The room was quiet, except for the steady sound of the heart rate monitor. His gaze would move from the form on the bed to the monitor to the window in almost a timed pattern. Keeping watch on her, her vitals and the stars as he pleaded to a God at times he wanted to give up on. Her smaller hand was secured in his larger, warmer hand. He himself attached an IV pole and in a wheelchair despite the nurses and his doctor’s protest. A flesh wound he told them. But, there was no way he was leaving her side.
“Agent Ressler,” the familiar voice said as he was looking out at the stars.
Startled he jerked and hissed at the pain in his chest. “Reddington. Figures you’d wait until the middle of the night to show up.”
“You need to rest. She’s safe, Donald. Get some rest.”
Safe. What did Raymond Reddington know. She was never truly safe. Looking at her pale and hooked up to machines he knew that. And no matter how many times Donald Ressler liked to fool himself and say he would have his partner’s back…well, his best wasn’t enough. He didn’t protect her. He didn’t keep her safe. He failed her. And damned if she didn’t have to leave him with those parting words just before blacking out. Those couldn’t be the last words he heard from her.
“Don’t you ever get tired of us taking orders from Reddington? He says jump and we say how high?” Ressler asked his partner, Elizabeth Keen, as he opened the door to the bagel shop for her.
“Would it be nice to be out from under his thumb? Yes. But, you’ve said it to me before. The work we do because of him is important.” She began digging in her purse as they reached the counter and began to smirk as her partner ordered for her. “What if that’s not what I wanted today?”
“Please, Keen. That’s what you get every time. You never stray.” Ressler chuckled as he paid for their sandwiches and handed her her drink. Liz continued to smirk at him as they waited for their lunch to be made which began to unsettle Ressler. “What?”
“I guess I never realized you paid that much attention.”
“Don’t make it a thing, Keen.”
Their sandwiches were finished so he grabbed the bag and began to usher her towards the door when suddenly DC Metro PD squad cars began to pull up from both sides of the road. Officers began to pile out and take position towards the bank across the street and two store fronts down from the bagel shop. It wasn’t until an officer came and told everyone to leave from the back did Ressler and Liz know something serious was going on.
“Ressler and Keen, FBI. How can we help?” Ressler set their food down so he could flash their credentials.
“Silent alarm for a bank robbery at first so we were coming quiet until we got a call to say they executed a hostage for pulling the silent alarm. We are waiting for more men but we are afraid it’s going to be a blood bath. You have more than those glocks?” the officer asked.
“Just our vests. We don’t have our long guns. We weren’t exactly anticipating a shootout,” Liz chimed in.
“I’ll cover you while you get your vests out. Let’s go.” The DCMP officer opened the door and allowed Ressler and Liz to sneak out and Ressler popped the trunk while he provided cover.
Ressler handed Liz her vest and unlocked a gun box that was hidden in the back and handed her an extra magazine of ammunition. He then threw his own vest on and grabbed his own extra magazine. The desire to have a long gun as well was strong but who could have expected this. He sent Cooper a quick text alerting him of the situation and stuffed his phone back in his pocket.
“Stay on me, Keen. You got that?”
“Yeah.” She nodded as she checked her gun.
“On me, Keen,” Ressler said as he pulled her face up to look at him.
“I got it, Ressler. This isn’t my first time.” She pulled her face away.
She was right. It wasn’t her first standoff but something felt wrong to him. It didn’t feel right. And he needed to know she would not stray from his side. They didn’t know these guys and while they were brothers and sisters in blue, she was his partner. He knew how she moved. How she reacted and responded. That’s who he wanted by his side. And if these people were already executing hostages it was going to go south quick.
Time seemed to move excruciatingly slow. Everyone had their weapons trained on the front of the building. Soon a helicopter was buzzing up ahead. It was difficult for Ressler to hang back and not take the lead as he was accustomed to but this wasn’t his show. They were simply aiding the local PD as they were in the right place, or perhaps it was the wrong place, at the right time. Either way, he was just going to follow the commanding officer’s orders as hard as that may be.
“Are they even negotiating yet?” Liz whispered.
“I’m sure, Keen,” he answered. They better be, he thought to himself. He looked back to where the commanding officer was slowly made his way over. “What’s going on inside?”
“We have our negotiator on the phone. They are willing to release a few hostages. The children only. A elderly woman who seems to be suffering from a heart attack. That’s it,” the older officer relayed with a heavy sigh.
“My partner and I will help clear the hostages as they are released if that’s alright sir?”
The older officer barked a few orders to two other officers to join Ressler and Liz and said to wait for the command to move. Liz raised her eyebrows to her partner when he returned with the two-new tag alongs. “They are releasing the children and an ill hostage. We are going to assist these two with getting them out of the field.”
“Only the children?” Liz peeked her head up and looked at the bank, worry etched on her face. “Ress, I have a terrible feeling.”
“I do too,” he admitted.
Suddenly, the door opened and a voice over a loud speaker commanded everyone put their hands in the air. If there was one sight that got Donald Ressler it was children in the crosshairs. The sight before him was enough to make him want to break a wall. First out the door was an elderly woman sitting in an office rolling chair. A young teen was trying to push her with one hand while raising his other hand. Behind him in a single file line came four children. Ranging in age from what Ressler could only assume was 15 to 3.
“Shit,” he could hear Liz mutter under her breath as they moved out from behind their cars to reach the children.
The teen with the old woman moved fast enough that he cleared himself. The two officers with Ressler and Liz cleared two of the kids. Ressler was just getting his charge, a blonde girl maybe no older than first grade who was screaming for her dad, back behind the barricade when he heard Liz cry out. Then he saw it. A bundle of curly brown hair trying his hardest to run back towards the back. Screaming at the very top of his lungs.
“KEEN!” Ressler screamed as he watched his partner run towards the bank. Towards the 3 year old. Towards the masked man with the gun aimed at them both.
“Watch your cross fire. Watch your cross fire!” multiple voices screamed.
It was slow motion. That’s all Ressler could see as he ran to Liz. She scooped the boy up and was turning her back at the very second the mask man at the door decided to fire off a shot. Ressler could hear the shot go off, Liz’s yelp and the boy scream as she spun around and dropped to her knees. But, the instinctive protective nature in Liz refused to let the boy be a target and just before another shot could ring out she collapsed her body on top of his.
Ressler fired off a few shots as he ran to Liz’s aid and one shot, either his or one to of the other officers he quickly found by his side made a fatal blow to the gunman. Together they dragged Liz and the boy out of harm’s way and behind the barricade. Her grip still firm on the boy, despite her injuries. His chest, just above his vest felt warm and wet but he didn’t care. No. Liz needed help.
“Keen, you got him ok. You can let the boy go. You saved him.” Ressler had her rolled on her back but her hand was still clinging to the young boy’s shirt who was by now a sobbing mess. He managed to get her hand free and was now tugging her vest off her with the one of the other officers. “We are going to get you to the hospital right away ok?”
“Ress?” Liz moaned.
“I got you, Keen.”
“Don’t leave me. Don’t leave my side.”
“I won’t.” Ressler held tightly on to her hand. He could hear them debating if it was safe to bring the medics to her or if they should bring her to the medics. He wasn’t going to wait much longer for the debate so he scooped her up in his arms, ignoring the searing pain in his own body and carried her down the road to where he could see an ambulance. “My partner has been shot.”
It was agony standing back while they stabilized her for the ride but once they had her ready he jumped in the back and sat next to her. His hand in hers. Liz was holding her gaze on him despite the tears rolling down her face and it wasn’t until she pulled the oxygen mask off and motioned for him to come closer did she finally speak again.
“Shhh,” he soothed.
And that’s when she gently placed her lips on his. It was a gentle kiss and despite the conditions he felt something in. There was an emotion in that was unmistakable. Liz’s hand held his a bit tighter and when she pulled her lips away they turned up in a small, sad smile. “I wanted to do that, just once,” she offered quietly.
And before he could reply her eyes closed, stats fell, and his world fell in to even greater chaos.
“Why are you staring at me?”
“I’m not,” Ressler scoffed. “I’m driving. It would be unwise to take my eyes off the wheel I drive.” He looked at the road ahead for a minute then tried to sneak a break look at his partner who was seated next to him. He heard her chuckle but ignored it.
Liz was released from the hospital just a while ago and Ressler pushed Reddington out of the way and won the chance to drive her home from the hospital. Liz was not too happy about the little battle they played but said so long as she got home and could finally sleep in her own bed then she didn’t care what they did. Ressler just couldn’t get over the fact that she was here. That the touch and go moments they had were over. She was going to be fine and was staying put.
“You know. I’m not going to disappear if you stop watching me.”
“I know that.”
“Thank you, Ress. For everything.” Liz shifted in her seat. “You won’t say it but others have. I know you didn’t leave my side. You promised me you wouldn’t and you kept your word. Thank you.”
“Well, your room had the better view.”
“Real funny,” she faked laughed as she slapped him.
“You know me. A real funny man.” Ressler pulled up to her place and got out to help her. “I’ll help you get settled in then I’ll swing by later to check on you. You probably want some rest.”
Ressler helped her to get in to her place. He set a bottle of water by her bedside along with her medication and remote control. Everything she could need for a few hours alone.
“I don’t want to be alone. You can stay.”
Ressler helped her get in to her bed and waited, unsure of where to go and what to do it. Finally, Keen patted on her bed, an invitation to him to come sit with her. The ease at which they could just be together was astounding him. It was truly an ease he had never felt before. Perhaps she had remembered what was said about the kiss or something else. Either way he was going to enjoy what he had coming his way.