They were going to spend seven days down in this hole together.
Red was in a tetchy mood, opening a bottle of wine, prattling on while she watched the vicious, slanderous lies flying across the tiny black and white television screen in front of her and tried not to scream. She hadn't really thought about what life on the run with Red might be like, and even though the plan to hide in this place until things died down made perfect sense and was exactly what they should be doing…Liz was somewhat taken aback by the gritty reality of it.
Red, of course, was perfectly at home wherever he wanted to be. He was sprawled across his tiny twin bed in his perfectly-fitted faux police uniform, shamelessly pouring glass after glass. And after awhile, she couldn't bear to keep watching the television, so she turned it off and practically chugged down the glass of wine he had originally poured for her, determined to catch up. Red was immediately on his feet with the bottle to offer her a refill. She gratefully accepted and he took the chair across the table from her.
They sat together, not speaking, each lost inside the miserable places of their minds, drawing from one another whatever weak solace the act of sharing a bottle of wine would afford them. Liz took a moment to observe her surroundings. Various supplies lined the shelves around them, including a pile of bleached white towels, neatly folded, which meant that there was likely a shower in the tiny bathroom in the alcove behind the metal stair-ladder. It was clean down here, and her bed felt comfortable enough when she sat on it. The blankets smelt faintly of detergent, and her pillow was plump and fluffy…the weary and slightly terrified bar owner above had obviously taken great care to make things as nice as he could for them. Liz felt a smile twitch across her face briefly…perhaps there was some merit to the things Red had said about being underground while the world tore itself apart above.
"It's not exactly up to the standard of some of my usual safe houses," Red muttered, and Liz realized he had noticed her looking around. "But I'm afraid it will have to do for now, Lizzie."
She shook her head at his implication. "It's great. I feel safe down here. Plus, there's wine…" she held out her empty glass. Red nodded in acknowledgement, tipping the last of the bottle into it with a gentlemanly flourish. "It's bigger than my college dorm room was," Liz added, taking a sip.
"With an infinitely more agreeable roommate," Red smirked. Liz smiled at him. Their eyes locked for a moment.
It was strange seeing Red like this, being with him like this. There was no blacklister to discuss, no fedora or three piece suit, no Cooper or Ressler to interrupt them, It was just Red, the man, sitting in front of her, and this time, she was the blacklister, the fugitive. This time, she was one of the criminals Red was helping.
A black hole of despair opened its gaping maw inside her gut. She was a fugitive, she was on the run, and the horror of it was threatening to overwhelm her.
She pulled away from the table for a minute, needing to breathe or scream—she wasn't sure which. Hot tears were boiling behind her eyes, but she clenched them shut and learned forward, putting her forehead almost to her knees and wrapping her arms around them. She clenched and held, breathing only in those few seconds it was safe—before the next wave of grief and guilt and fear washed over her.
Red was in his feet next to her in a second.
"It's going to be okay, Lizzie," he rumbled, immediately pressing his hand between her shoulder blades and making soothing circles. "You're doing so well…just take a breath."
She nodded as best as she could in the moment, and tried not to sob. It took a while, but when her panic attack subsided, she sat up and took a few deep breaths as Red observed and took them with her. She looked at him, locking her blue eyes with his, letting him see the full scale of her fear.
"Red, what are we going to do?" she whispered. "How are we going to fix this?"
"I know, I know," he sighed. "It's not going to be easy. But it's possible, sweetheart."
He knelt next to her put his hand on her knee and squeezed it. She put her hand over his and held it there, numbly.
"I don't see how," she muttered.
"We'll figure it out," he replied. "We have a head start and a wealth of resources at our disposal. It may take some time, but we can resolve this whole mess to our satisfaction…I'm sure of it."
"I shot Tom Connelly," she looked at him, unflinching as she said the words. "I shot him in cold blood. It wasn't even self-defense. Even you can't fix that."
"The man was a traitor and a terrorist. He deserved what he got," Red huffed. "We can prove that you were justified…"
"But I didn't do it for Justice!" she hissed, suddenly conscious of what anyone above might be overhearing. "I did it because I…wanted him dead." she whispered, leaning in so only Red could hear her. "He threatened all of you, explained exactly how he was going to ruin all of us, with extradition, torture, the death penalty for you…" she paused, shuddering at the thought, and took a breath, not noticing how intensely Red's eyes were fixed on her face. "He said it, and I knew it was true, that he would destroy all of us and get away with it, and so I killed him, because I'm a murderer and a terrorist…" Both she and Red flinched at those words. Red's grip on her knee tightened. "…And now I know for a fact that I've always been a killer…I killed my own father, I've gotten a bunch of other innocent people killed, I killed Tom Connolly, and that's just what I do now, apparently…fuck everything up and kill everyone," she hysterically whisper-sobbed.
Red sighed as she put face back into her lap, her body silently heaving and clenching in horror all over again. He stood again, swirling the remaining contents of his wine glass in one hand and circling his hand between Liz's shoulder blades in a vain attempt to calm her.
"You have every right to be scared," he reiterated. "And I know that sitting tight and waiting it out is the most difficult thing to do at a time like this, but I need you trust me. I will help you make this right."
He felt more than heard Liz snort in disbelief. He moved to one of the shelves and grabbed a roll of paper towel. Unwrapping it, Red tore off a few sheets and pressed them into her hands. She sat up and began to wipe her streaming eyes and blow her swollen nose. Red pursed his lips and pulled another bottle of wine off the shelf. He busied himself with opening it and gave Liz a chance to regain her composure.
He was on edge and miserable. He wished they'd been able to get away in a more expedited manner. Taking his jet would have been ideal if it had been an appropriate mode of travel for their destination. On the jet there were drinks, and spaces to move around in, and she could have some privacy if she wanted to scream and cry all she needed to. She had just been through a trauma, she was in shock, and unfortunately, there was nothing to do while stuck in this hide-away except think and worry…another small torture on top of everything else. And he could only sit there and attempt to talk her through it, hold her hand, and ignore the guilt gnawing away at his own gut that he was partly responsible for it all.
He poured her another glass of wine, which she accepted numbly, and sat down across from her again. The silence was palpable. Liz wiped away a few errant tears and sipped at her glass. Red stared at the wall, his mind working away.
She wasn't sure how long they sat like that together, but suddenly, the sound of combat boots on the floor above had Liz up and out of her seat in a panic. Red was instantly on his feet as well. He grabbed Liz's hand and pulled her quickly into the alcove behind the stairs, flicking off the lights on the wall switch as he did so.
They huddled together in the darkness, their eyes on the small cracks of light surrounding the door in the floor above. Liz heard Red unholster his gun, and she did the same. There were voices overhead, and suddenly the door to the closet above was thrown open, and the cracks of light around the entrance above them grew brighter.
Red reached back to push Liz into place behind him in the dark, blocking her from the line of sight of anyone descending into this tiny space with his body. Liz felt a sudden irrational wave of affection and gratitude to him…he was always protecting her, always keeping her safe, always putting himself at risk to spare her. She didn't deserve it, she thought, she was no longer worthy of protecting. But now wasn't the time to argue with him, or point out that she could defend herself. If Red was going to be her champion, so be it.
They both stiffened and froze at the sound of Agent Ressler's voice above. Liz could feel her heart beating in her throat. Neither of them were breathing. The tension was so thick, she was sure Ressler would sense it.
And then there were voices again. They heard Ressler order the team to move along, the sounds of many boots moving out the door, and silence again.
Liz breathed a sigh of relief and reached for Red in the dark. Her hand made contact with his back, and she immediately squeezed his shoulder, bracing herself in relief and offering a him moment to share it with her. Red did not relax under her grip, but he reached up with his free hand and covered hers.
The door above was suddenly thrown open, and lights turned on. Liz saw the bartender looking down at her.
"It's all clear," he said. "They were doing a sweep, but they didn't find anything."
"Let's keep it that way," Red growled up at him. Liz gave him a small chiding push from behind and moved around him and the stair-ladder to get a better view of their host.
"Thank you for your help," she added, sincerely. "I'm in your debt."
The bartender's eyes warmed on her for a moment, before they shifted over to Red, still bristled and menacing, and his expression sobered.
"You're welcome," he said, standing up. "You can come up if you want to later, just listen at this door before you come out."
"Thank you," Liz said again, offering him a conciliatory smile. He nodded in acknowledgement, then lifted the sink back into place and closed the panel above them.
Red moved out from behind the stairs and sat back down at the table to take another swig of his wine. Liz moved back over to join him, pretending she hadn't just been terrified for her life seconds before.
"Do you think it was really just a sweep?" she asked.
"Yes," Red replied. "They would have stayed longer otherwise, been more thorough, torn the place up a bit. Now they'll have to consider whether or not we've somehow managed to get past their blockades and outside of the perimeter they set up. They may be back to check again, however, soon. We should stay down here for a while."
With the prospect of so much empty time on their hands, Liz took a moment to check the shelves again. There were a few paperbacks and a deck of cards. She grabbed the cards and held them up enticingly. "Distraction?"
"Oh, yes please!"
They began to play as though they hadn't been scared for their lives and hiding in the dark just minutes before. There wasn't a card game that Red didn't know, of course, and Liz learned quickly that there was simply no point to trying to beat Red at a game of strategy. After her third loss, she suggested they try a game of speed. Liz knew how to play Snap in her sleep, but Red was just too quick. They were neck and neck, frantically casting their cards into the discard pile and flipping over new ones from the draw piles. Liz flipped over the eight of hearts, a card she'd been waiting for the last three rounds, and Red immediately reached out to steal it for himself. Liz smacked his hand away and grabbed the card quickly. Red chuckled and flipped over the next card. Within seconds he was empty-handed, slamming his last card down on the table in victory while Liz was still stuck with two cards still in hand.
"Unbelievable," she muttered, tossing them onto the table.
"Again?" he asked contritely.
"What's the point?" she huffed, petulantly. "I'm just going to keep embarrassing myself."
"Perhaps we could try something more your speed? Slap-Jack? Are you familiar with Fifty-Two Pickup?" His tone was even, but his eyes were mocking her viciously. She smiled and tried not to laugh. She let her gaze rest on Red's face, taking him in for a moment while he gathered and shuffled the cards expertly. He was always there for her. He was always going to be there for her. They were hiding in a room underground, on the run, the whole world crumbling around her, and here he was, playing games with her and making her laugh. There was literally no one else who could have done this for her…not even Tom.
Liz cringed internally for a moment, thinking of Tom. She had not even showered since the night before…had it really only been twenty-four hours? One day…that was all it took for everything to fall apart. Liz shook her head to stop fresh tears from forming.
Tom never would have made her feel this safe, never could have helped her and saved her the way Red had…not that he wouldn't have tried…but she didn't trust Tom the way she trusted Red. She couldn't rely on Tom the way she could rely on Red. Red had released the Fulcrum. Red had the connections and experience needed to make this whole thing work. Tom wasn't even Tom…and Liz knew deep down that she would never be able to make it work with Jacob…not with the memory of who they were and what they had been to one another chasing after them constantly. She had to move on. They had said goodbye, spent their last night together, and now it was time to move on.
Red was dealing their cards for another game of Snap. She took another gulp of wine from her glass and watched him, wondering how they were possibly going to keep this up for a whole week without going insane.
Red's clever hands deftly flicked cards to the correct places on the table and placed the leftover cards in the draw pile. He picked up his hand and looked over at her expectantly. There was suddenly a huge lump in her throat that she tried to swallow away as she picked up her cards, but it was no use. She put her cards down and allowed the tears stinging her eyes to finally escape.
"Breathe," Red commanded, reaching across the table for her hand.
"I know," she gasped. "It's just…" Her voice quavered and she clamped her lips together to prevent any other embarrassing sounds from escaping. She jumped up, swiping tears out of her eyes, and grabbed a towel and a washcloth from the shelf next to her. "I just really need to take a shower."
Red was on his feet too, handing her a black duffel bag.
"There are some basic toiletries and clean clothes in there, unless you still feel like playing dress up after," he motioned to her uniform.
"Thank you," she muttered, holding the bag in one hand and the towels in the other. She stood like that for a moment, seemingly unsure of what to do, before taking a step towards the small bathroom. Red moved out of her way, giving her a clear path, but she set the bag and the towels down on the table for a moment, and to his utter surprise, wrapped her arms around him.
"Thank you, Red," she whispered next to his ear. "Really…I'm so grateful and relieved…I don't know how I would have…without you."
His arms tightened around her almost immediately, and he pulled her to him fiercely. And she let him, thinking of nothing but how good it felt to be held by him, and how good it felt to hold him back. He smelled amazing, even in the middle of all of this, and she breathed him in unabashedly. Red…
"I'm always here for you, Lizzie," She felt him rumble the words, her ear on his chest. "Always."
She felt him press a kiss to the top of her head and bury his nose in her hair to breathe her in the same way she was doing to him. Suddenly, the realization that she was filthy and likely covered with bits of Tom Connolly reasserted itself in the forefront of her mind. She pulled away from Red reluctantly, and he let her go at once.
"I promise not to use up all the hot water," she quipped weakly, gathering her supplies and heading for the bathroom.
"Very considerate of you," he offered her a small smile as he sat back down at the table and poured another glass of wine. "Wish I could say the same for this bottle," he added with a smirk.
Liz rolled her eyes and shook her head at him ruefully before closing the bathroom door.