Liz closes the safe house door behind her and hurries across the dim living room to Red, who is sitting on the couch with his elbows on his knees and his hands clasped together between them. He shakes his head in answer to her question but doesn't speak, his gaze firmly fixed on the cell phone resting ominously on the coffee table in front of him.
He's still mad at her.
When Katarina called to share the triumphant news of her capture of Dembe's imam, Liz felt decidedly sick to her stomach, but held out hope that her mother could have an overarching plan that made it all worth it. But when she called to say she'd used Dembe's imam to get ahold of Dembe himself?
Liz gave up.
She gave Katarina no inkling of her change of heart, simply listening to all she had to report and asking her to stay in touch, gathering all the intel she could from her before she made her next call, the decision made before she even hung up with Katarina.
She's now on Red's side in this war. Once and for all.
Liz had pressed number seven on her speed dial and quickly explained everything, that Katarina was alive due to Liz's own fruitless hope of having a mother, and she was still hell-bent on getting Red's information. She told him that Katarina was planning to call with demands, and to keep his phone on him.
Red had listened silently, not saying a word, but Liz could almost feel his anger through the phone, although she had the sense that he was focused on Dembe, at least for the moment, and they could deal with the implications of her latest betrayal later.
That was fine with Liz.
(But that won't stop her from trying to make amends.)
Liz sits next to him on the couch now, sinking into the frayed cushions to join him in his silent vigil in front of the phone, hoping he at least doesn't move away from her.
So, she takes the opportunity to scoot a little too close, just shy of pressed against his side, and gingerly takes one of his hands to hold.
"I'm sorry," she murmurs.
(Because she is, so very sorry, and she'd get down on her knees to prove it to him if he would allow it.
Whatever it takes.)
"I never meant to put you or Dembe or his imam in danger."
She rubs her thumb repeatedly back and forth across the back in his hand, watching his face anxiously for some clue as to what he's feeling.
(His face has always been an enthralling mystery to her, a puzzle to solve, and some things haven't changed.)
It's a long moment before he cracks open his dry lips to speak.
Liz breathes a sigh of relief.
(At least there's that, the fact that he knows she wouldn't hurt him, that if it's between her mother's questionable mission and Red's safety?
She'll choose Red without a thought.)
"We're going to get him back, don't worry. She knows hurting him isn't the way to get what she wants from you."
Red nods stiffly, still a little frosty, but Liz can see in the furrow of his brow and the set of his mouth that he's worried for Dembe, stressed and concerned, as he always is for the people he loves.
(She wonders sadly if she's still one of them.)
Liz bites her lip, staring at him, wishing desperately she could spare him this anxiety.
Or, at the very least, distract him from it.
(Because she'll do anything to repent for her sins against him.)
So, she turns a little on the couch to press more into his body, her knees pushing into his thigh, putting her other hand on top of their joined ones.
"Hey," she murmurs, and he finally, finally breaks his gaze away from the silent cell phone to look at her, his eyes, flinty with worry and distraction, suddenly staring directly into her own, sending shivers down her spine.
"What can I do?" she whispers, raising a tentative hand to cup his cheek.
He works his mouth a little at the feeling of her hand on his face, and the sensation of his jaw flexing under her hand has her stomach swooping. He tilts his head a little in thought, looking right at her, although Liz gets the feeling that he's not quite seeing her here in front of him, and he's staring through her instead.
(It's the first time he's looked at her like this and the odd detachment in his eyes has her stomach churning and her body subtly shifting closer.)
Red rubs his face absentmindedly against her hand, his slight late-day stubble scratching pleasantly at her palm, making her fingers curl without her permission so her nails scratch lightly over his cheek. His nostrils flare at the sensation and he turns his head further to press a chaste kiss to her wrist, right over her scar.
(And the electricity that shoots through her veins at the touch of his lips is exhilarating.)
Liz's lips part in surprise and she watches Red's gaze drop to them, his pupils dilating at the sight. She holds her breath as she watches his right hand raise, slowly and with purpose, until it cups her face in return. His thumb moves mechanically over the apple of her cheek, mimicking her thumb's movement on his hand from moments before.
And then he starts guiding her closer.
(But why would he be pulling closer, unless he plans to –)
And Liz just manages to suck in a little breath of surprise before Red is pulling her the final scant inch to seal his mouth to hers in a thorough, drugging kiss.
His lips work over hers, powerful, slow, and Liz can sense somehow out of his control. She can almost feel him operating by instinct, desperate for the distraction. She gives in and lets him lead, letting him take what he needs in this moment.
(It's the least she can do and, oh, is she happy to be of service.)
She's just getting familiar with the delicious warmth of his tongue in her mouth when his hands surprise her, descending to her waist to grip firmly, tight and grounding, before he's tugging her forward, urging her to straddle him in a way she absolutely can't deny.
She hastens forward, bracing her hands on his shoulders to slide sensuously against his solid body and ease a leg over his lap, settling her calves firmly against the outside of his thighs, letting him tug her down to settle against him. He wraps his arms around her waist, keeping her pressed intimately against him while he surges forward with his upper body, bending her back slightly at the waist as he devours her mouth, slow and intense.
(And, oh, Red.)
She rubs a hand tenderly over the back of his head and arches her chest into his just in time to feel the deep moan reverberate through his body, his hands smoothing heavily up her back and into her hair, making her groan against his lips, and this couch is becoming more and more welcoming and if he continues doing that, then there's no way she'll be able to stop from –
The loud vibrating of the cell phone has him releasing her lips with a wet noise and a shaky intake of breath, and Liz wastes no time in swiveling at the waist to grab the phone from the table behind her, trusting him to steady her so she doesn't fall, and pass it to Red.
He clenches his jaw once, glaring at the phone, before he flips it open and speaks, still holding Liz securely in his lap, almost as an afterthought. She presses her forehead to his, both trying to provide comfort and also listen to the tinny voice of her mother naming a time and place for a meeting.
(And she's never loathed the sickly sweet quality of her mother's voice more.)
Red listens intently before confirming that he'll be there, terse and clipped, and snapping the phone shut and tossing it next to them on the couch. He sighs, that damn furrow back between his brows, and Liz squeezes his forearm to get his attention.
"Would you like me to come?" she offers quietly, concerned.
He considers her for a long moment, his eyes moving swiftly between hers, before he comes to a decision.
"No," he rumbles. "If you're going to be a double agent, it's best if she doesn't see you with me."
Liz nods, peering into his eyes, starting to get worried by the coldness that is swiftly sweeping over the lust that was burning there mere moments ago.
"Red?" she murmurs, tentative. "Are you –"
His shifts abruptly, interrupting her by patting her thigh impersonally, silently urging her to clamber off him. She moves hurriedly back onto her own couch cushion, her movements jerky and unsure.
"Red?" she tries again, but he's standing and straightening his vest, studiously avoiding her gaze, before picking his way across the dark living room to retrieve his jacket.
(What is happening –)
"Red!" she finally manages to bark, just as his hand lands on the doorknob.
He pauses and turns his head halfway back to her and somehow she knows that's all she's going to get.
"Where – where are you going?" she stutters out, nervous and trying not to recall with perfect clarity the feeling of his teeth on her neck.
"To get Dembe back," he murmurs, without looking at her.
"Oh," she says lamely. "Well…will you call me?"
She watches him stand motionless for a moment at the door, considering her question as she holds her breath painfully in her chest.
"I don't know," he finally whispers, paralyzing her on the couch as he opens the door and disappears through it without another word.
The snap of the door echoes through the dark and suddenly empty apartment as Liz sits frozen on the couch, feeling his absence like an ache, before absentmindedly raising her hand to ghost over her still-tingling lips, one thought reverberating soundly through her head.
She's not finished repenting.