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Seal Your Fate

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There wasn’t a lot about Beth’s childhood that she really wanted to remember.  Too many memories overshadowed by some kind of sadness that hurt just as much now as they had thirty years ago.  Even the day she met Ruby for the first time was always a reminder of how Beth had to steal her mother’s car to buy food for her and Annie when it was clear no one else would. 

It’s the reason she always goes a little overboard with her own kids (and Sadie, Sara, and Harry if she’s being honest).  She just never wants them to know the same emptiness she did or feel like they’re a burden to her and Dean.  

So maybe she rents that extra large bounce house for Kenny’s birthday or bakes fifteen kinds of Thanksgiving-themed desserts for Emma’s fall pageant - god she’d even robbed a grocery store to keep a roof over their heads.  Every little thing was worth it though when she’d see their little faces covered in icing smiling up at her in a way she’d never done to her parents.

She doesn’t even care when Ruby makes snarky comments about the latest recipe Beth’s made or Annie’s exaggerated noises and faces when she pulls out the latest quilt she’s sewn.  It had taken years but Beth had managed to create the perfect life she’d always wanted and sure it included more crime than she ever would have expected but it was hers.  

Which is why now, at the moment that feels like her last, she’s surprised that none of those things come to mind.

Instead all she can think about as she struggles to breathe under the weight of the gun pressed to her neck is her mother’s frail form curled under four blankets despite the lingering Detroit summer heat, her voice so rough and scratchy from years of indulging in Marlboro Lights repeating “you get what you get and you don’t get upset.”

And Beth guesses this is what she gets even if she doesn’t understand why.

It’s just that it had all happened so quickly - too quickly for Beth to really figure out what was happening until it was too late.  One minute she was trying to decipher the emoji-filled message Annie had sent her and the next someone had thrown a bag over her head, the pressure of the fabric cutting off her air as they dragged her away from the van and shoved her into the trunk of a black sedan.

She doesn’t even know how long it’s been since she was taken - time somehow both crawling and speeding by - but it has to have been long enough for someone to notice she’s gone right?  This couldn’t be her end she hopes as the bag is ripped off her head and harsh fluorescent lights overwhelm her.

Her eyes take a few seconds to adjust to the bright street lights streaming in from the tall windows in front of her then all she can see are thick wooden pillars and white walls that were once lined with abstract art painted with shades of green.  

The same hurt she’d felt seeing Rio’s empty loft the day before rushes through her as she looks around the barren space that had once seemed so lived in and decorated with the meticulous care she’d expected of Rio.  

Although it’s not quite as empty as it had been yesterday morning.  A cheap card table is set up in the middle of the loft with old folding chairs sitting around three of the sides, the hurt she’d felt turning to dread when she notices a small bag next to one of the chairs.

The floor creaks behind her and Beth braces herself to face whoever had decided to steal her from her front yard when she sees...

Turner?

Which if she was being honest of all the names and faces she’d run through when she was trapped in that trunk he wasn’t just at the bottom of the list, he hadn’t even come to mind.  Not after Stan had called her that afternoon to tell her that the investigation had been officially closed and that Turner was being sent back to Baltimore with his tail between his legs.

“Nice place right?” he comments, pulling her deeper into the room.  “Little birdie told me it was empty and I couldn’t pass up this prime piece of real estate.  Do you see all that exposed brick?”

Her breath sounds so loud in the space, each ragged exhale irritating her throat raw from screaming.  It’s just that none of this makes sense.  

“What...” 

“Now I’m sorry I didn’t have the time to prepare the same delicious spread you did for me, but I do have something I think you’ll find is exactly your taste,”  Turner says, pushing Beth down into one of the folding chairs. “So why don’t you get comfortable and I’ll be right back so we can have a little talk.”

She watches as he disappears behind the only set of doors in Rio’s loft, the soft click of the door shutting bringing her to her feet.  No matter what Turner said she wasn’t going to just sit around to see what he had in store for her - if it was a choice between fight or flight Beth was picking flight.

Kicking her slippers aside to quiet her steps, Beth moves as quickly as she can towards the front door, her socks sliding on the hardwood floor in her haste.  It takes her a few seconds to stop her hands from shaking enough to grasp the doorknob and twist the lock, the metal click bringing a small smile to her face.

Glancing back towards the bathroom Beth sees the door is luckily still shut and a flicker of hope warms her heart at the thought that she’s actually done it - she’s actually managed to save herself.  Turning the handle swiftly, she tugs the door forward only for it to stop almost immediately and jerk her forward slightly.

Firming her hold on the handle she pulls a few more times with the same result before slamming the door in frustration.  Whatever hope she’d just felt is quickly replaced by a gnawing heaviness in her stomach when she takes in the thick chain bolted across the top of the door much too high for her to reach with how her hands are tied behind her back.

“Shit,” Beth groans softly, resting her back against the door to look around the room.  There was still time, she could still get out of here despite what the voice in the back of her head was trying to tell her.

Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of options besides the front door she realizes dimly, the open space of Rio’s loft severely limiting any potential hiding places.  It was almost as if Rio had selected the space knowing that in the future it would make her life more difficult.

Stepping away from the door to look around the kitchen (maybe Rio had left behind a frying pan or something?) a loud bang from the bathroom stops Beth in her tracks, her arms instinctively raising to press against her chest before the ropes stop their progress short.

Through the frosted glass she can just make out two silhouettes struggling with one another, the sound of fists hitting flesh breaking the silence in the loft and making her blood run cold.

And she really needed to find a way out if she wanted to avoid finding out what was happening behind those doors or have it happen to her instead.  

Then she sees it.  

The window above the fire escape was propped open and really didn’t that feel too perfect?

Maybe too perfect she thinks, her gaze shifting the few feet from the window to the bathroom.  The noises had stopped, but she can still see a shadow moving behind the glass.  

What if it was a trap?  Just an easy way for Turner to lull her into a false sense of security before he did whatever he had planned for her? 

Taking in a deep breath to steady herself, Beth closes her eyes as she weighs the risk in her muddled head.  But really what choice did she have if she wanted to survive?

Squaring her shoulders quickly, she starts towards the window only to pause when she notices a sliver of yellow light start to grow along the hardwood, just enough of a warning to let her make it back to the table before the door bangs open against the wall.

All the air seems to leave the room when she sees who’s with Turner because of course it’s Rio being dragged out of the bathroom, only the talons of his eagle tattoo visible under the hem of the burlap sack covering his head.

And this, this was not going to end well Beth thinks, wincing slightly when her elbow knocks against the metal back of the chair as she falls back into her seat at the table.

“Well would you look at that?  The gang’s all here,” Turner laughs, shoving Rio into the chair opposite Beth and removing his covering.  “I believe you two know each other.”

She can see the moment Rio’s eyes adjust to the low light of the room and he notices her, his nostrils flaring as he takes in her mascara stained face.

There’s a small cut on his left eyebrow and a thick line of blood running down the side of his neck coloring one of the wings of his tattoo before darkening the collar of his button-up and Beth can’t help but think of the last time she’d seen him this bloody and battered when he was sitting across her dining room table waxing on about medieval kings. 

But despite his injuries she still feels the panic fade away for a minute.  With Rio here it definitely raised her chances of making it out alive. They could figure this out together.  

Rio waits until Turner moves to sit at the head of the table between them to raise his uninjured eyebrow at her and roll his shoulders purposely, his head slowly tilting down to his arms then to her and finally to Turner.

It takes her longer than she’s proud to admit to figure out what he wants, scrunching her nose slightly as she replays Rio’s movements a couple of times in her head before it finally clicks.  He was going to try to free himself and he needed her to distract Turner.

And she could do that right?  Push back against the panic trying to take control just long enough to give Rio a chance to get loose.  Sure it had been strained between them lately, but she could still trust him to save them.

Lifting her chin in acknowledgment at Rio, she sees the corner of his lips twitch and suddenly her ending seems like a beginning.

“What do you want?” Beth asks, turning to face Turner and the thick folder now resting on the table.

“I think even you would admit Mrs. Boland there’s a little unfinished business between the three of us that needs to be worked out.”

Rio scoffs under his breath and Beth can’t help but glare in frustration at him even if Turner’s comment was a massive understatement.

“I thought the investigation was closed,” she says, injecting as much confidence into her voice as she can.

The silence that follows her reply is awful, consuming the room and lingering long enough that it makes Beth nervous that she’d already managed to seal her fate until Turner finally says, “For now.”

“I’m not sure what else there is to talk about.” 

Laughing softly, Turner leans forward in his chair, his forearms resting on the tabletop.  “No? Well why don’t we start with how you managed to clear all the drugs out of your husband’s dealership right before the raid?  I mean that couldn’t have been easy.”

Beth opens her mouth to speak, but she honestly can’t think of a lie fast enough or one that would even help her right now under the weight of Turner’s stare.  Not that he seems to want an actual answer anyway. 

“Or what about the body that magically disappeared from the landfill?” he asks, pulling out a small photo from the file and sliding it over to Beth.  “I have to say I’ve never heard of this gardening technique before.”

She watches as the picture slowly comes to a stop in front of her, the panic she’d been trying so hard to overcome quickly overwhelming her.  

Even from this grainy cell phone photo she can easily make out herself standing with Annie and Ruby in her garden only hours before, shovels propped against their hips and Jeff’s trash bag wrapped body sitting just to the side of the freshly dug flower bed.  

“I, I…” 

Tapping his fingers on the file, a satisfied smile appears on Turner’s face.  Beth’s played right into his hand and they both know it. “Or you could let me know what you planned on doing with all that money we found in the storage unit on Gratiot and Mack?”

Pushing the file over to her, Beth can see more cell phone pictures clipped to the side just covering a piece of yellow carbon paper littered with Rio’s messy scrawl, her name clearly written in the renter information box and a familiar metal key taped to the top. 

A kingdom in her name. 

The room feels too hot suddenly, the air too thick to take in a breath.  And not that Beth had really expected any of this, but she definitely hadn’t anticipated Turner knowing anything about Jeff or the storage locker.  If he knew about that what else had he managed to dig up on her or the girls?  

“What do you want?” she asks, cringing when she hears how shrill her voice sounds echoing in the empty loft.

“Did you know that my team and I have been in Detroit for almost two years trying to figure out what our pal here has been up to?  We were getting pretty close too but always managed to hit dead ends. Then you showed up and it was like the heavens were finally looking down on us,” Turner lets out a soft chuckle, his hand lifting to undo the snap on his watch before refastening it tighter.  “Yet instead of helping us you ended up ruining everything we’d worked so hard on with that little stunt you pulled at the station. But I think even after all that there’s still something you can do for me.” 

“What’s that?” 

Rio has to be getting close at this point she hopes, this entire conversation was quickly spinning out of control and she just knows whatever Turner’s about to ask her isn’t going to be good.

“It seems to me that you and I both share a common problem, Mrs. Boland.”  Rising from his seat Turner moves to stand behind Rio, the muscles in Rio’s check twitching briefly when Turner’s hands rest on his shoulders and squeeze.

“He’s not my problem,” she finally says, the words getting caught in her throat.  And it’s not exactly a lie, but it definitely isn’t the truth either as she remembers her last conversation with Rio in this very apartment.

“No?  I must be really off base here then,” Turner comments, a smirk spreading across his face before he looks down at Rio.  “Oh man looks like your ties are undone there, let me just fix that real quick for you.”

Beth can feel the blood drain from her face as she watches Turner crouch to redo the knots in the rope that Rio had managed to get loose, tying them extra tight this time if the wince Rio lets out is anything to go by.

Biting the inside of her cheek Beth pulls on her own bindings before meeting Rio’s questioning eyes, knowing that with just one look he would understand that she wouldn’t be able to break free either, that she couldn’t save them the one time he actually needed her. 

For the first time tonight she thinks Rio looks almost defeated underneath all his anger, his gaze moving from her face to sweep around the loft like he knows what’s about to happen and that he’s powerless to stop it.

And that honestly scares her more than anything else.

“I just didn’t realize you were okay with being used as his cover is all, but I guess that’s what I get for assuming things,” Turner says, pulling her attention from the way Rio’s jaw was slowly working back and forth.

“Cover for what?” Beth asks even though deep down she already knows the answer.

Turner shrugs before moving to stand next to Rio, the street lights behind him casting a dark shadow across the table.  “You know I just have to ask, was it all because she got you and your buddies arrested? Was this whole thing just a way to get even while keeping your bed warm at the same time?”

And it all seems so obvious in hindsight she thinks, the blood pounding in her ears drowning out whatever else Turner was saying.  

Why Rio was so reluctant to share any details about the cars he had delivered to the dealership.  The body she had to pay him to find and the parts he sent her as a means of pulling her back in. How he had always kept her in the dark even when they were supposed to be partners.  The storage unit…

Her eyes find the crumpled paper again and follow the lines of her name, lingering on the e’s he somehow turned into r’s.  Even in his handwriting he’d managed to hide part of himself in her without her noticing.

All this time she really was just work for him, it wasn’t just some line he’d fed her that night in his car to throw her off balance in an argument.  All this time she thought there was something between them and he just saw her as a safety net, collateral damage.  

“You put it all on me,” Beth bites out, her gaze slowly shifting back to Rio and Turner, “so none of it was on you.”

“He put it all on you,” Turner repeats, pressing Rio back hard into his chair before walking around the table to stand next to Beth.  “I mean didn’t you ever wonder why our investigation on you ramped up so quickly? Pretty easy to do when someone’s leading my team right to your front door.”

Beth had always been envious of Rio’s ability to stay composed in any kind of situation, how he could always be in control no matter what was happening around him.  But now all she could feel was anger and humiliation blazing through her veins as she watches Rio just tilt his head back slightly to keep his eyes on Turner, the feathers of his tattoo catching the light as he says nothing.

Even when Dean had cheated on her and almost left her without a home she hadn’t felt this betrayed, this used.  

Choking back a sob Beth tries to push down the memory of Rio laying in bed next to her, the soft afternoon light warming his skin and highlighting the little crinkles around his eyes as he pulled her closer.  

“What do you want?” she asks again, gasping when she feels the ropes on her wrists go slack, one of her hands immediately lifting to rub the raw skin on the other.

 “Honestly Mrs. Boland I just want to go back home to Baltimore and be with my family again.  And I think you want the same thing,” Turner says, shifting his weight to pull something from his back pocket.  “But for that to happen I need you to help me take care of our mutual problem.”

Across the table Rio’s expression darkens as he takes in whatever Turner’s doing behind her back, his long black lashes eclipsing the deep brown eyes that had haunted her since the day they met.

“Now there are two ways we can do this,” he starts, stepping around Beth to lean against the table, Rio’s gold gun reflecting the low light of the loft in his hand.  “You can leave here right now and be back home in time to have breakfast on the table for those cute kids of yours. Then one day a few weeks from now you’ll hear a knock on your door and this time it won’t be just you that ends up taken away in handcuffs.” 

Running his finger down the handle of the gun briefly Turner leans forward to rest his hand on Beth’s shoulder.  “How are you going to explain to them why Mom and Dad aren’t there to tuck them in at night anymore? What about your sister and friend?  Who’s going to break the news to their kids?”

Beth takes in a stuttered breath, unshed tears clouding her vision as the weight of the reality Turner was describing presses hard on her chest, the image of her kids - of Ruby’s and Annie’s - being torn away from the only home they’d known burrowing deep in her gut.  If this was true, if he could do this, she was condemning everyone she loved.

“Or you can take care of our problem permanently.  Do that and all of this,” Turner pauses, gesturing to the file still laying open in front of her with the barrel of the gun, “goes away.  I get to go home and you never have to worry about me showing up unannounced ever again. The slate’s wiped clean and you’ll be free.”

Holding the gun out for her to take, Turner raises an eyebrow to ask her choice.  

And it shouldn’t be this difficult.  She shouldn’t be hesitating.

“If I do this…”

“I’ll be on the next train out of here.  You can trust me, Mrs. Boland,” Turner says, pushing the gun into her hands.

Closing her eyes, Beth adjusts her hold on the gun slowly, the weight surprisingly heavy in her hands even after all this time.

There was only one way this could end.

Rio would understand why she was doing this.  To protect her children she had no choice but to betray the one promise she made to herself when she started all of this - that she would never kill someone. 

But being a parent meant making sacrifices, her sacrifice just happened to be him.

The metal of the gun is cool under her palm as she cocks the gun clumsily, the sound almost too loud in the space.  Blinking open her eyes she sees Rio’s twisted his body slightly away from her, the lines of his body softer than she’d ever seen them before and his gaze fixed on something just over her shoulder.

Her finger taps the trigger gently, the pressure not enough to do anything except make her pulse pound faster as she clocks how Rio’s eyes keep sweeping across whatever’s behind her.

Glancing over her shoulder the realization of what he’s looking at hits Beth so fiercely the gun almost falls from her grasp.

The shadows make the small alcove seem so dark, but her memory easily draws up the image of what it had been only a few short weeks ago.  White walls decorated with framed cartoon artwork, an oversized hamburger pillow resting on a short dresser, an impossibly small pair of shoes lined up at the end of a twin bed.

And god she can’t do this, can’t do any of this she thinks as a sob works its way up her chest.  

Maybe Rio had done all those things Turner had said, but that wasn’t everything.  Her daughter had that soft pink blanket back in her arms hours after she went to him afraid that Jane might have been taken.  Her ‘book club’ books were safe from Turner because he went out of his way to find her and warn her about the raid.

Her hands won’t stop shaking as she remembers the first time she ever saw Marcus, the first time Rio ever pulled back the curtain on his life enough to show her something that precious to him.  The gapped tooth grin the little boy gave Rio like he’d hung the moon and stars.

“I’m afraid we don’t have all night, Mrs. Boland.”

Turner’s voice snaps Beth back to the present, her eyes finding his impatient face through her tears. 

“Elizabeth, s’okay.  Just like we practiced yeah?”

The softness of Rio’s voice sends a shiver up her spine, the anger she’d just felt minutes shifting into something new.

If she did this she would never be free no matter what Turner claims, not from him or the memory of what she’d done to Rio.  

But there was another option that could free them both, a different kind of sacrifice. 

Pushing back in her chair Beth stands on unsteady legs, her hand lifting to wipe the tears streaming down her face.  The smirk on Turner’s face quickly disappearing when she turns to face him instead of Rio.

“You think he’s my problem?  He’s not my problem.”

The first press of the trigger is almost too easy.  Then she can’t stop the second and third. It’s only when she notices the red stain growing on Turner’s white shirt that what she’s done hits Beth, the gun clattering to the ground as he collapses.

Everything seems to move in a blur after that, the room taking on a hazy quality.  Somehow she’s able to get Rio free from his ties, his hands gentle on her shoulders as he pushes her out the door saying he’ll take it from here, the echo of Turner’s groans following her as she nearly trips down the stairs.

It happens so quickly she doesn’t even know if any of it was actually real until she finally gets outside and the sight of Turner’s government issued sedan in the alley makes her knees buckle.  

What did she just do?

-

The midday sun burns hot on the nape of Beth’s neck, a sticky heat that she knows is going to leave her skin painted pink for at least a week.

But Jane had begged her to go to the park today.  Those big blue eyes filling with tears when Beth had tried postpone for another day - too many chores and errands that needed to be done - and in the end she’d never been very good at saying no.

She’s only just settling into a steady push-and-pull at the swing set, Jane’s small legs doing little to get her as high as she wants, when Beth feels a sharp tug on her jacket.  

Shifting her stance so she can still push Jane with one hand, Beth turns slightly to take in the small boy next to her, the worried look on his face making her stomach turn.

“Marcus?  What’s wrong sweetie?”  

For the second time that morning she’s faced with a teary-eyed child, Marcus’ entire posture drooping before he presses himself into her hip.  

“Ms. Elizabeth I can’t find my Daddy.”  The words coming out muffled through the fabric of her coat.

Lifting her hand to sift through his short hair, Beth lets her eyes glance out over the park for any sign of Rio.  “It’s okay honey, I bet he just had to step away for a minute. I’m sure he’ll be right back.”

For a warm fall afternoon the park’s surprisingly empty, only a few runners doing laps and an outdoor yoga class of retirees, but no Rio.

She’s about to take pull her phone out of her back pocket to send him a text when she spots him partially hidden behind a pair of young mothers pushing a stroller on a nearby path.  Raising her hand from the back of Marcus’ head to get his attention her arms stops short when she notices how staggered Rio’s steps are in his approach, when she clocks the large red stain growing on his white t-shirt.

Beth watches as he takes two slow steps towards them before falling on the grass, the soles of his shoes bouncing softly from the impact.  

“Dad!”  Marcus pulls away from her grasp easily, his little legs propelling him forward to cling to Rio’s crumpled body.  Turning back to look at Beth, she can make out the slight tremble of his lower lip before he cries, “Why did you hurt my Dad?”

A sudden weight in her right hand breaks Beth’s gaze from Rio’s unmoving form.  Lifting her hand she sees the gold gun gleam in the sunlight and her palm covered in thick streams of blood that drip to the ground.

Beth wakes with a sharp sob, the rawness of her throat bringing tears to her eyes.  Pushing the light comforter back she moves quickly to the en suite, gripping the cool tile countertop for a long moment to ground herself before grabbing a washcloth to wet with cold water.


Her panic starts to ebb at the first damp press against the back of her neck, the ghosts fading away until all she’s left with are her loud breaths and sore muscles.   

Meeting her eyes in the mirror Beth cringes when she takes in the bags under her eyes and the black sweater she hadn’t changed out of last night making her look paler than normal.  

Dean had taken the children earlier that morning somewhere, the slam of the door waking her briefly from a fitful sleep.  She had at most maybe three or four hours to pull herself together before she would have to push away what had happened last night forever until it was just another part of her past that didn’t exist.

Reaching for her favorite floral robe from the back of the bathroom door she’s trying to remember where she put those threadbare pair of sweats she only wears on special occasions when the sound of the french doors opening and closing makes her freeze.

The robe flutters to the ground as Beth presses herself against the wall, the burn of anxiety flooding her veins.  

Maybe she’d just imagined it?  It wasn’t like she didn’t have a good reason to be paranoid right now.  

But what if it was Turner again?  What if Rio hadn’t been able to take care of him and he was here to solve his other problem?  

She may not have seen it coming last night, but now?  Now she refuses to go down without a fight.

Looking around the bathroom Beth grabs one of Kenny’s bulkier action figures that’s laying in a small pile near the tub, grateful in that moment that her oldest hasn’t outgrown his toys in the bath phase yet.  It wasn’t much, but it was still better than nothing she supposes.

With one more deep breath she pushes her back off the wall to get a better angle to look into the mirror hanging above the sink.  She remembers when they were house hunting years ago and how much she disliked that the sink was across from the door into the bathroom, how the mirror seemed to catch the light filtering in from outside and managed to show every fine line time had etched on her face.  But in the end she’d compromised and it might be what saves her after all.

There hadn’t been any other noises since the door closed and Beth can’t make out anyone in the room without moving from her spot on the wall.  Shaking her head she’s about to place the toy back in the pile when a flash of black in the mirror catches her attention.  

Reflected back at her she can barely make out the long line of a denim-clad back and the worn knit of a dark beanie bent doing something just out of view along the bottom of the mirror.

Moving to stand in the doorway, Beth leans her shoulder on the frame as she takes in Rio resting against the french doors, her eyes pausing briefly on the place he’d been bleeding in her dream before meeting his gaze. 

“What are you doing here?”

“Figured you might want those back,” Rio says, nodding his head towards the slippers now sitting in front of her chair, the tassels resting almost too perfectly atop the white fabric.

And after that they’d been through in the last few hours it surprises her how relieved she feels seeing him standing across from her, only a few cuts on his face but otherwise looking just as handsome as ever.  

Part of her thinks she should be angry - furious even - now that she knows what he’s been doing these last few months while claiming they were partners.  And she definitely is, can feel it simmering under the surface as she meets his brown eyes, but there’s a larger part of her that’s just glad that they’d made it through this, that he’s still standing in front of her when it had been so close.

Letting out a soft sigh Beth bridges the distance between them to sit on the bed, her left leg coming up with her so she can turn to face Rio.  “Turner?”

Out of the corner of her eye she sees Rio slowly roll his shoulders against the door before pulling his beanie off and she wonders if he’s just as sore as she is or if maybe he isn’t quite as happy to see her.

“Yeah, you don’t gotta worry about that okay?”  

She knows that he’s probably trying to protect her, trying to make sure she doesn’t dwell on what she’d done or what she’d almost done.  It’s what he’s always done for her - always kept her one step removed from whatever they were doing so she didn’t have to get too dirty.  

Still his words do little to stop the questions running through her mind, the need to find out the answers to things she doesn’t think she could ever forget even though she feels like she needs to know them.

“Isn’t this what you always wanted though?  My hands’ aren’t clean anymore,” Beth says throwing back the words he had said to her so long ago, back when her fingers were wrapped around a gold gun instead of gently playing with a loose thread on her throw pillow like they are now.

Not that they’d been clean for a long time if she was being really honest.  After she’d left the loft all she could think about was what she’d done these last few months, how she’d ended up in this position that made her shoot someone, how many lines she’d happily crossed over and over again until Demon had pulled up beside her on an empty street and driven her home.

Beth watches as Rio pushes off the doors and shrugs off his jacket, wincing slightly when she catches sight of the thick bruises decorating his knuckles and the bands of red raw skin around his wrists that match her own.  Tossing his jacket towards her reading chairs he moves to sit next to her on the bed, the added weight making her body shift closer to the middle and him.

“You know what I wanted Elizabeth?  For you to realize that you were capable of so much more than all that bullshit you were always puttin’ up with,” Rio starts, his hand reaching up to tuck a piece of hair behind her ear.  “For you to stop thinkin’ you weren’t really a part of this after you asked for it. Last night you did what you shoulda been doing this entire time, you finally made the choice if you was in or out.”     

And for a moment all she can think about is the last time Rio was this open and straightforward with her, the last time he was in her bed highlighted by the early evening light and finally let her peek over those walls he’d built around himself.

She lets her fingers lightly glide across the cut on his cheek before dropping to rest on his chest, his heartbeat steadily drumming against her palm.  “So what happens now?”

Rio lets out a hard exhale before pulling her in closer to his body and even after everything that’s happened between them she almost hates how safe she feels here in his arms but the thought quickly fades away when she feels his head dip briefly to press his lips to her forehead.

“We can worry ‘bout that together later yeah?  Ain’t that what partners do?”

Tomorrow they’d have to actually talk about the loft and where they stood with each other, but for now this was enough.  

This was their clean slate.