This chapter was a long time coming, sorry for that. Finally earning that M rating this time around - y'all been warned. Chapter title taken from Sóley's 'Follow Me Down'.


A painful grunt wakes her, and Liz pushes up out of warmth and comfort for a split second of panic when she sees Raymond's face pinched with pain. The room is faintly lit by sunlight behind her, and it takes her a moment to rationalize the existence of the IV pole beside his bed.

"Leg," he grits out, and she instantly rolls to her side, careful to lift her leg from its place draped across his, thigh on thigh, directly resting on top of his stitches. In sleep, she must have settled further on her stomach and against him, adding another limb to her claim and coverage of his form.

She tries to raise her weight off of his arm, which had been momentarily trapped between her back and the pillows during her move to the new position, but he pushes himself up a little, huffing, and splays his hand between her shoulder blades, gently bring her back into contact with him but giving her space to remove herself if she wants to.

She doesn't.

Liz tries to relax against him, but her heart is still racing from that startling wake up. She tells him, apologetically, "I guess I'm not really used to sleeping - sleeping with someone anymore."

"Likewise," the man replies, slightly winded, too distracted to dwell on subject. "It was me, I moved my leg," he gives a self-deprecating laugh with a slight shake of his head, "and the pain kind of took me by surprise there."

Liz watched him carefully to see how much he is downplaying this. "Should I go get Petya?"

He shakes his head, and the fingers on her spine draw closer together and apart, and she can't suppress a quick inhale and happy shudder when there's a delicate scratch of his nails against her back. She closes her eyes. "That would require moving," he notes, but there's a tinge of a smug smile to his voice.

"If you're hurting-"

"Drugs are still helping to stave off most of it."

She looks over at the IV and notices the lack of a blood bag. The IV bag has a sharpie'd time on it as well, from early in the morning. Petya must have come in while she was asleep. She really had been out of it.

Liz allows herself to relax more, once she's certain he's not trying to brush of something that genuinely requires medical attention. Raymond makes a noise like a content hum, and she realizes just now that she's been stroking her thumb over the skin exposed between the edges of his shirt, the edge of the digit brushing along the gold and wiry hair there.

"I usually take the other side," she confides.

Within the house, she hears the barking laugh of Mr. Kaplan and the deeper noise of Dembe's chortle from the kitchen area, and beyond the house she can hear the surf and the cry of birds. The sun is gold spilling over the bed and the pair, and the warmth is making it hard to keep her eyes open. Despite the emotional moment that brought her into this position, last night was one of the most restful periods of sleep she's had in a long time, and she's fairly certain it was for the man beside her as well.

She doesn't want to move. Doesn't want to give this up, ever. She could allow herself to forget all the obstacles and threats they are still facing like this.

"We can switch sides tonight," he offers suddenly, and when he becomes intentionally still against her, she can't contain her smile at his accidental forwardness; pushing against the boundaries of propriety he still tries to keep between them, the few that remain, and slipping past them, is something she strangely finds she enjoys. Reminds her of lock picking.

Better reward, though.

His heart rate below her ear picks up a little.

"Any room amongst those thousand dollar suits in your closet for my things?" she teases, resting her chin on his chest. Casual line. Not entirely off of topic but more comfortable.

"I saw what you've been wearing, Elizabeth Kettle Scott," he retorts after a moment, easily, and her slow-growing grin matches his own. "I think there might be room next to my thousand dollar suits for your thousand dollar suits." His smile falls a little. "For as long as we can be here."

"A while, on the conservative side," she assures him. "A few weeks, at least. More than enough time to get you up and walking again so you can climb the steps for the jet on your own. Petya's father recommended someone for your PT and we've had him vetted. He'll be arriving later today. We've got false trails leading to a few different places that should keep Compton and others tied up for a bit."

His voice is flat when he speaks. "You were able to predict all of this."

"No, I just...we prepared. Prepared for the worst. Hoped for the best." She feels her throat tighten as she thinks about all of the plans that were made - surgeons, cardiologists, neuro and pulmonary and anesthesiologists, organs, plasma, drugs...Every possible outcome had to be considered and Liz hated every single one of them.

When he doesn't respond to her but she senses he has something to say, she pushes herself closer to eye level with him and props her head in her hand. "What is it?"

His face is far too impassive as he studies her. "You have no reason to do this," he declares, voice trying for even but still sleep-roughened. "To see to my care like this."

She refuses to allow the quick bloom of indignance she feels to grow when she answers him. It's a comment about his own sense of value, she knows, and less about her own intentions.

"I don't have to, but I choose to. Just as you choose to do the same for me." Liz sobers fully, can't help but voices her observation. "Despite everything. Over and over again. You choose me and I choose you."

Her heart thunders away in her chest, making it hard to breathe. They slip around one another in private, say what would be too much with anyone else, anywhere else.

"Yes," he says, voice raw. She wonders if he's agreeing or promising to do the same, but doesn't try to discover the answer right now. She settles herself once more against him, head tucked his shoulder; his facial hair, grown unchecked, brushes and catches slightly in her hair and she inhales deeply. While Dembe and the physician cleaned him up a bit last night, he still smells of sweat and somehow it is comforting.

His voice rumbles softly through her. "I never wanted you to have to make that kind of decision."

Liz shrugs, careful not to dislodge the arm wrapped around her. "Try as you might, you can't control everything, Raymond."

"That won't stop me from trying, regardless," he replies, wryly.

She knows, and it worries her. Liz stares across the expanse of his chest at the sunlight spilling onto the wooden floorboards for a moment, debating on what she's considering she might tell him.

"Bread and butter sandwiches," she says suddenly, feeling brave enough here by the water, here temporarily safe, here in his arms. It feels important and necessary.

There's a slight difference in his breathing pattern, and she feels his chin move on the top of her head, just a little. It's enough to let her know he's listening, waiting.

"That's what made Sam get back into the business. Bread and butter sandwiches. The garage wasn't making enough money and it was all he could send me to school with. Nobody said anything, I mean, it's not like today...Tom-I know teachers are supposed to be watchful for that kind of thing now." It's easier to keep going without looking at him. It's always been a difficult subject, and she knows she is also speaking of Raymond's friend in a less than perfect light, making for a difficult topic on his part as well.

She takes a deep breath before continuing, somewhat nostalgic, somewhat sad. "A couple of kids noticed - I punched one boy in the arm and got a note sent home. One of the few times I ever saw him cry, it was packing my lunchbox with one of those sandwiches, the last time. I got dropped off at my Aunt Cindy's house that weekend, and he kissed me on my forehead and said 'No more bread and butter'.

"He loved the work, you know he did. He was good at it. He gave it up for me and he got back into for me. Sam was - he'll always be my Dad. He was my Dad. He gave up so much for me and…" she trails off, overwhelmed

Raymond's arm around her tightens and lifts slightly as he presses a kiss to her head, and then her ear, holding her even closer than before, and even while she instinctively turns into it, feels his chapped lips brushing along hers, she shakes her head.

"Don't. I know what you're thinking and no, no if you had known, if you were involved then...we wouldn't be here now. Not like this. And as fucked up as that might sound, I need this."

He kisses her then, deeply, because Raymond Reddington has a habit of trying to fix things, has made a name for himself over the last few decades doing so in ways most people could never understand, and that's the best he can immediately come up with as a solution to her words.

He hauls her up to him as much as he can manage, and she remembers at the last second to be careful of his thigh, stops herself from moving into a better position, instead leaning into his chest against and below her and and balancing herself with a hand on the pillow. His fingers tangle in her hair. She sighs happily into his mouth as his hand brushes up under her top, against the bare skin at the small of her back, and then reverses directions, squeezing the sensitive flesh of her ass.

As things escalate, it takes a lot of power not to straddle him, to remember he's still very much injured and recovering and-

"How's that le-Ms. Scott!"

Liz detaches herself from the man below her, feeling very much like a teenager caught with her hands where they shouldn't be (one of them was, she now realizes) and moves to sit against the headboard, with distance between her and the man beside her. At the doorway, Petya has recovered enough, though redfaced, to clear his throat.

"Mr. Reddington, I think we talked about waiting to resume...activities."

Raymond raises his hands in mock surrender, and she notices he yanked his IV line out at some point. "Can't stop a guy from trying."

Liz debates whether or not she should excuse herself from the room in the blaze of her mortification, but decides against it. She pulls fingers through her hair to try to make it a little more acceptable for company. "That would be one of the first things you ask him," she mutters, and beside her, Raymond gives her a broad smile that leaves her feeling more than just warm from fondness.

He holds his arm out to Petya to restart the IV, not taking his eyes off of her as he does so. "He added it to his instructions after he came in and found you in here with me, to tell you the truth."

Liz pulls a pillow into her cross-legged lap and watches the physician's work, letting the topic drop for the time being. Of course, Dembe enters only a few minutes later, with breakfast for both of them and gives her a knowing grin.

"Shut up," she chides playfully as she accepts a glass of orange juice from him. He perches at the end of the bed and they both listen to Petya's instructions for the day.

Bed rest, of course, but a more thorough sponge bath is on the list of activities for the day along with a dressing change. Liz excuses herself for a time to take care a few phone calls and to check on some business matters. Dembe seeks her out for lunch, and together, they get Red out of bed and into a wheelchair so he can join them for some fresh air while they eat. They both know Raymond well enough to know if they don't help him disobey the doctor's orders, he'll just do it himself and get hurt.

Liz catches Red up on a few of his associates as they eat, Mr. Kaplan joining them only a few minutes later. Lunch is relaxed and feels domestic, very much like that Thanksgiving dinner did months ago. This time she is even more relaxed, less of an outsider and she drinks in the companionship.

Her Mad Hatter seems to be enjoying their tea party as well, and hidden below the tablecloth, takes her hand. The world doesn't feel so strange anymore.

Later, while Dembe and Petya (who barely voices his displeasure at seeing Red out of bed, because he must by now have realized it was bound to happen) assist the injured man in the bathroom, Liz moves her belongings from the bedroom on the floor below and finds spots for them in Raymond's room. There aren't as many pieces to her wardrobe as many would think; she's taken to leaving items here and there at secure locations in her travels, maintaining some essential pieces in her luggage on the jet. There's more relaxed pieces here than she's ever had since she took over for Red.

A smile tugs at the corner of her mouth when she runs her hands over the white linen material of the guayabera dress amongst those items, anticipating his reaction to it.

When she returns with the last of her things, she enters to find Red propped up in the bed, a stack of newspapers beside him and the television remote in his hand. He's alone.

He moved to the other side of the bed.

She puts her toiletry case down on the end of the bed and he mutes the tv, watching as she draws closer and leans over him to run an appreciative hand over his head and to slide her fingers over the smooth skin of his jaw and it seems instinctive to kiss him, then. She tastes the mint of his toothpaste, and hums her approval as she pulls back a little, coming to sit on the edge of the mattress.

"You didn't have to switch sides."

"You didn't have to move your things," he points out, and they exchange a look.

Choices. They keep making choices independent of one another that draw them together.

She spreads her own work out beside him on top of the sheets, continuing phone calls and checking stocks as he reads papers beside her, a pair of reading glasses perched on his nose. At one point he asks for the tablet as she's pouring over an article in Le Monde propped on her bare knee, and she hands the device to him without looking. A few minutes pass before she realizes he's watching her, and she looks over at him, unable to stop the responding smile when she sees his.

"What?"

"In all the futures I ever imagined, all the countless outcomes I anticipated when I walked through the doors of the FBI headquarters, not a single one of them included a situation where this," he gestures with his hand to encompass the bed and the two of them, before he continues, "would take place."

She couldn't have envisioned anything remotely close to this when she'd taken that first step towards him at the Post Office, when she'd seated herself before the Concierge of Crime and watched him watch her with a heavy-lidded gaze.

How she had ever worried he viewed her as some sort of daughter-figure is now laughable to her.

Her grin widens a little as an answer, and she ducks her head and returns to her work. She wants to enjoy their easy companionship and relaxation here as long as she can, but work has to continue.

They break for dinner, eating with the others before retreating once more into their now shared space. Now that the IV has been removed, she helps him change into more comfortable sleep clothes before doing the same for herself and joins him once more on the bed, switching on the bedside lamp since the sun has set.

Another half hour passes before Red asks for the tablet from her, and doesn't wait for her to stop her work on it before taking it from her and placing it on his bedside table. There's a metallic clatter as his glasses are removed and placed beside it before he turns back to her.

"You're going to need your own pair of those," he warns her with a thumb in their direction, "if you don't take a break every now and then."

She's started carrying one of his sets of cheap plastic reading glasses around with her, found she's needed them on more than one occasion. She tells him this.

She recalls seeing an older couple in a restaurant once, years ago, sharing a pair between them to read the menu and when she laughs, Raymond pauses in his efforts to gather up the newspapers he can reach, seeming to watch her as if cataloging the action, and she shares the story unprompted.

She barely finishes the story before he's cupping her face with loving fingers and pulling her close for a kiss, and she swears she can taste his mirth. The implied comparison is obvious to him, pleases him, and that pleases her.

Liz moves closer to him, sliding a hand around his neck to scratch lightly at the back of his neck and he nips at her lower lip in response.

"I like your idea of a break," she whispers as she slides herself a little lower on the bed, and Raymond follows, skims a hand over her stomach to curl around her side, using her as his anchor as he rolls more onto his side, his good leg against the mattress, weight off of the injured one.

The hand on her side descends to curve against the jut of her hip, a thumb hooking into elastic band of her sleep shorts. It's almost the exact spot his hand had come to rest when she'd been in that dress, no seed beads between them this time; his blunt fingernail drags along her bare skin and she kisses him hungrily, but reluctantly pulls back.

"You'll be able to distract me like that soon enough," she assures him, forcing herself to do the right thing and mind Petya's words.

Ray pulls back enough to regard her and her stomach flips at the darkness of his eyes, at the way his lips part and he seems to take particular joy in her involuntary intake of breath as his hand slips under the band of her shorts and chases along the path of the elastic to her lower stomach, quivering at his touch.

"I don't seek to merely distract you, sweetheart" he intones in that low, deep voice he reserves for rare occasions, as he presses a kiss below her ear, before withdrawing enough to gauge her reaction to his words, "I've got bigger plans than that."

The gradually pooling heat between her thighs, so achingly close to where his fingers are now, spikes in a prickle of heat. She can't remember the last time she's been so aroused.

They stare one another down, daring one another to stop or to stop one another, and Liz answers his challenge, her own hand crawling down his front at a tortuously slow pace, her nails pressing into the flesh underneath his shirt and catching on his nipple in a move that gains her a hiss from him until her flattened hand skates over his belly and over his sleep pants, palming the erection that's been pressing into her thigh.

She's never going to forget the way he sucks in a breath and seems to simultaneous grunt when she steals her hand below the fabric and wraps around the heavy length of him.

"Big plans, I see."

And his chuckle vibrates against the column of her neck she finds herself curling her toes. This is so much better than his voice on the other end of the phone, or a replayed memory in the quiet of unfamiliar beds or shower stalls.

He swallows loudly and she grins, feeling victorious. "No need to..to stroke my ego, Lizzie."

She hums, pleased, and his eyes flutter shut as she stroke something else.

He pants and grits his teeth and fights to keep his eyes open as he refocuses on his own efforts, and Liz lets out a shaky exhale as he slides a finger into her and they both groan at the sensation.

They're both too eager to see the other one fall apart, hurrying towards completion like it's a race and they both want to triumph. He makes her promises, swears he's going to fuck her into the mattress and he can't wait to taste her and do so much more and how he should have done this before, in the car or her office or the writer's house or Cooper's office and she whimpers and only ekes out her win by speeding her ministrations and biting down on the over the sensitive scar she'd left on him.

It takes her some time to recover, to catch her breath and for her legs to feel secure below her so she can grab a wet towel and they can clean themselves up after, both insisting on helping the other with the process.

Their actions are far from innocent, but in the days the follow it's like they've triggered some kind of unintended addiction in one another. She takes to doing work in another room so she can actually be productive, and Petya looks like he wants to ask about the scratches and bite marks he's finding on his patient, but thinks better of it.

Mr. Kaplan, who had to leave and return a few days later, not only look on Raymond's progress with getting back onto his feet (begrudgingly with a cane for now) with praise, but cackles when the shoulder of Liz's shirt slips and the unmistakable red, round mark on her clavicle is revealed. Dembe says nothing, and she appreciates it.

The first time their actions escalate and he slides into her, fully and finally joined, they both freeze in shock, as if the last few days may have been a dream, and this is the first time they are truly aware of the reality of what they are doing.

She curls her arms around his shoulders and kisses him, aware they're both crying, salt mingling together like their sweat. They move slow and strong like the waves on the beach and she knows what he's swearing and searing into her skin and how she wants to reply and for the first time in days, feels a sense of knee-jerk panic.

Liz keeps herself from fleeing their bed that night, curls into and around him as she usually does, and even though it shouldn't be a shock to give this a name, it is.

They've been channeling their agitation with being in one place for so long into their intimacy for over a week now. She's been here in this house for over a week, no appearances out there in the world for any of the people paid to surveil her. She needs to shake hands on deals, reassure her associates that her apparent impending victory in the hunt for Reddington hasn't altered business as usual. Compton will make a move if she doesn't do something soon.

It's another day before she shares her thoughts with Raymond, and his face is a careful study in composure.

Dembe helps set up the security measures while they're away, and before Liz can rethink it, it's time to leave. Anxiety climbs in her when she realizes Ray may take this opportunity to bolt, particularly if he thinks she's doing the same.

She tries to quickly come up with something to tell him to reassure him of her intentions as she trails behind Dembe to say their goodbyes. Red is in the gym with the physical therapist, but the man excuses himself to allow the trio to speak in private.

Dembe darts forward, giving the older man a brotherly hug. "I look forward to seeing you upon our return, Raymond," he declares with no preamble.

There's something almost sheepish about Red's thin-lipped smile in response, but he nods and says "I'll be here. Take care, Dembe."

Dembe pats him on the shoulder, then gives Liz a meaningful look before he leaves the room.

The remaining pair regard one another with some apprehension.

It's Raymond that bites the bullet. "We're going to have to make a move soon in this," he tells her, sliding his hands into the pockets of his sweatpants, like he's unsure what else to do with them, or doesn't want to appear like he's worried by busying them and he puts an effort into making his necessary lean on the equipment behind him appear casual. "Your window of opportunity is closing, Elizabeth."

"Window of…" Liz prevents herself from continuing to echo him. She maintains her composure, but it's a struggle. "I told you before Raymond. That's over. DC? The FBI? It's done." She couldn't return, now that her eyes have been opened. The people she now works with are actually less corrupt.

He turns from her to look out the window and it infuriates her. "You're a smart woman and you know how to take care of yourse-"

She's quick to cut him off. "-If you really think that, then don't insult me by implying I would be willing to allow you to take credit for everything I've-"

He spins around to look at her, stumbling a little on still unsteady legs, eyebrows raised in a rare show of surprise. "-'Credit'? Credit has absolutely nothing to do with my worry-"

Liz continues, ignoring his fuming "-Done in the last few months. They were my choices. Mine. I won't let you belittle me. I won't go back to Cooper with some sob story about how Raymond Reddington seduced me and convince-"

"-If you don't think that's believable, we can always say you were blackmailed," he assures her, voice flat and it stings.

"That is not…" Liz exhales heavily and goes to run her hands through her hair before remembering she's wrangled it, despite the humidity, into a sleek bun. They both seem to deflate and regard one another with less acrimony. "What is wrong with us?" she huffs, crossing her arms.

"If you really want to delve into that, you'll need to change your flight plans and clear up your schedule for the next month," the man responds drily, and Liz shakes her head.

She changes tactics. Moving closer to him, earnestness appear on her features. "I can't leave with things like this between us," she sighs, and when she leans forward to give him a kiss on the cheek, he moves his head at the last second so her lips brush against his and snakes an arm around her torso, keeping her in place. "I appreciate what you're willing to do for me," she tells him. "But I need you to understand I could never go back there now, and I don't want to."

She feels the tension return to his shoulders, sees the twitch just below his eye. He gives her a long, lingering kiss, almost like a goodbye. "Just...just take some time during your trip to consider the option," he requests, trying to keep the plaintive tone of his voice to a minimum. "Please, Lizzie."

He's been putting her first for decades. It must be hard to alter that mindset. She gives a small nod of her head. "Alright."

They pull apart like it's nearly impossible, and Liz doesn't look back when she walks out.

True to her word, she considers every possibility available to her in the next few days. She's staying in a tidy, modest home in a London suburb and it has a blooming, beautiful little garden in its backyard; despite being adjacent to the local cemetery, it's cheerful.

She kicks off her heels and paces in the grass in between meetings, and finds her eyes coming to rest on the bench beneath the tree at the edge of the property, immediately imagining Raymond seated there, in the shade of that tree, that cemetery in her view beyond him. Her in the garden and him over there. She laughs to herself at it and continues calculating and pacing.

It's useless. As much as she knows Ray will do anything to allow her a chance at running away from this, she knows it would be futile. No matter where she goes, she'll be sought out. Ultimately, she's the one Compton is hunting.

It's a strange feeling, the moment it occurs to her she's been looking at it all wrong. This isn't about Raymond. It's not even about them. It's about her. If someone were to look at this, removed and only half-concerned, if this was a story, it would be about her.

She was the one who was kidnapped. She's been the one Compton's been after. Everything has happened because of her father's obsession with getting her back.

Raymond Reddington has been caught in the crossfire of her story.

It's a sick kind of laughter that bubbles in her throat then. Lizzie covers her mouth to smother it and she has to take a seat on the bench. The laughter is mixed with tears and she's hysterical in some stranger's garden in the middle of England, because it's never occurred to her before now that she really, honestly, has a say in what happens.

Reality shifts, distorting and twisting like a funhouse mirror, and she's dizzy with it.

Liz resists temptation and does not call to check on him, to ensure he's still there. Dembe doesn't let on if he does, but he looks as relieved as she is when they return to the house and Jack gives them an understanding, toothy grin, and gestures with a quick move of the head. "He's out back."

She moves quickly through the house and out onto the grass.

He's observing the water, hands in the pockets of his pants. The cuffs are rolled up and there's sand caking his feet; he's just returned from a short walk on the beach. Good. She is glad he has made progress. He immediately jerks around to see who it is before he turns back to sedately watch the surf against a backdrop of a storm darkening sky. Fitting, she thinks, leaving her shoes and blazer behind her.

She can see the play of the muscles in his arms thanks to the rolled up sleeves of his open shirt and it gives him away; Raymond's hands are in nervous flexing fists in his pockets. He's holding himself just a little too still.

Instead of going along with the pretense of watching the scenery, she studies his profile. She can't ignore the savage beating in her breast as she drinks in his features, tries to do it distantly, like he's some insect pinned down, and she immediately hates the comparison, can't subjectively view him the way she did so long ago.

Her throat and lungs feel tight.

She wants to remember this moment - a little calm before the chaos and the carnage.

Ray's Adam's apple bobs and her eyes fall on the scar she's left on his neck. He could have had it healed, could have taken better care of it. He let it go and left her mark there, just above the line of a shirt collar, where anyone could see.

Giving up the pretense, he turns to look at her, lips firmly pressed together in a grim line. For someone who has spent decades waiting for his own revenge, he does not seem to be a patient man now.

She has to say it, because it's on the tip of her tongue and if she doesn't say it now, she'll end up shouting it or throwing it him with the acid of anger or impatience later. Understanding herself that much is still a novelty, but she likes it.

"It isn't our jobs to save each other," she informs him, her words chosen and spoken carefully. "Lean on one another, maybe, help...We can't - we make our own decisions. We talk to one another. We try to be honest. We care about one another and we want the best for one another. We don't do debt, okay? No debt between us."

Stipulations for a partnership, familiar territory for them both. Calculation and comprehension flash in his eyes, a harsher, wintry blue than the water before them.

His lips part, but he doesn't immediately speak, instead finally saying, "I would appreciate that."

Her chest aches and when she opens her mouth, she's afraid what she wants to say will come out massacred - even after everything that's happened, she's still who she has always been, and these sorts of things don't come easy to her.

"I'm not doing this because I love you."

Her voice catches on the last three words. Internally, she winces because even to her own ears it sounds a little defensive. She forces herself to keep a level gaze, even as the wind picks up and whips her hair around, and she begs him to understand her with her eyes.

For a split second, the man beside her looks pained, but his mind is an always-running, always translating mechanism that processes her words and chips away the tough shell they're encased in; he understands her decision and pries out the other part out.

He knows. That's what matters.

Ray blinks and nods slowly, and when he answers her, it's rough, possibly snagged on those three words as well. "Alright."

The most verbose man she knows and that's how he responds.

He kisses her then, deeply, and for a moment, she lets herself get lost in it, at least until she has to pull away from him to breathe, and presses her forehead against his.

"I don't want to just survive, I want to be happy, and I want you," she breathes, eyes closed tight. "And Compton is keeping any of that from happening. If he's what's keeping us from having a chance at peace, at quiet, then I want him gone. I want that...with you." She ignores the fat raindrop that hits her bare shoulder, and laughs, almost giddily, at the relief that comes from saying those words. She opens her eyes to see his reaction. "I want you."

Raymond is looking at her with something like adoration torn with regret. He shakes his head. "After what I've put you through, after what I've done-"

"-Between you and me and the blood we've spilled, do you really think we're not the same?" She cuts him off, knowing that otherwise he'll spiral into guilt. "I'm not some pillar of goodness or source of metaphorical light either. I'm not going to be the person you earn or are owed and I'm not going to wash away your sins."

Another rain drop slides down her scalp and when she shivers, Raymond pulls her closer into the warmth of his body. She grabs his face, a little more harshly than she needs to, because she needs him to understand her, and her intentions.

"I love you," she manages to say, almost guttural and she's shaking from more than wet and cold. "But I'm not doing this for you."

His eyes are glassy, and darkening faster than the sky above them, and when they kiss it brings her back to that first one, fierce and consuming but this time she won't let him go. And it isn't until they hear the low growl of thunder that she grabs his hand and they make their way back into the house, going directly to the double glass doors of their room.

They're soaked by the time they reach them, going slow because of his still healing leg, and when he crowds her against one of the doors, his fingers glide over her skin almost as smoothly as his tongue against hers and she tastes the rain. She arches into him and his heat, contrasting the cool glass at her back, and he yanks the door open beside them, pulling them into the dark space together.

There's something here between them now that wasn't there before she'd left. She thinks it's because he stayed and she came back, like some final test they were only half aware they were giving one another, or going through together. Like some final vow between them.

He backs her into a dresser close to the door with some force, and she hears something potentially breakable rattle and fall on its surface and she can't look away from him, doesn't care enough to see their damage.

He practically claws at her silk blouse, the damp material clinging to her, and it finally peels away like a layer of skin, exposing the flesh beneath to cool air that has her gasping. Her fingers work frantically at the buttons of his shirt, and he helps her speed the process along before he pops the clasp on her front-closing bra and they're pressed chest to chest, rain-slicked and bare and he's pressing open-mouthed kisses to the column of her throat, just a hint of teeth that leaves her groaning.

"...so much," he's rasping into her skin again. "Love you so fucking much."

He's said it before and they've been all but screaming it at one another with their actions, but this is new, it feels new, like some kind of first time all over again.

She pulls him by his belt towards the bed, dropping the length of leather to the side with a metallic clatter seconds before they work to get her out of her skirt, slip, and panties and she watches him loom above her, almost predatory, as he takes in the sight of her nude form on the cool sheets while he finishes removing his pants and boxers and then he's covering her body with his for a brief moment before she pushes and pulls and he's sprawled out below her and she straddles him.

Lowering herself on his length, feeling him fill her so completely, it's like coming home and she can't get the words out right now, hopes she can later.

It starts as fucking; they're going to have nail and bite marks for days, branding one another like they haven't done so in every way that matters already. He takes the opportunity when she's just about to climax to drag her down to him, a hand full of hair, and she complies happily, knowing she's about to feel her back hit the sheets.

He slips a pillow below her and hooks her leg over his arm and thrusts, and she drops her head against the pillows with a groan, and before she knows it she tumbles over the edge with a loud keening noise she's never heard from herself before.

He slows their pace after that, drawing the experience out for both of them, his hands reverently tracing paths along her skin. It's like he's making her over anew, or revealing her in the process. These are the arms that he loves, and they are strong. These are the fingers he loves, and they can pull a trigger quicker than you can blink. This is the heart that he loves, and it loves him so fucking fiercely-

"Sweetheart?" he asks suddenly, worried and she opens her eyes, realizes she's been crying only once he stops. "What's wro-"

"-I just...I love you," she tells him, feels like the answer is simple and yet she can't believe how much it's affecting her, incredibly overwhelmed. She pulls him into her arms and they bury their faces in one another's necks, rising as best as she can to meet him, and she comes quickly in a trembling, beautiful mess when he slips a hand between them, brushing a finger over her clit and she sobs out his name, and he's gasping and swearing and panting her name just a moment later, groaning as the waves of it wash over them.

In the morning, she wakes first, in her customary position wound around him, his arm on her back and the other on the thigh over his hips, and enjoys the moment before he wakes and rolls her over, making love once more before they pull one another into the shower.

By the time the sun is fully up, they're both dressed, the bed is made to be ruined again, and they make their way out of their room to breakfast, hand in hand.

They ought to have something in their stomachs before they prepare for war.