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Habit

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Shaw’s fidgeting. That’s the first thing Root notices.

Shaw doesn’t fidget. She’s not a fidgeter. She hates unnecessary movement; she stands stock-still, motions sharp like a hawk. She hates it when Root taps restless on her knee-not even Shaw’s knee but her own knee-eying the movement like it personally offends her.

Shaw doesn’t fidget.

It’s not an obvious fidget. In fact, you wouldn’t even notice it unless you knew what you were looking for.

Shaw’s feet were not planted. That was the first thing Root noticed as her eyes did the obligatory sweep up Shaw’s form when she entered her apartment. One was normal enough: firmly planted, inline with her shoulder in her ordinary stance providing a firm base from which to act but the other was casual. Pointed to the side: slack.

Root’s eyes continued their journey. One hand-her left- hung as usual by her side but Root caught the clenched fist, the way her thumb pressed hard on the edge of her forefinger. The other was in her pocket. Her gun hand, stowed away in her pocket buried deep.

By now Root was…confused. No. Just…curious. Sameen Shaw did not relax. Her relaxing was every other sane person's tension: back ramrod straight feet shoulder width apart and a gun always in reach, scanning the room for any threats from corner to corner. That was Shaw. It was habit.

Shaw’s eyes, when Root finally reached them, were distant. They stared at the wall far in the distance, stared at nothing in particular before snapping to Root as attentive as ever.

Root put down her laptop on the coffee table.

Shaw was fidgeting. Or doing her approximation of it.

‘Hello Sweetie. Have a nice trip?’

At that Shaw quirked her lips.

‘You missed a rocket launcher.’

Root stood, coming up level with Shaw.

‘I’m sorry to hear that,’ she replied lightly, allowing herself to lean in and leave a soft peck on Shaw’s lips.

Shaw didn’t scowl.

That was…well that was roughly a third. The first Root remembered fondly: her and Sameen sharing Persian New Year that was, in Sameen’s words, ‘absolutely not a date.’ She had quietly thanked Shaw anyway with a soft peck and Shaw had let her; she didn’t even pull away.

The second was less of a happy recollection but still stored in Root’s most treasured memories. At the time it was insignificant: the two were in the middle of a mission, surround on all sides. They had to split up and Root had pecked her softly before running off. It was only later after the chaos, after ensuring Sameen had made it out alive, that Root began to dwell. It was, of course, never brought up again.

So this was a third. That was Root’s second clue. Nevertheless she knew this memory would also be stored. Anything Sameen Shaw related was stored and filed. Every minute reaction, everything coaxed and prodded from the woman with nothing but love was watched with unending fascination.

Root moved on.

She pulled back slightly. Shaw did not do the same.

‘Is everything okay Sameen?’

The tone was light but the undercurrent of concern was there.

Ha. Okay? Ha. Shaw stared at Root. Really stared. Nothing was okay. Nothing was okay since Harold had…done something monumentally stupid.

Honestly? The mission had been finished hours ago. Before lunch even. 10:39am to be precise. The mission had ended that exact moment. Shaw knew that. But she hadn’t come home. Why hadn’t she come home?

Firstly, Shaw reasoned, Root would still be asleep. Root tended to sleep late. That was the first reason. That reason, however, was deemed unsuitable as it implied some sort of concern for whether Root slept the proper amount. Shaw had long ago accepted her rather strong protective streak towards the woman but there was a very clear and distinct difference between concern for the woman’s life and the woman’s sleeping habits.

Instead, Shaw reasoned, she had not returned because she needed to think. This was in fact the truth: she did need to think. Because Harold had been an utter idiot.

She had…delayed.

She hadn’t been okay since 10:39 that morning. 10:39. The time was seared onto her brain. It shouldn’t be: it was a small insignificant number in the corner of Harold’s computer screen, but it had been the only thing she would allow her eyes to fix on as Harold had demonstrated complete buffoonery, watching as it slowly flickered into 10:40.

Shaw was a being of equilibrium. She valued her equilibrium: everything was in careful balance. Harold had given her a box and she had needed time to think. She was not in equilibrium. Still wasn’t. Well she might have been, but in a different state of equilibrium that hadn’t quite been adjusted to yet. She was getting to that.

Harold had handed her a box: a small one that fit snug in her palm. She didn’t know what had possessed him to give it to her, but he had.

 

‘A gift, Ms. Shaw.’

Shaw looked at the small black box like it burned a hole in her hand.

‘What?’ she spat out, but it lacked venom.

‘A gift. I think it was time I gave you this.’

Shaw didn’t reply, studying the box that would have been relatively innocuous in any other hand but hers. She looked up and caught Harold’s eye. He looked expectant waiting for her to open it-which she would absolutely not do-and worse: he looked earnest.

Shaw looked away, eyes fixing on the monitor behind him focusing on the numbers: 10:39.

Harold, realizing he would not get a verbal response, coughed slightly before continuing.

‘I have…we…it was time. You and Ms. Groves are somewhat involved as I understand it. This is not pressure Ms. Shaw do not mistake my motives: it is for when the time is right.’

‘Finch.’

Shaw could feel each muscle tight like a coil. Cramping. Tension strung her from head to toe dangling her from its thread.

‘Please Ms. Shaw. It is a gift. You may never decide to use it but it is something close to my heart. It would mean more than you know for Ms. Groves-and yourself- to have it in your possession.’

The numbers flickered over: 10:40.

Shaw looked at Finch face hard but eyes a swarm of confusion. At least, mused Harold, he had not yet been punched.

‘Why?’

‘I believe you know why Ms. Shaw. If you do not, I suggest you wait until you do before acting with this item.’

‘I’m never going to act with it,’ hissed Shaw.

‘Be that as it may: I should like you to have it.’

‘Why?’

She didn’t want this. She didn’t like the way it weighed her down. Anchoring her to something she didn’t like to dwell on.

Finch shifted, adjusting his glasses slightly.

‘You and Ms. Groves are close and Samantha is…a dear friend. I care for her deeply. You might not understand the effect she has on you Ms. Shaw, but you can surely see your own effect on her.’

‘She doesn’t affect me.’

Harold tilted his head.

‘Indeed. Regardless, you make her happy: give her something to live for other than the Intelligence she serves. This is not pressure Ms. Shaw. This is…my blessing.’

‘Even if…I did use this,’ Shaw looked down in something akin to disgust at the thought, ‘I couldn’t take this.’

‘I want you to have it.’

‘It’s yours.’

‘It was mine. I give it to you.’

‘She’s still alive Finch.’

It was Finch’s turn to look away.

‘Yes. I know. And I can never see her again. It has sat dusting in a drawer for longer than I care to admit. Put it to use if you so desire: I should think of no other person I would rather give it to.’

 

It was now 4:09pm. 16:09. It had taken Shaw this long to make her way to the apartment. Their apartment. Originally hers, but Root had taken residence and Shaw had yet to kick her out after almost a year.

A year. Longer if you counted before. A year with Root. Exclusively. Shaw was…Shaw thought she would be bored, tired of Root and her games but instead she found some form of peace in the way Root was always there, always knew what to do and their complete lack of need for verbal communication.

So Shaw had taken Harold’s words to heart.

And here she was, standing in front of Root, absolutely shitting herself.

That was an overstatement: her palms were sweaty. At most.

Sameen Shaw was not afraid: not for herself. This wasn’t about her. That was the thing about Root: she found herself making allowances for another in her life, bowing to compromise often to suit Root much more than it would suit her own needs. She did things she would never do because it pleased Root: because she got that look that Shaw liked to stare at and she still couldn’t work out why.

So she wanted to do this right.

The fact that she was actually doing this was ridiculous in the first place but if she was going to do it she was going to do it in a way Root would want.

She’d even asked her pet super-robot for permission.

 

(That had been one of Shaw’s more awkward conversations talking to a street camera in the middle of the park:

‘Okay…fuck this-fuck Harold this is fucking stupid. Look. Blink once for yes, twice for no. Do you understand?’

The security camera blinked once.

‘Great.’

Shaw didn’t speak for a while but eventually looked back up again, fingers twisting the box in her pocket.

‘You still there?’

A clear blink signaled Her presence and Shaw continued.

‘Right. Well. Can I marry her then?’

A blink.

‘Great. Thanks.’

Shaw turned away, looking at the few people staring at her with more than a few questions in their eyes.

‘Well that was fucking ridiculous.’)

 

She was going to do this right.

‘Root.’

Root tilted her head in question.

Shaw took a step back before looking down at the floor and back up at Root, calculating the worth of this next action.

‘Sameen?’

Fuck it.

Shaw got down on one knee.

 

Well. This was weird.

Root looked down at her strangely. Shaw was kneeling. Shaw didn’t kneel to anyone. Why was she kneeling, and why was she refusing to look up at her, eyes fixed to the floor?

‘Uh…Sam?’

Shaw kept staring at the grain in the wooden floor. She was doing this. Why was she doing this? When had this seemed like a good idea? Why was she trapping herself to Root, a metaphorical ball and chain of commitment? Because of a few words Harold had said?

By this point Root was just confused and trying to work out what was happening. The Machine was silent in her ear, failing to providing any clues as to the origin of Shaw’s current mood.

Root crouched down to bring herself level with Shaw.

‘You okay down there?’ she cooed, and Shaw’s eyes finally fixed on her face.

‘Stand up.’

It was an order. Harsh. Hurried. Hard. Root was almost taken aback, but complied.

‘Sam I don’t-‘

‘Root.’

Root didn’t continue. If Shaw needed time, Root would give her time: that was something Root would gladly give.

Harold had said she shouldn’t use this until she knew Root’s effect-power more like- over her.

Yeah. She knew it. She fucking hated it but how could she not. Root was habit, Root was an exception to the rule, Root was part of her life now like bacteria that never quite goes away, multiplying and multiplying and inserting itself into your life until before you know it it’s a part of your system.

But the good type of bacteria. Like in yoghurt or something. The kind you need. The kind Shaw needed. She…she needed Root as much as Root needed her because life without Root was like a life without yoghurt.

Root loved her similes.

‘Finch gave me a gift.’

Root raised her eyebrows.

‘That’s…what is it?’

‘I’m getting to that,’ scolded Shaw and Root had the decency to look sheepish.

‘Sorry.’

‘He said some stuff.’

A pause.

‘Look I wanted to make this good, like something you would want or you imagined or something. Finch made it sound important and I guess you would want a whole speech or lead up but I’m shit at this stuff.’

Fuck it.

Shaw pulled her right hand out of her coat pocket, finally.

‘Here.’

Shaw thrust the small black box forward leaving it in her outstretched palm as Root looked at it, and then looked at Shaw. And then looked at the box. And then looked at Shaw. And then looked at the box. And then looked-this was getting ridiculous.

‘Root,’ said Shaw, snapping Root out of it causing her eyes to fix on the box.

‘Are you going to open it?’ asked Root.

Shaw sighed as if it were the biggest inconvenience in the world, but she did so with the same care she treated Root’s wounds.

The box opened to reveal a deep purple velveteen lining, and perched in the soft cushioning sat a simple silver ring. It was plain: polished sterling silver and a singular small diamond.

(Shaw had of course opened the box the moment she had made up her mind. If she was going to do to this, she was going to do this right.)

Root’s eyes fixed on the ring.

‘Oh.’

Shaw raised an eyebrow.

‘Oh?’

Root’s eyes drifted to Shaw’s face as if they couldn’t bear to tear themselves away from the ring.

‘I…I was expecting a watch or something.’

‘Why would Finch give you a watch?’

‘Why would Finch give you an engagement ring?’

Ah yes. There it was. That phrase: engagement ring. It held its own unique gravity in the situation they currently found themselves and even Shaw could feel the way it weighed between them.

Shaw looked at the engagement ring in her hand then back to Root, whose eyes had long since returned to the jewelry.

‘Do you want it?’

‘Do I…want it?’

‘Yes Root. That’s what I said.’

‘To have?’

‘No I want you to give it to John. Yes to have.’

This time Root looked at Shaw. Directly at Shaw like she was complex code and Root had to understand her: figure her out. Shaw didn’t flinch away.

‘To wear?’

Shaw held the witty retort on her tongue-she was trying to do things right-and instead replied:

‘Yes.’

‘It’s Harold’s.’

‘He gave it to me. To give to you when I wanted.’

‘When…you want this?’

‘What’s with you and stupid questions?’

‘Are you sure?’

‘No.’

Root smiled softly. There was that look that Shaw couldn’t help but stare at; no matter how many times she committed it to memory it was never enough.

‘Yes.’

‘What?’

Root chuckled.

‘The answer to your question.’

‘Will you marry me?’

Root beamed. Actually beamed, teeth catching on her lips and Shaw…yeah. Yeah. Harold was right. She knew.

‘Yes Sameen. That question.’

‘Oh.’

The two looked at each other for a long while before Shaw began to feel the pain in her knee.

‘Well take it then,’ she muttered.

Root raised a teasing eyebrow: that smile on her face was never going away. Not in the near future anyway. Shaw didn’t want it to.

‘I think you’re meant to slide it onto my finger Sameen.’

‘I’m already down on one knee and it fucking hurts.’

‘You’re always so thoughtful,’ doted Root, reaching tentatively for the ring with her right hand, holding it between her fingers like it was made of glass.

‘Is it my size?’

Shaw rolled her eyes as she stood up, dusting herself off.

‘Yes Root: it’s in your size.’

‘Just checking.’

Root slid it onto her ring finger. It felt weird: heavy and out of place. Constant.

Shaw watched, both their gazes lingering on the stone.

‘I’ll have to take it off for missions.’

‘I know.’

‘I won’t be able to wear it much.’

‘You can wear it enough.’

Root locked eyes with Shaw.

‘Can it be the only thing I wear?’ asked Root, voice sickly sweet.

 

It was Shaw who made her wear it the next morning as they strode into the subway. Root didn’t complain much. At all in fact. She didn’t show it off but they worked with an observant bunch.

John caught sight of it first, eying the suspiciously placed ring before shooting a pointed look at Shaw. Shaw shrugged and went back to cleaning her gun. John smiled.

Fusco was a little slower: made it all the way to the afternoon before spotting it and was barely able to keep his mouth shut.

‘Wait Cocoa Puffs and Trigger Happy? Is that safe?’

‘I don’t know Lionel; why don’t you ask Shaw and find out?’ advised John.

Fusco shifted.

‘Pretend I never asked.’

Root saved Harold for last. Shaw waited by the exit, watching from afar as Root thanked him with a wide grin and he sent her off with an encouraging smile. As Root returned to Shaw’s side to make their way home Finch smiled at Shaw, giving her a nod of approval.

Shaw raised an eyebrow but let a small smirk creep onto her face before she fell in step behind Root.

Behind…well, her fiancée.