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Camel's Nose

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If you give Raymond Reddington an inch, he won’t take a mile. 

But he will remember that you gave him that inch.

He’ll catalogue the circumstances, the triggers, the influencing factors that compelled you to give that inch. The figures in play, the cast of characters, your response to each variety of stimuli. 

If the inch was given grudgingly, he’ll take note of why. Of where that reluctance came from and what pushed you past it. If the inch was given gladly, he’ll absorb the smile you give him (and give you one back, of course) and let it sit for a minute or two before comparing it against other smiles you’ve given him before. Point for point, all sorted into the mental database that he keeps on everything you do, for reasons he certainly won’t share, though he’s chatty enough about you in almost all other respects. 

You rationalized away that inch on the drive home—external stress, internal pressure, the overall insanity that’s pretty much pervaded your life— so that you could go home and not think too much about how he smiled back, about how he didn’t push further, just took your look, took your hands, took whatever small thing it was that you gave him. But that inch which you gave him sits with Red for much longer.

When you’re curled up in bed, either asleep or just pretending to be (it feels empty even with a warm body beside you, and it takes more than a drive home to rationalize that away), Red holds that inch up to the light. The only light left on in a dark hotel room, safe house, questionably acquired hidey-hole. He turns it over in his hands, checking the imperfections and minute flaws with a counterfeiter’s attention to detail. Noting, recording, calculating, but never so analytical that he forgets the beauty of it. The wild, incredible beauty of that inch.

He could sit until dawn like that, barely moving, patience and focus a skill that he’s learned long ago. And focus, when it comes to you, is less a learned thing in him than something that just is. But he doesn’t sit until dawn, because there’s no need for it. You gave him that inch. Warmed by that knowledge, he can sleep soundly. 

And in the morning, it starts again. He doesn’t seem any different. He doesn't act any different. But you gave him an inch. And Red will remember it. 

And when you give him another one, the drive home is harder. Because it wasn’t so long ago when he had nothing at all. Nothing from you, at least. And yet there it went. Another inch. But Red didn’t push, he didn’t prod, he didn’t have a hand in this. Whatever it was, external, internal, that led to you saying that, doing that, thinking that, Red wasn't behind it. Probably. Possibly. But he takes the inch, and he smiles (of course), and seems to know to look away just as you can’t stand meeting his eyes anymore. 

If you give Raymond Reddington an inch, he won’t take a mile. 

But that once inch will become two, will become six, will become a foot. Slipping away from you like dominos falling. Though dominos, they go fast. They’re noticeable. These inches slip away so slowly that they sneak past your notice. And the more you give, the less you notice the giving. Every light touch, every confidence, everything that you hand him which you don’t even remember him asking for. They don’t seem like anything after a while. You drive home, and you don’t think of much at all. 

Until much later. When you’re in a room, and realize Red put you there. When you’re speaking and realize that Red has all but put the words in your mouth. When the gun isn’t in your hand, and that’s because of Red too. 

They weren’t important inches. They didn’t seem like it at the time. But strung together, they were tethering you to something. You can’t remember what, and the worst part is, you’re not sure that you want to. But they've all be unspooled now, and you can't find your way back. You’re up to your throat in shades of grey, and the only thing that looks black and white out there anymore is Red. It’s an unreachable distance away from him in every direction, but the space between the two of you is even smaller than that inch that you first gave him. 

When you give Raymond Reddington an inch, he won’t take a mile. 

Not at first, anyway.