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Tender Flesh

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"Ugh," Root said, rubbing her arm.

"What? Was I lying on it?" Shaw asked her, not moving.

Root put her laptop aside and lay back down. "No, sweetie, don't worry about it. But you could massage my arm if you wanted."

"I didn't study massage, I studied medicine."

Shaw did it anyway. She had a personal interest in the well-being of Root's hands and fingers.

Two days later, a pair of Samaritan agents had them pinned down behind a row of dumpsters in Brooklyn, in one of the no-camera zones. Unfortunately, the Samaritan agents had the higher ground, shooting from the windows of an apartment building.

"We've got to get moving, or she won't be able to help us," Root whispered.

"Yeah, well, if those guys had the same training I had, they're going to pick us off the second we break cover. But you know what? That little green dumpster has wheels."

"So it does!" Root beamed at Shaw then kicked the wheel locks until they released. With a firm push from both of them, it started a slow roll down the hill. Root had to hunch over to keep her head out of the firing line, but Shaw was fine and occasionally returned fire as they scurried along with the dumpster as it rolled faster and faster, bullets pinging off the battered steel.

"I can hear her!" Root announced as they picked up to sprinting pace – well, Shaw was sprinting, Root was still jogging on her long legs – heading past a car yard. "And she says run faster, they've got a rocket launcher!"

"Crap!" Shaw picked up the pace but she heard the rocket launcher fire, so she hurled herself on Root and knocked them both onto the grassy verge, rolling over and over. The rocket hit the dumpster square on and sent it flying through the air, crashing over a fence and landing on a used car, setting it on fire.

"Run!" Shaw dragged Root to her feet, but Root had her Glock 19 drawn now and was receiving instructions. She fired once, very precisely, at the apartment building, then fired again. Her hand jerked and she dropped the gun.

"I only got one of them! She told me where to shoot but I couldn't!" Root cried out, looking utterly despairing and, terrifyingly, standing in the open.

Shaw grabbed her by the coat and dragged her to a huge pile of old tyres. More shots peppered the ground where they had been. "What happened?"

"My arm, I can't hold the gun properly. I failed Her!"

Shaw glanced at her, but she couldn't see any blood. She drew her own weapon. "Don't worry about it, you can tell me where to shoot. Stand behind me."

"Okay, okay," Root sounded desperate and Shaw didn't like that. Nonetheless, she did as Shaw said, putting her hands over Shaw's on the gun.

"I'm going to step out to the right and fire. Tell the Machine and she can direct the shot, okay?"

"Wait…wait…" Root adjusted their stance, comfortable against Shaw's back. "Go!"

They stepped right, Root turned their hands slightly left and up, and fired. They ducked behind the tyre stack together, but no more shots came.

Shaw hissed out a breath. "Got them. Let's get out of here before the reinforcements arrive."

"Thank you," Root whispered, and Shaw didn't know if it was to her or the Machine.

At their underground headquarters, Shaw firmly pressed her way down Root's right arm while Finch hovered worriedly. Root was stoically silent, but there were tears shimmering across her eyes and she looked deeply worried. Shaw wished it was concern for Root's own well-being, but she was pretty sure that she was worrying that she'd be useless to the Machine.

"Is it broken?" Finch asked.

"I can't be sure with no diagnostic equipment, but it's probably a sprain." Shaw manipulated Root's wrist as gently as she could manage, considering she was trying to diagnose. "Get the ice on it again, and Finch, give me that compression bandage. Rest and ice should fix it up."

"I've been using this gun for over a month! Why is it giving me trouble now?" Root looked relieved.

John stepped out of the tunnel, bags of takeout in both hands. "I told you that gun was too big for you."

Root glared. "I'm sorry, John, but we don't have as great a choice of weapons as we did previously. I needed something with stopping power at a distance that fires full-metal jacket ammunition, since She doesn't want me killing people if at all possible."

"He's right, though," Shaw commented, bandaging Root's wrist.

"You're smaller than me and you use plenty of big weapons."

"Rifles are totally different. Anyway, I built up the strength in my arms for years so I could handle the big guns. Typing doesn't count as exercise."

John snickered. "You hear that, Finch?"

"You will note that I am not attempting to use guns at all."

"Good point."

Root looked terribly alarmed. "When you say I have to rest my arm, do you mean no typing?"

"No shooting, no typing, nothing you consider fun at all," Shaw told her. "Believe me, I'm not thrilled either."

"I think this falls under doctor-patient confidentiality," Finch said, hastily retreating and pulling John with him. John raised an eyebrow at Shaw, who raised both back at him, and added a smirk for good measure.

Root batted at Shaw with her good arm. "Don't give it all away!" She lowered her voice. "Seriously, though, no typing?"

"And I'm going to get you something with less kick for your left hand until you've built up some muscle, okay?"

Root pulled Shaw close, and since Finch and John had departed, Shaw let her.

"Sweetie, you're the best. I asked Her about it, but she just told me to follow my doctor's orders and not strain my flesh. She meant that comfortingly."

Shaw kissed her on the bandaged hand. "There you go, personalised medicine. All better?"

"Yes ma'am. Hey, how's your typing speed? I could guide you like we did with the gun, only with a computer?"

Shaw considered. "Well, I was last clocked at a blistering 45 words per minute, in high school. That suit your needs?"

"Gosh, no. I'll have to think of something else you can do for me instead."

"I can think of something," Shaw said.

"Really?" Root leaned in, smiling.

"Yeah. Set you up with strength-building exercises for your left hand so you don't wind up totally helpless." Shaw grabbed her hand. "Let's start right now."

Root made a face. "Oh, honey, you say the sweetest things."