"How much longer do you need, Root?"
Root didn't need to look away from the monitor to see Shaw's irritated scowl. A scowl which was warranted seeing as when Root had accosted her for help with a number, she may have promised things along the lines of theft, arson and gunfire. Instead, Root had dragged her to a college campus and made her stand guard at the door while she hacked the computer of a wannabe scam artist. She knew Shaw was probably going to make her pay for it later but she figured it was worth it.
"Just a few minutes, Sameen." Root said with a grin, her eyes glued to the monitor as her fingers typed furiously into the keyboard. Their number, a computer science major, had recently scammed the wrong person and was predictably in danger. Root was currently trying to access his personal records to return his stolen capital and set things straight.
"I don't know why we can't do this the old fashioned way," Shaw said from the doorway, "barricade that nerd in this room and shoot anyone who tries to get in."
"The old fashioned way is a little high profile for a college campus, don't you think?" Root smirked as the decryption software started up, "besides, I'm really enjoying the quality time we're spending together."
Shaw was a little pissed at Root for tricking her into a boring number, she was even more pissed at herself for not shooting Root and abandoning her immediately upon realization of her lie. Instead, Shaw had stayed and was currently camped at a doorway, glaring at anyone who walked by and waiting for Root to finish so she could go back to avoiding her. Which, at the current moment, proved difficult with the mischievous glint in Root's eyes and the evil smirk on her lips.
Shaw glared and looked away.
"Dirty laundry and stale Doritos aren't really a turn on, Root." She said, shaking her head.
"Are you saying I need to buy you dinner first?" Root asked.
Shaw rolled her eyes and refused to look at Root.
"Maybe," she said, "I could go for a burger right about now."
Root blinked, internally debating whether Shaw was being sincere or just playing along with her banter. Unable to catch Shaw's eyes to gauge the truth, Root decided to take a risk.
"It's a date." Root said, elated with the responding eye roll and lack of denial.
She grinned and reminded herself to ask The Machine for recommendations before she looked back down at the monitor, finding the necessary files and clicking open the folder. Suddenly, the monitor was plunged into darkness; Root frowned and looked at the computer to make sure power wasn't cut from the source. The room sat in silence for a few seconds before synthetic drums blared from the speakers and the monitor came back to life with a video.
"What the fuck is that?" Shaw shouted from the doorway, completely confused by the music and video playing from the computer. Root stared at the monitor in disbelief for a few seconds before she erupted into a fit of giggles.
"Root, do you mind explaining what the hell is going on?" Shaw asked, shouting to be heard over the still playing music and Root's uproarious laughter. When Root didn't stop to respond, Shaw settled for glaring murderously at her until the laughter dies down to a grin.
"Do you know what a Rickroll is, Sameen?"
Shaw frowned in confusion and opened her mouth for further questioning before being interrupted by chaos and shouting from outside the room.
"Looks like our friends are here," Root said, as she stood from the computer seat and retrieved her handgun from her waistband, "I guess we are doing this the old fashioned way."
She grinned and pushed past Shaw who is stood in the doorway and stared at the awkward dancing on the monitor in bewilderment. She shook her head and pulled herself away from the screen while extracting her firearm and following Root outside the room into the dorm, all the while grumbling under her breath.
"What the fuck is a Rickroll…"
"Well, this wasn't exactly how I imagined our date tonight." Root said as she turned to look at Shaw seated beside her. Her voice struggled to compete against the shouting and thundering of bullets against the elevator doors.
Shaw gritted her teeth and opted to stare at the doors instead of Root's smirk.
"Not a date, Root."
"Really," Root said, "because it's Friday night, we both look amazing and we're at a fancy restaurant. That sounds like a date, Sameen."
"Root, we're stuck in this elevator until the foreseeable future, there are twenty guys out there trying to kill us, I'm bleeding to death and you're fixating on whether or not this is a date?" Shaw asked through her teeth while her hands firmly pressed a cloth napkin against the wound on her shoulder.
"Fine," Root sighed and dropped her head against the far wall of the elevator.
Root had hoped this number would be one of the boring ones with Shaw's mandatory presence and an elegant restaurant creating a seemingly ideal situation; unfortunately, the attendance of their perp number and the ensuing gunfight resulted in fleeing patrons and a crossfire within which Shaw caught a bullet to the shoulder. Her response involved multiple bullets to kneecaps cut short only by Root half-dragging her to the elevator and sealing the doors shut.
Which brought them to where they were now with Shaw bleeding slowly through a cloth napkin and what sounded like a buzzsaw being activated from the outside.
"I think you shot their boss," Root said, her tone monotonous, "they're pretty eager to pay you back for that."
Shaw groaned, as the pain in her shoulder synced with her growing headache. She didn't doubt that Root was enjoying this for a second, wound or not. It had been a long time since they had spent an extended period of time together seeing as Shaw had reduced their work proximity to a minimum and cut their after-work activities off entirely. Ever since, Root had plagued her with pouts and sad looks but Shaw had remained steadfast in her avoidance until now.
"So since you're bleeding to death and we're minutes from being executed in here, do you want to play twenty-one questions?" Root asked, eyebrows raised hopefully at Shaw. The Machine had let her know that the bullet in Shaw's shoulder hadn't hit anything particularly important and had gone through and through so she wasn't particularly worried.
"I'll start," Root said, ignoring Shaw's protests, "who is your favorite member of Team Machine?"
Root rolled her eyes and looked away from Shaw who seemed almost ecstatic that she had managed to annoy Root.
"Your turn." Root said, truthfully she didn't expect Shaw to participate in her game seeing as she had avoided her for the better part of a month, exchanging a maximum amount of fifty words during that time. Shaw's disconnection was even more confusing as it was preceded by a full month of what could only be described as dating. After their first post-number burger run it had become a sort of habit to get dinner after easy numbers and when they had difficult numbers that involved significant wounds, they would order takeout from Shaw's apartment where Root would usually pass out, too exhausted to find a safe house for the night. During those times, Shaw never seemed any grumpier than usual which was why Root had trouble understanding why she was avoiding her now.
Stuck in her head, Root only caught the end of Shaw's question.
"What was that?"
Shaw groaned and repeated herself.
"How long until Reese gets here?"
Root tilted her head as She spoke.
"About ten minutes."
Shaw let out a shaky breath as the grinding of metal against metal got louder.
"And how long until these guys cut through the door?"
Root turned to her with a grin.
Shaw clenched her jaw and tried to take her mind off the pain and off Root. There wasn't really anything to focus on besides the sounds from outside.
"Ok, my turn again," Root said, "how about since these guys are only a few inches away from getting this thing open, you tell me why you've been avoiding me."
Shaw rolled her eyes and gave no further response, deciding to wade through the awkward silence instead of giving Root the satisfaction of an answer. Root sighed noisily beside her but thankfully, she didn't probe further which left only the sound of the buzzsaw outside.
Shaw tried to relax as the pain in her shoulder shifted into a dull numbness; her useful arm, the one that held the cloth napkin against the wound, weakened with the blood loss in addition to the hazy exhaustion in her head. It was only when Root perked up that Shaw realized that the ringing in her ears was her own creation and the buzzsaw had ceased operating.
"She took the power out of the building." Root whispered as the room plunged into silence.
Shaw merely grunted in response, partly in dismissal but mostly because she wasn't sure if she was capable of words at the moment. The silence of the room is only broken by her heavy breathing and the faint music of the elevator.
A few more minutes passed before Shaw felt the waves of unconsciousness hit her body and the irrational thought – which she attributed to shock – that she may actually die here swelled in her gut. Shaw swallowed, her throat feeling scratchy and dry as if protesting her next few words.
"I think about you."
Root jumped slightly before frowning in confusion, Shaw decided to ignore the embarrassment creeping up and continue.
"When you're gone doing whatever you do for The Machine, I think about you and I feel…" Shaw drifted off, her brow furrowed as if searching for the right word.
"Concerned?" Root offered.
"Nauseated," Shaw said, "and angry and irritated and frustrated."
Root grimaced but decided to let Shaw finish, not wanting to spook her.
"You leave for weeks and you come back and act like everything is fine," Shaw swallowed, "but you always have a new bandage or scar and when you leave again I think about what you'll come back with or even if you'll come back and I get…"
"Annoyed," Shaw ground out, "I only do three nights most but this thing has been going on for months and I'm pretty sure you were living with me at a point and that thought makes me…"
"Nauseated." Root supplied.
Shaw turned to look Root and tried to communicate what she couldn't say, that the people she got close to had a habit of dying, that she couldn't reciprocate whatever feelings Root had for her.
"You worry about me?" Root said, in shock.
Shaw huffed and looked away, glaring at the doors.
"Shut up." She mumbled, not liking the love struck expression on Root's face.
Root laughed in disbelief, the sound filling up the elevator and competing with the fuzzy elevator music.
The fuzzy elevator music which suddenly shifted into blaring drums, a keyboard and a familiar and annoying song.
Root's laughter only grew with the realization and the incredulity on Shaw's face as the singing began.
"What the hell is with this song?" Shaw muttered against Root's laughter. It had been the second time ever she had heard it, both times mid-awkward conversation with Root and it had seemingly got even more annoying.
Root only laughed harder, giggling as John finally came to their rescue, as she followed Shaw to her apartment with a supporting arm around her waist, as shesutured and bandaged Shaw's wound before finally settling into a grin whilst sinking into bed next to Shaw.
"You can't drive this thing any faster, Lionel?"
"It's rush hour, I ain't exactly driving a monster truck here!"
Shaw sighed as Lionel honked the horn a few more times, adding a number of choice obscenities directed at the taxi cab that decided to cut him off. A soft chuckle from underneath her brought Shaw to the current situation at hand; the situation being Root with a bullet lodged in her thigh slowly bleeding to unconsciousness in the middle of a traffic jam.
"She says you should've taken the bridge instead." Root rasped out as her eyes tried to focus on Shaw's grim expression.
"The Machine gave you a traffic report but she couldn't warn you not to get shot?" Shaw said grouchily, adding more pressure than necessary onto Root's wound as if she were subconsciously trying to hurt the Machine through her analogue interface.
Root hissed at the pain, the retort on the tip of her tongue dying out as the fuzziness in her head took hold. Looking down, her body lay limply over two thirds of the backseat with Shaw's crouched form straddling her ankles and monitoring her thigh on the other side of the car. Shaw herself was covered in Root's blood, from her hands pressed against the makeshift gauze, to her hoodie which was partially soaked in it. The ocean in Root's head turned violent as her vision swam in red and the dizziness took hold, overwhelmed she closed her eyes.
"Stay with me, Root."
She heard, clear as day through the fog. Root forced her eyes open, squinting and focusing on Shaw's intense gaze as she nodded, determined not to pass out.
"Lionel." Shaw grit out, staring at Root as her eyelids drooped.
"I'm doing my best here! Maybe your girlfriend should've planned getting shot a little better." Lionel said, honking the horn a few more times until the car in front of him cleared out of the way.
Root chuckled weakly as Shaw glared at the back of Fusco's headrest.
"What are you laughing at now?" Shaw asked, determined to keep Root awake even if it meant having to listen to her talk.
"He called me your girlfriend." Root said with a toothy grin.
"Fusco says a lot of stupid things." Shaw grumbled, avoiding Root's gaze and looking at the wound.
"Yeah but you didn't deny it, I'm your girlfriend." Root said in a sing song, slurred slightly with exhaustion.
Shaw rolled her eyes, not wanting to antagonize Root while she might actually be on the cusp of death, though a small part of her hoped that Root would pass out if only so she wouldn't have to sit through her teasing.
"Say I'm your girlfriend, Sameen." Root said, blinking slowly.
"Shut up and focus on not dying, Root." Shaw mumbled, trying to avoid the conversation.
"It would be easier for me to stay away if I had something to think about," Root intoned, "like how I'm your girlfriend."
"You pretty much live with me, Root," She muttered, "you've stolen my clothes on more than one occasion, we eat together regularly and I let you touch my guns sometimes."
Shaw sighed and with a final glare to Fusco's peeping eyes in the rear view mirror, she muttered the words barely loud enough for Root to hear.
"And if we were normal people, you'd probably be my girlfriend so can you please stop almost dying so I can kill you properly when we get back to the safe house?"
Root grinned lazily, looking up at the ceiling and away from Shaw's murderous glare and blushing cheeks.
"Whatever you say, sweetie."
While Root's eyes focused on the smoke stained ceiling of the car, her ears picked up all kinds of noises from Shaw's teeth grinding to Fusco's heavy breathing and finally to the radio which was currently playing a now familiar song.
"What now, Root?" Shaw asked, wondering if delirium had already set in for Root to be laughing at seemingly nothing for the third time.
"It's our song." Root said with a grin.
Shaw sat in confusion until she picked up the sounds from the old radio in Fusco's car, specifically the sounds of the keyboard synth and garbling singing that she was sure was haunting her at this point.
"What is Cocoa Puffs on about?" Fusco asked as he glanced incredulously at Root through the mirror. Traffic had cleared up at this point and he was basically speeding to the safe house.
Shaw clenched her jaw as Root continued to giggle.
"None of your business, Lionel," She said, "and this is absolutely not our song, Root."
Root laughed even harder at the serious expression on Shaw's face, it was the exact same expression she got when someone was being incompetent or when an underpaid fast food worker got her order wrong.
"This is our song," Root snorted, "it played before we went on our first date, it played when you said you had feelings for me and now it's playing when you admit that I'm your girlfriend. It's fate, Sameen."
Shaw rolled her eyes, wondering if the Machine had something to do with it or if it was indeed some sort of cosmic joke. The song was haunting her, punctuating every significant moment with Root like the terrible soundtrack to an even worse movie.
"This isn't our song," Shaw cringed as the music went on, "not that I'm agreeing that we have a song, Root."
Root laughed weakly as Fusco sped down the highway, as her girlfriend tried to deny the truth and as their dumb song played quietly in the background.
Harold sighed for the fourth time in the past half hour and tried to ignore the steady tapping from the other side of the train car once again. Focusing harder on his work, he only managed to get in a few more idle keystrokes before the slight jostling of the monitor caused him to give up and turn around.
"Ms. Shaw, do you have to be in here right now?"
Shaw's leg stopped bouncing as she looked up from the handgun she was polishing and fixed her best glare.
"As I recall, I'm not allowed to leave the subway thanks to Samaritan and you nerds."
Shaw's attention diverted back to her handgun and Harold exhaled, not wanting to provoke Shaw further or get into the same argument again.
"It's for your ow-"
"My own safety," Shaw interrupted, "I got it the first time, Finch."
Harold clenched his jaw as Shaw's leg started bouncing again subconsciously, he glanced at Bear as if looking from an ally in the awkward situation but found the dog asleep and snoring audibly. Seemingly betrayed by his guard dog, Harold wagered the storm alone.
"Is there anything you wish to talk about, Ms. Shaw?" He said, cringing slightly.
"Not particularly." Shaw said without looking up.
"Is there anything…" He paused, choosing his next words carefully, "is there anything making you worried?"
Shaw stopped polishing the gun as the rhythm of her leg ceased and she looked up at Harold with guarded eyes.
"Besides the impending apocalypse?" She asked.
Harold didn't reply, taking Shaw's dry retort as the signal for the end of the conversation. He went back to his work and a few minutes go by in relative silence save for Bear's snoring. Shaw halfheartedly continued working on her handgun before huffing.
"She just…played me and then stuck a needle in my neck and then she didn't even have the guts to be here when I woke up," Shaw said, not looking up from the gun, "who does that?"
Harold didn't turn away from the computer, not wanting to scare Shaw away from sharing her feelings since Shaw rarely gave out anything more than a monosyllabic response when asked, and especially since she had denied his previous five invitations for tea and brunch.
"I assume you're talking about Ms. Groves?" He said uselessly.
"And she didn't even call or leave a message like 'sorry for stabbing you in the back like a bitch' or 'no, I'm not dead, I'm just an idiot who doesn't check in'," she paused before adding, "not that I care or anything."
Harold sat frozen, not sure of how to respond or if she was even talking to him or if one could even provide comfort to a sociopath. Inwardly, he confirmed that Root's feelings were mutual and that something was indeed going on between the two of them; briefly, he wondered if the relationship was safe before thinking about the consequences to a potential breakup and shivering. He peeked at Shaw to see her hunched over her weapon, grumpily muttering to herself. Root's missing status for the past week seemed to trouble her more than he thought it would.
"I'm sure the Machine would let us know if she was in danger." He supplied, trying to be helpful.
Shaw sighed, looking up at the ceiling of the train car and mumbling.
"She could at least send a sign."
Harold stayed quiet and searched for a response as the subway plunged back into silence. Before he could formulate a response, a vibration in his pocket disrupted the peace as his phone signaled a message. He unlocked his phone to a message from a blocked number with only an ostensibly random number; he furrowed his brow, wondering if it was some sort of coded message before his eyes ran over the small radio in the corner of the desk. He leaned over, tuning to the station corresponding with the number as Shaw eyed him warily from her spot.
The static cleared and Harold turned up the volume to hear the sounds properly.
"Our next dedication goes out to Sam from a secret admirer who'd just like to tell her 'I'll be home soon, sweetie', this one is for you, Sam."
Harold looked at Shaw incredulously and found her staring at the radio with a blank expression. The words on the tip of his tongue died out as the song began to play and he slowly realized that he had accidentally stumbled into a personal moment. Quietly, he packed the necessary papers and moved to leave the subway car, not sure if Shaw was comprehending anything besides the radio and the eighties pop song blaring out of it.
Stepping out of the car, Harold saw Shaw relax slightly and refocus on the gun with a nearly imperceptible smile on her face. As he walked away, Harold reminded himself to thank Root for her help and to also admonish her for bugging the subway station once again.
Shaw woke up with a jolt as her arms automatically tensed against the memory of handcuffs that restrained her to a hospital bed. Opening her eyes, she took in the surroundings that were less a Samaritan prison and more a seedy motel room. The darkness of the room save for the moonlight seeping through the curtains indicated that it was before dawn but there were no other clues in her surroundings. Shaw tried to recall her last memory but whatever cocktail of drugs Samaritan had her on ground her memories into the same blurry mess of questions with only a headache and nausea for answers.
Finding no answers visually, Shaw focused on the noises that surrounded her: the whirring of the ceiling fan, the quiet buzz of the motel sign and barely noticeable noises from the adjoining bathroom. Shaw groaned as she sat up, the action taking both effort and energy in addition to the burning pain of aches she didn't even remember. The sounds in the bathroom halted abruptly and Shaw held her breath as she calculated her possible escape routes.
The door opened and the light of the bathroom flooded the rest of the room, slightly blinding Shaw and silhouetting the figure in the bathroom like an honest to god angel. She was paler than Shaw remembered, her cheeks were gaunt and there were dark circles under her eyes where there hadn't been before but nothing changed the fact that seeing Root again felt like finding the ocean on the edge of a desert. Shaw noticed that she was not the only one staring, nor was she the only one holding their breath.
"You're awake." Root said after a few moments, looking at Shaw like it was the first time she was seeing her.
"How long was I out?" Shaw asked, cringing at the croakiness of her voice.
Root's eyes hardened.
It wasn't the answer she wanted but Root's tone and tense posture made Shaw decide to let it go.
"What happened there?" Shaw nodded to Root's abdomen where she was hunched over slightly.
Root looked down at the small patch of gauze taped to her side.
"Glass from when the building blew up."
"Your Machine couldn't warn you about it?" Shaw asked through gritted teeth.
"She's not talking much anymore." Root said through a forced grin, touched that Shaw still cared but pained by the reminder of the silence in her ear.
A few minutes went by in silence, Shaw bursting with questions and Root with declarations of affection. Blinking rapidly, Root fought the growing tears in her eyes at the sight of Shaw laying over the covers of the queen sized bed in a hospital gown with track marks on her arms and bandages on her legs and breathing and safe and alive.
"You should sit down." Shaw said, always the team medic.
Root nodded and sat down on the edge of the bed, her knee barely grazing Shaw's foot, the contact both calming and reassuring.
"I've been thinking about this for so long I don't even know what to say." Root whispered as she stared at the comforter, not trusting herself to look at Shaw without breaking the dam of her emotions and bursting into tears.
Shaw blinked a few times, not sure how to respond as memories of whispered confessions to the Root of her dreams and hallucinations came flooding back. Shaw sighs, overcome by the swelling of unidentifiable emotion in her gut, not knowing to respond with words.
"Lay down." Shaw gestured to a spot beside her.
Root looked at her with a furrowed brow before slowly crawling down the bed, cautious of both Shaw's and her own injuries. She laid down awkwardly a good foot away from Shaw, remembering all the memories from what felt like decades ago when Shaw would nudge her away after they slept together.
Shaw rolled her eyes and moved closer to Root until their shoulders were touching, she followed Root's gaze to the ceiling and sighed. Root was crying silently and Shaw noticed for the first time the toll that had been taken on her; she wondered how Root dealt with the impending AI war, the apparent death of the Machine and the fruitlessness of her search for Shaw in spite of the overwhelming probability of her death.
"Why didn't you stop looking for me?" Shaw asked, afraid of the question even though she knew the answer.
Root swallowed slowly as she spoke around the lump in her throat.
"You know why."
Shaw exhaled through her nose, the knowledge of Root's confession, of her unspoken words weighing down on her. Breathing slowly, Shaw realized that the truth didn't feel like a burden, it wasn't an overwhelming pressure on her chest, rather, it was an enveloping warmness. It was a feeling that Shaw realized she might be able to reciprocate, at least one day.
"Besides," Root continued and Shaw turned to look at her fully, "I was never gonna give you up."
Shaw rolled her eyes at Root's teary grin, unable to help the smile that formed on her own face as the exhaustion took hold once again. As Shaw closed her eyes slowly, as Root quietly shook with laughter beside her, and as the first light of dawn peeked through the curtain of the motel room, Shaw fell asleep peacefully for the first time in a long time.