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Unabashed Spoiler Hound & Fanfic writer

Reveling in the fickle nature of fangirlishness

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Feeling the Light Again Part 1/1
A tag to Mako Tanida

Note: I changed the reference to Liz and Tom reuniting in the episode because I just couldn’t believe that they would be so close after Tom went to the conference alone and the ultimatum it implied to me.

Disclaimer: I don’t own The Blacklist

After emptying his clip into the frozen ground from both helplessness and frustration, Donald handed over his gun to Liz and walked away because no matter how much he dearly wanted to end Bobby's life, he knew he couldn't kill him. He didn’t really know what actually stopped him, whether it was the principled part of him that had been reached by Liz when she had reminded him that he would go to jail for life or if he was just too bereft from grief to care anymore, but in the end, he did walk away. Liz had tried to reach out to him, but he just couldn’t deal with her or anyone else at that point so he shrugged off her advances. He just wanted to go home.

Funny that he would come to that conclusion after Reddington had urged him to do it earlier. At the time it was advice that Donald had recognized as the sane and logical decision to deal with his grief, but he was as far from feeling sane or logical at that moment, instead, the hate that raged within him hungered for the satisfaction of making Bobby, once his best friend, pay for being the cause, however indirectly, of Audrey's death. Red had appreciated the sentiment. They had bonded on the common ground of revenge and Donald hadn’t feared the comparison. No one could understand that kind of rage unless they had lost someone so dear to them that life itself was altered inexorably. Reddington understood and Donald took comfort in that.

Now going home just meant escape.

The disillusionment of the losses of not only the woman he loved, but of a friend that he had modeled his career after was crushing. He felt the darkness that Red had told him would enter his heart and his words echoed and reverberated because Donald knew they had come from truth. Whatever tragedy had befallen Reddington had left its mark and he had entered that world of hurt that he couldn't escape himself. Perhaps, he was trying to keep Donald from falling into the same abyss.

“Agent Ressler, once you cross over, there are things in the darkness that can keep your heart from ever feeling the light again.”

Without Audrey, he didn’t think light would ever enter his heart again. She was that light, that reminder that he had something else other than the job to live for, to die for. Now that she was gone, all he wanted to do was block everything out which would then keep the pain out.

When he had received Red’s gift of Tanida’s head in a box, he had been shocked at first, but as he read Reddington’s note, he came to respect the values that Red lived by. Ressler hadn’t forgotten the kind of man Raymond Reddington was, but now, he had a newfound respect for the biblical symbolism in knowing that Tanida wouldn’t hurt anyone again: An eye for an eye. It was all he had left to remember Audrey. The thirst for revenge, though not quenched, was satiated in the knowledge that there was no one left to exact that vengeance upon. The more haunting question was what was left ahead of him after Audrey. Red’s note had spoken of coming to live with the loss, to a future without Audrey, but he knew he had a long road to reaching that point of acceptance. He was nowhere near it now.

He closed the box with Tanida’s head, unable to really process what he was going to do with it. Show it to Cooper so that it becomes just another added piece of evidence that would close the case or would he dispose of it himself and just let Tanida disappear from existence? It was too much to think about at that moment. Instead, he just continued to stare at the open suitcase that Audrey had been packing for their trip and the pregnancy test box sitting on top of the piled clothes. It had been opened, but the tests were still in it unused. He wrestled with whether he wanted to know from the coroner’s report whether she really had been pregnant. Could he handle knowing that two lives had been lost? Could he accept knowing that he and Audrey could have had a child together?

He had decided that at that moment, all he wanted was to stop remembering how she had died in his arms. He still could feel her and his arms ached with her absence. Swigging glass after glass of whiskey wasn’t even fogging up the memory so he just stopped drinking and let his body become leaden in the chair he was sitting in, praying for unconsciousness. His revelry had then been interrupted by another knock on his door. He toyed with the idea of ignoring it, letting whoever was behind it, just assume he was asleep and walk away, but then a voice came through.

“Ressler? Are you okay?”

Liz’s caring voice wafted irresistibly through the door into his darkening soul and even though he had rejected her comfort before, suddenly, in that moment, hearing her plaintive call out to him, all he had wanted was her comfort. He wanted to desperately reach for it as if she could save him from drowning in alcohol and sorrow. He got out of his chair, walked over and opened the door.

When he saw her standing there, it brought him instant relief that he couldn't explain. He felt a dam break inside of him when he saw her face glowing with empathy and she was doe-eyed with sincere concern for him.

“Hi,” she said shyly, “I know that you probably want to be alone, but I thought I’d stop by…”

“No, it’s okay. Come in,” he invited, his voice low, rough and barely restraining the emotion rushing to the surface.

When Liz walked in, she inadvertently spotted the suitcase and the pregnancy test. She swallowed back her instinct to question, knowing that it would be inappropriate to do that and sat down, waiting patiently for Donald to sit as well.

“I know that there is nothing I can do or say that could even come close to making things better for you, but I want you to know that if you need anything, I’m here. You're not alone, Donald. You'll never be alone."

Donald heard her words and they were a salve for the open wound that was festering slowly inside of him, infecting his will to go on living.

"You've already done a lot, Liz," he said, gratitude clearly in his voice. "Thanks for stopping me from killing Bobby. I was in a bad space...still am."

Donald put his hand to his mouth to stifle his sobs, but he couldn't stop the tears fill, flood and fall onto his cheeks.

"I don't know how to live without her," he said, as he then laced his fingers together, perching his chin on them and rocking back and forth, his despair overwhelming. He didn’t have anything left in him to block his inhibitions anymore. Instead of stopping the memories, the alcohol had just loosened the locks to his walls and they were cracking quickly.

Liz had seen Ressler nearly break pointing a gun at the person who was once his friend, threatening to kill him, but he had managed to hold on to some semblance of sanity. Now, she saw every wall crumble away and what was revealed was a good man in crisis, suffering from an emptiness that she understood from losing her father.

She kneeled down in front of him, placing her hands on his knees, hoping to catch his gaze. He didn't resist her compassion because he believed it was a lifeline. The only clarity that came through his muddled mind was if he was going to survive this he needed that lifeline, he needed her.

"Don, I'm not going to lie to you. It's not going to be easy. I'm still not over losing my dad, but I also know that what I went through is nothing compared to what you're going through. What I do know is that you are a good man, a man whom Audrey loved with all her heart and no matter how long it takes, how hard the journey you have to stay that man she loved because if you lose yourself in this darkness, you'll be losing Audrey all over again. She gave you a gift of her love, but your honorable soul is what brought her to you in the first place."

Don was warmed by Liz's words and they calmed him, but his doubts about himself were raw and barely resolvable to his mind.

"I don't know if I am that man anymore," he said choking on his tears.

"Oh, but you are, Don. I saw that man today. Through your agony of loss, you came through the dark with your soul intact when you didn't kill Bobby. I saw you struggle, but I also saw the courage it took to walk away and I admired it."

"I did it because of you," Don admitted because it was true.

"No, you did that on your own," she insisted.

"I heard you telling me I could go to jail for the rest of my life if I killed Bobby. I heard you over him goading me to kill him. You made me realize I couldn't do it no matter how much I wanted to."

Liz felt the appreciation, but knew he was giving her too much credit.

"No, Don. I didn't do anything other than to remind you that you shouldn't throw everything away. I can't take credit for your strength."

Don then cracked again; renewed tears came into his eyes.

"It was my fault she was shot. I can blame Bobby all I want, but I brought Tanida into our life, her life, because of my job. She was in the car with me. I should have arranged an escort. I...was selfish...I had to save her..."

"No, no, Don, don't go down that road. You were protecting her. She knew the risks of your job and loved you, came back to you just the same. Don't cheapen her choice by blaming yourself."

Don continued to sob, his struggle to control it impossible at that point.

"She might have been pregnant..." He blurted out, finding it easy to reveal it to her. "I may have lost more than just Audrey..."

"Oh, my God, Don," Liz said, empathy and having her suspicions confirmed by his admission overpowering her.

It was then that Liz let her heart rule in that moment and she moved in slowly to embrace him, giving him enough space and time to retract without recrimination, but Donald lunged in to meet her and not only hugged her with the kind of desperation of a drowning man, clinging to her to keep the current of despair from dragging him under, but she felt him tremble with sobbing against her. She stroked his back and found herself laying her head on his shoulder, closing her eyes, recalling when she had been comforted by his strong embrace, keeping her from falling in so many ways. As she heard him sob, uttering Audrey with each exhale, she wished she could be as strong for him as he had been for her, but she knew no amount of comfort would be enough so she just let him sob.

"I'm not going anywhere. I'm here for you. I'll always be here for you."

Don heard her words and his breathing started to hitch then settle down. His arms relaxed against her, but didn't let her go completely. He felt the release of tension in his body both from the alcohol and from Liz's comfort and knew he was moments away from passing out. As much as he didn't want to let her go, he had to. She had done more than enough. He gently pushed away from her and was pleasantly surprised that she held on until she realized that he was pulling away a little more. They paused midway, their gazes locked. He then broke away completely, feeling a pull that he knew was alcohol driven and he respected her and her marriage too much to jeopardize her with a drunken advance.

"I know," he said in answer to her. "And I appreciate it, but you should get back to Tom and I need to sleep this off."

Donald smiled meekly.

"Are you sure you're going to be okay?"

"Yeh, yeh, I'll be fine," he said as he tried to rise only to teeter on wobbly legs.

Liz saw him waver and scooped him up by placing herself under his shoulder to steady him.

"Yeh, sure you are," she teased as she guided him into his bedroom and onto the bed where he collapsed.

"I'm sorry," he said.

"You have nothing to be sorry for, Don. Just get some sleep, okay?"

Don nodded and he could no longer fight back his unconsciousness, his vision tunneled and he closed his eyes.

"Thank you...for being here."

He then fell instantly asleep. Liz stared at his features, peaceful in sleep. There was a vulnerable, little boy expression on his face that made her smile for a second. She wished she could erase the horrific memories for him.

Liz called Tom and said that she was on protection detail and wouldn't be coming home. It was a half-truth. She really did want to protect Donald, to be there for him for the night, but what had surprised her was how much that desire to stay was less about duty and more about something deeper than friendship. It was also cowardly. She and Tom had been at odds since he came back from his conference. The time apart hadn’t helped them bridge their conflicts at all. If anything, for her, his ultimatum about taking time away alone as well as the fact that he had ignored all of her calls, just made her angry and she wasn’t ready to forgive him.

She had decided to help Don by cleaning up a little. She put away the whiskey and washed up the glass in the sink. When she spied the suitcase, she thought that putting it away would help keep the reminders at bay for a little while so she folded the clothes neatly back into the case and threw away the pregnancy test box as well. She had resolved that she would talk to the coroner's office to find out if Audrey had been pregnant so that Don could be spared the agony of deciding whether to ask himself. Once known, one way or another, she would tell Don the truth. She knew that piece of information would be one more step towards closure for him even if the truth was that yes, she had been pregnant. She knew that he believed truth was better than never knowing it or living a lie no matter how much the truth hurt. It was what she envied about him.

She zipped the suitcase closed and placed it near the front door. Putting it into a closet for him to find later would be a cruel shock. She'd tell him it was there so that he could choose the time to face what to do with it.

As she cleared off the coffee table, she stumbled upon an unfolded letter and her curiosity overrode wanting to respect Don’s privacy. It was from Reddington. As she read, she was moved by Red’s comforting words and detected there was genuine personal pain being related in the hand-written words. Red evaded personal questions yet she heard his voice in the sentences he had written to Donald. She refolded the letter and put it back onto the table. His words also gave her a bit of comfort as well as a bit of an emotional reveal into the mysterious man. For Red to confide so much to Donald, it told her volumes about both men. Red respected Donald, in spite of Donald’s relentless pursuit of him maybe even because of it.

As Liz prepared to sleep on the couch, finding a pillow and a throw blanket nearby, she heard a scream that made her leap out of her skin. She ran into Don's bedroom and found him sitting upright, sweating, and trying to catch a breath.

"Stay with me Audrey! Hey! Look at me!"

Liz grasped his shoulders and tried to wake him.

"Hey, hey, Don, can you hear me? It's Liz. You're having a bad dream. Wake up," she said calmly.

Don's eyes opened, but she could tell he was still in the throes of his dream. His voice then softened and tears filled his eyes.

"Please, please stay with me," he whimpered as he reached out and pulled Liz into an embrace. "Please, please don’t leave me."

She didn’t know who he was talking to, but she didn't resist his hold for fear it would hurt him so she held him in return. If she were to be honest, she didn't want to let go even knowing that he was probably imagining her as Audrey.

"I'm here, Don. I'm here," she cooed, rubbing his back as she had before.

Don then became more alert and realized what he was doing. He pulled away and saw Liz with her sympathetic expression and it eased his anxiety. She cupped his cheek and stared into his eyes, searching for signs that he was hearing her. Don blinked the remaining tears from his eyes, his breathing easing. When he became fully aware of where he was, gazing into Liz's eyes, so close to her, he pulled further away slowly. It wasn't from guilt as he thought it would be. He felt embarrassed for putting her into an awkward situation.

"Are you okay?" She asked.

"Liz? What happened?" He asked.

"You were having a nightmare."

Don rubbed his eyes, swiping his tears away as well. She spotted a touch of embarrassment on his face.

"I thought you had gone home?"

It was then her turn to look embarrassed.

"I, uh, I wanted to make sure that you would be all right. I didn't want to leave you alone," she said amazed at how honest she was being with him.

She let go and moved away so that Don could have some space.

"If I've overstepped, just tell me and I'll leave -"

"No, please, don't. I'm glad you're here," he admitted. "But what about Tom?"

She felt the blush come into her own cheeks.

"I told him I was on a protective detail," she admitted, as she bowed her head, a touch ashamed about telling Donald that she had lied to her husband.

Don couldn't question her decision because he was selfishly glad she was there.

"I'm glad you're here, but I don't want to cause any problems between you and Tom."

"You're not," she said. "I'm just being a coward."


"You don't need to hear me whine. Again. You've done enough for me. I wish I could help you like you have for me."

Don took her by the hand and looked into her eyes again. He was relieved to have something else to think about and she was never a burden. He always thought she deserved better.

"Liz, you have no idea how much I appreciate everything you've done for me to get me through this. I just don’t want it to be at the expense of your marriage."

His nobility, even through his immeasurable grief, was just one of the many qualities that she had admired about him. His loyalty was something she had taken advantage of more times than she could ever repay and even with it suffering the greatest blow when he had learned of Bobby’s duplicity, it was still there for her.

“It’s not. You’re not,” she stuttered out.

“Talk to me,” he urged. “Believe me, I need something else to think about, to take me and Audrey out of my head. You know, Reddington actually told me not to head towards vengeance because it would put my heart into a darkness where I might not ever feel the light again. You stopped me from heading there and I was close, so close I could feel the cold, icy breath of that vengeance on my neck. Right now, I need to know that I can do something that can help, not wallow in what I can’t change, what I don’t have control over, let me do that, okay?”

Liz found herself unable to resist the kindness in his voice, his suffering still laced within his words, but she actually felt how willing he was to table it for her.

“We've been kind of tippy toeing around each other since he came back from the conference. We even argued his first day back about whether I had thought about things, thought about us and when I didn’t answer, he just assumed that once again, his wife put her job before her marriage, before him,” she said. “The thing that gets to me is that he’s not wrong. I didn’t give much thought to him or our marriage. I was more angry that he had made a decision without thinking about how I felt about it, but then how could he not when he knew I couldn’t, that I wouldn’t leave with him because we were in the middle of a case.”

Liz hated that she had dumped so much emotional baggage on Donald when what he was going through was much worse.

“I’m sorry. I’m being selfish again. You don’t need my crap right now -”

“Liz, you’re not being selfish. You and I know that you couldn’t have dropped everything to leave with Tom anyway. You know how Cooper feels about personal lives interfering with the job so it’s not your fault. None of it,” Don paused, bowed his head and let out a sigh. “I know he’s giving me time to get my head straight so that I can do the job again, but once I’m back, he’ll expect me to put it all aside, to put Audrey in my past and be 100% committed to the work again. I’m not sure if I can do that or if I can do the job the way I want to without letting the memory of what happened to her color my judgment. I went rogue, Liz. And I didn’t care. I asked Reddington to help me.”

As always Don was being supportive of her, but he was questioning himself, questioning whether he would now be a lesser agent, a lesser man because of what had happened and the decisions he had made. It was Liz’s turn to buoy Don up.

“Don, I’m not going to lie to you. It will affect you, color your judgment, but not in the way you think it will.”

He gave her a confused expression.

“This job and what we see every day, all of it colors our judgment, makes us question if we’re really doing good work and making a difference or if we’re just pawns at the hands of people like Red. It can turn men like your friend, Bobby, bitter and jealous,” she said as she also thought of Red’s letter. “It can make the most principled people turn against everything they believe in, but it can also make people who are strong even stronger, people who are sympathetic more compassionate. That’s you, Don. I’m proof of that. You are in so much pain, I can feel it, but you’re setting it aside to listen to me complain.”

Liz smiled shyly. Don could only look astonished at her assessment: Her comfort, her touch, her presence all of it made him feel rescued from the pain and the loss at that moment.

“You are the most honorable and loyal man I have ever known, maybe second only to my dad,” she continued, realizing that what she needed to do to help Don was to make him see that he was a good man and that he would always will be that. “I know that you will get through this. You won’t be tainted because of the kind of my man you are right now and if I’m lucky enough, I’ll learn how to be a better agent and person.”

Donald saw Liz’s delicate and shaky smile and his appreciation for her only grew.

“You’re already that,” Don said softly. “And more.”

Suddenly, he cupped her face with his hand, his thumb stroking her cheek. He drew her in closer and she didn't resist. His lips grazed hers softly, no urgency or desperation in them. He then began to dot her lips with kiss after gentle kiss. Liz wasn't fighting it, she wanted it, but she also knew she had to be sure he wasn’t just seeing her as a substitute for Audrey so she withdrew slowly. Don saw the uncertainty as she pulled away.

“I’m sorry. That was stupid of me, I didn’t -” Don said as he pulled away as well, but it was Liz who cupped his face again to keep him from turning away completely.

“No, no, it wasn’t, not for me. I want it too, but I need to know that this isn’t about being a substitute for Audrey. I don’t want to be that. I’m being a selfish coward again. I can’t be just pain relief, Don.”

Don understood.

“I get that and you’re not either of those things, I promise you. I’m not seeing Audrey. I’m seeing you, but I know that I have to be fair to you. I’m hardly in a good place yet, but I’m better because of you, because of you being here. I know the time isn’t right, that I have to prove to you that it’s not the alcohol or memories talking, but I want you to know that I wouldn’t hurt you like that, Liz. You’re worth more to me than being just a partner. I’m not Tom. I would never ask you to do something you didn’t want to do.”

“I know you wouldn’t,” she agreed and smiled. “You’re not that kind of person. I know that.”

“But I want you to know that my feelings, they are real. They have been for a while.”

Liz knew from the conviction in his voice that he was lucid and being truthful.

“I know,” she said breathy as she pulled him to kiss him, to show him that it was mutual, that she felt the same way.

It was soft, but it lingered tenderly. They pulled away slowly, their foreheads touching.

“I want you to stay because I do need you, but only if you want to.”

She smiled.

“I want to.”

Liz joined him on the bed and though she tried to face him, he turned her around to spoon her, placing his head on her shoulder, his arms around her waist. It was chaste, but she had never felt so safe, so warm, so protected and cared for than at that moment. There was such trust there.

“I want it to be right, Liz,” he whispered in her ear. “I want you to feel it’s right.”

Liz was near to tears. Tom had pretended to be the understanding husband, but in the end, she had to admit it never felt honest and his actions, his lack of understanding, his ultimatums, they were her proof of that. Don’s words, on the other hand, were palpably honest and his actions were all about being honest with her.

Just before he nodded off back to sleep, he kissed her neck and said, “I feel the light again. Thank you for that.”

FIN? Maybe a TBC. Thanks for reading.