Spinning her gold wedding band in mindless circles, Root peers out the grimy window of a New York taxi, watching the world surge by. Blurs of people walking to and fro, cars speeding and stopping, buildings blending into one another until the gray skyscrapers are more like endless walls than separated architecture.
Sliding her phone from her jacket pocket, she scrolls through seemingly unrelated information. A name here. A color there. A few quickly jotted notes of 'weak left knee' and 'hard of hearing' for ease of memory.
A low hum crackles in her ear, followed by a ringtone. Her notes are replaced with a cellphone number she knows all too well, and the ghost of a smile creeps onto her features.
"Hey, Sweetie," she coos, holding the cellphone to her ear. Not that she needs to, but talking aloud and to herself is sure to raise some concerns with the taxi driver. "How's the number?"
"Irritating," Shaw responds, voice choppy with sharp breaths. "Bastard's been running for five blocks now."
"No clear shot?"
Shaw scoffs. "If there was, do you think I'd still be running?" There's a sharp cry, some crashing, and Shaw swears under her breath. Root's small smile turns to a toothy grin, imagining the scene. Shaw pushing someone over, or someone crashing into her only to be thrown off with less than an ounce of effort. There's something about Shaw, Root thinks, eyes warming, for as small as she is, she's got some serious strength.
"Can you do something to slow him down?" Shaw asks, a flare of irritation rising in her voice, though Root knows it's not directed at her. "Change the stop lights? Cause a jam?"
"You know I'd do anything for you," Root replies, words dripping with enough affection that she can practically hear Shaw's eyes roll from the other end of the line, "but I'm out on business. You'll need to ask Harold."
"Out?" Shaw echoes, then shouts for the number to stop running. "Out where?"
"Something came up," Root answers, knocking on the glass partition and pointing to the curb. With a gruff nod, the driver pulls over. "Harry has me working on it."
"Alone?" Shaw presses, and Root winces at a grunt on the other end of the line. Someone yelps, then grunts again. Shaw hisses at whoever it is to stay down.
"I'm never alone," Root teases, paying the driver and stepping out of the car. Taking the phone from her ear, she drops it back in her pocket.
Root pauses, waiting for Shaw to continue. She doesn't.
"It's not that bad, Sam," Root assures her, eyes set on vibrant red hair bobbing along the sidewalk. Geneva Walker. "All I have to do is get a canary to sing, and I'll back in time for you to take me somewhere nice for dinner."
"Oh please," Shaw hisses, never one for open flirtation, even after being married for the last six months. There's a pause on her end of the line. "We're done here," she says, just as Reese's cold tone barks something at their number. "Tell me where you are; I'll meet you there."
"Sweet of you to offer, but I can do this."
"It's really not that bad?"
"Not that bad," she agrees, although it might be a bit of an understatement. It's a little more difficult than getting some information— about four armed guards, no blueprint information, and a strategically trip-wired maze of a warehouse more difficult. But Root needs this, and she needs to do it alone. For herself. For Harold.
It had been years since the two worked on opposing sides and yet, there was still a level of distrust that Harold had with her. This sense of almost walking on eggshells. This feeling of being one wrong move from a deadly eruption. Root's rapport with the Machine seemed to hurt matters more than help them.
But today, Harold Finch put full trust into her, giving her a mission usually reserved for the team and asking her to complete it. Was it a test? More than likely, and even with this knowledge, Root wants to— needs to— complete the task. Maybe, after all this time, he's finally warming up, Root thinks. And maybe this will change everything.
"I gotta go," Root says at last, watching the mop of red turn into a nearby alleyway. A sinister smirk curls onto Root's features. "I love you," she signs off, loading the verbal revolver with her strongest doting ammunition. In response, she hears the line cut. Barely able to suppress a grin, Root slips her hands behind her back, fingers curling around the guns nestled at her waistline.
_____\ If Your Number's Up /_____
"Drop your weapons," Geneva growls with the click of her safety. It's cacophonous in the nearly empty space, left even quieter now by the bodies sprawled out on the ground around Root. The gun is inches from the back of her head, barrel cold enough that she can feel the metallic chill greeting her.
Jaw clenching, Root lifts her firearms, sparing the man caught between her boots as she places each firearm at either side of her shoulders.
"I said drop them," Geneva snaps.
Both safeties clicking on, Root complies, hands remaining at her shoulders. The man scampers to his feet, coming to stand before her as the fear in his green eyes melts into cocky victory. Her eyes burn into his, lip twitching. Straightening his suit jacket, the gaze bounces off of him without effect.
"James," Geneva intones, and he stoops down, picking up Root's guns. Stuffing them into the waistline of his jeans, he grabs Root's ankle, beginning to pat her down. A dagger from her knee-high boots is added to his new collection of weapons. Continuing up, he takes the phone from her pocket, wagging it tauntingly before her face before dropping it to the ground and smashing it under his heel. He checks her ears for wigs, fingers tracing along her scar as a chill runs down her spine. From this close, she could head butt him. He'd stumble back, she could grab his wrist, spin him, and take one of her guns back. Geneva would shoot, but if the timing was right, the bullet would hit James instead. Two bullets to the chest for Geneva, zip ties for James, and the mission would be over.
The barrel of Geneva's gun presses into Root's hair, bumping against her head enough to push her forward ever so slightly. With the quirk of a smile tugging at the corner of James's mouth, he removes his hands from either side of her head and takes a step back.
"Who sent you?" Geneva demands, one hand grabbing Root's shoulder from behind as she begins walking her towards the back corner of the warehouse.
"Who says I was sent?"
Geneva barks out a vicious laugh, mirrored by James's similar cackle.
"Please," she spits, grip tightening. "Who else would come here and do this—" she yanks Root back, forcing her to face the four men face down, blood pooling around them— "without being sent?"
"My Saturday self defense classes are pretty good," Root cracks, earning a sharp shove from Geneva. They continue their careful journey to the back of the warehouse, Root constantly rolling through the probability of taking Geneva and James out by hitting one of the countless trip wires they gingerly step over. The risk of their escape outweighs their death, and Root keeps her head down, anger boiling her blood.
She'd almost completed the mission. The guards were well trained and well armed, but she had the element of surprise and knew a thing or two about fighting dirty from Shaw. The guards weren't a problem. She even got what she'd came for. She took the photos of the barcodes found on at least thirty different shipments— all illegal guns ready to be delivered to different crime networks. All she had to do was send them to Harold so he could redirect the shipments to their proxy location. It would be a few more days before the shipments arrived, at which point she, Shaw, and John could pick them up and bring them back to the station.
She wasn't expecting James Walker coming to check on the shipments. Nor that he would be on the phone with Geneva, who was tucked away in her office at the time, and was supposed to stay there. Now, one phone full of photos smashed and a glock to her head later, the mission is more than ruined. Not to mention with the Walker twins aware of her, their entire operation is bound to shift, employees and shipments alike rerouted and forced deeper underground than ever before. So not only is this an execution, Root mutters to herself, the back office coming into view, but it's all for nothing.
"I can take it from here," James says, grabbing Root's upper arm and forcing her towards the office. He pulls one of her guns from under his shirt, shoving it into her side.
"Tie her up good," Geneva instructs, clicking the safety back on her gun. "I'll get the jumper cables and generator."
Root listens, waiting for it. Waiting for the moment when...
Geneva's heel scuffs against the cement floor, and a single step hits as she turns away from them.
Turning her body violently away from James, she throws her right arm into the air, forcing his hand up as well. He's stunned, reaction delayed just enough for Root to steal her second gun from James's waist.
He fires. Something hot sears wickedly into Root's side, but she ignores it, tugging her gun free with her left hand and aiming his way. Shot one, shot two, he drops. The gun clatters to the floor, falling free from his lifeless fingertips as Root whips around just in time to see Geneva's icy eyes on her, gun raised.
Everything slows. Geneva's arm crawls upward, finger meandering to the trigger as her mouth creeps open, the first notes of rage singing out. Root drops to the floor, body drifting down more than falling, right hand pressed against her side as warmth oozes between her fingers. She forces her right hand away, fingers dancing like leaves caught in a breeze for the trim of James's jacket. Finger grazing, tugging, pulling him up. Knees hitting, bouncing, hitting. Body dropping.
Everything soars back to life with the flash of Geneva's gun, bullet colliding with Root's left shoulder as she yanks James forward with her right, using his body as a shield. Switching her gun from left hand to right, Root pushes James into a sitting position as a bullet sends a shockwave through his chest. Peeking over his shoulder, Root fires at Geneva. Once in the knee and she drops, gun still poised and coming to the space between Root's eyes, finger slipping on the trigger once more.
_____\ We'll Find You /_____
Shaw snaps her clip back into her firearm, placing it down on the bench as she balls her cleaning rag up in one hand. Looking down at her white blouse caked in dirt from their chase-and-tackle with the day's number, Shaw unbuttons it, yanking it off and walking towards the subway car in hopes of something to clean it off with. A chill runs across her arms, her black tank-top not nearly sufficient enough at keeping the underground's cold at bay, and begins rummaging through the drawers.
Harold has to have something.
She needs something to do. She'd considered finding Root, but Harold wouldn't help with the coordinates. By the time Shaw booted Root's laptop, punched in one of the three most recent passwords she could remember Root using, and turned on a search for her cell, there was nothing. Her phone was off, leaving Shaw to sit here and wait, whether she liked it or not.
She doesn't like it. She's restless, digging behind computer parts and weapons for some stain remover or a laundry stick. Something.
Slow, lazy footfalls echo softly from further down the hall, but Shaw doesn't look up. She knows that sharp heel, though the steps are a little more uneven than usual. I'm not gonna give her the satisfaction of watching out for her, Shaw thinks to herself, irritation prickling. Not telling me where she went, not having her phone on... she clearly wanted to do this alone. Giving up on the first drawer, Shaw starts on the second. If she wanted me to pay attention, she would've said something.
As the footsteps grow closer, their saunter seeming to grow even slower, Shaw imagines Root. Walking in, smirk devious and eyes cunning, wanting Shaw to look up and see her cocky strut into the station. See that she didn't need Shaw's help on this. See that Shaw was worried for nothing.
I wasn't worried, she adds to herself, almost forcefully, fingers flying over the contents of the third cabinet. The footsteps stop.
"Hey, Doc?" Root calls out, her voice a woozy slur, and Shaw freezes. Something's wrong. Pushing the drawer back in and stepping out of the subway cart's door, Shaw's eyes catch hold of Root. No, not Root, this can't be Root.
Seeing Shaw, Root's grimace shakes into a light smile in a vain attempt at flirtation. Shaw remains still and silent— perhaps for the first time at a complete loss for words. Root staggers, one crimson hand pressed to her side and the other to her opposing shoulder. Her eyes shut tight.
"Doc?" she says again, voice fading to a near whisper. "I think I might need a last minute appoint—"
She swallows hard, head shaking as her face grows tight. Then, it relaxes.
"Root, hey—hey!— Root," Shaw shouts, starting forward as her nerves jumpstart and send her mind into overdrive. Root's knees bow, falling into each other before her legs give out entirely. Her hands drop, blood trickling to the floor and spreading along her clothes as her body goes slack. Shaw's running, heels smacking against the yellowing tiles as Root begins to collapse in on herself, and she barely makes it in time to keep Root from crashing to the floor.
She's dead weight in Shaw's arms, who only makes it a few steps before deciding Root can't wait any longer for medical attention. Laying her down, Shaw stands, fingers starting a slight tremble as she darts back into the cart, gathers an odd assortment of the first medical supplies in sight, then returns to Root's side, dropping everything to the ground as she presses her hand to Root's side. Already, Shaw's arms are covered in red, the warmth of Root's blood seeping into her tank top. Finding her blouse amidst the random medical supplies, Shaw presses it to Root's side, watching as the white becomes red all too fast, then turns to purple even quicker.
"No, no no..." Shaw hisses to herself, ripping a bottle of antiseptic open with her teeth before tearing Root's shirt down the center and pouring it onto the wound. It barely hits her skin before mixing with the sea of red that seeps out and runs to the subway floor. Root's head lifts momentarily, then drops.
"Root, come on," Shaw says, eyes torn between watching Root's face and watching the bleeding. She pats at Root's face with her left hand, a tendril of horror striking through her veins as she sees the stark contrast between the blood on her hands and Root's ashen skin. She pats at her cheek again, then grasps Root's jaw between her fingers, forcing her head straight forward. Root's eyelids flutter, eyes barely open as she tilts her head back with a low moan.
"Stay with me, okay?" Shaw murmurs, hand leaving Root's face as she presses her fingers to Root's first wound. She works Root's shirt the rest of the way off, brow knit with impatience and worry. Using a pair of tweezers, she fishes for the bullet. Root's fingers quake against the floor, arms slowly shuffling towards her abdomen before falling back. Shaw's brow furrows and she pushes away the hitch in her heart that leaves it racing in her chest. C'mon, c'mon, c'mon—
Pulling the bullet out and dropping it to the floor, Shaw pours another small bottle of antiseptic into Root's wound before scrambling for a stitching needle and thread. Ignoring the tremble in her fingers, she finally threads the needle, quickly stitching up Root' side. With painstaking slowness, the bleeding begins to lessen.
One down, one to go.
Root's shoulder is caked in blood, although it's slower than Root's side, and in a far less critical spot. Again, she extracts the bullet, stitching Root up hastily before bringing Root's face into her hands.
"Can you hear me?" Shaw demands, shaking her slightly. Root gives a tired, ghostly smile.
It's less than a whisper, but enough to quell Shaw's ignited nerves— for now. Grabbing Root from under the arms, Shaw begins dragging her to the edge of the station. Running the back of her hand against her forehead, Shaw sucks in a breath and wraps her hands around Root's waist.
"This is gonna suck," she apologizes, hoisting Root up and onto the lone cot used for the team's emergencies. This is definitely an emergency. Root's teeth grind, another moan passing through her lips, but Shaw would take an agonized groan over silence any day. A groan means she's alive.
Parting with Root long enough to grab a packet of antiseptic wipes and a blanket, Shaw scurries back to Root's side, right hand immediately resting against Root's neck, thumb tracing slow, blood-smeared circles along Root's jawline. Root's breath is shallow and labored from the pain, but as far as Shaw can tell, the blood loss is recoverable. It may take a few months to work it all back without a transfusion— Shaw makes a mental note to tell Reese to grab some O- from whatever hospital he can. She wants to call him now, but upon patting her pockets for her phone, finds that it's not on her.
It'll have to wait, Shaw thinks, pulling out an antiseptic wipe and cleaning off her forehead and left hand. Grabbing another, she begins cleaning Root's shoulder, working carefully over the fresh stitches as the layers of blood slowly give way. The last thing she wants to do right now is leave Root's side, and she'll be damned if anyone or anything gets in the way of that.
Shaw spent the night at Root's bedside. Reese had brought her a chair and 700mL of blood from a hospital just off of Seventh Street. Shaw wouldn't have cared if he bought it, stole it, or drained someone on the side of the street for it— the only thing that mattered was Root.
Her color's better than before, a rosiness beginning to rest on her porcelain cheeks, but she's still a few pints away from being back to normal. Everyone had went home— Harold not so much as daring to breathe in Shaw's direction the day before— but Shaw remained, fingers toying with Root's hair, tracing her jawline, checking her dressings, and spinning her wedding band the way Root always did when she was in thought. The gesture brings her minimal comfort, but it's comfort nonetheless, and she'll take whatever she can get.
Now, as the clock on the far monitor pushes 5:30am, Root is settled into a deep sleep. She had been since around three, but in the early morning hours, Shaw caught glimpses of Root's incoherent state. Root's murmurs of shipments, and the Walkers, and how Harold will never trust her now. Shaw couldn't fathom why.
'What do you mean, he won't trust you?' Shaw asked, left hand combing through Root's curls and right interlacing their fingers. Root's eyes slid closed, then strained back open.
'I needed to prove to him... he can trust me,' she'd murmured, barely able to keep a hold back on Shaw's right hand. Her black fingernail polish contrasted her pale skin like night and day. Seeing her try to wrap her fingers around Shaw's, Shaw brought Root's hand forward, kissing her knuckles gently. Root gave a small smile.
'We all trust you,' Shaw responded, bringing Root's hand back down and wrapping her left hand over Root's fingers. Her hands were still unbearably cold, even with the blanket tucked snuggly around her. 'You don't need to prove that.'
Root gave her head a slow, sad shake.
'Not him... this would have been it." She stopped, eyes closing as if she'd faded into sleep. She forced them back open with all the strength she had left. 'But I failed.' Before Shaw could tell her it wasn't true, or that she hadn't failed anything, Root was gone, sunken back into the depths of sleep.
Shaw mulled the words over, an anger slowly burning in her chest and radiating outward as the hours ticked by, until the heat of her rage was enough to bring warmth back into Root's frigid bones.
Footsteps approach. Uneven and heavy, with the patter of paws accompanying them, until Harold appears from the shadows, hat tipped down and briefcase in hand. Tossing both onto his work station, he turns towards Root and Shaw, expecting both to still be asleep.
Stooping down and removing Bear's leash, he scampers over to Shaw, licking at her forearm with his tail wagging. Not taking her burning glare from Harold, she gives him a quick pat on the head.
"Zwinger," Harold mutters, gesturing with his hand to Bear's bed, and Bear happily complies, swiping a bunny slipper along the way and settling in. Harold watches Shaw, eyes filled with an apology that hasn't yet dared to leave his lips, and he sighs.
"Don't," she snarls, cutting him off. Her hand slides from Root's as she stands, stalking over to him. She wants to yell, or scream, or punch something, or punch him or everything combined; however, with Root sleeping only a few feet away, she fights to keep her voice down.
"I just want to apologize for—"
"I don't want your apologies," Shaw interrupts yet again, eyes red-hot. He searches them, a sorrow brimming in his own. She's unsure if it's remorse or pity. Regardless, it sets her over the edge. "I want you to tell me why you sent her out there alone."
"I thought she could handle it."
"You thought she could handle it, or you thought she could prove herself with it?" At the accusation, Harold's eyes become distorted with shadow, lip twitching with the precursor of a sneer. "It's a wonder she even made it back to the station. She could have died out there."
"We all could die out there every day," Harold spits back, voice low. "That's what we signed up for."
"There's a difference between a mission going wrong, and you setting her up," Shaw retorts, hands balling into tight fists. "She needed back up, and you wouldn't give it to her."
"I think you're forgetting how interchangeable we are," he says, tone dangerously low. "What we do is relevant, but we are not."
"This is my wife, Harold," Shaw fumes, voice raising an octave as she points a finger back to Root. Lip tugging into a menacing sneer, eyes burning like a thousand suns, her voice drops. "And she's relevant to me."
With another sigh, Harold gives his head a sad shake, beginning to turn. Shaw grabs him by the upper arm, tearing him back around with enough force to throw him off balance. His eyes flash with red, mouth parting to retaliate, but she beats him to the punch.
"Why does she still need to prove herself to you," Shaw demands, met with surprise.
"What do you mean?"
"Cut the crap Harold, you know what I mean." Harold presses his lips together tight, hands clasped behind his back. Shaw grinds her teeth, lips pursed. "If you're still pissed that she kidnapped you, get the hell over it. She did a lot of shit, I get it, but she's clearly not that person anymore."
Harold tries to speak again, and again, Shaw cuts him out.
"I trust her. Reese trusts her. Fusco trusts her. The Machine trusts her. Whatever the hell's holding you back, you need to figure it out and get over it. Now."
Harold's eyes burn with anger, but the more Shaw looks, the more she's sees it's not for her. It's for himself.
"If I'd known what was going to happen, I..." he looks past Shaw to Root, then somewhere else entirely. "I didn't want her to get hurt. That was never my intention."
"What was your intention?"
"To keep weapons off the street, Ms. Shaw," he answers, eyes finally coming back to her, a deep-set hurt in them. "No sideways agenda. But I know I shouldn't have let her go alone, and I'm sorry for that." Shaw watches him, the way his eyes squirm under her gaze, and the way the guilt simmers just below the surface. Shaw's fight escapes her, resolve crumbling. It's been a long day. It was a long night.
"Please," Shaw says in a tired voice, "just leave us alone." Before he has a chance to say more, Shaw steps back, spins, and returns to Root. She can tell he means his apology, but she's too tired right now to do much about it. She'll forgive him, sure, but not today. Not now.
Just as Shaw makes it back to Root's beside, Root stirs, arms stretching before her as a soft yawn escapes. Her eyelids flutter open, hazy gaze slowly focusing in on Shaw. She grins.
"Hey, Baby," she greets, giving Shaw a one over, although Shaw is unsure if it's for dramatic effect or if Root's eyes are unable to keep steady. "Sleep okay?"
"Not really," Shaw replies honestly, smiling in spite of herself. Root's grin melts into a sloppy smirk as she gestures to the cot.
"There's room for two," she offers, but Shaw shakes her head, brushing Root's hair back and kissing her forehead.
"You need to keep resting. The chair will do just fine for me."
Raising her brows with a nod, Root lets out another yawn.
"Is Harold here? I thought I heard him." Shaw thinks of the previous conversation— of what he could possibly have to say to Root.
"He stopped in," Shaw answers, not wanting to lie but certainly not wanting to tell the truth. "I told him to leave you alone for now."
"Worried that if I have visitors you won't get my undivided attention?" Root teases. Shaw scoffs.
"I'm worried you won't get sleep. Which is what you need," Shaw reiterates, plopping down in her chair. Root smiles, eyes drifting as her eyelids shut. She reaches out for Shaw's hand, grabbing it with more strength than she was able to the night before. She's getting better, Shaw thinks to herself, unable to hold back a smile. She's going to be okay.
"Love you, Sweetie..." Root mumbles, words muddied by the fatigue that quickly claims her. Shaw thinks of saying nothing, then thinks of throwing out a sharp-tongued response, but stops. She remembers Root's sign off from the day before, and how she hung up in reply. That was almost the last conversation we had.
Giving Root's hand a light squeeze and readjusting her blanket higher onto her chest, Shaw closes her eyes.
"Love you too."