Chapter 1

Red pushes open the door to Anne's house, driven by that intense desire for happiness and a little peace, the very thing that got him into all the trouble of the last twenty-four hours in the first place, so excited to sweep her back up into his arms once again that he doesn't stop and wonder why the door was unlocked, practically running through the house to find her.


And then he steps into the kitchen and the pure, unadulterated shock and horror that rocks through him at what he sees freezes his feet to the floor, sending his heart stuttering in his chest as he looks wide-eyed at Anne, who is tied to her kitchen chair and staring at him with blatant fear on her face, and he manages to drag his eyes upward to find -


After months of no contact, radio silence, Lizzie simply gone in the wind, she is suddenly standing a foot away from him with a gun to Anne's head and looking somehow just as shocked to see him as he is to see her -

(And the sight of Lizzie standing in the very living room where he and Anne had sex last night is so profoundly strange and uncomfortable and churning up the acid in his stomach and making him want to retch -)

"Ah, Red, I see you've finally decided to join us."

The familiar voice coming from around the corner in the living room sets Red's skin crawling and he grits his teeth in anger.

"Neville," he growls. "I thought I told you to leave her out of this."

"Yes, I seem to recall you saying something of the sort," Neville drawls, moving forward into the kitchen. "But you seem to have forgotten, Red."

Townsend comes to a stop in front of him.

"We're criminals."

(And Red feels like he could cry from the sheer despair he feels washing through him, because no matter how hard he fought to keep Anne safe through the siege on the police station, no matter how dearly he's wished that she never come to harm, his worst nightmare is coming to life right in front of him and he has no idea how he's going to stop it -)

"She's not a criminal," Red points out through gritted teeth. "Just let her go, Neville, and we can settle this between the two of us."

Townsend shakes his head, blinking lazily at him. "Oh, I don't think so, Red. She'll stay here with us for a little…incentive. I need to make sure I'm getting all I can out of you before I kill you, and she" - he points a vicious finger at Anne - "seems to be the best way to accomplish that."

Townsend ignores Red's obvious fuming, seething with anger to try and cover his crippling fear, and positions himself behind Anne, placing his hands on the back of her chair.

"That is, since you've parted ways with our mutual friend here," he amends, and gestures with one hand to Lizzie, who hasn't moved, still standing in the same place and pointing her gun at Anne.

Red spares a moment to anxiously study Lizzie, and she takes her eyes off Anne long enough to look back at him. As they stare wordlessly at each other, for the first time in months, and Red can only implore with his eyes, asking just one question.

Why, Lizzie, why?

And the longer he looks, the more Red starts to observe, the way her brow is faintly creased, the suspicious moisture in her blue eyes, the fact that the hand holding her gun is trembling ever so slightly.

(What exactly is going on here?)

"Red," Townsend snaps, reclaiming his attention in an instant. "You killed my family and now you're finally going to pay."

"That's what our mutual friend told you, Neville," Red snaps back. "And I've told you, many times, that that is false. Katarina Rostova killed your family, not me."

Townsend squints at him, his hands clenching around the back of Anne's chair, and Red looks down to meet her eyes, trying desperately to tell her how sorry he is, to not be scared, that he will get her out of this if it kills him -

"I don't believe you, Red," Townsend says, sounding bored. "And now she's going to pay."

Townsend pulls a gun out of his jacket and releases the safety with a damning click. Anne squeezes her eyes shut, making a single tear slide down her face.

(And when Red finally gets his hands on Neville, he is going to suffer and if Anne dies, it will be all Red's fault -)


The unexpected voice makes both their heads turn to look at Lizzie, who is now glaring at Townsend, all traces of uncertainty and fear erased from her face.

"Stop," she mutters harshly to him. "She's innocent. Let her go and we can deal with Reddington."

Red's eyebrows rise on his forehead, completely stunned at her words.

Townsend, on the other hand, glares at Liz. "Miss Keen, in case you've forgotten, the securing of Miss Foster was your doing. Getting to this point was a test of your loyalty. You have passed. Any attempt to sabotage this operation will force me to rescind that passing grade. So, please…don't be stupid."

Red feels a cold horror wash through him at the realization that the ruin of their idyllic bubble of domesticity, this intense betrayal of trust, the unacceptable endangering of Anne's safety was all Lizzie's doing.

(And he doesn't know why he's surprised, because of course it was.)

Through his intense sadness, Red sees Lizzie's eyes flash dangerously at Townsend's brush off, his condescending tone clearly angering her.

"Townsend, I said -"

"Neville, let's talk -"

But Townsend has apparently heard enough from the both of them. He rolls his eyes dramatically and, with a deep sigh, he fires a round into Anne's right calf.

"No!" Red roars.

"Townsend, god damn it!" Lizzie screams.

Red and Lizzie's combined cries are nearly drowned out by Anne's scream of pain, muffled around her gag, her eyes squeezing shut in pain as tears now fall rapidly down her face.

"Anne? Anne, look at me, please," Red begs, now ignoring Townsend and Lizzie, speaking only to her. "Anne, I'm so sorry, you're going to be okay. I will get us out of this, I swear, please, just hang on -"

Anne just looks up at him through her tears and Red feels rather like his heart is being ripped in two, drowning in fear and guilt and the desperate wish that he could take her pain away, absorb it into himself and spare her any suffering.

It's only the sound of Lizzie's yelling that gets his attention again.

"Townsend, you son of a bitch, this is not what we agreed!"

And Townsend gives no warning at all before turns and fires off another round, this time at Lizzie.

Red gives an inarticulate yell out of pure instinct, fear now overtaking him for Lizzie, but it's clear by the way she only staggers slightly that it was an intentional warning shot, and only just grazed her left shoulder.

But it's still bleeding.

Townsend seems unfazed as he gives another heavy sigh, turning fully to look at Lizzie, his patience clearly wearing thin.

"Ms. Keen, you came to me with incriminating information on Raymond Reddington and asked for my assistance to end him. This is how that happens. If you're having some sort of second thoughts, that is not my problem. Now if you wish to be included in the conclusion of this operation, you will please either assist me or simply shut u-"

But now it's Lizzie's turn to give an exasperated sigh and roll her eyes, losing her patience in the blink of an eye, and shooting Townsend in the head. His body crumples to the floor before Red can even process what's happened, and Lizzie is quickly holstering her gun and hurrying towards Anne.

"Don't touch her!" Red snarls, staggering forward, desperate to protect Anne from any further harm, but the warning dies on his lips as Lizzie once again surprises him.

She swiftly unties Anne from the kitchen chair, pulls the gag from her mouth, and lowers her gently from the chair to lie on the floor instead.

"Help me!" she snaps, and Red realizes with a start that she's addressing him.

(For the first time in months, she's here and talking to him and things are happening much too fast -)

But Anne's weak groan of pain immediately gets his attention once again, and he's falling to his knees next to her, cupping her face with a gentle palm.

"Anne, I'm so sorry, sweetheart, I'm so, so sorry -"

"Take off my belt," Lizzie snaps, her tone business-like and almost unfamiliar with how long it's been, her hands busy pressing firmly on Anne's wound while Red can only stare blankly at her.

(And the blunt direction of something so intimate jars him, thinking deliriously back to Anne doing that very thing to him last night in this exact room, and she wasted no time in taking hold of his -)

"Red!" barks Lizzie, and it's her saying his name that rips him out of his vivid memories, stops things conflating oddly in his head, removing him from his uncharacteristic shock at this familiar situation in a place where it shouldn't be, a bleeding Anne and Lizzie on the floor looking so very out of place in his domestic safe haven and oh, he hates this.

"Red, take off my belt and make a tourniquet, she's losing too much blood!"

So, Red forces his frozen fingers to reach forward and move aside Lizzie's jacket to mechanically unbuckle and slide off her belt.

(And he tries desperately to ignore the brushing of his fingers against the soft skin of her waist where her blouse has shifted.)

Trying desperately to focus, he sets to work securing the belt above Anne's wound, making a sturdy tourniquet as he did not twelve hours ago for her best friend, the well-meaning police officer that got shot in nearly the same place all because of him, and dear god, there has been far too much bloodshed today -

"How long until Dembe gets here with back up?"

Red frowns at her words, filtering muddily through his confused brain. "What?"

"How long until Dembe gets here with back up?" she repeats impatiently. "You've missed your meeting by now, he'll have figured out there's trouble. How long?"

Red doesn't know how she knows they were supposed to meet and he doesn't care enough right now to ask. He manages to clear his mind long enough to do the mental calculations, factoring in how long it took him to drive back here to Anne's house, and how long the stand-off with Townsend lasted.

"Probably around ten minutes."

"Okay," Lizzie mutters. "She'll be alright until then if we keep pressure on it. Dembe better have a mobile medic station standing by."

"He always does," Red mutters, getting distracted by Anne once again, still crying from the pain, her eyelids starting to droop.

Red reaches forward to stroke a hand down her face again. "Anne, I'm so sorry…" he repeats, at a loss for what else to say.

Anne doesn't speak, simply reaching up to brush her weak fingers across his cheek in response.

(And he leans into the touch just like he always does, because he's just a selfish fool -)

"Red," Lizzie says, quieter now, as he takes Anne's hand gently in his own before looking up at her. "Red, I tried to dissuade him from coming here, but he wouldn't listen to me."

Red says nothing, too concerned for Anne to listen to any of her justifications or explanations. But she continues anyway, despite his obvious disinterest.

"I couldn't believe you came here so many times anyway. You should have known he would pick up on it," she mutters, shaking her head and sighing quietly across from him. "Red, how could you be so stupid?"

He looks up sharply at that, unable to handle the hypocrisy and misplaced judgement from her in this moment, while Anne is suffering in between them.

"Maybe I just wanted a little familiarity and comfort amid all the havoc you've wrought in the last few months," he growls at her. "That's a feeling that must be familiar to you, surely, with the amount of times you skipped back to Tom? Or perhaps your one night stand with a certain FBI agent?"

It's a low blow and he knows it, but it serves its intended purpose, making Lizzie's eyes harden and her jaw clamp shut.

(And despite his anger, Red feels a twinge of guilt.)

"How's your arm?" he asks gruffly after a tense moment.

"I'll live," she mutters and Red only nods, distracted again upon hearing the tell-tale crunching of gravel.

Dembe is here.

Thank god.

(Something inside him relaxes a little at the knowledge that his oldest and dearest friend is now here to help. At least he knows that, unlike Lizzie, Dembe can be trusted.)

Red feels a familiar hand on his shoulder and starts speaking at a low, quick pace.

"Single gunshot wound to right calf, missed major arteries, tourniquet applied successfully, moderate blood loss, still bleeding profusely. She needs immediate medical attention. What's nearest?"

"We have a cabin less than ten miles away," Dembe says calmly in his ear. "It can be prepared with a doctor waiting there in less than fifteen minutes. Harrison can keep her stable until then."

"Thank you," Red whispers and Dembe only squeezes his shoulder again before leaving his side, presumably to take care of Townsend's body.

Harrison takes Dembe's place and starts work on stabilizing Anne, Red watching carefully all the while. It's only a few long minutes before her wound is temporarily bandaged and she's ready to be moved to the vehicle. Dembe and Harrison position themselves at her head and Red leans over her to speak softly.

"Anne, we're going to move you now. Just hang on, sweetheart, we'll have you to a doctor in just a few minutes, alright?"

Anne nods mutely and squeezes his hand once before he prepares to help lift and move her out to the car, going quickly to her feet where he is suddenly surprised to find Lizzie already waiting for him. Red looks at her, his face hard, silently questioning.

"I'd like to make sure she's okay," she murmurs, only to him. "May I come with you?"

Red frowns, grinding his teeth, wondering why on earth she should care about Anne's future when she's the very one who put it in jeopardy to begin with. But her tone is tentative for the first time in this whole disastrous thing and Red recognizes begrudgingly that she's asking permission. And, judging by the fact that she hasn't touched Anne since Dembe got here, she will listen if he says no.

(And he's so very mad at her for everything she's done, her childish behavior, her inability to comprehend consequences, her disregard for the safety of innocent people, for how far she's fallen. And, with Anne bleeding next to him, he truly doesn't know if he can ever forgive her. But this is Lizzie he's looking at, and everything he feels for Anne he has felt for Lizzie at one point or another.

And he thinks he'd be lying if he said he doesn't still feel something for her.)

So, instead of giving her a straight answer, Red asks a question in return. "Can your arm handle it?"

Lizzie's face relaxes a little, hearing his quiet acceptance in the question, and nods her head in affirmation, shifting back into her business-like tone. "Don't worry about me."

They turn as one to lift Anne's legs and, with Dembe and Harrison carrying her head carefully, they start to move in a careful procession to the car. And as they go, Lizzie inexplicably helping him save Anne's life, Red murmurs one more thing, keeping his eyes on Anne all the while.

"Why stop now?"