They were heading for New York, but in the most roundabout way as possible in order to avoid the Decima agents hot on their trail. Reese and Finch took turns driving and Shaw sat in the back watching the world go by and sleeping as best a person could whilst sitting up and recovering from a bullet wound.
Nobody talked much during the journey and it was almost stifling at times, one hundred and four hanging in the air between them all.
They stopped to get gas again and Shaw couldn't remember how long they had been driving for. Days, weeks, months. Too long. She needed to get out, walk around, get some air. Harold looked like he was about to protest when she made this suggestion but her glare silenced him and she took a deep breath before opening the car door.
"May I be let out to the bathroom, please?" said Root, jingling her handcuffs to get Harold's attention.
"You'll have to wait until Mr Reese gets back," he said, facing the front again. He'd taken to childishly ignoring Root now that she had snapped out of her impassive state. Shaw didn't blame him and wished Root would stop trying to bait him at every opportunity she could get.
"Just let her out of the damn handcuffs, Harold," Shaw said, halfway out the door.
Harold looked at her, then at Root, his misgivings clear.
"I'll take full responsibility for her," Shaw added and chose to ignore the sly smirk Root shot her way.
Harold deliberated with himself for a moment before wordlessly handing Root the keys.
"Thank you," she simpered, unlocking the cuffs and making an exaggerated show of rubbing her wrist when she was free.
Shaw rolled her eyes. "Would you come on already," she snapped.
Root smirked and got out of the car, walking round to fall in beside Shaw as they made their way into the gas station.
"Do you even need to pee?" Shaw asked.
"Nope," said Root. "But someone has to make sure you don't fall on your stubborn, invalid ass."
"I'm not an invalid," Shaw snapped in annoyance.
"No," Root agreed, "but you are stubborn."
Shaw shook her head as she walked into the gas station. And to think, she had deluded herself into thinking she had missed this.
Shaw made an immediate beeline for the snacks aisle and reached up for a packet of Twizzlers, wincing in pain as she pulled at her stitches.
"Here," Root said, reaching up behind her, impossibly close, so that her body was pressed flush against Shaw's. She could feel the curve of the other woman's breasts as she leaned into her back.
"I can manage," Shaw grumbled, trying to control her breathing.
"Whatever, Short Stack," Root said, handing her the candy.
"And stop calling me that," said Shaw, snatching the packet and heading for the counter to pay.
"I've only called you it twice," Root pointed out as Shaw handed over some cash to the girl behind the counter. "But it's a good nickname for you, don't you think? Actually," Root said contemplatively, "Grouchy would work well too."
Shaw gritted her teeth but didn't say anything. Because this - Root taunting her relentlessly - was better than Root drowning in darkness and self-pity. So Shaw stood and took it even if she did feel like punching something.
Shaw made to head back to the car, but Root grabbed her arm before she could reach the door.
"Wait," she said, glancing nervously at the girl behind the counter, but she wasn't paying them any attention.
"What?" said Shaw. Annoyed, tired and hungry was a bad combination with her and her voice came out harsher than intended.
"Can we just... wait a minute before heading back?"
Shaw shrugged and opened her bag of candy as Root led them out the back way.
"Not planning on killing anyone are you?" Shaw asked, chewing on a Twizzler.
"No," said Root. "Not yet."
"Cos I can still take you, you know," Shaw added once they were outside.
Root rolled her eyes. "Oh, I don't doubt it." She leaned lazily against the back wall of the gas station, her eyes sliding shut.
Shaw took the time to study her as she chewed; the steady rise and fall of her chest as she breathed, Root’s elegant, long neck.
Shaw swallowed hard - clearly getting shot hadn't brought her to her senses. She was still fascinated by this woman who pissed her off more than anyone she had ever met. Maybe that was part of the allure.
"You’re doing it again," Root said, her eyes still closed.
“What?” said Shaw thickly.
"Staring at me," she explained.
"No, I'm not," Shaw said, hot on the defensive.
"Liar," Root said, opening her eyes and catching Shaw in the act with a smirk.
Shaw shook her head, a denial on her lips. But there was a smile on her face and something within her seemed to settle and everything seemed much clearer, like there was nothing but them, just Shaw and Root under the stars. And Root was watching her expectantly, eyes dark and intense.
"Fuck it," Shaw muttered, tossing her half eaten candy aside and moving the two short steps to close the distance between them.
Her lips crashed against Root's, teeth and tongues fighting a battle with each other as Shaw pushed her hard against the wall, hands gripping the other woman's face so tight like she was afraid Root would bolt as soon as Shaw let her guard down.
But Root wasn't going anywhere, her hands gripping Shaw's hips, fingers burning through Shaw's skin. And unlike the fire from the bullet wound in her gut, it was a good kind of burning that Shaw wanted more of, wanted everywhere, all over her entire body.
Someone let out moan and Shaw didn't know if it was her or Root or both of them.
But then Root pulled away and Shaw had to bite back a whine at the loss of contact.
"About time," Root breathed, lifting a hand up to brush the hair out of Shaw's face.
"Fuck," was all Shaw could say, everything else was an incoherent mess as she struggled to breath, struggled to think with Root so close to her, their faces a hair’s breadth away. She slipped her hands down to rest on Root's shoulders, feeling the tightness of her muscles underneath her jacket.
Root laughed. "Maybe later. We should get back before Harold sends out a search party," she added and she looked a little sad at the thought.
"He was out of line, locking you up," Shaw said angrily, tightening her grip on the other woman.
"No," said Root, "he wasn't."
Shaw opened her mouth to say something but Root pushed her gently away before she could get any words out.
"Come on, let's go," Root said.
Shaw's lips were still tingling when she got back into the car. Reese glanced at her sideways through the rear view mirror, looking like he could see right through her, and she knew the slight stiffening of her body as Root got into the car beside her did not go unnoticed by him.
"Enjoy your short run at freedom?" Reese asked Root knowingly, and Shaw had to bite her lip to stop from grinning at the flush of embarrassment that appeared at the tips of Root's cheeks.
They drove another thirty miles or so until Reese declared that he needed a decent night’s sleep and stopped them outside a motel that had to be one of the nicest looking ones Shaw had seen so far. Harold went to get them two twin rooms and returned about five minutes later, handing Shaw a room key.
"I trust the handcuffs won't be necessary tonight, Miss Groves," said Finch.
It took all of Shaw's effort to keep her face neutral as she watched Root and knew that the other woman's mind had gone straight into the gutter.
Harold, as usual, was oblivious, and he glanced at Shaw for confirmation that she would still make sure Root didn't go anywhere. She nodded slightly and he seemed satisfied enough to follow Reese to their room.
"Still taking full responsibility for me?" Root mumbled in her ear. "You should have kept the handcuffs - we could have had a lot of fun with them."
Shaw rolled her eyes. "Shut up,” she said, shoving Root in the direction of their room.
As soon as they had stepped over the threshold and Shaw had shut the door, Root was on top of her, hands and mouth everywhere. The door handle pushed into the small of her back as Root leaned into her and she grunted as a jolt of pain shot through her body, tightening her grip on the other woman's waist, digging her fingernails in deep enough to leave a mark.
Root bit Shaw's bottom lip and grinned. "You're wearing far too many clothes," she muttered.
"So are you," Shaw said and leaned up to capture Root's lips again, sliding the leather jacket off the other woman's shoulders. Root had to slip it the rest of the way off and she tossed it behind her haphazardly; letting out a moan when Shaw immediately turned her attention to what was underneath Root's shirt. Her skin was soft and warm underneath Shaw's fingertips, but it wasn't enough. Never enough. And she started to tug the garment up and over Root's head, but a knock at the door stilled her half way through the manoeuvre.
"You gotta be fucking kidding me," she grumbled, dropping her arms to her side as Root ducked her head to giggle into the crook off her neck.
"Don't be so grouchy, Grouchy," Root mumbled into her skin, sending a shiver down Shaw's spine.
The knock resounded again and Shaw had to suppress the urge to bang her head against the wall.
"I don't think they're going away anytime soon," Root said sadly. She kissed Shaw softly on the throat before stepping back to lounge lazily on one of the beds. She looked so damn sexy, lying like that, her hair dishevelled and looking extremely fuckable, that Shaw wanted to shoot whoever had interrupted them.
She knew it was Harold before she even opened the door and she snapped a "What?" at him before he had even registered she had answered.
"Mr Reese and I are heading out for some dinner," said Harold, either unaware of or choosing to ignore her mood. "Would you and Miss Groves like to join us?"
"No," said Shaw.
"I really think you should eat something," said Harold with concern.
Shaw held up her half eaten bag of Twizzlers. "I'm good."
"That’s not what I meant," said Harold and she thought she was about to be on the receiving end of a lecture about how she had to keep her strength up and stay healthy.
Fortunately, Reese was there to drag Finch away before her wrath got the best of her. "We'll bring you something back," he said.
"Whatever," Shaw muttered, slamming the door shut. She leaned back against it, watching Root smirk up at her from the bed. But the air started to cool and whatever heat had been between them quickly dissipated. Root sat up, sensing the change in atmosphere as Shaw directed her eyes at anywhere but the other woman.
Maybe she should have gone to dinner, because this was a Bad Idea, capital letters and all. Every single doubt that Shaw had about the other woman seemed to rise to the surface until that was all she could see, until she was drowning in it.
Shaw took off her jacket, careful of her wounded arm, before sitting on the other bed opposite Root, watching as Root stood to pick up her jacket that had landed near the foot of the bed and placed it carefully over the back of a chair. She turned to face Shaw, cocking her head slightly to the side and she moved slowly closer. "Oh, Sameen," she scolded lightly, "turn that frown upside down." And she used her thumbs to lift up the corners if Shaw's mouth in what, Shaw imagined, probably looked more like a grimace than a smile. She batted Root's arms away with a scowl.
Root sighed exaggeratedly, as if Shaw's mood was a terrible inconvenience. "What is it?"
"Nothing," Shaw said sullenly, pulling a Twizzler out of the packet and chewing on it absently.
"You always such a mood killer?" Root asked, folding her arms in annoyance.
"No," said Shaw, continuing to scowl as Root waited her out. "I'm not very good at this shit," she added after a while.
"Really?" said Root sarcastically. "I hadn't noticed."
Shaw's scowl turned into a glare.
Root rolled her eyes, took the Twizzler out of Shaw’s hand and tossed it into the trashcan. “Look,” she said forcing Shaw to look at her. “I don’t want any declarations from you or anything, and I wouldn’t expect them. And frankly,” she said, tucking a lock of hair behind Shaw’s ear and bringing her mouth closer, her voice a low husk, “I just want to have sex with you.”
Shaw swallowed and pulled Root towards her until she was straddling Shaw's lap. "I think I can manage that."
"Thought you might," Root said and leaned down to kiss her.
This time, Shaw managed to get Root's shirt off without interruption and she attacked the new exposed skin with a ferocity that startled her. Shaw flipped Root onto her back with more strength than she thought she was capable of given her injuries, and explored Root's body with her tongue and her teeth, biting down hard, leaving the skin raw and ragged, like she was marking her territory. Shaw traced Root’s scars with her tongue: the one on her shoulder that Shaw had given her, and all the others, all of them adding up and reminding Shaw that Root was breakable.
Root wriggled pleasantly beneath her as Shaw trailed her lips down Root's stomach and back up, unhooking the other woman's bra with one hand. Root leaned up to slip it off and tossed it aside, gasping when Shaw's mouth clamped around her left nipple, biting and nipping until Root grabbed her by the face and pulled her up to kiss her.
"You're still wearing far too many clothes," Root said into her mouth.
"And you're talking far too much," Shaw said, but she took her shirt off anyway and Root sat up to help her with her bra when it became obvious Shaw wasn't going to manage with her injured arm.
Root paused, fingers hovering over Shaw's bandaged gut wound. She looked lost and very far away as she stared at it and Shaw grabbed her hand, threading their fingers together as she pushed Root back down into the bed.
"Hey, I'm right here," Shaw said quietly.
Root nodded but looked like she didn't believe it, like she couldn't and Shaw kissed her until the look went away.
Then she was moving down Root's body, her intentions clear as she unbuttoned Root's jeans with one hand, sliding them and her underwear down her long legs until they were gone, leaving Root naked and exposed.
Shaw ducked her head down, found Root warm and wanting and oh so very inviting as Shaw slid her tongue into her. It had been a while since Shaw had had sex, even longer since she had been with a woman, but her muscles seemed to know what they were doing as her tongue circled Root's clit, making her gasp and buck her hips violently. Shaw held her down, relishing in the sound and feel of Root coming undone underneath her. But it wasn't enough. She wanted to see her come undone, wanted to see Root break beneath her like she was some fragile thing. Shaw paused just as Root's breathing started to become more ragged.
"Don't... Don't stop." Her voice cracking and breathless and the most beautiful thing Shaw had ever heard. Root had her eyes closed when Shaw kissed her but they snapped open immediately, hands pulling her closer as Root deepened the kiss hungrily. She bit down hard on Shaw's lip when Shaw slipped three fingers inside of her, her eyes rolling back as Shaw worked them more rapidly than any triggers she had ever pulled, Root clenching tightly around her, rocking her hips wildly to match Shaw's rhythm. When the orgasm hit her, her back arched off the bed and she called out Shaw's name - her first name - in a breathless wave, and it was like music to Shaw's ears.
Shaw could feel her own arousal building up inside of her and she itched to get some friction between her thighs. But she waited patiently for Root to come to, watched fascinated as her eyes went from glazed detachment to sharp, clear focus, like Root was coming back to the world she had been apart from for so long.
"Hi," Root said eventually, looking a little surprised.
"Hi," said Shaw smugly. "Still with me?"
Root nodded and flipped Shaw onto her back, using one of those moves Shaw had taught her in what seemed like forever ago.
Root was surprisingly quick at removing the rest of Shaw's clothes, tearing at them and pulling, so impatient. Shaw watched, offering no help, and no resistance either, until she was naked too and Root's fingers and tongue were inside of her, doing things to her that Shaw had never felt before, building up a raging inferno inside until Shaw felt she would burst from it. And her breathing became uncontrollable, unbearable until Root made her come with an intensity so great she could see stars, her ears buzzing as the blood rushed through her. Shaw leaned back, exhausted, like she had just ran ten marathons and yet she still wanted more, but she was too tired to move.
"Okay, I was wrong," Shaw said breathlessly as Root crawled up the length of her. "No steak is better than that."
Root snorted and kissed her. "You're an idiot."
Shaw scowled but she suspected her tiredness rather diminished its effect somewhat as she fell asleep.
When Shaw woke up, the other side of the bed was empty and she turned around to find Root getting dressed hurriedly at the other end of the room.
"Where are you going?" she said drowsily.
Root jumped, looking at her guiltily. "Sorry. Did I wake you?"
Shaw shook her head and sat up, rubbing the tiredness out of her eyes.
"Couldn't sleep," Root explained. "Thought I'd go get you some fresh bandages since we managed to tear your stitches last night during our, uh... activities," she said smugly.
Shaw glanced down at her blood stained bandages. She hadn't even noticed. Hadn't felt a thing. But it looked like it had stopped bleeding ages ago.
"Go back to sleep," Root said, sitting on the edge of the bed to pull on her shoes.
"Hey, can you get me something to eat?” said Shaw through a yawn as she sat up. “I'm starving."
Root rolled her eyes. "Anything else?"
"Vodka would be nice."
Root raised an eyebrow.
"What?" said Shaw. "It's for medicinal purposes. Just don't tell Finch," she added.
"Fine," said Root. "Food and vodka. Got it. You're a simple woman to please," she muttered.
"Well you would know," said Shaw leaning back into the bed, "after last night."
Root smirked, but it quickly faded, and she turned serious all of a sudden. That darkness edging at her eyes again as she stared at Shaw.
"I can't believe you're real," Root said quietly and Shaw frowned as Root leaned in to kiss her. "Sleep," she said. "I'll be back soon."
Shaw woke up to the early dawn light drifting through the curtains. The room was empty and she immediately knew something was wrong with a cold, hard clarity that sat heavy in her chest as she got up.
Root was gone and she had no intention of coming back.