Root had shown up like an avenging angel spiraling into hell.
Specked in blood that was not hers and wielding two guns like they were an extension of herself. ( Vengeful and savage and fucking gorgeous) She didn't slip Shaw from Samaritan's grasp so much as break its fingers backward until there was no choice but to let her go.
Shaw thinks of that moment often. The noise of gunfire and panic muted by the drugs in her bloodstream and Root standing over her, with the shadows at her back like massive wings and tears clinging to her eyelashes.
“Get up.” Root had ordered but her voice was soft and cracked in places and the words sounded like they were meant to be a million other things. “We have forty-five seconds.”
And Shaw got up.
Root marched down the corridor, arms outstretched like she was flying (like she was falling) and guns blazing while Shaw limped barefooted behind her.
Men crumpled in front of them, falling away like nothing at all, until they reached the end of the hallway where Root hesitated, chin lifted and tilted while the Machine chattered in her ear.
And Shaw had had hallucinations like this (Root was always there) but when she reached out for Root, she didn't dissipate like smoke between her fingertips this time.
Instead she found the buttery leather of Root's jacket, gripped it and pulled herself closer until her forehead pressed to Root's shoulder blade.
She didn't turn to look at Shaw but stilled for a moment as Shaw leaned against her.
“John and Lionel are waiting.” Root finally said. “Ready?”
“Yeah.” Shaw croaked, straightening.
(She swore to herself that someday could start right then if they made it out alive.)
Root lifted her weapons so determinedly that Shaw wondered if she'd heard her thoughts.
Samaritan falls like all giants eventually do: hard and all at once.
Cut off at the knees then decapitated. (Root, it’s executioner. Finch can hardly bear to look at her. Shaw can’t look anywhere else.)
“I've never had anyone disobey their god for me.”
(Shaw is not impressed.)
“I've never had anyone kiss me then try to get themselves killed.”
(Neither is Root.)
There are plans to move to the Finch's secret swanky safe house for a while because Shaw is still tender from her gunshot wounds (scribbles of scars curved around her ribs like serpents) and the cot in the subway is getting old.
But for now, they're underground in the dim light and cool air and Root looks tired and wrecked and like she just saved all of humanity a few days ago.
“When are we leaving?” Shaw asks around the things that need to be talked about. Root lets her, leaning against Finch's desk with both hands curled around the edge, contradicting the casualness of her posture. “Are you staying at the safe house too?”
“Soon. Whenever you're feeling up to it.” Root says, watching Shaw across the subway where she's stretched on her back on the cot. “I'll be there as much as I can. Harold wants to circle the wagons.”
“Or make us an easy target.” Shaw says to the ceiling, hands tucked up under the thin pillow beneath her head.
“There's nothing to run from anymore, Sameen.” Root whispers like its the first time she's exhaled in forever.
(She looks at Root and knows she’s telling the truth.)
Shaw pushes up from her cot carefully and her muscles ache, her bones feel brittle with fatigue, but she moves to where Root is hovering beside Finch's desk anyway.
“You're looking better.” Root says, watching wearily as Shaw moves closer.
“You look like shit.” Shaw replies and Root chuckles, eyes sweeping away as she leans back against the desk. (Her knuckles white and her grip tight, like Shaw will be the thing that makes her fall)
“Such a sweet talker.” Root whispers, eyes sliding back to Shaw and she is quiet for a long moment.
“I've never had anyone disobey their god for me.” Shaw says again and Root looks at her apologetically as Shaw reaches out for her, both hands reaching to curl around both of Root's wrists.
“Her plan didn't include finding you and that wasn't...” Root huffs, shoulders sloping downward but her eyes go hard with resolve. “It wasn't acceptable.”
(Root is good at devotion. Shaw thinks she's can be good too.)
“The Machine is practically in love with you or as close as a super computer can get. It was trying to protect you.” Shaw says and Root looks down, away.
Shaw inches closer until they are chest to chest and Root leans forward tentatively, resting her forehead against Shaw's. “I couldn't stop.”
(Shaw is not bothered that compulsion is sometimes the most intimate part of their relationship.)
“Well everyone can suck it, Machine included because you were right.” Shaw frowns, reaching out to thumb the glistening line a tear leaves down Root's cheek.
She rubs the wetness between her fingers absently and watches Root smile.
(They don’t ask the other to never do it again. There’s no point in making false promises, really.)
The shadow of Samaritan has been looming over them for so long that Shaw forgets Root is a nomad by purpose. She weaves in and out of Shaw’s days like uneven stitches.
‘I’m only here for the day-for the week-for the hour’ is a mantra that Shaw becomes accustomed to.
“It was better before,” Shaw says when there are only a few hours to share before Root is off to the other side of the world. The diner is empty after the lunch rush and Shaw watches Root across the booth. There’s a new bruise on her shoulder that peeks from the collar of her blouse and a shiny new gun tucked against the small of her back and Shaw wants to get her hands on both. “Saw you a lot more when we were trying to shut down Samaritan.”
“What’s the matter? You miss me?” Root teases, leaning against the table between them, but the question beneath the voice is genuine. (Root is layers and layers, that much Shaw knows.)
“It's just kind of lame when you're not around. John is boring.” Shaw says plainly, glancing around the diner for the waitress and ignoring the way Root is staring at her. She thinks of Root often, thinks of the taste between Root’s thighs and Root’s phone calls in the middle of the night that help Shaw sleep knowing she is somewhere still breathing. Shaw recognizes the longing for what it is and gives it to Root because she can.
It’s not much but she wants Root to have it anyway.
(She wonders, sometimes, if her time spent in Samaritan's fist changed a fundamental part of her. She has new scars that are pink and shining and tough, like she was filled with something foreign and now she's splitting at the seams.)
Root wears her feelings like a broken bone, a compound fracture with bone pushed through the skin so the muscle and marrow are there in plain view. And just like a horrific break, it's sometimes hard to look at.
Messy and manic, Root's emotions splatter everywhere in happy tears and sad smiles and everything in between that Shaw can't recognize. (But Shaw thinks she can learn the language Root's made of if she keeps trying.)
She’s not afraid to get her hands dirty.
Shaw is working on saying what she means these days and when she does Root’s expression is always blinding. This is no different.
“I missed you too, of course.” Root speaks carefully, deliberately with her eyes glittering and Shaw looks to her with a nod before glancing away again.“I’ll try to be wherever you are more often. If that’s something you want.”
“Okay.” She says because it is.
“Root. You busy?”
Shaw doesn't need anything.
The winter cold is eating at her skin through her coat as she follows her number down the busy sidewalk as unobtrusively as possible and the line opens almost instantly, Root’s uneven breathing clouding Shaw’s hearing like static.
“Never too busy for you, Sameen.” Root huffs above the telltale sound of gunfire and Shaw bites down on a smile, reaching up to adjust her knitted cap. “What can I do for you?”
“Nothing.” Shaw mutters, tucking her hands back into her coat pockets and listening to Root's adrenaline soaked breaths. “Just checking in. Everything going okay over there?”
It sounds a little bit stupid when she says it aloud and she shakes her head and lets her face pinch in irritation. But she remembers the panic, swallowed back and pressed down deep, that had flashed over Root's face when it was decided that there was no choice but to send Shaw into the field for the first time since her return.
And Root hadn't argued. Didn't stand in front of her with pleading eyes, only smiled through her anxiety and tugged Shaw's gun from the back of her own pants, offering it still warm from her body.
(Her silence, in that moment, was the loudest thing Shaw has ever heard)
Of course, they gave her the boring number and trailing this guy through the city is getting old fast but Shaw remembers that expression on Root's face, the hard press of her lips against one another, and figures her own moment of discomfort will be worth it.
Root laughs, breathless and something Shaw can't describe but it rolls slowly down her spine regardless.
“Everything here is totally under control.” Root says, most of her sentence swallowed by the sound of an explosion.
“Good. So, you'll be free for dinner tonight.” Shaw comments and the line goes quiet in a way that Shaw is becoming increasingly familiar with. It's a little bit shock and a little bit disbelief in the silence and instead of tensing, Shaw settles into the speechlessness because she’s learned what it means.
(right words at the right time)
Root clears her throat, “Definitely."
Shaw wakes with icy hands and feet and Root's voice warm and smoky in the air. The sound reminds her of raging forest fires and scorched earth and Shaw breathes in until her wounded sides ache.
Finch's fancy safe house is about a thousand times better than the subway hideout but the heating system rattles and groans and only spits out pathetic licks of warmth and the cold air has made Shaw's muscles stale, her bones grinding together and her skin tight.
She lets the sound pull her out of bed, out of the cocoon of blankets until her cold feet are on colder hardwood. Her spine pops as she stands, noisily shifting under her skin as she follows the notes of Root's voice.
“I understand.” Root says tiredly, low as if her sound is skimming just above the floorboard to wrap around Shaw's legs like vines. “I understand.”
The bathroom in the safe house is just as lavish as the rest of it and the gentle slosh of water reaches Shaw just before she pushes open the bathroom door to find Root hunched in the excessive bathtub like the muggy air has nothing to do with the temperature of the water.
Everything is damp with heat, fogging the mirror and curling up from the water around Root like fingers skimming and melting against her skin and Shaw shuts the door behind herself. Root's eyes are glistening as wetly as the water, her skin flushed from her cheeks to her throat and her hair tied-up messily and it's all so inviting.
(Inviting in a different way then Root was before. Now it is something quiet and simmering. Something Shaw wants to run her hands through instead of strangling it before it strangles her.)
“I'm not sure that's wise.” Root murmurs, folded against the side of the tub with her knees at her chest. It's clear that she is not speaking to Shaw because the tone of voice is not the one she saves for her when they're alone. Its slightly condescending and a lot exhausted and reserved for the Machine nowadays.
She watches Shaw peel off her clothes, her eyes linger at the scribbles of scar tissue at her sides for a moment but her gaze slides to focus on Shaw's breast, between her legs. “I can't talk now.”
Root unfolds as Shaw steps into the hot water, goosebumps racing across her skin as she goes from cold to hot too fast. The bathtub is big but not huge and Root lets Shaw nudge her way down into the water, until her feet are tucked against Root's hips and Root's smooth shins are pressed against her ribs.
“Well, good morning.” Root greets and Shaw laughs, cupping her hands in the water and splashing it over her face before smoothing her wet hands over her ponytail.
“You're up early.” Shaw says, leaning back against the tub wall and resting her hands on either of Root's ankles beneath the surface of the water. “How's everything going with the Mrs.?”
Root rolls her eyes up and away even as Shaw scratches her softened nails over the tops of her feet. Root's body glitters with water, breast just above the surface and long torso disappearing underneath. Shaw's always thought Root was made like Renaissance art, legs and neck too long and everything too beautiful.
Root watches Shaw sit up then reach back to tuck her hands in the bend of Root's knees, pulling her closer and closer( and closer), into her until the only thing that stops Root from slipping underwater is Shaw's body between her thighs.
She traces the ledge of Root’s clavicle with wet fingertips, slips both hands under the water to tuck underneath her ass and holds her close as she presses her mouth, open and sharp, to Root’s neck.
”Complicated. She is not particularly happy with me and the feeling is more or less mutual.” Her voice is different now, intimate and encouraging but gentle, like she would back away any moment if Shaw said the word. Like Shaw isn’t the one draped all over her.
Shaw came back to find the endless honeymoon phase of Root's relationship with the Machine had, in fact, ended and she is definitely concerned about it but it also feels like there's suddenly more room to maneuver in Root's space.
Shaw also came back with bruising punctures in the crease of her elbow, ready to occupy that space.
(To at least try, which is more than Root's ever asked for but Shaw wants to give it to her all the same.)
“It's nice being someone's favorite person. Especially when that person hates everyone else.” Root admitted on a night that Shaw thinks may be burned into her mind because she sometimes thinks about the upwards tick of Root's mouth and the softness of her eyes after she'd said it, for no reason at all.
It satisfies something in her, to know Root feels that way.
The knowledge sits easily in her chest, cushioning all of the heavy, solid sensations that are connected to Root. (Shaw remembers medical school, remembers putting to practice all of the things she’d learned and this is just as good as that.)
The sex they have is sometimes just that, sex.
It’s biting and filthy in all the ways that Shaw likes. Bruised necks and scratched skin.
Other times it’s something else entirely. Something that always disguises itself as fucking until it builds and stacks into another thing completely. (It makes Shaw think of natural disasters with no survivors)
It swells until the bruises that Root leaves all over feel internal and so do the kisses.
It’s after times like those, heavy against her spine and hot between her ribs, that Shaw needs space.
It's not as if she doesn't recognize it for what it is.
Shaw understands intimacy.
She understands that Root needs it.
She understands that she doesn't yearn for it the same way. (It happens though- a finger tapping against the back of Root's hand for no reason other than the contact. It’s asking about her friend Hanna just to know more about the way she ticks.)
Shaw understands intimacy but it feels like drowning either way.
The first time it happened was the only time that Root had followed her when she ran. Shaw has forgiven her for that.
Now, with the taste of Root slick at her lips and her gaze hot like a branding iron, Shaw has to peel herself away because it's impossible to breathe like this. She kisses between Root's breasts, above her navel, squeezes her thigh while Root murmurs her name before standing naked and leaving the room.
(Root doesn't chase anymore and Shaw doesn't run as far as before.)
The air is syrupy with sex, wet and thick, and Shaw stands over the kitchen sink, gulping down mouthfuls of ice cold water in the dark while she tries to gather herself.
She feels turned inside out.
She drinks another glass, taking a moment to cling to the metallic edges of the sink and breathe before going back to the bedroom when it’s easier to exhale and the heat in her chest has been dulled by the cold water. (Sometimes it takes hours. This time it’s just minutes.)
“Sorry.” Root murmurs when Shaw climbs back into bed, cheek pressed against her own shoulder and sweaty hair curled behind her ears, like it's her fault that her gaze is like quicksand.
“It’s fine.” Shaw mutters as Root rolls onto her back and Shaw crawls into bed and onto her body, straddles her hips. Root doesn't reach for her, just watches Shaw with her palms turned towards the ceiling on the sheets, waiting.
(She can pretty much touch all she wants whenever she wants nowadays but Shaw isn't sure how to tell her that without sounding stupid.)
Streetlights glowing through half opened blinds are the only light in the room and Root eyes are black with heat, her teeth are glistening white, her scarred skin glowing and she looks deadlier than any weapon Shaw's ever handled.
“I want to get you off a couple more times.” Shaw says and Root grins, sticky fingers pressing to Shaw's waist lightly as she sinks down to kiss her.
(Root will help turn her right side in by morning)
Root isn't good at sharing a bed.
Her body temperature is fragile and having Shaw too close makes it flare uncomfortably until she is damp with sweat and her nose is bleeding. Shaw has witnessed the perspiration gathering along her hairline, the bead of blood sliding over her philtrum in the middle of the night.
But Shaw likes the way the bed softens beneath Root’s weight, their breathing out of sync like rolling ocean waves, one after the other. She sometimes wakes to find Root shifting away from her, nudging Shaw gently and muttering her name sleepily.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that she’s the one edging closer but Root doesn't mention it in the mornings.
(And maybe Shaw is the one who is bad at sharing a bed)
“Sameeen.” Root murmurs half asleep when Shaw presses herself against her back and stays there. Root tries to shrug away from her but Shaw is palming her hip, urging her ass back into the cradle of her pelvis while she noses at the sweat dampened hair just behind her ear. “Sameen.”
It's hard to sleep some nights and Shaw doesn't bother examining it too deeply. Traumatic experiences often affect sleep patterns.
“I know.” Shaw whispers as Root crawls out of her arms and to the edge of the bed without opening her eyes, even though Shaw's mind has been busying itself with thoughts of Root. Good thoughts that are sluggish and warm.
Shaw lets her go.
(The first time Root pushed her away Shaw was furious because she was trying and that is how normal people shared space. Root had patiently reminded her that they were not normal.)
She rotates to her back again, throwing an arm over her head and it's only a minute or two before Root shifts too. Turning over and over until she's facing Shaw, one arm stretched into the cool expanse of sheet between their bodies and when Root's foot hooks over Shaw's ankle, Shaw closes her eyes.
Root likes to pick her apart.
Shaw grows into the habit of letting her.
It's uncomfortable when Root pulls her into pieces, like a sore muscle being moved into a stretch. (It aches but it doesn't hurt.) Her shell crumbles under Root's curiosity but Shaw isn't worried that Root will try to fix what she finds underneath.
Shaw is hard around soft and Root is the opposite (Shaw could dig dig dig into her softness and Root would let her, she knows.)
But she takes small handfuls instead of buckets, she doesn't take more than she can care for.
“How did you feel when your father died?” Root asks when they watch a number reunite with his family. On his knees while his wife and children surround him.
“Empty.” Shaw mutters and she doesn't mean the kind of quiet she feels normally but something worse and deeper and too hard to put into words. It was empty like her stomach was a bottomless pit and whatever little she was made up off was going to drop away.
(Shaw trusts her to understand the difference)
“How did you feel? When you lost your mom?” Shaw asks.
“Relieved.” Root says after a long moment.
Shaw decides knowing Root is like knowing her weapon. (Understanding where its power comes from).
Sometimes they fall completely apart.
Wrong words or wrong actions and they come undone.
It makes Shaw angry. (It's like failing Root and she does not want that. It's Root failing her and she's uncomfortable with how much she doesn't want that either.)
She says the wrong thing or Root pushes at the wrong time and they go up in flames.
Their bad moments stick with Shaw for days.
Glued to her spine even after Shaw tells herself to not be mad. After Root apologizes for wanting so badly. After Shaw makes Root break the things she did to hurt her down into pieces Shaw can understand before apologizing for all of it even if she doesn't really get it.
(She tries to apologize for being the way she is because really, sometimes, that is the stem of the issue, but Root won't allow it.)
“Is this how it's supposed to be?” Shaw asks against the side of Root's neck, tucked away in the kitchen while Harold pretends not to listen over the tap tap tap of his laptop in the next room. “I spend the rest of my life trying to decide if I want to fuck you or kill you?”
“The rest of your life?” Root laughs and the vibrations against her lips make Shaw groan, pulling away.
“Don't, Root.” Shaw says, examining the wetness her tongue has let against Root's throat without moving to wipe it away.
“Well, ignoring your unintentional proposal that we grow old together.” Root starts, lifting her hand to cup Shaw's face and Shaw lets her. “I don't really know. Would that be so bad?”
Root's callous thumb traces over her lips carefully and Shaw opens her mouth biting down on her finger for a moment. “Probably not.”
Shaw fell and it was nothing like normal people do: Instead it was Ferocious and Beautiful.
(Like she's been mauled and she doesn't mind if the claws, the teeth, don't let go)
She describes the feeling to Root once, draped over her in the dark of the bedroom they've claimed for themselves. Hushed voice and palms against skin.
She doesn't smile like Shaw expects. She cards her five fingers through Shaw's hair, nails against scalp, and listens.
“And that's okay?” Root asks when Shaw is done and Shaw frowns, head resting on Root's stomach and body between her legs.
“It's fine.” Shaw murmurs, tracing the curve of Root's hip absently. (Guns in her hands and Root underneath her fingertips-The excitement is exactly the same) “What does it feel like when you think of me?”
Root does smile now. “I feel everything for you. It's like drowning. Like being pulled under, almost.”
(Shaw has always kept her head above water but suddenly it’s like she looked up and realized she's been completely submerged for a while now and it's not any harder to breathe)