Attack of the plot bunnies. Please read and review!
"Are you ever going to let me drive?"
Raymond Reddington sat in the back of his expensive black Mercedes while his devoted friend, Dembe, sat behind the wheel.
"That would be against my better judgement, so no."
Red smiled in spite of himself. He enjoyed having Dembe around- and most times it was extremely necessary to have Dembe around- but he missed doing things for himself, little things like driving his own car. Not that he wanted to drive down this particular road that wasn't really even a road. It was more of a path through the woods, barely able to fit a car. Perfect for keeping people away from his favorite safe house.
"Tell me, Raymond...what happened to our 'no sleeping in the same place for more than two nights' rule?"
"Haven't you ever heard of an exception? There's one to every rule, Dembe."
And this place was certainly an exception. It was smaller than he usually liked, but the location was fantastic. The house was settled in the middle of a large field, surrounded by trees. Ideal for someone who wasn't looking for visitors. And Red was not looking for visitors tonight.
The pair pulled up at the house and Red led the way inside, noticing that Dembe was hanging back.
"Dembe? Is there something wrong?"
Dembe slung his bag over his shoulder and finally made his way into the house.
"I could ask you the same question, my friend. Why are we still here?"
Red gestured toward the outside.
"Privacy. A person could go outside and scream to the heavens and there's nobody out there to hear him but God."
Dembe looked concerned. He should have been.
"Are you planning on doing a lot of screaming tonight, Raymond?"
"Ask me again in an hour."
He reached into his jacket and pulled out a small plastic baggie filled with chunks of something that might have been green once, but was now a muddy brown color.
"Don't give me that look, Dembe."
Red didn't have to look at his friend to know that he disapproved. Dembe disapproved of a lot of Red's extra-curricular activities. No matter. It wasn't like Red was going to force him to participate, or even to watch. But if Dembe insisted on sticking around for the show...
"Tuba City, Raymond. Did you not learn that nothing good comes in little plastic bags?"
Red walked the few steps into the small kitchen and put on a kettle of water to boil.
"Quite the opposite, actually. I've found that some very interesting things come in little plastic bags."
Dembe snatched the bag from Red's hand and examined the contents.
Red put his hand over his heart in mock offense.
"Certainly not! I'll have you know that this is the finest quality peyote, given to me by a trusted practitioner of medicine."
Dembe smirked, tossing the bag onto the counter.
"You got it from a witch doctor, didn't you?"
"I don't have to answer that."
Red tossed a few buttons of the dried out cactus into the bottom of a tea cup and poured the hot water over it.
"Raymond, shouldn't you start out a bit easier? Perhaps one button could accomplish whatever you are trying to do here."
"Don't be so dramatic! I do believe you could use a cup of this yourself."
"No, thank you. I enjoy my sanity."
"Oh well...more for me."
Red brought the cup up to his nose and inhaled.
He tipped the cup to his lips and took a long sip.
The sky was red.
Or was it black?
Was it even the sky?
Yes. It was definitely the sky. The moon was up there, big and full and hanging low. Too low. Red could see the mountains and valleys of the moon, and the rivers too. He never knew that the moon had rivers and yet, there they were, flowing backwards and upside down.
The moon was upside down.
Lucky for Red, it was still attached to the sky. Attatched by chains. Chains that were slowly weakening. Maybe the chains would hold up until he could get up off of the ground and into the house. He cocked his head from side to side. The house was gone. Oh well. He would be the only man ever to die by being crushed by the moon. What a way to go.
He wasn't ready to die.
There were things...so many things...
Maybe if he didn't focus on the moon it would forget that it was supposed to crush him to death.
He would focus on the stars. They were so beautiful. Little orbs of light. Hanging on by chains. Just like the moon. Only the chains weren't holding the stars back. The stars were moving. Swinging. Twirling...fast. Too fast. The stars weren't beautiful anymore. They were dangerous. And loud. They crashed into each other like waves in a monsoon.
It was too much.
Red was afraid. Red wasn't supposed to be afraid. He was supposed to be fearless. Fearless for HER. But who could fight the moon and stars?
He squeezed his eyes shut and the noise grew louder and louder until finally...it stopped. All was silent. And then he heard her. Heard her voice.
"Red? Red. Open your eyes, Red."
The voice commanded, and he obeyed. The sky still hung above him, but the moon and stars were back in their places. He wasn't going to die.
"Aren't you going to look at me?"
Red turned his head in the direction of the voice. It was the best thing he had done all night. His Lizzie lay beside him on the grass, her head propped up on one arm.
"That's better, isn't it?"
Red nodded. Of course it was better. She was here. Lizzie flopped flat on her back and stared up at the sky.
"Is this what you do at night? Lay out and watch the stars? Because I know you don't sleep."
"Hardly. I lie in the bed and watch the ceiling."
Lizzie turned her head towards him.
"Sad. You should start doing this, instead."
There was something surreal about this. There was something surreal about her. He studied her for a moment as she studied him.
" You don't always dress like this, do you?"
There was a pause as Lizzie examined herself. Blue jeans, a loose white peasant top, and bare feet. This was new. It had to be. Red tried to rummage through his memories, but they were all cloudy, and didn't feature Lizzie's wardrobe at all. Just her.
"I think you're right. These clothes aren't mine. Huh...what do you know?"
She giggled and propped herself back up on her arm.
"What does it matter? Do you really care what I wear?"
Red smiled softly.
"No. I guess I don't."
Lizzie reached out and put her hand on top of his on his chest.
Red shook his head.
Lizzie's hand grew tighter on his.
"It's not nothing. I know you better than you think I do."
"Is that so?"
Lizzie smiled sweetly, and Red wished desperately for a camera.
"That's so. And you can tell me anything. Always."
The way she looked at him... so sweet and so trusting. He had dreamed of her looking at him this way. Red looked away from her and back up at he night sky. The moon and the beautiful stars that had frightened him so were gone. There was only blackness. The blackness was much more frightening. Red closed his eyes again. If he couldn't see it, it couldn't hurt him.
"There are so many things I need to tell you, Lizzie. But if I tell you, you'll hate me, and I'm not ready for you to hate me yet."
Lizzie's soft laughter made his chest tighten.
"I could never hate you. I may get angry with you, but I'll always forgive you. I kinda love you, you know."
Red's eyes flew open. He turned towards her sharply, but she was gone. How could she say something like that then just leave him?
She didn't leave. But where was she? He tried to sit up, but to no avail. There was an elephant sitting on his chest. An invisible elephant, but an elephant just the same.
He lifted his head off the ground and looked straight ahead. There she was. But why was she so far away? She sounded so close... "Red."
Was that his voice? It sounded so weak. Raymond Reddington was NOT weak. When he spoke again, he tried to sound stronger.
That was better.
"Red! Get up! Now!"
Ha. She was so funny sometimes. How could he possibly get up when there was an elephant sitting on his chest?
He no longer had the strength to hold his head up, and the night sky had betrayed him twice already, so he focused on the ground he was sprawled on. There was grass...and...not much else. He studied the grass intently until it gave him a headache. He closed his eyes, praying for relief.
What was that?
Thump. Thump. It was a thrumming, pulsating sound. He opened his eyes and tried to locate the source.
He was all alone again. Naturally. His eyes fluttered shut again.
Red laughed merrily into the night. His heart. He was hearing his own heartbeat. He still had a heart. Good to know.
"Red! You've got to get up!"
What did she want from him? If he COULD get up, he WOULD get up. End of story.
"Lay down here with me, Lizzie."
He was always the one with the solutions. Couldn't she see that? He could solve all of her problems if she would just let him. He could solve the problems because he caused most of the problems. It only made sense...
"Get up and get into the..."
She faded out slowly. Hallelujah. Red loved Lizzie's voice, but she was starting to get bossy.
Red was the boss.
There were hands on him now. Pulling and tugging and trying to get him to his feet. Good luck. He was glued to the ground.
"You have to help me, Red."
He wanted to help her so badly. It wasn't his fault that she wouldn't let him.
She managed to haul him to his feet-an impressive feat for such a little girl- and he managed to fall face first back into the grass. And there was his heartbeat again. No... not his heartbeat. It was the ground beneath him. The ground had a pulse. The earth had a pulse.
She could be quieter if she wanted to.
"Dembe! I know you're pissed, but I can't do this by myself. He's too heavy."
Dembe? When did Dembe get here? Strong hands gripped him under his arms, but he refused to budge. He was quite comfortable on the ground, listening to its heartbeat. It was nice to lie next to something with a heartbeat.
Red awoke to the smell of something burning. Something strong.
"All of it, Dembe. If he has any more of this stashed anywhere else you'd better tell me now."
"Yes ma'am. I think this is all of it."
What was Lizzie doing there? And what was he doing asleep while Lizzie was there? He opened his eyes and groaned. Misery. What had he done to deserve this?
"Oh look...someone's finally awake. What's the matter, Red? Do you have a headache?"
Lizzie s voice was syrupy sweet and Red knew he was screwed.
"Let me get you an aspirin and some water. You must be parched."
Red cringed from his prone position on the couch when the kitchen cabinets were deliberately slammed against each other. Punishment. This was punishment for something. He caught sight of Dembe standing casually by the fireplace and glared evenly at him.
"WHY did you let her in?"
Red's voice croaked as if he hadn't used it in weeks. Dembe smirked and crossed his arms in front of him.
" Agent Keen didn't need to be let in. You were outside, sprawled out on your ass...talking to yourself. I do recall suggesting that you take it easy on the peyote. You never listen."
The tea. He had imbibed more than one cup of that horrid tea. It was a wonder he was even coherent. And Lizzie had shown up...
"How much did she see?"
Red's voice was barely above a whisper. Dembe raised an eyebrow and shook his head.
"That much, eh?"
Smugness radiated from Dembe's face as he nodded.
"Shit...this is mortifying."
Red rubbed his hands over his face in an attempt to wake up from the nightmare that was his life at the moment.
"I warned you. You'll get no sympathy from me."
"And you won't get any from me, either."
Lizzie stepped in from the kitchen and slammed the aspirin and water down on the coffee table. Red was taken aback by her appearance. She was wearing the same black slacks and dark red sweater that she had worn the day before at the black site, only now they were covered in dirt and grass. Her hair was falling from its low bun and there was a long gash on her forearm.
"What in the hell happened to you?"
Lizzie laughed harshly.
"What happened to ME? Tom showed up at my house tonight, that's what happened. He wanted to kill me. He tried to kill me. I managed to fight him off but he gave me this."
She pointed at he gash on her arm. It looked deep, but hopefully not deep enough for stitches. Red was furious.
"How did he get away?"
"He ran. I disarmed him and he ran. I didn't have it in me to go after him."
Red was relieved. He didn't want her running after Tom. He was too dangerous for her to handle alone.
"And why didn't you go to the hospital? That cut needs to be looked at."
"I didn't want to go to the hospital. I wanted you. I tried to call but this place is so far out...it took forever to get a signal. I drove around for an hour calling and calling until Dembe finally picked up."
She grew silent, and Red could feel her nerves as if they were his own. They WERE his own.
"Tom tried to kill me, Red. Tom tried to kill me and where were you? What the hell were you doing?"
"Making a huge fucking mistake. Come here."
He opened his arms and Lizzie crawled into them, sobbing. What had he been thinking? If anything would have happened to her...
"You're okay. You're safe now. I've got you."
He held her until the sobbing ceased, murmuring comforting words into her hair and stroking her back. He didn't know what else to do, and he hoped it was enough.
"You know I'm very proud of you. It looks like you put up one hell of a fight."
Lizzie raised her head off his chest and looked at him, obviously confused.
"Don't you remember? Tom didn't do this. He cut me, yes, but that was all. You did the rest."
"Well someone had to get your dumb ass in out of the cold! And since Dembe was in no mood to do anything for you, I had to do it. And you don't look so hot yourself, by the way."
Red looked around for Dembe, who had slipped out during Lizzie's minor meltdown, then looked down at his clothes. She was right. He was down to his undershirt, trousers, and socks... all covered in dirt and grass stains. Fantastic. Those were his favorite socks.
"I am so sorry if I scared you, Lizzie. I'll never do that again. I promise."
Lizzie smiled and settled back down against his chest.
"I know you won't. I burned that nasty stuff. And the bag it came in."
"You know I could have made a pretty penny off of that. Enough for dinner for two at a nice restaurant..."
"Unless you don't want to have dinner with me..."
Red was stunned when Lizzie's lips brushed his own.
"I'd like to have dinner with you. I think I'd like that very much."
She buried her face in his neck before he could respond. He tightened one arm around her and reached into his trouser pocket with the other, pulling out a small plastic baggie. He chucked the bag across the room and into the fire. Lizzie started and looked in the direction of the fireplace.
"What was that?"
Red smiled innocently.
"Nothing. Nothing at all."