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Free Fall

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Preparing an extraction under Samaritan’s nose was a challenge Shaw welcomed, despite the situation. She ran scenarios in her mind quickly, calculating the best way to keep the number hidden for a few hours, as to give Finch and Root enough time to figure out a way to get the target off Simon’s back. She quickly settled on a plan and called up Reese, anticipating that they needed all hands on deck for this one. Setting on a rendezvous point was an easy enough task; telling Finch about her decision was another thing entirely.


Shaw waited a few seconds before she turned on the communication line with him again, the device digging in her ear uncomfortably as she pressed it. Instead of Finch, it was Root’s angry and shaking voice that welcomed her.


“Wars require sacrifice,” she zealously declared, and Shaw felt her stomach tightening in a knot. “I’m not lost; I’m scared. We’re losing.”


Shaw stopped listening for a moment then, her ears deafened as her veins seemingly overflowed with blood, her heart pumping too fast for the lack of effort. She had to remember her training to force it to calm down, focusing on her breathing even though her mind insisted on repeating Root’s choice of words. We’re losing. Shaw hadn’t really thought of the possibility that Samaritan might win, that this situation, this cover of hers could be permanent. With all that happened, Shaw had almost forgotten the chaos of that night when New York lost its lights, and the strange, numb feeling that had invaded her muscles the next morning, her eyes digging into Root’s until it was time to leave, to turn around and become someone else.


“We have more to look forward to than death,” Finch assured her, and Shaw waited for Root’s answer, still scarcely breathing as she willed herself to walk towards her rendezvous point with Reese. It seemed to her like the night was colder than before, because a shiver ran through her when Root spoke again.


“I hope so,” her tired voice came to Shaw’s ear weak and pained, and Shaw remembered her sad expression earlier, the fatigue under her eyes, unsettling. As annoying as Root always was, this new persona reached new levels of infuriation. “But, the life I’ve led... a good end would be a privilege.”


Shaw couldn’t deny that she had been thinking the same thing ever since she had joined the ISA, really; there wasn’t much she hoped for either, except maybe a few more years to add to the count before she passed away – in action, preferably, with a gun in her hand. Root didn’t even seem to wish for more time.


“It’s not where you begin it’s where you end up,” Finch replied, voice almost hopeful. Shaw felt like she was intruding on their privacy when he continued; “you’re a brilliant woman, a comrade... and, a friend.”


The streets around the hotel were mostly empty and quiet, and it seemed to Shaw like she could hear Root’s uneven breaths, even though she knew it was impossible. An odd feeling settled in her gut then, unnerving and relentless.


“If the worst comes to pass,” Root’s voice was distant in the background, only a whisper in Shaw’s ear, yet it came through clear enough – too clear. Nausea crept up Shaw’s throat, burning furiously as her heart skipped a beat. “If you could give Shaw a message?”


“I think she already knows,” Finch answered in a rush, but Shaw disconnected the line before she could hear anything else.


She swallowed painfully, pacing down the street so fast she was almost running, with her lungs blazing in her chest; a wildfire that left her cold. Again she had to remember breathing as she put some distance between her and the hotel, snaking her way through the deserted alleyways like a thief. The more she went forward, the more her chest tightened, like something was pulling her back, begging her to stay behind.


She didn’t.


When she heard the gunshots from a few corner streets away, Shaw thought once again of running towards the chaos. She met with Reese’s worried eyes then and she knew that she couldn’t. They had a number to save, and as they did just that she tried to ignore that itch to turn around, to go back to the hotel, to find Root. Once they had dropped Simon in a bin Shaw received a text from Finch, telling her where and when to meet him on the next day, and she ditched Reese to return home, a bitter taste in her mouth.


There she was met with nothing but silence and darkness, and it did nothing to help with the dreadful feeling that lurked inside, like she had lost an arm but wasn’t aware of it yet. Shaw fell asleep with thoughts of ghost limbs and bloody amputations, slumber drowning her mind like a thick black ink.


Waking up with the sun only meant more time to kill before she could meet with Finch, and Shaw kept herself busy by going for a long run before she cleaned out her apartment, constantly checking the clock as if nervous – but Shaw didn’t do nervous, she reminded herself, and neither did she worry. Still, when the time came to leave home relief flooded through her, making it a little easier to breathe.


At Simon’s office she followed Finch’s directives without a word, stealing the hard copy of his files and then waiting for Finch to convince him that he had been wrong all along. She waited patiently, although a name burned her lips ever since she had woken up.


“Any word from Root?” Shaw gave up after a minute or two, too exhausted to even wonder how it would come across.


Finch didn’t seem fazed. “It’s going to be a long fight, but it must be won. At any cost,” he added, and for a second Shaw was reminded of the rush of adrenaline that came with jumping out of an aircraft, with those long moments of free fall when everything felt paused even as she plunged towards the ground at an incredible speed. It was the way her blood flooded to her limbs as if draining out of her, the pressure painfully shifting inside as her body tried to adjust with the new tensions. It was the way her lungs filled with air and yet left her breathless, as if suspended in endless, sharp winds.


The sensation lasted but a few seconds, and yet it lurked inside as she stepped behind Finch and out of the building. Outside the sunshine and the lazy morning didn’t fit with the unease she felt, a lump in her throat. She wondered for a moment if Finch would even know if Root had been killed last night; if they had any way of keeping tabs on her, on making sure she was alive and safe.


“Don’t you have classes today, Professor?” she asked Finch, trying to ignore the strange sensations inside, the invasive images of Root bleeding out in a dark alleyway, cold and alone.


“I think I am going to hang around for a little while,” he replied as they crossed the street, just before he took a seat on a bench with a nice view of Simon’s office.


Shaw had no doubt that Finch’s plan had worked; that Samaritan would stop trying to kill their number as soon as Simon gave up on his claim that the election had been rigged. Still, she could understand the worry, and would have agreed to stay a bit longer if not for the disturbing impression that Finch could see right through her.


Without another word, Shaw left his side to return to her car, the disconcertment slowly starting to face until she noticed a woman across the street – Root, almost radiant in her white blouse, coming to sit with Finch. Shaw stopped at the corner then, eyes glued to Root’s right arm, held up in a sling. She swallowed hard, feeling the same erratic heartbeats as the previous night, only calmer, quieter.


Without even noticing in a matter of seconds Shaw found herself back at the bench, still staring at Root like she wasn’t sure that Root was actually there to begin with.


“Sameen,” Harold sounded surprised, but Shaw didn’t spare him a look.


“Caught in the crossfire, huh?”, she pointed towards Root’s wounded arm, unsure of where the anger in her tone came – she didn’t feel the usual burnt that came with anger; just the odd feeling that she was falling through a bright blue sky without a parachute.


Finch mumbled something about a class to teach and disappeared, and when Root’s eyes returned on Shaw they were empty and tired.


“Aren’t you going to be late for work?” Root asked with a sigh, and it sounded like she was complaining.


“Are you?” Shaw replied angrily before she pulled out her phone from her pocket, making a decision.


Root frowned, yet gestured towards her wounded arm. “I’m taking a sick day.”


“So am I,” Shaw retorted before she turned her attention to her phone call, rapidly explaining that she wouldn’t come in today. When her boss argued that she did not sound sick Shaw barked that she had a family emergency, and Root averted her eyes.


“What are you doing?” Root asked with a low voice as soon as Shaw hung up.


Shaw cleared her throat, but the lump stayed anyway. “Have to check that they did a good job; graveyard ER docs aren’t the best.”


Root frowned, running a hand through her hair. “Sameen, we shouldn’t –“


“Do you have somewhere you’re supposed to be?” Shaw cut her off.


“Not for today, no,” Root answered, obviously confused.


Shaw felt her anger building up inside, and yet she manage to quiet it down. “Well shut up then,” she breathed out, leaving to walk towards her car, parked a few streets away from Simon’s office. Root followed in silence behind, visibly shaken and exhausted.


A comfortable silence settled between then on the drive home, even though Root kept her eyes out the window, thoroughly ignoring Shaw. It was only when Shaw locked the apartment door behind her that she found Root looking at her, back leaning against the kitchen counter, yet hesitant.


“Where should I...?” she started, gazing at the living room like it was her first time there. Shaw guessed it wasn’t, seeing how her eyes lingered towards the bedroom a bit longer.


Shaw couldn’t move, anger swirling inside, dangerously threatening to come out. Under her cold gaze Root struggled to take off her sling, leaving it on the counter behind her, wincing. She started unbuttoning her white shirt, fussing with one hand, her movements almost panicked. At the sight of Root’s shaking fingers Shaw moved to stand in front of her, raising her hands to quickly undo the buttons for her. As Shaw focused on the task, Root’s scarce breath falling between them, Root cleared her throat.


“Shaw,” she whispered, her eyes locked onto Shaw’s hands, “not that I don’t appreciate it, but what’s going on?”


A few seconds of silence filled the space, cold and heavy, before Shaw answered.


“I don’t want you to leave me a message,” Shaw stated with a low voice before she lifted her eyes to stare in Root’s. She saw something wavering in Root’s pupils and averted her gaze.


Root’s breath caught in her throat as white teeth worried at her lip. “How?”


“Comm line was opened,” Shaw replied with a shrug, trying to ignore the tightening of her chest. She opened Root’s shirt and took in the sight of Root’s naked skin, pale and scarred, shivering under Shaw’s touch. She ran her fingers around the edge of Root’s bandages, imagining hands there that weren’t hers, and gunshots that she couldn’t stop.


Closing her eyes, Root finally whispered; “what did you hear?”


“Enough,” Shaw groaned, closing the distance between them to crash her lips against Root. Gasping, Root instinctively snaked her good arm behind Shaw’s neck, pulling her closer. As soon as Shaw moved apart, her breath caressed Root’s lips; “you’re not the only soldier in this fight, you know.”


Root bit on Shaw’s lower lip then, teeth almost drawing blood until Shaw hissed, pressing Root harder against the counter.


“You don’t have to do this alone,” Shaw murmured as she moved to kiss and bite on Root’s neck, her two hands revelling in Root’s warmth, exploring the naked skin blindly, and yet taking great care in avoiding the wounds.


“Sam, stop,” Root whispered and the use of her first name sent a bolt of electricity across Shaw’s stomach. She raised her eyes to look at Root, irises shadowed with hesitation. “I don’t think we should...”


Root lifted her right arm awkwardly, wincing as she did. The reminder didn’t deter Shaw; instead she pulled on Root’s belt, drawing her close before she kissed her again, eager. She led Root all the way through the bedroom without a word, hands fervently trekking every inch of Root she could reach. Root protested only slightly, her left hand wrapped around Shaw’s waist to keep her balance.


They had barely made it to the bedroom that already Shaw pushed Root down on the bed, feeling her arousal spiking when Root hissed in pain. Listening to the burning in her chest, Shaw didn’t wait for Root to catch her breath; undoing her belt and urgently pulling off Root’s pants. Under Shaw, Root squirmed, her good hand clawing at Shaw’s arms, trying to pull her closer. When she succeeded she dug her nails into Shaw’s neck, forcing her to lean down until Root could kiss her again.


When Root opened her mouth to say something, Shaw glared at her, shaking her head.


“Don’t,” she ordered, and Root swallowed hard, her eyes filling with water. Bent on ignoring whatever Root wanted to say, Shaw lowered herself between Root’s legs, finding her warm and read, and she ran her tongue down Root’s labia, smirking as Root moaned quietly. Shaw sucked and bit on her inner thigh until Root started bucking her hips, begging for more contact. When Shaw’s tongue pressed against her center Root’s breathing deepened, like she was trying to hold on, trying to make the moment last.


“This is war, Shaw,” Root’s whisper sounded so far away, her eyelids closing as she bit her lip to repress a moan. “People die in wars.”


Shaw’s hand reached Root’s labia, fingers replacing lips as Shaw slowly moved up, trekking across Root’s body with bites and kisses. “Not everyone,” Shaw groaned.


The wildfire inside her lungs seemed to gain strength and heat every time Root exhaled, as if she was blowing air on the flames, helping it grow out of control. When Shaw’s fingers curled up inside her, Root gasped. “We’re not all going to make it,” she whispered, a sob threatening to leave her.


Anger flaring up, Shaw shook her head once again. “You are,” Shaw moved to suck on Root’s pulse point, as if longing to feel it beating under her lips.


“You have to,” and it sounded like Root was begging Shaw. “You have to make it out alive, Shaw,” she opened her eyes then, hand tugging on Shaw’s hair as if to prove how serious she was. “Promise me.”


Shaw could hear it in Root’s voice, the same sadness as the previous night; how eager she was to die to protect Shaw’s life, and Shaw couldn’t agree with that sacrifice. She bit on Root’s neck then, hard enough to leave a mark, hearing Root moan under her, moving faster against Shaw’s hand.


“You don’t die,” Shaw whispered against Root’s cheek, biting her jawbone before she moved to capture her lips into a kiss. “Okay?”


Root let out a short sob, grinding harder, almost desperately. Shaw felt Root’s muscles tightening around her fingers slightly and she licked Root’s lips before she slipped a third finger inside.


“Root,” it was both a question and an order, “we don’t die.”


Root nodded, “we don’t die,” her hand clutching at Shaw’s nape, hips bucking against Shaw’s hand as she cried out, one tear running down her cheek. She came with that promise on her lips, exhausted and sobbing, cradled in Shaw’s warmth.


As Root slowly fell asleep in her arms, only minutes later, Shaw tried not to think of how easily promises could fall through the cracks.