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She preferred dark clothing, made it easier to blend in a crowd. Her perfect steak should be medium-rare. Mayonnaise ruined her sandwich. Wine was classy and shitty. Fast cars and sniper rifles gave her figurative, non-sexual orgasms. She liked men and women, as long as there was no relationship involved. She knew these. She knew all of these like the back of her hand.

 

It was the littlest things that always threw her off. Like buying a pack of dog treats when she did not even have one—or at least for as far as she could recall, she did not ever have one. Like snatching an apple and later avoided snacking on it. Like slowing down on the 11th without apparent reason. Like turning down the advances of men and women whom tried to hit on her during the past months. Like calling Martine by ‘blonde bitch’ and meant it wholeheartedly. Actions she did and words she said without prior thoughts, coming from muscle memories and all.

 

Her name was Dani Reese and she worked for Decima Technologies.

 

They said it was a mission went very wrong. They said she sustained multiple gunshot wounds and a severe blow to the head. They said she was barely alive when they got her. They said she had no family left and had signed off to have her body for research purposes if she was dead. They said she was declared brain dead on a sunny Wednesday. They said they put a prototype of a new kind of neural implant in her head and brought her back to the world of the living. They said memory lost was its unfortunate side effect, but it stabilized her and kept her alive and functioning.

 

They did not say directly, but it was heavily implied that she should be grateful and loyal to Decima since they had pretty much gave her life.

 

Her name was Dani Reese and she worked for Decima Technologies.

 

The faded scars on her body was too much—even for an ex-druggie, ex-alcoholic, almost sex-addict, ex-homicide detective of LAPD—but the ex-military thing did stick the puzzle together like a super glue. The newest addition to her collection stretched on her scalp. It took months for the bald surgery spot to be covered by enough length of hair. She sacrificed a little by cutting her dark tresses to shoulder length. The scar itched still.

 

She was paired—babysat, really—with an Englishman named Jeremy Lambert after a nasty right hook and bitch spat out of her mouth on her first meeting with Martine Rousseau. The surprise punch was oddly satisfying and guilt-free and Martine had laughed it off like some inside jokes only she understood.

 

Her name was Dani Reese and she was not sure if she had worked for Decima Technologies, before.

 

The pay was good and she got to shoot people. She did not care that an all-seeing A.I. was playing God.

 

Killing, however, was the limit she had been teasing with since she was reinstated as field agent. She did not feel bad about taking lives—she did not do feelings—but her aim gravitated away from the center mass and lingered on the kneecaps or shoulders area. As if it was natural, as if it was the way she had favored before. She found the tendency disturbing.

 

Her new mission was to eliminate an independent agency with rivaling A.I.. ‘Agency’ was too big of a word for a group that consisted of two men, one somewhat part-time woman, and a dog (which she was definitely not going to kill). Harold Finch, John Reese who had no familial connection to her despite sharing the same surname, and Root.

 

Samaritan had specifically ordered her to take Root out first, because she was The Machine’s analog interface. Dani was to deliver a clean shot to the heart.

 

Her name was Dani Reese and she decidedly did not like working for Samaritan.

 

Her target’s name was not Root or Samantha Groves. Samaritan had alerted her about this so-called agency doing something to alter its hardware. So Root was Kelly Peyton today and Dani had a lead on her. She was on her own this time, having ditched Lambert half an hour ago and ‘accidentally’ dropped her earpiece and phone into a pond. If it was going to be her first kill, then she would do it her way—heart or brain or multiple gunshots to the abdomen, she might even bring souvenir to appease Samaritan. She just wanted it to be intimate.

 

She had tailed Root for four blocks when the woman halted in front of a building. It seemed empty and without surveillance, a headquarter material for a secret agency. Dani proceeded with caution, following Root inside precisely one minute later. She kept her steps light and gun drawn close to her body. It was a bingo hall, she discovered, and there was no Root.

 

“More surprises from Sama—“ Root faltered when Dani turned around. “Sameen?”

 

Feeling the intensity of Root’s gaze crawled at her skin, Dani rolled her eyes on impulse.

 

Root rushed forward, closing their distance within few strides with her long legs. The muzzle of Dani’s gun dug on her breast while her own lay forgotten on the floor and she did not even flinch. She was staring at death on the eye and flirted with it. Dani suspected there was more to it than a simple recklessness, but did not put a voice to the thought. She disposed of her gun, against her own better judgment.

 

There was a flash of something—a memory—in her mind’s eye. Steady pulse roared underneath her palm paired with darkened eyes and you can end me all you want whispered breathlessly.

 

Her head hurt. Her head hurt like hell and her grip on Root’s neck loosened on its own volition. She did not have the strength to do so anymore. A hypothetical sledgehammer was slamming onto her skull, cracked it into halves, and then smashed at her brain. When Dani eventually keeled over from the pain, Root was there to catch her and right after your nap and familiar arms gently lowering her body to the ground. She could no longer differentiate reality from memories from dreams. All but Root had blurred out together.

 

She had blackened out. She stirred back with Sameen, Sameen, Sameen whispered against the side of her temple. Root was cradling—clutching was the better word to describe the vice like grip of her embrace—her close, like if she held her any less tighter then she would somehow evaporate into thin air.

 

Root smelled just wonderful.

 

It warmed up Dani’s chest and spread to the tip of her toes and then it was raining. She blinked. The droplets were warm and only licked her cheek and she was indeed lying on the floor of an empty bingo hall with plain white ceiling above her head.

 

Oh.

 

Tears.

 

Root was shaking against her, unaware of her newly gained consciousness. The air left Dani’s lungs in a rush then she was the one feeling like she was being choked instead. She pushed away blindly, but did not get far enough. Her head was still pounding and crawling backward made the world spin.

 

“Sameen...” Root repeated, voice watery and tearing on the seams.

 

“Decima—Samaritan,” Dani amended, “put an implant to keep me alive.” She tapped her head. It never stopped throbbing. She suspected something akin to a shock collar for dog was also installed in the neural implant, but she did not tell Root so. There were enough lines of worries creasing her face. Dani did not understand why she cared so much and why she needed Root to know. She was lonely, she supposed. “It affects my memories.” She met Root on the eye, this time not shying away from her gaze. “I don’t know who you were. Hell, I don’t know who I was.”

 

Root remained silent. Her stomach dropped with the prospect of Samaritan fixing a tracking device inside Shaw’s head. Soon, more Samaritan agents would come pouring from the door and she would be dead. It did not matter.

 

Like a puppet, Dani leaned forward with a simple beckon of Root’s hand. Then she was kissing her on the lips. Dani should have shoved her away, should have put a stop to this nonsense. She really should. Instead, she scrapped her blunt nails on the side of Root’s neck. Root arched and moaned, parting her lips for Dani’s wet tongue to slip in between.

 

Her name was Dani Reese and she did not want to work for Decima Technologies, not anymore.

 

Root’s phone chirped, alerting her of incoming intruders. Dani stared at her with heavy-lidded eyes and hummed, unsure whether the little groan and just when we were starting to really connect was being said aloud or was coming from another timeline in another life. But the we’ll do this again soon was real and she found herself reaching over to Root. Their skin touched and there was electricity crackling on the air, but she slipped out of Dani’s reach on the last second.

 

“Sameen Shaw,” Root breathed out. “Your name, Sam. Please remember.”

 

She did remember. The muscle that was responsible for pumping blood through her system for as long as she lived remembered, because it was beating just a little faster when Root was within close proximity.

 

Root’s eyes were sad like an abandoned puppy’s. Dani’s—Sam’s?—hand twitched from the unexplainable urge to grab her arm, pull her closer, and kiss the frown away. In an elevator with obnoxious blue paint and an override button behind the desk across it. She kissed her all the same. Only this time, there were no bullets raining on her and Root was not screaming her name like it was the only word she ever learned. When they parted, she was not staring at her tear-stricken face from across a stupid fence while bleeding out to death on the floor.

 

It was selfish, but the words left her mouth before she could reconsider it. “I’m coming with you,” she stated and Root did not object, despite being fully aware of the danger.

 

Her name was not Dani Reese and she did not work for Decima Technologies.

 

Her name might be Sameen Shaw and she could not find it in herself to kill Root.

 

Not when she thought she had loved her, before.

 

Loved her, still.