DISCLAIMER: The characters herein are used without permission. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story takes place between season 3 and 4. We imagine when the new season begins this will become an AU. The story was co-written with zennie.
FEEDBACK: To inspectorboxer[at]gmail.com & zennie[at]zenbitch.com
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SERIES: Part one of A Series of Collisions.

Keeping Up Appearances
By Inspector Boxer and zennie


The bass thudded through the speakers, so loud Shaw could feel it like hammer strikes to her chest. She winced at the volume, threading her way neatly through the dancing crowd, a writhing mass of bodies pressing a little too close for her comfort. Perhaps another time she would come back here, take in all that this particular club had to offer, but for now, she had a mission to complete, and she'd gone a little too long without one.

Searching the crowd for a familiar face, she was startled to realize there were no men looking back at her. A quick glance behind her confirmed her suspicion. "A lesbian club." Her voice was lost to the music, and Shaw shook her head. Leave it to Root to take their occasional flirting to a whole new level. If only she could find the woman amid the sweaty bodies on the dance floor. Shaw's irritation grew as she pushed through yet another throng of women. She needed higher ground. "And a sniper rifle."

Spotting the stairs tucked into a dark corner, Shaw headed for them, just reaching the edge of the crowd when the music slowed, changing into something more pulsing and seductive. Senses heightened, Shaw felt Root before she saw her. Long fingers danced lightly over her stomach before tightening, pulling Shaw back against a warm, firm body. Her instincts nearly had her elbowing Root in the solar plexus, but she allowed the intrusion of her personal space, assuming Root had a damn good reason for it.

"Hello, Sameen." Root's voice was close, her breath hot on the edge of Shaw's ear.

Shaw turned, escaping Root's clutches for mere seconds before the hacker slinked closer, sliding her arms around Shaw's neck and bringing their bodies together once more. She led them back into the throng, and the sudden press of bodies seemed to ignite the air and make it hard for Shaw to breathe. It had to be the crowd, not the soft curves pressed against her or the fingers teasing the skin of her neck.

"What are you doing?" Shaw hissed as they reached the epicenter, taking in Root's red dress that stuck out among the black-clad crowd like a sore thumb.

"Making every woman in here jealous." Root drew her even closer, and Shaw was forced to slip her own arms around the taller woman or risk looking out of place. "Come on, Shaw. Don't act like this is your first time at the rodeo."

Rolling her eyes, Shaw took a deep breath and played along, letting her hands slide down to rest low on Root's hips. "Better?" she asked, letting her nose tickle the edge of Root's ear. Two could play this game.

Root pulled back slightly, meeting her eyes with a cryptic half-smile, and Shaw's gaze was drawn to the dark lipstick on the other woman's mouth. That was new.

"Getting there." Root's hands drifted through Shaw's loose hair. "You should wear your hair like this more often."

They were getting more than a few appreciative stares now. Shaw gritted her teeth, catching Root's hand before it could stroke through her hair again. "We here for work or to exchange beauty tips?"

That cryptic half-smile deepened, and they danced for several beats, the music the only sound. The hacker liked to keep her guessing, and if forced to admit it, Shaw would say that it was one of the things she liked about her. Root was a lot of things, but boring was never one of them, and Shaw had come to expect the unexpected where Root was concerned.

Except for the tightening of the grip on her body and the sudden brush of Root's lips on hers. Their bodies stopped, mid-dance, Shaw too surprised to keep up the pretense. Root's right hand drifted up and cupped the back of Shaw's neck, urging her to participate, to make it look good.

For a long second, Shaw resisted, her body stiff with shock and some emotion too alien to identify, but when Root's tongue flitted across Shaw's lips, she parted them and returned the kiss, eagerly, almost feverishly.

She lost herself in the moment, Root's low moan of appreciation spurring her on. Fingers wandered down her spine, and she dug her own into Root's hips, urging their bodies together. This, she was used to, a sudden flame of desire, the body's automatic response, and she let instinct take over. If Root wanted a show, she would give her one.

They parted to knowing smiles from the other club-goers when the tempo changed, the music picking up to a pounding pace once more.

"Come on," Root shouted in Shaw's ear, lacing their fingers together and tugging the other woman toward the street. The crowd parted to let them through, and Shaw caught more than one envious glance.

They tumbled out into the humid New York night. Root hailed a cab, and Shaw said nothing, her blood still pounding through her veins as she tried to understand what in the hell was going on. She looked down, seeing their hands still intertwined. Shaw thought about stepping away, about demanding to know the plan, but she remained mute and unmoving, her body vibrating from the music inside and the raw sensation of heavy arousal.

A cab quickly pulled up to the curb and they slipped inside. Root gave the man an address and a hundred dollar bill. He nodded, and they jerked away from the club, sliding through traffic at a respectable clip.

"What in the hell are you…" Just when Shaw had her wits about her, Root kissed her again, pressing her back into the seat and sliding her long frame against the shorter woman. Shaw's brain went fuzzy around the edges, but she kept up the game, if in fact that was what they were doing. It was getting harder by the second to tell if they were playing one.

Shaw let it play out, whatever it was. Her leg slid between Root's, grinding their bodies together to elicit another quiet moan from the woman on top of her. If this was a performance, then the cabbie was getting one hell of a show. And if it wasn't, well… her hands caught Root's head, pulled it back to stare, to search for any sign to tell her what she could expect when they got to their destination. But Root escaped her grasp, turning her head to run her tongue over the palm of Shaw's hand before returning to the assault on her lips.

It took ten minutes for the cab to arrive at its destination. The driver let them out with a knowing smirk, and a long stare at Root that had Shaw contemplating punching him. Before she could act on the impulse, Root grabbed her hand again and led her up a steep set of steps to an old brownstone. They stepped inside, and Root pinned Shaw against the door. Rather than kissing her this time, however, she held a single finger to her lips.

"I've missed you," Root said, her eyes sincere but something in her voice sounded hollow.

"Well, you knew where to find me." Shaw started to shove her away, suddenly tired of the games, but Root stepped back of her own accord and approached a control panel on the wall. Light music began to drift down from an expensive sound system, but it was the handheld device Root withdrew from her purse that caught and held Shaw's attention. A jammer.

After it was activated, Root looked up at her and smiled. "Sorry. I figured if Samaritan was watching, I should let it assume a little history between us."

"History?" Shaw wiped at her lower lip, noting that her thumb came away stained with Root's lipstick.

"What better excuse to see each other more often? Let Samaritan think we're in a relationship."

"So all that was to fool a computer?" It was no less than Shaw had been expecting, but her jaw set as Root spun on her high heel and walked away. She looked around, needing something strong to drink to bank her temper and her hormones.

"Whiskey is on the bar in the other room," Root called out as if she'd read Shaw's mind as she sauntered down the hall. Leaning to the side, Shaw watched her, biting her lower lip as Root began to strip before walking into the bedroom. "Unless you want to join me." The hacker stopped in the doorway, both sleeves of her dress hanging from her shoulders, the fabric held up by a strategically-placed hand on her chest. One loosened grip and the dress would fall to the floor, and Shaw knew that the woman was wearing nothing underneath. "No?" Root taunted before winking and disappearing behind the door.

Shaw glanced toward the heavens, as if they could explain, before turning in search of the bar, hoping a distraction would keep her occupied so she wouldn't follow the other woman like she wanted to. She wouldn't give Root that satisfaction.

Pouring a generous glass, Shaw wondered if the hacker had stocked her favorites or if it was just a coincidence. Somehow, she didn't think so.

Polishing off the contents in one swallow, Shaw poured another. "So are you going to tell me what's going on? I haven't seen you in almost two months and you pull this?"

"Samaritan has basic information on everyone. Its knowledge of us, or who we pretend to be, grows every day. So now we have a back story… one that would allow us to meet more easily going forward."

Shaw turned as Root's voice drew closer. The hacker was now in a loose t-shirt and shorts. Somehow her attire was even more alluring than that damn dress had been. Shaw tossed back another mouthful of whiskey, savoring the burn that cleared her head a little. For a moment, her gaze fixed on a thin scar just visible under Root's right collarbone, the loose collar of her t-shirt affording her a tempting view. "So you made us lesbians?" she finally asked, realizing she'd been staring.

Root shrugged. "You're bisexual, actually." She smirked. "I didn't want to limit your options."

Ignoring the comment, Shaw poured another glass. "The others?"

"I thought about making Harold and his helper monkey a couple, but the machine wouldn't let me."

Shaw hiked one expressive eyebrow and Root smiled. "Was that not what you meant?" she replied unrepentant. "They're fine. She keeps an eye on all of us."

Shaw didn't have to ask who "she" was. "Bear?"

"Do you know how sexy it is that you worry about the damn dog?"

"Enough with the games, Root." Shaw set her third drink down with a thud, untouched. She suddenly realized that reducing her inhibitions around the unpredictable woman was the last thing she needed. "Why am I here?"

Root watched her, something lost and aching flickering across her gaze before she turned away, making Shaw wonder if she'd seen anything at all. "She's still giving me numbers. I need your help with one of them." Root drifted closer, picking up Shaw's forgotten glass of whiskey and taking a sip. She grimaced. "Always been a vodka girl, myself."

"I thought you said we all needed to lay low for a while. To not make ourselves interesting where Samaritan is concerned."

"There might be an opportunity to strike back at Samaritan in the near future," Root answered, infuriatingly vague, "but for right now, we can only save one person at a time from its reach."

"So this is about Samaritan. This whole night?" For a second, Shaw was startled by a rare ache of disappointment, as if somehow she had been hoping for something more than the usual smoke and mirrors they hid behind. Root had a habit of making her feel all sorts of things, but this was new.

Root swallowed, tenuously holding Shaw's gaze. "What else would it be about?"

The tension settled between them, warm and seductively familiar. Shaw had missed it, too, but she sure as hell wasn't going to admit it. Sooner or later one of them was going to break, and it wasn't going to be her.

"I've missed that," Root said, again sounding as if she'd read Shaw's mind.


"That look you have right now." Root came closer, letting her forefinger trace Shaw's cheekbone before slipping down her jaw. "Like you don't know whether to kill me or kiss me."

At the moment, Shaw decided that was an on-point description of her mindset. "You'll be the first to know when I decide."

That got a genuine grin out of the hacker. "Can't wait." Root lingered for a few seconds longer before she stepped away, picking up a sheet of paper. "You need to memorize this and then I'll shred it."

"What is it?" Shaw took the paper and looked down at it. There was one name and one address.

"Don't know yet. She likes to be cryptic."

"She's not the only one."

Root smiled again. "I'm afraid you'll need to check on him tonight."

"Tonight, huh?" Shaw tilted her head as she handed the piece of paper back to Root. "You're not coming with me?"

"As much as I would love to…"

"Right." Shaw shook her head. "Fine. This address is on my block, which I'm going to assume is not a coincidence." She moved toward the hall, hearing Root's hesitant steps as she followed, barefoot.

Suddenly, Shaw pulled up short, turning so quickly that the taller woman nearly ran into her. "No." Whatever game, whatever reality they were playing, she wasn't done yet. She wasn't going to let Root win this round. "It's early." Shaw took a step forward as Root took a step back. "If this was all for appearances, how would it look…" Another step, and Root's shoulders bumped into the wall, "if I left now? If I left here looking... unsatisfied?" Her fingers trailed up Root's arms as she leaned in to whisper, "If I didn't look like we just had sex…" Roots eyes widened, as if she were visualizing the same thing Shaw was, "...screaming, hair-pulling, mind-blowing, sex?"

Root shivered, and she didn't avoid Shaw's mouth when it crashed into hers. This time, no strangers watched, no cameras spied on them, and yet Shaw still couldn't tell if the desire she tasted in Root's kiss was real or merely another illusion spun by the elusive hacker.

Hands slid up her thighs as Root drew the fabric of her dress up, drawing their bodies closer. Tangling one hand in her hair, Shaw's other hand found the waistband of Root's shorts, slipping beneath to caress the soft skin at her hip.

The desire to strip her, take her against the wall, was frightening in its intensity. Shaw controlled it, barely, as she concentrated on making the other woman as wild as she felt. Minutes were lost as she explored the other woman's body under her clothes, stroking her hips, carving paths along her spine. It was as intimate a dance as Shaw had ever done, the teasing play of desire building the tension and heat but never truly igniting.

She felt Root's hands raise to her shoulders, tighten on the straps of her dress, before hesitating, before stopping, as if the other woman sensed the tipping point. Instead she pushed Shaw back, breaking contact between their mouths and bodies.

"I think that will do."

"What?" Shaw looked up to find Root assessing her critically.

"For… appearances." There was an ironic emphasis on the word that Shaw couldn't read. "I think you've been here long enough."

"I'm not satisfied," Shaw growled, letting an edge of frustration creep into her voice. Her fingers continued to stroke Root's hips, and Root's mouth twisted into another one of her mysterious grins.

"Leaving unsatisfied will give you a reason to come back." She leaned in and gave Shaw a quick peck on the lips before extracting her body from the shorter woman's grasp. "And you have a number, remember?"

"Just making sure the cover story is believable," Shaw quipped, trying to shrug the moment off. "It was your idea…" Her voice trailed off, and her eyes narrowed, "Wait. The club, the cab, this whole relationship thing… was that her idea, or yours?"

Root moved past her to open the front door, letting the night air wash over them. "Be safe," she said softly, and Shaw thought it might have been the most honest words she'd ever heard the hacker say to her.

Before Shaw could reply, Root leaned in and kissed her gently, letting the touch linger. "I'll see you soon," she promised as she withdrew, before leaving Shaw alone with the night on her front stoop.

Shaw stared at Root's door for a long moment, not sure what she should do. That last kiss could have been for Samaritan's benefit, or maybe even she had told Root to do it, but somehow, Shaw didn't think so.

Turning, Shaw slowly walked down the steps, glancing back up at the brownstone as she reached the curb. Root was at an upstairs window, watching her. The other woman smiled weakly and waved, like a lover saying goodnight.

Taking a deep breath, Shaw looked away, her mind reluctantly turning to the mission. She would have time to think about Root later.

Her phone vibrated, and Shaw slipped it from her clutch. At first, she didn't recognize the name that peered back at her. Then she realized it was Root's new identity, her thumb easing over the display.

Until next time.

Shaw smiled as she hailed a cab. She was looking forward to it.

The End

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