Root listened to the patter of the rain, breathing in the clean scent of it as it misted through the partially open window, drifting down on her naked, heated body. Light from a lone candle, flickering in defiance against the night breeze, bathed the bed, but left the rest of the room in shadows. She realized with faint bemusement that this was the first time she and Shaw had fucked in the dark.
Beneath her, Shaw shifted, one foot trailing down the inside of her left calf. Root smiled against the skin of Shaw’s stomach, listening as her lover’s heartbeat and breathing slowed. They were wrapped intimately up in one another, the loose tangle of sheets ghosting over them not enough to keep the rain at bay, but neither made a move to close the window on the night and elements.
If their track record held, Root suspected she would be tossed out any minute now. The scratches and bruises that dotted her skin were starting to throb and burn, but she didn’t mind. She’d marked Shaw just as ferociously and just as often, laying claim to the other woman in the only way she’d ever be allowed. The hisses Shaw would make in her ear when Root hurt her, only to replace the sensation of pain with maddening pleasure, had kept Root going for longer than she’d have thought possible. She was beyond tired, to the point of being almost mentally numb, but she lingered, reveling in the heat of Shaw’s body for as long as the moment would last.
It had been the flimsiest of excuses, needing help to decipher Harold’s instructions, but Root had known that Shaw had needed to distance herself from the near-admission. It had been couched in maybes and vagueness, but Root savored it, remembering the way the other woman had stopped, turned, and gazed directly into her eyes as she spoke.
A finger traced through the mist on her left shoulder, teasing the scar there. Root smiled again, amazed at Shaw’s appetite for sex. The notion to tease her had Root licking her lips in preparation to speak, but she decided it was best to see what Shaw was up to this time, the gentle touch a sharp contrast to their positively carnal activities a few minutes earlier.
The pad of Shaw’s finger continued to explore the edges of Root’s scar, and the hacker waited, not sure what to expect. That was one of the things that was so enticing about Sameen Shaw. Root never knew if the other woman was going to punch her or kiss her.
“You have a lot of these.” Shaw’s voice was low and unexpected, perfect for the early morning hush that had descended over the city with the rain.
Swallowing, Root didn’t move. They’d had sex several times now, but there was never cuddling or polite conversation after. Those things that “normal” lovers did really didn’t suit either one of them, but something about this night, about the last few weeks perhaps, had made her more reflective. Maybe it had done the same for Shaw.
“I’m not the only one.” Root finally stirred, lifting her head to rest her chin on her hand where it lay on Shaw’s stomach. Shaw’s touch never paused, teasing the skin of Root’s shoulder as well as the hacker’s curiosity. “You admiring your handiwork?”
Shaw smiled faintly, looking both sleepy and sexy as she did so. “What? Where I shot you or how well I patched you up?”
Shaw continued to grin for another moment before her fingers unexpectedly skimmed over Root’s back to her other shoulder. There were more scars to be explored there, some still fresh and angry.
“If you’re going to keep getting yourself shot, you might want to spread the love a little.”
Root tilted her head, charmed but wary of Shaw’s out-of-character chattiness. “But I’ve started quite the collection.”
“Leave it to you to shoot me in the other shoulder and mess it up.”
“You’re lucky that’s all I did.”
Root considered that. Shaw was an expert marksman, the only way she was still breathing was because it was Shaw’s choice to let her. “Not like you to miss,” she jabbed playfully at Shaw’s ego.
“Who says I did?” Shaw’s eyes were dark but strangely devoid of the ghosts Root so often saw lurking there. Maybe they were both too tired to hold on to their demons tonight, setting them free to return in the light of day.
“Did you?” Root asked, wondering if she would get an honest answer or another evasion.
Shaw’s gaze dropped, but her fingers continued to stroke the freshest scar almost reverently. “No. Was going to put you down. Changed my mind right as I pulled the trigger.”
Root wasn’t surprised any more than she was upset to hear such a dark truth. “Lucky me.”
Shaw looked at her again, staring for a string of breaths that had Root holding hers. She looked like she wanted to say something, but her brows knitted in slight confusion as if she wasn’t sure what.
“Lucky,” Shaw echoed but her gaze drifted away just as her touch did the same, moving from Samaritan’s scars to slip down Root’s right side.
Root gasped softly in surprise as a single finger slid up from her hip to just below her right breast, tracing the path of a faint scar only a lover would even know was there.
“What about this one?” Shaw’s eyes were fixed on her now, looking for chinks in Root’s armor. Root wondered if she realized she’d found one.
“That…” Root paused as the tip of Shaw’s finger retraced its route. The touch was arousing but the memories it stirred definitely were not. “It’s old.”
“I can tell.” Seeing that she was having an effect on Root, Shaw brought her whole hand between them, stroking carefully, deliberately. “Must have been sharp. Knife? Box cutter? Who’d you piss off?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Not buying it.” Shaw’s hand slipped lower, then lower still. Root gasped and her eyes fluttered closed as Shaw rolled them over, her touch becoming far more intimate. Even though her instincts were telling her to get away, Root’s body ignored the warnings, too hungry for Shaw’s attentions to care.
“Shaw…” Root wasn’t sure what she was asking for. For Shaw to stop. For her to continue. One more teasing stroke and her indecision no longer mattered as Shaw slipped inside her. But there was no force, no fast and hard friction to drive her wild this time. Shaw’s touch was achingly slow, drawing out Root’s pleasure even as her memories struggled to compete, to ruin what was happening.
When Shaw suddenly stopped, her fingers buried inside the other woman, Root nearly sobbed.
Root gripped Shaw’s hand, urging her to continue. “Don’t…”
“Tell me.” Shaw purred the command against Root’s neck before turning her head and lightly biting along Root’s collarbone. Beneath her, Root bucked into her touch, desperate for more of what she could give her.
Shaw bit down harder and Root moaned, torn between the pleasure of the present and the pain of her past. Shaw wouldn’t stop the torture until she confessed, she knew. It wasn’t in the woman’s make up to stand down, and lying was not an option. Not like this. Not with Shaw. Never with Shaw.
“My father. It was my father.”
Surprise rippled through Shaw’s body in minute ways only Root could notice. Just when Root thought Shaw was going to stop, to withdraw, the other woman rewarded her for the truth, picking up the pace until Root could think of nothing else but the woman inside her.
When awareness returned, Root blinked into the first gray light of morning. She didn’t remember falling asleep, her last thoughts a blur of pleasure and shame. The bed beside her was cold and empty, and Root frowned, refusing to let the decades-old memories that Shaw had chased away return now that she was alone.
The door open and Root flinched, startled when Shaw stepped inside, water dripping from the light parka she wore. It was apparently still raining. Root glanced at the window, noting that the other woman had closed it.
“You sleep in this late every day?”
“You came back.” Root spoke her mind for once, not bothering to hide her surprise behind a teasing quip.
“It’s my apartment.” Shaw shrugged out of her coat and tossed it over a hook by the door before wandering into the kitchen.
Confused and groggy, Root wrapped the sheet around her body and slowly stood. There wasn’t a spot on her that didn’t ache, but every pain came with the heated memories of what caused the hurt. She shuffled after Shaw, the scent of coffee luring her into the kitchen.
Root’s surprise continued as Shaw slid a to go cup toward her. She wrapped her hands around it, grateful for the warmth in the morning chill. After her first sip, Root smiled, pleased but unsurprised that the coffee had been prepared just to her liking.
“Don’t think this is gonna become a thing,” Shaw warned her.
“You fetching me coffee?” Root played innocent.
“That too.” Shaw glanced at her then away. “Finch called. I need to head to the bat cave.”
Root sighed. “Yeah. I should go. New identity to assume in a few hours.”
Shaw’s jaw clenched but she made no comment. Instead, she polished off her coffee as Root watched, throwing the cup in the trash when she was finished. She started to walk past Root only to hesitate. Her eyes were locked straight ahead, not looking at the hacker. “Your father…”
Root’s breath caught as she looked at the other woman.
“Tell me he’s dead,” Shaw demanded.
Something inside Root softened, her chest warming in an odd but pleasant way. The sensation seemed to happen more and more around Shaw lately. It was both dangerous and wonderful. “Drank himself to death.”
Shaw turned her head to look at Root then, her eyes narrowing to let her know that she suspected there was more to it, and there was, but she only nodded once before her eyes dipped to Root’s stomach, barely visible through the thin sheet.
“Broke his ashtray when I was eleven. He slashed at me with a pair of scissors.” In the light of day, with Shaw looking at her so intently, the admission was easier, and the shame she’d felt last night was absent. Ghosts were afraid of the woman before her even if she wasn’t.
Shaw nodded again, but Root saw the disappointment and couldn’t help but smile, just a little, at Shaw’s violent streak being denied an outlet.
“What would you have done if he’d still be alive?” she teased.
For a moment, Root thought Shaw was going to dismiss the question with a flip remark. Instead, Shaw shrugged. “Made sure he could never hurt you again.”
Root stilled.Their roles demanded that she come back with an innuendo at best, a lame joke at worst, but Shaw’s words had touched something deep inside her, something dark and lonely that needed to hear them. That had needed to hear them for a long time.
“Thanks,” Root said, doing her damnedest to keep her voice even and not spook the other woman with any hint of what she was feeling.
“For what?” Shaw’s voice had gone gruff, more so than normal.
“I think you already know,” Root echoed Harold’s words before kissing Shaw softly on the cheek. She moved away, picking up her scattered clothes and stepping into the bathroom. When she returned a few minutes later, more composed and ready to resume their usual banter, the apartment was empty.
Slowly, Root smiled as she picked up her coffee cup. Apparently Shaw had reached her limit for honest and open declarations for the day. Probably for the year. Root chuckled as she unlocked the door. That was okay, she decided. Shaw would never come right out and admit she cared about her, Root realized, but she would let her know in her own way. That was enough.