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singing morphine alarms out of tune

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SINGING MORPHINE ALARMS OUT OF TUNE

(The Antlers; Kettering)

 

 

 

 

They ask her what she remembers and she says nothing.

It’s a lie.

She remembers brown hair and legs the length of forever. She remembers falling, falling and hearing a scream that hurt only slightly more than the bullet buried beneath her waist. She remembers hearing the doors lock and then deafening silence.

She remembers nothing, she says, and almost smirks when the needle is pressed into the crook of her elbow.

 

--

 

Slipping past the flashing red light, the white washed walls and the Velcro pressing into her wrists, she’s falling through the mattress. Her head is heavy, her eyes are closed and she’s lost.

She’s there.

She’s drunk and Root is sober. She’s swaying, rocking against the table top, and Root is sitting.

“Tell me about him.” She says, twisting a spoon in her hand. There’s warm rum on the counter. At Shaw’s immediate grunt, Root blinks slowly and raises an eyebrow. “Come on, Sameen. Now’s the perfect time for a little girl-on-girl bonding.”

Shaw snarls in response. “You probably know everything already.”

It was a numberless night and Root had scraped a bottle cap along the width of her door and offered it up at the opening.

“Tell me anyway.” Root says, running her thumb up around the curve of the spoon. Her eyes are eager, her smile forced. “I want you to tell me.”

“He was normal.” She whispers, shrugs and looks away. (She hears screeching, sees fire and trips toward the pavement. There’s a dead body behind her. It’s him, she thinks. It’s him, she knows.) Shaw needs a drink; she thinks this is why Root brought the bottle.

Root nods. “Did you call him Dad?” She asks, leaning forward just so. “Father? Mr-”

“Why? Why do you want to know, Root?”

She shrugs but her left eye twitches, tells Shaw that this is important for some reason. Root needs to know this, and now Shaw doesn't want to give it to her for that very reason.

Root averts her eyes, trails a finger along the wooden surface and circles a crumb. “I mentioned him once.” She whispers, looks up and studies Shaw’s face. “I've never seen you so animated, so…”

Shaw swallows the rest of her drink and then shrugs back. There’s no burn down her throat, she can’t taste a thing.

“Emotional.” Root finishes, after a few minutes. Shaw wants to be sick, considers the benefits of aiming for Root’s shoes. She wants to tell Root to be quiet, to mind her own damn business and to leave the rum when she shuts the door behind her. Shaw wants to pull the chair from beneath her and watch her fall against the tiles.

“I was wrong.” Shaw says, watching Root’s eyebrow curl in question. “You don’t know anything.”

Instead, Root stands and pushes the chair back, leaving it to fall and disappear. The walls are starting to crumble but Root doesn't comment or acknowledge the destruction. She smiles and walks forward, closer than Shaw wants.

“Is it so shocking,” she says, head tipping to the left and tiles dropping from the floor around them, “that I want to get to know you, Sameen?” The blackness is webbing out and around and Root is about to be dragged under. She’ll tumble and disappear.

Shaw’s reaching out, fingers tracing Root’s shirt just before she’s falling.

Shaw’s shouting her name as the darkness turns light and she’s flailing forward and gasping for breath and gasping at Greer.

 

--

 

They ask her what she remembers and she says nothing. (She remembers her.)

“Do you know your name?”

Shaw nods. Repeats her name three times and then thrashes against her constraints when Greer just nods and stares.

“Don’t fight it.” He says, watching her with a patience she knows he doesn't have. “I just want to talk.”

She scoffs, calming at once to level him with a gallant glare. “I’d probably be more co-operative if you weren't keeping me tied up like one of your pet dogs.”

Greer smiles and sits a little straighter. “I would never demean you in such a way, Sameen.”

Her lips are chapped, and she purses them just to feel them splinter and crack. “Great.” She says, turning to watch the monitor flash a red warning. (Get out, get out, get out.) “What do you want to talk about?” She asks and expects the answer she always receives.

“My dear,” he says, without missing a beat. It’s practiced and precise and she wonders if they know she’s aware that she’s asked that question every day for a week. “I just want to get to know you.”

They’re feeding her liquids and drugs she isn’t sure they’re allowed to prescribe. There’s a black window in front, leading to another room she’s been told is monitored. No cameras, Greer had said before turning on the drip and watching her head fall back.

Her friends aren’t watching. Her friends will never be watching. (They’re coming, she thinks, they’ll know she’s alive.)

“Someday soon, I’d like to have a little chat.” He says, signalling his happy friend with the needles to open the door. “These will make you more relaxed for now, Sameen, it’ll only be a pinch.”

A pinch, she thinks, and smiles. A pinch and she’s lost and she’s lost and she’s found, ever so quickly.

 

--

 

Remember, remember, remember-

There’s rubble and ruin and blood dripping between the cracks. There’s a swirl of white as she turns, watches the space between the mist twist and separate. There’s a body lying in the middle of the subway, broken and bruised. There’s Reese and Finch and her, looking up and watching as Shaw fumbles with clothing.

Root looks calm as she jolts against the stone floor, her eyes are smiling up and searching and Shaw can’t look down.

She can’t breathe, she can’t breathe, she can’t breathe.

(She watches Root go out alone and waits for her to come back broken. It’s an endless cycle. It’ll kill them both one day.)

Pressing a hand to the open wound, she watches Reese pulling at gauzes and bandages and spilling antiseptic over his palms. Finch is hobbling back and forth, running his eyes across a useless first aid handbook. She watches Bear, she watches the blood bubble against her fingertips, she watches the lights flicker above. She watches everything but the woman below.

Caring sucks, she thinks, and reminds herself not to do it again.

Remember, remember, remember.

Root’s in her bed when she trips through the doorway. Huddled beneath her comforter, pressed against her pillow and breathing heavy into her private space. Shaw can’t help but stare.

(Look away, away, away. Look for someone less permanent.)

She looks vulnerable in sleep, and Shaw squirms at the ball in her gut that’s trying to breed the need to protect this woman. She wants to keep guard, to change her bandages and stop the bleeding at the source. Shaw wants to sink, so instead she shakes Root awake and tells her there’s a sofa in the next room and a blanket on the chair opposite.

Root stands, looks mildly hurt and brushes past Shaw’s shoulder with an understanding she shouldn't have. The doorway drops between them and when Shaw reaches to pull the rubble away all she sees is white space, filling up around her and dragging her back.

There’s a red flash in the distance. Flashing on, flashing off, flashing on and flashing off.

(Don’t wake up, she thinks it says, don’t, don’t, don’t.)

 

--

 

They wheel her into a dark room with a large screen hanging from the ceiling. There’s a scene playing on loop. There’s a kiss, a push and a run. A kiss, a push and a run. Over and over and over.

She can’t watch. She can’t look away. She shouldn't have done it. (They know now, she’s sure. They know she has a weakness.)

Greer hasn't looked at the screen once; he waits and studies Shaw instead. Swaying with his hands behind his back, he asks, very slowly, “you’re close with the analogue interface, my dear?”

Staring at the scene repeating in front, she’d be a fool to deny it.

“So many names.” He turns, then, and watches a kiss, a push, a run. “So many aliases. The poor girl-”

“I don’t want to watch this.” Shaw murmurs, louder again when Greer says nothing. Louder, louder- “I don’t want to watch this.”

Greer keeps it playing for a while, looking from the man behind her to Shaw and then back to the screen. When he clicks his fingers the screen goes black and the room lights up instead. She has to squint to adjust.

“Tell me about her, Sameen.”

She can’t say a word on the matter.

“I can’t.” Shaw says, and her voice is weak and soft and she recoils at the sound. She coughs, swallows and decides to rephrase her refusal. “I’m not telling you anything. Go fuck yourself.”

Hopefully they’ll send the needles in soon. She’ll feel the rush of the pinch and the flooding of the mist and she’ll be lost again.

Lost, lost, lost and she’ll be there.

 

--

 

Drunk on adrenaline and heady with fear, she pushes Root up against the warehouse wall.

(She could’ve lost her, she thinks and tries to calm the beating in her chest.)

“Don’t you dare do that again.” She murmurs, pressing a finger against Root’s most recent bullet wound. There’s a hiss, but Root’s grin only grows and her eyebrows kink up. It infuriates Shaw. “I can look after myself, okay? I don’t need you and that stupid Machine coming to my rescue.”

Root blinks, agonizingly slowly and says, “whatever you say, Sweetie.”

Shaw presses harder, smiles when Root gasps and tries to steady her breathing. “Funny, you've said that before.”

There are a few minutes that string together, Root staring down and waiting. Shaw, looking up and trying not to watch the indentation against Root’s lip as her teeth dig in. There’s a moment, then, when Root bends her head slightly, leans forward and just manages to reach the outline of Shaw’s ear, and Shaw can’t breathe. Her heart hasn't slowed from the fight, her mind hasn't stopped watching Root jump in front and now they’re here, so close and alive.

“Last time,” Root whispers, breath warm and heavy, “I promise.”

Shaw can’t help it, she can’t stop herself leaning in to push her head against the cheek beside her. She can’t stop the inhale at Root's answering sigh.

(She can’t help but get lost in this woman. Pull away, away, away.)

When Shaw feels the trace of Root’s lips against her cheekbone, she steps back and back and back until they’re far enough apart to feel the cold. She feels shaky, lets her hand dangle in the distance where she thinks there might be blood drying on the pad of her finger. Root is smiling, always smiling. Always understanding, always there and always, always wrong.

They’re too far apart, and Shaw doesn't remember this bit. This emptiness she’s filling with, watching the warehouse fall and collapse. Rubble and ruin and Root. She can’t watch this woman fall away again, so she closes her eyes and gets swallowed in the mist and the blur of the red flashing light.

 

--

 

They’re getting nowhere. The tube hovers above, the needle is pushed into the bag of liquids these days and she misses the push and pull of the injection. She took a swing at the doctor three days ago and the restraints around her wrists are the tightest they've ever been.

“If you want to talk, why do you keep drugging me?”

Greer looks across at the monitor beeping at her side. “I’m sure you’re aware of what a risk you are, my dear.” He looks down at her and smiles, running a finger absently along her drip. “If we didn't keep you sedated, do you think you’d so willingly stay?”

She blinks and sees red. She blinks and sees Greer and blinding lights and oak brown eyes staring in the distance.

She blinks and she’s lost. Stay, she thinks, and sees Root stand from a bed corner.

“Stay.” She hears, watches Root breathe long and lost. “You don’t have to go yet, do you?”

This weakness etched along Root’s skin is new, her eyes dart to the door and back, her head tilts to the floor and settles against her shoulder. The mission is over, the laptops are closed and the guns are dismantled and zipped away. The mission’s over and she should leave. She needs to leave.

“The number is safe.” Shaw says, shrugging and wanting, wanting, wanting to turn away. She wants to leave now, but Root’s eyes are empty and pleading. Her smile is hesitant, it cracks along the edges and fades across her cheeks. Shaw shakes her head and doesn't know what to do. (An irrational lump in her throat wants to fix this.) “Why would we stay?”

Root tries for flirty, her eyebrows quirk and her voice is silky soft as she whispers “we have the room for the night, Sameen. I can think of plenty of reasons to stay.”

(Run away, run away, run away. She can’t stay.)

She wants to step forward and run a finger along Root’s sinking cheeks, leave bruises along her neck and bite through her lip. She could give in, she thinks, in a second. Her feet so nearly move, she decides to grunt instead. “Go home, Root.”

She leaves Root alone in the hotel room, turns in time to see her smile drop. When she opens the door again, the room is gone and she’s staring into nothing. She wants to go back.

“Eventually, my dear, I hope it will be your choice to stay.” She hears Greer say, turns to see him tapping her tube. She’s back again, but then the ceiling crumbles down and she turns again to see Root, lying beside her with a mischievous smile.

Shaw rubs her eyes and then regrets it immediately. “What are you doing here?” She asks, and then “how did you get in?”

Root shuffles against the pillow beneath and hums. “I was practicing my many skills.” At the answering scoff she tut-tuts and continues. “Now, now, Sameen. You act like I've never broken into your apartment before.”

“What are you doing here?” She asks, again.

Root shrugs and suddenly she changes. She’s staring, Shaw notices with a hitch of her own, at the lips across from her. Root doesn't speak, but Shaw thinks she has her answer. When Shaw bites the corner of her bottom lip, Root looks up and smiles. Her hand, steady and steady and close. There’s a thumb, running the length of her cheek and Shaw can’t breathe.

(She’ll die in this bed and won’t remember anything but the feel of Root’s skin drifting across the lines in her face.)

Panic stricken, heart racing and breath lost somewhere along the way, she swats at the hand burning along her skin and wonders if a touch can leave bruises. Root’s eyes, always searching, searching, searching for something Shaw isn't sure she’ll find.

“Sameen.” Root whispers, searching and searching and Shaw can’t look away. She can’t do anything but stare back and wonder when she let herself feel so much. She’s drowning in Root and she wants nothing more than to sink. “Please let me stay. Don’t make me leave.”

Shaw isn't sure what brought the sudden change in Root. Whether it’s the obvious disconnection from the Machine, whether it’s Shaw’s new friends and the possible sprout of jealousy, whether Root is tired and finally ready to give up, finally ready to give in. Root’s eyes are pained, it eats at her and Shaw can’t help it. She can’t do anything about the way she pushes Root back with a hand to her shoulder, straddles her waist and stares down.

She’s not sure, then, what she’ll do. She wants to hit her, squeeze her and drag her nose up the curve of her neck. Root doesn't look shocked. Composed and brilliant, all she does is smile and wait.

Breathing heavy and hard, squeezing the skin at Root’s shoulders, she wants her to stay forever.

“Don’t tell me what to do, Root.” She says, because that’s all she can manage.

Root squints up and her smile seems genuine when she whispers, “I wouldn't dream of it.”

It’s only then that she realizes where she is, sitting halfway up Root’s body, skin soft against the inside of her thighs. Root’s shirt is lifted slightly, her torso on show and a scar evident just above the hip. Her hand is reaching down without permission, her finger tracing the darkened skin. When she looks up, Root is watching her quietly.

Shaw doesn't like this feeling. This need, this want that starts somewhere in the pit of her stomach and webs out and around.

When she lifts her leg to climb off and away, Root’s hand reaches for her calf. “Don’t.” There’s a touch of nails and Root shakes her head. “Don’t go.”

Shaw panics, says “I want to go,” and runs. It’s a lie.

(Don’t stop. Run and run and run. This thing will kill her.

It almost did.)

 

--

 

They've sat her at a table and she wants to laugh at their attempt at civility. Martine is in the corner of the room and Shaw is busy planning the slowest death possible when Greer finally coughs across from her.

“Everything we do, we do it to benefit the people.” He says, folding his arms above a folder on the table. Shaw blinks and stays mute, shuffling in her chair with as much nonchalance as she can muster. “Samaritan is revolutionizing the way we see the world. We’re building the safest society to ever exist.”

Greer is staring at her, waiting for a response. She blinks back and looks across to Martine and the gun she’s trying to holster.

“We’re still in the process of developing the technology, finalizing plans and building a team. Just imagine the progress we could make when Samaritan is fully functional.” Greer’s face is glowing. “I want you to be a part of that team, Sameen.”

He waits, again, and tries to judge her reaction. She can tell he’s about to give it another shot so she interrupts instead.

“You've got the wrong one.” She says and watches him frown. “I don’t have much faith in the Machine, so you won’t have much luck trying to convince me of how brilliant Samaritan is.”

“My dear-”

“The others, they might’ve been a little interested in what you've got going on down here.” She shrugs, watching his eyes lose their shine with every word. “But me- I don’t get all this technology hype.” There’s a beat and then “poor luck, you got the wrong one.”

He tries for a good few hours, showing videos and pictures of schools, hospitals, military schemes and fantastic terrorism statistics. Shaw sees numbers and words and faces. Shaw counts the exits, the guards, the windows showing actual scenery.

She’ll get out, one day, and she’ll come back to leave holes and blood against the walls until the building falls and there’s nothing left.

 

--

 

They strap shackles to her ankles and let her walk around the room. She chokes a guard against the metal links on her second trial-run and the walls are lined with men and guns the next time she visits.

Her food is tunneled to her in the form of liquids and she only swallows actual substance once a day.

She’s a prisoner of war, she thinks, and waits for a plan to form.

 

--

 

There’s a doctor in a white lab coat standing in front. She blends in and Shaw counts her pens, thinks about jabbing one in the woman’s throat and then turning one on Greer.

“What do you think about?” He asks, when the door is shut again and they’re alone. There’s a click and a beep and Shaw thinks about how many alarms will sound when she finally pries the door open. “After we've sedated you, what do you think about? Past patients tend to report extremely vivid dreams.”

Shaw shrugs. “Nothing.”

She’s lying. (She thinks of a broken subway, a broken man and a broken leg hobbling across stone. She thinks of brown hair and brown eyes and banished feelings. Mostly, she thinks of wanting. Wanting to drown in a woman she’d watched herself crumble against from an elevator camera.)

Greer is watching her with no pretense of belief. “If you tell us where they are, it’ll be a lot easier.”

She scoffs and can’t help the roll in her eyes. “Right.”

“We just want to talk, Sameen. It really needn't be a bloodbath.”

“Just like you wanted to talk at the stock exchange.”

Greer sighs and tries to look guilty. “That was unfortunate, my dear, but you really shouldn't have interfered with my plans.”

Shaw nods, says “go to hell,” and faces away. Her wrists aren't suffocating against the metal stands bordering her bed anymore. She basks in her increased freedom but doesn't mention it; she can’t risk them taking this away again. She’ll use it to her advantage one day soon.

 

--

 

Rubble and ruin and Root. (She’ll come back to this moment for weeks and think about the consequences.)

Reese is taking the number back to Finch, he wants to give the shaky woman a proper debrief and Shaw can’t do much for the scrapes along her arm anyway. She thinks her own arm is bleeding somewhere, her shirt is damp and darkened. Their cab door closes and she turns back to find Root leaning against an alleyway entrance.

“Brilliant show, Sameen.” She says, smiling and waving her over. Shaw’s blood is still pumping, her heart still rattling and she doesn't trust herself to crawl closer. “A record number of knee caps, if you ask me.”

“I wasn't asking.” Shaw says, and turns to leave. (She knows she won’t get far, she doesn't want to.)

She can hear Root’s laughter behind her and she isn't sure if it grates any more than it settles gently inside her. “Oh come on, play with me a little longer.”

“I’m sick of this game.”

“You’re not. You love it.”

Shaw turns, then, watches Root come to a halt a few steps behind. Her eyes are glowing, her grin greedily taking over her face and she looks more like Root than she has in a long time. Shaw takes a second to breathe, she’s filled with some kind of relief she can’t digest.

Root just stares across at her, smile dropping and eyebrow lifting. After a few minutes, and Shaw’s not sure why she can’t just walk away or deadpan an equally final comeback, Root’s face turns serious and it’s almost too much.

She steps back and Root steps forward. Always understanding the situation hours before her, Root searches and says “it doesn't have to be a game.”

It feels heavy and uncomfortable as it settles in Shaw’s gut. (She knows, she knows, she knows. She knows what Root is talking about.)

The fear is a latent feeling, travelling up and staining her skin. She wants to drown in this woman. She wants to sink and never resurface to see the mistake. Root is staring and Shaw can’t handle it so she reaches out, grips her elbow and walks a few steps until she can pull them both into the alleyway.

The look in Root’s eyes is too much, her lips are parting and Shaw’s sure she’s about to say something equally devastating so she presses forward and kisses her instead. One, two, three- she can count the seconds they stay immobile, but then Root’s hands are smoothing down her shoulder, her mouth is answering back and Shaw just might drown anyway.

It’s soft and slow and this feeling is eating her up. It’s not what she wanted, to fill and fill and fill with a ball in her chest urging for more, telling her to take, take, take but gently and nicely. She can’t stand it, so she breaks the kiss to bite into Root’s lip. She wanted regret, but Root’s eyes widen for mere seconds before she’s grinning against Shaw’s teeth and threading her fingers up.

When Shaw pulls away, tastes blood and glares, Root walks them forward until she’s pushing Shaw up against the opposite wall in the alley. It’s suffocating, being this close and cornered, and Root looks pleased with how this has turned out, so she reaches up to wrap a hand around Root’s throat to keep her at bay.

Root’s hands aren't quiet as nasty. She finds herself struggling to breathe even without Root’s predicament, feeling rough fingers pulling at the waist of her shirt, travelling up and beneath the material. Root’s eyes aren't watching her hands, she’s busy staring at Shaw, watching her swallow hard and inhale unsteady. The hands have traveled up and up and up and Shaw’s head is heavy when they reach beneath her bra, Root’s thumb dragging along the edge of the cup.

She’s so busy concentrating on the touch swirling above her torso (wanting and waiting for them to travel in the opposite direction), she doesn't notice how close she’s let Root get. When Shaw looks up, she’s met with an intense stare descending down and she only has time to think no, not yet before Root’s mouth is swallowing her up. There’s a moan, she thinks, from Root. Shaw feels it beneath her palm as it travels up her throat before resting against her tongue. And Root is taking everything Shaw has, coaxing the kiss deeper and harsher and softer.

(She’s drowning, drowning, drowning. Protecting this woman will be so much harder now.)

There’s a hand cupping her breast, another resting at her side and hips that won’t steady against her own. Shaw can’t breathe, and when she squeezes harder against the neck opposite, Root’s mouth falls away and open. It’s interesting, watching Root’s eyes shine with a warning.

Root’s hands stay in place, but her mouth curves to a grin and she watches and waits for a moment longer. “You could just say no, Sameen.” She says, after a while. “If that’s what you really want.”

(It’s not. She wants it to last forever and her body vibrates with the thought.)

They stay like that for a few seconds, long moments that tick forever and last an eternity, until Shaw pulls her hand back and presses her fists to the wall behind. Root only looks mildly pleased, and wastes no time in pushing forward, dropping her hand into Shaw’s pants and further, further, further until Shaw can’t breathe and her head is whipping back against brick and Root’s leaning to bite the skin at her neck.

When Root pushes a finger into her, bypassing her clit completely, Shaw thinks she makes a sound, telling and obvious, and she bites her mouth closed to stop a recurrence. (If she drowns, it’ll be to a feeling of being full and, ever so slightly and terribly, complete.)

It takes seconds really, two fingers flowing in and out, breath hot and heavy against her skin, teeth making welts and drawing blood and Root in and around, sinking her completely.

It takes seconds and Root looks up just in time to watch it happen. Shaw’s mouth gaping and eyes squeezed shut, she forces herself not to make a sound when it’s over. And when Root won’t move away, Shaw untangles them manually and avoids Root’s weighty stare. The air around them is suffocating and beyond the alley there’s a light flickering on and bushes swaying against the wind.

(Shaw almost wishes someone had seen, had interrupted and stopped this madness.)

“Sameen.” Root says, husky and heavy. Shaw can’t look back. She trips away and bites through her gum until all she can taste is blood and all she can feel is throbbing. She’s not shocked when the floor starts giving way, when the sky starts to open up and she’s filled with another sense. The world is coming apart around her and all she wants is the woman buried between a crumbling alley.

The red light flashes on, off, on, off. Her heart, beating, repeating, staggers steadily to the same tune.

 

--

 

“Tell me about John Reese.”

“He’s going to kill you.” She says.

Greer clicks his pen and nods. “I’m certain he’ll try.”

“He’ll succeed.”

“Mr Reese wants to save lives, and so do we. Together, we would be unstoppable.”

“Why don’t you ask him?”

“We want the same thing, my dear. All of us.”

“No.” She says, slouching further into the chair. “We don’t.”

 

--

 

“Harold Finch.” Greer opens a folder and broken glasses stare back.

“You got his best angle in that one.”

Greer ignores her. “I’m a rather big fan of his work.” She watches him turn pages until he reaches what he’s looking for. The Machine plastered in bold across the top. “His Machine is, however brilliant, somewhat flawed.”

“And yours is perfect, I’m sure.”

“Harold’s Machine has lost all notion of being a logical AI, choosing instead to act with human inclinations. The coding and influences of its maker has caused a tendency to act on morals instead of pure, unobstructed rational.”

Silence.

“I've attempted to persuade Harold of the benefits of Samaritan, several times with several different people.”

She slumps further down. Greer looks unimpressed with her attitude.

“My dear, I hope you’re aware there is only so much we can do. The Machine needs to be shut down, and if we cannot convince your friends to allow its demise, then we will have no other option.”

Shaw nods, sitting up slightly straighter to stare into the cold eyes opposite.

“Right.” She mutters. “Your plan is to convince the world of this all-seeing AI. But, failing that, you’ll just kill them.”

He shakes his head. “The world needn't know the intricate details of the system.” He closes the folder beneath his palms and Finch disappears. “Your friends, however, pose a threat we cannot ignore. This is the future, Sameen, and Samaritan must flourish.”

“They won’t listen to you.”

“Perhaps they’ll listen to you, then.”

Shaw scoffs. “I’m not doing that.”

“Then you know what we’ll have to do.”

All of a sudden, she’s flooded with dread. It disappears moments later. “They’ll beat you.” She says, but three people against the largest growing organisation funded by the government sounds humorous.

“Are you convincing me, Sameen?” His face is blank, his blink is slow. “Or yourself?”

 

--

 

The folder opens slowly and she tries not to look away. She tries to stare just like the others.

“Samantha Groves.” He says, looking up. “The analogue interface, the voice to the Machine and the woman with over a thousand identities.”

She doesn't nod in response, just looks up to level his stare.

“Tell me about her.”

She can’t. “She’ll probably kill you too.”

“Is she another John Reese, then?”

Shaw blinks back. “You’ll probably want him instead.” Her smile turns ugly. “She’ll take her time when she does it.”

He pretends to think on this for a moment before speaking again. “Ms Groves has attempting to hack into our systems. On several occasions, actually.”

“You should tell her to stop.”

Greer runs a finger down Root’s cheek and the paper wrinkles ever so slightly. “Wouldn't you know, we've tried.”

Shaw shrugs. “She’s not a great listener.”

“Is she not?” He raises an eyebrow but doesn't wait for an answer. Closing the folder, he says “it would be sad, don’t you think, for all this talent to go to waste?”

She frowns. “I mean, I didn't say she was-”

“My dear, all of your friends have talents that would prove extremely compatible with Samaritan.” He drums his fingers against the metal table, looks up to present her with a horribly pitying smile. “Together, perhaps we could save them.”

“They don’t need saving.” She says, and watches Greer’s grin grow wider.

 

--

 

The doctor had smiled down at her when she’d pushed the needle into her bag of fluids. Shaw had scowled back.

Drifting in and out of consciousness, the white walls turn bloody and the red light turns into drops against the cubicle. She’s bleeding from her waist and she thinks she was stabbed by their most recent number. Double-crossed again, and Reese had pulled out his gun and sprinted after him. Shaw had told them all their number wasn't the victim and, of course, this is the perfect way to prove her point.

“Steady now.” Root whispers, pulling her up and pressing another handful of tissues under her shirt. “You've had worse, Sameen.”

“Fuck you.” She manages, and her glare isn't nearly as deathly as she’d wanted. The pain is blinding and ever so slightly satisfying. She wobbles again and grips harder at Root’s supporting arm. “I don’t need you.” She says, blinking so slowly she isn't sure if she’ll sleep. “I’m a doctor, I’m fine.”

Root has the decency not to smirk, she merely leans closer and kisses Shaw’s cheek. “How could I not help,” she hums and looks down with a worried glance she fails to disguise, “when it involves such a close proximity to you.”

Shaw nods; she thinks she’s losing her mind. Half her head is probably filled with air because instead of pushing away and reprimanding, she leans her head against the cubicle wall and whispers “I ran away.”

There’s a flash of surprise in Root’s eyes before she agrees. “It wasn't quite how I imagined it.” She leans forward, adding pressure to her side and looking at the puddle of blood on the floor before looking back at Shaw. “We can always try again, can’t we?”

“You want it too much.” Shaw says, dazed and delirious. She’s not sure how much blood she’s lost, but she knows she should probably be worried. When she reaches up, there’s blood painted along her hand and up her arm, she doesn't have the strength to hold it long and only vaguely hears her limb collide with the wall behind.

Root is still just staring though, stunned into immobility and frowning across at her. “But we’re good,” Root says, still thinking, “together.”

Shaw doesn't know if Root means in combat or something altogether different, but her head isn't ready to mull it over. (She thinks, briefly, that it’s probably true for everything. They’re always better together.) “Maybe.” Shaw tries to shrug but her head collapses instead. “I’d be better alive though.”

It takes a few seconds for Root to catch on, and then she’s nodding and pulling Shaw closer and tighter until Shaw isn’t sure which are her own arms and which are just borrowed for support. “I’m taking you to a hospital.” Root says and opens the door to find a woman waiting. Her legs are crossed and her brows even more so.

Shaw can’t register much, her eyes are drooping and her head is slipping from Root’s shoulder.

She thinks she hears Root apologize for the mess and mutter, “I’m on my period.”

And then she disappears in a mist of red and Root.

 

--

 

When Greer enters the room, he’s followed by three guards and two doctors. She’s been lying awake and mapping what she thinks is the route down the corridor, placing toy soldiers in the appropriate positions and running over scenarios to get out. Her wrists are red raw and itchy where she’s been twisting against her restraints.

It comes crashing down.

“We’re going to move you.” He says, swinging his hands behind his back. His face is calm and subdued. “It won’t be a long journey but we won’t keep you awake for any of it. I’m sure you’re aware of why we need to take this precaution.”

“Why?” She asks, almost immediately after his mouth closes. (She’s planned it all out; she’s seen the building map and directions hanging on the corridors where she’s wheeled past.) “Why are you moving me? I haven’t done anything.”

One of the guards is staring stonily at the needles the doctors are playing with, worrying his lip before looking back at her. He’s scared of her, she thinks, and so he should be.

Greer steps forward until he’s at the rear of the bed and smiles. “My dear, you’re very important to us.”

Shaw stares at him for a few minutes and says “she’s found me.”

He blinks back so slow and steady, she thinks she’s solved him.

“They know where I am and they’re coming for me.”

“Actually, it’s quite the contrary.” His smile turns foul and his cheeks crease and eyes wrinkle at the effort. “They’ll find you when we want them to find you. Perhaps we just want to hurry things along.”

Shaw feels her face drop and tries to stop such an obvious show of defeat. She hadn't thought of it, really, being used as bait.

It’ll work, she thinks. They’ll come for her like they always do. They’ll find her and find a trap.

Shaw will kill them.

(Rubble and ruin and Root. Perhaps they’ll crumble together.)

 

--

 

She’s dropping further and further. Sinking down, down, down and spluttering for air. The red light, distant in the sway of the mist, takes her home. Shaw opens her eyes and thinks she’s awake again.

Her arms are twisted behind her back and tied to the metal chair she’s strapped to. She’s so busy concentrating on feeling around the rope; she almost doesn't hear the woman behind her. Of course she’d be stuck in a mad man’s basement with the most annoying accomplice possible.

“What?” She grunts, twisting her head but only seeing wall. “Actually, just keep your voice down. I’m trying not to listen to you.”

She can hear the smile in Root’s voice. “It’s such a shame,” she says, cheeky and chirpy, “that we’re facing away from each other. I’d love to see you tied up and frustrated.”

The rope is too tight around her wrists, he’s triple-tied it and weaved it all up her forearm. Shaw can’t help the frustrated groan as she shuffles on the chair and only just manages to keep balanced.

“Alright back there, Sweetie?”

She doesn't answer immediately, she struggles a little longer before slumping down. “Fucks sake. The stupid psycho’s trying to cut off my circulation.”

Root tut-tuts. “I wonder what he thinks he’s playing at.”

“This isn't funny.”

“I couldn't agree more, Sameen.” Root may as well be singing. “It’s quite a serious matter.”

“When I get free, I’m leaving you here.” Shaw growls, fidgeting and failing yet again.

There’s silence and then Root says “that’s not very nice.” Her voice is louder and Shaw turns as best she can to see Root playing with the rope as she walks to Shaw’s side. “I wouldn't dream of leaving you.”

Shaw’s face, she knows, is positively deadly. “How long have you just been sitting there?”

Root pouts and steps in front, looking Shaw up and down with no shame. “I mean, I know I left my gun in the car, but using a double-knot is just insulting.”

“Get me out.”

Root raises an eyebrow. “Isn't there a special word missing?”

Shaw grits her teeth and flares her nostrils. She’s trying for threatening but Root just looks excited. “Root.” She warns and wiggles again until her chair is unsteady against the stone floor. “Untie me. Now.”

Root raises her hands in surrender, dropping her own rope and leaning down to concentrate on untangling Shaw’s. “I guess we can work on your manners another time.”

And, of course, Root finds it best to lean over Shaw’s body, arms threading past her waist and head pressed up against her chest. There are fingers touching more skin than necessary, grazing against the rope and back to drag a nail up Shaw’s arm.

Just before the rope is undone, Root leans up so her face is inches from Shaw’s nose. She looks down to stare at Shaw’s lips before looking up with a smirk. “Nearly finished.”

Shaw smiles in response. “I’ll head-butt you.”

“Your charm always slays me.” Root says, leaning back with a rope in one hand and the other reaching up to push hair behind an ear.

Shaw stands immediately, brushing nothing off her trousers and heading toward the door with Root in tow.

She doesn't get far until the floor drops beneath her.

 

--

 

She wakes to a needle and what she thinks is the back of a truck.

She dozes to a shot and what she thinks is a warped display of heroism.

 

--

 

She’s so angry. She’s so angry, she wants to slam the door in Root’s face and tell her not to come back.

(It’s going to be a long fight, but it must be won. At any cost.)

She’s so angry she pushes Root up against the metal handle and watches with satisfaction as she cries out in pain. Shaw’s not thinking right, full of fear and loss for a woman who simply smiled when she was resurrected on the other side of the door.

Shaw is so angry, and Root just stares with a wonderful smirk like she’d been expecting this reaction. So Shaw does what she thinks is probably not expected and pushes a hand down Root’s pants. The initial shock is brilliant. Root’s head smacks back against the door, a dazed whine pulled from her throat. Shaw takes the opportunity to sink her teeth into the base of Root’s neck.

“You could’ve died.” She says through gritted teeth. With fingers sliding ever so slowly past her clit until they push inside, Root’s only response is a groan and the sway in her hips. “You could’ve died, you stupid-”

“Have some faith, Sameen.” Root manages, sounding strangled and strained. “But I will, if you don’t-”

She’s silenced by the pull of Shaw’s fingers, pulling out only slightly to force them back in again with a force she can’t help. She bites harder, pushes harder, presses her thigh up so much harder. She’s vibrating with anger, mouthing curses along Root’s neck as she instead chooses to breathe curses aloud.

Shaw doesn't stop, doesn't slow or soften until Root is writhing against her palm and running out of air. It’s quick and almost mean, the way she pulls out an orgasm, pushing her nose into the crook of Root’s neck, curling the tips of her fingers and rocking her hips forcefully until Root’s spiraling closer and gasping into Shaw’s hair.

(She thinks, briefly, of how long Root has probably wanted this and shrinks at the thought.)

When it’s over, Shaw retracts her hand and mouth and steps away until she’s just staring at Root, slumped unsteady against the door. It takes a few minutes for Root to get her breath back (all the moans and groans and- Shaw blinks back).

“I might risk my life more often.” Root says, smiling and failing to keep her voice steady.

Shaw thinks she looks beautiful, disturbed and disheveled. “It’s not funny.”

Root bites her bottom lip, leans her head left and just stares. It feels like a heavy moment and Shaw finds herself unable to break the tension. They’re standing feet apart and blinking across and Shaw is so aware of her chest rising and falling, rising and falling, rising and falling and she’s not sure if it’s her breathing or her heart.

“Don’t do it again.” Shaw rasps, when she can’t stand the silence any longer. “That was the last time you do something stupid for someone else, okay?”

Root doesn't even pretend to think it over. She nods and says “last time,” like she always does. “I promise.”

Shaw’s never needed to believe anything more in her life.

 

--

 

There’s a red light flashing. (Don’t wake up, don’t, don’t, don’t.)

Martine is hovering over her with a breakfast bar pushed against her mouth. “Eat up.” She says, eyes menacing and mean. “You've slept through dinner.”

Shaw bites half the bar off and tries to take Martine’s fingers with it.

The room is cream this time, a window to her left shows a blue sky and grey clouds and she can’t look away.

“Make yourself comfortable.” Martine says, rattling the restraints at her wrist and moving down to do the same at her feet. “You’ll be here for a while.”

Shaw surveys the area and looks for sharp objects, or any objects for that matter, joining her in the room. She’s truly stuck and Shaw’s never felt so useless.

 

--

 

Thrashing against the constraints, it takes four guards to keep her from ripping her limbs apart and the syringe is rushed in.

Shaw looks at one of the men with a steady glare. “You won’t keep me here.” She whispers, smiling as the needle breaks skin.

Falling, falling, falling into sleep, she thinks she hears Greer arrive outside when her eyes drop shut.

 

--

 

When her eyes open, she’s in the subway and staring across at Root.

It hits her at random times. She’d paid little attention at the time but now it comes back to her in waves. (Head back against the door, ragged breathing and a mouth gaping open. The moans had sounded like a song.)

Root’s clicking buttons she clearly shouldn't be, stealing the keyboard out of reach and Finch looks like he’s going to scream. “I have no doubt you know what you’re doing.” He says, reaching again for the stolen board. “But I’m quite capable of doing it myself.”

“It’s no bother, Harry.” Root sings, turning and giving him the naughtiest smile Shaw has ever seen on that face. “Really. I miss doing everyday back-ups. I need to ground myself now and then.”

Finch flicks his glasses up and looks up protectively at his screens. “Ms Groves-”

She’s distracted when Reese presses something into her hand and she immediately turns her attention away. “You’ll need the silencer.” He says, pointing down at her open palm and the object balancing against her thumb. “Our number’s a governor.”

“Great.” She mumbles, turning briefly to stare at the bickering by the computer. (Root had groaned as she came, shaky and spent against Shaw’s ear.) “I hope I get to shoot him.”

The pillars in front drop and the ceiling cracks and crumbles down. Reese doesn't say anything, Root and Finch carry on undisturbed. The lights flicker and go off and she’s plunged into darkness until she’s not. Until she’s blinded by brightness.

There’s a red light flashing. There’s talking and Martine pointing and Greer nodding. There’s a red light flashing and it slowly disappears.

There’s a red light and Root, hovering above her with a sly smile as she curls a finger around Shaw’s hair and pulls.

Shaw hides the hiss with a grunt and asks “is that supposed to do the job?”

“No.” Root looks elated at the prospect, leaning down and biting Shaw’s bottom lip. She leans up again before she speaks, stares down and smiles. “I’m going to eat you up.” She says the last word with a quick peck down and Shaw thinks about admonishing her for being gross but the idea makes her ache and she’s already helping Root pull at her pants.

She comes with Root’s tongue gliding over her clit and fingers filling her completely. She comes breathless and raised halfway up the bed with a palm scratching patterns against the inside of her thigh. Shaw sees stars and wants to sink.

(Rubble and ruin and Root. She thinks it’ll always come back to this.)

 

--

 

Martine is watching her.

“I wanted to shoot you.” She smiles, like it’s meant to be nice. “Down at the stock exchange.”

“Didn't want it enough, clearly.”

“We needed you.” Martine crosses her arms, purses her lips. “I didn't know how useful you’d be until I heard the wailing from the elevator.”

It stings a little less nowadays. “I’m popular.”

“Obviously.”

Shaw’s wrists haven’t started healing from her last attempt at freedom. She grits her teeth before speaking again. “Why are you babysitting me?”

Martine rolls her eyes and looks a little insulted at the suggestion. “I’m observing.” She says. “If we keep you bedridden forever you’ll become useless.”

“Then don’t.”

It’s not that simple, she knows. Shaw is a risk to everyone and more so now than ever.

“Maybe we won’t.” Martine says, and leaves with straight arms, legs, back. Like a soldier marching to orders.

She’s not sure how long she’s been here. Her days are spent slurping yogurt from a shaky spoon attached to a shaky soldier. She watches the clouds drift round and lose color until the sky is black and the cycle plays out again and again and again.

Shaw isn't sure when her highlight was playing up against her restraints just to get a needle pushed in and a memory drift out.

(She’s not sure when Root became her only thought.)

 

--

 

There’s blood dripping down her arm when she finally drifts off. Perhaps this is her life now.

It’s too much, watching Root fall apart. (Her head always, always snaps back with a moan that swirls in Shaw’s gut.)

Tomas Koroa offers an escape. His smile is slow but nice. (Root’s smile reaches her eyes. Swallows her whole.) He uses the same lines on every girl, says them smooth and seductive and captures every woman around. (Root whispers words like they've only ever been strung for her.) Tomas is different and easy and he doesn't make her want to capsize. These are all the things she used to take, take, take. (She’s never wanted to drown in someone until now.)

“Ooh, he’s hot.” She hears in her ear and wants to be sick. Tomas orders them a drink and Shaw feels suddenly shaky.

It doesn't work out.

Root destroys half the vials before she pushes Shaw against the nearest pillar. Her mouth makes words along Shaw’s neck and she feels the pinch of nails at her waist. Root’s burning with something Shaw knows is jealousy, her movements rough and bite hard. She isn't sure what to say, so she pulls at Root’s chin until there are eyes meeting her own in a fiery glare.

There aren't words, just Root taking what she wants, taking what Shaw thinks she doesn't want to want. Mouth hot, Root’s tongue burns against her gums, scrapes against her teeth and flicks at her lips. She’s kissing so deep Shaw is drowning. It’s over in a flash. Root wipes her mouth with the back of her hand and walks away. Gasping for air and clarity, Root leaves her heaving against the cold.

Falling, falling, falling, Root stands steady against the collapse.

 

--

 

“How long do you think you've been here?” Martine asks, tapping the glass in the window.

She couldn't honestly say. (Years, she thinks. She’s been here years.)

“Do you know?” Martine looks ugly and snooty and smug. “Have a guess.”

“A while.” She says and receives a disgusting sneer.

Martine’s fingers still against the glass and smear down with a squeak. “I wonder if you even noticed your birthday go by.”

 

--

 

Martine twists her ankle back so quickly, Shaw can’t breathe. The pain is instant, tugging at muscle and webbing up and around and Shaw rips her gum in half to not make a sound. “A little bit of freedom comes at a price.” Martine says, stepping back and letting white coats run in with bandages and splints.

Spluttering against the mattress, she mistakes the doctor for someone else and feels the harsh betrayal of a needle in her neck. “You can end me all you want.” She hears Root whisper before she’s swallowed in sleep.

She’s lost and lost and found.

Trapped in the subway, Shaw takes what she can get. Swallowing half the burger whole, she forgets she has an audience until Root makes a sound on the chair opposite. She hasn't stopped staring since she’d thrown the brown bag over.

“What?” Shaw scoffs, food escaping her mouth.

“Nothing. Just…” Her eyes remain fixed even as her head shakes. “Incredibly jealous.”

“You brought it for me.” Shaw says, in between mouthfuls. “Get your own.”

Root smiles, then, leans forward with an arm resting against her knee and a hand beneath her chin. “I've had plenty of burgers in my life, Sameen, but I can’t say I've ever been devoured quite so attentively.”

Shaw frowns and swallows. When she finishes, she throws the wrapper on the floor and looks across at Bear. The dog has more freedom than her and she grunts and folds her arms. She’s aware she looks like a grumpy child, so she isn't surprised when Root coos across at her.

“Don’t be a sad little Sam.” Shaw shoots her a murderous glare but Root carries on nonetheless. Her face turns a little serious as her eyes settle and she says “we need you to be safe.”

She’s heard this argument again and again and Finch had stuttered his excuses when she’d pointed that out. “I can look after myself.”

Root’s not folding though, and she sits a little straighter, arm falling away. “There’s a war going on.”

“Yeah.” Shaw nods, already tired of this conversation. “I've been in the loop as long as you, Root.” She stands and walks to her makeshift bed in the corner. It’s flat and cold and wholly unimpressive. With all the money Finch is storing, it’s typical she gets stuck with a cardboard box. She lies down and counts the tiles on the wall beside her, the cracks in the ceiling above her. It doesn't take long; she’s done this too many times before.

It’s silent for a long time, but Shaw knows Root is still there. Perched beside the subway and staring across at her. (Shaw can always feel Root’s stare. It bruises along her skin and lasts for hours.)

It’s a while until Root stands and makes her way over. She sits against Shaw’s thigh and pretends to concentrate on smoothing the blanket beneath.

(Shaw diagnosed herself a long time ago with an Axis II Personality Disorder. Root doesn't fit in her box. It’s more than a wanting, like all the others. This is where she belongs, she thinks, but can’t categorize it in any way she likes.)

Root’s finger takes a slow path across the bed, worming around until it hits Shaw’s thigh. Swirling in and out, up to her waist line and across her hips, Shaw’s breath is ragged when she glances up to see Root looking back.

“Every war has its losses.” Root says, pressing her nail hard against Shaw’s shirt and choosing to direct her next words there. “I need you to not be one.”

Shaw pushes Root’s hand away and sits up. Almost petulantly, she repeats “I can look after myself.”

Root makes her want to drown, sometimes, the way she looks across and seems to be sinking herself. Shaw doesn't know if she’s meant to be saving them both, but Root is searching, searching, searching like she always is. Looking for something Shaw has never understood, and she thinks this thing will kill them.

Root’s lips are soft, when she pushes them forward, and Shaw can’t stand it. She hates it, and she allows it only for a few seconds before she bites along Root’s lip, clawing her teeth across a clenched jaw and sucking mercilessly at an earlobe. Root leans into it momentarily, and drags her fingers against Shaw’s cheek to pull her back into a kiss that’s so slow and soft it hurts even more than an attack.

It fills her with a feeling she doesn't like. A ball spins slowly in her gut and asks for more, more, more. She wants Root to take it all. She’ll be wrecked and left empty and hollow with the taste of Root layered across her skin, heavy on her tongue and thick in her throat.

There’s a moan, echoing inside her mouth as Root leans in further, pushes her hand gradually up and against her bra with a thumb pressing down over a nipple. Root’s never been so gentle and Shaw wants to be sick. She wants to be sick even as Root pushes her down and climbs on top, hands still splayed against her chest and mouth still moving to the same rhythm.

Her bra is pushed aside, a cool hand tracing patterns round and round until a finger hits a nipple and Shaw can’t help the groan as she grinds up. There’s a pulse travelling through her body, starting low and pushing up. It’s matched by her heart only when Root rocks against her, lips bumping up and falling back down to rest against her own. Root’s thumb is rolling over a nipple and Shaw’s surging up into the touch, capturing Root’s lip as she sways.

She wants more. She wants so much more she thinks she’ll die if she doesn't get it, and Root’s hands aren't moving down to her pants, her knee is barely grazing her thigh and Shaw wants to scream. “Root, I swear to God-” She manages, but her breath is cut short when a palm pulls up between her legs, pressing in slightly and moving back to stroke the scars on her abdomen. It wasn't what she wanted at all.

Root’s hands are soft, smooth, travel the width of her waist and encompass up to slide against her breasts. Shaw’s finding it hard to keep quiet, her hand is pulling nastily at the hair on Root’s head and her hips are jolting against the parallel push of Root’s.

“You’ll drive me mad.” Root whispers against her lips, nuzzles her nose against Shaw’s cheek and takes a slow, slow, slow path down to her neck. The touches are delicate, the kisses are easy and Root’s voice if filled with something Shaw’s trying not to think about. It’s too gentle, too tender, too final. (Pull away, she thinks. It’ll kill her before it fixes anything.)

The feeling isn't sudden, it doesn't sprout when Root sucks against her shoulder and jumps to rest against her breast, it doesn’t start when there’s a tongue swirling, swirling, swirling over her nipple, drawing into a warm mouth that burns despite the temperature. It grows in her chest, a ball swelling and suffocating, webbing out to her throat and leaving her gasping for air. Root’s lips are scorching, bruising along her skin. Her hands are stroking so soft, Shaw thinks she might melt away. She’ll be marked for days by invisible scars. Gasping, gasping, gasping-

Pulling away, she wants to disappear. Root’s climbing up before she can escape, pulling her back and rubbing a thumb against her chin. “Shh,” her eyes are desperate, her lips are wet. “It’s okay.”

(Rubble and ruin and Root. She’ll collapse against this woman, dismantle and disappear forever.)

“No.” She whispers, harsh against the silence. Louder, louder, louder. “No.”

Root doesn't look surprised. She doesn't look shocked when Shaw pulls away and runs a hand down her face. Shaw wonders if Root expected this to happen from the very start. If she knew all along this thing would wrap around her chest and destroy her.

The light flickers and Shaw can’t look away. “I can’t do that.”

Root nods. “I know.”

“I can’t do this.” She says and feels the air getting colder before the woman’s left.

“I know.”

The subway crumbles and tumbles around them. Root stands and stops a few steps away. She turns to smile but it’s vacant and her eyes don’t twist up. “Get some sleep, Sameen.” She looks away for a moment, distracted by something Shaw’s not party to. “Samaritan is waiting for us.”

She walks away and her footsteps only stop echoing inside Shaw’s chest when the bed breaks through the floor and Shaw’s shrouded in mist.

A red light flashes in the distance. (Come back, she thinks it might say. Please come back.)

 

--

 

There are guards at each corner of the room and Shaw thinks it’s brilliant to be feared this much.

Her feet are heavy against the floor. It’s cold and her toes curl when she reaches the chair. Greer gestures across the table. “Sit. Your ankle must be hurting.”

She’d refused to take a crutch. She’s had worse done to her and she’ll be damned if she lets a sprained ankle ruin her more than three consecutive bullets wedged in her waist. “I want to walk.” She decides, instead. Padding to stand inches away from each guard in turn, she looks back at Greer’s stoic face. “I could break all of their necks without breaking a sweat.”

He doesn't look convinced. “Are you going to?”

“Not yet.” She says and strolls across. Sitting, she pulls her legs up to rest against the table top. (It stings only slightly.) She’ll milk this freedom for all its worth. “What’s on the agenda today?”

Greer looks around and sits a little higher. “Do you know where you are, my dear?”

“Would it help my situation if I did?”

He thinks for a moment and only half his mouth smiles. “I wonder, where do you think is the last place people look for something that’s lost?”

She’s sick of this question game so she blinks slowly and shrugs.

“In plain sight.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“Because, dear Sameen, hide and seek is over.”

 

--

 

Being able to walk freely around a room, whilst a new sensation at first, gets boring after a few days. Her ankle heals slowly and it mocks her as she takes a walk around the corners with a finger balanced against the wall.

She’s able to get back in shape though, and she spends hours doing press-ups against the white tiled floors. She tries to dismantle the bed, all the while watching the tinted window behind her with a menacing smirk. When it doesn't work and the bed stays perfectly in place with no screws to undo, she throws the whole thing through the window and watches glass splinter around her.

It’s a horrible mess and she only manages to knock three guards to the ground before she’s bombarded. Pressed to the floor by seven guards, Martine is a hideous sight as she strolls in with a smile and a syringe.

 

--

 

She dreams of nothing and Root.

She feels cold, looks up and shivers at the expression looking down.

(Rubble and ruin and Root.)

“Get some sleep, Sameen.” She hears, over and over and over.

It bounces around her head and the syllables drag with every repeat.

“Samaritan is waiting for us.”

It disappears in a flashing red light and she thinks it's blood before she wakes up.

 

--

 

Shaw wakes in a coat of sweat, jerking against restraints and hearing wild monitors in the blurry background.

It doesn't last long. Again, again, again.

Her eyes blink twice before they’re broken.

 

--

 

Nothing and Root.

“Get some sleep, Sameen.”

She has to watch this woman walk away again. The walls splinter around them.

“Samaritan is waiting for us.”

Again, again, again.

 

--

 

Greer looks disappointed. His eyes are downcast and his cheeks are thin. “I had wanted to surprise you with some good news, Sameen.” He says, pursing his lips. “But I’m not sure you deserve it.”

“You’ll tell me anyway.” She remarks, because he will and she still won’t care. She’s been locked in a room for days, strapped to a bed and had to watch food slide through a tube and her waste leave from a similar one.

His eyebrows lift but he doesn't deny it. “Your friends are eating up the breadcrumbs.”

“What?”

“They’re close, my dear, and soon they’ll be making contact.” Greer looks proud, like he’s coordinated the greatest plan in the world.

Shaw, for an ugly moment, wants to spit in his face.

(They’re close, she thinks. They’re close to her and Greer and death.)

 

--

 

There are no windows in her room anymore but her restraints are gone. There aren't any needles in sight but she drifts off anyway.

It’s not a dream, really, rather a nightmare. She watches Root stand and her first few steps away ache and swallow Shaw whole.

“Get some sleep, Sameen.”

She mimes the words along with Root when she says “Samaritan is waiting for us.”

Shaw falls with her eyes closed and her lips clenched. She falls and wonders if she ever landed at all.

 

--

 

She wakes to shouting and screaming and sirens.

(They’re close, she thinks. Close to what?)

There are shots, she’s sure, and her arms are shaky when she stands and pulls herself off the bed. The light flickers above and the shadows against the wall are monstrous. Shaw pulls at her clothes, clenches her fists and waits.

She’ll be ready when they come for her.

 

--

 

She waits by the door all night; tries to pry it open and push the bed against the handle.

Shaw waits up for days, or what she thinks is days, and no one comes for her.

The noises outside start to dim and die down until there’s nothing left but silence.

She chews through her nails, gnaws her gums and rocks back and forth.

Shaw stays up forever and no one comes.

 

--

 

She’s not sure how long it’s been since her door has opened, since she’s seen anyone at all and fresh air is filtered into the room.

Greer looks pleased, shrouded in guards and arrogance. “I have a surprise.” He says, and crouches so their eyes meet and Shaw stands up from the floor. For a second, she feels so much higher than him. “I think you’ll be quite pleased with what I have to show you.”

She won’t be and he knows it. Her chest is cracking against the onslaught of her palpitations.

(Breathe, she thinks. Breathe and be fine.)

“Are you going to have Martine killed?”

He looks shocked for a split second and then composed as ever. “No.”

“Are you shutting down Samaritan?”

“No.”

“Then it probably won’t please me.”

Greer looks impressed with himself nonetheless. He gestures for the guards to take a hold of her and she struggles before settling.

“My dear,” Greer says, stepping forward to run a thumb down her cheek. “We don’t have to be enemies.”

 

--

 

She’s pushed into a room like the other. Small and suffocating and painted white all around.

It’s empty and the door is slammed behind her. When it opens again, Shaw has to brace herself against the wall to not fall down. She doesn't know how long she’s been here, held captive by a mad man and his AI, but somehow Root looks a lot older. Her eyes are tired, her cheeks are thin but her smile lights the room regardless.

“It’s a trap.” Shaw whispers, and doesn't think she could say it any louder.

Root isn't responding. She’s just staring across, blinking back and smiling wide.

(Rubble and ruin and Root. The building could crumble here and she’d still be where she needs to be.)

When she steps forward, Shaw can’t help but move back until she hits the wall.

“You’re alive.” Root grins, her teeth and gums on show. “I knew you were alive.”

“They wanted you to come here.” She’s angry. She’s so angry, because now they’ll both die at the hands of Samaritan and she’ll be to blame.

Root shakes her head. “I could feel it. The others, they…” Her eyes are shining, oak wood and home. “I was right.” She giggles, then, and Shaw slouches back and thinks about how many times she’s dreamed of that sound. “Of course I was right.”

They’re going to die. They’ll die in this building and Shaw won’t ever hear that sound again. “You stupid woman.” She says, and Root’s stepping forward, coming closer, closer, closer until all Shaw sees is her. All she smells is Root. “How could you have been so stupid?”

When Root threads her arms behind Shaw’s back, leans in and grazes an ear with her lips, the door flies open.

“I’m getting you out of here.” Root whispers, before arms are tugging her away. Feet scraping along the floor and smile swaying across her cheeks, Root looks beautiful against the white washed walls and black leather armor.

 

--

 

Pacing, pacing, pacing.

Her heart is rapid and racing against her chest. Root is here. Root is here and Greer will take mere minutes to realize she can’t be converted to team Samaritan and then they’ll kill her. Root, captured to save her, killed. Shaw can’t stand the thought.

She needs to get out but the door is persistent and the windows are gone. She’s faced with four walls and a useless bed.

Her heart won’t calm and she thinks she might be drowning in something she refuses to think is fear. Breathless and giddy, she screams until the walls bounce back and she’s surrounded by vibrations. Throwing her bed on the floor, ripping apart the little material they allow her and pounding her fist against the door, she causes havoc.

When the door opens, she strikes. Flooring one of the guards immediately, she knees the next one in the groin and follows the attack with an elbow to the back. Her heart's racing and she hasn't felt so much like herself in a long time. The girl coming at her looks momentarily scared before Shaw easily slides a leg beneath her and she’s falling just like the others.

She’s just managed to push her next opponent against the wall when she hears Greer cough. “Are you going to fight them all, my dear?” He asks. Calm, always so calm, she wonders if he ever wakes with a sweat and regrets the choices he’s made.

“Where’s Root?” She snarls, hand wrapped around the man’s throat, head glancing briefly across at Greer and his toy soldiers.

Greer just blinks, frowns a little and then smiles. “Is that what you call her? I did wonder.”

She’s tired of this game. Breathing in, she wastes no time in sending a fist to meet the guard’s scalp and releasing him to fall. She hears the scuffle of feet before she turns at the ready.

“I don’t want to do this, Sameen.” Greer says. She can barely hear him over her loud breathing, over the crunch of her knuckles and twist of her jaw as she takes on another. With a blow to the face, she stumbles back and then uses the space to run up and tackle two guards together.

“You've left me with no choice, I’m afraid.” She hears, turns in time to see Greer nodding to a woman on his left with a horrible looking gun. There’s a fist to her eye but she still feels the sting of a needle and looks down at the dangling tranquilizer hanging from her arm.

She falls in between Greer’s trusty soldiers and fades to black.

 

--

 

Falling, falling, falling. This is how she broke:

“Hey, Sweetie.” She hears, skidding down a corridor. It’s shaky and sweet and Shaw steps a little quicker. “You busy?”

It’s a mess. The basement fills with bullets and bleeding and a button she needs to press. (She’ll die, she thinks. She’ll die for a team of misfits.)

Root’s eyes are dangerous, looking down and across. Her voice low and her grip unsteady, Shaw knows she doesn't have another choice. She aches only slightly at the thought of goodbyes, so she doesn't say them. Squinting along at everyone, Shaw blinks back to the only person denying the obvious. Perhaps this is why she didn't die against a set of changing lights on the corner of an insignificant street.

She knows Root won’t let her go, so she does the only think she can think. Pressing a hard kiss up, Shaw doesn't have time to settle into it before she’s pushing Root off and locking them away.

She allows herself one last glance, and doesn't look back until she’s fallen further than ever before and the elevator doors are slammed shut.

(The scream had echoed along her ears. She hadn't heard the sound of bullets against her heart dropping.)

There’d been everything and then nothing. Screaming and then silence. Light and then dark.

She’d collapsed against the tiles with a scream reverberating around her skull.

 

--

 

She wakes with a jolt. Her head is splitting apart.

Greer wastes no time with pleasantries or admonishments.

“We’re not monsters.” He says and she scoffs. “I won’t deny you a reunion.”

She stares at him perched beside her bed. He looks like a worried grandparent and Shaw never had that, but she sure as hell doesn't want one now.

“But you’ll deny my basic human rights?” She asks.

He thinks for a moment before answering. “Whilst not everything we do is pleasant, my dear, it is necessary.” Greer folds his hands in front. “We've only ever wanted to keep everyone safe.”

Shaw frowns up in disbelief. “Who buys this rubbish coming from your mouth?”

He smiles and this time it reaches his eyes. “My dear, Sameen.” He reaches forward but thinks better of it and flops his hand back to his lap. “One day, I dearly hope you do.”

 

--

 

Root’s sitting on a metal chair when she walks in. She’s drumming her fingers against the table and Shaw can’t look up from the nails tap-tapping. She walks over and sits, only then glancing up and meeting worried eyes.

“Have you been beating yourself up again, Sweetie?” She asks, when her eyes dance with fear and her smile wobbles.

Shaw shakes her head, thinks words are probably overrated but says “no,” anyway.

“Isn't it lovely that they've allowed us to talk?” Root says, looking around the room and shooting a sickly sweet smile at the tinted glass. “Prisoner treatment is five stars, I would say. Definitely would recommend.”

Shaw doesn't think it’s funny. She stares across and frowns. “Root-”

“You've been here longer, though.” Root purses her lips and swallows a lump that visibly struggles on its decent. She looks pained at her words. “So, Sameen, what do you think?”

She doesn't answer, looks across and waits for Root’s eyes to calm and her breathing to settle. “What are you doing?”

Root blinks back, and Shaw briefly remembers pushing her away and into an elevator, watching her stumble and cry out to ears not listening. Shaw can’t hold the stare for long, she looks away just as Root’s eyes start burning with a fire enraged by time.

“What were you thinking?” Root asks, when the silence has hung for far too long. “How could you do that, after everything I asked?”

Shaw doesn't have a fool proof answer, but she regrets nothing and she says so and follows it with “there was no other way.”

“Now that’s bullshit and you know it.” Root’s eyes are hot and cold, burning and freezing her in place all at once. Shaw’s heart won’t steady.

She shrugs and looks down to rub smears across the metal table in front. “I’m not weak, Root.” Looking up, she regrets it immediately. “How long have I been here?”

Root’s face flashes with something devastating. There’s loss, love, loathing dripping from her eyes. “Too long.” She says and won’t look away.

Shaw doesn't push, perhaps she shouldn't know some answers.

“It was a trap.” Shaw mumbles, looking to the window and back. She’d told Root already, when they’d first been pushed together and pulled apart, and Root hadn't paid much attention. “They wanted you to find me.”

Root still doesn't look concerned, she’s starting to get color back and her smile is still slow against her cheeks, but she nods in response anyway.

“Are the others here?” Shaw holds her breath for the answer. (Not all of them, she thinks. Please let some of them live.)

“No.” Root smiles, waves her hands in the air as she says “just me,” and drops her arms back.

Relief is overwhelming and Root watches her expression intently.

“Aren't you lucky?” It’s said with a cheeky hint, but Root’s smile is fake and Shaw can’t bring her back from this.

“I am.” She says, as the door swings open and guards pile in. She panics for a moment and, for a horrifying second, thinks it’s time for their execution. (She wouldn't have batted an eyelid at the thought in the past, and she winces at the prospect of changing.)

Greer is behind them all, a wild grin and clasped hands. “I’m sorry to break up the chatter, my dears,” he mutters, looking predominantly across at Root, “but I have some business with Samantha that really mustn't wait.”

There are arms tugging Shaw out of her seat, and her eyes fly back to Root where she’s watching it all happen very calmly. She smiles when she catches Shaw’s eye and her face turns soft all of a sudden when she speaks. “Get some sleep, Sameen.”

(Samaritan is waiting for us, Shaw hears echoing around the room. But it doesn't come.)

“I’ll see you soon.” Root says, instead. The door slams in front of her face, just as Greer had filled her seat and folded his hands in front.

She’s dragged away and, when she tries to trip her captive up, a syringe is pressed inside.

 

--

 

Rubble and ruin and Root. She sees it in a flash.

An iron held close to her chest and eyes that sparked interest, excitement, hunger and back then she’d had another identity altogether. A project, a hunt, a bullet pressed to her shoulder and Root had fallen in an empty warehouse and cried against the blow. (Root hadn't mentioned the shot, just stared at the bitter disappointment of a runaway machine.)

Stunned and kidnapped, she’d punched Root asleep in the underground pipes and wanted to leave her there for good. Root threads herself in, webs herself around. Again, again, again until she’s permanent and Shaw hadn't quite been able to stand when she’d turned on a busy street and thought it was goodbye.

Again, again, again. She comes back to Root always. Pushed against an alley, a door, a bed. Pressed to a pillar, a stairway and the metal shelter of their subway. She drowns and sinks and only rarely breathes air before she breathes Root.

Dying against a basement floor with a rising elevator in the distance, she’d bled out and wondered what would kill her first.

 

--

 

She’s dragged back to reality with a hand gripping her arm and a siren blaring above.

“Get up.” Root demands, pulling, pulling, pulling until she’s tripping against the cold floor and heading straight for the open door.

There’s flashing red lights above, bodies splayed below and Root, one hand at her wrist and another waving a gun, in front.

“How did you-”

“We’re not stupid, Sameen.” Root looks back quickly before facing forward again. Shaw doesn't know if Root is talking about her special Machine and earpiece or Reese and Finch. “We can spot a trap when we want to.”

Root’s leading them down a corridor, turning left and stepping over arms and legs and Shaw doesn't know how she’s done this. “Give me a gun.” She pulls out of Root’s grip and looks around petulantly.

“Anything for you.” Root smiles, gestures around to the bodies. “Take your pick.” Shaw picks up a gun, turns it over in her hand and when she looks up Root is pulling off her gown and pulling on leather trousers. “You look lovely, Sweetie, but I just don’t suit the patient look anymore.”

Shaw doesn't know what to say so she stands and strokes her new weapon.

“Are you happy now?” Root asks, eyes shining and smile menacing. “We have guests waiting downstairs.”

 

--

 

“Reese and Lionel are taking care of the bottom floors.” Root says, but Shaw can hardly hear her she’s so giddy after her first shot. “We just need to get down three floors. We’re crashing the fourth soon, so we need to be quick.” Root’s grin turns nasty as she slides against the wall and looks back to smirk her next words. “A rocket waits for no one.”

There are guards running up the stairs, she hears them stamp up and kick open the door to the corridor adjacent. Without speaking, they step out and start shooting side by side. The crowd fall like dominoes. They’re waves that keep coming but never make it to shore. Down the stairs, left and through a large computer room, Shaw follows Root like she thinks she always does.

They've weaved through three floors when they reach an obstacle worth waiting for.

Greer, huddled in a bundle of agents armed at the ready, smiles sadly. Martine wobbles at his right hand side.

“It’s a shame it’s come to this, ladies.” He says, his composure slipping. “We could’ve built something incredibly special.”

Root sways on the spot, her head tipping and mouth pouting. “We already have something special, John.”

He shakes his head and glances at the guns by his side. “Your Machine has marched you to your death.”

“And yours, you.” Root quips in response. Greer clicks his fingers and the guards stand to attention and raise their guns higher. Root holds up a finger, looking as calm as ever. “But before we go our separate ways, She wanted me to give you a message.”

Greer looks across and nods his head. “Go on.”

Shaw’s hands are itching at her gun.

“She wanted me to tell you to run.” Root laughs a little when she says it. “But we have mixed opinions on that.”

Greer’s mouth opens as if to speak but he’s interrupted when the first shot rings and a guard from the back falls. It’s quick and sudden and they all fall one by one as they turn to see the intrusion. Bullets are flying out and out and out and Shaw takes the opportunity to aim for a blonde head in the mix, ducking only slightly against the onslaught, and pushes the trigger at a stony faced woman. Martine falls like a rock.

Shaw spots Reese and Fusco, then, poking out from opposite walls and squinting against the smoke. Her chest fills with something she doesn't have time to dwell in, and she rises a little higher as she pushes what’s left in her barrel.

When everyone is down and gone, only Greer is left standing in the middle. His face is pale and his eyes just look disappointed. There’s no room for fear.

“You took an important member of our team from us.” Root says, when she stands straight and glares forward. From behind Greer and the mountain of limbs, Shaw sees her saviors walking over. Reese points to his watch and Root nods. “I've lost so much time looking for her, and She wants you to run.”

“They’re going to make a better world, even without me.” Greer shakes his head. “You can’t stop Samaritan, my darling.”

Root smiles and her laugh is ugly. “You’re wrong,” face falling and eyes glassing over to stone, she says “know that, old man.” The trigger is pulled and a bullet has never sliced the air so slow, Greer drops dead and merges with his army.

“Time to go.” Reese shouts, and Shaw looks up to see them turning already and jogging away.

It’s not hard, leaving this place. She trips on the stairs on her way out and wonders how it will crumble down, thinks about the destruction in her dreams and hopes the windows sing and shatter before it all falls apart.

 

--

 

Finch is waiting outside, and they fill into a cab of all things.

“Nice to see you again, Ms Shaw.” He stutters as soon as the door is open and Fusco is pushing her up.

Fusco pats her leg when they’re in. “Knew you’d be back.” His voice is rough and he rubs at his eyes. “Weren't waiting or nothing, just, you know, thought you’d be holding out on ‘em. Don’t want to die without your team do ya’?”

“Not anytime soon.” Reese says, patting Shaw on the shoulder.

“Why are you planning my death already?” She’s still gripping her gun like she’s waiting for an attack. “I only just got back.”

“I wasn't-” Fusco stutters against his words before deciding on, “ah, forget it.”

“I thought we were expecting another passenger.” Finch says, looking around and then settling his stare on Root.

“There was a complication.” She replies and Shaw sees a bullet bounce through Greer’s head. Finch must’ve shifted to a disproving look because Root shuffles against the seat before speaking again. “You would've done the same, Harold.”

Their bickering continues and Shaw looks away to watch Reese roll his eyes and glance out the window. “Been like this the whole time?” She asks and Reese grunts and just stares.

Coughing a little awkwardly, he pushes out his hand. “It’s good to have you back.”

“I’m not shaking your hand, you awkward giant.” She swats it away and Reese looks just as pleased to curl his fingers into a fist and let it fall away.

Root’s watching her when she turns back. “Bear will be happy to see you.” She says and turns to look out the window.

 

--

 

They take turns to watch her.

Holed up on the cardboard bed, Shaw sleeps for hours and doesn't dream.

Bear sits guard and paces at her side.

Root doesn't leave the subway once.

 

--

 

She wakes up to a finger dragging down her arm and circling her wrist. She keeps her eyes shut and waits for it to slow. (The touch is too soft, too gentle, too much. She wants to push it away but can’t.)

“You’re stupid for what you did.” Root whispers, pressing a nail into her pulse. Shaw abandons all pretense of sleep and opens her lids to meet icy eyes staring back.

“I know.” Shaw says.

Root looks to her finger and presses harder. “I won’t forgive you again.”

Shaw nods. “I know.”

Root breathes hard, nostrils flaring and finger burning. “Good.” She mutters before standing and walking away from the bed. It’s cold all of a sudden and Shaw has a terrible sense of déjà vu. (Pull her back, back, back.) Her chest is pounding with the loss of a touch that had only lasted seconds. Root’s nearly out of eyesight when Shaw stands and jogs forward.

“Root?” She calls, and waits.

Root stops moving, her shoulders lift as she breathes and it seems like forever until she makes a sound. “I've looked for you for so long, I don’t know what to do now that I've found you.” Her back turns and her eyes don’t smile with her mouth.

Shaw doesn't know what to say to that, so she steps forward again and again until she could stretch out and graze Root’s arm if she tried. She breathes in and tries for the truth. “I've dreamt of you for so long, I don’t know what to do now that you’re here.”

Root’s answering smile is tremendous. Her head tilts and her mouth closes. “Quite a predicament we’re in.”

Shaw nods but she reaches for Root’s jacket before she can agree. She nods, but she’s leaning up and Root’s leaning down and sighing just before their lips touch and Shaw melts. There’s still a smile singed against Root’s lips as she pushes back, opens her mouth to press down again as her fingers tug at Shaw’s jaw and coaxes it open for a flick of a tongue.

Root’s never been so vocal, sighing and groaning and breathing heavily into the spaces between them. Shaw’s rocking already, hands sliding around Root’s waist to settle at her hips, pressing her thumb hard against the muscle there and earning a gentle sway in response. Root’s backed her against a pillar without her even noticing and she pulls away at the pull of Root’s teeth.

“I might risk my life more often.” She says, rough and ready for the backlash.

Root doesn't even attempt to humor her. “It’s not funny.” She warns and presses harder against Shaw’s body.

(Rubble and ruin and Root. It’ll always end this way.)

 

--