John sits in the far corner of the subway terminal, shadows hiding him, pulling him in until he is one with the wall. The only things visible are the whites of his eyes as they reflect the yellow lights a few feet away. With each blink, he becomes nothing.
There is no secretive reason for his odd seating placement, merely a pounding headache and an over crowded mind. He rests his elbow on the top of his leg, forehead cupped in his hand, and closes his eyes, allowing himself to dissolve into the air.
He could’ve been floating in this empty darkness, light whizzing of a generator blending with his soft breaths. If it weren’t for the weight of his thoughts dragging him down, he could’ve convinced himself- for the moment- he was.
He was thinking of Joss again, and Jessica Arndt. Both his fault, yet different reasons entirely. He remembers leaving Jessica at his second tour in the army, finding any emotion a weakness. Sometimes, he thinks with a biting chuckle, I think I’d like to be a sociopath. Because living with this overwhelming flood of emotions contained inside was enough to make any man burst. And damn am I close. He can still picture her light hair and dazzling smile; the laugh that could make every rough night and hard day melt entirely. With his eyes closed, he can see her face, and he misses it dearly.
His thoughts flicker out, then resurface with Detective Joss Carter. He can see her tan face and inquisitive eyes, an air about her that said ‘I can help your ass, or I can hand it to you.’ He feels a smile tug on his lips, and lets out a nearly content sigh. Her memory fills the darkness around him, enough that he can almost smell her perfume and hear her breath at his side.
'I guess I have you to thank for this,’ her voice reaches his ears with a snarky but kind humor. He wants to open his eyes, the feeling of a presence so vivid at his side he swears she must be standing there, but keeps them closed.
“Thank for what?” He asks, voice barely audible as it crackles like an old radio. He sounds tired, and he feels all the same.
'For taking me out of God knows where to have a chat with you,’ she says sassily, although there is a laugh in her voice. He can imagine the smile and the twinkling in her eyes, and forces the image away.
“Not my fault you’re trying to escape the man upstairs,” he responds.
'I’m not the one hiding,’ she counters.
There are footsteps echoing into the terminal, and John opens his eyes instinctively to scan the space. At once, the memory of Carter disappears. The air feels colder, and the familiar scent that enveloped him moments ago is gone without a trace. He sighs inaudibly, watching with bored eyes as Root and Shaw walk towards Harold’s computer desk.
“What are we here for again?” Shaw asks, leaning against it and crossing her arms. Root bends over the chair, fingers skimming across the keyboard with expert skill.
“Just grabbing a file…” She replies, eyes scanning and head lowered in concentration. “… And then we’ll be on our way. Do you have the flash drive?”
Shaw gropes around in her jacket pocket, hair falling over her face like a curtain before she looks back up, handing the small drive to Root. Root takes it, plugging it into the computer’s side, then sneaks a glance at Shaw. Even from his perch a few yards away, John can see the overwhelming endearment in her eyes as she looks Shaw over. Shaw taps her foot on the ground, looking straight out at the far wall- oblivious.
There is a spark in Root’s eye, as if the wick of a candle has just been lit within, and a small, half-smile pulls onto her face. Don’t do it, John thinks, humor and incredulity in his thoughts as he shakes his head. Whatever it is, don’t do it. He’d seen that look a million times before, and knew what came of it each time.
As the computer screen flashes files and a light green bar slowly grows across the screen, Root reaches out a hand, pushing the wall of hair back behind Shaw’s ear. Root barely moves it a centimeter before Shaw’s own hand is wrapped around Root’s wrist, visibly twisting it hard. John sees a quick flash of pain register in Root’s eyes. What did I tell you, he projects.
Shaw turns her head, murder in her eyes and a tight-lipped sneer on her mouth, keeping Root’s hand only a few hair widths away from her face. Root tries to contain her smile, but it peeks out continuously as she stares fondly at Shaw. Finally, Shaw tosses Root’s hand away, tilting her head up to look even at Root threateningly.
“Don’t… do that,” she spits with fluster in her words, cheeks getting a shade redder. Her eyes drop down to Root’s wrist and back, eyes softening slightly in an apology she’d rather die than say. However, the glare comes back just as strong a moment later when Root pushes on.
“Why not?” She coos, leaning in closer to Shaw’s face. A wicked smile dances on Shaw’s lips, fatality written in her eyes as she brings herself closer as well. John can see the play in Shaw’s face and the overall relaxation of her muscles, and can’t help but give a silent laugh. In her own way, she’s just as bad as Root.
“Because next time I really will hurt you,” Shaw says, voice like she enjoys delivering pain. Her words are low and dangerous, warning Root she’s walking on water- to tread carefully- all the while her smile gives Root an open invitation to go on.
“Like you could hurt me,” Root scoffs, pulling back with a coy smirk. Shaw’s smile drops indignantly.
“You have no idea what I’m capable of,” Shaw seethes, eyes starting to narrow.
“I wouldn’t mind finding out,” Root replies, eyes scanning Shaw suggestively with a come-on that is overtly provocative. John puts his thumb and pointer finger just above his eyes, and he shakes his head. As if that could rid him of what he just witnessed. He has half a mind to stand- to get up and walk out before this goes anywhere else- but knows it is too late now to make a move without being questioned.
Meanwhile, Shaw turns cyanotic. Her ears are burning up and her cheeks look as if they’ve been painted, all the while her eyes become rather wide. She laughs, but it is only out of sheer disbelief. She coughs, forcing her face to return to its stoic neutrality, although the discoloration still remains.
“Will you just-… Get that thing and let’s go,” Shaw commands hotly, turning away from Root and heading out. Root complies gladly, pulling the drive and heading after Shaw. Her eyes travel briefly to John’s corner, gaze enough for John to feel as if she’s spotted him entirely, but she leaves without any acknowledgement.
It felt like an eternity since he’d taken a breath, and he gulps in the air greedily. Once his lungs are satisfied, his mind starts to run once more, thoughts loudening his mind and making the headache worse. However, he pushes the pain away as he thinks over Root and Shaw. How they act. How they talk and move and play around each other. It’s different, he knows, but wonders if they know. He thinks of how Root’s eyes catch fire at Shaw’s presence, and how Shaw becomes grounded with Root’s every word.
His mind flitters back to Carter and what happened to her. How what happened to her could happen to any of them. How he was too late to consider that.
I won’t let it happen to them, he decides, eyes hardening in determination. That’s not how it’s going to be for them.
______\ If Your Number’s Up /_______
After calling Harold and asking where Root and Shaw were headed, he hops into his black SUV and sets off. Down busy streets and past rambunctious people, his mind continues to unravel as he decides on how to go about this.
They’ve been tip toeing around this way too long, he tells himself, but can’t for the life of him figure out the proper way to say just that. I need a plan; I need a plan. On and on he drives, sifting through any scenario that comes to his mind. All the army drills in the world couldn’t have prepared him for this. Nonetheless, with about three blocks to go, he finally has a scheme together, and pulls over to write it out. It took me this long to figure it out, he tells himself, there’s no way I’m gonna chance forgetting it all.
1) Get them to talk
2) Make them slip up
It doesn’t seem like much to him on the page, three simple lines that could barely pass for a sentence, but he decides that it will have to do.
Just as he turns onto the block, he notices two women in all black sprinting his way, guns drawn as they shoot over their shoulders. He recognizes the wavy brown hair, and instantly skids the car to a stop, unlocking the doors and rolling down the tinted front window.
“Need a ride?” He calls out, and they both turn forward, smile appearing on Root’s wind-bitten face. With a few more bullets to keep their pursuers at bay, Shaw rips open the back door, letting Root slide past before filing in behind. She doesn’t even have the door fully closed before John hits the gas, and they go screeching off. John can hear angry shouting, the popping of handguns, and the occasional metallic ding of a bullet slamming into the back fender.
“Who’d you piss off today?” He asks them as the rush quiets down. Peering through the rear view mirror, he can see both women sitting with red noses and varying degrees of a smile. They’re sitting as far away as possible, both pressed up against their respective doors, and remaining deathly silent. Coming up on an intersection, he takes a hard left at the last second, causing horns to blare angrily and the car to totter on two wheels.
“Reese, what the Hell?” Shaw fumes, and he forces back an accomplished smile. Taking another fast glance into the mirror, he sees Shaw pushing away from Root- who she’s now practically sitting on top of- and Root’s wide grin as she barely contains a laugh.
“Should’ve been wearing a seatbelt,” he mutters, and she runs her tongue across her teeth in annoyance.
“What were you doing around here anyway?” Root asks conversationally, doting eyes fixed humorously on Shaw, who greets them with a cold stare.
“I was bored,” John lies, switching lanes. “Asked Harold what the two of you were up to; thought maybe I could be of assistance.” He takes another impromptu turn, this time to the right, and Root smacks her head into Shaw’s with a painfully loud 'Crack!’ He hears Shaw give a short groan, hand coming to her forehead and eyes seeing red. He looks back, seeing them both side by side at the center of the seats. That’s better.
“Do it one more time and I’ll rip you out of the driver’s seat,” Shaw snarls, and John gives her a narrow-eyed look through the mirror. Silence falls over the three for a few minutes, and John remembers his list.
“The two of you should talk,” he blurts out, catching the women off guard.
“Hm?” Root asks, and he begins once more.
“You two, you should talk. I’m sure you’ve got a lot to say. Just pretend like I’m not here.”
Root and Shaw look at each other, and Root raises her eyebrows. Shaw nods curtly in understanding, then eases her elbows onto the center console, eyes trained up at John.
“Is there, uh, anything you’re not telling us?” She asks cautiously, and John gives her a short glance before bringing his eyes back to the road.
“No, not at all,” he says, voice almost carefree. “Is there something you’re not telling Root?” She sits back, as if the words are fire on her skin, and her eyes scream with murder.
“Excuse me?” She asks, daring him to say it again. From her side, Root looks uneasily between the two.
“Is there anything that you haven’t told her?” He continues, trying hard not to just shout out his accusations. “Or anything you really want to ask her?” He can see Root’s cheeks flush slightly.
“What are you talking about?” Shaw spits; John shakes his head.
“I’m not here, remember?” He says, waving a hand to swat away the question. Shaw slouches back, arms crossed and feathers ruffled.
In the back seat, Root looks over at Shaw with a good-natured smile, and mouths, 'Anything you want to ask me?’
Shaw purses her lips, eyes coming to slits before she responds shortly. 'No.’
Just then, Root’s phone buzzes to life, screen flashing Harold’s name. Unlocking her phone quickly, she looks down into her lap, hair falling across her face, blocking Shaw from seeing what his message says. A moment later, Root pushes her hair behind her ear, stowing her phone away, and gives her neck a slight roll.
“Can you do me a favor, and pull over here?” Root asks, and John complies, slipping the car to the curb with ease. Shaw looks to her with questioning eyes, and she gives an almost remorseful smile. “Harold wants to see me,” she explains quickly. “Said to meet him at the university.”
Cars whiz by on the right side of the car, more than one nearly clipping the mirror, and- after a short amount of time waiting for the onslaught to clear- she gives up. Root pushes herself from the seat slightly, then starts to shimmy her way across to the passenger side door. She slides over Shaw, and John can see nothing in the mirror other than Root’s mouth as they switch places. It starts neutral, but a quick, laugh-like smile travels across her face, although he is unsure why.
Finally, Root pulls open the door, turning back to face them with a sly smile and eyes to match. She knows what she’s leaving Shaw with, and she makes it quite clear.
“Bye John; bye Sweetie.” With a last, devilish smirk, she shuts the door and hurries on her way.
Seconds tick by, and the Mayhem twins sit in graveyard silence. Shaw breaks through it at last.
“What kind of medication does the doctor have you on?” She teases, pushing herself forward and climbing into the front seat. John watches her go, face expressing little interest, although his eyes give off a somber smile.
“That’s between me and him,” he jokes back, and Shaw gives a mock-offended smile.
“And here, I thought we told each other everything,” she replies in faux dejection, then rolls her eyes, looking out the passenger window with fingers tapping along the door.
“Then why don’t you tell me what’s going on between you and Root?” Shaw’s fingers stop mid-tap, and her shoulders tense. However, her face stays as expressionless as before, and within a few moments, she is back to tapping as if it never affected her at all.
“With Root?” She asks, voice almost making it to skepticism. She gives a short, disbelieving laugh- keeping casual. “Nothing. Why?” She turns her head to John then, eyes scanning his face to read behind the lines. He shrugs, then looks straight out through the windshield.
“It seems like the two of you…” he gropes for the words. “Have some unattended business.” Shaw is silent a moment, letting the words roll on her tongue before she replies.
“Everything worth mentioning’s been mentioned,” she tells him, her own eyes cast out the windshield as well. Silence.
“You care about her, Shaw.” She guffaws at the words, all the while a sense of unease starts to radiate from her.
“Yeah,” she says at last, a sense of deflection in her words. “Just like I care about the rest of you nerds.” John glances at her incredulously.
“You know what I mean-”
“Do I?” She spits back, anger finally breaking through her calm shell. John gives her a hard stare, and she looks ready to rip him apart limb by limb. At last, she gives him a sickened sneer, eyes pulling away and landing on the scraggly piece of paper in the cup holder. Seeing the pique in her interest, John reaches for it. Yet, seeing his reaction only adds fuel to her flame, and she swipes it quickly, smoothing it out as she reads aloud.
“One, get them to talk. Two, make them slip up. Three, confront.” John snags the paper from her hands, visibly miffed.
“Anyone ever teach you to mind your own business?” He asks, and she narrows her eyes. Then, as her mind thinks the list through, they become open with questions.
“What was that for?” She asks, but he doesn’t respond. “Are you trying to get information from someone?” She presses. “Without me?”
He feels like laughing, like shaking her senseless. He suffices with a sigh instead. “You could say that.”
Shaw clicks her teeth, looking away from him with a scowl on her face as he pulls back into the street. “Unbelievable.”
______\ We’ll Find You /______
“You find out what’s wrong with John yet?” Root asks, walking into the subway station. John gives her a cross glare; she merely smiles good-naturedly his way.
“Not a clue,” Shaw responds, voice muffled by the chips in her mouth. Her feet are up on Harold’s desk, and she has a large, metallic blue bag in her hands.
“Eating at Harold’s desk?” Root asks with playful astonishment. A smirk appears on her prepossessing face. “Bad girl.” Shaw rolls her eyes at Root, bringing another chip to her mouth before responding.
“What’s he gonna do?” She asks defiantly.
“Perhaps I will make a 'no eating’ policy in the station,” Harold’s annoyed voice greets her ears as he enters from the shadows. His eyes are daggers directed her way, pointedly calling her out. With the angered jutting of her jaw, Shaw pushes away from the desk and heads towards the subway car to sit. Root follows, and- soon after- so does John.
Root sits at Shaw’s side, eyes full of fondness and admiration as she leans her cheek on her arm, which is draped over her plastic seat. The two look as if they were in a quiet conversation; nevertheless, upon seeing John, Root’s mouth comes to a close, and Shaw turns her head away from her. He takes a seat across from them, straightening his blazer as he does so, eyes curious as they scan the two. Root gives him a sincere and polite smile, while Shaw’s eyes merely ask in exasperation: Why are you here?
“Just thought I’d sit with the two of you,” he replies casually, leaning back into the cart’s seat. “Computers aren’t really my thing.” His head nods towards Harold, whose typing can be heard clearly from where they all sit. For a small period, an awkward silence fills them; Shaw running her tongue across the bottom of her teeth uncomfortably.
“So, uh,” John’s words barely escape his lips, yet the sound is thunder. “Fourth of July. It’s coming up.” The two women wait for him to continue, but he doesn’t say any more.
“Yeah…” Shaw prompts, cocking her head forward to give him a mildly confused glare.
“The two of you have any plans?” Root is about to answer, but Shaw beats her to it.
“Do any of us ever make plans?” She responds, and he nods, giving her that one.
“Do you?” Root asks. John shakes his head.
“I’m thinking we need to get him a pet,” Shaw says, mostly to Root. “I think he’s lonely.”
“I’m not lonely,” he interjects, stern eyes on Shaw. She gives him an oh-really? eyebrow raise. “I’m not,” he reaffirms.
“Maybe we can get him a hobby?” Root suggests, and Shaw nods.
“You could go bug Harold,” Shaw tells him seriously. “That’s always fun.”
“I have plenty of hobbies,” John replies flatly, and a lopsided grin takes to Shaw’s face.
His phone rings, lighting his pocket up blue, and he answers it with a last contemptuous glare Shaw’s way. “What is it, Lionel?” He asks, then falls silent, listening to the answer. “Alright, I’ll be there in five.” He hangs up.
Standing, he arches his back, shoulders rolling as he checks his watch. “Got a case at Del Frisco’s Steakhouse,” he tells them, slipping the cell back into his pocket. With a nod, he excuses himself, heading out into the icy night air.
Almost as soon as Reese leaves, Root and Shaw become at ease, turbulence avoided, and they both sit back in their chairs. Root looks over her shoulder briefly, making sure he is gone, all the while their seats block her view of Harold behind the dented silver of the cart’s wall.
“Do you think he knows?” Root asks, slipping her hand into Shaw’s. Shaw shakes her head.
“No.” Root gives her head a nod in understanding, eyes fixed elsewhere in thought. She leans her head against Shaw’s shoulder, another question finding it’s way into her mind.
“Should we tell him?” Shaw gives a small but rumbling laugh, and Root’s heart skips a beat. Looking over at Root from the corner of her eye, Shaw scans her face with a light smile. She gives Root’s hand a squeeze and closes her eyes, resting her head against the cool surface of the subway car.