According to Root, she’d killed her soulmate a little less than a half-century ago.
She didn’t have to, of course. She could have just continued to move from city to city, never settling in long enough for aging effects to come into play if she ever did encounter her soulmate.
But Root had sort of liked Austin, at the time. Her favourite coffee shop was located just around the corner from a hospital complex, and the bubbly and perpetually eighteen-year-old nurses that worked there would come in every day and sit near or around Root, assuming she was one of them, too. They’d laugh and chat, and Root could sip her coffee and work from her laptop and watch their pretty mouths sigh as they wondered when they would finally start aging.
“When am I going to meet him?” they’d ask each other, and Root could sit there and enjoy the view, at least.
So when Root—ever vigilant with her health and only having spent the past 6 years being 18, not nearly enough time to have gotten done all the things she intends on getting done on this earth—got the results from her monthly physical, she pursed her lips and wondered which one of those girls it was. Which one of those girls would be the one to start running the clock out on the otherwise infinite number of things Root could achieve?
It took a little less than a week for Root to hack into the hospital records (which was a little less than a week too long, for Root, who could practically feel the overwhelmingly heady effects of being so close to her soulmate. It nearly got to the point where even ingesting the smallest amount of caffeine was getting her to feel like she might almost explode).
And so, even though the timing didn’t quite match up, Root picked up on the only nurse with recent test results showing aging. She was a bright-eyed paediatrics nurse who had just graduated from nursing school less than two months ago, with a kind smile and nice laugh that Root had used to enjoy watching over the brim of her coffee cup.
It was a pity, Root had thought, as she clacked away on her keyboard, making arrangements to put this all to bed as soon as possible lest another day just pass on by. Someone that pleasant and normal ought to have gotten a soulmate who didn’t have such big plans laid out for a very long, very… productive life, she had thought.
Because Root did have big plans, and she needed to decisively head this off before it could become a problem down the line. Even the most pleasant people, after fifty years of staying young and watching their friends find happiness and growing old and leaving them, eventually went to great lengths to track their soulmates down so they too could get started on that fabled aging process.
Besides, if she did just turn tail and leave town and run away from something as stupid as fate, who knew how many shitty coffee places she’d have to try before she could find somewhere else that could make a decent five-shot espresso?
No, Root had thought, as she confirmed the hit. This was just one less thing Root would need to spare a second thought for, for the rest of her now assuredly long and illustrious life.
Take that, fate.
Sameen Shaw has never given a flying fuck about fate.
Sometimes she thinks maybe that’s pity she’s detecting out of the corner of her eye, from strangers on the subway as they try to size up how long she’s been eighteen (read: how long she’s been alone). Maybe that’s smugness, from gross old couples holding hands down the sidewalk, trying to pretend like they’ve got something she’s missing out on.
Whatever. It’s not like she really cares about other people, anyway, much less what they think of her. And she’s never bothered wondering about what would happen if she accidentally found her soulmate one day (or, more probably, if the poor sucker found her) – and she’s gotten good, by now, at recognizing the kinds of serial monogamists who get tested every other week to see if they’ve finally met The One, and steering clear of those losers.
Because it doesn’t really matter to her. If she starts aging, she starts aging. If she doesn’t, well, that just means she’s got an endless amount of time to find better steaks to eat and bigger guns to shoot and hotter people to sleep with, and that’s really all that’s important in life.
She really just doesn’t care at all about soulmates.
The first time Root sees Shaw, really lays eyes on her in person, there’s something achingly familiar about her.
Root feels it in her lungs, rising up and filling her with a cloying mixture of anxiety and anticipation. She tries to tell herself it’s because of how close she is, to finding the answer she’s been looking for, because she’s this close to getting away with fooling a trained ISA agent into giving her information.
But deceit and trickery was already old hat, by then, for Root, and she’d known that Shaw might not even have any credibly useful knowledge anyway, so deep down she knows that that wasn’t it at all.
It was the prickling of interest she’d felt when she’d pored over Shaw’s file, the way she hadn’t been able to tear her eyes away from the page, the feeling of being impressed by clear efficiency and pragmatism laid out in successful mission after successful mission despite herself. It was the odd spurring she felt from deep within her, to pick up the phone and arrange to meet the real Veronica Sinclair so that she could get a chance to meet Shaw in her place.
As Root leans in close to Shaw, arms propped up on Shaw’s lap with the heat from the iron radiating all the way up to a slight flush in her cheeks, Root feels something shift almost imperceptibly inside of her.
No matter how light-hearted she seems when she says, “We’ll do this again soon,” some part of her is glad that she needs to leave, right now, this instant, before she starts to dwell on the fact that knows she’s already made up her mind to find Sameen Shaw again – soon – one day – after all of this has settled out, if it ever does.
It’s close to a week later when Root realizes that she actually hadn’t given Shaw a second thought since then.
Briefly, she wonders why the suffocating cloud of urgency she’d felt she was being pulled into dissipated almost as soon she got outside a 1-mile radius.
For a fleeting instant, she wonders why she can’t shake the feeling that she and Sameen Shaw must have crossed paths, a lifetime ago.
Shaw felt it too.
She hadn’t necessarily recognized it for what it was, and she just didn’t care, at the time.
And why would she? She had other things to think about.
Like, how could she convince her attending physician to let her work more than 88 hours this week, because she’d be damned if she let her chances at becoming chief resident slip away all because any other resident (weaker than her, less efficient, too slow) had managed to clock more hours than her? And other such thoughts that fell into the scope of her career-minded tunnel vision.
The first time she felt that same tugging deep in her core, Shaw had sipped at her coffee suspiciously, wondering if the sleep deprivation had hit her in a way that was making the coffee hit her stomach in a weird way.
She just couldn’t afford to let a pesky thing like lack of sleep get in the way of the extra reading she was doing on the effect of increased myocardial oxygen consumption on cardiac efficiency. (She didn’t feel a particular affinity for cardiac surgery, but the cardiac attending she was working with for the rest of the week seemed to have a bug up his butt when he talked to her, so she was thinking that maybe she’d declare cardio her specialty. Just for fun.)
So the next time Shaw felt an odd stirring and restlessness in her limbs, less than a week later, at the same café again, she had squinted suspiciously into her cup. She wondered if maybe this place was behind on health inspections.
Looking around, it hadn’t seemed like anyone else in the café was having any particular reaction to the increasingly dubious coffee. The place was filled with incredibly loud, extremely chatty hospital staff, as usual, and they were all laughing and enjoying their coffee break with a gross amount of enthusiasm—
Except for one girl, quietly sitting dead center, chin resting in her palm as she contemplated the laptop in front of her. Shaw had studied her, noting with interest that it looked like this girl was actually doing some sort of work on that contraption. She hadn’t seemed to be a nurse, and she stood out from the crowd as the only youthfully furrowed brow in a room full of unlined, wrinkle-free faces.
Shaw had taken another sip of coffee without thinking, as she watched the girl’s rapid, shallow breaths, and was peripherally aware of her heart rate gradually increasing in sync, before spitting the coffee back out.
Maybe we’re the only ones feeling the effect of the dodgy coffee, Shaw had thought.
It took a considerable amount of time before Shaw found herself stepping back into that café after that. In the end, Shaw just couldn’t argue against the fact that it was a stone’s throw away from the hospital, and she could loiter there while not technically on-call and be the first one standing in the ER if anything big did happen.
Eventually, she gingerly started drinking the coffee again, too, noting each time that the bizarre effect she was noticing never seemed to be a symptom of any sort of ailment that lingered after she left the coffee shop.
Instead, it only ever seemed to amp her up in a way that made her feel like her cells were starting to kick into high gear when she was actually in the café.
Maybe she was just reacting to the caffeine, she’d stubbornly thought. And… and some sort of a health code violation. A combination of the caffeine with a bad reaction to asbestos in the walls, or something.
But whatever it was, it started to grow on her, and so Shaw found herself heading back to that café more and more often, eventually welcoming each adrenaline rush with a thrill that left her wanting to… to do something. (Heading back to the hospital afterwards on such a high never hurt her surgery stats, either.)
She’d sit there and breathe deeply, occasionally making eye contact with that quiet girl from before, who looked like she must have been reacting the same way to the coffee too, if the intense gaze and dry swallows were any indicator.
If it didn’t seem like it could jeopardize her daily java fix, Shaw might have gotten up one day and sat down across from her.
She might have said, “The coffee here is really… something, isn’t it?” because she was never very suave, not that she ever really cared to try to be.
And the girl might have smiled and replied, “I thought I was the only one who thought so.”
They might have shared a look of understanding, and both sat there quietly amongst all the chatter, with a low thrumming in their chests every time they looked at each other, before the other girl might have leaned forward and stretched out her hand to introduce herself: “Root.”
“Not interested,” Shaw might have replied, before taking her hand anyway and leading her to the bathroom, where she might have slammed Root up against the door and slipped her tongue inside Root’s ready mouth, wondering why each nerve ending felt like it was coming alive by burning away at everything old in her body, and wondering if Root felt it too.
They might have fucked right there, in the bathroom up against the door, fully clothed, because any more skin-to-skin contact aside from the hands slipped past waistbands into slick, pulsing cunts would have felt like fire burning them both up from the inside. It might have been frantic, and silent apart from the low hiss Root might have let out when Shaw entered her, despite the overwhelming “God, you feel so fucking good,” that would have teetered on both their lips.
They might have both marvelled over just how wet the other was, how easy it was to slip another finger in, how the gasps and moans they were both nearly crying out were deafened by the sound of blood rushing in their ears.
Root might have threaded her other hand through Shaw’s hair, pulling her head back to bare her throat, as she rode Shaw’s hand and leaned back against the door so she could hook one leg around Shaw’s waist.
Shaw might have rocked her hips urgently, fingers never slowing even as she ground her clit against the palm of Root’s hand.
They might have both been unable to stop staring at each other, both vying desperately to be the first to climax while still working furiously to be the first to get the other off. They might have even come together, gazes still locked, bodies rigid and tense despite the incredibly soft, sinking feeling of being enveloped by the other’s post-orgasm shudders.
They might have watched each other, chests heaving, and known without asking that that had been the start of something, despite both their apathy towards that something in general.
They didn’t do any of that.
And then they never got the chance, anyway, because about a week later, the café was filled entirely to the brim with gloominess and mourning. (Shaw had gathered that some person or another had had a tragic accident.)
And again, Shaw’s attention had been drawn to that peculiar girl, sitting there with her laptop, beaming radiantly, seemingly attempting to brighten the entire room with her self-satisfied air, as if she’d unlocked the secret to life itself.
It wasn’t that she was the most attractive person Shaw had ever seen (because she wasn’t), or that she was even Shaw’s type (because she wasn’t).
She just looked—like there was something about her that was making it physically impossible for Shaw’s eyes to tear away.
She looked altogether too much for Shaw, and Shaw was starting to maybe realize that it wasn’t the coffee that was causing her back to stiffen, or send that tingly warmth running through her veins.
Shaw had considered the girl, sitting there and practically glowing, and she had drained her coffee.
She’d resolved to come back the next day, after she had her meeting with the chief of surgery, who’d said he’d wanted to talk to her about her bedside manner (whatever that was). Maybe she’d come back and she wouldn’t order a coffee, and maybe she would go sit down across that girl who was always so contrarian to her surroundings, and then they’d have that in common with each other along with the shiver she thinks she sees the other girl share when their eyes meet.
She didn’t, of course, return to that café, because her residency term had been cut abruptly short the next day.
But, for someone who was usually so very out of tune with how she felt,
Shaw had felt it, all the way back then.
It’s okay that Root sometimes acts like she’s a little bit in love with Shaw. (Or a lot.)
It’s okay, because Shaw’s not the one. Root killed the one, after all, and she doesn’t regret her freedom for half a second.
There had been a brief moment where maybe she thought she did; after Cyrus Wells, and the Machine’s roundabout way of trying to get her to acknowledge the consequences of her past actions. There had been a brief moment on the balcony, away from the others, when she’d asked Cyrus – “What are you going to do now?”
And he’d shrugged, because his soulmate had already been long gone for many years (all because of Root). He won’t die of old age, something else will take him eventually, but till then, he’ll live a normal, simple life, even if that life seems devoid of meaning or direction.
“You know, plenty of people settle down with people who aren’t their soulmates,” Root had said, eaten up with guilt over her actions, with anger at Her for putting her through this emotional exercise, with shame as she considered this perfectly normal man in front of her whose life she’d ruined. “There are support groups.”
He had looked at her, and smiled. “Would you be able to find comfort in that? In knowing that better exists, but not for you?”
She’d walked back inside without an answer for him (it didn’t seem like he was waiting for one, anyway), feeling vaguely as though the room was spinning and the world was tilting on its axis as Shaw made a beeline for her.
She’d watched Shaw thoughtfully, as Shaw had fussed over her wound, careful not to actually touch her lest they get started down the path of not being able to keep their hands off each other right at that particular moment (it could wait until Finch had left, at least, they did have some self-control).
She’d felt a current running through her anyway, running through them, like they were two windings in a single-phase transformer linked through the magnetic field within their cores.
How terrifying, she’d thought, as she watched Shaw force herself to roll her eyes and walk away, that something like this, as all-consuming and utterly bewildering as it is, isn’t even what it’s supposed to be like to be with the one.
It had never felt this way – not nearly as intense, not nearly like everything within her was in flux – not once, for a single moment, all those years ago, could Root remember feeling this encompassed by feeling.
She hadn’t given it the chance to.
So no, Root doesn’t regret what she did, because she’d saved herself from a feeling that was more than this, from something that could have noisily disrupted her world as though it were ripping apart at the seams.
And yes, she finds comfort in knowing that “better” doesn’t exist for her anymore.
Root treasures her freedom. It’s… safe, when very few other things in her life are.
Shaw thinks that Root might be in love with her.
Root doesn’t talk about it (they don’t really talk), but Shaw’s gotten the impression that Root isn’t summarily concerned with the possibility of stumbling across her soulmate. She treats the entire concept of aging with a lackadaisical sort of dismissal, and that suits Shaw just fine, and Shaw assumes that Root has taken care of it altogether.
In retrospect, Shaw supposes maybe that old children’s adage (the one from those stupid recess playgrounds, that goes something along the lines of “to assume is to make an ass out of u and me”) should have come screaming back to her.
But she didn’t, and so until then, Shaw thinks that Root might be in love with her, but it’s not the “real thing” (not that either of them would likely know what that is, anyway), and that’s why it’s okay.
It’s okay for Root to look at her with a softness in her eyes that belies the altogether too-solid, too-present way she stands too close behind her sometimes.
It’s okay for Root to carefully make sure their skin doesn’t make contact, not while they’re working together, because that just makes the effect all the more electric each time she turns up afterwards, armed with a first aid kit and a transparent excuse for Shaw to take a peek under her clothes.
It’s okay for Root to be like… that.
And that’s why it’s okay for Shaw to realize that she’s chasing Root, sometimes, but in a purely physical sense, of course.
It’s okay for Shaw to check, and double check, and occasionally triple check, that Root has managed to get out with nary a scratch from whatever scuffle they find themselves in.
It’s okay for Shaw to hop onto a bike sometimes, and start pedalling without really thinking about it, cycling halfway across the state before it occurs to her that the vaguely unsettling feeling rising up within her seems almost familiarly intoxicating and indefinably stronger, the closer she draws to actually being in Root’s physical presence.
It’s okay for her to do these things.
(Long ago, Shaw had had the heart-stopping, horror-inducing realization that maybe those just might be the same kinds of things she’s constantly seen all those infatuated twerps doing when they’ve finally found their soulmate.
To which, once she’d wiped the aghast expression off her face and chastised herself for overthinking things, she’d basically had the sole follow-up thought:
Root might be in love with her, but it doesn’t really mean anything.
And Shaw’s okay with that.
(Even if, privately, for half a split second, as she’s drifting off to sleep sometimes, she wonders if that’s really all there is to it.)
“What do you mean, you killed her?” Reese asks.
“Killed?” Finch asks.
“Her?” Shaw asks.
Root doesn’t often talk with Reese, for obvious reasons, but it figures that the comms link would be open and that everyone would like to learn all the sordid details about how exactly Root has managed to harness her considerable amount of sheer genius in order to cheat death, the first (and last) time she ever has a heart-to-heart with John Reese.
(In general she doesn’t like to talk much with Reese. She’s noticed that he’s rather prone to having conversations that really probe into peoples’ motivations, in that sly and under-the-breath way of his, and that’s not really her cup of tea at all. Not with him, anyway.)
It eventually takes quite some skilful manoeuvring, if she does say so herself, to quickly turn the focus of the conversation away from her and onto Reese and Finch’s entirely tragic takes on having had and lost soulmates. That’s a conversation killer if there ever was one, and Root proceeds to disable her comms before Shaw can get a chance to chime in again, too.
Not that she does.
Not that it’s unusual that she doesn’t.
Even though Root hadn’t been able to resist regaling the full tale of how she’d discovered and eliminated the threat of her soulmate from her life in its entirety, and Shaw had had plenty of chances to jump in there with one or another of her quips.
Silence from Shaw on a topic like this would be normal, Root tells herself. Everything’s fine.
The first time they slept together, Shaw told herself that that, too, was okay.
(The situation, not the…
That had been more than okay, and Shaw’s not even going to bother pretending it was anything less than really-damn-good.)
It was a good idea, Shaw told herself, even if Root looked at her like that right in the middle of it, and at the end, and before, during, after, always with that look on her face like Shaw’s got all the answers to all the world’s questions balanced on her fingertips and lips, and all Root needs to do is ply her with her own fingers and mouth to get what she needs.
It was okay, Shaw repeated to herself, as she pried her hand out from Root’s and rolled out of her own bed and left her own damn apartment to go for a long, long run, expecting to return to find Root half-asleep and starfished diagonally across her bed and pleased to find, instead, a blissfully silent and empty apartment.
It was all good.
It was fine.
Root used to wonder if there was a way that she could find out who Shaw’s soulmate is.
(Well, the Machine would probably know. But that… feels almost like cheating, and Root knows she could take on this particular challenge without needing to give up and ask for help.)
Obviously she wouldn’t just go looking, though, not least because a delightfully fearful shiver still runs down her spine when she thinks of how displeased Shaw would be if she ever found out, and just how that displeasure might manifest itself, and what that in turn meant for any given part of Root’s body.
Which doesn’t mean, of course, that Root wouldn’t have minded knowing. Knowledge is power, after all, and Root’s just so used to all the information she’s ever wanted being a few keyboard taps or carefully worded requests or well-crafted manipulations away. She could do it. It would be well within her reach.
But eventually, sometime shortly after she and Shaw begin taking up their adult sleepover pastime in earnest, Root decides that it just might be best not to know in the end.
It occurs to her one moment as she’s getting dressed again, with Shaw lying almost comatose where she’d left her, still shivering occasionally from the aftershocks of her orgasm and with a peacefully satisfied expression unchecked on her face. Root’s moving languidly, not in any particular hurry to look away from her handiwork, content to commit this image to memory to carry her in the weeks ahead when she’ll be running errand after errand for the Machine and unable to see Shaw, like this, in person.
For the first time, at this particular moment, Root wonders what it’s going to be like, if it does happen.
She wonders what it’d be like to have nothing but these memories to carry with her, in the event that Shaw does find her soulmate and decides to go off and age happily ever after with them. (As unlikely as any of that seems.)
She wonders what it’d be like to stay young forevermore, then, with these presently sharp and jagged memories slowly eroding away in her mind until one day they’re just a smooth, blank surface. With all the little dips in Shaw’s shoulder blades and dimples in her lower back reserved for her soulmate as they grow and age together, while Root stays exactly the same save for those fading memories of these times.
Root wonders all of that, and it nearly bowls her off her feet with a ragged intake of her breath in the split second it occurs to her.
But she snaps out of it pretty quickly, too, though.
It’s more likely that they’ll all just die of a gunshot wound before any of that becomes an issue, she thinks to herself, as she leaves without a backward glance at that image of Shaw looking up at her with such sleepy satisfaction.
Root and Shaw have spent a sum total of 2,253 days together the first time Shaw wakes up with a hangover so awful that her entire body aches.
They’ve known each other for much longer than that, of course, have worked together for years upon years. They’ve even been getting along for a significant portion of that time, as long as you can still count occasionally violent little disagreements about the most trivial things as “getting along.”
But as far as Shaw’s body is concerned, she and Root have spent the equivalent of 2,253 days together, and so each of them is now biologically 2,253 days older than 18.
Not that either of them knew, at the time.
Shaw wouldn’t have known this, wouldn’t have even guessed to find out eventually, if she didn’t currently feel physically incapable of getting out of bed this one particular morning marking the 2,253rd day she’s spent with Root.
Blearily, she starts counting the number of drinks she’d had the night before; no more than usual, really, but she thinks maybe she threw her back out last week when she’d had to jump four different guys so Root could tinker around with whatever control system thing she needed, and that must not be helping the soreness she feels all over.
She feels miserable all that day, and her mood isn’t much improved that night when Root points out a new freckle on her leg that she jokes looks an awful lot like an age spot.
And then the next day, Shaw wakes up with a pulled muscle, from… well, it doesn’t matter which specific activities over the night had been the exact origin of this pulled muscle, but the salient point is that she’s got a pulled muscle to contend with, now, too, and Root is definitely the one to blame for this, too.
And so on it goes, for quite some time:
Shaw catches all the worst of the aging effects in mostly invisible ways, and in the meantime, Root walks around with a supremely healthy glow;
Shaw spends the rest of that calendar year essentially squinting around and looking for things to blame for why her body just seems done with everything, while Root cheerfully starts to slow down her mission load so she can spend more time lounging around New York in semi-retirement style.
(To her credit, Shaw eventually does decide sometime at the end of this calendar year that maybe testing might be in order.
But also, well, her life is very busy and she’s just going to let the number of numbers trickle down a bit before she concerns herself with that one very slim, very unwelcome possibility for why she doesn’t always feel like she’s in the prime of her health anymore.
They don’t say doctors make the worst patients for nothing, after all.)
Around the same time Shaw has started to hit an extremely grumpy (or grumpier, depending on who you ask) stage in her life, Root begins to notice that more and more of Shaw’s things are winding up at her place.
Root isn’t quite sure how it happened.
She’d moved into her place only a relatively short amount of time ago (decades after she’d started working with the Machine), but the sheer number of Shaw’s things that had migrated their way over to her place was astonishing at best and frightening at worst.
She isn’t overly much concerned with it, though. She’s too busy trying to get back into the habit of actually living somewhere.
It had, after all, been years and years of running around across the globe for the Machine, with no one root place to settle down in for more than a few weeks at a time. Even for an 18-year-old body, that kind of thing can become exhausting.
And she’d begun to notice that it had always felt right, each time, to return to New York City; and that every time she left, she felt inexplicably more tired, just a little more worn out, almost wearier than the last time she’d had to leave.
But now, with a place of her own in the city, which the Machine had seemed almost a little too eager to help her procure, Root’s starting to learn how to have a home again.
And Shaw might just be invading it (slowly, over the course of a few months, so gradual that it’s easy to miss, but present nonetheless).
It probably doesn’t help that grounded feeling of permanence for Root when she hasn’t so much as visited Shaw’s place since getting a place of her own.
(Not that Shaw seems to be spending very much time there, either.)
Shaw’s made it a point to just turn up at Root’s door, because she would rather always be the one leaving than the one who waits afterwards.
Because that’s how it had been, the first decade or so that they’d known each other, with Root dropping in whenever the hell she felt like it and with Shaw needing to make a conscious effort to seek her out in return lest she allow herself to wait around for Root to decide when to see her again and set the terms of whatever it was that they were doing.
So, that’s how her fridge ends up being delivered to Root’s place one day. It all makes perfect sense to Shaw, not that Shaw would ever offer any of all that up as an explanation. So she’s actually fairly nonplussed when Root walks in, pauses, takes in the sight of Shaw insisting on unloading her fridge herself, shakes her head, and goes to her room to change without a word.
“We don’t need another fridge,” she eventually calls from the bedroom.
“Yes we do,” Shaw eventually replies, waiting till Root comes out and the delivery boys have left before opening it up to reveal a shelf of hand grenades. (Her favourite shelf.)
And the apartment becomes populated with Shaw’s furniture doubling as an armoury and Shaw’s food neatly placed on shelves that quickly become marked as hers and Shaw’s wet towel dripping off the back of Root’s favourite Italian leather chair, all to Root’s mildly confused but not entirely displeased chagrin.
They settle into a vague pattern of sleeping early when they can (because Finch isn’t at all squeamish about calling when a number comes in at 4 a.m.) and it’s all somewhat stable, even, for up to a few weeks at a time.
Or at least, until all the down time gives Shaw a chance to remember about that whole aging thing.
Root’s quite clever.
Which is a given, but it bears repeating, because sometimes she thinks that she and Shaw have spent too much time together and maybe Shaw has forgotten all about that time Root managed to pull the wool right over her eyes and got her into a nicely compromised position within minutes of first meeting her.
(Or that time she managed to rescue Shaw from Samaritan before any irreparable damage was done, or even that one time she managed to get Shaw to run all across the country under the guise of a mission so she could run a few of Root’s errands, or all the times she’s always managed to figure out exactly what the perfect present for Shaw would be…)
So it’s almost an insult to her intelligence, she thinks, and that’s why she lets almost an entire month go by with Shaw dropping various hints, and leaving all her clutter lying around everywhere, and “subtly” (read: abruptly) steering the topic of most of their discussions towards aging.
It’s weeks’ worth of waking up with an envelope from a local clinic actually on her face, and “so, Chinese for dinner? It’s growing on me, as time passes, a… more… mature palate?” and supremely uncomfortable looks on Finch and Reese’s faces after the first few times they fail to get the conversation going with Root to Shaw’s satisfaction.
Sometime after the first few days during which she’s constantly, inexplicably finding test result papers stuffed in her laptop case, and a “Found Your Soulmate? Now It’s Time to Plan the Rest of Your Life!” feature issue of a magazine placed strategically in the bathroom, and one truly baffling visit from Genrika Zhirova resulting in Shaw and Gen’s heads busily put together in the living room for hours and nearly hissing each time Root tried to walk by… Root actually starts finding it all vaguely amusing.
She lets it all drag on far longer than it needs to, noting with some surprise the degree of patience Shaw seems to have, until finally, one night, Root is rudely awoken by those damn test results getting shoved right into her open mouth by an entirely unapologetic and perhaps mildly frustrated Shaw.
So, finally, Root acquiesces and latches onto the topic that Shaw seems to be dying to have, and she sits up in their bed, highly disgruntled, as Shaw prepares to revisit the story of Root’s supposedly long-deceased soulmate. She crosses her arms and draws up all of the blankets around herself so that Shaw’s left rolling her eyes at her from the cold, blanket-less foot of the bed, and waits for Shaw to start talking (she knows that Shaw hates that).
The proceeding discussion is every single bit as annoying as Root had imagined it would be, but:
They don’t really spend too much time addressing how all the timings and locations and origins for both of them add up—Root just waves an airy hand, because Austin was so many years ago, and they can both barely remember what they were doing all the way back then.
They don’t really address the simple out that’s glaring them in the face, the easy exit from this conversation, which would be to shut up, go to sleep, and haul Root down to the clinic the next day—which, as it occurs to her, is not something Root is inclined to suggest to Shaw because the idea had probably occurred to her weeks ago, except probably with a tad more bloodshed in Shaw’s envisioning.
And they definitely don’t address the possibility of how Root might have been, maybe, a little hasty, when she was younger, and maybe there are a lot of other murders lurking under Root’s belt that might one day be revisited the next time they feel like taking a stroll in Finch’s shoes.
They don’t really address much of anything at all, really.
And just when Root thinks that maybe that’s it for the conversation, and on the whole it was a lot more painless than she’d been expecting, they do address the newly acquired, gaping cut on Root’s thigh. But only because Shaw unreservedly prods at it each time Root throws a flippant quip at her.
They spend a lot of time focused on that wound, actually, as Root eventually yelps and wonders why Shaw even bothers patching her up at all if she’s going to try to tear it open later that same day.
Which is how they end up treating the wound again, with muttered expletives coming from Shaw with regards to Root’s ability to take care of herself, and a sniff in response from Root (partially in dismissal, and partially because this isn’t the most gentle tending she’s ever had).
And that’s how they end up sitting close together, heads bent together, both studying this large cut that so easily could have sliced right through Root’s femoral artery just a few short hours ago if Shaw hadn’t been there to shove her bodily out of the way.
It’s not the first time Shaw’s told Root that she needs to be more careful, that she needs to watch herself, that she should take some of her own damn advice and think about what would happen if Root were to die and leave Shaw behind and leave Shaw saddled with a lease she wouldn’t be able to get out of for an apartment that would be too damn expensive for just one person to afford.
It’s not even the first time that Shaw follows this up by leaning her forehead in, with a soft thunk against Root’s, as Root breathes in and breathes out and reaches out to hold Shaw’s hand because this is one of the few times she’ll let her.
But it is the first time that Shaw blinks, and tugs her head back, and nudges at Root’s hip with the foot curled around and against it, and chooses this moment to inform her of the fact that the female human body reaches its sexual peak at age 35.
Root’s hands twitch, and she’s about to open her mouth and dispute that after a tinny voice in her ear informs her that recent studies have approximated it to be closer to 26, but Shaw’s got a firm grip on both her hands as she stares at Root and lets her know that they are going to see what the fuss is all about.
Root’s an idiot.
And she looks a little frightened, to Shaw right now. A little bit overwhelmed.
But also, maybe, a little bit relieved, a little more at ease, and Shaw thinks that might be something they have in common.