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Unabashed Spoiler Hound & Fanfic writer

Reveling in the fickle nature of fangirlishness

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Never Far Away Part 1/1
A tag to The Kingmaker

Because I needed more.

Disclaimer: I don't own The Blacklist

"Look, you're not the first one to deal with this. I mean, people wake up and realize their husband or wife isn't everything they hoped for."

"I didn't know where else to go."

Ressler was surprised to see her standing there. First through the peephole then when he had opened the door.

His heart ached for her pain which he felt as if it were his own. It was his own. It had been his since he had met her. It had been cemented when she had collapsed in his arms and he had held her up after freeing her from the Stewmaker. He knew at that moment that he couldn't walk away from her, that he would never be able to walk away from her.

No matter what she asked of him.

"I didn't know where else to go."

He let her in and she walked to his couch as if she belonged there. To his mind and in his heart, she would always have a place to go.

He had accepted the fact that she was out of his reach, out of his league in many ways, not the least of which was because she was married. Donald Ressler had been raised to respect the boundaries of marriage, more importantly, he would never become a complication to her.

When fate had brought Audrey back into his life as he had lain injured from being shot protecting Reddington, he had resumed his relationship with her as a way to move on from any hope he had harbored for Liz and he had sincerely put all his energies and efforts into making it work with her. He truly loved Audrey and had believed he had wanted a future with her, but then she and that future had been ripped from him as if some karmic message was being sent to him; that he would always be alone; that some power knew he was only going through the motions and didn't deserve happiness, didn't deserve her. And the rage he felt from the guilt of allowing her to re-enter his dangerous world only to die in his arms three months later was blinding and all encompassing. He knew that Reddington would understand the darkness that the hate he had felt for those responsible, Bobby and Tanida, had engendered and that he would give him the outlet for that hate. What he didn't reveal, though he believed that Reddington knew it as well, was how much of the hate he had felt was directed at himself. He had blamed himself for what had happened to Audrey, would relive the horror of her death on those days when a case had casualties he had failed to prevent. He took every loss of life personally. It was how he was built, but with Audrey, the personal loss made the tactical mistakes he had made that day even more glaring and agonizing to live with. He had been driving Audrey to a safe location and had been ambushed by Tanida. He should have seen that coming, would have seen it if he hadn't let his personal feelings and determination to protect Audrey single-handedly cloud his judgment.

But Liz had pulled him off from that ledge that day, had stopped him from killing Bobby and even though he would never resolve that guilt of failing Audrey completely, he could find the strength to forgive himself as long as he had Liz as his voice of conscience and comfort. He also knew that with Liz, he would place himself into harm's way without a second thought.

Ressler knew that being Liz's partner would be enough. It was better than the alternative. Not being her partner and not being in her life was unthinkable. Protecting her was as much his responsibility as was all the rest that he did for the job. Loving her was his salvation.

He had played supportive through her rocky moments with Tom.

"Want me to rough him up for you?"

"He'll be back. It's not over, you know that."

He had told her what he thought she had needed to hear.

"Look, you're not the first one to deal with this. I mean, people wake up and realize that their husband or wife isn't everything they'd hoped for."

With those words, Ressler was delving into a personal truth, extracting it in the hopes that it could be used for a better purpose, to comfort Liz, but he realized too late that he was admitting more than he had intended. If he were to be honest, before her death, he had come to that conclusion with Audrey.

Audrey wasn't Liz and much as he loved her, he knew what he was doing was unfair to her. In a tragic way, he had been denied that admission and Audrey had died believing in him and their future. A future that had included a child. Realizing that had doubled his guilt. To his mind, he had cost two lives with his arrogance.

But as Liz sat down on his couch, seeing the distress in her posture as well as on her face, he knew he didn't have the full story of what was going on in her marriage. There was something more there, something so damaging that it had led her to his door, raw and vulnerable, needing a place to go to other than her home, perhaps also needing to turn to someone else other than Tom or Red. Had both hurt her so much as to drive her to come to him? If so, Don would do all he could to help her.

"What's wrong?" He asked.

"Tom's gone," she said, struggling to find the right words to explain.

"I know, you told me, but -"

"He's not coming back," she said pressing the point.

"How do you know that?" He asked.

It was then that Liz's words failed her and tears spoke in their place. Once again, Ressler acted on instinct, inched closer to take her into his embrace and she literally melted into his arms. She wasn't grabbing at him as she had at the stewmaker's cabin, but the desperation was just as fierce in the tone of her sobs.

"Hey, hey, it's okay. It's gonna be okay," he said more from that's what you said in those situations, but he knew it was totally not okay.

"No, it's not, Don. He's not the man I thought he was, that I believed I was defending when I thought he was being framed by Gina Zanetakos. You were right. I should have defended myself instead."

Don was confused. What had changed so drastically?

"Who is he then?"

"I don't know," she said. "I tried to find out...I did some things..."

Liz recalled how she had callously broken Tom's thumb with a wrench and wondered how she could have accused Reddington of being a monster. She couldn't ascribe her behavior to simply being a woman scorned. What she did was worse than that. It was brought on by a pure rage she had never felt before, that she didn't think she was capable of feeling.

Suddenly she realized that she was no better than Red. It didn't excuse him for lying to her, for killing her father, but she hadn't considered the source. Tom wanted her to find out what had happened to her father, what Reddington had done to him, to drive a wedge between them and it had worked.

"Liz, you don't have to -"

She broke from the embrace and looked at Don. She spied the earnest belief in her in his eyes. There was such a willingness to help in the blue pools staring back at her. She had come to the right person to reveal her secrets.

"Yeh, I do," she said softly, letting her tears settle. "I want to."

Don saw the clarity of her decision in her eyes and through her tears so he just nodded his affirmation that he was listening.

Liz then told him everything, withholding nothing, and she was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to confide in him. They both had gone through so much as partners and though she would never equate her loss of Tom to his with Audrey because in her mind they didn't come close to being the same, she knew and had benefited from Don's kindness and compassion towards her and the trust was implicit. Audrey was an innocent and she and Don had loved each other honestly. His loss was tragic and unfair. Her whole life with Tom, on the other hand, had been a lie from the beginning, nothing he had felt for her had been authentic or honest so her contempt for him and their lie of a life together rivaled any hate that Don could have felt for Bobby and Tanida. Her loss had been nothing but betrayal by a villain.

When she was done, she took in a breath and waited for Don's reaction. She was bracing herself for recrimination and dreaded what she believed was an inevitable loss of his trust in her, a trust she had worked so hard to obtain with sincere intent. She couldn't blame him though if it did come to that.

But the recrimination never came, the accusation of blame was absent in his expression, instead, he took her hands into his and gazed into her eyes.

"I'm so sorry, Liz. I had no idea you were going through so much pain."

Liz felt her muscles relax at his touch and his words of contrition were just the things she had needed.

"Why didn't you tell me? What I said earlier about it not being over -" he said.

"Was honest and I appreciated that you could believe so much in us both to think that. I used to believe it. Not anymore. And as for not telling you, I was afraid."

"Of what?"

"Of losing your respect and trust. I know how much you value them and I want to be worthy of them."
"Liz, you've more than proven both of those things to me. I'm sorry that my bluntness would make you question that."

Liz's eyes began to fill with tears.

"You have no idea how much hearing that I haven't broken that trust means to me because I feel like I'm not in control of anything in my life right now, that I never had control over it. It feels like it's just careening away from me and I can barely hold on -"

"Then hold on to me and I'll keep you from falling," he said, so instinctively that he hadn't tried to edit anything out of it before he had said it. He had meant every word.

She saw his sincerity through her clouded eyes and was speechless.

"Let me help, Liz. I won't let you down."

All she wanted at that moment was to be held by him as he had held her up while walking towards the ambulance at the Stewmaker's cabin. He had kept her from falling then, had allowed her to claw and grab at him so intently she had actually thought she was injuring him. She should have known that Donald Ressler was the strongest man she had ever known: Both for his capacity for compassion and for his unflinching generosity of his strength, unafraid of judgment.

"I know you won't," she said as she collapsed back into the curve of his body, his gentle embrace returning. "Thank you."

"For what?"

"For just being here," she said as the weight of her loss left her body and the exhaustion she had been trying to hold off took its place.

As she began to finally fall under the spell of the sleep that had evaded her, she felt the familiar rocking that cushioned her once before and that was now lulling her into the comfortable grace of a man she knew would protect her from all harm. He was never far from her and never would be.

FIN. Thanks for reading. After being left hanging at the end of the episode, I had to let my muse speak. Hope you enjoyed it.