Upon bidding their hosts adieu and nodding at the buttoned up doorman Red and Liz exited the hall and made their way onto the wide sidewalk. The hours spent dining and drinking at the private gathering had garnered the information that Red was after.
The streets were quiet at this late hour. The sidewalks were devoid of pedestrian traffic and the shop windows, while well lit in their displays, were dark inside. A fine mist fell from the sky coloring everything with the smell of wet pavement. The air was cool and a opaque fog rose up from the ground.
Red watched Liz meander from one side of the sidewalk to the other while attempting to hum some unrecognizable tune. Increasing his pace slightly Red moved to take her arm and bring her toward him. She did not pull away, rather continuing on her less than direct path, her left side bumping up against Red's padded right shoulder every few steps.
"This makes me think of Thriller…Sam loved MTV", Liz said abruptly, looking up at the side of Red's face, a brief laugh bubbling up from inside her.
"My dear", said Red with a quick quirk of the lips, "of all the words I could imagine you spewing forth at this very moment, conjuring up MTV would not have been on my list."
"You know", she said tugging at his coat with her right hand, "the girl, the zombies, and the…" With that Liz proceeded to hold her arms out straight in a tipsy attempt to imitate the King of Pop.
Red smiled a weightless smile off into the dark. He had not seen this side of Liz before. The playful Liz who was not so much in control and almost jubilant. He felt an unfamiliar quiver in his chest and quickly tamped it back out. Red moved to steer Liz away from an approaching ornate storm grate.
A huge smile lit up her face as they meandered past the entrance to a small landscaped courtyard, "Werewolves." she giggled making a scary face.
A flirtatious side almost. Red inhaled and let the breath back out slowly.
"…and gloves", Liz continued, holding up her bare hand and swinging around to Red's front.
Red caught her and held her at bay with both arms. A wrought iron bench just inside the courtyard caught his eye and he carefully maneuvered Liz over and sat her down. Settling beside her and adjusting his hat, Red twisted his upper body around to look Liz in the face.
"Ms. Keen, as much as I am enjoying this moment of gaiety, may I ask, exactly how much did Theodore induce you to imbibe tonight?"
"Not much", said Liz, doe eyes focused right on Red's and long lashes blinking.
"Somehow I struggle to believe that," Red replied, "but not to worry, we are all entitled to a little lightheartedness sometimes, and to be quite honest, I am finding this side of you charming." He smiled a kind smile that reached his eyes.
They sat then, on the bench. The comfortable silence blanketing them both and quieting Red's thoughts. Across the courtyard a light blinked on in a second floor window. A mother holding a baby close to her chest. Bouncing and rocking. The pair disappeared from view…farther into the house. Just beyond the gates a troupe of teenage boys sauntered down the sidewalk. Boisterous and alive. The night just beginning for them. Red closed his eyes.
The sound of water entering the storm grate caused Red to open his eyes. The slow mist of earlier had become heavy, changing over to rain. Red watched as beads of water trailed down the gateposts to his left. He felt Liz, warm and secure, leaning into his right side. Looking down at her Red was surprised to see her eyes closed. He never lost time anymore. Neither did she. Always on guard. Always waiting. For a fleeting moment Red let his thoughts roll to the peace she brought to him, then back to the moment.
Observing the rain increasing steadily, Red carefully shed his jacket and placed it around Liz's shoulders. In a split second decision he reached up, removed his fedora, and placed it on her head. Adjusted it with soft hands. So he could still see her face.
His maneuvers unsettled Liz and she stirred. Opened her eyes and adjusted to her surroundings…remembered. A slight blush crept over her face when she realized just where she was and whom she was with.
Somewhere off in the distance a church bell rang the changing hour.
She looked up at him with a sheepish grin. "I must be quite a sight, huh? Now I know what Cinderella felt like after the ball. Except, there weren't any princes around when her carriage turned all pumpkin, right?" With that she looked right at Red. Waiting for one of his sharp retorts. A laugh, perhaps? Red's countenance remained serious and he looked at her…just looked.
Seeing her looking up right at him, like he was the only man in the world. Looking as she did. His coat. His hat. On her. The weightless feeling returned and Red let it ride for a minute. A poem from his childhood, as oft was the case, began to sound in his head…"hope is a thing with feathers…" So out of context he thought.
Instead of responding to her inquiry he raised his left hand to her face. Touched her blush and rested hand against her cheek. So gently. Reverently.
"Lizzie, you look lovely. Beautiful. Those fairytales have nothing on the real Elizabeth Keen." He looked for another minute then dropped his hand. "But I don't think the fairytales include midnight wanderings with wanted criminals, now do they? Certainly wouldn't allow for a G rating." He smiles a familiar smirk and stands. Straightens his vest a bit.
"I like the me that's with you", she says before rising. Looking at him directly. Eyes bright. Standing. "We should get back. The others have certainly returned by now."
They start back to the hotel. Walking again through the quiet streets. A patrol car passes, lights off, the policeman inside giving them a small wave. Red is grateful for the walk. Grateful for a break in being Raymond Reddington. Grateful to just be in the presence of her.
At the broad door of the hotel Liz turns to Red, "I should give you back your things. The team is likely to still be at the bar. If I walk in like this they are going to think things about you and me that you might not find flattering." She shoots him a laughing smile. Chuckling again, she lifts her hand to his hat.
Red pulls her hand back down and holds it in his gloved grip as he opens the door with his other.
"Let them," he says. "Let them."