“Any word from Root?”
“It’s going to be a long fight, but it must be won… At any cost.”
She stopped. Her eyes remained fixated ahead of her, whether it was in an attempt to seem casual or whether it was in an effort to prevent reading something into Finch’s response was unknown to both. They remained ahead, whatever the reason, even as Finch turned to leave. She didn’t follow. The lump in her throat couldn’t be swallowed down and for a brief second she allowed for it to suffocate her.
“She asked for me to pass on a message -“
Finch had stopped and turned to Shaw, offering what little he could but her eyes had narrowed and the lump had disappeared as she defiantly challenged him to continue his sentence.
He sighed, “Miss Shaw, she -“
“Don’t,” She hissed, “Don’t.”
She passed him, sparing only a quick glance into the office where Simon still stood, staring at the papers she had only before swapped. She wondered whether he had been worth it, whether every number was relevant if it meant such meaningless chaos. It wasn’t her choice to make, but had it been her in the room with Root she sure as hell would have put up a fight. Briefly she cursed herself, knowing full well that Harold did the best he could in that room. The second the Machine had once again begun communication was the moment they had lost Root, not in the lobby.
While emotions were unusually hard for her to not only feel but also understand, she was no newcomer to devastation. As she left the building, Harold only a few steps behind, it was the closest she had come to abandoning the war.
It had been a month since Samaritans close encounter with their number. It had been a month of deliberating where to go from here. It had been a month of tensions and worry. It had been a month that neither Shaw, Finch nor Reese had been prepared for. It had also been a month since the closure that came when the Machine had made contact with the Harold, only long enough for him to read the message on the screen: Analog Interface Disconnected.
While they continued at their best capacity to work and continue forth, none could help but feel the ripples of the effect being a team member down had. Despite himself, Reese even struggled to push forth. He may have had little affiliation with the hacker but when a team as small as four is brutally cut to three, there’s no repressing the sinking feeling that the war is going to be lost. Finch, always so intent to move forward, to honour his debt as the creator of the mess they had all found themselves in, allowed himself to once again be immersed in computers, in numbers, in sequences and in the fight. His glasses reflected only the screens in front of him, his voice only echoing through the abandoned subway tunnel ever now and then to convey what was usually pointless information, spoken if only to comfort himself and even Bear every now and then.
“The maps Root provided have proved incredibly useful,” He spoke, ignoring as best he could the guilt that came with her name as he closed the map having finally transferred each blind spot that had been provided to his database at the computer in front of him.
While her name had been at most times avoided, when it did echo through the tunnels, each of them had taken to responding differently. Harold, having usually been the one to say it save for one case where Reese had asked where the brunette was only to receive his answer in silence, had taken to returning to his work. Reese would usually glance to Shaw before offering to help at Finch’s desk, reading out information himself, as if in an attempt to drown out the name and offer new names to occupy their minds.
Shaw, having been the one to analyse Harold and Reese’s reactions, was unsure what hers was. She wondered if she had an involuntary coping mechanism that the other two had noticed from at their desks. She guessed she didn’t for she was almost certain that she hadn’t used the muscles in her face for much more than eating, drinking and talking, all of which she had barely done anyway. However, at times like this she did wonder if maybe she had an uncontrollable twitch, a conditioned response to her name. She wasn’t sure if she’d like it but she certainly wondered about it. To feel so deeply disconnected from her emotions was sometimes a blessing, especially in her line of work. At other times it was uncomfortable best, but most times just downright painful. She knew she was grieving, she knew each of them were in some form. It was times like this that she wondered to herself whether she would have preferred to have at least one person on the team that was willing to convey some sort of grief. To cry, to be angry, to be distraught. She swallowed. They had had someone like that on the team.
Shaw by no means had not not been angry but anger was Shaw’s most prevalent emotion, it was the easiest one, it was obvious, it was boring. Anger was beginning to bore Shaw. She felt everything else, she felt the hurt, the loss, the pain but as Gen had told her long ago it was turned down and Shaw had on many occasions begged with herself to turn them up. Despite her front, despite the ease that came with this inability to feel, despite it all she craved for all those other emotions she had only occasionally touched upon. There’s nothing brave about standing at your fathers grave dry eyed, despite what everyone at the funeral said. There’s nothing heroic about shooting people with no concern for their life, despite what people at the ISA told you. There’s nothing professional about getting the job done at any cost if you lose people you care about at the end of it and can’t even grieve for them. For her.
She stood up and, in a burst anger, swiped the clutter that had piled at her desk to the floor.
Startled, Finch stood from his own chair beside Reese and turned to her, “Miss Shaw are you okay?”
She wasn’t. None of them were. “I don’t understand, Harold, I just don’t get it,” She snapped, “We’re not going to win this, we’re never going to win this.”
“Shaw,” Reese began, stepping forward, reaching out to her, “Calm down.”
“No,” She growled, “This is bullshit. We’ve been sat here for a month, going round and round in circles. I’ve seen you at your computer Harold, I’ve seen you entering the same codes, doing the same scans of the map over and over, looking through file after file. We’re lost. We have nothing going for us. Why are we still trying?” She stared at him much like she had done in the office over a week ago. Daring him to challenge her, daring him to tell her she was wrong. Begging for him to tell her she was wrong.
He didn’t. He merely looked to the floor. Reese sighed and sat down, pinching the bridge of his nose.
“We’ve been touching round the subject but why don’t we just get to it?” Shaw asked, never turning from Finch. “She’s dead and we’re lost without her.” Her voiced cracked briefly and she startled herself but, as quick as the crack had shown it disappeared. “We have nothing.”
Harold finally looked back up. “Miss Shaw, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I couldn’t stop her.”
It took Shaw by surprise. “This isn’t about her, it’s about the Machine, about Samaritan,” She seethed through gritted teeth. It was a lie, they all knew it.
“She died to help us,” Harold attempted, “We can’t let that be in vain.”
There was silence throughout the base, even Bear had lowered himself to the ground attempting to avoid the tension.
“She cared about you a lot, Shaw,” Harold stated. Shaw knew it was what he had intended to say at the office those weeks before but, like before, she had not been ready to hear it.
Her chest tightened and in an attempt to ease the pain, she drew a long harsh breath. She knew Root cared for her. She knew that. As she exhaled she felt a sensation that had long been forgotten. Quickly she wiped the tear from her cheek.
“Wow, the tension in here is something else.”
Everyone froze. The only noise that resounded through the dimly lit tunnels was the clattering of Bears paws as he ran towards the voice. Harold had averted his eyes from Shaw to over her shoulder where, stood with a sling propping her arm close to her chest, was Root. Reese had stood slowly from his seat in similar disbelief.
It took Shaw a brief moment to read Harold’s expression. She couldn’t have imagined the voice, Harold looked just as shocked as she felt. Turning on her heel slowly, she faced the direction in which the bouncing paws of Bear clattered around.
Shaw shook her head slowly, pursing her lips. “The Machine said…”
Root nodded. Save for the sling that rested her arm, she looked just as she had done weeks before. “I know. I’m sorry. I couldn’t have anyone looking for me, not while there’s still things to work out. I needed time.”
“Miss Groves…” Harold begin, stepping towards the hacker. “I thought we’d lost you.”
She shook her head, a small smile playing at her lip, “Not this time.”
As if he were the only one able to talk more than a few words, Reese nodded, even offering a smile. “Glad to have you back.” He glanced between the two women before turning to Finch. “Let’s take Bear for a walk, Harold.”
Although it was obvious the shorter man wanted to remain, he knew his questions would be answered in due course and so he nodded. “I’m happy you’re alive, Miss Groves,” He offered before leaving.
There was a short period of silence before Shaw finally managed to ask, “What happened back at the hotel?”
She sighed, “I managed to get out, thanks to the Machine.”
Shaw rolled her eyes and gave a harsh laugh, “Thanks to the Machine?” She bit her lip, shaking her head in disbelief at the hacker. “You’ve got to be kidding me. The Machine got you into that situation. She used you like a piece of meat. She could have got you killed, Root.”
Root winced, “Sameen…”
“No, don’t do that. Don’t do what you always do and say how she has a bigger plan, how you need to trust her. She’s going to get you killed Root.”
“Please, if you don’t trust her then at least trust me. I’m alive aren't I? I’m here and She helped me get here.” Root stepped forward, attempting to reach for the shorter woman.
Raising her hand to stop her, Shaw closed her eyes and it was as if all at once the volume had been turned up. All at once it crashed down on her. She breathed in and out. It all came to her. Anger, of course, but then relief came. And with that came comfort. Then what felt like restfulness. And in that restfulness she found what she could only attribute to happiness. Briefly, but it was there. She opened her eyes and saw Root still looking at her and while anger still overpowered this newfound moment of peace, she knew it had been there.
She quickly and defiantly strode over to the taller brunette and without a moments pause, her fist collided with the others jaw, sending her to the ground. Clutching her mouth with her free hand, Root looked up to Shaw.
She stared down at the hacker. “I swear to God, Root, if you ever do anything like this again. I swear to God.” There was a brief pause before she extended her hand.
Root nodded and took it, being pulled from the dusty floor as she did so. Once she was back on her feet, Shaw stalked away to pour herself a drink.
Again a silence fell between the two of them. Root watched the back of Shaw as she filled a glass, downed it, then refilled. She finally managed a sigh and, although it took a few attempts of opening and closing her mouth before a sound came, she looked at Shaw despite her averted eyes. “Did Harold pass on my message?”
Shaw had been half way to her mouth to down the second glass before she stopped. She sighed and briefly turned to look at Root. “He didn’t have to. I already knew.”
The smile returned to Root’s face and it even extended to a grin as she nodded at what Shaw had just said. “That’s what he said.”
The glass was still halfway to her mouth so she quickly finished it off before placing it back down on the table and refilling, this time grabbing a second glass and doing the same before offering it to Root whose smile had not faltered. She walked forward and grabbed the glass.
“I don’t usually drink,” She commented, as she sipped at the alcohol.
“Well I do, and I’m in need of one, or ten, right now.”
Root smirked and raised her glass to which Shaw followed. As both sipped at the alcohol, Root couldn’t help but stare into the glass as if lost and unsure. Watching her sent another pang of relief to her stomach because stood in front of her was Root. Root, who should have been dead, Root who had been, as far as they were concerned, dead just hours before. She placed her glass on the table and delicately grabbed the wrist that held Root’s glass. The cold touch startled Root who quickly looked to Shaw questioningly.
It once would have been the hardest thing for her to do and say but, with a little more ease than she had ever had before, Shaw managed a small smile. “I’m really happy you’re here.”