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Slowly Spirals

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As soon as Shaw left the room, she felt like shit. But she couldn’t go back in, no matter how much she wanted to. It was better this way, she told herself, over and over again, but the further she walked away from the room, the less she believed it.

“How’s it going, Daniel?” she asked, coming up beside him to watch over his shoulder as he worked on Greer’s laptop. She didn’t really care how he was getting on, but she needed something to distract herself with and he was currently the closest thing she could find.

“Not so good, I’m afraid,” said Daniel, not looking up from what he was doing.

But Shaw wasn’t listening to him. “Where’s Finch?”

“He took Bear out for a walk,” said Daniel. Shaw frowned and knew Reese would flip his shit if he found out, still determined to keep everyone, including Harold, locked up tight in the safe house.

“I’m going out,” Shaw said eventually, staring past him.

“Uh…” said Daniel, finally pausing what he was doing and looking up. “Are you okay?” he asked, watching her carefully.

“I’m fine,” Shaw lied, not sure if she would ever feel fine again. But she didn’t give Daniel time to question her on it, and she left the safe house, feeling his eyes on her until she slammed the door shut behind her.

Shaw had no idea where she was going, all she knew was that she had to get out of there. The thought of going home didn’t sit well with her though, not with all of Root’s stuff still there, and she thought she could do with a drink anyway. There was a bar a few blocks away, she knew, and Shaw decided to head there, hoping that none of the others would think to look for her there.

The bar was busy and noisy, but Shaw managed to squeeze her way through the throng, finding an empty space at the bar and ordering herself a scotch. The well placed glare on her face ensured that no one tried to engage her in conversation and she slowly drank the night away, trying not to think about anything and failing miserably.

Because she couldn't stop thinking about Root and what she had done to her.

Shaw thought it would have been easier, that she would be able to stop thinking about Root, stop hearing those three words in her head. But it just seemed to get louder and louder and not even the alcohol could drown it out. She thought it was going to consume her, leave her with nothing but an empty shell, fragile and cracked, so much so that she wanted to tear it out of her and stomp all over it until it was gone.

But she couldn't do that. All she could do was take another drink and hope that would dull it somehow. But it didn't and she ended up just feeling sick and lost.

Daniel called her a couple of times but she let them ring through to voicemail and didn’t bother listening to his messages. It wasn’t until John texted her that she put down her drink and decided to find out what all the fuss was about.

Get back to the safe house. Daniel’s found something.

But Shaw didn’t want to care. She wanted to sit here and drink and not think or do anything. But something nagged at her. The thought of this ghost still out there, working with Greer, still nagged at her and she knew that it was far from over. That whatever they were planning next, none of them would see it coming.

Shaw downed the rest of her drink and paid her tab, ploughing her way through the crowd to exit the bar. The cold night air was like a slap in the face but Shaw felt like she needed it. The bar had been stifling, her head was stifling, and the cold air whipped at her and sobered her up. Not that she had been drunk, she wasn't that lucky. But her steps felt surer by the time she reached the safe house.

Shaw found Daniel where she had left him, flanked on either side by Finch and Reese.

"This better be good," Shaw snapped.

Reese raised his eyebrow at her, but she ignored him and watched Daniel as he fumbled out an explanation.

"So I, uh, checked Greer's laptop again like you said," Daniel explained. "And I remembered what you said about his place looking like someone wasn't even living there."

"So?" said Shaw, rubbing at her forehead absently and trying not to lose her patience over how long it was taking him to get to the point.

"So," said Daniel, not fazed by her impatience, "there was nothing on Greer's laptop apart from an empty calendar and some grocery lists..."

"And?" Shaw snapped, wondering what the hell he was getting at.

"Why would he have grocery lists on a laptop in an apartment where he isn't even staying?" said Daniel.

"Because they’re not grocery lists," said Shaw, finally getting his point.

"No," said Harold excitedly, "they're email attachments."

Daniel glanced at him, looking a little annoyed that Finch had stolen his thunder. "The emails that they originated from are long gone," Daniel explained. "But I managed to find some hidden messages within the lists themselves."

"They're from our ghost?" Shaw asked.

Daniel nodded. "I think so."

“What do they say?” asked Shaw, not sure if she even wanted to know.

“These are old messages, I think,” said Daniel. “I think Greer and this ghost found another way of communicating when you guys started watching the apartment.”

“What do they say, Daniel?” asked Shaw tightly.

Daniel swallowed thickly.

“They were talking about the Machine,” said Harold faintly.

“We think they did something to it,” Daniel continued.

“How?” asked Shaw, but she could believe it. The Machine had been acting strange for weeks, possibly months. Shaw couldn’t be sure how long Root had been keeping the Machine’s reticence quiet.

“We don’t know,” said Reese.

“Harold,” said Shaw slowly, thinking that this had gone on long enough, “I think it’s time we went to visit the Machine.”

Harold stiffened slightly and didn’t look happy about the suggestion. But they needed his cooperation. He was the only one who knew where the Machine was after having moved it six months ago after the boys uploaded the Machine’s code into Samaritan’s new servers. Harold had moved it, ensuring that neither Decima nor Control could find it, ensuring that no one could find it. But now it looked like this ghost and Greer might have.

“Shaw’s right, Finch,” said Reese. “If they did something to the Machine, then we need to know for sure.”

Finch looked at his feet, shaking his head. But then he looked up at them both, looking like he had decided something. “Alright,” he said eventually. “But we should go now.”

They nodded in agreement and Daniel quickly gathered up both his laptop and Greer’s. Reese disappeared into one of the bedrooms and Shaw followed him, watching as he retrieved a duffel bag from under the bed. He opened it to reveal an array of guns and let Shaw take first pick. Shaw took an extra nano and some spare ammunition, checking the gun was loaded before clicking the safety on and tucking it into the waist band of her jeans.

“I ended it,” she said suddenly, concealing some spare magazines in her jacket. Reese paused what he was doing, glancing at her. “With Root,” she clarified when he didn’t say anything. “Should never have started anyway.”

Reese shrugged. “If that’s what you think.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Shaw snapped.

Reese didn’t say anything for a moment, just picked up a gun and tested the weight of it in his hand.

“Root said something you didn’t like,” said Reese, tucking his gun away into his pocket, “and now you’re freaking out.”

Shaw looked away. “Like I’m going to take advice from you,” she said bitterly. “Considering you haven’t called Zoe in what… over a year? And you let her think you were dead the entire time.”

Reese smiled slightly but there wasn’t any humour to it. “At least I’m not pretending to be something I’m not.”

Shaw didn’t know what to say to that and she watched silently as Reese left the room before picking up a spare gun and following him.

“Here,” Shaw said, handing the gun to Daniel. “Just in case.”

Daniel looked at it, startled for a moment before nodding his head and taking it.

“Just don’t point it at one of us,” she added.

Daizo appeared at her side then, looking at her expectantly, like he wanted a gun too.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Shaw said, trying not to snap at him.

“Coming with you,” said Daizo, glancing between her and Daniel, looking so young and innocent and all Shaw could see was how he was when he was around Gen. They were both kids really, and she didn’t like the idea of him coming with them.

“No,” said Shaw. “Stay here. Keep an eye on Root.”

Daizo nodded reluctantly and Daniel glanced at her in relief, opening his mouth to say something, but Shaw cut him off.

“He’s a crappy shot anyway,” she said and Daniel smiled at her knowingly.

"Why don't you check the darknet for this ghost again," Daniel suggested.

"My laptop broke," said Daizo.

"Well then use Jason's," said Daniel as if this were the obvious solution.

"Where is nerd number three, anyway?" Shaw asked and couldn't get the thought of him sitting by Root's beside out of her head. She wondered how long it would take him to snake his way in and take advantage of the situation.

Daniel shrugged. "I think he went out to go get some milk or something."

"Which part of stay in the house do you people not get?" John complained loudly and glared pointedly at Finch. Finch smiled at him sheepishly as they headed out the door.

Shaw paused, glancing back towards Root's room, wondering if they should let her know what was going on. Root had more right than anyone to know what was happening with the Machine. But Shaw couldn't force herself to go in, afraid of what she might find there and she turned around, bumping into Daizo who was staring at her with a curious look on his face.

"What?" she snapped.

"Are you okay?" Daizo asked.

"Why does everyone keep asking me that?" said Shaw tersely. "I'm fine."

She didn't give Daizo time to respond as she stormed out of the apartment, hurrying to catch up with the others.

*

"This is where you are keeping the Machine?" Shaw asked, staring up at the hundred storey office building.

"It seemed like as good a place as any," said Harold. “The building is rented out by day, to a few different sock companies that I have a hand in. The Machine’s servers are in the basement. No one has access but me.”

“Well then, what are we waiting for, Finch?” said Shaw lightly, following him inside. “Let’s go talk to the Machine.”

“Starting to think we should have brought Root,” Daniel muttered behind her.

“Let’s not go there,” Reese responded quickly. Shaw glared at them both over her shoulder, but Daniel just looked at her blankly and didn’t say anything further.

Both a key and an access code were needed to reach the basement levels, and Finch produced a key once they were all inside the elevator, typing in a code so fast that Shaw didn’t catch it and they all stood in silence as the elevator made its decent.

When the doors slid open, Shaw was half expecting to find Greer and their ghost waiting for them with an ambush, but there was nothing but the steady thrum of the Machine’s servers.

“There’s an access point over there,” Finch said to Daniel and he headed in the direction where Finch had pointed to, setting up his laptop and hooking it up to a server.

“How long is this going to take?” said Shaw, feeling bored already.

Finch glanced at her steadily. “As long as it needs to. Don’t touch anything,” he added, when Reese reached out a hand to one of the servers next to him. “Either of you.”

“I wasn’t going to touch anything,” Shaw muttered as Reese snatched his hand back sheepishly.

“Hm,” said Harold sternly and moved off to join Daniel.

Reese rolled his eyes, and moved over to hover by Daniel’s shoulder, watching him work. He lasted about ten minutes before Daniel started complaining about his looming and he eventually came back over to Shaw, looking a little awkward as he tried not to give into the temptation to lean against a server and endure Harold’s wrath in response.

“Was Gen okay when you left her?” Shaw asked quietly, not looking at him, instead staring straight ahead as if engrossed by the blinking lights of the server in front of her.

“Her and Zoe seemed to hit it off,” said Reese and she could feel his eyes on her. “She’ll be okay.”

“Yeah,” Shaw breathed out and walked over to Finch and Daniel to see how they were getting on.

Shaw didn’t like the frown that had developed on Daniel’s face. “What is it?”

Daniel glanced up at her briefly before handing his laptop to Finch. “I think you should double check this.”

Harold took the laptop and Shaw watched as his face turned from curious to concerned in less than three seconds flat.

“This can’t be right,” said Finch, typing a few commands into the laptop, but the concern on his face only deepened.

“What is it?” said Reese, coming up to stand by Shaw’s side. “Harold?” he said worriedly.

“The Machine’s base code,” said Daniel, “it’s… different.”

“Different how?” asked Shaw, not liking at all how that sounded.

“As in someone completely re-wrote it,” Daniel explained.

“Why would they do that?” asked Reese.

“I don’t know,” said Daniel, “but it’s completely compromised the Machine’s higher functions. Like when a human brain’s neurones start to deteriorate,” said Daniel, fumbling to explain.

“You’re saying the Machine has Alzheimer’s?” asked Shaw in disbelief, struggling to understand what the hell he was talking about.

“Something like that,” said Daniel vaguely. “It explains why the Machine’s never warned us about the ghost. It keeps forgetting.”

If he was right, it also explained why the Machine had stopped talking to Root so much, Shaw thought, why they were getting the numbers the old way.

“This is impossible,” Finch snapped. “The only way someone could have done this was if they had altered the code before it was uploaded onto Samaritan’s servers.”

Shaw glanced at Reese and she remembered what he had told her about finding the Dream Trio six months ago at Decima’s site for Samaritan’s new servers, these servers. How they had each been sent a piece of the Machine’s code by the Machine itself, dutifully following the Machine’s plan for survival. Reese looked at her and then they both turned to stare at Daniel.

“What?” he said stupidly, then his eyes widened. “It wasn’t me!”

“No one said it was, dumbass,” said Shaw. “Could Greer have somehow done something to the servers themselves?”

“No,” said Finch, frowning, “that wouldn’t have worked.”

“Daniel, any ideas?” Reese asked. But Daniel wasn’t listening to them. He had paled slightly, staring into space, like he had forgotten where he was.

“Daniel?” said Shaw, not liking the look on his face. Daniel started slightly and then looked at her.

“I need my laptop,” he said, snatching it out of Finch’s hands before he could protest.

“To do what?” asked Shaw.

But Daniel ignored her, typing furiously away on his laptop. “I think I know who our ghost is.”

“How?” asked Finch, his forehead scrunching up in confusion.

“I just need to check…” said Daniel. “Oh, she is one smart kid. There wasn’t enough space on the watch to store audio and video continuously, but she must have set it to take captures every ten minutes or so.”

“Daniel,” said Shaw, clipping back her annoyance. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“Gen’s watch,” Daniel explained hurriedly, talking so fast that Shaw struggled to keep up. “As soon as she came back from the warehouse I downloaded everything on it. But when you guys came in with Root, I forgot all about it.”

“You’re saying Gen got a picture of our ghost?” asked Reese.

“Yes,” said Daniel breathlessly. He clicked on his laptop and stared at the screen. Shaw had thought he looked pale before, but he looked positively ill now, like someone had sucker-punched him in the gut and he couldn’t breathe.

“Mr. Casey?” said Finch.

Daniel turned the laptop around so that they could all look at it and Shaw felt the breath leave her lungs when she recognised the man in the photo.

Their ghost.

“Shit,” someone said and Shaw didn’t know if it was her or Reese.

*

Root didn’t think she had cried so hard or so much in her life, but eventually the tears stopped, her eyes feeling raw and sore, and she was left feeling nothing but empty inside. She didn’t know how long she sat there, staring dazedly into space, her final conversation with Shaw replaying in her head.

I can’t do this.

She should have done something, said something, to stop Shaw from walking out. She should have took back her words, pretended that she had never meant them.

I tried, but I can’t.

But she hadn’t done anything and now Root didn’t know what to do. She didn’t know where to go from here. She didn’t want to go back to the person that she used to be, but without Shaw, she didn’t know who else she could be.

She didn’t even have the Machine anymore for guidance.

Root hadn’t heard a word from Her since she had woken up and Root couldn’t escape the thought that the Machine had given up on her too.

I’m sorry.

But what the hell was she supposed to do with Shaw’s apologies now? They meant nothing, did nothing to alleviate the pain that tore its way through her heart every time she thought about Shaw walking away from her.

“Root?”

Root looked up sharply to find Jason hovering in the doorway, but she glanced away almost immediately, unable to bear his concern as it bore into her for long.

“Are you okay?” Jason asked, stepping cautiously into the room.

Root ignored him and tried to subtly wipe at her cheeks, wondering how awful she looked and wishing everyone would just leave her alone.

“I brought you something to eat,” said Jason, “but I’m guessing you aren’t hungry.”

“No,” said Root, so quiet that she barely even heard herself.

“Something happened with Shaw?” Jason guessed and she wanted to flinch when he sat down on the chair by her bed, putting the plate of food on the floor by his feet. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Root wanted to laugh because Jason was the last person that she wanted to talk to about this. “Go away, Jason,” she said callously, but Jason didn’t seem fazed by her dismissal.

“I’m here as a friend, Root,” he said. “Nothing more.”

“Nothing more?” she said, not believing him. “What if I don’t want ‘nothing more,’ Jason?”

Jason looked at her strangely like he didn’t know what she meant, and neither did she. He didn’t say anything else, just sat watching her carefully, like he was waiting for her to make the next move. Except Root didn’t know what the next move was supposed to be.

“You were right, Jason,” said Root, looking down at her hands. “About Shaw.”

“I didn’t want to be,” he said, getting up and sitting on the edge of her bed. “I never wanted you to get hurt.”

Root let him take her hand and she was surprised by the comfort she found in his touch, the gentle way he ran his thumb over her palm.

“Jason,” she said, but it came out more as a sob and fresh tears started falling down her cheeks.

“Hey,” he said, brushing them away with his thumb. “It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not,” said Root and then she was kissing him. Her hand grasped the back of his neck, pulling him closer and she tried not to wince when his hands found her waist, tried not to think about how wrong this all felt. But she didn’t pull away, she continued to let it happen and all she could think about was how he wasn’t Shaw and Shaw was all that she wanted.

Jason’s lips were soft against hers when Shaw’s would have been rough and harsh and teasing, his chin stubble scratching against her face when Shaw’s skin would have been smooth and supple, an unblemished map for Root to explore. Jason put emotion into his touch, let his eyes betray his feelings. He was everything Shaw couldn’t be and not nearly enough.

“Root!” Daizo called from somewhere inside the apartment.

Root jumped when Daizo rushed into the room. She pushed Jason away from her, but knew it was fruitless, knew that Daizo had seen everything.

Daizo stared between them both, frozen on the spot, his face pale as he clutched the laptop in his hands. Root had expected to see shock on his face, but the look he gave them both was something else and he backed up slightly as Jason stood up.

“Is that my laptop?” said Jason, his voice hardening as he stared at Daizo.

Daizo didn’t say anything, just quickly backed out of the room as Jason followed him.

And Root recognised the look that had been on Daizo’s face then. It was the same look Daizo was sporting the other night, after she had almost gotten them both killed by Austin Devine and his crew. It was a look of abject fear and Root knew then that something was very wrong.

She heard a crash from the other room, heard Bear barking wildly before he squealed and became silent, and despite the pain in her leg, Root forced herself to stand up. She had to bite her lip to stop from crying out as fire seemed to burn its way through her body with every step and it seemed to take her forever to limp across the room, to reach the doorway and somehow force her way through it without collapsing under her useless leg.

Root froze at the sight of what she found there. Daizo cowering, shaking so bad that Root was surprised he was even still standing. And Jason… Jason with a gun pointed steadily at Daizo’s head from the other end of the room.

“What the hell is going on?” said Root and even though she wanted to believe that Jason was just pissed that Daizo had used his laptop without asking, Root knew with a sinking feeling that that wasn’t true.

“You just couldn’t leave things alone, could you, Root?” said Jason, his voice turning more harsh than she had ever heard it, so much in contrast to how he had sounded in her room when she was crying.

“Jason,” said Root and was surprised by how steady her voice sounded.

Daizo started speaking rapidly in Japanese, way too fast for Root to understand.

“Uh-uh,” Jason scolded, waving the gun at his head. “Speak English.”

But Daizo clamped his mouth shut like he had forgotten how to speak their language, like he had forgotten how to communicate, and he glanced at Root, looking so lost and alone that she wanted to reach out to him. But she didn’t dare, not with the way Jason was so freely waving a gun about, looking like he would set it off at the slightest move from either one of them.

“What did you do?” said Root, narrowing her eyes at him and ignoring the pain in her leg.

“What?” said Jason with a smirk. “Don’t you recognise my voice?”

Root felt a sudden chill run through her then as she listened to the way Jason changed the pitch of his voice, the way it came out so hard and cold, so much like the voice on the phone.

“You?” Root breathed out, the sudden revelation slamming into her. “You’re the ghost… the Machine…”

Jason laughed and it seemed to rip right through her. “I put a little something in Her code. Something so She couldn’t see me… the work that I do. Got the idea from you, Root,” he added and Root tried not to think about how he had helped her to set up the blind spot on Samaritan so that they would all be safe, so that he would be safe.

She tried not to think about how long he had been playing them, playing her, how she had never seen it. How she had trusted him.

“But before that,” said Root, shaking her head, still not wanting to believe it. “When we helped you escape from the CIA… How?”

“I keep Jason Greenfield separate from the other work that I do,” Jason explained. “Your Machine never saw it, but I knew exactly who you were the first time we met and I knew exactly who was talking in your ear. And I knew that I had to put my work… on hold, so to speak. At least until I got access to your Machine.”

The phone started ringing then, blaring its way through the apartment and making Root jump. Jason ignored it and neither Root nor Daizo dared move to answer it. And Root wondered if he was capable of it, if Jason could really pull the trigger and end their lives. He was the ghost, he worked from a distance, never getting his hands dirty, never letting anything lead back to him. It was why he had managed to stay hidden for so long, how he managed to fool them all.

And she didn’t doubt he was capable of doing what was necessary in order to maintain that hidden persona.

Root felt such an overwhelming rush of relief then that Shaw had sent Gen away, that she wasn’t still here, caught in the crossfire.

“Gen?” Root breathed out suddenly, struggling to understand why he had taken her, why he had put an eleven year old through so much suffering.

Jason smirked. “I needed a distraction. Your girlfriend wouldn’t leave Greer alone.”

“So you kidnapped Gen?” Root snapped and Jason shrugged.

“Kept you all busy for a while. No one was supposed to get hurt,” he added, glancing at her leg regretfully as it shook with the effort to keep her standing and she wondered how much of that was a lie too.

“And what about Greer – you’re working for him?” Root asked.

“No,” Jason said, looking a little affronted, “we’re working together. Well… for now.”

“To do what exactly?” Root asked, not sure if she really wanted to know, but hearing herself ask him anyway.

“To take over the Machine,” said Jason, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “I needed his company to build me something… an access nodule to control the Machine’s higher functions, make it an open system. And now it’s ready,” Jason added. “I think that’s what Daizo here found on my laptop, am I right? A message from Greer?”

Daizo nodded absently, still too shocked to say anything.

“So now,” Jason continued, and this time he moved so that the gun was trained steadily on Root, “all I need is the Machine. And you are going to tell me where She is.”

Root shook her head. “I don’t –”

“Yes, you do,” Jason snapped. “Don’t lie. You’re the Analogue Interface… or at least you were. You really expect me to believe you don’t know where Finch has been hiding Her?”

“I really don’t,” said Root.

“Fine,” said Jason, looking a little resigned as he tightened his grip on the gun in his hand. “I was going to have to kill you eventually anyway.”

“Jason,” said Root as if she could stop him.

“You and me, Root,” said Jason sadly, “we could have done a lot of great things together. I’m sorry it had to be this way.”

Root didn’t look away. She wanted Jason to look her right in the eye as he killed her. And as she stared at the gun in his hand all she could think about was Shaw and wonder, after she was dead, if Shaw would finally allow herself to feel something.

The gun went off at the same time as Daizo shouted “No!” and stepped in front of her.

The bullet tore through his chest and he staggered backwards into Root. She reached out to him but couldn’t keep either of them upright on only one good leg, and they both went down, Daizo landing on top of her, blood gushing out of the hole in his chest. Pain seared through her leg, but Root ignored it.

“Daizo,” Root breathed out and tried to stop the blood flow, but warm red blood just covered her hands, pouring out of him so fast like a river’s current during a thunderstorm and she couldn’t make it stop.

“Stupid kid,” Jason snapped and levelled the gun at Root’s head.

A gun went off but it wasn't Jason’s and he fell forward as a bullet slammed into his shoulder, the gun flying out of his hand and skidding away from him.

Root looked up to find Shaw standing in the doorway, her gun still aimed at Jason as she breathed heavily. She stepped steadily towards him as he tried to reach for the gun and she kicked it away, far out of his reach and stepped down on his gunshot wound to stop him from moving.

“Should have covered your tracks better, Jason,” she said and Root could tell how angry she was, could hear it in the way her voice was tight and restrained, the way her hand was trembling slightly because she was trying so hard not to put a bullet between his eyes like she wanted to and instead slammed her foot in his face to knock him out cold.

But that was all like a distant memory to Root, who could only focus on Daizo bleeding in her arms.

Daizo’s eyes were open, but they were empty and distant and he wasn’t moving, so still, and she wondered absently if he was cold. She wanted to wrap her arms around him and keep him warm, keep him safe.

Shaw knelt down opposite her, her fingers at Daizo’s neck and Root wanted to scream at her not to touch him. And after a moment, Shaw let her hand fall away, but Root just clutched onto him tighter.

“Root,” said Shaw.

But Root ignored her. All she could see was Daizo and his blood on her hands. Shaw grabbed her wrists, tried to pull her away, but Root pulled her arms out of her grip and pulled Daizo closer to her.

“Root, there’s nothing you can to do.”

Shaw was behind her suddenly, one arm around Root’s waist, her other hand reaching for her wrist again. Root tried to fight her off, but Shaw was too strong for her and she held onto Root tightly as she struggled, pressed her tight against her body.

“There’s nothing you can do,” Shaw repeated, her voice so soft (too soft, Root thought and wanted it to stop) as her lips pressed against Root’s ear. “He’s gone.”

“No,” Root cried and tried to pull out of Shaw’s grip again, but Shaw just held her tighter against her, her body so warm and alive compared to Daizo’s, so cold and lifeless. And Root stopped fighting then, wondering what was the point, and leaned back into Shaw, trying to find comfort there that she no longer had a right to.

Shaw lifted her up and Root let out a sob as Daizo’s head fell against the floor and she let Shaw half carry her back to her room, wondering where the pain in her leg had gone. Shaw made her sit on the edge of the bed as she knelt down to check on Root’s wound. The stiches hadn’t even burst and Root suddenly wanted to tear at them, wanted to bleed, but Shaw grabbed her wrist again before she could reach them, moving her hand away out of reach.

“Stop,” said Shaw softly and Root didn’t try to get out of her grip. She didn’t have the energy for it, not anymore.

“I don’t know why I bother with humans,” said Root, her voice sounding distant and cold to her own ears, like a faraway echo. “All they do is disappoint you in the end.”

“Root,” said Shaw, her voice thick, like she was struggling to swallow, as she looked at Root carefully.

“Gen was wrong about you,” said Root staring past Shaw, finding that she didn’t want to look her, afraid that if she did she might break, might crack like a fragile shell. “You don’t have any feelings. It’s going to break her heart when she figures it out.”

Shaw let go of Root’s hand forcefully then and didn’t say anything.

“I envy you,” Root whispered and wished she could make it stop, wished she wouldn’t feel Daizo’s death like a sledgehammer to her gut.

Shaw said nothing and walked out and all Root could do was stare at the blood on her hands, thinking she may as well have pulled the trigger herself.