Shaw stayed away from Root after that. Thought back to how Root had pressed against her, trembling, thought back to her soft mouth and the way Shaw had wanted her so much it had scared her straight out of the bed, back onto the street at 4am, scared of everything they had said, scared of the way Root's body had clumsily sought hers.

Root often went dark for a few days; no one ever knew exactly where she was unless she was right in front of them. They just trusted she was working, listening, hacking. It wasn't until Shaw heard a noise from the front door of her shitty apartment that she considered that perhaps she should have been worried. She stepped out of the shower, leaving it running, knowing the noise would cover her movement and turning off the tap would arouse suspicion from whoever was in her apartment - because someone was in her apartment, she could feel the air move. Door was still open, too. Shaw grabbed a towel and her bathroom gun from under the sink, leaving the cabinet open.

Root was swaying on her feet in the doorway. Shaw closed the door behind her, then turned, just in time to catch Root as she fell.

"I got away," Root said thickly. "I wasn't followed." Shaw did a quick inventory; there were patches of blood on her own hands, and now where Root was grasping her. Shaw lowered Root carefully to the ground, tightened her towel and stepped over to the sink. She filled a bowl with warm water, splashed some betadine in it and grabbed a clean teatowel, rolling it up and placing it under Root's neck.

"I missed you," Shaw confessed shyly, and Root grunted. Shaw checked her eyes. "Head injury?" Shaw asked, and Root grunted again in a way that Shaw could only take as an affirmative. Shaw checked the scalp, found a nick in an ear that had gone straight through the cartilage. Checked the knuckles, found them bruised, some skin torn. :"Were you captured?" Shaw asked and Root grunted again. No way of knowing. Either way, Shaw needed to clean her up. "Any injuries I can't see? Anything... uh... under the clothes?" Root pulled up her shirt where it was torn, the slash of a knife leaving a shallow weeping wound. Shaw stood from where she was kneeling at Root's side, grabbed some sewing equipment. She filled a glass with water and tipped some pills in her hand, which she transferred into Root's mouth, watching her swallow. "I'll wait for that to kick in before I get started." Shaw said, and stood to put some clothes on and turn the shower off.

Root noticed when Shaw came back, jerking to attention but unable to sit up.

"How did you even get here?' Shaw asked, more to herself. Root watched her sterilise the needle she was apparently going to shove into Root's flesh, eyes hooded mostly closed.

"Machine got me a ride," Root said eventually, "but next time, we're not getting you a walkup. Those stairs nearly finished me."

"How's the head?" Shaw asked.

"Feels like I took a hit from a sledgehammer."

"Your eyes look ok, I don't think you're concussed, but I need you to stay awake. Sorry. The pills should take some of the edge off."

Root watched Shaw clean her stomach wound, felt the sting a moment later and let her head drop back down.

"Just need you to answer if I say something, to make sure you're still awake." Shaw said, business-like.

"Sure," Root slurred, feeling the thick opiate fog slipping through her brain.

"Thanks," Shaw said quietly. Root felt Shaw's hands, so strong and steady, and they made their way along the cut. Shaw was deft and quick and Root wondered again what the medical world had lost by rejecting her, and how much Root had gained by accepting her.

Shaw stitched the ear next, propping Root's torso on her knee. Again the sting of betadine.

"I missed you too," Root said, and Shaw's hands stilled on the separated parts of Root's ear. "You just left."

"I don't do..." Shaw trailed off, reached for a smaller needle, sterilized that. She could go through the cartilage or just tie the skin together; either way the top of her ear had lost structural integrity.

"I know," Root said quietly. "But you had to know."

Shaw looked at Root then, nodded in acknowledgement and turned back to the ear.

Root was floating pleasantly by the time Shaw got to her knuckles, was drifting somewhere nice where the sharp sting of metal and antiseptic couldn't quite reach her. Shaw was equally quick with the knuckles, but Root had torn a nail right down to the quick so Shaw soaked Root's hand for a minute, got back up to get nail clippers and a file. When Root looked over, her hand was on Shaw's knee and Shaw was cleaning the blood from under her broken nail, from under the cuticle. Root didn't think she'd been so lucky as she was in that moment. Shaw filed down the sharp edges, then looked over the rest of the hand.

"Root?" Shaw asked, looking up.

"Yeah?" There was a long pause.

"Just checking," Shaw said, turning back to Root's hand, cleaning the rest of the nails.

When Samantha Grooves had been sick, her mother had cared for her, something like this. She'd wipe Sam's forehead with a cool cloth when Sam had a fever, bandage up Sam's knees when she fell off her bike. And Sam had done the same for her mother, when she'd gotten sick. Sam had cleaned up the vomit, she'd held her mother's hand as she slipped away, her mother's eyes fixed on her face as she closed them one last time.

Samantha Grooves had had a mother. But Samantha Grooves had been a weak, ineffective little girl who'd let her mother die of a disease that could have been caught much sooner, she'd let her best friend be murdered - at the very least - by a man she knew, and while Root had had revenge, Samantha Grooves was still a little girl who hadn't been enough. She watched Shaw meticulously clean her hands.

"Any other injuries?' Shaw asked finally.

"Just bruises, I think," Root said, her tongue feeling thick in her mouth. Shaw turned away from Root's hands, went back to the sink, came back with more water and a cloth. Root let her eyes close as Shaw wiped her face and her hair, moving down to the now-dried blood on Root's stomach and back to the hair again. Root noted that Shaw's hands were now trembling when they met Root's skin, so unlike the brisk, business-like way she had taken care of Root's injuries.

"What am I gong to do with you?' Shaw asked, and Root felt the pressure of Shaw's lips against her temple, where Sam's mother used to kiss her goodnight.

The floodgates opened then, no matter how hard Root tried to close them. She knew Shaw hated emotions, but Shaw just took the bowls away, left the towels in the sink and came back to gather Root into her arms, carried her over to the mattress.

Root knew that when people tried to comfort someone who was crying, they were mostly trying the person to stop crying, but Shaw sat down on the edge of the mattress, kept hold of Root in her lap and rocked her. There was no shushing or words meant to comfort, no hollow 'there there's, just Shaw rocking her like a child in her strong arms, holding Root cradled to her chest. Eventually Shaw did speak, and it was the most truly comforting thing Root had heard someone tell her when she'd cried.

"I've got you," Shaw said, and with that she leaned back onto the mattress, pulling Root with her, still cradled in her arms.


I've been too chicken to write this; I've had it in my brain for a few days now, and I have a laptop I can use, which helps.