Since Samaritan’s defeat, some of the team’s previous safe houses and living quarters are now safe to access because Samaritan and its agents had never discovered the connection. Although Root’s old apartment is very nice, it pales in comparison to many of Harold’s luxurious suites where Sameen Shaw could have instead chosen to live. Root’s apartment is the same as she had left it. Shaw only brought a few of her personal belongings, her clothes and arsenal of weapons. And of course, Bear. Besides the dog bed, an oversupply of his favourite kibble, gigantic bones for him to chew, and the expensive toys Shaw brings home for Bear, Shaw wants to keep the apartment unchanged as much as possible.
One cold mid-February morning, as Shaw puts on her long grey winter coat before heading out for the day, she calls out to Bear who is watching her calmly from his dog bed in the corner. Bear eagerly comes running and nuzzles Shaw as she strokes his fur. She takes one long look around Root’s old apartment as she takes a deep breath. Even though Root hadn’t been here in almost two years, Shaw likes the faint smell of her perfume that still lingers. Shaw gives bear one final stroke before telling him she’d be back later.
Shaw finds herself alone when she arrives at the new base of operations where she now works together with Daniel Casey to complete both relevant and irrelevant missions sent by The Machine. Now that The Machine can only run her original core code where she can provide nothing more than numbers (due to her advanced functions being targeted and subsequently damaged or destroyed by Samaritan during their final battle), Shaw enlisted Casey to help fix The Machine and also to assist in missions where his hacking/technological skills would be useful.
Shaw goes straight to the liquor cabinet and pours herself a glass of whiskey and downs it before pouring herself another glass. This time she returns the bottle to the cabinet and sits down with her glass while looking at the files on the new numbers they received last night on which Casey had been gathering information. Casey then walks in with two very large coffees, and before he puts them down, sees Shaw and comments, “Isn’t it a bit early for that?” indicating his disapproval on her choice of morning drink.
Shaw quickly shoots back, “A bit judgy for someone who has ten of those a day,” as she points out his excessive coffee/caffeine habit.
“It’s just temporary. I’ve spent months trying to fix The Machine’s code to make it talk like how it used to. I think I’ve finally made some progress recently, but we’ve been getting more and more numbers and I just need more time in a day to get it all done,” Casey says defensively. As he sets down his drinks and takes off his coat, he adds, “The Machine’s code is unique, and while I’ve had glimpses of it before, I’m not on the same level as Harold… or Root.”
Shaw’s mind wanders off at the mention of Root’s name. They had had just a little bit over a week together after her escape from Samaritan.
*** flashback in Shaw's mind ***
After Root convinced Shaw to leave the park with her that night, Root took Shaw to a nearby low-end hotel where there were no security cameras and lax booking records. Shaw was surprised when Root had asked the man at the desk for a room with two beds. Shaw interrupted and said “Whatever you have available will do just fine,” so the man told them the few remaining rooms only had one double bed, and handed them a key.
Once they got to the room, Shaw headed straight for the shower. She was tired and was glad to finally have a shower even in a dingy old crumbling hotel. It seemed a luxury hotel compared to some of the places she’s had to hide in over the last week. With the surprisingly strong water pressure, feeling the warm water hitting her body, she had not realized how sore her body felt. Perhaps she was no longer used to such grueling physical demands since she had been confined inside the same room for most of her captivity. She had kept herself in decent shape through exercise whenever possible, and while she was still almost as strong, her endurance had been impossible to keep at the same level as before.
Her mind wandered, recalling various details of her most recent escape, analyzing them to help her decide whether this was yet another simulation. One thing that was obvious was that this one had been quite different than the rest. Did that mean this was in fact real? Or has Samaritan simply changed its direction for the simulations? After a good thirty minutes passed, Shaw remembered that Root was probably still in the hotel room on the other side of the bathroom door. Besides their conversation in the park, Root had been almost completely silent on their way here. It was very unlike her, but Shaw did remember that Root could often be unpredictable. She wanted to believe this was real, but she wouldn’t let herself because she didn’t know if she could trust herself and her own instincts anymore.
When Shaw finished her shower, her long and slightly wavy hair left down to air dry, she came out of the bathroom dressed only in her boy-short style underwear and a sports bra, her preferred sleep attire, and saw Root sitting patiently at the foot of the bed. Root looked up at Shaw, but was quiet, perhaps pensive. She had taken off her jacket, but otherwise hadn’t appeared to make herself more comfortable. Shaw realized that ignoring someone and heading straight to the bathroom without so much as a word would have given almost anyone the impression that Shaw wanted them to leave. But of course, Root understood that Shaw just needed to take care of herself, and it didn’t mean Shaw wanted her gone. It was strange to Shaw that Root was so cool and calm now though, not showing any of the emotion that had come out during their initial encounter at the park, nor was there any hint of that perky psycho side of Root that she remembered. Shaw was sort of expecting Root to be either more emotional or all over her, maybe both. Not that Shaw didn’t appreciate the space, but for the first time, Shaw realized she actually missed Root’s flirty comments and sexual innuendos that she previously found annoying. Again, she couldn’t help but analyze these details at length in her mind, trying to determine whether this was the real Root or another simulation Root.
Root, seeing Shaw switching between the present moment and her inner thoughts, got up and walked over to the corner of the room and picked up a bag that she had set on the desk earlier. On her way back to where Shaw was standing, she said, “I got you a few things while you were in the shower,” and gently touched Shaw’s shoulder motioning her to sit down. “Sorry, I know it’s not a steak, but nothing much is open around here at this hour,” Root said as she pulled two packages of beef jerky out of the bag.
Shaw’s mind immediately came back to the moment and grabbed one of the packages, tore it open and started eating ravenously. As Root pulled out a bottle of vodka and turned to pour two glasses, Shaw, having already finished the first package, grabbed the second package of beef jerky and nearly inhaled it as well. When Root turned around with the glasses, a small smile broke through her cool demeanor as she could not contain the joy she felt upon seeing such a familiar side of Shaw. As Shaw was about to eat the last bite, she looked at Root and said, “I assume you didn’t want any. You did say these were for me.”
“Here Shaw,” Root said as she handed Shaw one of the glasses. They both drank up, and Root poured another glass for Shaw but one was enough for Root.
“So what’s the plan?” Shaw then asked, feeling a bit more clear headed for the moment.
“Now that you took care of that Samaritan operative, we wait here until we can meet up with Harold and John. You should get some rest. There’s more snacks in the bag if you’re still hungry,” Root said as she headed to the bathroom to get herself washed up and ready for sleep.
While Root was in the bathroom, Shaw devoured the rest of the contents of the bag, a few pepperoni sticks, some crackers, and cereal bars. She finished the second glass of vodka slowly as she laid on the bed and thought about Root. Shaw was certain of Root’s love for her, and Root somehow managed to elicit certain emotions from Shaw. Shaw had never wanted to admit how much she had come to care for Root, not until just before what she thought would have been her certain death, when she kissed Root in the elevator just before sacrificing herself to save the team at the stock exchange. Having missed Root during the last nine months or so, time she knew they would never get back, she wanted Root to know that those feelings haven’t changed, even if she wasn’t ready to have any type of romantic relationship right now given her current state of mind.
When Root came back into the room, she looked fresher from the shower, but tired. She had put on her burgundy silk night slip. (She had been carrying a change of clothes, sleepwear and underwear in her latest stolen vehicle in anticipation of having to change cover identities immediately after the Samaritan operative was taken out.) Root refrained from acting on her own desires but Shaw noticed that Root was aroused while she was telling Shaw to take the bed and that she would sleep in the chair. As Root approached the side of the bed to get one of the pillows, Shaw, not knowing how else to show she cared for Root, set aside her lack of desire and pulled Root, firmly but not aggressively, onto the bed with her and kissed her gently on the lips. Taking Root by surprise, Shaw then made her way on top of Root and continued to kiss Root softly on the lips, then her ears and worked her way down Root’s beautiful long neck. While it felt good, Root knew something didn’t feel right. Root stopped Shaw and told her, “Sameen, you don’t have to do this for me. I can’t imagine all that you’ve been through. I want you to know that I don’t expect anything from you. Just knowing you care is enough for me.”
As Root started to get up off the bed while still under Shaw, Shaw, somewhat relieved, rolled off to one side but kept an arm around Root’s waist. “It’s more comfortable if you sleep here,” Shaw said. Root turned to face Shaw and smiled. Shaw found Root’s smile so warm and reassuring that she let herself believe, at least for the moment, that this was real. Root had set aside all her questions and worries for the time being, and decided that she was just going to enjoy the present moment. She softly stroked Sameen’s thick long hair and gave her a little kiss. “Thank you for sending me that message, for not giving up on me,” Shaw said. Then they silently stared into each other’s eyes for a few minutes until they both fell into a deep sleep.
Shaw had insisted on staying holed up in the hotel room for days, and Root had been more than happy to stay with her except while on missions for The Machine and when Shaw needed some time alone. Root listened to Shaw when she wanted to talk, and gave her space when she didn’t. By Monday, Shaw was starting to feel better. She was relieved that she still hadn’t killed Harold and John since they had met the morning before near the Queensbridge. She was glad to see Fusco there too. She always thought he deserved to know the truth. Still, she could appreciate that Harold’s and John’s insistence to keep him in the dark for as long as possible did actually protect him because he wasn’t in any of her simulations and hence hadn’t been designated by Samaritan as a target for elimination.
Then Shaw thought about the possibility that perhaps Fusco had just been discovered in the real world, prompting Samaritan to change the direction of the simulations to include him, hence explaining why things have gone quite differently this time. Still, that wouldn’t account for the changes in Root’s demeanor. Samaritan couldn’t have known about this side of her, and it couldn’t have come from Shaw’s own thoughts since it was new to her too. While it would be a long time before Shaw stopped questioning everything, she had started to believe that it was possible that she was in fact now in the real world.
As Shaw was finishing up cleaning her new arsenal of guns, Root came back with dinner. She had brought a porterhouse steak, large enough for four people even though they were only two, along with a few sides. She also brought a couple of bottles of whiskey that she had taken from Harold’s liquor cabinet at the main safe house. After dinner, Shaw watched some news on TV as Root cleaned up after the meal. Root had been glancing sideways at Shaw, and before she could finish clearing away everything, she was suddenly overwhelmed by all of the feelings that she had been suppressing over the last several days and started to cry with choked up sobs.
Root had been feeling so many different emotions since finding Shaw and learning of what Samaritan had done to her. She was feeling elated to have found Shaw, but it broke her heart to see Shaw in such a state. She was angry about what they did to her and at herself for not finding Shaw sooner, but she was relieved that Shaw was still alive. She was worried about Shaw, desperate to do anything she could to help her, but also hopeful that things would work out between them. She wanted to show Shaw just how much she missed her and needed her, but she also didn’t want to overburden Shaw while Shaw was dealing with her own issues.
Shaw looked up and realized just how much Root had been suffering during their time apart, and how she had likely been struggling the last few days as well, although she was good at not showing it, at least until now. Root turned quickly and went into the bathroom and closed the door so that Shaw couldn’t see her in her current state. She knew Shaw wasn’t made for that type of thing, dealing with other people’s feelings, that is. Shaw, not having moved from where she was sitting on the bed watching TV, turned down the volume and listened to Root crying quietly through the door. She had never seen Root like this before, so vulnerable. She had always appreciated Root’s ability to control her emotions, and yet, Shaw was not annoyed by this display of raw emotion, but instead started to notice a pain in her chest that she had never felt before. In that moment, Shaw knew she was meant to be with Root even though she had been suppressing the desire to be something more than they were. She finally pushed her reservations and concerns aside, and against every grain in her body and everything she knew about herself, she decided that she would give it a try.
“Are you okay?” Shaw calls out to Root through the wall.
“Don’t worry about me,” Root replies, her voice sounding steady between the last few sobs. “I’ll be out in a minute.”
When Root had come out of the bathroom shortly afterwards, she avoided eye contact with Shaw even though her freshly washed face, beautiful as ever, showed almost no trace of crying. Root resumed cleaning up after the meal as Shaw moved from where she was sitting to the foot of the bed. “Root, there’s something I haven’t told you about the simulations,” Shaw said. “You know how I said that while Samaritan controlled the simulations, it played off of my thoughts to create the environment and scenarios within each simulation?” Root paused what she was doing, but didn’t turn around to look at Shaw, fearing that she might break down in tears again. “Well, in the seven thousand plus simulations, in almost all of those, at some point, somehow, I kept ending up at your place… with you,” suggesting that they had been not just physically intimate in those simulations. Shaw got up and walked to where Root was still standing with her back toward Shaw. “At the stock exchange, you had said that I’d realize it someday.” Shaw paused and gently turned Root so that she could see her face before continuing, “I guess what I’m trying to say is, maybe this is someday, Root.”
Shaw had reached up and started kissing Root’s soft lips, at first gently, and gradually more aggressively. Root, although having wanted this for so long, stopped for a moment, “Sameen,” she said. She wanted to make sure that her loss of composure hadn’t pressured Shaw into what was about to happen. “Are you ready for this?” Root asked in a soft, concerned voice as her hand cradled Shaw’s head on one side near the base of the head.
Shaw grabbed Root’s neck, pushed her against the wall and said, “I’ve never been more ready.”
Shaw aggressively kissed Root on the mouth and released her grip on Root’s neck only to pull her shirt up over her head and toss it to the floor. Root started sucking and biting Shaw’s neck and shoulders while Shaw rushed to undress both of them. Shaw then grabbed both of Root’s hands, held them against the wall above Root’s head and started to bite Root all over the neck and worked her way down. Before she got much farther than just under the collarbone, Root suddenly grabbed one of Shaw’s arms, twisted it behind her back and pushed Shaw violently, chest first, onto the desk just to the right of where Root had been standing trapped against the wall. Root then started licking and breathing into Shaw’s left ear and sucking on her earlobe while she held Shaw down. Then starting from the neck and working her way down Shaw’s back, Root slowly alternated between kisses so soft Shaw could barely feel them and scraping her teeth over Shaw’s skin, teasing Shaw until she was getting angry and impatient. Root felt Shaw getting hotter and more flush the angrier she got. Finally, Root, having reached Shaw’s lower back, lost some of her leverage on Shaw and Shaw quickly freed her arm, grabbed Root and threw her onto the bed. Shaw then pinned Root down and proceeded to devour her as if she were a Beatrice Lillie sandwich from Park’s Deli.
Afterwards, as they lay in bed, they talked about what the world would be like if they could defeat Samaritan. Root believed that on the surface, it wouldn’t look much different than the present world because no one even knew they were a world at war. People would continue to do bad things, but a lot of people would continue to do good things too. For a few people, it would mean the difference between life and death, and still others might turn their lives around. But for the most part, humanity would go on relatively unchanged, slowly heading toward destruction if left completely to their own devices. She admitted that Samaritan may not have been wrong about everything, but if free will is taken away, it doesn’t matter if the human race survives because no one would truly be living.
*** end of flashback ***
Shaw, remembering the world she saw in the several weeks after Samaritan’s destruction, thinks aloud, “Immediately post-Samaritan, the world showed me what it can be. People helping each other rebuild, showing compassion and understanding for each other, cooperating and even caring for each other despite their differences. But after a few months, memory fades and the world is back to the usual. Root was right. The apathy, selfishness, divisiveness, intolerance, hate. It’s getting harder to tell who the good guys are, if there are any.”
Casey, unsure whether Shaw is actually talking to him, responds, “It would be easier if The Machine could just tell us what these people are up to. Unfortunately, that’s all I was able to find out so far,” pointing to the files Shaw was flipping through. There doesn’t appear to be any obvious connection between the twenty-one numbers. The numbers consist of people from various socioeconomic backgrounds. Some of them are based in DC, and some are based in New York City. Among them is a black woman in her mid-fifties named Mona, a Caucasian woman in her late twenties named Brittany, and a baby-faced man named Greg in his early thirties. “It looks like Greg is headed to a seminar for entrepreneurs this morning. The address is in the file. I couldn’t find anything on the exact whereabouts of the others yet but I’ll let you know as soon as I have anything,” Casey says.
As Shaw tapes up each number’s photo onto the large whiteboard, splitting them into two groups, she instructs Casey, “We’re gonna have to call in a favour to the DC team. Can you ask Mr. Pierce if his team can help us surveil the DC numbers? Just have them help us gather some intel. Tell them to leave any fun for me.” As she finishes taping up each number’s photo, Shaw then points to the ones in New York. “These fifteen are for us,” she says.
“Us? I may be a skillful hacker, but I’m not exactly Indiana Jones, remember,” Casey says nervously.
“Relax, hot shot. I enlisted an old acquaintance,” Shaw says.
“Can we trust this person?” Casey says with concern.
“He’s a good thief, has a moral code, and he’s smart… among other things,” Shaw says with a smirk.
“I don’t know. What about your cop friend?” Casey suggests.
“These could be relevant numbers. Without knowing what we’re dealing with yet, we can’t involve Lionel. He’s a good cop. We can’t put him in a position to kill people for us.”
“Alright then. Who’s this acquaintance?” Casey asks.
“I’m meeting him in ten minutes, three blocks from here. You can come if you’d like.” Shaw offers, knowing that Casey would almost certainly decline.
“No, I’ll stay here and see if I can find out more information on these numbers and how they’re connected. And of course, I’ll have to work on The Machine’s code as well. You go ahead without me,” Daniel says.
Shaw heads out and walks briskly towards the meet up place. As she approaches, she spots the man standing at the corner with his back facing her.
“Hello Tomas,” Shaw says with a sly smile as she stops right behind him, probably a little too close.
Tomas smiles and turns around. “Hello…Shaw,” says Tomas with a smirk on his face, obviously feeling a bit smug that he knows her real name.
“It’s Nadya to you,” Shaw replies with a slight chuckle, remembering her profile on Angler when they had last worked a job together. “How was Barcelona?”
“Good. You missed out on a nice score,” Tomas tells Shaw.
“I’ll bet. Probably bought yourself some nice new toys,” Shaw says.
“A few. But there’s something else I want and it’s not something that can be bought,” Tomas says, shooting Shaw a look that in no uncertain terms meant he was talking about her.
Ignoring Tomas’ come on, Shaw shifts her attention to their current mission. “My target’s headed to 5th Avenue & 56th. Where’s your car?”
“I forgot, you like getting right down to business. Don’t you ever have time for pleasure?" Tomas asks, disappointedly.
“Us doing business together is pleasure,” Shaw replies as they walk towards Tomas’ car.