DISCLAIMER: The characters herein are used without permission. No infringement intended.
SPOILERS: Vague spoilers for seasons one, two and part of three.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To Tamoline[at]gmail.com

Whatever This Is
By Tamoline


At some point Carter seems to have become Shaw's unofficial partner in Finch's merry little enterprise. When she confronts John about this, he just looks at her mildly and says, "You work well together." Which she figures is John for "Which means I don't have to," with a side order of "Please keep her away from Finch as much as possible," and a dash of "I trust you to rein in her more homicidal impulses." Only the last is at all flattering – hell, it's more trust than she's being shown at work these days – but she strongly suspects it's by far the least of the three.

Not that she exactly minds working with Shaw. She's professional, terrifyingly competent and her near amorality is a clean contrast to Carter's own set of ethics. She doesn't make Carter question herself anywhere near as much as John's far murkier rules of engagement. And she has to admit it's nice working with someone more or less as an equal – she may have been helping John for well over a year by now, but it's still very clear she hasn't been admitted to the clubhouse yet.

It's a change is what she's saying. And it's not that bad, not that bad at all.

Even if she is currently trying not to swear too loudly as Shaw stitches her up.

"Can't take you anywhere," Shaw observes from where she's crouched over Carter's hand.

"Coulda happened to anyone," Carter says, gritting her teeth as Shaw digs in again, because there's absolutely *no* way she's giving Shaw any more satisfaction than she has to. "Dark alleyway, trash bags lying everywhere." She'd been so focussed on the guy she'd been chasing, she hadn't even noticed she's cut herself until Shaw had grabbed her hand afterwards to examine the gash.

"Didn't happen to me."

"Bite me," she says, levelly as she can as Shaw puts the final stitch in. Because, yeah, she might not mind working with Shaw most of the time, but sometimes she can be a real pain in the posterior.

Still, she's more than a little surprised when Shaw takes her up on the offer. And she certainly isn't expecting the sensation of Shaw's teeth being dragged across her uninjured wrist to feel so good.


Yeah, that's the ticket.

And an experience that, while not that much nearer than usual to death, *had* involved a gun being aimed in her direction.

And maybe also a little of her body reminding her that she really hasn't had sex in *far* too long.

One good bite deserves another, she thinks a little muzzily as she hauls Shaw up and returns the favour, her teeth against Shaw's slim neck. Not that Shaw's exactly complaining, from the sounds she's making.

And it isn't as though Carter's been exactly *blind* to how attractive Shaw is.

"I know a cheap hotel nearby," Shaw murmurs against her.

Somehow, Carter isn't surprised. "With lines like that, it's a wonder you don't have a queue of people outside your door," she says, then yelps as Shaw nips a little harder than absolutely necessary.

Still good, though.

Carter keeps her attention on Shaw as she's guided in the direction of a seedy looking entrance, half because she'd convinced that if she lets up Shaw will disappear, and she does *not* need that tonight, and half because she doesn't want to give herself too much to think about this.

And then they're in a room – thank *god* - and Shaw is demonstrating exactly how much use she can get out that focus-based approach of hers.

Carter's hardly finished shuddering before Shaw rolls off the fairly crappy bed they've found themselves in, and is out of the door a few moments after that, without a word being said.

Well, that was pretty much as advertised on the label, wasn't it, Carter thinks.

She isn't particularly expecting anything to change – she isn't under *any* illusion that she shook Shaw's world or anything – but Shaw keeps her distance the next day, refusing to meet her gaze, though that doesn't stop her shooting Carter little distrustful glances whenever she thinks Carter isn't looking.

She doesn't seem to be letting it get in the way of the mission, and the whole mess is a bucket of crazy Carter just has no interest in touching, so she resolves to let Shaw sulk, or whatever, a few days and get it out of her system.

When it doesn't get any better by that point, Carter corners Shaw where she's keeping overwatch on John and says bluntly, "You don't have to worry. I'm not exactly looking for a relationship with anyone at this point." Not the way the last couple went. "Certainly not you," she adds.

"Oh," Shaw says, scowling a bit apparently by reflex. "That's okay then."

They're on a stakeout, watching their target family have dinner and Shaw suddenly gets up.

"That's it," she says. "I'm done for the evening."

"Shaw?" John's voice crackles over the comms. "What's wrong?"

Shaw's face goes even more blank, if that's possible. "You're a big boy, John. I'm sure you can handle this from here." She takes out the earpiece, crushes it under one foot, then slinks off into the night.

"Any idea what *that* was about?" Carter quietly asks once she's fairly sure Shaw is out of earshot. Shaw's many things, but she doesn't just up and leave during the middle of an op like that.

"I was hoping you could tell me," comes John's less than helpful response.

"No idea. Maybe mashed potato gives her traumatic flashbacks," Carter says, then sighs. "Look, John. Have you got this from here? 'Cos if I hurry, I might still be able to catch up with her and…" she trails off. Find out what's wrong? Chance'd be a fine thing. Stop her from doing anything stupid? The odds don't seem good.

"Go," John says.

Shaw disappears into a nearby bar and by the time Carter finds her, she got five shots in front of her and two of them are already empty.

"Hey," Carter says, sliding up next to her.

"Drink," Shaw commands, placing one of the glasses in front of her.

Carter looks at her sceptically for a moment.

"Drink," Shaw repeats, this time with an edge in her voice.

Carter holds her gaze for a moment longer before finally giving a small nod and draining the glass. The drink's a lot harder than she prefers, and she barely manages not to cough. In the meantime, Shaw has finished off her two remaining glasses. She then proceeds to stare coldly at the barman until he hurries over.

"Five more for me, and five for her," she says, indicating Carter.

Carter thinks about protesting – but Shaw doesn't look in any mood to have her around if she isn't drinking as well. And maybe if she gets Shaw drunk enough, she'll actually open up enough for Carter to find out what the hell this is all about.

There's a point – exactly how many drinks in Carter is no longer sure – when she thinks her plan might actually be working. Shaw gets a – not exactly soft – but less hard look on her face and she turns towards Carter, her mouth starting to open and…

Suddenly they're kissing.

This is a bad idea. Carter is *sure* that this is a bad idea, She just can't quite remember why at the moment.

It's dark when Carter wakes up. It's entirely too early and she's still too drunk for this to be a comfortable state of affairs.

Someone – Shaw by the sounds of the cursing – is stumbling around in the darkness.

She thinks vaguely that she was woken up by the sound of someone falling over.

She reaches blindly around for a bedside lamp, locates one and turns it on.

She regrets the decision immediately and covers her eyes with one arm.

"Carter," Shaw says in what's probably supposed to be a whisper. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

"Stopping you from braining yourself," she murmurs. "It'd be a really embarrassing way for my partner to go."

There's a pause, accompanied by the sound of clothes being pulled on. Then, "This doesn't mean anything."

"Yeah, yeah," Carter says, waving apathetically with her free hand. "See you tomorrow."

This time Carter doesn't bother waiting to see Shaw's reaction is going to be. This time, she decides, she's going to go on the offensive.

When she finds Shaw, she's stripping and cleaning a rifle. The only sign that she's even aware of Carter's presence is that she starts using possibly a little more force than strictly necessary.

"You're not going to get clingy about last night, are you?" Carter asks.

Shaw's hands stop, suddenly, and she looks up. "Nah," she says slowly, with a hint of a smile crossing her face. "Not my style."

"Good," Carter says. "So, any chance you're going to tell me what was bothering you?"

Shaw looks down, and the cleaning starts again. She doesn't give any other sign that she even heard Carter.

"No," Carter sighs. "I didn't think so."

It takes time, but Carter slowly starts to learn her partner's signals.

Sometimes there's an underlying tension to Shaw's movements, sometimes she starts watching the world with a little too much intensity to be as casual as she's clearly projecting.

Sometimes Carter will find herself ambushed after a mission and kissed with a single-minded passion.

After this point has been reached, Shaw always draws back for a moment, watches her with dark eyes.

And Carter always replies with some variation of 'Just this once' or 'Not getting *soft* on me, are you Shaw?' or 'As long as you don't want anything more than sex.'

And it's half because she's still half-convinced that she responds any other way Shaw will spook out of there, never to be seen again.

And it's half because… because saying anything else, even to herself, will make this *mean* something.

What they do is *dangerous* – one stray bullet, out of so many, and Shaw's life will be *over* - and those Carter becomes attached to…

Well, they don't come to good ends, that's for damn sure.

So she tells Shaw, tells herself, that this doesn't mean a damn thing.

And then they have sex, in one of Shaw's seemingly endless supply of crappy hotels, dotted all across the city. Shaw never offers her place, and Carter certainly never offers hers.

Taylor would have *questions* and Carter doesn't have any answers.

And the sex is *phenomenal*, at least from her end and from the noises she learns how to wring from Shaw, there aren't any complaints from there either.

It's a kind of stasis, a kind of quiet she could actually become used to.

It's Carter's birthday, and there's a number.

Of course there is.

Not that she had any real plans for tonight anyway. Taylor handed her a present first thing is morning, and told her he'd be late out tonight.

Fair warms a mother's heart, it does.

So it's somewhat of a surprise when Shaw announces that she needs Carter for the night.

"I have my own project that needs working on," she says, glaring at all and sundry as if daring anyone to disagree.

Finch looks stiffly around at John. "I think we can handle this case by ourselves for now." He turns towards Carter. "Detective?"

Carter shrugs, "Yeah, sure." She can't help being a little curious. This is the first time that Shaw's ever really alluded to a life outside of work. Well, and their occasional extra-curricular activities, but Carter tries not to even think about that near Finch or Reese. God knows how far their surveillance goes.

"So, what're we doing?" Carter asks, once they're in Shaw's car and Shaw still hasn't given her the slightest clue about what this is about.

Shaw looks at her out of the corner of her eyes for a minute. "For now, all you need to know is that we're going to a restaurant," she says eventually.

Okay. Well that explained a lot.

It takes a *distressingly* long amount of time – until they're sitting at a table and Shaw is pushing a gun at her – to realise what's actually happening.

"Here," Shaw says, proffering a near match for a pistol that Carter had gushed over a few months ago. "I went over my inventory and found that I had a spare."

Carter somehow doubts that – the gun is far too pristine to be anything other than new – and suddenly this all starts to make sense. Shaw, in her emotionally stunted way, is…

Carter suppresses a smile that threatens to break out across her face, because she's fairly sure that would be the quickest way to wreck the evening.

But inside…

Inside her something unclenches.

Afterwards – after the meal, and after the sex which follows it, longer and harder and more intense than any they've had yet, Carter is staring up at the darkness, lying bonelessly in bed.

*Shaw's* bed. With Shaw still in the bed next to her.

Shaw took her home.

This… this *whatever* they have – it may still be undefined.

But it's certainly not nothing.

Not anymore.

Eyes gleams in the darkness at the end of the bed.

Carter yelps embarrassingly loudly and throws on the light to reveal Bear sitting there, ears pricked.

"Oh, thank god," she murmurs. She is *so* not used to having an animal around.

Shaw opens an eye, sees what she's staring at and quirks her mouth slightly. "It's alright. He likes you. He was wagging his tail when you were going down on me."

Carter can only stare at her in horror for a moment, but Shaw doesn't so much as give a twitch to show that she's joking.

"What-" Carter splutters, because, just, no. "How-" because, there's no way Shaw could have seen that whilst-


No, she is not thinking about this.

She musters the energy to push Shaw out of bed, who drops as quickly and silently as a stone. Bear takes the opportunity to nip in and lick Shaw's face, muffling her sleepy protests.

"We'll be talking about this in the morning," she says grumpily then rolls over to turn the light off

They may not have defined what this is, but there are limits. And canine voyeurs – or even talking about them afterwards – are definitely off limits.

And she'll make that Shaw knows all about that for the next time.

Christ. She's *already* thinking of the next time? That's *definitely* a first for this point in whatever this is.

She looks around at where she is - the room with Shaw's spartan furnishings, the plush bed which is the only thing that shows any sign of having money spent on it, Bear's wagging upper half, Shaw's upraised arm as she begins to clamber back into bed - and can't help a smile.

Yeah, there's definitely going to be a next time.

The End

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