They rode silence for the first few blocks; the only sounds were passing cars and the quiet breathing of the occupants in the SUV. She continued to run her fingers over Red's fedora absentmindedly; lost in thought and fearing for what was to come next. She didn't want to leave Red and run away and hide with Mr. Kaplan. This was her problem too; running away only made things worse.
Cooper cleared his throat next to her, but she didn't turn her head to look at him and continued to stare out the window. When he realized that she wasn't going to initiate any conversation, he said in a strong, but firm voice, "Agent Keen. What do you know about that plane..and Berlin?"
She clenched her jaw and heaved a sigh, then turned to look at him. "Sir, I don't know anything more than what I already told you at the Post Office. All I know is that Reddington is in just as much or more danger that we are."
Cooper tightened his hands on the steering wheel and glanced at Red in the rear view mirror. "Reddington, do you have anything to add?"
Liz wished she could see his expression, but instead concentrated on the sound of his voice. "My business and interests have been under attack for quite some time now. I traced the threat back to Berlin; I haven't been able to find out any intel on him. I don't know much beyond that, but I do know that you need to get Agent Keen as far away from me as possible; her life is in grave danger."
Liz turned around in her seat and glared at Red. "I'm not going anywhere. Just..shut up."
Red gave her a piercing look then looked at the back of Cooper's head. "Harold, if you want to keep her alive, I suggest you do what I say."
Liz turned back around and glared out the front window. She refused to fight with him in front of Cooper. Cooper made a sharp turn; his body language screaming tension and anger. "Agent Keen, we'll discuss your insubordination after we arrive at the Post Office. I don't want to hear another word from either of you seeing as you don't have anything else of value to add.
Liz sighed quietly and settled further back into her seat. Her hands were cold, so she stuck them in the pockets of her jacket and felt Red's tiny gun that he had surrendered to her. She bit her lip to avoid letting her chin quiver and thought back to the feel of his rough hands on hers. He could have just handed her the gun, but he chose to use both of his hands and enclose her own with his. He was always manipulating her; he knew that by touching her that way that she would soften towards him.
They rode the rest of the way in tense silence. Liz continued to run her fingers over his gun softly, pretending that she could still feel the warmth of his skin on the cool metal.
They arrived at the Post Office within fifteen minutes. The agents that accompanied them didn't allow her to lead Red inside and instead told her to move out of the way so they could do their job. She didn't want to make a big fuss about it because she wanted to be allowed to talk to him after they locked him up, so she did as they asked and watched as they roughly dragged Red out of the car and led him towards the holding cell area. Red didn't utter a word; sticking to his vow to only speak with her, she admired his restraint, but it hurt that he hadn't bothered to look her way.
Cooper stepped up beside her and watched the guards and Red disappear as the elevator doors shut. She didn't say anything until they were completely closed, then rounded on her boss. "Sir, you have to let me talk to him. He may know something else that he's not willing to tell anyone else but me."
Cooper shook his head. "I'm sorry Keen, you're no longer on the task force, I can't allow you into a top-secret facility."
She couldn't believe what she was hearing; she was going to lose Red anyway. "But Sir, if you could-"
He cut her off sharply. "I said no, Keen. Don't make me find someone to escort you to your car. You're lucky I'm not having you brought up on charges for obstruction. Now leave."
He stalked away with stiff shoulders and Liz couldn't do anything but stare.
She folded her arms across her chest to try to comfort herself, but felt a raw ache in her body that seemed to worsen the more she thought about her circumstances. She took a deep breath to calm herself and began to formulate a plan. Red had told her to contact Mr. Kaplan, so that's what she was going to do first, although she had a different reason to call her than what Red had intended.
She walked over to her silver Mercedes that had been sitting for a few days and slid inside. The familiar smell comforted her somewhat, and the thought that Red have given her the car as a gift warmed her ice-filled heart a little. The car started with a low hum and she quickly pulled out of the garage and began driving towards her house.
She pushed the bluetooth button on the steering wheel and spoke to the car when it prompted her. "Call Mr. Kaplan."
The phone began to ring and a cool, professional voice answered. "Chilton Hotel. How can I help you?" She knew this was for safety purposes, but having to delay her upcoming conversation with the older woman annoyed her; she needed to get Red out of custody quickly.
"I need to speak with Mr. Kaplan, please," Liz said in falsely cheerful tone.
There was a brief pause, then the voice continued. "I'm sorry, but they're not available. Can I take a message?"
Liz sighed then said, "Tell her Liz needs to speak to her. It's urgent."
"Very well." There was a quiet click indicating that she had been hung up on. She pushed the hang-up button on the wheel and settled back into the seat as she continued on towards her house. This was the worst part. The waiting.
Just as she pulled up in front of her house, her phone rang. She picked it up from the seat next to her and jabbed at the green button, then put it up to her ear and said, "Mr. Kaplan?"
"Yes, dearie. What's going on? Has something happened to Raymond?" They must have arrested Dembe if the woman hadn't heard yet.
Liz swallowed thickly and said in a slightly strangled voice, "Red's been taken into custody. It's my fault, but I'm going to need your help to get him out."
Mr. Kaplan didn't bother to ask what happened. "I'm not sure what you think I can do, Elizabeth."
Liz felt the tug of desperation in her gut. "There aren't any strings you can pull? You don't know of someone who I can talk to about getting him released? Please, he's in danger and the FBI won't let me in to see him."
"I know he is, dearie. Berlin has been a threat to him for a while, but now that he's in DC we're all in danger." She sounded calm; almost bored, although Liz knew that was far from the truth.
Liz closed her eyes and hit her head against the steering wheel a few times in frustration, then stayed there. She didn't have a back-up plan; either Mr. Kaplan came through, or they were all screwed. She stayed silent, hoping the woman was thinking through the options available to her.
After a few moments of strained silence, she finally spoke in a clear voice. "There's one avenue that I can pursue. I'm not sure he'll be willing to listen as he and Raymond are enemies, but he's in a position of power and it doesn't hurt to try. If I can persuade him to listen, you are going to have to be the one that talks to him." That was exactly what she'd been hoping for; she just hoped she could convince whomever it was to get Red released.
"That's fine. I'll be waiting for confirmation from you." She paused, then continued in a quiet voice, "Thank you."
"Don't thank me yet. You should be hearing from me shortly." She hung up without another word.
Liz didn't bother to move her head from the steering wheel as the minutes ticked by in silence. She felt overheated even though it was frigid outside. She opened her eyes and spotted Red's brown fedora lying on the seat next to her. She reached over and picked it up, then took her head off of the wheel and sat up. She fingered the soft material for a few moments, then deciding that she didn't give a shit if someone saw her, stuck it on her head and sighed as his scent surrounded her. The hat was too large for her head as it dipped over her eyes, but she didn't bother to fix it; she felt a calmness come over her that she hadn't felt since she'd first approached Red in the park.
The trilling of her cell scared her half to death. She pushed the fedora up so she could see, then picked the phone up and answered it. "Keen."
"Elizabeth, he has agreed to meet with you to discuss the matter. He didn't make any promises, and is only talking to you because I threatened him with Raymond's knowledge of his criminal dealings."
Liz didn't care; at least Red had a chance now. "Where am I meeting him?"
Mr. Kaplan gave her the address, then told her that the meeting was set to happen in an hour. She left her with a "Be careful, dearie" and hung up.
Liz took a deep breath and swallowed the nervousness that began to claw at her gut. She had no idea who she was meeting, and if they would be dangerous to her. She would just have to trust that Mr. Kaplan wouldn't let her go if she didn't think it was safe for Liz.
She punched the address that was given to her in the Maps app on her phone; it was going to take her at least forty minutes to get there with the traffic and road construction. She pulled the fedora off of her head reluctantly, then started the car again and pulled out into traffic. She drove white-knuckled the entire way; she was more nervous that she liked to admit. She tried to distract herself with thoughts of Red holding her after he showed her the music box, and eventually succeeded. That moment in Red's arms had been the first time she had allowed herself to think that maybe she felt something more than disdain and annoyance towards the man. She wouldn't let herself admit that that "something" had felt right, and that she wanted it to happen again.
Before she knew it, her GPS indicated that she had arrived at her destination. So lost in thought was she, that when she looked around at her surroundings, she shuddered involuntarily. She was in the bad part of town and was parked in front of an abandoned looking warehouse. Most of the windows were broken out, and weeds grew high through the cracks in the cement. She was ten minutes early and didn't see any other cars around. She took three deep breaths and closed her eyes. She needed to look and sound confident in front of whomever she was meeting. Eight minutes passed, then she heard the crunching of gravel and looked in her side view mirror to see a black town car park behind her.
She opened her door and put one leg out the door, but was stopped by a man's voice. "That's far enough."
She paused and swallowed down the butterflies. The man's voice continued. "I want you to come over to my car and get in the backseat on the passenger side. Once you get in, then we can talk." The voice sounded familiar, but she couldn't place where she'd heard it for the life of her.
She stepped out of her car slowly, then walked towards the black car at a normal pace. She tried to see who the man was through the windshield, but the glass was too dark.
She walked around the front of his car, then reached the back and slid in quickly and closed the door. There was a divider almost all the way up so she couldn't see who the man was. She was surrounded by stiff leather and the smell of cigars; she tried not to gag.
He spoke before she could say anything. "Why have you called me here and threatened to have me exposed?"
Liz cleared her throat and sat up a little straighter. "I need you to get Raymond Reddington out of custody." Her voice didn't waver; she was proud of herself.
The man laughed without humor. "And why would I bother to do that? Let him rot." There was hatred in his voice and it surprised her.
"Look. I'm not going to pretend to know what your past is with him, but a new threat has emerged and we're ALL in danger; you included. Do you understand?"
"Don't patronize me," he said angrily.
Her heart felt like it was going to pound right out of her chest. She didn't know what she could say to convince him, so she attempted to profile him quickly. "So what do you plan to do when you lose everything? You're obviously a man who has expensive tastes. If Reddington is out of the picture, what's to stop Berlin from coming after you?" She paused to let him think that over for a moment.
She heard the man swallow audibly. "You'll lose everything, maybe even your life. You're empire will be destroy-"
"Enough!" She closed her mouth and hid her small smile.
"What makes you think that I have the authority to get him out?" She didn't actually know; she was assuming things and making educated guesses.
"Because I was told by Mr. Kaplan that you did."
The man snorted quietly and heaved a sigh. She dealt the last blow before he could say anything more. "It's either you or Reddington. Don't you want Berlin's attention focused as far away from you as possible?"
He was silent for a few more moments. She didn't say anything more; she didn't need to.
"Fine. He'll be out before sundown. Only because I don't want Berlin anywhere near me, not out of some misguided notion that I care anything for Ray."
"Yeah, right," she thought, but didn't voice.
Liz nodded and said a simple, "Ok."
She opened the door and stepped out of the car. He didn't bother to say anything more, and she didn't either. Their business was done and she didn't want anything more to do with the slimy bastard; whomever he was.
She slid back into her own car on shaky legs and listened to his car pull away. As soon as it was out of sight, she let out the breath that she'd been holding and wiped her tear-filled eyes impatiently. Nothing was guaranteed, but at least now there was a chance to save Red's life, and everyone else's in the process.
Now came the waiting part. Shadows were beginning to fall as the sun made its descent down the sky. She estimated there to only be another hour to hour and a half of sunlight left; she hoped he worked fast.
Left with nothing to do but think, she turned the car back on and drove to her house. She cranked the radio up as loud as she could tolerate and drove across DC. Liz made it home in record time and knew she was going to have to be patient for things to happen. It was out of her hands now.
Liz picked up her phone and Red's fedora from the passenger seat and trudged up the stairs tiredly, then set them on the entry way table as she walked into her quiet house. Since the incident with Tom, the house hadn't been somewhere where she wanted to be, but she didn't have much choice at the moment.
She toed her shoes off and walked into the kitchen. Hudson was at the kennel because she knew she was going to be gone a lot in the coming weeks, so there was no happy dog to greet her. She walked to the fridge and opened it, then stared at its meager contents and grimaced. There was only a box of baking soda and a carton of expired eggs; she desperately needed to go shopping. She closed the fridge with a sigh and gave up on the thought of eating; she felt too queasy to stomach anything anyway.
Liz made her way upstairs and into her room. She stripped off her work clothes, leaving her in just her bra and panties, then made her way into the bathroom and turned the shower on; a hot shower was just what she needed. She stripped off her undergarments and stepped under the spray; it felt good, and she stayed unmoving until the water began to cool, then she quickly washed her hair and body and turned the water off.
She stepped out of the shower and dried off with a fluffy blue towel, then wrapped it around herself and walked into her bedroom. She stopped short in the doorway and didn't bother to hide her surprise as she found Red sitting on her bed with a neutral expression on his face. He looked tired, but was a sight for sore eyes. His blue coat was lying next to him on the bed. "How did you get out?" He didn't need to know of her involvement, and hoped that Mr. Kaplan wouldn't say anything either.
His eye twitched as he stared at her; she noticed that he kept his eyes trained on her face and refrained from looking down. She pulled her towel around her a little more tightly and waited for him to answer. "I was paid a visit by a dear old friend. Imagine my surprise when he showed up in front of my cell and told me I was free to go."
Liz cleared her throat and stared at the watch on his wrist, making sure to not make eye contact. "Lizzie, what did you do?"
Liz shook her head and stalked past him into her closet; he didn't bother to stop her. She went far enough inside so that he couldn't see her, then pulled the towel off and dressed in a pair of yoga pants and a purple sleeveless shirt. She walked back out and noted that he hadn't moved at all. She stopped a few feet before him and sighed. "I don't know what you want me to say, Red."
He stood up suddenly with fire blazing in his eyes and stalked over to her; stopping only inches from her body. "I specifically told you to contact Mr. Kaplan so she could keep you safe. I didn't intend for you to use her as a means for my freedom." He ran his hands over his short hair in frustration. "I wish for once in your life that you would actually listen to me; now you're in even greater danger because this man knows how much you mean to me. He'll use that to his advantage." He had moved closer and closer as he spoke and when he finished, their faces were only inches apart; she refused to back away.
"Red, It doesn't ma-"
He cut her off and grabbed her bicep roughly. "It does matter! Don't you see? Berlin is going to come after you now. I can't guarantee your safety; especially since your dear husband knows you inside and out and is telling him things."
Liz tried to pull away; his grip was firm, but not bruising and she couldn't free her arm. "He's not my husband; stop calling him that. You and I are in this together, Red. I'm not going to go into hiding and hope for the best. You should know that about me by now!" Her voice was nearing hysterics.
He closed his eyes and clenched his jaw, trying to control his anger. He let his hand drop as he resigned himself to her words. He didn't know why he thought she would agree to hide; the Elizabeth Keen he knew was one of the strongest people he knew.
He opened his eyes again when her felt her hand slide over his heart. "You need to stay alive too, Red. Who's going to protect you?" Her words were soft, but just as meaningful.
He reached up and covered her hand with his own, then looked at her closely. Her eyes were filled with tears, but they had yet to break free. He could see the stubbornness and resolve on her face; he wasn't going to be able to persuade her to leave, he could clearly see that now.
He nodded in resignation, but didn't say anything more as he watched relief flow over her face; she knew she had won. He pulled her forward the last few inches that separated their bodies, then let go of her hand and wrapped his arms around her. She buried her face in his chest and they stayed that way for long time. He noticed that she didn't let herself cry, and he was proud of her for it. He kissed her temple, then pulled away and gave her a smile reminiscent of the one he gave her when he rescued her from the Stewmaker; full of tenderness and love. She nodded in understanding to his unspoken words, then stepped away from him completely and took his hand. "You can buy me dinner, then we can talk about what our next move is."
He picked up his coat, then let her lead him out of the bedroom and down the stairs. They passed the entryway table and he pulled her to a stop and took his hand back, then picked up his fedora and placed it on his head. "I'm glad you rescued my fedora, it's one of my favorites."
She gave him a small smile, then walked over to her coat and pulled his gun out. "Here's your gun, too. You need it more than I."
He was in the middle of slipping is coat on, but took it after he finished and stuck it in his coat, then took her coat from her and helped her into it. Once she had it buttoned up, she slid her shoes on and followed him down the stairs of her brownstone.
She may not be with the FBI any longer, but she still felt like they might actually have a chance for the first time that day. She knew with Red's help that they could save many lives; then maybe they could find a way back to their previous arrangement with the FBI once Berlin was taken care of. She would never forgive him for killing her father, but those feelings would have to be worked out at a later time, they needed to be able to work together efficiently and with trust.
They approached the car and Liz grinned widely at the sight of Dembe holding the door open for them. "Glad to see they let you out too, Dembe."
Dembe smiled and nodded. "I'm glad that you are safe, Liz."
She patted his shoulder, then slid into the car and watched as Red followed after her.
Things were going to be ok, she was sure of it. The only wild card was Tom; and that's who worried her the most.
AN: Well, there you have it folks. I so wish it would go down like this in the finale, but I know it's going to be a lot more painful. This takes place before the shizstorm that was shown in the promo. Hopefully this didn't disappoint too much. Thanks so much for the reviews/follows/favs..I truly do appreciate you guys so much. I would love to hear your thoughts and theories for the finale, and what you think about this chapter. Thanks so much for reading! *Readies shock blankets and chocolate*