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Vampirical Evidence

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"Hey, sweetie." The phone connection was full of static, but Shaw could still hear Root's voice through it. "You busy?"

Shaw looked at the paused movie on her tv. "Not really." She wondered if this was going to be another phone-sex call. If it was she was going to need to shut the tv off because she didn't think she could get in the mood with the frozen image of David Attenborough patting a turtle judging her.

"What're you...what're you up to?"

The static had cleared up a little and now Shaw could hear that Root's voice was too breathy and strung out in the wrong ways. She sat upright, a bolt of urgency racing through her.

"Root, what's going on?"

"Can't a girl just call to say hi?" She laughed and it sounded wrong, almost hysterical.

"Where are you?" Shaw could hear faint background noise over the line. Cars and people talking. Root had been on a job in New York so she must still be there. "Give me an address." She got up and headed for her room. She was going to need a few supplies if she had to get all the way across the world.

"You're worried." Root sounded pleased. "Sameen Shaw, the ancient and mysterious vampire in her secluded castle is worried about me."

The fact that Shaw didn't get annoyed by that disgusting insinuation was probably proof that Root was right. "Knock it off and tell me where you are." She grabbed a backpack off the floor of her closet and went to find her medical kit in the bathroom. Between some of the rougher stuff they got up to and the fact Root had shown up here sporting some poorly treated injuries from her job a few times Shaw had stocked up on supplies.

"Too far away for you to help, but it's nice to know you would." There was a lot of noise on the other end of the line before Root's voice came back on. "Do you...do you want to know a secret, Shaw?"

"No, I want you to tell me where you are." Blood bags from the fridge went into a small cooler that she managed to jam into the pack.

"Honestly? I'm not even sure. And I need to go now, but I'll call you later."

"Don't you dare hang up."

The line went dead.

"Fuck." Shaw chucked her phone in the bag as well.

Usually when she travelled, she chose the long way--travelling like a human on a plane or a ship. It had to be very carefully planned out due to annoying problems like sunlight, but it was still more pleasant than the alternative.

The biggest problem with teleportation over long distances wasn't that it was exhausting (though it definitely was exhausting), but that it was completely disorienting. The ten seconds after she teleported were, without exception, the worst ten seconds in her existence (since the previous time she'd teleported anyway), and felt horrible enough that she'd rather have to take multiple days to travel slowly than deal with ten seconds of misery.

She arrived in the middle of central park, though she didn't realize that at first. It felt like she'd been dragged by her ankles through every single building and structure between her castle and her destination and been punched in the face repeatedly while it happened. Her eyeballs felt like they were getting slowly pushed through a cheese grater and her entire stomach was one big, painful cramp. The ten seconds felt like they lasted two weeks, and, when she regained awareness of her surroundings, she realized that in her haste to get here she'd forgotten a very important detail.

She sneezed.

"Oh, fuck."

Fortunately, vampiric speed was perfect for getting the fuck out of sunlight in a hurry (there were theories that was why vampires had it in the first place, but she wasn't sure she believed that) and within seconds she was standing on a subway platform trying very hard not to scratch at her red, itchy face. Stupid of her to not even have stopped to pull up the hood of her hoodie before teleporting.

The first thing she did was call Root back, but, like she'd predicted, she got her voicemail. She was going to kick Root's ass across three continents when she found her.

The problem was that she had almost nothing to go on. The background noises from the phone call had been too indistinct to give her any hints. She was fairly confident that she could pick Root's scent out if she got anywhere near a place she'd been in the last twenty four hours, but Manhattan was way too large and crowded for her to wander around and hope she stumbled on a lead.

There was one card she had up her sleeve, but it was a thirty-year-old card so she wasn't sure how much use it would be. And before she could do that, she needed to make a stop.

The drug store on the corner was unfortunately full of people and windows, but it was a necessary risk. The great thing about big city drug stores was that they had a bit of everything and Shaw actually managed to find what she needed and get back underground with very little exposure. She retreated to a quiet corner of the subway station to sneak a blood bag out of her pack and into a brown paper bag. Then she punched a hole in it and inserted the large, plastic, reusable straw she'd bought. It was a kid's straw, covered with pink poodles (the other options had been flowers, clowns, and...bats), but it was opaque enough that she could drink blood through it without seeming too suspicious. At least in New York people were very unlikely to look twice at something that was only slightly odd.

Certainly no one even looked twice at the short, hoodied figure in the corner seat of the subway car drinking out of a poodle straw through the gap in the scarf wrapped around her face. Three stops uptown and a short walk (sticking to the shadows and as covered up as she could get) brought her to a building she hadn't been to in thirty-three years. Only a blink of time for her perhaps, but long enough for humans that there was no guarantee the place was still used for the same purposes it had been.

She was relieved to find it still looked like the shittiest travel agency ever with grates across the windows and the front door locked. She could hear people inside though so she raised one leg and kicked the door so hard it flew off its hinges.

There was panicked scrambling from inside and Shaw stalked in to find three men pointing guns at her. She rolled her eyes.

It had been too long since she'd been in a good fight, and while three humans with guns in a small space hardly qualified, it was still nice to let loose a little. The first man got a broken wrist, the second a busted nose and a few crushed fingers, and the third she hung upside down from the light fixture as she ripped his shotgun into pieces.

"Just need a word with your boss, boys," she said as she pushed past them to the door at the back.

The man in the office in the back also had a gun pointed at her and she sighed in exasperation as she ripped it away from him and crushed it with one hand. The man fumbled in his drawer, no doubt reaching for a backup weapon, and Shaw kicked his desk so hard it flew back and pinned him to the wall.

"Will you knock that off? I just need some information."

The man stared at her, his face twisted in pain (maybe she'd overdone it a little with the desk). "Who the fuck are you?"

"Wrong question."

"What...what's the right question?"

"I need information."

"That isn't a question." He squealed when Shaw reached out and grabbed him by his shirt.

"Listen, asshole, I know who you are and what you do here, but that's not even relevant because if you don't tell me what I want to know, I'll throw you through a wall."

The man swallowed hard and held up his hands placatingly. "It would help if you told me what you were after."

Oh, right. She might have forgotten that part. "You boys are information brokers for criminal activities which means you would know of any paid hits happening in any of the five boroughs."

"In the whole tristate area actually."

"Even better, though I just need to know about any paid hits or attempted hits that happened within the last twenty-four hours in Manhattan."

The man looked a little more confident now and tried to sit up as much as he could with the desk still pinning him. "There's been three in the last day, all successful."

Shaw had been hoping there'd only been one, but three wasn't too bad. Hopefully they were close together. She chucked a notebook and pen from the desk at the man. "Addresses of where they went down. Now."

The man looked her over. "What're they worth to you?"

Shaw pushed the desk into him harder with her hip so he squirmed. "The real question here is whether it's worth losing your spleen to not tell me."

"Okay, okay!" The man scribbled on the paper and pushed it back across the desk at her. "Just take it and go, you crazy bitch."

Shaw glanced over the paper. "If these are wrong, I'll come back here and--"

"Rip my spleen out, I got it. They're not fake. How the hell did you know where to find me anyway? Who sold me out?"

"Chester Freemont."

"Chester Free--you mean the guy who had my job like twenty years ago? I thought he was dead."

Shaw tucked the paper into her pocket. "More like thirty, and he is."

The man didn't ask anymore questions, and she left with him still looking puzzled. The three men out in the main room were all more or less where she'd left them and none of them tried to pull any more weapons on her so she let them be.

The first location on her list was a business office with a lot of cop cars out front and not a single whiff of Root. The next was a downtown hotel and Shaw didn't even have to go inside to be able to tell Root had been here. Normally she wouldn't have been able to pick out the scent of a single human in a crowd, but she knew Root's scent extremely well now. She couldn't remember the last time that had been true for a human.

Root wasn't at the hotel, and there was very little inside to give Shaw any clues. Someone had definitely been killed there (it reeked of blood), but the body was long gone.

Shaw ducked into an alley next to the hotel and concentrated. There was no transformation or puff of smoke--one second she was standing there, and the next a huge black dog was standing in her place. If she had to change into an animal form, she preferred the panther, but even New Yorkers might notice a panther wandering around the city. The large, black pitbull with a studded collar (and unfortunately still wearing a pack) would draw at least slightly less attention (though a lot of people tried to pet her much to her annoyance) and gave her sense of smell an extra boost.

Animal forms were...odd. They were nothing like the shapeshifting of a were-animal, no horrible transformation needed and less primal than that, but there were weird animal instincts that sometimes kicked in. Like tail-wagging. Shaw hated everything about it, but today seemed to be the day she had to do everything she hated doing because stupid Root wouldn't pick up her stupid phone.

The only good part about assuming an animal form was that it seemed to raise her tolerance for sunlight a good bit. She still stuck to the shadows, but even when she had to venture out into the direct sunlight she didn't start feeling the effects right away. Maybe it was the fur.

Root's scent trail led her to a seemingly abandoned floor in a nearby business building. Shaw changed back into human form outside the building and rode the elevator up. There were a lot of dead bodies up there. She could smell them.

The floor with Root's scent and the corpses was a large, open space with a single chair and table in the middle. There were syringes on the table, blood on the chair arms (Root's, she could tell), and five dead men on the floor in the area. Four had been shot and one had been stabbed in the throat. One of the men had been shot in the gut and had taken a long time to die. Root's work, she guessed, impressed at both the efficiency and brutality. That gut shot had most likely not been an accident.

There were smears of Root's blood on the table and the elevator call button, but no other signs of her. None of the men had any useful identification on them, not that Shaw cared who they were, but they were a very dead end. Whatever had happened here, it looked like Root had walked out on her own.

Before Shaw left, she examined the syringes on the table and frowned. Someone had been playing with some very nasty drugs. No wonder Root had sounded so fucked up.

She needed to find her, fast.

She circled the building in dog form until she found a second trail, leading away. This trail was much fresher and punctuated by occasional drops of Root's blood on the pavement. It led her to a hotel a few blocks away.

She changed back into a human and hurried through the lobby, waving off the man at the desk who asked if she needed assistance. The elevator wasn't on the ground floor, so Shaw took the stairs, running up them far faster than any human could have. Root's scent got stronger on the fifth floor and Shaw found herself standing in front of room 512, looking at the blood on the door handle.

She could smell Root and more blood inside and hear running water and Root's thready breathing, but she still picked the lock rather than kicking the door down. Better to keep the room as safe as possible until she knew more.

The lights were off in the main room, but the bathroom light was on, and that was where she found Root, curled up against the wall of the shower, fully clothed under the spray. She was unconscious and still bleeding a little from at least two injuries by Shaw's quick assessment, but she was alive.

Shaw dropped her pack near the door and went over to kneel next to Root, the water from the shower soaking through her clothes immediately. There was a gunshot wound on Root's left arm that was responsible for most of the blood and definitely needed some stitches. The second wound was a little different though. Shaw grimly examined the cut behind Root's right ear. Root was shaking all over, her heart rate was erratic, and, from the smell of things, she had probably thrown up a few times, but this injury was the biggest problem for Shaw. There were...options if Root was in danger of dying. Options that Root would have to regain consciousness to discuss and that Shaw was unsure could be considered 'good' options, but options nonetheless. But this injury? She couldn't fix this.

One thing at a time. The water Root was under was cold which probably meant that she'd felt too hot and crawled in to clean off and cool down at the same time. Not the greatest idea, but then Shaw didn't think Root would have been in much of a state to make good decisions when she'd gotten here. Hell, a lot of her decisions when she was in perfect health were questionable.

Shaw got out from under the water (realizing as she did that her only set of clothes was now drenched) and gathered up all the towels in the bathroom. She placed them next to the shower and then waded back in and shook Root gently by her uninjured arm.

"Root, hey, I need you to wake up for a minute."

Root murmured something unintelligible but didn't stir otherwise. Shaw shook her again, a little more forcefully.

"Get up."

Root's eyes opened a crack. "Sameen?"

"Yeah, it's me." Root had seen her naked and in all sorts of compromising positions, but not once had Shaw felt even half as exposed as she did right now, kneeling in the shower in a hotel in New York City after having teleported across the world to rescue Root.

"How did you get here?"

"I turned into a bat and flew."

That got a laugh out of Root, even if it was a weak one.

"I need to get you out of the shower and into bed before I can treat your injuries. Think you can help me with that?"

"I'm...I'm not sure." A shiver wracked her body. "What do you need me to do?"

Shaw reached up and switched off the water. "Your clothes are soaked so you need to take them off."

"I'm not sure why you need my help for that. You're practically an expert at undressing me by now."

Shaw couldn't help the slight smile on her lips. "Not now, Root. Come on."

Shaw still had to do most of the work to strip Root's wet clothing off, but having Root conscious enough to help a little made it much less awkward. The wet clothing ended up in a soggy pile on the floor and Shaw helped Root dry off with one towel before bundling her in the rest.

She got Root out into the bedroom and left her sitting on the edge of one of the beds while she went to turn the heat up. When she got back, Root had slumped over and was unconscious again, though it was unclear if she'd passed out or just fallen asleep.

"You can sleep in a minute," Shaw said as she shook her awake again. Hell, it would probably be better for both of them if she stayed out cold while Shaw fixed up her arm, but first she needed to get Root into bed and give her something for the pain. She wasn't crazy about giving her more drugs yet, but the gunshot wound required stitches and that was going to hurt like fuck.

Root regarded her blearily as she took the offered pills and glass of water.

"It's daylight out," she said as if she'd just realized it.

"Take the pills."

"How did you get here during daylight?"

"Carefully. Now take the damn pills."

Root relented and swallowed the pills before allowing Shaw to help her get under the covers.

"Stay," Shaw ordered as she pulled the blanket over her. She didn't think Root was up to going much of anywhere, but then she wouldn't have thought anyone could have gotten across the city in Root's condition either.

Once Root was securely in bed, Shaw took a minute to grab another blood pack for herself. After the teleporting and the shape changing, she was running low on energy, and she really needed to actually feed on a human and then lie down and drift for a few hours, but for now this would have to do. (Hopefully Root was too out of it to notice the poodle straw thing). The remaining blood she transferred to the hotel mini fridge, stuck in between the tiny bottles of whiskey.

"Shaw?" Root called from across the room.

"What?"

"Nothing. Never mind." Root sounded a little sad and Shaw shut the door of the fridge with more force than necessary. She'd never heard Root sad before and it was unacceptable and bad and made her want to find whoever was responsible and nail them to a wall by their ears.

"I'll be right over," she called back.

She stripped her own wet clothing off then and dried herself off with one of the remaining towels. Eventually she'd probably have to put the wet jeans back on and that would be almost as bad as teleporting had been, but for now she could enjoy being dry again.

Finally, she grabbed her medical supplies out of her bag and went back over to where Root was lying down in bed. Root was fast asleep again and didn't stir as Shaw examined the bullet wound on her arm. Fortunately, there wasn't a bullet still in it and the bleeding had mostly stopped. Shaw got halfway through putting stitches in it before Root woke up and started thrashing around.

"Root, hey!" She pinned her arms down. "Knock it off. I'm trying to help you."

Root stopped moving, but she didn't look pleased. Like an angry, half-drowned cat, Shaw thought.

She stayed mostly still for the rest of the stitches and passed back out again while Shaw was bandaging her arm. Thankfully she remained asleep while Shaw took care of the other injury behind her ear.

She checked Root's pulse again when she finished and was pleased to find that it was more steady than it had been.

Once she'd done as much as she possibly could for Root, she went back to the bathroom, wrung out their clothes, and hung them up to dry. She took a fast shower (running around the city on paws was a little too close to being barefoot in a toxic waste dump) and then went and sprawled on the empty bed. Tension that had been running through her since Root's phone call finally started to ease up. Root was okay. She was pretty fucked up still, but she was alive and should recover. Except for her hearing, of course. She must have really pissed someone off.

It was a shame that Root had likely killed all the people who'd hurt her since it meant Shaw couldn't drop one off the top of the Empire State Building and watch them bounce. Unless….

A horrible thought occurred to Shaw and she bolted out of bed and shook Root awake again.

"Root, the person you killed and the guys who captured you after, none of them were mixed up with any vampires, right?"

Root glared up at her petulantly, obviously not pleased about being woken up again. "No, there were no vampires, Shaw. Why?"

Shaw shook her head. "Nevermind. Go back to sleep."

Another vampire would have made this whole thing unpleasantly complicated, especially with Root sporting half a dozen half-healed bite marks still. That would have been a giant fucking mess she didn't want to deal with.

Much better to have all this have been a squabble between humans.

She wanted to go find a donor and feed, but she didn't feel safe leaving Root alone yet, so instead she lay down in the other bed and let herself drift while Root slept.

Root got up three hours later and made it to the bathroom on her own. When she returned to the bedroom, she crawled into Shaw's bed instead of her own, slid over right up against Shaw, and tried to snuggle up against her. Root's skin still felt clammy against hers and an occasional shiver shook her.

"Sorry," she said quietly and Shaw wasn't sure if she was apologizing for the shivering, the cuddling, or this whole mess.

"It's fine." Shaw gingerly wrapped an arm around her, acutely aware of her lower body temperature which wouldn't give off the sort of warmth Root was craving. Root didn't seem to mind though and settled in against her with a sad little sigh that made Shaw want to go murder someone.

Root stayed asleep for five hours this time and when she finally woke up her eyes were clear and focused again. Shaw could tell because Root's face was inches from her own, all up in her personal space and not even slightly repentant about it.

"I thought I'd only dreamed you showed up," Root said once she was fully awake. "How did you get here so fast?"

"Teleported."

"I didn't know you could do that."

Shaw smirked. "Gotta keep some secrets."

"How did you find me? Can you teleport directly to me? Is it because you've drunk my blood before?"

"Nothing like that. I tracked you down. It was a huge pain in the ass, too."

"My hero," Root teased and then laughed at Shaw's disgusted look. "Am I allowed to say thank you at least, or will that make you grumpy, too?"

"You don't have to thank me."

"Why not?"

"Because…." She couldn't think of a safe answer. "Fine, go ahead if you want."

Root only inched closer to her though and stayed silent.

"I can't fix your ear," Shaw blurted out. This part of the inevitable conversation had been weighing on her. "I mean, even if you were a vampire, it wouldn't heal. Maybe if you had already been one, but not if you get turned after the injury."

Root had gone very still. "I didn't think you could." She hesitated. "It's not a big deal."

It was a huge deal and Shaw kind of wanted to shake her, but maybe Root needed it not to be a big deal right now.

"Okay," was all she said.

"Can we go home soon?"

"Home?" All this time and she still had no clue if Root even had a home.

"Sorry, I meant, to your castle. If that's okay."

"Oh." Shaw thought about that. "Yeah, we can go home soon, Root."


It was a week before Shaw would even consider teleporting them back. She'd wanted to travel back normally even if it would have been a pain, but Root was determined to experience the teleporting thing and refused to listen to all of Shaw's warnings about eyeball-slicing pain and badness and the best Shaw could manage was to make her wait until she deemed her health was solid enough to risk it.

She took a little bit of perverse pleasure from Root throwing up on her front walk after the teleport because she'd told her so, but mostly she was just glad they were both back safely and away from all the noise of the city.

Root didn't question when Shaw took both their bags to her own room nor when she moved the items Root had started storing in the guest room over as well. Root was still recovering, Shaw told herself, and it was her responsibility to keep an eye on her at all times.

The first week back was frustrating for both of them. Shaw thought Root should take it easy and not do anything to raise her heart rate, and Root thought Shaw was being silly and went out of her way to find ways around the rule. This led to Shaw trying to make her stay still which only led to Root getting more excited and...it was just a mess.

There was also the unspoken complication of Root's hearing loss which clearly bothered her far more than she tried to let on. Shaw saw all the times Root shied away from something unexpected on her right side, and how she seemed to have trouble pinpointing the direction sounds came from now. Shaw never mentioned it, but she was careful to stay on Root's left side. Sooner or later Root would have to come to terms with it, but she wasn't going to interfere.

But even despite all that, it felt good to have Root back in the castle full time. It was a weird adjustment getting used to someone else sleeping in the same bed as her every night, but it was also nice sometimes to drift to the sound of Root's steady breathing. It would probably be even better once she deemed Root well enough for sex again (a heated point of contention between them), but even without that it was okay.

The other point of contention was Shaw feeding. It wasn't that Root was jealous, Shaw had figured out, but that she actually was a weirdo and enjoyed it. Shaw wanted to stick to donors until Root was better (and even then there was no way she could feed from only one person after the amount of energy she'd expended lately) but Root brought out the sad eyes every time Shaw left the castle to feed and recently it felt like the sad eyes had been a lot harder to resist.

After two weeks, she finally gave in on that point. Root seemed to be back to full health and there'd been some fairly laid-back (by their standards) sex with no problems and mostly Shaw really, really wanted to feed on her so she finally agreed.

"No."

Shaw sat back, confused by why Root had stopped her.

"The other side."

Ah, right.

She had Root cradled between her legs, lying back against her chest in bed, and, like usual, she'd gone for the right side of her neck. The side Root was deaf on now. She adjusted and then stopped, adjusted again and scowled at the back of Root's neck.

"Problem?" Root asked.

"Feels weird this way. I guess I never thought about it, but it seems natural to lean to the right. Maybe like being right-handed or something."

Root's body shook with silent laughter and Shaw's scowl deepened. "It's not that funny."

She guided Root's head into a better position and then finally, finally sank her fangs into her neck the way she'd been dying to for weeks now. Logically she knew that there was no difference in the way blood tasted between different humans unless they had drugs in their bloodstream, but there was something better about feeding off of someone who was not only willing, but eager. Someone familiar. Maybe this was why vampires got so territorial about their humans.

Root made small whimpering noises as she adjusted to the pain and then relaxed back into Shaw. Feeding took time and also a lot of concentration on Shaw's part to make sure she didn't take too much. It would have been so easy to get lost in how good it felt, but she didn't dare.

Shaw didn't give Root a full dose of the toxins she could drug her with, but she gave her the tiniest bit from time to time, just to make sure she felt good and take the edge off the pain.

Root's blood flooded her mouth and flowed through her body and she thought about how different this felt with Root, how satisfying. And how maybe she should be worried about what that might mean especially now that Root practically lived with her. She tightened her arms around Root and pushed those thoughts away. She could worry later. Right now there was just this.

Afterwards, Root stayed lying up against her even after Shaw's pointed hints that she needed to eat something to get her blood sugar back up.

"Don't make me carry you."

"Can I ask you a question?"

"And don't change the subject."

"Back in the hotel in New York, I vaguely recall you asked me if another vampire had been involved."

Shaw had hoped she'd forgotten about that. "Maybe. I don't remember."

"Yes, you do. Why was it so important?"

Shaw traced a finger over the fresh bite mark on Root's neck. "Vampire stuff, that's all."

"What sort of vampire stuff?"

"It's…." She really didn't want to get into this, but she figured she owed Root an explanation. No way to be sure it wouldn't be a problem in the future. "It's this really dumb thing where vampires consider the humans they feed from regularly or bite during sex as belonging to them--like pets basically. Which they don't. But that's how a lot of them think. So if one of them had hurt you and I hadn't retaliated it would have been seen as a weakness and other vampires might have caused us trouble." She paused and when Root didn't say anything right away, added, "Like I said, it's really dumb and I don't buy into that crap." Archaic vampire bullshit was part of the reason she was living in the middle of nowhere now.

"You would have fought off other vampires for me? That's adorable."

Leave it to Root to know just the thing to say to make it worse. Though also better in a weird way. Defused.

"If you try to start shit with another vampire just to see what happens, I'll..." Shaw realized there was no good way to finish that sentence since she had no intention of giving up sex with Root or kicking her out and they both knew it. "Just don't."

"Understood." Root sounded amused again. "Who knew that vampires would be as dull and horrible as humans though when it comes to the idea of being able to own each other."

"They were humans. I mean, we were."

"True." Root glanced back at her over her shoulder. "It seems I picked the right vampire."

"You lucked out," Shaw agreed. She traced a finger over the fresh bite mark on Root's neck and resisted the urge to put her mouth on it.

"How does that part of it fit in?" Root asked.

"The bite mark thing? Uh, it's...complicated." She tried to find a way to explain it that didn't sound creepy. "I'd be lying if I said it wasn't possessive at all, but it's not like...ownership possessive. It's more like a reminder of biting someone and of how it felt. And a mark of connection, maybe."

"Connection," Root echoed. "I like that." She had somehow latched onto Shaw's hand during the discussion and was not-so-subtly trying to maneuver it down between her legs.

Shaw pulled away. "None of that yet." She stood up, lifting Root around the middle effortlessly. "Food first."

She emphasized her point by simply carrying Root downstairs, flung over her shoulder. Maybe she got a little butt-groping in on the way down, but who could blame her? Root certainly wouldn't.

She deposited Root on a stool in the kitchen and put juice in front of her and then went to poke around in the fridge for ingredients to cook a proper meal. Her fridge was well-stocked enough lately that she'd had to move all the weaponry to another room and she wondered, as she dug around in the fridge, what other little changes she'd made without thinking to accommodate Root's presence. It wasn't a bad thing, but it was a change after years and years of little to no change at all.

The necessity of making sure Root had food had led her to rediscover the enjoyment she'd used to get out of cooking. A lot had changed since then and there were so many improvements and tools that made her life easier now. Root kept her entertained with a story about another job gone wrong a few years ago and then Shaw got to watch her attempt to eat the ridiculously large portions of steak, potatoes, and vegetables she'd dumped in front of her. It was probably more food than even the most determined human could manage, but Root made a valiant effort.

By the time Shaw had finished packing the leftovers away, Root was slumped at the counter, nodding off into her orange juice. Shaw carried her back upstairs (in a far more respectful position this time) and put her back in bed with a strict order to get some sleep. She paused before leaving and added, "Thanks."

"You don't need to thank me, Sameen."

"But--"

"You didn't need me to thank you for coming to New York, and I don't need you to thank me for donating some blood. It isn't an exchange or a duty, right?"

"What is it then?" Shaw asked, unsure she wanted the answer.

"A connection."

"Oh." Shaw thought she could live with that. "Okay."

She switched off the light and went downstairs to read.