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Natural Selection

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"Oh please, I never even hit you that hard," Shaw said as Root started screaming. But she was clutching the side of her head and not the spot where Shaw's fist had hit her.

Something else was wrong and if Root didn't shut up soon someone was going to find them.

The elevator behind her chose that moment to ding into life and Shaw acted on instinct, clamping a hand over Root's mouth and shoving her into a darkened office.

"Shut up," Shaw hissed. Half the office walls were made of glass and Shaw shoved the other woman behind a desk to keep them both hidden.

Root had her eyes clenched shut in pain, one had clawing at the ear that housed her implant as if she could tear it out with her fingernails. Shaw grabbed her wrist to still her as blood started to well up where she had scratched the skin. She didn't dare remove the hand covering Root's mouth and could hear footsteps from the outer office, cursing under her breath because Greer's unconscious form wasn't exactly hidden. Someone would be looking for them soon.

Shaw strained her ears, listening for the light footfalls that would indicate someone was coming their way. But she heard nothing and she turned her attention back to Root. The hacker was in obvious pain and it had something to do with the cochlear implant in her right ear. Had Greer triggered this somehow? Or was it Samaritan, now fully online again and out of their control?

Whatever it was, Shaw didn't like it.

Root had stopped trying to claw at the implant in her ear and her head was cocked slightly as if she was listening to something. Her jaw had reddened slightly where Shaw had punched her and would probably turn into a nasty bruise come morning. Shaw had regretted the action the moment her closed fist had made contact, and she knew Root had been taunting her on purpose, trying to get a rise out of her and Shaw had given her exactly what she had wanted. But it was better than doing what she had really wanted to do the moment she had laid eyes on Root, still breathing and steeling herself to take a bullet from Greer. Shaw hadn't wanted to punch her, she wanted to grab the other woman by the lapels of her jacket and kiss her senselessly in relief that she wasn't dead yet.

But instead she had latched onto her anger, because it was familiar and safe and something she could deal with.

Root grabbed the wrist of her hand that was still covering her mouth and pulled it away.

"Eleven, one and three o'clock," said Root faintly.

"What?" Shaw began, but then she heard voices behind her and she was up and shooting as Root had directed her. The glass walls of the office shattered, sending a spray of glass in the wake of three bullets that hit their marks. The three Decima agents went down but Shaw suspected there were more on the way.

"We need to go," said Root. She still looked a little shaky, but no longer in pain as she got to her feet.

"Hold on," said Shaw, grabbing Root by the arm as she headed for the door. "We're not going anywhere until you give me an explanation." She didn't know if she meant Root's implant or her reason for coming here in the first place, why she had ran off the other night without a word.

"We don't have time for this," said Root, glancing around the outer office worriedly.

But Shaw held her ground and stared the other woman out until she eventually gave in.

"She says we're in danger," said Root.

"She?" said Shaw. "You mean the Machine?"

"Yes," said Root, and there was a hint of a smile on her face as she said it. "The Machine's alive."

"How?" asked Shaw with mild disbelief.

"We really don't-"

"How?" Shaw asked a little more forcefully.

Root sighed and bit her lip. "This was the Machine's plan all along," Root explained, "let Decima think both the Machine and Samaritan had been destroyed, and when they tried to bring Samaritan back online, the Machine came on instead."

"How?" asked Shaw.

Root shrugged. "I wasn't privy to that part of the plan. But She had help. All I was supposed to do was distract Greer so he wouldn't figure it out and stop it."

"Why the hell didn't you just tell us this?" Shaw asked. "Why all the cloak and dagger sneaking off shit? We could have helped." I could have helped.

"She wanted me to do it alone," said Root.

"Bullshit," said Shaw, watching the other woman carefully.

Root avoided her eyes. "Shaw..." She shook her head.

"Why?" Shaw asked. It was a loaded question and they both knew it.

"I didn't want you to get hurt," said Root, her voice barely above a whisper. The unspoken again hung in the air between them and Shaw looked away.

Should have stayed angry. Angry is easy.

But she couldn't. She was still mad, but she no longer felt like the rage was going to consume her, blinding her to everything in front of her. Root looked like crap - exhausted and emotionally drained, like she had given all she had to give. She looked like Shaw felt and she wasn't sure what to do with it. This was new territory for her, maybe it was for both of them, and it was easier for Shaw to pretend it wasn't there, to ignore it. So she acted mad, played up the anger.

Angry is easy.

"She says we're in danger," said Root, turning to Shaw almost pleadingly. "We really need to go."

Shaw nodded and let Root take the lead, trusting that the Machine knew what it was doing and that its system’s reboot hadn't crossed its wires or something.

Root led them through a back corridor, heading towards a set of stairs that would lead them up and out to the building's lobby. Root grabbed Shaw's arm before they could reach the stairwell, pulling her back around the corner.

"More Decima agents?" Shaw asked quietly.

Root nodded. "May I borrow your gun?"

Shaw scowled. "You already have your own."

"Better with two, remember?" said Root with a weak attempt at a smirk, her usual levity missing.

"Fine," said Shaw, trying not to huff. She handed Root the gun she had taken from Greer and followed Root back around the corner. Root took out the Decima agents with ease, the Machine telling her where to aim. She turned back around, smiling at Shaw, but it quickly faded and turned into a frown.

"What?" said Shaw. "What is it?" Root's head had tilted to the side again and Shaw knew she was receiving information from the Machine.

"John and Lionel are in trouble," said Root hurriedly. "Come on." She grabbed Shaw by the arm and pulled her in the direction of the stairwell.

"They went after Samaritan’s servers," Shaw explained.

"Control betrayed them," said Root as they started to climb the stairs quickly.

"Bitch," Shaw muttered. "You know, we wouldn't have this problem if you had let me kill her."

"I thought we weren't killers anymore?" Root tossed over her shoulder.

"Yeah, well," said Shaw, “for Control I'll make an exception."

She cursed again under her breath. Cursed Control, cursed Harold for trusting her. Cursed herself for not going with Fusco and Reese.

They reached the top of the stairwell and Root paused, looking at her like she knew what Shaw was thinking and Shaw thought she could detect a hint of guilt in the other woman’s eyes. But it was gone as quickly as it had appeared, as if it had never been there at all.

"They'll be okay," Root assured her. "But we need to hurry. Besides, they have help."

"Help?" asked Shaw, wondering who the hell was even on their side anymore.

"Yes," said Root, "Daizo, Daniel and Jason are with them."

"Your nerd groupies?" asked Shaw in disbelief. "What are they gonna do, talk math at the bad guys?"

Root rolled her eyes and they made their way into the lobby. It was empty, but Root said they needed to avoid the front door, so she took them down another corridor and towards a fire exit.

"Can you disable the alarms, please?" said Root to the Machine. After a beat, Root said, "Thank you," and they made their way out of the fire exit and into an alleyway at the side of the building.

Thankfully, Shaw, always the practical paranoid one, had parked her car three blocks away, so they half ran in that direction, checking behind them for Decima agents. They made it safely and Shaw hopped in the driver’s seat, wasting no time, the tires screeching as she got them out of there.

Shaw clicked her earpiece on. "Finch, Reese is in trouble."

"Miss Shaw?" said Finch in surprise. "Yes, I know. He and Detective Fusco are completely surrounded."

"We're on our way," said Shaw, increasing the pressure of her foot on the accelerator.

"We?" said Finch in relief. "Miss Groves is with you?"

"I'm alright, Harold," said Root. "Thank you for your concern."

"It wasn’t you I was concerned about," Harold muttered. Then added, "The Machine..."

"Yes, Harold," said Root and Shaw could hear the smile in her voice, "She's alive. She's glad you're okay too."

"Yes," said Harold vaguely. "Miss Shaw, what is your ETA?"

"Fifteen minutes," said Shaw.

Fifteen turned out to be ten and only because Root told her to run every red light, the Machine making sure they didn't run into anything or anyone.

They quickly made their way through the building and down towards where Root said Reese and Fusco were; the room now housing the Machine's servers. They passed countless bodies on the way, most with entrance or exit wounds at centre mass.

"These guys are Decima," Shaw stated, searching one of the bodies and finding a Decima Technologies ID badge.

Root nodded.

"Then who the hell has Reese surrounded?"

"I told you, Control betrayed you," said Root.

"ISA agents?" Shaw guessed and sped up her pace. If they were ISA, then they had the same training as her, much more formidable than anything Decima could throw at them. And if they wanted Reese and Fusco dead, then they wouldn't stop until they had accomplished their mission. Shaw slowed down when she heard gunfire and glanced at Root behind her. She had her gun out and nodded at Shaw determinedly.

Shaw's instincts took over, Root beside her with the Machine directing her, the two of them in perfect sync as they took out the ISA agents and made their way over to where Reese and Fusco were cornered. Shaw tried not to think about how she used to be one of them, how she had blindly followed the numbers from Research, never questioning them, not until Cole was killed. Were these guys doing the same? Did they think Reese and Fusco were a threat to national security? It didn't matter, in the end, Shaw thought. If they questioned it, they'd be dead, like her.

Shaw ducked for cover behind a server to change her clip and it was all so eerily familiar, except this time she wasn't in the desert, a hundred feet underground. If she had been anyone else, she might have frozen at that thought. But she was Sameen Shaw; still recovering from an almost fatal bullet wound couldn't slow her down. Maybe that was why she was a little reckless when she turned the corner, her entire body exposed as three ISA agents turned their attention from Reese and onto her, but not before one of them got a shot off and hit Fusco in the chest.

That made Shaw freeze.

She watched as Lionel fell backwards against the wall. Then the wall turned into a server and it was her falling backwards, the blood pouring from her gut as easily as rain pours from the sky. Pain greater than she had ever felt. And cold. So cold.

A hand grabbed her by the arm and pulled her back behind cover as bullets whizzed by.


Her eyes had took on a sheen of fear and she looked down at Shaw as she pressed her against the server, as if she were shielding her with her body, as if she were terrified to let go.

"Fusco-" Shaw said.

Root nodded, cocked her head slightly to the right and then inched slowly out from behind the server. She only let out three shots but Shaw knew she had hit her targets, the Machine guiding her hand flawlessly.

"Are you okay?" Root asked and Shaw realised she hadn't moved since watching Fusco take a bullet, frozen in place like some green-faced fresh recruit on his first time out in the field.

"I'm fine," she snapped and pushed Root out of the way so she could get past her. Root let her go, but she could feel worried eyes watching her as she moved towards Fusco. Root's team of nerds were still crouched down low out of sight. Only Jason had a weapon, but he was shaking so much Shaw doubted he had been much use during the gunfight. All three brightened when they saw Root, but Shaw only had eyes for Fusco. He was lying on his back, struggling to breathe. Reese knelt beside him, muttering reassurances. He had been wearing a vest, thank God, but when Reese helped her remove it, it revealed a massive bruise forming across his chest.

"Cracked ribs," Shaw assessed. Pneumothorax, she thought, her other kind of instincts taking over. "Give me your pen knife," she said to Reese as he shifted over to give her better access. He handed the knife to her without a word. "Hold him down," said Shaw and placed two fingers on Fusco's chest, feeling for his ribs and making a small incision about an inch in width between them. Fusco flinched, but Reese held him steady.

"I’m gonna need a pen or something," she said and one appeared in front of her eyes before she had even finished the sentence. Root smiled at her. She had already taken the ink out, leaving a hollow plastic tube that Shaw quickly inserted into Fusco's chest, letting the trapped air out. Shaw listened carefully as Fusco's breathing started to even out, his chest rising and falling steadily again.

"Tape?" said Shaw, and again Root handed it over before she had even asked. "Anyone ever tell you you'd make a good nurse?" said Shaw regretting it almost immediately.

Root smiled wickedly. "Maybe we can play doctors and nurses later."

Shaw glowered, not in the mood for Root's usual innuendo and still too mad at her anyway to enjoy it even if he had wanted to.

Shaw tore a bit of duct tape off with her teeth and secured the tube in place. "That'll do for now, but he needs to get to a hospital."

Reese nodded. "You two," he pointed as Jason and Daniel, "help carry him."

Daniel and Jason each took an arm and half carried, half dragged Fusco. Root took the lead, Reese not far behind, glancing worriedly at Fusco, then at Shaw. And she knew what he was thinking, knew that he was remembering how close they had come to losing her, how Fusco had been lucky and why couldn't Carter have been too.

But life didn't work like that and Shaw tried not to think about how she almost died, tried not to think about how much it had affected the people around her, the closest thing she had to friends, to a family. She tried not to think about the way Root looked at her like she was fragile, like she couldn't believe she was still here. Like she never wanted to let her go.

She tried not to think about Root at all as they made their escape.

Angry is easy, she kept trying to tell herself and latched onto it like an anchor.


They didn't all go to the hospital with Fusco - too many questions for six people who were supposed to still be in hiding. Shaw would have offered, if only to steal some supplies for her own injuries and remove the stitches from her arm which had healed up nicely by now. The gut wound would probably need a few more days. But Finch decided for all of them when he called.

The Machine had started spitting out numbers again.

In the end, Daniel, Jason and Daizo took Fusco to the ER and Root gave them the name of a hotel where they could lie low for a while when they were done.

The Machine was giving them more numbers than they could deal with at once, so they decided to split up. Reese looked at Shaw like he might object - maybe he was channelling Finch, maybe he thought she wasn’t up to it yet - but in the end he kept his mouth shut and took his list of numbers from Finch.

Shaw headed back to her own car. She could hear light footfalls behind her; Root following her but keeping her distance. Finch hadn't given her any numbers. Probably still pissed, Shaw thought and she didn't blame him. It had taken a lot for Finch to trust Root and it would take a lot for her to build it back up again.

Root kept trailing her all the way to the car and Shaw turned to face her with one hand on the driver’s door. "What?" Shaw snapped.

"She wants me to go with you," said Root by way of an explanation.

"Oh, She does, does She?" Shaw said, unable to keep the annoyance out of her voice. "Why?"

Root shrugged.

Shaw shook her head, pretty sure that this Machine of theirs had one sick sense of humour. "Fine," she snapped eventually, getting in the car and waiting for Root to do the same before starting the engine.

"Shaw-" Root began and Shaw could tell by the way her eyes and softened that she was going to say something they would both regret. Something about their night together and more excuses about why Root had left. More apologies than Shaw knew what to do with.

"Don't," said Shaw. "Do me a favour and keep your mouth shut for the foreseeable future."

Root must have sensed something in her tone (or maybe she had just finally given up) because she clamped her mouth shut and looked away without saying another word.

Shaw sighed in relief. Angry is easy.

The numbers were run of the mill, nothing too complicated, but Shaw relished in it. It felt good to be doing something again, helping people.

It felt vaguely like they were cleaning up a city that had allowed itself to fall into disrepair, and in many ways they were. Things had been bad with Samaritan and Shaw hadn't realised just how bad until she was roaming the streets again, letting it seep into her skin along with the rest of the city's pollution.

Most of the numbers were petty thefts and drug deals, the city's criminal element seizing the opportunity to do as much damage as possible whilst the police were still busy with the endless rioting. These were the crimes they didn't usual deal with, and to Shaw it felt like the Machine was making up for lost time, like it was trying to repent itself after being offline and dormant for so long. Maybe they all were. Because hadn't they been the ones that let it come to this, when they failed to stop Samaritan in the first place? But they had taken the higher ground; they had spared the congressman's life and thwarted any chance of stopping Samaritan.

She thought about asking Root if the Machine felt guilty (could it even feel?) but they had lapsed into a sullen silence with each other. Root hadn't even bothered to get out of the car whilst Shaw dealt with the numbers, just sat there with an odd look on her face that Shaw couldn't decipher, watching her carefully as she punched and kicked and shot her way through the city, leaving a trail of bad guys zip tied for the NYPD to clean up after her.

Shaw made her way back to the car after securing another number - some idiot who thought it was a good idea to flash himself to woman as they passed him on the street.

"Don't you think that was a little excessive?" said Root, as Shaw got behind the wheel.

Shaw shrugged. "Asshole deserved it," she said, wiping the blood from her knuckles where they'd caught against the guy's teeth when she had punched him repeatedly. They had still been ragged from when she punched the wall the other morning and now her entire right hand was throbbing painfully. "Besides, maybe your Machine thought he was about to escalate."

"And that justifies breaking his jaw?" asked Root.

"Spare me the tips on apprehending scumbags, will you?" said Shaw sharply. Root looked away and bit her lip. "I can't believe you of all people are commenting on my excessive violence." That may have come out a little harsher than intended, but at that moment, Shaw didn't care and she watched as Root's face betrayed the hurt she was feeling and Shaw took satisfaction that she had been the cause of it.

So maybe she was being a little excessive, taking her anger out on easy targets while Root watched. Shaw imagined that Root was wondering if Shaw had been picturing her face as she punched and kicked, and maybe part of her was. She was punishing Root in the only way she could. And it felt good, for a little while, until about the third or fourth number. Then it wasn't enough and she was playing it up, trying to get a rise out of Root as she watched stoically from the car. She had been successful this time, but Shaw still felt the urge to clench her hands into fists, to lash out with more violence than she had ever felt. Neither of them was squeamish; Shaw didn't doubt Root relished in the pleasure that could come from pain. But Shaw wanted to make her hurt in different ways. Even if the only thing she could do was make the other woman watch as she slowly lost control.

"Does it hurt?" Root asked distantly, gesturing to Shaw's bloody hand.

"I've had worse," Shaw said, shrugging off her injuries as if they were nothing more than a scratch.

"I know," said Root quietly, her voice softer than before and it was enough to take some of the edge off of Shaw's anger. She had been there when Shaw had been shot. Shaw remembered warm hands on her face as she struggled with the cold seeping through her entire body, Root willing her to stay alive, stay with her. She had forgotten until then, until that moment in the car, just the two of them. She had forgotten the sheer panic that had been on Root's face, how she wouldn't let go. Shaw didn't remember anything after that, not until she woke up in the motel room with Reese standing watch over her and Root's marked absence during her recovery.

Shaw remembered all of that. She remembered the way Reese had said she cares about you, more than you know, remembered how she had tried to ignore it and focus on the pain.

She couldn't ignore it now, not with them both sitting here, alone, bloody and broken in so many different ways.

But then Finch called with another number and anything Shaw was going to say or admit was lost to the void.

"...From what I can tell, our number likes to frequent a bar named Harley’s."

"Yeah, I know it," said Shaw. "What does he look like?"

"He has a rather garish tattoo on his face," said Finch and she could tell he was cringing from behind his computer screens. "You'll know it when you see it."

"That's it?" said Shaw. It wasn't like Finch to be so cryptic, but he'd already hung up, no doubt because the Machine was contacting him with another number.

Shaw sighed and headed in the direction of the bar Harold had named. It was in a rough area of town that from the looks of things hadn’t managed to avoid the city’s riots. Burnt out and abandoned cars lined the streets, store fronts with boarded up windows and Shaw could hear an alarm going off somewhere not too far. The bar itself looked unaffected, but then it was hard to tell. Its windows were blacked with dirt and she couldn’t see inside.

Shaw parked a little ways down the street and headed into the bar. Root didn’t follow her.

The bar was dingier than the one Shaw had worked at during her life under her alias. It seemed so long ago now and she didn’t miss it one bit. Shaw took a seat at the bar and ordered a scotch. The bartender eyed her for a moment before getting her drink and she realised how out of place she must look. There were no other woman in the bar, and even if there were, Shaw doubted if she would have been welcome. She got a bad vibe and quickly wondered if it was a mistake coming in here so soon. Maybe she should have staked the place out first. But the numbers had been coming in so fast, and she couldn’t stand to be in the car with Root any longer so she had ignored all her usual cautiousness.

The bartender returned with her drink. Shaw sipped it wordlessly and could feel eyes on her. She glanced around the room; the four other patrons were watching her as they drank their own drinks. None of them had tattoos on their face and Shaw wondered if their latest number was even going to show up, if Finch had got it wrong somehow.

She was just about to leave when she heard a noise in the back and froze in place. She listened again but couldn't hear anything else. But she had been sure she had heard something like a squeal. Or a cry for help.

"That'll be five bucks," said the bartender. He had his arms folded and was staring at her coldly, but Shaw could see the drops of sweat start to bead slowly on his forehead.

"Actually, I'm looking for a friend of mine," said Shaw, buying for time. She made a show of searching her pockets for some cash. "Tall guy. Tattoo on his face."

The bartender clenched his jaw. "Look, lady. Just pay for your drink and get out."

But then Shaw heard it again and this time she was convinced it was someone crying for help.

"I don't think so," said Shaw.

The bartender's eyes darted to the door that led to the back room, then back to Shaw. He reached under the bar for something, but Shaw was too quick for him, grabbing him by the back of the head and slamming his face onto the bar. He slumped unconscious and slid to the floor.

Shaw sensed movement behind her - the four other guys were on their feet, each of them reaching for guns. Shaw launched herself behind the bar and took cover, cursing under her breath as gunfire broke out. How many times had she been shot at today? Had to be some kind of record, she thought.

Shaw took out the four guys with ease and ventured out from behind the bar, kicking their guns away as they writhed on the floor. Still no sign of her number with the face tattoo though.

She was too busy zip tying the four guys and the bartender that she didn't notice someone come up behind her. Shaw turned just in time to see a baseball bat swinging in the direction of her head. She managed to duck out of its way and was on her feet, ready to fight. The owner of the baseball bat had to be the biggest guy she had ever seen; nearing seven foot and muscles built like a tree. His arms were covered with tattoos, as was his neck, and to top it all off, a swastika on his left cheek. Oh yeah, this was definitely her number.

Shaw took a swing at him but it was like hitting a solid wall. Tattoo Face grabbed her by the arm and shoved her up against the wall, knocking the wind out of her.

"Fucking bitch," he hissed as he pressed one arm into her throat. Shaw tried to reach for the gun in her pocket, but only her left arm was free and it was in her right and she couldn't reach it. So she tried to prise the guy's hand away as he squeezed the breath out of her, but his arm was solid, even as she dug her fingernails in deep and she doubted he could even feel it.

Her vision started to dull, her lungs burning with the lack of air. But then Tattoo Face jolted suddenly and she slipped from his grip as his body started to convulse.

Root stood over him with the taser in her hand, a dark look on her face. She probably shocked him more than was necessary, but Shaw was too busy coughing to notice as her lungs desperately tried to fill with oxygen. She slumped back against the wall, breathing heavily.

"Thanks, but I had that covered," Shaw said with a tinge of annoyance between breaths.

Root rolled her eyes. "Yeah, looked like it," she said sardonically.

Shaw ignored her and got to her feet, trying not to stumble as she made her way to the back room. She wasn't at all surprised by what she found there: a girl - couldn't be older than sixteen - tied up half naked and bloody. Shaw cut her loose and told her to run. The girl didn't need to be told twice and she ran past Shaw without a word.

"A thank you would be nice," Shaw muttered to her retreating form.

Instead she was met with Root's smug face. Shaw ignored her and withdrew out the back door and into an alley at the back of the bar, trying to resist the urge to rub at her throbbing throat.

Root followed her. "Don't tell me you’re angry at me for saving your ass now."

"You didn't save me," Shaw said grumpily.

"Right," said Root, dragging the word out, “because that guy wasn't about to strangle you to do death."

"Look," Shaw snapped, turning round and getting right up in the other woman's face. "Whatever you're doing here, don't. I don't need your help and I don't want it."

"Fine," said Root.

"Fine," said Shaw.

But neither of them moved and Shaw could feel her anger welling up again. Angry is easy, she thought as she watched Root look at her with a mixture of apology, pity and something else. Shaw preferred the smug look. This look she couldn’t stand. She wanted to wipe it away. She wanted it gone. And this time, Root didn't even need to taunt her into doing it. Shaw started punching her, again and again until she had Root backed up against the wall, falling to her knees.

"Fight back," Shaw yelled as her fist connected with flesh and she didn't know what she was fighting for anymore. She didn't know anything.

But Root didn't fight back, didn't try to stop Shaw either, just sat and took it as the bruises formed and the blood welled up.

And then Shaw found the rage leaving her as quickly as it came and she grabbed Root by the lapels of her jacket, lifting her up to her feet and pushing her against the wall.

Then she was kissing her.

Shaw could taste the blood from her split lip, could taste Root and she wanted more. Her hands roamed downwards, to the waistband of Roots jeans, a hand frantically slipping inside as she bit Root's already broken lip.

But Root grabbed her wrists a pushed her away. "Stop."

"What the hell do you want from me?" Shaw asked, breathing heavily and looking at Root for the first time in what felt like years, wondering what the hell she was doing, how this woman could make her lose control so easily.

"You," Root said so quietly that Shaw could barely hear her. "I just want you."

Shaw started at that, the honesty in Root’s tone hitting her harder than any fist could.

Shaw shook her head. "I can't do this."

She tried to get angry again but she couldn't, and all she was left with was a feeling of emptiness so great she thought she was going to suffocate from it. She wandered back to the car, knowing Root would follow her.

“Here,” said Shaw, opening the door for Root to get in the back seat. She looked pretty pathetic, Shaw thought, as she tried not to wince with every step, blood trailing down her face and… okay, so maybe Shaw did feel a little bit guilty.

Root got into the back seat and Shaw took the first aid kit from the trunk of the car, getting in beside the other woman. Most of the blood on Root's face was from her split lip and a small cut on her left cheek. Shaw applied pressure to the wounds with a piece of gauze, being more gentle than she would have usually.

"It doesn't need stitches, but we should get some ice for the swelling." Shaw made to move but Root grabbed her wrist, keeping her in place.

"It's okay, you don't have to."

They stayed like that for a while, staring at each other, sitting impossibly close, close enough that Shaw could smell the blood and the shampoo in Root's hair. Eventually, Shaw sat back and felt a jolt of something at the look of disappointment on Root's face.

"I can't," Shaw said, facing the front because it was easier than looking at her. "I can't give you what you want."

Because what else was she supposed to say? What else was she supposed to do? She wasn't built for this kind of stuff.

Root reached out a hand to grab Shaw by the chin, turning her face so that Shaw was looking at her. Shaw reluctantly met her eyes.

"You aren't broken, Sameen," Root said. Shaw opened her mouth to protest, but Root put a finger over her lips to shush her. "I just want you and I'll take all that you can give."

Root took her hand back when Shaw didn't say anything and retreated back to her side of the car with an air of disappointment.

Shaw didn't know how long they sat there in silence. Root didn't say anything else and she didn't need to. She had lain out all her cards, shown Shaw her hand and now, whatever happened next, was up to her.

"What does the Machine think of all this?" Shaw asked, playing for time.

Root shot her an exasperated look. "You really want to know?"

Shaw shrugged, wondering at which point she had decided it was a good idea to ask a machine its opinion on her love life. And at which point had she started referring to this thing between her and Root as her love life?

"Honestly," said Root, "She thinks we're both idiots."

Shaw chuckled slightly. "Well, She's right about that."

"Yeah," Root agreed. She smiled but it didn't quite reach her eyes.

"I'm sorry," said Shaw, gesturing to Root's wounds, and she was sorry. Sorry for beating the crap out of her, for not being able to be the person Root wanted or needed her to be.

"Don't," said Root, shaking her head. "It's okay."

"No," said Shaw, "it isn't." And she leaned forward to kiss her. It wasn't okay. She didn't know if it ever would be, but when she was kissing Root, she thought it might just be.

Root hissed when Shaw's teeth scraped against her split bottom lip and then she was pulling away.

"Sorry," said Shaw.

"No," said Root. Her hands were still in Shaw's hair and Shaw shivered when her fingers brushed against her skin. "I mean, Harold's about to call with another number."

"Oh," said Shaw, and sure enough, Finch was talking in her ear again, giving her a description and location of their latest number. She wondered vaguely if he was timing this on purpose, but she forgot all about Finch when Root kissed her again, slowly at first, but then Shaw could feel things escalating, knew that one of them had to stop this now before it got out of hand.

Shaw pulled away reluctantly. “Work,” she mumbled incoherently. Root nodded and they both got out of the car at the same time.

Shaw headed for the driver’s door but paused when Root started to walk away. "Hey, where are you going?"

"Don't know yet," said Root with a smile. "She needs me somewhere."

"Root-" Shaw began.

"Don't worry, I'll be fine," said Root and if anything Shaw worried more. Her face must have betrayed her thoughts because Root's smile only widened. "Stay safe, Shaw," she called over her shoulder.

Shaw watched her until she disappeared down the street. Then she looked up. It wasn't hard to find the nearest security camera, with its red light blinking at her and she knew the Machine was watching her.

"You'd better keep her safe," she said to it, then felt a little foolish. She was talking to a camera.

I'm turning into Reese, she thought and got into the car.