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By Stardust585



His hands.

Grasping hers as they speed through the streets only Dembe knows where, and she hates how weak his grip is. Her own hands and her coat are covered in his blood mixed with her own tears that just can't seem to stop falling.

"Lizzie-" she hears him rasp out weakly, oh so weakly, and she thought she has no more tears left but here they are again.

"Don't try to speak," she tells him, trying to muster a smile and failing miserably. She didn't think this could hurt so much. She turns her gaze away.

His grip becomes just a fraction stronger and her eyes are drawn back first to his hands and then to his face, the blood coming from his mouth clashing so horribly with the ghastly whiteness of the skin underneath.

"I'm-" every word brings him physical pain, she can almost feel it herself, but he still perseveres. "-sorry. So sorry."

She lets out a shaky breath and squeezes his hand back. "I know. It's OK," is all she can get out even though she has forgiven him already. She would forgive him for anything as long as he gets to live another day.

His grip loses all strength altogether and his hands slip away from her grasp.

Hot coffee.

Dembe puts a plastic cup in her hands as he sits himself next to her in the waiting room.

"How is this possible?" she asks angrily, squeezing the cup, her hands still slick from Red's blood. "How could he have not foreseen this! He is always two steps ahead! How did you not see this coming?!" she spits out and turns to Dembe, accusation in her eyes.

"I will regret this until the day I die," he tells her, his tone anguished, and she can see the tears in her eyes reflected in his gaze.

Liz feels her anger evaporate in an instant, shame and pain taking its place. It's not Dembe's fault. If anyone's, it's hers. She should have given Red the Fulcrum a long time ago.

"I'm sorry," she whispers.

"He has been off his game lately," Dembe says quietly. "And he hasn't been keeping me in the loop much. Said it could put me in danger."

When he speaks, Liz connects the dots – the debacle with Luther Braxton, getting caught by the Kings, now this. It all seems so uncharacteristically reckless of him. There was something going on and she was too wrapped up in her own drama, in Tom, to even notice. And just moments ago she was about to leave him for good, not realizing how much danger he was in. And the worst of it is that she had almost convinced herself that she did not care.

"What could put you in danger, Dembe?" she asks although she already knows the answer.

"The Fulcrum. That's why he wanted you to give it to him."

"That was to save his own skin," she can't help but remark bitterly.

"True," Dembe admits. "But it was also to save you. Those two goals don't exclude each other, they complement each other," he says. "You have to believe you have always been his priority," he adds after a moment.

"Like with Tom?"

"Do you know why he did it?"

"I really don't want to hear it, Dembe."

"But you should. From him."

Then a doctor in bloody scrubs appears in front of them and the hot coffee slips from her grasp, spilling on the floor.

Steady beeping.

The beeping of life support machines gives her a feeling of bitter comfort and fills the hollowness inside her with hope. He's alive. Barely, but he's hanging on.

There is a spider-web of tubes and sensors leading up from his arms and chest to various machines positioned around his bed. The sound of ventilators and other medical equipment pumping his blood, breathing for him and keeping his other body functions working gives the sight an eerie air of unreality.

She hates how fragile he looks. The strong, rich, powerful businessman, the charming criminal who is always in control and at home everywhere, he now looks so vulnerable and frail it claws at her heart.

"Goddammit, Red," she whispers although she knows he can't hear her. "If I didn't know better, I'd say you did this on purpose. Because after this, how could I ever leave you?" she doesn't know if it's more a question for him or for herself.

There is no response. She lets out a shaky breath.

"You'd better wake up," she warns him, her lips a thin line. "Because you have some serious explaining to do. Dembe tried to cover for you but I want – I do want – to hear it from you. So that I can scream at you and give you the silent treatment and then scream at you some more. So you see, you have much to look forward to. Do you hear me?"

She wishes for a disparaging remark, a sarcastic come-back or even a long-winded tale so much but his face, always so expressive and full of life, remains a pale unmoving mask. She gently touches her hand to his cheek. A slight stubble is starting to set in but his is cheek soft. Soft and cold.

She swallows. "You know I didn't mean any of it. You always know."

There is the slightest movement of his fingers she is holding in her hand. She's definitely imagining it, she knows it but she can't help the feelings it brings out. Tears she's been trying to rein in start to spill again. She gives him a small smile and leans in, placing a gentle kiss on his forehead.

Then she lets it slip because she can't hold it in any longer.

"I love you."

The beeping of machines and the slow but steady rhythm of his breathing lulls her into a fitful slumber, her hand still tightly clasping his.

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