

“I thought you guys already lived together.”

 

It was a valid question. “No,” Shaw replied with a tone of annoyance anyway. “Well, kinda… yeah. But it’s just this unspoken thing.” A lot of things between them were unspoken. Mostly due to her own reticence since Root never seemed to know when to shut up and obviously didn’t have problems there. Which is why Shaw figured maybe something like this might--

 

Shaw wasn’t entirely sure what result she wanted.

 

Root didn’t even have a place and her things were already at Shaw’s apartment anyway. Not that either of them amassed a lot of belongings - their M.O. was being ready to run at a moment’s notice, even in peacetime - but Root had a bad habit of bringing small items from missions, and there were trinkets everywhere and Shaw kept finding SIM cards in random spots, not to mention boots and jackets strewn around that were too big for Shaw.

 

And even though Shaw had been disturbed at one point to find that she was okay with all of that, once she processed it, it became… normal. Reassuring, even. Root was there and Shaw wanted her there; that was already more than what Shaw had thought possible.

 

It wasn’t that Shaw was unwilling or afraid or anything, she was just annoyed at herself for overthinking this pointless gesture.

 

She wasn’t even sure why she was thinking about this in the first place. Thinking things through really wasn’t her style; she had ideas in combat, but mostly she did whatever came instinctively to her - even her career changes weren’t things she agonized or lost sleep over, she just did them.

 

“My place is just kind of small,” Shaw added detachedly. It was true; she couldn’t even play catch with Bear when he was there, and the studio lifestyle wasn’t as appealing as it had been at one point. Especially whenever Root and the Machine got chatty at 2 a.m. and Shaw just wanted to sleep.

 

(Shaw had also noticed Root’s injuries seemed to take longer to heal these days and her solo missions were becoming fewer and fewer; it wasn’t a big deal, even if Root tried to disguise it sometimes. Shaw and Reese had been built and honed to endure combat, but Root had always gotten by on guile, luck, and a little help from a friend.

 

And some days Shaw’s old wounds hurt, too, twinges of pain that weren’t the fun kind; scar tissue around joints and cartilage that just ached dully, felt heavier and less comfortable than they did the day before.

 

It didn’t really keep any of them from doing their jobs any time soon, but it was still a reminder they weren’t immune to time, and the endless drifting of their existence didn’t seem like enough.)

 

“So ask her, get a bigger place, give her a damn key,” Fusco pointed out. “With my ex? I went through the whole thing. Moving in together into a crappy apartment, a ring, a big wedding, a house, a kid. Even had a cat and a goldfish.”

 

“Never figured you for a cat person, Fusco.”

 

“I’m not. She took it, thank god, but that’s my point.”

 

Shaw frowned in confusion. “... don’t do any of that?”

 

“No, smartass. There’s no proven method or a wrong way to do it, as long as you do it for the right reasons. You think we had it all figured out? Hell no. You think I wasn’t scared? I was sweating bullets half the time. Sometimes you don’t know until you try it. You could be like one of those people who have their lives together and wait until it’s the right moment or until they’re 100%-completely-absolutely sure…. but if you ask me, that’s all bullshit. No one can be that sure. And yeah, it didn’t work out with her and me, but I don’t regret any of those big things, not even the damn cat. It’s the small stuff that gets you, when you stop trying.”

 

The car went silent after Fusco was done talking, or ranting, whatever.

 

Shaw pursed her lips in thought and stared out the side window. The whole package was not what she was going for - it sounded like a fucking nightmare, which was actually a little encouraging because she didn’t have all of those other steps to think about. Just getting a damn place, hopefully with a closet because storage space sucks in studios, possibly a balcony or a terrace for a small grill, fire codes be damned.

 

And maybe get a dog for when Finch or Reese were hogging Bear.

 

“But then again, why you asking relationship advice from me?” Fusco asked as an afterthought. “Shouldn’t you be asking--” He paused as realization dawned. “There’s no one else, is there?”

 

Shaw wanted to protest, because it wasn’t like she needed advice.

 

Plus Finch was just… Finch, and Grace was nice, but Shaw didn’t really want to hear Finch talk about grand romantic gestures and Sunday morning crossword puzzles-- or whatever boring people did for fun. And Reese was even worse, and he got extra sulky when he was anywhere near this kind of talk, so...

 

If Shaw had needed someone to brainstorm this shit with, Lionel wouldn’t have been the worst person around, even if his qualifications were somewhat unclear.

 

The light on her cell phone blinked as it finished charging and she unplugged the 12v charger, realizing she’d forgotten something crucial. “If you tell Root or anyone about this…” she trailed off, letting the threat hang in the air.

 

“Why would I--?”

 

She interrupted him, tilting her head at her phone. The LED light next to the front-facing camera blinked. “I wasn’t talking to you,” she told Lionel.

 

“Now you’re starting to sound like her. You know that happens, right? Couples start to resemble each other after a while, do things the same, say things the same. Happened to me and the ex too. Let’s just hope Nutty Grams doesn’t pick up your table manners.”

 

Shaw rolled her eyes and resumed her tapping on the steering wheel. Fusco kept sipping loudly at his coffee, the lid making that whistling sound every time he drank from it. The target was probably sleeping comfortably inside the house and she was annoyed at that, too.

 

“Thanks,” Shaw said offhandedly, after a long time.

 

Fusco scoffed. “Don’t mention it.”




#

 

  1. the time they kinda got married

 

#

 

Root was all smiles when they entered the safe house, her tanned and well-rested body bouncing with renewed energy.

 

“Ms. Shaw, Ms. Groves, you’re back. It seems tropical destinations agree with you,” Finch commented with a genuine smile when he saw the two of them.

 

“Actually, Harry…” Root said,  obviously ignoring the very obvious glares Shaw was throwing her way. “It’s Mrs. Shaw and Mrs. Shaw. I mean, I assume we’ll keep your last name, Sameen. It would only make sense. I know it’s archaic, but I kind of like the sound of it.”

 

He frowned; Bear whined at the strange and sudden tension in the room.

 

“Root,” Shaw drew her name out in a warning.

 

“Shaw, you should always notify your employer of major life changes, such as marriage, if you want to update your benefits and tax deductions.”

 

Shaw’s jaw hurt from how hard she was gritting her teeth. “I don’t pay taxes and we don’t have benefits.”

 

“Well, that’s disappointing. Harry, it’s crucial to stay competitive in this market. You should know that by now,” Root pointed out.

 

“This is rather unexpected,” was Finch’s reply, ignoring Root’s comments. “But congratulations!” He was sincere, and looked rather pleased for the two of them once the shock wore off a bit, even though he still avoided eye contact with Shaw.

 

“Yeah, congratulations, Shaw,” Reese teased. “I never thought this day would come.”

 

“It was an accident ,” Shaw replied in his direction. “We were on this beach and we had to get close to the target and this guy in a sarong said something in the native tongue and… and I nodded so he’d go away. Then he said a bunch more words and made kissing motions with his hand, and I told him I don’t do PDA but he didn’t understand what I was saying.”

 

She’d lied, kinda, but pushing Root against a wall after an intense firefight hardly counted in her opinion. But she’d kissed Root for the sarong guy, only because she hadn’t wanted to cause a scene in front of their number. “Anyway, then they made us sign something and I thought it was one of those timeshare vouchers. I speak a lot of languages but this isn’t one of them… how was I supposed to know it was a marriage certificate?” She pulled the folded paper out of her jacket, pointing at the foreign language and both their signatures on the bottom.

 

Reese took the paper to inspect it. “It says ‘certificate’ at the top. And a word that looks a lot like ‘matrimony.’”

 

Shaw snatched the document out of his hand. “I said it was an accident.”

 

“It was perfect,” Root interjected, moving to stand behind Shaw and squeeze her shoulders.

 

She knew Root was doing it to get a rise out of her, and she had to resist the urge to let Root know it was working.

 

“The way she tells it truly captures the spontaneity of that special moment,” Root’s sarcasm was so saccharine, Shaw wondered if it was too soon to take out a life insurance policy before she killed Root. Maybe Harold Wren in insurance could help her out.

 

“I just always figured I’d be your best man when you tied the knot,” Reese deadpanned at Shaw.

 

“Who tied the knot?” Fusco asked as he opened the door to the safe house, carrying a box full of takeout.

 

“We did,” Root replied excitedly.

 

Shaw was incredibly glad there were no rings to be found, or she knew Root would be obnoxiously flashing it now.

 

Fusco almost dropped the box of food. “You’re joking, right?”

 

“We don’t joke about tying knots,” Root assured him, with a conspiratorial glance at Shaw.

 

“We should eat before this food gets cold,” Finch urged, desperately, before Root could say or imply anything else. He’d never been anything less than protective of their relationship, but the guy got squeamish very easily. Which, of course, meant Root used every chance to push his buttons.

 

Root nodded, moving towards Finch. “You’re right, Harry. Let’s eat, and then I can show you all of our pictures.”

 

“Please don’t,” Finch begged, almost a whisper as blood drained from his face.

 

Root pretended to consider before conceding. “Alright, not all of them.”



*



Once they got back to their place, Shaw was silent as she unpacked.

 

This whole thing was definitely throwing her for a loop. Or ten loops. After this long, it wasn’t like she didn’t want to be with Root or how to be with Root. She’d even learned to voice some things, like the officially living together part, but it still felt strange sometimes.

 

And as much as Shaw hated to admit Root had been right - which, luckily, wasn’t often, according to Shaw’s scorecard - they were good together, whether it was laying down cover fire for one another, or laying in bed together afterwards and letting adrenaline fade into relief. Even the everyday stuff came by easily most of the time.

 

But there was the ever-present hesitation within Shaw, as if every step forward for them was a struggle for her to process, like maybe she’d been right and she wasn’t cut out for this. It was always just a pause - lasting hours or days or weeks - but once it ended they kept moving on, and she always found out she was capable of whatever she’d been hesitant about. Maybe not as capable as everyone else; sometimes they needed adjustments, sometimes they ended up taking a step back if it didn’t work out, but it always seemed to be enough for Root.

 

Root, with her understanding warm looks, accepting whatever Shaw could conjure up from the haphazard fragments of her brain. On bad days, it seemed to Shaw that it was less than Root deserved, and it could be infuriating to see Root just beam at her when Shaw felt-- so inadequate at this shit still.

 

That was when she fought it, when she went back to her default mode of indifference. The entire return flight as Root slept, Shaw had stayed up, mind reeling and feeling the document burning a hole against her chest. By the time they landed, she was so frustrated at herself, like she should know the answers by this point or she shouldn’t even be doing this at all.

 

Of course that meant Root went to her default mode of being an annoying dick at the safe house.

 

Hands wrapped around her waist from behind, and Shaw realized she’d been staring into nothingness and holding a pair of shorts for god knew how long. She dropped the item back into the open suitcase, somehow feeling even more annoyed at herself.

 

“It’s just a piece of paper,” Root offered against Shaw’s shoulder. Her voice was neutral, the bubbliness from the safe house was clearly gone.

 

Shaw hummed in acknowledgement, but she was still miles away.

 

“It’s not like it’s even valid,” Root added reassuringly as the silence stretched.

 

“Yeah,” Shaw replied distractedly before the words actually reached her brain. She twisted and spun in Root’s arms until she could face her. “Wait, what?”

 

“We don’t exist,” Root explained. “We’re no one.”

 

Shaw gave her a warning glare. “Don’t go all philosophical on me, you know I hate it.”

 

Legally , Shaw. We’re no one. And at the same time, we’re a hundred different people. I mean, I once married two brothers... not at the same time, of course, that would be tacky. I waited until the first one died - really sudden, almost no one expected it,” she added with a smug, mischievous look. “And his brother died too, not long after. Go figure.”

 

Shaw ignored Root’s self-satisfied look.“So, you’re saying our… thing didn’t count?”

 

Root smiled, tilted her head and Shaw felt like her entire being was under a microscope. “Sure, Sameen.”

 

She seemed to relax for the first time since the flight, but then something else was bothering her. “... and you’re comparing our fake wedding to the time you fake-married two marks?” Shaw huffed.

 

“Not like that.” Root argued. “It’s not like you to feel jealous. Marriage really changed you.”

 

Shaw rolled her eyes. “I’m not jealous.” Honestly, it was a matter of pride.

 

“Don’t worry, those wedding nights were rather unpleasant to them, unlike ours. Unless you had any complaints? I know you couldn’t quite… voice any, at the time,” she added with a gleam in her eyes.

 

Root loosened the hands around Shaw’s waist, slipped one of them under the cotton shirt and brushed her thumb against the skin. Shaw wasn’t sunburnt, but her skin still felt overly sensitive from the sand and-- sucking in a breath, she vividly remembered the mark left above her hipbone by Root: blue and purple and mottled with yellowing edges. Root obviously hadn’t forgotten.

 

Yeah, definitely no complaints from Shaw, about the ‘wedding’ night or the following days. Despite the obvious aroused reaction on her part, Shaw had the distinct feeling she was being distracted from the possibility of a real conversation, which was her move, not Root’s.

 

“And the whole thing at the safe house? The happy newlywed routine?”

 

Root lifted just one shoulder and sheepishly tilted her head in the direction of her shoulder. “I wasn’t gonna miss a chance to mess with Harry.” Pausing to take her own shirt off, Root continued. “It doesn’t have to mean anything. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, and I’m not saying I would change any of it, but… I was just having fun and enjoying being with you.”

 

Shaw nodded absentmindedly, eyes stuck to the long patches of freshly sunburnt skin on Root’s torso. “Yeah,” she repeated. And she did have fun, chasing their number into the sunset, the brief firefight, the… wedding dinner or whatever that was. That had been really good food.

 

“You know that’s not-- I don’t need any of that, right?” Root asked.

 

Shaw muttered noncommittally, completely unintelligible against Root’s pink collarbone.

 

Root’s hand tugging on her ponytail wasn’t anything new, but as Shaw was… physically encouraged to stare up at Root, she still shook her head in exasperation because she had just found the good spot at the base of Root’s neck.

 

“Shaw…” She whispered softly, almost reverently.

 

“You don’t have to-- for my sake...” It was Shaw’s turn to pause mid-sentence. “It’s fine if you want that. You shouldn’t have to give up on it just because--”

 

Root crashed their lips together in a bruising kiss, desperate and messy, teeth and lips and breathless gasps. Root’s hand on Shaw’s hair moved to the back of her neck as they settled into the kiss. As intense as it was when the kiss began, their hands found the usual spots and stayed there, instead of roaming around and progressing into something else.

 

It went from blazing to playful, as Shaw grazed her teeth playfully over Root’s tongue, smiling into it. Root sucked Shaw’s lower lip in response, their movements slowing down until Shaw had to pull apart just slightly. Her lungs burned for entirely different reasons, as if air wasn’t enough - as if Shaw needed to breathe all of Root in and couldn’t, not like this.

 

Root pulled them further apart and rested her forehead against Shaw’s.

 

“I’m not giving up on anything,” Root assured her. Putting a little more distance between their faces, until they were looking at one another again, she removed her hand from the back of Shaw’s neck and motioned between them. “I fantasized about that stuff once, jokingly, you know? It was just an escape from everything else going on, small breaks between missing you and wondering if you were safe… and the whole saving the world thing too, I guess,” she added with a smile. “I don’t need a fairytale ending-- I don’t want an ending at all, just you... safe, here, day after day.”

 

Shaw wanted to make a dismissive comment about Root’s standards being low, about how corny she was being, yet she couldn’t quite swallow or speak around the knot in her throat. A part of her still believed Root craved more, however the earlier weight of worry on Shaw’s chest had almost completely lifted.

 

Teeth rasping against Root’s collarbone again, she smiled against the skin. “We should do it again.”

 

Root sounded disoriented when she spoke: “Do what?”

 

“Get fake married,” Shaw explained. “It doesn’t have to be the same place. I’m sure the Machine could give us some numbers in Spain? And Hawaii?” She shrugged. “Ooh, Iceland? But not in the winter.”

 

As destinations ran through Shaw’s mind, she leaned up to nip at Root’s jawline. She was particularly proud when she reached the end and exhaled against the earlobe, Root sucking in a breath and gripping more tightly at Shaw’s skin. “Like… a hobby?” She asked, her voice unsteady and hesitant.

 

The corners of Shaw’s mouth were still pulled into a wide grin when she dragged her mouth away from Root’s skin once again. “None of it counts, right?”  

 

Shaw could at least give Root this.

 

Root nodded, sucking at her lower lip in thought. “Right.” She sounded almost somber before she glanced at Shaw’s smile and it seemed to click in her mind. “Is this you proposing?”

 

“I’m proposing we go on more vacations and get fake married a lot. Maybe invite the boys one of those times to shut Reese up… make Finch pay for everything.”

 

Shaw wasn’t sure why people were so worried about planning this shit, she already had at least three separate plans and she’d just gotten started. Destination weddings were definitely her style, she decided. Mostly because they didn’t have family to worry about and their three friends (four if you count the dog, five if you count the Machine) would probably not object to chartering (or stealing) a private jet, but still. Easy.

 

And maybe Shaw could make some of it count.