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Root had never been so scared as when she walked into the bedroom to find Shaw holding a pair of scissors against her wrist.

Shaw looked up, a dangerous glint in her eyes. “I’ll do it. I swear to God I will.”

“I have no doubt about it.” Root said softly, putting her hands up in a placating gesture.

“I’d rather die than be your lab rat.”

Realization hit Root like icy water, Shaw thought she was in the simulation again. Shaw had been having trouble with reality ever since she’d got back, but Root had honestly thought they were making progress. She took a small step forward.

The effect was instantaneous.

Shaw made a low, feral sound in the back of her throat and pressed the metal harder against her wrist. A thin red line appeared and Root hurriedly backed away.

“Sweetie, do you know who I am?”

“You’re Root.” Root’s heart leapt, only to sink when Shaw continued. “You’re Simulation Root. All of this is a simulation.” She shook her head violently. “I don’t know why this one’s so long. They’re patient. I’ve got to give them that. I thought we’d be fucking by now.” Looking at the shaking woman before her, sex was the last thing on Root’s mind.” The scissors trembled, nicking Shaw’s skin, but the Persian didn’t notice. Her muttering got faster and faster, until the words blurred together. “I’m sick and tired. When I wake up, this will all be gone.” She shook her head violently. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t live without you. I don’t want to.” She slashed the blade across her wrist, falling backward on the pillows.

Root darted forward, grabbing a towel off the nightstand and pressing it hard against Shaw’s wrist. Shaw blinked passively, making no move to resist.

“Sweetie, talk to me. Please.” Root urged, pressing the towel harder against the wound.

“You’re so beautiful.” Shaw whispered. “I’m sorry I never got to tell you.”

“You’re not dying on me.” Root growled, pulling bandages across Shaw’s wrist.

“I’m not dying. I’m shutting down this simulation.” Shaw said in a dreamy voice.

“This is not a simulation! This is real and you’re not doing this!”

 

Shaw woke to the steady beeping of a heart monitor. She was in a small hospital room, white and sterile. Her wrists were tied down with the sort of padded restraints used on violent psychiatric patients, like the ones they’d used in the early days of her captivity. She tried not to let the disappointment overwhelm her. This was what she wanted, wasn’t it? Root was safe and that was all that mattered. Now she just had to find a way to either end her life for real or make those bastards so mad they’d kill her.

The door opened and she hurriedly shut her eyes, feigning sleep. There was the scrape of plastic as the newcomer sat down at her bedside.

“I don’t know how to make you believe, Sameen.” Root’s voice sounded and it took all of Shaw’s willpower not to open her eyes right there and then. They were probably trying to psych her out. “I love you so much. You’re finally back, but I don’t know how to convince you this is real. Maybe one day I’ll come home and you’ll be gone.”

Something wet fell on her hand and Shaw realized Root was crying. Simulation or not, she couldn’t bear to see Root cry. “Hey, Eeyore, I’m not going anywhere.”

Root looked up, wiping a hand across her eyes. “Sweetie?”

“Simulation Root never cried.” Shaw said matter-of-factly.

“What did she do?”

“Mostly fucking and asking me to go back to the Machine.”

Root smiled, a hesitant grin like she wasn’t sure how Shaw was going to react. “She doesn’t sound like much fun.”

“She wasn’t”

“So you know I’m real, right?”

“I’m not sure, but I’m willing to give it a chance.”

Root smiled again and took Shaw’s uninjured hand, tangling their fingers together. “That’s good enough for me.”