Red unlocks the door to his current safe house, dropping the key onto the hall table before he sheds his coat and hangs it on the peg by the door, not bothering to switch on any lights as he heads for the study in search of a glass of scotch. He's still smiling vaguely, his thoughts lingering on his pleasant night out with Anne, sitting comfortably next to her in the darkness of the movie theatre, enjoying a film and feeling truly happy for the first time since Katarina returned and ruined everything.

(But he can't quite ignore the tiny seed of guilt in his heart that sits right next to his love for Lizzie, that surviving ember of devotion that she hasn't quite managed to kill, that nagging thought that he would have preferred to take Lizzie to the movies instead, something he knows is completely illogical given that Lizzie has emphatically vowed to destroy him and would rather put a bullet in his chest than spend any time with him at all -)

Red enters the study and is abruptly shaken out of his conflicting thoughts by the feeling of an unexpected breeze on his face, and he glances up, frowning, to see the French doors are standing open to the dark back garden, the white curtains dancing gently in the wind, an electricity and moisture on the air that tells him a storm is coming.

The back of Red's neck prickles.

He didn't leave the doors open when he left.

"Hello, Red."

His head snaps around and, before he can react, Lizzie is melting out of the shadows of the dark study, and his heart is responding, nearly leaping out of his chest in its familiar, involuntary reaction to the sight of her.

(And oh, he was a fool to think he could ever abandon his love for her.)

"Lizzie," he croaks, surprised and thrilled and more than a little wary as she glides across the dark room toward him. "What are you doing here?"

"I was curious about your mystery woman on the phone yesterday," she murmurs to him, her blue eyes nearly glowing in the darkness surrounding them. "So, I decided to pay a visit…and I saw you with her tonight."

Red swallows dryly, feeling oddly guilty at the idea of Lizzie seeing him with Anne, however innocently. "Oh yes?"

"Mhm," Lizzie says, coming closer, making Red take a few instinctive steps back, edging unconsciously around the circumference of the room toward the open French doors, keeping his back to the book-shelved wall. "I watched your parting kiss outside the movie theater, and I felt…I felt…"

Red frowns, pausing in his backward motion as he takes in Lizzie's expression. He'd only kissed Anne on the cheek, a purposefully chaste gesture, still tentative in their interactions and unsure if they'll progress any further. But Lizzie has a strange light in her eyes and a certain purposefulness in her steps that tells Red she didn't quite see it that way.

"…felt what, Lizzie?"

She's caught up to him now, where he's hesitating near the French doors, close enough to touch the soft, white curtains as she finally steps up to him, surprising him by reaching up to grab two fistfulls of his dress shirt and shove him backward so his back hits the wall of books behind him with a dull thud -


And she's crushing her lips to his with a heat and possessiveness he's only ever caught a glimpse of in passing - flickering in and out of her eyes at odd times - now out in full force as she presses the length of her body to his and he can only reach out with both hands, grip the shelves on either side of him, and hold on.

(And this feels eerily similar to another encounter in another safe house against another bookshelf, one where her eyes had flashed the very same way before shoved him against the wall and he had gripped the shelves and wished with all his heart that she would kiss him exactly like she's doing right now.)

Lizzie tilts her head to the side and her lips surge against his, her jaw working powerfully in a way that sends a swoop through his stomach and has him letting out a gutted moan into her mouth, feeling feverish and hot. In answer to his moan, Lizzie presses closer, her tongue suddenly sweeping into his mouth and tangling with his own. He can only do his best to keep up with her intensity as she devours him, reveling in the feeling of her pressed up against his front and the twinge of the shelves digging into his back, until she pulls back with a long suck on his bottom lip and a wet popping noise.

Red struggles for a long moment to open his eyes, feeling his mouth hanging agape as his eyes finally fix on her, captivated by her glowing blue eyes and red, swollen lips. The silky curtain next to them wafts upward on the intensifying stormy breeze, brushing her flushed cheek with the edge. She's breathing heavily as her eyes dart to take in his outstretched arms, his hands grasping the shelves so tightly he's sure his knuckles are white, and he's shocked as he watches Lizzie's pupils grow large.

(And, oh, they are suited for each other in more ways than he dared imagine.)

The curtains blow again and Lizzie surges back in, this time bypassing his lips completely and attaching her lips to his neck instead, her teeth nipping and mouth sucking with a low groan that has Red gasping for air, shifting his head unthinkingly to allow her better access.

"L-Lizzie…" he stutters, his voice gravelly and hitching in the middle as her tongue presses over his pulse point. "What - What are you doing?"

She doesn't answer, only humming against him as she scrapes her teeth over the sensitive skin between his neck and shoulder, her hands releasing their grip on his shirt to press flat against his chest, pushing him more firmly against the bookcase behind him. He lets out another deep groan, unable to help himself from being completely swept away by her attentions, reveling in the fact that, after so long apart, she is suddenly so close.

(And yet not nearly close enough.)

Lizzie starts to kiss her way up his neck as one hand slides up his chest to cup the back of his head, her nails scraping across his scalp and through his closely scorn hair. Red leans desperately into the contact, completely overwhelmed at suddenly, finally being touched this way by Lizzie, barely remembering that he wanted to ask her something as she rubs sensuously against him, the breeze from outside picking up and fluttering the curtain around them both, the soft fabric ghosting over their overheated skin in the dark.

"Lizzie, please…" he whispers, his voice hoarse and pleading. "Please."

And he's not even sure what he's begging for, really, not sure if he wants her to stop immediately or continue forever, but the whole thing is starting to transcend reality, making it seem like a particularly cruel and familiar dream, the masochistic, self-loathing part of his brain refusing to accept this as genuine.

"This…" he breathes, trying valiantly to form words as Lizzie tugs on his earlobe with her teeth. "This isn't you, Lizzie."

For some reason, these words get her attention when none of his previous attempts at speech seemed to make it through to her, and she's pulling back so suddenly that he can't repress a mournful keen at the loss of her warm mouth on his skin.

"You don't know who I am," she whispers, keeping her face close to his, staring defiantly into his eyes as she speaks, before his lips attract her attention and she's kissing him again.

Red can't help but kiss her back for a few languid seconds, reveling in the wet slide of their lips together before she pulls back to nibble at his chin, freeing his mouth to let him breathe and allowing him to speak.

"Yes, I do," he whispers, feeling the truth of it reverberating in the room around them, echoing with the thunder now audible in the far distance and the occasional drops of rain starting to fall in the garden outside. "I know you, Lizzie."

Lizzie pauses, considering him, the blue of her eyes almost drowned out by the black of her pupils. "Maybe I've changed," she murmurs, her voice losing some of its defiance, sounding a little more uncertain. "Maybe you don't know me anymore."

She leans in to nip at his bottom lip, clearly trying to distract herself, and he lets her, loving the little prick of pain where her teeth abuse the raw skin. He steals a quick, soft kiss before she can pull away again, and then whispers back to her.

"It doesn't matter," he breathes. "I'd know you anywhere, Lizzie."

Lizzie blinks, her brows coming together in a delicate frown as she takes in his reverent words, and he hopes she can hear the sheer adoration in them, all for her.

(Because it doesn't matter if Anne made him smile once, a single fleeting moment in time. He may have leaned on her for support in a needy moment, but that's what friends are for. He's loved Lizzie for longer than he can measure and, despite it all, he hasn't stopped yet.)

A forceful gust of wind picks up outside, bringing the rain to fall more steadily onto the flowers in the garden, and lifting the curtain up to dance between them, covering Lizzie's face for a breathtaking instant, her blue eyes still managing to pierce through the sheer fabric, boring into him as she breathes a sentence into the stormy air, the most vulnerable he's heard her in a long time.

"Maybe I don't know who I am anymore…"

Her voice is nothing but a breathy whisper and the wind seems to snatch away her words with the curtain, whisking them away into the night to be washed away in the rain.

(And he can't help but feel pity for her, so clearly floundering in the chaos her life has become, all a result of him and everything he tries so desperately to protect her from. Because he knows firsthand how easy it is to feel completely untethered and lost when the unthinkable happens and it feels like no one is left.)

But Red refuses to let the moment pass without reaffirming to her the last truth he holds dear to him.

"For what it's worth," he whispers, daring to unlock one hand from the bookshelf behind him to reach up and catch a lock of her long, dark hair tumbling in the wind, tucking it behind her ear and stroking the back of his hand gently down her face. "I still love you."

Lizzie blinks at him, her eyes filling up with tears at his words, the blue of her irises shining forth as thunder rumbles, closer this time, and she surprises him once more by reaching up to brush his face with her hand - an answering gesture, an imitation of his caress, an unspoken reciprocation - before she's suddenly gone, her weight and warmth disappearing from his body, freeing him from his delicious torture as she flits out of the room through the French doors, the curtain whipping around her as she darts out of sight, out into the garden and into the stormy night.

Red doesn't stop her, still stunned and leaning heavily against the shelves, hearing the heavy rain now falling outside, the storm arriving, hoping against hope that she'll be back when she's ready because, no matter what happens…no matter what she does, how she hurts him, who else he meets, how he tries to move on?

He can't let her go.

Red takes a deep breath, smelling the rain in the air and relishing the cool breeze on his warm face.

Because Lizzie is worth it.

Red closes his eyes, listening to the thunder rumbling in the distance.

She has always been worth it.