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Caged Animals

Chapter Text

Root waited two days after she sank the syringe into Shaw’s neck before going back to the subway station.

She knew that Shaw was going to be angry with her, and she hoped that giving her a little time to cool off might help. On the other hand, she knew it was possible (probable, really) that Shaw would spend that time getting herself more and more pissed.

Root had promised herself that she would stay away for a full forty eight hours. Forty seven hours and fifty six minutes after she left Shaw on the cot with Harold looking over her, Root was back at the entrance to the subway station. She thought about slipping inside now, but she liked the idea of the exact forty eight hours, so Root passed the entrance by, head down, hood up.

Her mouth twitched a tiny bit into a smile when she remembered the way that the needle, clutched in her tight fist, pierced through Shaw’s skin so smoothly. The bullseye that was the soft area just behind the tendons in Shaw’s neck meant that when Shaw flinched, it only drove the needle deeper. And when Shaw’s hand gripped Root’s, her tight fist covering tight fist, Root knew that Shaw was too late, the plunger had already been pressed and Shaw was going to drop momentarily. No matter how good of an assassin you were, when you were hit with that much tranquilizer, you were going down. Root had let Shaw jerk her hand away.

Then Shaw turned with that scalding glare, her lips pulling back from her teeth as she snarled and that iron hand was immediately at Root’s throat, fingers closing around Root’s windpipe… Root couldn’t deny that the jolt of electricity that shot through her body was a pleasurable one. Her lips had parted and yes, she was smiling just the tiniest amount, and yes, she relished running her hand over Shaw’s forearm to her wrist, gently pressing that iron grip closer to her.

There was no smile on Shaw’s face. When she growled “I will end you” there was only fury. And looking back on it, that made Root’s stomach tighten anxiously. But Root also knew that it had been her only choice. She couldn’t let Shaw enter the fray- it was too risky. Shaw could have exposed all of them. Or gotten herself hurt. At any rate, Root didn’t hesitate to squeeze in one last line of innuendo before Shaw’s eyes started to un-focus and roll back into her head. Root had a tight enough grip on the shorter woman that she simply lowered them both to the ground, crouching and pulling Shaw towards herself when her head lolled back.

It wasn’t until Root had started to gather Shaw into her arms that she noticed the gun that was still loosely held in her unconscious hand. So sure, Shaw was pissed and had threatened Root’s life, but even with the training and the instincts that told her to always be ready to shoot, Shaw had no so much as pointed the gun in Root’s direction. And that counted for something. Root hoped.

John was still busy with Elias when Harold pulled up to the curb outside the chain link fence and called to ask Root why she’d asked him to come. Root opened the gate in the fence, Shaw slung over her shoulder in a fireman carry. The look on Harold’s face, his eyebrows three fourths of the way up his forehead, was priceless. He looked like he was going to be sick.

“Don’t worry, Harold, I just needed to keep Shaw from getting herself into trouble,” Root told him, smiling as she tried to keep her breathing steady through the exertion of carrying Shaw. Harold half-heartedly tried to help, but realized quickly that the best he could do was open the car door’s back seat for Root to lay Shaw across it. Root thought she probably could have found a car herself, but she didn’t like the idea of leaving Shaw alone, even for the amount of time it would take to break into a car and re-enter the building.

When they got back to the subway station Root had hoisted Shaw up again onto her shoulder, wincing because the gunshot wounds in her other shoulder were still a little tender sometimes. She’d almost dropped Shaw, but one hand firmly planted on Shaw’s rear end kept her steady. Root immediately thought of how Shaw would have reacted had she seen how firmly Root had a hold of her.

Bear had been up and whining as soon as he saw Shaw and Root enter the room, and she figured that was her cue to leave. She’d laid Shaw down, looked over at Harold, his pursed lips and buggy eyes, and gave him a sly smile, her head tilting to one side.

“Take care of her for me?” Root asked.

“I think I’d better, Miss Groves. She’s not going to want to see you any time soon. If I were you, I’d give her a few days,” Harold said. Root’s eyebrows and mouth twitched, a minute expression of concern blinking onto her face and then disappearing. Finch’s owl eyes did not miss this. “She’ll be here. And maybe by then she’ll be glad for the distraction from her, shall we say, confinement.”

Root had listened to the precision of Finch’s words, the clipped consonants and perfectly shaped vowels, and knew he was right. So yes, it was two days later now, which qualified as ‘a few’ in Root’s book, and she was checking the time again. As soon as her mental timer hit forty eight hours from the moment she had looked away from Shaw’s limp body, Root hurried down the steps into the subway station, brushing the hood back from her face as she went.

As Root stepped off the final stair, she heard quiet grunting. She curiously walked along beside the subway car, glancing in and seeing no one, until she came to the end of the platform and spotted Shaw doing push-ups. Root smirked as she approached Shaw from behind. Bear came trotting up to Root, ears up on high alert, before she could say anything. She had to admit she was disappointed- she liked to surprise Shaw.

“I’m glad to see you’re staying fit for me,” Root said. Shaw grunted a few more times, on the upward motion of each push-up, then finally stopped, letting her body relax from the rigid plank position. She jumped up and swiped one arm over her forehead, damp with sweat, and stepped towards Root, eyes dark with anger. Root’s smirk deepened as Shaw continued on her trajectory until they were so close they were almost touching. Shaw looked just as furious as she had in those moments before she collapsed, the muscle above her lip on one side pulling into a little snarl. It almost kept Root from teasing her more. Almost.

“Are you going to end me now?” Root asked coyly, making her eyes as big and dark as she could. Shaw glared up into Root’s eyes, still breathing heavily, then pushed past her, intentionally checking Root’s shoulder- the one that had been shot recently. It didn’t hurt all that much anymore, but carrying Shaw the other day hadn’t helped at all. Root rolled it gently as Shaw started running to the other end of the platform. Just as Root wondered if she should chase after Shaw and stop her from going up to the street, she noticed that Shaw wasn’t wearing any shoes or socks. Root doubted the shorter woman would go sprinting up on the streets of New York with her feet completely bare. At the end of the platform, Shaw stopped, reached down with one hand to tap the ground, then turned and immediately ran, fast, back towards Root.

Root stepped aside, out of Shaw’s path.

“I did it to keep you safe,” Root said as Shaw raced past her. Shaw slows to a stop and then turns back to face Root with venom in her eyes.

“I didn’t ask you to keep me safe,” Shaw growled.

“That’s the point,” Root said, looking down at Shaw and wishing she didn’t sound quite so worried. “You don’t have to ask. When people care about you, they do these things without needing to be told.”

Shaw turned back away, her hands on her hips, her breathing still a little fast. The edges of the sweat pattern on Shaw’s black tank top caught Root’s eye, and she wondered how long Shaw had been running around. The subway station was very quiet for a minute while Shaw slowly walked across the concrete.

“Do you know how to build things?” Shaw asked the question without turning around. Root’s eyebrows raised.

“I can do almost anything with Her help,” Root replied, returning to her usual smooth delivery. The microscopic shake of Shaw’s head was still enough to cue Root to the fact that Shaw was unimpressed as she continued to slowly walk away. “What do you want to build?”

“I told Finch that I couldn’t live here without a place to shower,” Shaw said, and her frustration was clear, “So he brought all this stuff to put one in the bathroom.”

Shaw had reached a door in the wall and pushed it open. Root followed her and looked at the pile of equipment and then up at Shaw, who had stepped over the pipes and fittings and was now standing on the other side of the pile.

“Is there a-” Root started, but Shaw cut her off.

“Drain? Yeah. But there’s not a pipe in the wall to connect it to. He wanted me to try to connect it to the sink.”

Root tilted her head to the side skeptically, then crouched to sort through the pipes. Shaw sat down on the toilet lid to watch. Even when Root fumbled a little to pick up certain pieces, Shaw made no move to assist her.

And then after a while, Shaw had left Root alone in the bathroom. Root could tell that Shaw was getting impatient, but it wasn’t as simple as connecting two pipes and being done. There was a tankless water heater to figure out, and the finagling of the different pieces to split the sink’s water would never work as well as Root would have liked. She worked for a long while in silence, listening to the soft slap of bare footsteps back and forth on the concrete platform.

Root wished she’d known she would be doing this sort of work- luckily she’d worn a low-cut t-shirt under her black leather jacket, but the heeled boots and tight black jeans weren’t exactly practical for this sort of labor.

“You’re making progress,” Shaw’s voice said. The hair on the back of Root’s neck stood on end at the surprise of Shaw being right behind her, leaning against the doorframe with her arms crossed. Root looked over her shoulder, pointedly not giving Shaw the satisfaction of knowing she’d managed to approach unnoticed. It was only because she wasn’t wearing shoes, Root assured herself.

“It might go faster if I had some help,” Root told her, looking up at her from under her lashes.

Shaw’s lips twitched with the tiniest hint of a smile before they pursed in irritation.

“I might help if I didn’t feel like I was building my own prison,” Shaw said. Root turned back to the task at hand, not acknowledging Shaw’s reply because she was right, really.

The installation of the shower meant that Shaw didn’t really have an excuse to leave. They could bring her food, clothes, even build a gym if they really wanted to, but aside from a half-assed sponge bath from the sink, there wasn’t a way for Shaw to get clean. At least being able to shower would bring a sort of normalcy.

Being able to wash off the sweat and blood and the smell of explosives from her body helped Root feel human. The production of those three things kept Root feeling alive, but that wasn’t the same thing. Root thought about Shaw’s bare feet racing back and forth across the subway platform and knew the shorter woman probably felt the same way. With a glance over her shoulder, she saw that Shaw’s feet were still bare.

“Your feet are going to get cold,” Root told her.

“Yeah, well I’m not going to run suicides in my boots. I’m not exactly flush with cash thanks to my delightful job at the makeup counter, and they aren’t cheap. Plus I’d probably break an ankle or something,” Shaw replied, her eyes staring fixedly at the tiles on the wall, not even looking Root in the eye. Root picked up a wrench, testing the weight in one hand as she thought about what needed to be connected next.