A/N- And here's my first Blacklist story. Here's my cherry. Here's my coming out party. I will say, with absolute finality, that after that finale I still ship it like FedEx. That is all. Hello, fandom. I've been watching since the pilot, and reading FF since the pilot, but after last night's episode I decided it was time to meet y'all. So. Hi. Here's the piece I wrote in an hour. Hope you enjoy!
She gets the call a quarter after four that Harold Cooper has awoken.
The news falls from her lips before she can help herself when she hangs up, eyes lighting up like the fourth of July, and it's only when Red manages a smile back at her, that twisted half of his mouth- that she realizes he's still sitting close enough to her that he would have heard every word of the conversation with Don.
Lizzie stands, wipes her hands on the back of her pants.
The truth is, she doesn't know what the hell she's doing.
"I brought a few bags," she manages to grit, floundering as the knowledge truly hits her that the apartment is empty. That life is gone. Meera is dead. She's so damn tired.
"I'll have to find another apartment," she continues, wavering. "But I'd thought that maybe-
"You have a place with me, Lizzie," he murmurs, narrowing his eyes and looking down at her shoes, or nothing in particular. The level difference is discombobulating, and his words strike her like sudden warmth spanning her pretty cheeks. "Always."
Finally, he meets her eyes.
Lizzie swallows hard.
She doesn't know what he means, exactly. There's still too many puzzle pieces in front of her don't make sense, and each way she turns them fit nothing, just jagged edges and strange colors of truth. But she looks at Red and sees the only absolute. It's a start, at the very least.
"Do I even want to know how many guest bedrooms this place has?" she tries to joke. It falls dull, hangs there between them.
"There's plenty of room," he cedes, inclining his head. "You can have your pick, but as a suggestion, the next to mine has a marvelous walk in shower. And a shared balcony space, as well."
A flash of imagery plummets through her conscious mind: him, sleeping. He sleeps, like any normal human being. She's never seen him in that state, at the highest caliber of vulnerability.
She imagines him in little more than a pair of boxers and a shirt.
Then, she imagines him shirtless.
Running her fingers through the smattering of chest hair she knows graces just beneath his shirts when he's unbuttoned them casually, imagines if it's coarse or-
Red clears his throat, bracing his hands against his knees to stand. Lizzie's heart palpitates in her chest, and she twists her head sharply. She wants to slap herself.
"It's been a helluva day," she mutters, explaining away her own indecencies. She clanks her teeth together, sees the faces of Meera's girls. Red moves like he's going to physically touch her arm, so she pivots against the pull. Lizzie moves to pick up her bags from the threshold. The space is vacant.
"Dembe assumed," Red mutters, eyebrows coming together.
"Dembe?" she narrows her eyes, and a hard bite comes into her voice, all of a sudden. It's old news, but she can't get the reality of Red watching Sam stop breathing out of her head. "Was all this just one big expectation?"
She's called him something under the bed, something unfathomably ugly.
Never knew, until Raymond Reddington, that some monsters can have unbelievably gentle voices.
But Red looks at her like she's the one doing the gobbling up. Like she's standing in his makeshift abode wielding a bloody knife, his guts and being all over her hands. As if Lizzie's always had a shotgun for a mouth. It unsettles her, just how shaken he looks. "I was under the impression I was going to get on a plane and never see you again, Lizzie. Trust me," he walks toward the general area of the kitchen, speaks gruffly. "Your unpredictability never ceases to leave me speechless. It's unfortunate, too, that my trip to Paris has been cancelled. I was so looking forward to breakfast in a sidewalk café."
"I've never been," she admits, taking in the crown molding, the high ceilings. She's been here countless times, but this is different. It just is.
Red catches her words, looks back at her with a gaze like a piercing dagger. "I'll take you."
She believes him.
At dinner, she starts drawing lines in the sand.
"I don't want to eat off of your dime forever, just so you know. I'll start paying what my rent was at the other place." Red shares a look with the other man at the end of the table, and Lizzie struggles not to roll her eyes at their silent conversation.
The concoction of beef and spices is delicious. It's the best meal she's had in a long time, and the glass of red warms her throat, makes her want to hum to the radio. She wonders what kind of music he likes. "I'm not a child," she adds, before licking her lip and taking another bite.
"I'm well aware, Lizzie," Red murmurs smoothly, cutting into his own meal. The answer is laced with untold things, and she thinks of the thin line of his mouth, dropping her chin to her chest. The meat is suddenly too salty, and she tries not to choke. "That being said," he continues. "I do find it very indicative of your youth that you still have cartoon characters on your socks."
Lizzie splutters, cheeks going a lovely shade of pink. He looks at her and sees her sparkling eyes, her hair falling around her face as she juts forward in her seat. She almost looks like she wants to go for a gun she doesn't have. "I've barely been here three hours," she snaps accusingly. "And you've already looked through my things."
Dembe chooses that moment to insert his verbal presence into the conversation. "I apologize, Elizabeth. I take full blame for the invasion of privacy. With the added threats as of late, it is extremely necessary to be diligent in checking for bugs routinely," he tells her, accented and sincere.
"That's-," she stops herself. "That's fine, Dembe."
Lizzie glares at Red half-heartedly.
But just like that— a barrier dissipates with the wind.
"Your dog," Red mentions, and Lizzie looks up at him sharply.
"Yeah? I took him to a friend's house. I don't know if I can keep him with everything that's-
"You can keep him here, if you'd like."
Without another word, he bids his goodnight.
She watches him as he goes.
The sheets smell nothing like familiarity. Instead, everything is laced with the twining of lavender laundry detergent and faint, faint traces of cigar smoke. She wonders if Red and Dembe's clothes smell of lavender, too. She's never buried her nose in anything more than Red's leather jacket. She doesn't know any better, so. It's weird little thoughts like these that keeping hanging heavy in her pores.
The shower is huge, as Red had said. Expensive tiling and multiple spouts. She strips and wants to find peace in knowing she still looks the same naked, in the mirror. Even if beneath her skin things are shifting like leaves, her body is still the same.
She takes a moment to study the scar on her wrist, imagines the raised discoloration as a map with all the lies as routes. Red's never told her a lie, and the water is searing across her breasts, down her back. Elizabeth tilts her head back and lets the water drip into her eyes.
She's brought her products with her, so the shampoo is the same, and she takes her time massaging her scalp, all pomegranate and midnight permeating her nostrils. Normal. There's still normalcy to be had.
(There's a part of her, a very small part, that imagines Red walking in on her like this. It would never happen, not in a thousand years, not in another world, but she imagines him seeing her like this, dripping wet, and wonders if or if not he'd respond. Join her.)
-she turns the knob hard to the right, groans under her breath.
There's a shelving unit near the claw foot bathtub. The towels are fluffy and white.
She wonders if Red has used this same fabric to- and even if it's been washed it's just-
"Jesus Christ," she growls to herself. "Pull yourself together, Liz."
She falls asleep as soon as her head hits the pillow; doesn't even have to take her little blue pills.
It's a small mercy, really.
She keeps killing Tom.
And over again.
Once, the first night they spent together. He gets up to use the restroom and when he comes back to the box sized bed she sticks a barrel against his back. The second is right after they said their first vows, and he was in a cumburbund. She takes a gun and puts it to his temple, watches the red contrast the white. The last, the last time she watches it happen is the first night they'd spoke of having a baby. It was a knife, then, straight into his abdomen.
And then there's always crimson all over her hands, and she can't get any of it off. Tries wiping it away on her own white dress, on whatever she can find, a dish towel, but it just keep covering her back up. Cups and cups of it. She could measure it with culinary tools. Could count the sins.
All this blood, and she thinks she can taste it. She thinks it's everywhere. Tom and Meera.
Meera's blood all over her hands, and it's all coming from the same place.
Lizzie whimpers at the feeling of a hand on her cheek.
She squirms, eyes wild. "Re-
"Shh," he soothes. There's wetness on her cheeks, and the sheets are tremulous around her body.
The moonlight from the balcony windows streams in, illuminating what it can.
It's dizzying, how quick reality hits her.
She relies on simple realizations to keep her afloat. Like the fact he's wearing the softest of white sleep shirts, and that his arm is still pressed against her body. Breathing evens out, and then she tells him, "I'm sorry."
For waking him, for being here, for existing. Same difference.
"It was a bad dream, Lizzie. We all have them. Are you all right now?" he prompts.
She wants to touch his face. Something inside her gnarls at the urge, wants to screech and kick. What is she doing? What has possessed her to think that would be, in any possible fray, even the slightest bit okay? But just to know how his skin feels. Really feels.
"Stay with me for a little bit?" Lizzie whispers, barely there. It's so hard to find the words when it feels like a nuclear bomb is poised at her lips. All this destruction, and she never knew how to ask for reprieve. Red hesitates, and she can see his expression in the darkness.
Lizzie holds onto her hope until he nods.
Then, she shifts to make room for him.
She finds a clock that reads seven minutes after three. He's staring at her intently, everything serenely alert. She wonders if, despite the attire that speaks the opposite, he hasn't even been to bed yet.
There's a time for impossible things, so she takes it. She studies the features on his face like never before. The creases around his eyes and mouth. His mouth, always his mouth, and she traces her wrist and wonders if he really is her father. She wonders if all this is just some disgusting mess of emotions, and she's a sick person. But it's like having every instinct belie the lack of facts. It's like everything falling into place, falling into swing. Red stares at her, and she stares back.
"You need to go back to sleep, Lizzie," he tries, but she wants to talk.
All these questions, and they've got this time. Space. The lack of freedom to run is both as liberating as it is physically constricting. They're stuck with each other.
She wonders if this is how it's always been.
"I keep thinking about Meera's children. How resilient they'll have to be to overcome the loss of their mother at such a young age." He says nothing, and she keeps slurring, keeps rubbing her palm in circular motions. Keeps the rhythm of her words. "I've never wanted to physically mother a child because I've been afraid they'd have something wrong with them. That they'd pick up the family gene. I was afraid they'd be demented," she giggles darkly, the sound bleak.
"Never even took Tom into account," Lizzie realizes, twisting her neck to gaze down, at the outline of Red's pajama bottoms. They're cotton. Somehow, she'd expected him to be a silk kind of guy. "Man, we'd have had some screwed up kids. God Bless Trojan for preventing that."
So quickly she has to muffle a shout, Red's hand juts out, clenches around her wrist to make her stop moving. Lizzie tries to pull away, but he won't let her until he catches her full attention. She realizes she's almost rubbed the skin raw, and how even in the silver light, her skin is enflamed.
She meets his gaze, inches apart.
"Nervous habit," she tries to pass off, even though she knows he's already aware. He grimaces, won't let go of her hand. It's volts of startling electricity through capillaries, through every nerve ending between. Lizzie inhales sharply through her nose.
"Genetics do not define who we become." He pauses, flicks his gaze down, she thinks to her own lips. "You're proof of that."
It feels like her chest is rocking by waves, tossing and curling. As undefinable as a sea.
She unwinds his grip from her hand, and without flinching, she moves her hand to his arm. Begins rubbing like she does her own hand. Slow, precise movements. He blows air between his lips, sighs hazily. "For what it's worth, Lizzie, I think you'll be an amazing mother one day."
Her eyelashes flutter, and her fingers keep discovering the expanse. His skin is the perfect blend of harsh and soft. Perfect. She almost drifts off. She's on the cusp of sleep when her fingers encounter rough, encounter marred reckoning.
And then Lizzie's eyes snap open.
She's never seen Red react so hastily as when he recoils from her touch. She won't lie; it hurts a part of her to see him so defensive. Closed. He cringes when she tries to reach her hand out again. "Stop," he says, loud to her ears.
"What?" she murmurs, throat thick and dry. "What's wrong? You've seen my scars," she tries to protest. "You already know virtually everything about me. I'm not asking you the story behind them or anything. Shit," she curses, turning away from him like a petulant child.
She knows this is immature. She knows, but she's tired. And a part of her, a very small piece, is smarting from the rejection of something as simple as discovering. Lizzie thinks it won't work, knows it's just grasping at strings. But then something happens she doesn't expect.
He takes a hand and runs it over the back of her head. Caressing her hair. A shiver curls down her spine.
"Go ahead, then. Go ahead," he says, stronger.
But the softness in his tone is unmistakable. The gentle timbre rolling from his chest.
It sounds like intimacy.
She starts where she left off, far more awake now than she'd been before.
Ventures up, and up further. He gazes at her steadily, holds his body taught, like a live wire. His muscles are firm beneath her grip, right up until she finds the starting of the scar, again. Red trembles before realigning himself with control. Before reaching out and touching the back of her hand.
She thinks he's stopping her again, but he doesn't. Just waits until she moves further, further.
Then, he moves the hands that's rested against her own to the hem of his shirt.
Lizzie gulps when he pulls it up, just enough.
And then she understands.
Then she knows what he's telling her, so she follows, connects with him through their gazes, moves her petite hands to the curve of her mid back. Lying on their sides like this, it's so different. She doesn't see anything, just feels. He's slipped the fabric up enough so that she can slip a hand under.
The scar is entirely covering his back.
Lizzie shudders and then rights herself, fixes him a stare full of all the empathy in the world.
It's rougher than scar tissue from a knife. Not like he's been dug at, no. Not shot.
Lizzie lets out a strangled gasp.
Mouth opening wide in horror, and-
"Oh," she cries out. He responds appropriately when she pulls her hand back like a scared animal. He lowers his shirt, and won't quite look her in the eye. Tears stumble down her cheeks, hot and ready, and she's exhausted. It's too late to be realizing things like this. "Oh," she half sobs. "Red."
He's not saying anything, and she doesn't know what to do, what to think. Her chest positively aches because of all the implications. "You saved me," she acknowledges, voice numb. "You saved me," she repeats.
"You keep saving me," she realizes, taking the man in front of her in with wide eyes. "Red, you keep saving me."
The emotion that overcomes her is unwarranted.
She reaches out and touches his cheek, and then drags herself away again.
"No," he tells her softly, and she blinks at how distant he sounds. "Don't you even realize…Lizzie, no. You save me more than you could ever possibly know."
And then he reaches out and brushes her damp hair away from her puffy cheek, strokes beneath her eye, over her jaw. Lizzie relishes the feel of his calloused thumb. She can smell him, and they're so close, and she looks at him and wonders why she still feels like this. He's told her he's not her father, though.
He doesn't lie to her.
He doesn't lie, so.
"Red," she murmurs, pained. She looks at him and she wants. "Raymond," she uses his forename. It makes him acknowledge her more surely. The way it feels, falling across her lips, it's good. It's good. Here is the moment they begin. Here is the moment they end. Here is the moment they live.
"Are we biologically related?" she asks him, frank as can be. It's daunting, how bluntly she puts it.
Red startles away from the question like he's been slapped. Offended. Red is offended.
"No," he's nearly snarling, and Lizzie doesn't jerk away from his darkness because she knows beneath it is the same discontent and waning hope she's been feeling since he first started giving her all the little riddles. His answer is enough, though. His answer is perfect. It's like a chest full of candles.
It's beautiful, really.
He goes to say something else, but she cuts him off by launching herself across the small space between, her mouth harsh and fast against his all at once. Red freezes.
"Thank God," are the first words out of her mouth and when she murmurs he laughs. She loves the sound, music to her ears, but she stops him to continue kissing him, tasting every nuance of him. Craving. Needing to taste it for as long as she can, like some spent addiction.
Maybe addictive behavior runs in the family, she thinks deliriously.
"Lizzie," he groans, when it's a few minutes in, and she's straddling his lap, and everything is not enough and teasing. She's always been a bit of a tease.
"Raymond," she pronounces. "Raymond, I need you to touch me."
So he does.
So he takes her and he touches all the parts of her she thought went missing with a man whose name wasn't actually Tom Keen. He takes her and he pins her to a bed she's never slept in and makes it their anthem. Makes love to her like they've been at it for years. Twenty four hours and everything changes. Twenty four hours and suddenly he's learning her body like the back of his hand, and his kisses taste like knowing, and she bucks and moans beneath his hands, and when he finally spills himself inside her it's with some kind of sentiment on his lips that feels like becoming. Feels like living.
And she doesn't know what answers she's meant to find, doesn't know who Berlin wants to avenge, or who her own biological fucking father is, but that's all miniscule when compared to the feeling of Red's head baring down on her breasts. Holding him after the throes of muscles clenching and stroking through the light patch of hair on his head. Holding him to her all sweaty and free and knowing that this is the only answer she seeks.
He is the best answer of them all, and any other question can wait.
Until tomorrow, at least.