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Somehow, Shaw muses, she should have anticipated this becoming a thing. But the first time it happens she doesn’t think much of it.

 


1.

Sameen Grey fucking hates her job. 

It’s not a mild annoyance, she doesn’t just dislike her job. 

She loathes it. 

She hates waking up every day exactly at 0515 to be there on time because her tiny, shitty apartment is exactly on the other side of town, hates the headaches she gets thanks to all the perfume she inhales daily, hates getting glitter in places no one should ever get glitter.  

But she especially hates that she doesn’t get to punch the floor manager in the face every time he gets on her ass. Most of the time she tunes him out, but turns out it’s not easy to ignore people when they keep going on and on about how her selling rates have dropped drastically, and how a smile on her pretty face would help a great deal, and, Sameen, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. She knows precisely 23 ways to shut him up without causing permanent damage, but she also knows she can’t use any of them. 

Sameen Grey might not be a soldier, but she’s still got a mission. She can’t blow her cover, she has to behave 

So she smiles, nods, and complies. 

* 

It’s not like she couldn’t be good at her job. 

She could be good at it, she’s positive she could reach her weekly sales quota in one day if she wanted to. It’s just that she doesn’t give one single fuck about it. She doesn’t get why she has to be stuck 8 hours a day in this overly scented hellhole while other people get to run secret missions and change identities. What’s so special about other people anyway? 

She doesn’t even get to keep the dog. How is that fair? 

She’s currently staring at her phone, her foot tapping on the floor. Maybe if she looks at it long enough it’ll start ringing and she can get out of here to go deal with some emergency instead. The floor manager caught her hiding out in the break room so now she has to work through her lunch break, she’s bored out of her mind and she can’t even pretend to be interested in selling the BB cream + nail hardener combo promotion they’ve got going on. She wonders if she could get away with a small trip to the cafe on the other side of the street. Their beagles are out of this world and she’s just so fucking hungr– 

“What does a girl have to do to get some attention around here?” 

Shaw immediately strains her posture, startled by the words whispered in her ear. The voice is too familiar for her not to recognize it right away, and the scowl is ready on her face when she turns around. 

“Root,” she growls, and the smug look on Root’s face makes her frown deepen and her palms itch. She should have known better than to let her guard down, but boredom and hunger do not mix well and the result is smirking down at her. 

“What are you doing here?” she barks out, but her aggressive tone only makes Root’s smirk grow wider.  

“Would you believe me if I told you I was in the neighborhood?” Root asks as she slowly makes her way to the other side of the counter. 

“Of course you were.” Shaw rolls her eyes and follows Root’s movements.

“Well,” Root starts, playfully dragging out the word as she likes to do. “I thought you could use some company on your break.” 

Shaw eyes her suspiciously, but her frown disappears when Root places a neatly folded brown bag on her desk. There’s an obnoxious, bright red and yellow sombrero on the side, and Shaw recognizes it straight away. 

“I come bearing gifts,” Root singsongs, and she sounds entirely too pleased with herself for her own good. How the hell Root knows her favorite taco joint is beyond her. Maybe she’s been stalking her. Or maybe she’s making The Machine do the dirty work for her. 

“I heard you were skipping lunch today, and I thought I’d come by and say hi,” Root cheerfully says. Her hand is still firmly gripping the bag and Shaw’s eyes haven’t moved from the logo on the side. She can smell the food from where she’s standing, she can practically taste the homemade guacamole at the back of her mouth. 

“Your all-seeing friend should learn how to keep its mouth shut,” Shaw tries to fight it, she really does, but her eyes are locked on the prize, and would it be so bad if she let Root have it this one time? 

“That’s not very nice of you to say, Sam.” Root pouts, her voice is fake disapproval and she starts to withdraw her hand, taking the bag with her. “Maybe I should just-”

“Wait!” Shaw’s hand is on Root’s wrist before she realizes what she’s doing, and her eyes shoot up to meet Root’s. “I didn’t say you could leave.”  

*

She tells herself that she just doesn’t want Root to take the food back, and maybe, just maybe, she doesn’t completely hate the idea of Root crashing her dull routine. 

“I knew you’d be happy to see me.”

Curling her lips in distaste, Shaw snatches the bag from Root’s hands. 

She never knew hell could smell like deep-fried onions and patchouli.

 


 

2.

Sameen Shaw fucking loves her job. 

It’s not even an euphemism, she doesn’t just like her job. 

She’s fucking smitten with it. 

She’s not sure it even qualifies as a job, though, fuck knows she’s not getting paid to do it. Still, she loves it. Maybe it’s because she gets to beat up bad guys, maybe it’s the adrenaline that shoots through her system whenever they get a new number. 

Maybe it’s the look on John’s face every time she steals his grenade-launcher. 

She doesn’t quite know what it is, but she loves it, she’s trained for it, and she fucking rocks at it.

That being said, being stuck all night on watch duty in a crappy black Sedan with Fusco of all people is not exactly the highlight of her vigilante career. 

She doesn’t mind stakeouts, she can do stakeouts. A nice, greasy burger and a cup full of soda and she’s ready to stalk the fuck out of whatever number they happen to be trailing at the moment. 

To be honest, she doesn’t even mind Fusco that much. He’s okay as far as ex-corrupt cops go. He’s not completely useless with a gun, and he owes her big time, so she knows he’ll always have her back. 

But dear god, he just won’t shut up

He keeps yammering about his spawn of a kid and how great he is and isn’t it amazing that they share a love for hockey, and even though he’s not that great of a player it’s the effort that counts ya know?

Shaw’s not sure she’d care even if she knew how to. 

*

Their number is a 20-something kid getting in with the wrong people. Shaw’s already seen him get roughed up at least twice tonight. She hasn’t done anything about it because honestly he could use a good beating. 

Plus she’s too busy cursing at Fusco, he was supposed to be back with food twenty minutes ago, and she is starving to death. 

She stays occupied by keeping an eye on the kid through the binoculars, and finally, finally, she hears the passenger door open.

“About damn time. I was starting to think you’d got your ass mauled on the street.” She doesn’t look away from the scene, but she feels a dip in the car as the weight shifts.

“Honey, your concern is touching.” 

Shaw turns abruptly to the passenger seat, a frown etched on her features as she sees that it is, in fact, very much not Fusco who’s just got in the car. 

“Root,” she snarls, her lips curling around the T with barely contained contempt at the self-satisfied look on Root’s face. 

“Did I startle you?” Root asks, coy and teasing, like she’s playing with fire and she knows it. 

“You didn’t startle me,” Shaw scoffs, looking away offended. She doesn’t get startled, especially not by Root. “I just wasn’t expecting you, that’s all.”

“Sure,” Root hums in a way that is entirely too amused for her sake, and closes the door. “Whatever you say, Sameen,” Root’s condescending tone makes Shaw grit her teeth and she breathes in deeply through her nose. 

“Did you come here just to fuck with me?” Shaw asks, crossing her arms over her chest and leaning away from Root until her back is against the door. 

The slow, dangerous smile spreading on Root’s lips and the downright filthy glint in her eyes tell Shaw straight away that it was the wrong thing to say, and she groans, pinching the bridge of her nose. 

She just threw a tank full of fuel on an already dangerously out of control fire. Root’s never gonna let her hear the end of this, and she should have known better. 

“Why, Shaw,” Root looks at her like a shark that just smelled blood, and Shaw can almost feel her gaze shiver down her spine. “I thought you’d never ask.” 

“Oh, shut up,” Shaw sighs exasperated and looks away, Root has a way to get under her skin and tonight she’s only making it way too easy for her. 

“Unfortunately, as pleasant as that sounds, I’m afraid I’m here for business,” Root sounds genuinely regretful, and Shaw just rolls her eyes. “But I’m sure we can arrange something.” Root says and leans into her personal space. 

Shaw can do nothing but send Root the dirtiest of her looks. 

*

Turns out, Root’s there to take Fusco’s place. His ex-wife got called in for an emergency and he has to take care of his precious son.

Now, Shaw’s not saying that spending the whole night in a tiny cramped car with Root breathing down her neck is her favorite pastime (even though she’s kinda coming to terms with the fact that it comes with the territory).

All she’s saying is that worst things must have happened to someone somewhere in the world, and really, if she doesn’t have to put up with a whole night of cheap aftershave and cheaper conversation, can she complain all that much?

“By the way, that low neckline really brings out your eyes.”  

With another groan, Shaw decides that after all, maybe she can. 

 


 

3.

New York City always seems glamorous in the movies. 

Honestly, Shaw doesn’t care much for glamour, but let’s just say that her crappy two-room apartment doesn’t exactly have the je-ne-se-fucking-quois you’d expect from The Big Apple or whatever the kids are calling it these days. 

She’s lived in worse places, of course. You don’t become the diamond tip of a secret government agency complaining about things like mold in your shower stall. But she’s always arranged her location for her long staying, and even though she doesn’t need much, she’s still got standards, you know?

It’s not like she hates this accommodation completely. She can deal with the shitty metal crap music the punk living upstairs blasts at the worst possible moments of the day.

She doesn’t even mind the broken elevator nobody seems to ever want to fix, or the fact that the floor of the Hall is always suspiciously sticky when she steps on it coming back from work. 

The one thing driving her absolutely fucking mental is Louise

*

Most of the residents of the building keep to themselves, and the ones that do like to talk are too scared of Shaw to try to chat her up anyway.

But not Louise. 

Louise Ann Sherman, apartment 3b, social security number 452-98-1702, apartment block administrator, and currently #1 on Shaw’s shit list.

(Root’s ranking #2, so that’s gotta mean something.) 

Louise might look like your sweet, average, 63-year-old lady, but Shaw knows better. 

Louise is her fucking nightmare.

The first time Shaw met Louise, she had to sit through 27 minutes of the old fart retellings of her golden years, and what a unique name Sameen is, and how much you look like I did in my prime. 

Louise does not scare easily, and it’s a testament to Shaw’s self-control that she hasn’t resorted to more... convincing means of persuasion to shut her up permanently. 

Since then, she’s memorized Louise’s routine in order to avoid any casual meetings, especially since the old bag’s taken to try and set her up with her 42-year-old loser son Irving.

That’s how Shaw knows she shouldn’t have come home yet. It’s 1843 , and Louise is already three minutes into her evening round.  

Usually, Shaw would have waited it out, but she’s had a shitty day at work, her feet hurt like hell since she’s not allowed to wear sensible shoes, she’s carrying two overfilled grocery bags and of fucking course rain is pouring like there’s no tomorrow. 

So fuck Louise, Shaw is getting into her apartment ASAP and no amount of obnoxious and mind-numbing small talk will stop her. 

*

She’s made it through the first set of stairs without incidents, and she can almost taste the victory as the door of her apartment comes into view. 

And then she hears it. 

The sick squish-squash of somebody stepping on the viscid floor in the Hall. 

Shaw needs to hurry the fuck up, but balancing two grocery bags and fumbling for her keys is easier said than done. She can hear steps creep up the stairs, and why the hell does she own so many keys anyway? 

The footsteps are coming closer and closer, and she really needs to get her shit together and sort the keys out or something. The key is in the lock, and she’s almost safe, but the steps are on the landing and she knows she’s been seen. 

Still, she opens the door and tries to sneak away before contact is made.

“Why such a hurry?”

Shaw freezes, a surprise on her face as she turns around. That is not Louise’s irritating shrilly voice at all. 

“Root,” she says, sounding relieved despite herself. “Oh, thank god.” Her tone has Root raising her eyebrows, and Shaw catches herself immediately. 

“Aw, I missed you too sweetie,” Root bats her eyelashes at Shaw and steps closer to relieve Shaw of one of the bags. Shaw would have done perfectly fine without her unsolicited help, and they struggle silently for a moment. But Shaw’s grip on the bag gives when she feels the paper bag start to strain under her touch. 

Root’s triumphant smile is as bright and annoying as ever, but Shaw’s more concerned about the sounds coming from the stairs at her back. 

“Are you expecting someone?” Root asks with a nonchalance and disinterest way too forced to be genuine, but Shaw ignores her and keeps looking over Root’s shoulder. 

“More like avoiding someone,” she says absentmindedly. She can definitely hear some shuffling, she already got lucky once tonight, and she’s not about to let herself get caught. 

“Who are we avoiding?” Root follows Shaw’s stare to the stairs and then looks back at her, an intrigued smile on her lips as she steps closer. 

I am avoiding Louise, the apartment block administrator from hell,” Shaw frowns at Root’s proximity and opens her mouth to add something, but a sudden and unmistakable laugh breaks from the stares, and she just knows

“C’mon,” Shaw grabs Root’s wrist and drags her inside the apartment before it’s too late. 

If she has to hear one more time about how amazing and unique Irving is, she will not be held responsible for her actions. 

*

“You’re scared of a 63-year-old lady?” Root asks, amused and disbelieving as she stores away the milk in the fridge. Shaw didn’t ask her to help with the groceries, and she glares at Root as she moves around the kitchen like she owns it. 

“I am not scared of her,” Shaw scoffs, outraged. “She won’t leave me alone, and I can’t shoot her!”

Root huffs out a laugh and looks at her fondly from the opposite side of the tiny room, a tender and helpless smile on her lips, and Shaw just sighs heavily in return. It’s a look directed her way more and more often lately, one that has her hot under the collar for all the wrong reasons. She pretends she doesn’t notice, but she’s gotta to something to make Root stop looking at her like that. 

“What are you doing here anyway?” Shaw asks, scanning Root from head to toe. The last time Root dropped by unannounced was to get a hole on her shoulder stitched closed. 

“I needed a place to crash,” Root shrugs, her tone too cheerful as she keeps busy putting groceries away. “I didn’t know where else to go,” Root’s back is all Shaw can see, but she catches the vulnerability in her voice, the forced lightness in her words.

“And you thought coming here was the obvious choice,” Shaw retorts, but she’s already made up her mind. Root’s big doe eyes are staring at her and she runs a tired hand through her hair. 

“Well, I thought I could use some time with my very special gal pal to, you know,” the change in Root’s tone is as sudden as ever, and the way she positively leers at her has Shaw scrunching up her nose in disdain. “... catch up.”

Shaw’s starting to think that maybe getting caught by Louise wouldn’t have been so bad after all. 

  


  

4.

There’s a lot of things Sameen Shaw can do without in her life. 

She can do without decaf, and whatever alternative edgy bullshit beverage people come up with when she’s in line at Starbucks in the morning. 

She can possibly do without hair straighteners and soccer moms who wear way too much perfume and ask way too many questions about the use of face powder vs bronzer.

She can definitely do without that asshole always trying to sell her stolen watches at the bus stop at 0600 am. 

There is, in fact, very little Shaw can’t do without. 

 

Underwear happens to be one of those things. 

 

Everybody needs underwear; it’s just a basic human need, really. It’s the ground on which human society is built. 

Which is why her reaction to finding all of her underwear missing from the building’s laundry room was far from civil. 

She knows who did it, too. Fucking Irving, Louise’s creep son. 

Shaw got back at him already, of course. She sneaked into their apartment and set his bed on fire. She even retrieved most of her stolen items. 

She set those on fire too. 

Irving is the reason why she’s currently going through the underwear floor of her department store. (She works there and she’s got 25% off for her employee’s discount, so what?) 

She’s not picky, she just wants some standard all-black items. Some nice bras would be nice, her work dresses are low cuts and her boobs are fine

She certainly doesn’t need the 129$ Red Passion push up wonderbra (complete with matching bottoms and garter) that Cindy the store clerk was trying to saddle her with. Shaw doesn’t have time for this, no matter how much Cindy tells her what a great deal the whole set for 129$ is, and how amazing it would look with your skin tone, you’d make all the boys go loco.

She knows she’d look hot as fuck in it, but it simply is too impractical for her to wear it for anything other than a very specific mission. 

She guesses she kind of gets the appeal, though. She could see someone else wearing it. Shaw picks a set from the stall, the texture rough under her fingertips as she examines the red lace. 

She’s never been one to let her mind wander, exactly. But she indulges, sometimes. 

She can imagine the stark contrast between the red of the clothing and the pale skin underneath, and she can definitely picture the annoying, evil glint in the mischievous brown eyes looking down at her. 

She can most definitely see the appeal. 

 “I wouldn’t have pegged you for a lingerie kind of girl."

Shaw is so startled by the unmistakably familiar voice that she drops the lingerie to the floor. She turns around, a horrified scowl on her face. 

“Root,” Shaw growls, but her voice comes out weird and unusually high-pitched. “Jesus,” she leans down to pick the item up, avoiding eye contact. Root notices, she always does, and eyes Shaw curiously, an intrigued smile on her lips. 

“Are you... blushing?” Root asks bemused and teasing, and Shaw knows she’s not gonna let this go. 

“I most definitely am not,” Shaw retorts right away. She clears her throat and steels herself before meeting Root’s gaze. “I don’t... blush,” she sneers, her whole face scrunching up at the revolting notion of herself blushing. 

“Sure you do,” Root smirks, an eager and amused gleam in her eyes as she keeps studying Shaw closely. “What were you thinking about?" 

“Root,” Shaw warns, an angry scowl on her face as she shoves the lingerie back on the stall, dropping it like it burns. 

“Were you thinking about me?” Root asks in a whisper as she steps into Shaw’s personal space. Her smile is playful but she keeps gazing intensely at Shaw. 

“Stop it,” Shaw warns again, low and dangerous, and Root’s eyes are still locked with hers, full of mirth and mischief. She’s so close that Shaw has to tilt her head up to glare at her steadily, and the way Root’s smug smile only widens at that is positively irritating. 

“Fine,” Root concedes after a beat, stepping back and looking away. “You’re no fun,” she adds, and Shaw stares annoyed as Root looks through the underwear. She might be a pain in Shaw’s ass, but she knows when not to push it. Shaw’s gotta give her that. 

“What are you doing here anyway?” Shaw grumbles out, slipping her hands into the pockets of her jacket and regarding Root with a questioning glance. 

“I’m going to sneak into a party held by the Spanish Ambassador.” Root looks back at Shaw and leans her side on the stall. “And I need a date,” she adds, raising her eyebrows suggestively. 

That does sound kind of fun. 

Surely way more fun than buying underwear on sale and spending the rest of her day following Irving around the city to freak him out. But still.  

“Will there be food?” Shaw asks. She keeps her gaze unblinking and fixed on Root, not to give away how eager to accept she actually is. 

“Plenty,” Rood nods, a smug smile on her lips because she knows she’s got Shaw right where she wanted her. She leans in again and stares down at Shaw purposely. 

“We might even get to steal a chopper.” Root whispers like it’s a dirty secret, and Shaw has to swallow thickly against the dryness in her throat.  

* 

In the end, Shaw doesn’t get to buy as many items as she needed. She is not going to shop for undergarments with that perv stuck to her ass, and she can always come back for more. (Cindy promised to keep her updated on all the lingerie promotions.)  

“You know,” Root starts, as they make their way out of the store, “I think red’s overrated.”

Shaw shoots her a mildly annoyed quizzical look, and scolds herself for going along with Root’s ramblings.

“Black lace suits me better anyway.” 

Gritting her teeth, Shaw shakes her head exasperatedly. 

They better get to steal that goddamn chopper. 

  


  

5.

Yulia Kovitc is a secretary. She works for the Education Department at the Art Museum. She’s 28, she likes water sports, jazz music and has a burning passion for pastel dresses.  

Yulia Kovitc is also dead. Her use for Her has run its course, and now Root can just go back to being Root, for a little while at least. Yulia wasn’t all that fun to play anyway, Root didn’t even get to shoot anybody. Where’s the fun in that.   

So she dumps the bag containing all of Yulia’s life in a trashcan just outside the subway station, and makes her way to the hot-dog stand at the corner of the street. 

She’s supposed to have the rest of the day off, and as she waits in line with a smile on her face, Root thinks she knows just the way to make the most of it. 

*

The park is mostly quiet at this time of the day, and Root’s grateful for that. People might not be completely bad code, and while she’s grown fond of a very restricted selection of them, she doubts crowd surfing will ever be her favorite activity.  

It’s 3 pm on a Thursday afternoon, and that’s how Root knows she’ll find her here. 

She might not have The Machine whispering in her ear 24/7 anymore, but she’s still got to keep tabs on her best girl. 

So with a hot-dog in hand, she makes her way to Shaw’s favored spot. She knows Shaw’s taken to bring Bear to the park on her day off, and she also happens to know that Bear likes the east side of the park better, the one closer to the pond, because he likes to scare the ducks off.

Root knows they’ll be there any minute now, so she picks a spot with a good view on the pond, sits on a bench in a shadowy corner out of sight, and waits. 

And waits. 

And waits. 

It’s 3.13 and Shaw is never late. Root furrows her eyebrows and pursues her lips. If something had come up, she’s positive they would have called her too. Root’s also positive She would have told her if something had happened to Shaw.   

But it’s 3.13, the pungent smell of the mustard on the hot-dog hits her nose sharply and there’s still no sign of Shaw. 

Let’s just say that this is not how Root pictured her day going. 

“Fancy seeing you here.”

Root startles and turns toward the figure plopping down on the bench to her left. Shaw is a sight for sore eyes, and Root tries her best to contain her smile as she drinks her in. 

“I was hoping you’d say that,” Root says, and the way Shaw keeps her eyes fixed forward and tries to contain her smug smile just makes Root’s grin widen. “You’re looking awfully proud of yourself there.”

Shaw smirks fully now, and turns towards Root. “You have no idea,” Shaw whispers. There’s something light and playful dancing behind her eyes, and Root can’t find it in herself to look away. 

“Is that for me?” Shaw asks and she zeroes in on the hot-dog still in Root’s hand. 

“No,” Root promptly replies, and the way Shaw’s face scrunches up in confusion and distress is entirely too amusing. “I thought it would be nice to bring a treat, for the dog." 

The glare Shaw sends her tells Root that she’s definitely not too impressed with her joke, and the way Shaw reaches out to grab the hot-dog from Root’s hand just makes it all the more endearing. 

“You’re welcome,” Root can’t help but add, and the growl and absolutely deathly glower Shaw sends her way as she stuffs her face with food are the best rewards she could ever hope for. 

*

Shaw devours her hot-dog with ravenous hunger, and as she stares on fondly, Root thinks it could be one of the most enticing sights she’s ever had the privilege to witness.

“So,” Shaw says around a mouthful as she regards Root with a curious look. “Why are you here today?”  

Root shrugs and turns away casually. She keeps quiet for a moment and glances down at her hands on her lap. 

“I went through three identities in the last five days,” Root looks up, the overly cheerful tone of her voice as forced as the smile on her lips when she meets Shaw’s eyes. “I just wanted to be Root for a while.”

Shaw stops chewing for an instant, concern well-hidden behind her furrowed brows, but Root can still see it, can still feel the weight of it as Shaw studies her. 

Finally, Shaw nods once.  

“There’s gotta be a better way to spend your day off other than sitting on a lame ass bench in the park, though,” she adds, chomping down the last of the hot-dog and crumpling the paper wrapper in her hand. 

Root tilts her head to the side, intrigued. “Any propositions?” 

“There’s a new steakhouse, not far from my apartment,” Shaw offers offhandedly. She sneaks a glance towards Root before continuing, “Can you ask The Machine if it’s any good?”

Root widens her eyes in mock surprise, and brings a hand to her heart. 

“Oh my, Sameen. Are you asking me out on a date?”

The eye-roll she receives as an answer is beautifully executed, and the utterly exasperated groan harmonizes with it exquisitely.  

Maybe there’s more fun ways to spend her down time indeed, but as she scoots closer to Shaw on the bench, a helpless, warm look in her eyes, Root thinks she doesn’t need anything else at all.