Title: We Bleed The Same
Spoilers: Up to 2X14, “T. Earl King, VI”
Characters: Elizabeth Keen, Raymond “Red” Reddington, Dembe Zuma, Donald Ressler, Samar Navabi
Summary: If Liz had been just one second later, she might have been too late – and she knows it.
Disclaimer: I don't own this show or its characters.
Author's Note: This story takes place in the same supernatural AU as a number of other Blacklist fics I've written (and some cowritten with my sister) but not yet published. The supernatural elements aren't quite as obvious in this one as in the others, but they're hinted at.
Thanks to mack_the_spoon for her beta.
It had been too close.
That was the thought currently plaguing Elizabeth Keen as she tried and failed to get any sleep at all. It had been much, much too close.
Sighing, Liz rolled out of bed and turned on the lamp. There was no way she was going to get to sleep any time soon. It was absurd – they had left the King estate more than four hours ago – but she still felt like there was enough adrenaline in her veins that she couldn't even sit still. Her hands weren't actually still shaking; she knew this, but it felt like they should be. It had been terrifyingly close.
Liz sat on the edge of her bed, her face in her hands, and tried to take a deep breath. It was still hard to do. Fear wouldn't let her. She kept seeing him, on his knees on the tile floor, with the gun against the back of his bowed head. If she had been just one second later... It was all too easy to imagine what she would have found when she entered the room. Instead of her father, turning around with a heartbreaking expression of shock and relief on his face, she would have found his body sprawled on the ground, with a spreading pool of blood under what was left of his head. Oh, she still would have killed the Cameroonian warlord who pulled the trigger – but it would have been out of grief and rage and regret so strong she could feel it all now. Those emotions hadn't left her alone ever since she saw him in that room. They wouldn't go away, even though Raymond Reddington was still alive. And he was. She had gotten there in time. The two of them had walked out of that mansion alive, while the FBI swarmed the place, freeing all the others the Kings had in their captivity, locating all the stolen merchandise, and processing all of those who had attended the auction.
She tried to get herself to concentrate on the fact that Red was still alive. She thought back to how, after he had shot Earl King, Red had, true to his word to the King brothers, found his own clothes and gotten rid of the tux as soon as possible. How she had been relieved, as well, to divest herself of the jewelry and gown that Earl had bestowed on her with his disgusting idea of hospitality. (She had almost hugged Samar for thinking to bring clothes for her.) She thought about how Dembe had embraced Red with joy, and then her with almost as much joy, after they left the mansion. They were both fine. They were alive.
Even their argument in the car afterward was proof that he was fine. He was damaged, yes, but she had known that for a long time. He didn't seem to believe that she loved him, and had forgiven him as much as possible for abandoning her as a child. He didn't see, although she had tried to tell him tonight, that she would do anything necessary to save his life – just like he would for her.
Liz sighed again and stood up. She needed to see him. It was no use pretending she could get by without it. Knowing him, he wouldn't be asleep either. She knew where he was currently staying, too, and although both he and Ressler would be critical of her going out at this time of the morning without a guard, she had already made up her mind.
Quickly, Liz pulled on some clothes, her warmest coat, and a scarf, picked up her gun, and grabbed her purse. She paused briefly in front of Ressler's door on the way out of the apartment building, but didn't linger. There was no reason to keep him from getting the sleep he needed – and besides, this conversation she was about to have with Red was private.
She drove to his current residence with a single-minded focus that she knew wasn't going to hold up much longer. She hadn't really cried yet, other than the few tears that had escaped her control in the car when she had done her best to force Red to see that she would never be willing to sit back and let him die. Eventually – soon, most likely – she was going to break down. But she would cross that bridge when she came to it.
She knocked on the front door, watching her breath mist in the cold morning air while she waited. Dembe opened the door a few seconds later. “I'm sorry if I woke you,” she said, with a little smile. “I just-- is he awake?”
“Yes,” said Dembe. He stepped aside to let her in. “And you don't need to apologize for anything. I'll go tell him you're here.”
Liz thanked him as he left. She took off her scarf and coat. Then she sat down on the couch in the front room for about three seconds before she was back up and pacing.
“Lizzie, what are you doing here?” Despite his words, Red's tone was gentle when he came into the room. He was in just his shirt and slacks, she saw, and did not look to have slept at all, either.
“I--” She felt her control start to slip, but she wasn't going to give in yet. She wanted to talk to him. “I couldn't sleep,” she finished, for the moment.
He nodded slightly, and walked over to stand next to her. “Will you sit down?”
She followed his lead when he sat on the couch. Then she stared at the coffee table in front of them. He remained silent, waiting for her to speak. When she turned to look at him, the concern as well as exhaustion in his eyes were obvious. “I was almost too late,” she said. Her voice was barely above a whisper, and it cracked on the last word.
“Lizzie,” he said, eyes softening even further, “please don't blame y--”
“But I do!” she cried, pulling her hand away from his and standing up again. She took several strides away. “It was too close! If I, if I had gotten there just one second later, you would be--” She couldn't finish, and now she was crying in earnest.
Red stood and pulled her into an embrace. He said nothing, but held her until the storm passed. Sometime in the intervening minutes, he led her back to the couch and they both sat back down. When she was quiet and her breathing had started to steady, he continued to hold her as he said, “You have to try to dwell on what you did accomplish, not on what almost happened. That's the only way to move forward.” She felt him take a deep breath, and she bit her lip when it hitched a little. “You saved my life, Lizzie.”
She shut her eyes for a little while and listened to him breathe, felt his heart beat. Finally she pulled away slowly and wiped her face with a tissue from her pocket. She thought maybe some of the panic, grief, and guilt were fading.
“Are you feeling better now?” asked Red. He had not stopped watching her.
Nodding, Liz sat back against the couch. They would both be able to accept the events of this last night eventually, she believed. It wasn't all fixed, but they could get there. At least Red hadn't asked her again to promise she wouldn't risk herself for him. Hopefully he saw that was not a promise she would keep.
But her nearly-too-late arrival to rescue him wasn't the only issue that had brought her here this morning. “We haven't talked about it,” she said abruptly.
“What I should do if you die.” She said the words in a rush, then met his gaze again. “Or for that matter, what preparations I should make for my organization in case I die.”
His eyebrows rose. “You want to talk about this now?”
“No,” Liz admitted, “but there isn't going to be a time when I want to. And I don't want to be unprepared, either.”
Red didn't reply for so long that she got ready to press, to insist that he answer. But then he cleared his throat and said, “I'm sure you're not surprised to know that I've made detailed arrangements for what will happen to my organization and my business interests if I'm killed.” She shook her head, and he went on, “I've updated those plans several times in the last several years. In the event that I'm unable to direct you to it in person, both Dembe and Mr. Kaplan know where my will is located.” He focused his gaze on her. “You're the executor and beneficiary of the vast majority of my estate, aside from a provision for Dembe, and for my ex-wife, of which she is to remain unaware.”
Liz swallowed and nodded. This was what she had expected, as far as she allowed herself to think on this topic. “And your business empire?”
“By tradition it will belong to you, as well. You know that from what happened with Terrance and his father,” Red said. “Of course, if you'd rather not be at the head of an international criminal organization, you would be well within your rights and within our customs to call a meeting of all of my lieutenants, associates, and employees and install whoever you think is most suitable to take over the running of day-to-day operations.” He gave a brief smile. “I won't be around to see what you do with it, so I can only request that you do your best not to destabilize everything I've spent decades building.”
“I promise I'll try not to damage your legacy,” Liz said, with a quick, sad smile of her own.
At that, Red tilted his head and said, “Lizzie, although it's important to me, my business will not be my legacy. Even if all the networks and alliances and everything I've built do collapse after I'm gone, my true legacy – which is far more important to me – will be secure. Of that I'm certain.”
She looked down at her hands in her lap. A more genuine smile crossed her face despite the weight of the estimation he held her in. “Okay,” she said after a pause, “so I need to update my will, too.”
“Especially if you haven't done so since you were married,” Red agreed. “If you don't have a lawyer in mind, I know of several.”
“Of course you do,” said Liz. She knew he could hear the mixture of affection and irritation in her tone. “I'll let you know.”
“Good.” Red stood up, and offered her his hand. “I think that's enough discussion of heavy topics for one morning. Do you want to return to your apartment, or stay here for a few hours? Dembe can drive you back in your car if you wish.”
Liz accepted his hand to help her get up from the couch. Exhaustion was definitely making itself known. She wasn't sure how functional she would be able to be at work in … she looked at her phone. Three hours. God. Today was going to be unbearable.
“Stay here,” Red said, concern back in his expression. “Dembe or I can call Agent Ressler in a few hours and let him know where you are. You need to rest.”
It was tempting – more tempting than similar offers had been in the past. That was probably a combination of her fatigue, and the comfort it would be to know that Red was in the same house, alive and well. Not dead on the floor of the King mansion. “Fine,” she said at last. “But I'm setting an alarm to get up in time for work.”
He chuckled. “I so admire your work ethic,” he told her. They were walking out of the front room now. “I'll show you the room I have in mind for you, just down this hall here. It should be very comfortable. And I have a few items of clothing for you as well – just things I've picked up for you on my travels. You can take them with you when you leave, or not.”
Liz shook her head, rolling her eyes even as she yawned hugely. They stopped in front of a door, and Red opened it and turned on the light. “Here you are. Sleep well.”
She blinked at the spacious, richly-furnished room and stepped inside. Then she turned to look back at her father. He gave her another smile. As he left, she called after him softly, “You too.”