For jackandsamforever as part of the FB Lizzington Shippers Secret Hiatus Santa. Ashton, hope you like this. I tried to make it as fluffy as possible while sticking with your excellent prompt. Enjoy!
Set sometime after Tom, before finding out about Sam, before Meera's demise. When times were happier and less complicated…
Liz trudged up the stairs to the fifth floor of the building. She could feel the sweat rise on her neck and travel down her upper back. Why had she decided to take the stairs, she wondered. The agents in the lobby had summoned a perfectly good elevator when she had breezed in through the heavy revolving door, but instead she had nodded to them in greeting and headed towards the metal entrance to the fire escape. The profiler in her head spoke up that she was certainly avoiding something, or someone, or some event, but she tamped the obvious explanatory thought back down and continued putting one foot in front of the other until she reached the utilitarian beige door marked with a green number six. At least she was wearing trainers. She had that going for her.
With a belabored shove she opened the door and threw out a quick good morning out to Agents Tabor and Smith who were standing on each side of the entrance to unit 5B. There was only a 5A and a 5B. Dual penthouse suites. Of course. Nothing but the best for Raymond Reddington, even if he was in government custody.
Pausing momentarily at the threshold of the apartment Liz took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Of all the things she had thought about doing this Saturday, trudging up those darn steps and dealing with the FBI's fourth most wanted was low on her list. At the bottom actually. Stupid day.
"Lizzie!" Red's voice boomed out from the living room, the space airy and full of morning light streaming through the windows. He set his cell phone on a side table and stepped forward towards the foyer. He turned briefly towards the kitchen, keeping his eyes on Liz. "I wasn't expecting you this morning. Dembe, please fetch Agent Keen some tea. Or is it coffee you would prefer? I have the most delicious hand ground…"
"Enough." Lizzie stopped Red's soliloquy before he started down the road of the third world farmer, exotic goods market, and exemplary beans…she had heard the tale before and was in no mood to chat about nothing.
She took a second to take in Red's appearance. Soft gray pinstripe suit. Crisp white shirt. Vest fully buttoned. No jacket but she was sure it was sitting around there somewhere. No doubt freshly cleaned and sharp as a tack. It was funny how he kept up appearances even when he most certainly wasn't going to be going anywhere. Reddington. She smirked to herself.
"What's so funny?" Red chuckled, acting for all the world like he was already in on the joke. I guess that's how he does it, she thought. Never off balance.
Liz proceeded to walk into the living room and sat down on the overstuffed sofa. She noted Red's handwriting on several documents spread across the coffee table. He must have been working on something before she arrived. Crime never sleeping and all that.
"I have a favor to ask." She started. "No, not a favor actually. More of a directive." She smiled at that. It was fun having the upper hand with Reddington. The first time he had been in custody he still held all the cards. At least that's what it had felt like to everyone in the Post Office. This time was different.
"As you may know, today is the day of the unit's field day festivities." Red raised his eyebrows at her but said nothing. "Now, I know, I know. I'm sure you're thinking field day. Harold Cooper. Secret FBI operations site. Which of these things don't belong? But I can assure you. The field day is for real. One of Agent Cooper's team building activities. He's trying to boost morale after the whole incursion ordeal. Get everyone outside and together."
In an environment where no one is being shot at. She thought that last part but didn't say it aloud.
"Intriguing, Lizzie. I do dare say." Red hitched his pants at the knee and sat in the wing-backed chair opposite her. "And I do love a good field day." The words field and day rolled over his tongue with considerable distaste. "But it seems that I am otherwise occupied this morning."
With that he gently lifted the hem of his pant leg revealing the white metal cuff encircling his ankle. "FBI orders," he added. His face lifted in a cat and canary grin.
"So sorry to disappoint. Now run along and go hop in the sack or whatever it is Cooper wants you to do." His mouth turned up in a sly smile with his last words.
"Now, now, Red," two could play at this game she thought.
"As much as I would love to enjoy the day without you, as much as I would love to enjoy the day at home on my couch catching up with my DVR, I must go where Cooper directs and you," she looked pointedly at him, "are coming with me. Don't you think for a second that I have any illusions that that thing," she directed her gaze down at his still exposed tracking device, "has any ability to keep you from coming and going as you please."
She stopped for a minute and stared at him. "I am well aware that the only reason that you are still here is because you want to be here…God knows why after everything that went down. But we need you, the people who will become the victims of the psychopaths on your list need you, and therefore I am going to keep a close eye on you. Which means…."
She paused for dramatic effect.
"You are coming with me. And you will probably want to change. I've heard grass stains are a bitch to get out of gabardine." With that she stood and turned back towards the door.
"Oh Lizzie, Lizzie." She could feel him rise and the little hairs on the back of her neck began to rise. "I would love nothing more than to accompany you to your little FBI picnic. I have been known to win a few egg and spoon races in my day. Participated in a pie eating contest or two."
By now he had walked around her and they were standing face to face.
"I do hope they have lemon. Pie that is, delicious." With that he ran his tongue over his lips and looked right at her.
She stared blankly at him and then headed for the door. "Ten minutes Red and we leave. I'll be waiting right out front so no funny business."
She heard him retreat towards the bedroom. Her stomach regained it's equilibrium after suffering from a serious case of the flip-flops after Red had licked his lips. Darn him. Why did he have to be so intentionally infuriating! And why did her body always betray her and react to his shenanigans?
It was going to be a long day. That was the only thing she was sure of.
By the time they arrived at the event the festivities were already in full swing. Liz could see that Agent Cooper had gone all out, even having a big banner printed and hung between two large pine trees at the entrance to the park, and there were carnival vendors and gaming booths spread around the perimeter of the field.
She slid her sunglasses down from the top of her head to cover her eyes. What did she know? This might even be fun.
"Liz, Liz." A voice behind her stopped her train of thoughts and she turned to see Meera running up from the pavilion area. "So glad I caught you," her friend huffed, half out of breath. "My sitter just called and my daughter's come down with the stomach bug. I'm going to have to run home for at least a few hours. Can you fill in for me at the dunking booth at noon? I know that it's a lot to ask but hopefully everyone will be so busy eating by that point they won't even want to try to dunk you."
Meera looked at her pleadingly. Liz could tell she was trying hard to play along with Agent Cooper's silly plans and didn't want to mess up the day in any way. She opened her mouth to reply.
"Of course Agent Keen would love to volunteer." A smooth voice spoke up from alongside. Darn that Reddington again. She had almost forgotten he was here.
"Reddington?" Agent Malik's voice held a note of surprise and Liz wasn't sure if it was the presence of the man who was supposed to be on house arrest or Red's choice of attire that had thrown her. Liz had to admit that she had teetered on the brink of openly staring at Red when he had exited the apartment in comfortable jeans and a college t-shirt. Then man looked good in anything she was starting to think.
"I'm her plus one." Red laughed, seemingly amused with himself with the inside joke he had made. "Right Agent Keen?"
He dared to swing an arm around her shoulders then and she wasn't sure if it was the complete ridiculousness of the moment or the heat effecting her brain, but she didn't push his arm away.
"I see…" Agent Malik's words trailed off inquisitively but she didn't ask anything further and Liz quickly steered the conversation in a different direction. "Glad to help, hope your daughter feels better soon. Maybe stop off and grab some soda crackers?" She remembered Sam's home remedy for anything involving vomiting. "Don't worry about me."
She smiled reassuringly and Meera rushed off.
"Now, now Lizzie. I have to say that I'm a bit intrigued by this dunking booth proposition." Red chuckled softly while taking in the surroundings. The cotton candy booth. The schedule of events – three legged race, water balloons, no mention of pies.
"A dunking booth could get very interesting." He turned back to her.
"Now don't get too excited Red." She tore her eyes away from her search for Agent Cooper and continued, "I played softball with this crowd last year and let me assure you, they are all better at aiming a gun than a – "
she stopped in midsentence, realizing that Red's eyes were staring unabashedly at her chest.
The realization of her choice of attire hit her and she looked down at her thin white t-shirt emblazoned with the FBI logo. She felt a blush begin to creep up her cheeks.
Oh well, at least she was wearing a sports bra underneath. It wasn't like anyone would see anything anyway. And why was Red looking at her like that? She shook her head to clear her thoughts.
"Lizzie, Lizzie." Red had clearly moved on and was headed towards the event sign up table. "I was thinking we would begin with the three legged race and the move onto the trust falls. Thoughts?"
His grin was huge and she wondered if he was actually enjoying himself in this foreign environment or if was sarcasm that was playing out over his features. In any event she just hoped to make it through the day. Who would have thought her life would have come to this?
The starter held his air gun aloft and the competitors took their places at the chalked line on the grass.
"Lizzie," Red growled. "This would be so much easier if you were willing to come just a tiny bit closer to me. It's been a long time but I'm almost sure that the idea of the three legged race is that the two participants work together," with that he swung an arm around her waist and pulled her to his side, "not as two separate units."
He kept his arm in place and crouched down.
She was surprised by the competitive side he was displaying. Who knew that he had it in him? Yeah, of course he was competitive in his day job, supplying arms dealers and all of that, but at a field day competition? The man was incorrigible.
She concentrated on this line of thinking rather than on how good he smelled. There was something about warm and male and Red that was emanating from his body and she hated that her body was trying to lean into him instead of away from him. What was wrong with her?
The starting blast rang out loudly and they were off. Awkwardly at first but then gaining momentum with each stride. Liz had played field hockey back in school and her athletic side seemed to be coming back to her full force with every step. Red was surprisingly agile too and together they made quick work of the rest of the field.
They managed to stay upright until they crossed over the finish line and Liz stumbled a bit, tripping over her left shoe and collapsed down onto the short grass pulling Red down on top of her.
He was heavy she thought absently. And muscular. That thought surprised the heck out of her.
"Now that's how it's done. I'd say we make an excellent team." Red smiled down at her before leaning forward to untie their hitched legs.
He hesitated for an extra moment, his weight suspended over her and his face inches away from hers. Just looked at her.
And she wasn't sure if he was talking about the race or something else entirely.
The dreaded hour had come and Liz made her way towards the dunking booth with Red in tow. The morning had passed surprisingly quickly and she had to admit she'd had a good time spending her day with the infuriating man. She had enjoyed seeing this other side of him, the more carefree and relaxed side, and she wondered if it was an act or maybe the whole Concierge of Crime image was the real charade.
"It doesn't look good Lizzie." Red's low voice interrupted her musings. "I see Agent Ressler climbing down from the stand and, is it me, or does he look entirely drenched?" Red chuckled and stole a glance down at Liz. "Wanna borrow my sweatshirt?" He joked. "I think I left it back in the car."
She shook her head no and headed towards the metal ladder leading to the plastic chair. Might as well just get it over with. It wasn't like anyone was going to see anything more than would be visible in a bathing suit. Not that she wore her bathing suit around at work.
She passed Ressler, exchanged pleasantries, and accepted the towel he offered. "You're going to need it." Ressler had said and she was sure she would. Darn Meera and her kid. Of all days to get sick.
She made her way up to the seat and looked out at the crowd. No one in line for the dunking booth and no Reddington in sight. Bliss –
Wait! No Reddington was bad, where had he gone? It would figure that he would head for the hills as soon as she was otherwise occupied. And he wasn't wearing the darn leg cuff. Blasted –
Her thoughts were interrupted by Red's appearance on the other side of the booth.
"Where were you?" She called down.
"Had to visit the boys room." He called back and she grimaced when she realized she had been treating him like a lost little child. He was a grown man after all. And she of all people was well aware of that.
The hour passed slowly with only a few fellow agents stopping by and attempting to hit the metal target with one of the large rubber balls supplied by the vendor. A few of the shots were close. So close that Liz had sworn that they hit the bull's eye and actually closed her eyes and braced for submergence in the water below. But no dice. She still sat high and dry above the festivities.
She surveyed the park and noted that most people appeared to have filled their plates at the picnic pavilion and were now lounging about on the grass talking and relaxing.
Agent Cooper had been right she begrudgingly admitted to herself. This event had been good for morale. Good for everyone actually.
"Tick tock, tick tock." Her thoughts were brought back to the present by the broad man to the right of the booth. Reddington. He had stood there the entire time. Egging on each participant and instructing them in how to throw the ball exactly the right wall so that she would fall. But she hadn't.
I guess he wasn't as good a coach as he thought he was she thought smugly to herself.
"And with that," she felt her lips turn up into a grin, "my shift is over." She began to slide off the seat and reach for the ladder. She was enjoying the feel of her dry clothes on her skin. She was actually a bit hungry and a burger was sounding good –
"Not so fast."
She looked up to see Reddington standing at the front of the booth, three balls in his hands. Who knew the man could juggle? "I've waited like a good little boy for over an hour." With that he pretended to take aim.
"Fine Red. Let's get this over with," she said. It's not like he was going to sink her. Ressler and some of the younger agents were far better shots and they hadn't –
Splash. She could feel the cold water filling her nose and ears. In her surprise she hadn't closed her mouth and she shot to the surface and spit the water out with unnecessary force.
"Reddington!" She sputtered. She looked around, preparing to be embarrassed by at least a small crowd, but no one was in sight but Red who stood staring at her slightly bemused.
"What?!" she said climbing over the side of the tank and reaching for the towel hastily discarded on the ground. She began to towel off her legs moving slowly upward.
"Lizzie," he all but growled, pulling her by the arm behind the structure and out of view. "I've been waiting to do that all day."
He did not even attempt to hide the look of appreciation in his eyes as he took in her wet figure, transparent shirt, and more.
"But how did you?"
And then reality dawned on her. He had it rigged. Of course he did. He was Raymond Reddington gosh darn it. He could smuggle gold out of China, change a flight plan from across the world, disappear into thin air - why not rig a simple fair booth.
"I saw what you were wearing." He offered by way of explanation.
Could he read her thoughts?
"And I didn't want anyone else to see what I am seeing right now." With that he took his hands and placed them on each of her shoulders looking her square in the face.
"Not that I'm not enjoying the view." His eyes roamed over her form but instead of appearing predatory his gaze was almost tender.
She felt her heart flutter once, twice, and then again. What was this man doing to her?
"So I waited, and waited, and waited some more. And here we are." He still hadn't moved, his eyes locked on hers and she realized that she was starting to lean in. Lean in towards Raymond Reddington.
"Lizzie," he all but growled pulling her closer. "I didn't think there was anyway you could look anymore beautiful than the night we took the Syrian embassy…" his words trailed off and he looked at her adoringly, "but here we are. And I must say, you look stunning."
Her insides were complete mush at this point and she realized that she had been waiting for him to approach her like this. Had been waiting for a long time actually but hadn't let herself admit it. She wanted him to notice her. Look at her –
She felt his hands come up to frame her face and he leaned in, leaned in a little bit more, and she felt his warm lips on her wet ones and suddenly she wasn't chilly anymore, his body locked around hers in a firm embrace.
He kissed her deeply, thoroughly, sweetly and time seemed to stand still. She felt herself return the kiss. Losing track of all time and place.
"I must say," he pulled away. "If this is what happens at all of Agent Cooper's excursions, I may have to find myself a job at the FBI…" he smiled down at her and moved in again. His lips finding hers automatically.
She smiled into the kiss and closed her eyes. The feeling of this moment strangely wonderful and perfect.
The most surprising of days, she thought. And one of the best ones too. She smiled, pulled Red in a little closer, and tried to figure out how they could make it back to the parking lot without anyone noticing them.
It was time to take this field day home.