because of this??? i guess??? i just really wanted to write cadmus!alex and root meeting
“Are you okay,” a voice asks.
Root ignores it. It had taken her a while to find an overlooked corner in this base, and now she that has, she just wants to sit alone while she gets her bearings back.
“It’s just,” the voice continues, “you kind of look like crap, and I’m trying to get better at this whole-” It trails off. “Or I could send one of your friends over?”
No. Root doesn’t need Shaw to be dragged over here for nothing, or for Reese to try and pretend he can connect to her, or for Finch to look at her in quiet pity.
She looks up. It’s one of the women from before, the one whose excited tumbling questions Root had tuned out when she realised that her connection to The Machine didn’t extend through universes. Root’s already forgotten her name.
She’s leaning against the opposite wall, eyes wide and fixed on Root’s face, and no, she doesn’t need this.
“I’m fine,” Root says and the woman’s face lights up.
“I wasn’t sure if you’d speak to me,” she says, “sometimes people don’t,” and her smile is awkward, like she’s trying to make it softer but isn’t sure how.
“I wonder why,” Root says, and it’s sharp enough to hurt, or at least it should be, but the woman just shrugs.
“Lots of reasons,” she says, almost gleefully, “but like I said, I’m trying to get better at this whole-” She makes a vague gesture, and Root realises that she must have done that the first time too.
Root’s not entirely sure why, but she finds herself asking, “What?”
The woman blinks at her, and Root repeats the gesture she’d made.
“Oh, you know, hero stuff. Helping people for entirely unselfish reasons,” she says the last part stiffly, as if she’s learned it by rote, and Root allows herself to grin, ever so slightly.
“You get lectures on morality too, huh?” she says
“Oh my god, all the time.”
“Try having someone do them in your head,” Root says and the woman rolls her eyes.
“I do,” she says. “Telepaths.” She tilts her head to the side, a considering look on her face. “What’s your opinion on laws?”
“There’s too many of them,” Root says immediately, and the woman snorts.
“Thank you,” the woman says, and this time her grin looks much more natural on her face. “I’m Alex, by the way. Wasn’t sure if you’d remembered.”
“I had,” Root says, automatically, before she realises it could be a test, but the woman’s, Alex’s, face lights up again at the thought that Root had remembered her name, and god, there’s no way this woman could ever do anything that underhanded. Root isn’t even sure this woman could lie without it being broadcast across her face.
“So,” Alex says, “why Root? Biology or programming?” She frowns, “or something else? I’m not sure what else it could be though.”
“Programming,” Root says, and Alex groans. “You’re a biologist,” she guesses, amused.
“Well I never actually finished high school,” Alex says, “But yeah, I like biology.”
She says the last part almost casually, like she’s trying to hide the sheer amount of feeling she really wants to put in those words.
Root wonders if she sounds the same when she talks about programming.
“I didn’t finish either,” she offers. “Dropped out to become a hacker and killer for hire.”
“Kidnapped by a xenophobic cult.”
Well then. “You win.”
“It’s not a competition.” That one sounded like it was learned by rote as well.
“Everything’s a competition.”
“I know,” Alex says, laughing. “My sister- You met her earlier actually. She’s the one who always tells me it’s not a competition, and she’s the most competitive person I know.”
How many people could you know, Root thinks, and it would be the perfect thing to dissolve this conversation, but Alex’s laugh is awkward too, like she’s surprised she’s able to do it, and for some reason Root doesn’t want to stop it.
“Which one was your sister,” she says instead.
“Oh,” Alex says, pleased. “The one with blonde hair. And the super-suit. I can’t tell you her name, even though you’re from a different universe. Secret identity,” she says seriously. “I have another sister too,” she adds. “Sort of.”
“How can you sort of have a sister?”
“When her mom kidnaps you and keeps you hostage for a decade. Well,” she pulls a face, “adoptive mom,” as if that’s the part that needs to be clarified. “And she doesn’t really get that we’re sisters yet, but she will.”
“I’m sure she will,” Root says, and she’s pretty sure Alex wouldn’t even be able to tell if she was being sarcastic, but Root says it sincerely anyway.
“She will,” Alex says, quietly fierce. “It’s just-”
She sighs, slides down the wall until she’s sitting opposite Root, feet crossed.
“Feelings are hard,” Alex mumbles, and oh.
Oh, because Root’s maybe sort of dating a sociopath and worshipping (workingforhelpingelevating) an AI, and they should be the best people to understand, but Shaw says that feelings are stupid and The Machine says that feelings are beautiful, but in Root’s opinion? Feelings are hard.
If The Machine was here, she’d say that Root’s found a human connection, and she needs to nurture it, but The Machine’s not here and Root doesn’t want this, doesn’t want to find a connection in this stupid backward universe where people fly around in gaudy costumes and aliens roam the streets and nobody had thought to create The Machine.
“Feelings are easy,” she says instead, because Alex is awkward and distractible, and, in all likelihood, easy to lie to.
Instead, Alex grins.
“You’re an asshole,” Alex says, because it’s true. “I like you,” she adds, because that’s true too. “I’m not meant to do illegal things,” she says, thoughtfully, “but you still seem upset and I get the feeling you’re the kind of person whose idea of fun is illegal. So, if I do something illegal with you, then I’m doing it for an entirely unselfish reason. To help you.”
Well, what do you know, Root thinks, grinning back, maybe Alex can be underhanded after all.